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Thursday, 20 October 1949


Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) .- I am quite sure that this bill will meet no real opposition from honorable members opposite. It will be applauded on all sides. I agree with the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) that, although the amount provided may not be so large as many municipalities may desire, it is a step in the right direction in that it represents an increase over similar allocations in the last two years. In 1947, when the original bill was introduced for the purpose of allocating to municipalities a sum drawn from tb petrol tax receipts for expenditure on outback roads, the allocation was £1,000,000. In 194S, the allocation rose to £2,000,000. Many of us have made representations in this Parliament and also, as far as this side of the House at least is concerned, in the party caucus, with the result that the allocation for the current year has been increased to £3,000,000. Honorable members opposite also made similar representations. If we can achieve an increase of £1,000,000 in the allocation each year we shall reach a sum of money that should bring satisfaction to all municipalities. I cannot guarantee, of course, that we can achieve such an increase every year, but I, for one, shall certainly work toward that objective. I agree with most of the remarks of the honorable member for Corangamite, who is himself a' municipal shire councillor, and has done much good work in Victoria in connexion with local government activities. Taking it all round, the municipalities in Tasmania have played the game in carrying out their responsibility to expend the allocation to the best advantage. As far as I am aware, no municipality in Tasmania can be charged with having abused the privileges it enjoys under this legislation. Many municipalities in Victoria may claim that they have not been assisted as much as they should have been, for reasons over which we have no control. Tasmania received £50,000 from the sum of £1,000,000 that was allocated to the States in the first year of the act's operation. In the second year it received £50,000 from the allocation to the States of the sum of £2,000,000. The second allocation of £50,000, however, was retained by the Tasmanian Government for work on bridges in remote areas throughout the State, and municipalities did not receive any of it. However, that fact, in itself, will be of tremendous importance to Tasmania, which is very mountainous and has, I believe, more rivers to the square mile than have most other parts of the world. For that reason bridges are an important means of communication in that island, and although when the money was withheld by the State Government the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) and I sought to have it made available to the municipalities as had been done in previous year, we found later that the municipalities had themselves agreed at a conference with the Tasmanian Minister for Lands and Works, Mr. Reece, that it should be used for work on bridges. I think that that expenditure will be very beneficial indeed to Tasmania's transport system, as many of that State's outback bridges are in a deplorable condition and are completely unsafe and dangerous for traffic. Many of them were built 50 years ago, and some of them are even older than that. They are now completely out of date in design and are hopeless for coping with the big modern transport trailers and trucks that have to use them. Now that the Tasmanian HydroElectricity Commission is extending its activities farther into the hinterland of that State, bridges have to carry greater loads and are being subjected to increased strain.

As the allocation to the States is to be increased to £3,000,000, Tasmanian municipalities can probably expect, with, confidence, to receive another £50,000 for road works during this financial year, making a total to date of £150,000, as the Tasmanian Government has promised that it will retain for work on bridges only the allocation of £50,000 that it received last year. That allocation will assist the municipalities, particularly the big municipalities which, though small in population, cover very large areas, to maintain existing roads and build new "highways.

The need for more roads has been stressed over and over again and I do not wish to canvass tha.t aspect except to say once again that municipalities in Tasmania have benefited tremendously from the petrol tax, and are grateful for the assistance that has been given to them. They may consider that they have not received enough money for their purposes, but the increase in this year's allocation to the States should help enormously, particularly in the purchase of earthmoving equipment. Municipalities are becoming more mechanized and they will be able to do in one day work which previously took probably a week to do under the old- system. The allocation to the municipalities enables them to purchase equipment, the importation of which from even the dollar area has been permitted by the Australian Government, to assist in this very worthwhile objective of mechanization. Improved and extended road services are necessary to cope with increased motor vehicle traffic. I shall cite -figures referring to municipalities in my electorate so as to give honorable members some conception of how they have benefited from the petrol tax. The following are the details, which are contained in a list with which the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has very kindly supplied me -

That is a very large sum to be allocated -to one federal electoral division.

I shall conclude with some remarks about the Road Safety Council, which is supported by money from the petrol tax. 1 hope that I shall be in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in mentioning that -matter in this debate.







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