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Thursday, 8 March 1973
Page: 439

Mr OLLEY (Hume) - Mr Deputy Speaker,I want firstly to take this opportunity of conveying my congratulations to both Mr Speaker and the Chairman of Committees on their unanimous election to the high offices they hold. I feel sure that they have already indicated their impartiality, and I feel equally sure that they will carry out their responsibilities with dignity and a realisation of the true meaning of parliamentary democracy. On 2nd December last year the Australian people exercised their periodic prerogative to change the political complexion of the national government. There were, of course, many changes and one of the changes that occurred resulted in my coming into this House to represent the electors of Hume. I am deeply conscious of both the honour and the responsibility bestowed upon me by their decision and I pledge myself to carry out the representation of those people to the best of my ability.

I believe that I would be remiss in my responsibility to the electors of Hume if I did not also take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the former member for this electorate. Mr Pettitt sat in this House as the honourable member for Hume for 9 years from 1963 until 1972, and I feel sure that all those who know Ian Pettitt will agree that, during his stay in the Federal Parliament, he gave his contituents the type and the quality of representation to which they were entitled. He was a conscientious, hard working member who gave unstintingly of his time and energies. His efforts really deserve the appreciation of all his former constituents, irrespective of what their political beliefs might be. and I am pleased to have this oppotunity to record that appreciation.

Ian Pettitt and I were, of course,^ of different political persuasion, yet whilst we attacked each other on matters of policy during 2 election campaigns, and between those campaigns, we were able at all times to maintain a cordial personal relationship. In fact, even in the matter of policy there are substantial areas of agreement between the policies of the Australian Labor Party and the stated policies of the Australian Country Party. So much of our policy is subsequently adopted by the Country Party that I have often wondered in the past why the Country Party did not seek an alliance with the Labor Party years ago rather than form their coalition with the Liberal Party. Of course, now members of the Country Party find themselves with nowhere to go and their Leader wants a VIP aircraft to get there.

For many years the Australian people have witnessed the performance of a government that was prepared to take legislative action and to make concessions to important national commitments purely and simply to win elections. Concession to education by way of grants for science laboratories and libraries, increases in pension rates, the allocation of finance for home savings grants and many other pre-election moves, whilst good in themselves, were not designed to overcome a particular deficiency, to correct a specific wrong or to make any radical change in existing policies. They were designed to give the government of the day an electoral advantage. To cite an instance of the iniquities built into some of these policies, either by accident or design, I refer to the home savings grant scheme and mention the experience of 2 young couples whom I knew quite well, and who married at about the time the scheme was introduced. In one instance, the wife continued to work and so they were able to enjoy the benefits of a double income. They had no family worries or responsibilities and they had no difficulty in saving enough money to qualify for the maximum home savings grant.

The second couple had 4 children after 6 years of marriage. They had no chance to save for a home and consequently received no government assistance. These people will probably live in rented premises, at least until the children are grown up and able to fend for themselves, by which time of course the parents will be barred from any home savings grant assistance by the age limit. Now whilst 1 do not deny the right of people to make their own decision on how they should live their lives and, obviously, these people made their decisions, I cannot believe that the Australian people will accept the position where government policies will favour those who least need assistance and discriminate against those who most need help. Nobody can convince me that the young couple who deprived themselves of some of the better things in life so that they might rear a family did not make a contribution to our society at least equal to that of those who both continued in employment. Certainly their need is far greater. If we consider also the cost of bringing migrants to Australia, surely we must recognise the value to this country in the long term of the natural born Australian. Yet we have discriminated against these people by Government policies because they were in a lower income group and because they had families. I believe that this is an ideal example of the way in which the previous government of Australia used its position to legislate not to eliminate inequalities, not to make any radical change in social structure for the benefit of our people but simply to improve its own chance of electoral victory. By contrast, we in the Australian Labor Party have striven over the years to win elections so that we might implement policies which are designed to achieve basic changes in the administration and in the structure of Australian society.

In his opening address to the new Parliamest His Excellency the Governor-General outlined the Government's plan to effect these changes - a blueprint for the future of Australia and for the future of the Australian people. In the electorate that I represent we can see so clearly and in so many different ways need for plans for the future, the need to depart from the sterile policies of the past and to involve ourselves in building a new Australia. Possibly the most glaring example of a need for change can be seen in the area of development. For so many years now we have heard talk of decentralisation and regional development; yet the previous government allowed private investment capital to dictate completely the pattern and the pace of development in Australia. We have witnessed countless millions of dollars being spent to tear down perfectly good buildings in our cities so that bigger and better buildings might be erected. In doing so, of course, we have added to the problems of the people who live in the cities - the problem of pollution, the problem of providing essential services such as electricity, gas, water and sewerage, and the problem of providing transport facilities. Yet in the past no money has been available for development away from existing cities.

The new Government's policy of providing for the promotion and growth of inland cities such as that proposed for the AlburyWodonga area is, T believe, an essential ingredient for the continued growth and balanced development of this country. However, I believe that for any program of regional development to be really effective it must not only look at the establishment and growth of regional centres but have regard also to the development of the whole area surrounding the centre and which makes up the complete region. I believe that an ideal example of what I am suggesting can be seen in the development of this city of Canberra - truly a beautiful city, well planned and designed to provide a quality of life that does not exist in our major cities. Both Canberra itself and the surroundings or the market area for Canberra would have enjoyed additional benefits if the functions of the National Capita] Development Commission had been expanded years ago to those of a regional development commission so that it might have planned the growth and development of the whole region and not Canbera in isolation.

