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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 4128

Mr HOLTEN (Indi) - I commence by endorsing the commendatory remarks that were made by my colleague, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), about the efforts of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), particularly his attitude in the extremely complex negotiations that he and his staff, the staff of the Victorian and New South Wales Government departments and the respective Ministers had leading to the introduction of this legislation. But I do not agree with the Minister's philosophies or the means that will be adopted to achieve the objective of having 300,000 people in the Albury-Wodonga area by the year 2000. I also endorse the comments of the honourable member for Gwydir in his criticism of the Government's actions towards rural people generally in this year's Budget. Worse is to come. The Budget provisions seem to be the very antithesis of what we are discussing here today in the way of encouraging decentralisation. I also emphasise that this legislation and the future activities of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation must place emphasis on people and their rights. The changes will affect a lot of people.

I support the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in the inquiries he made of the Minister. I am sure the Minister will give us some answers to those inquiries. Mention has been made by several people about the official policy of the various parties. One or two speakers implied that the Country Party did not have a policy on decentralisation. So to put it on the record I quote from the policy of the Australian Country Party. It states under the heading 'Decentralisation':

The balancing of the growth and development of Australia is basic to the policies of the Australian Country Party. Australia is already one of the most urbanised nations, with the majority of people living in only nine cities on the edge of the continent. Correlated with the need to check the drift of population from the country to the city are the increasingly serious financial and social problems associated with centralisation. It is the belief of the Australian Country Party that decentralisation of industry as an aid to correcting the rapidly increasing imbalance of population distribution is of vital importance to Australia.

I place that current Country Party policy on decentralisation on the record. I welcome the introduction of these Bills into the Parliament. I accept the concept of them and the principles involved, but there are some aspects that concern not only me but also people whom I have the honour and responsibility to represent in this Parliament. As most honourable members will know, the Wodonga section of the AlburyWodonga growth complex is in the electorate of Indi, which I represent. I will be putting forward to the House some of the areas of concern that my constituents have expressed to me.

The objective of the Biills is to give legislative meaning and authority to the historic agreement which was signed by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria in Wodonga in the electorate of Indi on 23 October. I had the privilege of being present at the signing. It must be emphasised that for this agreement to work as it is intended to work the 2 State government Acts are crucial in the overall picture. Proper debate on the ramifications of the complex legislation before the House is not really possible without the availability of the other 2 sets of corresponding Bills which must be passed respectively by the Parliaments of New South Wales and Victoria. The Victorian Bills are available, but have become available only in the last few days. To me it is regrettable that the Government has again rushed legislation into the House before adequate time has really been given for consideration. This set of Bills involves many complex issues, and it is most unsatisfactory to many people - many of my constituents and people both inside and outside the House - that there has been insufficient time to assess all the aspects and effects of this legislation.

Mr Uren - Give us an example.

Mr HOLTEN - The Minister asks me to give him an example. I referred to people outside the House. The legislation arrived on the table of the House only last week.

Mr Uren -What are the worries?

Mr HOLTEN - I will be spelling out some of the worries that people have. They might have other worries that they would bring to the fore if they had a chance to study the legislation. I said that I would be passing on some of the concern of my constituents, and these are thoughts that have been expressed to me. As I mention, the 2 sets of State government Bills should be available to be read in conjunction with these Bills so as to ensure that the terms and conditions of the agreement signed on 23 October between the States and the Commonwealth have been fully included. Unfortunately these sets of Bills are not available. I am well aware of the necessity to get things moving and to keep things moving in the AlburyWodonga area, but more time should have been allowed. I am aware of all the difficulties in this matter, but I repeat that more time should have been allowed to give citizens and their advisers the opportunity to study the legislation from both the State and Federal Parliaments. As I understand it, the New South Wales legislation is not before the Parliament as yet. There is a tremendous feeling of frustration and stagnation and also feelings of uneasy concern affecting many people in the cities of Albury and Wodonga at the moment.

The Albury-Wodonga area, of course, is a natural for a growth complex. Many people naturally are associating themselves with the concept or with having thought of the concept of developing Albury-Wodonga in a population and economic sense in order to diminish the growth of Melbourne and Sydney. There are many people who fought over a long period of time to gain more facilities in the AlburyWodonga area. My thoughts turn to the late Dr Merrylees, to whom I would like to pay a brief tribute, because he was so energetic and enthusiastic in his advocacy of the development of the regions of southern New South Wales, northern Victoria and northeastern Victoria. I am sure that his drive and determination played a big part in keeping the Albury-Wodonga area in the forefront of government thinking. He would be a happy man if he were alive today.

I personally was interested to find a news release of my own which was published in the Albury based 'Border Morning Mail' newspaper dated 3 August 1966, which is more than 7 years ago. The news release quoted me as saying that I was urging continuing pressure to gain support from the Federal Government for the establishment of a university in the Albury-Wodonga area. I wrote to the Australian Universities Commission in June 1966, suggesting that it should initiate discussions on the possibility of the New South Wales and Victorian State governments combining to ret up a joint university, thus adopting the principle of co-operation between Federal and State governments. In that article I suggested that the Secretary of the Universities Commission should visit the area with a view to establishing the suitability of the Albury-Wodonga area as a site for a joint university. I was quite interested to see that news release of mine, which is more than 7 years old.

