23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Education Bill 1959.
Australian Universities Commission Bill 1959.
Australian Capital Territory Representation Bill 1959.
– I direct my ques tion to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the various newspaper reports to the effect that Russian troops have entered Afghanistan, will the Minister inform the Senate of, first, the facts so far as he knows them, and secondly, his opinion as to the effect of the reported entry into Afghanistan upon future relations between the Soviet Union and the Western powers.
– The only reply that I can give to that important question is that the Government has no information on the subject of the newspaper reports to which the honorable senator has referred. The Government does not know whether the newspaper reports are correct or not.
– I preface my question to you, Mr. President, by stating that to-day we have a large number of visitors in the galleries. When you entered the chamber and read the usual prayers at the opening of the day’s proceedings, I noticed that while the visitors downstairs stood, those in the upstairs galleries’ did not do so. I am sure the people in the upstairs galleries did not intend any disrespect to you, Sir, and that their failure to stand arose from ignorance of the procedure. I ask whether a notice can be posted in the upstairs galleries informing visitors that the usual custom is to stand while the prayers are being read.
-I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable senator and take the appropriate action. -
– The question thatI shall direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Health relates to supplies of anti-influenza vaccine. On Monday, in the Adelaide press, there appeared a statement, which was attributed to the Minister, to the effect that considerable supplies of antiinfluenza vaccine were available in Australia for people who wished to be inoculated. But according to an article in this morning’s press, two leading drug houses were reported to have denied last night that adequate supplies of anti-influenza vaccine produced by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Melbourne were available in Adelaide. Will the Minister kindly inquire into this matter, as the report in to-day’s press appears to be a direct contradiction of his earlier statement?
– There apparently is a conflict. As the statement I made was one that had been supplied to me by the Minister for Health, I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to him and obtain an answer.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service the following questions: - Is the Minister aware that Messrs. F. J. and D. V. Hursey are now re-employed on the Hobart waterfront? Is it not a fact that the Hurseys obtained a doctor’s certificate late in 1958 showing that they were both suffering from nervous depression and consequently they were unable to perform the normal work of a waterside worker? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether or not the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority permitted the Hurseys to return to the Hobart waterfront without first having obtained a doctor’s certificate showing that they were fit to resume their occupations as waterside workers? Can the Minister advise why the Hurseys were rostered for work when the Hobart waterfront was experiencing a period of considerable unemployment? Is the Minister aware that the quota for the Port of Hobart is approximately 800, but at the present time, due to the fruit season, there are approximately 935 waterside workers available for work at that port? In view of. the unemployment now existing on. the
Hobart waterfront, and the fact that labour in the port is in excess of the normal quota, why were the Hurseys returned to the roster?
– 1 am aware that the Hurseys are working on the waterfront in Tasmania. My understanding of the position is that the Hurseys were registered for work with the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority up to and including part of the hearing of their case against the Waterside Workers Federation on the ground that that federation, under Communist domination, was attempting to interfere with their right of employment on the wharfs. During the hearing of the case, I understand, an arrangement was entered into between the A.S.I.A. and the Hurseys, through their legal adviser, that until the completion of that case and the judgment had come down the Hurseys were granted leave from having to appear for work each day. Since that time the Hurseys have applied to the A.S.I.A. for work on the waterfront and the authority has obtained from them the indication that they wish to be employed, as previously, in that occupation. Consequently they have resumed the right that they have always had, to earn their living on the waterfront as they were doing before they were attacked by the Communist-dominated Waterside Workers Federation for the free expression of their opinions.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that a party of English engineering consultants will arrive in Adelaide within a month for preliminary discussions with the South Australian Electricity Trust concerning its £12,000,000 plan to generate power from sea water? Is any Commonwealth aid to be given to this work? Will the Minister consider conferring with these visiting consultants about this matter and the possible application of generating electric power from sea water in Western Australia?
– I have no knowledge of the visit of consultants from overseas, to which Senator Robertson has referred. It is not strange that I should lack knowledge of the matter, because it involves a normal transaction concerning the South Australian Government. That
Government, in common with all other State governments, has the responsibility of providing for its power requirements. It is entirely a matter for the South Australian Government whether it erects a thermal power station, an atomic station, or a tidewater station. I read with a great deal of interest the statement of the South Australian Premier about the use of water power in conjunction with a pumping station. If it is at all practicable, I shall arrange for officers of my department to have a talk with these people from overseas, so that my officers will be as knowledgeable in the nutter as is possible. The honorable senator has asked whether such a scheme would be suitable for Western Australia. The principle that applies in the case of South Australia applies also to’ Western Australia - that is to say, the making of a decision is basically a matter for the Western Australian Government.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport: Is it a fact that an increase of freights in the Australian coastal shipping trade has been announced by private interests? Is it also a fact that the Australian National Line has decided to make, or is contemplating, a similar increase of freights? Would such an increase by the Australian National Line require the approval of the Minister? If so, will he give an undertaking to the Senate that it will not be approved?
– It is a fact that the private shipping interests have announced a number of variations in their freight rates. Some of those variations involve increases and some involve decreases, but, on balance, the result will be an increase of revenue to the private shipowners. The Australian National Line either does not operate, or does not operate to any extent, in the cargoes and the trades which are affected. Freight rates are kept continually under survey by the National Line. Although there is, as I think must be agreed, a constant and not unsuccessful endeavour to prevent shipping freights from rising - there has not been a rise for something over two years now - I cannot give to the honorable senator the categorical assurance that he seeks, that freights will not be increased.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration whether he has seen the report in the Sydney “Sun-Herald” of 10th May that the mother of a child migrant aged eight years is seeking to have the child returned to England to her. The child was sent to Australia without her knowledge by the father, who has deserted her, and from whom she is now divorced. As the mother is now in a position to provide a home for the boy, in a search for whom she spent all her money, the mother is now appealing for help in obtaining £100 which the Australian authorities have told her is necessary to pay the child’s return fare to England. In view of the circumstances in this case, will the Minister give consideration to having this child’s fare to England paid by the Australian immigration authorities so that the child and its mother may be re-united in the near future? Approval has already been given to the child’s being returned to England. Or perhaps the Minister can put him in his case on Friday and take him along with him when he goes to England.
– The honorable senator often raises these special cases which can be dealt with only by the Minister himself and which perhaps require the exercise of ministerial discretion. I do not think they are cases which should be posed to the Senate; the matters should be submitted direct to the Minister for Immigration. If the honorable senator will put the question on the noticepaper, I shall submit it to the Minister for Immigration and get an answer for her as soon as possible.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that in many country centres of Australia wouldbe telephone subscribers are required to erect and maintain many miles of communication lines themselves? Is it a fact that on completion of installation a charge of 4s. for three minutes’ conversation is made? Will the Postmaster-General review charges for telephone calls made over lines provided and maintained by the subscriber with a view to reducing the charge or extending the time at present allowed?
– I cannot answer the first part of the honorable senator’s question now, and I point out that the question of costs is a matter which needs to be considered when the Budget is being prepared each year. It is impossible for the Postmaster-General to review telephone charges at the present time because any alterations made in connexion with certain calls could have an impact upon the costs of all calls throughout Australia. If the honorable senator will communicate direct with the PostmasterGeneral, it is possible that he will look at all the circumstances with a view to arranging for a reduction when the next Budget is being prepared.
– By way of preface to a question directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, I mention that the Minister doubtless recalls the discussion, as a matter of urgency, on the adjournment last Wednesday night concerning the proposed reduction in available radio frequencies for radio amateurs. The Minister undertook to bring the matter promptly before the Postmaster-General. Assuming that he has done so, has he anything to report to the Senate on this important matter?
– As promised, I saw the Postmaster-General on this matter. He made a statement upon it in the House on the Thursday night and the statement is recorded in “ Hansard “. Unfortunately, the Postmaster-General is ill to-day and I have not been able to contact him. However, I have endeavoured to arrange for an officer of the department to see the honorable senators who made representations in the matter, and I shall look further into that possibility also.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for National Development, relates to a newspaper report that large deposits of low-grade uranium have recently been discovered in the Kimberley area of Western Australia. Can the Minister advise me whether there is any significance in the report? If so, can he say whether the Bureau of Mineral
Resources had anything to do with the discovery, ,and whether the bureau is still actively engaged in the search for uranium ore in Australia?
– I did not see the “newspaper report to which Senator Scott refers. 1 do know that there are prospects of finding what might be a large low-grade uranium deposit in the vicinity of Hall’s Creek. As yet the deposit has not been fully explored, and perhaps when we are considering ‘its potential value at this stage the proper term to use is “ anticipation “ rather than “ expectation “. I repeat, the deposit has not yet been drilled. It has not yet been properly “ evaluated. I have a recollection that the bureau proposes to prospect it further, as part of the coming year’s programme, in association with the company holding the mining rights to the area - the United Uranium Company. That company also holds the rights to the Alligator River deposits. My recollection is that at present negotiations are in train between the company and the department with a view to evolving a method of further prospecting this particular deposit.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice-^
– The Minister for the Interior has now furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– I must first state that it is not possible, without a considerable amount of work and expense, to state the decisions on applications for pension and/ or medical treatment lodged during any particular period. I am sure the honorable senator will appreciate that at the termination of any particular period there must be a number of applications which have not been decided. Subject to the above, the answers to the questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, . upon notice -
Minister for the Interior has now furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice- …..
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following information: -
I would add, Sir, that it is not only difficult but impossible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has furnished the following replies: -
[3.33]. - I lay on the table the following paper: -
Extension of Television Services - Statement by the Postmaster-General. and move -
That the paper be printed.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954.
Tractors exceeding 10 belt pulley horse-power.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Sandford be granted leave of absence for one month on account of absence overseas.
Debate resumed from 7th May (vide page 1306), 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 “.
– I speak to this measure with a great deal of regret because, after so many years, the Government has seen fit to alter the formula by which money has been distributed to the States for road construction and maintenance. The proposed new formula will be detrimental to my own State of Queensland. There is no question that certain influences have been at work, and the new formula is the result. Although the Premier of Queensland has been reported as agreeing at the last Premiers’ Conference to the altered basis of distribution, my view of the legislation remains unaltered. I speak as a Queenslander. As all honorable senators probably know, the Premier and the Treasurer of Queensland who attended the conference are virtually new appointees to office and, while both are very gentlemanly, they possibly do not realize that one has to fight to make an impression upon the federal authorities concerned. The Premier and the Treasurer, knowing that Queensland has been loyal to the Commonwealth Government for so long, probably felt that they did not have to fight on this particular issue. But the loyalty of a State to the Commonwealth Government does not count for very much, and the gentlemen to whom I have referred were not war-like enough to make any headway in their attempt to have the existing formula retained. In addition, knowing that the new formula had been decided upon, they probably felt that it was useless to argue. We all know that the Commonwealth Government controls the Commonwealth’s purse and adopts the attitude of “ take it or leave it “ when dealing with the States. Unfortunate as it may seem, we have reached that stage in Commonwealth-State relations. The Commonwealth is trying to whittle away the authority of the States, intrude into their affairs and more or less dictate to them.
The Treasurer of Queensland is reported to have made certain statements at a Liberal
Party convention in Brisbane recently, at which I was not present, and the Commonwealth Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) is reported to have made certain replies. The following passage appears on page 5 of the Commonwealth Treasurer’s statement -
On this matter of roads the Premier of Queensland observed that while the total amount provided under the plan by the Commonwealth represented a real improvement as to the total amount of the fee, he thought that the proposed distribution of future grants was open to question.
Knowing Mr. Nicklin, the passage that 1 have just read indicates that the plan was not satisfactory to Queensland. The statement continues -
He spoke at some length on this issue and said that Queensland would prefer the existing distribution formula to be retained.
As all honorable senators know, that formula was on the basis of three-fifths population and two-fifths area. Because Queensland is such a large State, she received a bigger share of the annual grant under the old formula than she will under the proposed new scheme. The Commonwealth Government has stated that it will be distributing more money in the future than it has in the past - very shrewd tactics. Queensland can be forgiven for saying, “ We will receive more than we have received in the past “. That could be true, but the basis of distribution has been altered. Had the Commonwealth Government allowed the old formula to continue, Queensland would receive £1,400,000 more next year than she will under the new arrangement. That is the kernel of this debate.
The measure before us is a blow to Queensland which requires money for road development more urgently than most of the States. A considerable portion of Queensland is in the sub-tropical and tropical regions and, particularly along the coast, is subjected to torrential rains and monsoons. Last year in my own district a fall of 90 inches was recorded in one week on the range 50 miles from the coast. The rivers were swollen and road and rail bridges were swept away. A similar rainfall was recorded in the following month with similar results. That is one of the problems facing Queensland in its efforts to develop a satisfactory road system.
– Does not the Commonwealth Government subsidize the State
Government on a £l-for-£l basis to meet the cost of repairs necessary as a result of such occurrences?
– I do not think the Commonwealth Government assisted Queensland on the occasions to which I have referred.
– The honorable senator should check his facts.
– The Commonwealth Government has not been very generous in its treatment of Queensland during the time that 1 have been a member of this chamber. That is one of the arguments that the Queensland Government has had with the federal authorities. For the reason I have mentioned, the roads in Queensland arc subject more to erosion and damage than are the roads in the south. I know that floods occur elsewhere in the Commonwealth, but other parts of Australia are not subject to the sudden, heavy deluges that we get in Queensland, which frequently necessitate the replacement of roads and bridges by stronger constructions than those of the roads and bridges destroyed. Apart from the fact that Queensland is a big State, I think the factors I have mentioned should also have been taken into consideration in evolving the new formula. The Government has dealt Queensland a very severe blow by placing it on a less advantageous basis than formerly.
It has been said that the States are unable to spend all the money allocated for road purposes. I believe that the States have that ability. Of course, in some instances the money is not spent as quickly as might be hoped, such as when bridges have to be replaced or strengthened. As we know, it takes time to assemble the necessary timber and equipment for these jobs. I assure the Senate that if more money is given to Queensland for road purposes, that State will go flat out on the construction of roads for the carrying on of the business of the country and for the enjoyment of its people. 1 should have thought that the factors of population and motor car registrations were not so important in establishing a basis of distribution of money for road purposes as the importance that has been attached to them in this measure. I know that the percentage might vary slightly, but generally speaking” the -ratio between1- population and’ motor vehicle registration figures remains constant. The bill provides for the distribution of money for roads, twothirds as’ to population and one-third as to area. I think that is a most unfair basis. Surely to goodness the most important considerations are not population and the number of motor cars. The principal objective must be to provide services to the nation as a whole. Does any one suggest that if Australia were not divided into States the people in the part of Australia known as Victoria would want all the money for roads spent around Melbourne? We must consider this matter from a truly national point of view. As I say, if there were no States and the people who are living in the present capital cities wanted all the money available for roads spent around those cities they would cause an upheaval among the people living in the country districts. Why should the fact that we have States be detrimental from a roads point of view to the people who live in country areas? The people who live in sparsely populated areas are vitally important to this country. As one who has been interested in local government for many years - particularly as a member of the Australian Council of Local Government bodies - I give credit to the Chifley Government, which was the first Australian Government to give grants to local governing bodies, through the State governments, for the development of sparsely populated areas. The present Government changed that policy when it introduced the Commonwealth aid roads legislation. I emphasize the fact that the people who live in the far distant regions and produce the wealth of this country are deserving of at least as much consideration as those who live in the more populous centres.
As I said before, I consider that the most important factor is the development of the economy of this country - in which the people living in distant regions play a vital part - rather than population and numbers of motor cars as a basis for the distribution of the money for roads. I should have thought that greater consideration would have been given to the people living in country districts, having regard to the wealth that they produce. Reference has been made to. Queensland’s export income; which enables a ‘consider* able quantity of goods to be imported into this country. Surely that is a very “important thing. It assists our balance of payments position overseas, which is as important to-day as it has ever been, despite the fact that wool prices were temporarily depressed.
– Queensland’s export income assists the Victorian manufacturers to import the items they need.
– That is so. Ever since I have been a member of the Senate I have stressed the importance of maintaining our export earnings. As Senator Courtice has said, Queensland’s export earnings assist the manufacturers, not only in Victoria but in the other States as well, to buy overseas modern machinery and materials they need to increase production in this country, by means of which they increase their wealth. Now those people turn round and say that they want a greater share of the available money for roads, at the expense of those who produce the real wealth in this country, the people in the far distant country areas. As Queensland is a predominantly rural State, which earns a large amount of export income, one would not have expected that it would be prejudiced to the extent it has been by this re-arrangement. If this Government had paid due regard to this important factor, it would have seen that Queensland got a fairer deal than it will get under the new distribution formula.
