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Wednesday, 21 May 1980
Page: 3010

Mr HUMPHREYS (Griffith) -I point out to you, Mr Chairman, and to the Committee, how amazed I was at the speech of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). Whilst I have great respect for the honourable member I was amazed to hear him say that the roads in Queensland were not the cause of the fatalities in the country areas; it was the mad drivers. I will have to take him to task on that point. I have driven on roads in the honourable member's electorate for many years and I can say that they are absolutely disgraceful. They are only one track roads and when a big semitrailer comes along one is pushed off the side of the road and down into the ditch. The people who are dying on the roads in Queensland country areas are dying because of the disgraceful roads in those areas. I will deal again with that matter later in the very short time that I have available this evening.

I would like to take up one of the many specious points made by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) during his contribution to the debate; and that is a generous description of his effort. He referred to the scrapping of the inner city highway program in Sydney. The honourable member for Macarthur blamed the Wran Government, and there is nothing new about that. He always blames the Wran Government regardless of the facts. Yet he has the nerve to call members of the Opposition knockers because they echo the sentiments of every motor association and every State and local government representative throughout the country.

I point out to the honourable member that the Australian Journalists Association newspaper in Queensland, the Clarion, revealed that the Main

Roads Department in Queensland has scrapped its multi-million dollar north Brisbane freeway project. The official explanation given by the Minister for Main Roads apparently is a lack of finance and the Queensland Minister sheets home the blame to the Federal Government. Presumably the honourable member for Macarthur would blame the lack of finance on the Queensland State Government. When we come to who is responsible for the foul-up in our road system in this wonderful country of ours the conservatives run for cover. It does not matter whom they leave holding the bag as long as the heat is off them.

The Opposition outlined its main objections to the Government's Roads Grants Bill in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). I wish to emphasise one aspect of the Bill which has received little attention. It appears that the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) has been misled by his own Department. I refer to the abolition of the Minor Traffic Engineering and Road Safety Improvements Program known as MITERS. The Minister has provided a set of figures which purport to be the percentage increases in road grants for various categories in each of the States. For example, in New South Wales the national development roads category has increased by 17 per cent; rural arterial roads supposedly by 1 1.5 per cent; urban arterial roads by a pathetic 9.54 per cent; and local roads by 11.15 per cent. All figures are substantially below the rate of inflation. As has been shown by other members of the Opposition, these figures are a farce.

The previous year's figures did not take account of the MITERS component. When the figures are adjusted so that they are a true reflection of the categories of spending for the last year, they certainly are revealing. For example, the amount spent on urban arterial roads ends up at a miserable four per cent and rural arterial roads at a shocking minus two per cent. If we add to that the ravages of inflation- which is now into two-digit figures- we have an accurate picture of what this Bill has done for the roads in New South Wales; and the same applies to the various categories in other States. I say quite deliberately that somebody is handling the truth carelessly about the state of our roads.

Mr John Brown (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister.

Mr HUMPHREYS -Two Ministers. I have come to that conclusion because two National Country Party Transport Ministers- one State and one Federal- are saying two different things about the state of roads in my home State of

Queensland. The two National Country Party Ministers, the Queensland Minister for Main Roads, who I might add is best known for his ability to lose friends and insult people, and the Federal Minister for Transport- indeed, successive Federal Transport Ministers- have differed publicly and privately about the Federal Government's role in the funding, administration and maintenance of Queensland roads. When two National Country Party Ministers say two different things we know that at least one of them is bending the truth. Knowing the National Country Party as I do, both could be guilty of twisting, stretching and bending the truth for their own political ends.

I wish to deal with the critics of the Government's road funding record; critics other than the Queensland Main Roads Minister. There is a great weight of criticism notwithstanding the Queensland Minister's very considerable weight. The Government has been reproached from all sides of Australian politics, from all levels of Australian Government, and from every major automobile association in the country. Indeed the Government has come under fire from every corner of this country for its abdication of responsibility over national road funding. Even the grand old man of the Liberal Party, the Western Australian Premier, has rapped the Government on its knuckles for its neglect in the Pilbara. It is the north-east corner of my home State which naturally interests me. It is the north-east portion of that State which has one of the most legitimate grievances as far as road funding and maintenance are concerned.

Mr John Brown (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They are National Country Party seats, are they not?

Mr HUMPHREYS -Yes, they are all National Country Party seats.

Mr John Brown (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - You would think they would be in here showing an interest in the debate.

Mr HUMPHREYS -As the honourable member for Parramatta has observed, there is not one member from the National Country Party here this evening. How many times must the Government be reminded of the Marlborough-Sarina horror stretch? Members of the National Country Party are now interjecting that they are listening to a lot of nonsense. I wonder what they think about the MarlboroughSarina horror stretch. They know quite well that there is no nonsense in that horror stretch. How many people must complain, be inconvenienced and left stranded in floods and how many people must die before this Government accepts its responsibility?

Mr Fisher -That is rubbish.

Mr HUMPHREYS -The National Country Party member is saying that it is a lot of rubbish. The honourable member for Maranoa knows very well that the majority of people who die on Queensland roads die in that area. The honourable member for Maranoa is back in the chamber. As I said before, I have great respect for him. I am sure that he was talking with his tongue in his cheek when he tried to defend the National Country Party Ministers here and back in Queensland.

Government members interjecting-

Mr HUMPHREYS -There honourable members go. They cannot take it and are whinging now. Listen to them whinge. They know what is happening in Queensland. I say to the Minister that it almost sounds as though the budgetary context is something over which the Government has no control or responsibility. The Minister really did not need to say that. It is a standard apology for all Ministers who preside over the most fundamental and far-reaching cuts in expenditure that have ever been imposed by the Australian Government.

Mr Fisher - That is rubbish.

Mr HUMPHREYS -At least I am having a go. The honourable member will not have a go because he is disgusted with the roads and the funding of roads programs by the Government. Certainly to say that the expenditure on roads must come within the context of the budget priorities is superficially reasonable. The Government's priorities are of its own making and are determined by its own Cabinet. Of course, that Cabinet is totally dominated by the nineteenth century economic obsessions of its Prime Minister (Mr Malcom Fraser). When the Government says that it must spend within the Budget context it means that it must spend in accordance with the Prime Minister's outdated, one-eyed economic obsessions.

I turn now to Queensland. In Queensland the saying is: 'All roads lead to Kingaroy'. In Queensland the debate never ends over who is responsible for what the Bureau of Transport Economics describes as the worst amount of underspending on roads in any State of the Commonwealth. According to the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics last year, at page 151, paragraph 2 expenditure in Queensland was two-thirds of the efficient allocations with underallocation in all categories other than rural local roads. As I said earlier, all roads lead to Kingaroy in Queensland. The report tipped the bucket on Queensland's roads and rightly so. It was noted that the only category of roads in which spending was adequate was rural-local. Naturally, such roads are in the electorates of members of the National Country Party. There was a great Main Roads camp on Highway 1 near Caboolture and without any ado the Premier lifted it up and took it away to the Kingaroy area.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon J. D. M. Dobie)- Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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