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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1258

Mr CUNNINGHAM —I direct my question to the Minister for Transport. I refer the Minister to the answer he gave to the House yesterday concerning the allocation of record levels of funding to be made available for road construction and maintenance next year. Can the Minister inform the House of the allocation to be made to local governments for roads which are under their control and for which the continuity of guaranteed funding is so important?

Mr PETER MORRIS —I thank the honourable member for McMillan for his question. It is a very important issue, the level of funding from Federal governments--

Mr Sinclair —Why don't you make a statement about it?

Mr SPEAKER —I warn the Leader of the National Party.

Mr PETER MORRIS —The level of funding to local government to work on local or council roads is a very important issue. The honourable member's question is similar to matters raised yesterday by the honourable member for Herbert. Councils across Australia are under increasing pressure to meet their responsibilities for improved road systems. Some of the councils in some of the States have revenue limits set for them so their ability to raise revenue to increase expenditure is fixed. That causes problems for them. In some States there is an overflow of traffic from arterial roads because of inadequate levels of expenditure by the States concerned; that contributes to the burden. In addition to that, there has been residential development which may not have been planned for in the road systems.

If the Ministers for roads in Queensland, New South Wales and particularly Victoria had their way, the level of Federal expenditure for local government would be reduced next year. What they are asking this Government to do is to give less money to local government and to spend less money on the national highway system. To the honourable member for Herbert, the honourable member for Capricornia and the honourable member for Leichhardt, in Queensland the national highways are the Bruce Highway to the north and the Landsborough Highway to the west; in New South Wales it is the New England Highway and the Sydney-Newcastle expressway; it is the Hume Highway in Victoria and New South Wales; for South Australia and the Northern Territory it is the Stuart Highway. What those State Ministers want is for us to reduce the level of expenditure there, give less money to local government and give that additional money to the State Ministers for roads so that they can dispense their largesse at our expense and at the expense of local government and of the national highway system. Frankly, that is not on.

We will maintain the real level of expenditure on the national highway system to the end of the land transport program. From next year we will maintain the real level of expenditure to local government under the new land transport program. That will make a major difference for local government. I deplore the utterances by the State Ministers for roads and the approach that they are taking. Local government has its responsibilities. We will make sure that it is assisted in carrying out those responsibilities. I just remind the States that building and maintaining the roads system is a joint responsibility. It is a partnership of Federal government, State government and local government. This Government has lifted its share of expenditure to about 40 per cent. We have lifted our game and it is up to the States to do the same.