To suggest that the people living in the cities are more important to the nation than those who live in the country districts is ridiculous. I understand that about 10,000 people live within one square mile at King’s Cross in Sydney. Do you think that those 10,000 people are as vital to this country as are the thousands of people living in the rural areas who are producing real wealth? I do not think they are. They do play a part; but the people living in the distant regions play their part not only from the point of view of export earnings, but in the internal development of Australia. I do not think it is to the credit of the Government to suggest that the people living in the cities are more entitled to good roads than the people in the country districts. Yet that is a startling result of the formula that has been worked out by this Government.
Lastweek, Senator Anderson said that the provisions of the bill would assistthe establishment of expressways and overcome other problems connected with roads that are faced by the larger cities. I remind the honorable senator that the necessity for providing good roads is constantly before local government bodies, and their problem is one of finance. I have no doubt in my mind that the change in formula has been due mainly to the Victorian influence in this Government.
– Do not flatter us.
– I think that is a very dangerous thing from a national point of view. It is interesting to note that prior to the Premiers’ Conference the State Ministers for Transport had a conference here. The Minister for Main Roads, Development and Mines in Queensland, the Honorable Ernest Evans, told me that he had heard from the New South Wales and Victorian Ministers that there was to be an increase of allocations for roads in those States. He said he knew nothing about it. I asked our Minister whether there was to be this big increase and he shook his head. Our Minister did not know anything about the matter but, strangely enough, when I visited Melbourne the following week-end I read in the Victorian newspapers a full report of the proposed change and the new set-up. Yet Senator Wade tries to tell me that no Victorian influence was brought to bear in this matter. That is too much of a coincidence. It indicates to me very clearly the source of the influence, and the origin of the information that was given outside the Federal Parliament.
– I do not like the word “influence”.
– It is the correct word to use, anyhow.
– It is most unacceptable to Victorians.
– Substitute “ pressure “.
– Yes. “ Pressure “ might be a more suitable word. In regard to the alteration of the basis of distribution, I am rather amazed by the change of thinking on the part of the Government. In 1954, when the Parliament was discussing a roads bill, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said -
But. once again, a majority of the Premiers indicated that they were perfectly satisfied with this method of. distribution. The only Premier who voiced opposition to it was the Premier of Victoria, although I must say that he recognized, without abandoning his general argument, that this method takes account of the special needs of the large, sparsely populated States, such as Western Australia and Queensland.
It will be seen, therefore, Mr. Deputy President, that even the Premier of Victoria at that timethought that the basis of distribution of road funds met the special needs of. large, sparsely populated States. The Prime Minister also said on that occasion -
The real purpose of the formula is that these moneys should be distributed throughout Australia so that those parts which are the least able out of their own resources to provide and repair roads should be placed in a position to get on with the job.
The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
I have always believed the formula to be just. We propose to adhere to that formulawhich, for seventeen years, has done a great deal to develop the road system in the more remote parts of Australia.
– When was that speech made?
– In 1954. That was the view of the Prime Minister at the time. We know that it was also his view at a later stage. But because of Victorian pressure within and without the Cabinet, we now see a change. We must ask ourselves the reason for this change. I think that the more we consider the matter, the more we are staggered by the change of attitude on the part of the Government.
– Does the honorable senator believe it is better that thelaw should be consistently unjust than ultimately right?
– The Prime Minister did not say that the basis of distribution was unjust. On the contrary, he said that it was most just and fair. In addition, the Premier of Victoria said that he recognized that the basis of distribution was fair to Queensland and Western Australia, because it helped them with their special problems associated with vast areas and shortage of resources. In the light of those facts, Senator Hannan’s interruption was not quite on the beam.
I ask: Why should the basis of distribution be changed, in view of what the Prime Minister said; in view ofwhat this Government said, in viewof what Governments of both major political parties have said over a long period of years, and in view of what this Senate said not so very long ago? I remind the Senate that, in 1954, Senator Gorton moved that a committee be appointed to investigate the basis of distribution of road funds.
– That is right.
– I am glad that the honorable senator agrees with me. On that occasion, Senator Gorton spoke very strongly in favour of the motion, and the matter was debated fully by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I think that honorable senators should be reminded of that debate. When the vote on the motion for the second reading of this bill is taken, probably at a later hour to-day, they may then show just how consistent, or inconsistent, they are. The kernel of the debate on that occasion was that the basis of distribution should have more regard to the number of motor cars in the individual States. Obviously, Senator Gorton wanted a greater proportion of the funds to be allotted to Victoria, which, he thought, would be brought about if more regard were had to the number of motor cars in each State. Of course, the percentage of motor cars to the population is largely the same in the various States. Four members of the Senate voted in favour of Senator Gorton’s motion. They were: Senator Gorton, who moved it: Senator Marriott; Senator Mattner; and a fellow Victorian, Senator Wedgwood. Thirty-seven senators voted against the motion to have the formula even reconsidered.
But what is the view of the Senate now? Will the Senate be consistent? The vote on this measure will show whether it will be. I point out that some honorable senators who spoke against Senator Gorton’s motion were just as strongly opposed then to any alteration of the formula as I am at the moment. I think that honorable senators should refresh their minds regarding that debate and recall how they voted. Senator Wade probably was not here at the time, in which case he is exonerated from any charge of inconsistency.
When we consider the basis of distribution of road funds, we must agree that the proportion of cars to people is roughly the same in each State of the Commonwealth. The two things run together.
– But people do not run over the roads.
– I am speaking about the basis of distribution. The alteration of the formula really means that the Government proposes to allot the funds on the basis of two-thirds according to population. In other words, the funds will be applied to the major centres of population in the Commonwealth. It staggers me to think that such a proposition should come from a Liberal-Country Party government. I wonder what the members of the Country Party in this Parliament really think of this basis of distribution. Why does not the Government consider distribution according to the total mileage of roads in the States? It is upon roads that the moneys are spent.
– That would do us.
– Then let us take that as the basis. The Victorians have been speaking about distribution according to population. I should say that that would be the last consideration in arriving at a basis for distribution.
– What classification of roads would the honorable senator adopt? Would it cover all roads?
– All roads used for general traffic in Australia. Let me refer to statistics contained in the “ Year-Book “ of the Commonwealth of Australia, which honorable senators surely will not dispute. I regret that the figures are not quite up to date. As with its backwardness relating to social services and other matters, Victoria has been a little slow in making returns. There are no figures for that State since 1954, whereas the figures for the other States are for a period up to 1956. The formula is to be altered to provide for a greater distribution according to population, including the populations of cities and towns. I point out that in 1956, New South Wales had 125,040 miles of road; Victoria, which is being so well treated now, had 99,963 miles; and Queensland had 123,316. Those figures apply to roads used for general traffic. Even taking into consideration the big road mileage in the cities, where the municipalities maintain the roads, Queensland ranks second to New South Wales as the State with the largest road mileage. If T remember rightly, the figures relating to the mileage of roads in country areas and so on indicate that Queensland leaves Victoria right behind.
– What about its usage of the roads?
– That is a very interesting point. I shall come to it shortly. The people of Queensland use their roads fora very good purpose. They help the Commonwealth, by net earnings and development, more than the people of any other State of Australia. I shall give details of this matter shortly.
This Government is in favour of distributing road funds on a population basis, and the number of miles of road in a State is not considered. On that basis alone, the proposed method of distribution is unfair. Does development not count with this Government at all? I should think that it would count for a great deal. As I have pointed out, Queensland is a large State and it has the. greatest overall development of all the Australian States.
– Potential development.
– Not potential, but actual development. At present, Queensland has the greatest overall development of all the Australian States.
– Then why do you want all this money for roads?
– We want more money because our population is distributed throughout the whole State.
– Then why do you want more money for development?
– 1 shall tell the honorable senator later. When I say Queensland has the greatest overall development, I emphasize that in Queensland the bulk of the population is not living in the capital city whereas, in Victoria, for instance, the majority of the people live in Melbourne. Queensland is a splendid example of decentralization. It is to the credit of the governments of that State over the years that the railway system of Queensland has been decentralized. This has led to a spread of population. If all the other States had a similar spread, Australia would be the greater and the richer for it. Only the other day the Premier of Queensland stated that Queensland has more cities and towns with a population of over 10,000 than any other State. That clearly indicates how the population of Queensland is decentralized.
As a further indication of decentralization, I point to the eastern coast where there are at least twelve seaports to which ships go to load and unload. All this is good for the Commonwealth in general. It is much better for the population of a State to be spread in that way than it is to have the population centred mainly at one point.
Speaking of development, I remind honorable senators of the Queensland Centenary Year Supplement published by the “ CourierMail “ yesterday. Almost the first point emphasized in that supplement is the fact that almost one-third - 32.5 per cent. - of all settled and occupied land in Australia lies within the boundaries of Queensland. That is the reply I give to Senator Wedgwood’s interjection with relation to development. Surely the fact that almost one-third of the settled and occupied land of Australia lies within the boundaries of Queensland is a splendid indication of the way in which the population of that State is decentralized.
I have mentioned ports. I point out that, from those cities and towns on the coast, development extends westward into the near-western and far-western regions. I submit that is an excellent method of developing a State, and I repeat that Queensland has the greatest spread of population of all the Australian States. In the north and the north-west are regions to which most of the people of Victoria would not go. They object to the heat and to the great distances from civilization as they call it, but I point out that at Mount Isa we have a mine that will develop into the greatest mine of its kind in the world, yet there is not a decent road from the coast to that undertaking. I fully appreciate the difficulties encountered by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin and others who have to travel many thousands of miles a year in the course of their election campaigning and parliamentary work. They can bear me out when I say there is virtually no road from the coast to Mount Isa, that one is forced’ to travel over what are merely tracks with grass growing up to 5 feet high on them. And this to an area that fs of the utmost importance to not only Queensland but
Australia! That mine, if developed, can further build up Australia’s external credits.
I refer now to an important statement made by Mr. Fisher, Chairman of Directors of Mount lsa Mines Limited. In a paper which he delivered at the 1959 National Management Conference in Brisbane he said things which should give all honorable senators much food for thought.
– Mount Isa’s good9 are brought in by rail.
– I know that they are transported by rail, but roads are essential for the people living in this area.
– Then why does not the State Government allocate some of its funds for roads out there?
– Queensland is such a big State with so many projects and areas being developed1 that the government just has not got enough money, and the members of, this Commonwealth Government are making certain that Queensland does not get the proportion to which it would be entitled if the present formula were continued. Reverting to Mr. Fisher, I point out that he mentions that at the present time the Mount Isa mine earns approximately £21,500,000 a year in export income.
– There is nothing new about that.
– Of course there is nothing new about it! This mine has been doing that for years, but members of the Government here take Queenslanders for granted. We are very good to the Commonwealth, and to this Government also, at election .time. At the present time, the Mount Isa mine earns approximately £21,500,000 a year in export income. Mr. Fisher went on- to say that undoubtedly, even at the present modest metal prices, production could be increased and Mount Isa could be developed from its present position to that of the largest individual earner of “export income, that it could be developed- to the position where it could earn more- export income than the whole of the Australian’ wheat industry. I ask honorable senators to pause aid think about that. Mr.’ Fisher is confident’ about what Mount Tsa could1 do with :full development arid with the rebuilding of the railway line. Of course, “ there is a great deal of antagonism in this Parliament to the rebuilding of thai line.
– Not a bit.
– I know all about that. If the Townsville-Mount Isa line were rebuilt and the mine developed further, that area, according to Mr. Fisher, could earn from overseas an income equal to the total export income of Australia’s wheat industry. When we think of the miles and miles of road serving the wheat-growing areas, serving an industry which will not return as much as the Mount Isa mine could earn -
– But you cannot eat copper.
– The money that would be earned by the Mount Isa mine could help secondary industry in Victoria, yet roads hardly exist in this great area! I have been asked why the State Government does not provide the money. I point out that even under the present formula the Queensland Government does not receive enough money.
Mention of the Mount Isa area brings to mind the Mary Kathleen area with its uranium deposits and workings. It brings to mind also the great Weipa area in the north, with its tremendous bauxite deposits. The extent of those deposits has not yet been proved, but it is expected that they will be shown to be the largest known bauxite deposits in the world. The development of this bauxite could mean the investment of over £200,000,000 by private enterprise, lt could also mean a population of 7,000 at Weipa. I point out these things to illustrate the possibilities of these areas and to emphasize the need for the Senate to appreciate that a State with such potentialities is deserving of all possible assistance in development, especially in the development of its roads.
As Senator Spooner knows, a huge deposit of iron ore is being investigated at Constant Range. I understand that the investigation has been slightly delayed because of the dense tropical jungle growing there. That may prove to be the site of a very big deposit. Those are the possibilities offering in regions which, according to southern standards, at present have a very sparse population. I remind honorable senators that such regions are very important to Australia, from both the aspect of development and the earning of credit overseas.
A moment ago a senator from Victoria made an interjection concerning population and development. Queensland has more focal points of development than have most of the other States. It has, I understand, more cities and towns with a population of over 10,000 than has any other State. If we look at the total population of the major States like Victoria and New South Wales we find that in Victoria 62 per cent., or three-fifths, of the population live in Melbourne. This is the State which is being treated so grandly at the expense of Queensland under the new formula! If we look at New South Wales we find that 54.5 per cent, of its citizens live in Sydney. In Queensland only 38 per cent, of the people live in the capital city - 62 per cent, reside in country areas.
– What does that prove?
– The more effective distribution, of Queensland’s population means that so many more places are awaiting development than is the case elsewhere. Our population is not concentrated in the capital city. I do not think that any honorable senator, especially if he belongs to the Australian Country Party, will be prepared to go out into the country areas and deny the truth of what I have said.
Much is said about development. Queensland has an overall type of development. Western Australia is a very big State but most West Australians - including the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) - would agree that the development there is not so widespread. That State, because of its large area, has in the past been getting a big allocation. I think every one will agree that, because Western Australia has not had to spread its money over such a wide area, it has been able to build and maintain better roads.
Quite plainly, in 1954 the Senate was thinking along the lines I have followed today. Indeed, until quite recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was also thinking along the same lines. The Australian Council of Local Government Associations, of which I was a founder, decided by a majority vote at its conference in Canberra last year that there should be no alteration in the formula.
– Some States were so angry about the adoption of such a political attitude that they walked out.
-I am glad that Senator Wade has mentioned that because it provides another example of the adamant attitude adopted by Victoria whenever fair treatment of all the States is required1. Victoria withdrew from the conference, as Senator Wade has suggested. Apparently,unity is strength, except where Victoria is concerned. The Australian Council of Local Government Associations included men with a wide experience of road re-1 quirements, yet the Victorian delegates withdrew after a majority decision on the subject had been made. What a sorry spectacle! What a complex these Victorian people have on this matter!
I realize that people in the more populous States - the manufacturing States - advocate the course which seems likely to produce the best roads for themselves, but I remind them that it is to their advantage to ‘have States such as Queensland and Western Australia which are to a great extent rural. The rural States buy the manufactures, the sale of which keeps people in employment and makes profits for the manufacturers. The prosperity of States such as Queensland is reflected in the prosperity in Victoria and New South Wales. From that aspect alone one would think that a pocket handkerchief State like Victoria - so small that one could well overrun its borders by getting up a bit of speed - would adopt a more rational outlook towards the’ allocation of road funds.
The other day, when Senator Maher was addressing the Senate, we heard from Senator McManus, who usually can be expected to speak in a common-sense way, an interjection about the sugar industry. That is the great old standby of Victorians. I do not know what they would have to talk about if we did not have a sugar industry in Queensland.
– You would .not have much to talk about either!
