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Thursday, 17 November 1938

Mr DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) . - in reply - We have had an excellent debate upon a subject of first-rate national importance, but I regret to say that the contribution of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) was disappointing. In the two minutes which remain for discussion I cannot reply fully. The honorable gentleman did no more than indicate that the Government intended to call another conference which he hoped would be successful. A declaration of the Government's intention to treat the standardization of our railway gauges as a national undertaking to the cost of which it would contribute say 50 per cent, of the total would have indicated that the Government harboured some definite purpose in connexion with the work, and not merely shadowy good intentions. The expenditure of public money on standardizing our railway gauge would be much more effective in achieving national security than the purchase of a battleship at a cost of, say, £16,000,000. If the honorable gentlemen opposite were really in earnest in their desire to see our railway gauges standardized, they could bring pressure to bear upon the Government to some effective action which it seems to be quite incapable of taking on its own volition. The Minister for the Interior suggested that there had never been any agreement on the part of the State go*vernments on this subject; I should like more time to deal with that aspect, but I direct his attention to the fact that in 1926 both Houses of the Parliament of Western Australia passed the following motion : -

That in the opinion of this House, the time has arrived when the federalpolicy of extending the standard gauge railway should be consummated in Western Australia.

Mr SPEAKER - The extended time allotted for the consideration of this subject has now expired.

Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.

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