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Thursday, 11 October 1956

Mr LESLIE (Moore) .- I want to devote the few moments that I have available to me to discussing the vote for the Australian Capital Territory. I am concerned over the fact that it is almost impossible to discover the civic costs involved in running this august City of Canberra. By civic costs, I mean the costs that are properly incurred by ratepayers and residents of a city for roads, footpaths and other services that are normally provided by a local government authority or a municipality. I have had occasion to speak on this matter in past years, and I have been taken to task by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) and the "Canberra Times". lt was said that I was not looking at the matter with a practical eye. For example. I was reminded that the residents of Canberra pay taxes like the rest of the community. I do not deny that, but I point out that the inhabitants of other cities pay rates to the local government authority, aswell as taxes to the Commonwealth Government and the State government. The residents of the Australian Capital Territory pay taxes only to the Commonwealth Government. They have no State government to levy taxes, and no local authority. They pay some measure of rent, and they pay for water and electricity, but so also do the inhabitants of other towns and cities. Therefore, there is no comparison. 1 was reminded that the cost of running the City of Canberra is conditioned by the fact that it is the seat of government. It has been said that there are administrative buildings here, and that the cost of providing and maintaining them has to be borne by the Government. I remind the people of Canberra that each State capital city is also a seat of government. In none of those cities does any government - Commonwealth or State - contribute to the cost of civic amenities. If a road is required toParliament House in Sydney, Melbourne or the beautiful City of Perth, the civic authorities are expected to provide the road. They get nothing whatever from the State government for it, so that the people are called upon to bear the cost of local government, and to bear their share of Commonwealth expenses as well.

The accounts of the Australian Capital Territory are of such a nature that it is impossible to say just what is the cost ot government. It is argued that Canberra is the seat of the Commonwealth Government; that we have Parliament House here, and want the place to look a bit better than the other cities of Australia. Accordingly, additional costs are incurred, and it is argued that it is only to be expected thai the Government should bear those costs Even if we concede that there may be something in that argument - for the sake only of argument - we might at least expect that the system of keeping accounts for the Australian Capital Territory and the City of Canberra would indicate clearly what those costs are. We would know then the full cost of running Canberra, a* well as the expense involved in maintaining normal civic activities.

The Estimates for the Australian Capital Territory include such items as general services, eradication of noxious weeds, rabbi! extermination, bushfire prevention, garbage collection, sanitary services, local government registration, publicity, street-cleaning, cemetery, and so on. I could continue, but I point out that costs in respect of all such items are usually borne by a local government authority.

Mr Coutts - Do not the residents of Canberra pay rates?

Mr LESLIE - No, they do not. The communities in other centres who benefit from those services contribute directly to pay for them, in addition to the taxes they pay to the Commonwealth and State governments.

Mr Calwell - Why did the honorable member stop at the cemetery?

Mr LESLIE - I could go on.

Mr Calwell - Not beyond the cemetery!

Mr LESLIE - Do 1 need to go on? Let me take an item beyond the cemetery which might be appropriate for the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I refer to firewood supplies. The sum of £1,000 is provided for firewood supplies. What is that for? Is it a firewood supply peculiar to governmental activity? Or is it for officials of the Advisory Council? For what purpose is that firewood provided? It is a charge on the national purse.

The time has arrived when the accounts of the Australian Capital Territory need to be submitted in a form which will show, first, the costs which are incidental to running the city under the guidance of civic fathers; and. secondly, the costs which are incidental to government activities in the city, as apart from normal city activities. I make a comparison for the purpose of arriving at some conclusion. On looking at the current Auditor-General's report, which has been submitted to the Parliament, I find that the amount received for motor car registrations during 1955-56 was £79,229. In every other city and town in Australia, motor vehicle registration-fees are related to the provision of roads. So. let us have a look to see what Canberra gets in the way of roads for the £80,000, in round figures, which it pays in motor vehicle registration. On looking at the civil works programme for this year, I find that the estimated cost for the construction of roads, footpaths, kerbs, gutters and so on in the new subdivisions is £175,000, and that the estimate for the bituminous surfacing of roads is £45,000, making a total of £220,000, against a revenue of £80,000. I agree that a considerable amount of transport is government owned and operated, and pays no registration-fees, but, somewhere and somehow, that should be shown. Some record should be kept to show that aspect of the matter so that the relationship between the amount that is contributed by the local residents towards the cost of these roads, and the amount which is actually paid can be properly understood.

