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Wednesday, 10 October 1973
Page: 1875

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) - Transport forms such a large proportion of total Australian costs that I think it is something with which we all should be concerned. Of course, from an economic point of view, it should be one of our principal concerns. There are many phases of transport, but tonight I just want to touch on one of them, and that is related to urban transport. I believe that in the future we should put much more emphasis upon public transport than we have done in the past. It seems to me that some kind of vicious circle is involved here. Losses occur on public transport. Then, in order to make good those losses, fares are put up. Patronage of public transport declines. Fares are put up again. And so the whole grievous process goes on. Public transport has or should have a much greater role to play.

I believe that if we had the courage to break this vicious circle and to put public transport, perhaps in one area to start with and then in other areas, on a proper basis we would improve the efficiency of our whole cities structure.

I do not believe that this principle should be carried to extremes. We have the spectacle of one of the Ministers of the present Government denouncing all freeways. I believe that the freeway concept has been carried too far and that not enough emphasis has been placed on public transport, but I do not go to the extreme of saying that all freeways are bad. I am afraid that this kind of thinking has infected a certain section of Government policy. This is particularly so when a freeway serves not to bring people into the city but to take people through the city. This is much more important than might appear at first sight. Most cities have grown because they are placed in a strategic position and they are the natural point through which traffic passes. This natural tendency has of course been exacerbated by the fact that in the past roads have been built towards the city centre, but the pure facts of geography, quite apart from the roads that have been built, sometimes reinforce this. Think, for example, of the positions of our 2 chief cities in Australia, Sydney and Melbourne. Both of them lie on positions where there is a necessity for a through route. Traffic from the northern suburbs of Sydney cannot cross the harbour east of the harbour bridge, and in Melbourne the same kind of position appears with traffic from Port Phillip. Even when the new bridge, the one that collapsed, is finally completed and opened we will still have the position in Melbourne where throughways will be necessary not just to bring traffic into the city but to bring traffic through the city. I take the position of Sydney and Melbourne as typical. The same kind of condition might apply to other Australian cities, including perhaps Brisbane and Perth. I suggest that although more attention should be paid to, and more emphasis should be placed on, public transport in the city this does not absolve us entirely from the necessity to build freeways, particularly when those freeways will be used for traffic which has to go through the city to get to some other destination on the other side of the city.

Before coming to the particular position of Sydney, let me take up the industrial aspect which the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) raised a few moments ago. One of the points about private transport is that in an emergency it is not so vulnerable to strikes as public transport is. Tonight in Sydney the trains are not running because I believe there is some kind of demarcation dispute. Public transport stops and tangles. Private transport, which is not so vulnerable to this vicious strike action, comes into its own. I know that this is a transitory thing, but when we have a government in Canberra of the type of this Government, strikes occur because the strikers know that they have a great and powerful friend in Canberra. Nothing can be done because the relevant Ministers just have not got the guts to do anything about it and do not dare confront the strikers in the unions. In this situation the strikers become emboldened and more and more strikes occur. It is of course necessary to get rid of this Government if we are to have industrial peace in Australia. I say this in passing because it will only be relevant in this debate to mention it in relation to the fact that although we look to public transport more and more there is this saving grace of private transport that it is less subject to strike action.

Mr Charles Jones - Is it not a Liberal Government in New South Wales and Sydney where the strike is taking place?

Mr WENTWORTH - The Minister asks whether it is not a Liberal Government in New South Wales. It is perfectly true that it is, but when there was a Liberal Government in Canberra also there were fewer strikes in New South Wales because the strikers did not know, as they know now, that in Canberra they have a great and powerful friend who is on the side of industrial disruption. It is this kind of confidence they have which emboldens them, as I have said, to strike and it is because of this that this Government must be thrown out. There will be no industrial peace in Australia until it is thrown out. I have been provoked by the interjection of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) to make this point, because he himself is one of the guilty men who has failed to do his duty in this matter.

Let me come back to the transport position in Sydney. It seems to me that in Sydney more attention should be paid to the underground railway. I say this particularly because of the peculiar situation which exists in Sydney. The sandstone on which Sydney is built is emin ently suitable for the use of the new tunnelling methods. I have gone into this in some detail and I am confident of my figures. In Sydney sandstone a 24-foot diameter tunnel sufficient for a single line rail can be built and finished for only $lm a mile. This makes it cheaper than a surface line where heavy resumptions are involved. But, more importantly, it also preserves the amenities and ecology of the area. An underground line does not require immense resumptions nor does it have the noise of passing trains which can disturb the neighbourhood. In Sydney, particularly because of the geological position in which it is situated, there is every reason to get the lines underground and to have more reliance on underground railways as a means of urban transport.

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