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Tuesday, 11 December 1973
Page: 2672

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) -The proposed development of the Albury-Wodonga area is a new concept by this Government in the development of urban areas. In this case 2 State governments, New South Wales and Victoria, are involved, and, as they have apparently both agreed to go on with this development with the Commonwealth Government as a tri-partite agreement, the Country Party will not oppose the legislation. However, I should like to mention a few thoughts about the matter and say a few things that are concerning some of the local people. One is the abolition, or the almost complete abolition, of local government. I suppose when one thinks it out and realises that some outside board or commission- it will consist of 3 or 5 persons in this case- is to have the absolute say and direction in relation to running this new area and that the Commonwealth is going to provide the money, it is only fair to reason that the Commonwealth should have a say in what is being done.

But we are to have the spectacle here of the local authority being abolished, or nearly abolished, and to have taxation without representation.

Our local government system has grown up over a very long period, and the people will not take too kindly to not having any say in the election of the people who tax them for ordinary city development purposes. That will be the case in this area. Last week we debated a proposed referendum to provide money for local government, and it was stated then that there was no definition of local government. Here we will have the spectacle of local government being abolished or almost completely abolished. Will that local government share in the proposed alteration to the Constitution that we were talking about last week? That is just a side issue, certainly, but I have been talking to some representatives from that area today, and they are most concerned about some aspects of the proposed development. No date is set for the return of powers after a period of years- any number of years- in which development takes place and the Commonwealth continues to pour money into the corporation that is developing it. They have no idea when they will again get the right to elect their own local government. Like Kathleen Mavourneen, it may be for years or it may be forever that this new corporation will run or develop the area.

Apparently the new corporation, commission or whatever it is called, is to have great powers to determine how the land can be used. If a person buys land and wants to put a housing development on it, he might find that it is to be a football stadium or something like that, and he will be told what is to be done with it. Another sore point with the local people concerns the clauses about the resumption of land and the policy of the Government to revert as much of the land as it can from freehold tenure to leasehold tenure. The resumption of the land under this BUI is left to the State authorities, as I understand it, and that means that it is not subject to the Commonwealth Constitution, under which properties can be acquired only after the payment of just compensation. Therefore, if the State authorities are to handle the resumption of land they are not bound by that provision in our Constitution.

Another point- this is a very sore point with the local people- is that the resumption is to be at 1972 values. The base value for determining compensation payable will be assessed retrospectively at 3 October 1972. Added to the value assessed at that date will be a computer determined increment for the inflationary increase in land values based on comparable land sales throughout New South Wales and Vittoria. But there is no valid reason for using 3 October 1972 as the base date. It just happens to be the date on which the development of the Orange-Bathurst growth centre was announced by the New South Wales Government. The same date was then taken up by the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, when he announced that Albury-Wodonga would be one of the proposed Commonwealth growth centres in the event of Labor winning government. It might also be remembered that 25 January 1973 was the earliest date on which agreement on the Albury-Wodonga project was reached by the Federal, New South Wales and Victorian governments. Yet the proposal is to take a date four or five months before the date of agreement as the date on which to base land values for resumption purposes.

I want to raise another point that is not mentioned in any of this legislation. I distinctly remember the present Prime Minister, the then Leader of the Opposition, promising that if these regional growth centres, such as this one which is proposed, were developed local telephone call rates would apply to telephone calls made to the capital cities in the respective States. At the time the Prime Minister mentioned a growth centre in Queensland, but he has forgotton about that one, I think. But if he kept his promise it would mean that local call rates would apply to telephone calls made to Sydney and Melbourne from Albury-Wodonga. I agree that one of the biggest factors in discouraging decentralisation is the cost of trunk line telephone calls to branch factories and that sort of thing. But is the Prime Minister's promise of local call rates to be completely forgotten or is this to be made a provision in a subsequent BUI? I fear that it might be quietly forgotten. As I explained before, we wil not oppose the Bill but we have some reservations. We would like to see how this scheme operates before any other Bills of this nature are brought before the Parliament.

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