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Tuesday, 30 April 1957


Mr ADERMANN (Fisher) .- This is an opportunity for a profitable discussion on a matter with which, I am sure, every honorable member is concerned, and with which every State should be concerned, namely the provision of moneys for our road system. If we consider the moneys that have been provided down the years, we can make a comparison of the costs of road construction over that period, and also take into account other circumstances associated with increased costs. The amount made available for road construction has risen from £10,000,000 in 1949 to an estimated £32,000,000 for this financial year. I suggest that the amount that this Government has made available to the States under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act has more than met the altered circumstances and is more than meeting the extra cost of road construction. In addition, the act has been altered to increase from 35 per cent, to 40 per cent, the amount available for rural road construction.

The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) advocated a federal bureau to handle road construction. I disagree with him entirely. We have efficient roadmaking commissions within the various States which handle this matter, and the available funds are distributed to those bodies. In the main, that is most satisfactory. I do not think we want any federal interference, unless, of course, the States are prepared to drop right out of the picture, and that is not advisable.

I consider that the formula under which the amounts are made available to the States is a worthy one in the light of the work that is required to be done in the lessdeveloped States. The two previous speakers from the Opposition side, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor), come from Victoria and, of course, I expect them to disagree with me on this matter. The statement put out by the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria is hardly a fair approach to this matter. It quotes the mileage of covered roads in Victoria as 80,000 as against only 14,000 in Queensland, and that may leave the impression that those are the total mileages for the respective States. On that basis, the club has worked out the amounts received by the two States and has concluded that Queensland receives £400 a mile as against something over £100 for Victoria. That is not the position at all. There are 132,000 miles of road in Queensland as against 104,000 in Victoria. Victoria, with its larger population, and greater number of industries, has the bulk of its roads already constructed. It is obvious, of course, that less-developed States need some financial assistance so that their roads can be brought up to date. It will affect the economy of Australia very materially if rural roads in the States which produce most of the exports cannot be improved.

A State like Queensland, for instance, is well worthy of the amount that is being made available to it because we must also consider the self-help that the various States are providing. Queensland is taxing itself, through its local authorities, more than any of the other States. The figures show that local authority taxation in Queensland amounts to £4 18s. per head of population whereas in Victoria it amounts to only £3 15s.


Mr Turnbull - Is that Mr. Gair?


Mr ADERMANN - That is not Mr. Gair particularly; it is what the local authorities are raising by way of shire rates. That is a method of self-help undertaken by Queensland shire councils by taxing their ratepayers. Then, through registration fees and' the amount charged for drivers' licences. Queensland, through Mr. Gair and his Government, is imposing much heavier charges than the other States. That, again, might be termed a method of self-help. Registration fees in Victoria, until the addition which. I understand has been imposed during the last twelve months, were only about two-thirds of those in Queensland. Receipts from those sources help to finance the construction of our roads.

In addition to receiving its share of £6,000,000 from the Commonwealth, Queensland obtains between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 from motor car registration fees, and, on the basis of a tax of £4 18s. per head of population levied by the shire councils, it obtains another £8,000,000. The State also receives funds from the heavy vehicles tax. The total amounts to £17,000,000 or £18,000,000, which is a substantial figure.

When we consider the various allocations made by the Commonwealth under the formula, on the basis of the actual amount per head of population, we note that Queensland receives only £500,000 more than Victoria. In view of the fact that Queensland has about 30,000 more miles of roads than Victoria, why should it not receive an extra £500,000? It is quite obvious that a large State which contributes so much more, to the economy of the country should receive that extra amount. I think when the Victorian association to which I have referred makes a false claim, and bases its arguments, which it has published abroad and sent to members of the Commonwealth Parliament, on wrong premises, it is not deserving of that consideration which might otherwise be its due.

I desire to touch on one other matter, namely, the suggestion by the honorable member for Batman and the honorable member for Gellibrand that a tax should be imposed on diesel oil. I am not in favour of that tax unless the rural producer can be protected.


Mr Bird - We said that that should be done.


Mr ADERMANN - I understand that those honorable members do agree with thai proposition. I am certainly not in favour of a tax on diesel oil unless that distinction can be made. We know that the average price of primary commodities, with the exception of wool, is declining. If additional charges are to be imposed on the primary producers, our economic stability will be affected. In the main, a country is prosperous only if the rural community is prosperous. It is upon that basis that the economy rests.

I believe that the Australian Transport Advisory Council is paying a disproportionate amount of attention to the interstate highways; it should concern itself more with the development of feeder roads to those highways. The State governments should apply themselves to the task of making their railway systems efficient. If that were done, the present anomalous position, in which the interstate road hauliers who are taking business from the railways get off scot free, would be corrected. I am sure that if the State governments were to get together, they would find that it was legally possible to tax the interstate road hauliers. They ought to be taxed. I am sure that not one member of this House thinks that they ought not to contribute to the upkeep of the interstate highways.


Mr Ward - The relevant legislation has been declared invalid.


Mr ADERMANN - I know that the opinion is held that it is constitutionally impossible to make the interstate road hauliers pay a road tax, but there is a large body of legal opinion to the effect that that could be done by the State governments.


Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER

Order! The honorable member's time has expired.







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