– If the sugar industry collapsed to-morrow. Senator Mattner. Senator Wade and a few others here Would have a lot to talk about because of the depression that would occur in the motor manufacturing industry and elsewhere because selling to Queensland had fallen off. It rather amazes me to hear these interjec-tions because the sugar industry has a record of which any State ot country can be proud
I remind honorable senators that Australia is the only country where white labour is successfully growing sugar. The men engaged in the industry in the tropical areas of this country are making a great job of it. lt is the most efficient sugar industry in the world, and the greatest primary industry in Queensland. Last year its income was more than £60,000,000 and it contributed to this country’s external credits to the order of £30,000,000- no mean feat
The sugar industry has populated an area of the north in a way that is regarded as very important in time of war. When war comes the people in the south are very glad to see population in the north. Machinery and equipment already in those areas were of great advantage to this country during the recent war. In peace-time thought is concentrated in the south, but in wartime what a stampede we see to make roads in the north! Surely the need is as real now as it is at any other time. There is always the possibility that disaster will overtake this country because of inadequate roads. No one thinks about these things until the necessity for doing so arises. Let us have some forward thinking in this matter. To-day much of our defence equipment could not be taken over the roads of Queensland because those roads are simply not good enough. Queensland, even under the existing formula, has never had sufficient money to build all the roads that it needs for development and national defence.
Honorable senators who would say that Queensland’s sugar industry brings her special privileges should be reminded that our State could import motor cars, tractors and many other things if we did not have to pay the high cost of protection duty demanded by the industries in the south. However, we are as nationally-minded as is any one else in this country, and we do not mind paying more. We think as Queenslanders, but are, first and foremost, Australians.
– Where could you buy motor cars more cheaply?
– We could buy them more cheaply overseas - from Britain and the Continent. A duty of 35 per cent, is imposed on certain goods in order to protect ‘ the local industry.
– You could secede.
– When the Minister talks about seceding, let me remind him that he is on his own camp hill.
– That is not the right word.
– It was the Minister’s own State that talked about seceding from the Commonwealth. So let him not throw that up at Queensland.
– The Minister was one of the few, not one of the many.
– Still, you represent Western Australia, and it was that State which spoke in very strong terms about seceding from the Commonwealth.
Let me now deal with another important point. The Government has also made provision for matching grants. In other words, if each year the States put up so much money, the Commonwealth will match it on a £l-for-£l basis. That sounds very nice, but where are the States to get the money? The Minister, in his second-reading speech, referred to the great resources of local authorities and introduced other aspects of the matter which I think really amounted to drawing red herrings across the trail. He said -
We have to think for example, of the need tor more houses, for more schools, colleges and hospitals, for improved water and sewerage services, for greater power supplies - and, of course, of the the still larger need for expansion of industry
Perhaps I am a bit dull, but I should like to ask where the Commonwealth Government comes in in the provision of schools and colleges throughout Australia. Where does it come in in the provision of improved water and sewerage services? Where does it come in in the provision of greater power supplies?
– It comes in in the tax reimbursements to the States.
– We are talking about moneys that come from the petrol tax. That is what the question is, basically. Now my colleague talks about something else. What has that to do with the matter we are discussing.
– It has quite a lot to do with lt.
– It cannot possibly influence the receipts from the petrol tax. The Commonwealth Government has nothing to do with water and sewerage services. Do any of you honorable senators know anything about local government? What does the Commonwealth have to do with providing money for those services?
– The Commonwealth comes into it in the money that is provided.
– It comes into the picture in regard to the money that is borrowed?
– Honorable senators are so mixed up on this matter that they are talking about borrowed money. I am talking about the proceeds of direct taxation, which the Commonwealth collects. Of course the money has to be borrowed, and the Commonwealth is charging the States a higer rate of interest than n has to pay. And the States have to pay that money back. The honorable senator has got things mixed up a little bil.. If honorable senators had had any experience in local government, they would know that the Commonwealth Government has nothing to do with the provisions of water and sewerage services.
– The raising of the necessary funds is authorized by the Australian Loan Council.
– Of course it is. This sort of stuff is trotted out in an effort to show that the Commonwealth has a money responsibility over all this kind of thing, lt is utter nonsense to talk like that to sensible people. I wonder what the Government thinks is the measure of our intelligence. Some one has said that in Western Australia local government bodies accept money on a £l-for-£l basis for the provision of bitumen roads and it was suggested that, if it were done in that State, other local authorities could raise money in the same way. Does this Government want local authorities to increase the rates they levy on the people so they can meet this matching grant? Does it want the State governments to increase taxes so they can meet the matching grant? That is the only way open to them to meet it. The Queensland Government is already heavily taxing various forms of transport in order to raise money. Does the Commonwealth Government want the S ate Government to increase those taxes?
– Victoria has done so.
– Let me point out to the honorable senator that Queensland taxes passengers and goods that are carried by motor transportation. Queensland also taxes air passengers. What more does the Commonwealth want that State to tax? Moreover, if my memory serves me correctly, Queensland charges the highest registration fee in the Commonwealth for motor cars and trucks. Does the Commonwealth Government want that tax raised still higher so Queensland can raise funds to meet its matching grant? lt is very easy to talk about this sort of thing, but where is the money to come from? Every one here knows that every State government is scratching for every £1 it can get. Local government rates are at a premium. If local authorities were to raise their rates for that purpose, it would be a very unpopular move. The Honorable Ernest Evans, who is Minister for Main Roads in Queensland, has told me that in the last year of the operation of this agreement Queensland, in order to meet the matching grant, would have to put in approximately £1,700.000. The question that he posed to me, and which I now pose to the Senate, was this: Where will Queensland and the other Stales find money to meet the matching grant?
It is very easy for this Government, which holds the money bag, to talk about finding the necessary funds. Some of the State governments will find it more difficult than the Commonwealth thinks. If the States and local government authorities were to raise their taxes and rates in order to provide the necessary money, their move would be very unpopular.
Let me now refer to the Minister’s secondreading speech. He said -
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. These bodies have very considerable resources of their own available for roads purposes, and these resources are capable of substantial increase. The Commonwealth, therefore, does not regard itself as being primarily responsible for roads finance.
I should like the Minister and the Government to tell me how the State governments and the local authorities can increase their revenue. The Minister also said -
We are willing to provide a large additional amount of money for roads over the next five years- but. we consider that the State governments and local authorities should also, provide more money so far, as their means allow. If that is done the annual rate of roads expenditure will be stepped up far above its already high level and, given effective use of the money available, a really adequate attack can be made on the roads problem in Australia.
To me, with my experience in this sort of thing, that is just airy-fairy thinking. The Minister further said -
However, by taking the additional £100,000,000, which the Commonwealth will provide for the States, and making some reasonable assumptions as to the likely increases in expenditure by the Commonwealth on its own account and by State governments and municipal and local authorities from their own resources, it is estimated that total expenditure on roads, streets and bridges in the period of this legislation should be in the vicinity of £720,000,000. The increase in total roads expenditure over the next five years should therefore be of the order of £250,000,000.
I think that is an unfair statement to make, lt gives the impression that that sum of £720,000,000 will be provided under the legislation we are now considering, whereas a very great part of it will be provided by local government and other authorities. The Minister may nod his head, but the statement is there and I think it is misleading. I do not think it is fair to mention that sum of £720,000,000 when we are dealing with what the Commonwealth is providing. That is just the view I have, and I wish io express it.
What I have said indicates my thoughts on the measure now before us. As I said at the commencement of my speech, the crux of the matter is the change in the distribution of moneys. I feel that Queensland is being dealt an unfair blow by this change in the method of distribution - a method that has been in operation since legislation of this kind was first placed upon the statute book of the National Parliament. It is most regrettable that this has happened now, particularly as it will affect adversely a State that is forging ahead with its general development and requires money so much for development of its road system. This proposal is an indication of, so to speak, backward thinking by this Government. It seems that the car-owners in cities such as Melbourne and Sydney, where so many people are concentrated and .where the roads are built by local government authorities, have a greater weight with the Government than have the people of the outback areas - the people who are producing the real wealth of this country. It is a shame that this Govern ment should. take such a. retrograde step as it is taking in this measure. I do not think that the people of the outback areas approve of this change in the basis of distribution of money for roads.
I know that under the proposal the State Governments will be required to spend 40 per cent, of their allocations upon roads in rural areas, and that there is nothing to prevent them from spending more upon rural roads if they want to do so, but I say that this Government should be more conscious of the volume of money that is required for the development of roads in such areas. I know that it will be said that under this measure extra money for roads will be made available, but I say that the money will be wrongly allocated. In any event, there is no reason why an even greater sum should not be provided for roads.
I have circulated to honorable senators copies of an amendment which I propose to move in committee. I shall move it because of my disapproval of the core of this measure. I shall vote against the measure because I am opposed to it. I am opposed, to it because of what it will do to Queensland. I am not the only person in Queensland who thinks like this. There is a trend of thought developing there about which this Government should be concerned. Queensland is a State which has been most loyal to the Government parties. In the election when the Senate only went to the polls it was the only State that returned three members of the Government parties to the Senate. By so doing, it enabled this Government to continue to hold power. Things like that are sometimes forgotten when it comes to passing out benefits to the people.
– Victoria returned three Government senators, too.
– In which Senate election?
– In the last Senate election.
– I am talking about the election when the senators stood on their own.
– That was a long time ago.
– Queensland’s action enabled this Government to continue to hold the reins of office. There is a tendency in human nature to take for granted people upon whom you think you can rely. I am afraid that we in Queensland are being taken for granted by this Government. In an envelope that I have here I have details of a number of schemes to which i referred in my speech in the debate on the AddressinReply. They are schemes being undertaken in States other than Queensland. 1 ask honorable senators to tell me of the schemes that have been put into operation in Queensland by this Government. I warn the Government that it must consider again its attitude to Queensland, because I know that in certain quarters a feeling is developing of which the Government should take notice. Quite recently, when the Queensland Industries Fair was being opened - I shall not discuss now whether Commonwealth Ministers were present or not - Mr. Gibson, the president of the Queensland Chamber of Manufactures, said -
I have felt for years that whatever in her development Queensland was to obtain from federal authority, it would be by fighting and clawing through a solid phalanx of southern interests.
That is what the president of the Queensland Chamber of Manufactures stated publicly. That is an indication of the trend of the thoughts of many people in Queensland.
I oppose the bill. I stand for the rights of my State. I stand for what I believe was a fair basis of distribution of road moneys. I stand for the retention of that system. The Senate is a States’ House. It is supposed to look after the interests of the States, particularly those of the less populous States. Honorable senators know the basis on which this House was established. The only basis on which agreement could be reached for a federation was that in the Senate the less populous States would have equal representation with the other States. I stand for the old formula. I oppose the bill because, by the change of formula, Queensland will be treated unfairly. Let me remind honorable senators that at no time during the last general election campaign did the Prime Minister or any other member of this Government even whisper that there would be a change of the formula.
– The Prime Minister said so in his policy speech. - Senator WOOD. - He did not say that there would be an alteration of the formula. The first information that we had about the matter was when the news was released in the Victorian press. I know that up to then the people of Queensland had no idea that such a change was to be made. 1 have expressed my views on behalf of a State which, 1 believe, has given a lead in decentralization that should earn the commendation of the Government and the support of this House. What is taking place in Queensland now is - a model for the development that should be taking place all over Australia. Let me remind honorable senators that in 1954, when Senator Gorton, now the Minister for the Navy, proposed a motion suggesting that a select committee be appointed to discuss the question of changing the formula, they opposed the motion and defeated it by 37. votes to four. Honorable senators now have a chance, by their votes, to show that they are consistent in their attitude to the States, particularly to the less populous States, for the protection of which the Senate was established.
– I sincerely congratulate Senator Wood on his stand against this further injustice to Queensland. Senator Wood dealt with the bill exhaustively. He dealt particularly with the proposed new formula, an aspect of the matter with which I am greatly concerned. I admire his courage in standing up for what he believes in. It always takes courage to do that, even in this House. Honorable senators should always remember that, after all, this is a States’ House. As the representative of a State, Senator Wood has the right to put a case for that State. There is no doubt whatever that a. strong feeling of resentment exists throughout Queensland as a result of the proposal to abolish this formula, which has been in operation for so many years.
I do not want to deal with this matter at great length, because the Senate has already discussed the measure thoroughly. Many people and many organizations outside the Parliament are disappointed, because they had hoped that the Government would bring forward a national plan for dealing with- this important problem. I honestly believe that the country at large is not enamoured of the Government’s pro-, posals. and, in fact, is disappointed . with the bill. The Government, however, would know more about that than I do. But I do know that there is very strong opposition to this bill in Queensland.
The effect of the alteration of the formula will be to give more money to Victoria for roads than is to be given to Queensland, although Queensland is three times larger than Victoria. Surely the Government should give No. 1 priority to the development of this nation. Surely it should be the Government’s ambition, not to provide racing roads for fast motor cars, but so to develop the country that it can absorb many more millions of people. Queensland is developing rapidly at the present time. Every Minister of this Government who has gone to Queensland has, on his return to Canberra, waxed eloquent about the great potential of the State. Queensland is destined to be the greatest State in the Commonwealth, but none of the millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been allocated to that State which needs it most. I was associated with the people who initiated some of the developmental work that has been done in various parts of Australia. We believed, while we were in office, that Queensland should share equitably in all Commonwealth grants, but in 1 949 our plans were swept aside. 1 remember many occasions on which Mr. Chifley, who was then Prime Minister, informed the Premier of Queensland that at least £10,000,000 would be made available to Queensland, not only in the interests of defence but also in an endeavour to stimulate the population and development of the State. I agree with Senator Wood that this Government is dominated by Victorian vested interests. While that state of affairs exists. Queensland cannot hope to make any headway. I do not mind honorable senators from Victoria rising in defence of their State, but I do mind when Queensland’s interests are subjected to those of other States. We must approach this matter with a national outlook. We must have greater population; we must have greater development; and we must have better roads.
Recently, we had the spectacle of a body of our armed forces becoming lost on its way to Mackay, which is not half way north along the Queensland coast. That fact speaks volumes for the state of our roads, but we have millions of acres on which no roads exist at all. Government senators ask, “ Why does the State Government not do something about it?” Queensland is a large State and its transport problems are great. Many years will elapse before Queensland reaches the state of intense development that Victoria and some of the other States enjoy. The Government should adopt a national outlook on this problem. As I have said, we are dominated by influences from other States. 1 have seen that influence grow over the past few years, and now we have reached the stage at which a prominent leader of that influence has been included in the Cabinet.
Surely Senator Wood has the right io express his views in this chamber. I know that governments make decisions without even consulting the lower hierarchy of the political parties that support them. The supporters of this Government who have been ignored go into the party room like lions but, after the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has spoken to them for a short time, they come out like lambs. They are committed to decisions which they have had no part in making. 1 know that our system is government by party and I realize that the leaders of the party often ignore other members, but I resent the criticism levelled at a person who dares to rise in his place and speak on other than strictly parly lines. Why should such a person be criticized? As representatives of the States, it is our bounden duty to guard the interests of our States. If we are not allowed to do that, let us abolish State boundaries and be a nation in reality. Senator Wood was subjected to a good deal of interruption while he was making his speech. No doubt the interjections were good-humoured, but why should he be subjected to such treatment? I believe that he meant every word that he said, and I offer him my sincere congratulations. If the Commonwealth devoted a little more time and money to assisting the States, we would have a much happier set-up. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) comes from Western Australia. He is a very able man, and I wish that Queensland could produce a man of his calibre, but I do not think that he has treated all the States equitably in this matter. Queensland has had a very raw deal over a long period.
I shall not discuss the merits of the bill. While the Government probably believes thai it proposes to expend as much money as it can possibly provide, the basis on which that money is to be distributed is entirely unsatisfactory. We on this side of the chamber suggest that the whole of the petrol and fuel tax should be devoted to road construction and maintenance. If this were done, many millions of pounds would be available with which to tackle our road problems. In addition, many people who contribute money to the Commonwealth in the form of fuel tax would feel a great deal of satisfaction in the knowledge that their money was being spent on the roads. However, other honorable senators have debated this matter adequately and I shall not detain the Senate. I congratulate Senator Wood and assure him that we on this side share his sentiments and opinions on this matter.
During Senator Wood’s speech, Senator McManus made an interjection about sugar. As we all know, Senator McManus is a very shrewd and able man who does not venture into the unknown very often, but his interjection regarding sugar was most unfortunate, coming from a Victorian. For many years, Victoria possessed a flourishing beet sugar industry which, in comparison with the cane sugar industry of Queensland, was pampered by the Government. The Victorian industry received a much higher price for its product than we in Queensland ever enjoyed. However, although the industry was located in a relatively densely populated State, had a ready market at hand, and received every encouragement from the Government, it failed. Before he made his statement. Senator McManus should have remembered that the fruit industry in Victoria gives very little, if any, assistance to the sugar industry in Queensland which must sell its product at the same price as that for which it can be purchased from any country overseas. The fruit industry, and industries that use sugar in their processes, are not penalized to the slightest extent to benefit the sugar industry. The searchlight of the Treasury is placed upon the sugar industry every four or five years and a very thorough investigation is conducted into every phase of its operations. The Government determines the price of this commodity to the people of Australia. Had that system prevailed in many other industries it would have been a good thing for Australia. However, I do not wish to deal with that aspect of the matter at present. I indicate to Senator McManus that when he comes over here with us entirely he probably will receive a little more information about the sugar industry from some of those associated with this party. I again congratulate Senator Wood on his speech this afternoon.
