2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I had been speaking for about an hour before the luncheon adjournment on Friday last, and when I re-entered the Chamber after luncheon, and found that there was not a quorum present, I asked the honorable member for Barrier if he would direct attention to the state of the House. I did so because the leader of the Government had been away from the Chamber for the whole of the time that I was speaking. He is seldom in the House, except when he is speaking himself, and many of his followers take the opportunity-
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable member may not cast reflections upon the actions of another honorable member while making a personal explanation.
– I understand the honorable member for Hume to be explaining the reasons why he desired the honorable member for Barrier to call attention to the state of the House on Friday last. So long as he confines himself to such’ reasons, he will be in order.
– That is exactly what I was doing. The leader of the Government, as soon as he heard that I was about to speak, took the opportunity to walk out of the Chamber, and he remained away during the whole of the time that I was speaking.
– I really must object to these statements.
– The front Government benches were empty during nearly the whole of the time that I was speaking.
– So were the Opposition benches.
– It was not so with the Opposition benches. Putting aside my personal feelings in the matter, I say that such conduct was disrespectful to the House. I had not much to say after the luncheon adjournment, and would not have taken more than about twenty minutes to concludemy speech.
– The honorable member’s leader was also absent from the Chamber.
– I felt that in justice to the importance of the subject, and to myself, the leader of the Government should have been present in the House, instead of being at the other end of the building, as I understand he was. My object was, not to count ‘out the House, but to bring other members into the Chamber. I regret that the House was counted out; but I could not help it. My object was to compel the ‘members who sit on the Government side of the Chamber to attend to their duties.
– Since my name has been introduced into the explanation made by the honorable member for Hume; I think that I shall not be out of order in making a personal explanation. He stated that I went out of the Chamber just before he began his speech. That ‘may ‘have occurred; but I wish to say that he did not influence my movements on the occasion, and that my absence from the Chamber was due to some call of public duty. My experience is that my presence influences the honorable member as a red rag does a bull, and that the only way to preserve his mental equilibrium is for me to occasionally go out of the Chamber when he is speaking.
– I desired the right honorable member to hear what I had to say. I did not wish to speak behind his back.
– I wish to know from the Minister of External Affairs whether, having regard to his declarations last year as to the six hatters case, he intends to bring in a Bill to amend the Alien Restriction Act so as to remedy the state of affairs of which he complained. If this is not his intention, why is it not?
– I should like to remind the honorable and learned member of the declaration which I made upon the subject before the people of Australia. I placed the matter before them as every sensible politician places a matter before the public. If I have the power to alter the Act in a certain direction, I will do so the moment I discover the fact; but an alteration of the Act is not part of the policy of this coalition Government. I should like to say that one of my strong objections to the painful incident referred to was the unjustifiable delay which occurred in dealing with the case, during which the men concerned were kept in durance vile. I guarantee that there will be more prompt administration, so far as I am concerned, and that no such painful experience will occur in the future.
– In last Friday’s Herald an honorable senator is reported to have said -
Mr. Reid offered a portfolio to a Western Australian, who would not pocket his pride and accept the office.
Is it a fact that a Western Australian representative was offered a portfolio in the coalition Government?
– I can understand the question of the honorable member, in view of the peculiar circumstances in which he has recently been placed.
– Do I understand that theright honorable gentleman refuses to answer the question?
– And he is the selfappointed representative of Western Australia !
– I absolutely refuse to enter into these matters.
– I wish to repeat the question which I asked of the Minister of Defence on Friday last. Has he yet come to a determination to have the ornaments, buttons, badges, and so forth, used by our Military Forces made in the Commonwealth ?
– I have made inquiries, and I have ascertained that, during the term of office of my predecessor, Senator Dawson, the buttons were ordered from England, but the badges have not yet been ordered. I ‘am now making inquiries to ascertain if it is not possible, as I believe it will be found to be possible, to obtain as good an article at as cheap a price from Australian workmen as could be obtained abroad.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question which I presume he can answer for his better half as well as for himself. Is the statement attributed to the Postmaster-General, that it is the intention of the Government to interfere with the exploitation of the butter industry by certain gentlemen who are engaged in private enterprise, correct? If so, how does he reconcile it with his own statement that he does not believe in Socialism, or the extension of its principle?
– I regret to say that I have not yet received any communication from my honorable colleague the PostmasterGeneral upon the subject to which my honorable, friend refers. In the absence of any information as to my honorable colleague’s utterance, I am not in a position to answer the question.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether he will take steps to have applied to the other States regulations similar to those in force in Victoria, which make it imperative that the tenderers “shall manufacture the goods supplied to the Department upon- their own premises, and shall not sublet their contracts in any way ?
– The honorable member was good enough to inform me that he proposed to ask this question, but I have not yet had time to make inquiries. I can promise, however, that the fullest inquiry shall be made, and that everything shall be done to insure that the workmen, as well as the contractors, receive every consideration.
Mr. REID laid upon the table the following paper: -
Report of the Royal Commission on the Affray at Goaribari Island, British New Guinea, on the 6th March,1904, together with the proceedings, minutes of evidence, and appendices.
Ordered to be printed.
– I desire to know from the Prime Minister whether he is accurately reported in this morning’s news- papers as having stated that his party, when in opposition, refrained from such tactics as attempting to count out the House ; and, if so, whether he is aware that during one sitting his party attempted to count out the House no less than twenty times ?
– If any such thing occurred I can only say that it affords sufficient proof that I was not present.
– The right honorable gentleman was present.
– I do not remember the circumstances referred to.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, in reference to his announcement that the Government did not propose to appoint a High Commissioner until after a conference had been held between the Commonwealth and the States Governments, whether he will assure the House that ‘he will not attempt to appoint the High Commissioner without previous legislation?
– I not only will not, but I cannot do so.
– Yes, the Government could appoint the High Commissioner without salary.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, as chairman of the House Committee, if any measures have been taken to improve the ventilation of this Chamber, and, if so, what means have been, adopted to increase the circulation of the air.
– Immediately after the honorable member for Hunter had called the attention of the House to the subject of the ventilation of the Chamber, some time since, a meeting of the House Committee was held, and it was decided that, instead of the fresh air being forced into the Chamber at a point just above the woodwork, and thereby, as was pointed out by the honorable member, leaving undisturbed a body of vitiated air near the floor, the air should be forced in through openings beneath the seats all round the Chamber. The work was immediately put in hand, and was completed some three or four weeks ago, since which time the new system has been in full operation. As I had not heard any complaints, and as I was aware that circulation of air in the Chamber ‘had been rendered much more complete, I presumed that success had been achieved. I was, however, informed on one occasion that in at least one portion of the Chamber the air was very bad, and I have taken steps to-day to have a further quantity of fresh air forced into the Chamber, and to ascertain whether there are any corners in which the air still stagnates. If honorable members will inform me from time to time as to the condition of the atmosphere, I shall be able to deal with the matter more thoroughly. If there are causes for complaint, and they are not mentioned to me, naturally they will remain unremedied. I shall be pleased if honorable members will mention to me any matter which, in their view, requires attention.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether the position of telegraphist at Jervis Bay, where messages involving the safety of life and property are frequently sent and received, is to remain “ non-official,” with a salary of £72 per annum ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The position of the telegraphist at Jervis Bay is now being inquired into, with a view to a full reply being given as soon as the necessary information can be obtained.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon no/ice -
Whether it is correct -
That the State of New South Wales is debiting the Commonwealth with£280 for land at Darlington upon which a post-office is being erected by the Government?
