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Tuesday, 10 August 1926


Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland) (Honorary Minister) .- I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

Provision is made in the measure for a comprehensive scheme of roadconstruction throughout Australia from funds to be made available by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States, on the basis of £1 being paid by the Commonwealth for every 15s. contributed by the States. The agreement, which is embodied in the bill, was arrived at by negotiation between the Commonwealth and State Governments, in conference and by correspondence, and the proposal of the Commonwealth Government to make available, under the conditions set out in the agreement, £20,000,000 for allocation to the States on the basis of three-fifths population and two-fifths area, was fully discussed. While the Government realizes that road -construction generally comes within the jurisdiction of the State Governments, it recognizes, also, that, in view of the rapid development of motor transport, the provision of suitable roads has now become a problem of national importance, and of too great magnitude for the various State Governments to handle without the aid of the national Government. The following statement sets out the amounts allocated on the £1 for £1 basis to each of the States, in pursuance of the main road grants from 1923 to 1926, the commitments entered into, and the actual expenditure up to the end of the last financial year: -

 

It will be noted that the total actual expenditure amounts to £1,316,580. This sum includes only that expenditure which ' has been finally examined and passed by the Auditor-General. A considerable sum has been expended, the audit of which has not yet been completed. In addition to the sums allotted from the grants amounting to £1,500,000, the Government, during last year, made a further grant of £250,000 to the States, free of any contribution by the States, for expenditure on the reconditioning of existing roads. The allocation of the whole of this additional money has been approved, which indicates that the States have taken full advantage of the grants and that the expenditure is proceeding at a satisfactory rate.' Considerable benefit has accrued to Australia as a result of the assistance rendered to the States under the Main Roads Development Acts. The expenditure of these moneys, together with the corresponding State contributions, has resulted in the following works being eompleted : -

 

Those works could not otherwise have been completed for years to come. The bulk of the expenditure has been incurred on entirely new roads, requiring in many cases complete surveys, and relocation of proposed roads, in localities varying from wet, hilly, heavily-timbered country to dry, sandy, and open plains. The Commonwealth and State authorities have co-operated in every possible way, with a view to securing the best results from the moneys made available. As to the proposal to make available to the States the sum of £20,000,000 for expenditure on roads over a period of ten years, as set out' in the bill and the agreement attached thereto, the intentions of the Government in this connexion were referred to in the policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister in October, 1925. I need not enlarge. on the necessity for good roads, nor refer to the handicaps which are being . experienced in this connexion in every part of the Commonwealth. In the United States of America, the' central government has fully realized the necessity for encouraging the expansion of the road system throughout the union. It endorses the view that the progress of a nation depends largely on the reduction of its transport costs and the facilities provided for the economical and expeditious marketing of its products. Up to the end of June, 1925, the total length of Federal-aid roads completed in the United States of America, since the Federal Aid Road Act came into operation in 1916, was 46,485 miles. The mileage of the roads under construction and nearing completion was over 12,000. The appropriation of Feder.al funds for this purpose amounted to some £100,000,000. It is proposed, under the Federal-aid highways system of the United States of America to construct some 200,000 miles of highways, the Federal Government's contribution towards the cost of which will be on the basis of £1 for every £1 of State expenditure. Mr. T. H. MacDonald, chief of the United States Bureau of Public Roads, describes highway transport as the " new great force in our national life." At the International Road Congress, held at Seville in 1923, Mr. H. E. Riggs stated that ' ' the problem in transportation in the United Spates of America was the most vital thing in the nation to-day." If this is true with regard to America, which is within a week's journey of the European markets, how much greater must be its application to Australia with its great distances from the sea-board, practically devoid of natural waterways, and five weeks' sail from the world's greatest markets? While the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States cannot hope at the present time to undertake a scheme approaching the magnitude of that adopted in the United States of America, it is claimed that the proposals now submitted will provide a system of Federal aid roads which will be of inestimable value to the Commonwealth generally. The proposals were fully discussed at a conference of Ministers representing the Commonwealth, and the six States which sat in Melbourne in February last, the agreement embodied in the bill being the outcome of those discussions. The scheme proposed will, in effect, be the first instalment, and will form the basis of a national roads system. When completed, it will be capable of extension in such a manner that the whole of our future roads construction .will dovetail into the works now proposed. The scheme is an amplification of that which has been in existence for the last three years. It will be found that the general plan will include most of .those sections of roads which have already been completed, and will, to that extent, shorten the length of many roads which will be included in the general scheme to be undertaken under these proposals. No scheme of this magnitude has ever been undertaken, or even contemplated in Australia previously. It involves an expenditure of £35,000,000 over a period of ten years. The agreement was arrived at after very lengthy conferences and consultations with representatives of the States. It is -wrong to suggest that only country districts will benefit from the construction of good roads under the agreement. Roads in country districts that are good enough to carry motor traffic are largely used by motorists from the cities.. The cities, also, will benefit in the highest degree, because good roads mean cheaper transport, and cheaper transport means cheaper food and raw materials for the residents of the cities. Cities and city motorists will thus derive direct benefit from the construction of good roads in the country districts. Further, it is only just that the cities should contribute through the tariff to the welfare of sparsely settled areas, seeing that the cities obtain so much benefit from the tariff in the shape of thriving industries and increased population. The road policy is a national one, providing that the more highly developed and wealthy parts of the country should contribute something to the welfare of the less developed districts. It is impracticable and absurd to expect that, in a country like Australia, each area or each section of the community shall look after only its own needs. Clause 1 of the agreement reads -

