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Tuesday, 8 November 1977
Page: 3058

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) -This Bill is to be supported because it is quite certain that the Australian transport system needs replanning and research for replanning. There has been a good deal of talk in the past and I think it is unfortunate that so little practical result has emerged from it. I wish to speak on one or two things which could and should be done. Let me remind the House, firstly, that Australia is a country of great distances and where transport costs are very heavy. Secondly, Australia along with other countries shortly is going to face a crisis in liquid fuel. Thirdly, Australia has at the present moment unused resources of labour and materials which could be used now to provide the economies in fuel for the future. In other words, what we are doing now in failing to use our resources of men and materials- these years of the locust can never be recovered- does prevent us in the future redressing our balance on current account difficulties through the costs of importing liquid fuels and the difficulties of buying oil abroad.

Let me come firstly to railways. At the outset we must do something about the SydneyMelbourne line. Considering the volume of traffic that it carries and could carry, that line is a national disgrace. I refer to the section between Junee and Kapooka. Honourable members will recall that between Sydney and Junee there is a double line but at Kapooka this contracts to a single line to Albury- a single line which has to carry not only interstate traffic but also a good deal of local traffic for the Wagga-Albury district. That line is made more difficult by the fact that it has the nasty descent to the Murrumbidgee River which the line crosses at Wagga, and of course the line has to go up again after crossing the river. So the first thing to look at surely is that section from Junee to Kapooka- 20 or 30 miles. This single line should be duplicated in such a way that the uphill grades are eased. This can be done, of course, by using the new line one way up and one way down and using the old line in the same way. Then there is the section from

Kapooka to Albury. This is a relatively flat and easy section. I am not certain at this present moment whether it would be better to duplicate that or whether it would be better to put in a centralised train control. I am inclined to think that the former is the better, considering the volume of traffic which can and should be carried on it.

The next piece of alignment to be considered is in Sydney itself. Honourable members will recall how that southern line snakes out and follows a winding course to Liverpool. The southern line should go out via East Hills and cross the George's River twice and rejoin the existing main line at about Macquarie Fields. There is only about five or six miles in it. There are two bridges over the George's River. This would save an immense amount of trouble and bring quite tremendous economies. I have talked about the route of that line. It should also be considered not only in respect of horizontal curves and grades but in respect of vertical curves also. This used not to be important when short trains were running, but when long trains are running the vertical curves and a change in grade are of quite significant technical importance. That line needs looking at.

That line carries only a small proportion of the goods traffic between Sydney and Melbourne. When I was in England recently I was talking to experts on road-rail traffic and when I told them that there was 600 miles of line between Melbourne and Sydney but still well over half of the goods traffic went by road they could not believe it. It seemed to them utterly incredible because even in England where there is the long haul from London to Glasgow- I think it is of the order of 400 miles- the predominant traffic still goes by rail, not by road although there are the freeways and all the advantages that the roads in England have over the roads here. It is absolutely incredible that so much of the goods traffic between Melbourne and Sydney still goes by road. It is an indictment on the efficiency of our railways.

Then one thinks particularly of the terminals and the way in which containers and other goods are handled at these terminals. I know that one company- Thomas Nationwide Transport Pty Ltd- has made some effort to deal with this. It is, I think, the only company and its efforts are by no means commensurate with the need to get the railways working efficiently. It is not just a question of the physical layout of the terminal; it is also a question of the handling of trains and trucks at the terminal and the co-ordination of the two. Again when I was in Europe recently I had a careful look at what was being done there and I can assure the House that the Australian practices are years and years out of date.

Let me come to the next point about railwayselectrification. When we changed from coal to diesel locomotives we did it for very good reason, namely, that diesel was much more economical. At that time we did not know what the Arabs were going to do to us about oil prices and supplies, but still we made the change and it is paying off but we should be going back to using indigenous fuel, and that means the electrification of main railway lines.

Let me speak particularly of New South Wales where the first priority is the line between Sydney and Melbourne. That line is already electrified between Sydney and Campbelltown. Electrification of that line should be extended as far as Albury. Of course the Sydney to Brisbane line, which is already electrified as far as Gosford, should go via Maitland to pick up the Newcastle links, and the Newcastle system itself should be electrified. Another line which certainly is overdue for electrification is the line from Maitland to Werris Creek. I put this to the House because electrification is particularly desirable where a line has either heavy traffic or heavy grades, or both, because the electric locomotive running on an outside power source is the ideal animal to deal with the heavy grades. If that line is electrified over the hills into Werris Creek it would deal with the main needs of that area as far as efficient rail transport is concerned. Of course we have to think of the Hunter Valley and we have to think of the new systems which are going to go in by reason of the very great increase in coal development in that area, and this proposal that I make will serve them.

