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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr HUTCHINSON (Deakin) .- The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) is to be congratulated on having brought before Parliament the importance of a proper policy foi- the development of Canberra. Too little time i? devoted by the Parliament to the discussion of matters affecting the Federal Capital Territory. As to the alteration of the plan I have no great knowledge, and the matter has been confused by the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) producing one plan which he claims to be the correct one, and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) producing another. In my opinion, however, no major alteration of the plan should be made without due consideration. Apart from that, no plan should eve] be considered as sacrosanct, particularly one evolved 30 years ago.

Mr McEwen - And drawn in Chicago.

Mr HUTCHINSON - That is so. Any plan of that description should be reviewed from time to time in the light of modern conditions, modern traffic and modern requirements. I regard the statement made by the Minister, to-day, that a qualified body has been set up to review the plan generally as an indication of the first statesmanlike action in regard to Canberra we have had for some considerable time. When reviewing the plan and considering the extension of buildings in the Federal Capital, I suggest that the Minister should also review certain lines of Government policy in relation to Canberra. It is common knowledge to most honorable members that, for some time past, there has been a shortage of houses in this city; it is also common knowledge that private enterprise has not played the part expected of it, in its development. If this be the ease, and it must oe admitted that it is, the Government should review its policy and endeavour to ascertain what is preventing private enterprise from investing money in the territory, and so helping to develop this city. We know that a great deal of moneyhas been expended in the Federal Capital Territory for the provision of what may be called its basic requirements, such as sewerage, water supply, and so on. If more houses are built a greater number of people will be induced to settle here, and thus the per capita share of the overhead costs of the provision of these services to which I have referred will be reduced, and, furthermore, an increased population will provide a better return for the investment of government money. I understand that under the Government's housing policy in Canberra, rentals are based on an annual charge equivalent to 5 per cent. of the capital cost.

Mr Paterson - That is for brick houses.

Mr HUTCHINSON - That is so. I understand, however that that return of 5 per cent. is diminished by maintenance costs.

Mr Paterson - Maintenance costs amount to1½ per cent.

Mr HUTCHINSON - The return, then, is reduced to 3½ per cent. If that be so, I do not believe the Government is playing fair with those people of Australia who have to subscribe, by way of taxation, to the establishment of the national capital. Another point is, that while this policy is in operation one cannot expect private investors to build houses in competition with the Government. In this way the Government is definitely impeding the development of the Federal Capital Territory. The argument may be advanced that this basis of rent has been fixed in order to provide cheap accommodation for public servants, but, in my opinion, rents of cottages in the capital city should be taken into consideration by the Public Service Board when assessing salaries, and should not be fixed on a basis that discourages private enterprise from conducting building operations. I suggest to the Minister for the Interior that this item of policy, along with others mentioned by honorable members - the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) mentioned specifically the land policy - should be carefully reviewed by him. The honorable gentleman may even consider it advisable to appoint a small parliamentary committee consist ing of members of all parties, to endeavour to see if it is possible to evolve a wiser policy that would lead to the more rapid advancement of the territory. If such a committee were set up I feel sure that it would assist the Minister to implement a policy that would lead to the advancement of the territory and to a reduction of the charges made on Australian taxpayers for its establishment and development.

Question resolved in the negative.

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