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Tuesday, 20 November 1973
Page: 3549

Mr RUDDOCK (Parramatta) - I rise to address the Committee on the estimates of the Department of Urban and Regional Development. It is a new department and the estimates cover many matters that have not previously been dealt with under a single heading. During the Parramatta by-election a great deal of emphasis was placed upon the actions of this Government which would bring benefit to people living in the western suburbs of Sydney. I would agree that the people residing in these areas are entitled to benefits and improvements in their life style. Many statements made by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) have signified the importance of this Department in bringing about such a change. The Minister has suggested in all seriousness that the growing of trees would aid in bringing about fundamental changes in these areas, and I would agree that if the Department of Urban and Regional Development had the resources and constitutional competence this would bring it about.

The estimates for the Department of Urban and Regional Development cover expenditure in a number of areas. The appropriation under the sewerage agreements of 1973 will be most significant to my electorate if the moneys offered to New South Wales are spent in this local area. Similarly, Parramatta with its special buildings of historic importance may well derive benefits as a result of expenditure of funds on special items of interest to the national estate. I trust that Mr Justice Hope's committee will take note of the numerous buildings in Parramatta, some of which have been acquired by the

National Trust and others which ought to be preserved. The committee should deliberate quickly so that funds can be made available in order that those properties affected by special use zonings - which are now being used to aid in the acquisition of historical buildings and adjacent land - may be evaluated fully and acquired at a fair market price. I draw to the attention of the Committee the report entitled 'The National Estate - Principles and Policies, Submission to the Task Force', and particularly the section which deals with this matter to which I have referred. Paragraph (vi) (a) under 'Recommendations' states:

Zoning policies should be formulated to take account of those buildings and lands which are considered to be of importance or interest.

Without immediate action being taken to make funds available and to evaluate properties that will be affected, homes of people could be affected by those types of zonings. People could suffer. They may not achieve aworthwhile price for their properties and, in fact, they may be hampered by these types of zoning which will restrict their ability to be able to deal with their properties as other people might be able to deal with theirs. For Parramatta, the item in these estimates which is most significant is the expenditure anticipated through the Cities Commission. In a most attractively produced document dated 30 June and headed 'Report to the Australian Government, a recommended New Cities Program for the Period 1973-78', matters relating to urban and regional development for a period of 5 years are discussed. It is easy, of course, to see where a substantial sum of money is being spent - in the production of this most elaborate document.

The document deals with the history of the Cities Commission and it attempts, in part, to justify its existence. It evaluates the needs of an urban community and highlights some of its shortcomings. It deals with matters of pollution, economic growth and sewerage. Although my electorate was singled out for detailed examination some months ago and former Commonwealth Governments were blamed for deficiencies resulting from past unplanned growth, the report of the Cities Commission ignores Parramatta and the western suburbs. It speaks of metropolitan growth centres. It discusses in detail Campbelltown and Geelong rather than Parramatta and its environs. Surely a growth centre is not just outer metropolitan subdivisions. The Cities Commission must deal with areas which are being singled out for growth and which are growing.

The report of the Cities Commission, in chapter 5 headed 'Recommendations for Action', sub-heading 'Sydney', states: . . the Commission sought to discover what steps should be taken immediately to alleviate existing problems and to formulate the most satisfactory foundations of a policy which could cater for inevitable future growth.

It examines, in part, Holsworthy, Campbelltown and Gosford-Wyong. It is disappointing to the electors of Parramatta - and no doubt to the electors of adjoining electorates - that the western suburbs and the north-western suburbs do not warrant treatment in considering future growth centres in the city of Sydney. Another related matter is the report of the Department on regions of local government areas to be used by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development in approving aid to local government councils. This report is, of course, based upon the philosophy of the Government. In paragraph 35 that policy is spelt out. It states: . . a formal regionalisation of cities based on a range of socio-economic characteristics and the supply of public facilities will therefore provide a framework in which the Government can pursue its equalisation objectives.

The regionalisation appears to be seen by this Government as a means whereby it can achieve its objectives of bringing about an egalitarian society. Unfortunately, these objectives do not bring about equality but rather debase the quality of life and bring down people and their environment to the lowest common denominator.

I should perhaps digress a little here to note that there is a proposal for the siting of an airport at Galston. As honourable members would no doubt be aware, this area, which is a little to the north of my electorate of Parramatta, is typical of this objective of reducing areas of particular beauty and charm to the lowest common denominator. No doubt this proposal will not proceed. The problems of building an airport in Galston over a rough and rocky terrain, requiring the filling of valleys and the levelling of hills, will be far too high a cost for the people of Australia to pay. It is significant to note the statement only last week of the Minister for Housing and Minister for Works (Mr Les Johnson) in which he indicated continuing expenditure on Sydney's Kingsford-Smith Airport. I think that this confirms the Government's only practical objective - that of maintaining and extending Sydney's present international airport to meet future needs.

