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Tuesday, 11 December 1973
Page: 2685

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) - I am not directly interested in the particular project covered by these Bills except as a very remote Australian and as one who has been invited as late as today to take a particular interest in certain aspects of the legislation. The whole idea of these new towns and cities stems from the fact that the metropolises that we have already built are stinking and confused and incapable of sustaining habitation at a decent level. It seems to me that some people think the idea is to create yet another such metropolis. It also stems from the fact that some people in this country look upon its wide expanses as being so vast that the more we can distribute the people fruitfully and purposefully over the area the better and the stronger country we can have. Senator Wriedt, for instance, might well bear that in mind when he adopts the restricted socialist attitudes that he adopts to primary industry. I just make that passing remark. I shall return to it later. I think that decentralisation is a purpose of great value. But many people have taken it to their bosom with warm charm for many years and have not supported it with their ducats- and the ducats or the dollars are wanted to make decentralisation a reality. I approach this Albury-Wodonga Development Bill in a state of some bewilderment, neither enthusiasm nor yet apathy. I look to one or two things around me to see what is in need of attention, where dollars are concerned. This Government ought to know by now that it has plunged the country into an avalanche of expenditure which will see the Government out of office very soon. You cannot run a country just by oozing money through the Treasury, thinking that nobody has to earn it and that production comes from nowhere. Consider our airways. What have we been told would be needful for a second airport if it is established in or near Sydney? Let us look at a national airport in the centre of Australia to serve all the coast-line capitals. What is needful from the point of view of bringing up to date the aerodromes and airports in the rural centres of Australia? In the past we followed a policy which was called a local development policy. The cost of the city airports had become so huge and demanding that we tried to impose upon the country people and get them to take over responsibility for their own airports. Now we are saying to them: 'We have not got the money'. Devonport and Wynyard are 2 airports with which I am familiar. Consider even Hobart airport, which was reconstructed in 1 952. Other examples are Darwin and Brisbane. Those are enough to indicate what I mean.

Honourable senators will begin to see that we still have a few jobs which are obviously staring us in the face and overdue for development. These subtract from these confused and unmanageable metropolises in the same way as building new cities would. Shipping is another example. Shipping as it affects Tasmania should be right in the forefront of the consideration of many honourable senators from Tasmania. The cost is so crippling today that it is cheaper for industry to bring in consignments of goods weighing less than half a ton, even for heavy industry, by air. Merchants with any small consignments would not think of trusting the ships with their goods. Having reliability in mind they get them in by air. The performance of Australian coastal shipping can be illustrated by what is said in the report of the Australian Coastal Snipping Commission. For this year, on its coastal trading, it lost $960,000. The Commission at the end of that report discloses that it has just entered into an industrial agreement which will cost the Australian National Line $3.5m over the next 2 years.

Look at Tasmania's predicament with her little islands such as King Island. Honourable senators W111 see that we are scarcely able to carry on the practical requirements of communications in that regard. I ask honourable senators to consider the central road from Adelaide to Darwin. I have travelled over it. It is a positive disgrace. It is worse than in the bullock dray days. Yet we are building Whitlamabads across the Murray when we cannot even build a decent road between Adelaide and Darwin and we have not got a reliable raU service. The other raU services around the country just beggar description.

Senator Mulvihill - Your Government had 23 years to remedy the situation.

Senator WRIGHT -I see that in the third last paragraph of the speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) on this BUI. The Government should have a magpie. For 23 years the Government has waited to quack like this. Of course there are arrears. But the growth in those 23 years, the advance in production, in education and so forth should really cause honourable senators to keep a decent silence if they maintained a little relativity about this. Australia claims it has a Great Barrier Reef. Queensland says that it is its very own. But anybody who goes up there and sees the tourist resorts, the communications which are required and the help which is necessary to build them into attractive resorts for international tourists will see what the challenges are in Australia in the way of decentralisation. If the Government got up there and started to build tourist potential every one of those coastal settlements of Queensland would start to grow and expand by natural development. They will absorb far more development than Albury and Wodonga. Australia has a unique possession in the form of Ayers Rock and the Olgas. Struggle as we may for 7 years or 10 years we cannot get to first base in establishing a community there consistent with the demands of the environment and catering for the tourists. For my part any one of these national demands is much more important and in my view- not knowing the circumstances of Albury-Wodonga closely or in a practical way- a more practical proposition than Albury and Wodonga. So much by way of preface.

The thing that startles me is that this Senate is capable of entering upon a debate on a project of this sort without, as far as I know, one foolscap page of feasibility report. I pointed this out when the legislation on the Pipeline Authority was authorised. I think it redounds to the stupidity of the Government and of Parliament- with very great respect- that there has been no costing whatever submitted to Parliament as to any one stage of this project involving- what? The modernisation of the Hume Highway? What, with regard to railways? What, with regard to the subject nearest to Senator Davidson, which is water and so on? I think it is a great pity that we entertain a project of this sort without a practical committee sifting feasibility reports, getting engineers before it who would speak of the design, the engineering, the economics and the environment of the project. Then, in 2 years time, the Government could come forward with a BUI which would be a proposition staged out so that we would be assured that it would be a parliamentary job worthy of Australia. We find in the BUI what the Minister himself is pleased to call a complex structure. Without a feasibility report he got the Ministers of the adjoining States together and they signed a rather general agreement. The core of the whole thing is a Corporation. I like the idea. If you can get a government organisation on that basis to do some of these projects, as the National Capital Development Commission has done in Canberra, it is the effective way of getting work done. But this Corporation is to have 3 executive members and 2 part-time members. One, the chairman, is to be appointed by the Australian Government and each of the other 2 executive members is to be appointed by Victoria and New South Wales.

