22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Last night on the adjournment I mistakenly took the motion for the closure as the motion for the adjournment. It was not intentional. Consequently, I did not put the motion for the closure. So I express my regret to the House for having made that mistake. I adjourned the House prematurely.
In respect of the point of order raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) yesterday morning, I have reconsidered the practice regarding divisions on motions to adjourn the House, and L” have decided that, in future, if a call is made for a division on the motion, the division will proceed. As the guardian of the Standing Orders I do not intend to evade them ; I shall uphold them.
– We knew, last evening, of course, that the motion for the closure would be carried; but we were determined to protest against the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) taking the course he took simply because one honorable member on this side of the chamber, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), wanted to bring up matters on the motion for the adjournment. I think the position has now been clarified for the future.
– Are there any questions without notice?
– T ask that all questions be placed on the notice-paper.
Debate resumed from the 17th May (vide page 2257), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition intends to move an amendment to this bill, and as much of the discussion which has taken place has centered on the several amendments which have been foreshadowed, I should like to make a few observations myself on those particular amendments, rather than on the general purpose of the bill. The principles of the bill are well established. It was a non-Labour government which some years ago-
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! I ask honorable members to cease audible conversation. There is too much noise altogether.
– It was a non-Labour government which established the formula under which the disbursement ‘ of money received from petrol tax was made to the various States. It was a Labour government that continued it.
– It was done with the concurrence of all the States.
– I wish the former leader of the Australian Country party would drum that into the heads of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who have tried to controvert what I am saying. The present Government has continued with the formula. The honorable member for Wentworth, or rather Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) - I remember there once was a, slogan “ Wentworth for Wentworth but that was years ago - has put forward an amendment which proposes that the Government shall pay the whole of the £12,000,000 raised under the little horror budget to the States for road building and maintenance purposes, instead of the £4,000,000 which it is proposed to appropriate under this measure. We have put forward a somewhat similar amendment. Then there is the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Mallee, which seeks to disturb the formula whilst giving the whole of the proceeds to the States. I call it the “ Danny Kaye “ amendment, because the more I look at it, the more it makes me laugh.
– A really good laugh will put the honorable member right.
– There is one thing that I always have admired about the honorable member for Mallee, and that is his capacity for simulating sagacity. Look at him now. Does it not justify all that I am saying? But the honorable member is not as wise as he thinks he is. What he proposes to do, if effected, would interfere with the future development and defence of this continent.- He is a good Australian; there is none better. But in relation to this measure he is adopting a narrow parochial attitude. I am as good :i Victorian as he is, but, above all else, I am an Australian. We cannot serve this country in this Parliament unless we adopt an Australian attitude to all these matters. I would rather suffer the hostility of my contemporaries in Victoria to-day for the attitude I adopt to this measure than incur the contempt and censure of posterity. We have got a job to do at this moment. It is to hold this country. To hold the country, we must build roads and railways and develop the nation as fast as we can. But we shall not develop this continent if we say to the people of the most heavily settled part of Australia, the State of Victoria, “You can have all the money that is collected in your State from the petrol tax, regardless of what happens anywhere else in the continent “.
I have no doubt that this country will be attacked again some time in the future, it may be 20 or 40 years in the future. The attack will come from Japanese imperialists, Chinese Communists or Indonesian nationalists and no one else. No invader will spare the people living south of the Murray any more than they will spare the people living north of the Murray.
– Another Brisbane line?
– I had another idea in my mind. I do not want to see a river Murray line, drawn in connexion with road construction and development in this great Australia of ours. The State of Victoria would be in a much better position in putting forward a case for revision of the formula if it did .two i hines, about which the honorable member for M’allee probably knows little or nothing. Tn any case I do not know whether he is aware of two facts. Firstly, in the State of Victoria not all the money that is collected from motor registration fees is appropriated by the Victorian - Parliament for road-making purposes in that State. Some of it goes into general revenue and is used to finance other undertakings.
– -Not now.
– That is so now. I am always happy to oblige the honorable member for Deakin by enlightening him. After all, I was once the Minister for Information. The second fact of which the honorable member for Mallee is probably unaware - I hope he is unaware of it, because I should not like him deliberately to deceive the House - is that in Victoria motor registration fees have not been increased since 1926.
– What is wrong with that?
– .1 am ashamed to think that any honorable member of this Parliament would claim that motor registration fees should be based on 1926 standards with which to build roads at 1956 costs.
– That shows how small-minded they are.
– That may be true of some of them. When the Victorian Parliament increases its motor registration fees to the average of the six other Australian States and pays the full receipts of its motor registration fees to the Country Roads Board of Victoria for the construction of Victorian roads outside the metropolitan area, the State will be in a much better position to impress the conference of -Commonwealth and State Ministers and this Parliament that it is entitled to more consideration than it is receiving at the present time.
All this week I have seen school children sitting in the galleries of this House, and when I have looked into their bright, honest and innocent faces - and I am not looking for votes fifteen or sixteen years hence - I have wondered what their future will be if this Parliament in our time is not sufficiently Australia-wise to pass legislation which will ensure that their chances of survival will be better than they might otherwise -be. The honorable member for Mallee is not really a good Victorian when he argues in the way that he has done. All that he is concerned about is the electorate of Mallee, which is one of 33 electorates in Victoria. In this respect, as in everything else, he has adopted the parochial attitude. When it comes to primary produce, ali that he can think of is dried fruits, Raisin Joe and concentrated sunlight.
– Apparently, he only wants the petrol for the parish pump.
– Yes, as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has interjected, the honorable member for Mallee only wants petrol for the parish pump. I should like honorable members to listen, to some of the figures connected with the registration of motor vehicles in Victoria, as compared with registrations in Queensland. Victoria is a State of about, S8,000 square miles, and Queensland’s area covers about 668,000 square miles. There are about twice as many people in Victoria as there are in Queensland.
– Better people, too.
– I shall not allow the honorable member who interjected to. draw me into making a comparison in regard to the quality of Australians, because they are all good from my viewpoint, and, in any case, comparisons are odious. The motor registration fee in Queensland is based on power-weight units, and it is 6s. a unit. In Victoria, it is only 3s. a unit, and the honorable member for Mallee has stated that he wants to keep it that way. And even the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) says that that fee is quite enough. Who will pay for the making of the roads if certain people do not want to pay sufficient motor registration fees? On a ‘Holden motor car the registration fee in Victoria is £6 3s., and in Queensland, £12 6s., or an average for the six States of £8 16s. 7d. On a Ford Customline in Victoria the registration fee is £9 9s., and in Queensland £18 18s. with a States average of £13 13s. 5d. On a Morris Minor, in Victoria, one will pay £3 13s., in Queensland £7 6s., and the average for the Commonwealth is £5 4s. lid. When we consider the State of Western Australia with an area of about ten times that of Victoria-
– It is more than ten times the size of Victoria.
– In round figures, I think that Victoria covers about 90,000 square miles and Western Australian about 900,000 square miles. Western Australia is at least ten times the size of Victoria and may be eleven times as big. However, I shall not query a fraction. In Western Australia, there is a very small population to hold about onethird of the Commonwealth. If one draws a line along the 26th parallel of latitude, it will pass through Carnarvon in Western Australia and Bundaberg in Queensland and divide Australia into precisely two equal parts. To the north we have practically no population, and only one good road ; to the south we have some good and many poor roads, and practically all our population. The present Government is concerned with this matter, as is obvious from a copy of a press statement I have in my hand, issued by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) on the 24th February last, which reads -
A road development works programme needed over the next decade to Tiring the Australian roads’ system up to the geometric standards considered necessary to cater for the rapidly expanding needs of road transport, was estimated bv State road construction authorities to cost “at least £1,000,000,000- £558,000,000 for new capital works on primary roads and £442,000,000 for capital and maintenance works on secondary roads
– Yet they quibble over £8,000,000.
– Exactly ! That £8,000,000 ought to be given and, in my view, could easily be saved from the defence vote.
– Does the honorable member propose that we rely for the defence of this country entirely on roads?
– I want to see many more roads built. It is impossible to defend or develop a country without roads. What we need is a co-ordinated transport policy for the next twenty years - road, air, rail and sea. No country in modern times was developed without railroads and ordinary roads. What else lay behind the great development and success of America but the great numbers of people who streamed westward as the railroads were pushed across that gree* nation? We have to follow a somewhat similar policy in this country. We would not now have a road, in the modern sense of the term, between Darwin and Alice Springs had it not been for World War II. ; but for that war we would still have the same old bush road running alongside the telegraph line.
We certainly do need more roads in Australia, particularly in the undeveloped and most vulnerable parts of the continent, and I think the Minister for Shipping and Transport was perfectly right in stating our needs and that nothing less than £1,000,000,000 is required to be spent on roads in the next ten years.
– Then let us get it.
– Exactly 5 But we would not get too much of it from the honorable member and other vehicle owners in Victoria if the Victorian registration fees were kept at their present low rates. If we are to develop our road system somebody has to pay the cost. The necessary money cannot be got out of thin air. I believe that the State governments themselves should do more than they are doing at the present moment in respect of roads. I think that when those bodies to which I have referred met in conference - and the Minister’s statement was issued after the decisions of that conference were reached - they were wrong in stating that the Commonwealth Parliament should bear the whole responsibility for financing this programme, or any other programme, of expenditure on roads. These various State Ministers of Transport and other State representatives who met in conference under the chairmanship of the Minister for Shipping and Transport adopted the following resolution: -
That the Commonwealth consider an additional tax upon petrol and diesel fuel used for road transport; such tax to be wholly divided between the States, solely for the new construction of roads, the division of the collections to be subject to the approval of the States.
The effect of that resolution, if implemented, would be an increase of ls. Id. a gallon in the price of petrol. The Commonwealth Parliament should not lightly accept that responsibility. I think it might very well be pointed out to the State governments that the States have avenues of revenue that they have not used. When this Parliament decided to vacate the land tax and entertainment tax fields some States imposed increases in their own similar taxes, either in part or in whole. In the entertainment tax field three States, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania imposed increases. In the land tax field Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania increased their imposts, but in New South Wales and Queensland there has been no increase of land tax. In Western Australia, land valuations have been increased, and additional revenue has been raised in that way. Had New South Wales imposed the land tax that this Government abandoned on behalf of the Commonwealth, it could have raised £1,656,000 in 1951-52. The annual return from that tax would by now be about £2,000,000.
– Order ! The honorable member should remember that this is not a taxing bill, but a measure for the distribution of money.
– It is proposed to tax and distribute the money.
– This bill does not propose a tax.
– All the discussion has centred upon the distribution of the money. I am suggesting that the State governments, which have been urging that we should increase the petrol tax so that they can get more money, should be told that they can get money by taxing the big financial institutions. I make that, observation in passing. Figures relating to the number of cars registered in each of the States make interesting reading. There are 477,346 motor cars registered in Victoria compared with 467,245 in New South Wales.
– Probably it is cheaper to register cars in Victoria.
– That may be, but I do not think that owners of motor cars would take their vehicles from Armidale or Grafton to Melbourne to register them. They might take cars from the Riverina which, economically, belongs to Victoria and, politically, to New South Wales; and because of that combination of circumstances it has remained a no-man’s _ land ever since the separation of Victoria from New South Wales.
– Not since 1949.
– A great tragedy overtook the Riverina in 1949, and some day the mistake will be repaired when the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) becomes the new Australian High Commissioner in London. Registrations of motor cars total 173,864 in Queensland, 150,597 in South Australia, 95,007 in Western Australia and 47,338 in Tasmania.
– How old are those figures ?
– The figures were supplied to me by the Commonwealth Treasury on the 16th May, 1956 - just two days ago. I take it that they are relatively up to date and, therefore, somewhere near the mark. Motor vehicle taxation collections in 1954-55 on a per capita basis were -
[ could cite other figures, but the case has been well explained by speakers on both sides of the House, and the general principles are agreed upon. We must have a petrol tax as a Commonwealth contribution towards road making. The Australian Labour party believes that the whole of the petrol tax proceeds should be expended on roads. We do not believe that it is a right principle that the Commonwealth should raise money solely to finance State activities; and whilst it is proper that we should help the States, we have an obligation to the Northern Territory. We must retain some of the money for the development of that vast Territory.
