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Self-government for the Australian Capital Territory statement by the Minister for the Interior, the Hon. J.D. Anthony, MP



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f-Govern:,lent "or the _A st.'==+_ian Ca a-1 Te rri toil Statement by the Minister for the Interior, the II on. J.D. .ntho n;^, I.P .

I should like to inform the Parliament about the progress of certain investigations ,: i iC"^j. I have made into the

government and administration of the Australian Capital Territory. In view of the current interest of tie people

of the Australian Capital Territory i n the question of

self-government, I considered :i.t timely that I should give them some advice on the progress of the investigations. On the other hand, the ultimate responsibility for the seat of government • and the national capital rests i " tb. this i'a"r_'a.i.aiT;etz;,

and I consider it my duty to inform the House before releasing the information.

Honourable Members will be a:n)are that the Minister for the Interior is responsible for the administration of the Australian Capital Territory. This function is performed in the main through the Department of the Interior, ;;a.t' •h the

Department of Health and the Attorney-General's Department also o

playing important parts. Many other Conmon v:ealth departments a.ra.d instrumentalities are also involved.

From time to time the people of the Australian Capital Territory, or at least some of thorn, have pressed for changes the present system, under which their only elected rerL..e_ tali os are a Member in this House and eight members on the At C.T. Advisory Council. I have given serious study to the present ad "?Y!ina_.;i rat ive

arrangements, particularly in the light of the viev s expresse d

by the elected members on the Advisory Council that sel f- government is an immediate need and that the present arrangements are un-satisfactory. On the other hand, many re = ,'Ldea "tti of the Territory

have indicated that they v ould prefer the present sys'tem, •Jit" all its faults, to a system shich they did not kno,'a.

Having referred to the A.C.T. Advisory Council, I fee: I should " tell the House that the Council has a very real role

in the current arrangements for the government; aril. administration of the Territory. The elected members of the Council are there as the representatives of the people of this community and both the members, and their electors, make full use of their ::i : -;"i e

to interest themselves in all matters a1 ich affect therm,

1y Department and I spend a great deal of time in considering the proposals put forva.zrd by the Advisory Council.. __ ,.. in supplying ansners to questions. Honourable Members i.:k.11 ;`;et; some indication of the activities of the Council v,hen I tell

them that the present Council, uu°: h.ich took office u.st 2i1 years

ago, has submitted shell over a hundred resolutions to me. TIiJS figure relates only to -shat I term principle issues, many of which have in fact resulted in. Council resubmitting various aspects of an issue to me t.no or three times by nay of further

resolutions.

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In addition, the Council has asked some 1,200 parliamentary-type questions on notice. The four nominated representatives on the Council have also replied to a host of questions without notice.

As well as those motions which are passed as resolutions, there are vast nutrber_ •s of motions which are not seconded or which are defeated after consideration. Although these do not reach :e in the form of motions, they appear on the Council's agenda and thus involve a vast amount of York by officers in my Department in study and consideration prior to Council meetings. During the life of the present Advisory Council some 650 such motions have so far been listed on the notice paper, and have received the appropriate consideration

due to those matters which are raised by the elected repres-entatives of the people.

As residents in almost any other part of Australia could testify, the existence of a system of state or municipal government does not, of itself, solve any problems of government and administration nor does it mean that all persons living under such a system find themselves without grievances or cause for complaint. This being the case, it is 'important for those who would press for changes in the present system in the Australian Capital Territory to ask themselves ~whether thoy

are concerned about their lack of representative institutions per se, or whether they honestly believe that greater local control would result in a 'better' system of administration; recognizing 'that such a concept will mean different things to different people.

If the desire of A.C.T. residents is for a aiore democratic system, based on traditional electoral responsibility, then it must be remembered that there is a wider democracy and a wider electoral responsibility which must also be accommodated. While the Government recognizes that the Australian Capital Territory is the home of over 100,000 Australians, it is also

an area of territory acquired by the Commonwealth in accordance with the Constitution in order to fulfil a purpose which was specified in that Constitution.

Underlying Canberra's constitutional role as the seat of government - a place where the central organs of the national government are located - is its less legalistic but nonetheless important role as the national capital - a city whose design and

construction must be carried out to such standards as will reflect credit on the nation. It is these two concepts of the seat of government and the national capital which have for so long delayed the transition to responsible self-government for the residents of this Territory and which must continue, for many years to corns, to influence the decisions of the Government and Parliament of

the day on this important question.

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Having said this, however, I must also tell the House that, since becoming Minister for the Interior, I have been concerned about this matter and resolved to contribute to a solution if I could.

Given the tradition of self-government at the state and municipal level throughout the rest of Australia, it has not been easy for me to accept with equanimity the situation in which this rapidly growing community is denied all representation, except for its Federal Member who, for the

first time, has full voting rights in this House, and a Council which may only advise the Minister for the In.tericr.

I therefore initiated a study of the issues under-lying the question of self-government for the Australian Capital Territory. Because of constant enquiries about the Department's study, and because of the interest which it may arouse, I have decided to publish a brief outline of the preliminary findings. Copies will be distributed to all Honourable Senators and Members.

This interim information has not yet been considered by the Government. Thus, I emphasize that it does not have the imprimatur of the Government, and in fact it makes no recomm-endations which require approval at this stage. It reports progress of exploratory studies and its main purpose is to highlight those issues which will need to be considered before any firm decisions are taken. It does point up some of the real

complexities of the problem and that a solution can neither be provided by any simple scheme, nor quickly.

As will be seen, quite a deal of study has been already undertaken, and while various possibilities are lightly touched upon, these will need to be developed substantially as a next exercise in order to select the scheme or schemes which should be analysed in more detail to enable us to assess how they may look in practice. In addition, a vast amount of material in relation to the activities of the seventeen Cor;!monwealth departments and authorities who specifically affect the people of the Territory will need to be collected, col?ated and asseseed.

It would therefore be imprudent for me to suggest what will ultimately appear as the best action in this probl.. I have always felt, myself, that the Commonwealth would probably retain control of the central part of Canberra to a greater or

lesser degree, and would tend to retain, or hand over at a later stage, some of the state-type functions. I also believe, >>o-,:c=^::. that some municipal functions might be performed by the people, in particular in the new cities of Woden and Belconnen, as they

develop to maturity. I emphasise that these are but first though;: _;: not necessarily based on any concrete evidence. Conversely, he are also not ruled out, as yet, by the present studies. In any

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event, as first thoughts they could ,.ell be modified by the information and vievis revealed in the continuing studies.

Even assuming that :°:e might eventually be able to separate national and local interests, and pass over to the people of the Australian Capital Territory appropriate political and administrative responsibility, the assigning

of appropriate financial responsibility, ti+ithout v)If ich any

other responsibility could be meaningless, vvill pose special problems of its oun. In short, vie vill have to see thet:h.er the community of the Australian Capital Territory can assure that financial responsibility v viit'hout v.hi.ch political res p onsibility and self-government would riot be possible.

I emphasize that I have not yet 1corne to any firm

conclusions about v hi ch of -the many alternatives I should see as the most appropriate. Nevertheless, I am conscious of Canberra's principal roles as the national capital and the seat of Government, and I should not recommend EJ.roposals ,-nh.ich might place these roles in any jeopardy, or derogate from the

standards that ne have managed to achieve.

It is my hope that this progress report viill stimulate further interest in the question of self-government for the

people of Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory, and that public discussion of the substance of the report v:;i1" contribute tovaards finding the best solution to a most complex

problem.