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Curtin as a Reformer

John Curtin shares with Pitt and Lincoln the tragedy of great reformers destroyed by total war. Curtin's greatness has been overshadowed by the magnitude of the events in which he played so crucial a part. The war itself, not Curtin's leadership, is the entrenched folk memory of the epoch; Churchill, Roosevelt and Macarthur, not Curtin, are its remembered heroes, even in Australia. Only now, 27 years after his death, are his career and achievements beginning to be reassessed and rehabilitated. That reassessment will, I believe, increasingly emphasize the achievements of Curtin the reformer, not just Curtin the wartime leader. Had he lived, had the double burden of protecting Australia's front and his own back not taken the fatal toll, the true meaning of his career would never have been in doubt, because his contribution to Australia's postwar reconstruction and reformation would have been manifest. The foundations for that work were laid by the Curtin Government, and he himself shaped the work from the grave.

Curtin used a war situation to carry through three of the most important changes in Australia's internal system since Federation. His Government achieved the greatest single reform in Commonwealth-State relations--uniform taxation. His Government was responsible for the greatest single reform in credit and banking--the Banking Act of 1945.

And his Government took the most important and relevant step towards grass roots socialism yet taken in Australia--the Housing Agreement of 1944--whereby for the first time governments acknowledged a share of responsibility for the provision and planning of the community's most basic property, its land and housing. The full potential of these measures is yet to be realised. The work of 1942-45 makes a firm foundation for the great work of 1972-75 and beyond.

The relevance of the Curtin vision to the 1970s is best seen in the Constitution Alteration Act of 1944 and the subsequent referendum. The referendum was defeated. Some of its intentions have been achieved, or partly achieved, by other means. It still remains as a prospectus for a Labor Government--that the Parliament shall make laws for:

The strength of the Australian Labor Party is its profound continuity of purpose. When I delivered the Second Curtin Memorial Lecture here in 1961, I said:

My interest in constitutional matters stems from the time when John Curtin was Prime Ministerin 1944 he sponsored a referendum to give the Federal Parliament postwar powers. His motives for holding the referendum were based on patriotism and experience. He argued the case with his full logic and eloquence. The opposition to the referendum was spurious and selfish. The arguments were false. My hopes were dashed by the outcome and from that moment I determined to do all I could to modernise the Australian Constitution.

I am now convinced that the spirit of the 1944 referendum and the intentions of the Constitution Alteration Act can be substantially achieved by a rational and concerted program of reform and reconstruction, within the framework of the existing Constitution, as currently interpreted, in the lifetime of the next Federal Parliament. My principal task in the 12 years I have been Deputy Leader and Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Party has been to devise and develop such a program. It is now substantially embodied in the platform of the ALP and will, I trust, shortly be implemented by the laws of the national Parliament. If I have been one of its authors, I shall acknowledge with pride that Curtin was its chief architect.

Australia's Urbanised Society

I have nominated as the title for this paper Urbanised Australia--1972-75. This is not a prediction. It is a description. It is a definition of Australia as she already is. The question is, what do we want to do with it? What sort of society do we wish to create in this, the most urbanised nation on earth, and consequently the most urbanised national community in world history? A young Melbourne playwright has recently referred to Australia's awful uniqueness, and the task which writers face in discovering and defining this awful uniqueness. Physically at least, the uniqueness is the degree of our urbanisation. Politically and socially, the task is to ensure that the uniqueness does not become uniquely awful. Rather, it can be the basis of our unique contribution to civilisation.

For many years I have warned that Australian cities faced all the worst problems of the North American and European cities except the overtly racial. Curtin's current successor as Prime Minister has dismissed this as alarmist nonsense, while, on the other hand, I'm told that one of Curtin's successors as Leader of the Labor Party has suggested that Perth's real problem is precisely my one exception. So there's no satisfying everybody.

But what are the facts? In 1911, 58% of Australians lived in centres of more than 1,000. By 1961, 82% did; by 1966 83.5% did. At last year's census, 85% of Australians were urban dwellers and the 1980s it will be presumably near 90%. The comparable figures are:

for Britain, about 82%;
the US and Canada, 75%;
for Japan 65%.

Further, 76% of Australians live in cities of more than 10,000 and 72% in cities of more than 20,000.

