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Thursday, 10 May 1973
Page: 2019

Mr GORTON (Higgins) - The Opposition does not oppose the underlying intent of this Bill which, when all is said and done, is merely a Bill to amend the Act introduced and passed into law by the previous Government for it was that Government, the Liberal-Country Party Government, which first brought the national Government into the field of the development of cities, old and new, and into the field of planning for regional development.

Dr Klugman - Do you mean the McMahon Government?

Mr GORTON - That is right and we are therefore glad that the present Government has adopted our previous initiative.

Mr Uren - Rubbish.

Mr GORTON - We are glad that the Government adopted our previous initiative. I promise the Minister that we are. I will tell him why. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I am glad that the present Government accepts our contention set out in the second reading speech made at the time the previous Government introduced its Bill. That is why I am glad that this contention has been accepted. It was said:

The consequences of the imbalance caused by the concentration of population and employment around the principal Australian cities with the resulting problems of congestion and pollution are such that action must now be taken. The trend to increasing concentration is already evident to a degree which is causing concern. If no action is taken, the problem will become more acute as our population grows from 13 million to possibly 22 million over the balance of the century. The increasing concentration of population in our great cities will magnify the consequences of increasing population growth. It is the geographical distribution of population and industry rather than total scale which calls for our attention.

Those words which were spoken in this House when the previous Government introduced legislation which is now being amended are still true, and I assure the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), as I said before, that we are very glad that he accepts those words of the previous Government as his own.

Mr Uren - I do not.

Mr GORTON - You do not accept what I have just said?

Mr Uren - No.

Mr GORTON - That surprises me, and I am sure it would surprise the electorate, but we can go into it in greater detail later. Support in general of a Bill does not mean support for each particular proposal in it. We have an objection to one particular proposed amendment. We have a new proposal which is not in the Bill but which we think should be in the Bill and would improve it. We have considerable apprehension at what we believe will be the administrative action taken by the Government after the Bill is passed.

The purpose of the Bill, as set out in the second reading speech, is to change the name and composition of the existing National Urban and Regional Development Authority. At present the Authority consists of a Commissioner, a Deputy Commissioner and an advisory committee of 11 members. It is proposed to change its composition so that there will be a Chairman of the Commission - the Secretary of the Department of Urban and Regional Development - 3 other commissioners and I think, although the Bill does not make it clear and neither does the second reading speech, an associate commissioner not included in the 3 other commissioners to whom

I have referred, plus an advisory committee of

II members. We do not raise any objection to- expanding the personnel of the Commission from 2 to 5 or 6, whatever it may be. Of course, the Department of Urban and Regional Development having been established, it is sensible that the head of the Department should be on the Commission and that the Commission should report to and be responsible to that Department. But we make a suggestion. We think the Bill would be improved by it and we propose later to move, it as an amendment. We believe that on the Commission or the advisory committee there should be at least 2 persons who have a specialised and expert knowledge of environment preservation and of conservation. The 11 members of the advisory committee have already been appointed and they contain not one such person, though one, a professor, is close to it. These were appointments of the previous Government, so I do not in saying this reflect on the Minister. But the number 11 is not sacrosanct. It could be changed to 13 or 14 and the additional members, I suggest, could have a specialised approach. I believe this would have great advantages.

In the planning of new cities it is essential to consider the effect of specific proposals on the environment. If new factories are to be provided attention should be given to ensure that effluent from them does not pollute streams or rivers. It must be ensured that factory chimneys do not pollute the air. This can be done by laying down at the start stringent conditions as to what comes out of the factory chimneys. Full plans must be made for the disposal of industrial waste. The effect on water consumption in a new mini metropolis must be considered, and so must sewage disposal. We must make sure that all sewage is fully treated when a new metropolis is started. Problems of drainage which have a great effect on conservation matters, areas of parkland in relation to areas of building and where an aerodrome should be sited are all matters in which conservationists have a vital interest, and the addition of 2 members with the special qualifications I have mentioned would ensure that this was done from the very beginning of the discussions on the new city. This approach, and occasional interdepartmental consultations with environmentalists as planning was proceeding, would be much better than waiting until plans were well advanced before consulting the Department of Environment and Conservation and those with specialised knowledge. I hope the Minister will seriously consider and accept the amendment to be moved. Perhaps the previous Government should have ensured this, but it -is not too late to ensure it now. I suggest that there are good reasons for doing so.

I now move to a proposal to which we object, and that is to change the name of the Authority. I can see no reason why the National Urban and Regional Development

Authority should be renamed the Cities Commission. Certainly the National Urban and Regional Development Authority will be vastly concerned with improving the quality of life in existing cities and with proper planning of new cities. This was what was always intended by the previous Government. As I read the second reading speech of the Minister, it is what is intended by the new Commission, and these things will obviously be an important part of the concern of the new Commission. But cities are by no means the only concern of the proposed Commission any more than they were the only concern of the Authority.

