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Tuesday, 13 August 1974
Page: 798


The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-

The purpose of the Roads Grants Bill 1974 is to provide $700m in financial assistance over the period 1974-75 to 1976-77 for the construction of rural arterial roads, developmental roads, rural local roads, minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements, urban arterial roads, urban local roads and beef roads. Assistance for rural local roads, as in the past, will also include maintenance. As honourable senators will appreciate from the categories of roads which I have outlined above, the opportunity has been taken to consolidate in this Bill assistance previously provided under the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, assistance for beef roads and the continued provisions of assistance for minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements. The States will benefit from the $700m as follows:

New South Wales $207.5m

Victoria$ 156.6m

Queensland $ 1 47.7m

South Australia $45.0m

Western Australia $ 1 1 3.2m

Tasmania $30.0m

Urban arterial roads will be the largest category of grants with $355m being provided for this purpose. The road needs survey conducted by the Bureau of Roads and State roads authorities showed that at June 1972 this category of road performed the major portion of the traffic task in urban areas by carrying the greatest volume of traffic and the highest proportions of heavy vehicles. Whilst urban arterial and sub-arterial roads constitute only 20 per cent of urban road mileage they carry up to 75 per cent of the total vehicle miles of travel in the cities. They also comprise only 2 per cent of all roads in Australia and carry about 50 per cent of all road travel. Approximately 780 miles, or 17 per cent, of the arterial and sub-arterial roads in built up urban areas are carrying traffic volumes in excess of 20,000 vehicles per day. Freeways, a particular type of urban arterial road, have become the centre of controversy in nearly ever State capital. Australia still has time to avoid the problems which massive programs have inflicted on American cities. A special report recently prepared by the Bureau of Roads, in response to a request by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), identified many advantages of freeways over heavily loaded arterial roads. These advantages include very significant reductions in road accidents, decreases in the operating costs of commercial and private vehicles, savings in travel time and reductions in air pollution, noise and community disruption and very substantial improvement in route times for public transport. On the other hand the report found most Australian capital cities have a radial pattern of railways and roads emanating from the centre of the city. The difficulty with this pattern is that as roads and railways approach the centre of the city, distances between them become less and less and the volume of traffic per lane increases. The inner areas are, as a result, polluted by noise and congestion and are dissected into areas which are too small to act as true communities. These adverse aspects frequently outweigh any potential advantages.

The report also analysed individual freeways on the basis of certain principles formulated by the Bureau for satisfactory freeway development and it takes into account economic, social and environmental matters. There are indications that proposals for freeways in outer areas of capital cities are fairly limited and do not conflict with the Bureau's principles. Some freeways in middle to outer areas and more so in inner areas will cause problems and may not be justified.

Under these new road arrangements the Australian Government will look very closely at freeway proposals. We intend to ensure that detailed investigations are made into the environmental, social and economic aspects of freeway proposals. We shall only approve the construction of major projects of this type if we are convinced that they are justified.

Previous arrangements for financial assistance for roads have essentially ignored urban local roads. In the pre- 1969 legislation some local government authorities on the fringes of urban areas were treated as rural and thus had access to Commonwealth aid roads grants for minor rural roads. This represented nominal assistance only for urban local roads. This Government intends to redress this neglect and as an initial step we shall provide $30m over the next 3 years for this purpose. We shall be looking forward, in particular, to redressing problems identified by the Bureau in 4 broad areas of neglect. The first concerned the need to assist local government authorities on the fringes of the urban area which face difficulties in financing the road programs required to keep pace with development. In these areas local road development often precedes growth in local rates from which urban local roads are normally financed. The second situation relates to the need to assist local government authorities with special burdens on street re-construction and with environmentally deficient streets caused by abnormal traffic conditions due to congested arterials. The long term solution of course is to provide arterial roads adequate to traffic needs. The third situation is to assist with areas such as the western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne where the Australian Government has been implementing area improvement programs. Finally, these funds could be used to allow for initial road construction in system cities ahead of the availability of development capital and local government rate finance for this purpose.

