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Wednesday, 19 September 1906

Senator STYLES (Victoria) .- I desire to mention two or three facts relating to railway surveying in Victoria,, which I should like honorable senators to think -over. When I was a member of the State Parliament, a. return was, on my motion, ordered to be laid on the table relating to the cost of railway surveys in this State. It referred only to surveys for lines, none of which have been constructed. It showed that 7,400 miles of survey had been made of various kinds, the great bulk of them being flying surveys. The cost of them amounted to £260,000. That comes to about £35 per mile. I do not mean to saythat the survey of railways in some parts of Victoria would not cost more than would tfr; survey of the line now under consideration, because the country in some parts of Victoria is mountainous. But, on the other hand, surveyors in this State would have no difficulty in obtaining supplies. There would be plenty of wood and water, and plenty of food ready to hand. The whole of the £260,000 spent on these surveys in Victoria has been absolutely wasted. But there is an even more serious aspect of the question. As soon as we begin to make this survey, we shall have launched a railway policy for the Commonwealth:.

Senator de Largie - The honorable senator himself launched that policy in moving that the State railways be taken over by the Commonwealth.

Senator STYLES - I submitted that motion after a Bill for the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway had been before the Senate. Suppose that the survey is made and that the Commonwealth Parliament thinks it desirable to construct the line. Then I want to know what authority is to work the railway. That opens up a very big question, the answer to which, to my mind, is absolutely fatal to the project. The railway cannot be h'anded over to two States to manage after the Commonwealth has built it. It would have to be worked by the Commonwealth.

Senator Henderson - We will make the honorable senator Commissioner for its management.

Senator STYLES - Then I will put. the honorable senator into a position as greaser on the line. I am dealing with the weak spot of the whole scheme. I cannot conceive that the Commonwealth could hand the line over to the States of South Australia and Western Australia to manage. Indeed, I doubt whether it would be constitutional to do so. Are we, then, to form a Commonwealth Railway Department of our own to work 1,100 miles of non-paying railway line ? That is what we should have to do. The first thing necessary is to decide upon the gauge to be used. I have pointed out on two or three occasions that that should be definitely settled before anything is done.

The PRESIDENT - We are considering whether the Bill' should be recommitted for the purpose of considering an amendment.

Senator STYLES - I am giving reasons why the Bill should be recommitted. It seems to me to be a reason for recommitting it that an important consideration has been overlooked.

The PRESIDENT - That might be a reason for rejecting the Bill.

Senator McGregor - That is what the honorable senator wants.

Senator STYLES - I do not disguise that for a moment. I submit with every confidence that we ought to determine what authority is to work the line if it is to be constructed, and that we ought to have a definite understanding about the gauge. There appears to be an idea in Western Australia that South Australia desires the gauge to be 3 ft. 6 in. If it is to be a 4 ft. 8J in. gauge, there will be no gauge like it in any part of South Australia. South Australia has built 600 or 700 miles of railway connected with Port Augusta on the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge. If 4 ft. 8| in. is to be the gauge, is it contemplated that the Commonwealth shall establish workshops, equipment, and all the appurtenances necessary to work a piece of railway 1,100 miles long, isolated by reason of its gauge from the rest of the railways of the Commonwealth? I submit these points with all seriousness. We could not hand over the railway to the States to manage, and surely no man outside a lunatic asylum would ever think of the Commonwealth working a railway of that kind by itself. Even if there were a chance of its becoming a paying line under other circumstances, it would not pay if worked by the Commonwealth, for the simplereason that the working expenses would be so enormous.

Senator Millen - I ask permission to withdraw my amendment, as I understand that another amendment which is likely to be more acceptable to the Senate will be proposed.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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