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Thursday, 6 October 1927

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . - Like Senator Reid, I am pleased to note in the latest report presented to Parliament by the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways, the progress made by the East- West railway. The bill introduced in the Commonwealth Parliament t 'o authorize a survey of a route to link up the east and the west, was most unpopular in Victoria. There was much opposition to it; a lot of pessimists thought that if the line were built it would prove to be an everlasting burden on the shoulders of the people of Australia. The line was designated by many uncomplimentary names. When, later on, a bill for the construction of the railway came before the Commonwealth Parliament, I supported it, as I had supported the Survey Bill. At that time some people, conscientiously, perhaps, believed that those members of Parliament who gave their support to either bill would be well within the danger zone when they met their masters, the electors, at a general election. I told those who were of that opinion that I should do what I conscientiously believed to be right, and that if I lost my seat in the Senate as a result of my votes, I should bow to the will of the majority. Time passed, and to-day there is no one who will declare that the East- West line has not justified its construction, and is not in the best interests of Australia. No one in his wildest moments would anticipate that such a railway would pay at the commencement. No one anxious for the progress of the Commonwealth would anticipate that a big proposition like this, built for the development of the Commonwealth, and the convenience of its people, and involving considerable expenditure, would pay immediately. The direct and indirect benefit derived from the railway cannot be calculated in pounds, shillings and pence. If we looked at every big proposition from a financial viewpoint little or no progress would be made in Australia. The east-west railway has now turned the corner. During the last financial year it paid working expenses and provided a sum to meet a portion of the interest on the capital outlay.

I am disappointed, however, with the slow progress made in bringing about a uniform gauge between the east and the west.

SenatorReid. - Victoria is opposed to the gauge recommended by the commission.

Senator FINDLEY - That may be so; but I have always been in favour of a uniform gauge, which will have to be adopted sooner or later. There are, for instance, three breaks of gauge between Adelaide and Perth, namely at Terowie, Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, and it is easy to imagine the inconvenience and cost to travellers. Incidentally I may refer to the break of gauge at Albury. To attend the sittings of Parliament last week, I left Melbourne on the Monday preceeding the Wednesday on which the present session opened. TheRoyal Agricultural Show had been in progress in Melbourne and there were a number of interstate travellers and Federal Parliamentarians on the train. The Albury station, which is not well lighted, was overcrowded, and I found that it was most difficult to make any progress along the platform owing to space taken up by the mail matter being transferred from one train to another, by passengers handling their own baggage, and by dogs being led along the platform. All this inconvenience could be avoided if the Commonwealth Government in co-operation with the States adopted a uniform gauge.

Senator Crawford - The commission appointed by the Government has already recommended the adoption of the 4 ft. 8½ in. gauge.

Senator FINDLEY - I know there is a feeling amongst certain people in Victoria that that is the best gauge, but in other directions a different opinion prevails. These breaks of gauge are a bad advertisement for Australia especially when oversease and interstate travellers, are, by reason of them, subjected to a great deal of inconvenience and cost. Now a commencement has been made with the work of linking Brisbane with Sydney by means of a 4 ft. 8½ in. gauge line. I trust the Government will undertake the necessary work of linking the east with the west in the same way. If that were done, it would not be long before the construction of a uniform gauge line between Melbourne and Sydney would be undertaken.

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