12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and offered prayers.
Statement by Mr. Hunter, M.P.
– by leave-Ihave received a telegram from the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter), who has been prevented from attending the sitting of the House to-day owing to the serious illness of his mother, requesting me to make a statement onhis behalf respecting an observation he made last Thursday in reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill). The honorable member for Maranoa advised the honorable member for Warringah not to say too much because he had in his possession documents which he might read. The honorable member has been very much concerned because his remark has been interpreted insome quarters as meaning that he might have read something which reflected personally upon the honorable member for Warringah, or had some special reference to him. I have been asked to say that his reference was to an article published in the press on the subject which he was at the moment debating. It had no special reference to the honorable member for Warringah other than as one of a number of honorable members of this House who were opposed to the view which the honorable member for Maranoa was at the moment expressing. The honorable member intended to make a personal explanation on this subject on the adjournment of the House last Friday, but was unable to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, before he had to leave.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer inform me whether the Government has yet reached a decision in regard to the application of the five-day week in the offices of the Taxation Branch in all States where the Government’s policy in this regard can conveniently be put into operation?
– The matter is still under consideration.
Country Party’s Statement
– Has the attention of the Minister representingthe Prime Minister been drawn to a statement made by the Country party to the effect that when parliaments and conferences met at Canberra they were in touch with the primary producers of a rich producing district, and that the meeting of the Loan Council in Melbourne was inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the federation. If so, what action does the Government intend to take with respect to the holding of future meetings of the Loan Council in Melbourne?
– I have several duties to perform on behalf of the Prime Minister during his absence, but, happily, I am not required to do or say anything by way of reproach to the right honorable gentleman.
American Biennial Conference
– Has the Government received an invitation from America to send a representative to the biennial conference on bituminous coal to be held at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, later this year under the auspices of the Carnegie Institute of Technology? Is it not a fact that the leading coal industry by-products experts of the world assemble at that conference and read papers dealing with the latest developments in the use of coal and coal by-products? If the Government has received an invitation to send a delegate, will it consider sending a technical expert from Wallsend, who is a chemical engineer with considerable experience, and hasspent a large sum of his own money on experimental processes by which he has successfully extracted oils, benzine, and other by-products from coal?
– What is his name?
– Lyon;but he is not related to the Leader of the -Opposition. If the Government would send this gentleman abroad it would get truthful reports on important questions relating to the extraction of oil and other byproducts from coal, and assist this languishing industry.
– The Government has not received an invitation such as the honorable member hopefully indicates; but the subjects wrapped up in his question will be considered.
British Imports from Russia.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Markets been drawn to a cablegram which appeared in the daily press during the week-end, to the effect that Russian butter was being landed in England in boxes exactly similar to the boxes used for Australian and New Zealand butter, and that the marks, and even the brands, on the Russian boxes are remarkably good copies of the marks and brands which appear on Australian boxes? Is he aware that it is reported that this butter was being sold in England for 12s. per cwt. less than Australian butter, and was gaining a considerable hold on the British market? If the attention of the Minister has not been drawn to this matter, will he have an investigation made into it with the object of safeguarding the interests of the Australian butter producers?
– That subject has been brought under my notice, and an investigation is being made into it.
Wave Lengths - Broadcasting of Political Speeches
– Is it a fact that the officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department are at present reviewing the wave lengths of “ B “ class broadcasting stations with the object of bringing them all below a wave length of 200 metres? If so, for what reason and on whose recommendation has this action been taken ?
– No such action is being taken in connexion with “ B “ class stations.
– Last week the Prime Minister promised the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and me, that he would make a definite statement with reference to “B” class wireless stations, and the refusal of the Postmaster-General to allow the Citizen’s League at Adelaideto broadcast from 5AD. Did the Prime Minister leave a statement with the Minister in charge of the House concerning this subject? If so, will he make it public ?
– My colleague the Postmaster-General (Mr. A. Green) informed me that such a statement is in course of preparation, and will be made available to Parliament at an early date.
– As the matter is an important one, I should like to know whether the statement will be made available before the House adjourns?
– I have already furnished the honorable member with a report on the subject.Regarding the request by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for a further report, such a report is being prepared, and should it not be ready before the House rises, it will be sent to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and to the honorable member by post.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral intimate whether the speech that he broadcast from Melbourne last Sunday was censored beforehand. If so, by whom?
– As the speech contained nothing of a controversial nature it was unnecessary to censor it.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform me what progress, if any, has been made with the inquiry which he promised into the circumstances surrounding the publication of certain secret cablegrams for which a journalist was expelled from the precincts of this House ?
– Inquiries were made into that subject, and the results were conveyed to honorable members some time ago. I am not aware that it is intended to take any further action.
– I direct the attention of the Attorney-General to the published statement that Judge Lukin has refused to accept any reduction of his salary, on the ground that he cannot live on a mere pittance of £2,500 a year, notwithstanding that he is drawing a pension of £1,000 a year from the Queensland Government? I ask the AttorneyGeneral what action he intends to take in this matter, more particularly as Judge Lukin has declared that the timberworkers should be able to live on £3 a week?
– Order! I cannot permit questions to be asked for the purpose of using them as placards. I ask the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) to remember that in asking his question he may not make any personal observation, and may only seek, not give, information.
– In view of the fact that Judge Lukin said that the workers could live on £156 a year, does the AttorneyGeneral intend to take any action to bring about a reduction of that gentleman’s salary?
– I understand that His Honour communicated by letter with the Prime Minister in regard to salary reductions. I have not seen that letter, but I have good grounds for believing that the reasons for the attitude of the learned judge are not those attributed to him by the honorable member. Presumably, judges of the Arbitration Court are in a position to appreciate alike their rights and obligations. In so far as their rights are conditioned by law, the law will be given effect; in so far as they are personal matters, involving the discretion of the individual, it is assumed that they will act according to their own conscience, and do what they think is right and proper.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Markets concerning the fate of the Empire Marketing Board, prefacing it with three extracts from the Argus of Monday last, the 3rd August. The first of these reads -
Referring to the present position of the dairying industry in Australia, the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) said on Saturday that gratifying reports continued to be received regarding the wider distribution and satisfactory quality of Australian butter in London. According to the reports this position was attributed to the excellent work done by the Australian trade publicity department and the Empire Marketing Board, and to the continuity of supplies this season, which had enabled retailers to stock Australian butters for a longer period than previously. The result was that more consumers had been attracted to the use of Empire butter.
The second is as follows: -
Local Authorities Co-operate.
As a result of the canvassing by the Empire Marketing Board of 100 local authorities asking that tender forms should be amended in order to specify purchases of goods produced in the Empire wherever possible, it is now stated that the board’s officers did not meet with one refusal in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland. The board’s officers are now canvassing in Scotland.
One large importer attributes the increased consumption of Australian beef to orders by local authorities.
The third is from a column headed “Economies”, and reads -
A saving of £800,000 is contemplated by a reduction of various grants made through the Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries,of £478,000 by restricting the activities of the Forestry Commission, of £400,000 by abolishing the Empire Marketing Board, and of £250,000 by reducing the grant to the Colonial Development fund.
In view of the great value of this board to trade within the Empire, will the Government communicate with the British Government, and endeavour to prevent the abolition of the Empire Marketing Board, even though expenditure on it may have tobe reduced?
– It is true that I called attention last week to the increase in the Bale of Australian butter in Great Britain, which I attributed to a degree to the activities of the Empire Marketing Board. Since then I have noticed the suggestion that that board should be abolished. I believe that I am safe in saying that at the present time there is no more than a suggestion. I assure the honorable member for Gippsland that the Commonwealth Government will do everything that it can to ensure that this very useful organization shall be retained.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the prices for Australian tobacco have recently been materially increased, and that numerous complaints on that score have been made by consumers of tobacco? Is there any justification for such an increase in prices? Will the honorable gentleman institute inquiries as to the prices that are being charged for Australian tobacco ?
– I have been informed that the prices of Australian tobacco have been increased. There is to me no apparent reason for this, but inquiries will be made on the subject, and a reply furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister aware that, because of the shortage of Australian tobacco leaf, the Bale of Australian tobacco is being rationed in retail shops, with the result that the public has not been able to purchase its requirements in the cheaper kind of tobacco, and that that is affecting employees in the industry? Will the honorable gentleman further/ consider the suggestion that I made when this item was being dealt with during the tariff debate?
– It has been stated by the big tobacco manufacturing companies that there is a shortage of tobacco leaf. 1 also know, from statistics, that this season we shall not be able to supply Australia’s requirements with locally-grown leaf. However, such big developments have occurred in the local tobacco-growing industry that I anticipate that greatly increased areas will be placed under cultivation during the coming season. I believe that it, would be very dangerous for the Australian tobacco-growing industry to lift the existing duties at this stage. Huge importations would result, and the price paid to local growers for next season’s crop would materially suffer, and that would have its effect upon the field-workers.
– I did not suggest that the duties should be lifted. I suggested that imports should be rationed, to overcome present difficulties.
– There is nothing to prevent the importation of tobacco, provided that the specified rate of duty is paid. That rate is lower than that upon tobacco imported into the United Kingdom. I am prepared to listen to any representations on behalf of the workers in the industry, but I am afraid that they will have to be stronger than those already presented, if the Government is to be induced to raise the duties on tobacco.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been directed to a series of articles which have appeared in the Melbourne press, -and to correspondence following upon their publication, in which the statement was made that where tobacco can be successfully grown in Australia, excessive profits are now being made, and that. there is a danger of land values rising and of the industry over-reaching itself? Has the honorable gentleman given any attention to the considerations adduced in those articles and correspondence, with a view to reconsidering the scale of customs and excise duties on tobacco?
– I do not think that the time has arrived when there should be a reconsideration of the rates of duties on tobacco. Only to-day I have received letters from tobacco-growers, telling me that buyers representing the big manufacturers had offered them a low price for their tobacco, and that they question the truthfulness of the statement made in this Parliament that tobacco growing in Australia is highly remunerative. In reply I have told them of the protection provided by the Government, and of the alleged shortage of Australian leaf, intimating that the buyers would have to return and offer higher prices for their leaf ; that it will be in their own interests to hold on to their product for a little while longer. I assure the Leader of the Opposition that the Government is always open to consider any representations that may be made by him in the matter.
– I understand that 47 officers of the Postmaster-General’* Department in Sydney are supplied with telephones free. Will the PostmasterGeneral consider the advisability of reducing that free list, particularly in view of the shortage of funds in his department which prevents the supply U the public of much-needed telephones?
– I will have inquiries made regarding the honorable member’s suggestion, and determine whether it is practicable to give effect to it.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs advise whether a refund is made of the primage duty paid on gunny and potato bags which are exported as containers of onions or other products ?
– In view of the fact that this has been a vital question with a section of primary producers, I have investigated the matter and find that gunny and potato bags have been exempted from the 10 per cent, primage duty and placed on the 4 per cent. list. The great proportion of these sacks are used within Australia, and being charged only 4 per cent, primage, have been leniently dealt with.
A drawback of the primage duty upon exportation of the sacks containing potatoes would be impracticable, as the sacks exported could not be identified with those imported and duty paid. Moreover, if a drawback were payable, it would have to be paid to the importer of the sack who paid the duty, and it would be impracticable to arrange for such drawback to reach the exporter of the potatoes. As the duty is only 4 per cent. on the value of the sack, it is a very small amount in relation to the value of a bag of potatoes.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that the various navy leagues in Australia have made the strongest possible protest to the Prime Minister regarding the severe financial cuts that have been made with regard to the Royal Australian Navy? In view of those heavy reductions, can the honorable gentleman assure the House and the people of Australia that the economies will in no way lower the highly efficient standard to which the Royal Australian Navy has been built up and left by RearAdmiral Evans ?
– The Government, despite the difficult financial period through which Australia is passing, is fully alive to the need for maintaining the efficiency of the navy at the standard which it reached under Rear-Admiral Evans. Everything will be done to that end.
-Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that for some time past the work of inspecting post offices has been duplicated by the action of the Auditor-General’s Department in appointing two officers to attend to it? Recently these officers inspected a large post office in New South Wales, but were unable to balance the accounts. Subsequently the Postal Department sent an officer of its own, who balanced the funds. Does the Postmaster-General consider it necessary to have two sets of auditors inspecting the various post offices?
– I shall have inquiries made, and furnish the honorable member with a reply.
– Is it a fact that the
War Service Homes Commission contemplates a reduction of1/2 per cent. in the interest rate on repayments for war service homes? If so, does the Minister consider that that is an adequate reduction, in. view of the reductions agreed upon under the Premiers’ plan, and the recent drastic fall in property values ?
– A reduction of1/2 per cent. in the interest rate on repayments for war service homes has been made. Other matters that have been the subject of representation from the War Service Homes Association, Victoria, are now being considered.
– That association is asking for a reduction of 1 per cent.
– What steps, if any, have been taken to recover the money thai is due to Australia from the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers by the previous Government to a company whose managing director is now in gaol ?
– I shall furnish the honorable member with the information later.
– Does the Minister contemplate any action with reference to the duty on motor-body panels? If so, will he give the manufacturers concerned an opportunity to place their case before them, or the Tariff Board, before taking such action?
– The duty on motorbody panels is a subject which has been before me for some considerable time The manufacturers have already placed their views before me, but I assure the honorable member that no action will be taken until they have had an opportunity of again making representations to me.
– Have representations been made to the Minister regarding the unfairness of placing newsprint in a lower category for primage duty purposes than that in which paper required for periodicals has been placed, and if so, is any alteration contemplated?
– I have not received any representation from that section of the trade referred to by the honorable member, but if he will place any particulars that he has before me, I promise him that they will receive consideration.
– The following is an axtract from a letter which I have received from one of my constituents : -
Will you be good enough to request the Hon. J. McNeill, Minister for Repatriation, to be kind enough to grant our association a copy of the Ministry of Pensions (London) Memorandum of Instructions for Guidance of War Pensions issued by his department.I am in receipt of numerous inquiries daily from many country centres asking advice re pensions and treatment for war disabilities, but not being in possession of a copy of the Ministry’s instructions to Repatriation Commission am, therefore, unable to advise correctly.
That letter is signed by J oseph F. Dinnen, honorary secretary of the Totally and Permanently Disabled British War Pensioners Association of Australia. To that request the Minister for Repatriation replied -
The Repatriation Commission is merely the agent for the British Ministry of Pensions in regard to Imperial war pensions, and all information appertaining thereto is strictly confidential
I ask the Minister to make this information available, if possible, by laying it upon the table of the House?
– I shall endeavour to meet the honorable member’s wishes.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral when is the promised inquiry into the case of Jacob Johnson likely to begin ; who is to conduct the inquiry, and have the departmental officers yet found the missing documents?
– I have nothing further to say to the honorable gentleman on that subject at this stage.
– On the 23rd July, the honorable member for. West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked me to examine the file in connexion with the application by the Retail Butchers Association for a variation of the award now before the Conciliation Commission with a view to ascertaining whether the application is constitutional, having regard to the interstate character of the dispute. 1 have now had inquiries made, and have ascertained that the Conciliation Commissioner decided that there was an interstate dispute in the industry, and that there was power for the court to make an award. An interim award was made on the 3rd July, and on the 10th July the Conciliation Commissioner reserved his decision on the plaint. As judgment has been reserved, it does not appear possible for the Commonwealth, at this juncture, to take any action in the matter.
– On the 28th July, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Tully) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -
Compensation to Staff
– On the 23rd July the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) asked me the following questions, upon notice : -
With reference to the payments made to the Commonwealth Shipping Line in respect of its sale -
What amount was paid to the officers or clerical staff as compensation; and
What were the items and persons for which or to whom compensation was paid, and what was the amount in each case?
