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Thursday, 15 November 1973
Page: 1841

Senator O'BYRNE (Tasmania) - When Senator Wood spoke on behalf of the business people of Canberra it illustrated that a community the size of Canberra with a population which is estimated within the foreseeable future to reach 250,000 has to rely on Senator Wood to bring its business before the Senate. It is a contradiction, of course, of the attitude that the honourable senator took last night, when he found a very important matter before the Senate, that Canberra business people should have to rely on someone from Queensland to do this for them. I suppose he should be complimented for being so nationally minded- possibly centralist minded- that he would take up a matter in the interests of Canberra. The financing of sewerage in any city is very difficult. We always complain when we hear of a new rate being struck by the various local government bodies for the provision of this facility. As I see it, the railway systems seem to find a very effective and efficient way of financing their responsibilities for providing these amenities for the public by charging the people who use them. Therefore the cost is borne by those who use the facilities. On the other hand, for the residents of Canberra- although it is very desirable to see the galleries full of tourists, the buses coming in each day and the motel complexes being built here- to have to bear the cost of the toilet facilities in these major complexes is perhaps asking them to bear an unfair burden. The rate of $50 for an additional unit in a motel is in proportion to the usage, I should say, since an ordinary householder is now required under the ordinance to pay $25 a year as against $50 for every additional toilet unit.

Senator Woodcomplains about the problem of the Lakeside Hotel which has 274 rooms but which does not have full occupancy. The tariff at that hotel would exclude many people from staying there. Some of the top suites cost $120 a night. Since that hotel is able to ask such a tariff it must also provide a proportion of it towards paying for the facilities that are now being provided here by the community. The point I would like to make is that hotels and motels in Canberra which are getting the benefit of the tourist industry and the promotion of tourism actually pay much less in total rates.

Sitting suspended from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Senator O'BYRNE - Before lunch I made the point that hotels and motels in the Australian Capital Territory pay much less in total ratesthat is general, water and sewerage rates- than do those in other capital cities. Because of the nature of the development of Canberra as our national capital, there has been a very large expenditure of public money to provide facilities such as the lake, parklands, many very attractive and modern public buildings and structures such as the water jet, and the carillion and the lighting of buildings at night. Perhaps I should have given prioity to Parliament House itself, which is becoming a Mecca for nearly all Australian people and particularly for children who feel that it is part of their education to come to Canberra.

In this situation, the hotel and motel industry has proliferated in Canberra. We have such hotels as the Lakeside International Hotel with 250-odd units and charging tariffs up to $100 a night. With complexes such as the one I have mentioned and others, the sewerage system must provide for the potential use. Of course, the numbers of residents at particular times fluctuate. The hotels have peak periods and less busy periods, but the facilities have to be provided to service the potential of a motel or hotel. Naturally, the cost is larger because of the larger size. We can imagine the sort of outcry we would have from the proprietors, the licence holders and lessees of these organisations if the National Capital Development Commission had not provided these facilities during the construction of the hotels. The expenditure of a very large amount of money is involved. Senator Wood mentioned that the use of water in these facilities contributes to the cost of the sewerage. This is not completely correct because there is no charge for water in the sewerage accounts. This is included in the water accounts.

It is my view, and I believe it is one that can be sustained, that the tourist industry should have to pay its way in the form of paying charges which accrue as a result of the development of these big accommodation complexes in the Australian Capital Territory. I think it is fair to ask why the industry should not contribute. I wonder whether the hotels and motels charge a cheaper tariff as the result of their low total rates. I refer now to Brisbane, which is the capital city of Senator Wood 's home State. He did not draw our attention to the charges that apply there, but I will. Whereas Senator Wood complained that the fees in the Australian Capital Territory had been increased from $15 a unit to $25 for the first unit and $50 for every additional unit, in Brisbane the charges are $52 for each of the first to seventh unit, $65 for each of the eighth to eleventh unit and $78 for the twelfth and each additional unit. This comparison makes it quite obvious that the charges that are being made under this ordinance are quite reasonable. Of course, they add to the cost of accommodation. I think we must relate the charges which apply in hotels in Canberra to charges which apply elsewhere. Rate on a room or unit at the Lakeside International Hotel is an average of $98, whereas the rates on the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney is $594 for a unit.

