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Thursday, 10 May 1973
Page: 2036

Mr DRUMMOND (Forrest) - I rise late at night to speak on this Bill. As we are all aware, not much has been changed in this Bill from the legislation which existed when the previous Government set up the National Urban and Regional Development Authority in 1972, but there are a couple of important changes. The Opposition has foreshadowed an amendment which I fully support. I sincerely hope that in fairness the Government takes note of the points that have been raised by the Opposition in its foreshadowed amendments and during the debate. I may have an opportunity to say something about the amendment later at the Committee stage.

I find that the hardest part to understand about this new legislation is why the Government has gone to the extent of changing the name of the National Urban and Regional Development Authority to the Cities Commission. When the National Urban and Regional Authority Act was introduced - I will be the first to concede that it was introduced fairly late last year - there was a feeling among people in many sparsely populated areas, such as the area I represent, that at last the penny had dropped and that we were in fact to see a real endeavour being made to bring about regional development and true decentralisation. I do not argue against national development or the development of cities, but I would like to see this development incorporated with true regional development.

I feel that dropping the words 'regional development' from the name of the authority is only symbolic of what this present Labor Government is about. I think that perhaps it has lost sight of the fact that there are areas other than big cities. I know that the Act introduced by the previous Government dealt with big cities. It did not matter where they were. It could have been Albury-Wodonga. But my people hopefully believed that smaller areas such as Bunbury and Albany, towns of 15,000 and 20,000 people, would come under the scrutiny of the Federal Government and be considered for some type of development. There is a great big world outside the cities, and I know all honourable members are aware of that. But I would venture to say that although many people are living in the industrialised towns and big cities the rural areas are still the wealth producing areas of Australia and we depend on the continued prosperity of these areas. Today it may not matter so much whether the farmers are doing so well because of a degree of prosperity in the rural areas. We should look at rural areas from the point of view of educational, sporting and cultural facilities - in fact the growth of the whole range of amenities and facilities that others enjoy. These areas have to be considered. I feel that this Government has shown its colours in changing the name of the former authority because it did not want the name to be confused with that of a successful authority introduced by the previous Government. In changing the name of the former authority to the Cities Commission the Government has shown that it is not vitally interested in the rural areas.

For a moment I will refer to the farming situation and how it affects everyone who lives in rural areas. The present Government seems to lack comprehension of what is going on within these areas. We have just seen a new Wool Industry Bill presented. One could almost say that it is fair enough because this year the wool industry is going through a period of prosperity. The levy imposed on wool growers has gone from 1.4 per cent to 2.4 per cent. The increased worth of the Australian wool clip makes the wool growers contribution far in excess of any past contribution. Of course, this makes a tremendous amount of difference. 1 think it is fair enough. The wool industry today can afford it but what of the contribution made by this industry to the Prosperity of the nation. Look at the compensation that was paid to rural industries following revaluation of our currency in December.

Mr McVeigh - The Government did not pay us anything, though.

Mr DRUMMOND - It worked out that way, particularly in the fruit industry, which is an industry on the border line of meeting Its costs. The Wool Industry Bill was introduced, as far as I know, without any consultation with the wool industry. Some weeks ago the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), when he was in Paris, made a statement which affected the structure of the wheat industry. My worry is that somewhere along the line the Government has forgotten where the wealth producing areas of Australia are. I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) a question on 13th March 1973. My State - Western Australia - exports far more than it imports. Perhaps one could say, as people do in Western Australia, that we carry the eastern States. I asked the Prime Minister:

Did the Prime Minister receive a request from the Labor Premier of Western Australia 3 weeks ago. . . .

The main point of my question was about revaluation. My question continued:

Did the Prime Minister see a report of a statement by the Western Australian Premier last Saturday that he has been unable even te get a reply to his request? Finally, do his Government's policies in favour of the big cities mean that the welfare of the small States which export much more than they import is to be sacrificed in favour of the most populous States?

The Prime Minister said that he had received a letter from the Western Australian Premier, but his reply concluded:

The Australian Government is interested in people, wherever they live. In the honourable gentleman's State a larger percentage of people live in the capital city than is the case in any other State. For the first time there is now aa Australian Government which is actively helping the Western Australian Government meet the demands of the population of its capital city.

That had nothing to do with the vast area of Western Australia that extends from Darwin to Esperance and takes in a third of the continent. A lot of people live outside of the city. There are many large and small towns but there is only one city in Western Australia and it probably would not even qualify as a major city by eastern States standards. There happens to be a whole heap of regional towns of between 15,000 and 20,000 people who are looking to this Government to fulfil the promise that it will do something about regional development. I believe that most of the things have been said that should have been said in this debate. However, I wanted to try to explain very briefly to the Government that the wealth producing areas of the nation are looking for leadership in true decentralisation not for the promotion of new large cities. I hope that the Government will consider the regional development that was proposed in the earlier legislation rather than concentrate on cities.

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