The plotting of regions for local government organisations seems to be an important part of the Government's strategy. It is proposed that Parramatta will form part of a region including Auburn, Balkham Hills, Blue Mountains, Colo, Fairfield, Holyroyd, Parramatta, Penrith and Windsor. I am surprised at the nature of this region. There is little community of interest between Colo and Auburn or between the Blue Mountains and Fairfield. One might be tempted to suggest that the regions proposed for the city of Sydney have as much community of interest within each region as the Minister would have achieved if he has cut the city up as he would cut an orange into quarters. I would concede that for specific projects a form of regionalisation can be desirable.

One matter that is of concern to me and my electorate is the Parramatta River. There is an urgent need for what I would call a beautification program. Much work has been done by the New South Wales State Government and the Department of Health to raise the quality of the water flowing down the river, and certainly industrial pollutants are being restricted. Many factories and plants have installed machinery and extensive filters to ensure that industrial wastes are now removed from any water finding its way into the river - I think that the action of the Department of Health in this area deserves commendation - but the river itself is still ugly. Green weed may be growing and mangroves may be regenerating, but car bodies and rubbish still litter its edges. I have proposed, and will do so again, that a Parramatta River commission be formed. The region of councils bordering the river should be aided with finance and in appointing rangers who could patrol the river. Councils could in concert act to acquire land for riverside parks and bring about, along the whole of the river, a program of beautification which is sorely needed. Such a program could not be envisaged under the form of strict regionalisation proposed, and grants for this purpose could not be contemplated. Yet it is a new and urgent need which must be met by governments.

There are other areas in which the Federal Government can act within the limits of its own power to assist in meeting the demands of the western suburbs. Some of my electors, and people from surrounding areas who use the Kingsford-Smith Airport, demand that consideration be given to the use of helicopters from Parramatta to reach the Sydney Airport. With the sort of development that the Minister has spoken of on a number of occasions for Parramatta, the demand for this sort of service will increase. It seems to me that a heliport could easily be established along the river and that it would certainly enable businessmen and the prospective influx of senior public servants to move more efficiently between Parramatta, Sydney and other Australian capital cities.

I believe that one of the basic differences between the Opposition and the Government in the area of urban development is the Government's desire to impose its own ideas on what is essentially local development and to bring about uniformity. Galston, of course, is an example of the sort of mistake that can be made when ministers and members of other State parliaments have to make a decision for another city. All too often the important environmental consequences are overlooked. Throughout Australia today there is a feeling of frustration - which is certainly evident in the electorate of Parramatta - on the part of people and organisations who are endeavouring to maintain and improve the quality of life within their neighbourhood.

There are many laws, both State and Commonwealth, which can be of assistance and can bring about a review of decisions taken at a local government or State level but the methods of obtaining the review are not known and are rarely considered by these organisations. The legal profession, as a general rule, is not competent, by way of training, to advise on these matters. I believe the time is right for us now to embark upon a program of teaching neighbourhood law in our universities so that young lawyers can be aware of the laws dealing with and relating to the environment, laws relating to the administration of local government, approval of developments and the means of achieving a review of decisions when taken without thought to local opinion. The sorts of frustrations which lead people to think of green bans and the like, which are so abhorrent to most Australian people, highlight the need for adequate teaching in this area. Already at the University of Sydney the students themselves are calling for the introduction in their courses of the teaching of environmental laws, or as

I would prefer to call them, neighbourhood laws. Without prompting the students are giving consideration to the drafting of legislation which can be helpful in these areas.

I was pleased to be able to read an article by Gwilym Davies published in the Australian National University 'News' of July 1973. The article deals with environmental resources law and it brings together bits and pieces. The article goes along in the same direction. Towards the end of that article there is a comment which I would like to quote. It reads:

First, there is no doubt that environmental law, both statutory and common law, will come to be of increasing importance to legal practitioners. The statute law will certainly proliferate thus making it essential that practitioners are aware of its details as well as its basic provisions and of the workings of the administrative machinery lying behind it. They will need this knowledge whether they are acting for industry, conservation groups are even ordinary individuals seemingly doing no more than going about their everyday business. Environmental legislation will percolate through to all levels.

There has been a course in environmental resources law established at the Australian National University. I think this type of teaching has to be more broadly based right through our universities so that people can get support from the legal profession to assist them in meeting the demands of protecting their environment and protecting the type of locality in which they live and to ensure that the good things about our life are aided. There is a need within our universities to encourage students to think about these areas in a progressive way to assist in development of new law rather than to think simply in terms of the interpretation of the present law. With encouragement by the honourable members of this Parliament of community involvement rather than the imposition of our own views to meet genuine pressures and frustrations that exist within our electorates, this Parliament might be able to get down to the matters of real national importance which demand our attention.

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