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Wednesday, 22 August 1973
Page: 196

Mr HUNT (GWYDIR, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is directed to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. If the Government has not defined the regions in which local governing bodies will be eligible to receive special grants from the Grants Commission has it defined the parameters of regional inequality between regions? Will local government in areas such as Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange growth centres and Holsworthy-Campbelltown-Camden centres currently under examination by the Cities Commission be eligible to receive nonrepayable appropriations from the Grants Commission? Or will assistance in these regional areas be restricted to interest bearing advances from the Treasury? Does the Minister agree that local government bodies in regional growth centres chosen for special development have an advantage over other regions which are not chosen and therefore would be less likely to receive assistance from the Grants Commission?

Mr UREN - This is a very lengthy question and it would need a very lengthy reply. The honourable member has dealt with the new cities program and the question of the Grants Commission. It would take a considerable time to explain the policy of the Government in detail to the House. I will explain the philosophy behind the Grants Commission procedure. The Prime Minister has been saying for years that, while the claimant States have been claiming on the Australian Government because of the inequality between the differing States, there has been inequality within States. Therefore, our decision to allow regional areas to make claims on the Australian Government through the Grants Commission was based on that philosophy. Because my Department is a new department, as I intimated yesterday it will be approximately 3 months before the regions are denned in co-operation with the State governments. That is the position in regard to the Grants Commission.

It is true to say that some areas will have a Commonwealth priority. We will select growth areas and urge that finance be diverted into those areas to attract industry and public servants. The people who move to those areas must have the best educational, cultural, recreational, social and industrial facilities. These areas will be priority areas. We have to follow this course if we want decentralisation to work. In 1947 the population of the rural areas of Australia represented 31 per cent of the population of Australia. Today, 26 years later - for 23 years of that period Australia was governed by administrations of the same political complexion as the ones of which the honourable member was a member - the figure is 14.7 per cent. Therefore, positive policies are needed to attract population to these new growth areas, if decentralisation is to function.

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