Senator Webster - How long is that for?

Senator O'BYRNE - This is per unit per year. It is an indication of how these charges have escalated.

Senator Webster - I do not think you are taking a fair calculation when you say $98. Is that an average?

Senator O'BYRNE - I saw a set of figures. I should like to have had them available, but evidently the officer who was advising earlier misunderstood the time of resumption of the Senate. He was to give them to me. I will make a point of placing them on the table of the Senate when I receive them.

Senator Webster - A room could cost that amount a night, but the average room costs $27 or $28.

Senator O'BYRNE - I will supply the documentation for honourable senators. I have asked that the figures be made available to me. The Wentworth Hotel in Sydney pays rates of $594 a year per room or unit. The Southern Cross Hotel in Melbourne pays rates of $437 a year per room. The Lakeside International Hotel in Canberra pays $98 a year. So, on that comparison the Australian Capital Territory hotels are very well catered for by the local authorities.

Senator Marriott - The Australian Capital Territory has a population of about 150,000, not 1 or 2 million, as other capitals have. You are talking a lot of rubbish.

Senator O'BYRNE - The honourable senator must remember that, although the population in the Australian Capital Territory is in excess of 150,000, the tourist population exceeds that figure. I have heard estimates that more than 300,000 tourists come to Canberra, and a proportion of those tourists would seek hotel or motel accommodation and would use the facilities which are available.

If we alter the present charges to the hotels and motels, someone still has to pay the bill. It will mean that the people who reside in the Australian Capital Territory will be asked to pay more for their own facilities. I also have some figures which relate to the Menzies Hotel in Sydney. The Menzies Hotel pays $ 1 ,0 14 per room in rates.

Senator Marriott - Per room, per unit or per suite?

Senator O'BYRNE - Per room or unit.

Senator Marriott - You honestly do not know the figures you are reading out. You do not understand.

Senator O'BYRNE - I have quoted the total annual rates- that is, the water, sewerage and general rates- paid by hotels or motels in Canberra. The rates I have quoted are the charges paid per room or unit, and such charges are cheaper in Canberra by far.

Senator Marriott - Is this per room or unit?

Senator O'BYRNE -Room or unit, yes. One can have an en suite room or one can have a room which does not have facilities so that one has to toddle down the passageway.

Senator Marriott - What about the larder? Is that a room?

Senator O'BYRNE - What about what?

Senator Marriott - You would not understand.

Senator O'BYRNE - The honourable senator would be a specialist in larders because his head is made of lard.

Senator Webster - Where did you get this information?

Senator O'BYRNE - These statistics are provided in the report which has been submitted by the National Capital Development Commission on the rates charged in Canberra. The report makes comparisons with the rates charged to hotels and motels in other cities.

Senator Webster - Can you table this document?

Senator O'BYRNE - I said that I would, and I certainly will table the document. But I want to get on record comparisons of the rates charged at certain hotels. The Menzies Hotel in Sydney pays $1,014 total annual rates, the Park Royal in Adelaide pays $257, and the Canberra Rex in Canberra pays $ 124.

Senator Milliner - That is what they pay?

SenatorO'BYRNE They are the total annual rates, yes. So if we compare the $594 paid by the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney with the $98 paid by the Lakeside Hotel in Canberra, and if we compare the $1,014 paid by the Menzies Hotel in Sydney with the $124 paid by the Canberra Rex, we can see that the tourist industry in Canberra is being very well served by the Commonwealth, by the Commission and by the people of Canberra generally. I would like to make another point. I know that Senator Wood has spent a lifetime promoting the tourist industry. I want to compliment him on the work that he has done. I also want to encourage the development of the tourist industry in Canberra because, as I said before, Canberra is a mecca for Australians, and the growing numbers of people that visit here annually should be properly catered for. On the other hand, we have an obligation to see that the charges for these services are borne with equity. If the numbers of people using these facilities are such that the cost of installation and other servicing charges require the imposition of rates of this level, we should see that these charges are implemented. The motion for the disallowance of this ordinance is a matter for the Senate to decide. I believe for reasons of equity and fairness that these charges should be maintained.

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