– I rise to support the bill, and 1 should like to congratulate the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) on the manner in which he presented his secondreading speech. It was not couched in vague terms, as Senator Willesee has claimed; it was a very comprehensive description of the way in which the Commonwealth Government proposes to assist the States over the next five years. I believe, Sir, that as a result of this five-year plan, the States will be in a much better position to arrange their own finances.
I should also like to commend the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), and the Premiers of the various States on their reaching agreement on a number of new proposals. There have been some very unfair criticisms of the State Premiers in this Senate, because it is true to say that every State Premier accepted the proposed scheme. It may be that the Premier of Queensland hedged a little over the formula - as was stated by Senator Wood - when he said that he preferred the old formula to remain, but it is undeniable that the Premiers as a whole concurred in the proposal. They agreed because they knew that the Commonwealth was making a larger allocation and that no State would suffer as a result of the new legislation.
I shall not deal with the amount of money to be disbursed, as Senator Anderson did so the other night. He has told us that the new scheme will result in the States receiving an increase of over £100,000,000 during the next five years. Some honorable senators have said that no great additional amount of money will be received by the States. I remind them that the increase amounts to 66 per cent, and that, I should say, is a very worthwhile contribution to the States.
I oppose the amendment that has been moved by Senator Willesee, because in this bill the Commonwealth Government is abandoning a principle that has been observed from the time the legislation was first introduced. I refer to the principle of relating the amount of money paid to the States for roads directly to the income derived by the Commonwealth from petrol and diesel fuel taxation. I believe, Sir, that the amendment lacks sincerity, and that it is very unsound. It lacks sincerity ‘because, as Senator Scott has pointed out, when Labour was in office the payments to the States were lower than they have been since the Menzies Government came into office. Had the Labour Government desired to alter this principle, it had an opportunity to do so in 1947, when the act was amended, but it did not attempt to make any alteration. I believe there is a further reason why the amendment is unsound. Despite what Senator Wood said a little while ago, to adopt the principle that the whole of the revenue from petrol tax should be diverted to roads would be to ignore the fact that the Government is committed in other ways to the payment of large sums of money for development. Senator Wood made the point that the Commonwealth Government does not make direct contributions for education and a number of other items of expenditure, to which Senator Wright replied that the matter was decided by the Australian Loan Council. It is true to say that out of the money that flows to the States through tax reimbursements, the Commonwealth does make a contribution to all other forms of development.
In an attempt to bolster what I consider was a very weak argument, Senator Willesee referred to the national convention on roads that was convened in Canberra earlier this year. Sir, I should like to read to the Senate from the seventh annual report of the president of the Australian Road Federation. This is an organization that is affiliated with international road federations in London, Washington and Paris and it would be, I think, an authority on road finance. This is what the president, Mr. E. F. S. Roberts, had to say -
The increasing status of roads within the national transport system in this automotive era, was evidenced in the National Roads Conference recently convened by the Commonwealth Government.
This was a notable event in face of the fact that, as matters stand, the Commonwealth has no constitutional responsibility in this field.
We commend the Central Government for the leadership it assumed in this matter and for the national interest it displayed.
Although no substantial advancement towards the national concept of roading emerged from the Conference there are signs that the future is not without hope.
The structure of the proposed Commonwealth Aid Roads Act which is due for enactment within the’ next few months is a significant departure from the pattern of the previous Act. It clearly defines the source of the funds as National and thus elevates the project from the sectional level which, hitherto, has tended to cloud the issue. lt is as true to-day as ever it was that roads are a national investment for the entire community, both contemporary and future, and as such they have a legitimate claim on the Nation’s resources for their development.
This Federation does not disparage the amount of national road finance which the Commonwealth Government proposes to grant the States over the next five years.
– To what State does Mr. Roberts belong?
– He must have been influenced by the Melbourne smog.
– Not at all.
This is an authoritative statement on behalf of an organization that has an overall interest in road transport.
I have dealt with the first major alteration effected by the bill. By the second alteration, it will be ensured that an additional amount of £1,000,000 will be used wholly by the States. Under the existing legislation, £1,000,000 was diverted for the building of strategic roads for Commonwealth purposes, and for the promotion of road safety. That amount is now going back to the States.
The third alteration - the one that has raised such a storm in this chamber - relates to the formula for the distribution of money for roads. In this connexion, I should like to reply to some of the statements that have been made by Senator Wood. He referred to a Victorian complex. If ever I have heard a complex expressed in words, it was the Queensland complex about the State of Victoria. It is true that the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) and I did raise the matter of the formula in this Senate, and for that I am sure that neither of us makes any apology. If the Senate at that time was so uninformed as to vote in the way it did, there is no reason why it should not now alter its judgment.
– It should have the .right to retract.
– Certainly. But 1 should like now to proceed to deal with some of the statements that were made by Senator Wood. He referred to the Victorian influence in the Cabinet and suggested that that influence had been the motivating force behind the alteration of the formula. I think that that was an insult to every other member of the Cabinet, and it certainly was not’ a compliment to the Minister for Shipping and Transport who is piloting the bill through this chamber. It is understandable that Victorian Ministers are interested in their State. I do not think that any one would blame them for that, but to suggest that Victorian Ministers would try to exert pressure in the Cabinet to the advantage of Victoria, but to the detriment of Australia as a whole is, T consider, an insult to the Cabinet.
Senator Wood then went on to say that the Government apparently believed that city people were more important than country people. Nothing could be more absurd than such a statement. This Government has bent over backwards in its attempts to help the man on the land. To suggest that, because of a paltry few thousand pounds, the Government would abandon a principle that it has acknowledged right throughout its. term of office is, in my opinion, ridiculous. Senator Wood referred, for the purpose of his argument, to the number of people who live in the city of Melbourne. I suggest, Sir, that he was completely off the track when he related this formula only to the number of people living in Melbourne. As a matter of fact, the situation regarding allocations of road funds in New South Wales is different from that in Victoria.
While it is true that, in New South Wales, 20 per cent, of the money derived from the petrol tax and 20 per cent, of that derived from registration fees may be spent on metropolitan development, in Victoria I think that only about 4 per cent, of such money has found its way into metropolitan development. Perhaps we have to thank the Premier of Victoria, the Honorable
Hi E. Bolte, for that, but it is true to say that, so far as the money about which we are arguing now is concerned, very little of it finds its way into the Melbourne metropolitan area to assist in road development. There is another point with which I wish to - deal very, briefly. Senator Wood spoke about decentralization. Any one listening to the honorable senator might have been pardoned for thinking that Victoria had no policy of decentralization, whereas that State has a very vigorous decentralization policy.
I wish for a moment to examine the background of the formula, because, from all the arguments that have been put forward in this chamber, one would think that the formula must be sacrosanct; that any suggestion of its being altered cannot be made without raising a storm; that the States which feel they suffer some disability under it are selfish, that there is something unworthy in their motives; and that indeed, even the State Premiers, when they come to Canberra, should not advance a claim for their States. The original formula was taken from an American act and was incorporated in Australian legislation in 1926. But there is no proof that, even at the time that the basis of distribution of three-fifths according to population and two-fifths according to area was incorporated in the act, there was any relationship between conditions in the United States of America and those in Australia. Indeed, although that act provided for, I think, £1,750,000, which was to be matched by £1,500,000 of State money, there was a limitation on the purposes for which the money was being allocated. It was related strictly to road construction, being construction of main roads which opened up and developed new country, trunk roads between important towns, and arterial roads.
I have had a look at the various amendments of that early act and the formula contained in it. Although not for one moment would I suggest that the area formula was not inserted in the act for the purpose of assisting the spread of population, I think we have to look at what amending legislation has done to the original act. We find that, whereas the original act provided money for road construction only, and for a limited class of roads, the acts of 1931-1932 to 1936-1937 provided that the money could be expended on maintenance, repair, reconstruction or construction of roads, irrespective of classification. The 1950 and 1957 acts provided for a compulsory allocation of 35 per cent, to rural roads. That allocation was raised later to 40 per cent. We now find that the States are not certain that they Want a 40 per cent, allocation to rural roads. Indeed, the State of Queensland has asked to have its allocation for that purpose reduced to 30 per cent.
– That has been cancelled.
– Nevertheless, that was the proposition that was submitted by Queensland.
If we look at the purposes for which these grants are to be expended, we find that they are now very much wider than they were previously. The money may now be spent on construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads, or on the purchase of road-making plant; in making payments to municipal or other local authorities for the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads, or for the purchase of roadmaking plant; or in making payments for or in connection with research relating to construction, maintenance or repair of roads. Therefore, Sir, there has been a great deal of alteration of the original act. I submit that it is completely foolish to insist that this one provision relating to area should be retained when everything else about the original act has been altered. It is all very well for honorable senators to talk about national outlook. That very high-sounding phrase does not mean much if some of the States which have benefited from federation demand everything and concede nothing. I believe that, over the years, Victoria has conceded much. We have complained in recent years because of pressures within our State, but we in Victoria do not believe that, because we have developed, and because other States look upon us as a highly industrialized, wealthy State, that is a good reason, for preventing us from getting what is only our just due in the matter of these grants.
Since the inception of federal aid for roads, approximately £251,000,000 has been distributed to the States. Of that sum, Victoria has received approximately £44,000,000 or 17.5 per cent. Senator Wood made much of the fact that - in his opinion - population and vehicle registrations amounted to the same thing under the proposed new formula. I cannot accept that suggestion for a moment, and I feel that the Government was right in introduc ing into the formula the new principle of allocating one-third according to vehicleregistrations.
– But the honorable senator knows those two things adversely affect Western Australia.
– They also affect Victoria, and have been affecting that State for a long time. As a matter of fact, 1 have in my hand some figures which were prepared for me by the Chamber of Automotive Industries in Victoria. They show remarkable development in vehicle registrations in that State, and I shall read them to the Senate because I feel that they should convince our critics that the disabilities about which we complain are noi imaginary but very real.
– But your closer settlement helps you. Big States are handicapped there.
– In a moment, I shall mention road usage. After all, road usage must be considered in this matter. Western Australia has vast areas of arid country over which very few people travel. That being so, it is not a fair comparison to relate the total area of Western Australia to the smaller, more highly developed States. Let me give the figures relating to the increase in motor vehicle registrations. Having heard the argument that registrations could include scooters and motor cycles, I asked that these vehicles be excluded from the figures given to me. I have the new vehicle registrations for the years 1938, 1948 and 1958. As I have said, they do not include scooters and motor cycles. In 1938, there were 22,937 new vehicles registered in Victoria. In 1948, that figure had increased by 4,274 to 27,211. By 1958, there was a dramatic change, for the new vehicles registered totalled 71,423. an increase of 44,212 in the ten years. That is an enormous increase in the number of vehicles using our roads.
Further, our population increase is greater than that of any other State. I also took the trouble of getting from the National Library figures showing the increase in the population in all States, and I find that the increase in Victoria at the present time is at the rate of approximately 70,000 a year. It is only natural that these people should be making greater use of motor cars and of roads and that, therefore, their demands will be higher than is the case in other States. I asked Senator Wood, when he referred to road mileages, to tell me something about road usage in Queensland. He said he would do so, but 1 should like to point out to the Senate that one-third of the nation’s road usage takes place within the boundaries of Victoria while one quarter of the expenditure on roads from all sources is in that State.
Senator Maher and Senator Wood taunted Victoria and New South Wales with receiving great benefits from the Snowy Mountains scheme. I remind them that the consumers of electricity in those two States will be paying both the capital and interest involved in the scheme so that, in point of fact, they will be bearing the cost of the scheme although the whole of Australia will benefit from the effect that the irrigation will have on primary production.
The Minister stated that the Commonwealth Government does not hold itself primarily responsible for road finance. Senator Wood asked, in reply to that, where the States were to get the money if not from the Commonwealth Government. I remind honorable senators that the Victorian Government has been accepting all along the proposition that the State should make a direct contribution out of its own funds towards its roads. In 1954-55, the Country Roads Board of Victoria received from such State sources as motor registration fees and payments for drivers’ licences, the sum of £6,800,000. This money and the Commonwealth supplement, made a total of £10,600,000. For this financial year, the Commonwealth allocation will be £8,400,000. That will be supplemented by £11,200,000 from the State Government. The decision of the Government to allocate further moneys to the States on condition that they match those moneys £1 for £1 meets with no dissatisfaction in my State. All along we have attempted to rais? large sums for road-making purposes. Earlier, when replying to Senator Wood, I said that despite what people from other States might say and think - no doubt in ignorance - a great proportion of the Commonwealth grant for roads is not spent within the city boundaries, or in the municipalities, of Melbourne. Far from it! The cost of making and maintaining municipal roads falls very largely on the ratepayer in the municipalities. In some of our outer metro politan areas the streets are in a deplorable condition. Municipalities have rated their land-owners to the permissible limit and any increase in general rates would fall heavily upon such people. Therefore, it is quite idle to suggest that the grant finds its way into the city areas of Melbourne.
I think that 1 have dealt sufficiently with the points raised by Senator Wood. I reject the suggestion that Victoria has been ungenerous or unreasonable towards other States. Every State will receive as much money as previously. Some will receive more. Therefore I believe that the Government has been correct in altering the formula and giving to Victoria its proper share of the moneys available for roads. I support the bill.
– I take a certain pleasure in speaking to this bill because, down through the years since I have been in this place, legislation of this nature has always held a particular interest for me. We have had some very interesting debates on this subject because it is essentially one which concerns State roads and State activities and, being a States’ House, we always evince considerable interest in such measures. We know how important it is in this day and age to maintain a good roads system.
Those of us who can remember back a few years will agree that, despite everything that has been said about the shortcomings of Australian roads, we have a great deal to be proud of. We do not have to remember back very far to realize how much has been done to provide substantial roads throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Of course, we have had roads of one kind or another since the very earliest days. They were not all of a substantial kind, but at least they were tracks and they enabled people to get from one place to another. My mind goes back very clearly to the days of the horse and trap, when macadam roads were the order of the day. With all their shortcomings, such roads enabled us to operate our transport more or less successfully. All that has been altered now. It was altered in a generation or two by the advent of the motor car. We are now a highly motorized race. In fact, our economy largely depends on the motor car industry and the employment that it provides. We are no longer content to live in one capital city and perhaps never see another, as was common among our forefathers. A lot of our ancestors never went far beyond their home town. These days people travel much more frequently and see a great deal more of the country in which they live. The motor car now makes transport easy and comfortable.
The internal combustion engine has revolutionized the transport system of all countries. We live in an oil age and that, in itself, impinges on the main problem of roads. We must have satisfactory roads so that motor vehciles may operate satisfactorily and economically. For that reason we have concentrated in the last generation or so upon bringing our roads up to such a condition as to permit people to move about freely and transport their goods from one place to another in a quick, efficient and comfortable manner. Motor transport is essential to our national life these days. I do not think that any one would dispute that.
We must bring down legislation of this kind from time to time in order to do what we can to keep our roads in an up-to-date condition and enable the important function of transport to operate effectively. In a country such as ours, with its vast distances, we must give earnest consideration to how we may provide the roads that arc necessary. We must consider where the finance is to come from, and by what method we should maintain our roads and construct new roads that will stand up to the test of modern transport.
There has been an almost fantastic increase in motor vehicle numbers throughout Australia. Indeed, we are one of the most motor-conscious people of the world. Per capita, our motor vehicle ownership compares quite favorably with that of every other country except the United States of America, which is head and shoulders above everyone else. We feel that we must keep our roads in satisfactory condition to enable the best use of our vehicles to be obtained. With the increase of motor transport, some of our first bitumen roads were found to be lacking; they could not carry the heavy weights. When we think of motor transport nowadays, we do not think merely of a motor car being on the road; we think of motor vehicles weighing up to 20 or 30 tons, travelling long distances at a fast rate of speed. The result has been that we have had’, to adopt new practices in building our roads. Since this Government assumed office, it has- .