That the land in question was vested in the Darlington Borough Council, and that the said council, being desirous of getting a postoffice suitable to the locality, freely ceded the rights they possessed to the land for that purpose subsequently to the control of the Post and Telegraph Department passing to the’ Commonwealth ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The Municipal Council of Darlington offered, as a site for a post-office, part of the area vested in them for Town Hall purposes. This was accepted, but it was found that the council had no power to dispose of the land, and the State Government was moved to resume the part desired for postal purposes. The resumption has taken place, but the State Government now intimate that they have no power to alienate, but they will have no objection to the Commonwealth acquiring the land under the compulsory acquisition provisions of the Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act, at a valuation of£280 4s.
Debate resumed from 17th August (vide page 4264), upon motion by Mr. Watson, as amended -
That the Bill be now recommitted to a Committee of the whole House for the reconsideration of clauses 4, 37, 38, 39, 46, 52, 67, 68, and go and Schedule B, and the consideration of proposed new clauses 52A, and 95 A.
– I did not happen to speak when this debate was initiated. Possibly, by some prescience, I thought it would be more convenient that I should be in a position to make a few remarks at the present stage. I wish to say that the Government have considered the proposals embodied in the motion, and are perfectly prepared to go into Committee for the purpose of considering them. As to, I think, all the propositions but one, we are in a. position practically to approve of’ them. Many of them are unimportant, others are intended to remove drafting difficulties, and the only one of serious importance, to my mind, is the first. We have not had the advantage of a discussion, either upon the second reading of the Bill or in Committee, upon the precise matter involved in the first proposal, and I’ shall be interested to hear the reasons which influenced the late Administration in suggesting this al-, teration.
– What is the first proposal ?
– To eliminate from clause 4, paragraph b of the definition of “ industrial dispute.” The clause provides that, apart from disputes between organizations of employes and employers, or organizations on both sides, the Registrar, can certify that existing disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State are disputes which in the public interest ought to be brought within the jurisdiction of the Court. The proposal of the late Administration was that this provision should be. omitted.
– Such cases are provided for in another sub-clause.
– That is the point with regard to which I should like to hear an explanation by. my honorable friend. I intend to suggest an alteration in the paragraph as it stands, which, I think, would effect a great improvement, but I should first like to hear, in Committee, the reasons to be advanced for omitting the provision..
– What is the right honorable gentleman’s proposal?
– I think that it would be only fair to the late Administration if we were to first hear what were their reasons for suggesting that the paragraph should be omitted.
– What do the Government propose to do with regard to clause 48?
– That is not now embraced in the motion.
– As a matter of practice, I would point out that, if there is no objection to the recommittal of clause 4, and if the question is simply as to what shall be done with clause 4 upon its recommittal, that matter could be most appropriately dealt with in Committee. If there is any difference of opinion as to whether the clause should be recommitted, that matter should be debated at the present stage.
– I am not quite certain as to the exact stage we have reached in this debate. If the effect of my speaking now would be to close the debate, I do not wish to bring about that result.
– I desire to move an amendment providing for the recommittal of clause . 32A to enable me to again bring before the Committee a new clause which was partially discussed in my absence on a previous occasion.
– As there seems to be some uncertainty as to the rights of honorable members to speak to the motion, I may inform the House that the position is that the motion we are now discussing- was moved by the then Prime Minister, the honorable member for Bland. The only other member who spoke to that motion was the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who concluded with an amendment, and the whole of the debate which followed, and which’ extended over several days, was upon that amendment. That being so, the only honorable members who cannot speak to this motion, if they now desire to do so, are the honorable member for Bland and the Minister of Defence.
– I wish to move the recommittal of clause 92, in order to enable me to submit a new sub-clause, to be known as sub-clause 2. I gave notice of my amendment to the late Government, and” when the Bill was originally discussed in Committee, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat supported a proposition which I then made to so amend the clause as to enable a witness to give evidence in camera if there was any danger of the disclosure of a trade secret. The then Government promised to recommit the clause if I desired them to do so, and I am glad to say that I subsequently prepared an amendment which the late AttorneyGeneral was able to accept, and which met, not only my own wishes, but those of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. I think that when it is put forward the Committee will agree to it.
– What is the amendment?
– I understood that when I first mentioned my proposal it also had the support of the honorable and learned member for Corinella.
– I do not object to the recommittal.
Amendment (by Mr. G. B. Edwards) agreed to -
That after the word “ clauses,” line 5, the figures “32A,” be inserted.
Amendment (by Mr. Crouch) agreed to -
That after the figures “ 90 “ the figures “ 92 “ be inserted.
– If the amendment of which notice has been given by the leader of the Opposition be carried, it may be necessary to reconsider clause 28, because the Bill as it now stands gives no power to an employer to submit a dispute to the Court! That evidently is due to a mistake on the part of the draftsman. The difficulty is partly overcome by paragraph’ b of clause 4, which it is now proposed to excise, and if that provision be omitted it may be necessary to reconsider clause 28. I therefore move -
That, after the figure “4” the figures “28” be inserted.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move-
That after the figures “52” the words “62, paragraph b,” be inserted.
My object is to secure the amendment of paragraph b.
– In what way?
– It will be time enough to discuss the matter when we go into Committee.
– I merely desire to know the nature of the proposed amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- The feeling I entertain towards these proposals and the Bill generally may be simply stated. A majority in this House has carried provisions which in my view render the Bill absolutely unworkable and valueless, and I therefore do not consider that any responsibility in connexion with it rests upon my shoulders as a friend of- the measure. I contend that the Bill will not be availed of.
– Will the honorable member mention in what respect he considers it valueless ?
– I hold that the amendment, carried on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, is absolutely unworkable, and, so far as I have been able to obtain any indication of the position from the unions, they are not likely to register under it. That being so, the Bill must fail in the object for which it was ostensibly introduced. It can hardly be claimed that that will be the result simply because preference is denied to them ; but, as I indicated when the main question was being discussed during the late crisis, it will be rather because it is absolutely impossible in many cases to prove when a union comprises a majority of those engaged in the trade to which it relates. The honorable member for Moira, speaking in Committee, before the question was made a party one - and therefore I presume when he was free to express an opinion based on the practical knowledge which he undoubtedly possesses-
– When was I in a different position?
– When party considerations came into play the honorable member seemed to lose sight of those aspects of the matter which he had put forward whilst speaking in Committee. According to Hansard, page 2640, he said on the 23rd June last, when discussing the amendment moved on clause 48 by the honorable and learned member for Corinella -
I have said that I have not studied the amendment proposed’! by the honorable and learned member for Corinella ; but, from what I have heard of it, it would appear to be open to objection, inasmuch as it would make it necessary to secure the opinion of the majority of the workers in any particular industry.
Although the honorable member had not studied the amendment at that time, he had become seized of the crux of it, namely, that it insisted upon a majority of those affected by an award approving of any request for preference. The honorable member is a practical man, and particular at- 7 s 2 tention should therefore be paid to his opinions. On the occasion to which I have referred, he went on to say -
In the earlier clauses of the Bill we have laid it down that 100 members may constitute an organization having a right to submit a proposal to the Court. If people are compelled to go beyond that to find out the absolute number of workers in any particular industry, that they may be able to prove to the Court that they have a majority of those employed in the industry behind them, their task would appear to me to be an almost impossible one.
I said that the honorable member was absolutely right. If there is a majority of honorable members honestly anxious to pass a measure which can be taken advantage of, this provision must be altered. Honorable members have so far decided not to alter it, and it seems to me that there is now no course open to those who are in favour of an effective measure, other than to throw the whole responsibility for the failure to pass such a measure upon the shoulders of those who have put this Bill in the shape in which it now appears. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat is another witness whom I desire to call. The honorable and learned gentleman said -
The Attorney-General urged that the clause proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella was open to objection, because it imposed difficulties upon the Court in the way of interpretation. I admit that it does. But, I say deliberately,/ without any hesitation, that it imposes on the Court a smaller burden than would be imposed by the clause which the Government have asked to substitute for it.
