Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 15 May 1973
Page: 2071

Sir JOHN CRAMER (Bennelong) - The Cities Commission Bill was introduced principally, as we all know, for the purpose of changing the name of the National Urban and Regional Development Authority which was established by the previous Government to deal with the growth of our cities and with decentralisation. In my opinion the name given to the Authority was a very proper one. This Bill proposes to substitute the name 'Cities Commission' for the National Urban and Regional Development Authority. I do not think that the name Cities Commission' properly describes what we are trying to do, and therefore I am very suspicious about the change of name.

The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) said in his speech when introducing this Bill that he did not want a conflict with his new Department, the Department of Urban and Regional Development. I do not think that that is the whole story. It is evident to me that the Australian Labor Party is playing, from a political point of view, to the populations of the big cities. What matters is the strength of the votes. Therefore it has decided to call this body the Cities Commission and has dropped the national approach to the question. The Australian Labor Party Government has dropped also the idea of rural and regional development. That idea has been abandoned, as was stated this morning by the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony). Indeed I think that the Government is playing a political game to gain political control of local government because right throughout its theme it can be seen that the Government is playing up to direct negotiation and direct dealing with local government. The Government is alienating it from its function which now is under the control of the various States. People should be suspicious of the intention that lies behind this Bill. Undoubtedly the Government is aiming for centralised control, not only in this matter but also in almost everything else. This Bill proposes the appointment of a full time chairman and 4 part time commissioners one of whom is to be the Secretary of the Minister's Department. This will ensure a rigid control of the functions of the Commission. The function of the other 3 part time commissioners is stated to be to look after the interests of the States. This is only a sop to federalism. I do not think there is any intention of introducing true federalism through the functioning of this legislation.

It is proposed that there will be an advisory committee to the Commission. There is an amendment dealing with this aspect as, indeed, there is an amendment concerning the question of the title. I will support that latter amendment. Undoubtedly the Commission is intended to control city development from

Canberra, not from the States as suggested by the Minister. As I said, this is only a sop to federalism. Money, of course, is the major power and there is no doubt that with the power of money vested in the Commonwealth the States will be completely powerless and impotent to exercise any authority whatever. 1 believe this is a major move to take over more and more of the functions of the States. Running through this Bill is the suggestion of land control. I have no doubt that the Minister envisages Commonwealth land control. This theme runs through all Government policy. Additionally, of course, there is the idea of control of the transport systems and the main roads systems of Australia. We have heard many expressions concerning sewerage systems. I believe we will hear more of this later and that there will be direct contact between the Federal Government and local government, thus by-passing the States on this major matter. At present the House has before it the question of control being exercised over gas through the proposed pipeline. The object is to obtain complete control, centralised in Canberra, over the distribution of gas throughout Australia. The Commonwealth seeks to control housing and housing land development. Of course, we are not dealing with that matter now but the theme of Commonwealth control runs through the whole picture.

For years the Minister has made it plain that he intends to use Commonwealth resources to buy up land. I think it was the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), a former Prime Minister, who dealt with this aspect. If the Commonwealth cannot buy the land it will resume it, but the resumption laws of the Commonwealth are different from the resumption laws of the States. In most States the resumption laws give the States more liberty with respect to land values. I was responsible for the Commonwealth's resumption laws when many years ago, by an amendment, it was provided that the Commonwealth must pay the market value of land which is resumed, and must comply with other conditions.

Mr James - The market value or the Valuer-General's value?

Sir JOHN CRAMER - Not the ValuerGeneral's value; it is the market value. The Valuer-General's valuation can be contested at any time on a resumption and it is the market value which prevails. Indeed the Commonwealth must have a certain purpose for the land and if the Commonwealth does not use it for that purpose within a prescribed period the original owner from whom the land was resumed must be given the right to purchase it back from the Commonwealth. In other words the resumption laws of the Commonwealth are more restrictive than the resumption laws of the States, so it is proposed to use the States to acquire land around the various cities. It is proposed - we have had this stated to us quite plainly - that the Government will buy up all the land around all the cities in Australia, develop it, and then sell it on a leasehold basis. The Minister has stated that this will control land prices. As one experienced in this sort of thing, I tell him that the very fact that land is resumed and sold on a leasehold basis and then improvements are made to it after development will have no effect whatever on prices. But he has in his head the idea that it will. This is one of the troubles: So few people on the Government side of the House have any practical understanding of what happens in dealings with land. Very few honourable members opposite know anything about it. The Minister has read a lot and has an academic idea, but he does not know the practical implications of these things.