Why then should it be regarded as alarmist to believe that our cities face similar problems to the cities of comparable countries? Partly because we have become beguiled by our own image, our own traditions and indeed our own myths. The skies, the seas, the sunburnt spaces make up the preferred background to our national identity. The archetype of the pioneer unionist is the shearer, not the stonemason. The notion of unlimited space, with the attainable ideal of a private villa for every family, has implanted the deep conviction that our cities are unique, and uniquely free of the problems of other or older cities. The truth is that our special advantages--particularly the somewhat illusory advantage of unlimited space--have created a whole new range of problems and difficulties for Australian cities, in transport, sewerage, land and housing costs and, above all, in creating true, integrated, vigorous communities.

The Problem of Cities

Even so, we tend to miss the point if we speak merely in terms of the problems of cities, or various aspects of the urban problem, in isolation. Cities are the problem. Not one aspect of our national life can be seriously discussed in political, economic, industrial, social or cultural terms without reference to cities. Education, health, transport, social welfare, immigration, Commonwealth-State financial relations, pollution, are essentially part of the urban problem. At the very least, the problems we face in each of these areas and almost any area appropriate to government activity must be approached as part of the urban problem, if there is to be any worthwhile approach to them at all. And if they are not so approached, there is no possibility of even partial solution for them.

I illustrate the interlocking nature of our national problems by two examples--farm costs and mineral development.

Australia's largest cities are also her chief ports. An estimated 30% of rural transport costs are incurred in the last few miles through the city to the port. The increasing congestion of the cities--their gross inefficiency as part of the transport machinery--adds yearly to transport costs, and thus farm costs. We hear anguished cries of catastrophe at suggestions that transport workers' hours should be reduced; yet we think nothing at all of the fact that in cities like Sydney the number of miles per hour a transport can travel has been halved in a decade. That is, the effective hours machines and men can work are being reduced, not by arbitration or legislation, but by the physical compulsion of our great cities.

At the other end of the continent, here in Perth, you are suffering the highest unemployment and paying some of the highest land prices in Australia; this pearl of the Australian cities is set upon the largest unsewered tracts of any residential area in Australia. Here are clear urban problems which originated directly from a great period of mineral development. All Australia benefited from it, and continues to benefit from it. But Perth is expected to pick up the bill for its less pleasant and less profitable aftermath. Australia had the party; Perth has the hangover. In the case of unemployment, federal economic policies deliberately exaggerated the problem caused by the downturn in the boom.

And this brings me to the crucial point of my approach.

Government Responsibility for Cities

The whole range of national, political, economic and social problems centres upon the cities. Yet the national Government has denied its responsibility for the cities. Consequently and inevitably, nearly every remedy the national Government has put forward for the relief or solution of some aspect of any of our national problems has failed. Commonwealth-State financial relations will never be established on a satisfactory basis as long as the cities and the local authorities responsible for their basic affairs are not recognised as being at the heart of the problem. We shall not begin to solve the problem of inflation until it is recognised that our cities and their shortcomings are a major underlying and enduring cause of rising costs. We strive mightily to increase productivity by making our machines ever more efficient, but we permit the basic machine, the mammoth machines of our greater cities, to become yearly and monthly increasingly inefficient and costly.

We can double and treble social benefits, but we can never make up by cash payments what we take away in mental and physical well-being and social cohesion through the breakdown of community life and community identity. Whatever benefits employees may secure through negotiation or arbitration will be immediately eroded by the costs of their cities; no amount of wealth redistribution through wages or taxes can offset the inequalities imposed by the physical nature of the cities. Increasingly, a citizen's real standard of living, the health of himself and his family, his children's opportunities, his ability to enjoy the nation's resources for recreation or culture, his ability to participate in the decisions and actions of the community, are determined not by his income, not by the hours he works, but by where he lives.

A national Government which cuts itself off from responsibility for the nation's cities is cutting itself off from the nation's real life. A national Government which has nothing to say about cities has nothing relevant or enduring to say about the nation or the nation's future.

This is a simple enough proposition. It is simple; it is obvious; it is, I believe, unarguable. Why then has it never been acknowledged by the present Government in Canberra? Why should it be thought some sort of great breakthrough to reality when a Prime Minister can undertake, in 1972, to set up a small committee within his department to look at the urban problem and claim, without being regarded as patently, or unusually, ridiculous, that this evidences his Government's concern about cities? How far we have regressed from 1944, when the Housing Agreement laid down that the basis for Commonwealth support for housing would be:

Planning is of such importance that the Commonwealth Government should not make available financial assistance for housing unless the State concerned satisfied the Commonwealth that it has taken, or is taking, definite steps to erect and implement regional and town planning legislation.