The latter part of that opinion certainly gives some reason why the proposal submitted by the late Government should not have been accepted, but it does not at all answer the fact that the difficulty exists in regard to the interpretation of the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella. As one who was anxious to see this Bill passed in such a shape that it could be taken advantage of by the people generally, and believing, as I do, that, in the shape in which if now is, it cannot be effective, and that, so far as the great majority of unionists are concerned, no attempt will be made to take advantage of it, I say that our duty, is to put the whole responsibility for this state of affairs upon honorable members opposite, the wreckers of the measure.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee - (Recommittal).
Clause 4 (Interpretation).
– The honorable member for Bland apparently does not propose to move the amendments given notice of by the late Government.
– I propose to take no further part in it.
Clause agreed to.
– We will not be parties to putting a fraud on the people.
– The honorable member appears to have accepted what he says is a fraud.
Clause 28 (Disputes of which the Court has cognisance).
– I mentioned this clause as requiring to be reconsidered on the assumption that the amendment, of which notice had been given by the leader of the Opposition, would have been persevered in. I do not intend to move any amendment myself, but I should like to draw attention to the fact that as the Bill now stands an employer has no power to submit a dispute to the Court - it must be submitted by an association of employers or an association of employes. It is necessary in the case of employ6s that an association should act for the whole, because one man could not do so; but there may be only one employer who may have a thousand hands in his employ, and as a matter of right that employer should have the power of submitting to the Court a dispute between himself and his workmen. As the Bill now stands, no such power is given.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 37 -
The award of the Court shall be binding on -
all parties to the industrial dispute who appear or are represented before the Court ;
all parties who have been summoned to appear before the Court as parties to the dispute, whether they have appeared in answer to the summons or not, unless the Court is of opinion that they were improperly summoned before it as parties;
all organizations and persons on whom the award is declared by the Court to be binding as a common rule ; and
all members of organizations bound by the award.
– In connexion with this clause I propose to adopt the amendment suggested by the lateAdministration. I therefore move -
That after the word “ is,” line 13, the words “ at any time,” be inserted.
Paragraph c will then read -
All organizations and persons on whom the award is at any time declared by the Court to be binding as a common rule ;
There is an obvious utility in the insertion of these words, as. otherwise technical objections might arise as to the powers of the Court in enforcing its own orders.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 38 -
When an award or order of a State Industrial Authority is inconsistent with an award or order lawfully made by the Court, the latter shall prevail, and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be invalid.
– Two amendments suggested by the late Administration in this clause are, in my opinion, very proper amendments to make. I move -
That after the word “When,” line 1, the words “a State law or,” be inserted.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Reid) agreed to.
That after the word “ award,” line 1, the word “ or,” be left out.
That after the word “ order,” line 1, the words “ or determination “ be inserted.
– I point out to the Committee that by inserting . this clause in the Bill we are going far beyond our powers under the Constitution. This point was previously taken by the ‘ honorable and learned member for Angas, but honorable members did not see fit to accept the honorable and learned member’s view. I desire now to express my thorough agreement with the position then taken up by the honorable and learned member. I think this provision is beyond our powers and it should not be included in the Bill. I formally record my objection to the clause.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 39 -
Subject to the Constitution, no award of the Court shall be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed, or called in question in any other Court on any account whatever.
– I notice that the first words of this clause, to which attention was drawn when the Bill was last discussed during the time of the late Government, have not been withdrawn. It was, I think, the honorable and learned member for Indi who first called attention to the fact that the words “ Subject to the Constitution “ might convey a very serious implication. The clause, without those words, is clear ; and I was able to inform honorable members, when the Bill was last before us, of the circumstances under which the words were introduced. The object was to satisfy the lay members of the Barton Cabinet that there was no intention to override’ the Constitution. For .that purpose only were the words introduced ; and I pointed out at the time that the clause, as it stood, would suffice. In the subsequent discussion in Committee, it was stated that “ subject to the Constitution ‘ ‘ having been introduced, the implication on the part of the Court probably would be that it was intended that, even if the Court created under this Bill were to override, to ignore, or to contravene some of the express provisions of the Act, its action could hot be called in question in any other Court whatever. In point of fact, from the insertion of these words the implication would be that the Court would not be subject to anything except the Constitution, not even to the Bill under which it was created. That was a very serious consideration, and I followed the honorable and learned member for Indi in asking that special attention should be given to the point. I presume that attention was given by the late Government; but their inaction seems to me sufficiently momentous to, at all events, call for explanation. I think it would require a good deal of argument to satisfy the Committee that,’ when we are passing a Bill for the purpose of creating a Court with certain very large and definite powers, we, at the same time, intend that any illegal action of the Court, so far as that action would be made illegal by transcending or violating part of this Bill, shall not be called in question in any other Court. The additions which are to be proposed at the end of the clause are a decided improvement, and with them I entirely agree; but those additions appear to be called for quite independently of the words “ Subject to the’ Constitution.” The proposal is to add two sub-clauses which allow the President, if he thinks fit, to obtain the opinion of the High Court, and’ authorize the High Court to hear and determine the question and remit the opinion to the President. That is a very useful and proper provision, but it does not affect the prior issue. The question is whether we intend, by the insertion of the words, “ Subject’ tb the Constitution,” to set the Court free from the obligations which we ourselves have so carefully and elaborately set out in the Bill, or whether we do not mean what the clause originally said, namely, that no decision of the Court is to be challenged, appealed against, or called in question by any other Court, unless the decision is contrary to the Constitution - a restriction which, even if we wished, we could not evade or disqualify - or contrary to this Bill. I take it that the intention was - I know it was my intention when the clause was drafted - that the Arbitration Court was to possess the powers set out in the Bill, and no others - just those powers for a specified purpose, and was not to be set free from any obligation, or to be allowed to create an authority for itself without the sanction of Parliament, as expressed in the Bill. I move -
That the words “ Subject to the Constitution “ be left out.
– It is evident that the words “ Subject to the Constitution “ may lead to confusion, and as they are absolutely unnecessary in any of the Commonwealth Acts, which are, every line and word, subject to the Constitution, I accept the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat.
Amendment agreed to.
– In regard to this clause, the late Government made certain suggestions which I propose to adopt, if the Committee are agreeable. I move -
That the following new sub-clauses be inserted : - ” [z The President may, if he thinks fit, in any proceeding before the Court, at any stage and upon such terms as he thinks fit, state a case in writing for the opinion of the High Court upon any question arising in the proceeding which, in his opinion, is a question of law. “ (3) The High Court shall hear and determine the question, and remit the case with its opinion to the President, and may make such order as to costs as it thinks fit.”
It is obviously desirable that the President should have the opportunity to take the course which this amendment would empower him to take in the interests of all parties, so that the law may be ascertained at the earliest possible moment on perhaps some vital point.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).Although the members of the late Administration do not take any responsibility for the Bill as it stands, still I think that in courtesy to the Prime Minister, I ought to state that the words which he proposes should be inserted were adopted by the late Government in pursuance of the promise made to the honorable and learned member for Corinella in the course of the discussion.
– I think the promise was made to the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs.
