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Friday, 22 May 1970


Mr WALLIS (Grey) - I am prepared to support the Bill, as were the 2 previous speakers. I am aware of the early history of the possibility of the construction of a railway line to Whyalla. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) said that the credit for this line should go to Sir Thomas Playford. I know that Sir Thomas Playford made a statement about 12 years ago indicating that he wanted a line to Whyalla. 1 particularly remember him stating to a deputation, of which I was a member, that he would build it with State finance if he could raise it and that he would also buy the railway line from Port Augusta to Port Pirie, if he got the chance, and link it with the State system. Of course, that was not to be. The next stage of the construction of the railway line to Whyalla was reached in 1964, as stated by the Mnister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), when its practicability was investigated. When examined as to whether it would be an economic proposition it was decided that it would not be a paying concern and the idea was dropped.

Of course, at that time the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd believed in moving all its steel out of Whyalla by ship. However, with the establishment of the steel works in Whyalla and with greatly increased production there was a change in the attitude of BHP. I understand that BHP had a very bad record as a deliverer of goods. My authority for that statement is a BHP official. Small purchases of steel had to wait until a ship was available to carry their goods to the eastern States or wherever they wanted it. This resulted in a great deal of delay. Small manufacturers wanting steel in 40 ton or SO ton lots just had to wait until the boat arrived. 1 think BHP realises that its bad marketing record would affect it, particularly in view of the fact that there was talk of other steel works opening in Australia. In this case possibly the BHP monopoly could be broken. As a result of this talk we saw a change in attitude by BHP. lt instituted the system which is operating at the present time where it carts its steel by truck from Whyalla to Port Augusta, puts the steel on the Commonwealth Railway trucks, and then it is taken to the eastern and western States. At present between 600 and 700 tons of steel a day is being carted in heavy trucks. I know that the sooner this railway line is completed the better it will be for BHP, because the road from Whyalla to Port Augusta is being torn to pieces. There are load limits on the bridge across the Gulf at Port Augusta. This means that trucks that weigh more than 16 tons have to make a wide detour around the top of the Gulf, which I think is an extra 16 miles each journey. So the sooner the railway line is completed the better it will be. As I said, the road is already starting to break up. Men arc continually working on it and trying to maintain it to a standard which is safe for motorists. This road is built for light traffic and is not built to carry this heavy traffic.

When we look at the railway map of Australia and see that we have now a standardised system from Perth right through to Sydney, through to Brisbane and down to Melbourne, I think it is a little ridiculous that we have this 47 miles of railway line which is not standardised. BHP has at Whyalla the third biggest steel complex in Australia and all it requires is this 47 miles of railway. That is why we fully support this proposition that the line go through. I know that there is a feeling in some quarters of Whyalla against the railway. These people feel that public money is being used to boost BHP. I suppose in a sense this is correct, but we cannot stand in the way of progress, irrespective of whether it is helping BHP or anyone else. BHP is one of the major steel producers of the nation, and I feel that if we are to gain the greatest advantage from this company it must be connected to the general railway system.

I would like to refer to a matter that the Minister mentioned in his speech and which is also included in the Bill. I refer to the cost of the railway. If we look back over our Australian history we will find that the greatest political blunders of all time have been committed in our rauilway system. Last century we finished up with 3 railway systems. The States had agreed to lay down a certain gauge of track, but then they changed their mind and we finished up with the shemozzle that we had until about 15 or 20 years ago. One of the mistakes that we should not make with this railway is to skimp on costs. The Minister said that it will cost $7m to complete this railway. Costs have probably been rising since the investigations were made, and I would certainly hope that, because a limit of $7m has been put on the railway, we will not skimp on it and finish up with a railway that is not really 100% or something that could have been made more up to date by the spending of a little bit more money.

There have been some big advances in the techniques of laying railway tracks and in the use of materials for the laying of the tracks. I would prefer the use of concrete sleepers. I know that the Commonwealth railway has been experimenting with concrete sleepers. Using concrete sleepers might work out slightly dearer than using wooden sleepers. But if we bear in mind maintenance costs over a great number of years we would probably find that the extra initial cost of concrete sleepers would bc saved over a long period. So I would hope that in limiting expenditure to $7m we do not reach the stage where we have to skimp on the railway because of lack of finance. If costs rise I hope enough finance will be made available to ensure that a really first class job is done on this railway.

The Minister said that the railway would carry light traffic. I assume from that statement that a lighter type of rail would be used - say an 80 lb rail. I would suggest that while we are doing the job it should be done properly and the heavier 94 lb rail, which the Commonwealth Railways used on its standardised system, should be used.

