Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 13 August 1974
Page: 802

The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-

This Bill, together with the Roads Grants Bill and the Transport Planning and Research Bill, makes provision for financial assistance to the States for road construction and maintenance and transport planning and research totalling $1,1 26m over the next 3 years (1974-75 to 1976-77). The delay in the introduction of this legislation was due to the double dissolution which, as honourable senators opposite know, was not of the Government's making. These three Bills will provide for the continuation of financial assistance previously provided or to be provided under a number of programs including: The 1969 Commonwealth Aid Roads Act; the 1968 States (Beef Cattle Roads) Act; the Urban Public Transport (Research and Planning) Bill 1974; the traffic engineering and road safety improvement programs; and specific assistance to South Australia to assist in sealing the Eyre Highway. The Government's proposal is to restrict the period of financial assistance provided in these Acts to 3 years rather than 5, as has been the practice under previous CAR arrangements. The reason for this is that over the next 18 months we shall be working towards rationalising our separate road and urban transport assistance measures into a closely co-ordinated and integrated set of arrangements. It is intended to legislate further in about 18 months time to give effect to the new set of integrated transport arrangements. This will provide the States with about 18 months lead time for forward planning pending the commencement of the legislation and will be an important step in the introduction of a rolling program for transport development.

During its consideration of the new road arrangements the Government had before it the Bureau of Roads' 'Report on Roads in Australia 1973'. As honourable senators will recall this report was tabled in the Parliament on 12 December last. Comments on the report were subsequently obtained from the States at a meeting of Highway Ministers in Sydney earlier in the year and from representatives of State local government associations and the parent body. The report having been made public, many local government authorities, motoring bodies, other organisations and individuals took advantage of the opportunity to provide their views on it. This is the first time that an Australian Government has sought and obtained the views of a widespread sector of the community interested in roads. It has been an especially important exercise in open government which the previous Government might well have engaged m when finalising previous road arrangements.

The Bureau's report recommended the provision of financial assistance to the States of $ 1,345m over the next 3 years and a number of major new initiatives which I shall come to at a later stage. The Government has decided to provide grants of $ 1 , 1 26m for road construction and maintenance and transport planning and research over the next 3 years. This figure of $1,1 26m represents a significant increase of 30 per cent over the $870m provided for the various forms of road assistance in the previous 3 years. The Government in deciding the amount of road finance had to take account of its proposed commitments for other major transport initiatives, including urban public transport and the recently completed agreements for new railways joining Adelaide to the standard gauge railway and Tarcoola to Alice Springs. We also had to take account of our commitments to other programs of high priority such as education, health and social welfare and above all of the general state of the economy.

The 3 Bills together will provide financial assistance of $350m in 1974-75; $369min 1975-76 and $407m in 1976-77. The States will receive the following allocations over the next 3 year period:


A further $1 lm is provided under the Transport Planning and Research Bill for distribution according to the merit of projects submitted.

I now want to turn specifically to the National Roads Bill which is a major milestone in the history of Australian Government road assistance to the States. Previous governments have repeatedly refused to accept the need to do something specific to upgrade major roads of national importance to acceptable standards. As has been said on many occasions Australia's major highway, the Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne, is in a deplorable condition. Other major highways are similarly placed. For example, a national highways study team, composed of Australian and State Government officials, has carried out a substantial study of Australia's major arterial roads. It found that in 1972, the Pacific, New England, Hume and Princes Highways in New South Wales; the Hume, Princes East and Western Highways in Victoria; the Bruce, Warrego, Landsborough, Barkly and Flinders Highways in Queensland; the Eyre and Stuart Highways in South Australia; the Great Northern Highway in Western Australia; the Midland, Bass and Tamar Highways in Tasmania; the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory were significantly deficient.

Road sections were considered deficient if one or more of the following conditions existed or would exist in the year under consideration: Surface deficiency; width deficiency; structural deficiency; and alignment or curve deficiency. The study team in looking at a system of national roads substantially similar to the system eventually recommended by the Bureau found that many miles had one or more of the deficiencies I have just mentioned. Then on the assumption that no improvements were undertaken they worked out the number of miles that would be deficient by 1979 and 1989 respectively. The following table expresses the study team's findings in regard to the number of deficient miles in the system as a percentage of the total number of miles in the system:

This Government is determined that the situation which I have outlined must change and has decided to adopt the Bureau of Roads' recommendations to develop a national roads system. The Bureau of Roads m its report concluded that States tended to allocate road finance to all areas of the States and consequently it was difficult for the States to assemble the large resources to construct long segments of main arterial roads joining major centres. We agree with this conclusion. It should be obvious to any thinking person that without a major initiative by the Australian Government current State policies will continue and major arterial roads will still be neglected.

The Bureau envisaged the Australian Government financing 80 per cent of the cost of developing and maintaining the system with the States supplying the balance. The Government, however, has decided that the task is of such national importance to justify the Australian Government taking full responsibility for the cost, thus freeing the States to use their own sources of finance for the construction of other roads covered by the Roads Grants Bill. In order that a substantial start may be made on developing and maintaining the system it is proposed to provide $400m over the 3 year period, with $ 103m being provided in 1974-75, $130m in 1975-76 and $167m in 1976-77. This is the measure of the Government's determination to ensure that a significant start is made to arrest the continuing deterioration in the important roads of this nation.

The Bill provides for the following roads to be eligible for inclusion in the system as national highways, that is, those roads which in the opinion of the Minister constitute the principal road between: Two or more State capital cities; a State capital city and Canberra; a State capital city and Darwin; Brisbane and Cairns and Hobart and Burnie; together with other roads which the Minister considers justify inclusion on the basis of their national importance. The Government has also decided that the national roads system should include roads or proposed roads which facilitate or, if built, would facilitate the development of trade and commerce with other countries and among the States. These are referred to in the legislation as 'export roads' and major commercial roads'. These would generally be intrastate roads serving seaports and airports in both urban and rural areas.