– The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs also may have spoken on the matter, but I was not aware of the fact. At all events, the desire was to, as far as possible, prevent litigation in the ordinary Courts with regard to the proceedings of the Arbitration Court. So far as the late Government were concerned, they did not recommend this proposal, but simply promised to submit it in pursuance of the generally expressed wish of honorable members, and, of course, as we promised so we performed. I should myself prefer to omit the words, inasmuch as the Judge of the Arbitration Court will be a member of the High Court, and it is very improbable that he will make a mistake in the. law of any matter before him. However, the Committee now understand how these additional words came to be proposed.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 46 -
Provided that in the case of an organization of employers consisting of less than one hundred members, the maximum penalty may be fixed at any sum not exceeding such sum as would, when multiplied by the number of members, amount to One thousand pounds.
– I move-
That after the word “ organization,” line 4, the words “ or an employer, not being a member of an organization bound by the order or award.”
The effect of the amendment is to make a single employer liable to any penalty up to the maximum, always subject, of course, to the discretion of the Court.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Reid) agreed to -
That after the word “ of,” line 8, the words “ members of “ be inserted.
That after the word “penalties,” line 17, the following words be inserted, “ fixed (or if maximum penalties have not been fixed not exceeding the maximum penalties which could have been fixed) under.”
That the words “ mentioned in,” line 17, be left out.
That the words “ and to specify to whom such penalties in whole or in part shall be paid,” paragraph d, be left out.
That after the word “ award,” line 25, the words “ or order “ be inserted.
That the word “ the,” line 29, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “an.”
That the words “ and to fix penalties for any breach or non-observance of the common rule so declared,” paragraph g, be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 52 -
Where any organization or person bound by an order or award has committed any breach or nonobservance of any term of the order or award for which the Court has fixed a maximum penalty, proceedings for recovery of the penalty may be taken in any Court of Summary Jurisdiction constituted by a police, stipendiary, or special magistrate.
Amendment (by Mr. Reid) agreed to -
That all the words after the word “ award,” line 3, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the woids “ any penalties which the Court has power to impose may be imposed by any Court of summary jurisdiction constituted by a police, stipendiary, or special magistrate.
– It appears to me that this clause, even as amended, goes rather too far.
– The object of the clause is to give power to the Court in a particular case to give part of the penalty to a member of an organization which comes before the Court, as distinct from giving the penalty to the organization. The object is to meet the ends of justice in particular cases.
– Does it not go rather farther than that ? I am satisfied if it goes no farther than the amendment indicates.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 62 -
Any of the following associations may, on compliance with the prescribed conditions, be registered in the manner prescribed as an organization : -…..
Provided that no such organization shall be entitled to any declaration of preference by the Court when and so long as its rules or other binding decisions permit the application of its funds to political purposes, or require its members to do anything of a political character.
– I move-
That all the words after “ industry,” line 7, be left out.
When clause 48 was under discussion and was carried, the general impression was that it was going to be recommitted, and in those circumstances this proviso was inserted in clause 62. In anycase, the words of the proviso are only downright hypocrisy, so far as the operation of the Bill is concerned.
– Did not the honorable member vote for their insertion?
– In the peculiar circumstances in which the Committee was placed at the time, I could not do anything else. I did not get a chance to vote against them. I had to accept either the honorable and learned gentleman’s amendment or the other. I had to accept the lesser of two evils. It is no use to say that this is a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, when it bears upon its face the stamp of fraud and hypocrisy. I desire the omission of the proviso because it would be impossible to put it into practice; for everything which a trade organization may do, must depend on political organization. Under these circumstances, even if this proviso were carried, it would be practically useless.
.- I must confess that I am a little at a loss to understand the proposal of the honorable member for Kennedy to omit a proviso for which he voted. He says that it was the lesser of two evils. Well, it was a proviso which the late Government accepted.
– As the lesser of two evils.
– They were in the same position as I was.
– When it was being discussed the late Government did not say anything about the proviso being the lesser of two evils. Not one of them said at that time that it was anything but a good amendment.
-I beg the honorable and learned gentleman’s pardon.
– How simple the Minister is to suppose that they would !
– I am surprised at the interjection of the honorable member for Darling, because I was certainly under the impression - obviously a false one - that at any rate the principle of this proposal was one which he favoured. I suppose that I misunderstood him.
– I should think so; I was strongly against it the whole time.
– What was the position at the time this amendment was carried ? There was before the Committee a proposal that I happened to move containing exactly the same words as now appear in this proviso, with the exception that it went a good deal further, and proposed practically to say to unions that they should not be plaintiffs in arbitration court proceedings as long as their rules permitted the application of their funds to political purposes, or required their members to do anything of a political character. The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs moved, as an amendment to my amendment, to substitute the words which appear in this proviso -
Shall be entitled to any declaration of preference by the Court.
Honorable members will recollect that I moved, as an amendment to that amendment, to insert certain words.
– The honorable and learned member was prolific in amendments.
– I am still prepared to stand by them all. I still believe that what I said in connexion with them was correct, and I am not prepared to abandon that opinion under any circumstances.
– Does not the honorable and learned gentleman think that this provision should be in clause 48?
– I do not know whether it should be in clause 48’ or not, but it does very well where it is, so far as I am able to judge. The late Administration did not propose to recommit this clause and alter the drafting.
– I asked that it should be recommitted.
-The late Administration, which says that it accepted this proviso as the lesser of two evils, continued to accept the evil when it proposed to recommit theBill.
– What about the then Opposition and the provision relating to the railway servants? Are not honorable members on the other side now swallowing the whole lot?
– I shall read to the honorable member something that I said on the 23rd June.
– The Minister of Defence is not the whole of the Government, “is he?
– I am not, any more than the honorable member is the whole of the Opposition, even though he is their whip, and a very important member of the party.
– I asked the late Ministry to insert this in clause 48, and they refused to do so.
– The honorable and learned member is tied up ; why does he not keep quiet?
– Order. I ask honorable members, especially those in .’responsible positions, to refrain fro-.n interchanging remarks across the Chamber, and to allow the speaker to proceed, with ‘his remarks.
– I was saying, when I was interrupted, that the late Administration, although it had ample time for considering what clauses it would recommit, and decided, in accordance with its announcement, to recommit clause 48, did not propose to recommit clause 62.
– Because it was a bargain. . .
– I do not know why the honorable member for Kennedy, who is a! member of such a solid, indivisible, and allunited party as we read about in the daily press is allowed to break away from his leaders.
– It refutes the argument about the caucus.
– Because’ we have freedom of action.
– One is always pleased to learn these things, however late in the day.
– That condition of affairs has been always existent.
– If recent events have produced that very desirable result, they have not been in vain.
– It has never been anything different, except in the imagination of the honorable and learned gentleman and his friends.
– It will be recollected that this particular amendment, in its present form, was carried by a majority of one. The late Prime Minister proposed to reconsider its verbiage with a view to its recommittal later on if it were thought necessary, and, from circumstances over which I presume he had no control, he decided at the last minute to accept its exact verbiage, and Dame Rumour does say that it had some effect on the division which took place a few minutes later. But, apart from that, the late Government accepted this amendment, and the honorable members who spoke on it - particularly such members as the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, and I think the honorable and learned member for Indi, and others - drew attention to the fact that here was a plain, and a more proper, dividing line than the one suggested in my amendment. I cannot say that I yet agree with that view. But, as I said long ago, after the amendment relating to the railway servants was passed, and before even clause 48 was dealt with, whether certain proposals of mine were agreed to or not, I would support the third reading of the Bill. I have no reason to recede from the position which I then took up. I would ask the honorable member for Kennedy, who has now learned from the lips of the late AttorneyGeneral, as well as from the honorable member for Bland, that on a previous occasion an agreement was arrived at that this particular amendment should be accepted, whether he thinks he ought to place his leaders in such an embarrassing position-
– We are free from bargains now.
