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Tuesday, 16 December 1930

Senator H E ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - Wheat vessels go to Port Augusta, at the head of the gulf, and there is nothing to prevent an enemy ship from going there. It is now well known that one enemy ship was in the vicinity of Gabo Island. in the early days of the late war. It is true that the late Lord Kitchener advocated the construction of strategic railways, but he also pointed out the great danger arising from the construction of railways near the seashore. He suggested that strategic railways should be built inland.

Senator Daly - This line will not be near the open sea.

Senator H E ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - Is not a gulf a portion of the sea?

Senator E B Johnston - The late Lord Kitchener urged the elimination of breaks of gauge in railways.

Senator H E ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - Breaks of gauge are not so formidable an obstacle to the transport of troops as some people imagine. Horses have to be spelled on long journeys; that can be done as conveniently at a break of gauge station as elsewhere. Moreover, it would be most unwise to transport large bodies of men from one side of Australia to the other. If an enemy knew that such a transffer of troops was favoured by Australian military leaders, he could make a demonstration in, say, Western Australia or Queensland, knowing that troops would be rushed there, and he could then launch an attack at a place from which those troops had been withdrawn. The argument that, from a defence point of view, this line is justified, does not carry the weight that some honorable senators attach to it. Something might be said from that point of view in favour of a proposal to construct a railway from Port Augusta to Broken Hill.

Senator McLachlan - The honorable senator does not suggest that that would be a profitable line.

Senator Daly - There would be no advantage in transporting troops from two unimportant strategic points.

Senator H E ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - Such a line would facilitate the transport of troops from Brisbane and Sydney to Broken Hill, and thence to Port Augusta, instead of sending them to Western Australia through Melbourne and Adelaide. A strategic railway should be able to transport troops to support any threatened point at the earliest possible moment.

Senator Sir John Newlands - The Commonwealth cannot afford to construct many lines of that nature.

Senator H E ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - No; but some honorable members have attempted to camouflage the position by suggesting that the proposed new line is of strategic value to the Commonwealth.

Senator Sir John Newlands - Then why did the late Lord Kitchener recommend the building of the east-west line?

Senator H E ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - I do not know that he actually recommended the construction of such a line as this. It is not in accordance with those of his recommendations with which I am familiar. For those reasons I oppose the bill.

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