9th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister lay upon the table of theHouse or of the Library all the communications exchanged between the Government and the several interests concerned abroad in dealing with the present dislocation of the shipping services?
– I shall look into the matter. I do not think there are any such communications that have not already been made public.
Tariff Board Reports -Collection of Duties
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs cause the reports of the Tariff Board to be made available to honorable members, before he proceeds with the new tariff schedule?
– In reply to the honorable member, and also in further reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), and other honorable members who have privately approached me on the subject, I propose laying a big batch of Tariff Board reports upon the table of the House to-morrow, when I shall move that most of them be printed. I hope to have come to a decision with respect to the remainder of the reports at an early date.
– Will the Minister include in the Tariff Board reports to he tabled to-morrow the report, together with theevidence, on the duties on timber ?
– In view of the fact that certain oversea steamers, bringing cargo for Australian ports, which should have been delivered before the new tariff duties came into force, have been held up owing to the strike of British seamen, I ask the Minister whether it is the intention of the Trade and Customs Department to collect increased duties from the importers of these goods; if so, will the Minister consider the advisability of refunding to the importers the increased duties so collected, so that all importers may be placed on the same commercial footing?
-I answered a similar question last week, but for the information of the honorable member I say again that it is the invariable rule of the Customs Department to charge the duties current on the day that goods are cleared for home consumption. No variationof that rule can be made for any one in any circumstances. To do otherwise would lead to the greatest confusion.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to the many instances of heroism shown by men, women, and even children in the endeavour to save human life? Does the right honorable gentleman not consider that such heroism should be recognized by the Commonwealth Government by the presentation of medals and decorations similar to those given to persons in the
Navy and Army? If so, will he have the matter brought before the Cabinet?
– I have observed the heroic efforts which, from time to time, have been made for the saving of human life. That our citizens are prepared to sacrifice themselves for others should be for all of us a matter of great national pride. The honorable member’s suggestion will be considered.
– As the Queensland cotton-growers are desirous of obtaining definite information before planting their crop for the coming season, will the Prime Minister make a statement to the House indicating the exact basis on which the guarantee for the 1925-6 crop will be paid ?
– I have answered questions on this matter several times. The basis of the guarantee is a matter for determination between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of the States concerned. I am not quite clear as to the date proposed for the conference which is to be held to decide the matter, but I believe that it will be held in the near future.
– In view of the number of inquiries that are being made, particularly in New South Wales, regarding the date when the taxation of entertainments is to cease, . can the Treasurer give the House any definite information on the subject?
– The measures dealing with the remission of taxation will be brought down at an early date.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Public Service Board, which is dealing with discretionary increments to telephone inspectors, has furnished the following replies . -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he has. arrived at any decision as to the suspension of such clauses in the Navigation Act as will permit all vessels en route to eastern ports calling at Mackay, Bowen, Townsville, and Cairns?
– The Navigation Act does not place any restriction on vessels bringing passengers or cargo to Commonwealth ports from overseas or taking passengers or cargo from the Commonwealth to overseas ports. Presumably, however, the honorable member refers to the carriage of passengers and cargo by unlicensed vessels between the ports mentioned and other Australian ports. Permission to enable this to be done can only be given if theservice by licensed ships is inadequate to the needs of the ports. In the case of these ports, the service by licensed vessels is considered to be adequate.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice - 1, What is the total value of motor cars, engines, chassis, and bodies imported last year?
– The information is being obtained.
– On the 19th August, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) asked the following question : -
I ask the Treasurer whether he will make officers available to sign the necessary documents when invalid and old-age pensioners are being paid?
I find that the forms referred to by Mr. Yates are “Income and Property Statements” (Form 37) under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. These statements are being obtained from pensioners in connexion with the general review of pensions in force which is now proceeding. The questions have been couched in the simplest possible form, and care has been taken to reduce them to a minimum. The statements are being obtained in accordance with the provisions of section 38 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, which reads -
Wherever required by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner, each pensioner shall send to the Deputy Commissioner a statement in the prescribed form relating to his income and accumulated property.
This work has been going on for some years, and no complaints have been received concerning the nature of the question or as to any difficulty experienced by pensioners in supplying the answers. The forms may be declared before any of the following persons, and it will be seen that a very wide range is provided : -
A postmaster or postmistress, or person in charge of a post office, a police, stipendiary or special magistrate of the Commonwealth or of a State, a justice of the peace, a barrister or solicitor, a State School head teacher, an officer of the Department of Trade and Customs, a member of the Police Force of the Commonwealth or of a State, a legallyqualified medical practitioner, a notary public, a commissioner for affidavits, a registrar under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908- 1923, a minister of religion, an officer of the Commonwealth Department of the Treasury, or a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
No doubt any of the persons mentioned is willing to assist people in filling in the forms if requested. In addition, clause 4 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Regulations provides that officers in the Public Service of the Commonwealth shall, so far as is consistent with their duties, give all reasonable assistance to claimants in the preparation of pension claims. In view of the facilities which already exist for the furnishing of the forms, and the absence of any complaints to date, there would not appear to be any necessity for establishing any places at which forms may be filled in, or for detailing officers specially for this duty. papers.
The following papers were presented -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1925, Nos. 138, 141.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1925, Nos. 139, 140.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1925-
No. 36. - Lands Registration (No. 3).
No. 37- Mining (No. 2).
No. 38.- Native Labour (No. 2).
No. 39. - Interpretation and amendments Incorporation (No. 2).
No. 40 - District Courts.
No. 41 - Judiciary.
No. 42 - Central Court Assessors.
Petroleum - Report on Petroleum Prospects in parts of Western Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia, by Arthur Wade, D.Sc. (Lond.), &c.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s Message) :
Motion (by Mr. Hill) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to main roads development.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Hill and Sir Littleton Groom do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Hill, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under this bill it is proposed, during the present financial year, to make available for allocation to the various States, on a £1 for £1 basis, the sum of £500,000, for expenditure on main roads, and in addition, to set aside a further sum of £250,000 to be distributed among the States on the same proportional basis but free of any contribution by the State Governments. Grants from this additional£250,000 for the reconditioning and strengthening of existing roads come within the meaning of the act. The idea of giving Commonwealth assistance for road construction first assumed concrete form when the matter was placed before a conference of Premiers in 1923, following upon which Parliament passed an act, No. 2 of 1923, making provision for an amount of £500,000 to be distributed among the States on a £1 for £1 basis for the construction of main roads. In the following year another act was passed making available the sum of £500,000 on the same conditions as those set out in the original act. The two grants have been freely availed of by the various States, which I am sure, appreciate the assistance that the Commonwealth Government has given towards road construction, which is one of the most important of presentday problems. The following statement sets out the position regarding the authorization, commitments and expenditure under the grants already approved : -
It will be noted that of the total amount granted under the provisions of the two previous measures, approximately £400,000 is still available; but it should be remembered that practically the full amount, or £918,540, to be exact, has been expended, or committed for works in hand. Honorable members who represent Western Australian constituencies have complained from time to time that the Government of that State has been unable to find sufficient money to take advantage of the grant on the £1 for £1 basis, but reference to the table I have just read will show that of a total amount of £192,000 allocated to that State, the sum of £173,114 has been expended or authorized for expenditure.
– That shows that the grant is appreciated.
– That is so. Complaints have also been made in behalf of the Tasmanian Government that that State has been unable to take full advantage of the grant because of the conditions attached to it. Up to the end of the year only 20 per cent, of the total Tasmanian allocations had been expended, but I am glad to say that since then, the total expenditure or commitments there account for 60 per cent, of the allocations. I should like to point out that, at first, expenditure in nearly all the States was retarded by reason of the fact that some time elapsed before the necessary machinery in relation to the scheme could be got into proper running order. Prior to the institution of the Commonwealth main roads development scheme, it was the practice of several of the States to spend the bulk of their road votes on existing roads. The greater portion of the money allocated as Federal road grants has been expended on entirely new roads. This has necessitated, in many cases, complete surveys, and the re-location of proposed roads in localities varying from wet, hilly, heavily-timbered country to dry, sandy, and open plains. In some of the States, it was found that the existing technical staffs needed augmenting to some extent, to carry out the surveys and supervision of construction, for in most cases the shires were not able, for a considerable time, to detail their engineers to do the work. As a matter of fact, not many of the local authorities were organ ized to do the work. It would have been very easy to spend the money on existing roads already located and graded, and easy of access, but it was provided for roads which would develop new country, and in order to ensure that it would be satisfactorily expended, the preliminary work has taken much time. As all expenditure has to be carefully scrutinized and passed by the Auditors-General in the various States before claims for reimbursement can be made on the Commonwealth, it is often some months after the expenditure has been incurred that a claim for the Commonwealth’s share is made by the State Governments, noted by the Federal Auditor-General, and appears as Commonwealth expenditure. The works in all the States are now being considerably accelerated. This is due to a more complete understanding of the Commonwealth Government’s requirements. I have no doubt that if the proposals of the Government as set out in the bill, are approved, the whole of the present unexpended balances, together with the amount of £1,000,000 to be made available by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the respective States during the current year, and the additional £250,000 which the Commonwealth Government proposes to advance free of contribution by the States, for the purpose of reconditioning and strengthening main roads, will have been expended or commitments entered into with regard to it. In passing, I may say that the introduction of the bill has been unavoidably delayed, but the Government has authorized the various States to proceed with and complete works in hand, or to undertake extensions of existing works, on the basis -of a grant of one-twelfth of last year’s allocation per month. The States have, therefore, already formulated their plans for the ensuing year. Our object in adopting this policy was to permit of continuity in the employment of workers, as well as in the activity of contractors. The period for which that authorization was made has now expired, and I ask honorable members to give the bill their close attention so- that it may be passed at the earliest possible moment. . This will enable the various States to carry on operations continuously. That is very necessary. More than 2,000 miles of roads have been cleared, formed or constructed with money voted by the Commonwealth Government. That is valuable evidence of the beneficial results of the scheme to the country. The details are : -
Those figures bear eloquent testimony to the permanently beneficial effects of the adoption of this policy. If the Commonwealth grant had not been made available, many roads that are now in use would not have been constructed. Possibly the work would have been delayed for a number of years. In- order to provide for continuity of employment and the adoption of a comprehensive main roads programme, I ask honorable members to approve as soon as possible of the proposals in the bill. In the absence of an assurance of some measure of continuity of programme, the authorities are handicapped on account of the difficulty in obtaining suitable tenders for the carrying out of the authorized works. Contractors are not inclined to tender for works of this nature, and to provide expensive road plant, unless they can see the possibility of the works continuing for some time. From the point of view of economical construction, therefore, it is advisable that this further grant be made available during this year. In this connexion I shall read an extract from the report of Mr. W. Calder, chairman of the Victorian Country Roads Board, which he submitted on his return from his tour of ‘inquiry in Great Britain and the United States of America in connexion with subjects relating to road problems: -
Without the assurance of funds in sight for a period of years ahead no systematic programme of work oan be planned. The country people become disheartened with the deferred hope of improved conditions, and the exodus of the young men from the country to city will continue. One of our greatest needs is population, and particularly the peopling of our empty spaces. If we cannot keep our own settlers and their families contented, and the main cause of discontent in settlers- is the condition of the country roads, it is useless to expect the most desirable immigrants farmers of British stock - to settle in a country where the roads are so short of the standard to which they have been accustomed.
The want of a continuous policy of construction is also uneconomical as regards cost, inasmuch that with no definite assurance of the amount of work in sight, contractors are not encouraged to procure the plant and equipment, without which work on a large scale cannot be carried on expeditiously and cheaply.
IF, on completion of a contract, there be delay in letting of new contracts through shortage of funds, the contractor has one of two alternatives - to realize on his teams and plant, probably at some sacrifice; or leave for mother district or State.
When work is again renewed, competition is lessened, and equipment may have to be transported from a distance, and the cost of this transportation is added to the cost of the work.
The proposal to advance to the States a further sum of £250,000 for the purpose of reconditioning and strengthening portions of the existing main roads in the various States is, in the opinion of the Government, sound. I desire to emphasize that this £250,000 is not to be expended merely in filling pot holes, but for reconditioning and strengthening those main roads that come within the meaning of the act, so that when the work is completed they will be equal to newly constructed roads. It is pointed out that in some of the States difficulty is experienced in providing the moneys necessary for the maintenance of existing roads, owing to the contributions on the £1 for £1 basis which they are called upon to provide under the existing legislation. Much of the money which has usually been spent on the maintenance of existing roads, is being utilized on the class of roads provided for in the Commonwealth act, the result being that many of the important existing roads are in a bad state of repair. The proposal in the bill is submitted with a view to meeting this difficulty to some extent at least. Honorable members will agree that, while the Government is to be commended for making available the sum of £250,000 for this purpose, that amount is really only like a drop in the bucket. It would be more appropriate if we were to spend £25,000,000 on road construction. At a later stage I shall explain the reason why the Government considers that £250,000 is ample for present requirements. It is not the intention of the Federal Government to relieve the State Governments or municipal authorities of their ordinary obligations in regard to roads. The moneys advanced by the Commonwealth, together with the corresponding sums made available by the States have been, and are being, utilized in the construction of main developmental roads, the object being to extend and promote the development of the Commonwealth by the provision of roads which will enable the produce of a district to be economically and expeditiously transported to market. Road construction, generally speaking, is the function of the State authorities. It has, however, long been recognized that, in order to enable this country to develop as rapidly as its natural resources justify us in trusting that it may, and to absorb the large number of oversea settlers that we hope to induce to settle here, means of communication in outlying districts are an urgent necessity. The States cannot be expected, without some aid from the Federal Government, to cope with the demand for these arteries of communication. I think that honorable members generally will agree that the Government has adopted the right course in this matter. It will be of interest to honorable members if I refer to the policy of road construction adopted by the Federal Government in the United States of America. That Government, realizing the importance of linking up all the States and . their principal centres of population by means of .a national system of roads, and its responsibilities in this connexion, has passed legislation providing for the construction, in cooperation with the States, of approximately 180,000 miles of main roads. Grants are made to the various States on a £1 for £1 basis, the total appropriation of federal funds for this purpose between 1916 and 1923 amounting to approximately £90,000,000. This system, which is known as the Federal Aid Highways System, is controlled by the Bureau of Public Roads established by the central government. By the ’31st December, 1923, 23,291 miles of federal aid roads were completed, the roads completed and under construction in pursuance of this scheme now being about 57,000 miles. The expenditure on all roads throughout the United States of America during the last few years has amounted to approximately £230,000,000 per annum, which indicates the value that that country places. upon the provision of facilities for the rapid and economical transportation of goods to markets, and for enabling the settlers and residents- of the remote districts to maintain a closer intercourse with the commercial centres of the nation than would otherwise be possible. In the Dominion of Canada the central government has passed legislation under which grants are made to the various provinces for expenditure on main roads connecting markets or cities. The appropriation for this purpose under the 1919 act was $20,000,000, to be spread over a period of five years. The policy adopted in the two countries referred to is an indication that it is realized that central governments are vitally interested in road construction, as under the prevailing economic conditions, action to improve the conditions associated with the marketing of a country’s primary produce is a matter for the whole nation. It can be fairly claimed that the Commonwealth Government’s action in instituting the main roads development grants has assisted very materially in this direction. The total expenditure incurred on road construction in Great Britain during 1921-2 amounted to £42,000,000, as against £17,500,000 in 1914-15. I am unable to state exactly the amount spent on road development in the Commonwealth, but it is approximately £14,500,000 per annum. Of this amount the State contributions represent £2,000,000, and municipal contributions, £12,000,000. I do not think there is any necessity for me to further stress the desirability of providing, to the greatest possible extent, suitable means of communication throughout the Commonwealth. When one takes into consideration the distance of Australia from the markets of the world, and the cost which has to be incurred before the produce can be placed on those markets, the necessity for roads which will enable those costs at the source of production to be reduced to a minimum is apparent. In the absence of roads connecting our agricultural, pastoral, and mining centres with railways and local markets, what hope have we of developing our out-back country, cor. what to-day are regarded as the waste spaces of the Commonwealth? What hope have we of settling upon the land migrants from, overseas, or even our own people, or of competing in the world’s markets with countries that are in closer touch with those markets, and have road systems designed to reduce to a minimum the costs of the producer ? The development of this country, with its great natural resources, must of necessity be retarded unless the road construction programme throughout the Commonwealth is considerably increased. While our finances willnot permit of an expenditure comparable with that in the United States of America, the future of our country demands that every possible effort shall be made in the direction of extending and improving our road system. The betterment of the living and working conditions of the out-back settler, who has enough natural difficulties to contend with, will, I am sure, receive the sympathetic consideration of the House, and there is no doubt that one of his worst difficulties is the bad condition of the roads. This, I am convinced, is responsible in a great measure for the drift of population from thecountry to the already overcrowded cities. Twenty years ago traffic over country roads was confined almost wholly to horse-drawn and bullock-drawn vehicles. To-day, the motor-driven vehicle has become so much a part of our commercial and social lives that no district or town can hope for advancement, unless the roads leading thereto are reasonably capable of providing for such traffic. The economic losses incurred throughout the Commonwealth by reason of the condition of a great proportion of our country roads must amountto an enormous figure. The heavy wear and tear on motor cars and vehicles, and the excessive consumption of petrol due to the bad condition of most of our country roads, must account for many thousands of pounds per annum, apart from the losses incurred through delayed transport of produce to markets, and of the materials required by the man on theland. I draw attention to the fact that the works carried out as a result of these grants have given a great deal of employment throughout the Commonwealth. In connexion with the moneys already expended under the two Commonwealth acts, complaints have from time to time been addressed to me by honorable members regarding the exclusion of roads in this or that district. I remind honorable members that the selection of the roads recommended for inclusion in the scheme rests with the State authorities. Shire councils and roads boards have approached me and asked to be allowed to participate in the grant. The proper procedure is for those bodies to make their representations to the State authority - either the Country Roads Board or the Public Works Department - and if their requests are approved by the State authority and forwarded to me, they will receive the same favorable consideration as has been extended to all proposals that have reached me from the State Governments. If roads so recommended come within the four corners of the act, they receive my approval. It cannot be expected that the amount of money made available under the two acts, together with the corresponding contributions by the State Governments, will be sufficient to cover more than a small proportion of the roads which are deserving of inclusion. The best use possible has been made of the money available, and the State Governments have co-operated heartily with the Commonwealth, and have shown a desire to assist in spending the money where it will be most effective in developing the resources of the country. Realizing the benefits derived from the works already carried out, the Governmentwill at a later stage consider the desirability of extending the operation and scope of the act, so far as the expenditure in future years is concerned, withthe object of presenting to the House a more comprehensive scheme of road construction. It will be necessary, first of all, to confer with the States with a view to drawing up a programme of road construction for a period of years. Continuity of policy and work must be assured, together with - and this is of the utmost importance - the maintenance of the roads so constructed and existing main roads. It will be futile for the Commonwealth or the States to engage in a big road construction programme unless ample provision is made for the maintenance of the roads In my opinion, road patrols should be established for the maintenance of all roads upon which Commonwealth money has been expended. The yearly cost of maintaining in first-class condition a road, the construction of which cost £4,000 per mile, would be from £120 to £130 per mile.
