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Thursday, 18 November 1976
Page: 2883

Mr MacKENZIE (Calare) -It is likely that I am the last speaker in this debate and I am very conscious that there are other issues on the notice paper of this House, particularly the debate on the defence statement. Therefore somewhat reluctantly I shall make my remarks brief. This issue of roads is an extremely important one and I look forward at some other time in this House to speaking at greater length on the critical situation of roads, particularly the situation we must face up to in future.

I think honourable members would be well aware that there has been a change in the administration of road grants funding by the Commonwealth. Under the previous Act, the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, there was an inbuilt multiplier effect of, I think, 5 per cent which provided a continuing basis on which local government and the State governments could ensure that road funding was forthcoming. That Act cut out in 1973-74 when a new Act was instituted to take effect from 1974-75. Whilst it is worth noting that Federal road funding throughout Australia continued to increase at what could be called a satisfactory rate, and total road funding for a State like New South Wales also continued to increase at what would be considered a satisfactory rate- it kept pace with inflation- I draw to the attention of the House the fact that this was not the case with some road categories.

It certainly was not the case with rural road categories, both rural arterial roads and rural local roads. In fact with the implementation of the new legislation by the previous Government funding for the 2 rural categories headed for a disastrous decline. That decline was even more seriously reflected in rural local road funding than in rural arterial road funding. If honourable members could see these graphs that I have here they would see that there was quite a dramatic turn-around in funding. In fact there was not only a very real decline; it fell well below the level that it would have been if the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act had been continued and its 5 per cent increment had been continued. This is yet another example of the attitude of the previous Government and the previous Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). I could hardly regard his performance today as being honourable. It was indicative of his Party's attitude towards the plight of people in rural areas.

Mr Morris - I take a point of order. I think it is improper that an honourable member of this House should refer to another honourable member of the House, in his absence, in the way that the honourable member for Calare has done. I ask that you ask him for a withdrawal. If he has something to say he should say it in the presence of the honourable member.

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