23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question to lnc Minister for National Development is supplementary to the question that 1 asked yesterday regarding the Government’s proposal to spend an additional £1,000.000 a year for the next three years on the search for oil. Is it the Government’s intention to amend our taxation laws as affecting people who subscribe capital to companies engaged in the search for oil? If so, what is the Government’s proposal? Will more people be encouraged to subscribe capital to those companies?
– I remind the honorable senator that the Treasurer made a statement on this matter a few days ago. 1 am always diffident about relying on my memory when replying to questions about taxation because they are usually technical in their character. From memory, legislation providing for the deduction, for taxation purposes, of money subscribed to companies engaged in the search for oil in Australia has been passed. However, that concession was restricted to Australian taxpayers and Australian companies. The Treasurer has now announced some variations. First, the taxation concession will be granted to sub.scribers to Australian subsidiaries of overseas companies. We found that a number of large overseas companies, which had established sizeable business connexions in Australia, were investing appreciable sums in the search for oil in this country, but, for various reasons, were not receiving the benefit of reciprocal tax agreements overseas. Therefore, we thought it fair to place them in a position comparable with Australian companies.
Secondly, we found that a number of companies had issued shares upon which calls had been made to a certain amount, leaving an amount uncalled. In other words, their capital was partly paid up. Those companies were not eligible for the original tax concession because the shares had been issued prior to the legislation becoming law.
They found they were in very great difficulty in making further calls because they were then competing with other companies seeking capital which would get the benefit of the taxation deductions. So it was thought to be a simple matter of equity to put them in the same position as other companies. If we did not do so the directors would have to reconstruct their companies - perhaps liquidate their companies and make a fresh start at substantial expense - to gain the benefit to which, under the legislation, they would be entitled.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. lt refers to the announcement in this morning’s press of the appointment of Mr. Warren McDonald as Chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. I wish to ask the Minister, first, whether it is proposed that Mr. McDonald will retain his office as Chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission and, secondly, whether the announcement of his appointment was made to the Parliament. Will the Minister consider the desirability of announcing such important appointments in the Parliament rather than in the press?
– Sir, the announcement of the appointment of Mr. McDonald as Chairman of the Common-, wealth Banking Corporation was made yesterday in Parliament by the Acting Prime Minister. However, the appointment will not become effective for some time. It is proposed, with Mr. McDonald’s complete approval and, indeed, at his seeking, that he should not relinquish his position with the Australian National Airlines Commission until such time as he has brought to a conclusion several matters which both he and the Government regard as of first-class importance in connexion with the commission.
– And then he proposes to relinquish it?
– That is so.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport state, in view of the fact that it is widely known that the
Accommodation on the Bass Strait ferry “ Princess of Tasmania “ is booked out for the peak of the Christmas-New Year holiday period, whether he has given consideration to inviting one of the Australian shipping companies to provide a vessel to trade between Melbourne and the northern Tasmanian ports during the peak period? If he has not considered the matter, does he feci that such approaches would be worth while? Is there any possibility of a ship being made available?
– The position regarding the requirements of the Tasmanian trade during the period to which the honorable senator refers is being watched very closely. It is true that the bookings on the “ Princess of Tasmania “ have been rather more than encouraging. As to what extra ships will be required and probably made available, I can only say at the moment that the matter is being kept under close review. I shall make a statement later as lo what arrangements are to be made.
– The question that I shall direct to the Minister for National Development relates to the organization that was recently set up by the Government at Lucas Heights to study nuclear energy. In view of the need to educate scientists and technologists in this field, will the Minister inform me whether an opportunity has been provided at Lucas Heights for such education to be undertaken? The second part of my question is this: If Australia does build a nuclear reactor, have we a sufficient number of educated technologists at the present time to run it?
– I think that a fair answer to the question is that the Lucas Heights project is on a higher level than a school or other educational establishment. Its object is pure research. I am pleased to be able to say that it has attracted some of the world’s best men in this particular scientific field. Side by side with the research work that has been going on, there has been established within the Lucas Heights project a group consisting of representatives of all the universities of Australia. We have provided there special buildings, special head-quarters and a special organization so that the universities of Australia can send their scientists to work alongside the scientists of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. By that means, we are providing a source of knowledge and experience for all the universities of Australia. Each university pays quite substantial fees for membership of the foundation. I know that this f?cility is very much appreciated in university circles, because it means that knowledge of developments in atomic energy is not restricted to the Atomic Energy Commission. Instead, the information that becomes available is disseminated throughout Australia.
The honorable senator has asked whether there would be in Australia a sufficient number of technologists to service an atomic power station. With all the valour of ignorance, I say, “Yes, there would be”. I do not think that any one could give a really definite answer to that question, but I believe that the cadre of scientists at Lucas Heights would have sufficient knowledge, and a sufficient number of contacts in other parts of the world, to enable us to staff such a station. In any event, I should like us to be given the opportunity of trying to do so.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I understand that the Government has decided that, in agent States, no further acquisition of land will be made for war service land settlement after 30th June, 1959. Can the Minister assure me that land already acquired will be developed and made available to suitable exservicemen? I have been informed by the South Australian branch of the Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Fathers’ Association that there are approximately 100 settlers in South Australia awaiting land. Can the Minister ascertain the approximate number of blocks that will be made available in South Australia after 30th June, 1959, from land acquired or likely to be acquired before that date, and the location of those blocks?
– I shall obtain for the honorable senator the details that he requires regarding the blocks that are to be developed after 30th June, 1959.
– Does the Minister for National Development know that dining the recent Si.ate election campaign in Tasmania the Premier, Mr. Reece, stated that he expected the Commonwealth Minister for National Development soon to make an announcement in respect of an increase of production of aluminium at Bell Bay? If the statement of the Premier was correct, can the Minister indicate to the Senate when such an announcement may be expected?
-I saw the statement, attributed to the Premier of Tasmania, in the newspapers. I did not make any reply to it or comment on it at the time. I think that honorable senators are aware that the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments have agreed to prospect the possibility of obtaining an overseas partner who would be prepared to invest additional capital in the Bell Bay organization for the purpose of expanding its activities.
asked the Minister for
Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– I now furnish the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether it is a fact that under the Textile Labelling Act a margin of 5 per cent. for inaccuracy is allowed. Is he aware that certain articles are labelled “ pure wool “ when in fact there is an admixture of synthetics and the reference to “ pure wool “ is true only of the wool content in the article? As this is very misleading to the buying public, will the Minister consider a closer policing of the act?
– I am sorry to say thatI do not feel confident to give a direct answer to that question because it leaves me with the impression that the formula allowing 5 per cent. for synthetics was evolved after a good deal of consideration. In view of the importance of the matter, I ask him to put the question on the notice-paper so that I can find out, and let the honorable senator know, the facts of the position.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Polyvinyl chloride resin from Japan (Industries Preservation),
The findings of the Tariff Board in each case are being adopted.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to provide for the grant of leases, licences and trading rights in connexion with Commonwealth airports.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. The purposes of this bill are to facilitate development of the business potential of airports so as to obtain the maximum economic return from terminal buildings, hangars and other facilities, and land not required for operational purposes, and to meet the requirements of the travelling public and other persons using the aerodromes for the purchase of goods and services.
The value of Commonwealth aerodromes and related facilities at present is approximately £52,000,000, and the annual cost of maintenance and operation exceeds £9,000,000. These figures will rapidly increase as further aerodromes and facilities are brought into operation. At present a portion of this cost is recouped through air navigation charges, taxes on aviation fuel and rentals of premises, but there remains a wide gap between revenue and expenditure.
Overseas experience, especially in the United States, has shown that major airports can become virtually self-supporting if their business potential is properly developed, and many countries are making special efforts to reach that position. For example, the United Kingdom Select Committee on Estimates at its 1955-56 session on civil aerodromes and ground services recommended that “ more urgent measures should be taken by the Minister to develop amenities and concessions at airports “. The Seattle-Tacoma airport, for example, is an airport with traffic density comparable to that of Sydney or Melbourne and is associated with a city with a smaller population than that of Sydney or Melbourne. According to that airport’s financial report for 1957. airport revenue not only met all maintenance, operating and other costs, but returned a profit of 79,300 dollars. This result was largely due to commercial development of the airport, non-aviation revenue comprising 57.5 per cent. of the total revenue. Larger airports in the United States, such as Los Angeles, returned profits exceeding 2,000,000 dollars. That the Commonwealth has already taken some steps in this direction is evidenced by the following figures: From 1955 to 1958 revenue from rentals increased from £199.000 to £250,000 per annum and revenue from business concessions from £360 to £50,000. Under arrangements which this bill will authorize, it has been estimated on a conservative basis that revenue from business concessions on major airports will reach £160.000 by 1960 and may exceed £500,000 within a few years. The current development of passenger terminal facilities at major airports will further increase the business potential at those airports.
Some of the types of businesses which have succeeded on overseas airports are -
Baggage rooms and lockers.
Car parking lots.
Cocktail lounge-bar and grill.
Drive yourself service.
Market research conducted from time to time by the department indicates a real demand for the goods and services supplied by these types of businesses and indicates the order of priority in which they might be developed.
The scope for the development of these activities is indicated by the size of the ready-made market at Melbourne airport, for example, where there are more than 4,000 employees whose hours of work and distance from established business centres deprive them of normal shopping facilities and where approximately 1,000,000 passengers are handled per annum, departures and arrivals varying from early morning to late night. Surveys indicate that visitors to the airport exceed passengers. At Sydney airport the corresponding figures are. higher.
In order to develop business concessions at airports to the maximum, it is necessary to make some changes in existing administrative arrangements. Under the existing legislation, the Air Navigation Act 1920- 1950, there is provision for the establishment, maintenance and operation of aerodromes, including conditions for their use. There are also provisions to the effect that the Director-General of Civil Aviation is responsible for the control and management of Commonwealth-owned aerodromes. This undoubtedly contemplates important responsibilities relating to the development of business concessions ‘ at aerodromes. However, insofar as business concessions require the granting of leases or licences, the Department of the Interior has the primary statutory responsibility by virtue of the Lands Acquisition Act and the Administrative Arrangements Order. There is, therefore, a division of responsibility which, it has been found in practice, retards the rate of commercial development. Under this bill, control of leases and licences and the granting of business concessions within Commonwealth airports will vest exclusively in the Department of Civil Aviation. This will effect a substantial saving of time and administrative costs. Other land acquired for civil aviation purposes and the acquisition and disposal of land, including aerodrome land, will continue to be governed by the Lands Acquisition Act and remain within the administrative responsibility of the Minister for the Interior.
The air transport industry functions during such unusual hours that businesses on aerodromes cannot be properly geared to the needs of the industry, the travelling public and employees on aerodromes, if they remain subject to the restraints and prohibitions of State and Territorial laws relating to such matters as trading hours and licences.
The bill will therefore provide that, where necessary, the Minister may authorize the conduct of business activities during such hours as will meet the needs of the industry. It may be recalled that similar action was taken with respect to Commonwealt h railways and refreshment rooms by amendments to the Commonwealth Railways Act 1954.
Before invoking the power to override State liquor laws, it is intended to make every effort to obtain State co-operation. The Western Australian Government, for example, has already amended its laws so that liquor may be sold on the Perth airport at hours which conform to aircraft movements at that airport. The Western Australian act, as amended, provides for the grant of an “ airport licence “ in respect of the overseas terminal building at Perth airport or such other premises on Perth airport as the Licensing Court considers suitable, and premises on any other airport proclaimed by the Governor on the recommendation of the court. The licence may be granted if the court considers it necessary or desirable for “ the refreshment, entertainment and convenience “ of aircraft passengers and other persons using the airport. A licence authorizes the sale and disposal of liquor 30 minutes before aircraft arrivals and departures and to any person served with a meal on the airport, in premises licensed for the purpose. If other States make similar provision, there will be no need to override State licensing laws, and concessionnaires would be required to comply with State laws. The co-operation of all other States will be sought on this matter. The Northern Territory has also amended its licensing laws along the lines of the Western Australian act.
The bill is expressed to apply to two classes of aerodromes, the first of which are aerodromes owned by the Commonwealth and operated in pursuance of the Air Navigation Act and regulations. At present a number of military aerodromes, the most important being Darwin and Canberra, are used jointly for military and civil aviation purposes as the result of arrangements made by the Minister for Civil Aviation with the appropriate defence authorities. These arrangements are expressly authorized by the air navigation regulations. Under the arrangements, an area of the aerodrome is set aside for terminal buildings and other facilities necessary for civil aviation purposes. The bill is therefore expressed to apply to areas made available by the defence authorities under any such arrangement.
The scheme of the bill is, briefly, as follows: -
The act will’ come into force with respect to aerodromes in the States on 1st July, 1959, but will not come into force in the internal Territories until dates fixed by proclamation after due consultation with the responsible Ministers.