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -
– On the 31st July, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
Replies were furnished in regard to parts 1 and 3. I am now in a position to furnish the following reply to part 2: -
– On the 31st July, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked me, inter alia, the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now in a position to advise the honorable member as follows: -
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931, No. 94.
Financial Emergency Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1931, No. 93.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931, No. 91.
Maternity Allowance Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931, No. 92.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1931 -
No. 4 - Darwin Town Council.
No.5 - Darwin Town Council (No.2).
– My attention has been called to the practice of asking leave to have matter inserted in Hansard which has not been read. This practice, if permitted to continue unchecked, may have undesirable consequences. During last week, on two occasions, honorable members, whose names I need not mention, obtained permission to have published in Hansard matter which they did not read, and thus procured the publication of statements of inordinate length. One of these statements in typewriting made fifteen or sixteen pages of foolscap, and occupied six and a half pages of Hansard, and another occupied four pages of Hansard. There are several objections to this practice. Among them are these -
In one of the statements complained of were two expressions that were decidedly vulgar. In future, honorable members, when asking permission to incorporate unread statements in Hansard, must state explicitly what they contain, and that they are relevant and brief. So much is necessary for the protection of honorable members generally.
– I desire to lay on the table of the House the report of the War Pensions Inquiry Committee, consisting of reports of the returned soldiers’ organizations, appointed to consider matters relating to the necessary reductions in war pensions.
The Government has the report under consideration. A copy will be available for each honorable member.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1931-32.
South Australia Grant Bill 1931.
Western Australia Grant Bill 1931.
Commonwealth Public Service Bill (No. 2).
Message from the Governor-General reported recommending the following amendments : -
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
– I move -
That the amendments recommended by His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to.
These amendments have been found desirable on account of the lack of clarity in expressing the rates of income tax on incomes from personal exertion and from property. The rate is determined by the amount of the total taxable income, and in the schedule the letter T is used to equal “ taxable income in pounds “. In respect of incomes from personal exertion, not exceeding £6,900, and from property, not exceeding £3,700, T is appropriately used in the rate formula for each group of taxable income up to these limits. But the bill purports to provide a rate for the part of the total taxable income up to the amounts I have mentioned, and also another rate for each £1 of taxable income exceeding such amounts. In providing a rate for the part of the taxable income up to £6,900 or £3,700, as the case may be, the formula uses the letter T instead of the amount of the taxable income being dealt with. This employment of T may possibly produce undesirable results through the use of the total taxable income when calculating the rate on £6,900 or £3,700, and that would be contrary to the intention of Parliament. The amendments will make that intention clear.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) has demonstrated a thorough grasp of this proposal, and I agree substantially with what he has said. Evidently, there has beena distinct misuse of T, and I, on behalf of the Opposition, offer no obstacle to restoring the abused letter to its proper position. The Attorney-General rightly said that if T were allowed to be misused in this manner undesirable results might follow, inasmuch as the amount of income tax payable by a citizen would be other than he would have reason to expect after having read the formula in the schedules of the bill. I, therefore, whole-heartedly support the motion which has been so movingly proposed by the Attorney-General.
.- I take the opportunity to protest against the anomaly of the unemployment tax in Victoria not being deductible from income for federal taxation purposes, whereas similar imposts in South Australia and Tasmania are deductible, because they are collected under another name.
– Order ! The honorable member may not introduce any subject outside the scope of the GovernorGeneral’s message.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
– I have received from the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) an intimation that he proposes to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The installation of the bulk system of handling wheat throughout Australia.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- The bulk handling of wheat is receiving the earnest consideration of most of the States of the Commonwealth, because of the possibilities it offers for effecting considerable savings to wheat-growers in the orderly marketing of their produce. Already New South Wales has extensively developed this system, which may now be regarded as beyond the experimental stage. Although many mistakes were made in pioneering hulk handling in that State, the systemmay be definitely declared to have been successful; and because of the tremendous advantages it offers, the time has come for its extension throughout Australia. Some of the initial mistakes might lead those who are unfamiliar with the history of the scheme to the conclusion that bulk handling is not all that mightbe desired. The system was instituted in New South Wales before any thorough investigation had been made by a responsible authority. Subsequently, however, Mr. E. Harris, who is now recognized to be one of the best authorities in the world on bulk handling, was sent to America to inquire into the operation of the system there. His investigations disclosed that had New South Wales made adequate preliminary inquiry the Government would have saved £1,000,000 on the cost of installing the system. Owing to the knowledge and experience gained by Mr. Harris, the New South Wales system has since demonstrated that bulk handling could be advantageously extended to all the other wheat-producing States. Although the cost of installation was high, because both labour and materials were costly at the time, the system in New South Wales paid last season 4 per cent. on the £4,000,000 invested, in addition to operating costs. During the present period of low prices, we should do everything possible to lessen the cost of marketing, in order to increase the return to the grower. This is one of the few industrial undertakings that could be commenced with a certainty of a return, and the work of constructing elevators would give employment to a very large number of men. Western Australia is making definite representations to the conference of Premiers which is meeting in Melbourne this week, with a view to getting the co-operation of the Commonwealth and the Loan Council in the immediate installation of terminal elevators. The fact that New South Wales is the only State which has established a grain elevator system explains the somewhat tardy recognition by the interests concerned of the advantages and economies of bulk handling. In the early stages it was necessary to prove by actual shipments that wheat could be safely carried in bulk from Australia to Europe, and that the grain could be allowed to come into contact with the metal sides of the ship without sustaining damage from the sweating of the metal. The underwriters had to be satisfied that some of their early requirements as to the fitting of the holds of vessels carrying bulk grain were unnecessarily severe ; the fact is that a maritime mishap has not occurred to any one of the hundreds of ships loaded with bulk wheat in Sydney. Fear of deterioration of the grain was one of the cardinal objections to the installation of a bulk handling plan, but actual experience has proved that the wheat can be carried in bulk without suffering detriment. Bulk handling is receiving attention throughout the world, and if Australia is successfully to sell its wheat in the overseas markets, it must keep, abreast of the latest developments. Bulk handling through grain elevators is general throughout the great wheat-growing countries of Canada and the United States of America. There are large elevators at the seaboard of the Argentine, where the wheat is bulked, and so loaded for shipment to Europe; and I understand that a scheme of elevator construction to serve the country districts is about to be carried out. In Russia, elevators are being erected, both in the country and at the seaports, under American supervision. Russia is one of the most serious competitors of Australia in the overseas grain market, and if we are to hold our position, we must not neglect any wheathandling system that will help us to export .more cheaply. South Africa has elevators in the country and at the seaboard to deal with the maize crop, and Queensland has erected a number for a like purpose. All the more important wheat importing countries have elevators for unloading bulk cargoes at the seaports. Nearly every important flour mill in Great Britain is fitted with bulkhandling appliances and marine legs with which to unload grain from overseas vessels or barges, and, with few exceptions, even inland mills, some of which are situated on canals, are similarly fitted, to cope with barges or railway trucks. England last year adopted the bulk wheat railway trucks which had recently been brought into use. All the large .continental ports have elevators, and, indeed, such a large proportion of the imported gr.ain comes in bulk from North and South America that a port would be seriously handicapped were it not able to unload a bulk cargo.
In regard to the purely domestic advantages of bulk handling, economies are enjoyed by a, the grower; b, the railway carrying the wheat from the country elevator to the flour mill or the shipping elevator; c, the local flour miller; d, the shipowners; and e, the overseas flourmillers. Most of the farmers in New South Wales deliver their wheat to the elevators in bags, the mouths of which are not sewn, but merely dipped or tied. The wheat is emptied out of the bags at the elevator, and the empty bags are returned in the wagon to the grower for. use again. Approximately, only about one-fifth of the number of bags ordinarily used is required to deal with a crop in bulk, and the bags can be used again in subsequent years; indeed, if properly cared for, they should last for four or five years. The farmer may also save on his original outlay by purchasing good second-hand bags. In addition to tha saving on the cost of the containers, the farmer economizes in not having to sew up the mouths. Many growers have fitted their table-top wagons with grain boxes, in which they carry their wheat in bulk from the farm to the elevators. The off loading at the country elevator is much quicker than before the advent of bulk handling, when not uncommonly s teamster had to wait 24 hours before being off-loaded into a stack. The saving to a farmer in using the elevators may be set out as follows, the figures used being based upon a farmer using 200 bags to handle 3,000 bushels:-
Assuming that the average wheat harvest of Australia amounts to 150,000,000 bushels, the saving to the growers on bags would be £1,937,500.
– What would be the loss on the sale of the wheat?
– I have information from Mr. Harris, the manager of the State Board for the bulk handling of wheat in New South Wales, that wheat handled in bulk this year is selling at as *high a price as bagged wheat, owing to the development of bulk handling facilities throughout the world.
– That is not so.
– The New South Wales experience during 1930-31 was that bulk wheat commanded a higher price than bagged wheat. The saving to which I have referred is important, because we have to send out of Australia each year £2,000,000 for jute goods which we cannot make in Australia, and that money could be spent to far better advantage in this country in meeting the requirements of the farming community during the harvest season. [Quorum formed.’]
The bulk-handling system has proved economical and convenient to the Railway Department, and to the farmers in New South Wales. In an official re- !>ort, the following interesting particuars are given: -
In loading bagged wheat a few trucks are placed at each siding and are slowly collected and made up into trainloads. In loading bulk wheat, from ten to twenty trucks are placed at a number of country elevators, a day’s loading at a country plant being on an average twenty trucks: The trucks are loaded with bulk very much faster than with bags; much lean shunting is required to make up trainloads - in fact the daily loading at some of the larger stations is sufficient for a special train - while the unloading at Sydney is also very rauch faster than with bags. The terminal elevator can unload up to 400 trucks per working day, and, generally speaking, very few unloaded trucks are carried forward to, the next day. The Elevator Branch pays to the Railway. Department freight on all wheat received at the terminal, and furnishes - for freight purposes - the weight of every truck forwarded. The saving to the Railway Department in bookkeeping and rendering accounts to one authority instead of to a number of firms must be considerable. During the 1930-31 financial rear the Elevator Branch has paid to the Bn.il way Department £273,238 in railway freight; and it is a great convenience to the Railway Department that regular and con tinued use be found for their wheat trucks in stocking up the terminal elevator instead of having to depend upon the somewhat erratic movements of bagged wheat brought down to meet individual shipments.
Apart from the convenience experienced by the railway authorities in the actual handling of the wheat, the loss under this system is very slight. For instance, out of 24,000,000 bushels handled under the bulk system in New South Wales this year, owing to the fact that some of the wheat was put into bags, no loss occurred through the wheat being stacked at railway sidings, although in some of the States, notably Victoria, a certain amount of loss was occasioned by the ravages of mice, particularly in the Wimmera. Loss from this cause is avoided under the bulk-handling system. It was once feared that damage might result from weevil ; but owing to investigations made by Mr. Harris in America, the system of silo construction in New South Wales was changed, and the danger of damage by weevil has been reduced to such an extent that it is now practically negligible.
– What was the cost of the terminal silos in Sydney, and what is their capacity?
– I shall let the honorable member have that information at a later stage.
Although the flour-millers in New South Wales were at first inclined to regard the bulk handling system with disfavour, owing to its being generally adopted throughout .the world they are now rapidly falling into line, and favouring the silo system. The official report states -
Although the bulk handling system was originally planned to deal with wheat for shipments overseas, the New South Wales flourmillers have found the system so much to their liking that they now obtain a large proportion of their supplies in bulk. Practically all the mills have been specially fitted to receive wheat from bulk trucks, , and, of course, a saving in labour is effected in handling the grain. The millers find the system of bulk wheat warrants a great convenience in* buying wheat; they can depend upon regular supplies from the country to meet their requirements; they can count upon being supplied with a blend of wheat from different stations, and upon a great regularity in the quality. Protection from weather, rats and other pests is an important item. Supplies to mills during 1928-29 were d,182,000 bushels; 1929-30, 0,984,000 bushels.
In carrying bulk grain the shipowner gains in several directions; his vessel ib loaded very much faster with bulk than with bagged wheat. The Australian Charter Party imposes a minimum, day’s loading of .1,000 tons bulk and 500 tons bagged, but the minimum day’s loading for bulk should bo considerably increased, and this would decrease “ despatch “ money paid by the owner to the charterer for fast loading. Wo arc able to load 7,000 or 8,000 tons into a ship in one day. During the current season the Nolisement was loaded with 8,174 tons of bulk wheat in 14 hours 10 minutes; the Selvistan with 7,300 tons in 11 hours 50 minutes, and the Simonburn with 7,262 tons in 13 hours 35 minutes, all times including trimming. The Sydney terminal elevator is one of the cargo, the shipowner carries lj per cent, the world. tn addition, a saving is effected in the ship’s time.
The shipper of bagged wheat pays marine freight only on the net weight of the wheat; he pays no freight on the tare weight of the bags containing the wheat, and, as the tare amounts to lj per cent, of the total weight oi the cargo, the ship-owner carries lj per cent, of the bagged cargo free of freight.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I regret that I am not now prepared to reply fully to the remarks of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons). Had I known that he intended to submit this motion to-day, I would have armed myself with tho facts necessary to enable me to refute his arguments. He said that a considerable saving would be effected in handling costs by adopting the bulk system ; but I think that it is problematical. He mentioned that Western Australia was about to erect terminal elevators. I am under the impression that the Government of that State has approached the federal authorities with a view to securing about £70,000 for that purpose. Speaking from memory, the elevators in Sydney cost about £2,000,000.
– Slightly under £2,000,000.
– I believe that their capacity is not greater than 6,000,000 bushels. For argument’s sake, let us take Victoria’s harvest to be 50,000,000 bushels - 9,000,000 bushels for home consumption, and 41,000,000 bushels for export. The honorable member said that 34,000,000 bushels of wheat were handled in New South Wales this year under the bulk system; but that is considerably less than half the normal crop in Vic toria, which State, in an ordinary year, would have 40,000,000 bushels or more for export. Victoria would need, not only country elevators, but also terminal elevators, and the country elevators would have to be used, not for storing wheat, but only for handling it. From information that I have received, it appears to be necessary to use the country elevators to their full capacity. They must be filled and emptied at least twelve times in each season, if they are to be profitable.
The honorable member has not dealt with what, to my mind, is almost a fatal objection to the general adoption of the scheme. Suppose that the delivery of wheat throughout Australia occupied from eight to ten weeks. In that period it would be necessary to transport from the country to the seaboard, in the case of Victoria, 40,000,000 bushels of wheat, for which immediate accommodation would have to be provided, because it would not be bagged wheat. This year, in New South Wales, the silo system has been helped to the extent that more than half the wheat of that State has been put into bags. If all the wheat had been sent to Darling Harbour, either the terminal silos would not have been able to accommodate the whole of it, or it would have been necessary to have a fleet of vessels waiting at the seaboard to remove it to the other side of the world.
– The terminal elevators have a capacity of 6,600,000 bushels.
