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Friday, 16 August 1974
Page: 1071

Senator WOOD (Queensland) -Last night I was speaking about my State of Queensland as an example. I mentioned that under the present Country-Liberal Party Government there had been an excellent development and improvement in the roads system of that State. I can remember at one stage a Minister who had very strong influence in the Labor Government indicated to a deputation which waited on him that he was interested only in the roads that surrounded the Brisbane, Ipswich and Toowoomba areas. He quite blatantly said that he could not care less about country regions. We saw a complete change take place with the advent of the late Mr Ernest Evans as the Minister for Main Roads. It is unfortunate that the man who made the statement to which I have referred, showing of his short-sighted interest in this matter, came from the southern area of the State. Mr Evans lived in my own area, which is in the central-northern region. That is a striking illustration of the fact that people who are furtherest removed from you are the people who know least about you and from whom you will receive the least consideration. When I think of the size of my State and of this Commonwealth, I believe that Canberra is too far removed for people here to be able to appreciate the necessary details in order to make judgments regarding roads and so on.

Local government is the closest form of government to the people. The people in local government live in the areas concerned and they have a good knowledge of the requirements of the areas. The State government is the next closest form of government to the people, and we in the Federal sphere are the most removed form of government from the people because of our situation in this city of Canberra. In my own experience I have not found any great conflict or any great difficulty in municipal administrations and Departments of Main Roads working with each other. Looking at the matter from the point of view of the benefit derived by the people in the areas concerned, I cannot see what we gain by having everything referred to Canberra. Senator Hall mentioned the difficulties of South Australia. I believe that if every request is to be channelled to Canberra, there could very well be a bottleneck that might hold things up considerably. Also, because the Canberra authorities are so far removed from some areas in Australia they may not have regard to the special circumstances in those areas.

As I have mentioned, I live in a northern region where we get monsoonal rains and rains which are much heavier than those experienced in other areas, and there may be a requirement for roads of stronger structure. The engineering people or the people in the responsible department in Canberra might ask: 'Why the necessity for extra expenditure on building more expensive roads?' I will give an illustration. Earlier this year we had a lengthy period of rain. With the exception of possibly one or two days, we had rain every day over a period of 7 weeks. During that period the whole area became waterlogged. I saw springs burst through from underneath newly made bitumen roads. Ultimately, the roads had to be dug out and rock filled. Even underground drainage had to be provided in some cases. Such circumstances would not be found in the Canberra region where the annual rainfall probably would not be as much as the rainfall recorded in my region in the 7-week period to which I have referred. As I said, damage was caused to many miles of roads in my area as a result of water bursting through from underneath the bitumen. A great amount of expenditure was incurred in repairing the roads.

Looking at the matter from the point of view of wanting to give the best service to the people, I cannot see that referring everything to Canberra is the most expeditious and beneficial way of providing that service. I think it will cause a bottleneck. I know that these things depend a lot upon the people who administer them. It seems to me that many requests from a very large countryI am thinking of the Commonwealth of Australia as a whole- will be channelled to Canberra for consideration. I know that Senator Devitt has had experience in local government. Those of us who have had experience in local government believe that being a local government representative is good training and I think we have a sense of being close to the people. If a local authority wants to construct a culvert or a bridge in connection with road work, I cannot see why a request for approval of such work should be channelled through to Canberra. It appears to me that in this legislation we are creating difficulty in the quick execution by the requirements we are placing on local government in regard to the roads of this nation. The situation that will arise if municipal councils have to ask people in Canberra how they can spend their money really beggars description.

Senator Cavanagh - You know that is not true.

Senator WOOD - Yes, it is. Once Canberra gets its hands on local government, you never know where it will finish. Personally, I would not like to be in the position of having to refer everything to Canberra. Surely the people who serve in local government are just as sensible as you and 1. 1 think we should have confidence that, if money is parcelled out to local authorities, we can leave it to them to do a decent and reasonable job for this nation- a better job than would result if everything were run from Canberra.

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