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Wednesday, 13 June 1984
Page: 2917

Senator CHILDS —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to the alarming increase in motor car accidents. Has the Minister's attention been drawn to criticism expressed in a report of the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities that about 85 per cent of Australian roads are substandard and that an increase in funding of 25 per cent or, preferably, 50 per cent is needed to upgrade them? What is the Commonwealth's position?

Senator GIETZELT —I have seen the newspaper comments on that report but I have not actually seen the report itself. The report deals with the state of the roads in 1980-81. It clearly indicts the previous Government for its neglect of the road systems throughout Australia and the principal highways in particular. To that extent, the Government can agree that much more needs to be done in respect of bringing our roads up to a standard that will enable motorists to use them without affecting their capacity and in a safe fashion.

However, as the report was based on the 1980-81 period, it is proper to draw Senator Childs attention to the greatly expanded funding that has occurred since the period covered by the report. For example, since 1980-81, funding from the Commonwealth has increased from $278m to $520m in the 1983-84 Budget, which represents an increase of 85 per cent. Between the last Budget of the Fraser Government and the first Hawke Government Budget, there was an increase of 52 per cent, in one Budget allocation. The Hawke Government believes that whilst the report is relevant, it is rather unfair to suggest that the state of the roads is due to inactivity and an inadequate understanding of our Commonwealth responsibilities in respect of roads.

The Bureau of Transport Economics has identified a sharp increase in funding over the period 1982 to 1984. That has been due largely to the funds that were allocated under the Australian bicentennial road development program and the jobs on the local roads program, some of which has been the responsibility of this Government. We accept that there is a need to emphasise increased expenditure on our national highways system. I drew the Senate's attention to the fact that the Minister for Transport, whom I represent in this place, made an inspection of the Hume Highway yesterday. Currently $300m of Federal money is committed, up to 1988, to bring that highway up to four-lane standard. Of that sum, $88m will be spent on the New South Wales section. The purpose of that expenditure is to construct the Berrima bypass, which is needed. In the next few weeks tenders will be called to meet that objective. I emphasise that no other government has accepted the challenge regarding better roads more effectively that this Government has accepted it. We have given a 52 per cent increase in roads funding in our first Budget to symbolise that commitment.