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Thursday, 5 December 1974


Mr BRYANT (Wills) (Minister for the Capital Territory) - I suppose one hears everything in the end. When I hear people opposite, condemning the provisions for young people in Canberra, after their 23 years of almost total inactivity- the things which they did do were the wrong things- I am astonished that they should take up the time of the House in such a way. What was their activity on behalf of the youth of Canberra over the last 23 years? They sent them to Vietnam. They called up thousands of young Australians, spending their time and the nation's wealth on them. What did they do in the Australian Capital Territory? About the only constructive thing they did was to build a remand centre at Red Hill. Their only interest in young people was to lock them up. What did they dc for young people in places like Norfolk Island where the only thing that can be done for them is what was done when New South Wales was established back in 1 788- deport them.

I find, as I go through the ordinances and the procedures and the structure of the situation, that in fact the previous 23 years have been a complete dead loss. We face the fact that not only in physical matters but also in administrative and legal matters we have to overcome all that backlog. I think it is worth while mentioning some of the things that we have done in this city. First of all, I will answer one or two of the problems that the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) raised. He referred to the general statistical question. He said that we do not know the place of origin of the young people who come to this city, and that we have no statistics on whether they are married or single. What is he suggesting- that we have some kind of police state in which, when people cross the border, they have to answer some questionnaire or report exactly on their marital status and all the rest of it? That cannot be done in a modern society. It is true we do not have the actual statistics, but it is also true that we know what the situation is. We do know that thousands of young people in Australia are flocking to this city, as are other people, because it is one of the most attractive places in Australia to live.

It is true, of course, that the people in the hostels are not adequately catered for socially. That is a legacy of the past. It is also one of the problems of modern society. It is true that the young people of today often require a different social situation in which to solve their social problems and to answer their social questions from the situation in our younger days. It is true also that we are taking action in all those areas. I deny that we are complacent, that we are not allowing the young people to participate, or that we are creating an invironment in which it is impossible for them to live fruitfully.

The problems of birth control, sexual problems, abortion etc are problems which have been rolling down the ages and have been encountered by every generation. In this city we have taken concrete, absolute and positive steps to assist people with these problems. We have established institutions to help people sort out their legal problems. We have maintained rent controls and consumer protection. In the general area of society in Canberra, we are takling the social questions which bedevil all of us. When I refer to young people, I mean anybody who is under 25 years of age. I think about 51 per cent of the population of this city are under 25 years of age. These include university students, people entering the Public Service for the first time, school children, young children attending preschool centres and young married people who have to face the facts of life in regard to housing.

It is true that, as in every other part of the world and particularly in Australia, it is difficult to maintain private rental accommodation of an adequate quantity at an adequate price. But at least in this city the question of housing is being tackled much more effectively than anywhere else. There are more houses under construction in proportion to the population than anywhere else in Australia. I consider that some government houses are a little too austere but at least the price at which they are being erected is lower than the price for private enterprise housing. One of the fundamentals of housing in Canberra is that it is the cheapest land in Australia- cheaper by thousands of dollars, and is available almost on demand, at the rate of about 300 blocks of land a month. The facts are that people here can obtain the best serviced land at the best price anywhere in the Commonwealth. Compared with other land, it is much better planned, is not out at the end of an unmade road as one might find in Melbourne and is not at the end of an unserviced suburb as one might find in other cities. That is probably the greatest continuing achievement of this Government.

The creation of stable and cheap land prices was one of the contributions of my predecessor, the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Enderby), who was denigrated by my friend from Corangamite. Let us take a look at a few other areas of enterprise. At Philip there is a heated swimming pool. It would be worth while having a look at the thousands of people- young and old, but particularly young- who use it. The previous Government would not do anything about it.


Mr Street - Do you intend to set up a youth panel?


