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Friday, 22 May 1970


Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle) - This Bill is to provide for the construction of a railway from Port Augusta to Whyalla in South Australia and for purposes connected therewith. The construction of this railway cannot be looked at as the construction of just 1 railway, lt must be treated, first, as a project that is essential for the development of a rapidly expanding section of South Australia. It must also be looked at as part of the overall pattern of standardisation of railway gauges throughout Australia and the extension of that particular railway system. Over the years, the Federal Parliament has attempted - and I give the various governments concerned full credit for this - to expand and develop standardisation, but many of the States have a very bad record in this field. Therefore, we have to look at the whole question of standardisation of gauges right back to 1921, when a royal commission was appointed to examine and bring down a report on the advisability of standardisation. As a result of that report one section of line was constructed and completed. It was an important link. I refer to the Kyogle to Brisbane section which enabled standard gauge line traffic to travel straight through from Sydney to the Queensland capital, Brisbane.

Very little was done until 1944 when the late E. J. Ward, who was Minister for Transport in the Labor Government, asked for a report on standardisation, and the report was prepared by Sir Harold Clapp. Once again there was no great activity in the matter. In 1949, after the States, and in particular the then Government of New

South Wales, were unable to agree to do anything about it, Mr Ward, on behalf of the Chifley Labor Government, presented to this Parliament the Railway Standardisation (South Australia) Agreement Bill. There are some very interesting facts in this Bill and the associated agreement. I seek the approval of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sfnclair) to incorporate in Hansard a few clauses of this agreement which set out very clearly what the responsibilities of the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments were in the matter. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate the clauses in Hansard.

PART 11- WORKS FOR THE STANDARDISATION OF RAILWAY GAUGES

5.   The State shall carry out or execute, in accordance with the terms and conditions of this Agreement, the following works and undertakings, namely:

Conversion to standard gauge of the entire South Australian 5' 3" gauge system and of the 3' 6" gauge lines of the South Eastern Division, the conversion to standard gauge of existing locomotives and rolling stock suitable for conversion, and the construction of standard gauge locomotives and roiling stock to the extent necessary to replace the existing capacity of all units unsuitable for conversion to standard gauge.

(b)   Conversion to standard gauge of the 3' 6" gauge lines of the Peterborough Division of the South Australian Railways, the conversion to standard gauge of existing locomotives and rolling stock suitable for conversion, and the construction of standard gauge locomotives and rolling stock to the extent necessary to replace the existing capacity of all units unsuitable for conversion to standard gauge.

(c)   The provision of terminal facilities rendered necessary by the conversion of any line specified in the foregoing provisions of this clause.

PART HI - FINANCE

14.   - (1.) Seven-tenth of the cost of the standardisation works set out in clause 5 of this Agreement shall be borne by the Commonwealth and three-tenths of such cost shall be borne by the State.

PART IV- SUPPLEMENTARY PROVISIONS

21.   The Commonwealth shall undertake:

(a)   the conversion to standard gauge of the 3' 6" gauge lines of the Commonwealth Railways from Port Augusta to Alice Springs, the conversion to standard gauge of existing locomotives and rolling stock suitable for conversion, and the construction of standard gauge locomotives and rolling stock to the extent necessary to replace the existing capacity of all units unsuitable for conversion to standard gauge;

(b)   the construction of a new standard gauge railway from Alice Springs to Birdum and the construction of the standard gauge locomotives and rolling stock necessary to operate this line; and

(c)   the conversion to standard gauge of the 3' 6" gauge Commonwealth Railway line from Birdum to Darwin, the conversion to standard gauge of existing locomotives and rolling stock suitable for conversion and the construction of standard gauge locomotives and rolling stock to the extent necessary to replace the existing capacity of all units unsuitable for conversion to standard gauge.

22.   The Commonwealth shall bear the cost of carrying out the works specified in the last preceding clause.

I thank the Minister. Before leaving the agreement I would just like briefly to draw attention to several factors in the clauses. In PartII, clause 5, the agreement states:

The State shall carry out or execute, in accordance with the terms and conditions of this Agreement, the following works and undertakings, namely:

(a)   Conversion to standard gauge of the entire South Australian 5 ft 3 in gauge system and the 3 ft 6 in gauge lines of the South Eastern Division . . .

