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Friday, 29 July 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - In moving -

That the Senate do now adjourn,

I wish to read a statement which has been received from the Commissioner of Railways, through the Minister for Works and Railways, in reply to some remarks made by Senator Wilson during the discussion of the Supply Bill. The Commissioner says -

In returning the attached extract from

Hansard,No. 83, of 22nd inst. (your

R.21/278), in which Senator Wilson directs attention to -

(1)   alleged lax administration of this Department in failing to realize on used construction machinery and material lying at Port Augusta, and that a gentleman he met had been unable topurchase certain trucks he required;

(2)   hundreds of picks and a number of railway motor tricycles exposed to the weather; 1 have to advise in regard to No. (1) that shortly after the opening of the line for traffic a schedule was prepared of all surplus plant and material. This schedule was circulated throughout Australia, hundreds of copies being posted to likely buyers and users of such plant and material, and, in addition, advertisements were inserted in all the leading papers of Australia inviting attention to the material available for sale. As a result of this and subsequent action taken, plant and material have been sold to the value of £31,195. The greater portion still on hand has been specially retained for our own requirements, or consists of construction plant, such as tracklaying machinery, rail presses, adzing and boring machines, which cannot be disposed of, but arc available for further construction work. There is also other plant on hand, such as motor tractors, for which a reasonable offer could not be obtained.

So far as the sale of trucks mentioned is concerned, it was decided to retain a certain number for departmental use, and the remainder - to the number of several hundred - were readilysold.

The buyer presumably referred to by Senator Wilson desired to purchase a number of trucks which had been specially fitted for the carriage of firewood on narrow-gauge lines. He was informed that they could not be sold, and others somewhat similar were eventually built for him by the Department.

In regard to No. (2), during my recent inspection 'of the line I instructed that all surplus picks in excess of the number each gang required for their work should be sent to Port Augusta. It was probably these picks that Senator Wilson saw.

Although I do not know yet the exact number so returned, I doubt whether the total would exceed 100. Even if it were a greater number, seeing that the Trans-Australian Railway is over 1,000 miles in length a fact which honorable members often overlook - the stock would not be excessive.

In connexion with motor tricycles: it is possible that one or two, either worn out or awaiting repairs, may have been lying in the maintenance yard. There are no motor tricycles along the railway, gangs being equipped with a four-wheel motor trolly, which is constantly in use, as well as hand tricycles, and trollies. It is probably the hand tricycle to which Senator de Largie refers.

Copies of schedules containing particulars of plant and material offered for sale are attached for the information of the honorable the Minister.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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