This agreement shall have no force or effect, and shall not :be binding on either party unless and until it is approved, adapted, authorized, or ratified -by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of the State.


Senator Findley - How many States have ratified it?


Senator CRAWFORD - So far, there has been no parliamentary ratification.


Senator Duncan - How many State Governments have ratified it?


Senator CRAWFORD - Three. The State Governments will submit the agreement to their respective Parliaments. Five of the States became parties to the agreement. Sub-clause 1 of clause 2 of the agreement provides -

The Commonwealth will, subject to and for the purposes of this agreement, provide the sum of (a) during the period of ten years, commencing on. the Ist-day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-six; 5106 Federal Aid[ SENATE.] Roads Bill.

The amounts proposed to be paid by the Commonwealth under this sub-clause are as follow: -

 


Senator Findley - Is that money available now, or is it proposed to tax the people to obtain it?


Senator CRAWFORD -It will be made available from year to year, as provided in this bill.

Sub-clause 2 of clause 2 of the agreement, provides -

The said sum of (a)' will be paid by the Commonwealth into a trust account established for the purpose under section 62a of the Audit Act 1901-1924 of the Commonwealth, by payments into such account of the sum of (b) in each year during the said period of ten years.

It will be seen that the payments into the trust account each year will be, in respect of each of the States, one-tenth of the sum to be provided by the Commonwealth under sub-clause 1 of clause 2. Sub-clause 1 of clause 3 of the agreement provides that -

Subject to clause 7 of this agreement, the State will provide an additional sum of (c) for the purposes of this agreement. Sub-clause 3 of clause 3 provides -

Of the amount to be provided by the State under this clause the sum of (d) shall be provided from revenue. The balance of the amount to be provided by the State may, at the option of the State, be provided out of current roads expenditure or from revenue or loan moneys.

Of the total amount which the Commonwealth is providing for this purpose, annually, it is intended that £500,000 shall be paid from present revenue, and £1,500,000 shall be raised from new sources of revenue. Of the amounts which they will spend the States will also be expected to raise a certain proportion each year. To show how the scheme will work, I give, as an example, what would happen in the case of Victoria. The amount which the Commonwealth Government will pay to Victoria, for the construction of new roads, will be £90,000 per annum out of present revenue. From new sources of revenue, £270,000 per annum will be paid for the construction of new roadsor the reconstruction of old roads. The State Government will be expected to find, from revenue, £33,750, and from revenue, loan, or present roads expenditure, another £33,750, making a total of £67,500 for expenditure on new construction. Victoria will be expected to provide, from revenue, loan, or existing roads expenditure, an additional £202,500, for expenditure on construction or reconstruction, making a total of £270.000 per annum, against the Commonwealth's contribution of £360,000 per annum.

