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Wednesday, 16 October 1974
Page: 1788

Senator STEELE HALL (South AustraliaLeader of the Liberal Movement) - These are 2 very important Bills for South Australia. I am very pleased to be able to support them in the House and to know that these important transport links for my State will be beginning. They have been long in coming and are overdue, but now it is pleasing that they are being commenced at this stage. I am also pleased to see that the Opposition is not prejudicing further requests on behalf of South Australia by coupling with this very desirable substantive motive a subject for criticism as it did with the States Grants Bill and that we are not prejudicing South Australia's case as Tasmania's case would have been prejudiced had the Opposition been successful in putting its denigratory clause alongside the Tasmanian proposal. I am pleased to see that this stands in isolation as a matter of positive legislation for my State.

I appreciate the remarks made by Senator Jessop. I know of his long interest in this matter. I remember that at one stage in 1969 he became a little excited about the lack of progress on these proposals and said that the State Government was holding up the matter. I remember that the Premier of the day had to say: 'I was sorry to see in this morning's Press the report intimating that the South Australian Government was holding up the matter. Mr Jessop is either misinformed or in error. In fact the situation is that the South Australian Government is awaiting word from the Commonwealth Government on this matter. '

That was said on 19 June 1969. 1 know that the situation that existed then is the opposite to that existing now. The Government in the State as well as in the Commonwealth sphere was to the right of centre and both areas were better governed than they are at the moment.

I can understand Senator Jessop 's impatience, which all of us in South Australia shared at the time, at the lack of positive progress in this proposal. I also remember that the subject became one of some dissension between the 2 governments, as good as they were at the time, and it was eventually agreed that independent consultants would be given terms of reference, which were quite extensive, to report on the possible solution to the- I will not say 'disagreement'inability to reach agreement on this matter. The proposals were presented to the State Government by the independent consultants just prior to the State election in 1970. They were not entirely satisfactory to the South Australian Government of the time. I know that the Government then was trying to arrange a satisfactory agreement for all sorts of reasons, and the forthcoming election could well have been one of them. But it was impossible with the pressure of time to reach an agreement. However, an agreement was almost within grasp in the early 1 970s. That is the fact of the matter between the State Government of the time in South Australia and the Federal Government of the day.

It rather intrigues me why it is 1974 in which we see this legislation coming forward and why it was not late in 1970, 1971 or even 1972. Then we had a break in continuity in South Australia with the Labor Government assuming office and a government of a contrary nature in the Federal sphere. If there had been any argument that the State and Federal governments were at cross purposes in their ideological approach that would have been met in 1972 when the very undesirable fact emerged that there was a Labor government on both the South Australian and Federal scene. There can be no excuse for the delay since 1972 in bringing forward this legislation which is so essential to South Australia.

Senator Button - December 1972.

Senator STEELE HALL -The Labor Party was long in opposition and spent much of its time evolving policies which took many dozens of pages to write up. I am sure it had plenty of time to work out what it would do with standardisation in South Australia. However, it took until now. I say to the Minister: I hope that this major work of great importance to South Australia is not relegated to the sort of importance that was given to water nitration in South Australia, another major project which will cost $50m by the time it is achieved in the metropolitan area. I tell the Minister, if he does not know it, that his Government in South Australia has announced that project at least 4 times. I see it has been included in the Federal Budget this year. I hope this is not one of those things which the Government with legislative backing tends to delay. I hope it gets on with the project because delay will only add to the cost and the cost will not be simply an inflated cost of construction but will be added to by the inefficiencies of transport which apply in the outmoded system and will apply until it is replaced. There is only one other point I would like to make. I have not read the Minister's speech which he gave this afternoon but I understood him to say that the South Australian railways will be the constructing authority. From that I assume that they will bear the entire responsibility.

Senator Jessop - Under the supervision of the Commonwealth.

Senator STEELE HALL - I take Senator Jessop 's addition 'under the supervision of the Commonwealth'. I would like to know how far that goes to the actual completion of the work. Does that mean that the South Australian Railways Department will do all the work, or will it tender for essential items of that work? Here arises a very important question of economies, and I say without fear of correction or contest that work that is let out to tender will certainly be far more economical than work done by the Department. If the South Austraiian Railways Department is simply the responsible construction authority it will use its discretion, no doubt, and let out some work for tender. That ought to be inherent in the construction work. However, I would like a further explanation if the Minister can give it, and confirmation of the view which I hold that the work should not be done entirely departmentally but should bring within its scope the efficiencies which can be obtained only by large construction companies on tender. With those few remarks I certainly add my wholehearted support to the Bill. It gives me great pleasure to support it having had some personal involvement previously in the setting up of the agreed independent consultancy which arrived at what was to be the basis of final agreement. I hope that the work is carried out as speedily as can be arranged.

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