PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2691


Photo of McMahon, William

McMahon, William

Period of Service: 10/03/1971 to 05/12/1972

More information about McMahon, William on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 11/10/1972

Release Type: Statement in Parliament

Transcript ID: 2691

The Rt Hon. W. MeMAHON, M. P.
Prime Minister
National Urban and Regional Development
Authority Bill 1972
Second Reading
[ From the ' Parliamentary Debates', 11 October 1972]
Mr McMAHON ( Lowe-Prime Minister)
( 11.40)-1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
On 19th September, I made a statement
to the House announcing that the Government
proposed to take new initiatives to
work with the States towards urban and
regional development objectives. I said that
the Government had decided that it will take
immediate steps financially and in other
ways in a co-ordinated programme with the
State Governments. The introduction of this
-Bill fulfils the commitment I then gave to
introduce interim legislation into Parliament
this session. Although the legislation
is interim, the new authority set up by the
bill will nevertheless be required to operate
with vigour and in accord with its charter
from the outset. In a vast country which is
developing as rapidly as Australia, it is
most important that the Government take
responsible action which will influence the
distribution of population and economic
activity to the economic and social advantage
of the nation.
The stresses and strains of growth are having
an impact on the living conditions and
the environment of the entire Australian community. These pressures which are
being felt in many countries, present issues
of national moment warranting co-operative
action between the Commonwealth and
the States. We have the experience of the
United Kingdom, France and Canada
amongst others to draw on. The Government
believes that unless we embark on a
vigorous, imaginative and responsible programme
of urban and regional development,
in partnership with the States, our
efforts to secure a better quality of life for
the Australian community through a wide
variety of existing programmes will be
compromised. The consequences of the
imbalance caused by the concentration of
population and employment around the
principal Australian cities with the resulting
problems of congestion and pollution
are such that action must now be taken.
The trend to increasing concentration is
already evident to a degree which is causing
concern. If no action is taken, the
problem will become more acute as our
population grows from 13 million to possibly
22 million over the balance of the
century. The increasing concentration of
population in our great cities will magnify
the consequences of increasing population

growth. It is the geographical distribution
of population and industry rather than total
scale which calls for our attention.
We believe it is widely accepted that
these are national problems requiring urgent
attention, and that the Commonwealth
should participate with the States in solving
them. We believe too that a properly conceived
and well managed programme of
urban and regional development will be
approved and welcomed by the community
generally. It is clear that the Commonwealth
and States must work together. It
is also clear that there will be a need for
additional expenditure and the Commonwealth
stands ready to contribute its share.
As, importantly, we will shape our own
policies and programmes where appropriate
so as to ensure that urban and regional
implications are fully taken into account.
The implementation of a successful national
programme of urban and regional development
could mark a turning point in the
social and economic life of this country.
Our efforts must be successful. Therefore,
they must be properly conceived. The
Commonwealth/ State Officials' Committee
on Decentralisation which conducted its
researches in the Australian context concluded
that the only type of decentralisation
which offers significant prospects of success
is selective decentralisation. As I stated on
19th September, the Commonwealth endorses
this conclusion and favours the
development of a small number of carefully
selected centres, having regard to factors
likely to be favourable to their
growth. Later on, with the benefit of more
experience and the availability of more
resources, it can be expected that additional
centres will be selected for accelerated
growth. We will want to identify and encourage
the balanced growth of submetropolitan
centres as an alternative to
growth in the existing city areas.
In co-operation with the States, we will
look for those sub-metropolitan centres that
offer the greatest potential for rapid development.
These will be centres near to but
distinct from the existing major cities. It is
our view that the development of regional
growth centres and sub-metropolitan centres
-projects capable of being defined, programmed
and financed-offers the most
direct and beneficial means of immediate
Commonwealth involvement. As I have
emphasised, however, the action to be taken must be taken in consultation and
partnership with the States. Our early discussions
with the States will have as their
first objective the fullest understanding of
the nature of the problems to be overcome.
We will be seeking to establish how best
the combined resources of the Commonwealth
and State Governments can be marshalled
to tackle these in an economic way
and in the interests of the nation as a
whole. As I have said previously, it will be
necessary to guard against the cost of
development of selected centres being inflated
by increases in land values directly
attributable to the policy initiatives of the
States and the Commonwealth. This bill is
the first step towards implementation of a
new Commonwealth initiative. It is, however,
designed to establish the National
Urban and Regional Development Authority
on a proper and sound basis and to enable
it to commence its work immediately. The
nature of any later legislation will, of course,
be determined in the light of experience.
Nevertheless, the name given to the
Authority clearly indicates the Government's
longer term interest. We are concerned
with national objectives in urban
and regional development and we are concerned
with development itself. Ours is a
practical approach and the concept of a
statutory authority and of the title chosen
for it reflects our practical aims.
It is proposed that the Authority be constituted
by a Commissioner. I have already
announced that with the passage of the
legislation, the Government proposes to
invite Sir John Overall to serve as the first
Commissioner and to guide the new organisation
in its initial establishment period. The
Government is fortunate in having a person
as experienced and so able as Sir John to
call on until his retirement in July next
year. The bill also provides for the Commissioner
to be assisted by a Deputy Commissioner.
The appointment of statutory office
holders will be effected as soon as possible
after the bill is passed. The duties of the
Authority are stated in Clause 12. It will
be required to investigate and report to the
Prime Minister on matters relating to urban
or regional development. This investigation
and advice would be designed to assist the
Government in making decisions having
urban and regional implications. It will also

