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Wednesday, 18 May 1960

Mr Nelson (NORTHERN TERRITORY, NORTHERN TERRITORY) n asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -

1.   Has Commonwealth Railways over a period of several years granted freight rate concessions amounting to more than £2,000,000 on the haulage of coal from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta?

2.   If so, can he say whether the Treasury intends to reimburse this sum to Commonwealth Railways?

3.   If the amount is not reimbursed, will the result be that this coal subsidy will be borne by the users of the Central Australia Railway resident in South Australia, Alice Springs, and other parts as far north as Darwin, in the form of the existing high or increased charges?

4.   Will he do everything possible to prevent this impost being levied upon the users of the railway?

Mr Opperman - The following are the answers to the honorable member's questions: -

1.   Since 1948 by arrangement between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments Leigh Creek coal used by the Electricity Trust of South Australia has been hauled from Leigh Creek North coal-fields to the State Government's power house at Port Augusta at concession rates. Under the existing arrangement which became operative from 1st July, 1956, the freight rate charged is11s. 6d. per ton, whereas the Commonwealth Railways ordinary freight rate for miscellaneous goods, including coal, for the same journey is 33s. per ton. The amount of the concessions granted during the last three financial years exceeds a total of £2,000,000.

2.   Reimbursements were made to Commonwealth Railways from 1948-1949 to 1955-1956, but the Railways Commissioner's claims have not been paid from 1956-1957 when the standard gauge railway came into operation. The question of reimbursement of an amount appropriate to the costs of haulage incurred is now receiving consideration.

3.   and 4. There has been no general increase in Commonwealth Railway freight rates since 1952 and none is contemplated.

Excise Duty on Petrol.

Mr Costa (BANKS, NEW SOUTH WALES) a asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -

1.   What is the total amount of revenue received by the Commonwealth from the excise duty on petrol, &c, since its inception?

2.   What amount has been returned to the States for road construction?

3.   Has the Commonwealth financed the construction of any strategic roads out of excise duty revenue; if so, which roads?

Mr Opperman - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   Commencing in 1902 and up to 30th June, 1959, an amount of £547,000,000 has been collected in customs and excise duty on petrol and diesel fuel. This figure includes duty on aviation fuel up to 30th June, 1946, which cannot be segregated from the total amount as separate records were not then maintained. However, it does not include duty collected on aviation fuel after 1st July, 1947.

2.   Commonwealth grants to the States for road construction between 1923 when the first roads grant was made and 30th June, 1959, amounted to £291,000,000.

3.   Since 1946-47, when the Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation empowered the Minister for Shipping and Transport to declare a road a strategic road an amount of £4,526,000 has been authorized for expenditure on the maintenance and repair of the following roads: - Queensland - Barkly Highway, Inland Defence Highway, and Central Highway; South Australia - Eyre Highway; Western Australia - Eyre Highway, Great Northern Highway, and Geraldton-Learmonth road; Northern Territory - Stuart and Barkly Highways. Strategic roads are no longer provided for in the current Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1959.

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