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Thursday, 17 November 1938


Mr PATERSON (Gippsland) . The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has performed a useful service in bringing up a question which is of such great interest to the whole of Australia. We know that he has considerable technical knowledge of this subject, and that he is enthusiastic with respect to the standardization of railway gauges, and for that reason I listened with great interest to his speech this afternoon. Perhaps, at the outset, I might be permitted to allude to a characteristic interjection of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), by which he showed to the House what his attitude is with respect to this question. In his opinion, it is, apparently, not of great interest to New South Wales, but is rather one for Victoria and South Australia to look after. Might I say to the honorable gentleman that it was through the action of New South Wales many years ago that Victoria was induced to construct its railways on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge and that, as a loyal New South Welshman, he cannot altogether rid himself of responsibility on behalf of his State for what happened. The position, if I might briefly recall the circumstances, was that at that time the New South Wales Government had the services of an Irish engineer, who naturally thought that the 5-ft. 3-in gauge of his own country on the other side of the world was the best gauge to adopt in Australia. He succeeded in convincing the New South Wales Government that that was the best gauge, and that Government took the matter up with the Government of Victoria which, prior to that, had intended to adopt the 4-ft. 8-1/2-in gauge. It was only due to pressure from the New South Wales Government of some 80 years ago that Victoria was induced to adopt the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge for its proposed railway system. [Quorum formed.]


Mr PATERSON - I remind the honorable member for Barton further that the Irish engineer in New South Wales was succeeded by a Scottish engineer, who had just as strong a belief in the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge as had his predecessor in the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, with the result that he succeeded in inducing the Government of New South Wales to change its opinion, and to begin building on the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge. The Government of New South Wales tried to get the Government of Victoria to change also, but the Victorian Government evidently thought then that as it had somersaulted once on the advice of New South Wales in order to adopt the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, it would now adhere to that gauge. This had the rather extraordinary result that the State of New

South Wales, which had intended to build on 5 ft. 3 in., evenutally built on 4 ft. 81/2 in., while Victoria, which had intended to build on 4 ft. 81/2 in., actuallybuilt on 5 ft. 3 in. The honorable member for Barton cannot relieve his State of all responsibility for what happened.

I desire to remind honorable members of what was done by the Bruce-Page Government in connexion with the building of the Kyogle to South Brisbane line, which was the first step to standardize the gauges. By the construction of that line from Kyogle through the Macpherson Ranges to South Brisbane, 100 miles was cut off the distance between Sydney and the Queensland capital, a good deal of climbing was avoided, and there was a saving of seven hours. The Commonwealth Government not only accepted its own responsibility in accordance with the agreement to provide one-fifth of the cost, but ' also provided the amount which really should have been furnished by Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia. The only two States which contributed anything, besides the Common wealth, were Queensland and New South Wales. While that railway was being constructed - and the work was done while I was Minister for Transport in the Bruce-Page Government - we were also conducting negotiations with the Government of South Autsralia in an endeavour to induce it to agree to the next step in the process of standardization, which would provide a 4-ft. 8-1/2-in. gauge line right through from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie. There is no harm in mentioning now that at that time we tried to induce the Government of South Australia to sell to the Commonwealth the Red Hill line as far as Salisbury, a junction about thirteen miles north of Adelaide. The Commonwealth Government intended to convert this line to a 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge and to extend it from Red Hill to Port Augusta. We did not succeed in inducing the Government of South Australia to agree to this proposal. Then that government was defeated, and the depression followed. The next step occurred during the life of the last Parliament, when I was Minister for the Interior. After a great deal of effort, we succeeded in getting the Government of South Australia to accept a compromise by which it agreed to extend its 5-ft. 3-in. gauge railway from Adelaide to Red Hill, a few miles northward to Port Pirie, and we brought the transcontinental down as far as Port Pirie, which made a much better break-of-gauge station than Red Hill would have done, because it was a town of considerable importance. Now passengers may travel from Melbourne to Kalgoorlie on only two trains, whereas previously they travelled in four different trains. They travelled in one from Melbourne to Adelaide, in another from Adelaide to Terowie, in another from Terowie to Port Augusta, on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, and then in a fourth from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, on the 4-ft.81/2-in. gauge. Then, in order to continue their journey to Perth, they had to change again to a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge train. As the result of the construction of this new line via Port Pirie, the total distance between Adelaide and Port Augusta was reduced by 70 miles, and instead of there being inclines of 1 in 40, and curves with a radius of 40 chains, the steepest incline now is 1 in 100, and there are no sharp curves. This, together with the speeding up that has taken place on the Commonwealth transcontinental line, has enabled a day to be saved on the total journey to the west. The next step - and I speak as an Australian rather than as a Victorian - should be to construct a 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge railway line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle. After that, very serious consideration should be given to converting the present 3-ft. 6-in. track from Broken Hill toPort Pirie to 4 ft. Si in. If that were done, it would be possible to use the same rolling stock from Brisbane to Fremantle.







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