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Thursday, 28 May 1981
Page: 2805


Mr CHARLES JONES(8.8) — The Roads Grants Bill basically provides for five items, namely, a grant of $685m to the States, the amalgamation of road categories, the compulsory calling of tenders for the construction of national highways, less Commonwealth administration and the elimination of State quotas. We heard the honourable member for Indi (Mr Ewen Cameron) who preceded me in the debate make reference to the fact that this is an important piece of legislation in an expansionary program of assistance for roads by this Government. All I want to say is that that is absolute humbug. The Bill is typical of the Government's legislation dealing with roads since it has been the government.

Let us examine closely the expenditure on roads comparing the figures for this year with those for last year. Last year there was an increase of 11 per cent in the allocation over the previous year's allocation. This took the amount provided to $628m. This year there is an increase of 9 per cent or $57m-an increase to $685m. I do not know where the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) got his multiplier from. If we look at any four criteria, we can come up with an increase that is justified and should have been approved by the Government. Inflation is running at 9.5 per cent. That in itself should have brought about an increase of $3m in the appropriation which would have taken the grant to $688m. Even an inflation rate of 10 per cent, as shown in the Budget figures of the Treasurer (Mr Howard), would have brought about an increase of $6m and taken the grant to $691m. Another Department of the Treasury document entitled 'The National Expenditure Deflator' shows that inflation is running at 11.5 per cent. The adoption of that rate would mean an additional $14m being allocated to the States, taking the grant to $699m.

It is an accepted fact amongst road authorities that the cost of road construction has increased by 16 per cent. This Government has been a major contributor to that 16 per cent increase for it is guilty of increasing the tax on fuel. It devised the policy of world parity pricing which is a great 'raker-in' of money. So, if we take 16 per cent as the increase in the cost of road construction, that would mean an increase of $43m to the States, taking the grant to $728m. To show honourable members what a great expansionary program it is-I repeat the figures because I think that I must quote the figures over five years to reveal the facts-in 1980-81 the projected increase is 11 per cent and 1981-82 the projected increase is 9 per cent. These years are when the real expansion occurs. In 1982-83, the percentage drops to 7 per cent. In 1983-84, it is 6 per cent. For 1984-85, the figure is 6 per cent. So, I do not know where members of the Government find this great expansionary program.

I am delighted to see a couple of honourable members from New South Wales present. Once again I register my protest at the poor deal that was handed out to New South Wales by this New South Wales National Country Party Minister, Mr Hunt. It is no damn wonder that the Leader of the Liberal Party in New South Wales resigned. The fact is that all of them ought to be ashamed of what they have done to that State. The Minister gave me a document a couple of days ago in answer to a question I asked when we were being briefed by departmental officers. The figures are authentic. I seek leave to have this document incorporated in Hansard. I apologise that I did not ask the Minister in advance for agreement.


Mr Hunt —The figures would have to be right if I gave them to him. On that basis, I grant leave.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

ACTUAL DISTRIBUTION OF COMMONWEALTH ROAD GRANTS AMONG STATES COMPARED WITH BOR RECOMMENDED DISTRIBUTION 1977-78

Actual

BOR

Commonwealth

recommendations

grant

(a)

State

$m % share (b) $m % share

NSW 153.8 32.4 243.9 34.6 Vic. 98.9 20.8 138.7 19.7 Qld 100.0 21.1 146.7 20.8 SA 40.4 8.5 59.4 8.4 WA 60.2 12.7 86.7 12.3 Tas. 21.7 4.6 29.1 4.1

Total 475.0 100.0 704.5 100.0

(a) Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, Report on Roads in Australia: 1975 Table 13.15.

(b) These relativities have been maintained in subsequent years.


Mr CHARLES JONES —I thank the House. This document shows that on the 1977-78 figures-and the program is based on the 1977-78 figures-the Bureau of Roads recommended that New South Wales should receive a share of 34.6 per cent of the total appropriation. Instead of that, New South Wales had its allocation reduced to 32.4 per cent, a cut of 2.2 per cent. In real money terms, that means that this year New South Wales will get $15.07m less than it should receive on the recommendations of the Bureau of Roads based on the 1977-78 figures. I suggest to members of the Government from New South Wales electorates that they had better get off their tails and start putting pressure on their Government to restore the value of what the New South Wales Government should be getting. Forget that a Labor Government is in office in that State. It is their State and it is entitled to a share of the proceeds being doled out by this Government. The fact is that every other State in the Commonwealth receives an increase at the expense of New South Wales. That has to stop. The States should get what they are entitled to. They should receive a fair and reasonable allocation of the moneys available.

