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Tuesday, 10 August 1926

Senator HOARE (South Australia) . - It would appear that there is a difference of opinion between the members of the legal profession in this Chamber concerning the constitutionality of this bill. They remind me of the man who always travelled in a coach instead of a railway train, and who said, " If you meet with an accident when travelling in a train, where are you? But if you are. travelling in a coach and the wheel comes off, there you are." That is the stage we have reached. Senator McLachlan has said that the Government can constitutionally proceed with this measure, and Senator Barwell has stated that, as the bill is unconstitutional, it should be dropped. I am not concerned with its constitutionality, but I should like to know if the Government is doing something which is morally right.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is a point with which the lawyers are not concerned.

Senator HOARE - No; but it is of great importance to the people. In my 5130 Federal Aid [SENATE.] Roads Bill. opinion, the action of the Government is morally wrong, and, therefore, should not be legalized. Parliament has no right to force upon the States something which they have declared they do not. want. Senator McLachlan said that the South Australian Government has made a very poor attempt to carry out a progressive roads policy; but, in fairness to that State, he should have mentioned that a tax was imposed by the South Australian Parliament for the purpose of raising revenue for road construction, and as it had only been in operation a short time the Government of that State should not be charged with inactivity. The South Australian Government was carrying out a satisfactory roads policy when the Commonwealth Government said that if it persisted with its petrol consumption tax, legal action would be taken, and a writ has now been issued by the Commonwealth against it. The Commonwealth Government is now saying to South Australia, and to certain other States, " Here is our policy, you have to accept it whether you like it or not." If the scheme is not accepted by the States which have declined to sign the agreement, I understand the money to be allocated to them will be placed to their credit in a trust fund until they are forced to use it. That is morally wrong. This Government has set up a dictatorship. Why should it force upon a State Government a scheme that is not wanted ? "Under the agreement, it will not be possible to spend any portion of the money upon feeders for main roads. The Commonwealth Government will determine where and how the money shall be spent. The making of roads is a State function, and I submit that the State authorities are the only competent judges of what are the most urgent proposals.

Senator Elliott - This bill will not prevent district councils from' constructing the less important roads.

Senator HOARE - The conditions attached to previous grants prevented Tasmania from using money allocated to that State on roads which it considered most urgently needed attention.

Senator Thompson - The Labour Government " mopped " up the money pretty quickly in Queensland, and it wants more of it.

Senator HOARE - The fact that Queensland has accepted this proposal is no reason why other States should have it forced upon them. But they will be . obliged to come in because the money will be collected and placed to their credit in a trust fund. Senator Elliott stated that he had advocated this scheme from every platform during his election campaign. I do not doubt the honorable gentleman, but I am sure that neither he nor the Prime Minister indicated the means by which the necessary revenue would be raised. The Government should hand the money over to the States, and allow them to expend it on roads which, in their opinion, most urgently need construction.

Senator Thompson - Under this scheme, suggestions as to the roads to be constructed will come from the States.

Senator HOARE - My point is that the South Australian Government does not approve of the agreement. It considers it has a better policy for road development in that State. I agree with the general principle of the bill, but the agreement should not be forced on States that do not approve of it. It is sound policy that the people who use the roads should pay for them; but the States should have the right to determine which roads shall be constructed. It would have been better if the Government had allowed South Australia and Western Australia to work out their own destinies in connexion with this roads policy.

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