– In Victoria, it would be necessary to empty such silos six and a half times within from eight to ten weeks, and it would be necessary to have ships alongside> ready to take the wheat away as it came to hand. If the harvest time from the earliest period in Western Australia to the latest in any other part of the Commonwealth extended over three months, the whole of that wheat, less that which could be held in the terminal silos, would have to be loaded and sent overseas during that period. That would mean that the farmers would have to sell their wheat at any price offering. It is bad enough when they can hold their wheat for any period up to nine months. Unbagged wheat can be stored only in silos, which is one of the vital objections to the introduction of the bulk handling system. The matter hat been gone into exhaustively by the Victorian Wheat Growers Association and Mr. Judd, who has conducted the investigation, has produced figures proving that if there is any advantage one way or the other, it is slightly in favour of the bagging system. I am not in favour of bulk handling in Australia at present, believing that the time is not ripe for it. When our export of wheat amounts to between 200,000,000 and 300,000,000 bushels, we can begin thinking about installing the bulkhandling system. May I suggest to the Minister that, as there is such a wide divergence of opinion on this subject, it might be advisable to refer it for investigation and report to a board of inquiry or a select committee? It is impossible for this Parliament to come to a decision on the matter. There are only a few of us who have any first-hand knowledge of the subject, and it is probable that even we would find ourselves at loggerheads.
– Surely there cannot be any doubt regarding the advantages of installing silos?
– We have taken out figures to the thousandth part of a penny, and it is more than doubtful whether there is any advantage to the farmer in the bulk handling system.
– In New South Wales farmers are prepared to cart their wheat ten miles past the nearest railway siding in order to deliver it at one at which silos have been installed.
– The farmers of New South Wales have never been loaded with the cost of building the silos. If it can be shown that the installation of the bulk handling system would he of any material benefit to the farmers we should, of course, seriously consider the matter, but until then we should not allow ourselves to be influenced by any agitation in favour of altering the existing system. The Government should set up a select committee to inquire into this matter, and give it power to summon witnesses and take evidence. When it presented its report to the House we should have something to go on.
– I agree with the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) that the storage and handling of wheat before it comes to the terminal ports is largely the concern of State governments, though the Commonwealth Government may co-operate with them. The honorable member is to be commended for raising this matter, which is of vital importance to a large section of our primary producers. I agree with him regarding the advantages of bulk handling. There are objections to the system, as the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) has pointed out, but they arise from the fact that the system is in operation in only one State of the Commonwealth, and not even in all parts of that State. Many of those difficulties would be removed if the system were more widely extended. It is true that the system cost a great deal to install in New South Wales, but the work was done during the period of peak costs, and it is only reasonable to assume that the same work could be done more cheaply now. [Quorum formed.] New South Wales was the pioneer State in this matter, and in my opinion, it blundered, in that it did not send a representative to other countries in which the system was operating so that it might benefit by their experience. Notwithstanding the cost of installing the system in New South Wales, it has paid 4 per cent. on capital expenditure, after allowing for maintenance and working expenses. At the present time, when prices are low and economic conditions depressed, we should take every reasonable step to investigate handling charges, and methods of marketing, not only of wheat, but of all our primary products. When I was in Canada, although it was not the active season, I had an opportunity of inspecting the plant used for the bulk handling of wheat, and I was impressed with the advantages it gave the Canadians over us. The growers in Canada and the United States of America, where this method has been fully tried out, are loud in their praise of it, and would not think of going back to the bagging system. The bulkhandling system is also in operation in the Argentine, where there are terminal elevators at the large ports. Elevators are being installed in Russia, and the millers in Great Britain and on the Continent are also building them.
– They are being forced to do that.
– To a considerable extent they are, because wheat is coming from America and other places in bulk. The fact remains, however, that the bulk-handling system is being installed at all the important ports of Great Britain and the Continent, and it seems to me that, unless we keep in line, we are bound tosuffer. While it is possible for us in Australia to handle a prop of 150,000,000 bushels, or even 200,000,000 bushels of wheat by the bag system, it would not be possible for us to handle a very much larger crop satisfactorily by that method.
– The time will come when we shall have to install the bulk-handling system, but I do not think that it has yet arrived.
– We might be well advised to take time by the forelock. Our production of wheat is increasing. At any rate, there is no reason why a thorough inquiry should not be made at the earliest possible date into the merits and demerits of the system. I had the opportunity while I was in Canada of discussing this subject with many Canadian producers. One of the arguments used in favour of this system was that it very greatly reduced the cost of bags. A farmer could use the one set of bags half a dozen times or more. Savings were also made in twine, sewing, and many other ways. Instead of sewing the bags, the Canadian farmers fastened them with clasps, which were easily fastened and unfastened. I think that the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) will admit that bags represent about 3d. a bushel to our farmers. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) has told us that one expert opinion was that the price of bags varied from 3d. to 4d. per bushel.
– A wagon has been invented in New South Wales suitable for handling bulk wheat.
– I have seen several such wagons. The use of them still further cheapens the handling of the wheat. The danger of the destruction of wheat by mice is also greatly reduced by this system. The railway authorities find it of great economy, particularly in respect of hook-keeping, for, instead of dealing with many firms, they deal with practically only one authority.
The introduction of bulk handling would also make more practicable the grading of our wheat. I know that our wheat does not need grading so much as the Canadian wheat needs it, for it is of a more even quality. As a matter of fact there is not much incentive to our farmers with only the f.a.q. standard to improve the quality of their wheat.
– It is already too good compared with the wheat grown in other parts of the world.
– We all know that grading has encouraged overseas buyers to purchase Australian butter and meat. While the grading of wheat is not so necessary as the grading of meat and butter, still it might increase our sales to some extent. I am sure that if we reverted to the old system of marketing ungraded butter overseas we should run a serious risk of losing our trade. Canada’s best wheat, “ No. 1 Manitoba “, is known all over the world. All Canadian farmers try to produce a wheat equal to it, though they do not all succeed in doing so. The grading of all our primary products is desirable. At present we are marketing different grades of butter, our best being known as “ Choicest “, and all our dairymen try to produce “ Choicest “. The experts in Canada impressed me with the good results that had followed the grading of their wheat, and the introduction of bulk handling in Australia would facilitate the grading of our wheat.
The bulk handling of wheat in New South Wales has led to a saving of from 2s. 6d. to 3s. per ton in overseas freight compared with bag wheat. The shipping companies prefer to handle bulk wheat, because it can be handled quickly and easily. At a conference which I attended in England, at which the quota system of marketing the wheat of the dominions was discussed. I was informed that the millers preferred to grist bulk wheat, because it was much more regular in quality than bag wheat. I cannot say that that is so from my experience in Australia; hut it was certainly a point made strongly at that conference. I speak as a convinced believer in the bulkhandling system. As the honorable member for Calare has said, the time is ripe for us to give serious consideration to it. This subject is listed for discussion at the Premiers Conference, and I hope that the Commonwealth and State Governments will take action at an early date to have a full inquiry made into it.
– The honorable member’s time has expired. [Quorum formed.]
.- The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) is to be commended for having introduced a discussion on this subject. Twenty years ago, when I was a member of the New South Wales Parliament, and a supporter of the first McGowan Labour Government in New South Wales, I represented a large number of wheatfarmers, and gave much consideration to the possibility of installing the bulkhandling system in New South Wales. Like all Labour governments, the McGowan Government was anxious to assist the farmers, and it commissioned the Minister for Lands (Mr. Neilson) to visit America to make an inquiry into this subject. As the result of that visit, Mr. Burrell,an American expert in bulk handling, came to New South Wales, and prepared a report on the whole subject. The New South Wales Government did not rush into the project. I still have a good deal of information which I collected at that time. I do not think that the system has undergone any serious modification since then, except that the silos are now made of concrete instead of bricks, as I understand many silos were then built in America. I am very pleased to learn from the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbous) that the bulk-handling system has proved a success in New South Wales, and that the £4,000,000 invested in it has yielded a satisfactory return. The protagonists of new ideas have to run the gauntlet of criticism, and it is gratifying when the methods that they champion prove to be worth while. I remember when there used to be huge stacks of wheat alongside railway sidings awaiting transportation, the rolling-stock beingmadequate to cope with the harvest. Those stacks were subjected to the ravages of mice, while dust and damp also took their toll. All that sort of thing is obviated by the use of silos. I admit that the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) is a close student of the wheat industry, but I remind him that while a silo is an expensive proposition, it has a long life of usefulness. In fact, one erected now should still be doing service during the lives of our great, great grandchildren. Again it is frequently difficult to obtain bags, and, in any case, they have to b« purchased from a country which is of very little commercial use to Australia. Unfortunately the honorable member for Calare was unable to complete his description of the grain elevator system of New South Wales, and I shall now do so for him -
This system consists of (a) receiving handling and storage plants erected in the railway yards of the principal receiving centres in the country, and (b) a terminal elevator at Sydney for receiving, storing and delivering wheat on board oversea ships.
There are 99 elevators in the country which are fitted with appliances on the receiving side for taking the wheat from farmers’ carts, weighing and storing in bins. On the delivery side the wheat is weighed and loaded into bulk trucks for delivery either to flour mills or to the terminal elevator.
The plants are all modern concrete structures and provide storage accommodation ranging from 30,000 bushels to 550,000 bushels, depending upon the importance of the district. The storage does not represent the maximum handling capacity of the plants, as some of these in a busy receiving season have been filled and emptied as many as nine times.
The total storage capacity of the 99 plants in the country at one filling is 16,373,000 bushels.
At Sydney a modern concrete elevator has been erected, with a deep water frontage. The plant is electrically operated, and is fitted with most modern machinery for the fast handling - both receiving and shipping - of grain. It is fitted with a full battery of cleaning machines capable of cleaning all the wheat received, if necessary. It has five 40-ton Fairbank scales for the weighing of the wheat as it is received, and five Avery scales (automatic) for the weighing of the wheat as it is shipped. These scales weigh 4 tons per draft at the rate of two drafts per minute each. There are four shipping gantries, through which the wheat is loaded into vessels, which have a combined capacity of 800 tons per hour ; and recently two new shipping galleries have been erected, which have increased the loading capacity into ships to 1,400 tons per hour. This plant is one of the fastest outloading plants in existence.
The elevator wharf is 1,500 feet long and carries a depth of 34 feet at low water.
On the receiving side from 300 to 400 trucks can be bandied in an ordinary working day.
The terminal has a storage of6,650,000 bushels, or 180,000 tons at one filling, and,of course, may be filled more than once during the season.
During the 1930-31 harvest the elevators received 23,642,000 bushels of wheat, and in addition to deliveries to flour mills 11 million bushels had been shipped overseas from the terminal elevator up to the 30th June, 1931.
The charges for the use of the elevator system are as follow: -
Receiving into country elevator, weighing and loading into bulk trucks for delivery to mills, 2d. a bushel.
Receiving into country elevator, weighing and forwarding to terminal and loading thence into ship, 21/2d.a bushel.
The bulk wheat is carried over the railways in bulk trucks, some 2,000 of these being available for the purpose. These trucks can be utilized for other kinds of traffic when not required for bulk wheat.
One of the early problems under the new scheme was that of conveying the wheat to railways sidings. Fortunately, modern trucks do not need altering for this purpose.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 31st July (vide page 4845), on motion by Mr. Scullin -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I resume my criticism of the atrocious road conditions between Canberra and Yass. That thoroughfare is traversed by representative visitors of all nations. What an ill advertisement it is for Australia ! I venture the opinion that, when Alexander the Great invaded Asia he found none of the primitive roads of that country in as shocking a condition as that unspeakable strip between here and Yass.
– Does the honorable member refer to that section which is outside the Federal Capital Territory?
– This Parliament has nothing to do with it.
– I contend that the Federal Minister has to be consulted as to the expenditure of this money, and he and his colleagues in the Cabinet should make it their business to see that this road, which comes under the notice of so many distinguished visitors, receives attention. Its deplorable condition was apparent to Amy Johnson, a recent batch of American visitors, and to the officers of the Chilian naval training ship General Baquedano, and it is enough to frighten capital away from Australia. The Government saw fit to construct the new federal highway from Canberra to Goulburn, connecting with the Hume Highway at Yarra, but this oldestablished road between the Federal Capital of Australia and Yass is regarded as a sort of Cinderella, and accordingly neglected. If Ministers, when leaving the Federal Capital, were compelled to travel by road to Yass to catch the train, they would soon insist on that road being repaired. The roads that lead to Canberra should be a credit to Australia. The parties in this House should rise in a solid phalanx to protest against the present condition of the road from Canberra to Yass. I hope that the Minister will not allow another month to pass before putting it into a proper state of repair. [Quorum formed.]
.- This bill proposes to ratify an alteration of the Federal Aid Roads agreement between the Commonwealth and State Governments. In the main, I support this proposal. The condition of the road from Canberra to Yass, which was referred to by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Cusack), is entirely outside the scope of the bill. This Parliament, however, will have no control whatever over the expenditure of moneys raised by a tax on petrol entered for home consumption, and an extra duty on petrol refined in Australia, and distributed among the States for road construction purposes. Under the original agreement, this Parliament had some control over the expenditure of such moneys, but under the proposed agreement it will have no control whatever.
– It will be able to call for a report from the States.
– This Parliament should certainly retain some greater power than that. I agree with the proposal under which the States will not be required to provide 15s. for every £1 given to them by the Commonwealth. Recently, the
Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, investigated the claims of South Australia and Tasmania for financial assistance. Both States complained that the obligation to raise 15s. for every £1 contributed by the Commonwealth was a serious drain on their finances. They stated that most of the unemployed within their borders were unskilled labourers, and that the main class of work upon which they could be employed was the construction and repair of roads. When giving evidence before the committee, the Premier of Tasmania said -
Under the present arrangement we have to provide £65,000 a year in order to participate in the Commonwealth grant. We have to borrow that money and pay interest upon it.
That is an extraordinary situation. The Development and Migration Commission’s Transport Committee pointed out the seriousness of the position on page 39 of its report, where it states -
Tasmania’s splendid road system is the best asset the State possesses of all the work» provided from expenditure of public funds. The asset is suffering a very serious depreciation through the advent of the motor vehicle, the insufficiency of funds for maintaining its efficiency, and the consequent absence of a system of continuous maintenance.
That committee formed the opinion that the roads maintenance problem, if not solved in the near future, would develop to a dangerous magnitude. The original roads policy, although it had defects, did great service to Australia in providing national highways and feeder roads to railways, enabling our primary products to be quickly dispatched to market. The States will be assisted by being relieved of the necessity for raising 15s. for every £1 contributed by the Commonwealth. The agreement should provide definitely that roads already constructed must be properly maintained. They were constructed to last practically for all time. They represent a national asset, and on no account should they be allowed to deteriorate. Our roads policy hitherto provided for the building of roads over a period of five years. Tinder this system long roads are constructed in broken sections with big gaps between them, the worst sections of the road being first made traffickable. Although at the time of construc- tion the gaps may have been in good repair, when the work of construction is complete they have in most instances fallen into disrepair. It is the duty of this Government to ensure that roads upon which this money is expended are properly maintained, and that the roads not yet finished are among the first to be proceeded with. These great national assets must be preserved. Mr. Lang may take it into his head to defy the Commonwealth in respect of this agreement.
– The Government is now withholding from New South Wales moneys that are due to it under the Federal Aid Roads agreement.
– That money is being withheld to offset the debt of that State to the Commonwealth. The original agreement provided that the money given to the States for road purposes should be expended on certain specified types of roads, but under the new agreement this money may be spent on any type of road. I agree that the States should be relieved of - their obligation to provide 15s. in the £1, and that they should be entitled to use this money for maintenance purposes. With these two exceptions, I suggest that the conditions of the original agreement should obtain, and I hope that before the agreement is finalized that alteration will be made.
