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Thursday, 8 August 1946

Business people needing to travel interstate are still suffering the gravest inconveniences.

The nationalized railway system continues to fail to- meet public requirements. It is quite uusual for a business man on a visit to another State to be held up for many day's before he can make his return journey. An example of the problem is the experience of one business man from a northern State visiting Victoria.

The only way he could get back was 'to travel by rail to a terminus in Eastern Gipps land and hitch-hike where there were no local service cars and obtain transport where hirecars existed. By this means, he gradually worked his way back, because he could no longer remain idle in Melbourne.

If there was any one connected with politic* who cares for public needs some steps would have been taken to arrange for interstate motorbus services, even for a short period of three tosix mont lis, or a lesser period, to get stranded people back to their home State.

We have some excellent passenger train* in Victoria, but a great deal more should bc. done to encourage road transport. Even in this regard, Victoria is in a better position than some of the States, for road trains have been introduced in the districts abutting on Port PhillipBay. Some of the buses operating in that' area carry 80 passengers.' Still larger vehicles of trans-continental type are fitted with sleeping-berths, refrigerators and other amenities which may be enjoyed on good railway trains. The point I. am making is that we have not done what we ought to have done to encourage road transport. We have attempted, to too great a degree, to- concentrate transport on the' railways which are a Government monopoly. I have in mind at the moment an omnibus service' which runs from the suburbs towardsMelbourne, the proprietors of which are not permitted to bring the passengers right into the city. The travellers are dumped at a suburban station and must, complete their journey to the city on overcrowded suburban trains.

I cannot understand why the Government should be so insistent on the investment of another £70,000,000 in the railways. The motor industry of Australia has been very heavily taxed during the last six years. The Australian States have collectively received £38,500,000 in motor registration and drivers licence-fees. They have also received £15,300,000 as their share of the petrol tax. The total, amount of tax paid by the Australian motorists for the privilege of . driving: their mo'.or vehicles during the last year has been nearly £54,000,000. I appreciate the fact that a proportion of the petrol tax must be expended upon road construction and maintenance, and we havesome excellent roads in this country, but the taxes on motorists are altogether too ' high. The expenditure which the-

Government is proposing on the standardization of railway gauges is unjustifiable in my opinion.

The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said -

From a defence angle, railway transport has the advantage of operating entirely on fuels locally produced.

He meant coal, but he did not say so. As a matter of fact that particular fuel is becoming more difficult to obtain every day. The position i3 so serious that the Victorian Railways Commissioners have converted a number of their locomotives to oil fuel. The Minister also said -

Any interruption of fuel supplies from overseas would completely cripple other forms of transport.

Mr Archie Cameron - Is the Minis,ter proposing that the rail gauge north of " the Brisbane line " shall be standardized?

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