– And the Australian Capital Territory.
– That is so. The Northern Territory is one-sixth of Australia. It is approximately 551,000 square miles in extent. That is about the same size as Indonesia but, in Indonesia, there are 80,000,000 people, whilst in the Northern Territory there are only 17,000 people of our blood. They are trying to hold one-sixth of Australia. In the neighbouring part of Western Aus tralia, which is relatively the same area, there are only 6,000 people of our blood. So we have 22,000 Australians trying to hold one-third of Australia. Yet there are people who say, “ The Commonwealth should not spend any more money in that area on the construction of roads, bridges, railways and the like. It should spend the money in the more closely settled parts of this great country “ ! The only question for debate now is whether we should scrap the formula and give all the money to the States, or whether we should retain the formula and distribute among the States for road works the whole of the additional petrol tax of £12,000,000 to be collected under the Government’s proposals.
– Remodel the formula.
– I should not object to the remodelling of the formula at a later period, because it has weaknesses. But I think Victoria is the last State that can offer a valid objection to the formula, since it does so little to bring its own taxation levies into line with those of the other States, and since it has adopted the practice of not disbursing all the money it receives from registration fees among road-building authorities. Does the honorable member for Mallee wish to make a sapient remark?
– Yes. My amendment refers only to . the sum to be raised by the additional tax, not to the total amount of aid roads funds.
– The honorable member did not make himself perfectly clear.
– I have not moved the amendment yet.
– If it is logical to distribute the mere additional £4,000,000 according to a different -formula, the whole amount of something like £19,000,000 should be distributed according to the same formula. We cannot have two formulas.
– Yes, we can. Western Australia cannot spend the money it receives now. Why give it more?
– I wish to make one observation about the suggestion that Western Australia receives so much money that it cannot spend it all, and that the position in Queensland is similar. I have heard it said that the money thai cannot be spent owing to the lack of man-power or materials is being placed in trust funds. I have heard it said even that some of thi3 money is being used to make streets in Perth. I do not believe that. If it were being done, it would be a wrong thing to do. But I have no objection to the Queensland and Western Australian Governments retaining that money, and getting as much more as they can, against the time when materials and man-power will be available for the construction of roads that are so necessary to the continued retention of this island continent in the Pacific as our home, and so necessary as an insurance against the day when we are attacked again.
– The money unspent in Western Australia is committed for jobs, but the actual payments have not yet caught up.
– In recent years, there has been too much development on Australia’s eastern seaboard, and not enough in the outback areas. How we may counteract that tendency, I do not know. It is continuing, and it is being aggravated. Some day we shall be able to build the roads, and undertake all the other works, that are so vitally necessary in the less-settled States. I cannot mention in detail the expenditure needed for works other than roads, but it is obvious that, if £1,000,000,000 is spent on roads, other expenditure must be incurred at a later stage on water supply and sewerage, irrigation, forestry, land development, the provision of electricity and gas services, the supply of coal and briquettes, the construction of houses, schools, hospitals, post offices and aerodromes, and’ other miscellaneous works.
– And on the redistribution of electoral boundaries.
– The items that I have mentioned involve the expenditure of vast sums of money. I just wish to say, in passing, that a plan for the irrigation of 1,000,000 acres of land, involving a proper capital works scheme for the next ten years, would probably cost £140,000,000. The total capital and maintenance expenditure for new water conservation schemes in the next ten years will probably exceed £500,000,000. We have to face these facts, which concern our very survival. We must find the money to construct the roads and to undertake the other works that I have enumerated. Unless we realize that we are not a nation of lotus-eaters, and that, except when we were threatened by Japanese aggression, we were never in more danger than we are in to-day, we shall fail to discharge our responsibilities to those who live to-day and to those who will come after us. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) referred to the redivision of electoral boundaries. That will come in time as the population of Australia increases. When the committee to be appointed to review the Constitution meets, it might be well for it to discuss the question of making the Commonwealth Parliament responsible for the building of arterial roads and main highways connecting capital cities. The Commonwealth Parliament could accept a defined responsibility for this by a constitutional amendment, and I suggest that such a course would hasten the development of those parts of Australia that are in great need of it. Another important factor is that we in this Parliament would not be governed, as members of State parliaments often are, by these, prejudices, phobias and desires to extend preferential treatment to one part of a State over another.
I commend the bill. I assure the House that there will be a division, and we shall see just how many will support my friend, the honorable member for Mallee, in what I believe to be a retrograde move, that cannot improve our standing and prestige with the Australian people. If we want the Australian public to think big and act in a big way, we must think big and we must give them the appropriate lead. It is bigness that counts in all matters.
.- This Government, by its recent economic measures for 1956, increased taxation on certain commodities on which there had been a high rate of expenditure and which involved heavy importations. One of those commodities was petrol. The bill under discussion sets out the way in which the extra taxation on petrol will be distributed. It has been made clear during this discussion that of the additional 3d. tax a gallon, Id. will be expended upon roads and 2d. will go into Consolidated Revenue. Both inside and outside the House there have been various pleas and certain disagreements in connexion with the manner in which this extra 3d. should be used. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who has just resumed his seat, speaking on behalf of his colleagues, made a plea that has found favour outside this House as well. He asked that the whole of the 3d. a gallon be expended upon roads. One of the most popular statements made is that as petrol tax is a tax solely upon motorists it should be used solely for the construction of new roads and the maintenance of existing ones. Those who argue in this way entirely overlook the fact that whereas the tax was first introduced in 1902 no grant was made for road construction and maintenance until 1923.
– Order ! Honorable members will resume their seats and maintain silence.
– We cannot hear the honorable member reading.
– Order ! The honorable member for Werriwa has no right to reflect on another honorable member. Every honorable member has the right to express his opinion.
– Another factor that has been overlooked is that although, under this bill, only Id. a gallon is to be devoted to roads, the other 2d., which is to be paid into Consolidated Revenue, will be used to finance State public works ; and we in this place know only too well the assistance that has been increasingly given by the Commonwealth to the States over recent years, but especially during this Government’s regime. If honorable members need any reminder of this fact, it is provided in the statement which the Premier of New South Wales is reported this morning to have made in regard to the extent to which transport generally in his State has now deteriorated.
So there we have two very major reasons why all the money collected from the petrol tax should not be spent on roads. There is a third one which I think is even more important than the two that I have stated. It is this : Well over 65 per cent, of the petrol used in Australia is used by commercial vehicles, and it has been made quite clear that the tax is passed on to the consuming public by the carriers. Therefore, it is true to say that the majority of Australians bear the burden of petrol tax. Not all Australians use the roads; .some have no cars. Therefore, as payers of the tax, it is fair that they should receive in return for their contributions, some benefits by way of other public works and increased amenities.
The other matter to which I should like to refer is this : The suggestion is often made that the Commonwealth should take over the responsibility for constructing and maintaining roads throughout Australia. However, it is not just a matter of the Commonwealth taking over the responsibility for roads any more than it is a matter of the Commonwealth just taking over any other responsibility such as education or hospitals. No doubt honorable members have had such a suggestion put to them from time to time. It should be realized that the Commonwealth cannot just take over these functions and services. Under the Constitution, the States may voluntarily hand over the powers, or the Commonwealth may gain them by means of a referendum. I think it is true to say that the only reason why these requests are made for the Commonwealth to take over these services and responsibilities is that the States have met with such a disaster in their administration of those services. Merely because the States have made a mull of it is not a good basic reason for the Commonwealth to take over extra responsibility.
When these matters are ‘ being discussed I think we ought to give due thought, to where We stand because, on each occasion that the Commonwealth takes over a responsibility of the States, another nail is driven into the coffin of federalism. If the great majority of Australians were unificationists and desired to have one Parliament with all power centred in Canberra, that would be all very well. But I do not think that that is the desire of the majority of Australians. I think that they have made it clear from time to time that they wish to retain the federal system. In several parts of Australia, at this time, there are movements for the formation of new States which would take to themselves the responsibility for the government of their respective areas.
While speaking of these responsibilities in special relation to the distribution of the petrol tax moneys, I think it would be wise for us to remember that the previous Government initiated the proposal that a portion of the money granted as Commonwealth aid to roads should be used for the maintenance and extension of rural roads. The Government has maintained that provision in the present bill, and 40 per cent, of the money made available to the States by the Commonwealth is to be devoted to the construction and extension of rural roads. I suggested to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne), during a recent debate, that special consideration might be given to imposing a lower rate of tax upon petrol used by a primary producer on his property. I referred to petrol used solely for purposes of primary production. The Minister informed me that, although he realized there was a strong case for the adoption of my suggestion, administrative difficulties made its adoption impossible. I should like to direct his attention again to this matter, and to suggest that the petrol used for such a purpose might be distinctively coloured. Such a scheme has been introduced in the United Kingdom and in France, and I believe that it works successfully in both those countries. A primary producer who wished to avail himself of the concession could submit a return to the appropriate department, showing the average number of gallons of petrol that he had used during the previous three years solely for purposes of primary production. He could then be allowed to purchase that quantity of coloured petrol, at the lower rate of tax, for primary production purposes. This seems to me to be an important matter, because one of our main objects is to increase our exports in order to solve the problem of our adverse balance of payments.
One of the greatest factors in costs of production in Australia to-day is that of freight. When we attempt to sell our products on world markets in competition with other countries, we start at a disadvantage because of our greater distance from those markets. Therefore, anything that we can do to lessen costs will help to increase our exports. I believe that a reduction in the cost of petrol for purposes of primary production would help to achieve this objective.
While I realize that the States have the prime responsibility for road construction and maintenance, I am aware that the Australian Government has taken a great interest in this matter over a number of years. I agree with several of the points made by the honorable member for Melbourne in his speech this morning, when he referred to the need to develop the roads in the north of Australia, not only for defence purposes, but also for purposes of national development. We have a national responsibility to encourage the States to take a greater interest in the roads within their boundaries. We should ask the State authorities to confer more frequently with representatives of this Government, so that we may make constructive suggestions and ask the States to co-ordinate their roads works programmes. There are many minor matters that we could suggest which would be of great benefit to road-users. For instance, our main highways could be widened on the left-hand side of the dividing line where the road approaches the crest of a hill, or where there is a series of bends, so that slow-moving traffic could move to the left of the road in order to allow the lighter and fastermoving traffic to pass through, and not be held up in a single, slow line, as so often happens at present. There is a great volume of heavy transport traffic on the highways, and the number of these vehicles will increase. It has been noticed that the drivers of these vehicles, especially those who travel from one State to another, are in the habit of pulling up at the side of the road during the early evening and night, in order to sleep. It might be suggested that bays be constructed at reasonably frequent intervals along main highways, so that a driver who wished to sleep could steer his vehicle off the main traffic lane, and thus present no danger to passing traffic. It is being done in New South Wales, and my previous suggestion about broadening the road has been effected in several places along the Pacific Highway. Honorable members may recall that I introduced this topic by saying that it was one of the matters which could be dealt with by way of conference, and as an encouragement to the States.
Australia as a whole has a responsibility for the maintenance and extension of roads. Although rail transport is suitable for carrying certain goods, the tonnage passing over the roads will increase greatly. By “ tonnage “ I do not mean only the quantity of goods carried; I mean the weight of the goods, plus that of the vehicles. Consequently, in the planning of new roads, due consideration must be given to providing roads that will be capable of carrying these heavier loads. My final plea is that, in view of all these factors, the Commonwealth should take the lead and encourage the States to accept their full, individual responsibilities.
.- In every part of Australia, in the cities and in the country, problems and difficulties have been created as a result of the increase in volume of motor traffic. The roads have suffered, and it is proper, therefore, that the total revenue collected from motorists by way of petrol tax should be expended on the construction and maintenance of roads. As an example, I mention the City of Melbourne. It grew up in the days of horse transport.
Motion (by Mr. Opperman) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title and citation).
– On behalf of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), I move -
That the clause be postponed.
As an instruction to the Government -
That the whole of the recent increase of 3d. a gallon in the petrol tax should be set aside for roads.