The difficulties have never been constitutional in the strictest sense. Nor have they been financial. They have been almost entirely political. We are paying a heavy price for the philosophy of the Liberal Party and the opportunism of the Country Party. People of my generation will recall how the word doctrinaire used to be used as a reproach against the Labor Party.

It was foreign and it was difficult, so doubly suspect--an epithet full of menace and foreboding. The fact is that doctrinaire Liberals--read Sir Robert Menzies-- have held this nation back and caused tremendous avoidable hardships to millions of its citizens. Twenty years ago, Sir Robert Menzies rejected an approach by the NSW Labor Government and turned his back on the principles of the 1944 Housing Agreement. He announced that the County of Cumberland Planning Scheme would receive no financial assistance from the Commonwealth because to grant such assistance "could mean the assumption by the Commonwealth of a new and costly responsibility". We do not know precisely what would have been the cost to the Commonwealth; we do not know precisely what has been the cost of this refusal to the community. We do know at least that the two are quite disproportionate, and we know that the community is still paying for Sir Robert's doctrinaire saving.

The Liberals have used the alibi of the Constitution; the Country Party has used the catchcry of decentralisation with vague, unkept promises to give something to every country town in every Country Party electorate. The result of both approaches has been disastrous. The Liberals have played on the jealousy of the States for each other, and their common jealousy of the Commonwealth. The Country Party has played off the jealousy of every country centre for its nearest neighbour within 100 miles. In a welter of jealousy, parochialism, parish-pump politics, phoney Federalism, short-term economies, and State gerrymanders, our great cities have become costly burdens on the whole nation, less and less rewarding for those who have to live in them, while the countryside loses its people, its industries and its true purpose.

Sir Robert Menzies justified his doctrinaire rejection of responsibility for cities on the grounds of cost--cost to the Commonwealth revenue. And this highlights the basic flaw, exposes the fundamental fraud, of Liberalism as imposed on the Australian people for the past 23 years. Under the pretense of financial responsibility, they have restricted the community's investment in its basic resources. Under the guise of free enterprise, they have saddled individuals as taxpayers, ratepayers and consumers, as home-owners and parents, with enormous, growing and inbuilt burdens. Under the guise of Federalism, they have beggared the States and bankrupted local government. Not daring to disturb existing interests, existing patterns, existing arrangements between functions and finances, they have been extraordinarily wasteful of finance and have thrown out of kilter the ability of the various instruments and levels of government to balance their functions or their finances.

Public Financing

Financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States will remain unsatisfactory so long as they are irrelevant to the central problem of public finances in the 1970s. That problem is how best to match public functions at each of our three levels of government with the resources required to discharge them effectively. The financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States are conducted on the basis of one or two meetings held once or twice a year without machinery for government consultation of public information. The local and semi-government authorities which the States have created are never consulted or scarcely considered at these gatherings.

There is less contention in Australia today about what activities should or should not be the responsibility of government than there is about which tier of government should discharge the responsibility for those activities. It is not so important, however, to determine which government carries out some particular function as to ensure that the function should be properly carried out.

We heard a great deal earlier this year about a proposed Convention on the Constitution. We shall, I suspect, hear less about it as the election approaches. We shall hear even less about the right of representation for local government at any such convention. The NSW Attorney-General has already announced rejection of direct representation for local government from the largest State. Yet the convention will be rendered futile without such representation--because Australia's difficulties, the taxpayers' burdens and the poverty of our services lie in cities, not in the States. The problems of Melbourne or Sydney or Perth arise not because they are capitals of so-called sovereign States, but because they are the places where millions of Australians live. The question is not what Prime Ministers or Premiers think their rights or powers are, or should be, but how the various levels of government are to do the best job possible for all the people. The how is the important question, not the who.

By confusing the pattern of finances and functions, by confusing the role of citizens as taxpayers, as ratepayers, and as consumers and users, the Federal Government has been able to present itself variously as extremely generous, or as extremely responsible. In fact, it has been neither. The real extent of the burdens of taxes and charges has been concealed from the people. The States, and still more the semi-government and local government authorities have been compelled to raise more and more finance by the inherently unfair means available to them, while Commonwealth affluence has been guaranteed by the simple expedient of leaving the tax schedules unchanged and letting wage rises and inflation do the rest. The Australian national Government takes directly a greater share of the national revenue resources than any other federal system in the world; but the Australian national Government provides directly fewer government services than in any comparable federal system in the world.

