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Wednesday, 31 May 1972
Page: 2417

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) (Minister for Works) - 1 rise only for the purpose of absorbing the pleasure that i have in being authorised by the Minister whom I represent here, the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns), to inform Senator McLaren that in response to the suggestion that he made but a few days ago the Department of Housing intends to revise the form of application for the home savings grant and also the official pamphlet when they are next printed to give effect to the changes that he has suggested.

Interrupting a rather long silence that I have observed, 1 do not ask for leave but take the occasion of the debate on the motion for the adjournment to make a very brief statement in response to criticisms that are necessarily located in another place in regard to my Department. Members of the other place having gone home, it becomes the province of the Senate to receive an exertion of the facts. Criticism was made of the Department on the occasion of an expediency motion on 11th May when the House of Representatives was considering the Public Works Committee report on the Royal Australian Air Force stores depot at Regents Park, New South Wales. Thereupon my colleague who represents me there, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp), gave an assurance to the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) that he would refer the criticism to me. In response to it, in a spirit of parliament, I inform the Senate that the relevant remarks were: This regrettable tendency on the part of the Department of Works and some client departments not to confer adequately with local government' and, in particular, 'that the views of local government authorities were not taken sufficiently into account for the Regents Park proposal'.

The degree to which the Commonwealth consults the requirements of local government authorities in regard to planning in relation to Commonwealth works is a matter of some public concern and widespread anxiety. It is desirable to repeat yet once more that it is the practice of the Department to have discussions with local authority officers during the early stages of design, that is at the sketch plan stage, in order to inform the authority of the proposal and its nature, and to ascertain its reaction and requirements. This provides the council with the opportunity to consider the proposal in relation to other known developments in the area and generally to consider its compliance with town planning and other local authority requirements and regulations. This current practice of arranging discussions with local authorities has proved satisfactory as an expeditious means of arriving at an understanding of the authorities requirements and in attempting to reach mutually acceptable solutions. On this particular proposal, numerous meetings, discussions and correspondence took place between the Department and client department on one hand, and the State Planning Authority, Sydney County Council Electricity Supply Authority, Main Roads Department, fire commissioners and Auburn and Parramatta Councils on the other, in an endeavour to ascertain the requirements of each authority before finalising the design. Details are given in the attachment which out of consideration for the Senate I ask leave to incorporate in Hansard.

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