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Thursday, 12 April 1973
Page: 1463

Mr Drummond asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

(1)   Has he received protests from all political parties in Western Australia, local government authorities and many others, including myself, on behalf of the electors of the Electoral Division of Forrest as a result of his decision to consider using concrete instead of timber sleepers for the Commonwealth Railways.

(2)   Have senior officials of the Commonwealth Railways already made up their minds in favour of concrete sleepers.

(3)   If so, is it a fact that such a decision will put in jeopardy 30 small mills engaged in sleeper produc- tion in the south-west of Western Australia, a long established decentralised industry, and that the jobs involved will affect well over 1,000 people who will be unable to find alternative employment and will be forced to drift to the city.

Mr Charles Jones - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   I have received representations from both timber and concrete producers, and from authorities and organisations associated with the sleeper industry. I also had discussions with the Western Australian Minister for Forests, the Honourable H. D. Evans.

(2)   The Commissioner, Commonwealth Railways has been instructed to call tenders for both concrete and timber sleepers for the maintenance program on the Trans-Australian and also for new line construction such as the proposed Tarcoola to Alice Springs Railway. Before calling tenders, the Commissioner will consult with me on the most appropriate size for timber sleepers as well as the most appropriate delivery points for the supply of such sleepers.

(3)   I am very conscious of the possible importance for employment of any decision onthis matter. I should also add that, regardless of the final decision on which sleepers are used for new line construction, Commonwealth Railways will continue to use timber sleepers for spot replacement work on its existing lines.

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