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Tuesday, 16 October 1956


The CHAIRMAN (Mr Adermann (FISHER, QUEENSLAND)

Order! The honorable gentleman's time has expired.

Mr. WENTWORTH(Mackellar) [3.351. - I wish to bring before the committee a transport matter in respect of which I believe Commonwealth expenditure could be fully remunerative. These proposed votes include allocations for extensions and improvements to the Commonwealth railways, but I believe that, before this year is out, we shall have to add to the Estimates further sums for preliminary work on the unification of our trunk-line gauges throughout Australia. Some few months ago the Government parties in this Parliament set up a committee, of which I have the honour to be chairman, to inquire whether, in place of undertaking the very great expenditure involved in unifying the whole of the railways, it would be possible selectively to standardize a few of the trunk lines and thus get the major benefits of standardization without any very great expenditure.

One of the troubles in this was that we had to try to devise a system of standardization which would not impair the internal efficiency of the various State railways concerned, or involve expenditure on works which could be regarded as in any way wasteful. The committee has had sittings in many of the States, and in many of the towns of the States. We have had the very greatest measure of assistance from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways and the Railway Commissioners and Transport Ministers of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Their technical advice has been invaluable to us. In addition, we have had the benefit of advice from a large number of private people whose interests are adversely affected by the present break of gauge, or who are public spirited enough to see this as one of the main problems of Australia.

I think I can say to honorable members, on behalf of the committee, that we have found a solution that appears to us to meet the requirements of this situation. We believe that, virtually, the problem boils down to the completion of three projects - the standardization of the line from Albury into Melbourne; the standardization of the line from Broken Hill through Port Pirie and down to Adelaide; and the standardization of the line from Kalgoorlie through Perth and on to Fremantle. We believe that if these works were completed they would solve not all, but most, of the breakofgauge problems. I think that we have found, in consultation with the railway authorities in the various States, methods of doing this work at a reasonable price and in a way which will allow the State railways to operate without impediment, internally, from the break-of-gauge. The total cost of this work - at our present prices - would be of the order of £40,000,000, but we are not suggesting that it should all be done together.


Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Would that sum cover the Albury-Melbourne section?







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