– Tar the roads.
– A road could be kept in good repair - and tarred for an annual charge of from 3 to 31/2 per cent. on the capital cost. Therefore, in any proposals for the future, the Commonwealth will ensure thai; jio road is laid down unless ample provision is made for its maintenance. It may be suggested that the grant which the Government proposes to make is not sufficient, but the unexpended balance of £2.50,000, which, together with the £500,000 which is being made available on a £1 for £1 basis, plus the £250,000 to be given by the Commonwealth without contribution by the States, will make £1,000.000 available for expenditure this year. As their expenditure in the previous two years amounted to only £600,000 - admittedly, they had difficulties to overcome - the States will have a considerable task in expending £1,000,000 in twelve months. Had the previous grants been fully expended, the Government would have taken into consideration at once a programme of road construction over a period of years ; but we assume that the States will be fully occupied in spending £1,000,000 this year, ‘ and we hope to bring forward a more comprehensive scheme at a later date. I recommend the bill to the favorable consideration of the House. Every one recognizes the value of good roads, especially in out-back districts. I have suffered for a great many years from the disadvantages of bad roads. I live in a district that has been settled for threequarters of a century, and yet, to-day, there are not good roads in that district to market towns distant only 14 or 15 miles. Roads that have been made have worn out in the space of ten or twelve years. T urge honorable members to approve of the Government’s proposals, which have for their object the development and settlement of this great continent.
.- This bill will secure the support of most honorable members. We all recognize the necessity for good roads, especially in this age, when we have so much motor traffic. I believe that in country districts it would be preferable to spend money upon roads rather than upon railways. The cost would be less, and better facilities would be given to people in remote districts to get their produce to market. Any financial assistance which the Commonwealth can give to the States for the construction of good roads will be money well .spent. I was very glad to hear the Minister for Works and Rail ways (Mr. Hill) say that ho will endeavour after this year to see that proper supervision is exercised in the expenditure of these grants, so as to secure the necessary maintenance of roads already laid down, in addition to extensions and new roads. No matter how much we spend on road construction, if adequate provision is not made for the maintenance of the roads in a proper state of’ repair, the money will be wasted. There is a tendency on the part of public bodies to yield to requests for the expenditure of money on new roads without due regard to the fact that roads already laid down must be properly maintained. Roads that are full of pot-holes are very unsatisfactory. In most of the States it will be found that roads constructed in years past have net been properly maintained. It is risky to travel’ over some of them, and they are quite unfitted for heavy traffic. I was a member of the State Parliament when the Local Government Act of New South Wales was passed, and the amount available for main road construction was dependent on the expenditure by the Government at the time. The Parliament lost sight of the fact that when a local authority is established, as development takes place within its boundaries, people agitate for the construction of roads to meet the settlement, and so additional expenditure is incurred, and insufficient money is provided to keep in a proper state of repair the roads that have been made.
– The Government endowment was cut down also.
– That is so; but before the Government endowment was reduced, many main . roads had been allowed to get into a deplorable state. I am pointing out what is likely to happen under the expenditure of these grants if no proper system of supervision is established. The Minister should look to it that roads constructed with these grants are properly maintained.
– How can he do that?
– It can be done by co-operation with the State authorities in the expenditure . of the grant, and proper means being taken to supervise the work. Each State Government should have a schedule ‘ showing the roads that have been constructed, and should be able to estimate the amount required to maintain them. If we advance money to the States for the construction of roads it is fair that we should say that as a condition of future grants the States must be prepared to bear the same proportion of expense . in keeping roads already constructed in re-, pair as the Commonwealth will bear. I can point to a road in my own district from Cessnock through virgin country to Lake Macquarie. Money was spent on that road, which found work for the unemployed, but since that time, three years ago, nothing further has been expended upon it, with the result that the money has really been lost, as no heavy vehicle can travel over the road. The Minister ° has stated that the expenditure of these grants will rest with the local authorities. I do not know that it does rest entirely with the local authorities. The local authorities recommended the expenditure of money on the road to which I have referred, but for two years in succession the Commonwealth Government refused to advance money for it.
– Does the road come within the meaning of the act ?
– That is just the point. , The Minister may say that the roads upon which expenditure from the grant is to take place are left to the determination of the State authorities, but evidently some conditions exist which prevent that. There are no better judges in these matters than the local authorities, and they should be allowed a good deal of latitude so long as the roads which they recommend to be constructed will open up country and facilitate the transport of produce to market. In the case I refer to the local authorities were prepared to subsidize public expenditure by £1 for £1, and when they were prepared to impose such a burden upon their ratepayers it is clearthat they could justify their proposal. I hope that there will be some more satisfactory understanding regarding the expenditure of these grants. No one can deny that the main roads in New South Wales are gradually getting into a very bad condition, and it is time something was done to repair them. The proposed grant of £250,000 without a contribution being required of them should enable the Slate Governments to carry out much good road construction. The expenditure of the money should be expedited. When roads are in a bad condition, and money is available for their repair, it is idle to tell Parliament year after, year thatcircumstances have prevented the expenditure of it. We have £400,000 out of a total grant of £1,000,000 for mainroad development still unexpended. When we take into consideration the fact that last year we voted £500,000 for this purpose, it means that only £100,000 of last year’s vote has been expended. Here, again, there is room for a better understanding between the Commonwealth and State authorities. The States should undertake to spend within each financial year the grant made for that year. Whilst in all the States there are bad roads, and a large number of men looking for employment, £400,000 of last year’s vote remains unexpended ! If that money had been expended, employment could have been found for a great many men, and the roads made better for the primary producers. The primary producers are entitled to good roads, and we should provide roads for them. It is idle to talk of settling men on the land if we do not give them good roads. From the beginning we have witnessed the spectacle of settlers taking up land in the out-back districts at a distance from existing roads and railways, and being called upon to do the best they could to get their produce to market. I hope that an arrangement will be entered into between the Commonwealth and the States for the proper maintenance of roads constructed under these grants in addition to increasing the mileage of good roads constructed. The Minister has said that under these grants 1,150 miles of roads have been gravelled or metalled, and about 300 miles remain to be gravelled, to say nothing of other work that i3 under consideration. This is all to the good, but unless the money made available is expended with-in a reasonable time, and, above all, roads already constructed are kept in good order, these grants will be wasted. By the construction of good roads th<s States may be relieved of expenditure upon railway construction. A distance of 30 or 50 miles from the nearest railway station is, with motor transport, a matter of no great importance if good roads are provided. I hope that in future we shall be able to make larger grants to the States for road construction under a proper system of co-operation between the Commonwealth and State authorities so that the money may be expended to the best purpose.
,- Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) I appreciate the action of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) in introducing this bill. The money can be well expended. I particularly appreciate the proposed additional advance of £250,000 which is to be made without conditions as to subsidy or its expenditure upon developmental roads only. In New South Wales it must be recognized that there is great danger of the whole structure of local government falling to the ground. The original Local Government Act of that State, and even the amending act of 1919 were passed at a time when the possible development of motor transport was not realized. What has caused the trouble is that when the original act was passed the duties of local governing bodies were almost limited to keeping in good order roads leading to. the railway stations. The whole of the circumstances have been revolutionized by the introduction of motor traffic. In my own electorate there are two main arterial roads, the northern and the western road. The western road traverse’s the whole of the electorate for a distance of about 140 miles. Almost the whole of the motor traffic from Sydney to the western portion of the State goes over these roads through the shires and municipalities between Blayney and St. Mary’s. It is quite impossible for the local bodies concerned, without assistance, to keep those roads in a good condition for traffic. Much work has been done by the Blue Mountains shire. Advances have been made to the Main Roads Board established by the last State Government. I was very glad to hear the Minister state that his department intends to see that these grants are not used to relieve State Governments of what should be their own obligations. We know the present financial position of the State Governments, and unless the expenditure is watched there is danger that some of the proposed grant of £250,000 may be expended to relieve State Governments of responsibilities they should bear themselves. I do not agree altogether with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that in many cases good roads’ would be better than railways. Roads might serve the purpose for some industries, but would be hopelessly inadequate for the great wheat-growing industry in the central west of New South Wales. My own farm is only 14 miles from a railway station, but it costs me nearly as much to get the wheat taken to the railway as it does to get it taken 350 miles by rail to the seaboard.
– Is that due to the badness of the road 1
– Not altogether. Although the railways are carrying wheat at a rate much lower than that at which it can be carried by motor transport, yet it pays them indirectly to do so.
– It pays directly as well as indirectly.
– In some cases it barely pays. In nearly every case in New South Wales where railways run into wheat districts, although the freight for wheat is possibly one-sixth or oneeighth of the freight for wool, the tonnage is so great from the wheat crop that the lines are paying, and, in addition, assisting to pay for the nbnpaying lines running into pastoral districts. The suggestion to substitute new roads for railways, as far as wheatgrowing is concerned, is out of all question. I ask the Minister to give special assistance in instances where main roads pass through the corners of shires. I have in mind a road, not in my electorate, but in either Riverina or Calare, running through a corner of the Weddin Shire. The Bland country to ,a large extent’ consists of black soil, and after a heavy rainfall a quagmire is formed on this road, and very often the c-whole of the important traffic between Forbes and Wyalong is held up. There are practically no ratepayers living there. The road is at the extreme end of the shire, and of no use to the ratepayers. The shire council objects to its funds being expended on the reconditioning of that road. There are numerous such instances. This road is an important connecting link. It is said that the strength of a chain lies in its weakest link, and in the same sense a bad patch on a road renders it almost useless. The Commonwealth Government should give special attention to such, cases. I am glad to know that additional money is being made available for main roads purposes, although it is not nearly as much as is necessary. The Minister himself said that many millions could be expended on main road construction. I congratulate him and the Government on being able to increase the amount of the vote this year, and I trust that it will see its way for many years to come to assist in this good work.
Mr. A. GREEN (Kalgoorlie) [4.10J.- I am pleased indeed that the Government intends to make yet another grant for main roads construction. The provision of main roads is one of the most important means of opening up back country. Several objections have, of course, been taken by local bodies to the present allocation of the moneys provided. It is contended that in the sparsely-populated parts of Australia the road boards and municipal bodies should be able to deal directly with the Federal Government. They consider that their own States do not give them a fair deal, and that the Commonwealth Government would give them a greater measure of justice. I do not support that contention. A moment’s reflection will show that if the Federal Government proportioned the- amount to be paid to each road board, about which it knows very little, not only would there be greater confusion than apparently exists at present, but the whole of the time of the Federal members would be occupied in log-rolling, which we do not at all desire. The only workable plan is the present arrangement, under which the Federal Government grants a certain amount to the States on a £1 for £1 basis. The State engineers examine the roads for which assistance is asked by the different roads boards, and the final recommendation goes from the State Public Works Department to the Commonwealth Minister for Works and Railways. The Main Roads Development Act embodies the principle of the Federal Government financing work which is really outside the province of the States, and I venture to say that this legislation meets with the approbation of the whole of the people of’ Australia. In sparsely-populated areas the construction of new roads cannot possibly be financed by the local boards or the State Governments. The construction of roads in the out-back parts of this country is really a matter for the National Government. In the northern half of Western Australia there is no railway excepting that known as the Port Headland to Marble Bar railway, and, consequently, the whole of the traffic of the biggest part of the State depends on the roads. The taxation per head of population is much higher in the out-back country than that in other parts, chiefly because of the large areas of land held for pastoral purposes, and the relatively small number of people living there. In the past people in the out-back country could reach civilization only once in twelve months or two years, but the advent of the motor car has altogether changed their conditions. It is now a common occurrence for people to travel 200 miles by motor car to visit large centres. The increased traffic on the roads has had a peculiar wearing effect upon them, and in many instances they have become almost impassable. The suction caused by the speed of the motor vehicles increases the wear and tear of the roads. It has been suggested that on that account there should be a tax on petrol, and that a portion of the revenue so collected should be set aside for the maintenance of roads. Some people believe that such a tax would be much preferable to a wheel tax. But this is really a matter for local authorities. The suggestion commends itself to me, except in the case of farmers and primary producers. In Western Australia the main portion of the money granted by the Commonwealth for main roads construction has been expended in the southwestern portion of the State. Group ‘settlements were established in that part of Western Australia, and because of the very heavy rainfall, the settlers were in actual need of food owing to the absence of road communication. The State Governmentconsidered that, under the circumstances, its first duty was to expend the main portion of the grant on opening up this country. For this reason other parts of the State did not benefit by the grant. I do not say that I disapprove of the State Government’s action, but there is no doubt that other agricultural districts of Western Australia suffered in consequence. It is hoped that the electorates represented by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and myself will obtain a larger portion of the grant on this occasion than they did previously. Fault has been found in some districts with the regulation which provides that no money is to be granted on roads running parallel with railways. This regulation has inflicted a certain hardship. Running into the north-west of Western Australia is a main road used by the pastoralists and others travelling through the country between the Murchison line and the town of Moora. The road runs along the railway line for 70 miles, and then there is a saud patch which the ordinary motor car driver finds it impossible to negotiate. It is true that some drivers traverse it, but they do so purely as a driving test. I have already suggested to the Minister that a portion of this grant should be made available for (putting this main trunk road into a passable condition. In the present circumstances a person has to go due north from Moora, then east, then north for a long distance, and then west, to reach a certain town on the midlands line. All that extra travelling is necessary because the conditions governing this grant prevent the local authorities from making the direct road passable. Some complaints have been made respecting the condition that a minimum of £1,000 must be spent on a given work on one road. That may suit States like Victoria.
– The regulation is not enforced, even in Western Australia.
– The fact remains, however, that some of the local roads boards in Western Australia have had their applications for assistance rejected because the authorities in the State Public Works Department were under the impression that unless a given work was estimated to cost at least £1,000 none of the Federal road grant could be spent on it.
– The amount need not be spent all at once; the road may be built in sections.
