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Tuesday, 13 October 1970


Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle) - The 4 Bills that the House is now debating are the Excise Tariff Bill 1970, the Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 1) 1970, the Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 2) 1970 and the Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1970. One would assume that this debate would be quite a mixed grill when one realises that the 4 Bills propose increases in the excise on many items including, to mention a few, wine, tobacco, cigarettes, cigars, diesel fuel, kerosene, aviation fuel, refined spirit, gasoline and turpentine. One could go into minute detail concerning the numerous items that are affected. Various members of the Opposition will deal with the items individually.

The proposed increase in excise on these commodities is an indication of the Government's policy of imposing taxation on people irrespective of their ability to pay. This Government refuses to use the fairest and most equitable form of taxation, namely, income tax, and resorts to this method of hidden taxation whereby people are taxed irrespective of their ability to pay. The person on a fixed income, the pensioner and the person on a low income still have to pay the increases that are now being charged on tobacco, cigarettes and items of this nature. I do not smoke, but there are still poor unfortunates in the community who do. I notice that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) is smiling, but 1 am not bigoted in any way. These unfortunate people, irrespective of their income, will be required to pay the increases. As 1 have said, this is a clear indication of the Government's policy of imposing this form of taxation.

I intend dealing with the 3c a gallon increase on diesel fuel in its various forms - petrol, gasoline, call it what we will - and aviation fuel. The Opposition regards these measures as inflationary. The Government has not suggested any specific proposal for the additional revenue. The Treasurer (Mr Bury) in introducing his Budget said that during 1970-71 it was estimated that $63 m would be received from the increased excise, and for a full year $79.6tn. This will be no more than a source of revenue for the Treasury for Consolidated Revenue. The Government does not propose increasing its allocation to the States for road construction purposes. Some 12 months ago we debated the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement which provided for an allocation of $ 1,252m to the States over a 5-year period. There was no mention in the Minister's second reading speech or in the Treasurer's Budget Speech that any of this additional revenue would be allocated to the States. During the next 4 years this additional revenue will amount to about S340m. If this money were to be allocated for road works the Opposition would have more sympathy with what is being done and with the levying of this taxation.

The airline industry will now be required to pay an increase of 3c a gallon on its fuel. If this were to be taken into consideration in assessing air navigation charges and assisting the running of civil aviation we would be prepared to look at it in a practical and constructive way. These measures, in our opinion, do nothing for the industry except add fuel to the present inflationary fire. Prices arc increasing at an alarming rate. According to the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician they have increased by about 3£ per cent in the last 12 months. I do not think that any members of the Government could convince the housewife that the cost of living has increased by only 3i per cent. 1 am certain that no-one on our side of the House could convince her.

It has been claimed that transport costs form up to 23 per cent of our gross national product. I have some figures on this taken from a very reliable magazine. The cost of road transport represents about 9 per cent of our gross national product. So by adding 3c a gallon to the price of fuel we are adding, as I said a moment ago, to the inflationary fire which is raging at an alarming rate. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a table which was prepared by the Parliamentary Library Legislative Research Service:

 

These figures disclose that in 1969-70 revenue received from customs and excise duty collected on motor spirit and automotive diesel fuel was $291,300,000 and that the estimated amount for 1970-71 is 5372,800,000. From this table I took out some figures of my own. I have taken the 5-year period of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement, to which I made reference a moment ago. Working on the average of the increasein customs and excise revenue collected in the previous 10 years, which worked out at 8 per cent, I estimated that for the 5 years, 1969-74, the amount of revenue received will be $1,71 lm. Under the Agreement $ 1,252m will be allocated to the States over that 5-year period, which will leave a surplus of about $459m for the Treasury.

