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Thursday, 31 August 1972
Page: 1007

Mr ENDERBY - In some ways this report from the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory is a milestone for the Australian Capital Territory, as the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) has pointed out. It seems to be the first occasion, at least since the procedure was changed, on which the Committee has refused to give approval to a proposition to change the road plan of Canberra. The Committee serves a very important role in Canberra. With the lack of territorial government here, the Committee serves as a kind of watchdog. I am grateful for the short time that has been granted to me to speak today because I want to comment on the Committee's report. Firstly, the report talks about the lack of liaison in Canberra between Government departments. For example the Committee says that it was shocked to learn that the police were not consulted about the proposition to change the road plan. But that relates to only one aspect of the report.

A very important principle underlies the Committee's attitude to the second point about the excessive use of the private motor car. Canberra already has a population of approximately 160,000 and this increases by about 10 per cent - or some 15,000 people - every year. It is a city designed for the mo:or car; it has almost no real public transport. One has only to see the congestion around the Russell Hill complex - that was in the Committee's mind when it drew attention to the excessive amount of space being taken up by bitumen - to realise what will happen if this development goes on in the way it is going on now. Something like 20 per cent of the urban surface is taken up with carriageways, and that does not take into account the area devoted to parking spaces.

It is not an easy problem to solve. You cannot take away unreasonably the freedom of the ordinary citizen to use his motor car, but you have to provide him with a better system. Cities like Rome and Bologna have experimented with providing free public transport. It seems to me that that is not the complete answer, but it is something that can be thought about seriously now and at least started as a beginning. Surely we have to move in the direction of regarding the motor car as part of public transport. I am thinking of the suggestions put forward for mini-buses, dial-a-bus and things of that sort to keep the motorist off the road at least in peak times and to provide him with a better system. Why should our taxi service not be regarded more as part of the public transport system than it is now? One should consider the social cost of the motor car that follows from the congestion and is reflected in twisted bodies, third party insurance premiums, industries like the panel beating industry, the excessive amount of land devoted to the motor car and the social wastage involved in the use of the motor car. lt is parked and left useless all day, merely to take a person to work and to bring a person home. Surely in Canberra of all places, where there are plenary powers, a survey could be undertaken to determine just how much it would cost and how much cheaper overall it would be - I suggest it would be cheaper - to subsidise either a private taxi service or a government run taxi service that would pick up people and take them to work by arrangement. It would be known that people in one area wanted to work in another area, and they would be taken there and brought back. It would not be beyond the present level of computer technology. It could be done, and I suggest seriously that it must be done. In Canberra 85 per cent to 90 per cent of people drive their cars to work. That is by far the highest percentage for anywhere in Australia and probably in the whole world. For a variety of reasons Canberra has by far the highest percentage of people owning and driving motor cars. One should look at the cost of the motor car - the hire purchase cost, the depreciation cost - and at the industries it supports which could engage in more socially useful activity. This is the problem but it is linked up with other matters.

For example, only a week or so ago the attention of the people of Canberra was drawn to the fact that the carbon monoxide levels at peak hours in Northbourne Avenue approached a standard which is the significant danger to health level, as recommended by the Government of the United States of America. The level was far in excess of the levels recommended by the World Health Organisation. It is true that it was not an average. The levels were taken at peak hour in Canberra. This is a city with only 160,000 people, yet the carbon monoxide levels are rapidly approaching those of Pitt Street in Sydney, and our population is increasing by something like 15,000 people a year. Canberra is a city designed for the motor car, but we are not taking sufficient account of the social cost of the motor car. Those are the features that underlie this report, which requires that it be given a very wide reading because it is, I believe, the beginning of an awareness of the problem that has to be solved.

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