– What happened to the Minister of Defence upon a former occasion, when he left the Turner Party and joined th« McLean Government ?
– The honorable member is referring to some action of mine upon which my State constituents arbitrated several years ago.
– They decided against the. honorable and learned member.
– They did, and I did not pull a poor mouth about the matter, or utter any complaint. I trust that whenever I Have the misfortune to have a spoonful of gruel presented to me I will take it with the best possible grace. I ask the honorable member for Kennedy not to place his leaders in the false position of having to vote against an amendment which they accepted, and of which they approved in the most practical way by declining to submit a proposal in favour of the recommittal of the clause.
– Do not worry about us.
– I am not worrying. The honorable member, I understand, wishes me to worry about myself, but I have not begun to do so yet. I repeat that the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs proposed this amendment, and that the late Administration accepted it. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne now declares that honorable members opposite are free from any bargains into which they previously entered. I venture to hold the view that they are not free, if they wish to be consistent. They agreed to this amendment, and they must have regarded it, individually at any rate, as a practical one. I think that the interjection of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne was really a casual one, and that he scarcely considers himself free to vote against a proposal which he so fully accepted on a former occasion. So far as the proviso itself is concerned, I think that the Committee were practically agreed not only that it was justifiable, but that it was desirable that some line of demarcation should be drawn between political and industrial purposes in organizations either of employers or employes. The only question that arose was as to where that line should be drawn. I think it was the honorable and learned member for Indi . who . pointed out that here, in the progress of an industrial dis: pute, was reached the point at which a non-member of a union had a right to complain of being forced - by the granting of a preference to unionists - to join a union. His view was that, so long as a man was not compelled to join a union by the fact of a preference being extended to its members, he was not concerned with the question of whether politics entered into its affairs or not, but that the moment a pre ference was granted by the Court, he had a right to protest against politics forming any part of its platform. Here, therefore, he urged, a point was reached, at which not only was it permissible, but absolutely proper, that a line of demarcation should be drawn. I thoroughly agree with that view. Personally, I thought that the point should have been reached earlier. I know that the leader of the Opposition agrees with me that no man should feel that he is bound to join a union in order to obtain work, if that union exists for political purposes. Under this provision, therefore, if not at an earlier stage, the purely industrial character of the Bill should begin.
– Does the Minister know any union that has not political objects ?
– Upon, a former occasion the honorable member himself made a long speech to show that unions were not political organizations. I recollect very well when he spoke from the Government benches, because I occupied a seat in the Ministerial corner.
An Honorable Member. - Why was the Minister there?
– I occupied that seat in order that I might hear the honorable member to better advantage. I wanted to hear what he had to say. After he had resumed his seat I had the honour to rise and to address myself to the same question. I remember that I discussed the question of whether trades unions were political organizations, and in doing so I referred to the Australian Workers’ Union. The honorable member thereupon handed me their deed of association, in order that I might read for myself, and learn that it was not a political body. I read a number of the objects of that union, and it seemed to me that it did partake of the nature of a political organization.
– Nobody has ever denied that.
– The honorable member wished us to believe that it was not a political body.
– No; I pointed out that in New South Wales a certain portion of its funds were devoted to political purposes.
– The honorable member urged that, except in New South Wales and Queensland, trades unions were not political organizations. I am sorry that I have not had time to obtain a few quotations from Hansard upon this point, tout it was only when the honorable member for Kennedy proposed the recommittal of the clause that I realized it would be raised, and even then I did not anticipate that the Opposition would take up such an unfriendly attitude towards the Bill’. The position is that after long debate, and earnest consideration, this Committee, by a majority of one, accepted the amendment in its present form, as compared with the amendment in a stronger form. If parliamentary procedure means anything, I may therefore claim that the whole Committee were then agreed that some limitation was desirable.
– The amendment was only carried by a majority of one.
– But those honorable members who constituted the minority, desired to obtain a still greater measure of restriction. The amendment in its present form represents the minimum restriction which the Committee would sanction. If the honorable member for Kennedy insists upon pressing his proposal to a division, I venture to say that honorable members will practically unanimously confirm the decision at which they formerly arrived, after a prolonged debate which extended over two or three days. I have no doubt that honorable members who then pointed out so clearly that this was the proper point at which to draw the line of demarcation, still entertain that opinion.
– I have just spent two or three minutes in looking up the Hansard report of the discussion upon this amendment, and I must say that I am astounded at the attitude which has been taken up by honorable members opposite. No doubt the Committee will recollect the debate which took place upon a former occasion. The honorable and learned member for Angas moved ari amendment to limit the organizations which could register to organizations which were constituted solely for the purposes of the Act. The honorable and learned member for Corinella moved a lesser amendment, prohibiting organizations which had political aims or objects from coming before the
Court. Then the honorable and learned members for Darling Downs and Indi prepared an amendment to the effect that no organization should be allowed to ask for preference if it were a political organization. The reasons which they gave are fully set out in Hansard). The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs is reported on page 2918 of that record to have said -
For my part, I should prefer that unions should not have political rules. At the same time, I say that if there is a large organization, composing nearly all the employes engaged in a specific trade, and if they have political objects in view, I do not believe that when they come before the Court for a decision in an industrial dispute the Court will be actuated in any way by a consideration of the politics of the union.
Later on, he said -
I again point out that the difficulty can arise only in connexion with the giving of a preference to unionists. I should like to ask the Minister of External Affairs, who is at present in charge of the Bill, if he will consider the advisability of dealing with this difficulty. Could we not provide that, where unions are political bodies, no preferences shall be given them until the objectionable political features are removed from their rules?
So that the first suggestion came from the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs. He continued -
The honorable and learned member for Indi and I have given this matter considerable consideration. We have tried to see whether we could not meet what is the substantial objection against the clause.
Later on, he said -
When we come again to deal with the question of preference to unionists, what I desire to see carried is an amendment which will provide that no preference of any description whatever shall be given to a union if by rule its funds may be appropriated in whole or in part for political objects.
– They could be political up to the last moment, and then be dropped.
– Sp long as they do not ask for preference as a political organization, no harm will be done.
The then Prime Minister spoke on the subject on the same day. His remarks, as reported on page 2945 of Hansard, ‘are most interesting. They are as follows : -
The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs put forward an idea in regard to preference for unionists. In my opinion these two matters are largely bound up, as was rightly indicated by the right honorable member for East Sydney, and I think I am therefore justified in saying a word or two in regard to them. As I understand it, the view put forward by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs was that we should make some attempt to safeguard the non-unionist from preference to , unionists being granted to his detriment, and that would obviate the necessity for the amendments which are now before the Committee.
Then he is reported, on page 2946, to have said -
I am quite prepared to meet the position by agreeing to an amendment that will secure that no preference shall be granted to a union whilethere is anything in its rules to which reasonable objection can be taken.
– Why does not the honorable and learned member quote the extract at the top of the page?
– He said that he would much prefer that there should be no limitation whatever on preference. Then he told the House that he was prepared to accept an amendment to the effect that no preference should be given to a union, if there was anything of a political character in its rules. The next person to come on the scene was the honorable and learned member for Indi, who is reported on page 2956 to have said -
I see no reason for denying them - the trades unions - access to the Court, no matter what their political faith may be. But the moment they ask for an advantage or a preference ; the moment they say, “ We . want something more than a non-unionist can get,” then coercion commences, if they get it. If the Court gives it to them it says to other workers, “ You shall not get equal rights unless you join an organization.” If that organization has a compulsory political platform it is not giving political freedom to the outsider, and we should prohibit preference under any circumstances, so long as that political platform exists.