I now wish to turn to the minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements category. This was one of the important initiatives in respect of road safety that this Government took soon after coming into power. We made a provision of $3m in 1 973-74 for a program of traffic management and other low cost improvements at locations with poor accident records. The long term objective of course is to provide properly planned roads designed with major safety features built in. However, much can be done at little cost in modifying existing roads to improve their traffic management and safety capabilities. For this reason we are providing $30m over the next 3 years with a view to accelerating this work. This represents a significant increase in expenditure in this area and it will undoubtedly pay substantial dividends in the short term. The money provided for minor traffic improvements is available for rectifying problems on both State owned roads and local government roads. It will also be available for use on roads in both urban and rural areas.

As for rural areas the intention is to provide $105m for rural arterial roads. Under the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act this category included the great bulk of roads which are now to be included in the national highways category of the National Roads Bill. However, the category has now been augmented by the transfer of Class 3 regional connecting roads which previously formed part of the rural roads other than arterial roads category. These roads are those whose main function is to provide an avenue of communication between those roads which were previously classified as rural arterial, between important centres, and those that are of an arterial nature within towns. The development of rural arterial roads is important. They play a major role in joining the cities, towns and principal centres of population in the regions, outside the capital and major provincial cities.

An amount of $156m is to be provided for the construction and maintenance of rural local roads. With the deletion of Class 3 interconnecting roads from this category these roads now largely provide an access function to residences within rural cities, towns and other centres of population and to farm properties. It is also proposed to have a developmental category comprising selected rural roads. These roads will be nominated by the Minister who can determine that up to 10 per cent of the moneys available under the rural arterial category be provided for their development. Developmental roads will include, for example, roads of importance to the tourist industries and roads serving growth centres.

I now want to turn to beef roads. The Australian Government has decided to continue this type of assistance and has provided $24m for expenditure on these roads in Queensland. This action gives effect to the undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his policy speech. In accordance with those promises it is also proposed to further develop the Fitzroy Crossing- Wyndham road in Western Australia at a cost of $5.23m. The finance for this purpose will be provided under the National Roads Bill. I now want to make one particularly important point and this concerns the division of these grant moneys between rural and urban areas. There has already been a lot of uninformed comment about these road proposals favouring urban areas at the expense of rural areas. This I quite categorically deny. The following figures indicate quite clearly that the road arrangements decided upon by this Government show a greater proportional distribution of road moneys to rural areas compared with that provided by the previous Government under the last three years of the 1 969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act and that recommended by the Bureau of Roads for the next 3 years. The relevant figures are as follows:

 

There has also been a lot of uninformed comparison about the level of grants provided for certain categories in the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act compared with that recommended by the Bureau and this is likely to spill over into this Bill. Many roads previously included in the 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads categories, rural arterial particularly, are now being provided for separately under the National Roads Bill. Furthermore as I indicated earlier Class 3 roads have been transferred from rural local to rural arterial. The only really satisfactory comparison is the overall percentage of rural versus urban which I have already given you. Secondly these uninformed comparisons ignore the fact that the Australian Government has decided to take full responsibility for financing the construction of national roads. This will relieve State Governments completely of any financial responsibility in that area and thus allow them to devote all their own resources to the categories covered by this Bill.

In this regard I want to make the particular point that previously local government authorities relied on Commonwealth Aid Road grants. While local government is still eligible for assistance under this legislation these authorities will now have to turn more to State governments for assistance. I emphasise what I said earlier, namely that with the Australian Government meeting the full cost of national roads, State governments will be able to meet this increased demand for financial assistance from their local authorities. The quota requirements in this Bill have been left much more flexible than that proposed by the Bureau of Roads which envisaged matching by categories in some instances. Thus States will have freedom to augment the level of grants in those categories of roads on which they place their priorities. I might say also that the Australian Government after considering representations by the States has agreed to reduce the level of quotas recommended by the Bureau by an overall 10 per cent. This will relieve the States to a large extent of the responsibility of increasing user charges. In any case, of course, there is no requirement on the States as to where they raise their own road finance funds. That is a matter essentially for them to decide.

