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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 4104

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Leader of the Opposition) - I have agreed for the Opposition to these 4 Bills being debated in a cognate debate. Those Bills are the AlburyWodonga Development Bill, the AlburyWodonga Development (Financial Assistance) Bill, the Growth Centres (Financial Assistance) Bill, and the Land Commissions (Financial Assistance) Bill. The first 2 Bills are obvious companions for the establishment of the Albury-Wodonga city complex. The second provides finance for that purpose. The other two are not in fact directly related to the Albury-Wodonga complex although they are part of the whole scheme of legislation relating to regional and urban development and they form part of the legislative scheme, but only part because the remainder of the scheme in relation to Albury-Wodonga and the development of growth centres belongs to the States and there will be legislation from the States. I think it is proper that they should be debated together. I welcome all 4 of these Bills. They will be supported by the Opposition. The initiatives in these Bills set out to relieve the pressures on the ever sprawling maritime conurbations. In over-simple terms, major cities are growing too large and therefore there must be active intervention to regionalise development. Really, it means that there is too much concentration on the hub of the major cities and not enough on the circumference.

Therefore, consideration needs to be given to the circumference and also to developing regional development centres so that the pressures on the circumference or the inner city are relieved by the development of the regional development centres. Some natural choice has been manifested by the citizens of this country in coming to the major conurbations. We all know that the non-metropolitan centres are tending to decline in population, although some of the non-urban areas are attracting population and many of the country towns are actually growing. That natural choice needs assistance. We must assist this process in 2 ways. We must see that there is a better standard of life on the circumference and that there is the opportunity for people to find what they would naturally select outside the urban areas. We must not overlook the very significant importance of the inner urban areas, but I will come to that shortly.

The inner cites themselves are in need of renewal and more attractive planning so that open space, playing fields and landscaping become more a rule than an accident. We have very devoted and imaginative planners in Australia and we need to give them scope for their imaginative drive. I am glad to say that not only the Commonwealth Government but also the State governments and the major municipalities have attracted planners who are developing very good schemes.

One of the major reasons why the Opposition wholeheartedly supports this legislation is that last year, while in government, we introduced a piece of legislation known as the National Urban and Regional Development Authority Bill. I am glad to say that the quality of that legislation was recognised by the incoming Government. The amendments that this Government made to the legislation were to provide a role for the new ministry that was established - the Department of Urban and Regional Development - within the structure of the Authority, and to change the name to the Cities Commission. I remember that at the time there was some debate as to whether the name should be the Cities Commission or whether the old name should be maintained. That is in the past. It is the Cities Commission. There is a role for the Department. But, basically, the legislation before the House today is the legislation which was introduced by the previous Government last year. I think that all parties take the view that this scheme should be developed. Some differences of attitude may emerge over time, but we welcome the continuation of that initiative. I do not think it is an issue on which we should compete with each other as to who took the initiative. The fact is that the legislation exists and we must go ahead on the basis of that legislation in the national interest.

We must set out to improve the expectation of people to a clean, aesthetic and yet varied environment. Some of the most beautiful areas of the capital cities are in the inner metropolitan areas. By that I do not mean what might be described as the actual city; I mean some of the surrounding residential areas. In most cities those areas are really very beautiful and ought to be preserved and developed. Yet this beauty is becoming increasingly obscured by lack of care of the buildings and the houses and by the intrusion into naturally beautiful residential areas of other types of residences or groups of residences which do not have the same charm. One thing that is apparent is that many of the buildings in the cities show the grime that has accumulated since coal furnaces and the internal combustion engine were introduced. Australia does not have the range of beautiful buildings that some of the older European cities have. Those who have been to London and Paris recently will have noticed the tremendous change that has occurred in both those cities by taking the grime off the natural beauty of buildings. We must pay tribute to what migrants have done in some of the inner suburban areas in taking old, broken down houses and refurbishing them, painting them and making them very attractive.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - And taking pride.

Mr SNEDDEN - And taking pride in them. I have been supplied with the word by the honourable member for Griffith. People have taken pride in these areas. I think it is important that there be selection. I believe that more and more people will be confronted with the dilemma of choice in the future. Young people with young families may very well want to live further away from the city centre; but, as the children grow older and leave home, the parents who are left on their own may very well want to live in the closer city area. In planning we must have in mind the different phases of selection which people will have in their minds when selecting their residence.