I do not propose to regale the committee with any more figures on the matter, because the position is well understood. The question now is whether the entire proceeds of the 3d. a gallon tax increase shall be paid to the States, or only onethird of it. The committee is invited to decide whether the States should get the whole of that money, or whether the Commonwealth should retain £8,000,000 of the £12,000,000 so collected, and use it for ordinary budgetary purposes. I repeat, the Government could very easily give the £8,000,000 to the States, and recoup its loss at the expense of the defence vote, not all of which will probably be spent in any case. Only in one year, when the budget estimate’ was £200,000,000, did that happen, and in that year £215,000,000 was spent. Evidence given the other day before the Public Accounts Committee revealed that a high-ranking public servant had been asked to increase the defence estimate by £9,000,000 so as to bring the total up’ to £200,000,000. In that year, which was the last financial year, only £177,000,000 was spent on defence. So, the Government could easily recover the money it would lose if it agreed to the amendment. It is, in’ principle, the same as that of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) but there are some differences. I invite the committee to vote with the Opposition and so help the States carry out their responsibilities in road making and road maintenance.
Any one who has travelled in Australia, especially on the back roads, know how deplorable those roads are. Any one who has travelled on our main highways knows how much they need attention, and any one who has looked at them from the air knows how many are little more than earth tracks instead of having bitumen or macadam surfaces. If we are to essay the task of building, as has densely populated Europe, roads that are the equivalent of Hitler’s autobahns or the great express-ways of the United States and Canada, we shall have to tax ourselves very much more than we are doing. Ct is physically impossible for us to do anything like what has been done in the older countries, but we can do very much more than we are doing. If the Government refuses to pay the £8,000,000 to the States, which need it so badly, it will merely be putting off the evil day, for good roads are very necessary adjuncts of our civilization. We must build great ribbonways that will assist development and aid defence, for roads are the channels along which much of our life flows to-day. More and more people are using motor transport and therefore we must have more and better high-ways. Not all our manufactures and primary products arc- carried around our coast in vessels, or on our railways, although it would be very much more economical if they were. They are being largely carried on the roads which, in many instances, are breaking up under the tremendous loads that pass over them. Indeed, if, ultimately, there is a coordinated roads plan and the Commonwealth, as a result of constitutional amendment, accepts some of the responsibility, it might be necessary to force a number of these very heavy transports off the roads. The goods that they carry will then have to be moved by the railways, the only really satisfactory heavy transport medium on land. I shall leave the matter at that. I do not know that there will be very much more discussion upon it at this stage because two other amendments are to be moved and we wish them to be debated adequately so that the opinion of the committee can be ascertained before the bill reaches the thirdreading stage.
– I oppose the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). It would be very foolish to give this substantial sum of £12,000,000 to the States without first making certain that the method of distribution was considerably tightened and that the increased allocation would not be followed by a diminution in the States’ own contribution to the roads. In New South Wales, during the last three or four years, increases in the total sum made available by the Commonwealth for roads have almost invariably been followed by -a diminution in the shire grants of the State Government. There would have to be safeguards to ensure that the additional grant did. not simply release money for other purposes. When the petrol tax was first applied, it was intended that the whole of the proceeds should be used upon the roads. Mr. Theodore, as Commonwealth Treasurer in the Scullin Labour Government, increased the petrol tax so as to enable -a certain proportion of it to be used to assist the general financial position of the Commonwealth. That practice has persisted. Whatever might be the merits of the approach suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne, it would be very unwise to give the States carte blanche and not tate care to ensure that the money was spent as we intended.
.- 1, do not think that the argument raised by the honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) cuts much ice. The amendment merely suggests that all the proceeds of the additional 3d. a gallon tax be devoted to roads. The allocation of that money could be quite easily arranged. I wish particularly to refer r,o the suggestion of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) that the Opposition was irresponsible in urging that all of the extra 3d. a gallon should be spent on roads. During the week, the Minister was criticized, though not personally, because the Army was causing such great destruction to many of our main roads. That is not necessarily a criticism even of the Army, but on the defence aspect we have no greater responsibility than the maintenance of our main roads. As we know, in World War II. our roads were totally inadequate and our railways almost broke- down. Australia’s transport system could easily have proved our great weakness. I know that I am digressing a little when I say that our railways are even more run down now than they were in World War II., and our roads are not much better. During the war the roads carried much heavy traffic, but with the railways, they were the weak link in our defence. Had we been invaded, I hesitate to think what the result might have been. It was wrong of the Minister for the Army to suggest that the Opposition was irresponsible i:i proposing that the total revenue from the additional 3d. a gallon tax on petrol should be allocated to the roads of Australia.
– What percentage of the petrol tax was devoted to roads by the Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member?
– That interjection indicates the kind of horse-and-buggy thinking in which the supporters of the Government indulge. I remind the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) that we were in government during the war, and also during the subsequent, rehabilitation period. We had far greater difficulties to contend with than has the present Government. I also remind him that whatever may have been the percentage of petrol tax devoted to main roads during the life of the Labour Government, that allocation would have provided far more miles of road than does the allocation by this Government, because costs were so much lower in those days. One of the great tragedies connected with this Government is that it has allowed prices and costs to increase to such a degree that they bear no relation to prices and costs when Labour was in office.
I hope that honorable members opposite will vote for the amendment moved by the Opposition, so that the total sum received from the imposition of the additional 3d. a gallon on petrol will be used in connexion with the main roads of Australia. I say to the Minister for the Army once again that the Opposition is not irresponsible in making that suggestion. I think that the Minister himself is being irresponsible in not realizing that one of the greatest features of the successful defence of Australia in a third world war would be good main arteries throughout the country.
, - Mr. Temporary Chairman-
– I rise ‘ to order. By calling the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), does that mean that you are closing the debate, Mr. Temporary Chairman?
– I am not doing that. I make that perfectly clear.
– The Minister is merely making a personal explanation.
– No, I am not making a personal explanation, either. The first thing I want to say, of course, is that the Government will not accept this amendment. The second thing I want to say is that I consider this debate, as conducted by the Opposition, to be not only irresponsible but also fantastic in the light of what has been done in relation to the imposition of this additional 3d. a gallon tax on petrol. I shall state the position as I see it, and I think that this is the logical view to take. The Government presented to the Parliament an economic statement which called for certain increases of taxation for the purposes described in that statement. Honorable members will remember that I dealt with this matter yesterday. Those purposes were set out perfectly clearly and were, on the one side, to prevent the growth of inflation, and on the other side, to provide finance with which to carry out public works in the various States. One of the matters referred to in the economic statement was this increased tax on petrol. As I say, the economic statement referred to the need to dampen down the importation from overseas of petrol and oils, the value of which had reached the colossal total of £100,000,000 a year, and also to the need to .raise money for State public works.
That economic statement was the subject of a division in this chamber, and it was approved by the Parliament. That is why I say that this discussion is fantastic. The Parliament already has approved of the imposition of this additional tax of 3d. a gallon on petrol. In the light of that, where is the need for all the discussion that we have heard yesterday afternoon, and again to-day, about what should or should not be done with this tax on petrol? It is altogether wrong that such a discussion should bc taking place about the needs of our roads. No one is denying the needs of the road systems of Australia. I pointed out yesterday that this Government has done a magnificent job in that respect, and that its efforts have been far greater than those of any previous government. There is no need for me to repeat the figures in relation to the allocations for roads purposes made by this Government.
We have to deal with this specific measure which proposes to provide additional revenue of £12,000,000. Out of the generosity of its heart, and because of its recognition of the position of Australia’s roads, the Government provided, in the economic statement, for this one isolated item by allocating part of the additional revenue for a specific purpose. In the economic statement, provision was made for £4,000,000 of the additional taxation to be devoted to roads. I remind the committee that the other £8,000,000 of the total sum of £12,000,000 already has been committed to the purposes referred to in the economic statement. If the amendment were adopted and the £S,000,000 also were used for roads purposes, it would mean that the Government would have to provide another £8,000,000, from other sources, for the purposes referred to in the economic statement, and that would be diametrically opposed to the principles underlying that statement which, I again remind honorable members opposite, has been approved by this Parliament. It would mean that that additional £8,000,000 of new money would be pumped into an already inflationary economy and, to that extent, would defeat the very purposes underlying the economic statement.
That is why I say that this is an irresponsible amendment and why I think that it is fantastic for the matter to be debated on the basis that we are debating it. The Government can have no truck with this amendment at all. We might have been saved all this unnecessary talk. When I say that, I do not mean that the matters that have been discussed are unworthy of discussion. The Government appreciates, as I appreciate - and no doubt every other honorable member does too - just how necessary it is to develop our road systems, but what I am trying to say to the committee is that that subject has no connexion at all with’ the bill that we are now discussing. If, for instance, the Government were seeking only to provide money for roads, no doubt it would have increased the petrol tax by Id. a gallon, so that there would have been only £4,000,000 available. What would honorable members opposite have said then? Instead of doing that, the
Government has increased the tax by 3d. a gallon for the specific purposes that I have mentioned and hopes thereby to raise an additional £S,000,000 which the Opposition, by its amendment, wants to devote to roads purposes, despite the fact that another purpose already has been approved by the Parliament.
I think that the remarks that I have made also appertain to the other forecasted amendments. I suggest to the committee that it is not possible to deal with this additional £8,000,000, over and above the £4,000,000, in any other way than that provided for in the economic statement. That is perfectly clear.
– Does the Minister think that the other amendment is irresponsible too?
– Yes, I do. I say that any amendment that proposes to take this matter out of its context in the economic statement already approved by the Parliament is completely out of order and quite wrong. So I suggest to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that there should be no further discussion about this matter, because the chamber has already approved of it. Further discussion would be only idle words and an effort to make the public believe that this Government should accept the amendment as a means to improve roads, when, in fact, the £8,000,000 is not available for that purpose at all.
– I listened with attention to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). In effect, he said that the object of this taxation is to reduce the consumption of petrol. I remember that when this Government came into power, petrol was rationed. In order to increase the consumption of petrol, the Government abolished the rationing. If the Government desires merely to reduce the consumption of petrol and ration it by means of its economic plan, there is a just and obvious method by which to do so. Do it by the system of direct rationing, but do not do it by the method of increasing the price of petrol! By increasing the price, certain sections of the community are disadvantaged compared with other sections. Those who use petrol for the pur pose of industry are disadvantaged compared with the wealthy people who use petrol for ordinary pleasure transport.
An honorable member on this side of the House asks, by interjection, “ “Why raise money merely from a tax on motor vehicle owners ? “ That, of course, i3 a legitimate objection to the proposition put forward by the Government. This is sectional taxation. If the Government wishes to raise a certain amount of money for general purposes, then the revenue should be raised from every section of the community in proportion to the ability to pay. If, however, the Government raises money from the motor industry, then that money should be used to remove the difficulties that exist in every part of Australia as a result of increased motor transport. Every city of Australia has bottlenecks that are unable to carry the motor traffic. Melbourne has Sydney-road, Chapel-street, and other main roads that are unable to cope with the volume of motor transport. The elimination of the difficulty caused by traffic congestion is a legitimate charge upon the motor transport of this country. If millions of pounds are raised by taxation, portion of it should be used to get rid of the bottlenecks in metropolitan and sub-metropolitan areas throughout Australia. In Victoria, there is the necessity to roof the Jolimont railway yards, mainly because of difficulties created by motor transport. “What a humiliating position! Not only every Victorian but every Australian was embarrassed when the Premier of Victoria announced that he was going to America to endeavour to get American business interests to roof the Jolimont yards in the City of Melbourne. Millions and millions of pounds are collected in taxation from motor transport, upon which it is a legitimate charge, but the money is being used for other purposes.
There is a reason why the whole, and not a portion, of the moneys that are being raised in this way should be devoted to the elimination of traffic problems and the extension and improvement of our road system. As a result of the congestion in city areas and the narrow roads in country districts, hundreds of people are being maimed and killed annually. To relieve that tragic position is an obligation that rests upon motor transport. If motor transport pays the money and foots the bill to the Government, and this Government diverts that money to other purposes, then this Government is responsible for all those difficulties that confront the people of this nation arising from traffic problems. It has been said here that roads are needed in the north of Australia, in New Guinea and in the islands to the north of Australia for defence purposes. All those things are left unattended by a government that diverts millions and millions of pounds that are directly raised from the motor industry to relieve the wealthy of their proportion of taxation that should be paid, and should be collected by the Government on the basis of ability to pay. This Government, of course, will never do that. It was always the instrument of sectional and monopolistic interests and it still remains their servile servant to-day.
