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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3493

Senator ARCHER(12.17) —I wish to speak to the Australian Land Transport (Financial Assistance) Amendment Bill 1986, but briefly. I move:

At the end of the motion, add: ``, but the Senate condemns the Government for its disgraceful neglect of the nation's roads by-

(a) being responsible for a dramatic fall in federal expenditure in real terms since 1983-84 from 2.12% of total budget outlays to 1.95% in 1984-85, and 1.78% in 1985-86 and an estimated 1.67% this financial year, as measured by the Australian Automobile Association;

(b) retaining federal expenditure on roads at the same nominal level at $1245 million for the third year in succession;

(c) creating the dismal record of being responsible for the only 2 years since 1976-77 in which federal road expenditure has not increased in nominal terms;

(d) reducing the allocation to roads while increasing fuel excise tax by over 300% in 3 years of Government;

(e) artificially reducing the budget deficit by $24 million and depriving the Australian Land Transport Program (ALTP) of this much needed finance, which has already been collected and allocated from fuel excise tax; and

(f) generally abusing the trust fund principle for the ALTP and the Australian Bicentennial Road Development Trust Fund to cover the reduction in the Government's budgetary commitment to roads''.

The purpose of the Bill is to institute the announcement of the Minister for Transport (Mr Peter Morris) on 12 June that the rate of duty of excise and customs duty payable to the Australian land transport program would be reduced by 0.235c per litre from 1 July 1986. It was significant that the Minister's speech included a very generous paragraph which said:

Road transport is a fundamental part of the Australian way of life. Well designed and constructed roads make significant contributions to Australia. They reduce costs. They save lives. They encourage all forms of industry. They repay to Australia far more than their cost.

Then, as one would expect, there is an however clause after that and the however clause produces the sorts of figures that I have already given in the amendment-that 2.12 per cent of Budget outlays in 1983-84 was reduced to 1.95 per cent in 1984-85, and to 1.78 per cent in 1985-86; and looks like it will be 1.67 per cent in this financial year. This does affect life and limb, besides increasing the costs of transport, repairs and tyres. It seems to matter nothing to this Government, which has funny priorities about it being better to spend the money on redecorating the Lodge or something, but such matters as this are remembered by the people out there. The people who use the roads, whether for pleasure, business or industry, do expect at least to get what they have paid for.

I have moved the amendment standing in my name, but I do not wish to hold up the passage of this Bill beyond indicating that particularly the non-metropolitan community is entitled to be pretty upset by this typical sellout of its interests.