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Tuesday, 28 September 1971
Page: 1534

Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Housing) - One would almost have thought that the light on the hill had been spied once again by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). Of course, it has been spied in the past but it has receded into the distance. The honourable member for Reid presumes to have discovered it. As I read once again the terms in which the matter of public importance has been framed it is intriguing to recollect the principles which have guided the formulation of these terms. There is no doubt that in matters of social content, if one rustles the pages once or twice the moths come rushing out. The pages have been rustled with respect to this matter of public importance and the moths which have rushed out deserve to be examined.

The honourable member for Reid, on behalf of his Party, has proposed the formulation of a land policy on the fringes of the cities of Australia which would mean that three things would occur. Any market which was developed in relation to land in those areas would be a Canberra determined market; it would be determined in the central city here. The nature of the services which would be appropriate to such land would be determined in Canberra. The nature of the market which would be determined would have little relationship to the experience of those people who have bought land and who continue to buy land in the capital and provincial cities of Australia.

If the honourable member for Reid had examined more closely two of the documents from which he quoted he would have seen that in fact they disprove his thesis. Both the report of the Housing Industry Association and the report of the Australian Institute of Urban Studies demonstrate one clear principle, that is, that local market conditions determine the market prices for land: so much so that the Australian Institute of Urban Studies was quite careful not to indicate that land ought to be acquired through determinations made in Canberra. The Institute, in its very quickly compiled report, illustrated a number of conditions which might be applied in order to make the local market freer. An examination of those conditions makes it perfectly clear that most of them- in fact all of them - are completely within the responsibility and power of those who have charge of land in local areas.

If the honourable member for Reid had gone a little further he would have seen that this is demonstrated not merely through' the distribution of power in Australia but also through the fluctuations in costs. I refer him once again to the report of the Housing Industry Association. On page 4 of that report - and this was referred to indirectly - it is made clear that there has been a significant rise in land costs in most of the capital cities of Australia; in fact, in all of them. What the honourable member for Reid has failed to understand is that these variations in costs have occurred with respect to two principal determinants. The variations have been from city to city and within each city. Variations in costs have been different in respect of low, medium and high priced lands. A number of markets has been determined in each city, and it is in response to those markets that people have paid prices for land.

The honourable member for Reid has put forward an urban land nationalisation project. If these matters were to be determined in Canberra and if his proposition were the one which was the most appropriate for Australia, let him explain, for example, how in Perth, where there was a very significant rise in land costs during the late 1960s, there was a variation in land prices and how, in some cases, there was an absolute decrease in land prices. Let him then ask the question: How was this engineered? How did it occur? Would it have occurred if the vital decision had been made here in Canberra? Would it have been determined by some Minister for Urban Affairs and Environment? The honourable member for Reid would love to have control of the whole of the environment and be advised, as he said, by a public servant here in Canberra. Common sense indicates that that would not have caused the variation in land prices which, for example, occurred in Perth. The variation in land prices occurred because a freer market was established and because the basic positions of supply and demand with respect to urban land were varied in that city by those who have the power and responsibility to do so. I am not one who would seek to impose upon that kind of situation a power which is determined, administered and calculated from the central capital city of Australia. I suggest that is centralism gone rather mad. 1 do not think that the honourable member for Reid has really read or understood the report of the Australian Institute of Urban Studies, because basically it was not a centralised document. From a reading of the summary of the proposals in the report he would realise that all the proposals made in relation to land were made in order to influence the local market to which the report referred. I refer to page 53 of the document which contains a series of 7 proposals. In not one of the proposals is it stated that Canberra, as the determinant capital city, should be predominant. I will reiterate the principles which guided the men who produced this task force report on land development. I refer to the summary, which is a fair summary of the conclusions of their investigations.

Mr Uren - You want to read paragraphs (j) and (k) of the report which refer to Their Programme of Action'.

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