The Government has not been satisfied with this figure. It has imposed an additional 3c a gallon on the price of fuel. I have worked on the Government's estimate of $79.6m per annum and applied an 8 per cent increase per annum because this has been the average increase over the past 10 to 1 1 years. Incidentally, the last increase represented approximately an 8.2 per cent over the previous year. So my figures were at least right for the first year and the Government's forecast of 5 per cent was wrong. Working on that basis I estimated that in the next 4 years the Government will receive about $341 m from this increased revenue, which will leave the Treasury with a surplus of $800m at the end of the 5-year period of the present Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement, assuming that we get no further increase in the petrol tax, as it is commonly called. I think it is worthy of emphasis that the Government will at the end of another 4 years have a surplus of $800m after it has allocated$1, 252m to the States during the term of the current Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement. One would believe that the Australian road system today was in first class condition; that we had no worries; that we had a very low accident rate; and that very few people were being killed on the roads today. But the reverse is the position and when one looks at the figures one finds that we have one of the worst traffic accident rates of any country.

New Zealand has a traffic accident rate of 5.2 persons per 10.000 registered vehicles, the United States of America 5.5, the United Kingdom 6.1, Canada 7.2 and we have the proud record of 8.1 per 10.000 registered vehicles. On those figures it must he obvious that the Government should be doing something about the situation.


Mr Chipp - Are those fatal accident rales?


Mr CHARLES JONES - Yes. 1 placed question No. 871 on notice and on 4th June 1970 I received a reply from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) which discloses the alarming fact that road accidents in Australia are on the increase. The total number of road traffic accidents involving casualties in 1959 was 43,051. In 1966 it had risen to 55,538, in 1967 to 57,253, in 1968 to 58,759 and for the first 9 months to September 1969 it was 45,930. Then we come to the number of road traffic accidents involving casualties resulting from collisions between vehicles and this table shows that the number rose from 21,589 in 1959 to 31,232 in 1968, which was the last full year for which statistics were available. That is quite an alarming figure when one realises that in that short period there has been an increase of more than 10.000 accidents a year. In the same period the number of people killed in road traffic accidents involving casualties rose from 2,321 in 1959 to 3,382 in 1968. Yet the Government sees fit to take this money - to levy an additional excise of 3c a gallon on fuel - and then do nothing with it except pay it into the Treasury and in this way build up its revenue. As I said earlier there is any amount of evidence of the need to do something about the accident rate. There is a great need to plan not only our urban transport system but also our national highway system. I have a statement here which 1 think is worth quoting. It comes from a publication of the Department of Main Roads of June 1 968 and it stated:

It is of interest to know that on rural highways 2 or more vehicles are involved in 59 per cent of all accidents whereas on the tollway-

That is a reference to the NewcastleSydney tollway- only 12 per cent of the accidents involved 2 or more vehicles.

So it is easy to see what would happen to the accident rate if we had a decent road system. Anybody who has travelled over the Newcastle-Sydney tollway would know that this is an excellent piece of engineering and is an excellent road to travel on. This road should be the basis of the planning of a national main highway system which would eliminate this unnecessary carnage on our roads which last year involved the death of some 3.000 people. The need is there when we see the example of 59 per cent of accidents involving 2 or more vehicles on rural roads and only 12 per cent on this tollway. The Government should be trying to reduce the accident rate in this way and using this money to build a national road system. Not only is there a need to plan a national road system but also there is a need to develop our city and suburban roads and our trunk roads.

I mentioned earlier the cost or! transport to our country and the inflationary effect this cost has on the economy as a whole. One can see the serious effect this cost has on our gross national product when one reads statements such as that made by the Managing Director of Mayne Nickless Ltd who said that every minute a truck was delayed by traffic between the points of loading and unloading the cost was between 5c and 10c. This statement was made almost 2 years ago. These delays are having a serious effect. In our ports and al our railheads goods are being loaded into containers. In a matter of a few minutes huge containers are lifted off ships and are put onto trucks or vice versa. This is the easiest part of the transaction. The trucks carrying these containers can be held up for hours between the seaboard and the place of delivery in a city. This is where transport problems are adding a huge cost to the Australian economy. This is where the money collected should be used and put to good advantage. This is where we could do something about assisting the economy by keeping costs down.

