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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 457

Mr WRIGHT(10.32) —In answer to a question that I posed yesterday in relation to who is paying for what in the building and maintenance of Queensland's Bruce Highway, the Minister for Transport and Minister for Aviation (Mr Peter Morris) informed the House, much to the embarrassment of National Party members on the other side, that the full costs of this highway are being borne by the Hawke Labor Government. Honourable members probably do not realise the significance of this issue and I thought I had best bring it to the attention of the House. The significance of the revelation is that the Bjelke-Petersen Government has been misleading the people of Queensland regarding its road and highway expenditure. Hundreds of signs have been built on the 1,600 kilometres length of the Bruce Highway, costing in some cases, I am told, about $1,000 a time, proclaiming the fact, in the State Government's terms, that the work is a State Government project. Tens of thousands of dollars are being misused on what are no more than propaganda signs.

Mr Slipper —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member is talking utter nonsense.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Fisher is new to this Parliament but he may have noticed that I have warned that honourable members who raise frivolous points of order will be named forthwith. It is only his inexperience that prevents me from taking that action now.

Mr WRIGHT —I accept the comment from a novice but it is totally incorrect. Blatant untruths are being told, and I will demonstrate this. False credit is being taken and money on the signs is being wasted. I believe it could have better been used on safety signs or some sort of supportive road safety project. There seems to be no end to the lengths to which the Bjelke-Petersen Government will go in advancing its own political ends. It has now produced thousands of brochures promoting the development of this road, again a road that it is not even paying for. It is not the first time that the National Party Government in Queensland has done it. Some time ago a special grant of $20m was given for roads in north Queensland. It was never used in the north. There is no record of the money being used on roads at all. I suspect that the money was used on the metropolitan electrification scheme in Brisbane. That claim has never been denied and there has never been any detail as to how the money was spent.

I believe that the time has come for this Government to think very carefully about the road funding and particularly the allocations to Queensland for roads. Every time local authorities go to the State Government the excuse is given that the Commonwealth is not giving any money to the State. It says all the time that it cannot build the roads because there is no money forthcoming from this national Parliament.

I need to restate the comments made by the Minister yesterday when he pointed out that for 1984-85 $270m has been given to Queensland by the Hawke Labor Government. In fact the Hawke Labor Government is paying 62 per cent of road expenditure in the State. Yet we see the inadequacy of the roads around Queensland. In my electorate there is a desperate need for money to be spent on what we call the grain roads. The Mt Morgan range is dangerous. The Yeppoon tourist road is a disgrace. The Dingo-Middlemount road is hazardous to life. I believe it is totally wrong and immoral for a State government to take moneys from a road like that and spend them on a road servicing Bjelke-Petersen's son.

There is a need to rethink road funding allocations for Queensland and I suggest that thought be given to making the money directly available to the local authorities, to give the local authorities a say in where the priorities ought to be. Councillor Jim Turner of the Belyando Shire Council, and other grain road councils, have prepared an excellent submission. They know where the money ought to be spent. But the State is spending it where it wants to. It spends the money in National Party electorates. There is clearly a need to give the local authorities a say, to allow them to determine where the local roads allocation ought to be spent and to allow them to have some say as to where money for arterial roads ought to be spent.

I suggest to honourable members that there is some value in this. It would give new status to local authorities. It would decentralise decision making. It would guarantee that the country and provincial roads of Queensland would be catered for. It would be more in keeping with what we see as a partnership role between the three levels of government. It certainly would end the abuse by the Queensland State Government. There are 134 shire councils and councils desperately in need of funds-funds that are being withheld by the State Government regardless of the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars are being given by this national Parliament. There is a desperate and urgent need for the Government to review its present approach to the Queensland Government-and I urge it to do so-and give funding for roads directly to the local authorities.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.