– That is just the condition that is unsatisfactory. In legislation of this character we are providing for the needs of a big continent. Conditions are totally different in the various States. In the Esperance district of Western Australia, for instance, there is a lot of natural stony road surface, with sandy patches at intervals. Along the Esperance to Salmon Gums railway the country is ‘only surveyed for 12 miles on either side. Consequently, stretches of only 12 miles of road are necessary. It is unfortunate that, although a good many of the roads in this area have fine natural surfaces for considerable distances, intermittent sand patches render them absolutely impossible for the hauling of wheat. This is a new district, which has very little money available for road work. If £200, or a little more, could be spent in making a road across these sandy patches in different localities the people would be provided with satisfactory roads.
– The return that has . been made available shows that in several places in the honorable member’s own constituency works which cost less than £1,000 were constructed, out of the grant.
– I assure the Minister that these complaints that I am voicing were made to me by members of roads boards. They are not imaginary in any sense. It has been suggested that where a road crosses a railway line it should be considered to be the same road on either side of the line. That would enable many contracts to come within the £1,000 regulation. In the dry farming areas in Western Australia a small expenditure would make adequate road provision for the people, but the money cannot honestly be spent from the grant under existing conditions.
– A thousand pounds would not make mora than a mile of road anywhere, I think.
– In some of the 12-mile stretches that I have mentioned there may be Hi miles of good surface, but the other half mile renders the road unusable to wheat carters. I assure the Minister that this state of affairs actually exists in Western Australia.
– Hear, hear!
– I suppose Western Australia has more natural road surface than any other State.
– We have probably 100,000 miles of natural road surface. Otherwise it would be impossible for us to get over the country as we are now able to do. I have no complaint to make about the amount that has been allocated to our State, although it may seem strange that a sparsely populated country like ours should have £288,000, whilst Victoria has only £270,000. Victoria, however, is gridironed with railways. It has been developing for ninety years. I might, if I cared to do so, question the fairness of the basis upon which the grant is made. I am not at all sure that the population basis is the best that could be fixed. Western Australia contains one-third of the territory of the continent, and her need of roads is probably greater than that of any other State. I do not desire, at present, to argue at length along that line. I may say in conclusion that I believe it would be advantageous if a number of the roads boards in the more sparsely populated districts of Western Australia would amalgamate. They would then spend less on staff maintenance, and would be able to undertake contracts for themselves. Misapprehension has existed in parts of Western Australia as to the conditions under which the road grant must be impended. Some local governing bodies were under the impression that the work had to be done by the State Public Works Department, and their experience of its activities, in some cases, was not at all satisfactory. North-east of Moora, for instance, the Public Works Department started a gang of men on a road contract a mile away from the point where the road ought to have commenced. The men had made a mile of road before the error was discovered. The Public Works Department there also seems to be obsessed with this continuous road idea that is in the mind of the Minister, and it has constructed roads over natural surfaces that need not have been touched. It seems to be governed by red tape methods, and often spends more than is necessary to make roads quite passable.
.- I am sorry that I am unable to join in the general chorus in praise of this bill. Of course, everybody agrees as to the necessity and desirability of making good roads in Australia. We want more roads and better roads. The question is, Who should make them ? Should it be the Commonwealth Government or the
State Governments ? In proposing, year by year, legislation of this character the Commonwealth Parliament is placing itself in a difficult position. . It is merely granting financial subventions instead of devoting its revenue to the work which should properly concern it. Although the Commonwealth Parliament has no power to legislate for main roads as such, we are discussing a bill the object of which, as we all know perfectly well, is to make possible the construction, of main roads, without considering at all whether this admittedly desirable object is one of the objects with which the Commonwealth legislature ought to concern itself. I venture to assert, although I know it will be unpopular to do so, tb at in passing legislation of this description we are not acting constitutionally. This Parliament has no power to legislate for main roads. It has power, of course, to grant financial assistance to States which need it. I suppose this bill would be defended on that ground if it were attacked.
– What about the defence aspect ‘
– This is not a bill dealing with roads for defence purposes, and no one pretends that it is. It is possible to say that all useful developmental work in Australia improves the capacity of the country to defend itself; but are we, as a Commonwealth Parliament, to spend our revenues for the achievement df any desirable object that may improve the resources of the country from the point of view of defence? We should be in an entirely different position if the Government had brought down a measure to provide for the construction of main roads between the capital cities of Australia based upon strategic considerations that had the backing of its technical defence advisers. This bill does not pretend to provide for anything of that character, as honorable members know very well. It cannot be said that the States require financial assistance from the Commonwealth. Does Victoria, for instance, require such assistance? The bill, cannot be effectively defended on that ground. The Commonwealth Government has no power to raise a finger “to construct main roads; but it seeks by this method to assist the States to do so. I understand that more than £400,000 of the amounts that the
Commonwealth has previously voted for main road construction still remains unexpended. No . general scheme is being provided for by measures like this. I contend that ‘if money is voted for main road construction, provision should also be made for the maintenance of the roads that are constructed. No proposal of that nature has been suggested. There is no certainty that these subventions will continue. It is only because the Federal Government has more money than it knows how to spend . that these grants have been made. The revenue of the Commonwealth comes mainly from the States of Victoria and New South Wales. This money is being spent upon a basis involving a consideration of both area and population. The result is that the States which have already developed their territory from their own funds are now being called upon to assist in the development of States which are larger, and whose development commenced later. It may be that this is a proper thing; that the main roads should be a charge upon the whole of the people of Australia, instead of on the people of the several States; but in that case this matter should be considered by the whole of the people of Australia. If they want this Parliament to deal with our main roads, let them say so. The people of Victoria and New South Wales would then know that they were providing money for the construction of badly needed roads in Queensland, Western Australia, and. elsewhere.
– Are not the grants by the Federal Government of the United States of America made under a similar section of their constitution?
– I do not know, as I have not studied that aspect of the constitution of the United States of America. There is one further point to which I desire to direct attention. It is generally agreed that one of the functions of Parliament is to keep a careful watch on the expenditure of money. It is for that reason that detailed estimates of expenditure are annually brought before us. But in this bill there is no schedule of the works to be undertaken. I recognize that to supply such a schedule is impossible, because this House, constituted as it is, cannot pretend to have a local knowledge of all the items that would appear in it. The result is that a large sum of money is being placed at the disposal of the Minister without any direction from the House as to the way in which it shall be spent.
– That is not so.
– The position is different in connexion with other expenditure. It may bo said that the States have not sufficient money for roadmaking; but with equal force it may be argued that the reason that the Commonwealth has funds at its disposal is that it is imposing so much taxation that it has more money than it needs, and is, therefore, prepared to spend it lavishly. If we. were to reduce Commonwealth taxation, and to confine ourselves to our proper functions, the States would find it easier to raise the money required for their roads! The making of roads is a State function. The Commonwealth is collecting too much money from the people, and is expending upon a State basis money which has been collected upon a Federal basis, and that without the matter having first been submitted to the judgment of the people. Mention has been, made of the desirability of fixing a minimum of £1,000 in respect of any one road-making undertaking to which the Commonwealth shall contribute. The Minister said that the regulation to that effect was not enforced. Of what use is a regulation ‘if it is not enforced ? If existing regulations are wrong, they should be amended; but while they remain they should be enforced strictly. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) invited the Minister to reduce the minimum to £200. ‘ I suggest that if we had some guarantee that this money was being spent upon a well-considered scheme, honorable members would derive much more satisfaction from voting for the bill. We know that it is impossible in some weathers to drive a motor car from Melbourne to Sydnev. That is a condition of affairs which should be altered. Main roads which could be regarded as having a strategic value might possibly be brought within the control of the Commonwealth, but it would appear that this money is to be spent upon ordinary developmental road -making. I admit that developmental road-making in the back country is one of the most important matters affecting the future welfare of Australia, but I point out that in using what is really surplus Federal revenue to discharge a State function, this Parliament is laying up trouble for itself in the future, when the Commonwealth revenue may not be so buoyant as it has been in the past. I am aware that what I have said will not affect the votes of honorable members, because of the desirability of the object sought to be accomplished by the bill. Matters of principle are not particularly attractive when there are obvious advantages to be gained by placing a measure upon the statute-book. Nevertheless, I ask the House to carefully consider the matters to which I have referred.
.- I listened to the objections raised by the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), but it is sufficient for me to know that the Federal Government of the United States of America spends £46,000,000 per annum in assisting the States to construct roads throughout thatcountry, because our Constitution was largely copied from that of America. From an academic point of view, there may be something in the honorable member’s contention, but honorable members generally will agree that it is the duty of the Commonwealth to assist the States in the construction of national highways and necessary roads for the farming community throughout Australia. From the point of view of defence alone, such assistance is justified, as in the event of an invasion our main roads would play an important part in our defence. The honorable member asked whether it was fair that the States of Victoria and New South Wales should find money to construct roads in Queensland, Western Australia, and other parts of the Commonwealth. That argument could with equal force be applied to the imposition of tariff duties to protect the secondary industries of Victoria and New South Wales. I do not suggest that the imposition of a protective tariff is not justified, but I point out to the honorable member that the more densely populated States cannot have it both ways. States like Queensland and Western Australia, with a scattered population, do not possess many secondary industries, and are certainly at a disadvantage because of the tariff imposed to foster the secondary industries of Victoria and New South Wales. But the people of those States view these matters from a broad Australian stand-point, and consequently are prepared to protect Australian secondary industries, asking only similar treatment in return. I hope that honorable members generally will not accept the views of the honorable member for Kooyong. I am in favour of the bill, my only objection being that it does not go far enough. The proposed grant is, as the Minister said, “ merely a drop in the bucket.” We are merely toying with a big question. The small expenditure to be incurred under this bill will not go far to construct the roads which are necessary for the development of Australia. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that money should also be made available for the maintenance of existing roads. Many of the shire councils in Australia have very limited financial resources, and it is practically impossible for them to maintain the roads within their districts. According to the last Commonwealth Tear-Book, the total expenditure from loan on roads and bridges in the several States to the 30th June, 1922, was as follows: New South Wales, £2,416,000; Victoria, £4,495,000; Queensland, £931,000; South Australia, £2,039,000; Western Australia, £425,000; Tasmania, £5,328,000; a total of £15,636,000. The United States of America spends in one year on the construction of roads fifteen times as much as Australia has spent in the last one hundred years, while England’s annual expenditure on roads equals that of Australia for a century Australia is a comparatively new country, and it is necessary that good roads should be provided for her development. No honorable member representing a metropolitan constituency should object to the Commonwealth Government spending this money, as the need for good roads must be apparent to every one. We have only to travel in the country districts of Australia to see the* difficulties confronting settlers, especially in wet weather. Frequently their produce rots on the farm because they cannot get it to the railway station. Bather than reduce the amount, as was suggested by the honorable member for Kooyong, the Government should increase it, and co-operate with the States in order to have all the money allowed spent expeditiously. In Queensland the Main Roads Board, which was appointed under the Main Roads Act of 1920. is doing excellent work. The board prepares a list of roads to be dealt with, the local authorities having the right to object. If the roads are approved, a loan is granted, upon half of which the local authority pays the ruling rate of interest, the principal being repayable over a period of 30 years. But these local bodies have not been able to afford the expenditure that would be involved in the construction of all the roads that are so essential to the development of the State, and the Commonwealth Government, having a surplus’ of over £4,000,000, would be lacking in its duty if it did not come to the assistance of the States. I hope that before many years have passed this Parliament will possess far greater powers in legislation and administration, extending, to the construction of roads, because the construction and maintenance of national highways and other roads acting as feeders to railways is part of the duty of the National Parliament. Owing to the bad state of the roads in Queensland, the average costs for motor haulage are, approximately: One mile journey, ls. 9d. per ton. mile; 11 mile journey, lOd. per ton mile; whilst in the southern States the cost for a 50-mile journey is as low as 6d. per ton mile. These figures indicate that the people living in Queensland are at a great disadvantage, owing to the fact that less attention has been paid to roads there than in Victoria. Comparing the motor haulage cost of 6d. per ton mile in Victoria over good roads, with ls. 9d. per ton mile in Queensland, over rough, boggy, and ungraded roads, the importance of good means of communication in the development of a State can be readily understood. In England a road programme involving an expenditure of £13,500,000 for the present year has been approved, to which the contribution by the Government will be £10,000,000. In addition, the Government has agreed to expend £5,000,000 upon the construction of main trunk roads. Having regard to those statistics, I hope that honorable members representing city constituencies will not support the objections raised by the honorable member for Kooyong.
-1- He is a city member.
– Yes, and probably the only knowledge he has of roads is gained by pleasure motoring. I urge the Minister not to tinker with a big national problem. Roads are absolutely essential to the development of the country, often more so than railways, because roads can be utilized by the farmer for the carriage of his produce to market, as well as for motoring for business or pleasure. To develop Australia, country life must be made more congenial, and we must endeavour to induce young men and women who have been reared on farms to regard country life as their destiny. The way to do that is to make country life more attractive. This problem must be dealt with iu a broad and generous spirit. Academic objections to this measure should not be allowed to weigh with honorable members, and I hope they will support my request to the Minister to increase the grant to £2.000,000, and thus assist the State Governments and local authorities to lay down roads that will be a national asset, a tremendous assistance to rural production, and a great convenience to the man on the land.
.- I congratulate the Government upon the continuance of the principle of making Commonwealth money available for the construction of main and feeder roads. The House will probably be almost unanimous in . support of this measure. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) argued that if the Commonwealth taxed the people less the States would be able ito raise sufficient revenue to attend to their own. roads. The honorable member’s logic is sound, but as he supports the heavy taxation of the people of the Commonwealth through the medium of the Customs tariff, his attitude is inconsistent. If he would assist us to remove some of the fiscal burdens from the people, the Commonwealth would not have the huge surplus of money which, he says, it does not know how to spend. However, that money having been taken out of the pockets of the people with the assistance of the honorable member, we who represent country constituencies say that it is right that some of it should be made available to facilitate the raising of wealth from the soil. And it is a sound business policy for the Commonwealth to assist country people to market their produce profitably, for from them it derives most of its revenue. The constitutionality of the Commonwealth expenditure upon roads within States does not concern me. I heartily approve of the Commonwealth assisting the States to make good roads. This expenditure from a fund to which both Commonwealth and States contribute, is still a novelty, and the regulations controlling it are still the subject of a good deal of complaint. The State of Victoria, having a good Country Roads Board, seems to have been better prepared than other States to handle this mixed grant. In Western Australia the Country Roads Boards were able to spend properly the money that was raised formerly by local taxation and grants from the State Government, but in connexion with the Commonwealth grant an unfortunate conflict seems to have occurred between the Works Department of the State and the Commonwealth authorities. The Minister read to the House a statement by a Victorian expert that unless this grant were made continuous young men would be flocking from the country to the cities. The tendency in Western Australia has been to send from the city to the country for the carrying out of this work men unaccustomed to it, and, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie said, the work has been done clumsily. The men who had been accustomed to build roads for the local board were squeezed out, and the roads built out of the fund contributed equally by the Commonwealth and the States have not been made with anything like the same efficiency as hitherto. I could mention in my own electorate instances similar to the Moora road to which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie referred. There is plenty of room for improvement in the administration of this money, but the regulations should be strictly observed, and the grants should not be used for political purposes by any government in any State. The purpose for which the money is granted is the construction of roads in the country, but the people complain that they do not get half the value they used to get for a given amount of money. I think that that grievance can be rectified, and I understand that the Minister is giving attention to it.
– What does the honorable member think is wrong?
– As the honorable member for Kalgoorlie pointed out, gangs are sent from Perth to do work in the country according to a red-tape system. The Roads Boards understood the work thoroughly, and if they were given a little more money the people would get greater value.
– I think the system is running more smoothly now.
– I am glad to. hear that; but its operation was very rough when I was last in my district. Whilst I approve of the principle of Commonwealth assistance to the State for the making of good roads, I hope that no government or party in any State will be allowed to use these grants as political pawns, and that the local authorities will be given further opportunities to control the making of roads within their districts. I welcome the Minister’s statement that the Government proposes to make these grants continuous. If continuity is assured more people will be willing to take contracts, and they will be better equipped with knowledge and plant to do the job thoroughly.