I fear that much the same is going on in that connexion as went on in connexion with the swimming pool in this city, about which I made inquiries in the Parliament earlier. The swimming pool cost £200,000, in round figures, and I understand it requires still more money to be expended on it.

Mr Calwell - Hear, hear!

Mr LESLIE - Very obviously, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), whose electors live within two or three minutes of the beach, is not worried about swimming pools. Those of us who represent rural areas, where bathing amenities in the form of swimming pools are now being looked upon as a necessity, are very concerned. When we make a request to the Treasury, as I have done, for a few pounds to assist, by way of subsidy, towards the construction of a swimming pool, the reply is: " Sorry, it cannot be done ". But, in Canberra, of course, £200,000 can be found for a swimming pool. Throughout the rest of Commonwealth, the local people have to find the money themselves, and they cannot afford to spend £200,000 on swimming pools. All they can afford is £20,000, £30,000 or £40,000. As far as Canberra is concerned the rest of the community is being taxed to provide a magnificent swimming pool for the fortunate residents of this city. That is grossly unfair. If it is good enough for the national Treasury to provide funds for a swimming pool here, then it is good enough for it to provide funds for swimming pools elsewhere. If it is a fundamental principle that the Treasury does not provide money elsewhere, then why provide it here? Some differentiation in principle must be applied in financial relations between the Treasury and the national capital city.

If Canberra is to be entirely a government city and is to be subsidized as such, the people will have to be told that, as they are enjoying all the benefits of this subsidy without finding any money themselves, they must be willing to make some sacrifices in return. If they are to enjoy all the benefits of living in this city their emoluments should be somewhat less than those of persons living in other cities. If they insist on receiving the same emoluments as their brother public servants in other parts of the Commonwealth, then in ordinary decency they ought to be prepared to make some contribution towards the welfare of their city by helping to provide the necessary amenities. This swimming pool is a shocking business.

Mr Calwell - It's a shame!

Mr LESLIE - According to the AuditorGeneral's report it was opened in December last and was in service until April. The revenue received by way of cash takings amounted to £5,423, whilst the operating costs including wages, chemicals, electricity and minor repairs, amounted to £4,673, leaving a surplus of £750. The AuditorGeneral adds -

The above-mentioned operating costs do not include provision for interest and depreciation of assets.

In these Estimates I find an item " Swimming Pools - Maintenance, £ 1 1 ,000 ". Goodness me, not only are the people of Australia providing the huge capital cost of building a swimming pool in Canberra but they are also subsidizing to a considerable extent those who enjoy a swim in the pool.

Mr Calwell - Cleanliness is next to Godliness!

Mr LESLIE - 1 agree, but it is pretty costly. I should like to find out how much this swimming pool is costing the taxpayers individually, because it looks as if it could be worked out on a " per head " basis for each individual who enjoys a swim in the pool.

I mention this merely as an illustration of what goes on in this capital city, and I suggest that some alteration must be made. Some line must be drawn between normal civic activities and the costs incurred in that connexion and the costs which are incidental to purely governmental activities. I again remind the committee that the charges to be made against the Govern ment would need to be carefully examined in the light of the fact that in every other city, and in every other Stale capital, the people are called upon to meet all the charges incurred in maintaining State government, local government and Commonwealth buildings as well. Those are additional burdens which the privileged people of this city do not have to bear.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Adermann

Order! The honorable gentleman's time has expired.