I think that that is a position which every honorable member on this side of the Chamber indorses. He further said -
The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has been good enough to associate. himself with me in trying to frame an amendment which I intend to propose, and which I understand the Prime Minister is willing to accept.
He quoted the amendment, which is as follows: -
No preference shall be declared to any organization under this Act if its rules, decisions, or practices, or any of them provide for or permit either the application or appropriation of its funds, or any part thereof, for any political purpose whatever, or any political action on the part of the organization.
That is going as far as any honorable member on this side of the Chamber wishes to go at the present time. On page 2957, he is reported to have said -
I should much like to see no preference, if it could possibly be avoided. I think that preferences ought, in any case, to be most sparingly dealt out.
– If it were possible to have no evasion of this Act, I should be glad to see no preference, but preference is necessary in some cases to prevent the evasion of the Act.
– Most of us would agree to that. On the night when the division was taken, the then Prime Minister said again that he was prepared to accept the amendment. The present Prime Minister chaffed him for surrendering his principles, but he became indignant, and denied in the most vigorous language that he had surrendered his principles. To quote from pages 3028-9 of Hansard, he said -
I say that the proposal put forward by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, and the spirit of which was accepted by me last evening, is quite in consonance with the views which I expressed in Sydney, I think, eighteen months ago, when a matter cropped up affecting this particular question, or affecting the aspect of it now under consideration.
– Is he rejecting it now?
– He is giving a good deal of covert support to the proposal to reject it. I, therefore, say that the twin leaders of the Opposition were in harmony in support of this particular sub-clause, and that it was prepared by the two best friends in- the Opposition corner possessed by the then Government; and as it was exhaustively debated, the conclusion come to upon it is one . upon which I donot think the Committee should go back, more particularly as the then Government did not propose to recommit the clause.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 67 -
The Court shall hear the application and if it is of opinion that the registration should be cancelled, it shall so order, and thereupon the registration of the organization under this Act. shall be cancelled, but so that the cancellation shall not relieve the organization or any member thereof from the ‘ obligation to comply with any award, or from any penalty or liability incurred prior to the cancellation.
Amendment (by Mr. Reid) agreed to -
That all the words after “ shall be cancelled “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following new sub-clauses : - “ (3) Where the Registrar has, on application made to him, refused to make an application for the cancellation of the registration of an organization, the Court may, if it thinks fit, on the application of any organization or person interested, order that, the registration of the firstmentioned organization under this Act be cancelled, and thereupon the “.registration of the organization shall be cancelled. “’ (4) The cancellation shall not relieve the organization or any member thereof from the obligation to comply with any award, or from any penalty or liability incurred prior to the cancellation.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 68 -
During the pendency of any dispute or matter before the Court, no application to cancel the registration of an organization which is a party thereto shall be made or received, and no resignation of or discharge from the membership of any such organization shall have effect.
Amendment (by Mr. Reid) agreed to.
That the words “ no application to cancel the registration of an organization which is a party thereto shall be made or received, and,” be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 90 -
No person shall wilfully insult or disturb the Court, or interrupt the proceedings of the Court, or use any insulting language towards the Court, or by writing or speech use words calculated to improperly influence the Court or the members thereof, or any witness before the Court, or to bring the Court into disrepute, or be guilty in any manner of any wilful contempt of the Court.
Amendment (by Mr. Reid) agreed to -
That the words, “ the members thereof,” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ any assessor.”
Clause, as- amended, agreed to.
Clause 92 -
No evidence relating to any trade secret, or to the profits or financial position, of any witness or party, shall be disclosed except to the Court or published without the consent of the person entitled to the trade secret or non-disclosure.
Penalty : Five hundred pounds or three months’ imprisonment.
Amendment (by Mr. Crouch) agreed to.
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ (2) All such evidence shall, if the witnessor party so requests, be taken in private.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Schedule B -
The name of every registered organization shall contain the name of the industry in connexion with which it is established, and shall also contain the word “employers” or “employees “ as the case may be.
– I move-
That the words “ and shall also contain the word ‘ employers ‘ or ‘ employees,’ as the case may be,” be left out.
We quite agree with the late Government, that, if this requirement were insisted upon, in every case, it would cause inconvenience.
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Reid) agreed to -
That the folowing new clause be inserted : - “ 52A. Where the Court, or any Court of sum mary jurisdiction, imposes any penalty for any. breach or- non-observance of any term of an order or award, it may order that the penalty, or any part thereof, be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, or to such organization or person as is specified in the order.”
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 95A. For the purposes of this Act, a State
Court or Magistrate, whose jurisdiction is limited, as to area, subject-matter, or parties,, to any part of a State, shall be deemed to have jurisdiction throughout the State.
Provided that on the hearing of any proceeding in a Court of summary “jurisdiction for therecovery of any penalty, fine, fee, levy, or due, the Court, if in the interests of justice it thinks fit, may adjourn the hearing to a Court of summaryjurisdiction to be held at some other place in the same State.”
I may explain that the object of this new clause is to destroy the rigidity of States boundaries, in order to promote the elasticity of Federal administration.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 32a. - (1) Whenever the President or Court shall so require the parties to any industrial dispute shall each supply written proposals for the settlement of . the different points in dispute, or offers of compromise, stating the full extent of any compromise which they are willing to make on any such points. Penalty :£100. “ (2) If any proposals or offers are supplied pursuant to the preceding sub-section, and the Court afterwards proceeds to an award, then the award on each point in dispute shall be one or the other of the proposals for settlement or offers of compromise so supplied, unless the Court shall, for special reasons, see fit to expressly decide to the contrary.”
The proposed new clause embodies a principle which I have endeavoured from the first to have inserted in the Bill. I have somewhat recast my original proposal, owing to certain strictures passed upon it by the honorable and learned member for Indi, when it was previously before the Committee. It does not often happen that I am absent from the House, but, unfortunately, I was not present on the occasion to which I refer, and I do not think that the principle underlying my proposition received that consideration which it merited. It is for that reason that I have again submitted it. The proposed new clause, as originally framed, dealt merely with efforts at compromise. It was drafted by the right honorable member for Adelaide, and carried out entirely what I had in view. Any effort at settlement made under the direction of the Court would necessarily be in the direction of a compromise, even if it did not recede one iota from the original effort which the party in question might have made. To do away with the criticism to which my first proposal was subjected by the honorable and learned member for Indi and several others, I have so re-cast the clause that it will cover, not only an effort to compromise, but any effort that may be made subject to the conditions of the clause. It is, to my mind, a complete refutation of the charge levelled against me by the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, that a vote given by me on another clause showed that I desired to destroy the Bill. I think that this proposal, which has been before the House from the first, must show that I am a friend of this class of legislation - a greater friend than are many of those who have denounced my advocacy of the measure as. political hypocrisy. I should like to briefly review some of the main provisions of the Bill in order to show, why my proposal should be adopted. It does not involve the fate of any Ministry. It has been brought forward by an obscure member of the House, and I am afraid on that account that it will not receive that consideration which it deserves ; but I feel sure that . some such principle as that underlying my proposal will ultimately be embodied in legislation of this class, or it must necessarily break down. It is for this reason that I desire, carefully and sin cerely, to point out what are my reasons for endeavouring to secure the insertion of this principle, or something as closely akin to it as the Committee will accept, in this Bill. The Bill is entitled, “ A Bill for an Act relating to Conciliation and Arbitration,” and honorable members should be sufficiently aware of its contents to know how much of it really deals with conciliation. The word “ conciliation ‘ ‘ appears in the title’ of the Bill, and also in the introductory provisions contained - in clause 2, sub-clause 3 -
To provide for the exercise of the jurisdiction of the Court by conciliation with .a view to amicable, agreement between the parties.
