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Tuesday, 15 May 1973
Page: 2077

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Leader of the Opposition) - This Cities Commission Bill really is a Labor Government's administrative sleight of hand; now you see the National Urban and Regional Development Authority, now you do not. It has become the Cities Commission. The Labor Party claims a new initiative when in fact the Bill provides for only a change of ministerial responsibility and of the title, and little more. The change in ministerial control was an inevitable consequence of the establishment of a Department of Urban and Regional Development. The Bill is purely machinery to provide some substitute for activity, and that is all it is - a substitute for activity. Yet the Bill will go down in the calendar as another act by the Labor Government. Most of its actions to date have not been actions at all but promises made in government which were made in opposition, and it is not action to refer something to an inquiry, perennially and for ever.

The second reading speech of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) gives little indication of any activity. It is rather like a magic lantern; you would swear the figures were actually moving. There is a brief reference to the establishment of regional centres - a very brief reference - and a brief reference to the need to stabilise the price of land. The second reading speech was poorly constructed and full of half finished ideas which were left dislocated from a flimsy framework. It looked like a cut and paste job by somebody not very familiar with the subject. I hope the Minister did not write it himself.

So much for this Cities Commission Bill as such. Much more important is what is now to come. We are awaiting the release of reports. I believe that there is a national strategy report in this area of regional development. That report is of deep significance but it is yet to be released. The plans for a national approach to regional development and urban improvement must soon reach a stage beyond the level of the Minister's desire merely to acquire the Dandenongs. I notice that the Minister has not been down to Victoria since that statement was made.

Mr Uren - I have been there 3 times.

Mr SNEDDEN - The Minister says that he has been down there 3 times. He has not come forward with finalised plans as to how he will acquire the Dandenongs. That was an outrageous statement and one obviously made without any consideration. It has enraged the people of the area. From what I heard of his speech, the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb), who has just been speaking about this matter, made no attempt to justify what the Minister for Urban and Regional Development proposes in relation to the Dandenongs. I ask him to say immediately whether he supports the Minister. He does not answer. He continues to look at his papers because he is not game to say that he does support the Minister. Is it not extraordinary that, despite the fact that I have invited him to say by way of interjection, public statement or any way he likes, whether he supports the Minister, the honourable member for La Trobe, who has just spoken in this debate, continues to pretend that he cannot hear and continues to read some report? He has been in this place only a few minutes.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I came here to listen to a debate on the Cities Commission Bill and not to listen to the right honourable gentleman slate the honourable member who cannot reply. Is it within the ambit of the Bill for the right honourable gentleman to attack the honourable member for La Trobe?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order!The honourable member for La Trobe has spoken in the debate, and it is perfectly in order for a passing reference to be made to what he said.

Mr SNEDDEN - If the honourable gentleman who took the point of order had even an elementary idea of what the Bill was about he would understand that it is completely within the terms of the legislation to know whether the honourable member for La Trobe - and I bracket with him the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) - supports the Minister in relation to the Dandenongs.

Mr Uren - 1 rise to a point of order. The discussion before the Chair is not relating to the Bill. If the Opposition can show that under the Bill the Cities Commission has the power to acquire land, I will do it. Therefore I say that the Leader of the Opposition is out of order. I will make a personal explanation on this false statement at the end of the debate.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order!The discussion on this Bill has been fairly general and I will allow a bit of latitude.

Mr SNEDDEN - Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. 1 conclude this portion of my speech by saying that if the honourable member for La Trobe wishes to continue to be a member of this House he will need to face up to stating whether he supports the Minister, who is a member of his Party. He has been unwilling to support his Minister. When the Minister is writing his next second reading speech he ought to remember that not only does he need to improve the quality of his second reading speeches but also he needs to take account of the fact that he may not be supported by the honourable member for La Trobe and the honourable member for Casey who understand just how disastrous it would be for them electorally if what the Minister said would happen to the Dandenongs were in- fact to happen.

