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Tuesday, 28 September 1971
Page: 1531

Mr UREN (Reid) - 1 do not think that I overstate the case, but I believe that all honourable members in this House are proud of Canberra. We may have our criticisms, but Canberra is one of Australia's finest achievements. However, I question why we have not repeated our achievements in other parts of Australia. Why do we hide behind the pretence that it is a State responsibility to develop our cities - whether they be capital or provincial cities or country towns? Why is it in a land such as ours that young people are unable to acquire a block of land at a price within their economic means, to build a house and to raise a family? Why is land available in Canberra at a reasonable price, but at a prohibitive price elsewhere? Why is there a crisis in land prices? That crisis varies from city to city and from State to State but the price of land is at crisis level in Sydney. Perth and Melbourne, and it is moving upwards in other capital cities and in provincial and regional areas. lt is difficult to ascertain any official Government statistical data but I have been able to obtain from the research service of the Parliamentary Library a table showing movements in index numbers of the average cost of land on which houses have been financed under the War Services Homes Act compared with movements in index numbers of average weekly earnings. The table covers the period from 1949-50 to 1969-70. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate that table in Hansard.


(a)   New series.

Compiled at request by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Legislative Research Service from ' information (i) obtained from the War Service Homes Division of the Department of Housing and (ii) contained in issues of the Labour Report and Average Weekly Earnings, published by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics.

An examination of the table shows that, using 100 in 1949-50 as the base, the average cost of land in New South Wales on which dwellings constructed and financed by the War Service Homes Division rose to 1,261 in 1969-70. The average weekly earnings in this period rose from a base of 100 to 392. The price of land in New South Wales rose 3 times as much as average weekly earnings rose. This is a conservative estimate, because land in the community generally averages much more in cost than land used by the War Service Homes Division. In Western Australia War Service Homes land rose from 1.00 to 1,028, which is 2£ times greater than the increase in earnings. Only one State, Tasmania, showed a similar rate of increase in land prices and average weekly earnings. Recently 2 private organisations have made a survey of land prices: The Economic Research Department of the Housing Industry Association, located in Melbourne, made a survey which it called: 'A Study of Land Costs in Australia'. Also the Australian Institute of Urban Studies, which is located in Canberra, recently held a seminar on the price of land.

The Housing Industry Association report in August 1971 reveals* 'Broad acre prices in the Sydney area increased by 350 per cent between 1959 and 1969'. The report also reveals that the average selling price of land in Sydney rose from $3,200 in 1960 to $8,000 in 1970. That is an increase of 150 per cent. I might add that the average price of land in Sydney now is between $7,800 and $8,000 a block. In Melbourne the average price rose from $3,000 a block to $4,700. The report gives details of the increased price of land in suburbs of Sydney. In Penrith in 1969 a block of land cost $2,500 and in 1971 it had increased to $6,000, an increase in 3 years of 140 per cent. At Blacktown during the same period the price of a block of land rose from $3,300 to $6.500- an increase of 97 per cent. In Campbelltown during the same period it rose from $2,800 to S7.50O - an increase of 1 68 per cent. 1 speak now of my own experience. I acquired land 2 decades ago at Guildford, near Parramatta, where I still reside, for $224. It would cost at least $7,500 to purchase a block of land in the same suburb today. Let me now examine certain details revealed in the report of the Aus tralian Institute of Urban Studies in relation to land in Perth. Quoting from the Mccarrey report, the Instil Institute's report said:

Between 1956 and 1967 the average price of building lots in 4 diverse areas of Perth rose by 351 per cent (15 per cent per annum compound), 360 per cent (15 per cent), 443 per cent (17 per cent) and 402 per cent (16 per cent) respectively. Over the same period the minimum weekly award rate for adult males rose by 40 per cent (3 per cent compound).

Members of the task force which compiled the report of the Australian Institute of Urban Studies had diverse interests. Of them the President of the Institute, Sir John Overall, said:

A group of responsible men from different States and diverse fields met on a pressing urban problem.

Sir Johncommended their decision for careful attention. Members of the task force were Professor R. C. Gates of the University of Queensland, Mr D. P. Cartwright, Director of the Australian Institute of Urban Studies, Mr C. S. Dyson, past President of the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales, and Mr V. E. Jennings, Managing Director of A. V. Jennings Industries (Australia) Ltd of Melbourne. Two aspects of their findings relating to a programme of action and acquisition of land are worth quoting. The report stated:

The authority should acquire well in advance large areas of raw land suitable for future urban development. By acquiring well in advance the authorities would probably be able to get the land at prices not much greater than rural values and without having recourse to resumption. Land thus acquired would normally be held until ripe and then disposed of to private subdividers on suitable conditions; but if private subdividers are not satisfactory in price, timing and quality, the public authority should reserve the right to subdivide and sell the land.