The Government talks about keeping costs down. However, in reality it does very little about this problem. At present grandiose plans are being prepared by various State planning authorities to build huge highways within the cities of Sydney and Melbourne. A great urban transport system was prepared for Adelaide but 1 think this project will be put into the archives somewhere. The facts are that State planners are planning internal road systems within capital cities while at the same time they are doing very little about urban transport. They are doing very little about the need for urban public transport by encouraging people. to travel from their homes to their places of employment by such a system. Honourable members on this side of the House would welcome some of the money that has been collected being made available to public transport authorities to assist them in keep ing their costs down. Perhaps the Government could eliminate the need for these authorities to pay taxation; if need be, the Government could make a grant to them. After all, the road systems can easily be improved by reducing the number of vehicles travelling on them. The problem of urban transport could be assisted quite considerably if the number of vehicles travelling on our roads was reduced by encouraging people to use public transport.

I have some figures which indicate some interesting facts. For instance, a train in an urban area depending on its length and type, can carry between 40,000 and 60,000 passengers an hour. The Melbourne Swanston Street transport system has transported passengers at the rate of 12,000 an hour. Motor cars travelling in single lane traffic can transport only 2,400 people an hour. Therefore, if we can encourage people to use our rail systems or whichever other form of public transport - be it buses or trams - meets the requirements of a city, this will help considerably to overcome the problem of having to construct huge freeways or tollways within the major cities, and particularly the capital cities, of each State where traffic bogs down. I have informed the House of the statement made by the manager of Mayne Nickless. Similar statements are made by numerous people who are involved in transport today. These people would welcome any move whatever to remove from public roads the large number of motor cars which in the main carry a driver or at best carry only one other passenger. These motor cars are cluttering up traffic and are adding seriously to costs.

I would like to make one suggestion to the Minister for Customs and Excise who is at the table. 1 suggest that the Government should make a contribution to the public transport system by making it easier and cheaper for people to travel. The Government might have to make some form of tax rebate. The trade union movement and members on this side of the House for years have asked that the cost of travel from home to work should be acceptable as an income tax deduction. An income tax deduction could be granted to people who use public transport. I know that there would be a complaint from people using their private cars.


Mr Chipp - 1 would.


Mr CHARLES JONES - The Minister said that he would complain. But this would be one way of getting people to use public transport. These people could be subsidised in many ways. A direct contribution could even be made to them. After all, the Australian Country Party can find any amount of ways to subsidise rural producers. If people could be encouraged to use public transport that would be one way in which we could help the economy as a whole. By using some of this money to improve the public transport system, the need to build the concrete jungles which are springing up in the various cities would be eliminated. While we have our present road transport system it will be necessary to have these concrete jungles.

Recently when I was overseas I took the opportunity of visiting Los Angeles, a city of about 7 million people, lt has no public transport system. Everyone has to travel from home to their place of employment or other destination by private car, taxi or some similar means of conveyance. 1 believe the city spent $3. 75m trying to develop a public transport system to take people out of private cars and put them into public transport. The city found that it was necessary to do this. If anyone wants to see expressways, tollways or highways of all types - in other words, concrete jungles - that is the place to go. In the middle of the city cars rocket along at 60 and 70 miles an hour. The city has a major transport problem and a major atmospheric pollution problem brought about in the main by the emission of pollutants from motor car exhausts. 1 make a strong plea to the Government to use some of the $340m that it will get over and above what was expected previously, or some of the $800m which I anticipate it will accumulate during the period of the present Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement. Throughout Australia today local government is in serious financial difficulties. A few councils are not in financial difficulties but. in the main, local government throughout the Commonwealth is in serious financial difficulties. So the Government should give some thought to providing additional finance to assist local government to improve the roads which at present do not come within the provisions of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement. The people who are using these roads are contributing towards their upkeep by indirect taxation. For each gallon of petrol that they purchase they pay 15.3c in indirect taxation. Many of them use only the ordinary suburban street for which the ratepayer pays 100 per cent of the cost of maintenance. This is one matter to which the Government could give some thought. It could assist local government by making a direct contribution or a direct grant.

