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Wednesday, 11 August 1926

Senator CRAWFORD(Queensland-

Honorary Minister)[1 1.14]. - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The object of the proposed petrol duty is to provide a proportion of the Commonwealth's contribution towards the cost of constructing in the Commonwealth good roads, which are so essential to the development of the resources of the country and for facilitating communication and' the transport of the products of our primary and other industries. It will surely be admitted that a portion of the contribution necessary for that purpose is. properly obtainable from the users of our roads. As, generally speaking, the advantages of good roads are enjoyed mainly by the owners of petroldriven vehicles, it is but just that they should contribute, by increased taxation on petrol, towards the cost of the construction and maintenance of the country's highways. The Government's road proposals were very fully dealt with in the policy speech which was. delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) at Dandenong in October last, when he said -

The revolution which has taken place in road transport with the development of the internal combustion engine, has produced a new problem. In the past the question of roads has been one exclusively within the jurisdiction of the States. This question has, however, be- come 'one of national - importance, and of too great a magnitude for the. States to handle themselves.

This factor has been recognized by the Commonwealth Government, and .for the last two years a grant of £500,000 . has been made to the "States, on the £1 for £1 basis, for the construction of main developmental roads. This grant was increased in the present year by an additional amount of £250,000 to be spent on the reconstruction and strengthening ' of existing main roads. The Government, however, now feels that the time has come when a progressive forward movement must be made in connexion with a roads policy for Australia. The Government proposes to make available to the - States a sum of £20,000,000 spread over a period of ten years, such amount to be provided out of the' revenue derived by the Commonwealth from taxation to be collected from motor users through the Customs Department. The provision of this amount is, of course, subject to a policy of national road development being evolved at a conference between the Commonwealth and the States which is acceptable to the Commonwealth. One fundamental principle which will have to be embodied in any scheme which can. be approved by the Commonwealth is that provision must be made for the permanent maintenance and upkeep of roads constructed or reconstructed under -the scheme.

It is recognized that a certain proportion of petroleum oils is consumed for purposes which have no. direct connexion with the use . of roads, and the Government, therefore, decided to amend its original proposals with a view to the exemption from increased taxation of the oils used for such purposes. Petroleum spirit oils are, for example, used to some extent by farmers and others as -fuel for stationary engines employed for a variety of power purposes. Petrol is also used as fuel for motor boats. No doubt there are other directions in which these oils are used for motive power and other purposes which have no connexion with the use of roads. The Government, therefore, decided to redraft the original proposed items in such a manner as would permit the admission ofpetrol and similar spirit oils for purposes other than consumption and road-using vehicles at the rate of duty in force prior to the introduction of the present proposals. Spirit oils used for such purposes will receive the careful consideration of the department, and will be admitted at the lower rate subject to such conditions as may be found necessary. About £1,000,000 is expected annually from the petrol duty.

SenatorNEEDHAM (Western Austra

Federal Aid Roads Bill which was before the Senate yesterday, I do not intend to vote for the second reading of this measure because I consider an additionalduty of 2d. a gallon on petrol is totally unjustifiable. The South Australian and Western Australian Governments have already levied a tax upon petrol consumption to meet the cost of road construction in those States, and there does not, therefore, appear to be any reason why the Commonwealth should intervene. During the recent election campaign we were told that the Commonwealth Government intended to assist the States in constructing main roads, and I believe 90 per cent, of the electors were under the impression that the funds for this purpose would be taken from ordinary Customs revenue, and that no special tax on petrol would be imposed.


Senator Crawford - The position was clearly stated by the Prime Minister in his policy speech.







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