.- I trust that this proposed grant by the Commonwealth to the States for road construction will be continued, and that in time we shall be able to double, and even treble, the amount proposed in the bill. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) referred to the manner in which the Commonwealth grant has been handled by the Country Roads Board in Victoria. The board is certainly a very capable body, but the allocations to the shires have not been altogether satisfactory. The greater proportion of Victoria’s share of the grant has been expended upon what are called national highways round the coast, and not upon genuine developmental country roads. These roads do not go through agricultural areas, except in a very few cases. I understand that the Victorian Country Roads Board now proposes to construct a national highway between Melbourne and Mildura. I venture to say that its intention is to use a large portion of the grant in the construction of that road, although it will run almost parallel with an existing railway. This money is given by the Commonwealth for the construction of developmental roads; that is to say, roads running into newly settled areas used for agriculture and dairying, and roads which will be feeders to the railways; it is not intended for the construction of roads running parallel to the railways. The man who resides near a railway and can use it for the marketing of his produce suffers no hardship, but when a man who lives 20 or 30 miles from a railway and has no made roads of which he can take advantage is refused a grant from the Country Roads Board he has just reason for complaint. This is the case with residents of many shires, including Glenelg, Dundas, Portland, Minhamite, and Arapiles. As the Minister is aware, there is a big soldier settlement in those districts. Some little time ago a deputation from residents of Casterton, Coleraine and Hamilton waited upon the Victorian Minister for Public Works and asked for a grant of £20,000 to construct a road between Dengholm and Ellerslie. This road has been surveyed for the last 60 years, but it has not yet been grubbed, and there are patches on it that in winter time would bog a double-webbed duck. Men have to cart their produce over that road, and drive their stock over it in winter time. There is an old stage coach running over it between Dengholm and Apsley, which is frequently bogged in the winter time. The Country Roads Board is aware chat there are soldier settlements from one end of the district to the other, and it might have agreed to spend a few thousand pounds out of this grant to gravel and form a road that should have been made 50 years ago. Yet the Glenelgshire council has been refused its request for a grant of £20,000 for this road. The road between Strathdownie and Mr Gambier is another road which has been left unmade for 50 or 60 years. The State Government has decided through the Country Roads Board to regard that as a national road, and it will make and maintain it. But had it not been for the persistent agitation of the residents of the shires, and the enterprising business people in the towns, the Country Roads Board wouldnever have consented to make that road. If these grants are to be of any use to the men on the land it must be insisted upon that the money is to be spent on the construction and maintenance not of national roads for the convenience of owners of motor cars, but of roads leading into settled areas that are at present without roads. It is common sense to insist that money given by the national Parliament to the State Governments for road construction shall be for the specific purpose of the construction and maintenance of roads in settled areas, and particularly soldier settlement areas where the settlers have to suffer enough without having to suffer the hardships of bad roads. The Minhamite shire council on two occasions asked the Victorian Country Roads Board for a portion of the grant to construct a road to the Warrong settlement, but the board refused the request, just as it refused the request of the Glenelg, Arapiles, Portland, and other shire councils, saying that it had no money for that class of road. If the State Government is not prepared to spend these grants on the construction and maintenance of roads in newly-settled areas, the Commonwealth should cease to make them. The road running from Melbourne to Mildura, which is to be regarded as a national road, runs through country already served by a railway. We are not interested in the making of grants to State Governments to improve roads for motor car people. Our concern is to study the convenience of settlers who are suffering hardships to-day because they are without roads upon which to transport their produce. If the State Governments are not prepared to spend this money upon providing roads for those people, Ipersonally, would not give them a shilling. I was surprised to learn from the Minister that £400,000 of last year’s grant remains yet unexpended. Howmany of the States have failed to make application for money for road construction? I should like to know what they have been doing. The State Governments make a poor mouth, and say they cannot find the money necessary to construct railways that are needed, and here we have £400,000 offered to the States for road construction unapplied for. The State Governments are not making developmental roads for the benefit of new settlements, and yet, apparently, they cannot find the time to collect a nortion of the £400,000 that is in the Commonwealth Treasury for the purpose. What can they be thinking about? They would make very poor managers of a farm or a station. The Commonwealth Government should make it a strict condition that these grants must beused for de velopmental roads into areas feeding the railways, and must not be used for the beautification of national highways, such as that running round the coast through eastern , Gippsland to Kosciusko, Canberra, and Sydney. I do not know that there are many farmers along that road.
– The honorable member has not been there.
– The honorable gentleman is always “ skiting “ about Canberra. It would take a lot. of land to grow a little wheat there, where the country runs about one sheep to 5 acres. That is no place to which to take a national road. I hope the Government will insist that the State Governments shall utilize these grants for the building of roads for the people of newly-settled areas, who are asking for transport f aciilities
.- No one who has travelled the country districts of Australia will deny that we require many millions spent on road construction. I do not think there is an honorable member who would willingly delay the passing of this bill. No doubt the financial assistance proposed to be given by the Commonwealth will be greatly welcomed in all the States. It seems to have become the settled policy of the Government to make these grants annually. I wish to raise the question whether it is to be a permanent policy, because I anticipate that at some time in the future the Commonwealth Government may find it difficult to refuse to make money available for this purpose. The present Government has been very fortunate during the last few years in having a large amount of money at its disposal, and it has not found it difficult to make these grants. I have some sympathy with’ the contention of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) that it is not fair to take money out of the people’s pockets by way of taxation in order to give it back in the form of roads; but the justification lies in the fact that the expenditure will be of benefit to the community. I ask the Minister whether there is not something wrong with the conditions attached to the grant when such large sums remain unexpended year after year. Is there any suspicion that the State Governments are not co-operating as they might do in the matter?
– I explained that they had some trouble in making a start, but now the work is being speeded up and the money granted is being rapidly used.
– Most of the States have established main roads boards, and seeing that this is the third annual grant made by the Commonwealth, it is surprising to find that the State Governments should have found it difficult to proceed with the expenditure of the. money. It appears that the shire councils and local authorities within whose territories this money is expended in the construction of roads are responsible to the State Governments for half the expenditure incurred. Many of them are complaining of the cost of the work. The chairman of one shire assured me that a road in his territory constructed under this grant cost up to £12,000 per mile.
– Was it a concrete road or a macadamized road?
– The road to which I have alluded is a metalled one. It is quite impossible for much road construction to be undertaken unless roads can be constructed for considerably less than that amount. I am afraid that in the case of roads that were constructed to assist in settling returned soldiers on the land, the time will come when a considerable portion of their cost will have to be written oS so far as the shires are concerned. I ‘suggest ito the Minister that with the popularity and great increase of motor traffic in certain localities,’ more permanent roads should be constructed. While in New South Wales last week-end I took particular notice of macadam roads in the cities, and some concrete roads in the country. The concrete roads have a great deal to recommend them, and I consider it to be a waste of “money to construct roads of gravel or cheaper material in places in which there is a large volume of motor traffic. Seeing that the motor traffic has now seriously challenged the railways, I suggest to the Minister that he should seriously consider whether it would not be cheaper and more satisfactory to construct roads instead of many of tie railways that are at present proposed to be built. I do not allude particularly to proposals to construct certain railways in South Australia and the Northern Territory, but if the Government would be guided by some of the expert evidence that has been given before the Commonwealth Public Works Committee, it would realize that motor traffic has now seriously challenged the railways so far as cost of transport and quickness of delivery are concerned.
– It would be all right, except in the wheat country.
– That is so. I am certainly pleased that the Government is making further money available for the construction of main roads. I have previously expressed the fear that future Commonwealth Governments may not be able to continue these grants, and in such an event may find themselves in serious difficulties.
.-I do not intend to oppose the bill. Like other honorable members, I commend the Government for having made a further grant available for road construction, but I think it would have been economy in the long run had the original grant been equal to the sum that is now proposed to be voted. The total amount provided for main road development, assuming the bill to be agreed to, is £1,750,000. This bill makes provision for £500,000, to be spent on the construction of developmental roads, provided that the State Governments spend an equal amount, and, in addition, £250,000 as a contribution for the maintenance of main roads that, perhaps, are not developmental. The previous act and the regulations governing it are largely responsible for the amount of £400,000 at present unexpended. Honorable members know that applications for grants are made through the local governing bodies to the State Minister, whose recommendation is sent on to the Federal Minister. In my electorate, as in that of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) applications for many roads that should have been approved have been rejected. It would be a better policy for this Government to allot the money to the State Governments, who understand local conditions, and to give them the final say in the distribution of the grant. The local bodies would then deal direct with the State Government, and if an application were rejected they would know who was responsible. I believe there is a motion on the notice-paper in another place embodying this suggestion. Had such a system been in operation last year an amount of £400,000 would not now be outstanding. Generally speaking, the bill is hedged round too much with regulations. The large number of regulations attached to the grant is largely responsible for the neglect of some of the district or municipal councils to make application for it. Had the regulations been properly drawn up, and the act leniently interpreted, there would . have been no unexpended amount last year. Many applications for developmental roads have been rejected.
– By whom?
– It is difficult to say. If one body were responsible, the reason for the rejection of the application would be known. My electorate is divided by Spencer’s Gulf, and the people living on Eyre Peninsula are to all intents and purposes isolated from the mainland so far as transport facilities are concerned. They are at present dependent on the shipping service to the ports of Eyre Peninsula. I have frequently complained in this House of the high freights charged for transport, and the inadequate shipping service to the peninsula. It is almost impossible to travel by road around the top of the gulf. Persons wishing to take stock from Eyre Peninsula to Adelaide have to take them to Port Lincoln at the bottom end of the gulf, and ship them from there to Adelaide at exorbitant costs. The only alternative is to use an obsolete punt at Port Augusta, which is controlled by the municipal council there. Eyre Peninsula contains more undeveloped good country than any other part of Australia. The State Government is making provision for a water supply which will make available a large tract of undeveloped agricultural and pastoral country. What is urgently required is some means of transport. There has been an agitation for the construction of a bridge across the gulf at Port Augusta, and I. now ask the Minister to say whether he will agree to the construction of that bridge being brought within the province of this bill, so that the people may have this necessary facility.
– If the South Australian Government will declare the road leading to the proposed bridge a main road within the meaning of the act, the bridge will automatically become part of the main road, and 50 per cent. of its cost can be acquired as a
Commonwealth grant. If the State Government will take up that proposal, I shall see that it is carried out.
– I am glad to have that assurance from the Minister. The seasons in that part of the country are irregular, and it frequently happens that holders of stock are unable to get rid of them owing to the difficulties of transport. The construction of a bridge across the gulf at Port Augusta would certainly give these people some relief; and because of the definite promise made by the Minister, and the belief that I hold that the bridge will be built, I shall not now pursue the matter further nor place many matters before the House that I otherwise would. Before another bill such as this is brought before this Parliament, the Ministers concerned in the various States should confer with the Commonwealth Minister for Works and Railways with a view to bringing about a definite policy respecting road construction. The State authorities should be encouraged to construct permanent roads. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) spoke of macadam and other types of roads. I suggest . that the sides of metal roads should be levelled. An ordinary dirt road at the side of a metal road would be used by motor traffic for at least three-quarters of the year. At present motor cars cannot use the sides of the road owing to their unevenness, and consequently the binding is torn off, and the road is eventually ruined. I hope the Minister will be guided by the suggestions that have been made during this debate, and that he will see that there is more co-ordination between the State and Commonwealth authorities. I trust that a large sum will be spent next year to put all the roads into good order. Once that is done the maintenance will not be costly. It would be a far better policy to spend a large amount to put all the roads into a good condition and afterwards to maintain them, than to continue spending small amounts each year in tinkering with the problem as we have been doing during the last three rears.
.- I support the bill. I believe the Government is endeavouring to improve our means of transportation. Without good roads it is impossible to develop our country. We all know that motor lorries are competing with the railways inmany districts. One of the regulations under which the Federal main roads grant must be spent provides that it shall notbe expended on roads which are used by motor cars to compete with our railway systems. I consider that the practice of motor lorries competing with railways for short distances will increase rather than diminish. Tasmania has not been able to spend more than between £2,000 and £3,000 of the road grant of £50,000 allocated to her. The regulations governing the expenditure of the money are quite unsuitable to her conditions. They may suit the States on the mainland, where many miles of roads are only formed but not made. In Tasmaniawe have 7,000 miles of macadamized roads. Our climatic conditions make merely formed roads impossible. Macadam must be used. In our State, if a man takes up 100 acres of land the Governmentmakes a macadamized road for him. I admit that only light metal is used, but it is necessary to enable the producer to get his goods to the markets. The Federal grant is called a main roads grant. That is a misnomer so far as Tasmania is concerned. I consider it an inaccurate name for the grant in any case, for the money must be spent on developmental works. Many roads in Tasmania have been constructed for as long as 70 years. Motor jorries and cars were not thought of when they were made, and they are unsuitable for such traffic. In. these circumstances we contend that we are justified in asking that those roads shall be treated as unmade so far as this grant is concerned. Tasmanian deputations have waited upon both the former Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) and the present Minister (Mr. Hill),and made the request that the regulations should be amended to meet Tasmanian conditions. We obtained no satisfaction whatever until the last deputation, when we were told by the Minister that although he could not do anything this year, he might be able to do something next year. If he can do something next year, he can do it this year.
– We are doing something.
– Well, I have not heard what it is.
– Sixty per cent. of the money granted to Tasmania has been either expended or committed.
– The Minister himself told us that only between £2,000 and £3,000 had been spent.
– The commitments now amount to 60 per cent. of the grant. The Government is providing £250,000 for the maintenance of main roads already constructed. Tasmania will have her proportion of that amount.
– There is not a single railway in my constituency, and the country is very hilly. Our people are taxed from ls. 4d. to ls.8d. in the £1 for road purposes. One of the regulations under which this money may be spent reads : -
Each of the following roads shall he deemed to bea main road for thepurposes of the Act:-
A main trunk road between important towns, either within a State, or between States where no railway communications exist, and which is necessary in assisting in the interchange of products, and increasing the range of markets; and
An existing arterial road which is required for the transport of products to any railway, river or port, and in respect of which the cost of construction is, owing to the nature of the country, and the lack of local material, suitable for road making, heyond the ordinary resources of the district through which the road passes.
Under it money ought to be available for making roads in my constituency,but the Tasmanian Minister for Lands has stated that none of the grant is available for road work anywhere, if metal is already on the road. Our roads, by reason of heavy motor traffic and old age, have been reduced to a shocking state. Surely, it is reasonable to ask that a proportion of this grant may be expended on them. The Minister has said’ that the State Governments have the right to say where and when the road grant shall be spent. I recognize that that is in accordance with the facts for another regulation governing the grant reads -
All necessary surveys shall be undertaken by the State constructing authority, and the cost of these, together with the cost of preparing plans and other preliminaries in connection with any proposals forwarded under the provisions of the act and these regulations shall be borne by the State constructing authority, and shall not be a charge against the amount contributed by the Commonwealth.
The State is responsible for supervising the work, and also for half the cost incurred. But the Commonwealth Government raises its proportion of the money from the people within the State. It cau obtain ready money from only two sources. It must get it by way of revenue or from loan. Our people contribute very heavily to the revenue through the Customs Department. It is really the excess customs revenue that the Government is making available for road work. Seeing that it makes the grant on the population and area basis, I submit that our people pay to the Government all. they get back from it. In these circumstances they ought to be allowed to decide the conditions under which it may be spent. I quite realize that the Government is able to say, “ You must spend the money according to our conditions, or we will not grant it to you.” I should deprecate such an attitude, but at the same time the money belongs to the people in the State. Tasmania has already made 7,000 miles of macadamized road.
– Main roads?
– I challenge the accuracy of that statement.
– The Minister may do so if he likes, but the fact remains that Tasmania has spent £5,300,000 in making 7,000 miles of macadamized roads. The whole of Australia has spent only £10,000,000. Tasmania has spent considerable sums in the construction of roads, but they were not made for motor traffic. It is, therefore, desired that some of this money may be used to remake roads which have been damaged by motor traffic.
– We are granting some money for that purpose.
– I understand that £12,500 is Tasmania’s share under the second schedule for reconditioning and strengthening main roads.
– That is to be spent on main roads within the meaning of the act.
– That is a different thing. I have received letters from almost every municipality in Tasmania complaining that they are not able to spend the money in the best interests of the State.
The Government of Tasmania is endeavouring to spend some of the money in making developmental roads, but as those roads are extensions of existing roads, from which very little revenue is derived, a great deal of the money will be lost-. The regulations provide that the roads made as the result of these advances shall be constructed by contract, but in Tasmania the greater portion of the work is being done by. day labour, much of it by men without experience. That state of affairs should not be permitted ; the work should be carried out in accordance with the regulations. At present in some instances money is being wasted because of the poor quality of the work. Many of the existing roads in Tasmania are so- narrow that it is difficult for two motor cars to pass on them. The Tasmanian Government has applied for permission to utilize a portion of these grants to widen such roads, but without success. Similarly, its attempts to obtain authority to expend some of the money in straightening out dangerous bends have failed. A short time ago two people were killed at one of these bends in my electorate. The State Government is endeavouring to make these dangerous places safe, and should bo able to utilize some of the Federal grunt for that purpose.
– The bill provides for the reconditioning of roads.