As 1 proved earlier, Australia has one of the worst safety records among the more developed countries. There is a need for the Government to do more detailed planning and to have more detail of the types of roads which can be constructed to prevent accidents. Recently I spoke during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House about a bus capsize on the Newcastle-Bulahdelah Road. Five men were killed in that accident - 4 national servicemen and the driver. The bus went off the road in the early hours of the morning. I am not giving any reason why it went off the road, because the inquiry has not yet been completed. While that road is a good one as roads go today, it was in such a condition that the accident occurred. Similar accidents could be prevented if adequate safety measures were employed by the Government and by road constructing authorities as a whole.

In the few minutes left to me I shall deal with pollution caused by motor cars. The Government should do as the President of the United States of America has given notice that he will do, and that is to indicate to motor car manufacturers and to petrol companies that taxes will not be imposed on any pollutant-free petrol which is produced. The companies can produce such a petrol. It will cost a lot to install the various types of gadgets that the mechanics and engineers are talking about which can be attached to motor cars to prevent the emission of the various pollutants that are harmful to the human race. I will not say how much it will cost because even the engineers themselves cannot make up their minds as to what it will cost. But if a motorist installs one of these gadgets in his car he will be able to buy a type of petrol which will cost less than petrol which contains the various additives that are added to it by the manufacturers for various reasons, such as to make one brand of petrol a bit better than another brand of petrol. This is one matter at which the Government should be looking. There is no doubt that there is a need for it.

I refer to a statement made by a local government engineer who said that the rate of discharge of air pollutants in the County of Cumberland, which includes Sydney, is as follows: Carbon monoxide, 318,000 tons per annum; total hydrocarbons, 31,800 tons; nitrogen oxides, 10,580 tons; aldehydes, 552 tons; sulphur compounds, 803 tons; organic acids, 218 tons; ammonia, 218 tons and solids, 32 tons per annum. These figures show the amount of air pollutants that are discharged by motor cars. What I have just suggested certainly would be a cheap way to avoid the atmospheric pollution which is being caused at the present time. As I mentioned earlier, the President of the United States of America has indicated that he will impose a tax on petrol which contains all these additives. This tax will return SI, 440m to the American Government. This money will be used to eliminate, wherever possible, atmospheric pollution which is caused by motor vehicles. This is something which the Government should consider.

When it comes to a question of ascertaining just what is emitted by a car, one should take into consideration a few of the facts and figures which were prepared by the Senate Select Committee, on Air Pollution. Under the heading 'Urban Transportation' it said:

This area requires the most urgent action, but it should not be considered independently of city wide planning. There must be immediate cessation of highway building and parking station developments designed to bring yet more cars into central city areas. Even with the introduction of emission standard the problem will continue to grow if more cars are allowed to arrive in the central city. The congestion of cars also results in stopgo traffic which makes the situation even worse.

(a)   An idling car will raise carbon monoxide from its cruising concentration of 4 per cent to 7 per cent.

(b)   An accelerating car will raise nitrogen oxides from a cruising concentration of 650 ppm to 1050 ppm.

(c)   A decelerating car will raise hydrocarbon levels from 550 ppm (cruising) to 4,400 ppm.

As I say, these facts and figures were prepared by the Senate Select Committee, not by some outside body. So there is a clear indication of the need for the Government to do something about eliminating, wherever possible, the atmospheric pollution that is being caused in our cities today. The larger the cities grow the greater the pollution to which the people will be subjected.

I know that a lot of research is being carried out by various people. For example, in America recently a new form of external combustion engine using instead of water, a liquid called Freon, which was used in refrigerators, has been developed by a Mr Minto in Florida. He tried to sell the patent to the American automobile industry, but it was not interested in it. The Japanese motor car firm of Datsun purchased the patent, and it is expected that this car will be on the roads in Japan within the next 18 months. Honourable members may say: What have we got to worry about if this car will be on the roads in Japan within 18 months and on the roads in Australia within 2 years?' But it must be remembered that a car has a life of about 10 years. That will mean that for the next 10 years at least we will be loaded with the cars we have now, plus whatever cars come on the market and on the roads when this particular car is made available to the general public. Of course, that is assuming it is within the range of people to buy. For the reasons that I have already outlined, the Opposition proposes to vote against the 4 Bills before the House at the moment. We consider that the various forms of tax that have been imposed on these commodities are unfair and unreasonable.







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