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Tuesday, 9 June 1970


Mr KATTER (Kennedy) - I. suppose there is no-one who is associated with any form of government who would not agree that local government should receive greatly increased funds for its normal operations. I do not intend to wake a statistical comparison between what the present Government would claim should -be done and the record of governments that have preceded it in gradually and continuously increasing the funds that are made available to local government. What 1 should like to do is to give one or two examples from my own practical experience as a shire chairman, deputy chairman and member of a harbour board under a Labor government in Queensland. 1 would issue this in the form of a challenge, lt would be interesting for some honourable member to produce a record of the funds made available for the development of areas, other than the metropolitan area, in Queensland during that long and unworthy term of government by the Australian Labor Party. It is all very well for an honourable member to get up and read a speech and give statistics. I find that members of the Opposition have a manoeuvrability and can get up .and claim they can do this or do that. I suppose I am one of those unfortunate people who will never get this manoeuvrability because 1 w 11 never have an opportunity of sitting on the Opposition benches.

Let me get back to the value of practical experience in local government. I - do not know what experience the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), who gets up and says that the States have starved local government authorities, has had in local government or semi-government bodies. I do not know what experience the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has had in this very hard school. One may ask: What have I done in local government bodies? My whole adult lifetime has been spent as a member of local government or semi-government bodies. I have had a pretty tough road to hoe. I was at one time chairman of the shire which controlled Mount Isa. Let me tell the House about this practical experience of which 1 have been talking. When 1 was chairman of that shire the restrictions on the use of water, which is a pretty important commodity, in Mount lsa were such that the water was turned off at 6 o'clock each night. The people of Mount Isa just could not get any water at all after that time. 1 went down' to Brisbane and pleaded with the Labor Government that then controlled Queensland to do something about this situation. I do not think there was a branch of the Australian Labor Party in that town which did not plead with that Government, which was based in Brisbane and whose thoughts never got beyond the Great Dividing Range. These are the sorts of people who today have been saying that this Commonwealth Government should give increased funds and increased consideration to local government authorities.

Another exercise would be to examine the record of achievements by local government authorities under the jurisdiction of the Labor Government in the State of Queensland in relation to the bituminising of streets and the provision of kerbing and channelling and all those things that normally come with the development of areas controlled by local authorities. I suppose we must admit that local authorities are dependent on State governments for finance but above all for consideration. The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), who will follow me in this debate, lives in a city that has developed dramatically under its present Lord Mayor. It would be political humbug for anyone to take credit away from the Lord Mayor for his achievements in that city. However, I think he himself would readily admit that his achievements would not have been possible if it were not for a considerate government, a government with which he has worked very closely. He has had the best of relations with the various Ministers for Local Government and Electricity in Queensland. So here is an example of cooperation by a State government with local government authorities, not an example of a State government starving the Brisbane City Council of funds to develop this great city. These ideas for development were initiated by the present Lord Mayor of Brisbane. 1 do not take this credit away from him for one moment.

But it is futile and political humbug to get up here and claim that this Federal Government is falling down on the job. I would say that there is a great need for local government authorities generally to have a new deal in their relationship with the Federal Government. I say this without for a moment suggesting that the responsibilities, the authority or the sovereignty of the State governments should in any way be interferred with. But 1 have always maintained that if we want effective and telling decentralisation the most effective way of producing it is to give greater responsibilities to' local government authorities and to give them the finance that will permit them to meet these added responsibilities. I have always expressed this thought - 1 expressed it at the Australian Council of Local Government annual conference held in Melbourne earlier this year, so it is not something new - there should be representation of local government authorities at the Australian Loan Council discussions. I do not mean by that their representatives should be there to interfere with the discussions that should take place and the representations that should be made by the Ministers for Local Government and the various other people who may be present at those discussions. But 1 do feel that if they are not permitted to make representations at the Loan Council meetings they should most certainly be able to approach the Treasurer annually to place their own case before him, not with the object of securing funds directly from the Commonwealth but of bringing home directly from local government authorities to the Federal Treasurer the burdens which local government bodies carry at this time.

I come a little nearer to home. .In the outback areas of this nation - and this would apply to almost every State - we see a problem which is an international one. There is a trend for people to move away from rural areas to the city. Therefore the rating capacity of the rural areas becomes less and less. I believe that this situation should be very closely examined al all government levels. I think it is becoming serious enough to warrant an inquiry, noi by a select committee, but something of greater consequence, to look into the problems of local authorities and their finances. I can well understand the Leader of the Opposition getting up and reading what was prepared for him. I must assume that his remarks must almost exclusively be applied to netropolitan municipalities. 1 know this is quoted again and again, but we never have ┬źny reason to believe that the Leader of the Opposition has ever altered a point of view which he expressed in very explicit and strong terms when he addressed the Australian Planning Institute in 196S in Sydney. On that occasion he said: 'Cities and civilisation go hand in hand. By derivation civilised men are those who live in cities; pagans are those who live in the country'. As long as 1 am in this House I have a role to play together with my colleagues in this section of the House, and that is to fight vigorously for those alleged pagans. If the Leader of the Opposition likes to refer to us as Thor, Woden or Mars, we will accept it. But let it never be forgotten. There are 2 things about the- Leader' of the Opposition that will linger forever in my memory. The first is the comment by him to which I have referred and the second is the fact that he stood in front of this House and addressed 1,200 people under 2 Vietcong flags.







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