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Wednesday, 16 September 1936

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for External Affairs) [8.17]. - Work in connexion with the extension of the existing railway from Red Hill to Port Augusta, on the completion of which the changes referred to by the honorable senator will no longer be necessary, is proceeding, and it is anticipated that the new line will be in use well within the time estimated.

S3nator DUNCAN-HUGHES (South Australia) [8.18]. - Some weeks ago I visited Central Australia by train, and was greatly impressed by the excellence of the service provided to Alice Springs. Although not luxurious the trains are comfortable, and provide all that any fair-minded man can expect. The food is plain, but good," and the service is excellent; indeed, any one who complains about them either- has never experienced comfort or is not fairminded. But, like a good many other people, I found, on reaching Alice Springs, that the accommodation available is inadequate. I do not- desire to disparage the people of Central Australia, or, indeed, the keepers of hotels and boarding-houses there, many of whom are no doubt doing their best; but I point out that people will not be induced to visit the Macdonell Ranges - and they are worth going 1 000 miles to see - unless they have a reasonable prospect of obtaining comfortable lodgings when they get there. It may be that a tightening of the administration by both the health and the police authorities would produce good results, but I shall not, at the moment, proceed further along that line. I want to stress that the provision of reasonable comfort and cleanliness at the end of the forward journey would tend to encourage people to visit Central Australia in. increasing numbers, thereby making the railway pay better. For a great many years I have heard the complaint that people will not visit Central Australia because the accommodation provided at roadside hotels and in the Macdonnell Ranges is not adequate. I suggest, first, that a shower-bath be provided on the train, particularly during the summer months, as is done on the trans-Australian railway. The journey from Adelaide to Alice Springs occupies three days and two nights, and any one who knows that country in summer time will agree that it is most desirable that shower baths should be provided. I suggest, further, that unless the accommodation at Alice Springs be improved, passengers by train be permitted to occupy their sleeping berths in the train during the time that the train remains at Alice Springs - from late Saturday evening until early Tuesday morning. It might be necessary to employ a few additional men there, because the attendants on the train already have several heavy days' work on each way of the trip. I am certain that if tourists could be assured of reasonable comfort at the end of their train journey more people would be inclined to undertake the trip than is now the case. Unless there is an improvement along the lines that I have indicated, many people will not willingly visit Central Australia, and the revenue will suffer ; but what is even more important, the people of Australia will not become acquainted with their own country to the extent that they should.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [8.23]. - I am indebted to tho honorable senator for having brought this matter forward, and I shall certainly bring his remarks before the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson). The Railways Department is endeavouring to popularize the Macdonnell Ranges as a tourist resort, but I agree with the honor- able senator that more than a comfortable train is necessary; there must be suitable accommodation at the end of the journey. I shall do all that I can to give effect to his representations, and to secure for tourists that accommodation which they have a right to expect, and which I imagine would not be costly to provide.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Proposed votes- Postmaster-General's Department, £1,803,150, and Northern Territory, £34,080- agreed to.

Federal Capital Territory.

Proposed vote,£51,670.

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