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Wednesday, 13 October 1971
Page: 2294

Mr HUNT (Gwydir) (Minister for the Interior) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill seeks the approval of the Parliament to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania, embodying arrangements for a Commonwealth contribution of up to $4.25m towards the cost of railway works in Tasmania between Launceston and Bell Bay. This Bill also seeks the necessary authorisation of expenditure for the purposes of the agreement.

In September 1970, the Premier of Tasmania wrote to the Prime Minister seeking financial assistance towards the construction of a new rail link between the existing State railway system, north of Launceston in the vicinity of Nelson's Creek, and Bell Bay. Subsequently assistance was also sought for upgrading parts of the existing line between Nelson's Creek and Launceston and for certain other associated railway works. The railway will link the deep water port of Bell Bay with the Stale railway system. In particular it will facilitate the transport of timber for the development of the northern Tasmanian woodchip industry to be centred at Long Reach, a few miles south of Bell Bay. To meet woodchip export commitments the rail facilities will need to be provided by July 1972. The Premier stated that the State could not finance the work from its own resources within the time available. The Commonwealth agreed to contribute up to $4.25m towards the cost of the proposed works, of which up to $2. 5m will be by way of a loan repayable over 30 years and carrying interest at the ruling long term bond rate while the remainder, up to $ 1.75m, will be by way of a non-repayable grant. The terms of assistance are similar to the Railway Agreement (Western Australia) Act 1961.

The works proposed comprise: Firstly, a new narrow gauge railway from a point approximately 8 miles from Launceston on the northern eastern line to the Bell Bay wharf. Overall, the line will be approxi mately 27 miles in length, with a spur line to connect the proposed woodchip works at William Creek; secondly, a new railway bridge across the North Esk River in the vicinity of Launceston; thirdly, marshalling lines adjacent to a proposed freight yard at Dowling Street south of the North Esk River near Launceston; and fourthly, upgrading, where necessary, of the existing line between Launceston and the junction of the proposed Bell Bay line with the north eastern line approximately 8 miles from Launceston. For the information of honourable members a map has been circulated showing the approximate route of the railway and the section of line to be upgraded.

The agreement follows the usual form for projects of this nature. It includes provisions to allow co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State in respect of the establishment of standards, designs, planning and supervision of the work, the disbursement of funds and the auditing of expenditure on the project. The agreement itself is set out as the Schedule to the Bill. Before the agreement can come into effect and payments of financial assistance begin, the approval of the Commonwealth Parliament is necessary. Complementary legislation is being prepared for approval by the Tasmanian Parliament. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.

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