.- This agreement should, provide that any moneys granted to the States for road purposes should not be expended in constructing roads that are likely to compete with the’ railway and tramway systems of the various States. In the past we have made a huge mistake in constructing roads parallel with the railways, and that, to a large extent, has been responsible for the enormous losses on our railways and tramways. I recognize the necessity for building roads. The motor-car owner undoubtedly has a right to some benefit in return for his car registration fee and the tax on the petrol that he consumes. He should be given some facilities for ‘using his car. But were I a car-owner, using a car for the pleasure of my family and myself at the week-end, I would travel, not between the cities, but into the virgin country. I have in mind the assistance that would be ren- dered to the man on the land by the construction of roads into rural areas, and the greater facilities which the farmer would then have for getting his produce to the railway. Many of the roads now being constructed between the large centres of population run parallel with the railways. A new concrete road has been built from Sydney to Newcastle, and it is now an active competitor with what was formerly one of the most profitable railway services in Australia. Not only are buses taking a big share of the passenger traffic, but probably heavy lorries will ply on that thoroughfare when it is completed. People are already taking advantage of the first-class northern road to travel by car between Sydney and Brisbane. This competition with the railways is disturbing the finances of the States, and in their interests the Commonwealth should declare that the money collected by the petrol tax shall not be expended on roads that are likely to compete with existing railways. Obviously it is a waste of money to construct -first-class roads at the cost of the taxpayer and allow private enterprise to reap the benefit by running motor passenger services which help to prevent the railways from paying their way. The railways were built with public money, but private enterprise is not allowed to operate motor trains on them. Roads also are built with treasury funds, and why should we allow private enterprise to operate motor buses on them in competition with the railways? Public expenditure should be for the benefit of the many, not of the few. This competition is foolish and suicidal, and should be prevented by the control of road transport. The man on the land has reasonable ground for complaint when the money raised by the petrol tax is spent on the improvement of roads between cities. I have mentioned the Sydney to Newcastle road ; the road from Perth to Fremantle is another instance of public funds being expended to encourage bus competition with the railways.
– Henceforth the responsibility will rest with the States, to which the railways belong.
– That is so, but the Commonwealth is providing, by means of a petrol tax, money for the States to carry out a policy that is foolish in the extreme. After all, the final responsibility for the financial position of Australia rests with the Commonwealth, and it is entitled to express its views regarding the expenditure of money raised by it to engender competition with railway systems that are already unprofitable. Not only have the railways been robbed of traffic, but heavy lorries are transporting goods for long distances, and incidentally doing immense damage to first-class roads constructed by State governments at great expense. The States have to bear both the loss on the railway systems through this competition, and the increased cost of road maintenance. [Quorum formed.’]
– I regret that I cannot support the bill, principally because it is diametrically opposed to the policy of the party to which I belong. The federal aid roads scheme was initiated by the Country party, and eventually put into operation, as part of the policy of the BrucePage Government. As the policy was originally operated, there was no doubt of its purpose, which was to provide better roads for country districts - not only main roads, but also feeder roads, which would enable the primary producers in isolated areas to get their produce to market. For three or- four years the policy was successfully operated; during that’ time over £10,000,000 was raised by means of a petrol tax and distributed to the States under hard and fast conditions, and an average of over 1,000 miles of new roads was constructed throughout Australia annually. In addition, many bridges and culverts, which were necessary to the efficiency of these roads, were built by means of a special grant by the State Governments to shire councils. While the original purpose of the agreement was adhered to, the scheme was one of the greatest boons conferred on rural districts. It, has since been altered. Of course, we have to face hard facts, and it would not be reasonable for the Country party, devoted though it is to this policy, to insist that the old conditions shall be maintained or the scheme abandoned. We cannot afford to demand all or nothing. The States are not able to-day to contribute 15s. for every £1 provided by the Commonwealth. I agree with the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that they cannot expect a greater relief than is afforded by exemption from that obligation. Rut the Government is going very much further; it is practically abandoning the scheme which «as inaugurated by its predecessor, with the general approval of the rural population. It was essentially a country scheme, and conferred upon rural dwellers practically the only advantage they have had from the Federal Parliament for many years. There is widespread regret throughout the country that the original scheme is being departed from. There* is not the slightest doubt that this bill will terminate the contributions for road construction in country areas. The State Governments maintained a department which dealt directly with shire councils and other local authorities controlling roads, and after three or four years of experience the system was functioning very satisfactorily. But henceforth there will be no organization behind this federal aid roads scheme. The Commonwealth will merely pay to the States a certain amount of money to be raised by a tax of 2£d. a gallon on petrol, and to be raised in a very unfair manner. Previously, although the tax unfairly applied to the petrol consumed by vehicles used on the farms and not on the road, the owners of such vehicles realized that the country was getting most of the advantages from the roads expenditure, In future a different tale will be told. The petrol used by farm vehicles will be subject to a total tax of 4d. a gallon, and there will bc no guarantee that the country districts will get any benefit from the contributions to be made under this bill. The money will be handed over to the State Governments to dispose of as they think fit, and, knowing the temper of some of them, I am certain that if they are faced with pressing unemployment problems in their cities the money will be expended there. Country people would consider it a disastrous policy to hand the money over to the States without stipulating that a definite proportion of it should be spent in rural districts. For that reason alone I cannot support the bill. I dare say that some State Governments would be fair enough to see that the wishes of this Parliament in making the money available were carried out. Experience of what has happened in New South Wales in the last twelve months leads me to think that not much of the money would go to the country districts in that State. We were told in that State that the funds raised by means of the unemployed relief tax would be used largely in providing assistance in the country as well as in the cities, but that money has not been made available for alleviating distress in country districts. That being the spirit of the Government in New South Wales, I have the gravest doubts whether any of the federal aid roads money will be spent in the country. I do not say that the Government will adopt that policy because of an objection to assisting country districts; but the need for providing employment in the metropolitan areas is so pressing that the Government is at its wit’s end to deal with the situation, and, in the absence of coercive influence from the country, it will be inclined to pay heed to the demonstrations made in Sydney. If the State Government is permitted to use its own discretion in the matter, so long as the money is spent on roads, I think that moat of it will be disbursed in and around Sydney. The Commonwealth Government ought to withdraw this agreement, and reconsider it, because at the present time it needs for more pressing purposes all the funds it can raise.
– Notice would have to be given to the States, because their financial arrangements have been made in anticipation of receiving this money.
– Such notice should be given immediately. It is generally realized that this measure marks the end of a highly desirable scheme of road construction. I believe that if the Government withdrew this bill, with a view to making an agreement with the States more in keeping with the terms of the principal act, its action would be applauded by all parties.
– Is not this measure a direct result of the Premiers Conference J
– This matter was settled as far back as February.
– This is not necessarily a good bill because it resulted from deliberations at a Premiers Conference. Those conferences do a lot of their work in a hasty fashion. The reportspublished in the press show that a Premiers Conference does not give thorough consideration to many of the matters that come before it. I venture to say that one matter that was not carefully considered was that of the federal aid roads agreement.
If this bill is passed, the country districts will not receive the benefits to which I consider them entitled. The agreement provides that the Minister “ may “ satisfy himself by such means as he thinks fit regarding the way in which a State expends its share of this grant. That provision simply gives the Minister a blank cheque, and he may be subject to political influence. I think that the word “may” should be altered to “ shall “. There is nothing in the agreement to compel a State Government to carry out the policy of this Parliament that the roads on which over £10,000,000 of federal money has been already spent shall be properly maintained. We know that those roads are rapidly deteriorating through lack of maintenance.
– If we did that we should be maintaining roads which would be used by motor transport in competition with the railways.
– That could not be avoided. The bill contains no provision that a portion ofthe money voted shall be expended in maintaining the roads already constructed, and in completing the sectional or feeder roads that have been begun. In my own electorate, one sees unfinished roads that are being allowed togo to ruin. If no further attention is paid to them, the money already spent will have been wasted.
– Who is responsible for stopping that work?
– The Government decided that, owing to the financial stringency, it could not continue the agreement on the old basis; but, in the first place, the pressure came from the State Governments, which pointed out that they could not subsidize the Commonwealth contribution to the extent of 15s. in the £1. Members of the Country party recognize the difficult position of the States, but not the right of this Government completely to reverse the policy laid down by the previous Government, and approved by all parties in this House, with respect to these roads. Even the Labour party adopted this policy eventually, and promised to carry it out; but it went back on its word in that respect.
As a member of the Country party, I may say, briefly, that I cannot support the bill in its present form, for the following reasons : - It frees the States from any obligations to the country districts with respect to this money. It gives the Federal Minister no control over the expenditure of the money in the States, because, if he happens to be pliant, the word “ may “ in the schedule leaves an opening by which the States may take advantage of him. If the influences in the States are too strong for the Federal Minister, under clause 6 of the agreement he can do almost anything he likes in the matter, and federal members, who may be harassed by their constituents, will have no redress. The bill should contain a provision for the completion of some of the work undertaken under the principal act as part of the policy of the late Government. In my opinion, these defects provide ground for serious objection to the bill, and the Government should withdraw it until the measure can receive more consideration than we are now able to give it.
.- There is a good deal in the contention of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) that in the present bill we are departing from one of the principles of the original act, but I believe that the State Governments will not depart materially from the policy previously laid down. The advantages that the bill will confer outweigh its disadvantages. If the act were to remain in operation, the States would be unable to take advantage of it, because they are not in a position to subsidize the federal grant to the extent stipulated under the act, and the roads are falling into disrepair. I think that the States may be relied upon to maintain existing roads, but, if they do not, the law should be further amended. I agree with the honorable member that the money derived from the petrol tax should he used, as previously, for the construction of roads of a developmental character that will provide much.needed facilities in country districts. In the metropolitan areas the people have less difficulty than those in the country in obtaining the roads they require. Petrol users, unfairly, in some instances, are being taxed to provide the necessary funds for the building of roads both in the country and in the cities. I think that the State Governments may be trusted to decide whether the grant should be spent in rural localities or in the cities.
– “What influence will cause them to study country interests.
– Country roads are of such importance that any government would realize that it would be economically unsound to allow the miles of federal aid roads to fall into a state of disrepair. [Quorum formed.] The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) said that under the old system there was provision for organization which would b lacking under the new arrangement. I do not think that the organization previously existing was worth very much. Under the present act, the State authorities submitted plans of certain works, and the Federal Minister either approved or disapproved. No Minister in Canberra,or in any other capital city, is competent to pass judgment on the merits of road proposals in distant places such as my electorate, or that of the honorable member for New England’, he has to be guided by reports received from men on the spot. The State authorities can attend to matters of that kind better than can the federal authorities. In South Australia the Government owns three complete road construction plants which have not been used for some time owing to the depression. Under the new scheme it will be possible to employ that machinery on road construction and maintenance. The fact that this money can be used for maintenance purposes outweighs any possible disadvantages such as those mentioned by the honorable member for New England. Some honorable members have stated that the Commonwealth has been making a gift of money to the States under the provisions of the act, but that is not so. The whole of the money is raised in the States by taxation imposed on motorists.
The forthcoming Premiers Conference should give consideration to the subject of petrol taxation. Persons who operate stationary engines, motor tractors, motor boats, &c. pay the petrol tax although they do not use the roads. The conference should also consider the institution of a uniform system of motor taxation for the whole of Australia, to be paid through a tax on petrol. Even though it might mean a small increase in the present tax, it would be welcomed by petrol users. I recognize that it is sometimes hard to obtain uniform action among the States, but agreement has recently been reached on many contentious subjects, and the time is opportune for making an attempt in regard to this matter also. If such a system were introduced, there would be no doubt that those who wore out the roads paid for their maintenance. At the present time, many persons, such as doctors, desire to keep two motor cars, but refrain from doing so because of the high registration costs. If there were only one tax, that on petrol, it would be no more expensive to keep two cars than one, provided that the same amount of petrol was used, and some benefit might be derived by the motor industry.
I agree that steps should be taken to prevent motor vehicles using, for the purpose of competing with railways, the roads built under this scheme. In South Australia a very effective method hai been employed for preventing such competition. It is provided under the transport regulations that service cars may convey passengers to a railway, but may not carry them further in competition with the railway. If the other States were to take similar action, this problem of motor competition would be overcome immediately. Honorable members need not fear that under the new system country districts will be neglected. The State authorities can be trusted to see that the money is wisely expended, and they will be in a position to take immediate advantage of the grant, now that they have not to subsidize the money received. Employment will be provided for many at present out of work, and country roads which are practically impassable can be made serviceable before the end of the winter.
– As a representative of a country electorate, I have always supported the principle of the Federal Aid Roads Act, and I have sought to guard its provisions in the interests of country dwellers. We must realize, however, that the financial position is unfavorable at the present time, and that the States cannot afford to pay a subsidy of 15s. for every £1 advanced under the federal aid roads scheme. At a recent conference of the Commonwealth and State authorities, it was agreed to modify the stringent provisions of the agreement relating to the subsidy. It is better that the States should be able to spend this money without providing a subsidy than that they should be denied the benefit of a grant altogether. Two of the States stood out from the agreement for a considerable time, but Queensland has always taken up every penny she could, and has spent the money to the great advantage of country districts by opening up isolated areas, and providing access to railways. This policy is in marked contrast with that adopted in New South Wales, where £1,000,000 was spent in constructing a highway from Sydney to Newcastle. States could do foolish things of that kind under the present act, hut it is not proposed, as some honorable members fear, to take away any of the powers possessed by the Federal Minister. As a matter of fact, under the present act, the Federal Minister has no authority to say where a road shall be constructed under the federal aid roads scheme. He is merely given power to declare the class of work to be performed. He has authority to review the plans of the work in order to determine, for instance, whether a particular bridge, or some other part of an undertaking, is in accordance with the specification laid down by the Commonwealth engineers. They had certain rights to view plans, but they had no right to say where money should be spent. Three classes of roads were provided for in the agreement, namely, arterial, main, and developmental roads. All the Minister could do was to satisfy himself that the money would be spent on a road of one of these three classes. I can sympathize with the views of certain honorable members who represent New South Wales constituencies, because they feel that the Government of that State has not made adequate arrangements for ensuring that federal aid roads money shall be spent, in the most effective way.
I direct the attention of honorable members to paragraph 5 of the agreement in the schedule of the bill which reads as follows: -
All moneys paid to the State under this agreement or under the principal agreement as varied by this agreement will be expended upon the construction, reconstruction, maintenance, or repair of roads.
The Minister may satisfy himself by such means as he thinks fit as to whether the moneys paid to the State under this agreement or under the principal agreement as varied by this agreement have been expended as provided for in the last preceding clause.
I take it that “ roads “ mean our arterial, main, or development roads, in accordance with the definition which appears in the principal act. Some honorable members have asked that the word “may” be altered to “ shall “, but if such an alteration were made it would be almost impossible for the Minister to adhere to the terms of the agreement. In order to do so, he would have to inspect the plans and specifications for every road constructed in the Commonwealth under this great scheme.
– That is done now.
– I entirely disagree with the honorable member. If we were to make an alteration of that description, we should seriously duplicate work.
– The paragraph to which the honorable member has directed attention is in exactly the same form in which it appeared in the original agreement.
– That interjection strengthens my argument. I cannot see any objection to the paragraph as it stands. In my own State the Government desires to secure every penny of this money to continue the programme of road construction on which it is working. The expenditure of the money is adequately protected, for under the Queensland Main Roads Act it is provided that all the money received from the Commonwealth Government under this scheme shall be automatically transferred to the fund controlled by the Main Roads Commissioner. Queensland does not desire any alteration in the paragraph of the agreement to which I have referred, and the Government of that State may be trusted to spend the money wisely in the best interests of the State.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has complained, because heavy motor lorries and trucks use the roads constructed in New South Wales out of this money for the purpose of competing with the State railways. I suggest that the remedy for this is in the hands of the State Government or the local governing bodies. If that kind of thing is happening in New South Wales, it is due to maladministration. For my own part, I do not think that it is happening. I believe that private enterprise is paying heavily for the use of the roads.