The latest figures available to the Australian Treasury show that the percentage of total public authority revenue raised from their own sources by Federal, State and local government authorities is 77.1, 12.9 and 9 respectively in Australia; 62.9, 20.2 and 16.9 in the United States; 51.5, 32.7 and 15.8 in Canada; and 49, 32.1 and 18.9 in West Germany.

The true picture of public financing becomes clearer when we examine the debt situation of the various tiers of government. Not only is federal access to revenue much greater in Australia than in other federations but federal control of borrowing by the States is absolute and of borrowing by their local and semi-government creations overwhelming.

The financial burdens of the States and local government are magnified because they must finance so much of their works programs from loan funds and not, as the Commonwealth does, from revenue. A school or swimming pool in Queanbeyan or Yass, just over the NSW border from Canberra, costs 2.5 times as much as a similar facility in Canberra. The States pay as much finally for railway development projects as the Commonwealth which makes an outright advance of 70% of the original cost. Local government finds 34% of its expenditure on construction and maintenance of roads from loans; the States find only 3.7% of their expenditure from loans. Although the Commonwealth legislated in 1970 to meet charges on $1,000 million of State debts, the States have not shared this benefit with their local and semi-government authorities.

Within a year or two the debts of local and semi-government will exceed those of all the States combined. In Western Australia, 17 cents in every dollar paid in local government rates goes to service debt charges.

The statistics alone would indicate how much local and semi-government finances have become a national problem. Figures of this magnitude obviously cannot be ignored in the nation's overall economic management. It is unreal to distinguish Australian taxpayers from Australian ratepayers. There is not one group or class of people which pays rates and another which pays taxes and a third which pays transport, electricity and water charges. They are, by and large, the same people, and they are all Australians.

But if it is unreal to distinguish between an Australian as a taxpayer and the same Australian as a ratepayer, it is even more unreal to distinguish between publicly levied taxes and charges and the private expenses forced on him by the community.

He is a citizen, who must buy land, build a house, raise a family, travel to work. Just considered narrowly as an economic unit--a producing, earning, consuming, purchasing being--he has not paid his full exactions to the community when he has paid his taxes, rates and government-authority charges. If the community, if governments, by doing nothing or by deliberate action raise the cost of the other inescapable exactions, then he is being taxed as surely and deliberately as by a specific increase in income tax or local government rates. Alternatively, if government action or investment can save the individual money, it is as effective a means of increasing his standard of living and his freedom of choice as a reduction in taxes or an increase in wages.

The Cost of Liberal Philosophy

The simplest example is the cost of house and land. The average Australian home-owner now has to sacrifice between one and two years of his whole earning life just to pay extra costs that need never be paid at all if we made proper community arrangements. Put another way, the average home-owner pays nine to 12 years extra income tax for avoidable land and housing costs. Western Australia is the only State where any effort has been made towards government participation in buying and selling residential land. In Australia generally, we remain in blissful, expensive ignorance of a practice long accepted in most comparable countries.

Consequently in every State capital the average price of land has trebled in the last ten years. In Canberra for all its history, until two years ago, the local authority--which happens to be the national Government--owned, developed and leased the residential land. While land prices in every capital were doubling and trebling, Canberra prices were held stable. Then, for doctrinaire reasons--for the glories of free enterprise--the Gorton Government abandoned the socialist practice of decades. The most expensive land boom in Australia is now under way in Canberra. At no gain to the community, thousands of Australians who will be obliged to live in Canberra for their living will be burdened to the tune of millions of dollars. And of course, at no actual cost to the community, hundreds of thousands of Australians can be saved millions if only the Commonwealth will make grants to the States to enable them to acquire, subdivide, develop and sell or lease at cost substantial tracts of housing land. All that stands in the way is a doctrinaire--the doctrinaire that developers have an inalienable right to alienate the national estate.

This is the clear example of the costliness of Liberal philosophy and present policy at the level of the basic unit of the Australian city--the private house. But our need is not just for new houses, but for new cities. For it is the pattern of growth--more properly, the lack of any discernible pattern of planned growth--which is imposing cost upon cost, burden upon burden on all of us, as individuals, consumers, taxpayers and ratepayers.

Establishing new cities seems so much more costly than permitting existing cities to expand only because the calculations on which investors base their decisions reflect a mere fraction of the real cost of such expansion. Laissez-faire economics and traditional market mechanisms are not giving us the information we require in order to devise rational solutions to the problem of accommodating an expanding population in an acceptable urban environment.

There is a point in the growth of any city beyond which additional population actually increases the per capita cost of urban services. That point has been reached in the growth of all Australia's mainland capitals except Canberra.