No further reference to conciliation is to be found in the Bill until clause 32 is reached. The intervening provisions deal entirely with arbitration, but in clause 32 we have this reference to conciliation -
The Court shall, in such manner as it thinks fit, carefully and expeditiously hear, inquire into, and investigate every industrial dispute of which it has cognisance, and all matters affecting, the merits’ of the dispute, and the right settlement thereof.
Then in sub-clause 2 there is a further reference to conciliation -
In the course of such hearing inquiry and investigation the Court shall make all such suggestions and do all such things as appear to it to be right and proper for reconciliating the parties and for inducing the settlement of the dispute by amicable ‘agreement.
If this Bill were consistent, part with part, one would expect a clause like this, declaring the general scope of the Court, to be followed by further provisions relating to conciliation, and providing for regulations dealing with the subject. But so far from that being the case, we find that there is only one further reference to conciliation in the Bill. It is to be found in clause 42, which provides that -
The Court may temporarily refer any matters before it to a Conciliation Committee consisting of an equal number of representatives of employers and employees, who shall endeavour to reconcile the parties.
Seeing that outside the title of the Bill itself only two definite references to conciliation are to be found in the measure, I think it has no right to the name which it bears, unless we make provision for something in the direction at which my proposal aims. Setting aside for the moment the scope of the Bill itself, and referring to the operation of such legislation in New Zealand, New’ South Wales, and elsewhere, we find that unless it provides some means to induce the settlement of disputes so far as possible by conciliation, the Conciliation and Arbitrations Courts become congested to such an extent as to make the legislation under which they exist inoperative and, indeed, a perfect farce. There are disputes now awaiting settlement in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court of New South Wales with which the parties are unable to do anything, because they know that in some cases it is impossible for the Court to take any step towards their settlement for a period of about two years. My desire is to bring about a settlement of disputes by some rough and ready means of natural justice. During the discussion of another clause, the honorable and learned member for West Sydney inquired what was “ natural justice ‘ ‘ in the view of the honorable member who was using that term? By the term “natural justice,” in its application to the proposed new clause, I mean that we should endeavour to put the parties to a dispute in such a position that they cannot attempt to gain any benefit for themselves that will not involve a corresponding benefit to the other side should they fail in their endeavour. Although this may seem a somewhat novel proposition to introduce in the statute-book of the Commonwealth, I may point out that the main principle underlying it can be found in legislation in force elsewhere, and that it is embodied more or less in many -of the enactments of the States Parliaments of Australia. I have previously pointed out that we find it in the old law of the Athenian democracy. A party charged with an offence during the fierce democratic struggles which prevailed in those days, had a right to plead guilty or not guilty, and to have his case decided accordingly, or to go further, and to name a minor penalty as en itpared with that affixed by the complainant, who acted the part of public prosecutor. It is well known to honorable members that Socrates, the philosopher, - when charged with an offence against the laws of his State - the offence of corrupting the youth - had the penalty of death nominated against him by the parties who had instituted the proceedings. It was then open to him. to plead guilty, and to nominate a far less drastic penalty, and that having been done, the dycastery, or jury, might have extended mercy to him, knowing that the prosecution was more or less a political one. In that way Socrates might have saved his life, but in a spirit of philosophical con- tempt for the prosecution, he nominated a penalty so low that the dycastery refused to accept it, and he went to his death.
– He demanded to be treated as a public benefactor.
– That is so. He demanded to dine at the Prytaneum at the public cost. That is an instance of the introduction of a principle, very similar to that which I advocate, in the criminal law of a very advanced state of civilization, and of resort being had to it for a very good purpose : to ‘mitigate the severity of the political strife which, in some instances, led to the institution of these criminal prosecutions. I desire to refer to one of the features of the oldest legislation of which we know. A book entitled The First of Emfires, which has recently been placed on the shelves of the Parliamentary Library, gives a description of a system of leasing, under improvement, which prevailed in olden days, and in which the very principle I am now advocating was observed. These Laws of Kammurami, the -first known laws that have been recovered from the ruins of ancient empires, embodied a principle under which a man took a lease of land to lay out as an orchard, under all the circumstances in which land is taken up to-day for improvement purposes. The condition in most of the leases was that in ten years’ time half the land was to revert to the original holder. In order that the original holder might have the full benefit of the improvements effected upon the land it was left to the lessee to divide the land in halves, and then the original holder selected which of the halves he would take. There, again, there was applied this principle of a rough natural justice, under which the parties concerned were’ able to compose their disputes without going through the formality of fighting them cut in a court of law.
– But it was a very bad code of law; they had no cure, no pay for doctors.
– It is true that they had that rule; but that does not affect my present line of argument. Coming nearer to our own times,, in fact to the legislation of the various States forming the Commonwealth, honorable members are aware that we have a similar principle embodied in the Customs Acts of many of the States, though’ I do not know that it is to be found in the Commonwealth Cus- toms Act. Under many of the States Customs Acts it was left to the importer to value his own goods. The only check upon him was that if the State authorities chose they could say, “ We think you are undervaluing your goods,” and they could then put a 10 per cent, advance upon them, and take over the goods at the importer’s valuation, plus the .advance. This, again, was a rough and ready natural way of securing a just valuation of the goods by putting the importer in such a position that unless he put a fair valuation on his goods he ran the risk of incurring the injustice he was endeavouring to inflict upon the State, by having his goods taken from him at a slight advance upon his valuation. The same principle has been adopted in the matter of land tax assessments in Australia, and in the neighbouring Colony of New Zealand. The land-owner is allowed to assess himself at what rate he pleases. If the State authorities consider that he has grossly undervalued his property, they can add a slight percentage to his valuation, and take over the property. Though I have not seen the Act, I am told that some fourteen years ago, in New South Wales, when it was found necessary to resume many of the extravagantly large leaseholds that had been given to people in the early days, it was decided that, although the total area should not be resumed, it would be wise in the interests of the State to resume at least half. Here, again, it will be understood, that if the State decided to cut the leases in halves and take one of the halves, the greatest injustice ‘might, in some cases, have been done to the lessees. Instead of that, the enactment provided that the lessee might halve his holding in any way he thought fit, and then the State stepped in, through its officials, and decided which of the two halves it would resume. It will be at once seen that, when it was left to a man to divide his estate, and he knew that the State would step in and take one of ‘the halves, he would take precious good care to see Chat they were equal. I desire to include this principle in the Bill. I believe that it would have the effect of settling many disputes in a far better way than bv Arbitration. A settlement which is likely to be arrived at after a long contested fight under arbitration, and with all the bitterness likely to be created in that way, is one which is not likely to. be the most desirable. The whole scope of our consideration now should be not to create trouble by leaving the settlement of all cases to the Court, and thus occasioning bitter disputes, but to put the law in such a position that the desire to take advantage of it will not. be so great as it is at the present time, and that litigants may come to the conclusion that it is better for them to accommodate their differences, under the supervision of the Court, than to fight them out. I direct the attention of the Committee to the precise terms of my amendment. It will be seen that I do not propose to make it compulsory on the Court to require that the parties shall put in their best offers. That is left to the discretion of the Court. Throughout the discussion upon this Bill we have heard the argument used that we ought to trust the Court, and I think that if there is anything on which we should trust the Court it is on a principle of this sort, -when we know that already the Arbitration Courts in New South Wales and in New Zealand have intimated a desire to have some such a power as I suggest. They may not . have said so in so many words, but, over and over again, they have told litigants, “ This is not a matter with which you should trouble us ; you should be able to settle it amongst yourselves. This is not a matter of great importance, and our time is required for the consideration of matters of much graver import. You can surely settle this amongst yourselves.” If the Court had the power I propose, not only would it use it in cases where plainly in the best interests of the operation of such legislation it should use it, but litigants themselves would see that by adopting this line of action they would have a better chance of settling their disputes, under the supervision of the Court, in such a way that the Court would register the decision arrived at, and it would be carried out with all the formalities of law attached to an award by the Court - the finding being registered in the Court as an award of the Court. I should like to refer as briefly as I can to the report of the Royal Commission on Strikes. in New South Vales. I am sorry to think that the volume in which it is contained has not been largely made use of by those who have devoted their attention to the legislation now before us. There is in this volume, and in the evidence obtained by the Commission, very much that would greatly assist those designing such legislation as we have now before us. In paragraph 8 of the report, having used the. word “ conciliation,” the -Commissioners say -
In using the term “ conciliation “ for the first time in this report, it is convenient to remark here that the terms “conciliation” and “arbitration “ are often employed somewhat vaguely as if they were interchangeable, and yet they represent two distinct things. The function of any conciliation agency is to get the parties’ to a dispute to come to a common agreement voluntarily without any opinion being pronounced on the merits or any instructions given. The function of arbitration is distinctly to determine the merits, and to give a positive decision to be abided by. If the declaration of such a decision can be avoided it is well that it should be, because decisions are generally more or less adverse to both parties, for even splitting the difference is an equal censure upon both. But conciliation, if it is a success, allows of a friendly settlement on a mutual agreement, and leaves no opening for discrediting the understanding or impartiality of the arbitrators. That being so, the practical question that arises is, how should this primary remedy of conciliation be applied.