When this Bill comes into operation it is the Minister's intention to declare as 'national highways' a series of roads which would give effect to that system recommended on page 158 of the Bureau of Roads' 'Report on Roads in Australia 1973'. In brief these roads include: The Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne; a road between Brisbane and Sydney; a road between Brisbane and Cairns; the portion within the State of a road between Brisbane and

Darwin via Mount Isa; a road between Melbourne and Adelaide; a road between Adelaide and Perth; the portion within the State of a road between Adelaide and Darwin; the portion within the State of a road between Perth and Darwin via Port Hedland; and a road between Hobart and Burnie.

This system will directly serve over 150 towns with populations exceeding 2,000 people and a total urban population of 9.5m, or about 75 per cent of Australia's population. In 1972 the system carried about 4,000m vehicle miles of travel. Preliminary discussions have been held with the States with a view to identifying roads which might be declared as 'export' roads and 'major commericial' roads. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has written to the then Acting Premier of New South Wales canvassing, in particular, the possibility of including access roads to the new Botany Bay port complex in these categories. We look forward with anticipation to a positive response from the State to this suggestion.

Periodically the national roads system will be reviewed with a view to determining whether new roads might be added. However, I venture a word of caution. The initial national highways which the Minister proposes to declare could take upward of 10 years to develop to acceptable standards. The system comprises about' 9,800 miles of road. About 100 miles of these roads are divided highways. Nearly 6,600 miles of roads have single carriageways with a sealed surface. The remaining 3,100 miles are unsealed. About 70 per cent of the system requires construction or reconstruction. It is therefore essential that an intensive effort be made to develop the initial system. The inclusion of additional roads in any number would be counter-productive and lead to a dissipation of effort similar to the present circumstances.

I would also point out that the ultimate routes of some 'national highways' are yet to be determined. It is envisaged that a number of corridor studies will be necessary to determine the 'location' of some parts of roads forming part of a national highway'. As honourable senators may be aware the Australian Government has already taken the initiative to have a joint investigation made of a new route between Goulburn and Albury. The New South Wales Government has agreed to the study. The Minister favours a more direct route via Wee Jasper, Tumut and Batlow and coming closer to the Australian Capital Territory. Such a road would provide a more direct link between Sydney and Melbourne and provide a considerable shortening of the road distance between Canberra and the new growth centre of Albury-Wodonga. The outcome of these investigations on the Goulburn-Albury route is expected to be known in about 6 months time. If a road on the new route is found to be feasible and desirable every effort will be made to have a substantive start made on the road during the life of this Act.

Other corridor studies are being considered. In this context the road between Port Augusta and Alice Springs will have a high priority. This road currently deviates to the south of the Woomera rocket range. A more direct route may be preferable. Other corridor studies that may be considered desirable include those for: A Newcastle by-pass; the road from Perth to east of Norseman- alternative routes are available which could save considerable distances; the approaches to Hobart, the location of which could influence the location of the highway north of the city; Broome in Western Australia to Katherine in the Northern Territory; and Camooweal in Queensland to Daly Waters in the Northern Territory. The Australian Government is to be responsible for the strategic planning of the national roads system. Given the Australian Government's acceptance of the responsibility for fully financing the development and maintenance of the system this approach is fully justified. Furthermore, it is the only reliable way of ensuring that national objectives are taken fully into account.

Practical expression is given to the Australian Government's intention to be responsible for strategic planning in clause 5 of the Bill. Provision is made there for the Minister, after consultation with the States, to notify to the States details of works on the system which the Australian Government believes to be necessary, the order in which such works should be carried out and the standards of construction and maintenance to apply. The States will then design the projects and submit them to the Australian Government for approval. Each year the States will prepare annual programs of construction and maintenance for approval. These programs can be modified by the Minister before approving them. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development will have the right to concur in the approval of any projects undertaken in the area of Albury-Wodonga growth centre and such other growth centres as are declared for the purpose of this Act.

The development of a national roads system will bring with it major benefits to motorists using them. Very importantly these roads will incorporate on a systematic basis accepted features of safety design. Safety will be enhanced not only for the motorists using the system, but also for the residents of those centres in which the hazards from heavy fast moving through traffic will be reduced. These benefits will arise from reduction in the likelihood of accidents and their severity. The design standards which will be examined for incorporation in the national highways system will include good sight distances, greater uniformity of standards, particularly the absence of dangerous curves and other unexpected hazards, the elimination of roadside objects, control of access, appropriate pavement markings and delineation. Where a 4-lane divided road with wide medians is provided, this will lead to a significant reduction in head-on collisions, side impacts and running into fixed objects.

Accident rates are markedly affected by the standard of the road. We know that in 1970, there were 3.2 accidents per million vehicle miles on New South Wales rural highways while the comparable rate on the Sydney-Newcastle expressway was 1.4 accidents per million vehicle miles. On the Hume Highway in 1971-72 there were 838 casualty accidents. I would expect this number would be significantly reduced, as much as by half, where the existing 2-lane sections of this road are replaced by a 4-lane divided highway.

Finally, 1 want to stress that the selection of roads eligible for inclusion in this scheme has been based on the possibility that the State roads included in this scheme might in the future be constructed, at least in part, by the Australian Government itself. Legal advice indicates that constitutional authority exists to support Australian Government construction of many, if not most, of the roads to be included in this scheme. This will be explored further. One cannot rule out the possibility that in the longer term the appropriate course to follow would be for the Aus.tralian Government to be responsible in every way for the conduct of the national roads system provided for in this Bill. On that final note I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.

Suggest corrections