I believe that vast motor industries in this country are not adversely affected by the proposition of the Government. While motor transport is being inequitably taxed, those interests are being relieved in their individual taxation assessments of vast amounts of money that legitimately should be raised from them to serve the Government’s present purposes. I have nothing further to say, except to reiterate that, as the Minister for the Army said, our words are absolutely wasted on the Government. However, we speak not to the Government but to the people of this country and we draw their attention to the actions of a government that should never have been put in charge of the treasury bench.
.- I am opposed to this amendment because I believe and hope that this additional petrol tax will not remain in force a day longer than is necessary. The economic situation apparently demanded the collection of extra money, and this was a means of raising it. Nobody will convince me that, if the States are given additional money out of the extra tax, when that tax is removed - as I hope will be very soon - we shall be able to say to the States, “We are very sorry; the tax has now disappeared and you no longer can have the extra money”. On that ground alone it is very undesirable for any one to vote for this amendment. The additional tax that the Government will impose-
Mr. Clark interjecting,
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member for Darling is not making a speech.
– Thank you, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I do not think I need his help at the moment, but if I do I will call on him. The additional tax that the Government has imposed must increase the cost of transport, and nobody will imagine that because of this additional tax less petrol will be used. I have never found that to be so. The figures for sales of petrol do not reveal that in any way. Quite clearly, we need the extra money that is being raised by this additional tax. Let us be quite frank about it. We need it for the States, because we cannot raise sufficient by loans. This is one means of raising that money; and it is a temporary tax. The additional tax on petrol will force up the cost of transport, and Australia is so dependent on road transport that the higher tax must increase the cost of living. Therefore, I hope that this Government will not retain the tax one day longer than is necessary, because I do not believe it will achieve what it set out to do, beyond raising extra money. It must inevitably add to the cost of transport. It must add to the cost of primary production, to the cost of food and goods and everything else which comes into or goes out of the country. I believe that this problem must be tackled in a wide’- field. The amount of money which is necessary for roads is staggering. A very good report was prepared by the Australian Transport Advisory Council, comprising State and Commonwealth Transport Ministers, which meets once or twice a year. The council thrashed out this problem. I think it is one of the most successful Commonwealth-State organizations.
– I think it is useless.
– Obviously the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie; has not attended one of its conferences, and lie speaks with complete ignorance. At the council’s conferences, State Ministers of Transport, including Labour Ministers, get together with the Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport, and they reach a large measure of agreement on these problems. The council has done useful work, and I suggest that before the honorable member for Wilmot makes further statements such as that which he has just made, he should at least attend a conference of the council or read a report of what it has done.
Mr. Duthie interjecting .
– Order ! The honorable member for Wilmot must remain silent.
– If he would listen to me for a moment, he might learn something. The Australian Transport Advisory Council has the assistance of road-making experts, and it states in one of its most valuable reports that on main roads alone the expenditure of another £301,000,000 is necessary, and that it is unable to arrive at an assessment of the expenditure necessary on secondary roads. The report states that interminable additional funds are necessary beyond the £442,000,000 which will be spent by local government bodies during the next ten years. So at least £1,000,000,000 is necessary for expenditure on roads during that period. We cannot conjure up money or raise loans of this magnitude. We cannot divert sufficient funds from taxation to make available this staggering amount. I therefore suggest that the Government should seriously examine the possibility of raising this money overseas. It has been very successful already in raising funds overseas. It should raise loans in countries which specialize in the production of heavy earth-moving equipment suitable for road-making, and induce large road-making contracting firms to follow this foreign money to Australia, to bring in materials, man-power and know-how, and get on with the job. We are so far behind in the construction and maintenance of highways and secondary roads that a major concerted effort is necessary, such an effort as was made by the Government in connexion with the Snowy Mountains scheme. The success of that scheme exemplifies the benefit to be derived from bringing in outside contractors and, where necessary, material, and proceeding quickly with the job. There are large road construction firms in Italy, France, the United States of America and Germany, which could bring in their teams and such materials as are in short supply here. For the most part in this country we have adequate road-making materials. The real shortage is of man-power and money. .1 suggest that the Government examine this suggestion, because to raise a. little money is merely to scratch the problem. We know what the problem is. A bold attack is needed. Let the Government proceed to raise money overseas, as this matter is of great national importance.
– The Opposition is acting very consistently in proposing this amendment. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) stated that the Parliament approved the Government’s economic statement, and so approved the application of the proceeds of this additional tax in the manner which the Government desires. I wish to say that we on this side of the chamber did not approve of it. If the Minister meant the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), or if he was referring to any one else who voted in favour of accepting the statement, he is quite in order, but we on this side of the chamber did not approve, and we are now trying to remedy what we believe to be the wrong course taken by the Government in imposing a sectional tax. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) mentioned the amount of money that is needed for expenditure on roads, and he said that the small amount involved in this additional tax would not go very far. He said, further, that the Government should borrow money overseas m order to build roads. Does he believe that that suggestion can be taken seriously? First, he said that we should bring capital and material from overseas. Later, he said that we had the labour and material here. It is altogether wrong to believe that the adoption of this suggestion would overcome our difficulties.
I contend that to impose on the motorist an additional petrol tax of 3d. a gallon is to engage in sectional taxation. The motorist is the man who has been hardest hit in the Government’s endeavours to raise extra money for revenue purposes. In addition to the proposed increased tax of 3d., we should remember the burden which has been imposed on the motorist in the form of sales tax. It is wrong that the Government should say to the motorist, “ You must pay an extra 2d. a gallon in order to make up the amount of money which we need for general purposes “. Petrol and motoring involve tremendous financial expenditure by the States. Let us consider the police forces. In Victoria, New South “Wales and South Australia, proposals have been made that special road patrols of plain-clothes men should be used in order to prevent motorists from travelling at excessive speeds and to make the roads safer. Accidents resulting from motoring involve hospitals in tremendous costs. We say that if more of the proceeds of this additional tax were diverted to the States - the 3d. instead of the Id. - they could use some of it to police the roads, to improve hospital services, and in other fields which are controlled by the States. We are not acting irresponsibly. We are not acting as persons who are not prepared to accept the responsibility which we should accept in the National Parliament. I, for one, agree with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) that the Commonwealth should not be the sole source of revenue for expenditure on roads, but I do believe that if we impose a tax on road users the proceeds should be used for road purposes. I agree that our own late leader and others have said over the years that the petrol tax is not intended solely to raise money for roads, but that does not prove that this Government is following the correct procedure in this matter. It does not mean that the man who is using the roads should be fair game and the subject of extra charges in order to meet the ordinary expenditure of the country.
– Would the honorable member retain this tax?
– I am not saying whether 3d., lOd. or ls. is adequate, but prohibitive rates of petrol tax would be necessary to provide £1,000,000,000 for road purposes. I contend that the Government, instead of imposing a tax on petrol, whether it be at a rate of up to LOd. a gallon, should have evolved a reasonable scheme for taxing those persons who are destroying the roads. I refer to those who are using big transports. The diesel trucks are doing the greatest damage to our roads. The honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), stated that on any day of the week more than 400 big motor transports use the Hume Highway. I do not know whether that is correct.
– The honorable member is suggesting the imposition of a State tax.
– I am speaking of a tax on distillate. I am not speaking of higher registration fees, which the owners of heavy transports should also pay. I contend that the owner of a big motor truck should pay a commensurately higher “registration fee than the owner of a motor car. However, I am directing my attention to the fuel that is used in vehicles. As we know, the owners of diesel-operated vehicles, which are doing great damage to the roads, pay practically no tax on the fuel they consume.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) made what I considered to be an audacious statement when he said that about 70 per cent, of the petrol used in this country was used for commercial purposes, and that the owners of commercial vehicles would pass on the additional tax on the petrol consumed in those vehicles. That means that the additional tax will be passed on to the buyers of goods. The Opposition believes that if the Government wants additional revenue for general purposes, it should collect the money by taxation imposed equitably on all sections of the community. If it wants additional money for roads, it should say so straight out, and impose taxation for that purpose on petrol and the fuel used by the heavy vehicles which are destroying the roads.
Much has been said about defence roads. I do not think that big hauliers and commercial travellers should be allowed, without making an adequate contribution to the cost of road maintenance, to use the roads excessively in order to make big incomes while the cost of constructing and maintaining certain roads that are regarded as defence projects is defrayed from general revenue and the railways are run at a loss. We must remember that although roads are constructed for defence purposes, there might not be another war for 30 years. En the meantime, certain people make a lot of money by using those roads for commercial purposes.
Let us not tangle up this general question of roads with defence. When we impose a tax on petrol, let the proceeds of the tax be given to the States to construct and maintain the roads. I do not want to be misunderstood in this matter. £ do not think that the whole of the cost of roads should be borne from the proceeds of the petrol tax. I believe that the States should collect revenue on an equitable basis from those who use the roads and should use it to meet some of the cost involved. The Labour party is not inconsistent when it rejects the proposition that the petrol tax should be increased in order to avoid a cash deficit. When the financial statement was being debated, we said that we would not support an increase of the petrol tax for that purpose, but that we thought it would be preferable for the Government to increase income tax in accordance with the principle of ability to pay. We made it clear that Ave did not think that a sectional tax should be imposed in order to bolster general revenue.
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) [12.8 1. - I think there is a lot to be said for the principle of allocating all the additional proceeds of this tax to roads - a great oVal. They arn not conclusive arguments, for certain reasons that I shall give in a moment, but they arc objective arguments, and there is something in the proposition. As the committee knows, the Commonwealth’s receipts from excise come mainly from drink, tobacco and petrol. Petrol is rather different from the other two, because they are objects of final consumption and they do not, perhaps, give anything more than personal satisfaction, whereas petrol does enter into the cost of various commodities. There is a logical distinction there.
It is, I think, quite reasonable that we should endeavour to balance the transport system by allocating to the improvement of capital facilities the proceeds of taxation that we levy on any section of the community. That seems to me to be not entirely unreasonable. It might be said - and said with reason - that some petrol is used for pleasure motoring only, as indeed it is, and that it does not enter into costs; but I remind the committee that the Government does retain from the existing tax - before the new impost - some part of the proceeds to cover that part of petrol consumed which is pure consumption and does not enter into other production.
Having said that, let me say that I think there are, in the amendment before the committee, difficulties to which attention has been directed by other speakers. First, the Government has announced that this is a temporary, not a permanent, impost. We should be taking steps to pay the money, not to the States as part of the normal road allocations, thus giving the procedure a character of permanency, but into a special fund which could be used for the specific purpose of road building, so that it would not be regarded as a recurring amount upon which the States would become dependent.
In the second place, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who was sitting at the table when the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) was addressing the committee, was perfectly correct in saying that there was an antiinflationary element in this present financial measure. I agree entirely with that opinion. I do not think that we should, here and now, be paying this money away, because if we did so we would not Sp serving the best interests of the road users, as there is a shortage of labour and materials at present. By putting it into a reserve fund for eventual expenditure on roads, those disabilities would not apply.
I hope to traverse this aspect of the matter in more detail at a later stage of this debate, but just let me point out that whatever the honorable member for Port Adelaide may have said, no charge of inconsistency can be brought against me personally because, during the debate on the economic statement, I indicated that while I approved of the statement as a whole, and would vote for it as a whole, I. did disapprove of this particular part. I am in exactly the same position as a member who votes for the second reading of a bill and then supports a small amendment to one of the clauses when he has, in his speech on the motion for the second reading, foreshadowed that he would so vote.
I thought that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was right to warn us that we should not allocate this money in such a way that it could be frittered away or used in substitution for other moneys. We want to gat more and better road construction. For that reason, I felt that his criticism of the amendment was soundly based, although I also felt that it did not apply in any degree at all to an amendment that I hope to have an opportunity to move later.
