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Tuesday, 15 May 1973
Page: 2085

Mr MCVEIGH (Darling Downs) - I support the amendment moved by the Leader of my Party, the right honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony) because Australian Country Party members are concerned that the present Labor Administration has made a unilateral decision for a single pronged attack on regional development and improving the quality of life in our cities. I share my Leader's concern at the Government's activity because notwithstanding the piece of oratory from the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), who waxed rather eloquently and platitudinously and took us on a Cook's tour of complete irrelevancy, I remind the Minister that it is a fundamental concept of law that the law is interpreted according to what it says and not according to what the Minister thinks it says or what any public servant thinks it says. We are concerned, therefore, that this Bill does not mean what the Minister says it means. I have in the back of my mind a newspaper article which appeared yesterday wherein the Minister - let him deny it - said that he is concerned about the cities of Sydney and Melbourne because they are the cities that allowed the Government to be elected as the Government of Australia.

Mr England - I do not think the Minister heard you.

Mr MCVEIGH - If the Minister is completely unconcerned about the development of Australia and improving the quality of life I say that it is a jolly shame on him and on his Party. I thank the honourable member for Calare for bringing to my notice the complete indifference that the Minister is showing to this most important matter.

Dr Jenkins - What party does he come from?

Mr MCVEIGH - He belongs to the greatest party of all, the Australian Country Party.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - Order! I suggest to the honourable member that he direct his remarks to the Chair and ignore interjections.

Mr McVEIGH - Thank you, Mr Chairman. I just make the point that those who sit opposite represent a minority of the Australian public because they gained less than 50 per cent of the vote at the last election. 1 thank my colleague, the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), for bringing to my notice the fact that honourable members opposite form a minority Government.

The title of this Bill is indicative of the hurried and ill-considered attempts by the Labor Government to change the status quo under the existing legislation. The phrase Fools rush in where angels fear to tread' is rather apt and applicable. As a back bencher and a new member of the Parliament, I am amazed at the inconsistency of the present Labor Administration. There is no better example of this than the Bill with which we are now dealing in the Committee stage. The Labor Party is noteworthy for the lack of consistency in its thinking, methods and actions now that it is in Government compared to when it was in Opposition. Now that it is in Government, it is rapidly losing its standing in the community. It is the victim of its own inconsistency and ineptitude and its willingness to be dictated to by the left wing trade unionist. The inconsistency is clearly indicated by a perusal of a speech of the present Minister for Urban and Regional Development when he was in Opposition. As reported at page 2927 of Hansard of 19th October 1972, he said:

Our policy is clear. After the elections, we will create a department of urban affairs and allow NURDA to wither on the vine.

Later he said:

We will set up a department of urban affairs and regional development to marshal national resources for the building of new cities and system cities. . . We will work intensively with State and local authorities, but we will not allow State rights to work against the overall national interest.

This was the Minister speaking when he was in Opposition. He is neither a builder nor an architect; he is a wrecker of positive and sincere attempts to improve the quality of Australian life both in the cities and in the regional areas. What does he do as soon as he is elevated to power? He merely renames the authority - an authority which he facetiously referred to as an important project-oriented authority.

Let us analyse this clause of the Bill. What are its aims and its objects? The change of emphasis in Government policy towards urban and regional development is seen in the proposed change of name from the National Urban and Regional Development Authority to the Cities Commission.. Although the development of regional centres will still be an important part of Government policy, greater emphasis will be placed on the establishment of cities and the solving of the problems that exist in cities. The Queensland Government has a strong policy of decentralisation. This is supported by an incentive scheme covering land, factory buildings, finance, freight concessions and housing. Although the Commonwealth Government will be providing finance to develop approved projects, the States have the jurisdiction over any areas to be developed. The States will have to pass appropriate legislation to enable the Commonwealth to operate within areas of State jurisdiction. This will call for a great deal of co-operation and negotiation of details yet to be worked out. Although the States are aware that they cannot carry out development of new cities without the financial assistance of the Commonwealth, they are equally aware that politically the Commonwealth Government is committed to a successful development policy and the improvement of existing cities. Therefore, hard bargaining may be expected, but the States should remain in a sufficiently strong position to retain their existing powers.

The change in the title of the authority indicates the Government's concern only for cities. We object to this. Does not the Minister know, or is he so blind to facts that he cannot see, that the rural population of Australia decreased from 31 per cent of the national population in 1947 to 14 per cent of the national population in 1973? I am glad to see that the Minister is indicating that he is aware of this problem; but I would be much more pleased, in the interests of the people of Australia and the improvement of the quality of life, if he did not merely talk about it but did something about it. Overall, in the 5 years to 1971 the population of the metropolitan areas increased by a number equal to 75 per cent of the increase in Australia's population in the same period. As things stand, there is no evidence to suggest that this trend will change unless new initiatives are taken. Yet the Minister compounds the problem. He calls the authority to be established by this Bill the Cities Commission. As my leader said, we want equal emphasis on regional development and on decentralisation.

What about my own area of the Darling Downs? The authority conducting the survey has included in its terms of reference the city of Toowoomba as part of the Moreton region. The people in Toowoomba do not even know where that region is. This came from a government, the Prime Minister of which went north of Brisbane once during the election campaign. The Darling Downs is not part of the Moreton region either geographically or socially. I submit that the Darling Downs area should be treated as a regional area for the purpose of decentralisation. The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) painted a glowing picture of the quality of life - green backyards and lovely lawns. We already have that on the Darling Downs without creating an artificial environment. The Darling Downs is an excellent area in which to five, lt is recognised as one of the most fertile areas in the world, reasonably close to the metropolitan area of Brisbane. The Minister talked about Gosford and Wyong 70 miles north of Sydney, but the Darling Downs is that distance from Brisbane. Toowoomba is approximately 80 miles from Brisbane and Warwick is approximately 90 miles from Brisbane. Both of those cities and other towns in the area could readily supply the labour market. Roads and railway services are good. Education facilities, whilst not adequate for an increased population, are in existence at pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary levels. I submit that it is better to promote development in this area, an area known for the flower city of Toowoomba and the rose city of Warwick. The area is based on agriculture with secondary industry to service that agriculture and also manufacturing export industries. The scope is there for development. The services are excellent and the land is readily available.

I share the concern or my leader about where this Government is going in the process of trying to improve the quality of life for Australia, because its undivided attention seems to be focused on the cities of Sydney and Melbourne. We, as a country party which is responsible for the whole of Australia, admit that there are problems in the cities. We are concerned that the present Government is deliberately hellbent on adopting a positive method of making the position worse in the cities without doing anything positive about improving the quality of life in the country areas, areas with those natural advantages about which the honourable member for

Diamond Valley spoke. 1 formally support the amendment moved by my leader, the right honourable member for Richmond.

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