(b)   Conversion to standard gauge of the 3 ft 6 in gauge lines of the Peterborough Division of the South Australian Railways . . .

The lines were the responsibility of the State Government. The Federal Government had responsibility for the conversion to standard gauge of the 3 ft 6 in gauge line of the Commonwealth Railways from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. Also, clause 21 states that the Commonwealth shall undertake:

(b)   The construction of a new standard gauge railway from Alice Springs to Birdum and the construction of the standard gauge locomotives and rolling stock necessary to operate thisline; and

(c)   The conversion to standard gauge of the 3 ft 6 in gauge Commonwealth Railway line from Birdum to Darwin . . .

The fact of the matter is that very little of this agreement has been honoured, but admittedly portion of it has. The Port Augusta to Alice Springs line has been upgraded but it has not been converted to the standard guage. The construction of a new standard gauge railway from Alice Springs to Birdum has not been undertaken. The conversion to standard guage of the 3ft 6in line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs also has not yet been undertaken. So when we look at the whole picture we find that very little of this agreement has been honoured. I think there is one particular part of it that has not been honoured and it is important. It may be said it has nothing to do with the Port AugustaWhyalla standard gauge conversion. The Adelaide-Port Pirie line is important because if one reads the report presented to the Minister in June 1966 it is very clear that the construction of this new section of railway was deferred until this time because of the failure of the Commonwealth and South Australian governments to complete the standardisation of the AdelaidePort Pirie section of that line. As far as the standardisation of this section is concerned. I was critical of the Government's decision some 18 months ago when we had a Bill before this House dealing with standardisation. I said then that the Adelaide-Port Pirie section could have been part of the overall programme of standardisation of the Sydney-Fremantle line and the upgrading of certain sections of New South Wales line. Standardisation of the Adelaide-Port Pirie portion should have been part and parcel of that plan just as this Bill we have now before us to construct the Port AugustaWhyalla section should have been part of the standardisation programme.

We have seen the completion of the eastwest line which has, since the first official train went through on 23rd February this year, been operating with passenger traffic. Freight has been travelling on the line since November last year. So the whole section has been operative for 6 months but it will be a couple of years before the Port Augusta-Whyalla section is brought into the overall plan. Even at this stage there is no indication of whether or when the Government will proceed with the Adelaide-Port Pirie scheme. Again we have this stop-go policy adopted by the various governments with regard to standardisation instead of standardising all the branch lines, such as Adelaide-Port Pirie and Port AugustaWhyalla, at the one time. There is not a shadow of doubt that this Bill should have been before this Parliament over 2 years ago so that the proposal before us could have blended in with the general scheme of standardisation. The Adelaide-Port Pirie proposition likewise should have been brought in at the one time so that all the work could have been done together. There has been no justification over the years for the failure of the Commonwealth and the South Australian governments to complete the standardisation of the Adelaide-Port Pirie line, which should have been connected to the Trans Continental Railway.

The next thing we should have from the Government is some scheme for the standardisation of the Melbourne-Adelaide line so that at least all the capital cities of Australia might be connected on the standard gauge of 4 ft 81 in. As far as this Bill is concerned not a great deal can be said about it but I wish to criticise the Minister over the scant information made available to honourable members who are asked to support this proposition. Once again the Cabinet is treating the Parliament as if it was a rubber stamp. The Cabinet members are the brains. They know everything. We have to trot along behind and accept everything they toss up to us without any facts and figures being presented to us. I defy the Minister to indicate anywhere in the second reading speech or anywhere in the Bill where honourable members can gain any information about the actual cost of this railway or why the proposal was not adopted in 1966. It was 9.30 last night before the Minister gave me a copy of the section of the report which was presented to him in 1966. The further report was presented to him by the Commissioner of Commonwealth Railways, Mr Smith, late last year. So from the point of view of the average honourable member there is no information. He has to accept as gospel what the Minister says, without an opportunity to analyse the figures.

I have made a very brief examination of the figures and I find a few things of interest. If we go back to the 1966 figures, which were available to the Minister, they show that track construction costs would total $3,030,120 and the cost of rolling stock would be $1,629,000. I do not want to go through each individual item. I would be quite happy to incorporate the tables in Hansard so that everyone may peruse these figures at a later stage, because I think they are important. So with the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard these tables.







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