Let me turn to the line from Lithgow to Parkes. The line is electrified over the Blue Mountains where there are compensating grades, I think, still of one-m-thirty three- one of the heaviest main line grades in the world. Between Lithgow and Parkes the line gets down on to flat country and there are some very bad grades on that line which carries heavy traffic and it is worth electrification. Finally, the little loop from Sutherland to Wollongong and up to Moss Vale which still carries heavy steel traffic and heavy suburban traffic is one line where electrification obviously is overdue. This is something which could be done now. We are wasting resources and wasting the future. We have idle manpower and idle factories that could produce the equipment. We will need these things in the future.

The years of the locust can never be recovered. This is the time to take action. To fail to do so now because of some obsession about a deficit is really beyond human understanding. We need these things now. We can never recover the time lost in the periods during which factories are idle. It will be gone. Let us get on with the job and do now the things that we shall need in order to cut down our dependence upon imported oil in the near future. In only seven, eight or nine years time Australia 's oil supplies will start to constrict. We may find more oil on the North West Shelf. We have not found it yet. It may well be there. Even if oil is discovered now, it will be many years before it is in economic production.

In regard to railways, we must fix up the main Melbourne line and carry out some electrification. We must concentrate on our main lines. In particular, we must think of the terminals and the way in which traffic is handled. People who know something of the signal system in Sydney know how vastly and unnecessarily complicated the system is. Railways are out of date in their thinking very often because they are still bound to a position where there was no real motor transport. They do not think in new terms. The trouble about a train, of course, is that it runs on rails and is hard to shunt. When one starts to break up a line of trucks and reform them one loses a lot of time and incurs a lot of cost. We have to think in terms of complete rakes of trucks which are never broken up. That is the economic way of doing things. If we do this we can slash freight rates. A massive reduction in rail freights for rural areas is long overdue. There has to be some reassessment of our handling of livestock on rail. By comparing our trucks and the way in which they are marshalled and handled here with what is being done in some countries overseas we see how far out of date the Australian system is and how much we could help our graziers and the whole rural industry if we would reorganise our way of handling livestock on rail. We must get the freight costs down. We should make it possible, when the varied seasons give a drought in one area and rich pastures somewhere else, to move stock about with reasonable facility and at low cost.

I have spoken of rail and I have spoken of goods. I speak now of passengers. The concept of a high speed passenger rail service in Australia probably has little application because we do not have the population concentrations which make it so economical in places such as Great Britain and Japan. Let me talk of our suburban railways. In the cities we have to cut down our use of liquid fuel. This can be done partly by helping public transport to become efficient I do not mean that this should be done by penalising the motorist or making the motorist uncomfortable. I believe that we should do this by giving a better and cheaper alternative. I wish I had time to speak more on this matter. I just indicate to the House briefly that the development of the underground rail system in the cities obviously is called for. We have, here again, to get the costs down. I wonder whether we have taken sufficient note of the possibility of using small buses or whether we have yet appreciated the full impact of having suburban transport on which no fares are collected. The costs of collecting fares are sometimes more than the fares collected. In inner city operations fare collection shows a net loss. We would get a better service and lose less money if we did not collect fares.

I am sorry that the Labor Government in New South Wales is ditching the inner city freeways. It is a most retrograde decision and one which I think can be made only in complete ignorance or with some kind of malicious idea of slugging the motorist. I do not know which it is. In the cities we have to think of proper freeways which, in a sense, will save fuel but also will make it possible for the motorist to use his car to real advantage. We have to save fuel. But what about the liquefied petroleum gas that we waste? Where are the plans for conversion of government vehicles on a major scale from petrol to LPG? Where are the plans to get rid of all excise and other charges on LPG and the corresponding difficulties of using LPG? Where are the plans to organise new outlets for LPG so that motorists can have the convenience of a bowser? Where are the plans to cut down the registration costs on vehicles which are equipped for LPG and which by using that fuel not only reduce our oil bill but in addition reduce- not eliminate- the pollution in cities. This, of course, is only a temporary alleviation. We have to think further of electric vehicles for city and commuter use. They are not, at present, as economic as they should be; but they are improving. The Government should be spending more money on them and showing much more interest in electric vehicles, particularly the small vehicles and the vehicles which can be mass produced and which can give a special service m cities as commuter vehicles.

I am coming to the end of my time not only in this speech but also in speaking in this House. I have been able to put before the House some of the things which I intend to urge when I take my place in the Senate next year. These are some of the things which I believe are the proper concern of a House of review which can look at the overall plans and by so doing hope to improve the efficiency of an Australian transport system which remains, for all our planning, a national disgrace.

Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.

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