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Thursday, 27 April 1961

Mr LUCOCK (Lyne) .- Mr. Deputy Speaker,I second the motion and have much pleasure in supporting the remarks made by my colleague, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond). Decentralization is something which we in Australia must consider very seriously at this time. The problem is one which concerns not only the future of the country but also, I believe, the place that this country will take and the part that it will play in world affairs in the years to come.

On a number of occasions I have said in this House that Australia has a problem that is particular and peculiar to this country because we have a very large area and a very small population. There is no other country in the world that is confronted with this problem in the same way as is Australia. This problem has become, even more complex because of the concentration of our population in limited and restricted areas. This concentration has become so marked that we in New South Wales frequently mv that the letters "N.S.W." in the common abbreviated form of the name of that State stand for Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. I think that, in view of the potential of the other parts of the State, this is one of the tragedies of New South Wales. Centralization of population and, industry in Sydney, the capital city, is having a detrimental effect on the State as a whole.

The density of population in Sydney and the difficulty of establishing new enterprises there have forced certain industries to po to Queensland, Victoria and South Australia, and from the standpoint of the- country generally this is perhaps of advantage tn Australia as a whole if it happens only for a period. But I believe that this situation will continue unless something is done about the present centralization ii New South Wales, and that- State will thereforesuffer.

The honorable member for New England said that the centralization that we see has resulted from a deliberate policy brought about by certain interests and certain pressures. This is one of the unfortunate features of the situation, Sir. Naturally, if there is a large number of people in one area governments take certain action with respect to that area solely because of the large numbers there, and the relatively few people elsewhere are not given the same attention simply because they are fewer in number. We need to move large numbers of our people from the areas where they are concentrated and disperse them elsewhere if we are to overcome this tendency.

I speak particularly about my own electorate, because, naturally, I know it closely. But I believe that the things that I have to say about my own constituency may be said with equal force about other parts of Australia. For the moment we perhaps face difficulties in the timber industry, and these difficulties are accentuated because timber has to be hauled long distances over our railways and our roads with the result that the cost of production and therefore the cost to the user of the timber is increased.

I refer also to the development of Port Stephens - a matter that I have mentioned previously in this House. My colleague, the honorable member for New England, said that certain interests have been able to apply pressure in order to have attention given to the areas that are important to them, and that sort of thing- has had its effect on Port Stephens. We have there a harbour second to none, in the world but, tragically for Australia, it has cot been used. When the construction of the oil refinery which- has been, built, at Kurnell was first talked about I suggested - this is a matter that has nothing to do with the Commonwealth Government - that, the refinery be established at. Port Stephens. Had' it been built there New South Wales would have gained one of the greatest advantages that could have accrued to that State. Evenif the State Government had incurred an expenditure of £2,000,000 over the establishment of the refinery at Port Stephens the location of this establishment there would have been of value to the entire State im particular, and to Australia as a whole, because the Port Stephens area would have been provided with roads, railways, electricity supplies, telephone services and all the other facilities needed in an area where an oil refinery is constructed. This development would then have tended to attract other industries, and overseas firms interested in establishing themselves in Australia might have looked favorably on the Port Stephens district as a suitable district in which to commence operations with small financial outlay. At the present time the cost of establishment of industries in the area is prohibitive.

Development of the Port Stephens area would have been of value to the country, not only from the point of view of the establishment of particular industries in the district, but also because it would have assisted in opening up a good deal of undeveloped country around the Hastings, Manning and Macleay rivers, besides further developing areas already in production. The primary products of that part of the country would be extremely valuable, not only from the point of view of the local market, but also because they could help to increase our export earnings. They could be brought to Port Stephens and shipped from there, instead of having to he transported to Sydney or Newcastle. Costs of production would then be reduced because of decreased transport costs.

In many of the larger towns in my electorate strenuous efforts have been made to establish secondary industries. I give credit to the local authorities that have been endeavouring to do something along these lines. But one of the greatest problems confronting them is that of transportation costs. If you establish an industry in one of these country areas, you are faced with the problem of meeting high charges for the. transport of raw material for use in the industry, and the subsequent difficulty of transporting the finished product to the capital cities. If Australians population were spread more evenly throughout the country, local consumption in country areas would increase, and the transportation costs that now militate against decentralization of industry would be reduced.

Let me tell honorable members about a town in my electorate called Smithtown. Many years apo this town enjoyed port facilities and a. regular shipping service. As a. result of the retardation of development in the district, there is now practically no shipping service whatsoever. This is an example of what has been happening generally in similar country areas, and I contend that the problem is one that should concern not only this Government but also all other governments and all the people of Australia.

The honorable member for New England spoke of the. discovery of iron ore in the Grafton area. I believe that the potential of such country districts is unlimited. We frequently speak about the financial problems confronting the country and the need to build up our export trade. If we are to solve our economic problems and increase our export earnings I believe we must first concentrate on decentralization and the development of country areas. After all, these areas are responsible for the products that bring 80 per cent, of our export earnings, and they are, therefore, vital to the financial and economic stability of Australia. This is a matter that we have tended to lose sight of, and to which I have directed attention in this House on many occasions. By following a policy of decentralization I believe we can make a valuable contribution to the development of country districts. This will be of great benefit not only in our domestic economy but also in overcoming our balance of payments problem.

I pay a tribute to the officers, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for the research work they have done and the help they have given to primary producers. But again we find that their work has had limited effectiveness because our population has been concentrated largely in metropolitan areas. If there were more people in country areas greater advantage could be taken of the assistance offered by this organization and rural progress and development would then be greatly enhanced.

In the metropolitan area, of Sydney one sees every day the problems raised by trafficcongestion and the way in which this is. adding to our production costs. These costs, are increased, because of the constant delays; in transporting goods, from one part of the metropolitan area, to another, and also because of the additional fuel, consumed by the vehicles that transport these goods. Decentralization would provide a means of reducing these casts to a considerable degree.

Even in our political scene I believe there is a need for decentralization. New States should be established, so that greater effort could be concentrated on the development of country areas. In this Commonwealth Parliament I suggest there should be a greater proportion of members representing country electorates. At the present time the boundaries of an electorate are defined having regard only to the number of electors within those boundaries. In many cases it is obvious that this approach to the matter is ridiculous. One striking example of this is to be found in the very electorate that you represent, Mr. Deputy Speaker - the electorate of Darling. The member representing an electorate of that kind experiences great difficulty in covering long distances to see the various electors. In this way his difficulties are greater than those of other honorable members, who have many more electors but in a concentrated area. For this reason I believe that the percentage allowed on either side of the quota should be increased, in order to achieve a better balanced representation of country areas.

T second the motion of the honorable member for New England. I hope that the people will heed the honorable member's very wise remarks, and that action will he taken along the lines that he has suggested, so that we may achieve something about which a good deal has been spoken for many years past, but about which, unfortunately, very little has been done.

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