be designed to assist the Government in
its consideration of the grant of financial
assistance to a State in connection with
urban or regional development.
Such matters as the selection of centres
for the promotion of rapid growth, the
particular steps by which this might be
encouraged, practical arrangements for
rapid development, and financial questions
including the scale of Commonwealth support,
are relevant to the establishment of a
co-ordinated programme. Advice would be
available to the Government from the
Authority on the terms and conditions on
which financial assistance for urban and
regional development might be granted by
Parliament. The bill provides for the Authority
to have power to do all things that are
necessary or convenient for the performance
of its functions. It may undertake pilot
or experimental projects, studies, including
feasibility studies. It may enter into consultative
engagements with professional groups
and Government agencies, and provide information
and advice to other authorities.
Provision is made in the Bill for the
Authority to comply with any directions
given by the Prime Minister with respect to
matters to be investigated by the Authority.
This clause will ensure, for example, that
decisions reached by the Ministerial Council,
consisting of the Prime Minister and the
Premiers, to which I referred in my statement
in this House on 19th September, are
followed through in the operations of the
Authority. In addition to the normal provision for
an annual report, the Authority is required
to report to the Prime Minister not later
than 30th June 1973 on matters relating
to urban and regional development during
the 5-year period thereafter. It is not the
Government's intention that the Authority
should produce by that time a definitive
statement on a national urban and regional
development strategy. The Government
does, however, propose to move in an
expenditure sense commencing from the
financial year 1973-74. It will be the
responsibility of the Authority, therefore,
to advise the Government in time for its
Budget considerations in 1973 of the broad
direction in which Commonwealth activities
in urban and regional development
might be shaped over the 5-year period.
This will not be a final blueprint but rather the first statement of an active programme.
The steps involved in its preparation will
be discussed by the Ministerial Council.
Funds will be made available during this
present financial year 1972-73 for the initial
operations of the Authority.
The Bill, of course, contains appropriate
provisions relating to officers' rights, staff,
audit and finance. The Bill establishes an
advisory committee of up to 12 members
including the Commissioner. The committee
will be comprised of persons who, by
virtue of their knowledge and experience,
can assist the Authority in the performance
of its duties. This is a formal committee
created by the statute with membership
appointed by the Prime Minister and
designed to ensure the availability of a
wide range of advice and response to the
Authority. At the level of governments, I have
already mentioned that we propose the
establishment of a ministerial council consisting
of the Prime Minister and Premiers
as -the principal body for consultation and
co-ordination in the field of urban and
regional development. I have already
written to the Premiers about the Commonwealths
intentions. Honourable members
have already noted from my remarks
that the Authority will be responsible to
me as Prime Minister. This central place in
the machinery of Government will add
strength to the discussions between me and
my State colleagues.
This Bill is amongst the most important
legislation introduced into the Federal
Parliament during the post-war years. It
marks our recognition that there is a direct
contribution that the Commonwealth Government
can make in national urban and
regional development for the benefit of all
Australians. Commonwealth assistance for
urban and regional development is not new.
What is -new is Commonwealth participation
with the States in a co-ordinated programme
of urban and regional development.
Our objectives-the objectives of the
Liberal and Country Parties-will not be
achieved easily or overnight. But it is
important to make a start in -the prevailing
climate of accord about the need for new
initiatives and the broad nature of them.
We will pursue these objectives vigorously.
I commend the Bill to the House.
2054817220581G7.2 . MuRRAY, Government Printer, Canberra

Transcript 2691