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Tuesday, 16 December 1930

Senator McLACHLAN (South A ustralia) .This bill, aswas pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), presents some features that must be considered as unrealities. The right honorable senator indicated one, that it is putting the cart before the horse to proceed with the measure before first obtaining the consent of the South Australian Government. We are entirely in the dark as to whether thereis any likelihood of that consent being obtained. While I shall vote for the bill, for reasons that I shall advance, I should like the Minister to understand that there is apparently some opposition to the measure in the State of South Australia. I have a telegraphic communication indicating that the Transport Commission, a body with which I am not familiar, states that the "Red Hill railway will cost the State £90,000 annual loss. Probably publish to -morrow". What that means. I do not know, but we may assume that a loss is anticipated in the revenue of the South Australian Government from lines which run almost parallel with the proposed one.

This is no new proposal tome. It was my opinion, originally, that when South

Australia built the railway from Salisbury toRed Hill it embarked on a duplication of already existing railway facilities. However, that was done at a time when money was more plentiful than it is now, in the belief that the section would be linked up with the broad gauge system at Port Augusta. It is necessary to regard our railway systems as a national problem. The greatest difficulty experienced by the States at present is to cope with the financial losses incurred in their various railway systems, due, perhaps, to improvident building. It would appear to me to be a wise move on the part of the Commonwealth to take over from South Australia the railway from Red Hill to Adelaide, and, in lieu of the proposal submitted by the Assistant Minister this afternoon, to convert the broad gauge into a standard line of 4-ft. 8-1/2-in.

Senator Rae - Why not take over South Australia altogether?

Senator McLACHLAN - I know that the honorable senator is ambitious, but, I do not think he would succeed too well in South Australia. I believe that he is better housed in Sydney. The State of South Australia has spent something like £960,000 on the railway. It would not involve an outlay of very much more than the third rail proposal, and there certainly would not be the danger that attaches to a third line. The matter was the subject of negotiation between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments some years ago, and the difficulty arose that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner would be cutting into the profits of the Commissioner for Railways for South Australia, derived from the carriage of stock from Port Augusta, Peterborough and Terowie. I admit that is a rather narrow view to take. If this line from Salisbury to Red Hill were cut out, the relief to the general taxpayer would outweigh any disadvantage in the form of lost traffic.

Senator Sir George Pearce - It was estimated some years ago that the relief would represent about £60,000 a year.

Senator McLACHLAN - It is easy to calculate. By taking 51/2 per cent. interest on £1,000,000, the sum would be £55,000. I do not know whether the Department of Works has any information to the contrary, but. I doubt whether this railway line to Red Hill, stopping as it does at a dead end, can possibly pay working expenses. I know that my suggestion on that matter is not acceptable to the department.

The proposal presents a second view of unreality. The Honorary Minister has indicated that it is unnecessary for the Government to obtain the consent of the South Australian Government to put in a third rail from Red Hill to Adelaide. I am not too clear on that, and I hope that, when replying, the Minister will satisfy our minds on the point. 1 venture to suggest that it is a clumsy project. If we are to set about it, let us do it properly. Let us make ita 4-ft.81/2-in. line right from Adelaide to Port Augusta. Unless that is done, we shall, until the third rail has been laid, have a. break of gauge at Red Hill, at which place it will be necessary to provide facilities for transferring goods and stock from one gauge to another. That is not a sound business proposition. If we undertake this work in a piece-meal fashion, there is bound to be considerable waste. In my opinion, this scheme has not been fully considered by the Government. The Government appears not to have ascertained the attitude of the Government of South Australia towards its proposal, or the effect of the construction of this new line on the finances of therailways of that State. Nor does it appear to have considered the advisability of taking over from the State the railway from Red Hill to Adelaide.

Senator Daly - The present Premier of South Australia led a deputation to the late Prime Minister urging that that be done.

Senator McLACHLAN - Premiers and Prime Ministers have an unhappy knack of changing their point of view according to circumstances. The laying of a third rail is estimated to cost £380,000, an expenditure entirely unjustified if the South Australian Railways Commissioner is prepared to discuss with the Commonwealth authorities a proposal that the Commonwealth should take over the whole line. In this matter there is no question of intrusion by the Commonwealth into the sphere of the State; that intrusion has already taken place. We must consider this matter from the point of view of its effect on the nation as a whole: On many occasions I have said that I would agree to the hanging of any politician who urged the construction of a railway in Australia of other than the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. Since I first expressed myself in that manner the finances of our Australian railways have not improved, but have rather grown worse: Nevertheless, I feel that the proposal in this bill is along right lines, provided that it is followed by the taking over by the Commonwealth of the whole of the line from Red Hill to Adelaide, so that it may become, in fact, a 4-ft. St-in gauge railway.

In some quarters this proposal is objected to on the ground that the portion of South Australia through which the line \vouB3 pass is already well served with railways. I regard the proposal as being in the nature of the clearing up of a muddle. If in the removal of that muddle the State railways will suffer, it surely should not be impossible for any losses which the State might incur to be the subject' of adjustment between the Railways Commissioners of the Commonwealth and the State. The estimates provide for n sum of £20,000 being expended on this work out of an amount standing to the credit of the loan fund. The Minister, in his reply, may be able to inform us how much stands to the credit of that fund. Probably there is very little money there.

Although the bill makes no provision for the erection of buildings at Red Hill which will be rendered necessary by the break of gauge there, the Minister said that such buildings would have to be erected if this bill were agreed, to. If only for that reason, I deplore the proposal to have a break of gauge at Red Hill. I prefer that we should make a complete job of the undertaking, and dispense with any break of gauge. There is no need for a railway of 5-ft. 3-in. gauge in the area which will be served by this line. The direct route from Adelaide to Port Augusta branches off the Great Northern line at Salisbury, crosses over the North Western System at Bowmans, and intersects the line from Brinkworth to Wallaroo at Snowtown. It may be that, in the event of there being no third rail between Salisbury and Red

Hill, farmers in the district would have to cart their wheat a little further in some instance to reach the broad gauge; but we must consider this matter from a national standpoint. Moreover, despite the opinions of experts, I am still unconvinced that there is no danger in providing a third rail. I shall support the second reading.

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