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Friday, 24 August 1984
Page: 360


Senator ZAKHAROV —Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport been drawn to the report of the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities, which purports to identify the specific areas where future roads investment should be directed? Can he say how far the Government's Budget commitment on roads goes to meeting these demands?


Senator GIETZELT —The Minister for Transport and I are aware of the report compiled by an organisation known as the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities which, it would have to be acknowledged, has a vested interest in meeting the obligations of its members, the State road authorities, of providing an effective road system in Australia. As a result of its consideration of road transport in Australia, it has concluded that road investment needs to be increased by 25 per cent. I do not think anybody in this Parliament would disagree with this assumption, but I think it has to be said that that would represent an engineer's wish list or even a pipe dream because, if that sort of money were available, we would be looking at a deficit running into many more noughts than the current deficit that this Government has to deal with.

The report does not take into account the economic, social and financial considerations of government. It just puts into print what it believes to be the ultimate in Australia's road funding needs. Of course, governments have to be a little more realistic about these matters, having to deal with Budgets and the capacity of the economy and the community to meet those needs. I remind Senator Zakharov that this Government, since it came to office, has increased road funding by some 46 per cent in its first Budget and that an additional $50m is provided in the 1984-85 Budget. I think this is some evidence of our commitment. The reason we have spent such large sums of money in the 18 months we have been in office is that we recognise the vital function of a better road transport system. Not only does it reduce transport costs; it also has an impact on both industry and the public generally, and of course it makes a contribution to the depressed construction sector of our economy. When we add all this to the need for a better road strategy in Australia to improve safety, it can be seen that the Government is doing all that is humanly possible to meet the needs, even though they may not be understood by those who have authority at the State level .