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Wednesday, 10 October 1973
Page: 1864

Mr ENDERBY (Australian Capital Territory) (Minister for Secondary Industry, Minister for Supply and Minister for the Northern Territory) - I was hoping to follow the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) because he touched on something which concerns me intimately as the outgoing Minister for the Capital Territory. I thank him for the element and note of responsibility in his speech. Unfortunately, it is not often that we hear that sort of approach in this Parliament. I thank him particularly for his admission - I do not seek to use it in any critical sense - that it was a situation we inherited from his administration. Some facts perhaps bear repeating. I took out the figures a little while ago. In about 1969 the average price of a block of land in Canberra was about $2,500. Using the system we inherited from the previous Government, that same average block was fetching more than $10,000 this year and the average price was going up all the time.

The honourable member for Gwydir says that this was because of the shortage of supply, and indeed he is correct. But that is only part of the answer, in my view, because unfortunately we live in an inflationary time. Once people become aware of inflation they also become aware of a hedge against it. One of the hedges against inflation is land.

So they buy land. I had the unfortunate experience, when opening clubs, of young girls coming up to me - I do not exaggerate - and being critical of me because I instituted a system of rent control. They had just bought their third house. They were paying off one after another from the rents. I just reduced the rents by a small amount and they were unhappy about it. It was a sort of land fever that had caught on here. The auction system was producing it. Every month people would see the headlines again: 'Land Prices Escalating in the Australian Capital Territory'. In my view that had to be stopped.

I do not say that the new system is a permanent solution. I do not believe in permanent solutions. But I strongly hold the opinion that the new system is far more rational than the auction system - given this inflationary period in which we are living - and is one on which we can build. I also accept what the honourable member for Gwydir said, namely, that there are areas in it which will have to be relaxed. He mentioned one area - the so-called second home buyer. The provisions of this new system as they relate to the second home buyer will have to be relaxed, but they were made in their present form because of the situation in which we found ourselves.

The principal features of the new system are not really the ones that the honourable member for Gwydir described - the paper work and the lack of freedom of choice. They were features of the old system, too. There was little choice for a young couple who wanted to buy a block of land who had $4,000 to draw on and who then found that the block was sold for $10,000. Under this new system people have a freedom of choice and they recognise it. The newspapers reported the people who queued up on the opening day as having said: "This is too good to miss'. Nobody likes queues, least of all me; but they queued up because the new system was too good to miss, because there is freedom of choice in it.

What is more important is that the land is now being put out at a reasonable price, not at the figure that was being produced by the auction system as it was when I suspended it and going higher all the time. The average was $10,000 when I suspended the auction system and was going up month by month. There was no reason to suppose that it would stop, given the demand inflated by the state of mind I have described. The average now is a little more than $5,000. We are putting land out at about half the price. Under the new system we have put a price on it in much the same way as one puts a price on a book or a motor car. It is 30 per cent less than the unimproved capital value at the end of January 1973 - an arbitrary figure, but one designed to take into account the inflated values as they were then and as they subsequently became, and one designed as a compromise between what the unimproved capital value was then and what the cost is. At the moment blocks of land sell for between $2,500 and $10,000 for the better class ones. At least we are putting the leases of the land out at prices that people can afford to pay.

But one of the great problems in devising a new system is this: What do we as a responsible Government do if people who have the money are prepared to pay much more for the land, either for speculative reasons or as a hedge against inflation, for their twelfth house? I know one solicitor in town who had 12 houses for that very reason. He sold them shortly after I introduced the rent control, and they became available to people who otherwise could not obtain them. If we make land available at prices lower than people with money are prepared to pay for it we will be giving everyone a bonanza, both the rich and the poor, particularly the rich - not that I have anything against the rich. On the figures I have quoted, we will be giving them a gift of about $5,000 on each block of land, because as soon as they sell a block again or are allowed to sell it again they have an added $5,000 as an unearned increment. It is a gift. No responsible government can do that either. That is why we have to extend the system that the honourable member for Gwydir used and which we have kept - a restriction on resale within 5 years. As soon as the restriction is removed everyone knows that there is then an asset that is worth a lot more than it was when he got it in the beginning. That is just a feature of the system. I do not know what can be done about it.

