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Wednesday, 20 March 1957

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- The matter which I wish to raise concerns the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall). Some months ago it was announced that a runway extension was to be laid down at the Royal Australian Air Force station at Laverton, Victoria. At Werribee on Foundation Day, the councillors told me that they considered such an extension would act very detrimentally, industrially and otherwise, to the Werribee council, area.

The Minister, no doubt, appreciates that the runway, which it is suggested should be considerably extended, would be within 10 or 12 miles of the General Post Office, Melbourne. lt is an area where, undoubtedly, there will be very substantial industrial expansion. Indeed, in one area adjacent to the proposed extension, it is proposed that the runway should intrude on an area which, it is believed, eventually will accommodate the Newmarket saleyards. In an informal talk, I told the councillors of the shire of Werribee that their best move would be to suggest that the responsible Minister should meet them on the spot to examine the possibility of putting forward an alternative proposal. Sometimes it is possible so to do. In this case I do not know whether it is or not. That is the ultimate responsibility of the responsible Ministers concerned, and in this case there are, indeed, two of them. In the first instance, no doubt, a requisition from the Royal Australian Air Force to the Minister for the Interior would be necessary to put in train the essential and necessary acquisition requirements; but, finally, it is. I understand, within the capacity of the Minister for the Interior, if any queries are raised, to examine the position himself, to obtain from the Minister administering the Royal Australian Air Force any information that he may desire, and then to decide whether acquisition proceedings should be continued.

It is true that the Werribee Shire Council accepted my suggestion. It was somewhat dilatory in communicating with me. but on 5th March, or thereabouts, it forwarded me a letter accompanied by all the plans of the area proposed to be acquired, and asked me to make representations to this Government regarding the particular matter. I forwarded the Werribee Shire Council's correspondence, together with a covering letter dated 6th March, to the Minister for the Interior addressed to Parliament House, Canberra. To date, I have heard nothing further about the matter. I do not know why, but it appears to be characteristic, unfortunately - I am not going to use this occasion to condemn or criticize the Government - of this Government that it is all too lacking in ministerial capacity when representative citizens and others raise complaints such as I have mentioned. There is a lack of willingness on the part of the Minister himself to make a personal investigation on the spot. Let me give an example of what I mean. 1 have been through this sort of thing myself. 1 recall an incident that occurred during what might have been regarded as a very critical stage in the war when complaints were made to me from New South Wales in regard to a proposal from the Royal Australian Air Force, through the Department of the Interior, to lay down an immense runway strip on the most fertile pan of the Camden Park Estate.

Representations were made to me that the department should not utilize for that purpose the most fertile area of the Camden Park Estate which, as everybody from New South Wales knows, accommodates the most efficient, and probably the cleanest dairying land, as well as equipment, for the production of milk for the Sydney area. I went personally to Camden to inspect the site on behalf of the then Minister for Air whom I had been appointed to assist. I met the manager of the Camden Vale Estate, inspected the valley, of which I knew the value as a practical farmer, and then came back to the Royal Australian Air Force head-quarters. I interviewed most of the members of the air force staff, and after some discussion with the Department of the Interior and as a result of my crossexamination of people on the spot at Camden Vale, I ascertained that there were alternative suitable sites in that area which would save that very fertile valley and ultimately make possible the setting down of a runway on a comparatively poor area of land. It transpired that the Royal Australian Air Force agreed that it was unnecessary to put down a runway in this particular valley, and the result was that the runway was put down on an alternative site which was less detrimental to the Camden Vale Estate and did not interfere with the efficiency of Sydney's milk supply.

That is an illustration of the kind of thing which I shall probably cite during the debate on the Address-in-Reply. T suggest that it is not unreasonable to expect in cases such as this that the Royal Australian Air Force administration, in its enthusiasm to provide an enormous runway which will take the largest planes likely to come to Australia, should take into consideration sufficiently the necessity to have some regard to the interference these extensions may cause to industrial expansion and their effect on the convenience and comfort of local residents. It may be that a personal inspection by the Minister for the Interior, with the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) or the administrative officers of the Air Force, could result in an alternative strip being put down which would not involve expensive acquisitions and would not retard the development of this area. I do not know, but I believe that there are occasions when the Minister himself, if at all possible, should make these inspections, and should try to understand the outlook of local residents and, incidentally, act as a brake on carelessness which could take place within administrations such as the Royal Australian Air Force and other governmental instrumentalities. I leave the matter at that. I ask the Minister to make haste in making the essential inspections and to see if anything can be done to avoid intrusion on this area.

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