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Tuesday, 19 September 1972
Page: 1582

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (Minister for Trade and Industry) - I am very pleased to be associating myself with the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and in some ways with some of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), although I am sorry that he has expressed them in somewhat of a sour tone. But 1 have no desire to be provocative or to antagonise members on this issue. Tonight marks an historic occasion, when the Commonwealth has declared a policy in relation to urban development and decentralisation. I do not think there would be much difference of opinion between any honourable members in this House that the major problems facing Australia today concern the congestion of the cities and their allied problems, and the lack of development of country areas and the lack of job opportunities and so on for people living in those areas. The problems of both areas are virtually related, namely, how to relieve the growth pressures in the city and how to give encouragement to the establishment of more industries in the country. I am very pleased to know that there is a high degree of harmony on both sides of the House on this question.

The Leader of the Opposition sought more information than was contained in the Prime Minister's statement. It is not possible to dot all the i's and cross all the t's at this early stage. To implement a national policy will take the complete and co-operative support of State governments. Of course, in involving State governments there will be a need to involve local government authorities. I should like to say more about the siting of these new growth centres presently.

The statement which the Prime Minister has made this evening marks the beginning of a major attack on the imbalance of population and industry which has plagued this nation for a long time. A great deal of work has been carried out by officers of State and Commonwealth departments. A report has now been presented to the Commonwealth Government. A lot of work has gone on between Commonwealth departments, such as the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Shipping and Transport, the Department of the Interior, the Treasury and the Prime Minister's Department, in examining this matter closely, for it is a matter of great complexities. We want to see success. I regard the measures that the Prime Minister has announced tonight as amongst the most far-reaching and significant steps ever taken by an Australian government. For many years the people of country areas in Australia, and particularly my own Party, have fought for decentralisation. They have made some worthwhile gains with the help of State governments and with some indirect help from the Commonwealth. But not until now has the urgency of the situation been understood by the great mass of Australians who live in our major cities. Today the problems of pollution, crowding, stress and cost have brought home to most Australians th: fact that decentralisation is an urgent national necessity. In tonight's statement, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has firmly set the Commonwealth on a course we believe will lead to a substantial degree of correction of this major problem in our national development.

The change of direction in the historical pattern of our development to which we are now committing ourselves will not be achieved without great difficulty. In the interests of saner development and a more sensible use of our national resources, 1 hope all Australian governments, all Australian political parties and the whole of the Australian people will work together in the spirit of co-operation which will be needed to make this new approach succeed. There is not the slightest doubt that we must make it succeed. Failure in this new line of attack will not only perpetuate and intensify our existing lop-sided development pattern, and thus make even worse the problems of the future, but also it will set back for a long time - perhaps make irretrievable - our opportunity to make Australia an example to the world of sensible national development in action. The proposals outlined by the Prime Minister will, of course, be be worked out as to their details in the fullest co-operation and consultation with the State governments. The proposals in themselves cannot alter the constitutional situation of the States having the authority and the powers to implement the physical aspects of the kind of programme we envisage.

The programme is based on 2 main lines of attack. They call for a new method of planning the development of our major cities, and for a new concept for Australia - selective decentralisation, or the fostering of growth centres. I have no doubt that there will be people who will say we should try to prevent further major growth of our big cities, and direct all new growth into other areas of the nation. While there is some attraction in such a proposition, I think we must be realistic enough to accept the fact that we cannot completely block further growth in our capital cities. Having accepted that fact, we must then look for ways of directing the metropolitan growth that will inevita bly occur into the best possible paths. The urban development aspects of the programme announced tonight will make such a new approach possible.

The other main line of attack, and the one which, because of my special interests and the interests of my Party, gives me particular cause for satisfaction, is the Government's plan to strongly support the growth-centre concept. Here again, the regional development aspect of the programme will be founded on 2 main lines of approach. Firstly, we will be looking for a continuation of, and if possible further development of, the existing measures which the State governments use to encourage decentralisation of industry on a generalised basis. By this I mean those measures which induce industry to establish in whatever decentralised location it feels best suited to do. 1 believe it is vital that this approach continue so that industry can be attracted to cities and towns all over Australia where the natural advantages and the facilities provided can make such decentralisation effective and useful.

But the major new Commonwealth initiative involves the superimposition on the existing measures of a new policy involving the growth-centre concept. This concept is accepted world-wide and by every authority in Australia as the only means of achieving the kind of really large-scale decentralisation which will make a significant impact on our national population imbalance. I am the first to acknowledge that the selection of growth-centres will create difficulties. It will create difficulties for politicians who will be faced with competing claims for selection of growth centres in various regions. We must not run away from these difficulties; in the national interest, we cannot,. What must happen, in my view, is that growth centres must be selected according to criteria which are carefully determined to achieve the gest possible results in the overall national interest. The establishment of a national authority and an advisory committee or committees, as described by the Prime Minister, will I believe make this approach possible.

May I say how delighted I am to see that Sir John Overall has been invited to be chairman of this national authority. Sir John Overall would be the most experienced and competent authority in this nation to develop such a programme. Sir John Overall is the man whose work lies behind the modern concept of Canberra - the man who has been in charge of Canberra's development since 1958 - and I believe great credit rests on him for the magnificent job that he has done. He is a man who has also won great recognition by State governments and has been consulted from time to time with some of their developmental projects.

The programme outlined tonight by the Prime Minister marks an historic new direction not only in our approach to our population and industry patterns, but also to our traditional federal relationships. I believe that the Australian people will see in this programme the chance to achieve a different kind of Australian development and, indeed, a new kind of Australian living. I believe we can achieve through this programme a new understanding of what quality of life can mean. We can show the world how a sensible nation can go about the kind of development the modern world and the modern needs of man and the demands of his environment require. I look to the Australian people to make this programme work, and I will do all in my power to educate and to help increase the public's understanding of this new national policy. I look forward to all members of this Parliament doing likewise.

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