Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3070

Mr UREN (Reid) - I move:

That this House recognises that wherever possible the Commonwealth Government should take into account the needs, aspirations and priorities of individual regions when formulating its nationwide expenditure plans. The House accepts the principle of regionalism for these reasons:

(   1 ) State and Commonwealth Governments cannot plan and co-ordinate assistance to local government on the basis of more than 900 local government authorities throughout Australia;

(2)   many programs of State and Commonwealth Governments are now delivered on a regional basis;

(3)   strong regional identities have emerged throughout Australia; for example, the Western Sectors of Sydney and Melbourne, the Iron Triangle of South Australia, the Tamar Region of Tasmania, the

Moreton and Gladstone regions of Queensland and the Illawarra and Hunter regions of NSW;

(4)   national conferences of local government bodies have expressed support for regionalism, and

(5)   State Governments have moved increasingly to define uniform regional boundaries and to remove the anomalies that now exist.

There is a more urgent need now than possibly ever before in Australia's history for a comprehensive national policy for co-operative regionalism. There is not only a greater need for co-ordination of policies between the Federal, State and local levels of government but also there is a growing demand by people for increased involvement in the decision making that affects their daily lives. The Australian economy is now undergoing a major structural upheaval. We are now faced with the social consequences of massive capital investment decisions that are frequently made in overseas corporate boardrooms without concern for the effects on the Australian economy and without concern for the effects on the Australian people. We need a co-ordinated national policy to guarantee security to the Australian peoplesecurity of income, employment, housing, health and self-reliance.

The diverse labor-intensive manufacturing base on which Australia's pattern of population distribution was shaped in the last part of the previous century and in the first half of this century is now being eroded. The industry strategy of import replacement promoted by the Australian Labor Party under Chifley and continued by the Country Party under McEwen, by which many Australian manufacturing industries grew up, is now being replaced. We are now entering a new phase- not determined by the Australian people and not in our interests- of capital and energy intensive production for export. We are now seeing major rationalisation- not only in manufacturing industry in the face of increasing imports, but also in service industries through the impact of new technologies. The changes in all of these sectors is leading to a reduced supply of jobs, especially in smaller country towns and regional centres. We have already seen over 300 Australian firms move all or part of their operations overseas. We have seen hundreds of manufacturing firms go bankrupt, including over 150 textile establishment closures since 1973. We have seen the termination of many country rail services and the closure of some country telephone exchanges. As a result, there has been a major dislocation of the rural population as jobs have been lost in country towns.

The course of industrial development that is being rapidly pursued in Australia as we jeopardise our manufacturing base in order to promote mining and mineral processing industries is bringing about immense economic and social problems in many regions of Australia. We are seeing a rapid expansion of a few centres that are poorly serviced and an agonising decline in many country towns and centres. The March 1979 report of the study group on structural adjustment known as the Crawford report devoted a chapter to regional policies. The study group argued for policies to deal with regional adjustment problems. It stated:

The major thrust of such policy should be one of trying to foresee problems in order to mitigate or avoid them.

The study group also said:

This is difficult in Australia because of data deficiencies and the current lack of an overall regional policy framework.

It concluded by saying:

Location specific adjustment measures (for example, incentives to the growth of new opportunities in a particular region, support for declining activity in a particular town) should be implemented within the framework of a long-term regional policy rather than as ad hoc responses to the problems of particular firms.

The study group suggested the need to examine a range of measures for helping regions cope with change and the development of on-going policies providing activity. It saw a need for co-ordinated monitoring and analysis of the impact of national economic change in States, cities and regions. The study group advocated improved policy co-ordination between the three levels of government. It stated:

There is no standing machinery for coordinating Commonwealth and State policies (for example, industry, manpower, regional and housing policies) relevant to adjustment problems at the level of States, cities or regions.

It concluded:

Effective co-ordination of Commonwealth and State policies and programs relevant to adjustment problems is essential if location-specific adjustment measures are to promote viable economic development at the regional level.

In general, the direction for industrial restructuring advocated by the study group is divisive and dangerous for Australia. The study group was aware of the immense social impact of this restructuring: A few regions would expand but most would decline; a few people would get high paid jobs but most would end up with low paid jobs- or no jobs at all; some people would have access to cultural amenities but others would be deprived of basic necessities. While the study group's proposed industrial strategy is disturbing, its proposed regional strategy is encouraging and enlightened. It represents a major rebuke to the strategy of neglect of this Government which reduced funding and decentralisation assistance for growth centres from $71m in 1975-76 to $37m in 1979-80. That represents a reduction of 63 per cent in real terms. In 1979-80 total spending on urban and regional development is less than one-fifth of the amount that was made available in the last year of the Labor Administration in 1975-76.