Mr. CALWELL(Melbourne) 15.34].- Like every other honorable member in this Parliament who has had the privilege ot visiting New Guinea, Papua and the Northern Territory, 1 have been impressed with the possibilities of the development and the importance of those areas as parts of the outer defence system of this Commonwealth. Nobody can go to Papua and New Guinea and not be lost in admiration for the work being done by the Administration officers, headed by the Administrator and his deputy, by officers of Commonwealth departments who are stationed in that area, by missionaries and by private citizens. I believe that they are all doing a magnificent job. I echo the sentiments expressed by my colleague, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), who was there with me in July of this year, and I express my complete agreement with the sentiments uttered by other honorable members in such of the speeches as I have been able to listen to this afternoon.

I was in New Guinea for the first time only last year. When 1 went there a few months ago for the second time, I noticed the extremely rapid progress that had been made in the preceding twelve months. I was struck by the great development that is taking place and the manner in which the indigenous people are striving, under great difficulties, lo emancipate themselves from a primitive age - because in many cases their grandfathers were headhunters and cannibals - and to obtain, not only for themselves, but for their children the opportunities which they know that people of European descent have in the fields of ordinary education, technical education and medical education. They want opportunities in any fields of learning which they could possibly turn to the advantage of themselves and their people. 1 went there last year with the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Jack), the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) and the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). Those gentlemen are still in the Parliament. We were made very welcome everywhere we went. We worked to a very tight schedule. We were expected to meet many people and to visit various districts. We were all grateful for the opportunities that were provided for us. When 1 went over much of the same ground this year, 1 was struck by the increasing tempo of development. I congratulate the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) on the work that he has been doing since he took office in striving to make these people - who are living, as it were, under our tutelage - as happy as it is possible to make them by money voted by this Parliament and by laws made by the councils which they control, the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea and this Parliament.

The Minister has been kind enough to supply me with some figures, and I shall quote them appreciatively. This year, the Parliament is being asked to appropriate £9,250,000 of the Australian people's money to help the people of Papua and New Guinea. Locally, £4.250,000 will be raised. The sum of £13,500,000 raised from Australian sources and local sources which will be spent this year is at least £1,200.000 more than the expenditure last year, which was £2.000,000 more than that of the previous year. Since 1948-49, expenditure has risen progressively from £4.000.000 to the present figure of £13,500,000.

We are trying to demonstrate to the world and to satisfy our own consciences that we are doing something for those who live close to us in this portion of the Pacific Ocean and whose destinies are bound up with ours. I believe that the people of Papua and New Guinea are most appreciative of what the Australian people are doing for them. They want to advance towards nationhood, but their leaders realize the shortcomings and the inadequacies of their fellow countrymen and countrywomen. All this talk about fixing a date on which the Territory shall become independent of Australia is so much nonsense. The people of Papua and New Guinea - in that term I include all the people of the island, because they are one people - have felt the impact of European civilization only during the last 70 or 80 years. Their advance towards nationhood has been striking.

The men who represent them in the Legislative Council - Simogun, Vuia, Merari Dickson and Samboya - have a full appreciation of the difficulties confronting their own people. With the honorable member for Reid, I had an opportunity to speak to three of them. In their view, it would be better for the whole of the part of the island of New Guinea which we administer to be incorporated in the Commonwealth than to allow it to be threatened by Indonesians and others who might covet an opportunity to occupy it. As a matter of fact, Simogun was most demonstrative about the matter. Vuia, who won the Distinguished Conduct Medal during the last war, in which he lost an arm and an eye, was even more emphatic in demanding that Australia should make no concessions to Indonesia in regard to its claim to the possession of Dutch New Guinea. If we were ever foolish enough to agree to any of the suggestions that are being put forward by Indonesia to-day, not only should we seal the doom of the indigenous people of New Guinea - they do not like the word " native " - but we should endanger our own security as well. What the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) said was perfectly true, and I entirely agree with him. The time allotted for this debate is too short for us to say all that we should like to say about the things that might be done in New Guinea.

Mr Drummond - Far too short.

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