Clause 4 of the agreement provides - If any instalment provided by the State as aforesaid is, or includes, loan moneys of the State, the State shall, at the time when the instalment is provided, so inform the Commonwealth, and specify the amount of loan moneys in the instalment.

The purpose of this provision is that a proper check may be kept on loan moneys, on which the Commonwealth has agreed to pay 3 per cent. out of moneys payable to the States towards a sinking fund for the first ten years.

Clause 4 further provides -

2.   The Commonwealth shall thenceforward in each year, during the remainder of the said period of ten years, withdraw from moneys in the said trust account, and. pay into the sinking fund hereinafter mentioned an amount equal to Three pounds per centum (£3 per centum), per annum accruing from day to day on the amount of loan moneys in the instalment.

3.   The State shall, on the thirtieth day of June in each year after the expiration of the said period of ten years, pay into the said sinking fund an amount equal to £3 per centum per annum accruing from day to day on each amount of loan moneys included in an instalment provided by the State as aforesaid, until the amount paid into the sinking fund under this and the preceding sub-clause in respect of that instalment (together with all interest credited thereto) is sufficient to repay the loan moneys included in such instalment.

Clause 5 reads -

For the purposes of this agreement the following classes of roads shallbe deemed to be Federal Aid roads:

(i)   Main roads Which open up and develop new country;

(ii)   trunk roads between important towns; and

(iii)   arterial roads to carry the concentrated traffic from developmental, main, trunk, and other roads.

Clause 6 provides -

1.   All moneys paid to the State under this agreement, and all moneys provided by the State under this agreement, shall be expended solely on the construction and reconstruction of Federal Aid roads.

It may be laid down as a principle that not less than one-fourth of the total amount provided is to be expended on new roads. But the Minister for the time being is given discretionary power to say just how much of the balance of 75 per cent, shall be spent on either the construction or reconstruction of main roads in any State. If we take Tasmania, for example, it will be found that there is no great necessity for new roads there.


Senator J B Hayes - How much of the £1,000,000 to be granted to Tasmania will be spent on construction, and how much on reconstruction and reconditioning?


Senator CRAWFORD - One-fourth must be spent on new construction. By arrangement with the Federal Minister, the balance of 75 per cent, may be spent on reconditioning existing roads.


Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then, the Commonwealth is to dictate the roads policy of the State Governments?


Senator CRAWFORD - It is a matter not of dictation, but of arrangement. It is very necessary that many of the lengths of really good roads that were laid down in the State some years ago should be re-conditioned; and the State is, by itself, unable to recondition them. The. Minister for the time being would, in all probability, permit Tasmania to spend up to 75 per cent, of the amount provided on the reconditioning of existing roads. But of the total amount provided, there must not be less than 25 per cent, spent on the construction of new roads. So far, there has been no interference with the States. The whole of the proposals for the construction of new roads with the assistance of money provided . by the Commonwealth have originated with the States. We stipulate in regard to roads, the grade, the width of the road, and the depth of metal. In the first place, a scheme for five years will be drawn up by the States themselves. Each State will submit its own proposal to the Road Board.


Senator Findley - What, another board?


Senator CRAWFORD - This board will cost the country nothing. When the five-years scheme is finally approved, each State will signify which part of the scheme it desires shall first be undertaken. Clause 6, sub-clause 3, of the agreement reads -

The Minister shall have the power to decide from time to time how the .balance of the moneys paid to the State under this agreement and the balance of the moneys to be provided by the State under this agreement shall be expended, but so that such moneys shall be expended solely in the construction of Federal aid roads and/or the reconstruction of Federal aid roads.

