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Tuesday, 6 March 1973
Page: 242

Mr MORRIS (Shortland) - Mr Speaker, I congratulate you on your attainment of the office of Speaker in this, the 28th Parliament of Australia. I have noticed that you are enjoying the responsibilities of your high office. I. express the hope that both you and the Chairman of Committees, Mr Scholes, will long enjoy the responsibilities of your respective offices, exercising that skill and impartiality that are already evident to members on both sides of the House. 1 should like also to congratulate the other honourable members new to this Parliament who have made their maiden speeches. I think the Parliament will be the better for their presence. I certainly agree with one of the earlier speakers who said that the new members would contribute to the standard of debates in this place. I thank the electors of Shortland for the confidence that they have shown in me by sending me, with a resounding majority, to represent them in the Federal Parliament.

My predecessor, Mr Charles Griffiths, who represented the electorate of Shortland from its formation in 1949 until his recent retirement, established an enviable record of service to the electorate, particularly in the field of social services, even though it was rumoured by certain officers of the then Department of Social Services that Charlie Griffiths had his own version of the Social Services Act and how it ought to be interpreted. His objective always was to render ease and aid to the under-privileged, those suffering hardship, the aged and the young. He won the respect and gratitude of his constituents for his untiring efforts on their behalf in his 23 years of service in this place. I pay tribute to those efforts. It is my privilege to succeed Charles Griffiths as the representative of the electorate of Shortland in this Parliament.

The electorate of Shortland, with about 55,000 electors and 90,000 people, covers a wide spectrum of activities and occupations and takes in some of the most rapidly developing areas in New South Wales. Its boundaries adjoin those of the Federal electorates of Hunter, Robertson and Newcastle and it contains portions of the State electorates of Wallsend, Wyong, Charlestown and Lake Macquarie. It runs south from Newcastle to Swansea and around the northern foreshores of Lake Macquarie almost to Toronto. It embraces a portion of the Newcastle City Council boundaries and a large part of the area of the Lake Macquarie Shire Council.

Lake Macquarie is one of the finest salt water lakes in Australia, with an area of 105 square miles. It is a major recreational asset to the vast Hunter region. Its waters yield all kinds of seafoods to those who are patient. 1 am led to believe that there is a number of such patient gentlemen on both sides of the House. The foreshores of the lake are a mecca for campers and holidaymakers from everywhere. The lake took its name during the governorship of Lachlan Macquarie, in the period 1810 to 1821. In 1821 Captain John Bingie of Newcastle joined a walking tour to Lake Macquarie in the company of 100 Aborigines. He later wrote of his visit in these terms:

The whole surrounding countryside and lake were serene and still: solitude reigned, no tree disturbed and no trace of white man's civilisation ... all is in its natural state.

This description was penned in 1821.

Shortland contains some of the oldest developed sections of Newcastle and some of the newest and fastest growing sections of the area. With over 2,000 New South Wales Housing Commission homes spread over 13 suburbs in the electorate, there are still almost 2,000 families waiting for Housing Commission homes and facing a minimum wait for them of 2 years. Because close suitable land has been tied up by land speculators the New South Wales Housing Commission is forced further and further afield in its search for suitable land, economically priced, on which to construct further Housing Commission homes. The result is that people seeking Housing Commission accommodation, who cannot afford to purchase other homes - those in the low income brackets who can least afford to pay - are forced to live the greatest distance from their place of employment and so carry a double burden. They must bear the burden of low income and the burden of higher travelling expense to and from work.

Major industrialactivities in the electorate include underground coal mining, fishing, tourism, sand-mining, steel fabricating and chemical manufactures. A large part of the work force is employed at steel industries in the adjoining electorates of Newcastle and Hunter for which the Shortland electorate has become a dormitory. 1 have tried to describe to the House something of the composition of my electorate I have mentioned also the condition of the area in its virgin state. I now present some of the problems facing my constituents - problems which have developed under Liberal Party-Country Party State and Federal governments. Shortland, like other electorates in what has become known locally as the northern area, has been caught in the scissors of neglect of a Federal Liberal PartyCountry Party Government and a State Liberal Party-Country Party Government. Because the northern area consistently returns Labor State and Federal representatives the region, in my opinion, has been deliberately neglected by successive Liberal Party-Country Party governments. This Government will change that. Poor public transport, higher fares and infrequent services are the order of the day. In fact fares are so high that it is common to see young school leavers who are looking for work hitch-hiking along the road because they cannot afford the bus fare to travel to and from industry or their place of employment.

