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Thursday, 10 May 1973
Page: 2028

Mr WILLIS (Gellibrand) - I am pleased indeed to be able to make a few brief remarks in support of this Bill. It represents the first legislative action to carry out the election promise by the Government to provide Commonwealth funds to improve the quality of life in the deprived sectors of our major cities. One of the roles of the Cities Commission is to study regional areas of cities and to make assessments of proposals for financial support to those areas. My electorate of Gellibrand is in the western part of Melbourne and it would certainly be one of the most deprived areas in the cities of Australia. Along with the western suburbs of Sydney, it would be one of the 2 key deprived areas in the nation. I will quickly give the Parliament some idea of the area around my electorate. The western suburbs of Melbourne contain roughly 330,000 people, most of whom are in the relatively low income bracket. In my area in particular, which is the inner part of the western area of Melbourne, there are mainly wage earners and pensioners. There is a very high proportion of migrants in my area - about 35 per cent of the population was born overseas - and also a high proportion of elderly people. The migrants tend mainly to be unskilled or semi-skilled people and, of course, the elderly people are mainly pensioners. So, generally speaking, it is a low income area.

The terrain of the area is flat and uninteresting. The most interesting part of the area is the Maribyrnong River valley, which gainly is taken up by the Commonwealth Government particularly by the Department of Supply, much of the land being used for industry. The area is deprived of many com munity facilities such as schools, hospitals and so on. However, these aspects will be dealt with by the proposed Schools Commission and the Hospitals and Health Services Commission. More particularly related to this Bill is the fact that the area is deprived of a great number of other community facilities such as roads, libraries, child care centres, recreational centres, social welfare services and all the facilities which are provided by local governments.

Increasingly, the people in the western part of Melbourne are realising just how deprived they are. A number of seminars have been conducted in the last couple of years, nominated as 'Deprived West' seminars, in which people have presented papers to demonstrate how deprived the area is compared with the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. It has become quite clear that the major reason for this deprivation in regard to local community facilities provided by local government can be traced to two or three factors. Firstly, large areas in the western part of Melbourne simply are non-rateable, because the land is held by the Commonwealth Government or the State Government. In the city of Williamstown, which is solely within my electorate, one-third of the land is non-rateable. In the city of Sunshine, which is partly within my electorate, 24 per cent of the land is nonrateable. This means that the local government must provide facilities such as roads and so on for areas from which they receive no revenue whatever. That is the first problem.

The second problem is that in the lower income areas there is a limit to the amount of rates that can be applied. I give honourable members an example which was mentioned in the 'National Times' of 9th April. The article referred to Sydney and mentioned that in 1966 in the more affluent area of Kuring-gai, the value of real estate per head was 86,076. In Fairfield, in Sydney's western suburbs, the value of real estate was $2,300 per head. The rate in Kuring-gai on improved capital value was 1.29 per cent which raised revenue of $31 a head. In Fairfield, the rate was 1.86 per cent - a much higher rate - which brought in only $19 a head because of the much lower rate of value of real estate a head in that area. The same situation applies to the western suburbs of Melbourne, lt means that there is a limit to how much the local government can raise in the way of rates.

Thirdly, and in my opinion quite importantly, the Commonwealth currently is and has for a long time assisted, albeit indirectly, the higher income areas by allowing rates as a deduction for income tax purposes. The Government has done this by saying: 'If you pay $100 in rates, you can deduct that from your income for tax purposes'. If a person is paying 50c taxation in $1, as he would be, on average in the more affluent areas, he would save $50 in tax that he otherwise would have had to pay. In effect, his net rate would be $50. In the working class areas the marginal rates of tax are much lower. Let us say that it is only 30c in $1. The margin in this case on an annual rate of $100 means that it costs those people $70 net in rates. This means that the Commonwealth Government indirectly is providing assistance to local government authorities in a way which gives much greater assistance to the higher income areas. This, of course, is the complete opposite of what should happen.

It points to the need for direct Commonwealth assistance to the poorer areas of these major cities to offset this quite inequitable process of aiding the higher income areas through the tax system. Of course, there could be a change in the tax system - I would hope eventually that there would be - but even if that came into being, because of what has happened over a long period there still is a need for the Commonwealth Government to make allocations of funds directly to local government authorities in the less affluent areas.

As I have said, the people in the western suburbs of Melbourne are becoming increasingly aware that they are deprived. This is part of the whole awareness of the environment which is occurring increasingly throughout the community. They have organised themselves into a region which at the moment is loosely known as the Western Region Commission. It is an organisation of 8 municipalities in the western part of Melbourne and that body already has co-ordinated those 8 local government councils into providing a submission to the Commonwealth Government setting out what they see as the needs of the area. This is only a preliminary matter. Of course, there will be a much more detailed investigation of the issue by the proposed Cities Commission before any funds are made available to the area. I rose tonight simply to make the point that the people of western Melbourne are deprived. They have been dprived because of the policies of the previous Government in not making direct assistance available through the tax system. These people are looking forward to the Cities Commission being the body which will enable them to make available much better community service facilties in their part of the world. I support the Bill.

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