– Is the honorable member aware that it is proposed to continue this agreement for six years?
– The original agreement was for a ten-year period, but the Commonwealth and State Governments- now find it desirable to alter that provision after five years. It may be found necessary to alter this agreement after two or three years, and if that is necessary, it can be done.
– The trouble is that the Commonwealth Government has paid the States more money than it has collected from the petrol tax.
– That is true; but as the Government entered into an agreement to provide the money it must do so. If the conditions of this agreement are not being fulfilled in New South Wales, the Government should take steps to see that they are adhered to. I should be glad to hear of any concrete proposal for making the agreement more effective; but the suggestion that the word “may” should be altered to “ shall “ is ridiculous, for it would . lead to an immense amount of duplication in the reviewing of plans and the inspecting of work before the money provided by the Commonwealth could be paid over to the States. This would take control from the States.
.- If this bill is passed, it will mark the end, not only of the federal aid roads policy, but also, I am afraid, of the federal aid roads. I recognize, of course, that we cannot go on spending money on roads at the same rate as hitherto. The financial and economic condition of the country makes that impossible. Under the original agreement, provision was made for the expenditure annually of £2,000,000 by the Commonwealth, and £1,500,000 by the States upon the construction and reconstruction of main roads, to use a general’ term. Expenditure at that rate is not now possible.
– Apart from the financial consideration, surely the construction of main roads is not to continue indefinitely.
– The construction of main roads may not be necessary now in either the honorable member’s constituency or in mine; but there are other parts of Australia where main roads will need to be constructed for many years to come. I have travelled in different parts of the Commonwealth on roads constructed under the federal aid road? scheme, and have learned that these roads have conferred an almost incalculable benefit on the people. Roads have been constructed in some parts of the country which could not have been constructed if only local resources had been available to the people.
The beginning of the federal aid roads policy - if not exactly accidental - was, to an extent, fortuitous. The scheme actually began on the 20th June, 1923, on which date the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) made a statement in Parliament to the following effect: -
The Government lias indicated to the States that we are prepared to advance £500,000 for main road development and that that sum would be distributed as to £300,000 on a population basis and as to £200,000 on hu area basis. We made it very clear that the money was not to be spent on necessary road construction that the States themselves would otherwise have to undertake; our proposal was merely a recognition by the Commonwealth of the paramount importance in Australia of good means of communication as an aid to development. The roads on which the money is to bc spent must be such as will open up new country for agricultural pastoral, and mineral activities, and give access to railways or main thoroughfares to facilitate the marketing of produce. The proposal which we have suggested is a sound and economic one.
It will be seen that origin all y it was intended to expend £500,000 on road work largely for the purpose of unemployment relief. Further grants were made in subsequent years, and, in 1926, the federal aid roads policy, as we now understand it, was adopted. The general principles underlying that policy are easily discoverable by an examination of the Federal Aid Roads Act and the agreement appended thereto. The mainspring of the policy was the recognition of the importance of providing properly foundationed, formed and surfaced roads for modern transport. In many countries with which Australia has to compete, sound, solid, well-surfaced roads have been provided for transport purposes. The provision of such roads confers the greatest possible benefit upon the producers who have to carry heavy loads of produce to a point at which they can be placed on trains. I have been in different parts of Australia where, prior to the construction of good roads under the federal aid roads scheme, the farmers could only transport one comparatively small load of produce by working from daylight to dark. Since the federal aid road has been built in the district they have been able to transport four much heavier loads per day between the same points.
– That is because of the introduction of motor transport.
– Before the federal aid road was constructed in the localities to which I am referring, it was impossible to use motor transport. Slow horse transport or bullock transport had to be relied upon by the farmers. The increased efficiency which has been brought about by the construction of modern roads has been very great.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The original roads agreement recognized that it was not one of the functions of the Commonwealth to look after the roads of Australia, but at a time when the Commonwealth had revenue which it was able to devote to the purpose of providing a proper roads system, it was considered by the Parliament that the money would be well spent in making permanent assets in the way of roads. The agreement depended upon the concurrence of the Commonwealth and of the States. The Commonwealth had no right to make a road or to interfere in the making of a road within any State, but if all the States agreed to the terms and conditions upon which the Commonwealth would provide financial assistance for making roads, then this constitutional objection entirely disappeared.
All the States and the Commonwealth signed the agreement, which is to be found in the schedule of the Federal Aid Roads Act of 1926. I do not pretend that every State was entirely satisfied with all of the terms of that agreement, but, in fact, all accepted it. Its purpose was to provide certain permanent assets of a capital nature in the form of roads, those roads being designed upon a system which had the approval of the Commonwealth and the particular States concerned. In that way it was hoped to get rid of one of the difficulties which is almost inevitably associated with the making, of roads by the Government of a State, namely the insistence upon local demands which is so readily and urgently pressed by a local parliamentary representative. I have always taken the view that it is a most unfortunate thing that our railways were not brought to the State border at the points which would have best served the national interest. I, therefore, welcomed this agreement as a means of bringing about a properly linked up system of main road transport in the Commonwealth. It appears to me that there is a great deal to be said for introducing the Commonwealth, as a relatively disinterested party, into any scheme of layout of general main roads.
All honorable members are aware that roads are wasting assets. A large amount of money may be spent on making a very good road, but unless that road is maintained, in a relatively short period the whole value of the asset practically disappears. Accordingly it was very wisely provided in the original agreement that the States should maintain the roads constructed with federal aid. The money to be provided by the Commonwealth and the States together under the roads agreement was to be expended in the construe- tion and reconstruction of three classes of roads - (1) Main roads to open up and develop new country; (2) trunk roads between important towns, and (3) arterial roads to carry the concentrated traffic from developmental, main, trunk, and other roads.
It will be seen that it was not intended to furnish federal money in order to relieve the States of their ordinary obligations of maintaining their roads from day to day - the pick and shovel work which we see being done, necessarily, on the roads of the country. The money was to be spent on the three classes of work to which I have referred, and, substantially, in the country. Undoubtedly, these roads run through country towns, but the object of the agreement was to develop means of transit and transport in the country generally,’ and not to provide for any expenditure of money in the metropolis of any State, or in the suburbs of the metropolis.
Clause 8 of the agreement provided that -
The State shall, to the satisfaction of the Minister, moke proper provision for the adequate and continuous maintenance in good repair and condition of all roads constructed and reconstructed in pursuance of this agreement. Such maintenance shall be taken in hand immediately following upon the completion of the construction or reconstruction of any road or portion thereof, and shall be met from moneys provided ‘by the State.
Then there is a proviso empowering the Commonwealth to withhold the payment of moneys if roads are not adequately maintained. That clause, combined with the one to which I have previously referred, plainly shows the object of the Commonwealth taking part in road construction. The Commonwealth was to provide the capital asset, that provision involving a relatively large expenditure of money which the States, unaided, were not in a position to supply. The States were then bound to maintain that capital asset in good order. Otherwise, as I have stated, in a relatively short period its entire value might disappear, and the Commonwealth would be rendering only a purely temporary service to the people of Australia.
The States accepted the agreement, and recognized that they were entering into a scheme of road construction and reconstruction which was to be developed in the national interest. The agreement was very carefully drawn in order to prevent money being’ wasted, and to secure, so far as was humanly possible, that the expenditure of federal money should result in the provision of a permanent asset to be permanently maintained.
– Has the agreement been well observed by the States?
– The Prime Minister, when introducing the bill, said that the existing agreement had proved to be unworkable. He produced no evidence in support of that contention, and I am not prepared to accept it.
– The States did not fulfil their obligation to provide 15s. for every £1 contributed by the Commonwealth.
– I have already dealt with the subject-matter of that interjection. Some of the States have always wanted to have this money free of conditions; they wanted it simply as a State grant, to be spent as they liked, but they were prepared to accept it under the terms of the agreement rather than not receive it at all. But they have always wanted to be free of the obligation to provide 15s. for every £1 contributed by the Commonwealth, and of the obligation to coordinate their roads upon a national system. Of course, the States defended their attitude with all sorts of arguments drawn from the idea of the sovereignty of the States and the like. The State Premiers, many of whom have always wanted to have this money in relief of their ordinary budget without being bound to spend it in providing what I have described as permanent assets, have at last achieved their object with a complacent Prime Minister. The real nature of the bill is this : Instead of this federal money being devoted towards the provision of a permanent and up-to-date road system throughout the Commonwealth, it will now, if this bill is passed, be provided simply in relief of the ordinary budgets of the States. Clause 5 of the schedule to the agreement reads -
All moneys paid to the State under this agreement, or under the principal agreement as varied by this agreement will be expended upon the construction, reconstruction, maintenance or repair of roads.
That means any road, for example, such as one in the constituency of Kooyong. That constituency has a high standard of intelligence, as honorable members will readily appreciate, and it realizes that it was not intended to be a beneficiary under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. It was, undoubtedly, never intended that suburban streets should be repaired with federal money. Still, under the bill as it now stands this money con. be expended in a suburban constituency. It will be spent entirely at the will of the State Government upon the construction, reconstruction, maintenance or repair of roads.
– Of any type of road.
– That is so. From a practical point of view this money is simply to be a grant to the States of Australia. By passing this bill we shall be making grants in aid of the States, including the wealthy State of New South Wales.
– Does the honorable member believe that this money will be expended on suburban streets?
– If this bill is passed this money will, undoubtedly, be spent on road work in relief of unemployment. I am not saying that such expenditure is not necessary at the present time, but I remind honorable members that we have a responsibility in dealing with federal money. Any money that is collected with the authority of this Parliament should be spent in a manner approved by it. I ask honorable members to realize that by passing this bill we shall be abandoning the whole of our federal roads policy and making a grant to the States, apportioned according to a compound factor of population and area, in relief of the ordinary budgets of the States. In other words, this is not a roads bill, but a States grant bill.
This legislation adopts for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth the principle of earmarking a particular source of Commonwealth revenue for other than a strictly Commonwealth purpose. It is provided that the money to be spent under this agreement is to be derived from certain customs and excise duties. A sum of 21/2d. a gallon taken from the customs duties on petrol, and 11/2d. a gallon taken from the excise duties on that commodity, is to be paid to the States. I have always regarded as a doubtful principle the earmarking of any specific Commonwealth revenue for a State purpose. The proper course to adopt is to make a grant out of the Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth, where the Parliament is satisfied that the object of the grant is a worthy one. But once we begin to earmark and allocate particular revenues, it is obvious that this Parliament is binding itself, first, to maintain a certain form of taxation, and, secondly, to maintain a certain rate of taxation. I do not anticipate that, within the five-year period of this agreement, it is likely that the tax on petrol for this purpose will be below 21/2d. a gallon, but it is undesirable that this Parliament should bind any subsequent parliament to maintain taxation on petrol, and to maintain a certain minimum rate of tax. We are making a mistake in earmarking revenue in this manner, because it may pave the way for the States to make demands for other particular revenues of the Commonwealth. It would be preferable to provide in the agreement that a certain amount of money should be provided for the States per annum. I agree that we should accede to the demand of the States to be relieved of their contribution of 15s. in the £1, and that it is proper in all circumstances to provide a sum of money for the purpose of roads. But the grant should be made out of the Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth in the ordinary way without fettering this or subsequent parliaments in their financial policy, and it should be made subject to conditions in order to secure that most valuable assets, which have been created in recent years by the expenditure of federal money, shall not waste and decay. Therefore, in committee an amendment will be moved to strike out clause 5 of the schedule, which allows the States to expend the money on any roads either on construction, reconstruction, maintenance or repair work, and to substitute for it the following clause : -
Moneys paid to the States under this agreement shall be expended firstly in providing for the adequate and continuous maintenance in good repair and condition of all roads constructed or reconstructed in pursuance of the principal agreement, and secondly in completing, as far as the Minister may from time to time require sectionsof roads construction or reconstruction of which has been commenced under the Principal Agreement but not completed, and thirdly in the construction, reconstruction or maintenance of any roads in country districts.”
The first object in expending this federal money should be the maintenance of assets already created. The second object should be the completion, so far as the Minister may from time to time require, of sections of roads, the construction or reconstruction of which had been commenced under the principal agreement. I suggest that this is a wise provision. I recognize that there must be a certain elasticity in any proposal such as this, and, therefore, the amendment provides that the money shall be spent in completing unfinished schemes which would otherwise be useless. This provision, in practice, should work out satisfactorily. Thirdly, I contend that the money should be expended upon the construction reconstruction, maintenance and repair of any roads in country districts. That is in accordance with clause 5 of the schedule, except for the words “ in country districts “. I am making this proposal, although I represent a suburban constituency, but in proposing it I am recognizing the real object of the original federal aid roads scheme, which was not to improve metropolitan and suburban streets, but to improve transit facilities in the country.
– That object was not achieved.
– It has been achieved generally, and I am astonished to hear the interjection of the honorable member. I have travelled on roads in his own constituency, with which he must be familiar, which have been improved out of recognition by the expenditure of federal money. The object of the agreement has been achieved within the limits of the expenditure. Of course had there been ten times as much money available, more work would have been done, but very real benefits have been conferred on country districts throughout Australia under this scheme. The honorable member has referred to roads running parallel with railways. That is a permanent subject of controversy, but it has nothing to do with this agreement.
– Most of the money has been expended on such roads.
– That intersection has no relevancy, because even under the pre sent proposal of the Government, the States may expend this money on roads running alongside railways. The competition of road and rail traffic is a difficult subject, and is not to be settled by a mere interjection. Whatever may be the merits of that controversy, they have nothing to do with this bill. The money will be expended by the State governments, and it should be utilized primarily in maintaining the real and valuable assets which have been created under the federal aid roads scheme. I am afraid that unless some such provision is made, some of those roads will be allowed to fall into disrepair, in order that the State governments may gain a temporary benefit, possibly by providing work for unemployed in the vicinity of the cities. The acceptance of my amendment would very greatly improve the bill ; it would obviate the risk of this money being wastefully expended for some transient advantage instead of on works which would be for the permanent well-being of the Commonwealth.
– I support the bill in its present form. This alteration of the roads agreement is long overdue. The conditions imposed upon the States under the original act were unsound and harassing. In the first place, the States were required to make roads in new country, In Tasmania some such roads have not been completed because of insufficiency of funds, and are never used ; indeed, several of them are over-grown and fast reverting to a state of nature. Another condition which prevented some of the States from taking full advantage of the scheme was that they must expend 15s. for every £1 granted by the Commonwealth, and they were allowed no say in the location of the expenditure.
– A State always had that right.