In proposing this bill, I am conscious of the need to ensure that the ever increasing costs of operating and maintaining our civil airports do not remain a burden upon the Australian taxpayer. Other countries have proved to us that with proper commercial development of civil airports we can, under legislation such as I have outlined, do much to offset these high but very necessary costs. As I have already indicated, there is a rapidly growing public demand for the type of airport facilities with which the bill is concerned and it is essential to lay sound foundations for future development in this direction. I would emphasize that the bill does not mean that the Commonwealth will engage in business activities on airports. On the contrary, its purpose is to facilitate the extension to private enterprise of excellent opportunities to avail itself of the valuable business potential which is generated on these airports.
In concluding, may I say that, although civil aviation in Australia has kept pace both technically and operationally with other world leaders in the field, we have not until more recently been able to devote much effort to the provision of facilities and services required by the travelling public and other users of our airports. I feel certain that the scheme contemplated by this bill presents the satisfying prospect that, with greatly increased passenger facilities of -many varieties, and with the resulting increase in airport revenues, our major airports will soon compare favorably with the more attractive and successful airports overseas. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Flaherty) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6th May (vide page 1270), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Willesee had moved by way of amendment -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted with a view to providing that without reduction of the amounts provided under this bill, an amount of money not less than the full proceeds of the petrol and diesel fuel taxes shall be granted to the States for expenditure by the States, municipalities and shires on or in connexion with roads “.
.- -We had hoped that the Government would bring down a bill for a national roads scheme. One thing that emerged during the course of the war, and afterwards, was the tremendous importance of a national roads scheme. We know the great difficulties and disabilities that a country of this magnitude has to face in providing an adequate roads system, but, after all, we are faced with a roads problem, and we cannot turn our backs on it. It is no good saying that we are unlucky because the distance from one side of the continent to the other is. 3,000 miles and that some widespread States have large concentrations of population on the sea coast and: a very rauch smaller density of population in the back areas. These back areas must be roaded, just, as the metropolitan areas must be roaded
All States are not as fortunate as Victoria, which is, relatively speaking, a selfcontained State. The roads which run from within the State to its borders have to cover only 200 or 300 miles. The various States face different problems. The problem of providing efficient roads in Western Australia with its sparse outlying centres of population is completely different from the problem that faces Victoria, and even Tasmania. The provision of efficient roads has become more and more important to us since the end of the war. We have moved from the horse and buggy age, and we should’ approach this national problem of roads on a national level. We have no alternative. I had hoped that the Government, when it convened a conference of Ministers for Transport and top-ranking transport men from all States, might have thrown away the old conservatism. I had hoped that we might have moved forward boldly in an attempt to solve this tremendous problem. But, unfortunately, being a conservative government, we must accept it for what it is. The Government, by the very nature of its political background, fights against change. It is anxious to maintain the status quo. Therefore, I suppose that this slight movement forward is as much as we can expect at this stage. I hope that in the very near future the Government will really tackle this national problem. We are hopeful that the debate on this legislation in the House of Representatives and in this Senate will encourage the Government to act in a national way. The Government is aware of the magnitude of this problem. The only thing that matters is the scheme that will be implemented to handle it.
In his second-reading speech the Minister stated that the number of motor cars registered during the last ten years has doubled and’ is continuing to rise. We can expect a still greater number of registrations in the next ten years. Unfortunately, our roads have not been improved correspondingly to cope with the increasing pressure that is being placed on them. As the Minister has said, not only motor cars, but also heavy haulage trucks have placed tremendous pressure on the roads. Ten or twelve years ago the heavy haulage trucks we. see so often to-day were relatively unknown. They are here’ to stay. These heavy trucks run not only between the capital cities, but also across the Nullarbor Plain. There is not one part of this vast continent in which these heavy trucks are not seen. Our roads simply are not able to cope with them. Because’ the Commonwealth Government has not recognized that fact and made sufficient money available to the States to maintain the roads in a satisfactory condition, the New South Wales Government was forced into a taxation field that it did not want to enter. In order to obtain a few millions of pounds to spend on the roads, that Government was compelled to impose a tax on road hauliers. The Minister himself has said that many of the roads that served us so well during the war are now too narrow, too lightly built and not designed to cope with the tremendous pressure being placed upon them.
I suppose I am wasting the time of the Senate by deploring still further the state of our roads. More competent men than I have studied this problem. Apart from the fact that the condition of the roads restricts the proper movement of traffic, they are also very dangerous. The road between Canberra and Sydney is probably one of the best in the Commonwealth, but the number of deaths that occur from accidents on it is extraordinarily high. A road death is an unnecessary death. Although the road is a good road, according to modern Australian standards, obviously it is not good enough because so many accidents occur on it.
The very essence of the road haulage business is speed and tonnage, in that order of priority. The hauliers want to travel great distances as fast as they can in order to make a profit on their movements. The tonnage that they carry is only a secondary consideration. We must face the problem posed by these great trucks carrying 10 or 15 tons speeding through the day and night at 50 or 60 miles an hour. The Government adopts a negative approach to the problem because it is attempting to restrict the operations of the road hauliers. That is not the answer to our problem. The answer is the provision of roads that will stand up to the demands made on them, and the greatest demands are made on them by these tremendous juggernauts that use them by day and by night. To impose speed restrictions on road hauliers is only to tamper with the problem. We must spend a tremendous amount of money to bring our main arterial roads to international standards. After all, other countries which are regarded as being relatively poor have criss-crossed their lands with wonderful highways. During the depression Germany built her autobahns stretching from border to border. Those autobahns are still carrying terrific tonnages at great speeds. Not only Germany, but all other countries in Europe have built great arterial highways. The Government talks of encouraging tourists to Australia. One of the great attractions to tourists to Europe is the fact that they can drive their cars on those great highways at high speeds with relative safety. Any danger is caused not by deficiencies in the roads, but by the drivers themselves. We in Australia are slowly facing up to the problem of improving our roads, but we are not improving them to international standards. Apparently we are content to allow them to remain at the standards that were appropriate to the traffic of ten years ago. That is only tampering with the problem. We should endeavour to make our roads comparable to the roads in other parts of the world.
We had hoped that the Government would evolve a national roads scheme in which all the States would participate. We could all pool our resources and work together to bring our roads to the international standard. In an endeavour to cope with the problem, the New South Wales Government has set up a chair of road engineering at the University of Sydney. That Government hopes to encourage technical men to play their part in solving this important problem. Of course, every Slate has it own problems. Naturally, I know the problems of New South Wales better than those of the other States.
I shall now give my views about what I think the Government has set out to do by this bill. The Government has undertaken to provide to the States for roads over the next five years - that is a satisfactory period - an amount of £250,000,000, £30,000,000 of which will be distributed as matching grants on a £l-for-£l basis, according to the amounts that the States expend on roads over and above amounts determined in accordance with a formula. To me, this bill has all the earmarks of that Treasury approach that has been the bane, not only of this Government, but of all governments. What the Treasury has tried to do is to limit its risk, as it were, as to the amount of money that the Commonwealth will provide to the States for roads. I shall try to illustrate to the Senate the point I am making by reminding honorable senators that in 1953-54 the Commonwealth provided the States with £17,000,000 for roads. In 1958-59, the amount being provided is £38,000,000. According to the secondreading speech of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) the amount that the Commonwealth will make available to the States for roads in 1963-64 will be £48,000,000. I have always been very careful about percentages, so I hope that I will not be unfair in what I am about to say. If we apply the percentage increase of the figure for 1958-59 above the figure for 1953-54 to the period 1958-59 to 1963-64. in the last mentioned year the Commonwealth should distribute to the States for roads, not £48,000,000 but £85,000,000.
– How do you make that out?
– I am applying a percentage increase.
– But on what basis?
– On the basis of the five-year period. As I have said, the amount provided in 1953-54 was £17,000,000. It rose in 1958-59 to £38,000,000. Applying that percentage increase to the next five-year period, that is. from 1958-59 to 1963-64, the amount to be provided in the last mentioned years should be £85,000,000, not £48,000,000 as has been stated by the Minister. Evidently the Commonwealth has decided its approach to this matter on the submission of some bright boy in the Treasury, who should get an O.B.E. for his efforts. I do not know whether his work will be appropriately recognized. The States, particularly New South Wales, are not very happy about the formula that he has worked out. He has in effect, levelled off the obligations of the Commonwealth until 1963-64 at roughly £50,000,000 a year instead of on the basis of the percentage increase that applies to %’arious Commonwealth payments including pensions, and in respect of housing and other things. The work is there to be done. Whether Government senators have conquered inflation. I do not know.
– That is a good calculation.
– The honorable senator’s interjection gives me inspiration.
– Do you think that the figure of £85,000,000 is a real assessment el’ the needs?
– I would not know. I have not worked out an estimate of the needs.
– We must know all the factors in order to estimate the likely needs in five years’ time.
– I think that that amount at least is likely to be needed if the job is properly done and the immigration programme proceeds and the country is developed as it should be developed. It looks as though immigration last year fell flat. Taking into account the subsequent departure of immigrants, I think our net population increase from immigration was only about 50,000 or 60,000 last year. If there is a progressive drive and a Commonwealth policy of full employment, that amount of money could be easily and profitably spent on roads. I do not think that the Commonwealth and the State Governments should rest on their laurels until roads of international standard have been constructed in this country. I remind the Senate of the numerous juggernauts that are now traversing our roads. Heavy road haulage has only just commenced in Australia! We must make haste to reconstruct our roads to cope with this situation, rather than endeavour to retard this development by restrictive taxes and other means, because the heavy road haulage industry will be here long after we have gone on. We must organize the country to cope with the great advance that will be made in road haulage.
Adverting to my reply to Senator Wright’s interjection, I point out that one has only to travel over the roads that we call topclass roads, such as the Sydney to Canberra road, to realize that the amount I have mentioned for 1963-64 could be profitably spent in the community. Almost every time I have travelled over the Sydney to Canberra road I have seen wrecks alongside the carriageway. I drove to Canberra from Sydney on Tuesday last, and that was the first occasion 1 can remember in years on which I have not seen some evidence of tragedy on that road.
– There are always some fools on the road.
– That is so, but accidents would be reduced by better roads. As I have said, 1 know the problems that exist in New South Wales better than those in other States. I think that the immensity of the problem is generally understood. Not only has the New South Wales Government pleaded with the Commonwealth for more money to be made available for roads; Mr. Morton, the Leader of the Liberal Party Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament, has asked the Commonwealth to give all of the proceeds of the petrol and dieseline taxes to the States for expenditure on the roads.
– The Queensland Liberal Government has made the same plea.
– We must face this matter. As Senator Willesee said last night, many Liberal supporters, from the time of the Bruce-Page Government, have stated that this should be done. Actually such an allocation would not be enough. I do not know how long it will be before the demand eats up the total petrol and dieseline tax collections. The receipts and expenditures are getting closer, but it is reasonable to assume that the collections will increase substantially over the next five years, whereas the amount of distributions has been actually pegged. Speaking from memory, I believe that the proceeds of the petrol and dieseline taxes this year are expected to be of the order of £45,000,000. and £38,000,000 will be distributed to the States for roads. That leaves a difference of only £7,000,000 which, in road building, would not go very far. Senator Anderson developed an interesting theme last night when he mentioned thai the whole of the profits of the New South Wales State Lotteries go to the hospitals. He recalled that when this system was introduced it was thought that it would solve the problem of hospital finance. It was realized ultimately, owing to the increased demands on hospitals, that the lottery profits would not nearly meet the bill. Now, the lottery profits are paid into Consolidated Revenue, from which the cost of hospitals - approximately £40,000,000 a year in New South Wales - is met. I think the profits of the State Lotteries run to about £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 a year. The same argument applies to petrol.
– Has anybody advocated that the expenditure on roads should be limited to the proceeds of the petrol tax?
– That is what the amendment means.
– No, the amendment seeks to give all the petrol tax collections to the States for roads, not to limit road expenditure to the petrol tax.
– 1 see the point. The argument that is being advanced by the States is that all proceeds of the petrol tax should be used for road purposes. Of course, if that were done, the States would be happy, but we know that they are not receiving all the receipts from the petrol tax. Their allocation is £7,000,000 short. However, even if they did get all the receipts, the money would noi enable them to satisfy all the demands for roads that will be made upon them for many years to come. That is the point I am making.
This is a time when we should be generous, in order to meet the position .that will develop within the next year or so. I do not think that this five-year plan will continue, for the reason that it will not enable us to cope with the vast roadbuilding problem that is in front of us. The argument in New South Wales is that of every £1 that is collected by the Commonwealth in petrol tax, only 7s. goes back to that State. If all the petrol tax collected in New South Wales were returned to the State, the amount would be very substantial, and that would be most helpful. In the last three years, the Main Roads Board and municipal councils in New South Wales have constructed 1,300 miles of new bitumen surface, re-surfaced 1.700 miles of bitumen road, strengthened 250 miles of road, and built 2,698 miles of developmental roads at a cost of approximately £.1,000,000. Honorable senators will appre ciate, I am sure, the tremendous problem that is involved in maintaining roads in a State the size of New South Wales.
– But would not the formula prevent New South Wales from getting back all the money raised there?
