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Thursday, 5 December 1974


Mr STREET (Corangamite) - I move:

That this House expresses its concern at the Minister for the Capital Territory's total lack of understanding of the needs of young people in the Australian Capital Territory, including their accommodation requirements.

It is an indictment on the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant) and on the Labor Government that this motion should need to be moved at all. The events of the past few days have only served to confirm the inability of this Government to understand the needs of the community in general and of young people in particular. The significance of this motion in national terms is obvious. The Labor Government and all its Ministers are in full control of their destiny in the Australian Capital Territory. They have no-one else to blame for what they do and for what they fail to do. They cannot dream up ways of accusing State governments of causing delays and frustrations. They have the A.C.T. to themselves. The consequence is that the Government's performance in the A.C.T. becomes a barometer for the rest of Australia. If there is any way to determine the capacity or the lack of capacity of this Government, then one need no more than look at the A.C.T.

Regretfully, the Government's policies in this area have been a disaster. I have referred to the inadequacies in the Government's policies over a wide area in the past. Today I raise specifically the question of young people. The significance of looking at the needs of young single people in the A.C.T. is obvious. There are more than 80,000 single people in the A.C.T., more than 20,000 between the ages of 15 and 24. The average age of new residents coming to Canberra is 24 years. The future of Canberra will rely on its new residents and the success they have in establishing new careers and new lives in Canberra. Newly arrived young people who come to Canberra face added difficulties to their counterparts in other States. They come to a strange city without the benefit of close friends, relatives or family. I believe it is time that more attention was given to these aspects of creating new cities and new growth centres. It is time that someone began to speak up for youth. I am convinced that the present Minister will not speak up for them.

In making a plea for young people in the A.C.T. I am not calling for more physical facilities. I think everyone is willing to recognise that in terms of roads, schools and physical setting, Canberra is well-served. The danger is that the complacency of this Minister will lead him to lose sight of the sociological aspects of urban planning and community development. We have all heard the criticism of Canberra as a dead city. It is said to have no heart. If these criticisms are to be overcome it is necessary that every step be taken to allow the community to be more involved in the decisions that affect them.

In recent weeks I have asked a number of questions of the Minister for the Capital Territory concerning young people and the provisions made for them. The Minister's complacent disinterested replies are a cause of concern. The big saviour for Canberra was supposed to be its own Minister and its own Department. Initially, we had the member for Canberra (Mr Enderby) as Minister. He failed abysmally and was replaced. Unfortunately, the change has not produced any improvement. As an example of the Minister's extraordinary lack of understanding and his failure to interest himself in the needs of Canberra people, I refer to question 1406 in which I sought information on the number of social workers in the A.C.T. The Minister informed me that his Department did not have such statistics. He did not say he would try to get the information, or express any other interest. I also asked in another question the proportion of new residents coming to Canberra who are single. He replied in 3 terse words: 'No information available'. I am tempted to replace those words with: 'I am not interested'. I also asked a question on the number of social workers provided to Commonwealth hostels. As honourable members are aware, there are more than 2,000 young people who live in hostels in Canberra. The majority of new people coming to Canberra live in a hostel at some stage. Some are as young as 16 and 17 and have left home and parents for the first time. It is of obvious importance that they be given every assistance in their initial period. The Minister, in his same terse manner, simply said that his Department does not provide social workers for Commonwealth hostels. He simply said that there were 36 social workers and welfare officers employed by the Department whose services were available to all members of the community. He did not say whether he thought there was a need for social workers to be provided for the hostels. He just dismissed the question without further thought. I pay tribute to the work of the churches in the hostels. They have done a firstclass job in providing some counselling services to young people.

I also asked the Minister what was the city or town of origin of newly arrived unmarried residents. The uninformative reply was simply that statistics of this nature are not kept by the

Department. It is obvious that not only does the Minister have a total lack of understanding of the problems of young people but also that he is not interested in seeking out information which might enlighten him. One begins to wonder why this Government created a separate Department in the first place if it does not have on hand information of this kind nor apparently will it try to get it. How is the Minister able to make decisions about the needs of young people if he has so little information available to him? In the past the Opposition has criticised the Government's decision to remove the National Capital Development Commission from the control of the Minister responsible for the A.C.T. Admittedly, one would have grave doubts as to this Minister's ability to administer the Commission, but it is essential that if any one person is to be responsible for Canberra 's future he should have some say in the way in which it develops through the activities of the Commission. Similarly, we oppose the Government's decision to place the Australian Capital Territory Police Force under the control of the Attorney-General. I have already expressed the Opposition's view that the A.C.T. police must be responsible to the Minister in charge of theA.C.T.

The Government may attempt to ignore the significance of this motion. I hope it does not. Judging from its performance in the A.C.T., it is clear that it does not have a policy for youth. It is projected that in 1981 there will be more than 2.6 million persons in Australia aged between 10 and 19. This will constitute over 16 per cent of the Australian population. In comparison those over 60 would constitute only 12 per cent of the population. Labor has run Canberra as its social laboratory. It is in danger of turning it into a sociological desert. I quote from a recent report on urban development in Australia by Professor Alonso who visited Australia in 1973 and submitted a report to the Government. He stated:

It is well recognised in Britain that, at least in their early years, social problems can be as acute in the new towns as in the older, less physically attractive older city environments. Lack of community life or neighbourhood organisation, absence of diversity of activity and remoteness from other places, a restricted 'social class mix', have contributed to psychological problems, manifesting themselves sometimes in high rates of juvenile delinquency, depressions and malaise. The sense of being uprooted from familiar environments, from friends and relatives is a strong one in new towns . . .

From these points of view even Canberra seems not to be entirely ideal and hardly to form a model for growth centres which will be based on a wider cross section of the Australian people.

These are the points I want to emphasise to the Minister, because what I fear and what the Australian people must fear -







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