– No. A Commonwealth engineer travelled the various States and recommended to his Minister the roads to receive attention with the money provided by the Commonwealth. Because of this dictation, the States sometimes had to provide large sums of money for expenditure on roads which the people could very well have done without. I admit that they were helpful in opening up new country, but they were not necessary. The repair and reconditioning of existing roads would have been of greater advantage. One of the most commendable features of the amended agreement is that the States will be able to expend the money “ upon the construction, reconstruction, maintenance or repair of roads “. In Tasmania many roads were built years ago to carry light horse-drawn vehicles with loads not exceeding 2 tons. For modern motor traffic, including lorries that carry up to 10 tons, more substantial roads are required. Why should a State be required to expend the money received from the Commonwealth in outback districts, and neglect those roads which provide access from settlements to the railway or market? In some districts the best roads are in the back-blocks, and the bad ones between old settlements and the market or railway. The location of the expenditure should be left to the discretion of the State governments. They have competent engineers whose local knowledge and experience make them the best judges of where the money can be expended to the greatest advantage. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said that the road between Sydney and Newcastle, running parallel with the railway, is a waste of money, but the members of the Now South Wales Parliament would not have approved of its construction if they had not believed that it would be of benefit to the State. They are the most fitted to judge of the value of such a road, and we should not criticize their decision. In any case, why should other States be penalized by unnecessarily irksome restrictions merely because one State has not expended past grants in the manner in which some members of this Parliament think they should have done. One would gain the impression from the speeches of some honorable members that the money which is provided for the States under this scheme is taken from federal coffers, hut actually the users of the rands furnish the money through the tax of 2jd. a gallon on petrol, and surely they are entitled to decide through the State governments where the expenditure should be located. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) expressed the fear that this bill will help some of the States to balance their budgets by reducing their ordinary provision on the Estimates for road purposes, all their road work being paid for with the money provided by the Commonwealth. Thai fear is unfounded. Each State government has to submit its roads programme to Parliament each year, and members will insist that due provision shall be made from local revenues, in addition to any grant made by the Commonwealth. We are told that the building of roads in the States is not a Commonwealth responsibility, but as the Federal Government is taking money from the States by means of a petrol tax, the roads grant is merely a refund, and the State governments should be allowed to apply the money as they think fit. I have had experience of some of the anomalies that have attended the operation of the roads agreement. The Tasmanian Government submitted to the Commonwealth Minister for Works a list of roads that needed reconstruction, roads which enabled settlers to get their produce to market, and which were used more than some of those upon which Commonwealth money had been expended. We were told that such works did not come within the terms of the agreement.
– Reconstruction work did come within the terms of the agreement.
– The roads to be made under the agreement had to lead into new country; by-roads were not acceptable.
– By-roads that were not gazetted would not be approved.
– We were unable to get approval for made roads that needed reconstruction, but under this bill that disqualification will disappear. I agree with the Minister for Works that the old conditions were obsolete, and prevented the States from making the best use of the money handed to them. A few years ago an application for a road to a township was rejected by the federal authorities. Included in our application was another road through the mountains; we never expected to be granted money for it, but to our surprise the road wo did not really want was approved, whilst that which would have been useful to established settlers was rejected, and the State had to provide out of its own revenues money for its reconstruction. The objection of the Federal Minister for Works was that the road to the township had been partly constructed, and that federal money was not intended to be used for reconstruction. I hope that thebill will be agreed to, because it is only just that the States should have absolute control of all roads expenditure.
– I support the bill. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has said that it will be possible under this measure for the federal money to be expended on suburban streets. I do not think that that is intended, and if the honorable gentleman will move an amendment to ensure that the money is expended in country districts I shall support it. In the past, many of the roads which should have received attention have been neglected, because the shire councils had no money to expend on them. I refer particularly to small outback roads which act as feeders to the main roads. Some of them are in a very bad state. The shire valuations have reached the statutory limit, their taxation is as high as possible, and they cannot further increase their overdrafts. Because of the had condition of the roads, many settlers are in a pitiable plight. I can see no justification for a policy which permits the expenditure of large sums on main roads running parallel to railways. The maintenance of such roads in perfect condition with federal money merely helps to increase the competition with the railways and does not help the more remote settlers. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition urged that the federal grant should be expended, first, on the maintenance of roads constructed under the original agreement ; secondly, on the completion of roads that remain unfinished ; and thirdly, on any other roads in country districts. I would reverse that order, and say that first consideration should be given to the country roads to which I have referred.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the assets we have built up in the arterial roads should be allowed to go to ruin?
– No, that problem must be solved ;but I maintain that the roads which should receive primary consideration are those that act as feeders to the main roads, and serve the settlers in the backblocks. The previous agreement was so hedged round with restrictions as to make it unsatisfactory in its operation.
The State governments, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) said in his secondreading speech, have repeatedly asked that those restrictions be removed, and the bill is designed to do that. The method of raising the money by means of a tax of 21/2d. per gallon on petrol, and an excise duty of l1/2d. per gallon on petrol refined in Australia, seems to be equivalent to granting that money out of Consolidated Revenue. I am pleased to notice that the basis of allocation is the same under this bill as under the original measure. I hope that care will be taken to see that the money is spent on country roads, and not on suburban streets.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Agreement made the day of One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one between the Commonwealth of Australia . . . and the State of …
Now it is hereby agreed as follows: -
All moneys paid to the State under this agreement or under the Principal Agreement as varied by this agreement will be expended upon the construction reconstruction maintenance or repair of roads.
.- Clause 5 of the agreement enables a State to expend the money voted under this legislation upon any roads anywhere in the State, whether they be urban, suburban or rural. As I indicated in my secondreading speech, I wish to place a limitation upon the power of a State to spend the money paid to it under this agreement by providing that it shall be spent, in the first place, on the adequate maintenanceof federal aid roads already constructed. My object is to ensure that the permanent asset which has been created under the agreement shall be kept in good repair and condition, otherwise the expenditure will have been wasted. There can be no objection by any State to the amendment which I shall submit for this purpose. No road has been made under the scheme unless it has been suggested by a State government.
– And the construction of these roads has been approved according to a plan.
– Yes. None has been built without the approval of the State concerned of each particular road. It is fundamentally important that these roads, which have been made in accordance with modern road practice, should be maintained, and, therefore, it is proper to provide that the federal money shall be spent in the first place in maintaining them. I suggest also that, as some roads have been begun and left incomplete, so that their utility will be realized only when they have been completed, the object of this expenditure of federal money should be the construction of the present incomplete sections of roads. I recognize, of course, that it is useless to lay down an absolute obligation that in each and every year, for five years, the money shall be spent in completing these partially finished roads. Therefore, I provide, in my amendment, that the money shall be spent on the completion of these roads so far as the Minister may from time to time require. That provides a practical method of handling the money. Within a limited period the roads which ought to be completed, which is a matter for the judgment of the Minister, after consulting the State authorities, will be completed, and any money available afterwards should be spent in construction and reconstruction generally, or in the maintenance of any roads in country districts. I move-t-
That clause 5 of the agreement be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “Moneys paid to the States under this agreement shall be expended, firstly, in providing for the adequate and continuous maintenance in good repair and condition of all roads constructed or reconstructed in pursuance of the principal agreement; and secondly, in completing as far as the Minister may from time to time require, sections of roads, construction or reconstruction of which has been commenced under the principal agreement, but not completed; and, thirdly, in the construction, reconstruction, or maintenance of any roads in country districts.”
– I suggest to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that his amendment would merely perpetuate a policy that has been found to be impracticable. This bill was ‘brought down to give the States wider power than they have under the present act to deal with the money allot ted to them by” the Commonwealth Government for road construction. If the object of the amendment is to leave the expenditure ultimately in the hands of the State authorities, it is unnecessary.
– As a matter of common sense, the Commonwealth Minister would consult with the State authorities.
– That would amount to obtaining their opinion, and then asking them to do what we wish them to do. In a domestic concern such as the construction of roads, the road boards are in the best position to make recommendations to the Public Works Departments of the various States as to what work should be undertaken. The recommendations of the boards are considered hy the departments in determining which roads have priority of claim, and then a final recommendation goes to the Federal Minister for Works, hut the whole of the machinery with regard to the federal grant has been held up because of- the onerous conditions imposed on the States.
– Because they were required to subsidize the federal grant to the extent of 15s. in the £1.
– That is so. The Commonwealth Government provided £2,000,000 a year, to be distributed among the States, and asked them to raise £1,500,000 a year for the maintenance of roads to be constructed.
– That is entirely wrong.
– When this Government came into power, there was a sum of £1,000,000 available for distribution among the States under the terms of the agreement, but the States could not accept it because of the onerous conditions imposed.
– Those conditions are being removed.
– Yes; but if the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition is agreed to, we shall be making the same mistake as we did before, namely, attempting to direct the States as to how they shall spend the money.. It is quite unnecessary to attach conditions of thatkind to the grant. The States themselves know how to spend the money, and where to spend it. It is wrong in theory and in practice to attempt to direct from Canberra the construction of roads in remote parts of Australia
.- The point at issue is not whether the States shall subsidize the Commonwealth grant to the extent of 15s. to the £1. That condition has already been waived. It has also been conceded that the States shall have the right to construct roads, and to maintain them out of the grant. Our objection is to the Government’s proposal to allow the States to construct any kind of road anywhere they like. Section 5 of the schedule to the Federal Aid Roads Act 1926 states-
For the purposes of this agreement the following classes of road shall be deemed to be federal aid roads: -
Main roads which open up and develop new country;
Trunk roads between important towns ; and
Arterial roads to carry the concentrated traffic from developmental, main, trunk, and other roads.
Statutory Rule No. 104, issued under the Main Roads Development Act 1923, defines main roads in these terms -
Each of the following roads shall be deemed to be a main road for the purposes of the act: -
a main road which opens up and develops new country for agricultural, pastoral, or mining purposes, and which is necessary -
i ) to convey the products of that country to the nearest railway ; or
to give access from the railway to that country for the supply of plant, merchandise, food, fodder, or other goods;
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 in 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 roadmaking, beyond the ordinary resources of the district through which the road passes.
None of these restrictions is imposed in the present bill. The Government proposes to allow the States to construct any kind of road, anywhere they like, in any kind of way. So far as my own State is concerned, I have not the slightest fear that the present Queensland Government, or theQueensand Main RoadsBoard, under Mr. Kemp and his competent staff, will depart from the policy laid down regarding the expenditure of federal aid roads grants. I know the wisdom of that Government, and the enthusiasm and ability of the members of that Main Roads Board. It is obvious, however, from what some of the representatives of New South Wales have said to-day in this Parliament, and from the general conduct of the present Government of that State, that the conditions previously governing the expenditure of federal roads grants are not likely to be observed in New South Wales. In all probability, most of the money will be spent on the relief of unemployment - a worthy object in itself - but it will be spent in the City of Sydney and its suburbs. There is already too much concentration in Sydney, and we do not wish to make it easier for the New South Wales Government to aggravate the trouble. The previous conditions should be reimposed, as provided in the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). We should seek to preserve the assets which we have in the splendid roads constructed under the agreement. Approximately £10,000,000 has been spent on them, and it is vitally important that they should be maintained. The amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition provides that money paid to the States under the agreement shall be expended, first, in providing for the adequate and continuous maintenance in good repair and condition of all roads constructed or reconstructed in pursuance of the agreement. This Parliament is responsible for carrying out its own proper duties, and one of those duties is to ensure that the roads built under this agreement are adequately maintained. We should not, through haste or indifference, endanger the assets which have been created, and thus fail in our duty to the people we represent. The second part of the amendment states that the money shall be spent in completing, so far as the Minister may from time to time require, sections of roads which have been commenced, but not completed.
Many such roads have been commenced, and partly completed. Frequently it is arranged that a road from one point to another shall be built in many sections, one section being completed each year. In the absence of a provision such as that contained in the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, it would be possible for a State, having partially completed a road, to abandon the work, and leave the remaining sections unfinished for an indefinite period. Lt is of the utmost importance that construction work shall be carried on in accordance with a defined plan until the work has been finished. The third part of the amendment provides for the construction, reconstruction or maintenance of any roads in country districts. Under the original act it was provided that money spent under the agreement should be devoted particularly to the construction of country roads, as defined in the agreement and the statutory rules governing this matter, but the Government now proposes to depart from the principles then laid down. The Government’s proposals will permit of roads being built in the cities and suburbs and not, as hitherto, in the country only. Five years of continuous effort have gone to the building of these roads, and al! of this good work may be undone unless the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition is agreed to. I urge the committee to accept the amendment.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) seems to be afraid that the State governments, and the State main roads boards, will not maintain properly the very fine roads which have been built in accordance with this agreement.
– We are afraid that the main roads boards may not be allowed to maintain the roads.
– I do not think that the Commonwealth Government should lay down conditions as to how the money shall be spent.
– We provide the money; we should accept responsibility for its expenditure.
– We have a responsibility, it is true, but we should not seek to impose conditions on the States as to how the money is to be spent. The Com monwealth Government, under the agreement, hands over a certain sum of money to the States which, in turn, allocate it to the various shires for expenditure. Part of the money goes to the main roads boards, and in Victoria the Main Roads Board has built roads as good as can be found in any part of the world. The board is ‘very zealous for the proper maintenance of those roads.
– We wish to see that the roads are maintained properly.
– There is no danger that the Victorian Main Roads Board will fail to maintain the roads under its care, and that, I think, applies to the other main roads boards also. The first condition laid down in the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that the moneys paid to the States under the agreement shall be expended in providing for the maintenance of all roads constructed in pursuance of the agreement. Those who travel in the country know that practically every shire is hard pressed for money to carry out necessary road construction and maintenance.
– This amendment, if agreed to. will afford them relief.
– It will not, because the money must first of all be applied to the maintenance of roads already constructed, and then to the completion of roads already begun.
– What objection can there be to that? The principle is quite sound.
– It is sound, but such a condition is unnecessary. Some districts have been settled for 40 or 50 years, and still have no proper roads. The settlers have to plough through sand in the summer, and through slush in the winter. The State governments, whenhanding over to the shires the money received under the agreement,, should stipulate that it be spent on the construction of roads into areas which have no roads at the present time.
– That means that the money will be spent on new roads.
– Yes, what is wrong with that?
– It is impossible in the present condition of our finances. Our first duty is to maintain existing assets.
– We should maintain them so far as possible, and the Government is seeing to that ;but we should also help those unfortunate people in the remote areas who now have no roads at all. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition were to travel over some parts of the Wimmera and the Mallee, I think he would agree that it might not be a bad thing to spend some Commonwealth money on the construction of roads in those districts.
– The amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition provides that part of the money shall be spent on roads in country districts.
– Yes, but how many of the roads already constructed under the agreement serve the settlers in outlying districts? Millions of pounds have been spent on the Prince’s Highway, which, for the most part, follows the coast. Starting from Adelaide, it runs to Mount Gambier, through Portland, thence to Melbourne, and on to Gippsland. It is a very fine road, of course, but even in Gippsland there are still many areas which are not yet served by anything like a decent road. There are even districts in which the settlers have to carry their goods on pack horses. It is in such areas that we should endeavour to spend money, if possible.
– The conditions which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition seeks to impose are to apply only to the money provided by the Commonwealth. There is no restriction on the maimer in which the States shall spend their money.
– The States are now doing all they can to provide country roads, but, as I have said, practically every shire is pinched for money. The Commonwealth Government hopes, by means of this grant, to help the States to provide decent roads for settlers in remote areas.
– If this agreement breaks down the Commonwealth Government will be liable to provide £2,000,000.
– In my opinion, the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is wrong in that it seeks to impose restrictions on the States regarding the expenditure of the grant. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition may take it for granted that the various shires and municipalities will maintain the roads that have been constructed, for they are all jealous of their good roads. The money that will be provided under this measure will be wisely spent.
– Not one penny of it may reach the shires of some States unless the amendment is carried.
– There need be no fear of anything like that happening. I am not hostile to the amendment; but I do not think that it is necessary. There is every reason to expect that the money we are providing for the States will be wisely spent.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. A. Green), who has spoken in opposition to the amendment, and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. McNeill), who has also addressed himself to the amendment, though whether he is opposed to it or not I cannotsay, have both given us convincing arguments for accepting the view expressed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). I know of no amendment which has been proposed in this committee with which I have been in more wholehearted accord than this. The PostmasterGeneral said that, if the amendment were agreed to, we should get back to the original agreement ; but that statement is very far from the actual fact. We could approve of the amendment and still allow fundamentalchanges to be made in the original federal aid roads scheme. To show how far the amendment is from the original agreement, I only need to direct attention to the fact that the amendment begins with the maintenance of roads, whereas, under the old agreement, nothing was provided by the Commonwealth for the maintenance of roads. I direct the attention of honorable members to paragraphs 5 and 6 of the original agreement, which reads as follows : -
For the purposes of this agreement the following classes of roadsshall be deemed to be federal aid roads: -
main roads which open up and develop new country;
trunk roads between important towns ; and
arterial roads to carry the concentrated traffic from developmental, main, trunk, and other roads.