In the whole structure of the AlburyWodonga complex, its administration and the activities up to date, the Allbury-Wodonga Interim Consultative Committee which was appointed has, I think, done a first-class job. This Committee basically comprises citizens of the area assisted by senior Commonwealth and State public servants. They have been performing their duties in a very energetic and conscientious manner. It has been quite obvious to me that they have been holding many meetings and consulting many organisations and individuals about matters which are of vital importance in the overall development of the Albury-Wodonga area. The wide scope of the activities and interests of the Consultative Committee is illustrated by some decisions that the Committee made at a recent meeting. It is appropriate, I think, that I place them on the record of this Parliament to illustrate the efforts of this Committee.

The Committee stated that it wanted a study made of the effects of the growth centre on present and future residents. Dr Henry Nowik who has been a stalwart member of and tower of strength on this Committee, told a committee meeting that there would be tremendous changes in the region, and of course that is obvious. The Committee decided to press the urgent need for an integrated approach to the planning of health and welfare services in Albury-Wodonga; to bring to the notice of the Ministerial Council the acute shortage of social welfare workers in the area, particularly those experienced in youth work; to ask the Cities Commission for a study of the effect of the growth centre on the ecology; to press for the regular release of planning information so that Albury-Wodonga businessmen can plan for the future; and to ask that the Development Corporation consider the need for infant and child care facilities in commercial development and community facilities, as well as providing for the disabled. That illustrates the good work that the Consultative Committee is doing.

Mr Uren - Those people should co-operate and consult with you more.

Mr HOLTEN - Thank you. Great concern has been expressed by representatives of resident organisations in the area about certain matters connected with the Albury-Wodonga complex. I received a telegram from Councillor Macaulay - who is on the Wodonga City Council - on behalf of the Albury-Wodonga Growth Centre Landholders Association. The letter was not sent on behalf of the Wodonga City Council. I also have a telegram from the secretary of that Association. The telegram says that the Association strongly opposes the Development Bill; that land tenure is still undecided; that the future role of local government is obscure; and that there is no time limit on the operations. Both telegrams request that the whole of the legislation be referred to an appropriate Senate committee.

I am sure the House would agree that it is completely understandable that many long established land owners in the area are sitting on the edge of their chairs, waiting for the announcement of the areas that are to be acquired. Many of these people are members of families who have lived in the district for a long time. Many of them have given long and distinguished service to the district through many community organisations. Now they are experiencing a period of great uncertainty, with a possibility of being told that their property and their occupations will be taken from them. In fact, it is a certainty that this will happen to quite a few people. Many of the people to whom I refer are farmers by nature, by tradition and by actual experience. Most of them would know no other occupation. On the matter of compensation, due regard should be paid not only to the value of the land but also to the fact that these people have not had the benefit of long service leave schemes and government supported or industry supported superannuation schemes that will provide for their retirement. They have not had paid annual holidays, sick leave and so on. It is very important that these people have their rights protected by both Federal and State legislation. Every avenue must be taken to ensure that the principle of just compensation is made mandatory in regard to acquisition.

Other areas of concern have been expressed to me. I have been asked whether this move is decentralisation or centralisation. Other people have said: 'Why do we have to have this Development Corporation at all? We already have certain local government and government machinery within this area and we are going along pretty well at the moment. Progress in the Albury-Wodonga area has been very good without the Development Corporation'. Migrants are mentioned specifically in the Bill. They want to know the reason for that. People are concerned that the principle of land tenure is still not clear. I favour the freehold system. I know that the Victorian State Government also favours the freehold system. I realise that the Government is waiting to see the recommendations of the ElseMitchell Committee before making a decision. But the Premiers should be commended on their stand, with the Commonwealth at the last moment, of insisting that another look be taken at the principle of land tenure. They are some of the things about which the people in the Albury-Wodonga area are concerned, and quite rightly so.

I now want to refer to a part of the policy speech which has not yet been carried out. I am not saying that an undertaking was given to carry this out in the first year. But everyone will be watching very closely to see that the Government maintains its undertaking in regard to the equation between the costs of telephone calls in the AlburyWodonga area and in other areas. The Government said:

In our first term of office, we will concentrate our own initiative and endeavours on 2 areas - AlburyWodonga and Townsville.

The Government said that the cost of telephone calls and telephone rentals in these new growth centres will be the same as the cost of those services in the capital cities. The puzzling factor to me, which indicates a little inconsistency, misunderstanding and disagreement on the part of the Government, is the Prime Minister's statement about the Dart mouth Dam, which of course will be vital to the future of Albury,Wodonga. We had the extraordinary spectacle of the Prime Minister a couple of months ago writing to the Premiers of the 3 States concerned - South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria - and suggesting that the expenditure on Dartmouth Dam should be deferred or cut down. He got short shrift, of course, from the Premiers of those 3 States. It seems contrary to the whole philosophy of encouraging decentralisation, which, of course, is the basis of this Bill, that the Prime Minister of Australia should advocate the deferral of expenditure of money on the great Dartmouth Dam project. Of course this dam will be further above AlburyWodonga than the Hume Weir. The Prime Minister's action was extraordinary.

I should like to mention other matters but unfortuantely my time has almost run out. Therefore, I am not able to mention all the aspects to which I wanted to refer. They include a statement by Senator Geitzelt on 28 November 1972, that the people of Albury-Wodonga would think Father Christmas had arrived when the Labor Government got into power. The Government has loaned the people only $9m, which they will have to repay with interest. The ultimate practical success of this project will call for the highest level of goodwill and co-operation between the Federal and State Ministers, departmental officers, local government and local residents. I wish the whole project well. Any individual or organisation that seeks my assistance and co-operation in any sphere connected with the development of this Albury-Wodonga project will certainly receive my wholehearted support.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.

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