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Thursday, 15 November 1973
Page: 3448

Sir JOHN CRAMER (Bennelong) - I am an ordinary citizen with no special knowledge of the Constitution and I am not a lawyer, but I have served for 25 years in local government and I think that should qualify me to know something about it. I agree that local government needs more money; there is no doubt about that. It has been asked to take on additional obligations throughout Australia and it is starved of money. However, an alteration to the Constitution is not needed to give local government more money; the power already exists under section 96 of the Constitution for the Commonwealth to give what it wants to give. That destroys the argument of both the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and the honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow). As one who knows local government and understands the obligations of the Federal Government and State governments, I am scared stiff of what will happen if the people approve of this question. I know, as most members here know, that our forebears struggled for many years to create the federal system under which we operate today. There were many years of struggle before the Federal system was achieved, yet the Government is going to destroy the whole federal system within a few hours of debate in this Parliament.

The people should be warned about this. I do not want to emphasise it, as the Leader of the Country Party mentioned it a moment ago, but it is true that the basis of our Constitution is the delegation by the States of certain powers to create the Commonwealth of Australia as provided for in the Constitution. When the Constitution was established, it was a deliberate intention that the States would retain their identity and have the sole right to create and set up their own organisations of a local and domestic character. I do not think anybody can deny that. Local Government is a vital part of the machinery of the States. Local government cannot be isolated from the States. Local government authorities vary as between the States. Without the States local government would die, and without local government the States would be in an unholy mess. They are interdependent upon each other and nobody can isolate them from each other.

This Bill, as we all know but I think it should be mentioned, provides for 2 additions to the Constitution. The first is to section 51, which at present, in placitum (iv) gives the Commonwealth the power to borrow money from the public purse. The proposed new placitum (ivA) gives the Commonwealth the power to borrow money for local government. The second addition - they are only additions to the Constitution - is to section 96, which at present gives power to the Commonwealth to grant finance to any State as this Parliament thinks fit. If that section does not give the right to this Parliament to give more money to local government in any State I should like to know what would. That is very clearly stated. But the Government wants to insert a new section 96a to give this same power to grant finance to any local government body on such terms as this Parliament thinks fit. In other words, the intention is perfectly clear - the Commonwealth wants to destroy the States by by-passing them and taking control of local government with all its ramifications. There can be no doubt about that.

Why was this Bill introduced at all? It must be obvious to all people in Australia that this Government is out to destroy the Federal system in its entirety and to centralise all power in Canberra. One does not need to go over the many pieces of legislation that have been introduced into the Parliament to establish that fact. We have had several Bills on education and another has been introduced relating to health insurance. Right through the whole ambit of legislation this attempt to centralise power can be seen.

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - Wonderful things.

Sir JOHN CRAMER - Maybe they are, but the Government wants to centralise all power in Canberra. But the difficulty from the people's point of view is that the Government is doing things by stealth and trying to deceive the people of Australia. We have only to consider the 2 Bills which were passed by this House in the last 24 hours. The first one was designed to kill the Senate completely. The second was designed to adjust the electorates in Australia so that only the Australian Labor Party could win government in Australia. We know the terms of the referendum to be put to the people but this will be the end result if the people of Australia are stupid enough to vote yes.

We have only to look at the ramifications of the new Department of Urban and Regional Development. My old friend the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) is sitting listening to me. The move to alter the Constitution in relation to the States and local government cannot be dissociated from the idea of establishing regional councils. Very soon the whole emphasis will be upon regional councils and local governing bodies will be completely destroyed. These referendum proposals cannot be dissociated from the Labor Party's scheme for the setting up under the new Cities Commission of bodies to control land throughout Australia. These bodies have been set up to centralise.

Let us consider the proposed amalgamation of the Department of Housing and the Department of Works to establish a huge construction authority. This proposal was admitted to me in answer to a question in this House only a week ago. These are the sorts of things that are being developed to get complete centralised control over the whole of the affairs of Australia. Added to this situation is the fact that a referendum is proposed to give the Government control over prices and incomes. If that proposal is passed by the people who are deceived into believing that prices can be controlled by giving such control to the central government, this power will operate in conjunction with all the other proposals I have mentioned to centralise power in this one government in Australia.

I turn now to the Government's proposals for the Australian Industry Development Corporation - a newly established organisation. The Government proposes that the Corporation will get from the people of Australia the whole of their savings. Inducement will be given for the people to invest in the AIDC and this organisation will be the means by which the whole of industry, including the mining industry, throughout Australia will be taken over by the central Government. This is the plan. This is how it is working out. The Government intends not only to take over the ownership of industry but also commercial enterprises as well. If the Australian people do not wake up to these facts the future for this country will be frightening. If the people fall for the drive for power by this Government the ultimate result will be that Australia will be a completely socialist country under a republican dictatorship. There is no question that that is the way the Government is leading Australia. All the freedoms that we have cherished and enjoyed are in jeopardy. Our individuality, our way of life, our family life, our standards of citizenship and even our Christian principles are in jeopardy. More power must not be given to this Government. It cannot be trusted by the people of Australia. It is drunk for power and it is dictated to by unions of Australia.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Immoral they are too. '

Sir JOHN CRAMER - That is right. Local government is a wonderful institution. It is an instrument of the State, as I have said. It is really the basis of citizenship where domestic and family associations are nurtured and developed, where human contacts and friend ships and local participations are encouraged in people. If one has been in local government one will understand or if one is a good citizen one will understand-

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And if you are a

Christian you will understand.