We know that in the first place the cost ol such a scheme to the taxpayers would be astronomical. The effect will be, once the land is developed, that the original purchaser of the lease will be given a very great gratuity. It is a statistical fact known to people engaged in real estate activities that throughout Australia the ownership of improved property whether leasehold or freehold, changes hands at least 7 times during the lifetime of that property. The person who first leases the property receives a gratuity; he gets the property at a very low cost. But, unless the Federal Government proposes to exercise a control over the right of people to sell their property, immediately it is resold the market value will prevail and every subsequent sale will be made at the market value, not at the inhibited or controlled value at which the property was first acquired and leased. So really, in the end, the scheme of itself has no effect whatever upon land prices, unless special legislation is introduced as to the use and disposal of the land.

I mention these things to the Minister for him to look at them, because he has a com plete misunderstanding of the effect that his proposals will have. I have seen the situation occur over and over again. As a matter of fact, it can be seen in Canberra. The old Cooper leasehold system in Sydney, which operated for 99 years, had no effect on the price of land. The leasehold system has an effect in that a person does not own the whole of the land. Once the improvements are on the land, it finds its market value. Then, the market value is in no way inhibited by the fact that the land is leasehold or freehold, except that the leasehold title has a detrimental effect on improvements to the property and the keeping up to date of those improvements.

Mr Uren - Have you been to Stockholm? All the land in Stockholm is leasehold.

Sir JOHN CRAMER - Quite a lot of the land in Australia has been sold on a leasehold basis. The selling of land on a leasehold basis in Canberra has not affected the price structure. The Government is interfering not only with the purchase of land around the cities but also with the freeways, highways and feeder roads. Undoubtedly, they will all be controlled from the central control office in Canberra. This also applies to railways. We hear arguments about this at the present time. Of course, in housing the Government wants bigger and better State housing commissions with the growth of a rental community. But I will not deal with that now.

In my opinion this Commission, under the control of the Australian Labor Party, will be turned into a colossus of socialist enterprise and control. This is what I fear. There is no doubt that we want growth cities; this is true. A start is to be made on growth cities in the Albury-Wodonga area. But having 50 years experience in these matters, I warn the Minister for Urban and Regional Development that he has no more chance of developing a growth city with a population of 300,000 within the time schedule that he has in mind than he has of flying in the air. This just cannot be done. The same thing applies if the Government attempts such a project in other ways. There is an old adage that you can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. People will go where people want to go unless they are offered encouragement to go to a certain place, and of course the cost of providing such encouragement, should the Government force development in an area, would be completely prohibitive to the taxpayers of Australia.

I do not know where the idea of a Cities Commission fits in with the Labor Party's idea of reducing the immigration intake and its advocacy of a zero population growth, limiting families to 2 children, as has been stated by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on various occasions How do we build a country in that way and how will development survive? Of course, there should be an authority responsible for planned development. There is need for orderly national development. There is no doubt that there should be complete collaboration between the States and the Commonwealth in this development so that the resources of the Commonwealth are used in such a way as to satisfy priorities properly, that is to say, by agreement between the States and the Commonwealth our national resources should be applied on the basis of first things first where national development is involved, and we need planning to do that. Time does not permit me to go far into that side of the question, but an authority with those aims is what I would envisage.

We must not have complete centralised power in Canberra. We must have a proper federal system of control, that is, a system under which all the States have their rights in an authority and the matter is dealt with on a purely federal and national basis. Instead of envisaging the application of Commonwealth money to do everything, we should be thinking of an authority working on the basis of providing encouragement and incentives for development by private investment. In my opinion it is only in this way that this country can become great and it is only by laying down the guidelines for the assistance that can be given by the various governments of Australia that we can encourage decentralisation, which is so sadly needed. But to think that we can bring about decentralisation simply by altering the name of the authority which had decentralisation as one of its aims and by concentrating on the cities as the major issue is to believe in something that will not work. The people will wake up to the fact that the Government is developing a colossal socialist enterprise which will have its control centralised in Canberra and which will not bring about the kind of things about which the Government is talking.

This country sadly needs a proper system of decentralisation. As I say, we cannot force it unless we lay down the encouragement for people to disperse. I know that there is a need to overcome the urban sprawl in the larger cities. One could say much about that. This problem is not an easy one to solve, and it will not be cured if the Government of this country tries to bypass the States, control the States and by subterfuge use local government authorities while all the time having a certain political idea in its mind. This will not achieve the purpose that the previous Government had in mind when it set up the National Urban and Regional Development Authority.

Suggest corrections