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Wednesday, 21 September 1983
Page: 1082

Mr RUDDOCK —by leave-This is a very important report for Canberra. It is a report dealing with Canberra's planning and its future. It is the report of the Committee of Review of the Role and Functions of the National Capital Development Commission, known as the White Committee report. Last evening the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren) was good enough to make a copy of the report available to me. I thank him for that courtesy as I did very much appreciate it. It certainly gave me the opportunity to examine what is a very lengthy document and I hope it makes the comments I intend to make today on the report and the Minister's statement a little more meaningful than they otherwise would have been.

I join the Minister in thanking the Committee for the task it has undertaken. It was a very distinguished group of people. The appointed members were Mr George White, Architect of the Capitol, Washington, DC; Max Neutze, Director of the Research School of Social Sciences of the Australian National University; and Emeritus Professor Sir Rupert Myers, KBE, former Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of New South Wales. The two last mentioned gentlemen are known to us as very distinguished Australians.

I want to reiterate some comments I have made before, mainly in the Press, in relation to the delay in the tabling of this report. The report has been in the Minister's hands since July. When I was first told of the fact that the Minister had the report in his hands I was asked whether I was going to call for its immediate release. I said: 'No, he needs a reasonable time to look at it and examine it and to be able to consider the way in which it ought to be handled'. But after a time I became somewhat alarmed that the report had been in the hands of a number of people in the National Capital Development Commission and in the hands of officers of the Minister's own Department, and there were suggestions that recommendations were becoming widely known. I was concerned about that.

I was concerned particularly at the way in which the matter was being handled because the Minister's colleague, the Minister for Health (Dr Blewett), had made the report of the Task Force Inquiry into A.C.T. Health Services, the Molony report, available before Parliament resumed in order that there could be public comment on it. I was particularly concerned that the Minister when he tabled the report may attempt to foreclose public discussion in some areas. Of course, that is what the Minister has done today. He has brought forward Government comment and recommendations on three of the recommendations in the review. I was particularly concerned at this, and in my Press statement I had this to say:

The only assumption I can make from the Minister's reticence in tabling the report is that he is seeking time for a major address rather than simply tabling the report for public comment.

I suspect now that he was seeking time to get the concurrence of his colleagues to some of the recommendations of the review. I think this is a most inappropriate way to handle a report of this sort, and it will be seen as such by the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

The two aspects of the report which will be disappointing to Canberrans, I submit, are firstly that this report is a signpost to the directions the Government might be taking in relation to its development of self-government proposals. The report particularly strengthens the role of the National Capital Development Commission. It adds to its functions. It places all national development functions in the hands of the National Development Commission. There will be no planning role for the House of Assembly in a situation where it assumes some self-government. In fact, the only area of control that the Assembly will have will be over aspects of building designs outside of what one might call the national capital areas.

One of the most insidious aspects of this report and of the three decisions that have been taken is, in my view, the limits that the Minister and the Government, by announcing decisions at this time, have put on the task force considering the shape of self-government. They have also put very significant limitations upon the way in which the people of the Australian Capital Territory might be able to comment on this report. Of course, the recommendations in this report also place in the Department of Territories and Local Government some functions for Canberra in order that they might at a later stage be given to the House of Assembly. I want to emphasise that this puts all planning for Canberra into the hands of the National Capital Development Commission. Only one area is effectively left, that is, the expanded parliamentary zone which is envisaged, where the Parliament itself might have a say.

I want to make it clear, particularly to those people who have served upon the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, that one of the recommendations of this report effectively guts that Committee, effectively takes away from it any role. The Minister mentioned that the recommendation expands the Committee's role in reviewing policy plans, and of course the review put an emphasis on that. That role has been assumed by the Committee in recent years. It is the way in which the Committee has functioned, although not authorised, because it has used its sanction-that of the veto of road gazettal changes-as the basis for having an influence on planning in the Australian Capital Territory. It has that role now, but the review has recommended that the very little basis upon which it has formed its ability to have a say in relation to the Australian Capital Territory-its veto of road gazettal changes-be removed from it. That would effectively gut the Australian Capital Territory Committee of this Parliament, and I think that needs to be understood.

The second point I want to make is that, notwithstanding the Minister's stated objective of encouraging private sector development in Canberra by accepting enhanced NCDC powers in planning and control of all land uses he has given that body the most draconian powers over land use, development and planning anywhere in Australia. The report describes this as estate management. I would like honourable members to have regard to the report and what it means when it talks about estate management. Page 73 of the report states:

The term estate management emphasises that Canberra land is owned by a single landlord who must manage the estate as much as a private landlord would. The Committee believes that this emphasis is a useful reminder of the special role of the Government in relation to land in Canberra.

Some people in the Australian Capital Territory have been anxious that the Territory might move towards a form of perpetual leasehold. I think that the acceptance of these recommendations effectively puts such proposals very much at risk. The private sector role in Canberra is very important. I should like to emphasise the role of the Canberra Development Board. I have said in public comment I have made before that this important body, headed by a very distinguished Australian, Sir Laurence Muir, has contributed significantly to bring private sector investment to Canberra. Labor Party and Liberal Party members have commented on the success of that Board and on its eminent leadership. It needs to be noted that the report recommends that the National Capital Development Commission is to carry in future the responsibilities that are now carried by the Canberra Development Board and to supervise its functions . According to this report, the Canberra Development Board will have only a delegated responsibility from the National Capital Development Commission. Under the recommendations, the Board is to be restructured and is to be totally dependent upon the National Capital Development Commission for its resources. I think we now understand the reasons why the executive officer of the Canberra Development Board was not re-appointed. Honourable members will understand that the way in which this review has made its recommendations in relation to the Canberra Development Board is an implicit criticism of the Board and the way in which it operates, and I very much regret that.

