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Tuesday, 9 April 1957

Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) .- The subject raised by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) as a matter of definite urgent importance is the alleged failure of the Government to take any action in the direction of correcting the existing transport anomalies arising out of which an unnecessary and undue burden is continuously imposed on the national economy. Most honorable members who have spoken in the debate so far have apparently taken the subject to relate to railways only. As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) said, we must consider the whole of Australia's transport facilities, and not solely the railways. He said that the Government was looking at this matter generally. A senator, when speaking in another place, quoted a statement by the Premier of Western Australia.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - It was quoted by a Labour senator.

Mr TURNBULL - Yes. He quoted the Western Australian Premier as saying, regarding the link between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle -

I would not agree that the suggested work is entitled to a priority above any other urgent and important works such as the provision of water supplies, electric power, schools and so on.

Of course. Victoria and New South Wales support plans for the standardization of the gauge between Melbourne and Sydney, provided the Commonwealth will supply £10,000:000 for that purpose, lt is very easy for those two States to support such a plan at a cost of £10,000.000 'to the Commonwealth. What the Commonwealth Government has to decide, however, and what I want it to decide, is the best way in which it can spend £10.001.000 for the benefit of the people, if it intends to spend that additional sum.

Is the standardization of the line between Melbourne and Sydney the best avenue for the expenditure of that amount? What is carried on the line between Melbourne and

Albury, which is the unstandard section of the track from Sydney to Melbourne? What percentage of the total of goods carried on the Victorian railways is represented by the goods, passengers or anything else carried on the line between Melbourne and Albury? A small card issued recently by the Victorian railways covering the year 1955-56 - the last full financial year - showed what was carried by the Victorian railways in that year. It showed that the principal commodities carried, and the respective tonnages, were: Coal and coke, 2.037,785; wheat. 1,308.408; briquettes, 604,573; fertilizers, 586,326; live-stock, 479,570; firewood, timber, wood pulp, 338,226; flour, bran, pollard, sharps, 250,090; wool, 143,938; fresh fruit, 129,862; stone, gravel, sand. 113,246.

As the Minister said, coal coming to Melbourne or to Victoria should be carried not by rail but by ship. What percentage of these commodities is conveyed on the Victorian railway from Albury to Melbourne? Most of these commodities are coming from production centres to the seaboard or in the reverse direction Is not Victorian brown and other coal coming to the metropolitan area? I have already referred to the quantity of wheat that is being carried from the wheat-growing areas to Geelong at the present time. I think that the Government will have to give this matter a lot of thought and that it will have to undertake much investigation, although that has been objected to by the Opposition, before it decides to spend £10.000,000 on standardizing the railway gauge between Albury and Melbourne. I could indicate countless other ways, in Victoria alone, in which this money could be spent to greater benefit not only to Victoria but also to the nation. No doubt some one will say, " What about the movement of troops in time of war? " That is an important question. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) has said that big railway marshalling yards should not be built in Sydney or other cities, because they would be destroyed by an atomic bo-nb


Mr TURNBULL - I thought that the honorable gentleman did. However, no doubt he will agree that if railway marshalling yards were built in Sydney or Melbourne they would be liable to destruction by an atomic bomb.

If the Government proposes to spend money on railways to assist the defence of the country, it also should investigate another proposition altogether. I refer to the railway line from Sydney to Hay, and to the need for a link line from Hay to Ouyen, thus giving access to Adelaide and through to Perth, and a line from Ouyen to Patchewollock which would then give a link with Portland, where £5,000,000 is being spent on what will be the greatest decentralized seaport in Australia. It will be able to accommodate, before very long, the largest ships of the world. Surely, we want decentralized ports! We do not want to have everything going to Melbourne. Portland is the great port of the future, and we need a railway line to link Central Australia and Sydney and Perth with it. The Labour Opposition seems to get into a rut and to think only of the present and the past. It must have a wider vision and look to the future of this country, as the Government of Victoria is doing in connexion with Portland.

It is all very well for the honorable member for Stirling to speak about roads. We know that the greatest anomaly in Australian transport to-day is that the State of Western Australia is receiving an unfair share of the petrol tax. We know, too, that the construction of good roads in other parts of Australia is being prejudiced, to some extent, by the fact that the Government of Western Australia is building, right in the metropolitan area of Perth, from federal aid roads money, a bridge over the Narrows to serve metropolitan Perth. How can the honorable member for Stirling justify that? The honorable member did not refer to that matter. He spoke about other transport matters, but he kept well away from that great anomaly that is right at his door. He knows that this money could be spent to construct roads for the transportation of goods to Portland and other parts of Australia.

Everybody knows that the primary producer wants' good roads and railways, but surely, if £10,000,000 were to be spent on the roads that link the primary producing a-eas with the railways that carry the products to the great seaports of Melbourne and

Portland, it would be spent much more advantageously to the Australian economy than in duplicating the line from Melbourne to Albury. It should not be thought for one moment that I am against the duplication of this line. I believe that to do so would be in the best interests of the country, but I do not think that its priority is so high that it should be done now. 1 am of the opinion that there are many other matters in our country that need attention - not only the schools and the other things referred to by the Premier of Western Australia, but also transport problems, such as the repair of bad roads. The Government could allocate large sums to absorb the materials and the man-power, if it is available, in a much better way than in the duplication of this line.

I have spoken of defence and of what might happen if an atomic bomb were dropped. Of course, the only answer to that is to keep our main transport routes away from the capital cities. The railway line that goes through Melbourne and on to Adelaide strikes, just out of Bacchus Marsh, in Victoria, a grade of such steepness that a train would immediately need to be reduced by half. The scheme that I have put forward, to link Hay and Ouyen, would provide for a line over level country. If constructed, it would have a great future because water from the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme will flow into the valleys of the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers. I believe that it would be a scheme in the best interests of Australia. 1 again urge the Government not to spend this £10,000,000 on the duplication of the line between Albury and Melbourne now but to look into the suggestions I have made.

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