It is true that the States could not be quickly geared for the expenditure of these extra moneys during this month and next month. If we were to give them extra money now, they would not, perhaps, be able to spend it - or, if they did, they would spend it wastefully - during that period. I can only say what I have been told, because I have no personal knowledge of it. I believe that both Queensland and Western Australia have unexpended balances of road moneys. If that is so, there is no point in adding fuel to that particular fire. What we should do, rather, is to give them an opportunity to devise plans for more effective use of the funds that are available to them for expenditure on roads. I believe that this tied in with what the right honorable member for Cowper said. They should be given access to a pool of heavy road-making machinery, because if we are to get good value for the labour, materials and money that we put into our roads, we have to modernize the road-making plant throughout Australia. I believe that to get in a reserve now that would enable us to get ahead of the plant game would make a great difference to the efficiency of the whole of our future highway construction programme.
I feel that there are four factors which operate against this amendment, but I hope the House will forgive me for saying that I think none of them would operate against the amendment that I hope to move later. They are as follows: - First, the amendment cuts across the Government’s anti-inflation plan; secondly, it does not take full cognizance of the fact that the petrol tax is a temporary tax; thirdly, the States are not necessarily ready to spend the money in the best possible way; and, fourthly - and this applies to the remarks of the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) last night - we do not want this money to be frittered away on a number of small works. We should restore some sense of proportion to our roads programme, and, as the right honorable member for Cowper reminded us a few minutes ago, we need to put first things first.
.- The remarks of honorable members opposite during the debate on the amendment have revealed a very wide disparity in their conception of the Government’s motive in imposing this tax. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) has alleged that it is purely a revenue measure, .and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), in supporting the statement of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), has alleged that it has. been designed to control inflation and that it is anti-inflationary in its effect; but both honorable members have stressed the need for the expenditure of the increased revenue, which, of course, would not have an anti-inflationary effect. They go so far as to acknowledge outright that it is being treated by the Government as a means of raising revenue. There has been an amazing degree of conflict about the purpose of this measure, and it seems to be agreed on both sides of the House that its objective of assisting to halt inflation will not be achieved.
The amendment that has been moved by the Opposition has very real virtue. In view of the obvious confusion that exists in the minds of the Government and its supporters about the reason for this tax, it would be fitting for the Government to withdraw the bill and, in the light of the constructive criticism that has been advanced, not only by the Opposition, but also by supporters of the Government, to review the incidence of the formula, which, I think, is at the basis of the trouble. Here I am on common ground with the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who has forecast an amendment which I do not think goes far enough. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) that we cannot look at this matter from a parochial viewpoint. It is well known that the formula, which was drawn up during the last war, will not do justice to Victoria until at least 1958. Another example of the present ineffectiveness of the formula - conditions have changed radically since its inception - is the fact that, if Victoria were to increase its registration fees, in effect it would not obtain increased revenue because, under the formula, the amount paid to that State would be reduced. Only as time goes by shall we see the Victorian Government looking with any hopefulness at the question of increasing registration fees. The matter was considered in 1953, but the main reason for its rejection was that the return would be offset by a reduction of the amount payable under the formula. In other words, it was a question of robbing Peter to pay Paul. No doubt by 1958, when a formula, which automatically adjusts these injustices, comes into operation, we can expect a move along these lines to be made, I point out to the honorable member for Mallee that the formula operates unjustly against Victoria mainly because of the action of previous governments.
I repeat that, in view of the confusion, the contradictions and the innocent misrepresentation of honorable members opposite, and in view of the very salient reasons that have been advanced by Opposition members, the Government would be displaying its bigness if it were to say, “ Yes, we admit that the measure is not perfect and that it can be improved “. It would be acting in keeping with the principles of parliamentary democracy if it were to do nothing less than to withdraw the measure even at this late hour, and, having regard to the criticisms of its own supporters and the case put forward by the Opposition, reconsider it constructively.
.- The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) is very well known for his independence of thought and action. I was delighted to hear him say that he supports my contention about what I regard as being an injustice, and that he supports the amendment that I shall move.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member has indicated that he is opposed to the formula under which the petrol tax is distributed. As my amendment will seek to strike a blow at that formula, it is only natural that any logical thinker would conclude that, when I force a division - I will do so, if I can - we shall see the honorable member for Darebin again display his independence of action and not allow himself to be controlled by the Labour caucus.
– The honorable member’s proposed amendment does not mention the formula.
– “We shall see later what the honorable member will do. I listened very intently to the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). He said that he disapproved of the economic statement which foreshadowed an increase of the petrol tax but that, to make the best of the situation, the Opposition had moved an amendment to provide that all the money should be allocated to road purposes. He further said - and I wrote down his words to avoid misquoting him - “We are greatly opposed to sectional taxation”. As he spoke, he waved his arm as though to indicate that his remarks embraced all the members of the Opposition, including the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), whom I heard ask recently - and other Labour members have repeatedly asked the question - “Why not reintroduce the land tax ? “ If the land tax is not a sectional tax I do not know what tax is. After all, the petrol tax is becoming less and less sectional. We have been told by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) - and I know it is true - that workers throughout the country now drive to work in motor cars. For that reason, the petrol tax is becoming less and less sectional.
– The workers are entitled” to drive to work.
– Of course they are, and during my speech last night I said, “ Good luck to them “. . Petrol tax is becoming less sectional since workers drive to their place of employment, but land tax, on the other hand, is a very sectional tax. Therefore, the statement of the honorable member for Port Adelaide that the Opposition is opposed to a sectional tax, does not carry very much weight.
I, of course, am going to oppose this amendment and I think it is only right that I should give my reason. I do not believe in adding to an injustice. If I were sure that the £12,000,000 would be distributed according to the formula contained in the amendment I propose to move, I would give consideration to supporting the amendment now before the committee. If this amendment is carried the distribution of the £12,000,000 will only tend towards increasing the evil that will be brought about by the present formula. Of course, we know that Western Australia is up in arms about the formula. It has been said that Western Australia cannot spend the money that is allocated to it and that portion of this money is to be used to build a bridge across the Narrows in metropolitan Perth. No more justification exists for building a bridge in metropolitan Perth from the fund than for building a bridge like the Sydney Harbour bridge. It should be paid for out of loan money. It is appropriate that the Narrows should come into this discussion because there is no doubt that the attitude of Western Australia is a narrow, parochial one, and the name is very appropriate.
I desire to say a few words about the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who moved this amendment. What he said is beyond my comprehension and I cannot encompass his mode of thinking at all. Both the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) and the honorable member for Melbourne talked about city roads all the time. The honorable member for Melbourne used two expressions - “If one travels on the highways “ and “ If one views the roads from the air “. Fancy viewing roads from the air ! Has any one ever heard such rot as that? He said that a number of earth roads can be seen from the air. Perhaps city men do not know that a good earth road is often better than a bad bitumen road. As far as the great wide open spaces of Victoria or Western Australia are concerned, the knowledge of the honorable member for Melbourne, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House, starts when he steps off a footpath to get into a government car and ends when he makes a jaunt along a highway on a Sunday afternoon, or perhaps when he makes a trip to some other capital, keeping on the highway all the time. I am interested in outback roads where a school bus might run. I am not concerned all the time with city roads. It is high time that the honorable member for Melbourne got out of his aeroplane and got down to earth, because roads are built not in the air but on the earth. It is ridiculous for him to come into this Parliament and tell us about the state of our roads after he has looked at them from an aeroplane and then move an amendment as he has done. I think I can be excused when I say it is beyond my comprehension to understand that type of thinking. Under no consideration would I support this amendment. As a matter of fact I think it is quite open for me to say that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said to me, “ Will you support it ? “ My answer to him was, “ Will you support my amendment?” He wanted to have onesided co-operation.
– What did the Leader of the Opposition say?
– He said “No.” I do not know whether that will influence the honorable member for Darebin or not. I notice the honorable member for Melbourne has just entered the chamber. He has come down to earth now. If I were sure that the £12,000,000 would be distributed according to the formula contained in my amendment I would give due consideration to supporting the Opposition’s amendment, because as an independent thinker I like to take all points into consideration before arriving at a logical conclusion. Of course, a very important point is that the money is being raised by special taxation for a special purpose. Because of that the Government has a very strong case for voting against the amendment. I will vote against the amendment and, at a later stage, I hope to have the opportunity to move the amendment which has been distributed in my name; and I hope that all the independent thinkers in this Parliament, and all honorable members from Victoria, will vote for it.
.- Opposition members will vote for this amendment principally because it is in keeping with the Labour party’s policy that all of the petrol tax should be devoted to roads. A cross-current was introduced into the debate this morning by the Minister .for the Army (Mr. Cramer).
– How long has this been the Labour party’s policy?
– Since the last general election. This policy was enunciated by the transport committee of the Labour party, of which I am secretary, and submitted to the federal executive of the party, lt was endorsed and has now been included in what I might call the statute-book of the Labour party. It was a rank-and-file decision. The policy is that all petrol tax should be devoted to roads. Many honorable members on the Government side believe in that policy, too, but are not prepared to support the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). Neither is the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) who talks with one voice ons moment and with another the ne».t.
The Labour party believes that all of this £12,000,000 should be given to the States, making a total of £46,000,000 in the next financial year. The amendment that has been moved is in keeping with the national road policy of the Labour party, which was the first party to make roads a part of national policy, and ona of the planks of a platform. That policy was put to the federal executive la3t December, and became part of the policy of the Labour party at the last general elections and still remains its policy.
– Until the honorable member’s party gets into government.
– That is a very cynical statement. As if the Labour party’s policy would change when it took over the Government. Many young honorable members sitting on the other side were not in this Parliament when their party was in opposition. If they had been, they would realize just how it has changed its views on many points since it occupied the Government benches. As I said, this amendment is in keeping with the Labour party’s national road plan. The honorable member for Mackellar is not the first to enunciate this principle; it was enunciated by the Labour party late last year and, as I have said, became part of its general election programme. We are supporting the amendment for two reasons, first, because it is our policy that all petrol tax should be devoted to roads; and, secondly, because it is in keeping with the Labour party’s national road plan for Australia. Of course, we would give to the States complete autonomy in. deciding which roads should be constructed each year. We would recommend to the States that they draw up a priority road plan over a period of five years. We would recommend that a part of the plan should be implemented each year in each State, that the States should carry out the work and that the Commonwealth should provide the money, from both the petrol tax revenue and the defence vote. We would recommend that each year the Corn mon wealth should take from the defence vote about £10,000,000 for expenditure on roads connected with the defence of Australia.
The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) made the f antartic suggestion that, to finance our roads programme, we should borrow money from overseas. He referred to the moribund Australian Transport Advisory Council, for which I have no time. I think it meets approximately twice a year. I have never attended a meeting of the council, but I have read its reports. I think it is about time that we got away from an advisory council and turned to something in the line of an executive council - a body that could drive this Government to a realization that we must look at our roads problem from a national viewpoint, that we must have a national roads plan, and that the Commonwealth must provide the money for that plan, to be implemented by stages.
The Australian Transport Advisory Council has calculated, on some basis, that we should spend £1,000,000,000 on roads. What is the use of having an advisory council to give advice to the Government, if the Government does not take any notice of its advice ? This council should be sacked immediately. All that it does is to gather certain information and pass that information on to the Government, which then does nothing about it, other than to file or pigeon-hole the documents by which the information is communicated. The council has suggested that ive spend £1,000,000,000 on roads. What is the Government doing to give effect to that suggestion? There is no hope that a scheme of that magnitude will be brought to fruition, unless we devise a national roads plan. At present, it is merely a waste of time and paper for the council to put forward suggestions of that kind.
– Order ! This is not a second-reading debate.
– The. Government does not intend to give effect to such ideas. Under Labour’s scheme, £560,000,000 could be made available for roads in ten years, without direct or indirect taxation being increased by Id. There would be no need to borrow money from overseas. The entire proceeds of the petrol tax should be allocated to roads. An allocation of £46,000,000 a year for ten years would amount to £460,000,000. Roads are vital to defence. If £10,000,000 of the defence vote were allocated to roads each year for ten years, that would bring in another £100,000,000. In that way, £560,000,000 could be raised for roads purposes in ten years, without increasing taxes by Id. or borrowing from overseas. The honorable member for Calare has talked about borrowing from overseas at a high rate of interest in order to get £1,000,000,000 to finance a roads programme. Honorable members on this side have been told that they should come down to earth in this matter. In view of what I have just said, it would appear that it is the supporters of the Government who should come down to earth and tell the Australian people just how they propose to tackle this tremendous national problem.