– It has done a good job:
– I endorse what. Senator Scott has said. This Government has done a good job in maintaining .Australia’s road network. We hear a lot said about our national roads plan. I rather deprecate a lot of what is said, but perhapsmy thoughts. do not measure up to the ideal pf, some of .those who advocate such a plan. Nevertheless’,^ in the various States responsible, departments have kept, abreast of the times arid, have applied the best methods of road construction, with the result that we can say that . a. lot has been achieved inestablishing our roads system.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) said, in his secondreading speech, that in 1948-49 the Commonwealth grant to the States was £28,000,000. In 1958-59, it amounted to £110,000,000. I agree with the Minister’s statement that we must keep the question of road construction and maintenance in its correct perspective. As he pointed out, there are other vital forms of development on which vast sums of money must be expended. Transport in its various forms- road, ‘ rail, sea and air - involves the expenditure of an enormous sum of money each year. Indeed, it has been ‘estimated that approximately 30 per cent, of our national income is expended on transport costs. That figure compares very unfavorably with that of other countries where transport is more efficient, where there are not such .great distances, and where there is a greater density of population. Therefore, it behoves every one of us to do all we can to reduce our transport costs.
As the Minister pointed out, too; we have an enormous responsibility in the development of this young country. We have only to go to any one of the States to see “what has been done in the provision of water reticulation schemes, and I do not exclude that unfavored State of Queensland. ‘
– It has not been done::by the Commonwealth.
– I am not talking about what the Commonwealth has done or what the- States have done. I am talking about the overall expenditure on developmental projects, and Tam endeavour:ing to relate it to what is spent on transport. If- less is - spent on transport, more can be spent on great projects such as water reticulation schemes, power schemes, and schools and hospitals. It is necessary to spend vast -sums of money in primary and secondary development. In fact, more money is ex. pended in those two fields than in any other.
Vast capital expenditure is necessary for the maintenance and development of our primary industries. Those industries will not be developed simply by our earning a certain sum of money and then spending it. Vast reserves must be invested in them. That1 remark applies also to secondary industry. Indeed, I think that, as they become available, more reserves should be ‘ploughed back into secondary industry than is now the case.- But that is a matter for the Government to deal with, and it can be dealt with - through the Government’s taxation policy. We live in a vast continent; it is one of the great countries of the world. A comparison of the areas of the various States shows that Victoria is in a much more favorable position than is Western Australia or even Queensland, from which my colleague Senator Wood comes.
When we take into consideration all the factors I have mentioned, is it any wonder that the Commonwealth Parliament does all it can’. to assist in the development of Australia’s overall roads system? That assistance takes the form of grants under the Commonwealth aid roads legislation. We realize, of course, that what the Commonwealth grants to the States is but a small portion of the money that is expended on roads. But I shall touch upon that matter later.
I believe that the Government, in introducing this measure, is, in the main, serving every,.State fairly. In 1946-47, the Commonwealth grant to the States was only £4,800,000. That was back in the days of the Chifley Government. Of course, federal aid for roads was not introduced at that time; it goes back for nearly 30 years. I am not saying that the grant that was made in 1946-47 was unfair; it was particularly valuable to the States at that juncture.
– It was miserable.
– Senator Scott says. it was miserable, but I am willing to concede- that the Chifley Government was not unfair in making that grant to the States. As far as I know, the States were glad to get it, and as a result were able more or less satisfactorily to discharge their responsibilities in regard to roads.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had referred to the Commonwealth aid roads legislation that has been in operation over the years. lt has been extremely important legislation from the viewpoint of the network of roads throughout Australia. I think we all agree that the grants made have been a valuable adjunct to the large sums that have been raised by other means for road-building purposes. I pointed out that the grants had become progressively larger over the years, and I reminded the Senate that in the financial year 1946-47 - when, of course, the previous Government was in office - a grant of only £4,800,000 was made to the States under this legislation.
As we all know, the money from which the grants were made by the previous Government was raised by means of a tax on fuel, used in the main by the motoring community of Australia, whether commercial or private users. Not all of that money was disbursed by way of road grants, because it was felt that it would be wrong in principle to give the whole of the money so raised to the States for road purposes. That view has been upheld bythis Government - and upheld, I think,with some justification. The argument has been put forward on behalf of variousinterests that the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax should be made available for road purposes, but I have never taken that view. In common with this Government, I have always held the view that the Chifley Government was correct in dispersing the money in the way it did.
In his second-reading speech, the Minister said without any equivocation that this Government intended to uphold that principle. We all recognize that this legislation has really nothing to do with the petrol tax at all; it simply authorizes grants to be made by the Government to roadbuilding authorities, whether they be State governments or local authorities. Although the money for the grants will be raised by means of a tax on fuel, the proceeds, of the tax are not specifically earmarked for roads. 1 am in total agreement with that principle. The proceeds of the petrol tax go into Consolidated Revenue, and the amount for road purposes is withdrawn later. The Minister dealt with this principle when he said -
We can fairly assume that much of the petrol taxation is passed on in transport charges or in the prices of goods, and hence is paid not by the motorists as such, but by the public at large. in those few words is a justification of the principle that the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax cannot properly be paid out for a specific purpose, but should be applied to general revenue. The motorists, along with all other members of the community, pay the increased costs that result from higher transport charges in the commercial field caused by the petrol tax. The tax, in the result, is not paid for entirely by the motorists.
The petrol tax has served its purpose well. The tax on petrol and diesel fuel is to continue, and will result in large sums of money being paid into Consolidated Revenue. The purpose of this bill is to distribute specified amounts of money, which have been determined after close consultation with the State Premiers, for roadbuilding purposes. As I said earlier, the grants made by the Commonwealth have been enlarged from year to year. We know that there has been a decline in the value of money and, therefore, that it has been necessary for more money to be made available for road-building purposes, but, despite that, we can honestly say that there has been a greater degree of road-building activity since the present Government took office. The tempo of road building has been stepped up considerably during the last few years. As 1 mentioned earlier, in 1946-47 the grant made by the Commonwealth Government was £4,800,000. In 1950-51, the grant was £14,100,000. In 1953-54, it was £17,100,000 and in 1958-59 it rose to £38,300,000. The Commonwealth has granted to the States for road-building purposes over the years a very large sum, but, as I mentioned earlier, more money was disbursed to the States during the period from 1950-51 to 1958-59 than during the whole of the 31 years that the Commonwealth aid roads scheme has been in operation.
I now want to touch on the responsibility for roads that is involved in a programmer such as this. As I mentioned earlier, the amount to be granted by the Commonwealth is comparatively small, compared, with the enormous amount that is spent annually on Australian roads. The Commonwealth itself is not a road-building authority. It simply makes grants to the road-building authorities, which are the State governments and local authorities. 1 had the honour of being associated with, local government for a long time, and 1 realize the value of local authorities. 1 know the enormous amount of money that is spent on roads. Every local government authority has to raise revenue. I am not entirely familiar with the local government bodies of - other States, but 1 think they are similar to the local government bodies in my own Stateof South Australia. A local authority is responsible for a variety of matters, but one of its main functions is the provision of adequate roads. The only means a local authority has of raising funds for district roads, semi-district roads, or whatever you like to call them, is by levying rates. If we were to aggregate the sums raised by local authorities throughout the whole of Australia, they would amount to a very high figure indeed. State governments also raise money for road-building purposes through their own taxation. Their main source of revenue for this purpose is the money collected from the registration of motor vehicles. If we add the Commonwealth grant to the amounts raised for roads by State governments and local government authorities, the figure reaches astronomical proportions. We in Australia face a tremendous responsibility in placing our roads in a satisfactory condition. Under this new agreement we will spend a total of £730,000,000 on our roads. That figure is astronomical, and it shows how large the road-building programme looms on our horizon for the future.
The various States have different methods by which money is obtained for road construction and maintenance. The local government body in my own district looked forward to the assistance that it received from the governing body in the State. Each year that assistance was forthcoming in the form of a grant and, added to the amount received by the local authority by levying rates in the district, it represented
The Commonwealth has been generous in making the amount of £250,000,000 available to the States. While the Commonwealth has not been over-generous, it has nevertheless decided upon a realistic figure. We all know the dangers that exist In making available a sum of money altogether out of proportion to requirements. I deprecate the practice, of which we have heard, of local government bodies, and even State governments, engaging in a frenzy of spending towards the end of the financial year in an effort to use a grant that has been made to them. The result is wasteful expenditure. During my period of office in local government, I have witnessed the spectacle of money being thrust upon us by the State government, and then we have been faced with the task of using the money wisely and well. But, of course, we have been limited by the resources of labour and materials that have been available to us.
After consultation with State Premiers and road transport authorities, the Commonwealth decided that the amount of £220,000,000 would be made available to the States over a period of five years, with the additional grant of £30,000,000 provided that the States match that amount on a £l-for-£l basis. I am a great believer in the principle of self-help, and I am sure that the States will do all in their power to take advantage of the additional amount that, the Commonwealth is prepared to make available. I support wholeheartedly the principle of matching grants. Under the new arrangement the Commonwealth will not set aside a certain amount of money from the grants for use in its own territories, but will provide a separate amount of £1,000,000 for that purpose. Considered overall, this legislation is extremely satisfactory. It will utilize our labour and materials to the utmost and will effect a considerable improvement in our road system. All honorable senators should remember that the Commonwealth faces great responsibilities in meeting other expenditures. They must keep this matter in its true perspective and realize that £250,000,000 is a large amount of money to be devoted towards meeting the needs of the States.
As I have said, the formula for distribution of the grant has been altered. Certain honorable senators from other States have stated that the alteration in the formula is a retrograde step. I am not very concerned about the basis of distribution because my State will be in much the same position under the new formula as it was under the old. Therefore, I can consider this matter from a national outlook. Although the formula has been altered, 1 do not think that it has reacted to the grave disadvantage of any State. I heard portion of Senator Wood’s speech to-day and I am aware of his violent opposition to the alteration in the formula, but looking at the matter objectively, I consider that Victoria and New South Wales deserve support for a better deal. I do not agree that, as a result of the alteration in the formula, the two States that were previously the principal beneficiaries will be seriously affected when the new scheme comes into operation. Under the existing formula, Queensland has received enormous Commonwealth aid roads grants over the years. That State has been very well treated indeed. The same can be said of Western Australia. I am familiar with the road conditions in both those States, having travelled extensively in them. Despite the rather gloomy speeches that have been made as to the condition of the roads in Queensland and Western Australia, I want to say, Mr. Deputy President, that when I visited those States I was very pleasantly surprised by the condition of their roads.
– Perhaps the honorable senator saw only the main streets in the cities.
– On the contrary, I travelled fairly widely in both States, and I was agreeably surprised by the condition of the roads. The Commonwealth aid roads legislation has been of great benefit to those States by virtue of their large area. Much has been said about the roads in Queensland. Senator Wood mentioned the road that runs out to Mount Isa.
– It is not a road.
– That is known as “ the horror stretch “.
– I have never travelled over that road, but I know something of the conditions in that part of Queensland. If a new road were constructed over the black soil plains there, it would probably disappear within a few years. I know how difficult it is to maintain roads in that part of the State.
– There are ranges of mountains in that part of Queensland, not plains.
– I am referring to the black soil plains west of Townsville. They extend for 200 or 300 miles. It is prairie country. Admittedly I did not go over the present road - I travelled by train - but I know that it is over flat country. As I said a moment ago, if a new road were constructed there it would probably disappear within a short space of time. The local people claim, facetiously, that the railway disappears every now and again. As I understand it, a suggestion has been made that the transport system there should be duplicated by constructing a road alongside the railway line. In other words, the people of Queensland want to enjoy the luxury of the road as well as the railway line. That would be uneconomical. We have already seen evidence elsewhere of such extravagance. As I have said* , I- travelled by train west of Townsville and I can remember clearly the type of country that was traversed.
I turn now to Western Australia. I was astounded during a visit to that State to note the good quality of the roads in the north-west. I know that Western Australia has benefited greatly by the construction .of a .certain bridge that we have heard. about from time to time. There is .not the slightest doubt that both Western Australia and Queensland were treated very fairly under the old legislation and, in the aggregate, they will receive even more money for roads under the bill now before us. 1 believe that those States will be well looked after in the future. There is no possibility of the amount that Western Australia receives “ in the first year being less than the amount it received in the last year under the old system, because that State will be given a special grant.
– It will receive a grant of about £300,000.
– I do .not know whether it is proposed to give a. special grant to Queensland equal to the amount by which the grant to that State in the. first year pf the new system falls short of the payment in the last year under the old system.
– I thought that the same principle might apply to Queensland.
The bill provides that distributions to the States for roads shall be on the basis of, onethird as to area, one-third according to the number of motor vehicles registered, and one-third as to population. I do not think there could be anything fairer than that. I know mat the old formula may have benefited both Queensland and Western Australia a little more, but taken by and large the new formula is pretty fair, and we must not forget that it was agreed to by the State Premiers, who came to Canberra and consulted the representatives of the Commonwealth government on the matter. I understand that the Premiers agreed unanimously to this formula for the distribution to the States of £250,000,000 for roads over the next five years. I believe that these disbursements will satisfy the needs of the States in the ensuing five years. I think that five years is an ideal term for a plan such as this. In the past, longer and shorter terms have been adopted for various plans, but they have not been as satisfactory as a five-year period; I think that is the ideal period. Doubtless, the operation of the plan will be reviewed at the end , of . that time, and if any serious shortcomings have been evident remedial action will be taken.
The Minister, for Shipping and Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) directed attention in his secondreading speech to several important alterations that are being made to the existing legislation. For instance, he said - it will be permissible for the States between them to spend up to £1,000,000 of the amount made available by the Commonwealth each year on work connected with transport by road or water other than the construction, reconstruction and maintenance of roads;-
That extends the ambit of the legislation- the States will be free to allocate any part of the money received. by them from the. Commonwealth to municipal or local authorities for roads purposes.
They are completely free, in that respect, to disburse the money made available under these grants to municipal or local authorities, for. road purposes. I am glad to see that the stipulation that 40 per cent, of the grants is to be spent on rural roads is being retained, because I believe that to be a valuable part of the legislation. I think that even Queensland has altered its attitude in this regard. I understand that, originally, Queensland wanted the allocation for rural roads to be reduced to 30 per cent., but that it has jumped back again to 40 per cent. That indicates a certain degree of uncertainty on the part of State authorities as to what they really want. To my way of thinking, this is good, sound legislation. It will have a valuable effect on the road systems throughout Australia. It is necessary to pay adequate regard to roads, because, as I mentioned earlier, we know how vital road transport is and what a distinct part it plays in the overall transport system of the Commonwealth.
There are one or two other factors associated with the bill that one could touch on with advantage. Some honorable senators probably know that I have had a great interest’ in the standardization of railway gauges, and that I have been a member of the Rail Standardization Committee. That committee believes, and so does the Government, that rail standardization must be made to play its full part in reducing transport costs. I want to give full credit to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), and to the other members of the Government, for the work that they have done in connexion with the standardization of. gauges in the comparatively short time that they have been, devoting, their attention to the matter.
I am’ pleased that we are at present standardizing the gauge between Wodonga and Melbourne. That will have a very important effect on transport between the two major1 capital cities of the Commonwealth. Far too few people appreciate what has happened to the Hume Highway as a result of its use by vehicles, carrying big loads between Sydney and Melbourne. A couple of years ago, the highway was almost destroyed by heavy transports, and it became obvious that something would have to be done urgently to remove the break of gauge at Wodonga. The Government, in its wisdom, has seen fit to embark on the work of standardization. That is a very sound move. In the long run, it will have a tremendous impact on transport costs between Sydney and Melbourne. Eventually no doubt, the gauges on the transcontinental line also will be standardized, and I hope that in the very near future there will be a standard gauge between Broken Hill and Port Pirie, so that there will be a link with the transcontinental system running across to Kalgoorlie. I hope to live to see the day when that process of standardization will be carried to its full extent, and to see Australia criss-crossed by standard gauge railway lines, because that will help appreciably to lower our transport costs.
