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Tuesday, 9 September 1958
Page: 983

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) . - There are two quite separate subjects to which I want to refer. One relates to railways, and the other to roads. As to railways, we are, of course, waiting for the bill which the Government is going to bring down to ratify the works which are proceeding on the Albury-Melbourne standardization, and we regret that the illness of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) has perhaps delayed that bill. We are, however, looking forward to seeing it. Let me say that the next work to be done - it is not included in the Estimates - should be the Broken Hill-Port Pirie section, and the standardization of the line into Adelaide. As honorable members know, the South Australian Government until recently wanted to convert the Broken Hill-Port Pirie section to 5 ft. 3 in., rather than to the standard gauge of 4 ft. 8i in., but last June, in the Governor's speech in the State House, the South Australian Government agreed to the course, which is the proper course, that the line should be converted to 4 ft. 8i in. This is in accordance with the recommendation made by the two committees, one from each side of the House, the reports of which were printed by order of the House some time ago. I believe that we should be immediately taking steps to get on with this work. We cannot start construction at this present moment because some preliminary survey is needed, and I understand that the Premier of South Australia-

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member may not debate that matter. It is covered by the proposed vote for Capital Works and Services.

Mr WENTWORTH - On the contrary, Sir, I am only debating the policy of the department. This matter is not included under Capital Works and Services.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! I rule that standardization does come under Capital Works and Services. There is an appropriation made under that heading.

Mr WENTWORTH - With respect, it is not made. If you will look, Sir, you will find that no appropriation is made.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member may carry on and I shall see whether he is in order.

Mr WENTWORTH - I am discussing Division 113 - Salaries and Payments in the nature of Salary - which is before us, and the policy that emerges therefrom. I am patently in order in so doing. The matter is not included under Capital Works and Services.

If I may proceed, Sir, may I say that the Premier of South Australia has requested from the Commonwealth Government a grant of £50,000 for the preliminary survey. That grant has not been approved. I hope that it will be approved without delay. May I make one practical suggestion in this regard? While it is true that the standardization works between Broken Hill and Port Pirie, and on to Adelaide, cannot immediately be put in hand because survey is necessary, there is a part of the scheme on which work could start forthwith. It is part of the scheme which was recommended by the Government members committee, of which I had the honour to be the chairman. I refer to the ballasting of the line from Broken Hill into Parkes, in New South Wales-

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member may discuss that subject under the proposed vote for works, but not here. That is my ruling.

Mr WENTWORTH - Very well, Sir. The raising of the line at Condobolin also could be undertaken. This could go ahead straight away-

The CHAIRMAN - Order! If the honorable member does not obey the Chair he will have to resume his seat.

Mr WENTWORTH - I shall return to this matter later, because I think that it is something that should be done now. There is a reason for the work being done now.

I turn to the other matter that I wish to raise - the question of roads policy, to which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and honorable members on this side of the House have recently been adverting. I am one of those people who believe that the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax and excise should be made available for roads, and I do not in any way retreat from that position. In this regard, I want to make a practical and concrete suggestion. This Government has given to roads, from the proceeds of petrol tax, considerably more than any other government has given, but it has not yet given the whole of the proceeds. I believe that the difference between what the Government has so far allocated under existing legislation and the whole of the proceeds - the margin - should be allocated between participating States on a population basis. The participating States should be those that agreed that there would be no ton-mile road tax, so that participation in this further grant would be conditional upon the States removing their ton-mile road tax. Further, I believe that it should be conditional on the States agreeing to spend this extra money on roads, whether it be through their main roads authorities, through grants to local councils, or on the purchase of capital equipment for the maintenance of roads and the carrying out of a really efficient roads programme.

This is a concrete and specific suggestion that I make. It is one which I believe will commend itself to the transport industry, which is being burdened down by the vexatious road tax. Apart from the amount collected, that tax is imposing upon primary producers, and also on carriers, a quite unreasonable burden in the maintenance of forms and the carrying out of formalities. I know that difficulties have arisen by reason of the interpretation of section 92 given by the High Court and the Privy Council. I am fully conversant with the cases, insofar as they can be understood of man, decided by the High Court and the Privy Council.

I therefore say that the Government might well recognize this position and make available this extra grant to those States which agree - and only if they agree - to forgo the ton-mile road tax. I believe that motorists would find no real grouch against the imposition of petrol tax and excise if they knew that the whole of the proceeds was devoted to roads. I say this not because I think that road transport is the only method of transport. I know that the railways have an essential role to perform, and I hope, by your grace, Mr. Chairman, to discuss this matter further when we come to Capital Works and Services. Nevertheless, I think that we should be spending rather more than we are on roads. We should be getting rid of expedients like the ton-mile tax. I believe that it is fairest to allocate the additional money, not in terms of any abstruse formula, but in terms of the simple ratio of the populations of the participating States.

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