Mr Uren —That is nonsense. That is a disservice to Muir and his colleagues.

Mr RUDDOCK —It is implicit because it takes away from the Board any independent existence. I acknowledge the Minister's interjection because I think it is important that Australians know that the Minister very highly regards Sir Laurence Muir and the comments he has made. I hope that when the Minister considers these recommendations he will also have that very outstanding record in mind.

The planning recommendations will have some very important effects on the Australian Capital Territory. The National Capital Development Commission will have an expanded role, notwithstanding the criticism of the Commission at public hearings by planners, departments, local representatives and residents of the Australian Capital Territory. It is very commendable that the National Capital Development Commission, through the very effective rear-guard action taken, as I recall, by Commissioner Powell in regard to the review, has been able to obtain for itself this very expanded role. Commissioner Powell appeared three times to meet the criticisms that were being made of the Commission.

While the Committee has recommended procedures for planning policy involving public participation, which I very much welcome, these procedures sit very uncomfortably with some of the other representations made by the review. It is suggested that the procedures for planning policy should involve formulation, public notification, public exhibition, public consultation, consideration of objectives, finalisation of plans, adoption and ministerial noting. While those recommendations have been made the functions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal have been very much criticised by the Review because of the way in which that body has made recommendations. The review sees the Administrative Appeals Tribunal as being slow and too formal. It suggests that the Tribunal should be restricted to reviewing only procedural irregularities. Policy matters are largely excluded.

While consultative procedures, as I have mentioned, have been provided, no provision is made for third party appeals against land use, lease design, siting , building and valuation decisions. Yet this is an area, as the Minister, being a New South Welshman, would know, where in the States of Australia public demand has been for third party rights to be entertained, for people who are affected by planning decisions to be able to appeal against decisions that are reached, even after the consultative procedures that have been outlined for the NCDC. This is an area that is being highlighted in the Australian Capital Territory now. I suggest that honourable members keep in mind the arguments being raised about town house development proposed for Mugga Way, Red Hill; and, lest it be thought that I am being in some way elitist--

Mr Uren —Don't say that.

Mr RUDDOCK —Lest it be said-also the comments of residents of Ginninderra from time to time about possible foreshore development plans.

Mrs Kelly —The Minister has fixed that.

Mr RUDDOCK —The Minister may have fixed it. But the point I am making is that these recommendations specifically take away the right to third party appeals in the Australian Capital Territory. The prospect of third party appeals, which are being very much sought after in Australia, will have no place in the Australian Capital Territory. I want it to be noted that in planning terms residents of the Australian Capital Territory will have less say after this report is adopted by the Government than most Australians enjoy in local government throughout Australia. The local community is not to have a say in planning matters in the event of self-government. The only element is the power to nominate two out of five representatives on the National Capital Development Commission. Until self- government, these two nominated representatives are to be appointed by the Government-that is, by the Minister. It should be noted that the NCDC is now to perform the dual role of planning and development and what is called estate management.

I am not being totally negative in my comments. I see that the Minister is surprised at that statement, but I found some very positive elements in the report. Whilst I shall not produce a comprehensive list, I shall mention some of them. I very much note positively the land use data bank that is being suggested , because this will create certainty, particularly for purchasers of conveyancing situations. The open space emphasis is welcome. While not commenting on the responsibility that has been suggested, which the Government has accepted, I think it is important to recognise that there are open space areas, particularly the hilltop reservations, that require proper management and financing for maintenance. I welcome the proper planing that has been suggested, involved the NCDC in consulting the Commonwealth and its authorities when they endeavour to build their own buildings in the Australian Capital Territory and the suggestion that NCDC concurrence in all proposals will be required.

In the light of future energy needs and the growing prospect of a new oil crisis at the end of the 1980s, I am particularly pleased to see the recommendation that there be a re-assessment of the Y plan for Canberra. I also pick up the recommendation that Canberra have a role in planning for the sough- east region of New South Wales. The establishment of a joint steering committee of Commonwealth, State representatives of New South Wales, local government and any territory government is particularly welcome. The recommendation that the NCDC, with the Minister' concurrence, may undertake planning and development outside the Australian Capital Territory is another matter that I see as being quite welcome. Obviously, the Commission had to have a role in planning in New South Wales when the Googong Dam was planned. I think that people would welcome the fact that the Tanzanian Government has sought advice from the NCDC in the planning of its capital and sees the NCDC as an expert body.

I should like also very much to applaud the suggestion that the Commonwealth Bank model for resolving conflicts between the NCDC and the Minister be endorsed . The report sets out that the NCDC would, on matters where decisions are required, form a view of the public interest. The Government has ultimate responsibility for determining policy, it suggests. It says that if there is any disagreement, the Minister must give directions to the authority publicly and table them in the Parliament, so that we would all be aware of any disagreements of such major proportion. The report also recommends that an Australian Capital Territory Environment Protection Authority be created to administer Australian Capital Territory environmental legislation, particularly the heritage legislation and that in relation to nature conservation and public parks.

The report fails to condemn the lack of water, air and pollution ordinances and ordinances on noise abatement. I should like to note that it will be particularly important in Canberra's future that concern be not only expressed but evidenced in relation to the sort of developments that will affect the Murrumbidgee River, and I emphasise particularly the importance of bringing into Canberra a hazardous chemicals ordinance. Obviously, whilst it may well be timely that we have an Australian Capital Territory Protection Authority, it will be more important that legislation in the areas that I have identified be brought in as quickly as possible. I hope that the Minister has taken those points on note.