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Wednesday, 16 August 1972
Page: 47

Senator McLAREN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I ask: What are the reasons for the Commonwealth Railways delaying the letting of the contract for the supply of 20,000 concrete sleepers for use in the Commonwealth railway track between Port Pirie and Port Augusta? Is the Minister aware that tenders for this contract were called last April? Is he also aware that the recent closure of the concrete sleeper factory at Whyalla through lack of orders has resulted in 20 men losing their employment and that another 20 men have suffered a similar fate in the David Shearers foundry at Mannum? If the letting of this contract is to be further delayed, will the Minister make provision to allow the South Australian Government and the Cement and Concrete Association of Australia to put further submissions before the Department of Shipping and Transport?

Senator COTTON (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Civil Aviation) - Before I came into the Chamber the Department of Shipping and Transport sent me some information which may help the honourable senator, and to the extent that it does I shall give it to him now. If more information is required I will see that it is obtained for him. The managing director of the company that makes the concrete sleepers has written to the Prime Minister who is apparently looking at this matter, as is the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I am informed that a study is being undertaken by the Bureau of Transport Economics of the relative merits of the cost of concrete and timber sleepers but that it is not yet complete. The Minister for Shipping and Transport expects that it will be completed and given to him very shortly. However, pending completion of that evaluation the Minister has taken steps to ensure that no contracts for sleepers for the Commonwealth Railways will be let without his approval. In the circumstances his problem is that he cannot really give consideration to letting the final contract for concrete sleepers until he has the total report. It may be that we will need to get more information for the honourable senator. We will do that if we can.

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