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Thursday, 15 November 1973
Page: 1839

Senator WOOD (Queensland) - I move:

That the amendment of sub-paragraph (ii) of paragraph (e) of subsection ( 1 ) of section 8 of the Sewerage Rates Ordinance 1968-1972, contained in section 16 of the Sewerage Rates Ordinance 1973, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 23 of 1973, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1972, be disallowed.

As the motion was expressed originally it would have disallowed the general increase in sewerage rates for all types of premises. My purpose however is to disallow only the increase relating to business premises, whereby hotels, motels and other establishments will have to pay $25 as against $15 previously, for the first toilet unit, and $50 as against $15 previously, for each additional unit. The motion as amended will achieve this purpose. The Seat of Government (Administration) Act empowers the Senate to disallow any part of an ordinance, and this has always been interpreted to mean that part of a section of an ordinance can be disallowed. I regret that the wording of the motion is now very complicated but this is necessary to precisely express the purpose which I want to achieve.

I speak on behalf of the business people, that is, the people with motels and hotels in the city of Canberra. This matter is outside my realm of Queensland but, as we stated last night in debating the question of Senate representation, it is for parliamentarians generally and for honourable senators in particular to look after the interests of the Territories. So I bring this matter forward.

Senator McLaren - But you would not let them have direct representation, would you?

Senator WOOD - There was no occasion for it, as the Senate agreed last night. In this case we see an anomaly which has been created by the restructuring of the sewerage charges for the city of Canberra. It is interesting to note that previously the average householder paid $15 per annum for his sewerage pedestal. The charge has now gone up to $25. For hotels and motels the charge was previously $15 but it has now gone up to $25 for the first sewerage system in the hotel and $50 for every additional pedestal. To my way of thinking this strikes a blow at the tourist industry in this city. I am not arguing whether the rates are low or high, generally speaking. It is a matter of the relativity of charges for the resident and business community to those which apply to hotels and motels. I think it is possible that the people of Canberra have been spoon-fed for quite a long time by various governments. It is quite possible, from the information which I have, that they are getting off very cheaply even in the present situation. But I think there must be some relationship between what the resident pays and what the visitor pays when he comes here as a tourist. There is no question but that this high charge will be passed on to the people who come as tourists into this capital city of ours which has a particular advantage and attraction in being the national capital. Many people come here in order to see the workings of this institution and the surroundings which have been laid out at considerable government expense.

Even now we notice in the gallery a number of children. Continually we see school parties coming into this city in order to see the Parliament and Canberra. Is it right that these people in hotes and motels should be slugged at a much greater rate than the ordinary resident and that this charge should be passed on to children such as those in the gallery and tourists generally? We talk about the value of the tourist industry. As one who has been associated with it for over 40 years that is one of the reasons why I am speaking on this matter. If I remember rightly, this Government at the last election said that it was keen on the tourist industry. Here we find a striking illustration of where the Government is really slugging the tourist industry instead of encouraging it. If it is suitable to charge the ordinary citizen only half the usual rate for sewerage, then surely people using sewerage on a large scale should be entitled to at least the same rate if not a lower rate because of quantity use. I have served for a long time in local government. For over 30 years I have served as Mayor and as an alderman of my city of Mackay which was one of the first cities in Queensland to be sewered. I know that a great charge on the operation of the sewerage system relates to the amount of water which is used.

If anybody can tell me that people in a hotel or motel use more water for each pedestal than people do at home, then I will take a lot of convincing. In a home there is usually not only a couple but also very often a family. These people very often utilise the one system. As a consequence quite a considerable amount of water is used. But let us look at what happens in a hotel or motel with the average person who comes here. Most of us have travelled. When we go to a city and book in at a hotel or motel how long do we stay in our room? We are not there very much at all because we are sightseeing, visiting people, or doing other things outside the hotel or motel. Therefore the water consumption for each person would be a lot less in a hotel or motel than it is in a private home. The Lakeside Hotel is a new hotel which has just been built. It is a high class type of motel. I think there are about 274 units. Because it is new and because it is a high priced utility in the tourist industry I think its occupancy runs at between 30 per cent to 40 per cent. Here we are asking that hotel to pay $50 for each unit in each room. Probably 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the rooms are not being occupied.

I think that a very warped view is being taken in relation to these charges for hotels and motels in this community. An occupancy of 70 per cent for a hotel is a pretty good figure. Even then, 30 per cent of the rooms are not being utilised as far as the toilet amenities are concerned. Under those circumstances this seems a very undue and heavy charge in comparison with what other people in this community are paying. Under those circumstances this is something which should be restructured. For that reason I have moved for the disallowance of that provision. Over a period of years the aim was, and it still is, to lift the quality of tourist accommodation. One of the greatest moves forward made in this direction was the supplying of amenities such as toilet facilities in each room for the tourist. At one time one had to trot down the long corridor somewhere looking for the bathroom, the toilet or some amenity like that. Today because of this modern trend of lifting the standard we find that our hotels and motels have given this bathroom and toilet facility to each room so that people have this modern convenience in a modern way. This is what the tourist industry is demanding all over the world. If we are to pick out the tourist industry and slug it by comparison with what is paid by others, that will be the wrong way to go about encouraging the hotel and motel industry to lift its standards even further. I do not want to take much more time for we have been running late as a result of other intrusions that have taken place, but I do think that we should encourage a high standard of accommodation in this city and in the Commonwealth generally. I feel that the Commonwealth Government's decision to slug the industry twice as much a unit as the ordinary householder pays is a very retrograde step.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- Is the motion seconded?

Senator Withers - I formally second the motion. I understand that I can speak to it later.

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