– That may be so, but we cannot get permission to use the money for that purpose. I feel sure that the Minister, who knows the conditions outback, will do his best for the people in the country districts, and have the regulations altered. Tasmania, which is confronted with difficulties peculiar to that State, would be relieved .to know that they were to be altered. Realizing the importance of roads to Australia, and the necessity for produce reaching the markets without delay, I support the bill.
– Like many other honorable members, I am thankful for the small mercies which this bill provides. My complaint is that the amount proposed to be spent on roads is altogether too .small. It could all be absorbed in my electorate a.nd still leave work undone. As it is well known that roads are necessary to the proper development of a country, not many will agree with the honorable mem ber for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) that thi6 is not a matter which concerns the Commonwealth. The honorable member raised a number of constitutional points, and endeavoured to show that the construction of roads was purely a State matter. If he advanced those arguments to the farmers of my electorate he would find that they were concerned, not about constitutional points, but about roads to carry their produce to market. Wo expenditure is more national in character than that incurred in the provision of roads. No honorable member will find fault with any Government for spending a great deal of money on developmental roads. The honorable member for Kooyong should keep his speeches on constitutional difficulties for city audiences, as he will find that the producers in the country have no sympathy with his views. They believe that the Federal Government is entitled to assist them in conveying their produce to the railway station. I rose particularly to plead the cause of those settlers whose requests for grants have been consistently refused. While I do not wholly share the view of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) that this money should be handed to the State authorities, to be used as they may decide, I think that there is something in his complaints.
– Instead of less supervision, there should be more.
– I do not entirely agree with the interjection of the honorable member. If the State authorities provide officers to report on a proposal, and those officers are of the opinion that it is a work which should be carried out, the Federal Government should hesitate before they veto that decision. I admit that the Federal authorities should have some supervision over the money provided by this Parliament, but complaints are made frequently that after the State authorities have decided that the work rightly comes within the scope of this legislation, the Federal authorities refuse to make funds available for the purpose.
– The Federal authorities seldom veto any proposal that comes within the scope of the act.
– Once the State authorities decide that a certain proposal is justified and conies within the scope of the act, the matter should end there.
– I should like the honorable member to give me particulars of the cases to which he refers.
– I shall do so. I have already written to the Minister regarding a case at Lockhart.
– Some check on the States must be kept.
– I. agree with that view. When the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) waa Minister for Works and. Railways, I suggested what I considered to be the proper limits of Federal interference in such matters, but he then said that the Federal Government would get itself into a sea of trouble if it interfered. The honorable member at that time was opposed to any interference by the Commonwealth Government in these matters, and contended that the Commonwealth should provide the money, and leave its expenditure to the States.
– Within the regulations.
– My contention is that the State should have the right to say what roads should receive attention, and that the Federal authorities, beyond seeing that the proposal came within the scope of the act, should hesitate before they vetoed the decision of the State. So far I have had no satisfactory explanation of why the Federal authorities ignored the recommendation of the State officers in regard to certain roads between Lockart and Albury. Certain applications from the Tumut and. Adelong and Tumbarumba districts also were rejected, either because they were received too late, or because money was not available. I urge the Minister, when the new grant is available, to give preference to applications such as these that have been rejected upon those grounds, but are otherwise acceptable. The HardenMurrumburrah district is another which has not had a fair deal, and I ask the Minister to have these applications reviewed. Another complaint I make against the administration is the too rigid interpretation of the term “ main roads.” Very often the departmental officers accept, as coming within that definition, only roads which run parallel with railway lines. Whilst such roads have their uses, I am more concerned with cross roads which serve as feeders for the railways, and as connecting links -between -the railways and the out-back country, where people are engaged in genuine pioneering work entirely removed from the facilities enjoyed by the people living in or near the towns. The settlers who are bearing the heat and burden of the day in remote districts are entitled to the most sympathetic consideration. Their lot has been greatly improved by the advent of the motor car, the provision of telephonic facilities, and the introduction of wireless broad-casting, but those advantages are seriously discounted by bad roads. The people out-back are the real producers and developers of the country, and the lime has come when steps must be taken to provide them with the greater facilities to which they are justly entitled. Telephones and wireless are valuable conveniences, but good developmental roads are an absolute essential, because they are the most effective means of correcting isolation. Although the Federal grant for main road purposes is a comparative innovation, everybody who understands the conditions out-back recognizes that much more must be done by the Government of the Commonwealth, no matter which party is in power, to give adequate means of access to the railway lines, so that produce may be transported easily and cheaply to the nearest markets. In reply to the objection raised by the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), I say that there is no work of greater national importance, and none more deserving of the sympathetic consideration of the House than the construction of roads. I am sure it was never the intention of Parliament that developmental roads should be excluded from these grants, and I think the word “ developmental “ might well be substituted for “ main.”
– There are three classes of roads - main, developmental, and arterial.
– Of the three, developmental roads are the most important, and I urge the Minister -to either amend the wording of the act or interpret it more liberally.
.- I cannot concur in the remarks of the honorable member for Kooyong regarding the unconstitutionality of this bill. The Federal Government of the United States of America, grants large sums of money to the States for expenditure upon main and Other roads. So far as I can ascertain, the American constitution gives no specific power to the Federal Government to make such grants; it does not give to the Centra] Government even that general monetary power, which is conferred by section 96 of the Australian Constitution, to assist necessitous States. I think it will be found that the grants by the Congress of the United States of America are made by virtue of the powers inherent in the Federal legislature. In all countries the tendency has been to widen rather than narrow the scope and power of the federal legislature, and having regard to its inherent powers under the Constitution, this Parliament is not taking any questionable action in making these grants to the States for the construction pf roads. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has rightly reminded us that adequate means of communication are of the utmost importance to the people in the back-blocks, and are, indeed, essential to settlement.. That being so, the construction of main roads is more than a parochial concern ; it is a national necessity, and as such may very properly receive attention from this Parliament. The manner in which these grants are being made at the present time, however, does not satisfy me. Much more must be done. This debate has shown the need for a clear and defined policy to be evolved by the Commonwealth and States in consultation. The system of Commonwealth assistance in the construction of main roads must be permanent if it is to do lasting good. At the present time there is no assurance of continuity, and the very fact that the two previous grants, and the one now proposed, are chargeable to surpluses already realized, instead of being made from ordinary revenue, in accordance with the settled policy of the Government, emphasizes that insecurity. Although the Minister has told the State Governments that they may continue expenditure upon main roads in anticipation of Commonwealth assistance on the basis of last year’s expenditure, it is difficult for any authority to undertake large works involving the expenditure of many thousands of pounds and extending over many months, and perhaps years, unless it is assured that the help which is available when the work is commenced will be forthcoming for its continuance and completion. There are places where roads are very necessary, but their construction would be so expensive that both the shire councils and the State Governments are reluctant to commence them in the absence of any certainty that Commonwealth help will continue to be available. The absence of a guarantee of continuity militates against the success of the Commonwealth main roads policy. The restrictions imposed by the Federal authorities have aroused some complaint, but there must be some regulation of these grants and their limitation to main, developmental, and arterial roads is sound. While we adhere to that restriction we shall be on firm ground ; if we depart from it we may experience trouble.
Many municipal and shire councils have complained of their inability to collect rates from defence properties. In some very poor shires and municipalities there are roads which are used almost exclusively for defence purposes, and I would like to see provision made by which the Federal Government bears its fair proportion of the cost of their upkeep. It has been urged that to make such a provision in a bill of this character would be equivalent to giving with one hand and taking away with the other. Yet the obligation cast upon the local authority of providing and maintaining roads almost . exclusively for defence traffic, without being able to collect any rates in respect of the properties they serve, is a very real grievance, and should be redressed. I know there is another side to the question, because I remember that during the war the Defence Department built a very fine macadamized road, for a distance of, I think, 6 miles, from Seymour to the Seymour Camp, on the understanding that the local shire council would keep it in order after it was constructed. So far as I could learn when I was in the Department, nothing was done on that road from the time it was constructed up to the time the local authority asked for further assistance to keep it in order. I welcome the proposal in this bill for a grant of £250,000 for the purpose of reconditioning and strengthening existing main roads. Tasmania is not unique in the possession of roads constructed many years agowhich have fallen into such a state of disrepair as to need reconstruction. There are roads in my electorate that are over 100 years old. Others were formed 80 or 90 years ago, and are now practically impassable. There is one road over which a very celebrated Australian artist travelled, and to which he refers in a beautifully illustrated little book which is to be found in the Parliamentary Library; I refer to the old Cow Pastures-road from Parramatta to Camden. A centennial celebration was held in the district not long ago, and at it there was a tableau representing the old people who lived in the district 100 years ago, and amongst them Governor Macquarie. The then Premier of New South Wales was present at the celebration, and, facetiously, said to the gentleman who represented Governor Macquarie, “I suppose you see very great changes here now “ ; but he met with the reply, “ Well, I do not think that anything has been done to our road since I left.” The proposed vote will assist local authorities to improve the condition of roads formed in the old days. As I have already mentioned, I believe that if some understanding could be arrived at between the Commonwealth and the State Government for the carrying out of a continuous policy, this Parliament could afford to make a very much larger grant to the States for road construction than it is being asked to make at the present time.
.- My objection to the bill is that its terms are not sufficiently generous. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) that there should be continuity in our policy of national roadmaking, and that is not provided for in this measure. I understand that on the 12th February last the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) said he intended to place before the Cabinet a proposal that £5,000,000 should be granted, extending over a term of five years, or £1,000,000 a year, so that the States would be in a position to set out a programme of works extending over that period. I should like to know how it is that the Minister has not carried into effect the promise he made to the National Roads Association of Australia.
– The Cabinet is still considering the matter.
– Whilst the Cabinet is considering it the condition of the roads is going from bad to worse, and they are becoming more unfitted for the modern means of transport.
– The Government is now proposing a grant of £750,000.
– That is so, but that amount is insufficient, and I hope the Minister will consult the Cabinet, and live up to the promise he made in February last to grant £5,000,000 over a period of five years.
– I never made any such promise.
– I hand to the Minister the official communication I have received from the National Roads Association.
– I do not need to see it. I deny making any such statement.
– I accept the honorable gentleman’s assurance, but as the honorable gentleman may see, the organization to which I have referred has communicated to public men what purports to be a statement expressed in his own words. Even if the Minister did not make the promise attributed to him, let me say that it embodies a very good suggestion. There should be continuity of policy in making provision for the construction and maintenance of our national roads. The present practice, with its uncertainty as to the amount available for the purpose of road construction, will not assist in the determination of a progressive policy of road-making for Australia. The work is now beyond the powers of municipal and district councils, it is becoming beyond the powers of the State Governments to perform, and it is essential that the Commonwealth should recognize the part it must play in making adequate provision for the construction and maintenance of national highways. The old macadamized roads no longer serve the purpose. Something of a more permanent character is required to meet the needs of motor transport, particularly to enable residents of isolated districts to market their produce.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– The road problem is becoming increasingly difficult, and, consequently, a more generous attitude should be adopted by the Commonwealth Government in the provision of road grants. The present methods of road construction do not lend themselves to efficiency and economy. The shire councils and municipalities adopt various methods of road construction, and as the Commonwealth Government is now taking a part in this national work, it should be prepared to advise the local governing bodies respecting the best methods of road construction, which has now become a highly specialized undertaking. It would, perhaps, be advisable to establish a technical branch, consisting of experts, whose services would be made available to local governing bodies. I suggest to the Minister that he might well refer the road making problem to the Institute’ of Science and Industry as re-constituted. Much of the Commonwealth grant is misspent because of faulty construction of roads, and the provision of inadequate drainage. I have seen many a good roadway almost ruined through bad- drainage. In a continent of great distances such as Australia, the road problem is of first importance. It has a close relation with the question of defence. Road transport will, in the hour of emergency or aggression, be one of the main factors in helping or hindering us, and from that stand-point alone it is essential that a permanent and efficient form of roadmaking should be undertaken. Bridge construction should also be considered part of the scheme for developmental roads. Crossing the border between New South “Wales and Victoria, together with the one crossing the border between Victoria and South Australia, is a roadway which is known as no man’s land. No one seems to accept the responsibility for its maintenance. These roads are in a bad state of repair, and require immediate attention, and I hope that the Commonwealth Government will be sufficiently broad-minded and national in ite outlook to impress upon the local governing bodies the necessity for keeping in effective repair all main roads that lead from one State to another. It is generally recognized that the nearer to the metropolitan area, the better is the class of roadway, but this is not always the case. Even in my own electorate are roadways that could be considerably improved. The main arterial roadway in South Australia runs from the Outer Harbour to Port Adelaide, and over it is carried much of the merchandise and pro duce for the whole of the State. It seems unjust that the people of Port Adelaide should be taxed in order to maintain that roadway, which rightly should be the joint responsibility of the State and the nation. Road making is essentially a national question, and is getting beyond the powers of local governing bodies. A certain municipality in my district had the foresight to construct permanent roadways, and is deserving of every assistance and encouragement. I regret that my representations made recently on their behalf were not favourably received by the Commonwealth Government. We should have a continuous policy of road making, extending over a period of three or five years.
– A period of five years would be preferable.
– I prefer three years. A Government that is elected for three years has no right to commit this country to a definite policy of road construction, which a succeeding Government might consider to be totally inadequate. The present practice of making grants for one year only, and giving the States no assurance of what will be the grant for the succeeding year, does not permit of the adoption of a uniform policy of road construction. Unless foresight is exercised we cannot have either efficiency or economy in our road construction. Road making must necessarily become more important in Australia. I believe that ultimately we shall need Ministers for Roads just as we need Ministers for Railways. Although roadways can never confer such great advantages on our people as railways, they are nevertheless most necessary to our community life. Generosity on the part of the Government in making this grant will be appreciated everywhere. If we have good roads our visitors will undoubtedly appreciate our country more. Our producers will be able, particularly in times of adversity, to get their produce to market with less expense and worry, and altogether the community will benefit. I request the Government to increase the proposed vote with a view to making possible a continuous road policy on the part of the State and local governing authority. This must necessarily be beneficial to the Commonwealth as a whole. ,
.- Tasmania has been sneered at because of her roads and the manner in which she has constructed them, but that State’s policy of road construction is a credit to her and an example to all the States on the mainland. We realized that when we put men on the land it was essential to provide them with roads. We were not prepared to allow our primary producers to plough through slush, and slime ti) reach their markets. The authorities on the mainland, however, were prepared to do so. We have borrowed about £5,000,000 in all to make roads. Tasmania recognized that public prosperity is like unto a tree - agriculture is its roots, and industry and commerce are its branches and its leaves. If the roots are not nourished the leaves fall, the branches wither, and the tree dies. Therefore the State mortgaged herself to provide roads for her producers. Now, at the eleventh hour, the Commonwealth Government is providing money f or road making, and we are denied our share of it for the simple reason that while in the years gone by we spent our capital on road construction the States on the mainland did not. That is not right. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) stated that some roads on the mainland cost £12,000 a mile to construct. We built our roads in Tasmania for £1,200 a mile.
– With money that was borrowed from the mainland.
– Nothing of the kind. You on the mainland sold your birth right. Instead of putting the proceeds from the sale of your land into roads you put it into revenue and spent it in other directions. We in Tasmania did what was right. We have encumbered ourselves to the extent of £25 per head of the population for road construction, and now the Commonwealth Government tells us that we have lost our opportunity ‘of participating in this grant. Are we to be the Cinderella State of the southern seas - to be looked down upon and denied our rights? The worm will turu. We shall turn before long, if we do not get justice, as sure as my name is Whitsitt. The heavens may fall before this Federation breaks, but we will get justice for Tasmania, even if it means our withdrawal from it. Apparently we may pay, pay, pay; but we can get nothing in return. That is what is worrying me. I hope that whoever succeeds me as member for Darwin in this chamber will be able to make a better plea for Tasmania than I have been able to make. If he does not, I do not know what the result will be. We have mountainous country, basaltic soil, a wet climate, and other difficulties to contend with in our road work. Our pioneers, who “lived laborious days,” tackled the impenetrable jungle, the home of the wombat and the wallaby - had very often to take their winter supplies with them and remain for three months of the year in isolation because of the impassibility of the roads. Every one of them deserved a gold medal for what he did and endured. Yet honorable members -in this chamber slight Tasmania. Shame on them ! Not one of us has half the vitality or endurance of the pioneers, who converted the bush from what it was then to what it is now.
– This bill does not deal with pioneers.