Finally I want to turn to the program approval arrangements provided for in this Bill. In order to facilitate the Senate's consideration of this matter I wish to table a detailed statement from the Minister outlining the way in which it is intended to administer the programming arrangements associated with this legislation. Clause 4(1) of the Bill provides that the Australian Government may require States and local government to submit for Australian Government approval programs of works financed from their own resources. States and local government will not be required to submit for approval the road works program financed from their own resources for urban local roads, rural local roads, developmental roads, beef roads and minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements. However the Government will be requiring programs of all road works for urban arterial roads, irrespective of whether they are financed from Australian Government Grants, together with a partial program for rural arterials. In regard to the latter we shall be seeking only road works on those roads in which the Australian Government is interested. The statement outlines the Australian Government's reasons for requiring these.

In order to become more closely associated with the problems of transport planning in the States the intention is to require Australian representation on State bodies responsible for programming and providing policy advice on matters relating to roads. As you will be aware, the State agreed to this approach in the Urban Public Transport Agreement. Apart from giving the Australian Government a better first hand appreciation of problems associated with transport planning it will also give us the opportunity to inject some of our views in early planning stages. Finally, it will assist the Australian Government in considering its attitude to program approvals in that it will remove the need for the provision of detailed information at the programming stage. The reason being of course that we shall have seen at first hand the development of solutions to particular problems over a period of time. This Bill in its own way brings a new era to the provision of assistance to the States for roads. Accordingly, I commend this Bill to the Senate.

NEW ROAD ARRANGEMENTS

(Statement by the Hon. C. K. Jones, M.P., Minister for Transport)

The Roads Grants Bill provides for Australian Government assistance to the States and local government Tor the following categories of roads: urban arterial roads, urban local roads, rural arterial roads, rural local roads, developmental roads, beef roads and minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements.

The Bill provides for appropriate Australian Government Ministers to approve programs of road works financed by Australian Government grants. The Bill in Clause 4(1), provides that the Australian Government may require the States and local government to submit for Australian Government approval programs of road works financed from their own resources. The sub clause reads as follows:

A Minister may notify a State the date before which a program of projects in respect of a period to which the section applies, being projects of a specified kind, is to be submitted to him for approval, and may, in the notice, inform the State that the program should include all the projects of that kind that are to be carried out by the State and by a municipal, shire and other local authorities in that period. '

As I have said on a number of occasions this later provision was included because this Government recognises the inter-connection of the various modes and is determined to promote the development of a more national approach to transport overall. We believe it is illogical to provide large sums of money in a number of important areas, including urban public transport and national highways, without recognising that roads built by States and municipal authorities form just as much a part of the transport system as to roads and trains and buses financed by Australian Government grants.

The provisions I refer to however, are not mandatory and it may help the Parliament in its consideration of the Bill if I indicate the manner in which it is intended they be administered. This should also clear up some of the misunderstanding that may exist in the minds of State and local government.

The States and local government will not be required to submit for approval the road works program financed from their own funds for the following categories: urban local roads, rural local roads, developmental roads, beef roads and minor traffic engineering and road safety improvements.

This means that the Australian Government will not be approving road projects financed from a State's or local government's own resources for the above categories nor was it ever the Australian Government's intention that local councils would have to seek approval for the purchase from their own resources of individual items of road plant, such as tractors, as claimed by Opposition spokesmen.

The Australian Government will, however, require the submission for approval of road programs for all urban arterial roads, irrespective of whether financed from Australian Government sources. We believe that this measure must be implemented immediately. As you will be aware the Australian Government's stated objectives are to improve the quality of life in the cities and, in particular, to substantially improve urban public transport.

The proper development of urban arterial roads is extremely important to this objective. For example, freeways have a number of transport advantages over the upgrading of existing arterial roads. However, they can also have a detrimental effect on people who have to be moved to make way for them and on the environment in the inner city areas.

Furthermore the relationship between the development of urban arterial roads and urban public transport needs careful consideration. As I have said many times previously much of urban public transport, for example buses and taxis, runs on roads. Road based transport must interconnect with the urban rail and ferry system. If the Australian Government is to ensure its grants for urban arterial roads and urban public transport are to bear fruit it must be in a position to influence decisions on the development of all urban arterial roads, not just those financed by Australian Governments grants.

The Australian Government will also be looking for the States to submit for approval a partial program only of road work to be financed from its own resources in respect of rural arterial roads. This partial program will cover only those arterial roads in which the Australian Government has a particular interest. There are road works on rural arterial roads forming part of an interstate road link and those which affect designated growth centres, of which Albury/Wodonga is the only one at this stage.

