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Friday, 15 May 1942

Mr FRANCIS (Moreton) . - I desire to bring to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) the need for national planning in regard to public works, so that a number of schemes may be ready to put into operation when peace comes and members of the fighting services are being demobilized. One work that might well be placed on the list is the construction of a railway between Canberra and Yass in accordance with the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales. The agreement was signed on the 18th October, 1909, and was embodied in the first schedule of the Seat of Government Acceptance Act However, very little has been done to implement it.

Mr.Curtin. - Surveys have been completed.

Mr FRANCIS - I am aware that surveys and preliminary inquiries have been made; but, to our discredit, nothing further has been done. I ask the Prime Minister to submit the project to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. Section 9 of the agreement to which I have referred provides -

In the event of the Commonwealth constructing a railway within the Territory to its northern boundary, the State shall construct a railway from a point near Yaas on the Great Southern Railway to join with the said railway, and the Commonwealth and the State shall grant to each other such reciprocal running rights as may be agreed upon or as, in default of agreement, may be determined by arbitration over such portions of that railway as are owned by each.

No one who travels from Goulburn to Canberra can fail to notice the bad grades, the abrupt curves, and the uneven railway bed. The line runs through some very rocky and barren country. The journey is most uncomfortable, and leaves a most unfavorable impression, particularly upon visitors to Canberra. The suggested line from Yass to Canberra would consist of 16 miles 48 chains within the Australian Capital Territory, and 27 miles 54 chains in New South Wales. We should now make preparations in order to enable this work to be undertaken as an immediate post-war project, with a view to absorbing members of the fighting forces on demobilization. We know from experience at the end of the last war that, so soon as peace is declared, the great majority of members of the fighting forces, having served the purposes for which they enlisted, will be most eager to return to civil occupations. In fact, it can be said that they will develop this eagerness practically overnight. We should now prepare broad, general plans, in order to be able to undertake immediately the war ends projects which will serve to repatriate the majority of our soldiers. I also emphasize that the present time-table causes very great inconvenience to travellers on this line. Personally, I have no complaint to make in that respect, because I am comparatively youthful; but, in view of the exhaustion caused to older members of Parliament, who art.' obliged to make this journey tothe National Capital, every effort should be made to improve it. I repeat that rail travellers from Albury to Canberra must receive a very unfavorable impression of the National Capital, and I again urge that this work be referred for investigation and report to the Public Works Committee. However, I suggest that in the meantime sleeping cars conveying passengers from Albury to Canberra should be shunted to a siding at Yass, and that a bus leaving Yass at8 a.m. should be made available to convey honorable members to Canberra. This would enable them to reach this city at about 9 a.m.

Mr CALWELL (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - And the same bus service should be provided to convey members from Canberra to Yass on their return journey southwards.

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