I venture to suggest that had this been the case I would not today be making representations to the appropriate Ministers for the urgent construction of a direct road between Canberra and Tumut. This road will provide not only quick access from the national capital to the recreation areas on the Tumut side of the Snowy Mountains scheme, and a desirable tourist road for those travelling west and south west from Canberra, but also ready access to the ever expanding markets of Canberra for fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products, building materials and so on that are produced in the area which centres on Tumut and Batlow. Had Canberra been planned as the centre of a region, with the acceptance of the financial problem of surrounding shires in maintaining rural roads that are used primarily for the cartage by heavy vehicles of road building materials into the capital, certainly those shires would have been in a position to provide better services and at a lower cost to the ratepayers than is currently the position. With adequate planning and acceptance of responsibility for the increased demand on the road system surrounding Canberra, I would not today be flooded with complaints from daily commuters and casual travellers alike about the shocking conditions of the so-called Barton Highway which links Canberra with the major road system near Yass.

Regional development can succeed not simply by the promotion of centres like Albury-Wodonga but by the planned development of regions and by encouraging the establishment in other parts of these regions of industries which properly belong in country areas - industries which can operate efficiently and competitively away from the larger cities. A few years ago people in the Canberra area were arguing about the future of the Canberra abattoir. Those living in Cootamundra and Goulburn, where abattoirs existed and could improve efficiency by increasing their daily kill, argued that the Canberra abattoir should be closed. Those living in Yass, where there was no abattoir but where the saleyards catered to a large extent for buyers killing at Canberra, wanted the Canberra works to remain open. Whilst the arguments that were put forward were valid and in the interests of the respective communities, I believe that the real point was missed. We should then have been united, not divided, and we should have been arguing the case for closure of the killing works at

Homebush and the transfer of the operations from that centre to country areas where the industry properly belongs. Killing close to the city was the logical move when the Homebush abattoir commenced its operations, but with the provision of refrigerated transport so that carcasses can be shipped to the city areas without deterioration this industry can operate more efficiently where the meat is produced in our country areas.

Throughout the 1972 election campaign and again in His Excellency the GovernorGeneral's address at the opening of this Parliament the present Government has strongly emphasised the needs of social welfare, and in this field possibly one of the greatest needs .s the need to provide adequate care for aged people. The problems of looking after the aged are increasing as life expectancy increases and patterns of behaviour change. I believe that this problem is a responsibility on society as a whole. I would like this evening to speak briefly of one institution in the Hume electorate that has been involved in the care of aged people for more than half a century. The Mount St Joseph's home at Young commenced operations as an old persons' home with 25 inmates in 1921, and with the support of the citizens of Young and unaided by any government grant continued to cater for the aged and to expand the home to reach a capacity of 122 patients before the first New South Wales Government grant towards the provision of a new kitchen was made in 1966. A further grant of $35,000 from the New South Wales State Government together with $14,000 raised locally was used to provide central heating for the home. In the 1971-72 period $27,000 raised locally was added to a State Government grant of $168,000 to provide the home with a modern geriatric clinic.

In the Budget last year the previous government made provision to meet the cost of hostel type accommodation and should be congratulated for its move in this direction. In his Budget Speech the former Treasurer said:

To encourage the provision of hostel accommodation for the aged we will, as a special arrangement limited to 3 years, grant organisations that are eligible under the Aged Persons Homes Act special assistance. The Commonwealth will meet the cost of 2 hostel beds for every one unsubsidised bed operated by the organisation or one bed for 2 where the accommodation was previously subsidised on a dollar for dollar basis.

A condition will be that the beds are allocated without donation and in accordance with need. These additional hostel beds will be provided up to a cost not exceeding $7,800 per single unit which is the amount presently allowable for maximum subsidy purposes. In addition, a grant of $250 per unit will be made towards the furnishing of these additional hostel units.

Under this legislation the Mount St Joseph's Home attracts to the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese an allocation of finance for 232 beds. It is desirous, subject to suitable arrangements with the Archdiocesan authorities, of taking up an allocation for 100 beds in new quarters to be built adjacent to the existing home at Young. Unfortunately preliminary studies carried out at Young and elsewhere indicate that the minimum cost of providing the type of accommodation considered desirable, together with common rooms and dining rooms, to cater for aged people would exceed the available grant by approximately $1,200 per bed. It would be impossible, and certainly an unfair imposition on the people of Young who have given so generously over the years, to raise the $120,000 necessary to proceed with the project at present cost. It seems certain from the experience of the past that considerable further increases in costs would be effective before the project was completed in possibly 2 years time. I am hopeful that the present Government will give sympathetic consideration, at the appropriate time, to the requests of people who have given generously of their time and effort over the years in providing a facility which is, basically, a responsibility of society generally.

In addressing myself to this debate I have attempted to look at some of those matters which relate to or directly affect specific groups of people in the Hume electorate. Some of the matters I have referred to are peculiar to that electorate whilst others are common to country areas. However, the contents of the Governor-General's address as a whole constitute a fine document which reiterates the promises made by the Australian Labor Party prior to the elections of 2nd December. It sets out an exciting program for implementation by this Parliament and, I believe, is worthy of careful consideration by all honourable members.

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