– I do not know which formula the honorable senator is talking about. We on this side are discussing the need to change formulas.
I support the amendment that has been moved by Senator Willesee. My view is that this plan is one not so much to help the States as to limit Commonwealth expenditure on roads for the next five years. To my mind, from that point of view tins legislation is a retrograde step. At any rate, it represents a negative approach to road problems. I do not think that any of the States, particularly the bigger States, agree with this approach, lt seems that the Premier of New South Wales and his Minister in charge of highways do not agree wilh it. The Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales, who knows something of the problems associated with roads, also has slated that it is important that all the money that is collected in New South Wales by means of fuel taxes should be applied to road works in that State. While the expansion in this country has been amazing during recent years, the rate of expansion during the next ten years will probably be very much greater. Governments must not lag behind with developmental works. They must anticipate demands and be generous in meeting them, in the knowledge that every £1 they spend or invest in this country is £1 gained, rather than £1 lost.
– I have much pleasure in rising to support this bill. That pleasure is increased when I recall that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) first introduced federal aid roads legislation in this Parliament about thirty years ago. I think that Senator Armstrong got a little off the beam, in certain respects, during his speech. For instance, he said that this Government had adopted a negative approach to the road problems that confront us now and which will confront us in increasing degree in the future. In my opinion, Sir, the Government has shown a positive approach to those problems. After all, problems connected with roads are not peculiar to
Australia. We know that they also exist in many other countries. When we consider the enormous sums that are expended on road-works in the United States of America, I think that we in this country may congratulate ourselves and agree that we are not doing so badly with the funds that we can command. We on this side appreciate that, while all our road needs will not be met by the proposals now before this chamber, we have to cut our coat according to our cloth, lt would give all of us very great pleasure if we were able to embark on a vast programme of road building to provide us with better and longer roads, but of course we are not in a financial position to do everything that we want to do.
Senator Armstrong suggested that all the proceeds of the petrol tax should be spent on the roads. He said that if that were done, the demands of the States would be met, but at the same time he implied that, to do so would react against the States later, b;cause the proceeds from the petrol tax would not always be sufficient to satisfy their needs. Therefore, he said in effect, “ Give them what they want now. It will satisfy them for the moment, but we know that it will react against them later on.” Although I may be wrong, I think that the honorable senator had his tongue in his cheek when he made that suggestion.
I congratulate the Government on bringing this legislation before the Parliament. As we know, it provides for the expenditure of a huge sum of money, but 1 am sure that we shall obtain good value for such expenditure. A matter about which I am particularly pleased is that the Government has seen fit to retain, as a part of its road policy, the stipulation that 40 per cent, of the money allotted to the States is to be expended on rural roads. Any one who has lived in the country will realize that great benefit accrues to country people from this provision. The people in the country have seen the benefits that it has provided in the way of more roads and better roads. I impress upon the Senate that the provision of good roads in country areas reduces maintenance costs for the primary producer, and in that way, assists primary production. Certain other advantages, which I shall touch on later, also flow from it.
According to figures that I have perused, in 1949 we had 1,221,991 motor vehicles on our roads. At 30th June, 1957, we had 2,391,425. Therefore, as the Minister has stated, the number of motor vehicles using our half-million miles of roads has doubled in that period. We know, of course, that the total length of our roads is increasing all the time, as fast as the available finances will permit. In the period 1930-31 to 1956-57, the sum of £940,100,000 was spent on the maintenance and construction of roads. The Committee of Transport Economic Research has estimated that in the period from 1955-56 to 1965-66, a total sum of £1,643,000,000 will be necessary for the maintenance and construction of Australian roads. If my figures are correct, that means an expenditure of £3,286 a mile for the half-million miles that we are using at the present time.
In common with other speakers in this debate, one of the criticisms of our main roads that I have to offer is that they are too narrow. That is true even of the roads that are being constructed at the present time. Time and again we see how dualwheeled vehicles which are now so prevalent on the roads, are forced to move away from the centre line. As a result, their outside wheels cut the edge of the sealed surface, resulting in ruts and pot-holes and gradual destruction of the roads. In response to inquiries that I have made in connexion with this aspect, I have been told that the cost of making the roads wider would be too great. I cannot help thinking that that is fallacious reasoning, because the additional cost involved in constructing a wider road in the first place would be more than offset by the saving on road maintenance thereafter. I have one other criticism to offer, and I speak with particular reference to my own area - the central west of New South Wales, where there are comparatively long stretches of straight road with very few grades. My criticism is levelled at what I look upon as the obnoxious guide posts erected on the sides of the road. I do not know what it costs to make and erect these concrete posts, but I do not think they could be erected for less than £4 or £5 each. In my opinion, they constitute a danger to the traffic rather than a help to road users. I am in full agreement with their being erected on curves and where the road surface is built up, but, in my opinion, to have them on straight stretches of road at intervals of - I think it is 170 yards - is just plain waste of money.
They constitute a danger to traffic on the roads because they are placed on the edges of the road formation, thus narrowing the road by, I should think, a good 2 feet. Were these posts not erected at these spots, vehicles could move further over to the sides of the roads in cases of emergency without the danger of colliding with the posts, as so often happens. On the stretch of road leading from my place to the nearest town, it is quite common to see these posts broken off, and I must admit that every time I see one broken off I have a feeling ot satisfaction, although I do always hope that it was broken off by a heavy vehicle, not an ordinary passenger vehicle. I do suggest that this is something that our engineers should consider seriously. I am not averse to erecting these posts where they are needed, but to put them on straight stretches of road where, as far as I can see, they serve no useful purpose, is just plain waste of money and not in the best interests of the travelling public. In addition to the cost of manufacture and erection, the posts have to be repainted from time to time, and I submit it would be far better to use the money that is now spent in that way on something that would be of greater benefit and service to road users.
I am told that just recently one of the officials of the Department of Main Roads stated, in an article in some journal, that it was common to see good rural roads with good concrete bridges leading to bad trunk roads. I am also told that this official’s article has been quoted by Mr. Renshaw, the Minister for Local Government and Highways in New South Wales. I can only say that I am very interested to know where these good rural roads that lead to bad trunk roads are situated. I do not know of any. I have travelled extensively throughout New South Wales and have not seen them, nor have I been able to find any one else who has seen the roads to which this reference is made. On the contrary, I have noticed that the feeder roads to the excellent main road running down the south coast of New South Wales are so bad, so deeply rutted, that the dairyfarmers have the greatest difficulty in transporting their milk to the various markets. ! have mentioned the benefits that accrue to people on the land from having good rural roads. To illustrate my point I quote the experience of my own district. I think it was in 1950 that we had a wet season in the central west and it was not possible to get a car to the nearest town for five or six weeks. The reason for this was not the flooding of creeks or being floodbound but simply the fact that we had bad roads. Fortunately this position has been rectified largely as the result of the provision that 40 per cent, of the money allotted to roads shall be spent on the construction and maintenance of rural roads.
These conditions apply not only in the area of which I speak, which is a comparatively closely settled area but also further out in the west and in the north, especially in the black soil country. In those areas, after a fairly heavy fall of rain, traffic ceases - it cannot move - and this state of affairs continues so long as adverse weather prevails. Very often it does not take much rain to bring about this state of affairs. In those circumstances, it is obvious that the requirement that 40 per cent, of the money allotted to roads should be expended on rural roads is the very least the people living in these areas deserve. It is not just a matter of providing good roads to enable the people of these areas to go to a picture show or something of that sort; we must realize that these roads are required to enable the business of the area to be carried on. We hear a great deal of lip-service paid to the fact that the producer is entitled to every possible consideration, but when it is suggested that 40 per cent, of the money allotted to roads be utilized for improving rural roads, there is a great deal of opposition from people who I feel should be the last to adopt such an attitude.
Another important factor to be considered is that good rural roads can be of immense benefit to the education of the children living in these areas. The first thing a local authority does when a school bus service is introduced in a country area is to try to provide a good all-weather road for the school buses. Were it not for these school buses, many children would have to be driven or drive themselves to school. They would have to get to school by some means of transport, and the school might be 5 or 6 miles away from where the children live. My own three sons had to drive 5 or 6 miles to and from school each day in a horse and sulky when they were receiving their early education. Not only does this impose a strain on the children - although 1 suppose the strain of Scottish blood might have been of some help to my children - but it also imposes a strain on the mothers who have to get their children ready for school. We should remember these things when we criticize the expenditure of 40 per cent, of the allocation on rural roads.
I have read that one member of another place, when criticizing this position, stated that in some cases it has been found that after having received its allocation the local authority has been unable to spend it all. immediately after the war ended, many local authorities did not have the requisite machinery with which to carry out their roads programmes. Even now we find that often a wet season sets in to prevent them carrying out their roads programmes with the result that they cannot spend the money allotted to them. But this is no reason for saying that they should not receive the 40 per cent, proposed in the bill.
We hear much about traffic congestion because of the hundreds of motor vehicles going to and from the cities. Just recently, 1. had the opportunity to watch traffic going into and out of the city and suburbs of Sydney. When watching this traffic, 1 noticed that nine out of every ten vehicles had only one passenger in them. Much of the congestion could be avoided if those people would use the public transport provided for them. But this is not the case in the country. We either use our vehicles or stay at home. That is something else that people who criticize the 40 per cent, allocation for the rural areas should keep in mind.
In New South Wales, which I represent in common with Senator Armstrong and other senators, we have recently been saddled with a most obnoxious ton-mile tax. One of ils obnoxious features - I use the word “ obnoxious “ advisedly - is that drivers of vehicles affected must keep a record which, in the Army, we used to know as a “ G.2 “. In other words, the driver must keep a record of journey. I mention this matter because it may be of some interest to representatives of other States where the tax does not apply. They are very fortunate not to be saddled with the provisions with which we are cursed at the moment in New South Wales. The record of journey has to be filled in by the driver when he sets out, when he arrives at his destination, and when he leaves again to return home or wherever he is going. He must put down the time on each occasion, though he may make ten or twenty journeys a day. Honorable senators can realize the delay and annoyance that are caused by drivers having to comply with these requirements. Quite recently I had occasion to employ a harvest hand. He told me that he had lost a position as a driver on account of this legislative provision. His employers found that they could not continue to employ him because they had to take on extra clerical staff to maintain the records. He was an excellent worker and would not have been the first dismissed if matters had been normal.
I have concentrated on the provision to be made for rural roads because it is of such great importance to country people. I know that the Government has no thought of altering that. I was very much afraid that my close friend, Senator Anderson, was going to develop his argument last night on the percentage allocation to such an extent that the entente cordiale existing between us would be ruptured, or perhaps broken off altogether. I was very glad indeed to find that he spoke moderately about the 40 per cent, provision, though he thought that it was not good to have it mandatory for the whole of Australia. In reply, I would say that no doubt the position was looked at closely when the bill was drawn up. The 40 per cent, provision has been in operation for some time. Obviously it has beet found to work satisfactorily throughout Australia. Doubtless that is why it is in the bill to-day.
– What would be the definition of “ country “ under the bill? In New South Wales, would it be all land outside the County of Cumberland?
– I would define it in that way. I know that some people feel that the available money should be spent where the volume of traffic is greatest, but we must look at the question a little more broadly than that. The country areas provide the sinews of our national life. That is why I have directed so many of my remarks to the situation there. I would conclude by saying that the criticism which has been voiced by so many against the 40 per cent, provision provides yet another reason why we must always have a Country Party in New South Wales.
Senator COOKE (Western Australia) [12.201. - The approach of the Opposition to the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill 1959 is that it by no means represents a national roads plan. It offers no national promise at all. lt is merely a continuation of a scheme born many years ago and kept buoyant and alive by financial provision in somewhat the same ratio as previously. It has been based on a policy of parsimony towards national road development. The amendment of the Opposition is clearly not understood by the Government, lt was not understood by Senator McKellar, nor by Senator Anderson, who spoke last night. Senator Anderson told us a plaintive story about a small boy who got 2s., put 3d. in his money box, and paid out so much for lollies, so much to go to the pictures, and so much for insurance. The honorable senator tried to ridicule the idea of devoting the full proceeds of the petrol tax to the maintenance and improvement of our roads. It is by no means idle to suggest that that amount should be earmarked - set aside - for that purpose. The actual money collected can go into Consolidated Revenue, but the Opposition believes that it should be the very minimum amount spent on roads.
During the Government’s term of office, this matter has been chewed over from year to year and from time to time a revision has been made, but I remind honorable senators of the terrific inflation that has occurred. The Government, because of its ego, compares the grants of to-day with those of 1948-49, and even makes comparisons with the money spent before the First World War. It does this in an attempt to convey the impression that it is really doing a national job. That approach is childish in the extreme. No one in the Parliament would deny that transport is one of the most vital factors in national development, in trade, in industry and in defence. Yet the Government persists in its parsimonious attitude and seeks, by producing enormous figures, to convince every one that it is malting a real effort. It ignores the effect of inflation on money values and ‘Overlooks the fact that transport has progressed more than almost anything else in this great era of scientific advance. We have air transport, road transport and railways - still necessary for very heavy traffic - and our transport costs are higher than those of any of the nations with which we compete on world markets.