– Let me say, pioneers so far as road construction is concerned, sir. These men have actually done what I have described. They might have become web-footed had they remained long enough in the slush of that soil. The law of evolution might have turned them into ducks. I want the Government to realize the actual position, and to make special conditions for Tasmania. I want them to say, “ Seeing that the average expenditure of the States on the mainland for main road making is £6,000 or £’7,000 a mile, and that of Tasmania, is only £1,200 a mile, we are willing to make Tasmania’s grant up to the average expenditure of the other States.” That would be the fair thing. It would do justice to Tasmania. In the past the grant has been made under such conditions that Tasmania has not been able to take advantage of it. Our population is small, and cannot bear the expense of constructing tip-top, luxurious roads. We have had to be content with macadamized roads, which we have been able to construct and maintain. To do even that we have had to tax ourselves to the extent of ls. 6d. or ls. 8d. in the pound. Now we say that, as the other States are obtaining from the Commonwealth Government large grants for road work we ought not to be cut out because, in the past, we did work of that description.’ I liken the position to the building of a railway. In the early days a railway is often constructed with 40-lb. rails. Later on the traffic makes 60-lb. rails necessary, and additional capital expenditure is involved in the conversion. The difference between .the cost of the 40-lb. and 60-lb. rails is a legitimate charge to the capital account. I contend that the same principle ought to be applied to our roads. If it is, Tasmania will obtain justice.
experience. The fact of the matter is, that the shire councils are not able to maintain them. The advent of the motor has tremendously increased road maintenance problems. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) this afternoon by interjection promised a number of honorable members many things, but I do not think he has it in his power to fulfil his promises. Of course all proposals for road construction, for which this grant will be used, must be approved by the Minister, but his approval is only a formal matter. It must necessarily be so, for it cannot be expected that he has a detailed knowledge of the requirements of all the States. He must depend upon the advice of the State officers. The main roads development grant is misnamed, for many main roads and feeders to them do not come within its provisions. In the back country of New South Wales - I speak of it because I know it bes!; - many of the roads are in a dangerous condition. I have in mind those that lead out from the railway terminal town of Crookwell. People have to travel up to 70 miles from it by road, using horses, bullocks, or motors as their means of conveyance. The shire in that locality cannot be expected to> maintain the roads. I refer also to the road from Goul burn through Tallong, to the coast. This road has been surveyed, and it ha3 been demonstrated that the route is a practicable one. If a road were constructed from Nowra, the present terminus of the railway, to Jervis Bay - this country is not in my electorate - besides serving a large area of- useful country, it would tend towards decentralization. Beyond the railway terminus there is a stretch of country which is practically no man’s land, containing a number of farms which have been deserted because of the impossible conditions under which settlers were asked to live there, and its distance from a market.
– That matter is now under consideration by the New South Wales Government.
– In that. case, something may be done. To call the road from Sydney to the Victorian border the Prince’s Highway is no ,’OIl]pliment to the Prince of Wales. Some time ago I travelled over the whole length of that road, and along portions of it I expected at almost every 100 yards that there would soon be a byehection for Werriwa. The road was full of holes, notwithstanding that excellent granite was available within a short distance on either side. I agree with the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) that none of this money should, bc expended on roads which run parallel with, railways, but that preference should be given to the outlying areas where, the producers have no railway communication. At present the best roads seem to be in the vicinity of the railways, whereas in those portions of the country where the population, is scattered there ar« few good roads. Apparently, the authorities seem to care little for the interests of the out-back settlers. The amount set out in this bill is altogether too small to provide the necessary roads. I should like the Government to bring forward a proposal for the expenditure of £3,000,000 for this purpose. I hope that not only will the Government decide to increase the amount, but that once the money is voted it will be spent.
– The unexpended amount is carried over.
– It should be spent.
– The honorable member must realize that it took sometime for the new policy to get into operation.
– The Commonwealth should inform the States that unless they use the money they will forfeit it. They would then see that it was expended or at least act more quickly. If any member representing a country constituency in New South Wales had been given charge of the money, it would have been spent. By carrying over such huge sums each year we are only tinkering with an important matter. I hope that if the Government of New South Wales gives favorable consideration to the construction of the road from Goulburn through Tallong to Nowra, it will be treated as a main or developmental road under this bill, and be entitled to a portion of this money. If that road were built, it would not only be of great advantage to the people in the vicinity, but it would open up one of the most beautiful tourists’ resorts in New South Wales.
.- While not opposing this bill, for the reason that I look upon it as an improvement on previous legislation of a similar character in that it provides an additional £250,000 for the maintenance of roads already constructed, I regret that the amount has not been increased to £l,000,000 per annum, and that that sum has not been made available for a period of at least five years. I have had many years’ experience as a shire councillor, and know that it is impossible to make good roads when uncertainty exists regarding the amount which will be made available in future years. Thathas been the trouble with previous legislation of this character. In connexion with road-making, it is absolutely essential that an amount of money should be set aside in advance so that the work can be planned ahead until the whole road is completed. This class of legislation was originally introduced to assist the development of new settlements. Cases have come under my notice in which the local board has been unable to obtain grants for the construction of the necessary bridges over creeks. In one instance I was successful in getting the decision reversed, but failed in the other case which I took up. Honorable members will realize that it is useless to construct a road on both sides of a creek if no bridge is provided to cross the creek itself. I hope that that policy will not be louger continued, but that future grants will include provision for the necessary bridges. I hope also that a definite sum will be made available for a number of years, so that the work may be planned in advance and carried out in a business-like way. I disagree with the contention of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) that there is no justification for the Federal Government providing sums of money for this purpose for a period of years. The honorable member said that the revenue derivable in the future from Customs and other sources might become less, but I would remind him that for the year 1923-4 the Customs duties on motor cars, motor parts, and oil for motors amounted to £2,121,000. There appears to be no likelihood of the diminution of motor traffic, and it is probable that that amount will increase in succeeding years. If the money derived from that source, or even £1,000,000 of it were spent on our roads, we shall not be doing more than a fair thing, because we have such an enormous area of untenantedland which can be settled only by the construction of suitable roads. Mention has been made of the fact that £400,000 of this grant was not expended last year. It is probable, however, that a great deal of that sum was allotted. So far as Queensland is concerned, I knowthat a great deal more than the sum allocated was applied for, but at the end of the year no definite decision regarding the applications had been arrived at. For that reason the expenditure of the money was held up.
– The State Governments had to provide for the expenditure of a sum of money that was unexpectedly made available.
– If the Minister will give some assurance as to the continuity of this policy there will be no difficulty in regard to the expenditure of the money in future. The experience that the State Governments and roads boards have had has impressed upon them the necessity for bestirring themselves to expend the money as it is made available by the Commonwealth. I hope that the Minister will do all in his power to improve the policy he has enunciated by making the grants continuous. Such action will, I am sure, be acceptable to all the States.
– I do not desire to cross swords with the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) regarding the constitutionality of grants by the Federal Parliament for the construction of roads in State territory. With all due respect to the legal knowledge of the honorable member, if I were a member of the Ministry I should have no apprehensions or doubts about the propriety of this policy. Money is voted by this Parliament for many different purposes, the constitutionality of which is equally open to challenge. The Australian Constitution resembles very closely that of the United States of America, and I find that for the seven years ended 30th June, 1923, £82,000,000 was spent in America upon road construction. Of that amount the Federal Government contributed £35,000,000. In the following year the total was increased to £102,000,000, of which the Federal Government contributed £45,000,000, whilst for the year ended 30th June, 1925, the Federal Government was contributing another £15,000,000. At least a corresponding amount would be provided by the States, and it is safe to estimate that between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000 is being expended this year by the Federal and State Governments in conjunction, under what is known as the Federal Aid Highway System Act. lt is clear that the American Congress realizes the value of road construction, and does not hesitate to make money available for the purpose. We are told that this expenditure should be restricted to main roads or military roads. The military authorities may declare a certain thoroughfare to be a military road, but probably during war operations many other roads would be used for military purposes. Therefore, the more roads throughout the Commonwealth that are kept in good repair, the better prepared shall we be for the defence of our country. During the Great War motor vehicles were used extensively in France and Belgium, for the transport of both men and provisions, and but for the good roads the troops of the Allies would have suffered heavily. We may justly regard any vote by the Federal Parliament for the construction of roads as a contribution towards the defence of Australia. I understand that these grants are applied exclusively to the construction of country roads. Is any of the money expended within the metropolitan area ?
– I do not know of any.
– Within my electorate are the two cities of Footscray and Essendon, through which pass four of the five principal arterial roads between Melbourne and the country. For some miles the main road to Ballarat and Geelong runs through the city of Footscray.
– It is in very bad repair.
– Generally speaking, there are as many potholes in roads within the metropolitan area as in any country road.
– There are country districts without any roads.
– I admit that, and I understand that the Prime Minister had a painful experience of country roads when motoring in Gippsland recently. Although I represent a city constituency I sympathize with the people living outback who are wholly dependent upon roads for means of access to the towns and railways. People in the metropolitan area have the advantage of tramways and railways. In respect of some metropolitan roads upon which there has been a considerable amount of cartage from outlying districts theGovernment has come to the assistance of the municipalities through which the roads passed. The main Sydney road and the Bendigo road pass through the City of Essendon.
– Those roads bring a lot of trade to the city.
– But the through traffic does great damage to roads within the city boundaries. Through Essendon and Footscray passes the motor traffic to Geelong, Ballarat, the North-Eastern District, the Goulburn Valley, and Bendigo. The only main arterial road to the metropolis that does not run through either of those cities is that to Gippsland.
– In my electorate there are more miles of some of those roads than there are chains of them in the electorate of Maribyrnong.
– I admit that, and probably the road between the railway gates at Footscray West and Geelong is superior to the portion between the railway gates and Melbourne. I approve of the principle contained in the bill, and I would vote for a grant of £1,500,000, even if the whole of it were to be expended in the country, districts. Considerable complaint has been made regarding the failure of the States to expend the amount made available by the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Swan has said, by interjection, that because the system was a,n innovation some of the States were caught unprepared, and could not in the time available make provision for the expenditure of the money. Honorable members will, I think, admit that Victoria, by means of its excellent Country Roads Board organization, was in a better position to take advantage of the Federal grant than any other State. Consequently not much of the Victorian quota was unexpended at the end of the last, financial year. As a former municipal councillor, I have taken a keen interest in methods of road construction. Some Government and shire engineers build their roads too flat, with the result that they do not last long. The Country Roads Board has set a fine example by constructing roads with a good crown. That body is composed of able civil engineers - one of them, in particular, ranks amongst the best road constructors in Australia. He gained his first experience in some of the shires, and then passed into the Public Works Department. He is still a young man. and as a member of the Country Roads Board is giving excellent service to Australia. A better organizer than the chairman of the board, Mr. Calder, no one could wish for. The Minister, in the course of his speech, emphasized the importance of the maintenance of roads. The ordinary macadamized road will not withstand modern motor traffic, and the Commonwealth Government should insist, through its engineers, that roads upon which Federal money is expended shall be soundly constructed, well crowned, and top dressed with tar. The honorable member for Kooyong expressed some doubt as to whether the Federal Government would always be able to give this assistance to the States. In the last two years the Federal surpluses have amounted to nearly £8,000,000, and some of the money is now being given back to the States in this way. I agree with those who have advocated the preparation of a comprehensive construction pro- gramme spread over a number of years. That principle should be adopted in connexion with all public works. We should make our plan for works over a series of years. By doing so it would be possible to save a great deal of money. The Victorian Roads Board has asked the State Government to outline a policy of road construction for five or seven years, and I understand that the State Government has determined upon a certain minimum expenditure over such a period. The Federal Government should do the same. We must take the risk of our revenue being sufficient for the purpose. I have explained that the Federal Government of the United States of America has been contributing for some years to a system of road construction, and those who have travelled the roads of that country tell me that they are the finest in the world. I heartily approve of the bill, but I express with other honorable members my regret that the amount of the proposed grant is not larger than it is. I hope that our revenue will permit of the making of a larger grant in> the future, because nothing is better calculated to develop the Commonwealth than is the provision of good roads forour settlers.
– I very much regret that there is a rift inthe lute; that the general satisfactionwith this bill which has been expressed’ is accompanied with complaint. I am sorry that a policy which is approved’ by most members of this Parliament, and* I think by the people generally, should have been so strongly objected to by thehonorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham). He seems to think there issomething unconstitutional in this measure. If the honorable gentleman is right, then there have been many grants madeby this Parliament in the past that wereunconstitutional. If honorable memberswill study the Constitution, they will find that under it assistance may be given tothe States on such terms as this Parliament thinks fit. The honorable memberfor Kooyong regarded the matter from a. very parochial point of view. Apparently he would not mind assistance being given for the construction of a new road from here to Sydney. That, no doubt, would be very satisfactory to motorists, but thereasons which actuated the Government in bringing forward this policy of Commonwealth assistance for main road construction are exactly similar to those which- actuated the Government of the United States of America when it adopted the same policy shortly after the war. It came to the conclusion that the construction of developmental roads would increase settlement, increase production, and decrease the cost of living. ‘ The figures quoted by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) show how the. policy has developed in the United States of America. I have been pleased to hear honorable members opposite endorsing this policy, and I should like to see it extended. It should be definitely continued over a period of years. There have been complaints that large sums of money have been left unexpended from these grants at the end of each financial year. But we must recognize that when the Commonwealth Government submits a proposal to advance £500,000 to the States under the conditions attaching to these main road grants, the State Governments must make their arrangements for the expenditure they have to meet. No State Government could be expected to submit in the middle of a session a policy for the expenditure of £200,000 or £300,000 on road construction. Their financial obligations render it necessary that they should have ample time for considering such proposals. Under the conditions upon which these grants are ‘made, applications have to be received, the State Minister for Works must have proper surveys made of the roads to be constructed, and, having come to the conclusion as to the best way in which the money available can be expended, he has to send his recommendations to the Federal Minister for his approval before a start can be made with the works. In the circumstances there is no occasion to reflect upon any Government for an delay that may have taken place in the expenditure of these grants. The proposal to’ put the amount available to each State to a trust account is a very good one. Under this arrangement the State Governments will know that money unexpended at the close of one financial vear will be available for the next year. Contracts for road construction and promises of road construction may have been made by a State Government in March, April, or May, and it is impossible for the expenditure upon such works to take place during the remainder of the financial year. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that there should be a carry over from year to year of moneys promised for road construction. If a State Government is not availing itself of the opportunity to carry out a reasonable construction policy under this measure, the Federal Minister for Works and Railways can ta-ke such action as may be necessary. The bill provides for this, and should tend to more speedy construction than has taken place in the past. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) suggested that the construction of developmental roads might obviate the necessity for railway construction. That might be so in some districts, but it would not apply to wheat-growing areas from which the traffic to markets is very heavy. Railways will still be necessary in such areas. There is room for the construction of a large number of developmental roads as feeders to railways. I join issue to some extent with the honorable member for Maribyrnong as to the method of construction to be adopted. If only the best macadamized and tarred roads are to be constructed, the cost may run up to £6,000 per mile.. What is chiefly required is the construction of developmental roads which will afford settlers facilities for bringing their produce to market. That I take to be the main purpose of the bill. Whilst it may be wise in some places to construct first-class roads, I am satisfied that a poorer type of road would be quite satisfactory in many districts. I hope that the Minister will not insist upon high-grade roads being laid down in newly opened-up districts. I was pleased to hear the complaints of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) in connexion with the large expenditure which has taken , place in connexion with many of these works carried out by day labour in country districts in Western Australia. Day labour construction may be all very well where it is possible to have proper supervision. Where gangs of men have to be sent to places at an enormous distance from centres of population, construction by day labour may result in heavy loss. I have heard many complaints on this ground. Where there are responsible road boards, and the Minister is satisfied that they command the services of competent officers, they should be permitted to carry out these works without many of the conditions that are being imposed in some of the States. I do not blame the Western Australian Government - its predecessor was more responsible than the present Government in this connexion - for many of the complaints that have been made to me regarding the expenditure of these advances for road construction. The proposals submitted by many boards were approved, but the money to carry them out was never made available. It was unjust that they should be promised the advances for which they applied, and should then have been left waiting for the money where official approval for the construction of a road has been obtained, the money should be expended on this work, and not diverted elsewhere. There is provision, in this bill for the advance of £250,000 for the reconditioning of old roads, and the Commonwealth Minister for Works and Railways may provide the whole of the money for this purpose. I do not quite concur in’ this proposal. I believe that the State and local authorities concerned should contribute some portion of the expenditure for the reconditioning of roads..
– That would cut Tasmania out of the grant altogether.
– I do not think so. Seventy-five per cent of the cost might be provided by the Commonwealth, and that would be sufficient. I do not say that the proposal is wrong, but it does not appeal to me that the Commonwealth Government should provide the whole of the cost of reconditioning old roads, when if a new road is being constructed the local authority or the State is required to orovide £1 for £1 of the expenditure necessary. The matter is one which may be dealt with in committee, and the Minister in charge of the bill would be warranted in insisting that some proportion of the expenditure upon the reconditioning’ of roads should be borne by the States concerned. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) said it would be unfair for any government to commit a future Parliament in these matters, but I remind him that this was done in connexion with the per capita payments to the States. It is within the province of a new Parliament to repeal what it considers to be unjust legislation.
