Parliamentary Speeches, Debates and Public Statements about the Alice Springs to Darwin Railway since Self - Government
Hawthorne, Marilyn; Northern Territory Library. Parliamentary Library Service
Research Papers; ParliamentNT; Research paper; no. 2
Contact Library & Archives NT for this resource; Made available by via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT)
Railroads -- Northern Territory; Railroads -- Northern Territory -- Alice Springs; Railroads -- Northern Territory -- Darwin; Railway
Northern Territory Library
Research paper; no. 2
Atttribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)
Northern Territory Government
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According to the Territory government submission, there is quite a steady demand from a number of small steelmakers for ore with the particular characteristics of the Frances Creek material. One of the problems has been economic transport from the mine to Darwin. On page 131, the Hill Report lays out the tonnages that were carried on the old narrow gauge railway. In 1973-74, it was 791 000 t. If you go back to 1970-71, there were over a million tonnes carried on the railway line. So the tonnages that are there are extremely significant. Possibly that was one of the reasons that Mr Hill did not wish to go into that particular area. The inquiry also rejected road-rail transportation for Dorisvale Mine. It decided that Dorisvale Mine could be serviced by road. This was despite previous unsuccessful attempts to truck the ore to Darwin using single-axle trailer units. The alternative is not road transport directly from the mine to Darwin, as suggested by the inquiry, but rather rail-road transport. Obviously, a single trailer would be hauling the ore over 100 km to the highway, then linking up to road trains of probably 60 t or 70 t capacity which would freight to Darwin and then be brought into the wharf area 2 or 3 trailers at a time. That would involve considerable cost - 7 road trains travelling about 175 000 km a year each, plus truck interchanges and additional port unloading facilities. The road-rail system worked with the Mt Bundy mine. It worked quite successfully where the ore was transferred to a rail head and then it was taken directly to the port and the port stacker was used to bulk load ships. Page 294 Mr Speaker, as I said, I was rather disappointed in the Hill Report. I think it is indicative of the fact that the people who carried out the inquiry were not interested in trying to promote a Northern Territory railway. It needs imagination and vision to see that it would be of great benefit to the Territory both socially and economically. I am sure the people who carried it out were not very far sighted. I think the Leader of the Opposition pointed out that there had been problems in New South Wales with uneconomic rail use. I think that Mr Hill may have had a phobia regarding past planning in New South Wales. This caused an over-reaction by him. The result is the report that is with us today. I would like to commend the Chief Minister's motion, Mr Speaker. Mr BELL (MacDonnell): Mr Speaker, I rise in this afternoon's debate to support both the motion and the amendment. The Hill Report is one of many reports into the viability of the north-south rail link. The 1980 Northern Territory-Commonwealth submission is the most recent prior to the independent economic inquiry. The Chief Minister makes much of a commitment by the erstwhile Fraser government to build the Alice Springs to Darwin rail link by 1988. Malcolm Fraser was dragged kicking and screaming into that particular decision and it is worth noting that, as the Chief Minister enjoys saying so frequently, $10m was granted for survey work on the railway line by the erstwhile Prime Minister in 1980. However, by the time of the 1983 federal election, that amount was underspent by half. The incoming Hawke government, supported by the federal Minister for Transport, Mr Peter Morris, allocated $5m to be spent in the 1983-84 financial year to complete the preliminary design work. In one year Labor has allocated as much money as Mr Fraser spent in the previous 7 years. Mr Hawke made an unequivocal commitment to the railway and the expenditure of that $5m showed the federal Labor government's commitment. Mr Hawke was willing to maintain funding for the planning stage while Treasury fought to contain a $9600m deficit, the product of 7 years of irresponsible financial management by the Chief Minister's colleagues. By the time the Labor Treasurer, Mr Keating, brought down his mini-budget in the middle of last year, it was clear to all that the mess Labor had inherited from the Fraser government would cause big problems for the implementation of Labor's election platform. Not only would the new government have to reconsider the north- south rail link but tax cuts could not be made and new revenue sources had to be found. However, Mr Speaker, rather than dismiss the Northern Territory rail link out of hand, the federal government proposed an independent inquiry into the Territory's transport needs to give Territorians, South Australians and anyone else who had an interest an opportunity to participate in the great railway debate.
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