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Thursday, 20 October 1949

Mr RANKIN (Bendigo) .- I consider the extra £1,000,000 that is to be provided for roads in sparsely settled areas is quite inadequate, but we are pleased to get even that amount. Victoria contributes about £5,250,000 of the petrol tax revenue and, this year, it will receive back about £1,250,000. The petrol tax is a class tax. By that I do not imply that it is necessarily paid by wealthy men who can buy high-powered motor cars and' tour the country for pleasure. There are thousands of young working men who make a living out of road transport. The wear and tear on roads is immeasurably greater than it was a few years ago. During the war, roads in such shires as the Heathcote Shire were heavily damaged-. In the Heathcote Shire there is a big area of State forests. There is also a big military camp. Military transport has done tremendous damage to the roads in' the shire. During the shortage of coal, road transport was allowed to take timber to military camps and to the cities of Melbourne and Bendigo. The- operators were compensated to only a small extent. Victoria is not getting a fair deal. I admit that Victoria has not the problem of Western Australia, Queensland and western New South Wales, because it is a compact and richly endowed State and it is extremely fortunate in having in the Country Roads Board the most efficient authority of its kind in Australia. It has supplied first-class men to almost every other State main roads authority. Victoria, however, has special problems. It has a very fine education system. It is developing consolidated schools, much on the same system as that in operation in Tasmania. Throughout the State there are high schools and technical schools that give country children some opportunity to get over the disability of living far from the big centres of education. The Government operates a bus service to pick i*p the children and take them to school. Some of the buses have to use unmade roads. That causes heavy loss to the local authorities. °The Country Roads Board and the shires have never been able to get enough money to keep their road-making plant and road gangs fully employed. It has been said in this House that it is of no use to give the States more money because the local authorities cannot spend it on roads. The shires of Charlton, Rochester and Kerang have built up power road-making equipment and efficient staffs, but they have never been able to get enough money in the last four or five years to repair war-time damage and to maintain roads. They have not been able to keep their staffs employed and have lost them to other jobs. When they have received money to carry on their work, they have not been able to get their men back. I hope that the Minister for Transport will look at the matter fairly and decide that the tax on the motorists of Australia shall be distributed more equitably. There is no justification for taking £9,000,000 of the money received from the petrol tax and paying it into Consolidated Revenue when that money is needed for road purposes. We have had a revaluation in

Victoria recently. In my own shire, rates have been increased by 85 per cent. Taken in conjunction with federal and State taxes, that is a heavy burden on city men. and country men alike. Notwithstanding the increased rates, the local authorities still cannot keep their roads in a reasonable condition so that people who live away from the main roads may have ready access to them in order to conduct their business or, in an emergency to get to a doctor. It is absolutely essential that more money shall be made available so that those roads may be brought to something approaching the condition that they were in before the war. I hope that the Government will favorably consider the matter and decide on a more equitable distribution of the proceeds from this class tax, which is a tax imposed not only on the leisured and wealthy people but also on men who make their living out of road transport services.

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