On 18 October 1979 I sought information from the then Minister for National Development about the use of the $ 10.4m expenditure for decentralisation assistance by this Government. The Minister informed me that the State Government authorities received 16 per cent of these funds; local government bodies received 18 per cent; private firms received 66 per cent; private sector capital projects received 66 per cent; and 30 per cent of the funds was allocated to the publicly funded provision of physical infrastructure for private companies. Only 4 per cent of the funds was provided for community facilities. Of this total of $ 10.4m, less than half a million dollars was spent on providing for the needs of the people in the regions. I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard the Minister's answer to my question and details of the figures.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

House of Representatives


(Thursday, 18 October 1979)

Department of National Development

Answers to Questions on Notice

Commonwealth Regional Development Program (Hansard-Page 397)

Mr Uren - Referring to the $10.4 million expenditure for decentralisation and related comments contained in the Department's Annual Report (Page 36) asked;

(a)   For a regional break-up of where this money went?

(b)   What proportion went to State authorities, local government bodies and private industries?

(c)   What proportion was for private sector capital projects, provision of physical infrastructure and facilities of private projects and community facilities? (and)

(d)   What are the criteria for determining long-term growth potential?

(e)   What studies have been conducted to determine which regions are losing population and where these people are going?

Mr Newman - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:





(d)   Normally projects must be located in a selected country centre to be eligible to receive assistance. Selected centres must have sound long term growth prospects and are chosen after consultation with the States.

In selecting centres the initial criteria are the centres size and past population growth rate.

A selected centre must have a population size of at least 50,000 or a population of above 15,000 and a growth of at least 1 , 000 over the last five years. Centres with a population of at least 50,000 generally possess the social, economic and physical infrastructure necessary for further sustained growth. Centres with a population of above 15,000 and a population growth of at least 1 , 000 over the last 5 years have generally demonstrated an ability to sustain growth and attract employment.

Both types of centres are attractive to firms in that they can provide some of the agglomeration economies necessary for future development.

(e)   My Department monitors and analyses regional population trends as the data become available.

For example, the Department has been analysing the results from the October 1978 Internal Migration Survey carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Further analysis of inter-regional migration trends is awaiting processing of results from the 1976 census by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Earlier studies on Australian internal migration trends for the period 1966-71 include: a publication prepared by the Australian Bureau of Statistics called 'Internal Migration in Australia', published this year; and a study commissioned on behalf of the Cities Commission in 1975 by John Paterson Urban Systems Pty Ltd on 'Models of Internal Migration: Australia'.

A significant study currently nearing completion and coordinated by the Department of Science and the Environment, is concerned with Australian urban trends and indicators. Officers of the Department of National Development have contributed significantly to those sections of the study dealing with employment structure and the interrelationship between population changes and unemployment.

Mr UREN -I thank the House. Not only is the amount of funding insufficient but also the priorities are wrong. For example, $780,000 was allocated to assist industrial development in Gladstone which has a population of over 20,000 people. Anybody who goes there will see that the social conditions of the people in that city are appalling. Current industrial developments in Gladstone include Comalco's aluminium smelter and a cement clinker plant. The State Government has provided funds for the improvement of port and rail facilities for the benefit of these companies. The Gladstone City Council has provided new roads also for the benefit of these companies. In 1978-79 the Government's own Decentralisation Advisory Board, at page 2 1 of its annual report, stated:

The demands placed upon the region 's resources to meet the growth needs of industry and the associated urban expansion have resulted in insufficient local funds being available to provide necessary community and social amenities in Gladstone.

In many ways Gladstone is the Australian resource equivalent of the manufacturing export processing zones of Asia. Although Australia will not act as a free trade enclave in the same way as the Philippines and many other countries, developments in Gladstone suggest that what the workers gain in money wages they lose through the poverty of social wage provisions. Housing is scarce, expensive and company controlled. That is an extremely sad situation. Schools are crowded; health and welfare services are inadequate; public transport and recreation facilities are poor; environmental pollution is alarming, especially as the power station, the alumina refinery and the aluminium smelter are located upwind of the residential area. The aluminium industry is associated with high levels of salinity in water, toxic fluoride emissions, alumina dust, caustic spray and the dumping of red mud. Gladstone is one of the so-called glamour growth regions under this Government. The problems facing the people of Bendigo, Ballarat, and the Latrobe Valley, as examples of declining centres in the country areas of Victoria, equally are disturbing.

