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Thursday, 15 August 1974
Page: 1025


Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) -On behalf of the Australian Country Party I want to intimate that we do not propose to oppose the second reading of these Bills. But, like Senator Withers, we propose to move several amendments in the Committee stage. I would like to make a few general remarks on roads. Firstly, the Australian Country Party objects very strongly to a proposition which would give more control from and more centralisation in Canberra. We believe in a Federal system and not in a centralised system. The Bills before us tend to lead towards centralisation. Senator Devitt mentioned that the 3 tiers of government should be equal. He said that local government was just as important as federal government. I think that if these Bills are passed in their present form we will soon find out how wrong that statement will prove to be.

I want to make a couple of remarks about allocations. The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) has mentioned this in the other place. It has been mentioned several times already. Apparently in this matter there will be an attack on those living outside the big cities. We have already seen this in relation to the telephone system. Now we have it in relation to the allocation for rural roads which has been slashed from $248m or 3 1 per cent of the total, to $ 156m or 14 per cent of the total. This pattern continues through the whole allocation of money for roads. The previous Government had what it called the Commonwealth aid roads system which was a real help to shire councils. It enabled them to build many local roads in places where they would not have been constructed otherwise, and they would not have been built to the standard they are now. But these things apparently will go by the board because of the reduction in funds allocated and because of the inflationary situation. Less money is being allocated and a very much smaller amount of work will be done.

We have before us a Bill which deals with planning and research. Apparently the control authority will be centred in Canberra. No doubt as time goes on it will be built up into a tremendous department. My experience is that each State has a very good planning and research section in its own main roads department, country roads board or whatever the term may be. My own State of Queensland has an excellent planning and research section. It has had to build roads from the driest parts of Queensland where there is a little rain at any time, to some of the wettest places in Australia. This section has had to learn to deal with all the problems attached to drainage and other things. Now we are to pass this over to a new department which is to grow up, I presume, here in Canberra. It will be duplicating work for some of the time. If I know anything, as time goes on it will endeavour to take over more and more of the planning and research in the different states. We are told that if a region in a State, or a State government, or a main roads department planning section decides it wants to build a road from A to B, Canberra might say: 'No, you have to build it from C to D'. Apparently because Canberra supplies the money it will be able to say where the road has to be built.

The development of our highways and roads system in Australia has gone ahead as the motor car population has increased. We have seen already that long stretches of highway have hardly been completed before they have had to be rebuilt to a higher standard from end to end. In Queensland they are adopting roads standards now for 70 miles per hour- or whatever that is in kilometres- and constructing wider roads of a much better quality. There is a continuing expenditure on these matters throughout the State. In fact this applies in all the States. It is very hard to keep abreast of the rapidly increasing motor car traffic. For example, when the Bruce Highway from Brisbane to Cairns was completed nobody could envisage the amount of motor traffic which it carries today. This applies to other highways throughout Australia. Before the first section of the highway was completed they were starting to rebuild it and to widen it. We are getting 4-Iane and 6-lane highways in some sections. This is a pattern all over Australia where there is high density of traffic.

I think the previous speaker in this debate, Senator Devitt, mentioned that there would not have to be a referral to Canberra for the States or the municipal councils to spend their own money. However, if one studies the Bill thoroughly, one finds that this is not quite the case; that in fact the Bill does make provision for referral to Canberra in many cases, such as for the purchase of machinery and the spending of money on different things. Such referral will occur, and once this power of referral is firmly established- from the States' point of view the referral of planning and research matters is probably the worst- it is my opinion that the centralisation process will build up and increase rapidly until the section which deals with these matters here in Canberra will become very large, requiring enormous buildings, the expenditure of large sums of money and all the other things that go with such great expansion of a department.

I have made mention of arterial roads, and I gave reasons why shire councils will be in a much worse position when they do not have the money to spend on arterial roads. It would seem that expenditure on urban areas is not being cut at all and that they will have expended on them the full amount recommended in the report prepared by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. I just cannot see the wisdom or the logic in the Minister requesting the Bureau of Roads to report on the roads system of Australia and, when the Bureau puts in its report recommending the allocation of money for various roads in the various States, the Minister, or somebody advising the Minister, making these arbitrary cuts in expenditure in relation to some sections of road and probably actually increasing expenditure in relation to some other sections.


Senator Wright - It was done on the political basis that there are fewer votes out there.


Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) -Senator Wright's comment would be exactly right; the Government just does not worry about country areas. I have already referred to the telephone set-up. Country people are not able to have telephones installed because there are fewer votes in the country areas. The Labor Party is absolutely an urban party. Later we will be dealing with other Bills which are concerned with urban transport and the building up of railways mainly in the big cities. The country areas will contribute to that expenditure also. I suggest that these Bills have to be amended so that some of the power is taken away from Canberra in an endeavour at least to keep our Federal system strong. We must not allow Canberra to become all powerful and take complete control. We want strong States and we do not want everything to be referred to Canberra. Despite what has been said, that is the story and that is what will happen. Even shire councils- municipal councils- will have to refer matters to Canberra for decision. We do not want that situation to arise, and it is to try to prevent that situation from arising that we intend to move certain amendments to the Bills when they are considered in Committee. That is my Party's attitude to these Bills.







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