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Thursday, 28 March 1985
Page: 967


Senator FOREMAN —I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Transport to claims made by the Save Australia's Roads Committee on 13 March that up to 60,000 jobs will be lost over the next eight years unless the Federal and State governments increase by $260m the expenditure on upgrading roads. Given that Federal expenditure on road development for the present financial year represents an increase of $50m on the 1983-84 period and that a further $45m has been allocated to the JOLOR-jobs on local roads-program, will the Minister comment on whether the claims by the SARC can be substantiated when, in fact, jobs are actually being created through JOLOR?


Senator GIETZELT —I am aware that there is an organisation called Save Australia's Roads Committee, which is made up of a number of self-interested groups as well as well meaning people who are identifying what Commonwealth public funds should be spent on improving our road system. The Government has no objection to that; but it has to be recognised that under the Australian system Commonwealth, State and local governments are responsible for various sectors of road construction in Australia. The fact is that this Government's record in terms of providing road construction funds is well known and recognised as being above average. In fact, we have reached an historically high position by increasing it in two years by 51 per cent. The Commonwealth's allocations to the States and local government for roads is more than has been allocated hitherto.

It is quite outlandish and exaggerated for the Save Australia's Roads Committee to suggest that 60,000 jobs would be lost as a result of the Commonwealth not providing more dollars for road construction. The Government acknowledges that it is acting under certain economic restraints. It believes that something like 27,000 jobs have been created with the extra funds it has provided in its first two years in office. The Government would love to be able to spend a lot more money and create a lot more jobs, but every member of the Senate will be aware that economic considerations and Budget deficits have to be taken into consideration with respect to all aspects of Commonwealth expenditure. We do not resile from the fact that we have done a very good job in providing the increased funds that have created the 27,000 extra jobs in the road construction industry. Whilst the lobby group wants to see more, it will have to take its turn in the queue. When money becomes available, when economic conditions improve and the taxation collected is not paid out in unemployment benefit, which is what was occurring when we came to office two years ago, the Government will be able to provide more funds for road construction.