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Thursday, 21 May 1970

Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley) - I wish to refer tonight to an area near Sydney which is probably growing faster than any area of similar size in the country. To many honourable members this will be a remote area and many will not have heard of it. I refer to the tremendous development taking place around Mount Druitt. Much of this development has been brought about by the activities of the New South Wales Housing Commission. The State Planning Authority estimates that by the time the Housing Commission's activities are over 80,000 people will be living in the area. This is the largest Housing Commission development in New South Wales and perhaps, for that matter, in Australia. The present population of the area is about the same as that of Wagga Wagga. But if you go to Mount Druitt you will not find a policeman or a police station there. You will not find a baby health centre.

Mr Reynolds - In an area as large as that?

Mr ARMITAGE - That is right. There is no baby health centre notwithstanding that there are probably more children in the area than in any other similar area in Australia. A local parson told me recently that in one of the small suburbs of Mount Druitt there are. on average, 4 children to a house. As 1 have said, there is no police station at Mount Druitt although its population is as large as that of Wagga Wagga. There is no baby health centre and no dentist. The transport service is inadequate. If ever an area needed careful consideration and assistance this is it. I realise that the responsibility for these matters rests largely with the State, but in the view of the Australian Labor Party the Commonwealth cannot ignore the expansion taking place in areas such as this on the perimeters of our great cities. In the last 3 years the suburbs of Whalan, Tregear, Lethbridge Park, Emerton and Dharruk have been established in Mount Druitt. Recently the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) visited one of the schools in Tregear. About 1,700 children attend the Whalan public school. More than 1,700 children attend the Tregear public school. More than 1 ,200 children attend Lethbridge Park public school. There are SOO students at Mount Druitt High School. Already there are 150 pupils from Whalan public school attending Mount Druitt High School. These are described as 'boarders'; they are primary school children attending the high school because the primary school which they should attend does not have the facilities to cope with them. There are 70 pupils from Lethbridge Park Primary School attending Mount Druitt High School in a similar capacity.

The position is becoming completely chaotic, notwithstanding that the Housing Commission planned in co-operation with the New South Wales Department of Education to build schools which it thought would cope with the school populations of those suburbs. But the schools cannot cope with the number of children seeking to attend them. One of the major reasons for the overcrowding in public schools is the fact that there are no denominational schools in the Mount Druitt area. In some Stale schools only recently built the playgrounds are already studded with temporary buildings. The provision of school facilities is only one of the problems in this area. The transport system will not be able to cope with the huge population moving into the area month by month. The railway system will not be able to carry the people going east to Parramatta and west to Penrith and beyond.

In all the circumstances the Commonwealth must do something to assist this area, particularly with regard to transport and the provision of playgrounds for the children. Here is an area with probably more children than any similar area in Australia. You could go through the area and not find a playground for the kiddies. 1 sympathise with the local council in the colossal problem it faces in finding the necessary funds to carry out its work in the area. I hope that the House will consider this matter in a commonsense way.

I appeal to the Minister for Education and Science to co-operate with his counterpart in the New South Wales Government, firstly on the provision of educational facilities in the area. Let us start with that. After all, it is possibly the most important aspect of government outside health. I think, if he could co-operate with and meet the local State member, Mr Southee, the member for Blacktown, at the moment - a redistribution of boundaries has just occurred - the Minister for Education in the State Parliament as well as myself as the local Federal member, we could sit down and try to work out some ways and means of overcoming what will become a very serious problem. This is not just a simple social problem; it is one which can have very serious effects in the years to come for a lot of children who are not being given reasonable opportunities today. I hope the Minister will heed this request. If we can arrange for some type of conference on this problem both on the spot and elsewhere, if we can start on this basis, 1 believe we can get somewhere.

I also ask the Min:ster while he is about it to give consideration to this question of the necessity to establish a university in the western areas. I know he represents a western electorate, as I do. There will be a very great need in the future for a university and I sincerely hope he will give consideration to this proposal. Education is only one of the problems of this area. There are others in regard to transport, local government finance, the great need for adequate baby health centres, health facilities and the like. However, as a first step to overcoming the great problems of this area I ask the Minister to give an undertaking that we can set to with the local State member and the Minister's counterpart in the State Parliament to overcome the serious problems in regard to the educational facilities in this very important area. As I sai d, it has more children in it and more future young Australians who will build this country than probably any other area in Australia.

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