Some other specious claims about regional development have been made in relation to setting up big regionalised cities with large populations. On every occasion the practical figures have shown that the populations will be less than the numbers claimed. I believe that the populations projections for some of the proposed new towns that have been proposed have been revised. I invite the Minister to say what are the revised population projections for Ho'.sworthy-Menai and Albury-Wodonga as compared with the original proposals. This is only a preliminary question but I invite an answer on the change in population projections. Urban and Regional Development, which was the title of the legislation of the previous Government, suggests that there should be a 2-pronged approach to the problem of proper living room for a growing Australian population. I discuss my attitude in terms of the inter-linked though separate policy directions of these 2 points. People have been arguing about decentralisation for a long time. The fact is that the great percentage of Australians live in seaboard cities. Between 1961 and 1966 when the Australian population increased by one million, more than 80 per cent of the increase found its way into the pre-existing metropolitan areas. This trend is continuing and by the year 2000 the population, it is estimated, will be 21,500,000. With just over 13 million today, within !he next 26 years there will be an increase of 8,500,000 people. That shows the magnitude of the job we have to tackle. If we were to create 4 or 5 cities, even if they held 250,000 people each - if they held 100,000 people each, the problem would be worse - those extra one million would go into the metropolises so it is very important for us to know the magnitude of the job, just how difficult the problem is and how much money will have to be put into it. We need to reach a conclusion on a national policy basis that we will face this problem and that we will defeat it. We will not defeat it by the sort of policy speech that was made on this Bill nor will we defeat it by the attitude, which is the magiclantern attitude to which I allude whereby one simply changes the name of the Authority. There is a very big problem, and when speaking about it one must understand that there will be growing populations in the metropolises. When the Government speaks of urbanisation it is doing a disservice by using that word because it implies already an acceptance that urbanisation will proceed unabated. The proper words are 'regional development* and 'urban improvement' but I do not think that I have ever heard the Minister for Urban and Regional Development use them. A policy for decentralisation or the more modern term 'regional development' needs to be brought into focus. Capital cities have tended to become too large and most country towns have remained too small to function efficiently as modern social and economic units in the Australian experience of the last 30 years. Small towns do not grow naturally into large towns or even cities especially if they do not have the wide blue ocean lapping at their doorstep, and they will not do so unless we do something about them. To succeed in a policy of regional development means being able to encourage economic activities which are not committed to any particular area. Some are, because of particular requirements. Those that are not must be encouraged away from metropolitan centres where they would otherwise locate themselves and, where in the past, they have. Much of our industry fulfils this criteria in that it is both an economic activity and can be geographically mobile. By 'industry' I mean both secondary and tertiary industry.

The Liberal-Country Party Government set up the National Urban and Regional Development Authority. The horizon had been broadened with the evolution of the expertise gained in the development of Canberra. One of the keynotes of this Authority was selective decentralisation. That was the concentrated development of a small number of centres which had been carefully selected having regard to factors likely to be favourable to their growth. The Authority was set up under Sir John Overall, who had for many years headed the National Capital Development Commission, and was directly responsible to the Prime Minister. The Authority was charged with pilot studies of a number of possible centres to be established in Australia. The names of possible centres have leaked out: Albury-Wodonga and Bathurst-Orange, to name two. These have been continuing under the present Government which is now in the throes of changing names and ministerial responsibilities. The body is now to be the Cities Commission responsible to the Department of Urban and Regional Development and to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. A point worth making is that the whole concept will probably quickly have funds appropriated to it, and the fact that it was a Liberal-Country Party Government initiative will be buried, or at least the Labor Government will try to do so. It will hereby avoid the embarrassment it would have of saying that it is doing all this through the creation of the Liberal-Country Party Government, the National Urban and Regional Development Authority.

There will be 2 competing views of regional development. One is that we should develop inland because Australia is now especially a seaboard metropolitan nation. This has a strong emotional appeal. The other view in which some see merit is that climatic and recreational facilities should be extended beyond the seaboard, to such areas as the snowfields which are very attractive to the tourist. The practicability of the matter is bound up in land and the attitudes of people as people looking for a place to live, the economics and price of land and the supply of public services such as water and power, ease of communication with major metropolitan centres, climate and the availability of the recreational areas such as lakes, beaches and the snowfields, as I mentioned. Regional development projects must be attractive not only economically, but socially as well.