I said previously that this Bill was a humbug Bill in appropriating funds to the States. I have a table taken, once again, from a publication of the Bureau of Transport Economics. It is called 'An Assessment of the Australian Road System 1979'. I believe it is the latest that is available. It shows that, in 1970-71, road grants amounted to 2.69 per cent of the total appropriation of federal funds. In 1980-81, this financial year, the figures show that that grant has dropped to 1.74 per cent of total Budget appropriations. This demonstrates the way that this Government has whittled away the allocation of Federal funds to the States. That is a very, very substantial reduction in the amount of money that is paid to the States.

Whilst I do not believe that the standard of roads is the total solution to the transport problem of this country, they still play a most important part. The motorist, the road user, the people who buy the fuel and the people who pay the taxes are entitled to a fair and reasonable share of their allocation. Treasurer Harold Holt said some years ago that fuel is another commodity that can be taxed. I accept that theory. But the fact is that the road users and the fuel taxpayers are entitled to a fair and reasonable share when those taxes are allocated.

Let us now look at a couple of National Roads and Motorists Association publications. They state what new roads and modern highways can do to reduce the death toll in this country and save fuel. That Association recently carried out a survey on the new Liverpool to Mittagong freeway. I am very proud to say that I am the father of that road. The Whitlam Labor Government of which I was the Minister for Transport was responsible for starting that road. The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) will agree with that any day of the week. I thank him for that in his absence. He arranged an invitation for me to the official opening of that freeway, which the Labor Government of that State forgot to extend to me. The survey showed that following the construction of that 64 kilometre road there will be an estimated saving in one year of 370 serious crashes including 150 casualty crashes with 300-odd people injured.

This type of expenditure is of great value in eliminating some of the needless fatalities and crashes that occur in this country. Some people will come up with varying figures as to what our road accidents really cost the economy as a whole. A figure of $1,000m has been mentioned as a cost for fatalities and accidents in this country. I believe that the figure is much higher than that. That figure has been used for seven or eight years. With inflation the figure would now be closer to $2,000m.

Another NRMA publication, Open Road of April-May this year, stated:

The NRMA estimates that completion of the F3--

That is, the Sydney-Newcastle expressway-

should result in an annual saving of 21 lives, 420 injuries and a cut of 920 in the number of recorded crashes. This estimate is based on current crash figures, and on studies which show freeways to be up to five times safer than conventional two-lane highways.

There should also be enormous saving in fuel each year. A car with a fuel consumption of 11 litres/100 kilometres. . . could save up to $1.30 on a trip from Wahroonga to Newcastle. This saving, spread across the estimated 12,500 vehicles which make the trip daily, could produce savings worth about $4.5m a year.

So the saving on those figures alone almost pays for the cost of construction of these roads. These figures and the extracts from 'An Assessment of the Australian Road System 1979' show quite clearly that this Government's allocation to roads is declining as against the States' allocation to roads. For example, in the period 1979-80 to 1983-84, the Commonwealth annual growth rate is estimated at 5 per cent; the State annual growth rate is estimated at 11.1 per cent; and the local growth rate is estimated at 9.5 per cent. That estimate is based on current prices. The 1976-77 prices showed a decline in the Commonwealth's average annual growth rate of 1.4 per cent, while the States had an increase of 8.5 per cent and local government 1.8 per cent. On those figures alone, it can be established clearly that the Commonwealth is not playing its part as far as road funds are concerned.

Looking at the percentage share of road funding for the same years-1974-75 through to 1978-79-it can be seen that the Commonwealth's share of the expenditure for 1974-75 was 32.2 per cent, the States' share was 26.1 per cent, and local government 41.7 per cent. In 1978-79, the Commonwealth's share of road funding was 27.3 per cent, a decline from 32.2 per cent, and the States had to find more money. There was also a slight decline in the amount of money provided by local government. It does not matter what figures we look at. The Federal Government's contribution towards roads is on the decline and the States are faced with contributing greater amounts.

