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Thursday, 20 October 1983
Page: 2053

Mr GAYLER(8.0) —In the short time available to me this evening I should like to draw to the attention of honourable members, be their number small, the people of far north Queensland, and all the people of Australia, some of the difficulties and problems that have existed in far north Queensland under successive conservative Federal governments and under 26 years of the reign of what one could only describe as the National Party Government in Queensland. Certainly it cannot be called a coalition government because the National Party has ruled for the past 26 years to the detriment of the people of far north Queensland. This evening I will have time to speak only on some aspects. These are the problems in relation to transport and roads in far north Queensland and the problems of the indigenous people, the Aboriginals and the Islanders of that region. It is clear that under successive Federal coalition conservative governments and under the regime of the National Party in Queensland, the Aborigines, the Islanders and the other inhabitants of far north Queensland have suffered.

I deal first with the aspect of roads and transport in far north Queensland. It is an area of vast distance. It is an area that is sadly lacking in roads and transport. In the 1982-83 Budget-I am referring now to Budget Paper No. 7- delivered in August 1982 provision was made for roads. On page 66 of that document under the heading 'Special Payments to Victoria, Queensland and South Australia for Transport', the then Treasurer had this to say:

The Commonwealth is to make special payments totalling $65 million to Victoria, Queensland and South Australia in 1982-83 for transport purposes. Of this amount , Victoria is to receive $35 million (the last of two equal payments) and South Australia $10 million for upgrading their transportation systems, and Queensland is to receive $20 million for upgrading the State's northern roads and transportation system.

I repeat:

. . . $20 million for upgrading the State's northern roads and transportation system.

It is an undeniable and unfortunate fact that none of that $20m was spent in north Queensland. From recent communication with the Minister for Main Roads, Mr Hinze, it has become abundantly clear that, of that $20m, $10m was spent in the electrification of the railway system in the metropolitan area of Brisbane. The other $10m, if it has not been stolen, was certainly misappropriated. As I have said, it is an unfortunate fact that, once again the people of far north Queensland, the people who reside in this remote area of Australia, were completely disregarded.

Once again, it is a most unfortunate fact that in this year's allocation from the Queensland Treasury bench Queensland receives the miserly amount of $1.3m for the upgrading and development of the Gulf development road. This is a critical road for the system and for our industry in far north Queensland. Along that road the primary production of that part of northern Australia is transported. A miserly amount of $1.8m has been allocated for the peninsula development road. Lesser amounts of $1.6m and $1.3m have been allocated for the Kennedy and Palmerston highways. All are important and integral highways within that system in the far north of Australia.

Mr Hinze has made it clear to the people of Queensland and to the people of the far north that this year the Queensland Government, or the National Party regime , has seen fit to increase road funding by 21 per cent. One would think that there would be some joy in such an announcement, but when in the cold light of day, one looks at the facts, one finds little joy at all. Once again the National Party regime is pork-barrelling the south-east corner of Queensland in a quest to do over the Liberals, its former coalition partners, and to at least attempt to become more than the minority government it now is.

Mr Hinze has said that road funding will increase by 21 per cent in far north Queensland. He failed to point out to the people of far north Queensland that the Hawke Government saw fit to increase the Federal allocation to the Queensland Government for road funding by a mammoth 45.8 per cent. It is an unfortunate fact that, once again, the National Party regime in Queensland has forgotten the north, has forgotten the difficulties people have in relation to transport and highways. It is nothing short of a disgrace. Roads that are referred to as highways are mere tracks in the bush in the remote areas of that far-flung part of Australia. The only statistics the Queensland Government keeps are the number of accidents that motorists have because of the inadequacy of those roads. It is a common fact that around Georgetown and Normanton at least four or five cars are smashed, rolled or written off each week because of the inadequacies of these tracks that one certainly could not refer to as highways.

It is with some disgust that we hear of the allocation of these miserly amounts to upgrade, for example, the peninsula development road. That road extends for something like 500 or 600 kilometres, and most of it is a track. For example, the very prosperous town of Weipa, which is on the Gulf of Carpenteria, can be reached for only six months of the year and then only by four-wheel drive vehicle. The State Government or, as I have referred to it, the National Party regime, has seen fit to allocate $1.8m for the upgrading of that road. That would be barely enough to take a team out there to set up work on this very important national highway.

Unfortunately, it is the same story in relation to the gulf development road; the road on which $35m worth of export seafoods are transported each year from the Gulf of Carpentaria. An amount of $1.3m has been allocate for that purpose- once again, an infinitesimal amount. That will not be enough to do another five kilometres of that road, which extends for 700 kilometres. It is a fact that pork-barrelling is going on in the south-eastern corner of Queensland, which has the majority of the seats that are crucial to the National Party regime on 22 October.

It is most unfortunate that I have so little time to devote to the next matter; that is, the utter neglect by the National Party of the Aboriginal and Island people in the far north of Queensland. The actions of the authoritarian director , who has been spoken of in this House in recent times, have been an utter disgrace to the welfare of and the wellbeing of the Aboriginal and Island people . I applaud and commend the action of the Federal Government only this week in paying back-pay to the people of the Torres Strait Islanders' regiment.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.