It is common also for young people who have just started work and who are earning something like $22 to $23 a week to hitch-hike to and from their place of employment because the fares cost anything from $4.50 to $5.50 a week. They find the best way to save money is to hitch-hike and not pay fares. Major roads in the electorate are congested and there is little prospect of early improvement. Major areas of the electorate are without sewerage. Ratepayers reel under the continuing burden of ever-increasing council and water rates, which are a legacy of the previous Government. Another legacy of the previous Federal Government is the large number of young people in the Shortland electorate who are out of work.

Separate figures for unemployment in the Shortland electorate are not available as they are included in the Newcastle employment district. The ratio of unemployed females to unfilled vacancies in the Newcastle employment district is something like 5 times the State figure. Similarly, in the Newcastle employment district the ratio of unemployed males to unfilled vacancies is something like 2i times the State figure. I know that these matters are also common to other electorates which have suffered as a result of what we can only term 23 years of Liberal-Country Party stagnation. Housing Commission areas have been constructed with scant regard to recreational and cultural needs. In fact at Gateshead, which is one of the major Housing Commission areas in the Shortland electorate, not even a public hall is available to meet the needs of several thousand residents or in which to conduct a function. 1 have noted the comments that have been made by previous speakers, particularly from other States, on the difficulties faced by local government bodies in their electorates. As an alderman of the Newcastle City Council for the past 4£ years I have seen at close hand the difficulties that have arisen as a result of local government being deprived of the assistance and encouragement that it ought to have been receiving from State and Federal governments of the day. I am heartened by the provisions mentioned in the Governor-General's Speech, the recognition by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and this Government of the importance of local government in our system of democracy. It is to the credit of the Prime Minister that for some years he has constantly projected the value of local government. I am convinced that it was the recognition of the role of local government by the Australian Labor Party and our willingness to accept a degree of responsibility for its burdens that materially assisted in bringing us to this side of the House. That people are sensitive to the injustices and inequalities of local government is evidenced by the fact that, in New South Wales 5 of the 7 newcomers to this chamber as a result of the elections held on 2nd December 1972 are sitting councillors or aldermen. Clearly they have been sent here to help correct the injustices and inequalities of the present local government system. It is clear from the Governor-General's Speech that this Government will play a very strong hand in helping to correct those injustices.

I am firmly convinced that the Liberal-Country Party Government of New South Wales has deliberately followed a course of downgrading local government. It began with a decision of the New South Wales Government in 1968 to alter the method of voting for local government from the proportional system to the multipreferential system, at the same time abolishing compulsory voting at local, government elections. The reason given was lack of interest by the voters. Figures of 25 per cent and 30 per cent of non-voters were cited. The terms of the Electoral Act in relation to local government elections were not being enforced. The burden of this was being transferred to councils and naturally there was a reluctance on the part of aldermen and councillors to proceed with it. It ought rightfully to have been enforced by the State Electoral Commissioner. In 1971 under the optional voting system the turnout of voters in local government elections in some areas of New South Wales was as low as 18 per cent. I think that is the evidence that one looks for in the positive downgrading of interest in local government and local activities, particularly by the people at large.

In line with this the New South Wales Government removed from office without just cause, without consideration and without prior notice, the elected representatives of the Hunter District Water Board and replaced them with ministerial appointees. The practice of replacing elected representatives with ministerial appointees has been followed by <<*ner authorities. I think it is fair to say that when we hear complaints from the other side of the

House about jobs for the boys it is very clear to the public at large who created this precedent. In my opinion it certainly does not exist on this side of the House, but it certainly exists in New South Wales. The tragic thing about replacing elected representatives with ministerial appointees is that one takes away from the decision making body the involvement of the public, the right of the people to express their views in the arguments that Iv.'.ve to be decided. In this day and age th: provision of sewerage services to homes

Because of a decision by Lake Macquarie Shire Council, acting in its wisdom, when new homes are built now and in the future expensive - in some cases up to $2,000 - septic transpiration or pumpout systems have to be installed where sewerage is not available. The cost of these systems is an onerous burden on the home buyer or builder concerned and will have to be duplicated when sewerage services are eventually supplied. I will be watching in the life of this Government to see that Shortland receives its fair share of Federal funds for local government and for an extension of sewerage services in the Shortland electorate. 1 have related to the House the need for $7m to implement essential sewerage services. What happens to the effluent from the services presently operating? At Burwood beach, which is in the electorate of my colleague the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) the outflow of sewerage from the city of Newcastle for which only a screening process is provided, emits from a short pipe which is just off the beach.

