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Friday, 20 November 1936

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for External Affairs) [11.25].- I move-

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill is to extend the operation of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement of 1931 for six months from the 31st December, 1936, to the 30th June, 1937.

The original .agreement which came into operation on the 1st July, 1926, was for a period of ten years. In 1931, however, when the agreement had been in force for five years, it was revised and its operation extended so that the original and amending .agreements covered the period from the 1st July, 1926, to the 31st. December, 1936 - ten and a half years. Some months ago it became evident that, in order that the Treasurers of the Commonwealth, and States should have firm figures on which to base their estimates for 1936-37, it would be expedient to extend the operation of the agreement to cover the whole of the financial year J 936-37. This extension was acceded to by all governments and .agreements have been signed to that effect. The conditions of the grant are not affected by this bill which merely provides for an extension of the 1931 agreement. The rates of duty imposed on petrol and their allocation between the Commonwealth and States are ae follows: -

In respect of benzol the excise duty is 1-kl. only a gallon, the whole of which is paid to the States, lt is anticipated that the total payment to the States in 1936-37 for roads purposes will be about £3,000,000. The basis of apportionment of Federal Aid Roads moneys between the States, since the inception of these agreements in 1926, has been as follows: - Tasmania has received one-twentieth; the remaining nineteentwentieths being divided between the other five States on the basis of three-fifths population and two-fifths area. Tasmania received special consideration as otherwise its share would have been inadequate. The payments to the individual States during the last three years have been -

The total payments to all States in each year since the inception of the agreement to the 30th June, 1936, have been-

The estimate for 1936-37 is £3,000,000. The purposes for which the federal aid roads grant was made available were as follows : - Under the original agreement moneys were to be used solely for the construction and reconstruction of main, trunk and arterial roads. The States were obliged to spend 15s. for each £1 granted by the Commonwealth. Under the agreement which took effect from 1931, the Commonwealth grant could be used for the construction, reconstruction, maintenance or repair of roads, and the States were exempted from the contribution of 15s. The 1931 agreement is still in force and, with the passage of this bill, its life will be extended from the 31st December, 1936, to the 30th June, 1937.

A new agreement, to operate from the 1st July, 1937, is now being drafted, and will be submitted later to Parliament. The new agreement will be for ten years from the date mentioned, and will increase by slightly more than 20 per cent, the present rate of payment to the States.

Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.

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