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Thursday, 27 April 1972
Page: 2134

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! 1 draw the attention of the honourable member for Griffith to the remarks that 1 made a short while ago to the honourable member for Sydney. I suggest that the House take note of my remarks in regard to points of order being raised when honourable members are making their speeches.

Mir Katter - Some are utterly frivolous.

Dr PATTERSON - Utterly frivolous, that is correct. Goodness help this House if the honourable member for Griffith has read that report from front to back and then makes the speech that he did. I dci'.bt whether he can even read. We heard from the honourable member his knowlet'3,3 of Queensland. I suggest that if he spent less time on the Gold Coast and more time in his electorate, and if he spent more time in some of those areas of Queensland which are in need of help, he would have a greater appreciation of the problems facing Queensland. The honourable member has referred to the electorate of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). Let the honourable member for Griffith go out into the electorate of Kennedy and visit the districts around Blackall, Winton and Longreach. Let the honourable member go into the electorate of Maranoa and see the position in Cunnamulla and Charleville. Does the honourable member suggest that all the people in those areas are happy and contented? As I say, the honourable member spends most of his time on the Gold Coast so obviously be does not have much time to spend in other areas where he ought to be, looking at some of the real problems facing Queensland.

The Commonwealth Grants Commission has referred to the Queensland Government's submission &nd the Federal Treasury's submission. The first point I want to make is this: There is a summary of those submissions in the special report of the Commission but this Parliament is entitled to know the full contents of those submissions - the submission by the Queensland Government and the Federal Treasury submission - before a proper judgment can be made on the conclusions reached by the Commission and set out in that report. There has in fact been some very strong condemnation of the Queensland Government thi. Federal Treasury, to which I shall refer later. One wonders what else is in that submission of the Treasury. One wonders a':o just what other information is continued in the Queensland Government's submission. Surely th 9 Parliament is entitled to know whit is in those 2 vital submissions .--bich the Cabinet has made a decision tv. lii-vs Queensla:d more money.

At a Premiers Conference held in 1970 special treatment was given .to New South Wales and to Victoria to the tune of approximately $2 per capita. There is no doubt that this grant put Queensland in a worse position compared with New South Wales and Victoria, which are the standard States, and this has been recognised by the Treasury. At the time the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, informed the Queensland Government that it could apply for a special compensatory grant if its budgetary position was in fact at a disadvantage compared with the budgetary position in the standard States. Queensland made that application. The Queensland submission is based on certain premises: Firstly, that its capacity to raise revenue through payroll tax is below that of the standard States. It has been agreed that Queensland's capacity in these respects is that of New South Wales and Victoria. Secondly, the special additional grant of $2 per head given to New South Wales and Victoria placed Queensland at a relative disadvantage and, as I said, this has also been agreed to. The capacity of the Queensland Government to raise revenue in the field of estate duty, land taxes and so on is not as high as that which exists in the standard States. No-one is going to suggest that Queensland should increase its rates on local taxes or that it should force local government authorities to put up their taxes or that Queensland should have a higher rate of probate duty. Obviously Queensland's capacity in these respects is lower than that of the standard States.

There are certain other fields in which Queensland is at a disadvantage. For example, I refer to the police force. What we want to see in Queensland is more police stations in country districts, not less police stations. This policy of the Queensland Government to close country police stations is to be deplored because if there is one thing in which Queensland is sadly defficient it is its number of police throughout the State. One has only to look at the crime that is being committed in that State to see that there is a pressing need for the establishment of more police stations in country areas. Queensland should have more policemen and they should be given better pay. That is on the credit side of a case for increased financial assistance to be given to Queensland.

I believe that the Queensland Government has made a mistake in trying to base a case on railway freights because it is in this field that the submission is weak. This is the field in which the Federal Treasury has really done the Queensland Government over. It is true that Queensland has approximately 2.5 times the route miles of the standard States, New South Wales and Victoria. It is true that Queensland's capacity in terms of ton miles is approximately 50 per cent of the capacity of the standard States. But it is also true - and this is something which the Queensland Government apparently forgot to include in its submission - that the operating surplus for the Queensland railways is approximately $5.8 per capita compared with $1.7 per capita in the 2 standard States. Queensland's whole case falls to the ground when one sees the submissions.