Unfortunately, for the Shortland electorate, the effluent of the Newcastle electorate is disposed of south along the Burwood beach. This is the major flow of effluent to the sea, but only at Burwood beach is there a screen treatment. In the case of Belmont beach there is no treatment whatever; there is a direct discharge of sewage at one of the main beaches in the northern region. These conditions must not be allowed to continue. The estimated cost of providing a proper treat ment works at Belmont beach is Si 2m and at Burwood Beach $15m. I described earlier to the House the idyllic conditions that existed at Lake Macquarie in 1821 before the white man's civilisation came. In 1973, to the best of my knowledge, there are 19 sewerage and surcharge outlets into this lake. Clearly this state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue. Funds must be made available, not only to provide the essential hygiene service of sewerage but also to protect the waters and environment of the lake itself. To this end local citizens have banded together into a voluntary organisation which they have called the Lake Macquarie National Park Trust with the aim of ensuring in association with local government that the waters of the lake and its foreshores are protected for the benefit of posterity. What greater growth has there been in the community in recent years than of an interest in the environment?

At last among the people of Australia there is a stirring to protect the quality of the environment, a stirring to protect the quality of the heritage which has been passed down to them. Nowhere in New South Wales has the fight been stronger and fiercer than in the case of the much vaunted attempt to construct a highway - motorway 23 - through Blackbutt Reserve at the northern end of the Shortland electorate. Blackbutt is a priceless reserve of over 400 acres in the Newcastle end of the electorate, a jewel of a natural reserve in the midst of an industrial city. So strong has been the opposition to the routing of highways through this and other reserves that last week in staid old Newcastle there was virtually blood in the streets when people in their efforts to prevent partial destruction of Birdwood Park for the construction of a major highway, barebanded tried to stop a bulldozer of the Newcastle City Council demolishing trees. The allegiance of these conservationists and environmentalists knows no political boundaries. It is a new grouping, a spontaneous coming together of persons interested in preserving the beauty that nature has given to our people.

The manner in which these people appear to have been treated leaves much to be desired on the part of the Council, and it is my belief that serious injury to persons was avoided more by mischance than by good management. More and more, government at all levels will have to reassess its values on parks, public and natural reserves before it proceeds to carve off sections for the construction of roads and highways. One cannot help holding the belief that within government structures there has long been a view that pinching pieces of parks and natural reserves for highway construction is the most economic course for so-called progress. It is the responsibility of this Parliament to change that. Parks and reserves have an extremely high community value and wherever possible should be preserved and not desecrated. People no longer are prepared to sit back and take what is dished out to them in the name of progress. Conservationists and environmentalists are fast becoming one of the most militant sections of the community.

I would like to commend to the House the Speech of the Governor-General, particularly that section relating to amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the recognition by the majority of Australians that people of 18 years of age have reached maturity and should be entitled to a say in the selection of their representatives in Parliament. If people of 18 years of age are responsible enough to be sent to war and to die, allegedly in a fight to retain their nationhood, then they are mature and old enough to have a say in the selection of their government. The 700,000 young voters presently in the 18 years age group no doubt will have a marked influence on the coming elections. I look forward with eagerness to the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act. I know there is certain uneasiness on the other side of this House and in certain corners of it about what the amendments may contain but I will commend them when they are introduced to the Parliament and commend to the House the recognition of the young people. The Governor-General in his Speech laid out a clear blueprint for a program of legislation that will restore this nation to a course of progress in the interests of the many and of the needy, not the few. I can do no more than emphasise the following words from the Governor-General's Speech: . . the nature of recent events in our region, the opportunities and responsibilities of the national Government in these times of great change all combine to make the Twenty-eighth Parliament one of the most momentous in Australian history.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Again I ask honourable members to be silent during the next maiden speech.

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