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Thursday, 20 October 1949

Mr ADERMANN (Maranoa) . - This bill, which seeks to amend the original law that provides for the allocation of money from the revenue raised by the petrol tax for road works, represents an improvement on the amounts that have been allocated in earlier years, and I wholeheartedly welcome it. The Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act, as has been mentioned by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald), was enacted for the purpose of assisting in the construction of roads throughout the Commonwealth from revenue derived from the petrol tax. The grants were not increased to any substantial degree during the war period, but since the end of the war increased grants have been made, particularly for the construction of roads in sparsely populated areas. Some time ago I placed on the notice-paper a series of questions relating to the allocations of the road grant to the various States, particularly to local-governing authorities in Queensland. In his reply the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) furnished very full information on the subject. Out of each £1,000,000 allotted for road works in sparsely populated areas Queensland received £191,000. I assume that allocations are still made on a population plus area basis as in earlier years.

Mr McDonald - Queensland receives a larger grant than does Victoria.

Mr ADERMANN - I am well aware of that.

Mr Scully - There are no sparsely populated districts in Victoria.

Mr ADERMANN - That is so. Two shires in my electorate have a total area equal to that of the whole of Victoria.

Mr McDonald - The honorable member appreciates the fact that Victorians are providing money for road works in Queensland ?

Mr ADERMANN - I am glad that they help to improve roads throughout the Commonwealth as a whole. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has referred to sparsely populated districts in Tasmania. I have not yet visited that State and accordingly I do not know a great deal about it. I know, however, that its area is not nearly equal to that of one of the largest shires in Queensland. I make no complaint about the allocation of moneys from the petrol tax to the localgoverning authorities in Queensland. Although they did not share in the allocation of . the first £1,000,000 that was provided for road works in sparsely populated areas, they shared in the second allocation. Bridges are one of the most vital needs in the sparsely populated districts of Queensland. In times of flood outback residents are frequently isolated from the towns. On two or three occasions during the last eighteen months many settlers in western Queensland were isolated because of flood conditions, and the Royal Australian Air Force had to be utilized to drop food to them. I appeal to the Minister to grant additional assistance to local governing bodies for the construction of bridges. I have asked the Minister whether the £3S2,000 which was made available to the Queensland Government out of the grant of £2,000,000 for road works in sparsely populated areas had been fully expended. In his reply, the Minister assured me that the money had been made available to the State government, but he could not give me any information in regard to its expenditure. He said, quite rightly, that his authority ended when the money was paid to the State government. I fear that the Queensland Government is not expending money on road works from its own collections of motor registration fees to the same degree as it would if these grants were not made. If that be so, the people are not receiving the benefits which they should obtain from these grants. That, how.ever is a matter which will be taken up in the State sphere. The grants to local governing authorities in the electorates represented by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) and myself are much too small to enable them to undertake the heavy programme of road works which needs to be completed. I press for a larger allocation of the receipts from petrol tax for expenditure on roads works. We shall have something to say on that matter when the bill for the encouragement of meat production is under discussion. I express the hope that the Government which is in office next year, irrespective of ite political colour, will greatly increase the grants for road purposes from the revenue derived from the petrol tax.

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