We all know that it is important that transport costs generally should be reduced. The costs of motor transport could well be lowered, not so much in the commercial field,- perhaps, but certainly in the private field. The commercial transporters who operate big lorries seem to work most economically. They have a great advantage over other forms of transport in that they skim off the cream of the goods that are available for transport. In that way they have an unfair advantage over the railways and the shipping services that operate between the Australian States. However, in respect of private motor transport, there is a shocking degree of extravagance. For evidence of that, it is only necessary to go to a capita] city and see the number of vehicles travelling along the roads with only one person in them. Perhaps that cannot be avoided, but it means that we are paying for the luxury of being able to travel in a private car at the expense of public transport. In other words, we are paying for two systems of transport where one would do if it were somewhat enlarged. That is a luxury that we enjoy in this free country in being able to choose our mode of transport; but it does not get over the fact that, to some extent, it is an extravagance and adds to transport costs.
As Senator Mattner has mentioned, we should do something regarding sea transport, one of our principal modes of transport. It is no good simply concentrating on roads and saying that if we improve the roads we shall solve the whole transport problem. That is not a complete answer. We know perfectly well that sea transport is the cheapest form of transport. I deplore the fact that at the present time we are not using sea transport to the extent that we should be using it. In a State like Western Australia, and along the eastern coast of the continent, sea transport ought to be playing a dominant role, because it certainly is the cheapest transport there is, and it is most suited to the movement of bulk or heavy cargo. We must consider all such matters when we are discussing transport problems.
I think that we are doing the right thing so far as this legislation is concerned. I hope that the States which feel themselves a little aggrieved in regard to the matter will come to look at it in a saner way and will recognize that they are not being deprived of much, if anything at all, and that they will finally receive, as the other States undoubtedly will receive, benefits from the legislation. I heartily approve of it.
.- I welcome the opportunity to support this legislation because I believe that, for the first time in the history of this country, Australian governments, both Federal and State, have agreed on a system of road finance that has been urgently needed in Australia for many years. This country has transport difficulties that are peculiar to it. Australia has a coastline of 12,000 miles and only 10,000,000 people - a mere handful - to defend it. I deplore the suggestion that the Federal Parliament should spend its time in arguing whether this State or that State is to receive a benefit that others are not receiving. I believe that the responsibilities of Australia to-day in regard to world relationships are so big and so vital to our destiny that we must look at this transport problem from a national point of view. This legislation is the first indication that Federal and State governments are agreed on that issue.
For the same reason, I must oppose the amendment moved by Senator Willesee. I want to make it clear that my opposition does not spring from the fact that the amendment originated from the Labour benches, because I believe that the problems that face us in respect of transport transcend party politics. With one or two notable exceptions, all the contributions to this debate in the Senate have been made, T am sure, with the object of assisting the development of the kind of road system that is so necessary. To tie our defence and our development to a figure equated to the revenue from petrol tax, as the amendment suggests we should, to my way of thinking, is not a correct approach to the problem. This nation should resolve for itself the question of basic needs for its development and defence, and do its utmost to make sufficient finance available to meet those needs. If we do not face this issue on that basis, the time may well come when we will be asked to give an account of our stewardship.
There is also another reason why I oppose the amendment. I think that Senator Scott had the perfect answer to the amendment when he said that some future government might well reduce the excise on petrol. If that did happen, a transport system that is so necessary to the welfare of this country would stagnate. It could well be that party politics would have a most dampening effect on the development of the country in that sufficient money would not be made available. For those reasons, T suggest that the amendment must be defeated.
As a realist, I want to make the further point that there is no suggestion in the amendment as to what formula should be adopted. That is another reason why the amendment should not receive the support of some of my Queensland friends.
– The old formula?
– I am glad Senator Wood has returned to the chamber. I am very loath to join issue with a colleague on this side of the Senate, but I was interested to hear Senator Wood’s vain attempts to put the clock back to 1926. With great energy, he developed much heat but no light. He set out to state the case for Queensland, and I took the trouble to make a note of some of the statements he made. His first statement was a bald one. He said, “ I believe this legislation is detrimental to the people of Queensland “.
– Quite right.
– Is the honorable senator’s vision so limited that he can see only Queensland? Has he made no study of the bill? His knowledge of its contents seems to be most remote. If he had studied the bill, he would know that over the next five years Queensland will receive more in grants than it received in the last five years. If that does not satisfy him, then on what ground does he base his dissatisfaction?
The honorable senator made another most remarkable statement. He said that in Australia, which has a coastline of 12.000 miles, and a population of 10,000,000 people, density of population is not an important consideration. I remind him that to our near north there are scores of millions of people who are on the march for a better way of life and who are looking to Australia for a contribution to their needs. I am glad to say that it is only a mere handful who are suggesting in this Parliament that we should adopt a narrow outlook, that only very few follow the policy of, “This little corner in which I live is the only area that should receive preferential treatment “.
Senator Wood went even further. He taunted the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) - who, I might say, is absent from Australia - about a speech he made in 1954, and he twitted the Senate about a decision it may or may not make at the conclusion of this debate compared with a decision it made in 1954. I suggest to the honorable senator who was so loquacious on this issue that again in 1959 the Prime Minister has proved to the people of Australia that he is big enough to meet any situation that arises, and that he is determined to put Australia first. I hope that the honorable senator who has charged the Prime Minister with inconsistency does not suffer from indigestion when he is obliged to swallow his words.
As I said earlier, I do not relish having to take to pieces one of my own colleagues, but what I think was the gem of all Senator Wood’s assertions was his tirade of abuse of the pocket-handkerchief State, Victoria. I do not know exactly what percentage of the population of the State he said lives in Melbourne, but, in all his ramblings, he made one classic contribution to the debate when he said, “We in Queensland take almost 50 per cent, of the products of Victorian secondary industry and for that reason Victoria should be prepared to subsidize us ad lib.”. If what he says is true - and it is his statement, not mine - I suggest that he should not bite the hand that feeds him; he should be prepared to say to Victoria, “ Because of the magnificent contribution you are making to our country, we are prepared to accept this formula as a basis for arriving at Victoria’s allocation to enable you to make a further contribution to the economy of Australia “.
When this legislation was first mooted by the Prime Minister, the cynics declared that agreement was impossible as the Premiers and the Commonwealth Government had never agreed on this issue. But they did agree on this occasion, and I must admit that there are some who were a little fearful of the action which might be taken by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge). They thought, that because he was a Western Australian that State might be favoured. The whole of Australia knows just how well Western Australia has been treated under the existing formula. But those of us who have come to know the broad national outlook of ihe Minister for Shipping and Transport knew full well that he would play a most magnificent role in seeing that justice was done to every State in the Commonwealth. How successful he has been is illustrated by the fact that the Premiers have agreed to the proposed formula.
– He is a statesman.
– He has proved on many occasions that he is a statesman. I repeat that his ability and capacity to see the other man’s point of view stamp htm as a man with a broad national outlook.
There are some aspects of this legislation which have a great appeal to the local authorities in the various States. For the first time, a fixed sum has been guaranteed for a period of five years. I have had the privilege of serving” on local authorities in both rural and urban areas -
– Not in Western Australia.
– I shall come round to Senator Cooke directly. 1 was hoping that he would not provoke me to mention Western Australia, but he has done so. I kn’ow some of the difficulties confronting municipalities in their endeavours to meet their commitments. For years and years, the local authorities have not known from one year’s end to another what funds they will be receiving. This lack of knowledge has handicapped their planning and retarded their spending. Those of us who realize that a heavy grader costs in the vicinity of £10,000 to-day will understand the reluctance with which a local authority pledges its credit when it does no! know what grants it is likely to receive in future. Now, for the first time in the history of the country, the local authorities will be able to plan soundly for the future secure in the knowledge that for the next five years they will receive a certain minimum contribution from the Commonwealth Government.
This knowledge will bring tremendous relief to the various roads boards. Only recently I noticed that the Country Roads Board of Victoria, an organization par excellence, had to say to the local authorities at the end of the year, “We cannot meet our undertakings at 30th June, but as soon as we get our new grants, we shall be in a position to do so “. That is a most unhappy state of affairs for instrumentalities charged with very heavy responsibilities. For that reason, this legislation is of great value both to road boards and municipalities.
Sir, I had not intended to tell the Senate of some of the anomalies that existed under the old formula, but I am bound to do so in case any one should read the speech made by Senator Wood. Those anomalies have been a source of injustice to Victoria for many years. The old formula was drawn up in 1926 on a purely experimental basis, but it remained unaltered until 1959 - over the most momentous period of national development yet experienced. The justification for a renewal of the formula was apparent. The inequalities imposed by the area-population basis made it obvious that the larger States such as Queensland and
Western Australia, which are difficult to develop, would profit by having huge areas of country where no roads existed, or would be required for years to come. As a result, those States have received large sums of Commonwealth aid for roads in respect of areas making no worth-while contribution, at this stage, to the development of Australia. It is pertinent to remind the Senate that this money has been diverted for use in other areas. I am reluctant to mention the bridge across the Narrows at Perth, but it is a classic example of such a diversion. It is interesting to hear some honorable senators suggesting that Western Australia would like the old formula to continue to operate for another five years.
– That is quite true. You do not blame us, do you?
– Not at all, because it would be too good to miss. However, the same people tell us with great eloquence of the huge tracts of virgin country crying out for development, and dependent upon roading. In the very next breath they admit that a Western Australian Government has sunk’ more than a million pounds of petrol tax money in the heart of Perth. Is it any wonder that they want the old formula to continue? Fortunately those who hold that view are in a minority, but I should like to say to my Western Australian friends that if their State had proved to the Government that it was making the best use of every £1 that it received it would have been justified in complaining now. This country simply cannot afford the luxury of permitting huge sums to be diverted into areas and projects that are of no real value to development and defence.
– We cannot afford to have big tracts undeveloped, either.
– I agree entirely, but your new-found enthusiasm for developing these new tracts is marred by the fact that a million pounds was previously spent on a bridge in the heart of Perth- to fulfil the pipe dream of some engineer. On the other hand, the whole of Victoria is capable of relatively cheap and speedy development. Therefore, it requires a high level of road maintenance and construction. Only in that way can it expand its economy in the interests, of the nation.
– But you want only maintenance, not new construction! ‘
– I .should like the honorable senator to listen to my account of the tremendous difficulties under which Victoria has been labouring by reason of the restrictions imposed by the old formula of two-fifths area and three-fifths population. It placed Victoria and, 1 repeat, Australia, .at a great disadvantage.
– On one -occasion Victoria could not spend £80,000.
– With great respect, 1 must tell the honorable senator that his thinking is like his reading - it is back in 1926. The old formula gave Victoria approximately 17.1 per cent, of the petrol tax, though it contributed 32 per cent, of the revenue. 1 would point out, with great pride, that my State, with slightly less than 4 per cent., of Australia’s area, has almost one.third of .its population. It has, of course, .about the same .proportion of the total number of motor vehicles, yet it is expected to maintain and improve 26 per cent, of Australia’s constructed road systems. Under the new formula, Victoria expects to receive about 20 per cent, of the total tax revenue, an increase of -barely 3 per cent. To hear some of the people who have a State complex one would think that the increase was almost 100 per cent. Having regard to the magnificent .contribution that Victoria is making to Australia’s -economy, I do not believe that an increase of 3 per cent, is sufficient to allow her to expand as she should be expanding in the interests of this country.
– It looks as if you are not completely satisfied.
– I am not, but I hasten °to assure the Senate that my disaffection is not Victorian in character. It is based on the fact ‘that the present formula does not place sufficient -finance in the hands of the States which can develop, and are developing, this country at a rapid rate. Lest honorable senators should need further proof of the justice of our case, I will make an analysis of all the sources of the finance that is diverted into the roading. projects of “the States. It is very interesting and illuminating. The New South Wales State Government finds £11,000,000. Victoria, that little pocket handkerchief State about which an honorable senator spoke so disparagingly, finds .£12,000,000. The State of Queensland which, I agree, has a magnificent potential, produces £6,000,000. South Australia contributes £4,000,000. Western Australia contributes £1,700,000.
– Was that for the bridge, or for roads?
– As the honorable senators can see, the bridge would have swallowed up that sum -in one year. I respect the magnificent contribution that has been made by Tasmania - £1,600,000 - almost as much as the contribution by Western Australia. It is also interesting to look at the contributions made by local government in the various States. In New South Wales local government finds £15,400,000. In Victoria it provides £11/800,000. I would like Senator Wood to listen to the figures for Queensland. There, local government provides £5,300,000 for roads. In South Australia the figure is £3,900,000; in Western Australia £1,400,000; and in Tasmania £1,500,000. In Tasmania, the little island -that is known as the Apple Isle, more funds come from local authorities than is the case in Western Australia. I am very sorry that the Minister for “Shipping and Transport, who has a broad national outlook, happens to be in the chamber and is listening to me speaking so disparagingly about his State. I do .not apply those sentiments to the Minister; to do so would be quite unfair. “But let me hark back .to the £1,400,000 that as produced by local authorities in Western Australia. Honorable senators from Western -Australia wonder why we in Victoria are so concerned at the way in which Western Australia is expending her petrol tax moneys. In Western Australia, a new housing scheme opens up and the landholders or tenants have no obligation to supply roads, footpaths or kerbing.
– We in Victoria supply them.
– Of course we do. Victoria does channel petrol tax moneys into the provision of footpaths, roads and kerbing; but, on the other hand, Victorian people who go into new housing settlements have to face up to an expenditure of from £400 to £800 out of their own pockets for similar services’. It is those people in Western Australia who benefit in this way from the petrol tax moneys who say they would like the present system to remain in operation for another five years. I throw out this challenge to Western Australian senators: When you come into this chamber and say, “ We are inflicting the same burden on our own people in housing areas by making them pay for their streets, footpaths and kerbing “, I shall be very happy to vote for a bigger allocation of the petrol tax proceeds to Western Australia, but not before.
I direct attention, finally, to Commonwealth contributions to the States from petrol tax receipts. New South Wales receives £10,300,000, Victoria £6,200,000, and Queensland £7,000,000. Queensland has been receiving £1,000,000 a year more than Victoria, yet Queensland senators have the temerity to suggest that Queensland should continue to receive the treatment it is receiving now in spite of the fact that Victoria, as has been admitted, is supplying up to SO per cent, of Queensland’s purchases from secondary industry. South Australia has been receiving £3,700,000 from the Commonwealth Government, and Western Australia £6,000,000.
– Hear, hear!
– Of course, you want it to continue. Tasmania has been drawing a mere 5 per cent., or £1,600,000. Strangely enough, for the first time in my experience in this chamber, Tasmanian senators are silent. I assume their silence means their acceptance of the fact. Twenty per cent, of Victoria’s road expenditure comes from Commonwealth aid roads funds. By way of comparison, Western Australia draws 66 per cent, of her funds from that source, and Queensland 38 per cent.
– Not enough.
– Not enough, the honorable senator says. If certain States want to continue drawing these funds at the expense of States that are prepared to make a major contribution to the economy of the country, I am afraid that their claims cannot be justified. To return to what I was saying, I point out that Tasmania draws 34 per cent, of her roads expenditure from Commonwealth sources, South Australia 32 per cent., and New South Wales 28 per cent.
– That makes about 150 per cent.
– That statement by the mathematical genius on my left who comes from Queensland is in line with some of the other Queensland reasoning to which I listened this afternoon.
There are some aspects of this legislation that have great appeal to rural municipalities. I am very glad to see that the Government has written into the bill the provision that 40 per cent, of moneys granted to the States shall be spent on roads in rural areas other than highways or main roads. 1 think Senator McKellar made a very worthwhile contribution to the debate when dealing with this aspect of the matter. One has only to live in the country areas to realize how much roads mean to country people. To-day, most of the States are developing concentrated schooling facilities for the children of rural areas, but such facilities can be developed only if the roads will carry buses. Sometimes we tend to forget that the man in the country is dependent upon his road to get his daily bread and his newspaper. In some outback areas, he may even be obliged to use a road to get to a telephone. This provision that 40 per cent, of the available funds shall be ploughed back into rural areas is a clear indication that this Government is determined, as far as it lies within its power, to pursue a policy of decentralization. For that reason, the legislation commends itself to those who live in rural areas.
– Do you think we have not got any rural areas in Queensland?