I, for one, have never pussyfooted around with respect to the Queensland Government in regard to its policy on rail freights. This is one area in which every member of this Parliament who comes from Queensland can logically and legitimately criticise the Queensland Government for its appalling policy in respect of rail freights in country areas. One has only to look at the facts just as the Treasury has looked at them to see that this is true. One has only to look at the operating surplus for the northern railway system or the central railway system which, of course, serve all the rural areas of Queensland, to see that these are areas in which the railway systems are making a profit. These profits are being used to offset the large deficits which occur in the Brisbane area. This is something which I have pointed out both inside and outside this House over many years. I cannot agree and I will not agree with the policy of the Queensland Government in crucifying rural areas through the rail freight system which is completely unjust and inequitable. This has been pointed out time and again by the grain growers of Queensland, by the cane growers of Queensland, by the beef producers of Queensland and by every primary industry organisation in Queensland, even to the degree of openly condemning the Government and, in some parts of Queensland, their own Country party representatives. The Queensland Government blames the Liberal Party and says it has a Liberal Minister. But the fact is that it is the Queensland Government that makes the decision. It is the Queensland Cabinet that makes the decision, not just the Minister for Transport.

One thing is certain, and that is that the Queensland Government's case has fallen to the ground because it has tried to justify its request for a Commonwealth grant and special compensatory grant by using this rail freight argument. One has only to look at the very trenchant Federal Treasury criticism of the Queensland Government with respect to its policy on rail freights to see that what I have said is correct. One of the things which the Queensland Government tries to sell to the Commonwealth is that its capacity for raising revenue through rail freights is limited and it tries to argue that the revenue it raises from contract freight rates is somewhat similar to the revenue raised through the overall rating structure in terms of results. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As everybody who is familiar with this problem knows, the system of secret contract rates in Queensland should be condemned throughout Australia. The contract rates should be made public. I believe that this is what the Federal Treasury also has implicitly suggested. It does not agree with the Queensland Government regarding these secretive contract rates. Time and time again shire councils and development bureaus have put up cases and have quoted, for example, that the rail freight between towns, say, 100 miles apart in north Queensland was higher than the rail freight from Brisbane to the same north Queensland towns. As I say, they are secret contract rates

Then we have the very trenchant criticism of the Queensland Government by the Federal Treasury with respect to mineral royalties. It is quite right to say, as the Federal Treasury has pointed out, that the value of mining output gives an indication of capacity to raise mining royalties. The Treasury went on to state:

This would suggest that Queensland's capacity is above standard; and as the royalties collected per head of population in Queensland are below the average per capita for the standard States it would appear that Queensland makes a relatively low effort in this field.

The Treasury was referring to the Queensland Government. That is an indictment of a State government by the Commonwealth Treasury; there is no other way to argue it. Also in paragraph 22 of the Grants Commission's report it was pointed out that the Commonwealth Treasury expressed a belief that the material presented in Queensland's submission concerning the 1971-72 budget of Queensland 'is not necessarily reliable as an overall guide to whether or not a special grant is justified'. This is a fairly serious matter. This type of language by the Commonwealth Treasury is somewhat foreign to me in terms of what the Treasury says or presents publicly. I really wonder whether the Grants Commission had the authority of the Teasury or of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) to publish this type of language. I am quite familiar with this type of Treasury criticism, in unpublished documents but not in public documents, of a State government of the same political colour as the Commonwealth Government. This shows how inept in some fields the Queensland Government must be in the preparation of vital data for presentation to the Commonwealth in support of a request for assistance.

As regards the revenue raising capacities of Queensland, here again we have this criticism by the Commonwealth Treasury. It has stated that Queensland could do a lot more with respect to royalties. I believe that any person who looks honestly at this problem would agree with what the Treasury has stated. There has been a lot of talk about the problems associated with the development of resources, and we have to recognise the paradox of a State government here. A State government is concerned with development and the raising of moneys in the best way it can. In recent years we have seen tremendous development in the mineral fields taking place in central and north Queensland. There is a great temptation on a government to exploit these resources which are some of the best resources in terms of volume in the world. I refer to bauxite and coal. The temptation is there to raise revenue as quickly as possible from royalties and rail freights. In fact, this is what the Queensland Government has done.

