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Wednesday, 4 April 1973
Page: 1095

Mr HUNT (Gwydir) - I rise to reply briefly to the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordon). I was surprised that he would even enter a debate on such an issue. Had it been his colleague, the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick), I would have listened with some degree of sympathy. I would have recognised that he would have been speaking with a degree of sincerity. The honourable member for Phillip, of course, represents one of the most compact electorates in New South Wales. Only an honourable member like the honourable member for Phillip could fail to understand the difficulties of parliamentary members in country electorates such as Darling. The honourable member would not appreciate what the problems of distance, remoteness and area mean not merely to parliamentary members but to people living in such electorates.

Mr King - He could cover his electorate with a public address system.

Mr HUNT - That is true. Gwydir is the most magnificent electorate in New South Wales in every way. It is an electorate with tremendous earning capacity. It is a productive area noted for its great scenic beauty. It is far better than the Riverina electorate. If the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) were present I am sure he would join issue with me. Gwydir has an area of 32,250 square miles. It is the size of Austria. It contains more than 20 different local governing bodies - shires and municipalities. It has a number of country councils and regional local governing bodies. The member, of course, has to maintain close contact with all these local governing bodies. Gwydir extends from the Queensland border to south of Dubbo. It is of a diverse character. It contains one of the largest Aboriginal populations in New South Wales, probably second only to the electorate qf Darling. It has as wide a (ange of agricultural production as any electorate in Australia with a multiplicity of organisations representing the various industries. Manufacturing industry is taking hold in the area. It has a mining industry - a coal industry and a tin industry to the north. It contains the largest cotton growing industry in Australia. It has many other diversified irrigation areas that are bringing into the area not only increased production but also a degree of difficulty. In the electorate there are SO towns spread between the Queensland border to south of Dubbo and these must be serviced as much as possible by the member.

Those country members who work in their electorates must return to their electorates every week-end. When I am in Boggabilla, for instance, it is of no value to the people of Dubbo 300 miles away. When the honourable member for Darling is in Broken Hill does anyone in Walgett know that he is in Broken Hill? When the honourable member for Phillip is in his electorate the people would surely know that he is there because all he needs do is go to his office, which is probably in the heart of a three or four square mile electorate, to be able to communicate with and get close to his people. This is good for members representing this sort of electorate and certainly good for the people they represent.

Perhaps there are other ways of trying to overcome the problem. I do not want to canvass all of them. However I believe that government departments should have regional offices in every country town in Australia. For instance, there should be an agency or an office of the Department of Social Security in every town, regardless of its size, if we are to overcome poverty. Difficulties are associated with the Aborigines in my area. Many of them do not even know their entitlements and the member is not able to spread himself daily, weekly or monthly from one town to another to inform and assist these people.

Mr Riordan - How did you get on when you were a Minister?

Mr HUNT - I have held these views for a long time and I am not afraid to express them anywhere. I believe the people in the rural areas of Australia are neglected.

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