After the recent war a group of quite intelligent people were discussing what should be done with Germany. Some one suggested that it should never be allowed to become strong again, should never be allowed to challenge the world as it had done on that occasion. There was talk of partition and that sort of thing, but one member of the group said, “ It is really a simple matter. Give Germany bad roads and five different rail gauges and it will never become a nation again.” Australia suffers from just such a condition. We speak egotistically about our achievements, and from time to time revise the formula in an attempt to improve the position, but this bill represents a real retreat from truly national thought. It changes the present formula so as to make a poorer distribution to the Australian States which have a huge area for which to provide roads. A national outlook was adopted originally in the provision of Commonwealth assistance for roads. The area-population formula provided a very satisfactory basis for distributing the available finance. Even though there may not have been sufficient money available, what was available was distributed in a national sense, having some regard to the responsibilities of the States, huge areas, small populations and probably small secondary industries. The distribution was not made as a concession to the States.
Western Australia takes from the Eastern States nearly 500 per cent, more manufactured goods than she sends to. them. She pays a high rate of duty on those commodities, that duty being added for the protection of Australian industry - a principle with which we all agree nationally. Western Australia, which covers an area of 976,000 square miles, or 32.8 per cent, of the total area of Australia, is obliged to maintain roads stretching over vast distances. The condition of the roads in that State is a tribute to those who have been responsible for their maintenance. Excellent work has been put into our main roads, but our costs have been kept to an absolute minimum.
Western Australia’s roads problem has been somewhat aggravated because of the fact that a standard gauge railway has been built almost to the South Australian border. Heavy transports from places as far distant as Sydney are piggy-backed over the Australian desert to Kalgoorlie by the Trans-Australian railway. Those transports then leave the train, move on to Western Australian roads and travel down to Perth. Other factors enter the picture, too. For example, railways serving rural areas have become inefficient. Rolling stock is out of date and the tracks need to be ballasted and otherwise rehabilitated. Because road transport is now carrying the cream of the traffic in those areas, it has been found necessary to close those railway lines, with the result that an extra burden has been placed on the roads. Farmers have been subsidized to a certain extent, but that does not provide an answer to the problem. Rather is it like a house in the country to which is added a lean-to here, a lean-to there, and a lean-to somewhere else. The Government then looks at the structure and says, “ A national effort! “ But it is no national effort; rather is it a retrogression.
In Western Australia there are 73,391 miles of other than A class roads, making a total of 84,000 miles of road. If we were to include many of the back country roads, ail of which are most important to the development of the State, that figure would be very much greater. Western Australia is also confronted with the problem of developing its northern areas. A sum of £5,000,000 has been made available for special, approved projects in that area. Some of it may be spent on roads or highways; but the bulk of it will be spent in some other way. When we think of the 1,722 miles of roadway to Wyndham, we know that there are 558 miles of more or less all-weather road from the metropolitan area to Carnarvon; but there are at least 400 miles of roadway through country which is in its virgin state and which needs to be developed. We have a responsibility to cater for the north-west, a most important section of the State.
From the national viewpoint, the areapopulation basis of the distribution of road finance is unchallengeable. In addition to the maintenance of the roads 1 have, already referred to, we have another 1,105 miles of road around to Eucla. We also have to maintain a feeder road to the Eyre Highway through Norseman - another 700 miles of road from the metropolitan area which passes through large areas of undeveloped country which could be developed with proper transport facilities. Those roads are a national responsibility. I should like to know exactly what the position is in relation to the maintenance of the Eyre Highway. I think the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia and the Commonwealth are jointly responsible. South Australia and Western Australia should be relieved of their share of that expenditure, because the highway is of strategic importance. Heavy transports tore it up until the stage was reached where it was found to be cheaper to place vehicles on the Trans-Australian railway. The Eyre Highway should be given further attention urgently.
Senator McKellar, when speaking about the generous provisions of the bill, said that everything in the garden was lovely; but when he referred to the condition of the roads and the method of construction he indicated that everything in the garden was not so lovely. After saying that the Government had done a great job and that everything was all right, he said that the roads were too narrow and that heavy transports, moving towards the edge of the road surface, had broken it and that maintenance was a very big problem. Then he added, in a simple way, “ Let us widen the roads “. Having advanced a beautiful argument in support of the proposition that roads should be maintained as a national undertaking, he destroyed it by referring to the lack of finance. To construct a road sufficiently wide to take modern transports is an expensive undertaking. No one will quarrel with the suggestion that such roads should be provided; indeed, they would greatly assist the national economy.
If we do not intend to adopt a national approach to our roads problem but to say that the roads must remain in poor condition, the legislation now before us is satisfactory. But, if the policy of the Government is to be that Australian roads should be properly constructed, as Senator McKellar suggests and we all agree with the suggestion - there must be a more positive approach to the problem. I agree with the statement of Senator McKellar that, if our roads had been built properly in the first place, the cost of maintenance would be much less. 1 suppose one would be altogether too ambitious if he suggested that there should be a system of freight roads to relieve many of our highways of the heavy traffic that uses them and which they are not capable of carrying. I suggest that the highways should be used for the purposes for which they were constructed and that there should be constructed alongside them tracks capable of carrying the freight traffic. I. do not say that we should build freight tracks on highways to serve places like Wyndham and Carnarvon, but they could be constructed to relieve the pressure on the main arteries. If we had a national outlook on transport, that would be the objective of any government, but under the present system such a scheme will never be developed. The States, although highly efficient, are pinched for finance. Their position will not be improved as a result of this poor legislation. An amount of £220,000,000 for roads sounds a large amount, but in view of inflation and rising costs it is not really large.
The Government says, for a reason which 1 cannot understand, that although it has an extra £30,000,000 to spend on roads, the States cannot have any of that money unless they are prepared to raise extra money for roads themselves, in which event the £30,000,000 will be allocated on a £l-for-£l basis. Western Australia, with a heavy road construction burden, due to its large area - a State which is being cheated under the formula - will have to stretch itself even to maintain its present rate of road constructions, let alone raise the extra funds which would entitle it to a part of the £30,000,000.
The bill provides that 40 per cent, of the money allocated by the Commonwealth must be allotted to roads in rural areas. That is an excellent idea but to carry it out will require co-ordination between the State governments and the various local authorities. A State government will need to watch the expenditure of the various roads boards and shires, so that money will not lie idle. It is not always inefficiency on the part of a local governing body that prevents it from doing certain road work. Due to inability to obtain plant, and for a host of other good reasons, it may be impossible to carry out needed work on rural roads. The difficulty might be overcome to some degree if it were possible to shift plant from point to point.
The proposal to spread the allocation of this money over a period of five years is a very good one. It allows State governments to plan for the future. However, I think the Government would be doing a much better job if it said that the amount it intends to provide should be regarded as the minimum amount to be spent on road transport in Australia, but that as roads are so vital to us, the position will be under continual review and that, if necessary, the Commonwealth, adopting a national outlook, will accept financial responsibility for certain strategic roads and roads in undeveloped areas, and, in addition, as national revenues permit, will give consideration to implementing a real national roads programme, providing for heavy freight roads, the widening of main roads between important centres and their maintenance at a high standard of efficiency.
This would provide employment for many people, and also would provide the nation with a valuable asset. Good roads would reduce transport costs. It has been estimated that, in the case of a passenger car travelling over a good road as against a bad road, the cost to the car owner is reduced by a halfpenny a mile. In the case of heavy transports, delays due to inadequate roads are very costly. It is absolutely impossible to estimate the extra transport costs in which the nation is involved due to an inefficient roads system.
The Government, therefore, should not object to the amendment that has been moved, which seeks to provide that the full proceeds of the petrol and diesel fuel taxes shall be granted to the States for expenditure by the States, municipalities and shires on or in connexion with roads. I desire to make the position quite clear, because each speaker from the Government side has misrepresented the position. The payment to the States of the full proceeds of the petrol and diesel fuel taxes should be the minimum obligation of the Government. If all of that money were given to the States, they could do much to discharge their responsibility for the construction and maintenance of roads. The shire councils could probably improve the condition of roads in country areas considerably. At least, they could construct and maintain the type of roads that we have been used to - roads that provide the bare facilities that are needed.
The Commonwealth Government has a responsibility for the defence and development of Australia. It has a responsibility to reduce transport costs in order to help our industries, both rural and secondary. It must finance a national roads programme - something which the States could never do by themselves. We have the means, financial and physical, to do this at the present time. National road works would create employment, have a high defence value, and make a great contribution to the development of Australian industry, both primary and secondary.
– This is a measure designed to replace the act which will pass into oblivion on 30th June of this year. Before speaking about the position of Western Australia under the new formula, I should like to compliment the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) on his very fine second-reading speech, in which he indicated the main points of the legislation and made the clauses of the bill very clear to honorable senators. Whilst supporting the bill, 1 must say that Western Australia is not satisfied with it. I shall speak about that aspect a little later. I am sorry to disagree with my colleague, Senator Scott, but, from information I have been given, I know that Western Australia is not pleased with the new formula. I realize that in the first year Western Australia will benefit considerably because of the special grant that is to be made, but in the years that follow it will suffer very severely unless a phenomenal increase in both population and motor vehicle registrations takes place.
The measure is designed to grant financial aid to the States for transport, the main aspect of which is road construction. We should all bear in mind that road construction comes under the jurisdiction of the States in our federal Constitution. It was envisaged that the making of roads, generally speaking, would be a matter for the States and for local authorities, but that those bodies would have their resources supplemented by the Commonwealth. We in Western Australia are not at all reluctant to admit that the help we have had in the past 36 years from the Commonwealth by way of supplementary grants has been very useful, but at the same time we regret that the old formula, which was conceived by that great Australian, Sir Earle Page, is to be dispensed with and that a new formula which, in the long run, will hurt big States like Western Australia is to be substituted for it. The difficulties of Queensland are similar to those of Western Australia.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting 1 had been complimenting the Minister on the manner in which he had made the new formula so clear to us all. I had been complimenting also my colleague in another place, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), for the true federal spirit that he had displayed in the calculation of the formula which has served us so well for 36 years. That formula provided for a special concession to be made to those States which are large in area, though weak in the sense of population and development. That is the spirit that should prevail in a family of States - the stronger members looking after the weaker. I thank Victoria and New South Wales for the help that they have given Western Australia during the period that the old formula has been in operation.
Western Australia is not pleased that the old formula has been replaced. Under that formula grants were made to the States on the basis of three-fifths population and twofifths area, and Western Australia and Queensland received an additional benefit in that the more populous States of Victoria and New South Wales assisted them to carry some of the burden of road construction and development generally. The basic principles of the new formula present a problem for Western Australia. Under the new arrangement the Commonwealth will grant to the States an amount of £250,000,000 to be spread over five years. That sum includes £30,000,000 which will be paid only if the States match it on a £l-for-£l basis. The special grants will rise from £7,400,000 to £10,000,000 and, in the immediate future, Western Australia will benefit, but in the long run, after tie expiration of the five-years period, that State will be the loser. Western Australia’s share of the grant will drop from 19.5 per cent, to 17.6 per cent., although the special grant of ?400,000 will tide us over the first year. As I have said, unless Western Australia achieves a phenomenal increase in development and population she will be the loser under the new formula.
I remind honorable senators of the extent and area of Western Australia compared with some of the smaller and more populous States. One district in the northwest of the State covers an area of 529,000 square miles which, roughly speaking, is six times the size of Victoria. That is only one district in the State which is crying out day after day for development. Such an undeveloped area should not be left to fend for itself. One of the first essentials in the development of any area is a comprehensive road system. During the last five years hundreds of miles of new roads have been built in the north-west of the State where leases totalling 4,615,000 acres have been granted for development. However, those grants have not resulted in closer settlement and, unless some major development takes place in the form of secondary industries which will tend to break up those huge leases into small townships, the local municipal councils or roads boards will not be able to play an effective part in providing the roads that are necessary. Anything that retards road construction gravely affects the development of all States, and that applies with particular emphasis to Western Australia.
We in Western Australia cannot help feeling that the new formula has been loaded rather heavily in favour of the more populous States of Victoria and New South Wales. We would have preferred to have the old formula continue in operation for a further five years.
– Of course you would!
– My colleague was unfortunate enough to have visited Western Australia when a Labour government was in office. He found that some of the money that Victoria had contributed to us for road construction purposes had been used to build a bridge near Perth. The honorable senator has been upset about it ever since. His seat in the Senate is adjacent to mine, and the things I hear him mutter about that bridge are better left unpublished. I apologize for that bridge being built with money that should have been used for road construction, but in the long run the bridge will help to establish country districts and develop the State. Country Party members in Western Australia are particularly pleased with the provision in the bill to the effect that 40 per cent, of the grant to the State shall be spent in rural areas, but members in city electorates are not so happy. It is exceedingly difficult to please everybody.