We had a discussion about ministerial responsibility when we dealt with the off-shore oil legislation. Some people at that time thought that it was quite reasonable to turn their minds to the question of the responsibility to the Australian Parliament of designated persons in that legislation. I wonder what is the actual responsibility of this Corporation, fathered by 3 Parliaments, to the Australian Parliament? I am told that this complex was conceived in the idea that it has some basis of solving the problem of section 92 of the Constitution. I do not know how. I am told that it was conceived in the idea that by this means it can escape the obligation of paying just terms for any property that it acquires. Is it indeed the true structure of the legislation that the Corporation is not to acquire the property, that we are to make use of the States to do so, and that they think that they are exempt from the obligation of just terms if they are acquiring property for a project that is centrally an Australian Government project participated in by State governments? The public purpose for which it will be acquired is the purpose of the Albury-Wodonga city project. Tell me if that is not an Australian purpose for the purpose of just terms. So we are to have this Corporation with 3 executive members and 2 part-time members.

The next thing to notice about the legislation is that in respect of the area designated it completely usurps local government. In the case of this proposed development the situation is not as it was here in Canberra where there was no local government and a construction, engineering and developing commission was brought in for specific purposes. As I understand this legislation the Corporation is not to be merely equipped for engineering, developing and constructing purposes, embracing designing, planning and obligations as to the environment; it is also to take over all local government functions and, as one of my colleagues said, do so for an indefinite time. No time limit is fixed and the resumption of local government is left undefined. These things may appear to be a little unreal to us in the latter days of the parliamentary session and away from this complex but we had a referendum about things like this on Saturday. The Australian people do not like central management from Canberra; they prefer the people who live next to them, local governing people, and they trust them more. I come now to the question of just terms. I would like the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) to explain to me with some particularity how he proposes to meet this obligation.

Senator Mulvihill - What about land speculators? Are you not worried about them?

Senator O'Byrne - No, he encourages them.

Senator WRIGHT - I hear some canine growl over on the Government side that I encourage land speculators. That phrase, together with 23 years of Liberal government under which they wilted, is the catch-cry of Government supporters. Of course I do not support land speculation. Of course I want to keep land cheap and reasonably priced for people. I am just pointing out to the Government that one of the things which the Australian Constitution said, in line with human rights and fundamental justice, is that if the Government wants to acquire a citizen's property it can do so only on just terms. You could not get a simpler conception, one which is more appealing or more fundamentally just. Under the Land Commission (Financial Assistance) Bill $30m is to be provided for the States by way of assistance. The costing of the loans is such that interest will be deferred for 10 years but will be building up at the long-term bond rate throughout the whole period of that deferment. I ask the Minister to show me how the Government is going to get reasonably cheap land based on that conception of construction. How is the Government to pay just terms? The Government is saying that it will fix the value of land at the base date, October 1972, and that it can be acquired at any time within, I think, 10 years. So in 1981 the Government will go along and acquire 'Black Acre ' at 1 972 values.

The whole idea of compensation being paid as a just exchange for land is that in theory the moment the State puts through the Gazette notice acquiring a person's land the State ought to be ready to offer the money which is its equivalent value so that the owner can go out on the same market the next day and buy an equivalent and suitable property with that money. But in this instance the Government is going to defer charging the States interest for 10 years. By the same token we are expected to overlook the fact that the land owner can have his land fixed at the value of the base rate with some artificial figuring to uplift the value by some formula or other. The land can be sterilised and all development stopped until the State makes up its mind on whether it is ready to acquire it.

Sir Kenneth Anderson - It is like the old closer settlement proposals, is it not?

Senator WRIGHT -I think it is rather the reverse. We used to acquire land for local settlement, to get men settled and decentralised on the land. Under this proposal it is to be done for the purpose of congesting people in another city. We have planners now who Will avoid the congestion of the past. Nevertheless, these Bills deal with a city complex. The only other point about which I ask the Minister to help me when he replies relates to a right of appeal. I want to be assured that there is a right of appeal from a value assigned to acquired land on the basis of the ValuerGeneral's valuation. I believe that there is a right of appeal in the State legislation. I believe that it excludes improvements erected on the land since the base date unless those improvements have been put there by consent. The Government is proposing to give to this complex outfit the right to prevent improvement of the land. If it is improved without consent nothing is paid for the value of the improvements. I regret that I have had to descend into those details on a matter which is so exciting in one way but not in comparison with the things I mentioned at the outset of my speech. But it is a national project. These matters of detail to which I have referred are matters of actual practical concern to the citizens of this area.

Debate interrupted.

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