The press of Australia agrees with Labour’s scheme almost to - shall I say? - a column or a letter. The press supports a national roads plan. It is about time that the Government woke up. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said yesterday that it was a Rip Van Winkle Government. I think that was an excellent summing-up of its performances. At present, there is no systematic planning in relation to roads. We just pass legislation-
– Order ! I have already told the honorable member that this is not a secondreading debate.
– A fair amount of second-reading debating has gone on.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.It has been confined mainly to the honorable member himself.
– I differ from you on that, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Other honorable members who spoke this morning ranged widely over this subject. I feel that I am entitled to put my viewpoint to the committee. During the next financial year, £46,000,000 will be raised by the petrol tax, of which £32,000,000 will be allocated for roads. So, 66 per cent, of the petrol tax revenue will be devoted to roads in future. Last year, £34,000,000 was raised by the petrol tax, of which £28,000,000- or 77 per centwas allocated to roads. So the result of the operation of this bill will be to reduce, by 11 per cent, of the total, the proportion of the petrol tax revenue which is allocated to roads. The Opposition has moved its amendment in the hope that the Government will accept its responsibility to Australia in respect of roads.
.- At first sight, Mr. Temporary Chairman, the amendment moved by the Opposition would command a good deal of sympathy, at any rate from those who represent country electorates - and there are many in the Liberal party. The difficulties of maintaining Australian roads have been voiced frequently in this chamber over the years that I have been sitting here. Every time a measure of this kind has come up for discussion, heart-felt complaints have been made about the comparatively appalling state of our national highways and, even more, about the feeder roads system in every part of the Commonwealth. As my friend, the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) most sensibly pointed out last night, it is incontestable that, with the increasing volume of road transport and the development of commercial road traffic, what ought to be the great national routes are declining steadily in condition month by month, and very little indeed is being done to improve subsidiary roads.
So far as I am aware, the amendment moved by the Opposition has been supported by quite a number of local governing bodies. One can well understand their concern in this respect. But the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), speaking for the Government earlier this morning, stated very concisely the crux of the objection to what honorable members opposite are proposing. He said, sir, that this bill is just one facet of the Government’s supplementary budget. If the amendment is carried, this £12,000,000 will have to be raised elsewhere. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), suggested that we should lop £10,000,000 from the defence vote. He rather thought that that would not be spent in the current financial year. I am strongly opposed to any cutting of the defence vote in the circumstances of danger and difficulty in which we find ourselves in the world to-day. The fact that the whole of the defence moneys was not spent in a previous year is no premise for saying that the total sum allocated, £190,000,000, will not be spent this year. C think that it will be spent. I hope that honorable members generally, irrespective of the usual party divisions, will be opposed, on grounds of national security, to any diminution of the defence vote at the present time.
Other honorable members opposite may suggest a more socialistic approach to this matter. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has given us the benefit of his views on fiscal questions from time to time during the short period he has been in the House. If I interpret his words and his thoughts correctly, he would say that the answer would be to increase direct taxation - income tax, land tax - the re-imposition of which he has suggested - estate duty, death duties generally and gift duty. I noted with great interest those suggestions of his, because we on this side differ so emphatically from him on that point.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before my speech was so cruelly interrupted by the suspension, the points I was trying to make were, briefly, that I expressed sympathy with the amendment put forward 6y the Opposition, but at the same time I gave it as my opinion, supporting the Minister for the Army, that if the amendment were adopted by the committee it would strike at the architecture of the Government’s supplementary budget. It would certainly, to some degree, lead to a re-casting of the .Government’s proposals. In any case, I have long felt that a far more radical approach is needed to the whole of this roads problem than what the Opposition has put forward to-day, and for that matter what the Government is advancing, too.
We are arguing in this committee, in effect, about the way we are going to allocate to the States £31,000,000, in a full year, or £39,000,000. The sum of £8,000,000 is at issue. But I think all honorable members will agree - those who have a real knowledge about the national and rural roads system - that this figure is trifling compared with the magnitude of money that requires to be spent on Australian roads if they are going to be made commensurate with those in other civilized countries of the world.
Honorable members have devoted some of their attention to the question of how this very large .sum of money should be raised. I myself have long felt that we want to be thinking in terms of spending at least £100,000,000 a year on roads services, not something in the nature of £20,000,000, £30,000,000, or £40,000,000, if we are going to be serious in solving this problem.
So we pass from that to the question of how this sum is to be raised. It is quite obvious that it would be extremely difficult, and it would not be advantageous to the economy, to raise it by direct taxation. That is, unless it became generally conceded that a very sharp increase in income tax was economically justified for that purpose. I do not believe that it would be. We then come to the next proposition, that the money should be raised by loan ; and I say at once that I subscribe to it. But here again, if we look at the state of the internal loan market, it is perfectly obvious we are not going to raise a very large sum supplementary to what the Australian Loan Council is already engaged in doing for this purpose. We are simply deceiving ourselves and beating the air if we think we can. So I was glad when my friend the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) this morning put forward an idea which has been adumbrated in these debates before, that we should look- abroad and see whether it is possible and practicable to raise overseas money for this purpose.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) dealt with the matter quite inadequately and unrealistically in scouting this suggestion. We have had trouble in the past - since the end of the war - in raising substantial overseas funds for the development of this country. One may perhaps take some hope from some of the activities not only of the world bank but of the United States Government in what they are doing for Asian countries. As we all know, the United States, by a most extraordinary spirit of generosity, is engaging in tremendous reconstruction and developmental tasks in various parts of East Asia.
Considering the importance of Australia in the strategic scheme of things in the Western democratic world, I do not think it should be beyond the bounds of possibility or reason to suggest that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) should make an approach to the United States Government for financial assistance for the development of a great national road system in Australia so that in the future we can play an even better and more efficient part in the general planning of western democratic strategy, particularly in relation to our obligations and responsibilities in South-East Asia. But then merely to borrow money, even assuming through our advocacy that we can obtain it, is not enough. We have to obtain the man-power so that money and equipment we could buy in the lending country could be efficiently and expeditiously used. Again, I find myself in support of the ideas of the honorable member for Calare that we should bring in migrants for this purpose.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– One thing upon which all honorable members agree is that there is a great need in this country for good roads. I am sure that we also agree that there is a need for a vast sum of money to lie expended to bring about this desired state of affairs. Consequently, I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). That amendment is at least practical, it is honest and it fairly faces up to the task that we have before us in the light of our present circumstances.
I was rather astonished to learn how honorable members who have spoken about the need for money for roads would set about finding that money. Many of them who realize the great need for money would apparently refuse to accept the £8,000,000 which is available to-day to make a start on the tasks which lie before us. That attitude seems to need a considerable amount of explanation. The suggestion made that we should borrow money for the purposes of going ahead with our roads programme seems to me to be just so much talk, when one remembers that we have the necessary money at present in this country. I suggest that if the Government were prepared to practise economies in its administration, then considerably more money would be made available and there would be no need for the Government to quibble about the £8,000,000 that is at present available being needed to bolster our tottering economy brought about by the economic policy of this tottering Government.
It seems quite clear that the money raised under the Commonwealth aid roads programme . should be devoted to roads. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) has put forward certain proposals, which have been supported by other honorable members, to the effect that it is difficult to obtain equipment. [ atn sure that most local government authorities in Australia could tell those honorable members, as they have told me by telegram and other means, that they have all the equipment they need and that all they want now is the necessary money to enable them to employ labour to put that plant into operation, in order to do the work that should be done.
Great confusion appears to exist in the Parliament about State rights, and how much money should be spent on this, that or the other; and I consider that the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne goes quite beyond that parochial aspect, and beyond what Victoria’s share should be or how much Western Australia should get, because the view expressed by the honorable member makes it quite clear that the total proceeds of the additional tax of 3d. a gallon on petrol, which will amount, to £12,000,000 a year, should be devoted exclusively to road-making throughout Australia. With regard to the other subject, I think there is room for talk. If the federal system is to endure, and if development is to proceed on a satisfactory basis, joint consideration of our problems by Commonwealth, State and local government authorities is essential. Every person in this country who has faith in Australia should fairly face up to that situation. However, perhaps that can wait for the time being, since a constitutional committee is to be established, representative of both sides of the Parliament, for the purpose of considering such matters.
I turn now to the complaint that the States are not doing all they should do in relation to roads. I wish to go back briefly to the very genesis of the legislation we are discussing - the 1926 act - which laid the foundations of legislative policy in respect of roads. At that time it was agreed that the Commonwealth should contribute 20s. to each 15s. contributed by the States for main roads purposes. Since that time the Commonwealth has continued to make sums available to the States for the purposes of road works and development. The States have also provided funds for those purposes. But to-day the ratio between the respective amounts contributed by the Commonwealth and the States for roads purposes is no longer a ratio of twenty by the Commonwealth to fifteen by the States, because, in fact, the States are making available about twice as much money for this purpose as the Commonwealth is. This position seems to highlight the need, as I said at the outset, for the Commonwealth to practise economy. If it did so, the Government could make considerable savings and would not have to use this £8,000,000 for the purpose of sustaining its accounts. I bring to the attention of the Government, in passing only, the fact that a total of £900,000 is to be spent on the purchase of two Convair aircraft for use by very important persons. I also direct its attention to a matter that i3 of great interest, I think, to the honorable member for Calare. I refer to the closing down of two migrant centres in that honorable gentleman’s electorate. A similar matter that is of interest to me is that another migrant centre has been closed down iri my electorate. Up to the very day on which those three migrant centres were closed this Government continued to spend money on extending the services of those centres. It continued to extend buildings and amenities, it proceeded blithely on its way as if there was time without end in regard to our immigration programme, and unlimited funds in the Commonwealth Treasury. So, I repeat, there is undoubtedly great room for serious consideration of the need for the Commonwealth to practise economy.
We all agree there is need in Australia for good roads. What is the most important thing we can do in order to. enable this country to be developed? Improve our existing roads, and build new ones ! Surely an additional £8,000,000 would make a very substantial contribution to the financing of that work. I do not say that road works constitute the only important necessity for the development of Australia, but I do say that there is not much use going ahead with suggestions which have been made to build great speedways all over the country unless we also concern ourselves with the need to make good roads generally, taking them right to the centres of production, to the farms and the homesteads, so that the people who are actually producing the wealth of this country will have ample and satisfactory roads over which they can send their merchandise and primary products to market. That is the point I want to make, and I think it is important. If we are to develop this country, to increase its population, we must have better roads. It is little consolation to people in country districts, who are often isolated because of storms and flooded rivers, to know that some hundreds of miles away there is a glorious highway on which city dwellers and others can speed at 80, 90 or 100 miles an hour if their vehicles are capable of those speeds. One of the important things about a road is that people can meet other people on it. They can go to town; they can take their children to school and their merchandise to market. Those things are important. I suggest that if we were to apply the sum of £8,000,000, which we are now discussing and which the Government says should not be made available for road purposes, to the building of bridges in country districts, it would represent a substantial contribution to the development of Australia.
I make these observations because I believe it is necessary that some forthright comment should be made in regard to those matters. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked whether it would be wise to make this money available to the States, because we do not know how they would spend it. We might as well ask ourselves whether it is wise to make available to the States the money which is being allocated to them,unless we are thoroughly satisfied, and absolutely sure, that it is to be used for the well-being of Australia. I agree with the honor able member for Melbourne that in this matter we have to be good Australians first.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Opperman) put -
That the question be nowput.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr. Calwell’s amendment).
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
Mr.TURNBULL (Mallee) [2.42].- I move -
That the clause be postponed.
As an instruction to the Government -
That the Act should not be brought into operation until arrangements have been made for the additional sum to be distributed amongst the States in accordance with the proportionate collections of duties in the States, with the exception that the allocation to Tasmania remain at 5 per cent.
Honorable members may recall that on the 22nd March last I asked a question of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) about the payment to the States, for road construction and maintenance, of moneys received from the additional tax of 3d. a gallon on petrol. I asked the right honorable gentleman whether the payment of £4,000,000 to the States would be in accordance with the proportion in which it was derived from the individual States, instead of in accordance with the formula that is in operation under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. The Prime Minister replied -
The formula under which these payments is made has lasted for many years.
