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Thursday, 21 November 1974
Page: 2692

Senator GIETZELT (New South Wales) - I speak in the debate despite the fact that Opposition senators have said that they will support the legislation. I wish to answer some of the queries which have been raised and which show, to my mind, a complete misunderstanding and lack of clear appreciation of the intentions of the Government in respect of this magnificent contribution towards the funding of local government generally throughout Australia. I think that the contribution by Senator Scott was a much more thoughtful and interesting contribution to the debate than was the hysterical outburst by Senator Carrick. These outbursts have become characteristic of him. He never seems to want to give credit to the Government for anything it may do. If we introduce new pensions in our social services budget he says we ought to be doing more. If we give $56m to 800 out of 950 councils he says there is some motivation on the part of the Government or some sinister hidden reasoning behind the Government's new proposals. There is always something to be criticised. No credit is given for the innovation and the additional approach with which this Government has been associated in its endeavours to bring about an equalisation of municipal services throughout Australia.

I found it somewhat interesting to hear Senator Scott refer in the last part of his speech to the need for the Grants Commission to recognise that local government should have grants given to it regardless of its requirements and that efficiency should be the keynote on which the Commission should operate. I suggest that he should have conveyed those opinions to the Leader of his Party in New South Wales, Sir Charles Cutler, when he was Minister for Local Government. Together with the preceding Minister for Local Government he was responsible for embodying the principles of this BUI in the New South Wales Local Government Grants Commission when it was established. I paid tribute in this chamber a year or two ago to the New South Wales Liberal Government for introducing a Grants Commission in New South Wales. It was one of the first in Australia. Regard was had to the efficiency of the council. That is the principle on which the legislation operates in New South Wales.

A member of the Country Party, while paying tribute to the efforts of the Australian Government as revealed in this legislation, saw fit to suggest that we were acting incorrectly in applying the same principles that the New South Wales Government applied. I can understand what Senator Scott has said because I myself raised this very question when we were discussing this matter in the Party room. I say to Senator Scott and to Senator Carrick that if we concern ourselves with efficiency in respect of the grants that are to be given to local government bodies, if we have an indifferent or an inefficient council and we take that too much into consideration, the only people who will suffer will be not the council but the ratepayers who live in that area. This negates the very principles upon which the Government is providing these local government grants.

The Government is providing the local government grants in order to bring about an equalisation of municipal services throughout Australia. There is abundant evidence on this question. In fact, I urge honourable senators who have levelled so much criticism to read one of the latest reports of the urban research unit of the Austraiian National University. It shows that in the areas which require the greatest assistance-, the areas that are developing, the depressed areas, the areas in the outer suburbs of the great cities of our Commonwealth- the rates are the highest and the services are the lowest. In fact, the report shows that in the more salubrious areas where the rates are the lowest, the services, for a variety of reasons which I have not time to canvass this evening, are better than those provided in areas where the rates are the highest. The councils in those high rating areas are grappling with the neglect- and I say to Senator Carrick that there is no other word to describe it- of 23 years of government in which his Party held responsibility. That government refused to give any consideration to providing funds to local government to enable it to carry out its responsibilities. It forced the 900 councils throughout Australia to rely entirely and solely upon rate revenues in order to finance the services which they provided for the ratepayers within their boundaries.

Only in recent years were some progressive steps taken by one or two State governments to give very small sums of money to local government bodies. Because more time is not available to me I will give but one example of the amount of money which a State government gave to a council with which I have been associated over the years. The State government gave that council $30,000. Out of the allocation of the $56m which is the subject of the legislation that we are considering, that same, council will receive more than $400,000, because the allocation is based on need, on the equalisation program and on the philosophy of the Australian Government to create a more equal society. I just cannot understand the negative thinking which has become so characteristic of Senator Carrick in recent times. He gives no credit to the Government, whatever it may do. Whilst we appreciate that the Opposition parties have no recourse other than to support the Bill, I wish that they would do it in a much more pleasant way, in a way which would indicate that they give credit where credit should be given.

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