– Its action would be’ described as repudiation.
– Any Parliament is justified in repealing legislation which it does not believe to be wise. This Par liament agreed that the per capita payments should be made to the States for ten years continuously, or until Parliament otherwise provided. Under a continuous policy we should be justified in asking a State to make provision in ite budget statement for the amount of money that it would require to be expended £1 for £1 with the Federal grant.
– The per capita payment is a, repayment to the State for something that it has previously foregone.
– The main road grants is a repayment to the States of money taken from the people through taxation. The per capita payment is made to the States with no condition as to its expenditure, but the main roads grant is made to the States under such terms and conditions as we think fit. The; adoption of a continuous policy for a period of three years would enable the States to make their financial arrangements ahead, and to carry out a satisfactory programme of works. Under such a policy we would not hear the. complaintsthat we have heard to-night about the amount of money remaining unexpended.
– Does the honorable member favour a continuous policy for threeyears ?
– Instead of having a policy brought down from year to year as at present, it should be definitely fixed for three years. ‘ Even if we onlyhad a statement from the Government that it would endeavour to make the grant available for three years, it would enable the State Governments to make provision for their share of the money. I look upon thepolicy of main roads development as one of the best ever initiated in Australia. It is impossible to imagine the great valuethat must accrue from the construction of developmental roads. We are opening up a large area of new country, and it isessential that we should give to thosepeople who have the courage to settle in the back country under adverse conditions, every possible means of getting their produce to market. Large impostsare placed on the people through the tariff, and something should be done toenable them to take their produce to market, and to live under progressive and prosperous conditions. I am pleased that the Minister has introduced the bill, and I hope that we shall have something definite in the nature of a promise that these main road grants will be continued for at least three years.
– Many of the statements by honorable members about metal roads were delightfully vague. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) said that it was essential that good roads should run to the railways and to some of the main centres. He said nothing about- the settlers in the back country, who cannot get good roads. Where is the guarantee that if the shire, councils expend their own taxes for the construction of roads, the Federal Government will continue the grant ? Last year large sums of money were expended on roads on the understanding that the State Government would contribute to the cost. In one case £28,000 was granted for a road from an important farming centre to a seaport. This road was to be constructed to enable the settlers to get butter, cheese, and other produce to market, and to open up new country. What happened? The grant of £28,000 was sent to the State Minister, and he promptly turned the proposal down. I approached him, and wanted to know where the grant had gone. He said that he did not know, except that it had been expended on some other road. I discovered by close search that it had been expended on a road in the Minister’s own electorate. That shows how necessary it is that we should place on a sound footing any proposal for the construction of new roads. I am surprised at honorable members representing small constituences in small States such as Tasmania-
– The honorable member knows nothing about Tasmania.
– The honorable member thinks that Tasmania is the only place in the world. ‘ I know something about Tasmania, or at any rate about its roads. I am surprised that the honorable member is satisfied with the roads in Tasmania. New South Wales has done very well in its expenditure on roads. In my electorate, such places as Bega and Moruya, which are dairying districts, are purely entitled to a portion of the Federal surplus for road construction purposes. The settlers do not nsk for macadamised roads. They have subdued the wilderness, established their homes, and sent their produce to markets, and they are entitled to get the best road that can be constructed for the money; and the maintenance of the road for a certain number of years if the surplus can stand, it. We know very well that we cannot get roads unless the Commonwealth Government has a surplus. There is an 0J£i but true saying, “ You cannot get blood from a stone.” Shire councillors get no profit or reward for the work they carry out. They meet once or twice a fortnight to consider the question of costs and the best methods of expenditure on roads. They are surely entitled to some consideration. I cannot understand the attitude of those who are satisfied with the country roads boards, which have no expert knowledge respecting the construction of roads. The shire councillors who have battled all their lives with hard roads, and who get no pay for the work they carry out for the good of the district, should receive some grant to enable them to construct roads. Why should the moneys be handed over to the State Government, and then to the roads board ? I have already given an illustration of what happened to the grant of £28,000 that was obtained to construct a road from Bega to Tathra, which would have given the settlers a market for their butter and cheese. Surely, these people are entitled to consideration. I am concerned, not with roads suitable for motor cars or main roads, but with what I call farmers’ roads. We should give the farmers the help they need, for they are the backbone of the country. Decent roads are necessary for proper agricultural development. The farmers are not asking for concrete or asphalted speedways, but simply for wellmade ordinary roads that will stand up to reasonable traffic. I am absolutely opposed to the adoption of any policy that will place the Federal authority which administers this act at the beck and call of the State Ministers. I have had some experience of -that, and I do not desire any other Minister to suffer it. There is an old saying that he who pays the piper shall call the tune. I believe in that. The Commmonwealth Government is not conferring a great favour on the people by making money available for road construction, for, after all, the people pay the taxes from which this money will come. The man on the soil, particularly, is only getting his due when this money is spent in providing him with reasonably good roads. I was amazed to learn that only £2,000 or £3,000 of the money previously granted had been spent in Tasmania.
– Tasmania has been allocated her proper proportion, but has not been able to spend it.
– If the Tasmanian Government will make it available to the shire council in EdenMonaro, they will spend it and get good value for the money. I cannot understand why the money has not been spent. Plenty of people are looking for work, and plenty of roads need making. The provision of better roads will lee.d to an increase in the productivity of the land. The farmers will be able to give more time to growing their produce, for they will not need to give so much to its transportation to markets. “We have the money and we need the roads. Let us, therefore, adopt a practical, commonsense policy. Many of the coastal districts of New South Wales will eagerly spend all the money that the Government will make available to them for road purposes. I object to giving the State Governments or the State Roads Boards too much authority in connexion with this grant. There is nothing like letting the people spend a bit of their own money in the way they deem best. It is idle to say it is either Commonwealth or State money, for it belongs to the people, and they are entitled to reasonable consideration.
:- As one who took some interest in the initiation of this policy, I am naturally concerned about its development. I wish to make a few observations, more upon the subject of a general roads policy than upon the bill itself. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) has been criticized because he introduced what the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) called a jarring note into the debate, but if, in his opinion as a lawyer, with a wide knowledge of constitutional matters, he believes that the measure conflicts with the Constitution, he is only doing his duty in saying so. Whether the bill strictly conforms with the Constitution or not, the fact is clear that honorable members on all sides of the chamber are unanimous in supporting it. It seems to me, therefore, that if there is a constitutional irregularity about it, the question is not whether we should abandon the policy, but whether we should make some effort to square it with the Constitution. The advent of the motor car has made a tremendous difference to outback life in Australia, but it has also created a tremendous problem for the local governing bodies responsible for the construction and maintenance of our roads. The problem is, in fact, too great for them to cope with. The State Governments have recognized this, for they have appointed roads boards to consider it. In the first year in which the Government initiated this policy there was no uniformity in the road administration machinery, if I may use that term, of the several States. I refer particularly to the difficulty created by the lack at that time of a. country roads board in New South Wales. The States are now recognizing the necessity for a permanent policy of road construction. The Federal Government has shown that it, also, is aware of the need. Such, a policy ought to provide for the maintenance, as well as the construction, of roads. Otherwise chaos must result. The claims of Tasmania in regard to road construction and maintenance have been ably placed before this Chamber by honorable members who come from . that State. Even when I was administering this legislation, representations had come to hand which indicated that the conditions in Tasmania were somewhat different from those of the mainland. If the people of Tasmania have spent considerable sums of borrowed money in the past in constructing roads, and are still paying’ interest on it, it seems to me that the Government would be justified in fixing some different basis upon which grants might be made. available to them. Certainly a complete inquiry into the position is warranted.
Reverting to the future policy of’ the Commonwealth in regard to road work, I advocate the constitution of a Federal roads board,’ comprised ‘ of representatives of the Commonwealth ‘ and all’ the States, in order that a continuous road developmental policy may be adopted, .Instead of providing money by the- present more or less haphazard methods, I con- sider that, in view of the insistent demands from country centres for road work, a permanent and settled method of providing it should be adopted. It has been requested by various country interests that the duties received through the Customs Department on motor ear importations, and also the revenue from State motor car taxation, should be ear-marked for road -making purposes. That is a matter that could be given close attention. A broad, general policy might . be formulated along those lines. If a Federal roads board were constituted it could fix the standard of road construction and provide for a continuous policy that would not be affected by political changes in either the Commonwealth or States. Experts could be appointed who would work harmoniously and continuously. I have been pleased with the unanimity of honorable members in dealing with this bill. The address of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) this afternoon was particularly gratifying. There is no doubt that road-making and maintaining is one of the big national problems of the day. Australia may rest assured, if one may judge from the speeches that have been made on this bill, that whatever political party may be in power a permanent policy of road development will be adopted. I am satisfied that the country people, especially those in the remote parts, appreciate this action of the Government, and will continue to show appreciation of any government which continues along similar lines.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat referred to the amount received by thi Commonwealth in Customs duties on motor cars and other vehicles. I have not the figures with me, but I believe that the amount is between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 a year. A portion of that money the Government intends to apply to road construction and maintenance. I am glad that the Federal Government, recognizing that the States and the municipalities are unable to meet the growing demands upon their revenue for the maintenance and construction of roads, has entered this field of activity, Those who have had any experience of municipal life know that there are many avenues for the expenditure of the revenue received by way of rates. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr.
Fenton) mentioned some of the richer municipalities in the metropolitan area. I have the honour to represent a constituency which includes the thickly-populated cities of Caulfield, Malvern, and Brighton, whose revenue each year runs into a considerable amount. But, notwithstanding the large amounts received as rates, these municipalities find it difficult to cope with the growing demands made upon them in connexion with their roads. The difficulty with both metropolitan municipalities and country towns and shires is that much of the traffic which passes over their roads comes from other districts. It mustbe evident to any one who travels in our country districts that the country towns and shires experience difficulty in obtaining sufficient money to maintain their roads in proper condition. The state of their roads is not due to a lack of enterprise on the part of shire councillors, most of whom,, I believe, are keenly interested in the development of their districts ; it is due solely to the lack of sufficient funds for the purpose. Within the last twelve months the Government of Victoria has increased very considerably the taxes payable in respect of motor cars-, the annual revenue now derived from that source being approximately £750,000. The owner of a motor car in Victoria who, twelve months ago, paid in taxation £5 per annum, is to-day required to pay £12 per annum. I am glad, however, that the greater portion of the £750,000 received by the Victorian Government from this source will be spent on the roads of the State, including £40,000 in the metropolitan area. The whole of the £750,000 could well be expended in maintaining the roads in good condition. Not only should those roads which carry heavy commercial traffic, and roads connecting the larger towns be considered, but some of the money should be expended to develop roads in tourist districts. Our greatestresponsibility in connexion with roads is to those who have gone into the outback areas as pioneers, and who have considerable difficulty in getting their produce to market. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) pointed out to-day that it sometimes costs a settler as much to convey his produce 14 miles by road as to send it 350 miles by rail. The honorable member said that motor transport is dearer than transport by rail, and while that may be so to-day. I believe that motor transport would be much cheaper if better roads were provided. This measure has my whole-hearted support, because I believe that it is in the interests of the settlers in the outback districts of the Commonwealth. I think the argument of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) that a portion of the amount received as Customs duties should be applied to the construction and maintenance of roads is a sound one. I pointed out just now that a considerable increase in the taxes payable in respect of motor cars had recently been made in Victoria. To the man who owns a number of cars, that increase represents a big outlay, and he should know what he is to get in return. Personally, I do not object to this taxation if it results in better roads being made available for motorists; but, if the revenue is to be applied to the creation of new departments and to meeting the expenses of administration, I hold that the increase is not justified. I maintain that it pays to make good roads, that- they are cheapest in the long run. The present unsatisfactory state of the Point Nepean road - an important thoroughfare in my constituency - is due to improper construction in the first place. I hope that the :i mount provided in the bill will, in the near future, be increased, and that there will be an undertaking on the part of the Federal Government to give to those people who use our roads some relief from the heavy burden of taxation which they are now called upon to pay. The bill has my hearty support.
.- I support the bill. It has long been recognized that, with the advent of the motor car, shire councils, and even States, have found it ‘difficult to keep their roads in a satisfactory condition, notwithstanding that many shires have raised their i n tes to the maximum allowed by the act. Honorable members do not appear’ to be much perturbed by the constitutional difficulties in connexion with this measure which were mentioned by the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham). The honorable member referred to the heavy taxation of recent years being the cause of the surplus announced by the Treasurer on more than one occasion. I have no objection to ‘a surplus if it is expended along the lines indicated by this bill, and I am certain that there will be no protest from the people living in country districts, who realize that their very existence depends, to a great extent, on the quality of the roads over which they have to carry their produce to market. Some time ago I had pleasure in supporting legislation which had as its object the finding of markets for our produce. The Government would have shown a lack of foresight if, having introduced legislation to assist in the marketing of Australian produce abroad, it failed to avail itself of the opportunity provided by this surplus revenue to do something to make it possible for our outback settlers to carry their produce .to the railway station over good roads. It would have been absurd to assist in organizing markets abroad while neglecting to provide access to the home markets. The Federal Government, and I hope, the . majority of the State Governments, will probably adopt a progressive immigration policy, which will mean the placing upon the land of more settlers from overseas. State Governments, also, are carrying out comprehensive land settlement schemes, and they will be very greatly assisted by the fact that the Commonwealth Government has recognized road construction as a national responsibility. The allocation of £250,000, independent of any subsidy by the States, for reconditioning or strengthening existing main roads is of vital concern to one council in my electorate. It did not participate in previous Commonwealth grants because it had no absolutely new works for which it could claim such assistance. Under the terms of this bill, however, a shire council will be able to get assistance from the Commonwealth in respect of any existing road, provided that its construction is sound and of a permanent character. 1 cannot understand the fears expressed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Sir Austin Chapman) in regard to the administration of this grant. The Commonwealth Government does not, I understand, investigate the merits or demerits of any road that is recommended to it 1 the State Government; so long as a road is within the definition contained in the act, and the regulations thereunder have been complied with, the Minister for Works and Railways accepts the recommendation from the State authorities. That is very wise. The responsibility of pronouncing upon the merits of different proposals should rest with the shire councils and the M’ain Roads Board, which has been newly created in New South Wales. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro is apprehensive that the creation of that body will deprive the shire councils of their autonomy. I have met the members of the new Main Roads Board, and I consider that New South Wales is fortunate in securing the services of Mr. Garlick and the other gentlemen associated with him. They will, I am sure, cooperate with the shire councils, by whom the applications for assistance from the Federal grant must be initiated. The Federal authorities may safely be guided by the board’s recommendations. Like other honorable members, I would like to see a larger sum provided by the Commonwealth for road construction, but we must feel satisfied that a start has been made, and that a principle acceptable to all honorable members has been laid down, namely, that developmental roads, and others giving access to markets, are the proper concern of the national Parliament. With the Main Roads Board functioning, and public-spirited men continuing to give their services as members of shire councils, we can look forward to a more generous and progressive policy, from which the Commonwealth will benefit to probably a greater extent than from any other legislation that we have passed for a considerable time.
.- There is in the State of Victoria, and .possibly in other States, an organization known as the National Roads Association, and I was privileged to attend recently a lecture under the auspices of the association in the city of Geelong. The discourse was highly instructive, and was illustrated by lantern views of the most modern methods of road construction in the United States of America. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) mentioned to-night that the United States Congress voted £15,000,000 for road construction during the year ended 30th June, 1925. That amount may sound very large, but, having regard to the fact that it is contributed by 115,000,000 people, it is a very modest charge in comparison with the burden of taxation that the ratepayers of Australia have to bear. The proposal to increase the Commonwealth grants from £500,000 to £750,000 has my hearty approval. Many years ago I had much bitter experience of the difficulties with which the man on the land has to contend, particularly in the bad roads that separate his farm from the railway. I have vivid recollections of a road in Queensland which, on account of the hilly nature of the country, had to follow the bed of a creek for 7 miles. ‘In that distance there were no less than 28 crossings, and after a heavy rainfall it was impossible for a farmer to get his products to market without unloading the dray three or four times on the journey, and carrying his produce through mire and water to high ground further up the gully. Fortunately, such conditions are rare, and I hope that they will become even more so. The grant to be made available under this bill will assist materially a great number of men who to-day have to bear the burden of maintaining a very expensive road which they barely use. During the time I have been a member of this House I have frequently mentioned the injustice done to shires of whose total revenue fully o.ne-third is absorbed by contributions to the Country Roads Board for the maintenance of the arterial roads, not 5 per cent, of traffic upon which originates within the shire. I have in mind a road through Braybrook, from the quarries into the metropolitan area. That road is being cut to pieces by drays carting metal to all parts of the metropolitan area, and the ratepayers of the district are heavily saddled with the cost of its upkeep. Under the bill, as drafted, there seems to be no chance of those people getting any redress, but I hope that the scope of the measure may be widened so that injustices of this kind may be remedied. I give the bill my blessing, and I hope that the Government will, in the near future, submit to Parliament proposals for a continuous policy of road construction. We desire to effect economy, and that can be done only by continuity of policy extending over a period of at least five years, and possibly seven years.
