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Thursday, 11 November 1976
Page: 2603

Mr NIXON (Gippsland) (Minister for Transport and Acting Minister for National Resources) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to amend the National Roads Act and the Roads Grants Act by providing an additional $35. 8m Commonwealth financial assistance to the States for road works in 1976-77. The proposed increase in funds represents a rise of approximately 9 per cent over and above the level of funds already provided under these 2 Acts for this year. The Bill also provides for a concomitant increase in quotas for State expenditure from State resources on roads.

Honourable members will recall that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), in his statement to the House on 20 May outlining the various budgetary measures being taken to control government expenditure and reduce inflation, announced the decision to appropriate an additional $35.8m for road works. The National Roads and Roads Grants Acts will now provide for a total allocation in 1976-77 to the States of $433.5m after allowing for the additional funds contained in this Bill. The 1974 National Roads and Roads Grants Acts, introduced by the previous Government, provided a level of funds which was $225m below that recommended by the Bureau of Roads in its 1973 report. As a result provision for certain road categories such as urban arterials, rural arterials and rural local roads on which local government is very dependent for its road needs was reduced during the 3-year period of the Legislation.

Since coming to office the Government has been particularly conscious of the fact that local government in many instances has suffered badly in competing for road funds against State government programs. We have therefore endeavoured to ensure that the needs of local government in particular are looked after. This point was emphasised by the Commonwealth at the February Premiers Conference. In advising the States of the proposed additional funds and seeking their views on the proposed allocation to categories I have pointed to the decline in funds available to local government and stressed the urgent road requirements in rural areas.

As honourable members will be aware the 1974 Road Grants Act contained for the first time assistance for urban local roads. During the period of the Act allocations for these roads were increased to the benefit of urban local authorities. This was in marked contrast with rural local authorities. Following consultations with the States the proposed allocations set out in the Bill were adopted. These allocations go a considerable way towards improving the difficulties which rural local government and the rural road system were facing. This has been achieved without any disruption of the overall State road programs.

As I have indicated it will be necessary for the States also to increase their own expenditure on road works by about 9 per cent in order to qualify for the additional Commonwealth assistance.

As you will appreciate both the Commonwealth and State governments, together with local government, have joint responsibilities to finance the road program and it is only appropriate that the States increase their level of effort as well.

The Bill is divided into 3 parts. Part I sets out the usual preliminary information. Part II- clauses 3 to 6- relates to the National Roads Act. Part III- Clauses 7 to 12-relates to the Roads Grants Act. The total increase in funds for each State is as follows:

New South Wales-$ 1 1 . 3m

Victoria- $7.5m

Queensland- $7.5m

South Australia-$3.2m

Western Australia- $4.6m

Tasmania- $ 1.7m.

The allocations to the different road categories in each State are set out in the detailed schedules included in the Bill. The relevant clauses for the detailed category allocations are clause 6 for National Roads and clause 12 for the Roads Grants Act. The Bill provides for the additional amounts set out in the schedules to be added to the existing 1976-77 appropriations. I would remind honourable members that the allocations to categories were made only after consultations with the States. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.

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