Sir JOHN CRAMER - Yes, and if one is a Christian one will understand. The local councils and the local mayor, who is the leading citizen in the area; the town hall which is a focal point for the social good fellowship of people in the area; the chambers of commerce that gather around in the local area; the progress associations; the sporting clubs; the Red Cross; the Legacy movement; the senior citizens clubs; the hospitals and the organisations surrounding the hospitals; the churches; the local pride that is established in the local community and in the local area; and the State pride that is engendered because the people belong to one State and pride themselves on being in co-operation with the total nation of Australia, all form part of local government. It is proposed that all these things in our lives are to be directed from one central place in Canberra. If the people of Australia are to accept that, then I do not know the people of Australia. In my opinion, if this referendum is carried and money is provided directly from the Commonwealth to local government, it could mean less money being available to local councils. A result of that, as was explained by the Leader of the Opposition here today, could be an increase in rates for the people of Australia. Although they might depend upon the Commonwealth to give them money, in which case the Commonwealth will dictate what is to be done with that money, they will remain State organisations. Honourable members should not forget that a State Government can change the composition of local councils, wipe them out, or do whatever it likes in relation to their constitution.

If the Commonwealth fails to give local councils the money they need to do things that they are committed to do, the councils will have to get the necessary money from other sources, and that will lead to an increase in rates. That is why I say that the people of Australia face the possibility of increased rates. Few people seem to think of it this way, but the activities of local government are very much interlocked with other State functions. Those who have been in local government know this.

There is an interlocking between local government, county councils, water boards and electricity supply authorities.

Mr O'Keefe - And main roads authorities.

Sir JOHN CRAMER - Yes, and with authorities concerned with main roads, as well as with new departments established to look after ecology and the environment. All these things are interlocked in a State setup, yet the Federal Government is trying to alienate them and bring the Commonwealth into direct contact with and establish control of local government bodies. Of course, the idea will appeal to many persons at the beginning. It is like handing out the lolly, or dangling the carrot, as somebody else said. The unthinking may grab at the offer, no doubt, but what is the price to be paid? That is what the people have to think about. In my opinion, the price will be the ultimate loss of their freedom, if they pass this kind of legislation and destroy our Constitution. That reminds me of the old story. The Commonwealth is like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood'. 'What lovely eyes you have'. 'The better to see you with, my dear*. 'What big ears you have'. "The better to hear you with, my dear'. 'What a big mouth you have'. Yes, a big mouth, ready to gobble up local government - and the Commonwealth wolf will gobble up little local government. This is what could happen, and the people must not allow themseves to be deceived.

Of course, the next move by this Government will be to establish, in a local government sense, regional councils. They are already at it. They are out to destroy local government as we know it and to set up great groups in the form of regional councils. This will destroy the individuality of each of the existing councils of which the councils are so proud. Ultimately, of course, if this goes on, it will mean the destruction of the States altogether. Why cannot the Labor Party be honest and ask the people of Australia straight out for power to abolish the States? Why do they not put a referendum question on that point and do it all in one bite? There is no doubt that all the Labor Party wants is power. She wants power to do as she will; and she will centralise all that power in Canberra.

This Bill must be rejected if we are to retain our freedom as individuals in this country. I have had a long experience in public life, including local government, and I would say that if the people are foolish enough to be deceived by the kind of offer they are being made now, in accordance with which money will go direct from the Commonwealth to local government bodies, the good aldermen who in most cases give their services free of charge will soon find themselves in a difficult position.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Look at what the honourable member for Bennelong got out of local government?

Sir JOHN CRAMER - I did not get anything out of it. I was never paid. I acted in a voluntary capacity. The people ought to be careful not to be deceived by the little crumb that is offered. I would suggest to aldermen that they think deeply before they accept this kind of offer, for many things are involved in it. There would be too much obvious loss of freedom of the individual and too much power vested in the central government. Ultimately that must lead to a state of complete socialism in this country. I refuse to believe that the decent people of Australia want that kind of government.

If the Bill passes this House, as no doubt it will, I believe that the good sense of the Senate will result in its being rejected in that House. No doubt it will then come back here again and ultimately the Government will have its referendum. However, I believe that the good sense of the people of Australia will not allow the Government to do these things. I am sure that the people of this country will vote no at the referendum in such a resounding way that the Labor Party will never come back again trying to get their approval for this kind of socialistic legislation.

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