The other items dealt with in the Bill are the various categories of national roads and the amalgamation of rural and urban arterial roads. Once again I say to the poor Liberal members of this House: Why do the National Country Party members, the country blokes, always want to take over the Department of Transport? It is so that they can pork barrel their National Country Party electorates. Referring once again to 'An Assessment of the Australian Road System', it shows quite clearly that in relation to urban arterial roads, for example for the years 1974-75 through to 1978-79, on average the amount appropriated for urban arterials declined by 10 per cent whereas the rural arterials appropriation increased by 11.3 per cent. The poor mugs from the Liberal Party. The way they let their National Country Party colleagues, their coalition partners, their friends, put it over them! That is what the National Country Party members are doing on this occasion. They are amalgamating the two categories so that they can do things a lot more easily and so that what they are doing to the Liberal Party does not show up.

The elimination of State quotas indicates that this Government is refusing to face up to its responsibility to ensure that if it increases its appropriation for roads the States have to do the same. In Queensland recently the Minister for Local Government, Main Roads and Police increased car registration fees by 60 per cent, and he was caught out-apparently he did not know the contents of this Bill-and he blamed the Feds because he had to increase the State's quota for roads. He said that they had increased the quota. But he was unlucky. He was caught with his pants down. He forgot, or he did not know, that the States were no longer obliged to use the quota system. I was the victim of some lies told by Hinze, their Minister for Main Roads, and by the Premier, Bjelke-Petersen, in December 1974. In 11 Legislative Assembly electorates, all held by Labor, they laid off 4,500 road workers and said: 'If only Whitlam and Jones would give us more money we would not have to lay you poor men off'. We increased our allocation by just on $9m and the State reduced its allocation by $600,000 but they blamed us because they had less money and were unable to provide employment on the roads for the people in Queensland. On 15 March 1975, at a meeting of the Queensland Local Government Association Executive that Hinze and I attended, a resolution was carried deploring the fact that the Premier and the Minister for Roads had misled them, but it was too late. The 11 Labor members had lost their seats in the election because of the lies of Hinze and Bjelke-Petersen. I am pleased that the Minister, in answer to a question yesterday morning, bowled him neck and crop once again. Another of Hinze's lies.

As far as the calling of tenders is concerned, I believe that there is a need to tighten up the efficiency of the State road authorities. The Whitlam Government was so disgusted with the way they operated their affairs that an advanced stage had been reached by that Government in setting up a national highway road construction authority under which the Federal Parliament would have been responsible for national highways. That shows how dissatisfied we were. I do not think that private enterprise tendering is the solution to the inefficiency of State road authorities. In fact, I think private enterprise is even more inefficient than the State authorities. It is certainly much more corrupt. Anyone who has been involved in local government, as I have, knows about the lousy roads, footpaths, kerbings and guttering that private enterprise lays down. Wherever there is a sub-division where the roadworks have been done by private contractors, within a matter of four or five years the council has to replace those works with better and longer lasting facilities. I do not think the answer to the problem is in private tendering. I think the real answer is to provide competition by setting up a national road construction authority.

As to what is required in relation to the national concept of roads, it is for the Minister to proclaim the Inter-State Commission Bill, which went through both Houses of Parliament in 1975. There is a great need for that sort of instrumentality to examine the problems and to come up with answers, to call the necessary evidence from State governments, and to determine the cost of freight, whether it be by road, rail, air, or by sea, for that matter. Such a commission must be introduced, and it should be able to make recommendations to the Government as to where roads should be built, why they should be built, and what the freight charges should be. The people who use them would then be in a position to levy reasonable freight rates and would at least be able to pay their taxes. They would not have to put up with the great free enterprise cut-throat competition that exists today in road freighting. So many of these unfortunate men believe that they can create a business. Suddenly, the hire purchase companies which really own their vehicles foreclose on them and they find themselves in the bankruptcy court.

In the limited time left to me I wish to deal with toll roads on the national highways whereby the user would really pay for the cost. I have never been a great supporter of toll roads but, having examined the toll road system in the United States in particular, I think there is merit in the user-pays principle. The user pays for the use of the road as he goes through the various toll gates. I think that system is worth looking at in the not too distant future as a means of getting ahead with national highways at a much greater rate. As far as highways and large arterial urban roads are concerned, the solution to the urban transport problem does not lie with the roads. For example, New York, Paris, London, Tokyo and Frankfurt have all found that freeways are not the solution to the public transport problem.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.