I was astonished to hear Senator Scott express satisfaction with the bill, and say that Western Australia is satisfied. The “ West Australian “, a newspaper which does not favour the Australian Country Party or the Labour Party - I leave honorable senators to decide for themselves which party it favours - published a leading article on 6th March last dealing with this legislation. It states -
The new Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement is disappointing. Although the Commonwealth will find more money than it has in the past, the States are entitled to still more than they will get in the next five years.
The petrol-tax distribution formula has been revised to the detriment of Western Australia and Queensland. A greater proportion of the grant will go to Victoria and New South Wales, which are already benefiting in many other ways, including standardization of the Albury-Melbourne railway.
Senator Wade makes no comment about that ;
The 36-ycar-old formula, based three-fifths on population and two-fifths on area, was one of the few concessions this State and Queensland enjoyed under Federation. Now, the Commonwealth proposes to give the States ?250,000,000 over five years - including ?30,000,000 they will have to match ?1 for ?1 - and to distribute it on the basis of one-third population, one-third area and one-third according to vehicle registrations. The introduction of vehicle density is a subterfuge for watering down the formula. Far from accepting the principle that total petrol and diesel tax receipts should be spent on roads, the Commonwealth proposes to hold bar’; an c”t:’mated ?100,000,000 in the next five years.
Grants rising from ?7,400,000 to ?10,000.000 will give Western Australia a lot of money under the new formula. But we will not get as much as we would have received, if the ?250,000.000 - (inadequate though it is - had been distributed under the old formula. Stale motor taxes return well over ?2,000,000 a year so we should have no difficulty in matching our ?5.000.000 share of the ?30,000,000 outside the ordinary distribution.
Having made a concession to the outrageous campaign by New South Wales and Victoria against the principle of national responsibility for developing big, sparsely-populated States, Canberra should not tolerate any further backsliding when the new agreement runs its free course of five years. West Australian governments and Federal members, whatever their political colour, should continue to fight for a return to the more statesmanlike formula.
– Did you write that?
– 1 could have done so. Honorable senators can now see why I disagree so thoroughly with some of the remarks that have been made. I am with the honorable senator in praising the Commonwealth Government for what it has done in the past, but 1 must frankly state that Western Australia - as far as 1 can find from my visits to the country districts, the country newspapers, and the generally expressed view of leading persons - is not satisfied with the new formula, although 1 will support the bill.
.- Mr. President, this is a bill to grant financial assistance to the States in relation to roads and works connected with transport. It provides for payment to the States from Consolidated Revenue, over the next five years, of the sum of £220,000,000, commencing with a payment of £40,000,000 on 1st July next, and rising each year by £2,000,000 to £48,000,000 on 1st July, 1963. In addition, it provides for the payment of £30,000,000 on a £l-for-£l basis with State contributions in excess of the amounts allocated by the States for roads in the current financial year. The amount of £220,000,000 is to be divided amongst the various States, one-third as to population, one-third as to area, and the remaining onethird according to the number of motor vehicles registered, as determined by ihe Commonwealth Statistician at the thirty-first day of December last preceding the commencement of that financial year.
A motor vehicle, in the terms of the definition contained in the bill, includes motor cars, all commercial motor vehicles, and motor cycles. It is interesting to note that during the twelve months’ period which ended on 31st December last, new registrations of motor vehicles throughout Australia averaged 680 a day. At that date, there were 2.606,408 motor vehicles registered in Australia, comprising 1,739,1 13 motor cars 752,249 commercial vehicles and 115.046 motor cycles. This works out at one motor vehicle to every 3.82 persons and one motor car to every 5.72 persons in this country. Each successive year shows a substantial increase in the number of new vehicle registrations compared with the previous year. This is a fine tribute to the ever-increasing prosperity of the Australian people as a result of nearly ten years of good, sound government under the leadership of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in conjunction with the respective leaders over that period of the Australian Country Party - Sir Arthur Fadden, and the present leader, Mr. John McEwen.
This new method of allocating funds to the States for road purposes displaces the formula that was introduced into the Federal Parliament by Sir Earle Page in 1926, by which the division of funds from the petrol tax was made on the basis of three-fifths as to population and two-fifths as to area. Sir Earle Page introduced legislation in that year for a payment to the States of £20,000,000, derived from a tax on petrol, over a ten-year period. Sir Earle stated at the time that he looked upon this provision as a Commonwealth obligation to the States for roads. This bill introduces an entirely different principle.
The bill before the Senate this afternoon clearly divorces road allocations to the States from the receipts from petrol tax, and in future disbursements to the States for road purposes will be appropriated from Consolidated Revenue. Personally, Mr. President, I greatly regret this change of policy. The petrol tax and the Commonwealth Aid Roads Fund have always been synonymous terms in the minds of the Australian people. There is no doubt in the world that public opinion is solidly behind the principle that the proceeds of the petrol tax should be reserved exclusively and in toto for the construction and maintenance of highways, main roads and rural roads.
– It never has been.
– I concede that point. Even during the regime of the Chifley and Curtin Governments, which preceded us in office, it was not done, and I am prepared to concede that financial necessity at the Treasury has been largely responsible. But that does not get away from the soundness of the principle and the fact that the people of this country cherish the idea of a petrol tax levied for the specific purpose of providing the funds for the construction and maintenance of highways, main roads and rural roads.
In a country of the vast area of Australia, in this motor era, an ever-increasing network of good roads is a vital necessity, lt has been stated by the Prime Minister that the petrol tax should yield £350,000,000 over the next five-year period. I believe that the whole of this sum should be utilized for the purposes expressed in this bill, despite the contentions of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) in his secondreading speech yesterday which, 1 might say, was a very informative and interesting speech indeed.
The shortage of revenue which would result from the utilization of the whole of the petrol tax for road purposes should be made good from other tax sources. If we were to make a bold move such as this, Mr. Deputy President, it would require expenditure, distributed over the State and local governing bodies, of the order of £70,000,000 per annum for the five-year period, instead of £44,000,000, which is the amount provided for by the measure that we are considering. In this respect, I am taking the figure given by the Prime Minister as being correct. The right honorable gentleman has stated that the petrol tax yield over the next five years will be £350,000,000. If we divide that amount by five, we have £70,000,000 per annum. That would be the amount available in each of the five years if we utilized for this purpose the whole of the petrol tax collected by the Treasury.
A policy of that kind would create widespread employment and would have an incalculable political value, because it would set in motion a vigorous road construction drive and provide a great lift for the economies of the various States. In addition, it would comply adequately with the requirements of the motoring public as a whole. As we know, most forms of taxation draw critical comment from the taxpayers. The petrol tax is a notable exception. Even when the supplementary Budget of 1956 imposed an increase of 3d. a gallon in petrol tax, criticism was very mild. In fact, it was almost entirely absent. The average motorist, in my experience, has his private philosophy concerning petrol tax. He knows that that form of taxation is designed to improve our roads system. He believes that the provision of more roads and better roads will open up the country and add to the joy of motoring, as well as resulting in a reduction of wear and tear on motor vehicles. The petrol tax has never incurred the resentment of the general run of motorists or taxpayers.
Now that the construction and maintenance of roads are to be financed from Consolidated Revenue, as expressed in this bill, we shall soon hear a chorus like the sound of frogs in a swamp, calling for substantial reductions in petrol taxation. Powerful motoring interests are bound to join in that demand, and it will be very difficult for the government that is in office to resist the pressures that are exerted. If public agitation of that kind succeeds - and it is bound to come - and if reductions of the petrol tax are conceded, I fear that the loss of revenue in this field could cause our roads programme to suffer at some future time. Tn other words, if the Treasurer has to face severe public agitation and yields to the demand from substantial interests in the country for a reduction in the rate of petrol tax, obviously Treasury funds will suffer. How is the loss of revenue to be made good? I am merely assuming that these pressures will come and that the Government, at some time or other, will be bound to make concessions. If it does make concessions, how wil1 the lost revenue be replaced?
I fear that loss of revenue in this field could cause some curtailment in our roads programme at some future time. There is an important point involved in this matter. The members of the public accept the need to pay petrol tax. They pay it cheerfully, without resentment against governments, and they pay it on a liberal scale. They are prepared to continue to do that only so long as the revenue from petrol tax is flowing into the States and used to provide better roads as quickly as possible, and to bring the roads that have been built to a good state of repair. But when the people find that petrol tax revenue is no longer to be drawn on for that purpose, a hue and cry will be raised, and there will be a demand for a reduction of the petrol tax. That demand will be a powerful one because the number of motorists in Australia to-day is very large. I gave the figures at the commencement of my speech. If they wished, the motorists could exercise great pressure on governments for the purpose of obtaining concessions. In my opinion, the weakness in the proposal to draw on Consolidated Revenue lies in failing to take into account the time-honoured method laid down by Sir Earle Page, in 1926, of taking the petrol tax revenue and allocating it amongst the States. Those are considerations that the Government will have to face as a direct consequence of the measures that we are considering here to-day.
It is important to recall that, last year, the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, consisting of representatives from all Australian States, conferred in Adelaide and adopted the following resolution: -
The Commonwealth Government be requested, when reviewing the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1954-56, that the present formula based on area and population be retained.
That was the decision of impartial and practical men closely connected with the construction and maintenance of roads. They supported the old formula based on area and population. In my judgment, the new formula, which takes into account density of motor traffic, in addition to area and population, has resulted largely from Victorian pressure. For several years past, there has been increasing evidence of a determination on the part of Victoria to have the old formula re-shaped in Victoria’s favour. Many public bodies in Victoria have raised the matter continuously with the Government of that State. I do not blame them for doing so, but I am extremely disappointed that the Premier and the members of his Cabinet, on a much higher eminence, should have identified themselves with a move which, while it may benefit their State, will do so only by severely penalizing Queensland and Western Australia, two of the less developed States. I regard the Victorian attitude as rather paltry when viewed against the generous benefits which flow to Victoria from Commonwealth taxation revenues generally.
I think it is fair to say that Victoria will benefit substantially from the vast loans already advanced by the Commonwealth, and those still being advanced, representing Victoria’s share of the Snowy Mountains scheme. That share could well run to the order of £200,000,000 before the project is completed. The taxpayers of Queensland are contributing to these Commonwealth loans to Victoria. Although Victoria is committed to repay the loans, the repayments will be spread over many years, and it will be a long time before the loans are amortized. That will be of little value to the taxpayers who are now being taxed to provide these great loans which can only be made to Victoria, and also to New South Wales, by the Commonwealth using taxation revenues. We have seen how difficult it has been for Queensland to raise a loan of £30,000,000 from the World Bank in order to recondition the railway line between Townsville and Mount Isa. That has been on the stocks for the last five years, and the money has not yet been found for it. Yet, for this great developmental scheme, which I favour and uphold, as a good Australian, it has been provided. Good luck to the two States, New South Wales and Victoria, which will derive greater benefits from the Snowy Mountains scheme. The point I wish to make is that the Victorians are deriving all that advantage from the taxpayers of this country to-day, whereas the repayments from Victoria and New South Wales will be spread over a long period and will be of very little value to the taxpayers of to-day who are finding the ready cash for that project.
– What about sugar?
– We give extra good value to Victoria in respect of sugar. We give excellent value to the big confectionery and jam manufacturing concerns of Victoria which get their sugar at a very heavy discount on the true value of the sugar, based on world standards. But that is outside the range of this bill.
While the money provided for the Snowy Mountains project is being repaid to the Commonwealth over a long period by Victoria and New South Wales, both those States will go ahead by leaps and bounds with cheap power and the availability of large quantities of water for irrigation purposes. That is all to the good, and I rejoice at the fact that the great Snowy Mountains scheme is building up this part of Australia. I am quoting it only to show that Australian taxpayers to-day are displaying great generosity in submitting to heavy taxation to make this progress possible for the two major States of the Commonwealth. And the Queenslanders are involved in that generosity! They are paying their share! That is what makes me feel a little wrathful at the opposition raised by Victoria which wishes to deprive the outlying States, Queensland and Western Australia, of their fair share, having regard to their area, their limited population, and their need for intensive development.
In addition, the Commonwealth Government is currently contributing 70 per cent, of the cost of a standard-gauge railway line now under construction connecting Wodonga with Melbourne. As the cost of this line is estimated at roughtly £10,000,000, this means that Victoria will receive from the Commonwealth revenues a gift of £7,000,000 towards the construction of this line. Again, I am not complaining about that. I sat on the government members rail gauges committee which made the recommendation, and I am all in favour of it. I am strongly in favour of linking the capital cities with a standard-gauge railway, but Victoria is enjoying that advantage and I have not heard any Victorians get up in the Senate, or in the House of Representatives over the past five years and suggest, or advocate, or support the idea that the Commonwealth Government should provide 70 per cent, of the cost of the reconditioning of the great railway line from Townsville to Mount Isa.
– That is only a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line.
