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Thursday, 10 May 1973
Page: 2029

Mr HUNT (Gwydir) - During the Committee stage of this Bill I wish to move an amendment to change the name of the Cities Commission to the Cities and Regional Development Commission. I believe that the name proposed under this Bill is too narrow and will not reflect what should be the real purpose of the Commission, which is to advise the Government on comprehensive balanced development in Australia. The Cities Commission Bill not only changes the name of the Ntaional Urban and Regional Development Association - or NURDA as it is commonly known - but also reduces its powers and limits its operations.

I think it is significant that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) wants to call it the Cities Commission. In other words, he is saying: 'To hell with the rest of Australia; let us set up a cities commission instead of NURDA and concentrate on 60 per cent of the people living in the cities of Australia'. This Bill will replace the measure passed last year by the LiberalCountry Party Government which established the statutory authority known as the National Urban and Regional Development Authority. The former Government after considerable research into the needs of comprehensive balanced development in Australia established this authority which was responsible to the Government through the Prime Minister. Its purpose was to investigate, plan and advise the Government on the needs of cities and a balanced program of decentralisation. At the time, it was hailed as the most significant step taken in Australia's history by an Australian government to work with the States and local government to change the pattern of urban and regional development. Indeed, at the time, I said - and I know that others said itthat the Bill marked an historic landmark in Australia's future development.

Dr Gun - It was the first time the previous Government acted.

Mr HUNT - You have had your say. It had become abundantly clear in this, the most urbanised society in the world, with the growing congestion of traffic and people in our major capital cities and with all the associated social and environmental problems of pollution - air, water and noise - with its depressing effect on the human mentality and, I think, with its influence on the increasing crime rate amongst our young people, that the States needed the co-operation and the involvement of the Australian Government to change this trend of growth. The States with their limited financial resources but with greater resources of trained personnel and closer contact with the people needed, more than anything else, financial assistance. Whilst the Commonwealth Government has gained considerable experience in the field of urban planning as the result of the Canberra experience and the existence of the National Capital Development Commission- - a body unique in Australia - there is nevertheless a great shortage of people in the Commonwealth sphere available to tackle the enormous problems of urban and regional development in accordance with desirable modern standards and needs.

It would be ludicrous to believe or to say that the Commonwealth has greater perception, greater urban experience, a greater pool of public servants with experience and expertise, a wiser approach, more human understanding and more responsibility than have State and local governments. To approach the problem in this way would be a nonsense approach. Local government, with all of its human resources - its town planners, engineers, town and shire clerks - has a greater pool of resources. State government, with primary responsibility in the major capital cities in Australia, has far greater experience and expertise and is closer to the people. However, Slate and local governments have had a great lack of financial resources with which to tackle the problem, lt is therefore essential to join forces with the State and local governments to make maximum use of manpower, expertise and financial resources in a co-ordinated and co-operative sense. I emphasise again that there is the greatest need for co-operation between the 3 arms of government - Commonwealth, State and local - and I believe that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development is endeavouring to achieve this degree of co-operation. If the Commonwealth at any time attempts to ride roughshod over the State governments, or to bypass State governments and go direct to local government or regional councils, serious and unfortunate consequences wilt flow.

It must be remembered that planning and development of new cities is essentially a means of making people happier, healtier and more fulfilled. Planning should not therefore be a source of pride in itself but a means of achieving good and pleasant living conditions For people. We will not achieve our goals unless we have a co-operative response from State and local governments and From the people. Unless the people are involved and understand why a plan has been developed and what the plan will achieve for them, we should not be surprised iF we Fail to obtain their co-operation. Most people are conscious oF the ugly trend in living conditions in the cities. Not many people know how to overcome them. Those of us in public places should recognise that urban and regional redevelopment represents the greatest challenge of our time. As I have said before, any program of decentralisation, regional development, new town development or city redevelopment, call it what you will, can succeed only if the people are ready to accept the need for the program. Therefore, the plans and dreams of the Minister will not come to realisation unless the people - the little people, the people generally - know what it is all about and why the program is necessary and better than plans of the past. If the whole program is thought to be a political stunt or a bureaucratic exercise the people will become suspicious and will not cooperate.

This is essentially why it is important to have a statutory body serving as an advisory body to the Minister and his Department. I see value in having the Secretary of the Department of Urban and Regional Development serving as an associate commissioner so long as he does not dominate the deliberations or considerations of the Authority. Should this be the case the proposed Cities Commission will be only a backstop, an agency For the bureaucracy as such. I am not convinced that the Minister gave proper emphasis to the role of the Secretary of his Department as a member of the Commission when he said in his second reading speech:

The reason for having the Secretary of the Department of Urban and Regional Development on the Commission is to ensure a degree of consistency in political implementation between the Department and the Commission.

Surely the Commission should be acting independently of the Department and, for that matter, of the Government. While it is vital to have close liaison between the 2 bodies it is essential for the Commission as a statutory body to be independent of the Department. I am left questioning whether the Minister desires this objective when he stresses that the Secretary of his Department will ensure a degree of consistency in policy implementation between his Department and the Commission. Any planning authority needs independence in order to operate within the broad policy guidelines of the Government of the day.