.- The unanimous approval with which the bill has been received by honorable members on both sides of the House is very gratifying. The Government would gladly have proposed a larger grant than that mentioned in the bill, but there is a limit to even the resources of the Commonwealth. For the time being, the finances do not justify the Government in proposing io make a larger sum available for this purpose. Three classes of road come within the scope of this bill, namely, (1) main roads, between two important centres which are not joined by railway communication ; (2) developmental roads from outback country, or new settlements, to railway stations; and (3) arterial highways. The only conditions which the Commonwealth Government imposes with regard to the nature of the roads are three-; the grade of the road, the width of formation, and the depth of metal. The Commonwealth insists that the roads must be properly made. In some cases, particularly in Western Australia, and in some districts of the other States, it is found quite impracticable to obtain blue metal for road construction, and permission is given for the construction of a class of road most suitable to the district by the use of the material close at hand, lt has been found that roads so made are giving every satisfaction. The object of the grant would be defeated if its application were extended to other than main roads, or if it were applied in the construction of other than good lasting roads where heavy traffic has to be carried. I urge honorable members not to defeat the object of the measure by submitting amendments which would prevent the carrying out of this policy. The State authorities are best able to say what roads should be brought under the operation of the act, and the roads that are most needed. They contribute more than £1 for £1 of the expenditure involved, because they have to pay for surveys and the cost of administration, which amounts to about 8 per cent. So that the States spend £108 for every £100 granted by the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) mentioned a road 12 miles long with a sand patch extending for half a mile. I submit that that is. a case for consideration by the local authority or local roads board. It does not come within the category of a national road. We have helped Western Australia to this extent, that the minimum expenditure fixed is £1,000 for the whole length of a road. Assuming that a road is 20 miles long, and that there are two or three patches of bogs or sand, we permit the necessary expenditure to make the road good over its whole length. I cannot, however, consent to any alteration in the minimum expenditure. Central roads boards should be appointed by each
State. There are such boards in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. South Australia has a Roads Commission, and in Western Australia and Tasmania the work of road construction is carried out by the ‘Public Works Department. I hope that in the near future all the States will be brought into line in this regard. It will be the object of the Government to see that roads boards are appointed in all of the States. Honorable members who know the work of the Victorian Country Roads Board are agreed as to its excellence. If we can. secure the establishment of similar boards in all -the States, we shall have very much less difficulty in the future in dealing, with the problems that confront us. It has been suggested by several honorable members from Western Australia that a great deal of the work of road construction is carried out there by day labour. The regulations distinctly provide that the method of construction shall be by contract, but in special cases the Minister may approve of the employment of departmental labour provided the work is carried out by modern methods of construction, and modern plant, is utilized to the fullest possible extent. People in Western Australia have said that there is great difficulty in letting this work by contract, and I have suggested that tenders should be called in every case, and failing the receipt of a satisfactory tender, I am prepared to consent to the work being done by day labour. I have had no complaints recently from Western Australia. Most of the complaints that have been received have arisen from the fact that shire councils have not known the proper procedure to follow to secure their share of the grant. I believe that the whole of the proposed grant of £750,000, in addition to the unexpended balance from previous grants, will be spent by the end of the year, because the work of road construction has been considerably speeded up during the last six months. The Government has taken in hand the work of communicating with the State Governments, telling them whatit proposes to do, and asking them to submit their proposals at the earliest possible date. We have now in hand most of the proposals from the various States, though, of course, they have not yet been approved. Most qf the proposals received are extensions of the original proposals, and are for the construction of sections of roads already undertaken with a certain objective. If, for instance, a road were proposed from Ballarat to Warracknabeal, and only a few miles were included in the original proposal, subsequent proposals might be made for advances to complete the road. As the bill has met with so much approval, I hope that it will be rapidly dealt with in committee.
– Would the Minister favorably consider a request for a special grant for a road from Durgan to the soldiers’ settlement at Ellerslie?
– I could not promise to do so. The proposal might be brought under the notice of the Victorian Country Roads Board. If the board is satisfied that the road comes within the scope of the act, as it probably would, and it receives its favorable consideration, it will receive the same consideration from me.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
10.25] . - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a very short measure. The War Service Homes Act has been for some time under the administration of the Minister for Works and Railways. It is desired to appoint the Secretary of the Works and Railways Department to the position of War Service Homes Commissioner. The existing War Service Homes Act provides that if the commissioner engages during his term of office in employment outside the duties of his office his office will be vacated. It is to overcome this difficulty in the wayof the appointment of the Secretary of the Works and Railways Department that the bill is introduced. It is intended to provide that the outside employment referred to in the existing act shall not involve the vacation of the office if it is employment within the Public Service of the Com monwealth. The Minister for Defence, who is administering Repatriation, promised that every case submitted to him by members of Parliament or by direct application would be given his personal attention. That has caused a tremendous amount of work to be thrown upon the Minister and the Chairman of the Repatriation Commission. It was, therefore, necessary that the chairman of the commission should be relieved of this class of work, and that the administration of War Service. Homes should be carried out completely in the Department, of Works and Railways.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Charges against Secretary to the Treasury and the Management of the Commonwealth Bank.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In submitting the motion, I desire to inform the House that I purpose laying on the table to-morrow copies of the file dealing with the records of certain transactions which were referred to in the debate last week on the Commonwealth Bank Rural Credits Bill by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey). I intend, also, tolay on the table copies of the communications from the Commonwealth Bank dealing with certain statements made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). I am taking this course because it is necessary that some means should be adopted to enable two official advisers of the Government in the Treasury and the Commonwealth Bank to make their defence here as they are precluded from doing so personally. The first file deals with the whole matter raised by the honorable member for Bourke on Thursday last. In the course of the debate he made certain references to the Secretary to the Treasury. He said, amongst other things, “ I know all about Mr. Collins and the double-faced business he has been playing with different Treasurers of this country.” He said also, “ I do not entirely blame the Treasurer, because I know what Mr. Collins is capable of.” Whilst the honorable member was making those remarks I was busy looking up certain records inHansard to use in the debate. In any case, I could not completely refute the statements made by the honorable member until I had seen the records, and had had an opportunity of interviewing Mr. Collins. I am availing myself of this means, as Minister in charge of the Treasury, of defending Mr. Collins, who, as honorable members are aware, has had a very honorable career in the Public Service extending over 40 years. He is well known to practically every one who has been a member of this Parliament. When his attention was drawn to the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke on his return from Sydney, he wrote me a letter, which I now intend to read, and asked that the whole file should be placed on the table of the House. This is the letter I received from Mr. Collins : -
The Honorable the Treasurer,
My attention has been drawn to the Par liamentary debates of 3rd September, 1925, in which Mr. Anstey has madesome references to me. I do not deserve the personal reflections which the honorable gentleman has made.
Herewith is a copy of the Treasury records relating to the arrangements made with the banks immediately after the outbreak of war.
I suggest that this memorandum and the accompanying copy of records be placed upon the table of the House,when Mr. Anstey will be in a position to see that I have not misinformed him or any one else in the matter,
A perusal of these records will indicate, as the honorable the Leader of the Opposition actually interjected during the speech of the honorable member for Bourke, that Mr. Collins had told the truth. Mr. Collins’ reputation amongst Ministers and members generally, and amongst members of the Public Service is very high. I know him to be a valuable and able officer, who holds four most important and responsible positions - he is a director of the Commonwealth Bank, the Custodian of Expropriated Properties, the Commissioner for Old-age and Invalid Pensions, and the Secretary to the Treasury - in all of which he is doing valuable work. I know that he would not stoop to double dealing’ of any kind. His service in regard to the floating of loans and the general administration of his office is beyond praise. In a matter of this kind he, of course, cannot defend himself, and as hia Minister I am very pleased to beable to defend him. I regret very much that this attack has been made upon cue of the most prominent public servants in Australia. Mr. Collins’ career is unblemished, and he has earned the goodwill and gratitude of the successive Treasurers of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Bourke professes to be aggrieved because I said that the Labour Treasurer had entered info an arrangement with the banks which was not so good, from the public point of view, as that which had existed between the Commonwealth Bank and the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Company Limited. To show that I was quite accurate in the statement that I made, it is only necessary that reference be made to the copy of correspondence, which, at the request of Mr. Collins, I shall table to-morrow. That correspondence shows quite distinctly that, on the 9th November, 1914, the final approval to the arrangement with the banks was given by Mr. Fisher, the Leader of the Labour Administration. It is quite true, however, that Mr. Fisher did not initiate the arrangement. Indeed, it is clear that, prior to the 17th September, 1914, when Mr. Fisher took office, the Cook Administration had entered into an arrangement, which, because it was agreed to in the main at a conference of all parties, could not honorably have been departed from by the new Administration, and if Mr. Collins told Mr. Anstey that Mr. Fisher was bound he had every justification for so saying. I showed, in the quotations which I gave the House last week, that there was a little duel between Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Fisher as to which Administration should have the credit of the action both Mr. Anstey and myself now question. Mr. Fisher said, on the 9th October, 1914-
But thenegotiations with the banks were left incomplete, those institutions not being in agreement with the proposals as understood at the conference.
To that Sir Joseph Cook interjected -
The negotiations were complete as far as we were concerned; that is to say, our terms were submitted to the banks.
Then Mr. Fisher went on to say -
To enable the arrangement arrived at by the conference to be of real value to the country, the banks would have to hold the notes in excess of their ordinary issue. The matter is still unsettled, as the right honorable member knows.
In my own speech on the Commonwealth Bank last year, I said -
Without being unduly critical of action taken during a period of great anxiety, however, I am permitted to say that this three to one arrangement was more doubtful in character than any other act of war finance.
Honorable members will see that in mentioning this arrangement I did not refer to the Administration responsible for it.
– Mr. Anstey asked me what was the date, and I said 1915. Later, I corrected my statement, and said that the transaction took place in November, 1914. I now desire to place on record as well,” a full statement with regard to Mr. Garvan’s relation to the bank. Mr. Garvan is Chairman of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank, and is not able to refute in this House any statements made. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) stated in this House on the 3rd September last -
Mr. Garvan’s company profited by the situation, for in the six months from 1st January to 30th June, 1924. the Commonwealth Bank paid it nearly £40,000 in hard cash on these exchange transactions.
A little further on he said -
I am advised that in twelve months the company cleared through the Commonwealth Bank a profit on exchange of approximately £100,000. . . . My point, however, is that while Mr. Garvan’s company was in the fortunate position of having large sums of money in Australia with which to take advantage of the abnormally high rates of exchange, it had an overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank at 5 per cent.
In this connexion I have a letter dated Sydney, the 7th September, 1925, and signed by all the directors of the Commonwealth Bank, with the exception of Mr. Garvan. That letter reads -
With reference to the statements made in Parliament to the effect that Mr. Garvan and his company had made large sums of money in exchange transactions, with the assistance of the bank, theboard has investigated the matter, and finds the position as follows: -
That the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Company Ltd. entered into large contracts on behalf of this bank, for the sale of London exchange.
The period covered by these contracts was from October, 1923, to March, 1925, during which period the transfer from London to Australia of the sum of £5,600,000 was effected. Neither Mr. Garvan nor his company, nor any officer of his company, received any profit or recompense in connexion with these transactions, the whole proceeds of which went to thebank.
The result of these transactions enabled the bank to deal effectively with a difficult position created through the accumulation of large funds in London, and also had the effect of saving the bank a considerable sum of money.
As the board is of the opinion that transactions between the bank and its business connexions should’ not be disclosed, it makes this statement with the consent of Mr. Garvan and the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Company Ltd.
Far, then, from receiving any profit from this transaction, the facts show that Mr. Garvan, through his company, has rendered very material service to the bank. I believe that everybody in this House, without respect to party, desires to see a strong national bank. We disagree, possibly, as to the methods that should be adopted, but our aim, I am sure, is the same. The most certain way to secure that end, it seems to me, is to put all its transactions beyond suspicion, and I am glad to have the opportunity of vindicating the character of two of the directors of that institution by the production of these papers. One other statement, andI have finished. It is in regard to the question of the insurances of employees of the bank. I have had a statement prepared regarding the 954 policies. Seven hundred and fifty-four were issued by the Australian Mutual Provident Society, 89 by the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Company, 51 by the National Mutual, and 61 by various other offices. Of the last 62 policies taken out by the employees, only four were issued by the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Company. I am sure honorable members will all be glad to have an official statement which explains in a lucid and convincing manner a position of vital concern to the public and tothis House.
– I tlo not intend to say very many words in reply to the Treasurer’s statement. The correspondence relating to what happened at the time that Sir Joseph Cook’s Government relinquished office and Mr. Fisher took office bears out what Mr. Anstey said in this House. I shall leave that matter for Mr. Anstey himself to deal with. I stated that I believed that persons employed in the Commonwealth Bank had to insure with the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited. I am glad to know that that statement was not correct. I did not say that this was
Actually so, but that it was rumoured. I think that it would be far better for all concerned if the Government appointed some persons to make a proper inquiry into the allegations made in this House. While certain things have been answered, nothing at all has been said regarding Mr. Garvan’s overdraft, the period of that overdraft, and whether other customers had to meet their overdraft Avithin eighteen months. Strong allegations were made, and I think, in the interests of those gentlemen themselves, the least one could expect them to do was to ask that an inquiry should be made into the whole of the statements respecting the method of conducting the business of the Commonwealth Bank. That is the only way in which the position can be cleared in the public mind.
.- I support and emphasize the points made by the Leader of the Opposition. I direct the Treasurer’s attention to the fact that the main charges that I made were set out in the form of facts accompanying my motion for a reduction of an item in a Supply Bill. The exchange transactionwas a subsidiary fact. I do not wish to question the veracity of the statement read out by the Treasurer without having an opportunity to consider it. His statement that no profits were made on these exchange transactions is very ambiguous.
– No profit was made by the company.
– Did the company use its own or the bank’s funds?
– The company acted for the bank.
– And used the bank’s funds?
– And made absolutely no profit out of the transactions?
– That is so.
– If I have made a wrong statement in that respect, I express the utmost regret, because I do not want to be unfair. I made my speech in this chamber in the belief that I was doing it in the interests of the public, as its representative in this Parliament. My attack was by no means intended to be personal. I made it because I considered the bank a national institution and for the reasons that I previously stated. I leave the matter at that stage. Ishall carefully read the answer given by the Treasurer. I regret, also, that the principal points raised by me in my speech have not been answered. Owing to the lateness of the hour, I do not wish to pursue the matter further at this stage.
.- The Treasurer will be making a great mistake if he thinks he can leave the question where it is. I have not taken any part in this discussion because I amnot familiar with the facts, but a very important matter like this cannot be ended by endeavouring to answer some of the definite statements made by the honorable member for Reid by merely reading a letter to this House, and then letting the subject rest. In the letter signed by the directors of the Commonwealth Bank they have evaded the main issues of the charges or statements made by the honorable member for Reid. They do not attempt to justify them. The directors take up one aspect which the honorable member for Reid says was a subsidiary matter, and merely a supporting argument to the definite statements made. I support the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that a more impartial investigation should be made by members from both sides of the House, including an examination of those who made the statements. If we allow the Minister of the day in charge of a department merely to get a statement signed by certain officials, place it upon the table of the House, and declare that the last word has been spoken, and finality reached, we have reached a pretty pass. I suggest to the Treasurer that he is hardly doing his own department, or the big organization that is concerned in this matter, justice by proposing to let the matter rest where it is.
[10.451. - I replied very fully last Thursday night, to the main charges made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). The matters that I have dealt, with this evening can only be considered properly after a perusal of the records that will be laid upon the table of the House to-morrow. I have informed the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) that I would forward him a copy of the statement I have just made. If honorable members desire a further discussion on the matter a suitable opportunity for it will arise. My statement has placed absolutely beyond doubt the personal honour and integrity of those associated with the bank.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 September 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1925/19250909_reps_9_111/>.