With expanding exports of primary aluminium, imports of manufacturers increase, and the textile, clothing, footwear, furniture and electrical appliance industries, and others, decline. The major export of country towns is unemployed youth. This Government increasingly must understand that that is the sad social problem involved. For instance, in 1974 Ballarat had around 230 manufacturing establishments. Many have closed now and others have reduced their product range and have introduced new technological equipment. These rationalisations have meant a reduced supply of jobs in the Ballarat region, especially for women of whom a large proportion were employed in the production of textiles, textile goods and food and drink. The problems facing centres like Ballarat cannot be solved by any one level of government acting alone. Within an overall regional policy framework, a co-operative response is required by Federal, State and local governments. This concept of regionalism was developed by the Labor Party between 1969 and 1972 and was developed most strongly within the Department of Urban and Regional Development under the previous Federal Labor Government. In May 1978 the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation produced a report entitled 'The Commonwealth Government and the Urban Environment'. The report states, in part:

A positive Commonwealth Government policy on regional issues is essential, if for no other reason than to establish and maintain a line of communication for the discussion of the impact that Commonwealth Government decisions have on the local area.

The report of that Standing Committee continues:

A prime objective should be to ensure there is no overlapping or divergence of action.

It asserts that co-operation between local councils or voluntary co-operative regionalism is 'a useful tool to promote efficiency and economy in public administration'. It states that in order to foster innovation and sound planning what is required is 'responsible decentralised government, retaining local democracy and accountability rather than remote, centralised decision making'. That report was made two years ago by a Government committee with a majority of Government members, yet the Government has not acted on it.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.

Mr UREN - Before the suspension of the sitting, I was referring to my motion in regard to regionalism and regional expenditure plans. I quoted from the report of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Conservation which supports the arguments for the need for planning of regionalism. The Committee recommended that the Commonwealth Government explicitly recognise the advantages inherent in area based co-ordination and take positive steps, in conjunction with the States and local government, to develop further the concept of voluntary co-operative regional arrangements based on local government. That report, as I stated earlier, was presented two years ago and yet this Parliament has not discussed it. This Government has done nothing to act on those recommendations. The report of the Crawford Study Group on Structural Adjustment was presented a year ago and there is no sign that this Government intends to act on its regional policy recommendations.

Let me now turn to the policy of the Australian Labor Party. The Labor Party recognises local government as an equal partner in the government of Australia. The Labor Party recognises the problems faced by people in both the expanding and the declining regions. The Labor Party is committed to a policy of intergovernmental co-operation, including regionalism. It was our experience, when in government, that strong regional identities emerged throughout Australia in such diverse areas as the western regions of Sydney and Melbourne, the iron triangle of South Australia, the Tamar region of Tasmania, the Moreton and Gladstone regions of Queensland and the Illawarra and Hunter regions of New South Wales. These are just some examples of the regions that are now developing. It was our experience that State and local governments of varying political persuasion supported our commitment to the growth centres of Bathurst-Orange, Albury-Wodonga and Macarthur.

It was our experience that, when people saw that governments were prepared to take an active interest in helping them to meet their regional needs, they became more involved in the process of decision-making about their regions. New ideas emerged from the people of those regions responsive to the needs of those regions and appropriate to the human and physical resources of those regions. Those concepts are still there. The needs and the resources are there. Those regions have a great potential to develop viable, productive and service enterprises. We cannot alford to let them decay. If the community facilities are improved and planned and if health, education, welfare and recreational services are provided, the needs of the people can be met. Employment can be generated and investment is more likely to locate in those regions. Where private firms are reluctant to decentralise their operations there is an opportunity for Federal and State governments and regional organisations of local councils to establish enterprises in those regions.

The Labor Party considers that it is essential that the program of support for regional organisations of local government councils is implemented in order to allow them to develop effective responses to common problems. The growth of selected regional centres, such as Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange and Macarthur, which is on the outskirts of Sydney, should be encouraged by the decentralisation of appropriate sections of State and Federal government administration, by the expansion of social and physical infrastructure and by the provision of incentives for investment in industry. Those selected regions where the standards of community service provisions are below what is acceptable in other regions should be given a guarantee of financial support for a given period. Local government bodies should be given financial encouragement to develop employmentgenerating enterprises in selected regions, to expand public transport services, to improve environmental protection, and to provide for a better exchange of information.

These are urgent local priorities. They are essential national priorities. A Labor government will be committed to these social priorities. The sad situation which exists is that the Government, which has a very large support from the National Country Party, says that it is in support of decentralisation and regionalism and against the overcentralisation of cities such as Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Penh. It is about time this Government acted on regional politicies as put forward by the Australian Labor Party.

Suggest corrections