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Thursday, 8 November 1956

Sir ARTHUR FADDEN - 1 am rather weary of trying to keep up with the allegations made by the Queensland Government about what it is pleased to call discriminatory treatment as between Queensland and other States in the matter of flood relief. In reply to an allegation by Mr. Gair I made a press statement on this subject only last evening. I do not know the extent of the publicity it received in the press this morning. The fact remains that, in extraordinary circumstances, this Government has assisted the State governments over financial difficulties that have been brought about by a national disaster. The Commonwealth assisted the New South Wales Government on a £l-for-£l basis as some compensation for the enormous damage occasioned in northern New South Wales by continual floods over more than two years. The degree of dislocation and loss caused by floods in Queensland was not comparable with that in New South Wales, where enormous costs were incurred in providing relief. Nor was the Queensland damage as great as that suffered in South Australia, where the Commonwealth has recently decided to give assistance. Losses in South Australia caused directly by floods and as a consequence of them by erosion, damage to roads and other means of communication, and general dislocation are estimated by the South Australian Government to total between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000. The South Australian Government accepted the responsibility of providing £800,000 for flood relief in the State budget, and the Commonwealth has matched that with a grant of an equal amount. In other words the Commonwealth is contributing £l-for-£l towards the enormous expenditure on relief as a result of what may be described as a national disaster of a magnitude out of all proportion to the damage suffered in Queensland. If my memory serves me right, the Queensland Co-ordinator-General of Public Works estimated that approximately £380,000 would have to be spent on the reconstruction of roads and bridges, and on local authority works, to repair flood damage in Queensland. The Queensland Government asked the Commonwealth to provide half of that amount. Well, that is quite outside our constitutional responsibility, and it does not come within the definition of national disaster. Consequently, we did not agree to make any contribution in that direction to the Queensland Government. That decision is consistent with the policy that we have laid down, particularly as the Queensland Government had received extra funds for road purposes from the increased petrol tax imposed as part of the Commonwealth's economic policy, announced last March, which the Premier and Treasurer of Queensland described as disastrous and exorbitant.

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