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Thursday, 8 November 1956

Mr FAIRHALL (Paterson) (Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works) . - by leave - I move -

(1)   That a joint committee be appointed to -

(a)   examine and report on all proposals for modifications or variations of the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra and its environs published in the " Commonwealth of Australia Gazette" on the nineteenth day of November, 1925, as previously modified or varied, which are referred to the committee by the Minister for the Interior; and

(b)   examine and report on such other matters relating to the Australian Capital Territory as may be referred to the committee by the Minister for the Interior.

(2)   That the committee consist of two members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Prime Minister, two members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, three senators appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and two senators appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.

(3)   That every appointment of a member of the committee be forthwith notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

(4)   That the committee elect as chairman of the committee one of the members appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

(5)   That the chairman of the committee may, from time to time, appoint another member of the committee to be the deputy chairman of the committee, and that the member so appointed act as chairman of the committee at any time when the chairman is not present at a meeting of the committee.

(6)   That the committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of three or more of its members and to refer to such a sub-committee any matter which the committee is empowered to examine.

(7)   That the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records and to sit during any recess or any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament.

(8)   That the committee have leave to report from time to time and that any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report.

(9)   That five members of the committee, including the chairman or deputy chairman, constitute a quorum of the committee, and two members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of the subcommittee.

(10)   That in matters of procedure the chairman or deputy chairman presiding at the meeting have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote, and that, in other matters, the chairman 01 deputy chairman have a deliberative vote only.

(1   1) That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.

(12)   That a message be sent to the Senate acquainting it of this resolution and requesting that it concur and take action accordingly.

Under the Seat of Government Act, Canberra was established as the Seat of Government with the intention that it should become the centre of Commonwealth administration. Here is to be established the machinery of administration and around it must grow the public offices and buildings, the homes of extensive administrative staff, the necessary services and amenities to make Canberra the National Capital. This concept was embodied in the Canberra plan, gazetted in 1925, to provide for the aesthetic development of a national capital worthy of the Australian nation.- Due to circumstances arising from war, economic depression and more pressing needs for other forms of development in Australia, the Canberra plan has been realized only slowly. Nevertheless, this city has grown to a population exceeding 30,000 and the foundation of the city's physical and administrative development has been laid.

In the absence of a long-term plan for the city's growth, certain problems have become evident, which have in turn been by-passed without solution. The resulting deficiencies cannot easily be rectified. It was this sort of situation, no doubt, which prompted the Senate to set up a select committee to inquire into and report on the development of Canberra as the Seat of Government. That voluminous report will, no doubt, have been read with interest by honorable members who will appreciate, as a consequence, the recent move in another place to establish a committee under Standing Orders designed to exercise some closer parliamentary supervision over the National Capital and its development.

The proposal envisaged the establishment of a similar committee in the House of Representatives with powers of joint consultation. A notice of motion to bring this about stands on the notice-paper in the name of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser). The Government is of the opinion that the addition of these two proposed bodies to the number of agencies already concerned with Canberra's development would be wasteful of both time and effort and might well hinder development. Nevertheless, we are keenly aware that the proper development of Canberra is a national and, therefore, a parliamentary responsibility. Certainly, extensive and effective machinery exists for parliamentary supervision of the affairs of the National Capital, mostly through the power of disallowing modifications of the plan and legislative ordinances.

The Government feels that some more constructive avenue of assistance might be of benefit and has therefore proposed, with the approval of interested members of both Houses, that a joint standing committee should be established in which both Opposition and Government parties in both Houses of the Parliament should be represented. As I have indicated, the functions of the committee will be to examine and report on proposals for modifications or variations of the gazetted Canberra plan, which may be referred to the committee foi report by the Minister for the Interior as well as to examine and report on such other matters related to the Australian Capital Territory, as may be referred similarly.

It will be noted that the terms of reference are wide and that the committee will be empowered to send for persons, papers and records. As the nature of Canberra's developing problems are very often technical and therefore may make extensive calls on the technical staff of the departments -concerned, the desirability of leaving with the Minister the initiative in referring matters for consideration by the committee is understood and appreciated by the members of both Houses bringing forward the original proposals.

There is some indication of the scope for inquiry into the type of problems now pressing. The plan to provide the King'savenue bridge, as well as extensions to the hospital, calls for a final settlement of the lakes proposal, about which there is still some lack of definition. The original Canberra plan, drawn in what might be nol unkindly referred, to as the '' horseandbuggy " days, threatens to develop extensive traffic and parking problems. As the population of the capital increases rapidly, the number of cars and both local and tourist traffic increases.

The areas reserved for public buildings might profitably be reviewed in the light of actual experience and their effect on the extension of the city's boundaries reassessed. Already it is evident that the spread of the city is raising tremendous problems associated with the cost of housing and transport and the provision and maintenance of engineering services. If there is not to be a long-term plan of development, Parliament will need to be vigilant against the ever-present risk of adding to the number of temporary buildings in a city which ought to be characterized by adequacy and permanence in such matters. For these reasons, the establishment of a standing committee is put forward as a constructive approach to matters over which the Parliament could rightly seek to exercise closer supervision, and I hope the proposal will have the support of the House.

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