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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 4062

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - In the Federal Division of Burke advice is being given against the Australian Government's proposal to encourage municipalities to join together and work with a common purpose towards the solution of the multitude of problems that exist in them. The recent report on regions, which was made to this Parliament by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) and for which he deserves our compliments, has been unjustly described by the State Liberal member for Gisborne as a political hoax. It is surprising to hear this gentleman, who describes himself as a small T Liberal, engage in this sort of fantasy and hallucination when he surely must be aware that the problems which beset municipalities are a direct result of the inadequacies of a series of Liberal governments in Victoria - governments for which he has declared publicly his support. He obviously is completely unaware of what is going on around him. Of course, in this respect he behaves in a manner that is expected of any member of the Liberal Party. If he is expressing the opinion of his Party, then he should be advised that this is the year of grace 1973, not 1873, and that if he seeks he will find.

I should like to outline the municipalities that are sufficiently concerned with the welfare of their citizens to combine voluntarily with their neighbours to form regions. Werribee, Melton and Keilor, which all fall within the boundaries of the State electorate of Gisborne, have joined with others to form the Western Region. The Shire of Bulla, although a member of the Western Region group, is now looking to the North-western Region, which comprises the shires of Gisborne and Bulla and the cities of Broadmeadows, Coburg and Brunswick. There is no coercion or threat of coercion, and rather than destroy the identity of municipalities the whole scheme will enhance their status.

It is a pity that the member for Gisborne did not take the time to read the report and the related Grants Commission Act 1973. Had he bothered to do his homework, he would know that a number of things he has made public with the force of his own uninformed opinion are so much balderash. For instance, he would know that at no time is the State Government bypassed; rather is it an integral part of the whole scheme. He has chosen to say how ridiculous but significant it is that the region the Federal Government has helped to set up as its guinea pig refuses its State parliamentarians any representation on the Western Region Commission. The only ridiculous attitude here is that exhibited by the gentleman himself.

In one very large and badly drawn breath he puts the State government forward as big brother and as being the best equipped to deal with the problems of local government. At the same time he accuses the Federal Government of denying State parliamentarians representation on regional councils. As if those gratuitous insults to local government by the ill-informed gentleman were not enough, he compounds his ignorance by saying that every so-called region in this State or nation could consider itself underprivileged by its own yardstick. I ask: What does this gentleman think the Grants Commission is all about? Indeed, what does he think his colleague, the State Minister for Local Government, is all about, if not to assess submissions by regions? Does he think that he can so easily write off local government by saying, in effect, that it does not know what the needs of the areas are, that it is not equipped with God-given intelligence to assess needs, that only the State Government can do that and that local government will subsist on the morsels that are handed out to it?

Let me remind this House that the lack of public transport in Victoria is due to the couldnotcareless attitude of successive Liberal governments in that State. In the proposed North-western Region the public transport system is a farce. The main north-east line to Sydney passes through Broadmeadows, which is only 10 miles from Melbourne. However, electrification of the line ends there, as was the position when electrification was introduced. Housing development extends for more than 2 miles further along this railway line. Numerous deputations and fiery speeches by the honourable member for Broadmeadows, Mr John Wilton, have only elicited a promise that 2 new railway stations will be built and electrification extended. Like all Liberal promises, it is the same as a pie crust - made to be broken.

Five miles beyond Broadmeadows on the same railway line lies the township of Craigieburn. Four hundred families live there; yet there is no electrified rail service to Melbourne. Craigieburn lies within the State electorate of Gisborne, but the gentleman who represents the area has not joined with the deputations or even crooned a protest at the lack of an adequate and modern rail service to either Craigieburn or Sunbury. The Regional Council could push this matter further. Sunbury township is unsewered and can develop no further until it is sewered. How much money is required? It requires only $1.4m over 2 years. Oan the Sewerage Trust get that money? No. I have introduced a deputation to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development who correctly said that he cannot override the State Treasurer. The Minister said that $9m is available to Victoria for sewerage and Sunbury should receive a share of that money. It was the Liberal State Government of Victoria that refused the $9m. Therefore, Sunbury goes unsewered. At least Nero had the decency to play his violin while Rome burned. I wonder if the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Gisborne is strumming his base fiddle while Sunbury goes unsewered Why does he fear councils talking to one another about common problems? Is he not aware that in an area of 400,000 people there is no public hospital of any size? Does he not know that a site exists in Broadmeadows for a public hospital? Can he be ignorant of the fact that the Liberal Government of Victoria has consistently refused to build a hospital in Broadmeadows? How can he sneeringly disparage local government as he has done, endeavour to downgrade the Federal Government's efforts to assist, and smugly say that his Government has all the answers?

The report issued by the Department of Urban and Regional Development insists that regional councils should consist of one elected representative of each council? How else can local government retain its identity if it is to be mixed up in a homegenous brew of State parliamentarians and local councillors? His preference for State parliamentarians being representatives is understandable because I think just as deviously as he does: Put enough State parliamentarians on a regional council and control it so that it will in no way provide an embarrassment to an inept State gov ernment. The moral, intellectual and financial bankruptcy of that government is well known. Yet, ever the victim of his own propaganda, this gentleman from Gisborne describes the Liberal Government of Victoria as a socially aware government. Rather should it be described as a plagiarist government which appears socially aware during an election campaign and, after success, hibernates until the next election. Contrary to the advice given by the backward member of the Liberal Party, I have advised the municipalities in the Northwestern Region that the wise course to follow is contained in the report 'Regions'. The councils in my area are wise and far-seeing. They recognise wisdom when it is espoused and refuse to be counselled by fools. They intend to form a regional council.

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