The criticism from a national point of view - and that is what we are in this Parliament to do, to level criticism from a national point of view - is that these are Australian resources as much as they are

Queensland resources. Although I am 100 per cent behind the development of Queensland coal fields, Queensland minerals and also Western Australian minerals and minerals in the northern part of the continent, I believe that from a national point of view there is an urgent need to formulate a national policy regarding the export prices of the minerals, because they are national assets. Because of these resources we see the tremendous development that has taken place in areas like Moura, Blackwater, Goonyella, Collinsville, and Biloela from the Callida mines. We also see potential areas for development such as Peak Downs, Hales Creek, and Norwich Park. All of these areas in central and north Queensland will become major towns based on minerals. This will mean that more money will be needed for housing, hospitals, police stations and towns. As minerals are a Commonwealth asset as well as a Queensland asset, there is an urgent need to provide more finance for Queensland in these fields.

It is about time that the Queensland Government put more submissions to the Commonwealth, as a matter of principle, in relation to development grants, and on the other side of the slate it is about time that the Commonwealth Government woke up to itself - gave itself a needle - and made more money available to Queensland for water development. We have been waiting now for 2 years for an announcement regarding the Burdekin area, the Urannah area and the North Eton area. We still have not received decisions from the Commonwealth Government with respect to these areas in Queensland. There is unquestionably a case for greater Commonwealth assistance in the development field. A lot has been said in trying to boom up the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government for the wonderful job they have done. But I will mention one area in which the Commonwealth has made a mess, and that is in the provision of telephones in rural areas.

Let us take the great brigalow scheme. When that scheme was first being formulated it was stressed that part and parcel of a successful brigalow scheme was the provision of effective communications, particularly telephones. It was stressed that these were essential. But practically all of the new settlers in area 3 of the brigalow scheme are without any communications in terms of telephones. But communications are essential to development, because it can be argued that the lack of telephones in country areas is not only a cost to the producer or to his property but also a national cost. A producer wastes a great deal of time in driving sometimes hundreds of miles to place orders or to make important decisions when he could do this in a few moments if he had a telephone. These are investment decisions on which the Government has fallen down.

The honourable member for Griffith and the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), who spoke earlier in the debate, failed to say one word about the marine science institute which is needed in Queensland. This institute was given some priority by the Prime Minister, but now suddenly it has mysteriously disappeared. Every member in this Parliament knows why it has disappeared; it is because the Government does not have the guts to bring on for debate the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. Why does not the honourable member for Griffith get up and say something about that? Queensland wants this marine institute. The honourable member for Griffith can say plenty in this chamber, but why does he not get up in his party room and criticise the Prime Minister and his party for deliberately discriminating against the State of Queensland? Of course, he does not do that. But he makes flamboyant speeches in this chamber. While I am on the subject of Queensland, with due respect to my friend the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) for whom I have the greatest respect, I want to make a plea for the people of northern, central and western Queensland with respect to the location of the capital city of Brisbane. I for one am slowly beginning to realise - perhaps I should say that I am quickly beginning to realise - that north Queensland is being placed at a major disadvantage because of the location of Brisbane in the far southeast corner of the State. As the honourable member for Brisbane well knows, Melbourne is closer to Brisbane than Cairns is to Brisbane. The Queensland Government has had a marvellous opportunity to help the people in northern, central and western Queensland by providing assistance in the field of rail freights but it has not. The

Commonwealth Government is responsible for the most infamous policy that we have ever seen perpetrated on people in the country; it charges sales tax on the cost of goods and also on the rail freight charged for carrying those goods from Brisbane to the rural areas of Queensland. I believe that that is something with which no member of the Opposition would agree, and I find it incredible to believe that this action is supported by the Country Party. Nevertheless it is.

Sir Winton Turnbull - And the last Labor government.

Dr PATTERSON - I have not heard from the honourable member for 20 minutes. I am sorry he has woken up. What we need in the Parliament are the 2 submissions - one from the Treasury and one from the Queensland Government because there has been a severe indictment of the Queensland Government by the Federal Treasury. Members of the Opposition are arguing that the Government has fallen down grossly on its job with respect to making special assistance grants available to Queensland under section 96 of the Constitution to enable that State to accelerate the development of areas which are needed and which will return export income to the Australian nation. In turn the Queensland people will enjoy a higher standard of living and there will be a more balanced development of Queensland resources. If we are to pass judgment on this case we need the submissions of the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Treasury. When the completion grant comes up in 2 or 3 years time we will want to know the facts to enable us to make a decision.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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