Properly balanced regional development is of very great importance not only of itself but also because regional development must have an effect on and be intimately bound up with new city development. The concept of the original Act therefore is that we take the national Parliament into a wide field - urban and regional development. The importance of this was recognised by the present Government when it named one of its departments not the Cities Department but the Department of Urban and Regional Development. 'Cities Department' would not properly and adequately describe the new deparment which has been established or the duties and responsibilities of the proposed Commission. Unless the Government proposes to pay only lip service to regional development it should not leave out in its description of the Commission the words 'regional development'. I can see no reason for leaving out that description. No reason has been given. There is a reason why it should be retained, and leaving it out will cause considerable concern to very many people living not in the cities but in other areas of Australia who will see this as an indication by the Government that it is relegating to second or third place the development of new regions. This Commission which is being established is not a new step being taken. It is not a new approach or a new instrument and trying to call it by a new name cannot change this. In order to describe it properly and to remove the apprehensions of those who do hot live in cities, later we will be moving an amendment to object to the change in the designation of this authority.

I move now to another matter about which I express apprehension. Of necessity State governments will need to be partners in many of the actions taken by the Commission and by the Department. It is proposed, quite properly proposed, that the States will have some jurisdiction over new areas to be developed, and there can be no objection to this. Further, once an area is placed under study for development there is a need to prevent rapidly increasing land prices brought about by speculation and by the fact that that area has been selected for study - rapidly increasing land prices which would not have come about if that site had not been selected. I personally do not object to that and the Government is looking to State governments to see that this does not happen. But the Government apparently is also looking to State governments to acquire the land in any area which is finally selected for development. I do most strenuously object to that because the State does not have to acquire land on just terms. It can set any price it likes on the land it is going to acquire and there is no appeal against the level of prices which some State government or some State Minister, perhaps with the agreement of some Federal Minister, sets on land which it wishes to acquire. The Commonwealth does have to pay a just price for any land it acquires and if there is disagreement about this price the matter must be settled by a court. If people are to have their land forcibly taken from them by a government, for the good of the community, for the good of a new development, or for the social good, we believe those people who have their land taken from them should be paid a just price for it and in the event of disagreement the courts should say what that just price is.

Dr Gun - What if they did not pay a just price themselves?

Mr GORTON - The honourable member for Kingston interjects: 'What if they did not pay a just price in the first place?'. There is a difference. The buyer did not have the legal power to demand and acquire, without appeal, land from any other person. If he bought the land from some other person it was as a result of agreement. This situation ls quite different. This is a government moving in saying: 'You must give us that land. You must provide it to us,' apparently not being willing to pay a just price for it when the man does not wish to sell his land.

It is not right, fair, just or honourable to acquire people's land on which they may have been settled for generations, on which they may have put many improvements and on which they have made their life, it is not right, fair, just, or honourable to acquire that land compulsorily unless the market price at the time on which the site ' is selected for development is paid for that land, it should be ensured that this is done and the only way to ensure it is for the Commonwealth to be responsible for acquiring that land. If this is not done, if it is left to the proposals which we know are in the minds of the Government now, we can only draw the conclusion that the Government seeks not to pay a just price for land it compulsorily acquires, that the Government agrees with the earlier interjection from the other side of the House that it is rubbish to say it should pay just prices for land it acquires and, in order to evade its legal obligations, the Government is hiding behind State governments' lack of legal obligations and leaving it to State governments to do its dirty work. This, in particular, is a matter to which we raise very great objections.

There was a White Paper issued by Her Majesty's Stationery Office in London dealing with this particular problem which we have of acquiring land for social good where there must be some subordination of individual rights but not a complete overriding of individual rights. I quote one paragraph from that paper as follows:

The Government are committed to enhancing the quality of everyday life in Britain. In doing so a balance must constantly be struck between the overriding duty of the State to ensure that essential developments are undertaken for the benefit of the whole community and the no less compelling need to protect the interests of those whose personal rights or private property may be injured in the process.

The present intention of the Government is not to protect the interests of those whose personal rights or private property may be injured in the process. If it is argued by the Government that it is concerned with this, it can show that by laying down in legislation that land for these purposes, after a decision has been made, will only be acquired by the Commonwealth Government paying a just price for that land - the price ruling at the time the site was selected for study to see whether it would be a new development.

Other than these criticisms, we have, as I said at the beginning, no underlying objection to the intent of the Bill. Indeed, we could not have because it had its genesis in the previous Government. Its goals were the goals of the previous Government. This is merely a not unreasonable method in most ways to amend the Act which was the instrument of attaining the goals of the previous Government but there are the objections to which I have referred and which I think are of great interest to very many Australians who value their rights and who do not wish to be overridden by an all-powerful government - people who need the protection of courts and who need to be sure that this new Commission will not be concerned only with cities, important as they are, whether they are old or new, but be concerned also with the regional development which is an integral part of the Bill and of the program. It should be in the title of the Bill to show that the new Government is in fact fully carrying out the intentions and approaches of the old Government.

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