I turn now to regional development, about which the first 2 Bills are concerned. The Cities Commission appears to be trying a mix of a number of precepts of regional development, with the intention of locating regional centres at markedly varying distances from the capital cities. Centres such as Geelong and Holsworthy-Campbelltown are most reasonably considered to be sub-metropolitan centres or, to use the word which the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) used in his second reading speech, systems cities. I have not been using that word, although I have been meaning the same thing. I have been referring to sub-city centres and I think it really amounts to the same thing. If the term that is to be used is 'systems cities', I do not object to using it; but I believe that the term 'sub-city centres' expresses more adequately what I have in mind.

Mr Uren - We live in an environmental age - systems.

Mr SNEDDEN - The Minister has just said that we live in an environmental age. Words catch on. The term 'systems cities' probably will be adopted, but I will not alter my concept of sub-city centres. Incidentally, it was once reported that I was talking about subsidy centres. I mean not subsidy centres but subcity centres. Initially conceived as dormitory towns for the large cities, there is an increasingly and generally held concept that these systems cities should themselves be selfsufficient with their own services and industries. I support the concept of systems cities on the periphery of the major conurbations. There has been some discussion, if not controversy, about whether regional development should be essentially in the suburbs or spread inland. This consideration has been shown in the Schedule. Quite clearly, it must be both.

I want to make a point about the difficulties of appropriation of funds for metropolitan transport. I believe that there is a great danger that, in allocating funds for metropolitan transport, we could fall into the trap of providing money so that all suburban transport converges on the hub. This must not happen. If it does happen, it will mean that the conurbations will grow worse because everybody will be transported into the hub in the morning and out of the hub in the evening. It is very important that, in developing metropolitan transport systems and making money available for them, there should be major planning on the basis of bringing people into that sub-city centre from around it and not transporting everybody to the hub.

Another consideration that is implicit in the Schedule is the fact that regional centres may arise in 'new towns', such as is envisaged in Monarto, or may grow from pre-existing centres such as Albury-Wodonga. In looking through the Schedule, I find that obviously there is an eye to experimentation in this area, even though on page 25 of the Cities Commission report the criteria for selection of a growth centre are set out. Some of these appear more immediately relevant. For instance, the physical resources base - that is, better opportunities - would appear to be an important criterion for ultimate self-sufficiency. On the other hand, providing those better opportunities is more a statement of objective than a quantifiable element. What we must have in mind is converting the objective into some quantifiable element. A natural diplomacy is implicit in the fact that each State has at least one of these centres. This is good, because it must be recognised that the problem of regional development requires a national policy. The funds that come from the Commonwealth Government come from the general body of taxpayers.

The essential consideration is that these regional centres must be attractive enough for people to want to live in them rather than to flock to the pre-existing urban areas. Achievement of this is contingent on work opportunities being made available. I feel that it is essential that both private and public investment in these centres be encouraged. I think that we could very well have in the sub-city centres - the system centres - a priming from public funds of public buildings in those centres. I do not wish to see a series of what I may term public service towns being developed with public servants unwillingly being relocated just because a government has a grand design. Nor do I wish to see regional centres being developed as places where migrants are directed only to escape later when they have served their period, as happened in earlier years when migrants had to remain in a designated place for 2 years.

I agree with the principle of facilitating the settlement of migrants in Australia as expres sed in the Albury-Wodonga Development Bill, but we must remain conscious of the fact that people must retain their freedom of choice to live wherever they want and to have the mobility to move from one place to another. We can achieve this only by making these growth centres more attractive to people. Therefore I am sure the planner of these regional centres would have in mind the need to provide incentives for people to stay in these centres. There must be the development of job opportunities. This applies particularly to young people. There must be the facility for top class education, for entertainment, the theatre, the arts and something we must not overlook, that is, sheer size. Some people only wish to live in a city where there is a feeling of congregation, and they require size.

The whole concepts implicit in these Bills are that they set a development pattern for Australia up to the year 2000. I am unreservedly in favour of any policy which will contribute to this national growth. This means providing a balance between the social environment and the need for Australia to recognise its optimum economic potential. There are varying estimates of what the population of Australia will be in the year 2000. I think we can safely say it will not be less than 22 million or 23 million1 . and very likely will be 25 million. But I think it will not be 25 million if-

Mr Uren - I hope it is not.

