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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 991

Senator BOSWELL(3.29) —As a senator representing the State of Queensland, I am concerned at the possible implications of this report by the Committee of Inquiry into the Distribution of Federal Road Grants. If it is accepted by the Minister for Transport (Mr Peter Morris), there is little doubt that Queensland and the Northern Territory will be adversely affected. The Cameron report sets out to provide a new formula for road funding in Australia, the first review of road funding formulas since 1977. It provides a series of indicators which are applied across road categories and across the States, to arrive at a set of relativities based on a chosen combination of indicators. These relativities establish the recommended proportion of road grants to the urban arterial, rural arterial and local road categories in each State.

The indicators put forward in the report are highly dependent on traffic volumes and road lengths with the traffic data manipulated in various ways. The end result is that the recommendations are strongly biased towards the populous States with heavily trafficked road systems, and towards urban areas at the expense of rural areas. Application of the recommendations would mean a major redirection of funds to New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia from the other States. The Northern Territory and Queensland will be the major losers.

At the present level of Commonwealth funding, the loss to Queensland would be $32m per annum, mostly from local roads. This will have serious repercussions for the people of Queensland, especially those who do not live in the heavily populated areas of south-east Queensland. Honourable senators who have driven through western and northern Queensland would agree that the roads, which are so important to this relatively isolated area, are not quite up to standard. Yet this report, if implemented, would lead to an even more unsuitable and insufficient road system.

No consideration was taken in this report of the need to promote decentralisation in Australia, or the importance of having an adequate road system as infrastructure for further development. Neither was any consideration taken of the special needs and the importance of our rural industries. No consideration was taken of the enormous wealth that the people of northern and western Queensland generate, from which the rest of Australia benefits so much. No consideration was taken of the effects on local government or the employment generating role that roadworks fill.

Mr Acting Deputy President, you will be aware that a lot of the work in the outer areas of western Queensland is done by local government and local councils. Often in the outer shires the only form of job creation and employment is with the local councils. If this report is implemented it will have very adverse effects in the area. This report needs very careful consideration and reappraisal by the Government to ensure that non-urban dwellers are not unfairly disadvantaged because they do not live in heavily populated areas. I know that this report will have very serious consequences for the people of Queensland. I ask the Minister for Transport, Mr Morris, to delay implementation of the Cameron report and to take into account the considerations I have mentioned in my contribution.