The capital cost of installing a telephone is about $1,300 in Perth and $1,100 in Melbourne, but only $650 in Canberra. Roads range in cost from $14.50 to $23.60 per foot in Melbourne's outer suburbs but from only $8.21 to $14.84 in Canberra.

While the basic cost of running a car has increased in Melbourne over the last ten years by 21%, the running cost in terms of traffic delays has increased by 15%. Whereas ten years ago the average speed of traffic was below 25 miles per hour on 60% of Melbourne's internal roads, it is now below 25 miles per hour on 85% of these roads.

Economists have established that the traffic congestion generated by an additional resident costs $64.80 a year in Sydney, $4 in Wollongong and 20 cents in Wagga. While no precise figure has been assessed for Canberra, the advantage there is also very great.

In all, planners estimate that in existing cities the cost of providing buildings, engineering works and utilities for each additional resident ranges as high as $10,000 while similar facilities could be provided in new cities and centres at a per capital cost of only $7,000. In other words we could build new cities and centres at a per capita cost lower than that which we incur at present for the expansion of our existing cities and the exacerbation of their problems.

The Problems of Pollution and Sewerage

Again, we could be spending less and still cutting back the pollution hazard which increasingly overshadows the welfare of all our cities and the health of their inhabitants. No problem is more pressing or perilous than the recklessness with which we are destroying that delicate balance of natural forces and assets upon which a livable, not to say tolerable or pleasurable, urban civilisation ultimately depends. The Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution has warned us that:

An air pollution problem exists in Australia today, and the potential dangers will be far greater and most costly to remedy unless urgent coordinated action is taken immediately.

The Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution noted that:

Water resources all over the country are being squandered by neglect or deliberate action, or by lack of administrative coordination; rivers, streams, coastlines and underground aquifers are being polluted in all States and Territories; and some waterways can no longer be used except as sewers.

It concluded that:

The problem of pollution is so vast, the responsibility so diffused, and the ignorance of causes and consequences so widespread, that only a concerted national effort can save many Australian water resources from becoming unusable.

Let me refer to water pollution in this context only in its most urban if least urbane aspect. As the Select Committee pointed out:

Pollution caused by the discharge of sewage effluent and the lack of adequate sewerage facilities is a major problem because it affects so many people and so many natural resources that are valuable simply because they are near the large concentrations of population.

In 1940, 47 Australians in every 100 had no access to public sewage facilities and 25 years later 45 in every 100 were still unsewered. Such is progress.

Large areas of Perth have been allowed to develop without sewerage reticulation. The sandy nature of much of the area has encouraged heavy reliance on septic tanks but pollution or potential pollution of ground waters is now causing a good deal of concern. This city thus has a backlog problem with sewerage reticulation and treatment plant facilities. Capital assistance should be made available by the Federal Government to enable the Metropolitan Water Board of Perth to accelerate work. Even with such assistance it is likely that it will take more than a decade to overcome the present backlog.

I might say in passing that Australia has at least made some political if not physical progress on the matter of sewerage. A few years ago it was a subject for some derision when I suggested that this was a proper matter for a national Parliament. Mr Gorton said that I was talking at the level of a shire president and he seemed to think that this was a derogation. I have an entertaining file of editorials from the Sydney Morning Herald from 1967 onwards which show how that august journal has progressed from amused contempt to enthusiastic endorsement of the position that so vulgar a matter is properly a national question.

Smaller cities would have lower levels of traffic congestion and their burden of automotive pollution would be correspondingly reduced. Their output of sewage, industrial effluent and other water pollutants could be kept within manageable limits. Pollution is a product not of urban growth but of urban carcinoma.

Finally, we could be spending less and still easing the strains on our existing urban assets. Australians prefer to live in cities because they value the variety of social contact, entertainment, shopping, employment, cultural opportunities and recreational opportunities which cities are best able to provide. The availability of these resources is limited, however, by transport facilities, by transport costs and by the number of persons seeking to share them at a given time. In all our other mainland capitals neither transport facilities nor transport costs encourage Australians to take advantage of the galleries, theatres, concert halls, zoos and museums to which theoretically they enjoy access. Moreover, our supply of beaches, rivers, harbour waters and open space is not so extensive as to offer an unlimited welcome to all who may wish to take advantage of them. Beyond a certain point, urban amenity varies inversely with urban growth. Canberra is already larger than Renaissance Florence. Melbourne and Sydney are each twice the size of Imperial Rome. Perth is ten times as populous as Pericles Athens.

