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Thursday, 5 April 1973
Page: 1169

Mr WHAN (Eden) (Monaro) - 1 speak to the proposal to establish a Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory which will examine factors relating to the Australian Capital Territory. I believe that the opportunity that will be given to us to examine the various factors that relate to the development and expansion of the Australian Capital Territory is a very exciting one. This Committee will be able to examine the social factors which generate problems in the physical development of the Territory. I think it is interesting to put things in perspective and to have a look at the change in population that has taken place in Canberra over a very short period. In 20 years since 1950 the population of Canberra has increased from 22,000 to its present level of 154,000. We have seen the growth of a completely new city and the establishment of a reference point for the same sort of growth in other areas throughout the Commonwealth. I believe that because the growth of Canberra has been under some control and under the scrutiny of previous committees on the Australian Capital Territory, it has been possible to avoid many of the problems of growth that have occurred outside the Australian Capital Territory where there are conflicting areas of decision making and also where there are difficulties in resolving the conflicting demands of private and public enterprise.

In the case of the Australian Capital Territory many of these demands have been disciplined and it has been possible to offer residents of the Australian Capital Territory at very reasonable expense services which are superior to those available outside its boundaries. I think the committee we are now considering will have a new set of problems before it. The growth of the Australian Capital Territory has reached the stage where the city of Canberra is now a reality and where it is recognised as a city and an entity in its own right. We have to be careful that not only does the Commonwealth accept the responsibilities for the problems generated within the city of Canberra but that it also accepts the responsibilities for the problems that the very presence of the city generates around its periphery.

Previous joint committees on the Australian Capital Territory have issued reports on the milk industry in the Australian Capital Territory, the fruit and vegetable market and employment opportunities in the Australian Capital Territory. In each case these 3 reports represent opportunities for the hinterland around the Australian Capital Territory - opportunities for employment and market opportunities for fruit and vegetables and for milk. So, the contribution made by the ACT to the hinterland could be positive. On the other hand, without proper consideration of future developments by authorities both in the ACT and outside it, problems will be created for the surrounding areas because of the concentration of people that exists in the ACT. They must get in and out and that in itself creates problems for road facilities surrounding Canberra.

Other problems also will be created, despite the fact that in the future the Joint Committee on the A.C.T. that we are now considering will be more involved in social problems generated within the A.C.T. than perhaps it has been in the past. Despite the fact that the A.C.T. is well equipped to handle social welfare and educational problems and various other areas of social activity, it still is true that difficulties are created in the A.C.T. which are unique to this area. For example, there are difficulties over rent which are created by regulation 97. Difficulties are created because of the high cost of land. The price for a restricted block of land in the one year period from May 1971 to May 1972 rose from $2,680 to $3,263 and for unrestricted blocks of land the price rise was even more spectacular. The average price rose from $3,478 to $7,244. These types of problems have been created in the A.C.T. and result in people moving across the border to find some relief from rent and land prices. In the main, these are people who live in domestic circumstances which do not have the proper margins for emergency situations. In the main, their domestic incomes are low. They moved across the border because they could not afford to pay the rent in the A.C.T. and because in Canberra they were unable to earn enough income to sustain a reasonable standard of living. So, when any social or domestic problems strike their families, they are particularly vulnerable. It seems that a culling influence is going on that aggravates the situation in the areas around the A.C.T. I feel that it is the responsibility of the Joint Committee that we are now discussing to consider the consequences of its actions in these areas in the light of the demonstrations that we already have of these consequences.

This is an exciting prospect. I do not subscribe to the oft quoted view that what we see in the A.C.T. is wasteful of money and that, because the rest of the country does not have these facilities, they should be denied to the people in the A.C.T. On the contrary, I believe that the A.C.T. represents what could be the lot of every citizen in this country if we were able to bring proper planning into the development of towns and cities and proper consideration to their welfare needs. It is because the Commonwealth Government has been in the position of making decisions in these areas that the facilities in the A.C.T. are as good as they are. Throughout the election campaign, I made no apologies to the electors of Eden-Monaro for the fact that my children enjoyed the facilities of pre-school education in the A.C.T. It was the policy of the Australian Labor Party to provide that same facility for the children in Eden-Monaro. I believe that we need this reference point to show the electors of this country exactly what can be done, given co-operation at all levels.

The Joint Committee on the A.C.T. which we are discussing has its functions completely restricted to what goes on inside the A.C.T. However, I have illustrated how its decisions can have an immediate bearing on areas surrounding the A.C.T. Of course, they also have a bearing on the country at large. Our capital city should be a showcase to the country and to the people who visit it. I believe that we have a responsibility to ensure that, when we have overseas visitors, whether they come on business or for pleasure, we show them the best that Australia can produce in terms of living conditions. It must impress people who come to Canberra that here at least we can approach them in a businesslike and efficient fashion and provide them with the facilities that are necessary - perhaps everywhere else but inside this place - to carry out business dealings. 1 believe, too, that the Joint Committee on the A.C.T., as it has had in the past, has a special responsibility to ensure that, when the people of Australia visit this capital, they are given proper hospitality and guidance, that our own citizens can understand the functions of government as easily and as comfortably as possible, that they are made familiar with al] the warts and advantages of government in this place and that they have a realistic appreciation of the fundamentals of government. I do not believe that this can be done unless the environment in which they appreciate these things is such that they can relax and concentrate on the matter in hand.

The Joint Committee has an exciting mandate, in my view, lt must be one of the few groups in Australia with the exciting prospect of considering the physical and social development of a city and with the ability to consider the implications of their decisions on the wider scale. As I have already illustrated, the effects of its decisions on the periphery of the Australian Capital Territory are rather serious. In regard to the wider area of Australia, its decisions are based on the need to show the citizens of this country what government is all about. In the international area, its responsibility is to create an environment in which and the facilities by which we can discharge our business responsibilities efficiently. I commend the Government for its proposal, for the way it has brought this matter before the House and also for the composition of the proposed Committee. I believe that its composition should reflect the opinion of both sides of the House, as it is designed to do, and that the Committee should be one in which all members have the opportunity, directly or indirectly, of participating in this exciting area of decision-making.

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