In planning any regional development the basic commodity is land for residential and industrial development, and its cost. In order to control speculation in regional development some form of price stabilisation must be considered. Now is a sensitive time for speaking about such control, when a national authority or a cities commission, no matter what one calls it, is investigating the feasibility of a number of areas. Knowing human nature, there are always those who want to take a punt and make a quid on land speculation. Price stability demands that the States cooperate in any scheme which the Commonwealth may develop. If the States do not co-operate the Federal Government is left with a grand design and little else.

When we set up the National Urban and Regional Development Authority we were aware of this issue of Federal-State relationships and established a ministerial council of the Commonwealth and the States. Joint involvement of the States by setting up regional development at the border may bring 2 major States together to think the question through in a concerted manner. This is good. Let us not forget the problem of differences in existing legislation which sets the pattern for future economic and social growth. Increasingly it is being understood that in any planning we must involve local government in regional development. It is, after all, local government which has to deal with the day to day consequences of growth in the provision of services and in establishing priorities in the context of the overall plan. The question which must arise is: If the trend of population is to cluster to the coastal metropolises, what are the incentives which can be used to reverse the trend? Industry should be given direct, positive financial incentives.

The Victorian State Government recently introduced a Bill to provide incentive payments to decentralised industries based on payroll tax rebates. This will prove itself an excellent initiative, but more policies of this kind will be necessary. An industry location survey of 118 metropolitan and country manufacturing firms was recently undertaken in New South Wales. It attempted to qualify the net balance of private industry advantages and disadvantages flowing from a decentralised location of industry. The survey estimated that the average net cost of the disadvantage was 92 cents per $100 of sale. Transport and communication costs were the major disadvantages. The second point that the survey showed was that with suitable incentives these disadvantages could be overcome. The most significant point of the study was the emphasis it placed on the problems of the unbridled growth of the giant metropolises without regard to mounting costs of suburban commuter services, the spiralling costs of urban land and the problem of industrial waste disposal. More and more people were spending more and more time travelling to and from their jobs. There is no justification for a 35-hour week simply because 2 hours of each day are spent travelling to and from work.

Incentives must be given to stimulate regional development in a direct manner. Other incentives are the dispersion of educational facilities such as colleges and universities. Planning is all-important to establish the social medium by which small towns grow to medium-sized towns to cities. Planning must be aware of people's motivation. It must be aware that in a free country people cannot be dragooned into an area just because in an unexplained way it is desirable for the national interest. Nobody appears yet to have solved the problem of when a growing area of regional development in fact becomes self-generating.

The proposed effect of the Commission's activity in the pre-existing cities is to be viewed with very great , interest. In the cities we take for granted amenities such as bathrooms, sewerage, running water, ventilation, gardens, parks and open space. Not long ago most of these amenities were beyond the reach of the majority of people. That situation would be totally unacceptable today. Man stilt seeks a more pleasant environment in which to live, and it must become more so. That is only natural. We must continue to improve the way of life of those people who live in the great metropolitan areas. Fresh problems that have arisen include the type of housing to be provided. At one extreme is the tow density suburban housing of Walter Burley Griffin and at the other is the vertical high density housing popularised by Le Corbusier

My colleague, the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) is reported as saying in a speech last night that great multiple-storeyed buildings cannot continue to be erected as residential fiats and apartments to accommodate growing numbers of people in inner urban areas. I thoroughly agree with that proposition. This is not the type of accommodation in which people should be expected to live. The great multiple-storeyed buildings that exist will remain. How such housing developments will be handled to avoid, for example, social problems connected with children remains to be seen. I agree totally with what the honourable member for Hotham said. The price of land is rising in the fringe areas of the capital cities. This is a matter for great concern but to which there is no simple solution. Last week the Town Clerk of Knox City Council, which is situated on the eastern edge of Melbourne, reported that the price of land in that area had increased by 62.63 per cent in the 12 months to February this year. Land sales on the fringes of the city, while an important indicator of land scarcity, represent only about 5 per cent of land sales a year. A planned environment with urban corridors, the activity of land developers and, most importantly-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order!The right honourable member's time has expired.

Motion (by Mr Fox) put:

That the Leader of the Opposition be granted an extension of time.

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