At that stage I interjected, “ Too long “. My remark was not loud enough to reach Hansard, but it was heard by some honorable members. I do not believe that the fact that the formula has lasted for many years is a valid reason for its continuance. The Prime Minister continued -
It does, of course, give some much-needed benefit to States with large areas and small populations.
I agree with that statement. It does give some benefit. The Prime Minister added -
I know that there is some complaint in my own State about the division of the proceeds
I also agree with that statement. There is some complaint, but the Prime Minister added - but I do not share the belief that it is an unjust division.
That is where we part company, because I believe that it is an unfair division. The Prime Minister is of another opinion, but that does not deter me from moving this amendment. I think a man should stand up for what he considers is right. I know that if other honorable members thought along those lines I would have a fair degree of support when I call for a division on the amendment. I shall not mention any names, because that may not seem proper, but I know that I would have a fair following if honorable members were to take an independent line of thought on a vital matter such as this. The Prime Minister concluded -
I believe that the formula is just, and we propose to maintain it.
I said to myself at the time, “Not if I can prevent it “.
– As the honorable member has said, I told myself that at the time. I thought that was not the right time to tell the House what I thought, but I am telling honorable members now, much to the amusement of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who, no doubt, wishes he could show some independence of mind and take an independent line on this question.
– I take an Australian view.
– Many people say, as the honorable member for Melbourne says, that we must take an Australian view. That is the very view I am taking. Surely honorable members know that, if we continue to sap the strength of Victoria by taking from it the money that is collected by the petrol tax in that State, motoring will eventually become unpopular and uneconomic there, and the well from which come the funds given to Western Australia, and, to a smaller degree, to the other States, will partly dry up, to the detriment of Australia’s welfare. That is the only way we can look at the matter. I have heard many people talking in the corridors of this building about the defence roads that are needed in both the east and the west of Australia. Roads to Carnarvon and other places have been mentioned. You, Mr. Temporary Chairman, know that provision is made in the federal aid roads grants for allocations for strategic roads.
Therefore, the proper method of obtaining funds for defence roads is to move that the grant for strategic roads be increased.
– Will the honorable member move to that effect?
– I think those who want it done should move that it be done. They should not, in order to defeat my amendment, advance arguments that have no weight and no substance in fact. The honorable member for Melbourne has said that war may come, and that we need these defence roads. Surely a road required for Australia’s defence’ is a strategic road, and action should be taken in the right quarters to provide finance for it. Instead of taking action in the right quarters, the honorable member has suggested that I am not an Australian but a Victorian. I speak in this Parliament this afternoon, first, as an Australian, and, secondly, as a Victorian. I referred earlier to the great productivity of Victoria, which produces primary produce worth 70s. an acre from 56,000,000 acres of land. I realize that we need strategic roads, but it is still true, as it was in Napoleon’s day, that an army marches on its stomach.
– On roads !
– This may seem amusing to some honorable members. The 70s. worth of primary products produced from every acre of 56,000,000 acres of land in Victoria is vital to the defence and future progress of this great nation. This production is one of the vital needs of the times, in spite of the great amusement that is evident in this chamber. Present conditions could not be foreseen in the days when the aid roads grants formula was introduced.
Some honorable members say that Victoria is not suffering from an injustice; I say it is. If it is, how can the injustice be overcome? These matters concerning the formula are decided at conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, at which there is always a majority of the States that receive most under the formula. The representatives of Queensland and Western Australia always say that they take the great national view, but they are really concerned only about getting the money. In the terms of the slogan of a wellknown insecticide, when they are on a good thing, they stick to it. Nothing can be done to change the formula at the conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, because the Premiers of
Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania - my amendment would not affect Tasmania, which would bc allowed to retain its quota of 5 per cent, of the funds - vote against the Premier of Victoria. Whether the Victorian Premier belongs to the Australian Labour party, the Australian Country party, or the Liberal party, his case is rejected, no matter how legitimate it may be. Some bright soul, on one occasion, said, “Why not put the matter to the House of Representatives V I said, “ I shall do so, but I know what its fate will be “. Nevertheless, I am trying to get something done in a practical way to-day. Of all the matters that have been considered in this Parliament since federation, this is the only subject on which the House of Representatives divides not on party lines but on State lines - although not entirely on State lines, because some Victorians dare not vote against the wishes of the party to which they belong. That is how things stand to-day. No one can fairly complain that I have put my case with bias. I have exhibited no bias.
It has been said that unexpended moneys from the aid roads grants are being retained in Western Australia for the construction of a bridge across the Narrows in Perth. There is no more justification for retaining aid roads funds for that purpose than there would have been for the retention of such funds to pay for the Sydney Harbour bridge. Such projects should be financed out of loan moneys. In order to speed Australia’s progress, the money that some States cannot spend should be allocated to the States that can spend it.
.- The Opposition does not wish to take up the time of the committee on this amendment. Its views have been well stated already. The Australian Labour party does not consider that this is a party matter. Honorable members are free to express their own true views. As the representative of a Victorian electorate, and as the member for Melbourne, by the grace of God and the sturdy common sense of more than 50 per cent, of the voters in the electorate, I take a broad national view.
– That excuse has worn thin.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), has said that he- is an Australian first and a Victorian second. The committee could be pardoned for believing that he did not put the position wholly correctly. He then retreated to the Napoleonic wars and told us that an army marches on its stomach. I should like to bring him a little more up to date with an allusion to the American Civil War of 1860 to 1865, in which General Robert E. Lee decided he would fight for Virginia rather than for the Union. Those of us who take the broad Australian view to-day are determined to save Australia, if they can, by what they do now, regardless of the possible temporary effect on the fortunes of individual States. The honorable member for Mallee, of course, says that he is not biased. I would say that he is only impartially prejudiced ! He is certainly doing his best to persuade himself that his remarks are both in accordance with the facts and in the national interest. No one knows better than he does that he will have very few supporters when the vote on this amendment is taken. When we separate the sheep from the goats, there will be a lot of sheep. I am sure the people of Victoria entirely support the formula that has been used over the years. They need some revision of it, and, when Victoria does the right thing by bringing its motor registration fees into line with the average of the fees of the other States, and by appropriating for road works all the money it receives from registration fees, Victorians can turn to this sole champion of reaction - this man who is not an up-to-date Victorian but a mid -Victorian - to champion their cause. Until that time arrives, let us get on with our business.
– The committee will recall that, on many occasions, I have pressed for revision of the formula for the allocation of Commonwealth aid roads funds. If I am to be consistent. I must support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull).
Although I consider its actual wording would effect something that should not be carried into perpetuity, it is a sign at least that we do not favour the existing formula. I take the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) to task for presenting the case for Victoria in a very wrong light. He should know as well as any one that if we take the actual expenditure on roads, examine where the money comes from and then calculate the amount Victoria is spending on its roads in comparison with the expenditure being incurred by other States for that purpose, we must realize that the Victorian population itself is making a magnificent contribution to the lifeline of roads in other parts of Australia.
I propose citing figures from the report published following the conference of the Australian Transport Advisory Council relating to expenditure on roads. The State with the largest expenditure is New South Wales with £25,861,000. Victoria comes next with £21,202,000, which compares favorably with New South Wales when we take the expenditure on a population basis. The expenditure in Queensland was £17,500,000, in South Australia £8,600,000, in Western Australia £5,700,000 and in Tasmania £4,100,000. Any one listening to the honorable member for Melbourne might be led to the conclusion that Victoria was not paying its share towards the financing of roads. First of all, I present the case that, based on its overall expenditure, Victoria has stood up as well as has any other State to its roads obligations. To assist it in this direction, it receives only 17.9 per cent, of its expenditure on roads from the Commonwealth Aid Roads Fund, as compared with 65.5 per cent, for Western Australia.
There are two other sources from which the States obtain money for road-making. The first is from State funds. Nobody can point the bone at Victoria in this connexion because, although Tasmania’s expenditure from State funds is slightly higher than that of Victoria, I point out that Victoria, with 43.5 per cent., is very close to Tasmania’s expenditure of 44.7 per cent, of its State funds for this purpose. Further down the line, we find that Western Australia’s expenditure on roads from State funds is only 10.2 per cent., compared with Victoria’s 43.5 per cent. In other words, Western Australia is spending only one-quarter the percentage Victoria is contributing to road construction from State funds. This, I believe, cuts across the federal system to some extent. After all, roads are still logically and constitutionally the responsibility of the States, despite the fact that the Australian Government, over the years, has gone out of its way to make these vast contributions to the road funds of the various States.
Although I believe in developing the outback areas as strongly as anybody else does, I have to look at the problem from the point of view of those hardworking municipal councillors who are shouldering the burden in Victoria. I feel that these municipalities are making an indirect contribution to the roads in other parts of Australia. Therefore, we must look at what local government funds are being spent in the overall expenditure on roads. It is in this feature that Victoria outstrips every other State. Victoria’s expenditure from local government funds amounts to 38.2 per cent, of its total expenditure, and that percentage is considerably higher than the figure in any other State. Taking the worst case again - that unfortunate State of Western Australia - we find there that the expenditure from local government funds represents 24.3 per cent, of the total spent on roads. This is only slightly over half the amount spent by Victoria. The remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne are most unfair and unjust to his own State. Further, if we are to look at this question from the defence angle and suggest that it is more reasonable to develop a heavy-duty road system within the highly settled defence production area than to build roads across the nevernever, which would be used only by a few kangaroos and emus, my mind goes back to the time during the last war when I was in North Africa. There the magnificent road running along the north coast west from Alexandria was destroyed so that it could not be used by the enemy. That is the type of thing that must be considered in these matters.
I do not wish to take up any more of the time of the committee. I have put the case for Victoria to the best of my ability. The glimmer of light that was obviously in the mind of the honorable member for Melbourne when he said perhaps there is a case for a revision of the formula was, I believe, the real activating force behind the honorable member for Mallee in moving his amendment. If we can bring these facts to the notice of the public of Australia, 1 am confident that there are sufficient fair-minded people in those States which are perhaps receiving more than their share of the road funds, who would be prepared to have a revision of the formula, a revision which, I believe, is being pushed along its first step by this amendment.
.- The speeches of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) have a very familiar ring to me, coming from “Western Australia, because to my mind they are secessionism in reverse. In my childhood, I was brought up on the fear of the grievances of Western Australia under federation. Now, since the adoption of uniform taxation and other similar expedients, we have the grievances of Victoria within the federation expressed in very similar terms. The arguments of the honorable member for Mallee and the honorable member for Corangamite logically presuppose that taxes ought to be spent where they are raised. That is the logic they are adopting. We can extend that without alluding to the other consequences of federation, if we like. The tariff policy of the Commonwealth, for instance, has concentrated secondary industries in New South Wales and Victoria. It has concentrated, therefore, the highest incomes in New South W ales and Victoria. The trade position as between the west and the east, the last time I looked at it, was that Western Australia bought £70,000,000 worth of goods from the eastern States and sold back £19,000,000 worth; and we balance through London. In other words, the relationship of Western Australia to the industrialized east is exactly identical with that of New Zealand to Australia.
If it had not been for the tariff policy and a lot of other fiscal provisions, Western Australia, no doubt, would have been buying cheaper from London. But, since the emergence of uniform taxation, where federation always operated lopsidedly in favour of the States which had the greatest concentration of protected industries, and therefore, the highest incomes, we now have a tendency in federal operations to distribute the money back. In other words, the tariff system which operated against all agricultural areas, even within New South Wales and Victoria, and the purely agricultural States, now, at least as far as the agricultural States are concerned, has changed to the extent that the system of uniform taxation offsets that, and so do all these types of grants. If the honorable member for Mallee and the honorable member for Corangamite are going to pursue a policy of abstract justice in every little financial measure that comes before the Parliament by referring to the grievances of Victoria, they should at least recognize that such a policy opens up the whole question of the entire fiscal policy of the nation, and that very strong segments of farming and agricultural opinion consider that the agricultural States are at a disadvantage under the basic fiscal system of the Commonwealth ; and that those segments will support this type of measure because it has some equalizing effect.
