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Thursday, 10 June 1915

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - When the Minister is answering the honorable member for Darling Downs, I shall be glad if he will inform us whether the Government have decided on any particular course with regard to the main route of the railway ? When the matter was before the House five or six years ago, a plan for a line of railway which would deviate to the east, so as to facilitate the junctioning of the railways running through Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland with the main line, was put forward, but we were told by the then Government that the Agreement which had been entered into between the former Government and the South Australian Government precluded any deviation from the straight line as laid down by the South Australian Government when the Northern Territory was in their possession. It was pointed out then - I do not know with what correctness - that the straight route involved a very high grade up the Macdonnell Ranges, and would leave the line some hundreds of miles from the eastern boundary, so that the States I have named would not be able to get beyond their boundaries to link up with the main line. I understand that later the Government have felt themselves at liberty to make a deviation from the line agreed upon in the original contract with the South Australian Government, and I shall be very glad if the Minister could tell us whether anything definite has been decided in that regard.

Mr. MAHON(Kalgoorlie - Minister of External Affairs) [7.521.- Had the honorable member for Parkes been here he would have known that the question of a railway from Newcastle Waters to Camooweal for connexion ultimately with Cloncurry and the lines in Queensland and New South Wales to which he refers, has been under discussion and comment for the last two or three sittings.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should be always here if I were a Minister, but now I am not a Minister I am never here.

Mr MAHON - We are always glad to see the honorable member here, although his visits, like those of the angels, are few and far between. The Government have had the question mentioned by the honorable member for Darling Downs before them from time to time, but I need scarcely remind the Committee that the important questions arising out of the war have absorbed the bulk of the time of the Cabinet, and that other matters, important and pressing as they are, have not received the attention they undoubtedly deserve. These Estimates, moreover, are practically last year's Estimates, prepared by the last Ministry. The money is nearly all expended. In the circumstances, honorable members might take a considerable number of items on trust and allow the Estimates to go through now.

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