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Monday, 15 October 1973
Page: 2104

Mr UREN (Reid) (Minister for Urban and Regional Development) - I ask the House to reject this motion. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) has been making some personal accusations against the Minister for Secondary Industry and Minister for Supply (Mr Enderby) who was formerly the Minister for the Northern Territory. Let me say that the submission to Cabinet was a joint submission by the present Minister for Secondary Industry, who at that time was the Minister for the Northern Territory, and myself as Minister for Urban and Regional Development, and it had the full support of the Federal Cabinet.

There are sound reasons why we made the decision to acquire this land. The real purpose of the acquisition of this 32 square miles of land in the Darwin area is to provide for the future development of the city of Darwin. There are at least 4 reasons why we should acquire this land now. Firstly, on present projections the available urban land for Darwin will run out by 1977. Since 1966 the average annual rate of growth of the population in Darwin has been about 11 per cent. In order to cater for the expected future growth of Darwin in an orderly way, we must acquire land for comprehensive development now. Secondly, present land development in Darwin is becoming haphazard and extremely untidy. It is an uneconomic urban sprawl with no real amenities.

Mr Viner - Which government are you criticising?

Mr UREN - I am criticising the present position in Darwin which has been brought about over the past 23 years by the actions of the Government the honourable member supported. If the honourable member does not. know what the position is in Darwin he should visit the area, where he will see that the conditions under which the people live are appalling. There is no reason why this Government should not change those living conditions.

The third reason why we should acquire the land now is that land costs are spiralling as attractive land becomes relatively scarce and young people are finding it impossible to acquire land which they can afford. Fourthly, regardless of any possible decision to develop separate towns in other areas, there will be an increasing urban sprawl in the Darwin area. By providing for the orderly development of the growth of Darwin the Government is doing only what any responsible government would be expected to do in the interests of the people. It is a matter of extreme negligence that inefficiency and inequitable planning and development of Darwin have been allowed when at the same time a federal government has been able to create Canberra. One must ask why a government for 23 years was able to expend enormous amounts of money on the national capital of Canberra but was not able to develop Darwin? I might say that even before we became the Government we gave praise to the then Government for the action it was taking with respect to the development of Canberra. But why, when it had the constitutional powers and the financial resources available to it, did it allow this squalor to occur in the planning of Darwin? We have argued consistently that what has been done in Canberra should be done, in other areas of Australia, and particularly in Darwin. We say that it should be done particularly in Darwin and also in Alice springs because they come under the constitutional control of the Australian Government. There is no excuse at all for action not being taken by the previous Government to develop Darwin in the same way as Canberra was developed.

We need this land so that we can create a city of beauty - a city in which people can draw on the best amenities available in the planning of cities. It was for this reason that the former Government at last was forced to act. I challenge the former Minister for the Interior, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), who is seeking to interject, to speak on this matter. The Government of which he was a member was forced to act. I point out to the House that the Minister for the Interior in the previous Government sought the responsibility for this matter. It was a little late in the day, but he was forced to take action. Consultants were commissioned to report on the future growth of Darwin and they reported at the end of 1971. The report of the consultants to the previous Government recommended that the 32 square miles of land be acquired by the Commonwealth. The honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) knows that the then Minister for the Interior recommended to Cabinet that the 32 square miles of land proposed to be acquired by the present Government be acquired by the previous Government.

Following the consultants' recommendations the Minister for the Interior in the previous Government made a Cabinet submission recommending the acquisition of 32 square miles of land. That is to say, a member of the Country Party, a Country Party Minister under the previous Government, recommended to the Government exactly the same proposal as has been adopted by this Government. The previous Government took no decision on the matter because it was swayed at that time by the objections from the then Office of the Environment that certain studies should be carried out before the previous Government acquired it. This Government has taken full account of the views of the Department of the Environment and Conservation, and agreement has been reached at the interdepartmental level that the Government acquire the land but that the overall urban development for the plan of the area be subject to later consideration. This consideration will be based upon reports and studies, at least one of which meets the points raised by the Department of the Environment and Conservation.

The Cities Commission, which is under my Ministry, has commissioned a regional study by consultants on the long term future structure of urban development in the Darwin area. The Commission is also conducting an environmental impact study. The National Capital Development Commission is undertaking a de tailed study of the new development area. When these studies are completed and considered the Government will be in the best position to determine the best pattern of future growth for the Darwin area. So might I say that the principle we have adopted, to which the honourable member for the Northern Territory is objecting, is the same principle as a colleague of his in the same Party recommended to the previous Government. Might I also say that the principle of acquiring the total site and then developing it in a comprehensive way is the same principle as one State Liberal Party Government and one State Liberal-Country Party Government - namely, the Victorian and New South Wales governments^ - have adopted for the development of Albury-Wodonga. It is the same principle involved. The only way in which to acquire land orderly is under this proposal. The action taken by the Minister for the Northern Territory was the correct action. This principle ensures that urban development can be carried out in the most efficient and equitable way.

I ask the House to reject the motion put forward by the honourable member for the Northern Territory and to support the Government's action in acquiring the 32 square miles so that we can get some orderly development, so that we can start to get some rational living in Darwin and not allow urban sprawl to occur. The procedure that is being followed in Darwin will be followed in other capital cities, country towns and provincial towns of Australia. The honourable member for New England knows that the only way to solve the problem of the urban land sprawl and spiralling land prices in this country is to take the action which this Government has taken.

Mr Sinclair - That is arrant nonsense.

Mr UREN - Therefore I ask the honourable members opposite at least to stop the spiralling land prices. It was their Government that was responsible for the spiralling land prices in Canberra when it changed the Canberra land tenure system.

Mr Sinclair - You have not improved the situation.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order!The Deputy Leader of the Country Party has been continually interjecting throughout this debate. I think that in view of his position he should try to set an example to the House. He is not setting it. I call upon him to stop interjecting.

Mr UREN - Unfortunately the honourable member for New England was a Minister in an incompetent government that never got on with the job and never made the final decisions. That is why Darwin, of all places, which a Country Party colleague of his represents, is a squalor. It is a badly planned city. It has an enormous number of urban problems that have to be rectified. Only this Government will take positive action towards town planning. In place of the urban sprawl that is going on in Darwin we will provide more amenities and better conditions to make Darwin a decent place for young people to be brought up in.

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