– That question prompts me to address myself to a statement made by the honorable senator this afternoon. He made great play of the fact that Queensland was decentralized to such a degree that the major portion of her population was living in rural areas. That is a highly desirable state of affairs for which every State should aim. But one would think from the way in which the honorable senator castigated other States, notably Victoria, that they were not faced with these problems. I say with great respect that, if the honorable senator knew as much about the Commonwealth as a whole as he knows about one or two spots in Queensland, he would know that one can go into almost any country town of 10,000 or 12,000 people and learn that, after an inch of rain, people living within 4 or 5 miles of the boundary cannot get into the town. That sort of thing is not confined to Queensland; it. applies also to Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia. If these people in country areas are to be persuaded to persevere with a pioneering spirit, they must be given some relief. I would resist as strongly as I possibly could any move by any honorable senator, acting as a representative of a State and not of Australia as a whole, to deprive such people in other States of the privilege of having suitable roads. 1 have tried to base my contribution to this debate on Australia’s needs from the viewpoints of defence and development. I do not suggest for one moment that Queensland and Western Australia are not in need of special assistance; I grant that they are. But I believe it would be quite unrealistic for this Government to pander to the needs of this section or that section of the community when it has a very real obligation to develop the country as rapidly as possible. If we could be sure that we would enjoy another 50 years of peace, we could afford the luxuries that have been advocated so eloquently by one or two honorable senators this afternoon, but because of the responsibility that we have as a nation - I am quite serious about this - we cannot experiment with a system that will not provide Australia as quickly as possible with the means of developing and defending herself. It could well be that the Federal Government should consider using loan money for building strategic roads. Posterity, for whom we are endeavouring to legislate and secure a future, is under an obligation to make its contribution to a roads system that is so vital to this country. Therefore, I believe that loan moneys should be used for this purpose.
– What about defence moneys?
– My friend on my right has suggested that defence moneys could be used. I agree entirely that some of the money that is being set aside for defence purposes could well be spent on providing for some of the major roads in this country. The only real defence that 10,000,000 people can have in a country of this size is to make a contribution to assist its neighbours, who want to know what we are going to do to help them lift their standards of living. The sooner the people of this country realize that they have an obligation in that regard, the sooner will we tackle our job with more enthusiasm.
– Do not take any money from the Navy.
– 1 am not going to traverse naval operations, as some other speakers have done, quite justifiably. This is a transport debate. I conclude by saying, with all the earnestness of which I am capable, that I am quite sure that the safety of this country in the foreseeable future depends upon the way in which we, the Australian people, develop the country, defend it and meet the needs of those people who are looking to us to see if we are interested in their struggle for a better way of life.
– In supporting the valid arguments which have been put forward by my colleague from Victoria, Senator Wade, I should like, at the beginning of what I have to say, to pay a well-deserved tribute to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) for what I can describe, and what any man of goodwill can describe, only as a truly statesmanlike approach to the complex road problem which is facing Australia. It seems to me that the approach of the Minister is an approach which does good to Australia as a whole and, therefore, is above criticism, but, unfortunately, the scheme, which, besides doing good to Australia, will give a modicum of justice to the State of Victoria, has been made the subject of biased and ungrounded attacks in this chamber.
It has been suggested that this legislation, which proposes to double the total amount of money that will be available for Australian roads and which makes a minor adjustment of the way in which that doubled amount of money will be distributed between the States, will in some way cause an injustice to some States. However, no State in Australia will not be receiving in total more money during the next five years than it has received during the last five years.
– That proves nothing. It only means that Victoria will get more.
– I say that only to prove that no State in Australia will be worse ofl!,, and that every- State in Australia, will, be better off. That is all I sought to prove, when I made that statement. NoState will be worse off, and every State will be better off. The argument of some honorable senators is that the formula under which this doubled amount of money is to be distributed should be the present formula. If the formula were not altered, some States- which already are receiving more than, in justice and equity, they ought to, receive would continue to have that advantage. Instead of receiving a greater portion than they should receive of, say, £100, they would be receiving a greater portion than they should receive of, say, £200; Therefore, any inequity that existed would be doubled.
Some remarks have been passed on this side of the chamber to show that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) ought to be opposed to the proposition that has been put before us, because - so it is alleged - during 1954 he said that the then formula was operating equitably as between the States. I want to put a. proposition to any person who is willing to approach this subject in a reasonable way. If you are dividing a relatively small amount of money, among a number of States and. you are using a method of division which,, although it. gives an advantage to one State or another, does not give an immense advantage to one State or another, it might well be right and proper to say that the method of division is fair as between the States receiving the money. But if you doubled the amount of money and then divided it, using the same formula-, it is clear that the State which previously was receiving a small advantage would receive a double advantage. To attack the Prime Minister because he said that to divide £20,000,000 on the basis of a certain formula was fair, but that it would be unfair to divide £40,000;000, using the same formula, seems- to me to be completely illogical and indefensible. When the argument was put forward by the Prime Minister five years ago,, the circumstances were entirely different:
If I may introduce a personal note, it was on 30th September, 1954. that T moved the adjournment of the Senate to consider this very problem. I did’ not ask for a vote to be taken on the question whether the formula at that time was right or wrong.
I asked, only that a committee be appointed, to- examine the formula. At- that time I pointed out that, as the amount of money grew, so the formula for division got more and more out of date. I said- that in 1923, when the formula was introduced for the distribution of petrol tax money, the amount to be distributed was a. mere £500,000 and that the operation of the formula meant that the large States, such as Queensland and Western Australia, received only £5,000 or £6,000 more than Victoria or New South Wales. The formula was: devised to enable an even distribution of the sum of £500,000 to be made. That will be clearly evident to any person who reads the debates of that time. A difference of £5,000 or £6,000 in the grant to Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria or New South Wales is of no significance. The speech continues -
As the years have gone by - and particularly inrecent years - the Commonwealth has become more and more generous in its allocation to the States of revenue obtained from the petrol tax. The number of motor vehicles on our roads has increased in geometric progression,, and theamount of money to be distributed to the States has grown from £500,000 to £24,000,000. Similarly, the discrepancy which at first was only a. few. thousand pounds, has grown to a figure of great magnitude. I envisage the time when allocation to the States from the petrol tax will: have increased from the present £24,000,000 to £32,000,000 or £48,000,000.
At that point Senator Kennelly interjected to say that it was- quite impossible that the amount to be distributed: among the State* would ever increase to £48,000,000. Yet to-day we have a bill before us which proposes that in 1963-64, at the end of the five-year period of which we are speaking, the amount to be distributed will be £58,000,000, not the £48,000,000 that was mentioned in 1954-.
Clearly, if there were any injustice in a formula to distribute £24,000,000 between the various States, that injustice has been multiplied as the amount to be distributed has risen to £58,000,000. When speaking to this measure I have been told that I’ have a State complex. If that is correct, I am in good’ company because no State Premier who attended the conference at: which the matters contained in this bill were decided upon, disagrees with me.. Neither the Premier nor, to my knowledge,, the official Opposition of Queensland has offered, any- objection to the arrangements proposed in this bill. If, as I have been led to believe,, we are a chamber which has some concern with State governments, State rights and the thoughts of the spokesmen for State governments, then we might pay some attention to the unanimous approval of all State- Premiers and State governments of the. propositions embodied in this measure.
What does this bill contain that has led some members of this chamber to disagree with their own State governments and, in fact, their own Commonwealth Government because the distribution of revenue from’ petrol tax will be made in a different manner from that which has operated in the past?- How different is the proposed manner of distribution? We have already stated that no State will receive less under the new formula than it did under the old. What will be the position of the States? I understand that the amount distributed to New South Wales will increase from 27.5 per cent, to 27.9 per cent.; Victoria will increase from 17.6 per cent, to 19.9 per cent.; Queensland will drop from. 19.2 per cent, to 18.4 per cent. - less than 1 per cent, of the amount distributed, but that amount will be double the previous figure - and Western Australia will drop from 19.5 per cent, to 17.6 per cent. To listen to some of the remarks that, have been made during this debate, one would have thought that the changes as between States would be tremendous.
– We hope there will not be tremendous changes.
– There will be a tremendous change in that the amount to be made available will be double that which was previously allocated.
– Does the Minister approve this amount being expended in other States on projects- of all kinds?
– I approve all money expended in Australia on proper methods of national development, whether it be in the Snowy Mountains scheme; whether it be in the development of the north-west of Western Australia; whether it be in the subsidization of. a transport system between Tasmania and the mainland; whether it be on standardization of railway gauges. I approve, warmly the fact that the amount to be- expended- on roads under, this new formula’ will- be doubled.
As- 1 have said, during the next five years wc shall receive from the fuel tax £100,000,000 more than we have received during the- past five- years. That amount of money Wily be divided on a fairer basis? than has operated in the past. The proposal does not’ mean that the great’ and- populous States will not be contributing greatly to the development of the less populous States, as they should; if means merely that they will not Be contributing as unfairly as they have been in the past. Both Queensland and Western Australia will receive larger amounts in total than they have received in the- past and aTe receiving now. In Queensland, the grant will rise from £7.1 per head to £10.6 per head, and in Western Australia from £7.2 per head to £10.2 per head. Forty per cent, of this money will be spent on rural roads. The suggestion has been made that this Government is interested only in the metropolitan community and not in the rural community. I emphasize again that in my own State of Victoria virtually all of this money that is being made available by the Commonwealth Government - over 99 per cent. - will be spent entirely on rural roads. If other State governments do not wish to spend the money on rural, or feeder roads- outside the metropolis, that is a matter for themselves, because the expenditure of the. grant will be controlled by the State governments. They will be able to decide the amount of money to be spent in the metropolitan areas and the amount to be spent in rural areas. I do not say for one moment that the Victorian. Government is right in allocating all the money to roads outside the metropolis, but that is a matter for the State. Any honorable senator who rises in his place and suggests that, the Commonwealth Government controls in some way the method by which, the money will be expended, and that, the metropolitan areas will receive preference over the. rural, areas, does not know what he is talking about.
– We did not say that.
– I know,, but it has been said by an honorable senator from Queensland: As I have said, all State Premiers- have agreed to the proposition that has been placed before them’.- I have not heard yet of any State opposition objecting to the Premier accepting the proposal. Surely, those roads over which twothirds of our business traffic runs - consequently the roads subjected to most wear - should have a greater proportion of funds allocated to them in order to keep them in repair to enable us to carry on our internal business. As my colleague, Senator Wade, has said, the building up of the Australian economy does depend to a large degree on transport and the area which will give the best response to the development; that is to say, whether the development ought to be in the area between Brisbane and Adelaide, with a greater concentration of feeder roads and other roads in New South Wales, Victoria, and that portion of South Australia and Queensland with ready access to the main roads between the capital cities of those States. It is there that, statistically and unarguably, the vast bulk of Australian traffic flows.
– That is not where the potential is.
– That is where the trucks ply; that is where the motor cars ply; that is where those who pay petrol tax use the vehicles which wear the roads, that is where the cost component in Australian goods is mostly concentrated. That does not mean - it should not mean - that a huge proportion of Australia’s road money goes into those areas. This bill does not provide for a huge proportion to go into those areas, but it does mean that an adequate proportion should go into them so that Australia can grow and have more money so that roads can be built up to the Bindaboos, or whatever tribe it is that lives up on Cape York Peninsula. That is the only way those roads can be built. And because that has been recognized by the Government, and partly because I have been trying to have it recognized by the Government for the past five years, 1 shall finish as I began, by congratulating the Minister and the Government on their national outlook on this matter.
– The importance that this matter assumes in the public mind has surely been reflected by the length of this debate both in another place and in the Senate, and by the number of members of another place, and of senators who have participated in the debate. We have had the opportunity to listen to a discussion of a most important subject which has been, in many respects, both informative and helpful. 1 regret to say - and I say it at once - that at times the debate slid into a State versus State affair, and in so doing the main features of the legislation were lost sight of. Surely the most striking feature of this piece of legislation is that, over a period, each revision of the petrol tax allocation has led to great and steep increases. But on this occasion, the allocation takes the most spectacular increase in the history of the Commonwealth - an increase of no less than £100,000,000. As my colleague the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) has pointed out, no State will receive less money under this scheme than it received under the last scheme, and in the process we have ironed out something which had become, I believe, anomalous.
We should not forget that although the States are responsible for road construction and although the Commonwealth Government makes money available to the States as such, the purpose of those grants, surely, is to build roads for Australia. When we talk about a national roads plan, I suggest that a national roads plan makes its own design and works itself out in the co-related road plans, with all five States working together, as indeed they do, through a very effective body which I never cease to praise. I refer to the annual conference of State representatives, not the political body but the body of technical, practical men who know what is required in respect of roads, where they should be constructed and to what standards they should be built. Having said that, Sir, I must now tell my friends of the Opposition formally that the Government rejects the amendment moved by Senator Willesee.
I want to say something about the particular arguments which were put to the Senate. One which I found most interesting was the argument that was advanced that all the collections from the petrol tax should be returned for expenditure on roads. I know that during the course of my secondreading speech, my friend, Senator Willesee, and I had some clash at arms on this very point, and during his own speech he quoted passages from speeches by Sir Earle Page and Mr. S. M. Bruce as evidence of what we propose to do. But I am interested to notice that in respect of this matter - the petrol tax and its return for roads - the late leader of the Labour Party, Mr. Chifley, was very dogmatic about it when he was the Prime Minister of this country. In 1948, Mr. Chifley said -
The petrol tax is not imposed solely for this purpose,
That) is, for roads purposes - and although for many years substantial road grants have been made to the States, the major portion of this tax has been required to meet the expenditure of the Commonwealth for general purposes and, in particular, the heavy commitments for war and for post-war purposes. The tax is, therefore, primarily a revenue impost, in common with those imposed on other items such as beer, tobacco, Ac.
A little later he was more definite still, because he said -
Although from time to time claims are made that the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax should bc devoted to road-making and maintenance, I do not think any government of this country will ever agree to this being done. It is customary for the Government to retain the benefit of the excise tax on petrol.
And then he finished on a note which left no doubt in any one’s mind. He said -
While I continue as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, it is of no use for any one to hope that the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax will be devoted to the maintenance and to the construction of roads.
It is, of course, purely a revenue tax and it will remain a revenue tax payable, as the late Mr. Chifley said, irrespective of whatever party happens to be in office.
I was intrigued by the argument that was advanced, that a specific purpose tax should be collected and returned to or for the benefit of a specific taxpayer. This kind of argument can be taken along many roads and can come to some funny ends. If you argue that way, then surely the next thing that you are going to argue is not only that the money you collect from petrol tax should go back for roads, but that the money you collect from petrol tax from various localities should go back for roads in those localities. My friend, Senator Willesee, who advanced the argument, rather astounded me when he did so because I shuddered to think that his argument might be developed to the detriment of our own State of Western Australia.
Senator Willesee also referred to the fluctuations which had occurred in the collection of petrol tax and said that it was strange that I had not, in my secondreading speech, mentioned the particular areas in which the fluctuations had occurred. I think the implication was that the fluctuations had been of a genuinely rising nature and that I had, perchance, misled the Senate by not making it clear that that was the case. In order to put the record right, perhaps I should read to the Senate the course of these fluctuations over the last few years. In 1951-52, there was an increase of 5.1 per cent. In the following year, there was an increase of 3.3 per cent., and in the year following that it was 10.4 per cent. Then there was an increase of 12.3 per cent., followed by a minus of 3 per cent. That was followed by an increase of 17.6 per cent., which in turn was followed by an increase of 4.7 per cent. I mention those figures merely to illustrate the point to which 1 referred in my secondreading speech - that a fluctuating collection could produce the type of result in which neither the State governments nor the Federal Government could with certainty budget over a period of five years. In this plan. Sir, we have produced a result whereby the States know with certainty what they will receive in each year over the next five years. For our part, we know with certainty what we must pay to the States over the next five years; in fact, we know our commitment to the States for the next five years. The next criticism that came from the Opposition benches was somewhat similar to one raised by my friend and colleague from Queensland, Senator Wood, that there was nothing wrong with the formula and that it should not have been revised. Senator Wood, in opening his address, said that the Queensland Premier, at the Premiers’ Conference, possibly had felt a little strange in his new surroundings and for that reason may have been somewhat inhibited in pushing the case for his State. I wish to say, Sir, that I attended this conference and that I did not get the impression that either Mr. Nicklin or Mr. Hiley, who ably assisted him. was at any time abashed by his surroundings, or that the prosecution of Queensland’s case suffered for that reason. Indeed, I got a contrary impression. If I may say so, it was the Queensland representatives who advanced most of the points and Jed the discussion on most of the matters that were submitted to that conference.
In respect of the roads problem, it is quite true that Mr. Nicklin spoke at length about the desirability of amending the formula which we have known for so long, but people should not get the idea that Mr. Nicklin was as ungracious, if I may use the term, as was my friend Senator Wood to-day. At least Mr. Nicklin said this, in -acknowledgment - “Might I say that the total which is included in the plan ‘the Treasurer “has placed before us is, in our ‘opinion, a real improvement.