There is not much time for me to speak but I just want to make a few comments about some of the things that happened during the short time I was Minister for the Capital Territory because I think they make up a list of things of which no one need be ashamed. We significantly reduced lawyers' conveyancing fees in the national capital. The lawyers did it voluntarily. There was no need for price control. We have taken a first step and committed ourselves to a form of territorial government for the Australian Capital Territory. This is something that has been talked about in this ctiy for 20 or 30 years. We have firmly committed ourselves to it and we are well on the way to it with the reference to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. We have a system of consumer protection in operation now that the Australian Capital Territory never had before. We are committed to establishing a Belconnen shopping mall so that the third major shopping mall in this city will not fall into the hands of the one big developer, Lend Lease, as the other two have, so that we have a degree of monopoly that is unhealthy. We will have a public trust operating the third major shopping mall here. The rent control I have described. There are proposals for a government lottery that are well under way. We have nearly doubled the expenditure on public transport. Ninety-nine new buses are to be bought this year. Perhaps I am saying this now so that my good friend and colleague, the Minister for the Capital Territory, can hear it as he takes over. Firm commitments have been made for free school bus services as from 1974 for all children who live more than a mile from a school, and that stipulation will be progressively eased. In a small way, although in a symbolic way, I must admit, one of our first moves was to make use of the facilities of the family planning people. As a government measure, a proud government measure, we advertised and advertised regularly, twice a week, in Canberra a contraceptive advisory service for all, married and unmarried. It is unique in this city that it should be so.

Mr Hunt - It might help decrease the growth rate.

Mr ENDERBY - It might do that. We have taken major steps forward in child care because I think Canberra has more working mothers and more people with 2 jobs and 3 jobs than has any other city in the country. We have a neighbourhood shopping centre system now working. One of my last acts, perhaps almost on my last day, was to set aside 5 houses for child care centres in Canberra, and I hope the Minister will leave them that way. We even bought a merry-go-round for the people of Canberra.

I do not want to take up too much time, but the honourable member for Gwydir put his finger on one important aspect - the shortage of supply of houses. I do not want to embarrass him or the previous Government of which he was a member, but we know that in 1957 the government of the day was then building 70 per cent of all houses in Canberra. It is true that it was a smaller city of only 70,000 people then, but that was the proportion of the expenditure that the LiberalCountry Party government of the day devoted to public housing. As late as 1957 70 per cent of all houses built here were built by the Government. By the time that the LiberalCountry Party Government had fallen from power that percentage had fallen to 30 per cent. That was the crisis. When the former Government turned off the fountain in Lake Burley Griffin in an attempt to save money back whenever it was- I think in 1970 - it stopped giving money to the National Capital Development Commission to service land. We inherited that situation, as the honourable member has been good enough to admit. No land was coming out of the pipeline when we took over. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) has something like a 50 per cent increase in funds this year for the NCDC, and $93m is to go to the Commission - a very significant increase - to make up for what the previous Government did or did not do during all its years in power. These increased funds will increase significantly the supply of serviced land that basically we need.

Mr Katter - You are a splendid group of people.

Mr ENDERBY - That is right. The main thing is that we are winning. As that happened, my colleague the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) set up his interim schools commission, and the long awaited and long delayed independent education authority for the Australian Capital Territory is now virtually with us.

Mr Katter - With all this, they removed you from office?

Mr 5??;-'--Yes, that is right. The fire brigade in the Australian Capital Territory is now independent of New South Wales. All this has been achieved in 7 or 8 months. We have 2, almost 3, community health centres. The one at Melba is using salaried doctors and is a magnificent success. I recommend anyone to go and see it. It is absolutely magnificent. The one at Scullin is using doctors on a fee for service basis and the new one in Civic uses doctors on a salary. All this has been achieved in 7 months.

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