Mr BRYANT - We have advisers. Yes, we will establish it. Let me say this: Constructive observations and advice are as welcome from honourable members opposite as from anyone else. We have a large number of advisory panels in this community. I think the suggestion of a youth panel is a good one. We have been using groups of young people as they come to us, as I will explain directly. The Government has acquired and restored something which would be appropriate to the politics of the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes)- the merrry-go-round. Whilst in some ways it is an exotic adventure for a city, it has made a great contribution to the life of the centre of the city. An ice skating rink has been established at the showground and a national fitness camp has been set up near Tidbinbilla.

Some of these areas of more exotic recreation for young people include bike trails. Most people, young and old, regard trail bikes as poison. They do not mind them as long as they are far away. In my experience and observation of the Department of the Capital Territory and its officers I have found that they go to great pains to attempt to create facilities such as trail bike areas for young people. Of course, they have only to be put in the wrong place and the Department ends up in real trouble. Another exotic sport is rally car driving. I had a look at the way it was conducted one Saturday night. I found that all the members of the rally car driving organisation were full of praise for the way in which the Department, the Forestry officers and so on, cooperate with them. An indoor recreation centre, including a heated pool, is planned for north Belconnen. Child care centres have been established. Honourable members opposite ought to pay a visit to the occasional care centres and have a look at the houses which have been made available to women's groups to provide care for children whose parents are in special need. A women's refuge has been set up. I have an enormous list of these things here.

It may be worth while to mention that the expenditure on recreational and cultural facilities has gone up by 50 per cent to $750,000 and the expenditure on parks and reserves has gone up by one-third to $550,000. The expenditure on education has doubled and it is now $ 13.2m. A bicycle path, tree lined for most of its 4 kilometres, has been built. A study is in hand to extend the network. So in all of these areas the Government is taking positive steps to make the city more livable and more enjoyable for the young people who find themselves beset with difficulties. For instance, in the case of young delinquents and so on I think that one of the great problems is the inheritance of the form of law, and the Government is tackling that. I know that other honourable members want to speak, and in the parliamentary system it is the privilege of the Opposition to spend its time being in gross and serious error, as the honourable member for Corangamite was this morning. His colleague who seconded the motion will want to speak. There are lots of other areas I could cover. I am not here to speak for the young people; I have spent a lot of time speaking to them. I want to acquaint the House with one instance. Six or eight weeks ago I was driving around the city on a Sunday morning, having a look at the facilities, or lack of them, at that stage for garbage collction.


Mr McLeay - Was it a Commonwealth car?


Mr BRYANT - Yes, it was a Commonwealth car because I was on duty, as I always am. I picked up 2 young men who were walking along the side of the road. I conversed with them. They told me about the problems of the young people at Mawson. I said: 'Well, nobody has come and told me about it.' A few days later I found a group of young people, about 13 or 14 years old, in my office. They had come to see the Minister. I think it is a refreshing feature of Australian democracy that that happened. Subsequently I went out to their area and had a conference with them. They were all aged between 13 and 15 years. They put before us their needs. They said that they needed the kind of place that the honourable member for Corangamite mentionedsome old building or some building not used for other purposes which they could use for theirs. Fortunately we had out there a pavilion on a sports ground which was going to be vacant for six or eight months because the ground was to be repaired. That was made available to them for their club area. It is true that in this city there are some deficiencies in planning. There are no old buildings around. There are no scout huts and anglers huts one finds dotted around other communities.

Perhaps my colleagues opposite are speaking through ignorance. Perhaps I have failed to communicate with them because I have been concentrating on communicating with the people of Canberra. On the question of hostels, my inclination is to establish a much greater number of flats in the city. The Government has gone into the market to purchase them. I will not take up any more time of the House on this matter. I hope that my colleague the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) will have a chance to say something about it. He has worked in the Department and he was a member of the Advisory Council. I give the House an absolute assurance that such terms as 'complacency' and 'ignorance' are simply not applicable to the work of this Government. Many ministers are concerned with the Australian Capital Territory. The young people of Canberra are better served than people in any other part of Australia. The Government will continue to work towards overcoming the deficiencies in the rest of Australia as it has done here.







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