Then -he ‘went on to discuss other aspects of the matter. He acknowledged, as Senator ‘Wood has failed to acknowledge, that the total -amount made available was well worth while.
There is another aspect of Senator Wood’s speech which I think should be commented on. He advanced the argument that Queensland had been loyal to this -Government and that it was from Queensland, election after election, that we had seen ‘the return of so many Government supporters. True it is, and more power to their strong right arm, but I have never ‘“before ‘heard the argument advanced that there should be some sort of political “pay-off for such a result. ‘That is the kind of thing about which I have heard criticism; indeed, I have myself engaged in criticism of it when I have seen political patronage practised by other governments.
– -I am not suggesting that we want .political favours, but there is a suggestion that you can take us for granted.
– I -do not suggest that you are taken for granted1. I am not completely out of sympathy with the honorable senator when he advances a ‘case for a small “State, and I hope .he will understand that ;that is so, .but in respect of a road grant which has an Australian application, there must be an Australian distribution. The question of .developmental works is another matter entirely. The Queensland -case must be taken up and argued on the basis of special -help for particular developmental works, or things of that nature. I trust, and I hope, (that the Commonwealth Government, :faced with a legitimate request ‘of that nature, will approach the task -with the greatest sympathy for Queensland.
– We have not found so much sympathy in -regard Ito Mount Isa, recently.
– When the story of Mount lsa is told1 - and I trust that it will not be too much longer before it is told - I hope that Senator Wood, with that characteristic honesty of his, will stand in his place in the Senate and say that the Federal Government did not let any one down.
One of the most intriguing things about the situation as it affects Queensland is the fact that when this matter was discussed by the Premiers, the Queensland Premier, the only Country Party Premier at the conference, ironically enough asked that the allocation for rural roads should be decreased by no less than 10 per cent., from 40 per cent, to 30 per cent. I may -say that he rather amazed every one who was at the conference when he made this request. Subsequently, he wrote in and suggested that his request in respect of that matter might be overlooked1 and that a reversion to 40 per cent, be made, a request which was immediately acceded to. I mention the matter now only because Senator Wood, when he was speaking, made such a lot of Queensland’s need for rural roads. He emphasized over and over again that it was the people in the outback who should be assisted all the time. I find that the Queensland Government spends no more than it must upon its rural roads whereas we .have heard to-night of another State which spends 9.9 per cent, of its .grant on rural roads.
There was also some comment on the attitude taken in 1954 by the Government, and by the Prime Minister. And my good friend would have been quite right .had he said, “ by .Senator Paltridge.” I remember quite well the battles of -those days, but I suggest to Senator Wood that things have altered very materially, indeed quite dramatically in the last five years. In that period we have experienced, in the big industrial -areas, a build-up of traffic such as has -never occurred before in Australia. We have experienced increasing delays at industrial -plants, at ports, and at railway stations. We have also experienced increasing congestion; and congestion and delay can cost 6d. a minute! All these things .have occurred most severely within the last .five years and’ their effect is apparent in physical wear and tear, which- is visible to the naked eye in all these industrial centres. I suggest that in those circumstances- of increasing intensification of traffic and of crying need to provide more, better and bigger roads, the Government was compelled to have a look at the allocations and to decide whether modern conditions were being met by the existing- formula.
I,, like my colleague, come from a distant State, and as I speak of congestion, I remind myself, that where congestion occurs in industrial, areas both his State and mine suffer. It is a matter for extreme regret that neither Queensland nor Western Australia has the industrial plants and build-ups that occur in the eastern States. The facts are that we have not these things and therefore are forced to rely so much upon supplies from the eastern seaboard that any delay that occurs on the eastern seaboard can be reflected in higher costs in the distant States. Our transport costs have an uncomfortable habit of doubling and redoubling according to distance and time taken in transport. So T do not say that it is all’ loss to Western Australia or Queensland or that it is to the detriment of Western Australia or Queensland that the more populous States are on this occasion to get a bigger piece of the cake because a reduction in costs in the industrial centres here will, I hope, be reflected in costs in Western Australia, Queensland and the other outlying States.
Senator Wood took time off to criticize the- Government. He said that it had overlooked Queensland, that it had done nothing for Queensland. I regret that he found ft necessary to make that criticism. I do not believe for one minute that it was justified. I think that this Government has, with evenhanded justice, made money and assistance available to develop projects throughout the Commonwealth wherever they be situated, without regard to State borders, or the political’ persuasion of the State governments.
From. time, to time, we have heard long and interesting debates on uniform taxation. I do not want to open up that vastly interesting subject now, but I do suggest that when Senator Wood complains that his State has been treated parsimoniously he should look at a document which is not a political document. Tt is one that was pre pared by the State Under-Treasurers in 1952-53 and it will demonstrate to Senator Wood, if he reads it, that, as a result of the incidence of uniform- taxation, Queensland stands to benefit to the extent of about £8,000,000. He should not lose sight of that fact when pre-judging- how Government policy is. working out.
– But that was not this Government’s doing;.
– I am- not. saying it was, but this Government continued it, and is continuing it.
I do not. think there is anything else I wish- to say except to reply to some criticism which Senator Wood directed at my secondreading speech. I felt he insinuated that I was not quite straightforward in the manner in which I presented some of the material. I want to read the passage to which he referred because I have read it two or three times since my attention was directed to it. I must say quite categorically that I cannot agree with Senator Wood?s implication that this statement could create the impression that the Commonwealth’ Government was contributing more, towards roadworks than was actually the fact. This- is what I said -
While the Commonwealth contribution for road purposes will: thus be £-100,000,000 greater, total expenditure on roads in- Australia over the five years ought to increase by a good deal more than this- amount. During the five years of the current’ legislation, total” expenditure by all authorities on roads, streets and bridges throughout Australia will have been approximately £470,000,000. However, by taking the additional £100,000,000 which the’ Commonwealth will provide for the States, and making- some’ reasonable assumptions as: to; the. likely– increases in: expenditure by, the Commonwealth, on its own account’ and by, State Governments and municipal and’ local authorities;- all1 of them specifically mentioned - from their own resources- it-, is estimated- that totalexpenditure, on roads, streets and. bridges in the period- of this- legislation should” Be in the vicinity of £720,000,000.
I- merely- quote that” passage’ to put the record right and to indicate to the Senate, I hope, that- my statement was clear. I hope I made it clear, that the £720,000,000 does not. apply and was- never intended to apply to what? the Commonwealth Government is doing: It is merely the total amount that it. is. estimated will be collected, and expended from alii sources on roads during the course of the next five years.
I believe that this legislation will make a very marked advance in the provision for roads within the Commonwealth. I trust that it will receive the support which I honestly believe it deserves and that we shall shortly derive benefits from it.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 - (1.) An amount payable to the States under the last preceding section shall be divided amongst the States as follows: -
of the remainder of the amount -
.- I move -
Leave out paragraph (b) of sub-clause (1.), insert the following paragraph: - “ (b) of the remainder of the amount -
three-fifths shall be divided amongst the other States according to their respective populations as published by the Commonwealth Statistician from the returns of the census last taken before the commencement of that year; and
two fifths shall be divided amongst those other States according to their respective areas.”.
My reasons for proposing this amendment are those which I gave during my secondreading speech. Despite what has been said, I still maintain that in my mind, and in the minds of many Queenslanders, it is clear that the old formula, which has been in operation since 1923, is more equitable than that which is now proposed. It is easy to talk about giving more money to the States this year than they had under the old formula. It is true that Queensland will get more than it did before. That is not the point. The retention of the existing basis would give Queensland so much more money for roads than it will receive under the new formula. As I have pointed out, Queensland is a State of vast distances and the very distribution of its population warrants its being given a large grant for road-making purposes.
Almost one-third of Australia’s settled land is within our borders. That is a very important point. I am amazed to see honorable members and honorable senators representing country people displaying so little consideration for their needs. It is idle to talk about the concentration of industry and people in the capital cities in the face of the great drawbacks and difficulties encountered by people in rural areas in this matter of roading.
To-day I heard one Victorian senator speaking about the difficulty of children getting to school. Any difficulties which may be experienced in Victoria pale into insignificance when compared to those experienced in some parts of Queensland. Perhaps the best way to impress upon people what I mean would be to take some parliamentarians on a trip through my State. They would come back convinced of the correctness of the argument that 1 am now putting forward.I make no apology for standing up for my State. I was amazed to hear an interjection from my colleague, Senator Kendall, to the effect that the Queensland Government is spending the money from the roads grant on the electrification of railways in Brisbane.
– I did not say that.
– That money did not come out of our roads allocation, andI was amazed to hear the honorable senator say that.
– I did not say it as you have put it.
– We were discussing roads.
– Order! I remind Senator Wood that we are dealing with clause 5, which relates to the division of the amounts set aside for roads. The honorable senator is discussing a matter that is not related to the clause.
– The clause concerns the distribution of moneys. It has been suggested that certain other things may interfere with that and I am discussing them. I spoke at some length this afternoon and I want to make it clear-
– Do not apologize now.
– I am not apologizing in the slightest degree. I want to make it clear that the basis that I have suggested is the right one. I am sure that if any other State had been affected to the same extent its senators would have been up in this chamber putting their case also. Western Australia’s position is different from that of Queensland. It is getting a subsidy to build its grant up to what it would have been in other circumstances. I repeat, if other States had been treated as Queensland is being treated some honorable senators would have been calling for the support of colleagues from other States. This is a States house. We are the custodians of State rights. Without further ado I urge the committee to support the amendment.
– I intend no discourtesy to my colleague when I rise to say formally that the Government does not accept the amendment. All the arguments against it have been canvassed already, and I do not propose to repeat them at this stage.
– The Australian Labour Party is unable to support the amendment, however much sympathy it might have for the case put by Senator Wood. I think that the honorable senator achieved something, because the Minister for Shipping and Transport said, in replying to the second-reading debate, that the Government would almost certainly give a sympathetic hearing to Queensland if the present proposal did not work out. Senator Wood should take heart from that concession, and congratulate him.selft upon obtaining it.
Lest there should be any confusion on the matter I might explain our position. It is true that we criticized Western Australia and Queensland on the amended formula, but we felt, in spite of what the Minister had to say about special taxes, that this was one tax - perhaps the only tax - that could be totally applied to help those from whom it had been collected. The Minister rejected that view, pointing out that it was an old argument that had been rejected, in turn, by Mr. Chifley. He added that Mr. Chifley had said that no future government would agree to it either. It seems that once again Mr. Chifley was right. What Senator Paltridge did not tell the Senate was that Mr. Chifley was replying to an Opposition demand, so it seems that the Government is adhering to its traditional position and the Opposition is doing likewise.
The Labour Party feels that if it adopts Senators Wood’s amendment it will still have to overcome the fait accompli produced by the agreement, after a fair amount of discussion, reached by the Premiers. The proposal met with the approval of at least four of them, though I admit it might have been a kind of Hobson’s choice for the remainder. It is true that the matching grant will be of some use. It will be an unknown quantity - something quite new in road grants arrangements - but so much agreement has been reached concerning it that we feel it should be given a trial. We feel confident that, if the worst prognostications of Senator Wood are realized, any future government, whatever its political colour, will be big enough to come back here and admit to its mistake, presenting another formula for consideration.
I was impressed by the fact that Senator Maher, although he attacked the formula on behalf of Queensland, was not prepared to go to the length of voting against the bill. That had some weight with me. Because of the strain imposed by distances in the outback and other factors peculiar to what we might term the two sub-continents - Western Australia and Queensland - we did query and, in fact, still query the wisdom of allocating a lower percentage of the total sum to those States. Anyhow, the Government has made its decisionon that matter. For those reasons, we find ourselves unable to support the amendment moved by Senator Wood.
Amendment (by Senator Wood) negatived -
Leave out sub-clause (2.).
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 - (1.)Where-
(3.) Information furnished by a Statefor the purposes of sub-section (1.) of this section shall notbe accepted forthe purposes of this section unless it is certified to be correctby the AuditorGeneral of the State.
– I move-
Leave out sub-clause (3.), insert the following sub-clause: - “ (3.) Information furnished by a State under sub-section (1.) of this section shall not be accepted for the purposes of that sub-section unless it is certified to be correct by the Auditor-General of the State.”.
The amendment is a formal drafting amendment which is designed to express more clearly the intention of the sub-clause. It does not alter the meaning of the subclause inanyway.
– The Minister may recall that at an earlier stage Senator Mattner raised the question of the dsbursement of the matching grant. The honorable senator said he was not clear - I donot think many of us are - about the machinery for allocating this money. It seems thatthe Commonwealth proposes to set aside a separate amount of£30,000,000 which can be drawn uponbythevariousStates over a period of five years.Letmetake an extreme case. If noneofthe £2,000,000was used in the first twelve months,would it remain in the pool of £30,000,000or woulditbe permanentlylost tothat State? Alternatively, if New South Wales used the “whole of its share and no other State did, would there “be any possibility of transferring the money from one fund to another and keeping some kind of contra balance? It appears that, if that is not done, the Government actually is not earmarking £30,000,000to be spent over five years but is merely setting a maximum of £30,000,000 and is leaving it on a catch-as-catch-can basis. Can the Minister enlighten us on this matter?
– If the amount was not taken up by any State, it would be lost to that State. Furthermore, no transfer of a matching grant not taken up by a State to which it had not originally been allocated would be permitted.
– I should like the Minister to explainthe amendment he has proposed. The amended sub-clause will mean exactly the same as the existing sub-clause. The Minister has proposed that the words “ for the purposes of “, first occurring, shall be replaced by the word “ under “ and that the words “ this section “ shall be replaced by the words “ that sub-section “. Will the Minister explain why he has proposed this amendment when, to my mind, the meaning of the sub-clause will remain exactly the same?
– It is a mere drafting alteration.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 (Purposes for which grants are to be expended).
– This clause sets out the purposes for which grants are to be expended. Reference is made to such matters as construction, reconstruction, -maintenance and repair of roads and the purchase of roadmaking plant. Is there any provision whereby this money can be used for land resumptions? It occurs to me that in rural areas it may be necessary to resume land for new roads, for the widening of roads, or for the deviation of roads. I ask the Minister to indicate what the position is, because I have not seen any prohibition of the use of these moneys for land resumption.
– The acquisition of land is regarded as part of the process of construction. Therefore, money is available for acquisition where necessary.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 1 1 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure, which is complementary to the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) for ordinary services, now before the Senate, seeks parliamentary appropriation of a furt her £7,399,000 for capital works and services. New items of capital works expenditure include £200,000 towards the purchase of a tandem generator by the Australian National University and £2,000,000 for a further capital subscription to Qantas Empire Airways Limited. An amount of £4,500,000 is sought for additional expenditure under the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act, primarily due to the fact that some major contracts are proceeding ahead of schedule. There is also provision of £210,000 towards the cost of the co-axial cable to be installed between Sydney and Melbourne. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to appropriate £247,228,000 to carry on the necessary normal services of government, other than capital works and services, during the first five months of the financial year 1959-60. These are services approved by the Parliament in the appropriation acts for 1958-59. The several amounts provided for ordinary services are -
These represent, with minor exceptions, approximately five-twelfths of the 1958-59 appropriations. The amount of £82,448,000 for Defence Services provides for expenditure on the current defence programme and the amount of £35,402,000 for War and Repatriation Services provides for expenditure on war pensions and repatriation and rehabilitation services. Except in relation to defence, no amounts are included for new services. However, an amount of £16,000,000 is sought for an “Advance to the . Treasurer “ to make advances which will be recovered within the financial year, and to make moneys available to meet expenditure, particulars of which will afterwards be submited to Parliament.
Debate (on, motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to appropriate £55,723,000 to carry on the necessary normal capital works and services of government for the first five months of the financial year 1959-60.
There will be Commonwealth works in progress at 30th June, 1959, expenditure on which must be continued until after the 1959-60 Budget has been considered by the Parliament. In addition, it is the practice to programme the capital works and services in the major Commonwealth departments, including the Department of Works, the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Department of Civil Aviation. The appropriation will also provide funds to ensure continuous employment and to enable purchases of materials in advance for the carrying out of those programmes of works. The bill provides for five months, expenditure at the annual level at which expenditure was approved for the purposes of capital works and services in 1958-59.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 May 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19590512_senate_23_s14/>.