In some of the States, long lengths of existing roads need re-conditioning, and in other States a greater proportion of new construction is required. Clause 7, sub-clause 1, reads -

Where a road being constructed or being reconstructed under this agreement passes through a town whose population (according to the latest statistics available at the time the work is 'being done) does not exceed Five thousand (5,000) persons such road may be constructed through! the town or reconstructed (as the case may be) as if the town did not exist: Provided that the width of any road constructed or reconstructed through a town pursuant to this clause snail not except with the approval in writing of the Minister exceed 20 feet.

It is not intended to allocate any sums for expenditure within the boundaries of towns with a population exceeding 5,000; and expenditure will be incurred in towns with a population under 5,000 only in eases where the road being constructed or reconstructed passes through such towns. In some small country municipalities it would be impossible, to raise sufficient revenue to reconstruct and maintaining lengths of road entirely for the use of traffic originating outside the municipal boundaries. Clause 7, sub-clause 2, reads -

If any portion of the cost of constructing or reconstructing 'a road pursuant to this agreement is contributed by the municipal or other local governing authority of a town referred to in the last preceding sub-clause, the amount to be provided by the State under clause 3 of this agreement shall be reduced by the amount so contributed: Provided, however, that the State shall not require any such municipal or other local governing authority to contribute more than one-half of the amount to be provided by the State as its proportion of the cost of constructing or reconstructing such road.


Senator Duncan - It is a direct invitation to the States to bring pressure to bear on the municipalities to increase their rates.


Senator CRAWFORD - That power is limited. The municipalities are not bound to do it. Assuming that a mile of new road was required to be constructed within a town at a cost of £3,500, the Commonwealth's contribution towards that amount, would be £2,000, and the State's contribution £1,500. The State would be able to recoup itself from the municipality to the extent of 50 per cent, of the £1,500. The Government does not intend that the States shall make a levy on the municipalities for roads outside the boundaries of towns. One can readily visualize long stretches of road which pass through poor country, where the municipalities, if they were called upon to contribute £500 or £750 a mile for 15 or 20 miles of road, would not be able to take advantage of the offer of Commonwealth money. In that case, there would be a break in the continuity of the road, and the object of the scheme would be frustrated. Clause 8, sub-clause 1, reads -

The State shall to the satisfaction of the Minister make proper provision for the adequate and continuous maintenance in good repair and condition of all roads constructed or reconstructed in pursuance of this agreement. Such maintenance shall be taken in hand immediately following upon the completion of the construction or reconstruction of any road or portion thereof and shall be met from moneys provided by the State.

The Government considers that it would be folly to incur a large expenditure on a national roads system without providing for adequate maintenance. Clause 8, subclause 2, reads - _ If any such road is not adequately and continuously maintained in good repair and condition to the satisfaction of the Minister the State shall not (if the Minister so directs) be entitled to payment of any further moneys out of the said Trust Account until the road has been put in good repair and condition to the satisfaction of the Minister and until proper provision to the satisfaction of the Minister has been made by the State for the road being adequately and continuously maintained in good repair and condition.

That sub-clause is self-explanatory. Clause 9, sub-clause 1, reads -

Prior to the submission by the State of any proposals for expenditure of any moneys provided by the Commonwealth and the State in pursuance of this agreement the State shall submit to the Minister for his approval full particulars of the roads proposed to be constructed or reconstructed during the period of five years commencing on the first day of July One thousand nine hundred and twentysix and prior to the expiration of the said period of .five years the State shall submit to the Minister for his approval full particulars of the roads proposed to be constructed or reconstructed during the period of five years commencing on the expiration of the first mentioned period of five years.

The works will be carried out on a comprehensive plan. Each State will put forward a scheme covering a five year period.