Mr SNEDDEN - The Minister says that he hopes it will not be. That expresses a very significant difference between the Minister and myself. The Minister is operating on the basis that we must hold down population in order to make the quality of life good. I hold the opposite view. I believe that Australia has potential and capacity; it has people; it has resources, and by growth we can contribute more to our people and we can discharge the idealism that Australians feel to people outside Australia by generating the wealth of Australia. Therefore my belief is that we should grow. We need to make sure that in growing we do not sacrifice qualities. The Minister's attitude is that he prefers the population not to grow but to concentrate everything on quality. I do not believe that by refusing to grow we will necessarily achieve greater quality. I am sure that if we continue to grow, if we are not afraid, and if we are adventurous within reason so that we know what we are doing and why, we will make Australia a better country in which to live. I do not believe we should stultify growth because we are afraid. I believe the Minister's attitude is to stultify growth because he is afraid. The task is ours to achieve.

Mr Uren - I have always said that I support the concept of about a 1.1 per cent growth rate.

Mr SNEDDEN - The Minister, by way of interjection, has said that he has always accepted a growth rate of 1.1 per cent.

Mr Uren - Instead of 2 per cent.

Mr SNEDDEN - I would support a growth rate vastly in excess of 1.1 per cent. The point is that we should take into the country as many people as we can find who suitably fit into our environment, into our way of life, and who can contribute. I do not believe an artificial boundary can be set. I am interested that the Minister acknowledges a growth rate of at least 1.1 per cent, because he is going to have problems with growth.

Mr Uren - 'Population.

Mr SNEDDEN - The Minister acknowledges that. If we are to have problems with growth let us realise that it is within our hands to take the appropriate measures to ensure the quality of life of the people making that growth. The Bills set out a mechanism for implementation of the design of this complex. The Albury-Wodonga Development Bill sets out a prototype for the development of a regional centre, and I applaud the evidence of Federal and State co-operation as evidenced by this Bill. Without this co-operation the Albury-Wodonga regional centre, first conceived by the Victorian Government in discussion with the Liberal-Country Party Government, would still remain just a good idea. It is said that the original concept of AlburyWodonga came from the Prime Minister when he was the Leader of the Opposition. The story further goes on that on one occasion Graham Freudenberg, not knowing what the Prime Minister should make a speech about, sat down to write a speech and said: 'Let's have the Albury-Wodonga complex'. But it was not an original proposal. The proposal had already emanated out of Victoria.

The Albury-Wodonga Development Bill and the complementary Bill dealing with financial assistance set the guidelines for one of our most worthwhile projects undertaken in 1972 and now followed through by the present Gov ernment. I acknowledge that the present Government has followed it through. There are problems implicit in the Bill - the question of how the land once acquired will be held, either as leasehold or freehold. It would appear that the Commonwealth Government is waiting the Else-Mitchell report on land tenure. I do not object to it waiting for the outcome of that inquiry. It will help us all in our debate. But I say quite unequivocally that I believe absolutely, explicitly and without qualification that all residential holdings ought to be freehold. If the land is not freehold it will not attract the support of people to the area whom we do hope to attract to it to make their homes and their lives in a particular area.

There is the problem of involvement of local government in all these ventures. I note that there is no mention of this tier of government in the Albury-Wodonga Development Bill, except as an advisory council with no responsibilities as a link between the developmental authority and the residents. I believe that it is important to have regard of the needs of local government especially in areas which previously have developed a highly institutionalised system of local government, responsible as they are for the provision and implementation of very many services. These services are important in an economic and social sense. I believe the provision of services to the cost of land is of the ratio of four to one. I also believe that the Government, whether Federal or State, should give recognition to the existence and objectives of resident action groups provided these groups are essentially acting within the confines of their own municipality. I see the growth of dozens of action groups which purport to represent the residents, and yet in fact represent multivested interests whether these be politically motivated or are unions or developers insensitive to the expectations and aspirations of the actual residents.

The proposed Growth Centres (Financial Assistance) Bill and the Land Commission (Financial Assistance) Bill extend the concept implicit in the Albury-Wodonga Bills. I do not fully support the concept of land commissions acting as land banks and holding land against possible rather than probable development. This is essentially a State responsibility. I know that both Western Australia and South Australia have enacted legislation whereas Victoria and New South Wales have quite different concepts. Those States have in mind a body which will acquire land as the land is needed. I would rather see the statutory authority, the Development Corporation, as the vehicle for control, having full power of acquisition over a designated area which can be seen by all the community as a denned plan, that is, a strategic action plan of achievement and not merely the taking of a great deal of land and putting it, so to speak, in a bank for future calling upon.

I reiterate my complete support for the concepts of the need for planned decentralisation, and also for planned urban renewal and extension of sub-city centres or, to use the name that is preferred, the system cities. I note in an answer to a question on notice that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) has yet to look in detail at this latter area of urban renewal. I would commend that he do so at an early opportunity and in cooperation with each of the States. Having said that, I should like to make a few comments on the actual legislation.

