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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3494

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(12.29) —I thank honourable senators for their contributions. What we have heard again from Senator Vigor is a repeat of other speeches he has made in this place-absolute, complete and utter disregard for any Budget deficit concepts and blind opposition to everything the Government does; opposition which, if successful, would blow out the Budget deficit by an amount that would not be acceptable to this community, nor should it be acceptable to this community. If Senator Vigor wants to do this with all the legislation, including the Budget legislation, that is good enough for him but it is not good enough for the Government and I can see that it is not good enough for the Opposition. Also, it is not a very rational way to behave.

Senator Vigor's amendment would provide for publication of a separate detailed annual report on operations of the Australian Land Transport Trust Fund. We consider the amendment unnecessary and oppose it. Of course we are conscious of the need for accountability in trust fund operations, but we consider the reporting needs are adequately met by the existing arrangements. The annual report of the Department of Transport is tabled in both Houses and provides details of both the ALT Trust Fund and the Australian Bicentennial Road Development Trust Fund, of payments into and out of the trust funds, summarised payments to States and local governments, summaries of national highway and arterial road programs and a combined summary of the work in progress under both the ALTP and the ABRD arrangements. Combining a summary of both programs in the Department of Transport annual report gives the Parliament and the public a more comprehensive overview of Federal road programs. While details for the ALTP local roads are not as comprehensive as those in the ABRD report, the nature of funding for these roads is different. The ALTP local road funds are distributed under a formula and not approved by single project. Any need for more detailed information on the road program can be met directly through the Department of Transport and through questions to the Parliament.

It is surprising that the $25.6m held in the ALT Trust Fund should provoke such criticism. By allowing some accumulation of balances in the trust fund, these funds are not lost to roads. The balance is held over for roads and spent in the remaining life of the programs. The funds will be invested and earn interest which will protect their real values. If these balances were released this financial year, they would add directly to the Government's expenditure and deficit. It is a Budget decision-a decision made in the light of the existing difficulties that this country is recognised to have.

The second reading amendment moved by Senator Archer is, as I have found in my 14 years in this Parliament, one of a type moved by both sides of the Parliament. I merely say that the Government has a very real concern for the maintenance of an adequate road transport system in this country. There has been a significant increase in funding since the 1981-82 Budget. We recognise the importance of transport in a country as diverse as ours and with vast distances, but in this area, as in any other area, we cannot be insulated from the need for budgetary restraint. That is what has happened this year in a very marginal sort of way. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Amendment agreed to.

Original question, as amended, put.