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Thursday, 17 November 1927

Senator COX (New South "Wales) . - - I agree with the opinion expressed by Senator Thompson that a railway should be constructed from Bourke through Queensland to the Northern Territory, as such a line would serve some of the finest cattle country in Australia, and country infinitely better than that to be served by the north-south. railway. That line will never be of much use even from a military viewpoint. We can never move troops over it, and it will run through poor, miserable country. One of the highest pastoralists in Australia, who has taken the trouble to go through that country, tells me that it is the poorest he has ever seen. I understand that immediately beyond Bourke some engineering difficulties may be expected, because of the flooding of rivers, but I am assured by men who have lived in the country through which the Bourke to North Australia line would pass, that it is the cream of the pastoral areas of Australia. It would be easy to extend the existing Queensland railways to link with a line running north from Bourke. A 4 ft.8½ in. railway from Bourke to some point on the Gulf of Carpenteria or Darwin would enable us to move troops without any break of gauge, from Albury and any other part of New South Wales to the northern terminus of the line. The country through which which the line Avould pass has for years been the breeding ground for Australian cattle, and if even part of this railway had been built, Australia would not have suffered its recent huge losses of stock. Queensland stock would be made absolutely secure from drought if this projected railway were constructed and linked up with the existing State lines.

Senator Herbert Hays - Does the honorable senator suggest the building of a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge railway?

Senator COX - I would not put down a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge railway there.

Senator Herbert Hays - But the honorable senator is suggesting that the line should be linked up with existing Queensland railways which are built on a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge.

Senator COX - The proposed line would be running north and south, whereas the Queensland railways run east and west.

Senator Herbert Hays - With different gauges there would be considerable transhipment.

Senator COX - That difficulty could not be overcome, but we should have a 4 ft. 8½ in. gauge railway running from Albury via Bourke to some point on the north coast.

Senator Chapman - The motion seems to be a little indefinite.

Senator COX - It does to the honorable senator, because it does not propose a line to go through South Australian country, which would not feed a crow! It is useless to try to prescribe a direct route. Experts will report on the route the line should take, but in any case it must pass through beautiful land in the Northern Territory, which will grow* something for Australia, and through some of the finest country ' of Australia in the western part of Queensland. If South Australia wants to get railway connexion with the Northern Territory, it can be obtained by running a line from a point on the existing Oodnadatta railway to Bouilia. A 3 ft. 6 in. gauge, or even a 2 feet gauge line would be sufficient for that purpose. The honorable senator need not worry about having uniformity in the gauge. In his time he will not see a uniform gauge in Australia. The best course for the Commonwealth to pursue is to pay no attention to the demands of Victoria in this respect, but to build a railway from

Port Augusta to Broken Hill which would give a 4 ft.8½ in. gauge railway from Brisbane to Kalgoorlie.

Senator Herbert Hays - Why should the proposed railway be the responsibility of the Commonwealth?

Senator COX - Because Queensland has its own railways running east and west.

Senator HERBERT HAYS (TASMANIA) - Queensland has too many railways.

Senator COX - It has not a line too many. Queensland is not like the honorable senator's little grass paddock.

Senator Herbert Hays -The honorable senator has not seen Tasmania.

Senator COX - I could run through it in four days. . The Bourke toN orth Australia line should be the responsibility of the Commonwealth, because it willpractically run along the border of Queensland and close to South Australia, and will pass through the rich Barkly Tableland of North Australia. While it would serve two of the leading States, it would not directly benefit either, and, therefore, its construction ought to be regarded as a national affair. There is no doubt it would need to be a 4 ft. 8½ in. gauge. We must have the standard gauge on our main trunk lines; otherwise we cannot move troops or have sufficient rolling stock in any particular part of Australia to meet an emergency. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion moved by Senator Poll. I hope that the Government will give it their earnest consideration. I understand that the money proposed to be spent by the Development and Migration Commission can be devoted to this purpose, and, in my opinion, the whole of the money available to the commission could very properly be employed in building this developmental line.

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