It is not proposed to expend these amounts on small and scattered sections of road. A definite objective will be aimed at, and every endeavour will be made to complete the scheme adopted during the . five-year period, after which a further programme will be decided upon. The municipalities that desire these roads to pass through their territories will apply to the roads boards in their respective States, and the roads boards will report to the State Ministers. Sub-clause 2 of the same clause reads -

All proposals in connexion with works to be carried out in any financial year in pursuance of this agreement shall be submitted by the State to the Minister for his approval, and the State shall not commence any proposed work without first obtaining the approval in writing of the Minister.

First, the five-year scheme will be approved. Then proposals for the first year will be presented to the Commonwealth Minister, and each year afterwards further proposals will be submitted. All proposals will require to have the approval of the Commonwealth Minister. Sub-clause 3 reads -

When submitting any such proposals the State shall specify by what method it is proposed the work shall be executed.

Sub-clause 4 reads -

The method of execution shall be by contract except that where the Minister for the State considers that tenders received for the execution of the work are unsatisfactory, or that execution by day labour would be more economical and/or expeditious, and so informs the Minister, the Minister may, if he is satisfied that action has been taken by the State to ensure that the work will be carried out according to approved methods of construction, in which modern plant is utilized to the fullest extent, approve of the execution Of the work in whole or in part by day labour.

Sub-clause 5 states that, in the event of any moneys provided not being used in any one year, they shall not lapse. Clause 10, sub-clause 1, provides that all necessary surveys and supervision shall bc undertaken by the State; and sub-clause 2 reads -

An amount equal to 2 per centum of the cost of the work carried out will be paid to the State out of the said trust account towards the cost of the survey and supervision of that work, and of the preparation of plans and other preliminaries in connexion with that work.

Under the old arrangement, the States were liable for the cost of surveys, supervision, and general administration. In

Western Australia, the cost on some of. the outback roads was very bigh, amounting in some localities to as much as 8 per cent. After discussing the matter at great length, it was decided that the Commonwealth should provide an amount equal to 2 per cent. Clause 11, subclause 1, reads -

The final portion of the Commonwealth's proportion of the cost of carrying out any work under this agreement will be paid to the State after the work has been completed to the satisfaction of the Minister.

Sub-clause 2 provides -

The Minister may satisfy himself by such means as he thinks fit as to whether any work has been carried out in accordance with this agreement.

Clause 12 provides -

The Commonwealth will establish a board to be known as the Federal Aid Roads Board consisting of the Minister and a Minister representing each of the different States to which any money is made available in pursuance of the hereinbefore recited proposal of the Commonwealth. 'J he said board shall meet in the month of April in each year, and at such other times as the Minister considers necessary for the purpose of discussing any matters in connexion with the carrying out of the works.

It is not intended to create a paid board. The ministerial board referred to will have the advice and assistance of the officers of .the Commonwealth and State departments, and should not involve additional expense to either the States or the Commonwealth.


Senator Sir Henry Barwell - Will the Minister explain the manner in which this money is to be raised 1


Senator CRAWFORD - That will be dealt with under a separate bill, which, as honorable senators are aware, has been introduced in another place.


Senator Sir Henry Barwell - The two matters are closely related.


Senator CRAWFORD - They are very closely related. Although both bills are not at present before the Senate, I presume that the discussion on this will embrace also the other proposal. It would be very difficult to entirely separate the two.


Senator Sir Henry Barwell - We cannot discuss this measure before we know what are the proposals for raising the money.


Senator CRAWFORD - It may be as well if I make the definite statement that there is before another place a bill providing for the imposition of a duty of 2d. a gallon on petrol.


Senator Sir Henry Barwell - Will the whole of the revenue be derived from that duty on petrol )


Senator CRAWFORD - A sum of £500,000 per annum will be provided from general revenue, as has been the case during the last three years.


Senator Sir Henry Barwell - Has the proposal to impose a duty on motor chassis and tires been dropped ?


Senator CRAWFORD - I am not in a position to answer that question definitely at the moment. I trust that honorable senators will give the bill their earnest consideration, and that it will be passed without 'undue delay.







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