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Thursday, 22 July 1926

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - The government of the day established an excellent precedent by applying a considerable portion of the profits from the note issue to the construction of the east-west railway. In this way the sum of £3,428,518 was pro vided without interest, and although the total cost of the line at the 30th June, 1924, was £7,425,845, the amount upon which interest has to be paid is only about half that sum. This has been a very substantial help to the finances of the line. As the profits now being derived from the note issue and, to a less extent, from the operations of the Commonwealth Bank, are not being used for the extension of the bank's business, some portion should be set aside for either the construction of the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs or for the unification of the railway systems of the Commonwealth.

Senator Lynch - What about the track on the Nullarbor Plain?

Senator GRANT - The east-west line is provided for in this schedule to the extent of £130,000, and we have just been informed that about £40,000 will be expended on ballasting. That portion of the line which crosses the wonderful stretch of country from Tarcoola to Golden Ridge, is almost unique. It follows almost a straight line for 330 miles, the blue bush on both sides of the line giving the traveller the impression day and night that the train is crossing an ocean. It should not cost very much per mile to ballast thatline, because the quarries are readily accessible, and the country is of hard limestone formation. My chief concern is to persuade the Government to set aside some portion of the profits from the note issue, free of interest, for the construction of the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.

Senator Crawford - What advantage would that be?

Senator GRANT - It would reduce the interest charges on cost of construction, and as, according to the latest information, the line is not likely to be profitable for a great many years we should, if possible, keep down the interest bill as has been done in connexion with the capital cost of the east-west railway. I hope that the Treasurer will pay some attention to my suggestion. I notice that the sum of £1,240,000 is provided for new railway construction. Does this mean that the Alice Springs to Oodnadatta line is to be proceeded with without delay? Up to the present I have not had any information as to whether the trial or working surveys have been made. I should like to know how the matter stands. Furthermore, in view of the decision in favour of the standard gauge of 4ft. 8£in., has it been definitely decided that the line to Alice Springs shall be built on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge?

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