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Tuesday, 5 May 1987
Page: 2643


Mr HAWKER(10.15) —Last night the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Brumby) and the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Cunningham) spoke in the adjournment debate after me and tried to mislead the House on the level of road funding that has been allocated by the Commonwealth since this Government came to power. I felt that we ought to put the record right once and for all by citing the figures in real terms to show that, in those real terms, the level of road funding allocated by the Commonwealth, has fallen every year for the last three years.

There are two parts to Commonwealth road funding. We have the Australian bicentennial road development program and the Australian land transport program. The Australian bicentennial road development program, as honour- able members will recall, was an initiative of the Fraser Government which did not actually come into its first full year of funding until 1983-84. The honourable member for Bendigo and the honourable member for McMillan were very quick to cite the figures for the previous year, 1982-83, and thereby try to distort the real picture. We find that, for 1983-84 under the ABRD program $417m was allocated to road funding throughout the Commonwealth. For the land transport program $778m was allocated. But if we add these figures together and then adjust them into real terms so that we in fact allow for inflation, we find that, in 1986-87 figures, the amount allocated for these two programs for 1983-84 totalled $1,359m. If we look at the figures for 1984-85, we find that $1,334m was allocated, a drop of some $25m in real terms. If we look at 1985-86 we find that the figure is down to $1,245m, again quite a significant drop. For 1986-87-again in real terms, because in dollar terms the figures are now frozen-we find that $1,152m is to be allocated.

So if we take the figure from 1983-84 and put it in real terms, we find that road funding has dropped by $200m in real terms. That is a fairly significant cut by anyone's measure, and to suggest that this Federal Government has kept up road funding is totally misleading. Once we take into account the effects of inflation, we find that road funding has indeed been cut by this Government every year since 1983-84. The point that I was trying to make yesterday-a point I will make today and a point I will continue to make-is that this Federal Government is cutting road funding. It is causing enormous problems in this country. I think it is quite scandalous for the honourable member for Bendigo to try to defend his Government, because he represents a country constituency, as indeed does the honourable member for McMillan. Both of them ought to know the impact of this cut in road funding on country people.

We have already been given warning that in the mini-Budget there is likely to be a further cut in road funding. In fact, we are told that we are looking at a cut that could be of the order of $150m. If what the Victorian Minister has suggested is correct, this could mean for Victoria, a further cut of $40m. By any measure this is very significant when one considers the impact it is having on local roads. A few honourable members of this House ought to spend a bit more time having a look around the country because it is a very serious matter.

I thought that in my remaining time I would switch to another subject, because I can come back to road funding anytime. Today the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) made some reference to the assets test. I thought I might, for the benefit of honourable members, remind the House how inequitable this assets test is. As has been demonstrated on many occasions, the assets test is highly discriminatory against people in the country, especially people on small farms and, more particularly, soldier settlers. As a simple example, a soldier settler may have a farm worth, say, $250,000. His house will be valued at $50,000, and he will find himself excluded from the pension.

A person in the city who has a house worth $300,000, $400,000 or $500,000 in many cases will still be eligible for a pension. If there is some sort of equity there, I fail to see it. In fact, judging by the way house prices are rising in some places in the cities I would be surprised if, despite the assets test, there are not now some millionaires receiving the pension, because of the value of their houses. So much for the equity and the claims of the Labor Government that the assets test is fair. By any measure, it is highly discriminatory, and it is highly discriminatory against small farmers.