– I may not be a good prophet, but I forecast that some day that railway line from Townsville to Mr Isa will proceed on to other rich mineral areas which will be developed. Another city as big as Mr Isa could arise not many miles from Mr Isa in due time as development proceeds. That line will eventually be linked with Camooweal, on the boundary of the Northern Territory, and I have no doubt that, in the fulness of time, will be connected with the Commonwealth railway which will run through to Darwin. That is looking a long time ahead, but I believe that, as our country develops, that will come to pass. So the Townsville-Mt. Isa link could become a standard-gauge line to connect with one which would be laid down by the Commonwealth inside the
Northern Territory border. Nobody, in my hearing, has made any such advocacy, and I am sure that if I made it here to-day and strongly urged that, instead of raising the money from the World Bank, we should raise it from Commonwealth revenues, as we are doing for Victoria, not only with respect to the Snowy Mountains project but also with respect to the standard-gauge railway from Wodonga to Melbourne, I would not get one scrap of support.
That is the unfairness of it. When such big and generous conditions are being given to Victoria, it galls me to think that the Victorians get down to the level of trying to chisel Queensland out of a matter of £1,500,000, which would be our legitimate entitlement over the next five years if the old formula had remained in operation. 1 repeat that we would have got £1,500,000 more under the existing formula. And the proposed new formula denies us that, under Victorian pressure!
The change in the formula will give the geographically small State of Victoria more money than will be received by Queensland, which is seven times larger than Victoria. Under the assessments quoted by the Minister yesterday, Victoria will receive under the new plan 2.3 per cent, more money than it would have got under the present plan whilst Queensland will receive 8 per cent, less under the proposed new plan than it would have got had the present plan been continued. Under the proposed new scheme, Victoria will move up from fourth place to second place in the order of disbursements, while Queensland will drop back and will receive £1,500,000 less over the five-year period than would have been the case had the present formula been retained.
One more example of the rather inexplicable attitude, if I may put it mildly and charitably, of Victoria is that the Victorian Premier, Mr. Bolte, at the last Premiers’ Conference, submitted a tax plan which, if it had been adopted, would have meant much more money for Victoria from the uniform tax pool and less money for the development of such States as Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. Surely Victoria does not want to become a dog in the manger in its relationship with the other States of the Commonwealth. The more prosperous States should be prepared, indeed eager and willing, to make some extra financial concession to the less-developed States. That is the whole spirit of federation, lt is the spirit of Australianism. But that lovely spirit is not showing up in Victorian governing circles to-day. A graceful contribution of this kind - extra financial concessions from the more prosperous States to the less-developed States - would help to cement the bonds of the federal system of government and strengthen the true Australian spirit which should apply as between the various Australian States.
I am rather disturbed at the manner in which heavy transport trucks, with great loads, are cutting up our interstate highways and main roads. My observation of such roads throughout Australia convinces me that, in the main, they are only suited to lighter motor traffic. They are entirely unsuited to these tremendous prime movers and trucks, which carry 50 tons or 60 tons of merchandise. If road maintenance is to be carried out at reasonable cost some limitation must be imposed on the size and weight of transport vehicles. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) informed us that during the next five years something of the order of £720,000,000 is to be expended on Australian roads from Commonwealth, State and local government sources. The way things are going, repairs and maintenance will absorb a considerable proportion of that sum. There is no common sense or point in sinking millions of our road funds into repairing the damage done by heavy transport, which is increasing in density every year. Every year I see more and more heavy motor vehicles on the interstate and main roads in Queensland. The point must be reached, sooner or later, when the bulk of the road moneys provided under this bill will go into repairs. When that happens, very little will be left for the construction of new roads. That is something that we have to face. In the next ten or fifteen years we could reach a point at which the whole of the money granted from Consolidated Revenue for the development of State road systems would be needed to maintain existing highways, main roads and rural roads in decent repair.
While I have these comments to make, I am bound to say that the States will receive £100,000,000 more over the next five years than would have been the case under the old arrangement. I met a man outside the chamber a while ago who told me that it would not work out that way, but at the moment I propose to accept the figures supplied by the Minister. New South Wales and Victoria will derive the main benefit from the change in the formula. Admittedly, Queensland will receive more than it would have received under the old formula, but that is true of all States. As all the States represented at the last Premiers’ Conference have accepted the new Commonwealth plan - in the case of Queensland, under strong protest - I am left with no option but to support the bill.
I understand that my colleague from Queensland, Senator Wood, proposes to move an amendment next week. The amendment has been circulated but, although I am in agreement with it, I fear it has no chance of success and that to vote for it would reflect somewhat on the Premiers who have already agreed to the plan. I therefore support the bill.
– The Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill, which is before the chamber, is the result of the repeated representations that have been made on the subject by various bodies throughout the Commonwealth - by road users themselves, by municipal bodies and so on. Generally speaking, it is a partial acknowledgment of something that has been in the minds of the people for many years, the fact that the road problem facing us is no longer one that can be palmed off as a purely State matter. It should become a national responsibility.
During the election campaign, at the end of last year, the Government and the Opposition promised that some solution would be found to the problem of national roads development. However, the legislation that is before us does not fulfil that promise on the part of the Liberal and Australian Country Parties. It simply does not meet the needs of Australia. One has only to go outside the Australian Capital Territory to any State of the Commonwealth to see the crying need that exists for better and more substantial roads. Since the war we have witnessed a tremendous increase in the number of motor vehicles using the roads. We have also seen a great increase in vehicle tonnage. We have seen grow up decentralized industries, which need transportation for their goods from the point of production to the harbours and distribution centres in the cities. Instead of seeing our roads maintained we have noted a deterioration in standards generally. That is why I feel that this measure is inadequate to meet the great and growing problem that faces Australia in this field.
Many of the relevant statistics have already been cited, but I should like in a moment to quote from a report of the roads conference held at Canberra on 12th and 13th February, 1959. Of all the bodies that are in need of substantial Commonwealth assistance, local government is foremost. Its problems are growing in intensity, but its ability to meet them is diminishing. It must compete for loans against business organizations which can skim the cream from the money market. Hire-purchase organizations have raised interest rates, and investment in that field is so attractive that local government bodies must virtually hawk their loans around. After all, the amount that they can borrow is limited.
When they get permission to borrow, we see various responsible people going to their friends and trying to find little avenues through which they may get portion of the money they require to finance their activities. The position is becoming intolerable. When all is said and done, we rely very much upon people who give their services gratuitously to town councils, shire councils and other municipal bodies for the real government of this country. Those people have a spirit of citizenship and a desire to do something for their fellow men, and they should be encouraged to the fullest extent. Instead, those very worthy people experience a feeling of frustration because they are unable to get on with the task.
What I have just said applies particularly to the provision and maintenance of roads. The cost of a first-class road to-day varies between £25,000 and £50,000 a mile. In the interests of the national economy, we are obliged to reduce as much as we can the effect of poor roads on our cost structure. It has been estimated that transport costs represent about 25 per cent, of the cost of most commodities. The difference between the operating costs of a heavy transport using a well-made bitumen or concrete road and those of a transport using an old macadam or gravel road must in the final analysis be added to the cost of commodities so transported. How can we tackle this problem of increasing costs of production? It is one of the great problems that confront us in dealing with competition on overseas markets and in dealing with our national economy. In spite of that, no concrete proposal has been advanced to arrest growing costs so that we can compete with other nations on the world’s markets. 1 should have thought that the Government, realizing its responsibility, would have started at the beginning in dealing with the problem of high costs of production. The Commonwealth is taking greater responsibility in regard to State finances. The States admitted once and for all at the recent Premiers’ Conference that for them to take back their taxing powers was impracticable. I feel quite certain that we will hear very little in the future about the States wanting to regain their taxing powers. Possibly Victoria and New South Wales will toy with the idea that they could gain something by regaining their taxing powers; but the will of the other four States, being in the majority and having the ear of the Commonwealth Government, of whatever political colour it may be, will prevail. So the Commonwealth will continue, probably in perpetuity, to be the main tax-gathering instrumentality in Australia. The States are in the position where they must advance their claims to the Commonwealth Treasury for grants and other forms of assistance to carry out the numerous activities for which they are responsible.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport, in his second-reading speech, referred to forms of transport other than road transport. I admit, of course, that harbours and aerodromes are of great importance to Australia; but by failing to make it possible for the States to embark on a programme for the widening and proper sealing of their roads, not only are we frustrating the States, but also we are failing in the task we have been given to do.
The Opposition has proposed an amendment in which it claims that it is only right that the proceeds of the petrol and diesel fuel tax should be paid to the States in toto for the purpose of road construction and maintenance. Whether there should be discriminatory taxation is perhaps debatable. The number of people who are using the roads is growing rapidly. In Tasmania, for example, transportation of people by road is gradually but surely replacing rail transport. There are only a few lines now that are carrying many passengers; the others remain in operation mainly for the transport of heavy freight. We in Tasmania have found that industries there need the subsidies that are, in effect, being paid to them. The Tasmanian Government is providing subsidies in the form of low rail freight rates for farmers, mining people, and the paper pulp and timber industries. The railways continue to operate more or less only as a means of providing cheaper transport for those industries and to enable them to keep down their costs. The withdrawal of those concessions would lead to a greater use of the roads and to those industries incurring greater costs.
Road transport is increasing, and we must face up to the challenge to put our roads on a better footing. Over the years, I have maintained that one of the essential aspects of defence is an efficient road system. Today, international relations are very delicate. Indeed, they have been so for a number of years. I can recall the warning we had in 1953 about the possibility of war at any time. The areas to our near north are unsettled. If we were obliged to put our military transports on the Australian roads and the weather was to be unfavorable, our defence forces could become completely bogged down. It is all very fine to assure people that our defences are in good order, and to put on. a display here and a display there to demonstrate the efficiency of our mobile forces; but the fact remains that our roads, which constitute the key to the efficiency of a mobile defence force, would let us down badly in an emergency.
The Commonwealth Government is not acepting its share of the responsibility for improving roads. We know that the allocation for defence purposes are used up each year. But it always seems that there is a difference of £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 between actual needs and the amount that is allocated and that towards the end of the financial year there is a rush by the defence departments to use up their allocation. How much better it would be if the various defence departments were coordinated and the surplus allocations over the years put into a fund which could be used to build strategic roads. Nothing is being done in that direction, although it would be a tremendous help, not merely to individual States, but to Australia generally. It would help to bring to reality the great dream of most forward-thinking Australian people of a massive four-lane highway from Darwin to Adelaide, or even to Perth in Western Australia. Until we have a life-line such as that, we can never feel that our defences are secure. The roads system in Australia does not give us great cause for complacency. The present proposal does not meet our needs to any great extent. It is inadequate for the reasons that costs are increasing annually and that the total allocation, which could, by round-about ways, amount to £250,000,000 over five years, is conditional upon certain requirements being met by the States.
The States, being committed to provide for education, hospitals, agricultural development, housing and other things, have only a limited amount to spend on roads. The condition which the Commonwealth insists that the States shall comply with to become entitled to the extra allocation is an indication of a cheeseparing attitude. The Government should have a vigorous, fullblooded policy and should allocate the £250,000,000 over the next five years on an equitable basis. If it were to do that, our defence preparedness would reach a reasonable level, but our roads system at the present time is laughable from the point of view of defence. If the Government were to act more generously in making money available for roads, it would help to lower transport costs - and we know what a great influence transport costs have on our general cost structure.
Such action by the Government would give Tasmania help in its efforts to encourage tourist traffic. Tasmania has a great potential as a tourist State, but some of its most beautiful places are in mountainous areas, where road construction is difficult. There are stretches of road from 70 to 100 miles in length over which one could hardly expect tourists to travel. They do travel over them, because they wish to see the beauty of the island, but when they are leaving, generally their final words are, “ What a pity it is that Tasmania has not better roads to offer to its tourists “. The Tasmanian Government realizes the need for better roads, but, of course, it is in the unfortunate position of having its hands virtually tied behind its back. Road fund allocations are conditioned on the amount of money the State can spare after providing for education, hospitals and other needs. The State finds that the total grant available to it is inadequate to enable it to meet the great demand for money for roads.
In 1955-56 the allocation for roads made to all the States was £26,000,000; in 1956-57, £30,000,000; in 1957-58, £34,000,000; and the estimated allocation for 1958-59 is £37,000,000. Let me compare those allocations with the amounts received by the Commonwealth from petrol and diesel fuel taxes during the same period. In 1955-56 the Commonwealth received £38,000,000 from fuel taxes and allocated £26,000,000 to the States. In 1956-57 it received £47,000,000 and made an allocation of £30,000,000. In 1957-58 it received £55,000,000, the allocation to the States being £34,000,000. The estimated collection of tax for 1958-59 is £60,000,000, and the estimated allocation to the States for the same period is £37,000,000.
– Whose figures are they?
– Those figures were submitted to the roads conference held at Canberra on 12th and 13th February, 1959. They are contained in a submission to the conference by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. The conference was arranged by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge).