The figures cited by the honorable member for Corangamite disclose thatWestern Australia is spending only 10 per cent, of its own resources on roads. I point out that this represents £8 per head of the population of the State. The expenditure is” £56,000,000 and the population 700,000. Victoria spent £21,000,000 but, as its population is 2,500,000, that expenditure averages £S per head also. In all the States, the expenditure on roads is about £8 a head. So the story that, somehow or other, there is an unfair discrimination in the final result, and that a State is not getting a fair deal, does not seem to square with the figures actually quoted by the honorable member. .
.- I am sure that no member of this Parliament has been more persistent than the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) in attempting to get for Victoria a fair share of the receipts from the petrol tax. I appreciate that his proposed amendment will achieve that purpose to a large measure. I support the amendment mainly because I believe that Victoria needs more money from this allocation because of the use of Victorian roads by heavy interstate trucks from other States. But I do see three objections to the proposed amendment.
I think, firstly, that the amendment does not go far enough and that it should aPply to »H tha money that is being distributed under the formula, and not just to Id. a gallon. Secondly, I do not think it will be as effective as the suggestion I made during the second-reading debate on the bill last night. However, I do not propose to take vtp the time of the House by going over those suggestions. Thirdly, I want the imposition of the extra 3d. a gallon tax on petrol to be only of a temporary nature. If a State is given a vested interest in this money then it will tend to want that imposition to be retained as long as possible. But in spite of these objections, I believe that even a small slice is better than no bread. Therefore, I give the amendment my support.
– The Government is not able to accept this amendment for a very simple reason. In fact, we do not consider the alternative that has been proposed by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) is a true alternative. We believe that the choice is not between having fully adequate roads in Victoria and long and unused stretches of road somewhere else, but between having adequate roads in Victoria, and also having adequate roads in relation to population and area in other States. It is well known that the formula is based, not on area alone, but on population and area. We believe that the best interests of the country as a whole are served by adhering to the present formula. For those reasons the Government is unable to accept the proposed amendment.
.- I do not want to detain the committee for any lengthy period. This argument about the formula has been canvassed over the years, not only in this Parliament, but also at conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers and at other meetings, and the weight of opinion is against any change. I think that the Parliament is indebted to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) for his remarks this afternoon, because he has given people on this side of the continent some idea of the disabilities and disadvantages that the State of Western Australia has suffered over the years.
I rise mainly to put something straight on the record. When the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) spoke this morning he quoted certain figures. I have heard similar figures quoted a number of times, more particularly by people in Victoria. I was surprised to learn, this morning, that the figures came from the Commonwealth Treasury. Speaking from memory, I think the honorable member for Melbourne said that New South Wales had 477,000 vehicles, Victoria 457,000, and Western Australia only 95,000. Why, bless ray heart and soul! They are only the figures for the metropolitan area in Western Australia. In that State, there are 141 local governing authorities ; and in my own division, there are at least 39 of them. Even blind Freddie would be able to go around any of those roads districts which are the equivalent of what are called shire councils on the eastern seaboard, and count at least 400 vehicles in any one of those local areas. Consequently, there are 56,000 vehicles in those roads districts.
– Is the honorable member referring to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) as blind Freddie ?
– No. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) would know, if he had been paying attention to debate this morning, that the honorable member for Perth interjected when the honorable member for Melbourne was speaking, and said that only 53 per cent, of the vehicle licences were held in the metropolitan area. The system of licensing vehicles in Western Australia is different from the system in all other States. It is a very good one, and I recommend other States to use it rather than have all vehicles registered by one central authority. But the point ]. make is this: Before a Commonwealth department issues figures to members of Parliament and organizations, let it check the position exactly and give authentic figures, not figures which one who is acquainted with the position in a particular State knows are entirely wrong.
.- Before the committee votes on my amendment, I want to answer one or two things that have been said. First of all, it has been contended that if my amendment were carried to its logical conclusion, it would mean that the money collected in a metropolitan area such as Melbourne could only be spent in the metropolitan area. Nothing could be more illogical than that reasoning, for the simple reason that the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement provides that a proportion of the money granted to the States for roads purposes has to be expended in the country areas. Under that agreement, 40 per cent, of the grant must be spent on rural roads; also, the money must be accounted for in a satisfactory manner by the States to the Federal Government. So the argument that the effect of my amendment would be that money collected in Melbourne must be spent in Melbourne falls to the ground. No credence can be placed on it.
I was very pleased that at least I got something from the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron). He said that the real requirement was to have adequate roads in Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland and every other State. I agree with him, but that is something that has not been achieved, and that is why this amendment has been moved. I could not agree with the Minister more on this matter. If all the other Ministers are of the same opinion as the Minister for Health and if he speaks for the Government, there will soon be a move to make the roads in Victoria adequate, or to give the State Government adequate finance to make the roads good. That was a splendid statement, and I shall work on it in future. I believe that it is the best thing that has come out of this debate so far, despite the utterances of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). There is wisdom in what the Minister said, hut there is only humour in what the honorable member for Melbourne said.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said that Western Australia suffered in some ways and was recompensed in other ways, and that if Victorians were going to pursue a policy of abstract justice in every little financial measure that comes here by referring to the grievances of their State, they should recognize that it would open up the entire fiscal policy of the nation. But the honorable member only spoke about population. He did not refer to the area in Western Australia that does not produce anything and which has no chance, in 100 years’ time, of producing anything. He has not taken areas into consideration. He only mentioned populations. Of course, that was a good debating point, and we appreciate his debating power, but the logic of his statement falls to the ground. I remind him that when wheat is sent overseas from Western Australia, a special payment of 3d. a bushel is made on it so that it will not be inconvenienced in respect of freights compared with the freight charged on wheat from further afield - Victoria and New South Wales. So Western Australia gets it every way. The honorable member for Fremantle cannot hope to convince anybody on this subject, except those who do not know anything about it.
Finally, I want to say that I appreciate the assistance given to me by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence), but I do not agree with the honorable member for Wimmera when he says that the suggestion he made last night is better than my amendment. My proposal is definite. It is before the Parliament to-day. The honorable member has expressed three ideas for overcoming the problem, branching in different directions, and he may say, “ I like this idea best, then that idea, and finally the other idea “. The proposals of the honorable member for
Wimmera are only in the air and even if they are better than my suggestion they are not formally before the committee. My amendment is being considered by the committee now, and a vote is about to be taken on it. I commend it to honorable members and suggest that they should vote in favour of it.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr. Turnbull’s amendment).
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 59
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (The Schedule).
– I move-
That the clause be postponed, so that the Government may redraft it to provide -
that the whole of the extra proceeds derived from taxes upon oil and petrol as a result of legislation passed this financial year should be paid into a Trust Fund, and
that moneys paid into this Trust Fund should, within twelve months of receipt into such Fund, be divided among the States, in the proportions set out in section ten of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1954-1955, for approved expenditure upon heavy road-making plant or upon the improvement of main arterial highways.
The purpose of this amendment is to provide that the whole 3d. a gallon represented by this extra tax shall be paid into a trust fund, and that within twelve months of its payment into such a fund it shall be paid to the States for approved expenditure upon road-making equipment and arterial roads. I believe that this proposal is free from the difficulties that were criticized by honorable members on this side of the committee during the debate on the Opposition’s earlier amendment. At the same time, I think, it takes cognizance of the very desirable principle that all this extra duty should be used for roads purposes. Earlier in the debate I traversed the principles of that matter and I shall not go over them again.
The present proposal is adapted to the position in which we have a temporary tax - and the Government has said that this is a temporary tax. The money should he paid into a nucleus fund, which would be available for setting in motion an efficient plan of highway construction. Heavy equipment is needed, and a start must be made somewhere. “With a windfall of this kind it would not be unreasonable to allocate it for expenditure of that kind.
Secondly, the proposed procedure is more efficient than simply paying money out. We need to give some notice of what is coming and not act precipitately, but at the same time we need to concentrate this extra expenditure in channels where it will be most useful.
Thirdly, the proposal I make is in no sense inflationary. One of the defects of paying the money out straight away would be that it would produce an inflationary effect during what is expected by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies)to be only a passing phase, and small benefit would accrue to the road user because labour and materials are simply not available foi- a bigger road programme. The proposal I make is more antiinflationary than is the proposal contained in the bill, because an extra imposition on petrol must, to some extent, raise costs. If more efficient roads and highways are built transport costs will be lowered all round, and so the whole community will benefit. Therefore, my proposal is both non-inflationary and actively antiinflationary.
Fourthly, it does not cut across announced financial policy. When the Prime Minister was making his statement on the Australian economy, he said that the Government needed more money because it was faced with a cash deficit due to the fact that the Commonwealth had to make up to the States shortages in loan raisings. If it were a matter of a budget deficit I should agree entirely with the Prime Minister’s contention that it would not matter, over this short-term period, whether the money was held in a trust fund or paid into Consolidated Revenue. There is no difference between pouring water from a jug into one end of a bath or the other; it all goes to the same place. These funds are interlocked in a common pool, and the Prime Minister said that cash had to be made available for the States’ loan programmes. When it is proposed to put money into a trust fund for a short term, there is no cutting across the announced Government objective and financial policy. My proposal is in line with Government policy, and is distinct from the proposal of the Opposition, which to some extent cuts across the Government’s announced financial policy.
The committee must surely realize that in the near future considerable sums will have to be spent on roads in the most efficient way. My proposal is framed with exactly that objective in view. It will take advantage of this temporary situation to create a nucleus fund and organization, which will make extra money available, and enable it to be spent more efficiently so that more roads can be built with it.
In the foreseeable future, greater allocations will have to be made. The Australian transport system, efficient produc tion and anti-inflationary campaigns all demand that that should be done, and there is no escape from it. In my proposal there is nothing which would get in the way of reasonable economies, because cutting down of expenditure in this sphere, within the next two or three years, would be utterly unreasonable. Nor does it conflict in any way with the suggestions made by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) or the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), that we should rely to some extent on overseas loan funds. I agree that that should be done.
On other occasions I have said in this chamber that Australia’s approach to the overseas loan market has not been always as adroit or as effective as it could be. We shall be more likely to obtain money from overseas if we show a reasonable capacity for self-help at home. It is not conceivable that we could get from overseas enough money to carry out the whole of our road-building programmes. According to the report of the Hobart conference, the estimated cost of providing a satisfactory road system would be £1,000,000,000. Interest and sinking fund payments alone on that sum would be £SO,000,000 a year. That would have to be paid in the form of overseas remittances if the capital were borrowed from abroad. Although I regard the scheme of the honorable member for Calare for obtaining capital abroad as a useful adjunct to other schemes, it can never do more than partly finance the Australian road-building programme, which so urgently needs to be carried out.
I am suggesting to the committee a long-term solution rather than a plan of expediency. We need to think more of the long-term problems of development. The amendment is in line with the announced objectives of Government policy, and if the committee sees fit to agree to it I see no reason why the Government should not adopt it.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have often listened to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), and he has been so obviously wrong on so many occasions that I have been certain the time would come when he would be nearly right. That time has come to-day, because in his remarks just delivered, he has been nearly right. Since the Government would not accept the proposition put forward by the Opposition, the next best proposal is that contained in the amendment of the honorable member for Mackellar. Certainly, everything should be done to improve the road system of Australia in order to cope with traffic problems, and assist in the progress and development of the country. The greatest impediment to progress in both the city and the country is inadequate transport, especially road transport. Therefore, we must devote more money, resources and labour to the provision of better roads for country transport and better facilities for the motor traffic of the metropolitan areas. The honorable member for Mackellar has pointed out that this is necessary and has produced a long-range plan that is anti-inflationary. Indeed, it is almost deflationary in effect and should, therefore, make a great appeal to the Government. I have no doubt that it makes an appeal to honorable members on this side of the chamber, and that they believe that the honorable member for Mackellar, whether as a result of a deliberate and careful analysis of the position, or a. kind of mental stab in the dark, has, on this occasion, reached the right conclusion. His amendment should have the wholehearted support of honorable members generally.For once, he has put forward a proposition that is in the interests of the development and progress of Australia and, notwithstanding its source, it should receive support.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 3.46 p.m.
m asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560518_reps_22_hor10/>.