New, smaller and more numerous cities would provide greater opportunities for Australians to become involved in the regulation and amelioration of their affairs as human beings, as members of the community, and as custodians of the natural environment and the national estate. They would permit smaller bureaucracies more closely attuned to the nuances of human need and more sensitive to expressions of public concern. They would allow us all a greater measure of place identification, a more comprehensive acquaintance with our surroundings, an easier involvement in social and cultural activities, a more leisurely and relaxed life style. All these advantages are available to us at a cost less great than that which we incur at present for an increasing anonymity, alienation, dehumanisation and despair.

Building new cities is the new decentralisation. It is an idea whose hour has come. The interests of the farm and the city need no longer be seen as separate or incompatible. The farmer whose property provides neither full employment nor an adequate income is as much a victim of the concentration of our population in six swollen capitals as the suburban householder who pays more than he can afford for an unsewered block situated in an underserviced community and separated by 20 miles of overcrowded roads and inadequate transport from his place of work.

The ALP Ministry for Urban Affairs and the Environment

I am not proposing to go into the detailed program for cities and centres which has been developed by the ALP over the past six years. The essence of the matter is to involve the national Government in the rebuilding of existing cities and the building of new ones.

The basic instrument will be a newly-created Ministry for Urban Affairs and the Environment. This department will have four main functions:

  1. 1. To take responsibility for analysing and evaluating proposals for urban development received from State governments and from local government authorities;
  2. 2. To conserve the national estate--the department will carry out as a matter of urgency a survey of the Australian countryside designed to identify areas suitable for the expansion of existing cities or the establishment of new regional centres, areas to which mineral deposits, water resources or soil fertility impart a special economic significance and areas which should be preserved for their natural beauty, historic associations or scientific interests;
  3. 3. To be the clearing-house and powerhouse for urban research and urban planning throughout Australia;
  4. 4. To provide State and local authorities with services of research and skills at present unavailable to them.

The Commonwealth Grants Commission will involve itself in promoting equality between regions, as it has between States. It will be requested to recommend the amount of Commonwealth assistance required to remove the inequalities of servicing developing regions.

Governments will involve themselves in land ownership and development. A Federal Labor Government will make grants to the States to enable them to buy substantial areas of suitable residential land on just terms and to develop, divide and lease or sell it at cost.

Local and semi-government will enter the arrangements which cut up the national cake of borrowings in their own right, as genuine partners in the Federal system, on a regional basis. We will establish a Regional Development Authority, a consortia of local government bodies to rationalise and regionalise development.

Australia has 900 local government bodies. These bodies seldom cooperate on a regional basis and too often have to compete for resources within their own region. A Regional Development Authority would not require amalgamation but would provide the needed focal point for rational and regional cooperation, planning and development.

As I said earlier, I place such emphasis on cities because I am convinced the problem of the cities lies at the root of practically every other problem, economic, environmental, social and even moral, that we face. And one can include morality; for if true morality is the ability to live cooperatively, fruitfully, tolerantly and non-violently with our fellows, then our cities threaten to become wastelands of amorality if they are allowed to drift along in their present way. The alienation of youth of the outer suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney could become the perfect breeding climate for fascism, the ultimate immorality, as mindless and rootless as the continued urban sprawl itself threatens to become.


But less loftily, and more immediately, the specific problems which will be the issues of the forthcoming election--education, health, social welfare, taxation, the rural crisis--all relate to cities. And not least, the economic problem--not just inflation, not just unemployment, not just this strange structural combination of stagnation and rising prices called, inelegantly but aptly, stagflation. This is a problem not to be dealt with adequately by Budget tinkering, still less by the pathetic grips from an elected Government about the irresponsibility of employees and their excessive wage demands. If every employee and organisation were deregistered, if every trade union official were jailed, if every wage case were frozen, inflation would not end, because it is built into the unbalanced, costly structure that Liberal action and Liberal inactivity have created. This is why the inflation of the 1970s is so different, so intractable compared with the inflation of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

The required restructuring of the economy can be nothing short of a restructuring of the society. And to restructure the society, we have to begin at the heart of society--the cities which we must rebuild, the new cities we must build, if the cities and the society are not to be destroyed. But destroyed they both will be, by drift and by default, if Australia pursues for the next quarter-century the course of wasteful neglect of the past quarter-century. We have the chance once more to be pioneers and revolutionaries. New cities can be the new frontiers, and we can, like the best of revolutionaries from the Gracchi on, strive to replenish and restore the society by uniting the city and the country.

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