The position of the local government authorities is desperate. The proposal contained in this bill is not only inadequate to meet the need for highways and subsidiary roads in the various States, but is also inadequate to provide, from the local government point of view, access roads to butter factories, timber areas and various other important areas within the municipalities. The Opposition, therefore, has moved an amendment, asking that the proceeds of the petrol and diesel fuel taxes be allocated to the States in full. The Opposition believes that not only should that be done, but also a new approach should be made to the problem of roads before the end of the next five-year period. The need for roads is growing. Our economy virtually runs on wheels. Unless the standard of roads can be improved and we can avoid traffic delays, and unless we can build efficient bridges and crossings over rivers that are liable to flooding, the whole of our economy will suffer.
I hope the Government will see its way clear to treat this bill as just a temporary measure. It does not honour the promises that were made in the policy speech of the Government parties before the last federal election. It does not meet the needs of the Australian people, who expect the Commonwealth Government to close the wide gap in our road construction programme. Good roads are fundamental to our economy. If we put our roads in order and pursue a vigorous policy of road construction, then the future of Australia will be assured. T. support the amendment.
– I support the bill and oppose very vigorously the amendment that has been proposed, and those that have been foreshadowed. Many honorable senators opposite who have preceded me in this debate have dwelt in the past. No matter how wonderful the past might have been, we are living in the present. Conditions have changed, and the measure now before us has taken those changed conditions into consideration. Irrespective of whether we support the Government or the Opposition, we agree on several points. The existing legislation, which will terminate on 30th June next, has been strongly criticized by Opposition senators, who have said that it has not been equitable in its application. Whether that criticism has been just or fair, I do not venture to say. The criticism has been based on two grounds, first, the formula itself - I shall deal with that aspect later - and secondly, the insufficiency of the money that has been made available for roads - that hardy old annual.
It is interesting to remember that those people who have been asking continually for more money have never advanced any concrete plan to raise the finance that they seek. Those who have been clamouring for more money forget that they were in office for a long time, finance was readily available and, according to them, the Treasury was overflowing with money. We might well ask them, “ What did you do about roads? How much money did you make available for roads? Have our roads gone to rack and ruin only in the last few years? “
– What a weak argument! We built the road from Alice Springs to Darwin.
– The honorable senator says that his Government built the road from Alice Springs to Darwin. Did his Government build it? I challenge him to prove his statement. His Government did not build that road. The honorable senator’s statement is typical of other false statement’s that have been made about his Government’s war effort.
– Senator O’Byrne did not say that we built it.
– He did.
– I meant that we had had the road built.
– The honorable senator said that his Government built the road. However, we are now agreed that his Government did not build it.
– The road was built by the Allied Works Council.
– That supports my statement that the Labour Government did not build the road. Let us try to arrive at some points of agreement on this matter. We have established the fact that the Opposition has criticized at great length the existing formula and the amount of money that has been made available for roads. We have also established the fact that the Opposition, when in office, did not build the road from Alice Springs to Darwin. Perhaps honorable senators opposite will agree with my next statement. If this measure becomes law, the new formula will operate for a period of five years. The bill also sets out the way in which the money will be allocated during that period. Quite a generous amount is involved. This Government is doing everything possible to obtain, and to provide to the States, sufficient money to allow them to undertake considerable road-building operations. The formula by which the allocations will be made to the States has been attacked by honorable senators opposite. But surely they must remember that in March last a conference was convened and State Premiers, State Ministers for Transport and Commonwealth Ministers attended.
– The States were coerced into attending.
– If honorable senators opposite have read the transcript of the proceedings of that conference they will see quite readily that the States were not coerced in any way. Opposition senators will see also that the views which they have expressed are in violent conflict with the views expressed by the Premiers and State Ministers for Transport. If any honorable senator opposite has not yet read the transcript, I suggest that he do so without delay. It is available in the library. According to the speeches that we have heard from the Opposition, I feel safe in assuming that honorable senators opposite have not availed themselves of the opportunity to read the transcript otherwise they would not be expressing the sentiments that we have heard, and they would not be quite so eager to frame amendments to the legislation. The States and the Commonwealth have agreed that the new formula is equitable and acceptable.
– I wonder who wrote the minutes of the proceedings.
– The honorable senator who has interjected has held very high office in a previous government. I should have thought that he would have known perfectly well that the minutes would be written by a responsible officer, and I am sure that he will agree - I know that perhaps he was only joking when he interjected - that, whatever political views we may hold, the minutes of such a conference would be a true and faithful record of the proceedings. The State Ministers having agreed to the formula, how can honorable senators now fairly criticize it? As we represent the States, I suppose it is true to say that all honorable senators keep in touch with the State Ministers in order to ascertain their views on various matters. I think that we should accept the matters to which the State Ministers have agreed. It is all very well for honorable senators to criticize the agreement - they have a right to do so - but I cannot see why at the same time they seek to amend an agreement made between the Premiers and the Commonwealth Government, not only as to the amount that shall be distributed, but also to the manner of distribution. This is one of the things that has puzzled me during this debate. It is a thing that I believe I have seen during this debate for the first time in this chamber.
Some honorable senators have expressed views divergent - if I may so term them - from the views that have been ou. lined by the Premiers of the States they represent, and the suggestions they have made are neither as acceptable nor as equitable as the proposed formula. 1 think it is entirely fair to say that none of the proposals that have been advanced during this debate has been as acceptable or as equitable as the formula to which the Premiers agreed. Because i may think that a formula based on distributions, two-thirds as to registration figures, and one-third as to area would be equitable and easy to put into operation, I am not going to decry a formula based on distribution, one-third as to area, one-third as to population, and one-third as to the number of motor vehicles registered.
It has been stated that the ratio between population and registrations in each State is fairly constant. Although I do not think this aspect of the matter is of very great importance, I shall appreciate any information regarding it that the Minister can furnish to me. If this ratio is fairly constant, it could be said perhaps that the formula gives a small advantage to the most populous States - New South Wales and Victoria. However, as I have said, I regard this factor as of only minor importance. I have made a few arithmetical calculations, but if one’s data is not correct he may obtain peculiar results. According to my calculations, a distribution based on two-thirds as to registration figures and one-third as to area would be practically the same as a distribution in accordance with the formula to be applied by this bill. I might say that the formula is acceptable to South Australia.
– It will give South Australia the same amount as it has been receiving.
– That is what Queensland wants to get.
– Although what Senator O’Flaherty has said may be true, that does not destroy my argument, and I think it is nice to have at least one satisfied customer! I repeat that the formula, is acceptable to South Australia, and I consider it is a feather in the Minister’s capthat it is acceptable to my State, which isthe most important State in Australia, theone that carries the most responsibility, andthe one that is held in the highest esteem by every other State. Therefore, the fact that that State is satisfied with the provisionsof the bill speaks well for that measure.
Some States claim that the distributionto them under the new formula will not beso generous as the distribution under the old agreement, and for that reason alone - they do not favour the proposed distribution. Those honorable senators who have advanced that argument in this chamber have conveniently ignored the fact that the Government has guaranteed to make a special payment to any State that may be short on the initial first-year payment. After the first year, these States will receive far larger grants than they would have received under the old formula. I know that the senators from those States will say that more money is available for distribution. According to them, the existing formula is sacrosanct and there should be no departurefrom it. They base that opinion on the fact that one aspect of the existing formula is being retained. I think that is a fair statement of their argument. On the sameline of reasoning - if one part of the agreement is not altered, the formula as a whole should not be altered - the amount of money to be distributed should remain constant. But one can well imagine the wails and the cries that would go up to high heaven if no increase of the amount of money to be distributed were proposed. At least, we should maintain a consistent approach tothe matter.
Any money that is distributed to the States for road purposes should be expended’ wisely and well. I know that opinions differ on whether all the money that has been allotted to the States for roads in the past has been well applied. I doubt whether the States could utilize more money for roads to the best advantage if it were possible to give them bigger grants at thepresent time. I have not heard one honorable senator opposite suggest how money for roads could be spent to the best advantage, nor have I heard it suggested that theState authorities have been crippled through- lack of money. Honorable senators opposite have spoken in airy-fairy terms. Some of them are supposed to be hard-headed businessmen, and they all are supposed to be practical men. Why do they not let us know their ideas and their views? If they were to say in plain terms what they think should be done to improve the roads, I would be prepared to listen to them.
Reference has been made to the need for a national roads plan. That is an excellent idea. I hope that even I could get to my feet and make a speech on that subject. But a national roads plan cannot stand in splendid isolation. In my view, such a plan must be incorporated in a national plan affecting transport generally - road, rail, sea and air transport. We know that this Government has embarked on the work of unification of railway gauges, which will involve the expenditure of enormous sums of money and tax our man-power and equipment resources. We cannot be generous towards one form of transport and starve the others. When honorable senators opposite speak of the huge sums of money that the Government ought to provide for road works, they fail to consider the money that is needed for such things as unification of railway gauges.
It is well known that we are now spending large sums of money to improve our harbour installations, the approaches to the harbours, and the wharfs. The quicker turn-round of ships is a desirable objective, but that can only be achieved if we have on our wharfs better equipment and improved methods of loading and unloading ships. I think that this Government is to be commended for the successful way in which outgoing and incoming sea freight is now being handled. The fact that we have had very little trouble on the waterfront during the last year or two speaks volumes for what the Government is doing. “We all know that each time there is a hold-up or a stoppage that affects any of our forms of transport, the cost of goods rises. Senator O’Byrne made a very moving appeal this afternoon for a reduction of costs in this country. My opinion is that sea transport is perhaps the cheapest form of transport.
As I have said, the Government is to be commended for its efforts to reduce the cost of sea transport. I think that all honorable senators will agree that much of the freight at present transported by road could well be transported by sea or rail. One of our transport problems arises from the unfair use, if I may put it that way, of our roads for the purpose of transporting freight which, in my opinion, should be carried either by rail or by sea. I believe firmly that our railways have a very important part to play in our transport system, and I hope to be able to deal with this subject at a later date.
Honorable senators opposite have claimed that the total revenue derived from the petrol tax and the diesel fuel tax should be paid to the States for roads purposes. On the face of it, that seems to be a very good idea. We know that all taxes are paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund and that payments are made from that fund for various purposes. But supposing that the revenue from the petrol tax and the diesel fuel tax should fall, which is not improbable. What then? The States would receive so much less money for roads, but it might be that our economy was then not so buoyant as it is to-day and that conditions required a great deal more money to be spent on roads and the transport system generally to provide useful and gainful employment for our workers. We hear a great deal from the Opposition about employment and unemployment. That is an aspect of this matter which they might consider. Under the guarantee scheme proposed by this legislation, each State will know the amount that it is to receive for roads. Each year, for the next five years, the amount will increase progressively. I believe that it is much better from the point of view of the States, that the allocation for roads should be made from general revenue.
If we examine the relevant figures, we find that the Commonwealth to-day returns to the States practically all of the revenue from the petrol tax and the diesel fuel tax. Again, I wish to refer to the position that obtained when Labour was in office. The Labour Government gave to the States for road construction and maintenance barely 40 per cent, of the revenue collected from those taxes. That government collected lOd. a gallon by way of customs duty on petrol, and 8id. a gallon by way of excise. It returned to the States 3d. a gallon and 2id. a gallon, respectively. The Jeremiahs opposite now say. “We want it all.” They apparently have adopted as their motto, “ What we have we hold “. The Labour Government collected £17,516,000 a year from those two taxes and generously returned to the States £7,101,000, or not quite 40 per cent. To-day, the Commonwealth returns to the States well over 80 per cent. Perhaps honorable senators opposite do not know the difference between 40 per cent, and 80 per cent.
– Forty per cent.
– I appreciate that if we were speaking in terms of the value of gold dust some honorable senators opposite have a very good knowledge of that subject, and I should be most happy to accept their word. This morning, Senator Armstrong referred to the roads in Europe - to those in Germany in particular.
– Tt was a brilliant speech.
– I am not denying that it might have been a very good speech, but it is difficult to compare Australian transport conditions with those of Europe. However correct his remarks about the European transport conditions might be, I challenge his statement that, in order to give a percentage increase equal to the increase from £17,000,000 in 1953-54 to £38,000,000 in 1958-59 expressed as a percentage, the Commonwealth would have to make available to the States almost £80,000,000 in 1963-64, the last year in the next five-year period. When he was pressed to explain how he arrived at that conclusion, he did not answer. Does the honorable senator advocate an increase in the tax on petrol and on diesel oil in order to obtain this £80,000,000? I shall be most interested to know how he arrives at that figure, and how he suggests the money should be obtained. I ask these questions because I well remember his scathing criticism - I thought it unfair - at the time when a bill was introduced to impose a tax on diesel oil. T ask him to recall the words he used on that occasion; and I repeat that I shall be interested to hear how he suggests that this £80,000,000 be raised. If it is to be by an increase of petrol tax and diesel oil tax, then an extra burden will have to be borne by the people of Australia.
