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Tuesday, 9 June 1970

Mr UREN (Reid) - I rise to support the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) who has raised as a matter of public importance the need for the Commonwealth to assist the finances and functions of semi-government and local government authorties. We have just heard the reply by the Treasurer (Mr Bury) on behalf of the Government. When one listens to the comments made by the Treasurer one realises how completely out of touch he is with the people. Anyone who works closely with local or semi-government bodies knows that they are in a state of stagnation. The States are in revolt. At the recent Liberal Party convention they defeated the Prime Minister and he had to make a backward step. But we are dealing not only with the Gorton Administration, we are dealing also with a government that has been in office for 2 decades. We are complaining about the stagnation and the chaos that has been created by the Commonwealth starving the States, the local government and semi-government authorities.

The Leader of the Opposition has dealt with the chaotic condition of Commonwealth and State financial relations. He gave as an example the growth of the internal debt of the States and the reduction of the Commonwealth's debt during the same period. Since 1947 the State debt has been increased fourfold, the debt of local authorities tenfold and the debt of semigovernment authorities by 12i times. These are the figures that concern the States, local government and semi-government authorities. The cost of interest repayment during the last 12 years- from 1954-55 to 1966-67 - is worth noting. In 1954-55 the Commonwealth paid in interest SI 17m. This has increased to Si 29m a year. During that period Commonwealth revenue increased from $2,1 14m to $5,7 15m. The increase in internal interest repayments was only SI 2m whilst Commonwealth revenue increased by $3600m. During this period, the interest burden of the States increased from SI 34m to $379m, the interest burden of semi-government authorities increased from $67m to $243m and the interest burden of local government authorities increased from SI 4m to $67 m.

During the 2 decades that the conservative administrations have governed - or misgoverned - this country, chaos has grown. The Commonwealth continuously has starved the States and semi-governmental and local government authorities of finance, lt has at no time been prepared to cooperate and co-ordinate, on a planned basis, all levels of government. 1 stress that the Commonwealth has not co-operated and coordinated to plan all levels of government. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, there is no difference between ratepayers of local government bodies and taxpayers of the Commonwealth. We arc the same citizens at all levels of government and until such time as the Commonwealth provides leadership there can be no positive policy. During these 2 decades chaos has continued to grow in specific sectors of our community - in education, housing, roads, health and hospitalisation. But nothing has been so chaotic as the situation in our capital and provincial cities where 80% of our population resides. It is possibe to give only a rough estimate of the cost of cleaning up the urban environment because it is difficult to find proper statistics. It is estimated that the cost of installing sewerage to areas of Sydney and Melbourne that lack it would be about S600m. This is without any kind of treatment of sewage. The introduction of primary treatment of sewage in Sydney and Melbourne alone would cost another $lOOm.

We are now in the 1970s and people are demanding an answer to the chaos of urban living. No longer will they accept growing pollution, including noise and smell, and the destruction of our environment. In every capital city the expense of continually upgrading network services such as roads, water supplies, sewerage, telecommunications and public transport is enormous. I speak personally of Sydney, the city where I reside. Her industries have polluted her air and stagnated her beautiful waterways. Some of the most magnificent beaches in the world will not, by the turn of the century, be fit for our growing population to enjoy. This will be caused, to a great extent, by man's stupidity and by the starving of the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board, the authority responsible, by the Commonwealth Government of finance that is necessary to solve this urgent problem.

I want to deal with the pollution problem that is confronting Sydney's waterways and beaches. This is pollution caused by sewage from domestic and industrial outflows. I say at the outset that Sydney's problems can be repeated in every capital and provincial city in Australia. The problems cannot be solved by loan moneys. It is my view, and 1 believe my Party's attitude, that it will be necessary to solve this problem financially by grants under section 96 of the Constitution. I believe also that it will be necessary to draw on the best scientific knowledge that is available. The Commonwealth should be a partner of the States in solving the pollution problems of our cities. It should not pass the buck to the States. Together, in co-operation, we should work at all levels of government to conquer the problems. We cannot, in the 1970s, continue to place the burden on the State governments and local authorities, During the next 5 years the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board proposes to expend $65m on waste water treatment works. Mr Deputy Speaker, with the concurrence of the House I incorporate in Hansard a table showing the 5-year programme of expenditure by the Board. I have the consent of the Treasurer to this inclusion in Hansard.


An examination of. the table shows that of the 6 treatment works proposed the 2-major undertakings will be at Malabar, at a cost of $32m. and North Head, at a cost of $20m. Both projects will not be completed by 1973-74. lt should be noted, too, that the Board will be faced with a deficit of $ 1 6.59m by 1975-76. Extra loan moneys will have to be allocated to the Board. I point out that these estimates do not include provision for a proposed submarine outlet to be extended some 7 miles out to sea. This would cost a further $25m to $30m. These estimates of the Water Board give the cost of only discharging sewage into the ocean off Sydney.

There has been much argument by experts about the rights and wrongs of discharging sewage into the ocean and I believe that there should be a complete examination of Sydney's unique position where there are magnificent beaches stretching for 20 miles south and north of the harbour entrance. These beaches should be protected no matter what the cost. They can be saved only with the Commonwealth's co-operation and with its provision of finance and technical skills. Other alternatives could be examined. For example, Dr

T.   Mullins, who lectures on environmental studies at the New South Wales Institute of Technology, has given details of a proposed alternative sewerage scheme for Sydney. Sydney sprawls over 800 square miles, lt slopes down to the sea from a point near the Prospect Reservoir, which is about 24 miles inland. There could be located at intervals small processing stations along the line draining to the sea. In this way sewage from an inland area would be processed and the recycled water fed into a gravity system carrying it to areas nearer the sea and thus downhill. This would save substantial costs in pumping recycled water back from the large sea level outfalls. Reclaimed water could be used to supply water to industry. At present one-third of the water in ali Australian cities goes to industry. These are some of the proposals that could be undertaken with the cooperation of the Commonwealth.

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