Financial assistance to the States is tied tightly by the Federal Government. My Party's attitude is that grants under section 96 should be conceived in the context of specific grants as national purpose grants. They should give direction to the overall design but should, as the development proceeds, give more latitude in their use to the States and through them to local government bodies in the further planning of these areas. We must assume that all wisdom in this use of responsibility does not devolve in the central bureaucracy in Canberra. There is great wisdom in the States and in local government bodies and although some people may think they can walk on the waters of Lake Burley Griffin, that is not a widely held belief throughout Australia.

We in the 2 Opposition Parties have not had all the time we needed to examine the Bills in detail. We should have liked more time, but that is as it may be. Specifically I would like to express - and I do not want this to be understood as more than I intended it to mean as a word - a caveat over some areas of the legislation which we will be examining further. I do not expect that if we find them unacceptable to us they would be unacceptable to the Government; I think it would be a matter of discussion. I am concerned to ensure that the parties understand clause 8, sub-clauses (2), (3) and (4) of the Albury-Wodonga Development Bill. The Minister will see that by sub-clause (2) the Corporation is given power to do all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with, or as incidental to, the performance of its function. Its functions are contained in clause 8. Very few functions are enumerated and quite clearly this is because the function of land acquisition must be with the States, as it is in fact.

That carries me on to sub-clause (3), which gives the Minister power, unqualifiedly and not subject to any supervision of the Parliament, to declare any State Act a complementary Act, which is then published in the Government Gazette. This has not been spelt out in any detail in the second reading speech and perhaps the Minister might provide some more information about that. Sub-clause (4) of clause 8 is in the following terms:

It is hereby declared to be the intention of the Parliament that the Corporation may have and be subject to functions, powers and duties specified by an Act or part of an Act for the time being declared under sub-section (3) to be complementary to this Act.

It all ties back and I believe it means - I should like the Minister to reply on this - that once this Bill is passed the Parliament as such will no longer have any capacity to observe what is happening and express views - except by way of the forms of the House, which are not very suitable for this purpose, as to the conduct and success of the development of the AlburyWodonga region. I would expect that these provisions will be contained in other legislation which will relate to other growth centres.

The next matter I should like to refer to necessitates my citing clause 9 (1) of the Growth Centres (Financial Assistance) Bill which is in the following terms:

A payment or advance to a State under this Act is subject to -

(a)   such conditions, not inconsistent with this Act, as are agreed between Australia and the State; and

(b)   such of the other conditions provided for by this Act as are applicable.

I should like some information as to what is intended by the words 'as are applicable'. Clause 14 of the same Bill - there are comparable provisions in the Land Commissions (Financial Assistance) Bill - makes it quite clear that there is an extremely tight control over the use of land by the Commonwealth and that the conditions can be applied by the Minister with the concurrence of the Treasurer. There does not seem to be at that point any consultation between the Commonwealth and the States. I should like the Minister to take up that point if he would.

The next point I should like to make is that loan funds are made available and are repayable after the expiration of 30 years, which seems a long time. However, in the context of the Albury-Wodonga complex it is a relatively short period. There is provision for the commencement of the repayment period to be deferred but there is no provision for a deferment of the repayment of the total of the loan after 30 years. My recollection is that a comparable provision in English legislation provides that loan funds are for 47 years. I should like the Minister to consider extending the time for repayment to 47 years or else an extension of the repayment finally when there has been deferment of the initial repayment.

Mr Uren - There are provisions dealing with the cash flows.

Mr SNEDDEN - If the Minister would provide me with that information I should be grateful. The next point I wish to make is that there is quite a marked difference between grant money and loan money and the purposes to which they are put. It seems to me that as experience is gained in the Albury-Wodonga complex it may be necessary to alter attitudes as to what should be grant money and what should be loan money. I do not have an objection at this stage and I would not be wishing to suggest that there should be a change in the statute as it is an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. However, as experience develops and if there is a need to change loan money into grant money I should like the Minister to indicate that he would be prepared to discuss it with the States.

By way of summary, the Opposition supports the concepts basic to the Bills. We support the development of regional centres along the criteria set out by the Cities Commission; we support the need to plan rationally and renew the pre-existing urban areas; we support the need for involvement of local government and the recognition of the actions of legitimate relevant action groups. (Extension of time granted.) Finally, the Opposition supports the use of this plan for urban and regional development in the realisation of the maximum economic and social potential of Australia. These regional centres must not be State monuments to somebody's good idea, but an integrated reality into the fabric of a dynamic Australian community.

Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.

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