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Tuesday, 10 August 1926

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- The clause embodies an important principle, and I consider it wrong to restrict the scheme to towns not exceeding a population of 5,000. As the population, of towns increases, there is greater concentration of traffic on the main roads running through them, and the local authorities are unable to cope with the problem of maintaining those roads.

Senator McLachlan - But a town with 5,000 inhabitants, or more, has greater taxing power than one with a smaller population.

Senator PAYNE - Yes, but las the numbers increase, the rate of taxation per head becomes greater. The main road from Launceston to Hobart, as it approaches the capital city, passes through the suburban areas of Glenorchy, Derwent Park, Moonah, and Newtown, each of which has a population of over 5,000. Those towns are not financially strong enough to keep the main roads in good repair. A circular which has been sent to me states -

It is understood that some months ago a deputation consisting of representatives of metropolitan municipalities on the mainland requested the Federal Minister for Public Works to recommend that, in addition to the £20,000,000 grant for country roads, a special grant, spread over ten years, be made to assist towns and cities with populations exceeding 5,000 in the construction of their main arterial roads, which bear an enormous amount of foreign traffic. The Minister would give no decision, but referred the deputation to the Prime Minister, who promised to look into the papers on the matter and reply, hut to date he has not stated his intention.

It would appear that this matter has been brought under the notice- of the Government, and I cannot understand why some provision of the nature requested has not been made. If towns and cities with populations exceeding 5,000 are excluded the scheme will break down, because when the municipal boundaries are reached the roads will be so bad that motorists and others will find their journey interrupted. The agreement ought to be referred back to the States which have' signed it with a request that they should accept an amendment in accordance with the suggestions that have been made to-night.

SenatorGRANT (New South Wales) [10. 58 J. - The agreement seems to have' been hurriedly drawn as the result of a nominal conference which merely gave perfunctory attention to the subject. It is clear from correspondence I have received that there is the strongest opposition to the proposals contained in the bill. The Commonwealth Government has decided, wrongly, I think, to engage in the business of roadmaking, and that no part of the money shall be expended in towns or cities having populations exceeding 5,000. Presumably, a road from Esperance to Port Lincoln via Eucla would fulfil the requirements of the bill. A few years ago the present Attorney-General said that the Commonwealth Government had no constitutional justification for spending millions of pounds upon the construction of roads. But if the Government will persist in raising revenue for this purpose, and handing it over to the States to spend, it will do well to realize that they have a knowledge of roadmaking, and should be permitted to expend the money in a way they consider best, subject, possibly, to the formal approval of the Federal Minister for Works. It would be in the interests of the recipients of this assistance, and of roadmaking generally, if this bill were postponed until we could learn more fully the views of the people directly concerned. There is no reason why this legislation should be hurriedly forced through Parliament merely because the Government has a majority supporting; it.

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