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Wednesday, 19 April 1961

Mr McEWEN (MURRAY, VICTORIA) (Minister for Trade) - The position is that there has been no conference, and no suggestion of a conference, on the specific matter mentioned by the honorable member for Franklin - priorities for public works. The Prime Minister announced before he went overseas recently that the Commonwealth would be prepared, as a part of its plan to expand our export income, to consider, in certain contingencies, arriving at special financial arrangements with some States to enable the carrying out of great public works which, upon completion, would have immense and enduring value in contributing to the increase of our export income. The Prime Minister enumerated the four principal works that the Commonwealth had in mind. They were, first, the provision of roads in north

Australia to assist the beef and mineral industries; secondly, the improvement of facilities in coal ports for the purpose of increasing our coal exports; and, thirdly and fourthly, the standardization of gauge of two railway lines, one in South Australia and one in Western Australia. These works were identified because of their immense potential value in increasing export earnings, and also because, in each case, it was considered that, on the face of it, the financing of the work was beyond the capacity of the State or States concerned. There has been no conference of Ministers or Premiers on this, but officers of the States have been asked to come to Canberra to engage, without commitment, with Commonwealth officers in a preliminary examination of the planning of those works.

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