I should like more information from the Minister relating to the matching grants that are to be made available. It is proposed that they shall rise progressively, from a total of £2,000,000 to a total of £10,000,000 in the period, and there are one or two points about which I am not clear. For instance, is the money to be payable in advance to the States, so that if, in any one year, a State does not take up the full amount of the matching grant, there will be a deduction from the amount to be made available in the following year? Am I to take it that, of the £2,000,000 for the first year, the amount to be made available to each State is to be based upon the formula that will be applicable to the distribution of the £40,000,000 in the first year? If one State does not take up the full amount, can any of the balance be allocated to another State? Further, if a State is not able to utilize the matching grant in one year, can the amount it could have had be carried forward to the next year s» that in that year it might use its normal quota plus the amount of carry-over from the previous year?
I was very interested in what Senator Scott said last night about matching Interests. He pointed out that in Western Australia, of every £1 of matching grant spent, a local authority would spend 5s., the State Government 5s., and the Commonwealth Government 10s. That seems to me to be really good business because, under that scheme, a State could collect 15s. - 5s. from the local authority and 10s. from the Commonwealth Government - for every 5s. it spent.
I was also interested to read some of the remarks made by the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Nicklin, and to compare them with what was said by Senator Maher this afternoon. I shall listen also with interest to what Senator Wood says on this matter. When I listened to Senator Maher, I remembered some of the statements Mr. Nicklin had made and I wondered at the contradictions. Perhaps Mr. Nicklin was a little overawed at attending a Premiers’ Conference for the first time, but he did say that one of his problems was to expend 40 per cent, of the money on rural roads. He asked that this requirement be reduced to 30 per cent, because some of the feeder roads in Queensland were being sealed” whereas some of his main roads were still surfaced with, macadam. As L am not conversant with what are called main highways, gazetted roads and so on in. Queensland, I do not feel competent to offer any criticism on this matter, but I do know that the Commonwealth Government assured Mr. Nicklin that if he wanted to spend more of this money on other than rural roads, it would be quite prepared to allow him to do so. It is strange that, after Mr. Nicklin had put up the suggestion and received approval of it, Queensland representatives in the Senate now ask for more money for rural roads in their State. I mention this to illustrate the contradiction between the statements of the Premier of Queensland and those of some of the honorable senators from Queensland who have spoken to this measure. The arguments concerning the adoption of a national point of view are always intriguing. When Victoria and New South Wales said, “ We think the money ought to be distributed in a slightly different way “, they were called small Australians. When the process is reversed and an equitable distribution is arrived at we are told that the other States are suffering hardship, that a national outlook is absent. I hope that we in this Parliament at least can have a national outlook. I mentioned earlier that South Australia was satisfied. Perhaps that puts us in the category of having a national outlook, and gives us a better opportunity to evaluate the arguments put forward by other States.
– We can look at both sides of the question now.
– That is true, and we do indeed look at both sides of the question. I hope that we can be excused from the charge that certain people are looking at this matter in a biased fashion.
– You are unbiased as long as you get what you want?
– Perhaps that is true, but I would give the honorable senator a word of advice. I have found over the years that you can often get what you want if you let the other fellow think that he is getting his own way. I would suggest to some honorable senators who have criticized this measure rather unfairly that with a little tact they could get some of the things that they desire.
I was delighted to hean the Minister for Shipping, and. Transport (Senator Paltridge) say -
Roads are but one part of the transport problem generally. There is also much- scope for improvement in railways and in our port and harbour facilities. Civil aviation also has large requirements ahead. 1 am glad that the Minister has taken those matters into consideration. He also stated -
But the main responsibility for the construction and maintenance of roads, and for the administration of roads matters, lies with the State governments and with local and municipal authorities.
No one would quarrel with that. The Minister continued: -
These bodies have very considerable resources of their own available for roads purposes, ami these resources are capable of substantial increase. [ should like the Minister to give me some information concerning what he believes to be the resources available to the States for roads purposes. The Minister went on to say that they were capable of being increased substantially. I agree with his observation that the Commonwealth considers its main role to be the provision of finance to supplement that of the States and local authorities. I think we must be fair and say that the State governments have been given very few instructions as to how the money shall be spent. I think that is admirable. The States, are doing an excellent job with the money available to them. I am not one of those who believes that our roads are so terrible. 1 know that they can be improved, but my main concern is that so much of the traffic that is going over them should not be on them at all. If we can get a standard gauge railway round Australia that condition of affairs may be relieved.
We have seen what has happened in the western States. Senator Cooke has told us of the possibilities of the pick-a-back system of freighting heavy road vehicles by rail between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta. I congratulate him on his remarks, but I am sorry to see that my word of praise is wasted - I seem to have lulled him to sleep. Many goods now transported by road should travel by rail. Nothing worries me more than to see streams of heavy transports on the roads at all hours of the night, for their drivers must be tired and operating at less than peak efficiency. If those transports could be put on rail at, say, Adelaide, they could be taken to Sydney in 17 hours, given an effective standard gauge line. I visualize that state of affairs coming about in the comparatively near future. It would certainly solve many of our road problems.
I support the bill, which I consider to be excellent. I commend the Minister upon his suggestions, and also upon the proposals that he has outlined. 1 reject, with all the force at my disposal, the amendments to the bill that have been moved and foreshadowed.
.- 1 rise mainly for the purpose of showing that I have not been overawed by the fiery Western Australian patriotism of Sena’.or Robertson or the equally glowing loyalty to Queensland of Senator Maher. 1 want to strike a blow for the State of Victoria. May I, in adopting a very broad, national outlook, say that I feel hurt to think that, the efforts of the State of Victoria, in subsidizing the roads systems, the railways systems, the hospital systems, and the education systems of a number of other States for more than 20 years have been met with so much ingratitude. I see no reason at all why Victoria should apologize for seeking a fairer distribution of the money which the Commonwealth makes available for work on roads. Victoria’s attitude has no. been narrow or party political. In recent years, I. have attended gatherings at which a Country Party Premier, Mr. McDonald, has said that Victoria was not getting a fair deal. Later a Labour Premier, the late John Cain, repeated those words. They have now been echoed by a Liberal Premier in the person of Mr. Bolte. In recent years, Victoria has not received a fair deal in the distribution of money for roads purposes. When she asks for a fairer deal - and a fairer deal is envisaged in the bill - she does not do so for any captious reason, because she is jealous of other States, or because she does not want them to have what they should have, but because Victorian roads are in such a condition that more money is needed to maintain them. I have been in some of the smaller States; I envy them for the roads they have. I wish we in Victoria had the roads that Western Australia has. Therefore. I say that the people of Victoria, having been unfairly treated for years past, are entitled to every additional penny they will get under the new agreement.
– You need it for maintenance; we need it for construction. There is a big difference.
– Whether the money is needed for maintenance or construction, Victoria must have more money. We in Victoria are committed to an economy in which, we are told, there is to be a big development of our secondary industries. If we want to develop secondary industries, we must have good roads; but Victoria’s roads system is not doing justice to the development that is being called lor.
I do not suggest that I am satisfied with this bill. I think that, to do anything adequate for the roads of Australia, a lot more money will be needed. For that reason, I propose to support, as a better expedient, the amendment moved by Senator Willesee. Indeed, what he has suggested accords with the policy of the Democratic Labour Part’ - that is, that the full amount of the proceeds of the petrol and diesel fuel taxes should be granted to the States for expenditure by them and by municipalities and shires on and in connexion with roads. Even if we spent all those proceeds on roads, we still would not be spending as much as is needed to put our roads in satisfactory order. I point to the fact that the key road in this country - the road between Sydney and Melbourne - was blocked for weeks only a year or two ago. That indicates that road development is not keeping up with our progress in other directions. I do not suggest for one moment that the people of Victoria are antagonistic towards the development of other States, as Senator Maher suggested in his speech.
– We carried them on our backs for years.
– The honorable senator will not be on my side quite so much in a few minutes’ time. Victoria is just as patriotic as is any other State and is just as eager to see this nation develop as it should. The people of Victoria do not object to paying extra money for their sugar so that Queensland can be developed. They strongly supported the spending of huge sums of money on the railway line that connects Western Australia with the eastern States, and they will support the spending of more money to put that line in a better condition than it is at the moment. They have no objection to subsidizing intrastate shipping in Western Australia, and they will not object to the payment of the gold bonus which obviously will assist mainly a section of Western Australia. When 1 spoke recently on the Northern Territory (Administration) Bill, I said I hoped that a large proportion of the money available for development in the years to come would be spent in the northern areas of Western Australia. Queensland and the Northern Territory.
However, the people of Victoria are in a desperate situation in respect of their roads. They must have a fairer deal; they must have more money. 1 am glad that the Government intends to give them some more, but 1 still think it is not enough. The injustice with which Victoria has been treated goes a long way further back than the question of roads finance. Ever since the inception of uniform taxation, Victoria has received a grossly unfair deal.
– Hear, hear! They won’t like that!
– I regret to have to inform Senator Wade that the unfair deal that Victoria has received was largely because of the withholding of social services by Country Party governments in the thirties. The withholding of those social services was connived at, to a large extent, by the Liberal Party. In order to gain for Victoria the reputation of being a sound finance State and to ensure that in that State taxation would be low enough to attract the head-quarters of the big industrial companies, the conservative parties starved the education service, starved the hospital services and starved the people of social service benefits. When uniform taxation was introduced and a grants formula was determined, that formula was’ based to a large extent on expenditure within the States on social services. Victoria was penalized because of the starvation of the people of social service benefits by Liberal and Country Party governments in earlier years. Ever since the introduction of uniform taxation the people of Victoria have been philanthropists who have contributed unwillingly all kinds of benefits to other States. They have not contributed only to the small States. New South Wales received a deal to which she was not entitled simply because, as 1 said before, the formula militated against the interests of the Victorian people.
Any move to ensure that Victoria gets a better deal under uniform taxation and a better deal in regard to roads will have my support. I am pleased to see that already we seem to have advanced a stage further towards obtaining justice in respect of roads. I hope we will advance even further in the years to come. 1 believe that Senator Willesee’s amendment, so far as it provides that all the proceeds of the petro] and diesel fuel taxes shall be used for roads purposes, is a good one. The amount of money envisaged in the bill will do little more than maintain the present roads situation. 1 am amazed at the fact that some of the Victorian roads over which I have travelled in recent years have stood up to heavy traffic, but I expect there will be serious trouble in the near future. When we talk about great advancement, great progress and great development, I think we are talking foolishly if we envisage that state of affairs without having first provided adequate means of communication. I do not suppose there is an honorable senator who has not received from municipalities communications pointing out that their position in regard to roads is desperate. That applies not only to Victoria, but to every State in the Commonwealth. They are all in a desperate situation, attempting to cope with the roads problem in a period when costs are rising and when there are so many other activities into which municipalities are called upon to enter. Whether we like it or not, the Commonwealth will have to provide far more money for our roads in the near future than is envisaged in this bill.
We must have that money for defence and development purposes. Any one who looks at our roads system cannot be happy about its value to our defence. The necessity to build strategic roads in a number of areas is becoming greater every month. I hope, therefore, that the Government will consider further the necessity to make more money available for roads, and that it will admit the undoubted fact that all that we have been doing over the past ten years has been to maintain the roads that we have. Very little advancement has taken place, and we will face a crisis before very long.
Victoria has a very good rainfall, and frequently experiences floods. I suppose that from the point of view of some other areas, those floods cannot be regarded as very serious. However, not so long ago floods caused a tremendous amount of damage to Victorian roads, mainly because the roads were not in a fit condition to bear any serious stresses or strains. They are deteriorating every day. I repeat that Victoria’s position is such that it has been forced to seek an increased grant for its roads system. Victoria knows that without such a grant, it would be almost impossible to carry on the development of the State.
In conclusion, I say that although it is well for us to look at things from a national point of view - I hope that I endeavour to look at things from a national point of view on every occasion - this is, as other honorable senators have said, also a States House. I have noticed in the press recently some comments to the effect that the Senate functions as a party House, not as a States House. Some newspapers have said that it is wrong that the Senate should function as a party House. On a matter such as this, one can see the State alinement of speakers. In some respects, I think that this is by no means a bad thing. I can understand other honorable senators putting forward a case for their States, but I appeal to them to consider the sums of money that have been made available over the years to the various States under the uniform taxation system.
I suggest that they examine the amount that Victoria has received in comparison with the amount it has put in. If they do that, they will come to the conclusion that Victoria certainly has not been adopting a narrow or parochial attitude, but that, on the contrary, it has made a considerable contribution to the welfare of the other States of the Commonwealth. The figures speak for themselves.
I have never found anybody who could show adequately that Victoria was receiving anything like justice from the uniform taxation system. As one who suffered in employment in the Victorian Government’s education service, and as one who saw the extent to which the children of Victoria suffered because the State did not receive the grants that it should have received, I say that the Victorian people have had a legitimate grievance over the years. I personally welcome anything that this bill will do to remove even a portion of that grievance. I hope that other honorable senators will be fair-minded enough to refrain from saying that Victoria is not adopting a national viewpoint. I hope that they will be fair-minded enough to look at the figures of pounds, shillings and pence, because if they do, any sense of grievance they may feel against Victoria will disappear.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wood) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 4.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 May 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19590507_senate_23_s14/>.