All moneys paid to the State under this agreement and all moneys provided by the State under this agreement shall be expended solely on the construction and reconstruction of federal aid roads.
I also direct their attention to paragraph 8 of the same agreement, which is to the following effect: -
The State shall to the satisfaction of the Minister make proper provision for the adequate and continuous maintenance in good repair and condition of all roads constructed or reconstructed in pursuance of this agreement. Such maintenance shall be taken in hand immediately following upon the completion of the construction or reconstruction of any road or portion thereof and shall be met from moneys provided by the State.
A comparison of these provisions with those which appear in the amended agreement now before us will show that great changes have been made in the scheme. The amendment which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has moved provides for the continuous maintenance in good repair of the roads which have already been constructed with the money provided under this scheme. Originally this money could be spent only in the construction and reconstruction of roads of certain classes. It is now being provided that the money may be spent in maintenance. But we should insist that the first call on these funds shall be for the maintenance of the roads already constructed under the scheme. The amendment lays down three sound principles which every honorable member should accept. The first is that we should maintain what we have; the second, that we should complete that which we have already begun; and the third, that we should allow the States to use any money that is available thereafter for the construction or maintenance of any roads in the country.
The Minister forRepatriation has told us that we need not fear that the States will fail to maintain the present federal aid roads in good order. He thinks that the roads boards may be trusted to do this work. But I am afraid that the hoards may not be able to maintain the roads because of the shortage of the funds allowed them for this purpose. Pressure may be brought to bear upon them to undertake new road work without providing for the maintenance of roads already constructed. That is what we want toprovide against. The Minister has also said that if the amendment is carried no relief will be granted to the shires and municipalities. I disagree with that view. In my opinion, if we provide in this agreement for the maintenance of the roads already constructed under this scheme, the shires and municipalities will be very greatly helped, both directly and indirectly. As a matter of fact, the Minister has given sound reasons why the amendment should be agreed to. I, therefore, appeal to honorable members opposite to support it.
– Why should we interfere with the States in this matter, seeing that they intend to do the very thing that the amendment provides for ?
– If they intend to spend the money in the way I am suggesting, there should be no objection whatever to the inclusion of the amendment in the agreement. We should do everything we can to remove the possibility of the present federal aid roads falling into disrepair.
– If honorable members will compare paragraph 5 of the proposed new agreement with the amendment just moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), they will see that the latter is a declaration against State rights. Coming from such a source it is a novelty. I cannot avoid the conclusion that the arguments of the Opposition in favour of the amendment have been prompted by unworthy fear of what might be done by the Premier of New South Wales.
– Does notthe AttorneyGeneral think that we have reason to fear what that gentleman may do?
– Honorable members have repeatedly said during this debate that they are not willing to allow the Government of New South Wales a discretion inthe use of this money. I direct attention to the following remark made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) at the Premiers Conference of February, 1930 : -
Frankly, I do not think that the Commonwealth should ever have had any connexion with road construction, and the Commonwealth Government is prepared to discuss freely with you the question of whether we ought not to come to an arrangement to review the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, which imposes on the States obligations which they are finding irksome.
– Hear, hear; 15s. in the £1!
– Yes, and the honorable member supports an amendment which would have the effect of reimposing that burden upon the States. Non.orable members opposite do not see that if this proposed amendment is accepted by the committee we shall revert to the old agreement, under which the Commonwealth has to pay £2,000,000, and the States £1,500,000 a year. Some of the States, however, have declared that they cannot find that money.
The proposal embodied in this bill is to vest in the States the right to determine for themselves where and how this money will be spent, subject only to the limitation that all these moneys shall Be expended upon the construction, reconstruction, maintenance or repair of roads. Frankly, I am amazed to find that honorable members opposite, who have on other occasions so strongly taken a totally different ground, are now declaring for the first time that the States, through their municipalities and with completely adequate machinery, are not able to determine satisfactorily how much money shall be spent on the maintenance and construction of roads within their own territory. This agreement has been arrived .at as the result of long sustained discussion and conference between the States and the Commonwealth. All are parties to it so far as the fundamental parts specifically referred to are concerned.
– Has any State signed the agreement?
– Not yet, but the honorable gentleman cannot be unaware of the fact that it is very difficult to get all the States into line on a matter such as this. On certain issues they have come into line, and the fundamental parts of the proposed agreement express the views of all the States.
– Under this bill could money be expended on suburban streets, as has been suggested?
– I should think that, strictly within the wording of the agreement, even such an absurdity as the spending of all the money contributed upon suburban streets could be committed, if one could imagine irresponsible
State Governments and local governing bodies that would descend to such conduct.
– Where the money could best bs expended is a matter of opinion. These authorities cannot be termed irresponsible.
– Apparently the honorable gentleman has set his mind upon making a considered attack on the State governments and local governing bodies of the country. The truth is that if the Commonwealth dictates conditions to the States under this agreement some of the States may object and insist upon the Commonwealth standing up to its obligation under the original agreement.
– Involving the States funding 15s. in the £1, which they cannot do!
– That I have already pointed out. Apparently that is the position into which the Opposition is endeavouring to drive the States. Incidentally, if that happened, the Commonwealth might expose itself to a liability of £2,000_!(100 a year instead of the £1,400,000 for which it has already budgeted. It is only fair to say that this agreement is really part and parcel of the Premiers’ plan. When the States requested relief from their contributions, t)he Commonwealth Government agreed, and this bill proposes to amend the agreement accordingly. In order to meet its obligations under the agreement, the Commonwealth Government imposed a special duty of 2d. a gallon on petrol, which was estimated to realize £1,500,000 per annum, and additional duties on chassis, estimated to realize £500,000 per annum. As honorable members know, a declining revenue has made that obligation too severe to bc borne, as the actual receipts from these sources for the financial year 1930-31 were only £1,055,000.
The proposed agreement avoids altogether the possibilities of the existing one. It does not earmark customs and excise duties, as was suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The obligation is a sum payable out of the Consolidated Revenue fund, the amount depending entirely upon the revenue which is actually received through the customs from the importation of petrol.
I hope that the committee will not accept the amendment, which would probably mean the loss of the whole agreement. I ask honorable members opposite to reconsider their views of the powers and duties of State governments and municipalities in respect of the maintenance of their rights. It is true that in past years road construction has been greatly hindered by the eternal lack of pence, to the tremendous embarrassment of primary industry. I ask the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who knows the wants of the local settler, the dairyman, and others, who have made their homes in the bush, as well as of the local authorities operating in those parts: Does not the attack of the Opposition amount to an expression of lack of confidence in the municipal councils of the country and in our Main Roads Board? Is it claimed that these authorities have no appreciation of the local needs of the people in the way-back, and that this Parliament should direct them precisely how and where this money is to be expended? Is there any reason to expect that under this agreement there will be any failure to do the things insisted upon by the amendment? There is a discretion under the bill to do those things, which is not provided for in the amendment.
– Under the amendment the settlers come a bad last.
– Exactly. The opposition to the bill is, I am afraid, dictated primarily and mainly by a want of confidence in the Government of New South Wales. I am not prepared to decide the issue of the agreement upon such narrow lines. I express no opinion upon the present Government of Now South Wales. Governments come and governments go. I am not concerned with the personnel of any government, but I am concerned with maintaining matters of principle laid down by the Prime Minister, and accepted by the Premiers of the States. ,Because of an interjection made by the honorable member for Warringah earlier in the debate, I believe that he entirely agrees with me. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition declared that the Commonwealth was going out of federal road construction, the honorable member, with that incisive- ness and good judgment which sometimes characterizes him, said, “ Something that we should never have gone into “. The honorable member for Gippsland when addressing himself to this subject with an open and observant mind, said that he is prepared to trust the States to expend the money wisely. This Government is also prepared to trust the States to expend this money wisely.
.- At a relatively late stage of this debate the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) has discovered that he is in charge of the bill. He reminds me of colleagues of my own who have sometimes appeared late in court, and when handed their brief have had to ascertain for which side they were appearing. They have had to collect their thoughts, and to pick up their part in the controversy as the case proceeds. The Attorney-General stumbled through a speech on what he understood to be the variations between this proposal and the original roads agreement.
– Let us omit all these personalities, and get down to the objection to the hill.
– The AttorneyGeneral’s manner of progress showed that he was walking along an ill-repaired road. He was far from clear as to the provisions of the original agreement, and the pathetic appeal which he made to honorable members in the Ministerial corner to support this measure was too obvious. He appealed to them to show their confidence in the Premier of New South Wales. In my speech I made no reference to the Premier of New South Wales.
– But your colleagues did.
– There has been no evidence, in any of the interjections of the honorable member, that he has read either the original act or this bill, and he would be rendering a service to this Parliament if he restrained himself until he was able to make a contribution to the debate.
– I shall speak in my own time.
– Unfortunately, the honorable member insists on making bis contribution to the debate by interjection from the back benches in the same way as he sends his friends to his opponents’ meetings to break them up from the hack of the hall. The AttorneyGeneral has stated that in the amendment that I have moved there is an assault upon State rights. He did not explain how that was the case, unless it might be supposed that the imposition of conditions upon the expenditure by the States of money provided by the Commonwealth is an interference with State rights. No doubt the point which the Attorney-General was making was that there should be no conditions imposed upon the States in the expenditure of money provided by the Commonwealth. One is able to understand that principle, but it is inconsistent with this bill, which provides most explicitly that all the moneys paid to the States under the agreement must be expended upon the construction, re-construction, maintenance and repair of roads. That is the particular and precise condition imposed upon the grant of this money, so that there can be no objection to the amendment upon the mere ground that it imposes limits and conditions upon this expenditure. Any difference is a matter only of degree, not of principle. The Attorney-General has said that there should be no direction to the States as to how the money should be spent, yet this bill directs the States as to how the money sh all be expended. There is, therefore, no such principle involved as has been suggested by the AttorneyGeneral. That honorable gentleman also referred to the Premiers Conference of February last, and by an unfortunate slip suggested that that conference had been responsible for the development of what is referred to as “ the Premiers’ plan “. Of course, all honorable members know that that was the conference at which the” Treasurer submitted a proposal for the issue of fiduciary notes in order to meet the financial difficulties of the country. The suggestion that the proposals accepted by the February conference had anything to do with the plan which the recent Premiers Conference agreed to, is far from the facts. The Attorney-General read from the report of that conference the following statement of the Prime Minister : - “ Frankly, I do not think that the Commonwealth should ever have had any connexion with road construction.” If that is the view of the Government, this measure should not be before us at all, because it proposes to continue the association of the Commonwealth Government with road construction. Of course, this proposed agreement was not drafted at any Premiers conference, although the February conference did discuss variations of the principal agreement. No agreement come to at a Premiers conference binds this Parliament, and I hope that no honorable member would allow himself to be controlled by any such agreement. An agreement which is acceptable to the State governments should receive our careful consideration. If we approve of such an agreement we should support it. But, as a member of this Parliament, I shall not allow myself to be bound in any way by an agreement between the various governments pf Australia, to some of which I am opposed. The AttorneyGeneral was hard pressed for argument when he said that unless this particular agreement was accepted, the Commonwealth would be left with the original agreement, and an annual liability of £2,000,000. Does he suppose that honorable members are infantile in intelligence and puerile in outlook? The whole basis of the present discussion is the fact that the States desire to be relieved of their obligation to provide 15s. for every £1 contributed . by the Commonwealth. They cannot find the money. Therefore, whatever happens, the Commonwealth will not be obliged to find £2,000,000, because it is pledged to find that sum only in the event of the States finding £1,500,000. Therefore, the argument of the Attorney-General has no ground at all. He appealed to honorable members to trust the municipal councils and the local authorities. He said - “ Do not the local authorities know better how to spend this money than does this Parliament?” This bill does not provide for the expenditure of this money .by local governing authorities; it leaves the expenditure entirely to the State governments. They may spend this money through their main roads boards or through the shires or other municipalities. This bill provides that the States may expend the money as they think proper, and it says nothing about expenditure’ by shires. I doubt whether the Minister who is responsible for this; bill - I believe there is one somewhere - ever dreamed for a moment that this money would be distributed to shires to be expended as they thought proper.
I come now to the cheap point made by the Attorney-General that my amendment excludes country roads. It is astonishing that any honorable member, with even a rudimentary sense of responsibility, should make such an observation as that, because what my amendment proposes is that the money shall he spent, first, in the maintenance of roads constructed under the existing agreement, which are roads in the country; secondly, in completing unfinished roads, which are roads in the country ; and, thirdly, in the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads also in the country. Therefore, the object of my amendment is to secure that the whole of this money shall be expended in the country.
.- Wc all realize the superiority of the intellect of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), but, apparently, even an Olympian can fall from grace, for the honorable gentleman cast upon the intelligence of other members reflections that would have been better left unsaid. The vital question at issue on this clause is the destination of the roads expenditure. We must first recognize that the amount that will be available in the future will be much less than in the past. The three agencies of road construction are the Federal Aid Roads Board, constituted under the 1926 act, the State Government, and the local governing bodies. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that under the clause, as drafted, indiscriminate expenditure of Commonwealth money in suburban areas and municipalities will be possible. I remind the committee that such expenditure could occur only on connecting through roads. Both municipalities and shire councils have a definite responsibility to raise money from their own ratepayers for works within their own boundaries. This bill will not divest the local governing bodies of that responsibility. The statement has been made that distrust of the present Government of New South Wales should prevent members from allowing the State to have a greater influence in the expenditure of the money to be handed over by the Commonwealth. The most disastrous expenditure upon roads in New South Wales was incurred by the Bavin Government in the three years preceding the advent of the present Lang Government ; two-thirds of that expenditure was on tourist roads and others that compete with the railways, roads that can have no direct effect in increasing the wealth production of the country. That occurred notwithstanding that.- the federal authority had a dominating influence in determining where and how the Commonwealth grant should be expended. If the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is accepted, that, dominating federal influence will continue, and two-thirds of the money to be made available to New South Wales under this bill will be expended on the maintenance of tourist roads and others running parallel with railways. I hope that no future government will repeat the mistakes that the Bavin Ministry made in regard to roads construction. The continuance of such a policy would bankrupt both the State and the Commonwealth. We should remember, however, that this Parliament has not a monopoly of intelligence; State Parliaments may be trusted to exercise some control over the destination of future grants for road purposes. Such money as may be made available should be applied primarily .to the completion, continuance and maintenance of roads that tend to increase production. The amendment would aggravate the evils which attended the administration of this fund in the past, and would not promote the purpose of the original act. Shire authorities have repeatedly protested publicly and collectively against the folly of expending the federal grant upon tourist roads and other roads that would take traffic from the railway systems. 1 am surprised that the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) and the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) should be supporting an amendment, the effect of which is that the last section to receive consideration under this bill shall be the primary producers.
– That is not its effect.
– The amendment will be accepted by those administering this legislation as an absolute direction that the roads leading from the less settled parts to the railways and market towns, and those that serve as feeders to the main roads, shall be the last to receive attention. That has been one of the defects of roads expenditure in the past. The bill could be improved considerably. 1 would like to see a liaison established between the Federal Government and the local governing bodies so that the latter might have greater control over roads expenditure, but that is not constitutionally possible, and the bill offers the best alternative.