There is another matter to which I would like to refer. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) also referred to it. I am speaking about the laying of the tracks. The Commonwealth Railways has some very competent track laying engineers, lt has competent and experienced staff. They have shown in various projects which they have carried out that they are competent to do this job. I suggest to the Minister that serious consideration be given to allowing the Commonwealth Railways to carry out this work. I can remember a few years ago when the Commonwealth Railways were re-laying part of the track between Port Augusta and Port Pirie. A train used to leave Port Augusta about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. It would be carrying 6 lengths of fully welded, fully fabricated, track with the sleepers and dog spikes in position but not driven home. This train would travel to a place about 30 miles from Port Augusta. With the assistance of floodlights tractors would rip the old line out and pull new length of line into position. It is amazing just how much line they would lay in the time that they were there. A train would go over this particular section at possibly 4 o'clock in the afternoon and then another train would come back the other way at possibly 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning. I am not sure of the times, lt is marvellous the job those men were able to do between the passage of those 2 trains. So I suggest to the Minister that serious consideration be given to the employment of the present Commonwealth Railways staff to do the track laying. I think we can be assured of getting a good job. It will be done by experienced engineers and experienced fettling staff. I am sure that the job will be 100%. Another advantage is that the Commonwealth Railways can do the fabricating right beside its butt welding depot. I am sure that it could be worked out so that the Commonwealth Railways staff could do the whole job.

Perhaps 1 could refer to the benefit that the line will bring to Whyalla. We know that one of the main sources of benefit will be that steel products can be taken from the BHP works at Whyalla and distributed to all parts of Australia. It would certainly step up the distribution of our steel. There is no diversification of industry in Whyalla. We are all aware that it has a steelworks and it has the biggest shipbuilding yards in Australia. These are 2 big heavy industries. All employment is oriented towards those 2 industries. But this creates problems because most of the migrant women in the population are used to taking jobs. When they go to Whyalla they find there is practically nothing in the way of employment for married women or, for that matter, for single girls, which should be the most important consideration. Some Government assistance may be necessary - possibly from the States - to try to bring about some diversification of industry in Whyalla. This is essential to a more balanced growth of the whole area. At the present time there is no big light industry in Whyalla employing women. One of the advantages that I hope will come from the building of this railway is that it will attract light industries to Whyalla which are capable of employing women and so give the whole area, which is after all in a bit of an isolated pocket of South Australia, a more balanced economy, lt would certainly help to make people in the area more contented, which makes for the building of a better community. I am sure that the railway can assist in this regard.

I know that the main argument which has been put up against the establishment of industries in country areas has been the fact that raw materials have to be carted to the country. If we look at the railway map of Australia, with the completion of this line to Whyalla there will not be a great deal of difference in the distance between Sydney and Whyalla and Sydney and Adelaide, assuming that the Adelaide line will be linked up. We would also hope that the building of this railway line will take away this feeling of isolation, this feeling of being a company city, because this is the feeling that you get in Whyalla. Everything revolves around the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. Industrial relations in Whyalla are not good. There is a big brother atmosphere. It is a case of the company versus the rest. I hope that the diversification of industry in Whyalla, which the railway will help to bring about, will relieve that situation which has been brought about by the big brother attitude. Whyalla has a unique type of local government; BHP has been able to nominate 50% of local government members and this has helped to build up bad public relations. 1 hope that the railway will be able to bring about relief of this situation.

If honourable members look at the Second Schedule of the Bill they will see that provision is made for the extension of the railway line from Whyalla. From what I can see, the only possible extension would be to the Eyre Peninsula in the western part of South Australia. In the Eyre Peninsula there are about 450 miles of narrow gauge railway line. The line was built with light rails from about 1900 to 1926. It is in a very bad, rundown condition. The State Government has allocated a certain amount of money to bc spent over a number of years to upgrade that line, but I am afraid that the money allocated will not be enough to do a proper job. I envisage that the only extension to the line from Whyalla could be to link up with the Eyre Peninsula railway at Kimba. This is a distance of 80 miles. I hope that that is kept in mind in the future so that the Eyre Peninsula can be brought into the general railway system. We know that the Eyre Peninsula has a narrow gauge system, but we know also what can be done with bogie exchange or gantry transfer systems. I am sure that the problem of the break of gauge can be overcome more easily now than in the past.

The linking of the railway line to the Eyre Peninsula will assist that area, which at the present time is going through a crisis because of the wheat position. 1 hope that money will be provided to complete the Kimba-Polda pipeline and so give producers in the upper Eyre Peninsula a chance to diversify. If the line is connected to Kimba, they will have an outlet to markets for the sale of their produce. This must be looked upon as a long range project. I certainly hope that it will become the pattern for the future, that the narrow gauge system will be linked up with the standard gauge system. As was said earlier, a lot of activity has taken place concerning the railways in that part of South Australia. Port Augusta I think we must admit, is the hub of our transport system. It is right in the centre; road and rail transport branch out in all directions. I hope that this will not be the last railway construction that we shall see in that part of South Australia.

We have seen the standard gauge go through to Marree. Now we shall see the line go through to Whyalla. The IndianPacific link through Broken Hill has now been completed. Big advances have taken place in railway transport over the last few years. 1 hope that there will be more. As mentioned by the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), I hope it is not too long before an announcement is made about the line linking Alice Springs with the east-west line at Tarcoola, because of the dislocation that takes place in wet years on the north-south narrow gauge line north of Marree. Last but not least 1 mention the need for a standardised gauge to Adelaide. I hops (hat in the very near future announcements will be made about the progress of these projects.







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