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Wednesday, 16 October 1974
Page: 1792

Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) - The Senate is debating 2 Bills relating to the approval of agreements between the Australian Government on the one hand and the South Australian Government on the other. They refer to the construction of a railway between Adelaide and Crystal Brook and another between Tarcoola and Alice Springs. We support the construction of the Une. It has been pointed out that these railways are of significance and value to South Australia, in varying degrees. Both make a substantial improvement to transportation within the State and from the State to other areas. Both projects are in greater or lesser degree of special significance and will influence the South Australian commercial and social relationship in the State and with the rest of Australia. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) referred in his second reading speech to some historical facts in connection with both lines. I rather regret that he was, in my view, less than fair when he placed the credit where he did when he by-passed the work which was done by previous administrations and previous transport committees. Detailed studies were carried out by other people and other committees. While we applaud the Bills and recognise the benefits which flow from them, I think it is important that we place on record a tribute to those people who have done a great deal of work in time past- not the least of which has been the enthusiasm and knowledge of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). Whatever the history, we come to a situation which has been outlined by the Minister and the Government. We support the measures and wish them a speedy passage.

The important thing to observe here is not only the long-range effect that the line will have on the total life of South Australia in the fields of transportation, business and commerce, but also let me emphasise the strong social effect that the development of these rail links will have. They will link the city of Adelaide with all the mainland capitals by standard gauge rail. This is something for which those of us who are connected with Adelaide and who live in Adelaide have long been desirous. It will mean that passengers, goods and freight are able to move without impediment to the west and, of course, to the valuable market areas on the eastern seaboard. I am contemplating with a great deal of anticipation that the development of both of these raU links will make Port Pirie a central point in the north-south and east-west transportation units and of particular significance as far as the Indian-Pacific routes are concerned.

The Tarcoola to Alice Springs line will be of particular value because it will avoid, I believe, in future the very serious inconvenience which has been created over a period of years by the problems of flooding. In our enthusiasm for the Bills I think we should remember that when the new Une is constructed a considerable area of South Australia will be without a rail link. As has been said here tonight and in other places, in addition to the historic and important centres such as Oodnadatta and elsewhere, the whole cattle station area of the northern part of South Australia will be without this particularly valuable link to the market areas in the south. I hope that as the plans develop considerable attention will be given to the construction of adequate roads. While all of this is to be applauded, and we offer our support for the Bills, I think that it opens up also the whole question of transport in our total community. Transport is everybody's business because everybody needs it and it has a considerable significance in the cost structure of the community. Transport is a public utility with a particular responsibility to the community. I suppose that the argument will always be as to how much the community must be prepared to meet from public funds the cost of transportation services. The Government may well undertake certain promotion activities in order that the resuscitation of rail transport, which is being known and experienced all over the world, will be facilitated in Australia by a variety of means, not only in terms of freight or livestock but also in the very important matter of rail passenger services. The rail pass scheme which has proved so successful in Europe may well be introduced in Australia to enable a greater number of people to use the rail services for passenger purposes. After all, a great deal of money and maintenance will be involved, and we hope that the Government will promote the use of the railway system. The hour is late, Sir. I would like to have developed the theme further, but I will content myself by indicating my support for both Bills.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

The Bill.

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