A further programme of action was proposed in these words:

To relieve the pressure on land prices, transportation systems and central facilities in all the capital cities, strategic planning should concentrate on the development of major new centres which are substantially or wholly self-contained. Some of these would be close to the existing cities, but others might be distant from existing cities.

I ask the House to examine this programme of action and to compare it with Labor's proposals. Before setting out our proposals let me give honourable members some details of the great financial strain on young people, particularly in Sydney, although the interest burden is the same throughout Australia. If a young couple was able to acquire a block of land for $7,500 - I have already said that the average price of land in Sydney is nearly $8,000 - after paying 10 per cent deposit and paying the remaining $6,750 at an interest rate of 13 per cent over 7 years at monthly repayments of $122.81, the total repayment would be $10,316.04. In addition local government and water and sewerage rates over 7 years would amount to at least another §1,000 and then there are legal fees as well as the $750 deposit. As a result the cost would exceed $12,000 before they commenced building a home.

Let me turn to Labor's proposals. Labor will work in co-operation with State and local authorities, lt will encourage those bodies wherever possible to retain all land now vested in their authority - retain it in public ownership. When the land is to be developed it would be developed on a leasehold basis. Labor would create a joint Commonwealth-State planning and development commission in each State to acquire substantial tracts of land, particularly on the fringes of all capital, provincial and regional areas. We do not accept the suburban sprawl of the capital cities, with poor service and no cultural or aesthetic living. We do not accept economic slavery for the young who purchase land financed through the fringe banking institutions at 13 per cent interest. I know conservative elements, as well as the establishments that are making huge profits, regard the centralised overgrowth as a natural, unavoidable, international phenomenon. That is nonsense. London for nearly 30 years, Stockholm and many other cities in Europe have limited central development and controlled suburban development and sprawl. Hugh Stretton in his book 'Ideas for Australian Cities', when speaking of Sydney said:

There would* be clear advantages in building the next city centre, for the next million or two, somewhere else. That won't happen 'naturally'. Nor can government simply regulate !he citizens to new directions; it has to entice them. It must buy land for new centres, design competitive attractions in them, build strategic parts of them, launch them with public employments, and offer all the private investors and home buyers some real city life, as well as cheaper, more attractive, more profitable, more various options of betterservice land than the 'natural' growth of congested old centres can offer them.

I agree with Stretton. I agree with the distinguished members of the diverse group in their programme of action set out in the recent report of the Australian Institute of Urban Studies. Labor will build our BelconnensBelconnens of Canberra on the fringes of our capital cities, provincial and regional areas with all the cultural, educational, social, recreational, aesthetic, industrial and commercial aspects. A joint CommonwealthState development commission would also identify a number of sites for new cities and proceed with their development to provide effective decentralisation of development, to arrest the depopulation of the countryside and to slow up the growth of our major cities. During the parliamentary recess I was overseas, and I saw what has been achieved at Tapiola on the outskirts of Helsinki in Finland. I have seen what has been achieved in Stockholm. I saw what has been achieved by the New Towns Commission in England under both Conservative and Socialist governments. What has been achieved there can be achieved here. We have our blueprint; we have Canberra. We are proud of Canberra and we want to build other Canberras in other places of Australia. I now quote from a document headed 'Report on Selective Decentralisation' by the Development Corporation of New South Wales - a government organisation. Its report said:

The planning of urban growth: There is considerable evidence to suggest that, if the land were publicly acquired and retained in public ownership, the development of growth centres, whether by way of the expansion of ' existing provincial centres or the creation of new Cities in their own right, could be a not unattractive public investment. And this would be so on economic grounds alone, quite apart from considerations of public benefit and State development policy.

In the few moments which I have left I will refer to a newspaper article which my colleague the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) has just made available to rae. It refers to the spiralling land costs on the central coast of New South Wales, which is in his electorate. The article appeared in the 'Gosford Star' of 15th September 1971. It points out that the price of land in that area has increased by 66 per cent in one year. The Commonwealth Government should, co-operate with the State Government and the local government authorities and create on the central coast of New South Wales the cultural and all the other aspects that are to be found in Canberra. We want more BelconnensBelconnens and if we create them we will make Australia a better place in which to live and people will be able to enjoy their lives - not merely exist. This is what a Labor government will do. It is long overdue under this Government.

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