.- When the federal aid roads scheme was first discussed in this Parliament, considerable complaint was made that although the greater portion of the money to be collected from the petrol tax would be paid by city motorists, they would not benefit by the expenditure of it, because urban areas were specifically excluded by the agreement. The bill presents an op- portunity for a revival of that agitation, represent a city constituency, through which three main roads pass, and if this bill be agreed to, I shall be justified in approaching the Victorian Government with a request that money be expended in my electorate. I still favour the exclusion of the city areas from expenditure under this scheme, although as they will contribute the bulk of the petrol tax they will have an equitable claim to enjoy some of it. However, I have lived in country districts, I know the need for better roads there, and I believe that the greatest advantage will accrue to the Commonwealth from the expenditure of the federal grant in rural areas. Notwithstanding what has been said by the Attorney-General, it is quite possible for this committee to amend the agreement, because it has not yet been approved by any of the State Parliaments.
– Two States have already signed the agreement.
– That means that four States have not signed it, and to that extent the agreement is incomplete. When the revision of the roads agreement was discussed at the last conference of Premiers, no definite scheme was agreed to; indeed some of the Premiers complained that they had not had an opportunity to consider the proposals of the.
Commonwealth Government. The Victorian. Minister for Public Works (Mr. Jones), whose department controls the municipalities and roads boards, said -
You will have power to spend money on the maintenance, of roads. Under the existing: law, you would be compelled to spend the grant on road construction. In a State like Western ‘ Australia, if you are compelled tospend the money on new roads, you will eventually build up a liability in maintenance, and will have to provide the maintenance money out of taxation. In that regard, von would build up a tremendous responsibility, whereas, under the new agreement, you will be able to determine how far you can go in the construction of new roads, and how far you can use the money for maintaining the road? that you have built. The States will not be able to build any more roads for the next few years. The States must contine themselves to keeping intact the roads that arc built, otherwise they will deteriorate, and in six or seven years the amount of money needed for maintenance will almost equal the cost of a new construction.
– That is freely admitted and recognized.
– The amendment emphasizes the need for the maintenance of roads already made. Under the old agreement neither the fi contributed by the Commonwealth, nor even the 15s. contributed by the States could be expended on maintenance.
– Can the honorable member point to one thing proposed in the amendment that cannot be done under the agreement as drafted?
– The amendment would give greater surety that the money would not be expended in city areas. Thai is distinctly possible under the bill as drafted. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) recognized that.
– The expenditure should be confined to country roads.
– Yes, but if the agreement is accepted in its present form, parliamentary representatives and municipalities will be able to use their influence to have some of the money expended in urban areas. That can be obviated only by the adoption of the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition or another in similar terms.
– An amendment to have that effect only.
– Yes ; I invite the honorable member to propose one. The more we improve the outback roads, which are arterial or feeders to the railway system, the better for all concerned. I support the amendment, because I desire to make sure that the whole of the money to be raised by the Commonwealth for the States shall be expended in the country.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said that he supported the amendment from beginning to end. I am more in agreement with the concluding portion, because the outback settlers’ interests are not safeguarded. Clause 5 of the agreement embodied in the act of 1926 states that the following classes of roads shall be deemed to be federal aid roads: - (1.) Main roads which open up and develop new country; (2.) Trunk roads between important towns ; (3.) Arterial roads to carry the concentrated traffic from developmental main, trunk, and other roads.
The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) contended that the money provided under this scheme should be used, first, for the maintenance and repair of roads constructed and reconstructed under the existing agreement; secondly, for the completion of roads begun under the agreement but not finished; and, in the third place, for the construction and reconstruction or maintenance of any roads in country districts. It is plainly seen that, under the amendment, roads in outlying districts would not receive consideration unless money were left after the needs with respect to the other roads had been satisfied, although under the original act the first class of roads mentioned are those which open up and develop new country.
– It would be good business to preserve the asset that we have.
– I claim that it would be bad business to allow new districts no chance of obtaining roads unless there happened to be money left over after providing for the maintenance of existing roads. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), in his second-reading speech, said that the States asked for relief from the contribution which they now had to make, because they found it burdensome, and they also urged that the hampering restrictions of the previous agreement he removed. The Commonwealth Government has agreed to accede to both re quests, and the relief sought by the States is provided under the bill. If the amendment were accepted, those restrictions would be reimposed. I agree with the statement made last week by the honorable member for Gippsland that we might safely trust the discretion of the State Governments to spend this money wisely and well. [Quorum formed.]
.- Some members of the committee seem to be labouring under a misapprehension as to the object of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) in submitting his amendment. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) said that the Commonwealth Government had power to provide money for the construction of roads in new districts only; but that is not the position. The agreement was amended specifically to help Tasmania in that regard, and the effect of the amendment is to provide forthe spending of further money in country districts in the repair or maintenance of the roads on which money has been already spent, or in any other construction or reconstruction of roads desired in country districts. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out, it is possible, under the agreement as it stands, for money voted by this Parliament to be spent on any roads on which the State authorities may desire to spend it. A fundamental principle of government is that the authority which raises money shall have power to say how it shall be spent. The Commonwealth Government has the right even to dictate to the States how this money shall be used. Certain honorable members have suggested that the Commonwealth authorities have insisted on deciding which districts shall be opened up by new roads in various States, but that is not so.
– The roads constructed under this act were chosen by the States themselves.
– Of course. Applications came from the States for the construction of specific roads. The Government is not prepared to accept an amendment which ensures that, in future, this money shall be expended on country, rather than city, roads. When the original agreement was under consideration, I received - large numbers of telegrams from the users of motor vehicles, who complained that they were being called upon to provide funds for the maintenance of country roads. The first part of the amendment stipulates that money paid by the States shall be expended, in the first place, in providing for the adequate and continuous maintenance of all roads constructed or reconstructed in pursuance of the principal agreement. Surely that means roads constructed or reconstructed in country districts. If it is considered wise to maintain the assets that are built up by the expenditure of this money, the amendment should be accepted.
.- I regret that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) is not in the chamber at the moment. Having attempted to reduce the proceedings of this committee to a farce, he unwarrantedly referred to me as making my contribution to the subject under discussion by way of interjections from the back benches, in the same way as I induced my supporters to go to my opponents’ meetings and interrupt the proceedings from the back of the hall. I characterize that statement as a wilful, deliberate, and malicious lie.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I ask the honorable member to withdraw those words.
– I Wish that you, Mr. Chairman, had taken steps to protect me against the attack of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the statement without further comment.
– I suppose I must, in accordance with the forms of the House, withdraw the statement. I think, Mr. Chairman, that you might have taken steps to protect me against the insulting references of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), when he accused me of resorting to cowardly and contemptible tactics.
– If the honorable member had refrained from making disorderly interjections he would probably not have been attacked.
– It is your place to call me to order if I make disorderly inter- jections, just as it is your duty to protect me against insult from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– If tho honorable member had resented any remark of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I should have called upon the Deputy Leader to withdraw it.
– lt should not be necessary for me to call your attention to the fact than an honorable member transgressed the rules of the House by insulting me.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement, and to apologize for making it.
– I suppose I must, in accordance with the rules of the House, withdraw the statement and apologize. The bill now before us is designed to modify an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and State Governments in respect of the construction of main and developmental roads. Both parties to the contract have found its conditions too onerous and exacting, and have agreed to certain modifications. Under the bill it is provided, first, that the State Governments shall be relieved of the obligation of supplementing the Commonwealth grant by 15s. for each £1 ; and, secondly, that the Commonwealth Government is to be relieved of the obligation of paying to the States the sum of £2,000,000 a year under the terms of j he original agreement. When the Commonwealth Government entered into that agreement, it anticipated that the whole of the £2,000,000 would be raised by a tax on petrol and on motor chassis. The Prime Minister has stated that in the five years during which the agreement has been in operation, the Commonwealth Government has paid to the States £10,000,000 under the agreement, though it has collected from the taxation sources I have mentioned only £7,750,000. Therefore, it has made a gratuitous contribution of £2,250,000 to the States. It has now been agreed that the contributions of tho Commonwealth shall not exceed the sum derived from the duties imposed on the importation of petrol, and the excise duty on petrol refined in the Commonwealth.
I agree with the Government that the bill as it stands provides all the safeguards that are necessary. It lays down how the money is to be spent, and the order of importance of the various objects upon which it is to be expended. The first and most important of these is road construction; the second is reconstruction; and the third maintenance. The amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition proposes to reverse that order. It provides that the first charge on the moneys granted under the agreement shall be for maintenance of existing roads constructed under the terms of the original agreement. It next provides for the completion of work already begun, and, finally, for new work. I oppose the amendment, and I am glad that the Government has refused to accept it. It would, if agreed to, be an unwarranted interference in the affairs of the State governments. It would forbid the undertaking of new works, however important, until provision had been made, out of the money granted by the Commonwealth, for the maintenance of the roads already constructed under the agreement. That would be unfair, because it is possible that the States might be able to provide for the maintenance of such roads out of their own funds. It is evident that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wishes to restrict the freedom of action of the State governments. Earlier in the session he urged that the Commonwealth Government should cease its contribution of £2,000,000 a year under the agreement, on the ground that the money was needed to balance the budget. Having been defeated in that attempt, he now tries to achieve his object in a roundabout way. He seems to fear that, unless restrictions are imposed, the State governments cannot be trusted to carry out-
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to be out of step with my colleagues over this matter, but I cannot support this amendment, which is against the best interests of the States. While I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that money advanced by the Commonwealth under the federal aid roads agreement should be spent on the reconstruction and maintenance of country roads, I cannot follow him to the extent of agreeing that a first charge on the money should be the adequate and continuous maintenance in good order and condition of all roads constructed or reconstructed in pursuance of the original act. The States should be free to decide how and where they shall construct their roads, and how they shall maintain them. I do not imagine for a moment that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition believes that the States are not capable of looking after the roads already constructed. Full provision, is made in the Queensland Main Roads Act for the maintenance of all roads that are constructed in that State, and the amendment cuts right across those provisions. I refer honorable members to section 19 d of the Queensland Main Roads Act, which reads as follows: -
The local authority in whose area any development road is situated shall, at its own expense, maintain such road and all works thereon; and the board shall, except as next hereinafter provided, have no duty, obligation, liability or responsibility in respect of such maintenance. All such maintenance shall be carried out to the satisfaction of the board.
Why should this Parliament interfere with that provision simply because it collects the money for the States? I submit that we have no right to dictate to the States how they shall spend this money on their roads. I am not seriously influenced by the view of ecrtain honorable members that the States will not maintain the roads which they have constructed. I assume that, like Queensland, the other States have made provision for the maintenance of their roads. Section 35 of the Queensland Main Roads Act provides that -
The hoard shall, as soon as practicable after the termination of each year, present a report to the Minister setting forth its proceedings, the permanent works constructed, and the main roads maintained during such year.
The report shall give particulars as to the locality of the works constructed, and of the roads maintained and the mileage of such roads, and shall contain an account of all moneys received and expended under this act.
Copies of such report shall be laid forthwith before both Houses of Parliament if Parliament is sitting when the report is presented, or, if Parliament is not then sitting, within one month after the commencement of the next ensuing session.
After such report has been presented to Parliament a copy thereof shall be sent to each local authority.
Provision is also made. in the legislation of Queensland for the apportionment of the money made available by the Government to various local authorities, and a report must be submitted to Parliament to show that the money so apportioned has been properly expended. In view of the fact that all these provisions have been made to ensure the careful expenditure of money on roads, I cannot seethat there is any reason why we should accept the amendment.
– Similar provision is made in the legislation of New South Wales.
– And in that of Victoria.
– Those interjections strengthen my argument. It would not be proper for this Parliament to attempt to dictate to the States how this money should be expended on their roads.
– Would not the acceptance of the amendment ensure the proper expenditure of the money?
– I do not think so, for it provides that the money must first be drawn on for maintenance, whereas the original agreement provided that it should be spent on construction and reconstruction work and maintenance. We have no right whatever to render invalid the statutes of a State on a subject like this. Seeing that adequate provision has been made by the various States for the maintenance of roads, we should be satisfied. In my opinion, we have no more right to say how this money shall be spent than we had the right to say how the per capita payments, formerly made to the States, should be spent. There is no reason to assume that the States will fail in their duty in this regard. For this reason I am opposed to the amendment.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has made some extraordinary statements. In view of the fact that three influential members of the Country party - the Deputy Leader of it (Mr. Paterson), the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), and the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) - have supported the amendment, one might have thought that all the members of it would share their opinion. The honorable member for Wide Bay has argued that it is not the duty of this Parliament to impose conditions for the expenditure of this money. But the voting of money under the original federal roads scheme was conditional upon its expenditure on construction and reconstruction work. The amendment provides for an alteration of those conditions. It is surely the duty of this Parliament to see that the millions of money which it is providing for road work shall not be wasted. We should insist that the first callupon this money shall bo for the maintenance of the roads already laid down. If any of it is left after that work has been done, it should be devoted to the completion of federal aid roads already planned. I am surprised that any objection should be offered to this proposal. The honorable member for New England said definitely that some of the federal aid roads are already falling into disrepair.
– Everybody knows that that is so.
– For that reason, if for no other, the amendment should be agreed to. Every business institution takes adequate steps to protect its assets, and this Parliament should protect the roads which have been constructed out of money which it has provided. I have said on other occasions that I am not particularly enamoured of the federal aid roads scheme, but as it is in operation I think we should do our best to ensure that the money provided to give effect to it is spent judiciously.
.- While it is true, as the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has said, that the legislation of Queensland provides for the maintenance of roads, it is apparent from the speeches which other honorable membershave delivered during this debate that similar legislation is not in operation in all the other States. When the Public Accounts Committee was making its recent inquiry into the financial position of Tasmania, the Premier of that State said that it was impossible for Tasmania to raise the £65,000 required to enable it to comply with the terms of the original Federal Aid Roads Agreement. He also intimated that his State could not find the money necessary to maintain existing roads, with the result that thoroughfares thatwere described by the Development and Migration Commission as being of all the works provided from the expenditure of public funds the best assets possessed by the State, have been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair, which it would cost a colossal sum to rectify. Similar evidence has also been given to the committee regarding the roads of New South Wales and Victoria. I remind the honorable member for Wide Bay that, merely because his State happens to be well governed, he should not deny the other States the right to protect this valuable national asset, but should give them the opportunity to construct and keep in goodcondition first-class and up-to-date roads. I hope that the committee will unanimously agree to the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Latham’s amendment) stand part of the schedule - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority … 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Brennan) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn till to-morrow at 1 1a.m.
Jacob Johnson Case - Unparliamentary Expressions in “ Hansard.”
Motion (by Mr. Brennan) proposed -
That theHouse do now adjourn.
.- While I have no desire to traverse the whole of the facts concerning the Jacob Johnson case, I intend to supply the House with information concerning the documents allegedly missing from Mr. Jacob Johnson’s file in the possession of the department, that information having been so persistently refused by the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan). The contents ofthe missing documents are as follow : -
I submit that, as those documents are allegedly missing, and the Crown witnesses are out of the country, it would be a farce for the Government to institute the inquiry, as Mr. Johnson would not be in a position to place his case properly before the investigating tribunal.
– Earlier in the sitting you, sir, intimated that an honorable member who had received permission to incorporate unread matter in Hansard had had embodied in the official parliamentary debates a statement containing certain vulgar terms. As Hansard is first issued in proof form, to which alterations may be made, I suggest that you should exercise your rights, and expunge theoffensive terms, to prevent them from appearing in the permanent official record of our debates.
– I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Feu ton), and see whether I am in a position to give effect to his suggestion. There are two expressions in one of the extracts to which I referred this afternoon which, I think, should not appear in the reports of our proceedings.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 August 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310805_reps_12_131/>.