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Wednesday, 26 March 1941

Senator FRASER (Western Australia) . - I have received a communication from the Moora Roads Board on the subject of petrol rationing for members of the board who have to travel long distances to attend board meetings. 1 wrote the following letter to the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride) because the State Liquid Fuel Control Board has no power to increase the special allowance granted in such cases.

Following on representations made to me by local authorities in this State, members at whom travel long distances to attend meetings of their boards, it is pointed out that the allowance made by the State Liquid Fuel Control Board is far short of the requirements necessary.

I have represented the matter to the State board and am informed that the power of the board is limited and under the present schedule they could not exceed that laid down by the Central Fuel Board.

I take one local authority as an example - I would refer to the Moora Road Board, and of course this applies to many other country boards in this State. At' the present time; a preferred mileage of 50 per cent, of the mileage covered in attending meetings of local authorities has been approved. Ten members of the Moora Road Board are farmers and they already find difficulty in carrying out their farm work with the petrol allowance granted. Of the ten members referred to, three travel not less than 64 miles to attend meetings of their board, while of the remainder four travel not less than 50 miles and three travel 12 miles. From this it will be seen that the allowance of 50 per cent, is unreasonable. It must be borne in mind also that in addition to board meetings, there are many functions in connexion with patriotic appeals that these gentlemen are expected to attend and in all this it must not be forgotten that their services are given in an honorary capacity.

I therefore respectfully suggest that the State Fuel Board's powers should be enlarged so that cases of this nature could be dealt with here on their merits and with the cooperation of the various local authorities in this State. I feel sure that if the geographical position of many of the local authority members were given consideration it would be admitted that 50 per cent, would not be sufficient for their needs.

I received from him the following reply:-

I have received your letter of the 5th instant with reference to petrol allowances to members of local authorities, and particularly to the Moora Road Board. I note that farmer members of this board have difficulty in carrying out their farm work, and further difficulties in attending the board meetings, even with the special allowance provided.

I am afraid with the further restrictions that have been thrust upon us by war conditions, we may require to reduce even the special allowance already given, and that there is no alternative for such local authority members as you mention than that of readjusting their private arrangements to suit the new conditions. We had not expected that ordinary pre-war habits could be maintained under the stress of war conditions, and I think it is not too much to expect that, in their cooperation with the Government, consumers of petrol will find ways and means of reducing their consumption even though it means inconvenience to a serious degree.

I would be very much assisted in the work of the department if you could take this view of the problem.

The word " habits " should not have been used. These gentlemen are not continuing their pre-war habits, but use their cars to carry out work which they do in an honorary capacity.

Senator Allan MACDONALD - Those boards are also engaged on air raid precaution work.

Senator FRASER - I did not inquire fully into the ramifications of their activities; but I know that in the course of their duties members of such boards are obliged to travel great distances. The secretary of the Moora Road Board wrote me as follows: -

May I give you one instance of their effort in the matter? Namely, that on the 7th instant, the board met at 2 p.m. for a conference with local authorities from as far north as Three Springs and Gin Gin in the south. Followed by an Appeal Court at 4 p.m. and by a Revision Court at 5.15 p.m. and at 8 p.m. by the annual meeting of ratepayers. This meeting was followed on Saturday, 8th instant, by the regular finance committee meeting, and the board meeting extending from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

It is proposed that at our next meeting of the board to hold a conference with other local authorities, but it should be appreciated that these meetings, in addition to travelling some 00 miles or more as some members have to, is rather a big demand on their time and energy.

We trust, therefore, that if it is possible at some later date to give further consideration to our request that these disabilities will be taken into consideration.

In order that claims of this kind can be considered in the light of conditions peculiar toWestern Australia, I again urge the Government to appoint a direct representative ofWestern Australia to the Central Liquid Fuel Control Board. I fully appreciate the necessity for conserving our petrol supplies. Upon receiving these representations, I examined the schedule covering petrol rationing in Western Australia. I find that, despite the severity of the restrictions in respect of certain classes of users of motor vehicles, considerable room still exists for tightening up the schedule. Many persons are receiving much more petrol than they really need. For instance, nothing in the regulations governing the issue of licences prevents unscrupulous persons from obtaining a ration far in excess of that which can be obtained by legitimate farmers and tradesmen. Confidence tricksters and " magsmen " can obtain a ration up to 71 gallons a month, provided they declare that they are engaged in a trade, or calling, which places them in a business class.

Senator Allan MacDonald - The State Liquid Fuel Control Board requires something more than a mere declaration that one is engaged in a certain calling.

Senator FRASER - If a man has two bottles of hair oil and a toothbrush to sell he can claim, under the regulations, to be a salesman, and he thereby becomes entitled to a ration up to 71 gallons a month. Compare this allowance with that meted out to a farmer who owns a 42 cwt. truck with which he does the whole of his farm work, including the cartage of stores. His ration is limited to 32 gallons a month.

Senator McBride - That is not correct.

Senator FRASER - I assure the Minister that what I say is correct. The farmer may obtain an additional six gallons a month, provided he proves that he needs the additional petrol to cover a corresponding additional mileage. Legitimate tradesmen, whose petrol requirements are much in excess of the quantities provided under the schedule, are also unfairly rationed in comparison with the treatment given to "magsmen" and racing men whose main occupation is visiting country shows. A butcher, baker or milkman, engaged in the distribution of the necessaries of life, is restricted, irrespective of the mileage covered, to a ration of 39 gallons a month in respect of a commercial vehicle up to 24 cwt. In many cases this quantity represents but one-third of the tradesman's previous consumption. Special licences may be granted to tradesmen, but such licences are given for a specific period only, and the State Liquid Fuel Control Board can cancel them at any time. I emphasize that members of local governing authorities and roads boards are doing valuable work. They are entitled to more generous treatment under the petrol rationing scheme than they are receiving to-day. Much of their work is of an honorary nature. I again ask the Minister to give urgent consideration to the matters I have raised.

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