Where a full program of road works to be financed from State or local government sources is not required to be submitted for approval the States will be asked to provide details of their works for information. Following a meeting of State Premiers which discussed the road arrangements, Sir Charles Cutler, then acting Premier of New South Wales, wrote to the Prime Minister on behalf of all Premiers saying they would have no objection to the provision of these details for information.

I would emphasise that the realities of the current situation are that the Australian Government is becoming more and more involved in the provision of large amounts of financial assistance to the States. We will not abdicate our responsibilities with relation to policy and planning in these areas. On the other hand we wish to work with the States and do not intend to impose unnecessary or time consuming constraints on them. 1 hope this statement clarifies our approach.

Lastly, I have mentioned on other occasions that the Government intends to legislate towards the end of 1975 for the 1977-80 transport assistance, which will include roads. Over the next 12 months I shall be closely reviewing the effectiveness of our proposals, including the arrangements outlined in this Statement. If changes become necessary these could be announced at that time.

COPY

SYDNEY

Dear Mr Whitlam,

You will recall that at the June Premiers' Conference all Premiers expressed disquiet at the proposals you outlined relating to Commonwealth Aid Roads for the next three years.

This matter was further discussed at yesterday's meeting of Premiers in Melbourne and I have been requested to raise three specific issues with you on behalf of all States.

The first of these relates to the level of funds to be provided for the various categories of roads, apart from National Highways. Due to the emphasis which your Government has placed on this latter category and to the impact which inflation can be expected to have on the program generally, the quantum of funds available for other roads and particularly rural local roads falls seriously short of what is required to maintain a satisfactory works effort. It is certain that the authorities concerned will have to reduce their workforce with quite serious social consequences unless your Government is prepared to review its proposed allocations. If you are unwilling to increase the total amount of Commonwealth assistance we would press strongly for a reassessment of priorities as between National Highways and the other categories in order to moderate the impact of your proposals. However, the real need is for an increase in the level of funds to be provided by your Government and we would urge that you reconsider your decision to cut back by some 17 per cent the overall allocations recommended by the Bureau of Roads.

The second aspect of your Government's proposals which is causing all States grave concern is the extent to which your Government seeks to review our roads programs. The proposed requirement that all proposed projects for all proposed categories be submitted for approval by Commonwealth Ministers, irrespective of whether individual works are to be financed from Commonwealth or State funds, is completely unacceptable both from a policy viewpoint and in terms of its administrative practicability. It can only lead to costly duplication, delays and disputes and the States would lose the flexibility they now have to meet changing circumstances as they arise.

We would see no objection to the States advising your Government of the details of their overall roads works programs and we recognise that this information would be of benefit in assessing future roads needs. However, we do not accept the proposition that the States should be required to obtain your Government's prior approval to road projects which will be wholly financed from State funds and we request that this requirement be dropped from the proposed new arrangements.

Finally, we wish to raise an issue of principle associated with the determination of the minimum levels of State expenditure on roads necessary to qualify for the full level of Commonwealth assistance. As the matter now stands, your Government has announced that the levels of its financial support for roads over the next three years will be substantially less than the amounts recommended for this period by the Bureau of Roads. At the same time, however, you are proposing to retain the quotas of State matching expenditure recommended by the Bureau on the basis of a much higher level of Commonwealth financial involvement. This is neither consistent nor equitable.

While, as I have already stated, the real need is for an increase in the proposed level of Commonwealth assistance for arterial and other roads, the proposed matching requirements have serious implications for the States, particularly in view of the financial burdens which we willhave to impose on our citizens to overcome the serious budget difficulties facing the States. Accordingly, if your Government is not prepared to provide the level of assistance for roads recommended by the Bureau, the Premiers request that the matching quotas of State expenditure recommended by the Bureau be fixed at the same percentage increase on 1973-74 as the Commonwealth grants.

Your early and favourable consideration of the matters we have raised would be greatly appreciated by all Premiers.

Yours faithfully, C. B. CUTLER Acting Premier and Treasurer

The Hon. E. G. Whitlam. Q.C.. M.P., Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600

Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.







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