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Thursday, 28 September 1972
Page: 2211


Sir JOHN CRAMER (Bennelong) - The statement by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) which we are discussing I think is the most timely move that we have had in this Parliament, and is of great national importance. It is quite pleasing for me to note from the speeches on both sides of the House that there seems to be very little opposition to the idea of creating this authority. There are certain differences in principle which I shall refer to shortly, but it would appear that the whole Parliament is in accord with the statement of the Prime Minister. I do not think that people realise at this time the potential or the magnitude of the scheme that has been floated by the establishment of this authority which, as we know, it is to be called the National Urban and Regional Development Authority. Of course, it will make recommendations for final decision by a ministerial council, and I rather like that idea.

Two matters are mentioned in the report: Firstly, the development of centres which are referred to as growth centres and secondly, the formation of submetropolitan centres around existing cities. The authority will go much further than that when it really gets going. We have to realise that what we are doing, in effect, is laying the foundation for a great new nation. As the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) properly said tonight, we are living in the last continent on earth to be developed into a great nation. We have a responsibility in relation to this. Australia has grown up in a short period of time - about 200 years - and there has been great development. But it is only in recent years that we have made discoveries of the enormous potential of Australia's natural resources. Whilst we have only 13 million people in Australia at present and 6 States with their own independence, in the future our population will be 100 million or 200 million. If people will understand this, we are now actually laying the foundation for the development of a great nation in an orderly fashion. That is the thing that really matters - orderly development.

The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) stated that decentralisation was a new-found interest of the Prime Minister. I can assure the honourable member that this matter was not hastily decided at all. Considerable research has gone on. I know that it has been going on in the Australian Country Party, the Liberal Party and in the joint Party room. It has been discussed on several occasions. Several members on this side of the House have made a very deep study of this matter and are very well informed as to the progress which should be made in the future. This applies particularly, if I may say so, to the honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon), who spoke earlier tonight. He is quite an expert on this subject. The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn), who was formerly the Minister for National Development, and many others have done quite a lot of study on it. I have made a considerable study of it. Over the last 10 or 12 years I have spoken in this House and urged that an authority of this kind be established because it is the only orderly way in which to gather information concerning the development of Australia's natural resources. The Government's proposal only starts a programme. This authority will go on for all time. Its job will never be finished. There is a great need, of course, at this particular time for its establishment.

Mention has been made tonight of the overcrowding of cities. We know that over 60 per cent of Australia's population lives in the cities and 40 per cent is in the 2 great cities Sydney and Melbourne. This situation is quite wrong, of course. In a condition like this we must initiate new growth centres. In doing this we have to have proper research done so that we will know what we are doing. The problem is not only merely trying to shift people into residential positions. This is not it. The whole complex of a modern society has to go along with the people. This is not an easy matter - indeed, it is very complex. The cities have grown up rather like Topsy because we have not had a proper coordinated arrangement in Australia. There has been no real forward thinking to utilise our resources on a national basis with a proper understanding of priorities. This is a very important matter. I know that the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) has spoken on it on a number of occasions. On examination it will be seen that there has been a considerable duplication and a certain amount of waste in Australia's growth up to this point because we have not had proper understanding with the States.

There are 4 essentials that we must consider. Firstly, the national Government must itself have knowledge of the overall requirements to develop the nation. It must have that knowledge and, therefore, it must establish an authority which can, under the Prime Minister, gather together the information that is needed to develop a total nation. This cannot be done except with the co-operation of the States. Australia has an unusual set-up - different, I think, from that of any other country - with 6 States with sovereign powers and so forth. I know that the Opposition can see a way around this and I will mention that in a moment. However, development and decentralisation must go hand in hand. Urban development cannot be separated from decentralisation. We must develop a national spirit, which must be fostered between the States and the Commonwealth, to build the nation on a system of federalism. This is quite different from what the Opposition says. As I said, the collaboration of the States in this matter is an essential part of the plan. I am sure that I can speak for the Government in saying that there is no intention whatever on the part of this Government to try to superimpose its authority on the States. This must never be thought. They must operate in close co-operation, because the States are really the operating vehicles to carry into effect the overall decisions that are made in the national interest.

We know that there are jealousies within the borders of the States, and rightly so. It is a good spirit to see - that the States themselves are jealous of their own development. It is imperative now for the national Government to be aware of the details of orderly growth. The States, local government and certain special authorities must come into this so that we' achieve a complete and absolute national outlook. I stress that. Labor, whilst accepting the idea, adopts the same approach as it does to almost everything else. Its idea is centralised control. The cat was let out of the bag tonight by the honourable member for Hughes. He mentioned that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) saw section 96 of the Constitution as a charter for public enterprise. What he means is a charter for socialism or government ownership. Of course, under section 96 this can be done. It is merely a matter of giving money with a tag to it for certain purposes. That is what it amounts to. If you do that, you dominate the States.

The statement made tonight by the honourable member for Hughes can be linked with the statement made by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). That statement was printed and I know that he will not deny it. He said that if Labor came to power it would set up a department of urban affairs and regional development, the main function of which would be to control the allocation of resources. That must mean, of course, that Labor's idea of development is completely centralised control in Canberra, with government ownership as far as it can possibly go. This Government does not believe in that. It believes in federalism and carrying out its functions in co-operation with the States. Labor's idea was tried before by the Chifley Government. Honourable members will recall the Department of Post-War Reconstruction and the actual setting up of a national housing commission to deal with all housing throughout Australia. That was challenged in the court and found to be invalid. Then the Government had to approach the States and create what we have known as the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, which is not really operative at the present time. This is only an indication of the thinking of the Labor Party in relation to this matter.

There is great danger for Australia if Labor comes to power because its attitude will be to develop this country with centralised control, in which the authority of the States, local government and other authorities will disappear altogether. Of course, this is socialism in its extreme form. That is the policy of the Labor Party, and I presume that the honourable member for Reid who is sitting at the table will not deny it. Honourable members opposite differ from us. The honourable member for Reid is always telling us that a Labor government would resume or acquire all land surrounding cities. It would control the whole thing and provide the services. Has he any idea of what the astronomical cost would be? Such action would not be necessary under a proper cooperative scheme. No doubt the alternative would be a plan to release land, with the provision of services far in excess of demand. Its great cost to owners under those circumstances would make it prohibitive for them to keep land and they would thus reduce its price. That is the proper way to do it, but this will, never be done under a Labor system.

It is only in the new growth centres, as was mentioned in the Prime Minister's statement, that it is necessary for the Government to dictate the conditions of landholding, where the Government is spending capital on development as it did in Canberra. But this cannot be done in the ordinary way around the established cities.

There is no question that, without an authority of this kind, decentralisation scheme cannot be effective. It is like the old adage: You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. You cannot drive people> You have to make available facilities and the conditions so that people will want to go there. They are human beings and they have their choice. My only warning to the Government is not to leave the practical decisions merely in the hands of academics planners. They have already caused enough damage in this respect.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury}Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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