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Friday, 1 December 1911

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) .- I desire to draw the attention of the Committee, and particularly of the Minister of Defence, to two facts. We understand from a communication made to the Chamber that the Western Australian Government have intimated their willingness to revive in its entirety the Act of 1903, which sanctioned the construction of this railway. That will not meet our requirements, because this is a Bill authorizing the construction of one railway, whereas the Act of 1903 was drafted and passed on the assumption that the Commonwealth was going to construct two railways, namely, the one under review, and one from Port Eucla to intercept the main line. I do not remember the exact verbiage of the State Act, but it affirmed that upon the Commonwealth commencing to construct the said railways, Western Australia would do soandso. It is a technical point which I have no doubt the Western Australian Government will put right. What we want in their authorizing Bill is the substitution of " this railway" for "railways." Otherwise it will leave a technical loophole which would render nugatory the whole effect of the Act. I hope that the Minister has grasped my point. This clause provides that the construction of the railway shall not be commenced until the two States have agreed " to grant such por- tions of the Crown lands of the State as are in the opinion of the Minister necessary for the purposes of the railway." The engineer on whose advice in engineering matters the Government are content to rely has recommended that there should be along each side of the route a reserve half-a-mile wide with special reserves for platforms, yards, and station buildings, and in the sandhill country a reserve 10 miles wide. He affirms that a larger area is necessary owing to the character of the country. He points out that it is fairly settled and firm in its natural condition, but once it is subject to the action of stock it will become broken up and will be subject to every passing wind with the result that it will cause a great deal of trouble which will mean expense in the maintenance of the railway. We have an idea as to what the most favorable State Government regard as a sufficient area to concede to the Commonwealth for these purposes. The Act passed provided for the cession of an area only 3 chains wide along the line of route. I should like to know whether the Government regard as sufficient the area offered so far by the Western Australian Government, or whether they are prepared to strive for an area more nearly approximating to that recommended by their consulting engineer. It is, I think, of very considerable importance that the Committee should have some knowledge as to what is in the Ministerial mind. We have the report of the engineer recommending much more than the State has granted. Under the Bill the whole matter is left to the Minister, but I feel sure that it would be a satisfaction to the Committee, irrespective of the views which honorable senators take as to the main proposal, to know that the permanent interest of the line - and by that I mean the permanent interest of the country - will not be sacrificed to an undue desire to rush the line through, and that some effort will be made to obtain such area of land as in the opinion of the Government expert adviser is absolutely necessary.

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