This concept of urban and regional development is a great new experiment in Australia. lt involves not only houses, factories, freeways and railroads but also people and their aspirations. It is not a new concept in Europe, the United States of America and Scandinavia but already the implementation of this policy has created new problems needing new and flexible policies. What we require is not consistency between the Commission and the Government but flexibility. We require a sense of independence and freedom for the planners. Flexibility is essential for more reasons than one. It is necessary so that policies may be varied, adjusted and changed in the light of experience gained in the early stages of implementation of the broad policy objectives of the Government. There will be problems in implementation of the policy, great human problems, great physical problems and enormous economic problems. While most agree on the need for a new pattern of regional growth and city development, very few people in this country at this point of time know what problems in totality the Commonwealth, State and local governments will have to face in the implementation of this policy objective. So let us not be too over anxious to ensure a degree of consistency in policy implementation between the Authority or the Commission, and the Department or the Government.

It is imperative that a statutory body be free from political influence and not constrained by bureaucratic pressures. The authority must be apolitical, objective, responsible and flexible. As well it must be able to draw upon the best skills available and to understand the social attitudes, the aspirations of the people, especially the young and the young marrieds who will be involved in new town development and regional development. It will not be the older people who are involved; it will be the young people, the young married people, who will constitute the great majority of the people we hope will live in these new towns. The new cities must be ideal places in which to live. In this regard I believe that the Authority should have avails able to it the widest panels of advisory groups, including trade unions. We have a trade union representative in the advisory committee. The Minister should not smile when I say that - I mean it. Beyond the advisory committee which in itself is a bureaucratic sort of structure we may need to get a wider conspectus of opinion from trade union groups, employers, consumers, retailers, industrialists, educationists, housewives' groups, youth advisory groups and sporting, cultural and recreational groups. These groups will be involved and must be involved in the concepts of these new cities which will provide homes for people.

I would hate to see thousands of. millions of dollars of taxpayers funds expended on developing a corridor of development between Sydney and Melbourne. I would regard this as simply an elongated urban sprawl. One would hope that the States would be encouraged to name many regional growth centres and many suitable strategic geographic locations so that we would get a broader spread of attention on the problem of comprehensive planned development. I am sure that if the Commonwealth ' assured the State governments of sufficient funds they would be prepared to go ahead on a massive scale. An enormous program will have to be implemented if the Government is serious about tackling the need to achieve a greater distribution of population in this, the largest island continent in the world. I doubt whether many people appreciate the magnitude of the task of securing sufficient financial and human resources to achieve the sort of program we envisage.

The Commission - call it what you will - will face an enormous challenge. On present trends Australia's population will increase by more than 8 million people over the next 28 years. At the present rate of development most of this increase will go to the 2 major capital cities. Should this happen there will be extremely serious economic and social consequences for the people in these already congested areas. Let us assume that it would take a total of 27 years, allowing 5 years preplanning and 22 years for actual construction to build a new town of, say, 300,000 people. Therefore, if an average of one new town or regional growth centre were started in each of those 27 years, by the end of the century there would be only one new town completed and 27 others at varying stages of development and planning. These centres would have populations ranging from nil to 300,000 people. Thus the sum of the populations in the new towns would amount to about 3 million people - 3 million out of an 8 million increase in population. Therefore, to commence only one centre each year means that we would divert from the major capital cities only about 3 million people out of an 8 million increase in population.

That demonstrates the magnitude of the problem that the Minister and Australia face. In order to make a real impact on the problem one or two pilot centres - nominated by the States - in a year is not enough. Every effort must be made to assist decentralisation in all our country centres where there is an inherent growth potential. There must be a comprehensive program in conjunction with the States. The term 'Cities Commission' does not imply this intention. If the Government is sincere let it translate its intentions in the terms and title of this Bill.

As I said earlier, in the Committee stages the Minister will be given the opportunity to show the sincerity of his Government's intentions as to whether it is going to give proper consideration to development away from the 2 great metropolitan cities, Sydney and Melbourne. lt would appear from the Minister's second reading speech that although the Cities Commission still regards regional development as an important Government policy there will be greater emphasis on the establishment of new cities on the fringes of the existing cities. Secondly, it would appear that the Minister will seek close co-operation with the States. If he does so 1 will commend him because the program will break down if this does not occur. Thirdly, I urge him to respect the independence of the Cities Commission and not to use it as a political tool of his Party or of the Government. In any successful program of redevelopment of our cities it is essential for the Australian Government in association with the States to ensure that the program is comprehensive in character. In New South Wales, for instance, it is essential in tackling the congestion problem in Sydney not to overlook the possibility of developing a number of new regional centres 300 miles or more away from the city itself. Apart from the amendment that 1 intend to move at the Committee stage I da support the Bill in principle and I hope that the observations in my contribution to this debate which I have made in complete sincerity will be taken by the Minister in the right spirit.

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