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Tuesday, 12 November 1974
Page: 2215

Senator CARRICK (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that many municipal and shire councils throughout Australia are now confronting very serious financial crises which have already resulted in the reduction of staff and which will result in the sacking of thousands of workers in the weeks immediately ahead? Is he aware that due to credit restrictions many or most councils cannot raise their loan funds to support their works programs and that the Commonwealth Government has indicated that it will do nothing to assist in this regard? Is he further aware that, in spite of endless form filling and letter writing, most councils have had no positive result or help from the much-vaunted assistance plans, including area improvement, regional employment development, Australian assistance and others? Finally, does the Government understand that soaring inflation and failure of borrowing programs have wrecked local government programs at a time when such bodies should be used to re-employ many of the 200,000 unemployed in Australia and that the projected grants to local government from the Grants Commission, delayed and not yet in the hands of councils, will be hopelessly inadequate to assist even in the bare maintenance of local programs?

Senator MURPHY - It is astonishing to hear the honourable senator opposite criticise the Government over its financial relations with local government. If ever there was a government which tried to introduce some financial stability into local government, it is this Government. During the whole of the 23 years while the Party of which the honourable senator is a member was in government, local government asked in vain for grants from the Australian Goverment. For the first time now, local government has received such grants. This Government set about to bring local government under the aegis of the Grants Commission. The Grants Commission has listened to the cases made by local government. I understand that some 400 grants have been made. In any event, my colleagues behind me suggest that that is approximately the number, including some very large sums -

Senator Carrick - It is approximately 400 out. It is 800 grants.

Senator MURPHY -I thank the honourable senator. Some 800 grants have been made, and they have included some very substantial amounts. I do not know about delays in the payment of moneys. If that is a legitimate complaint, it will be inquired into. But I do know that this Government is the only government that listened to the pleas of local government for direct finance from the Australian Government to assist local authorities with their problems. If local governments are in difficulties my understanding is that they may again approach the Grants Commission -

Senator Carrick - For next year.

Senator MURPHY - Yes, for next year. I have no doubt that the scheme which this Government has introduced is the only way out of the financial mess which the previous Government left local government in. We all know what happened. Under the control of the previous Government, of which the honourable senator was a supporter, an enormous load of debt was incurred by local government with no assistance at all from the Federal Government. Instead, we saw a diminution in the relative amounts of money owed by the Australian Government and an enormous increase in the sums owed by local government. Previous governments left local government floundering in a financial mess. Now, when this Government is endeavouring to get local government out of that mess, the honourable senator criticises it. I do not think local government will listen to him.

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