– All the same, conciliation always means splitting the differ- 6hcc
– Yes; but I hope to be able to show the honorable member that the object I have in view is to entirely do away with splitting the difference. Further on in the report, the Commissioners state in paragraph 12 -
Taking all these things into consideration, we recommend that, in the first instance, at least, and until circumstances justify some further differentiation in the constitution of the labour tribunal, there should be only one board, but that this one board should be empowered in some form to discharge, as occasion may require, the double duty of conciliation and arbitration. That is to say, that its first effort should be towards bringing about a voluntary agreement between the parties, and failing that, that the board, or the permanent part of it, should discharge the duty of adjudication, and pronounce a decision.
The object I have in view is to give effect to the principle reported upon by this Royal Commission. We here have a Court, whilst the Commission speak of a Board, and I desire that our Court should use all the powers with which we can invest it to have these disputes settled at the conciliation stage before the parties are forced into litigation at the arbitration stage. Dealing with the evidence submitted to the Commission, it will be found that on page 60 of the appendix to their report, an account is given of the Wallace Act, passed in the State of Pennsvlvania - a measure framed to facilitate arbitration in industrial disputes. ‘ There are letters in connexion with this evidence from re presentatives on both sides, commending the operation of the Act, and , anticipating advantageous results from its development. Since those letters were written, there have been serious strikes in the coal-mining industry of Pennsylvania, as honorable members are aware - the very industry to which these letters refer - and a glance at the results of the early operation of the law discloses a sufficient reason for the failure of the Pennsylvania legislation. It is another case of attempting to settle these matters by “splitting the difference.” The coal trade tribunal of the fifth judicial district of Pennsylvania was licensed under the Wallace Act, to which I have referred, in 1883, and consisted of five representatives of each side, and an umpire chosen by them as a body. A strike was on, and the operators - which is the name they have ‘for masters there - offered 3 cents, per bushel for mining, whilst the miners demanded 3J cents. After several lengthy discussions, it became apparent that an agreement could not be arrived at without- considerable delay, and as an earnest of good intentions it was ordered that the miners should resume work immediately, at a price to be thereafter fixed by the tribunal - the price to date back to the time of the resumption of work. The umpire had to be called in, and he awarded a price. Honorable members will know at once what his award was. As usual in these circumstances, the price he awarded was 3J cents. The men wanted 3J, the masters offered three, and the umpire gave an award of 3J cents. This award, whilst it was apparently a disappointment to both parties, was accepted and concurred in for a few months as arranged, but before the expiration of that time the tribunal met to fix the price for a further period. This time the masters offered 3J cents., and the men demanded 3§’ cents. Again the services of the umpire were requested, and he again split the difference, and awarded 3J cents. This award did not appear to be satisfactory to all, but it was accepted. Since then we have had great strikes amongst the coal miners in Pennsylvania. What I say in this connexion is that if the award ultimately given in this case had been given at first instead of the original . decision it would have satisfied one of the parties, whilst the other would have been in no worse position, and work would have been resumed. But under this system of splitting the difference the demand is always increasing and the concession is always lagging tardily behind.
Several of the witnesses before the Royal Commission on Strikes in New South Wales anticipated the friction that would arise over the principle of “ splitting the difference,” which the new clause is designed to remedy. One of the witnesses was Mr. W.- E. Abbott, a gentleman well known to the representatives of New South Wales ; and the following is an extract from his evidence, as reported on page 114: -
If we cannot enforce the decisions of the Court, do you think, as a rule, the decisions of the Court would be acquiesced in? - No.
Then- what would be the use of it ? - The Court, as a means of settling disputes of that kind, would be no use, but as a means of registering agreements between the employers and employes or their unions it would be valuable.
Then the best thing to be done is to have some arrangement for a written agreement to be registered in Court, at which either party can sue and get damages? - Yes, that is the only point I see on which the law can interefere in any way. If a Court undertook to interfere in any way, in such questions as whether a shearer should be paid 20s., or 2£5., probably the Court would split the’ difference in some way ; they would not give the 25s., and they would not give the 20s. At least that is the rule in most Arbitrators’ Courts. Either side can then reverse the decision of the Court. If a Court said that 22s. 6d. was a fair thing, then the shearers would take the 22s. 6d. for the time being, and then go for 30s., in which case they would get (say) 24s., or the employer would say that 22s. 6d. is not right, and he will go for 17s. 6d.
My contention and that of Air. Abbott is that in the whole course of cur legislation all we are doing, unless we have some means to induce conciliation, is to absolutely constrain the men to make the largest demands, and absolutely constrain the masters to yield the smallest concessions. By this system of splitting the difference, which we see in so many of the decisions, the parties to these great industrial and social disputes, which are so dangerous to our ma,terial welfare, and our internal’ peace, are forced further and further apart, whereas the design of legislation should be to induce them to come nearer and nearer - so near, in fact, that, in many instances, it will not be worth while to proceed further. I have read an extract from the evidence of one of the witnesses who represented the employers before the Royal Commission ; but honorable members may accept my assurance that there is evidence to the same effect on both sides. One of the witnesses examined was Mr. Peter Joseph Brennan, president of the Trades and Labour Council, Chairman of the Australian Labour Conference, founder of the Stewards’ and Cooks’ Union, and secretary to the Butchers’ Union. Surely an occupant of all those positions ought to be able to speak of what was anticipated as the result of legislation, so far as unions and workmen are concerned. Yet Mr. Brennan, on page 99, is thus reported : -
In any Court one side or the other is bound to be dissatisfied wilh the decision, but the rule has been with arbitrators to split differences ; if in Courts of law they do not split differences, in Courts of Arbitration they have always split them ; not only in the case of private arbitrators ; Mr. Oliver was not a private arbitrator, and Mr. Barton was appointed by a County^ Court Judge; I will not go into the technicalities of the matters sent before Mr. Oliver, but I will say generally that the miners were willing to submit to competent arbitration.
This man, representing unions of workmen, says that the whole tendency in Arbitration Courts is to split the difference; and I go further, and say Chat if there is this tendency, this legislation will intensify and increase the number of disputes which we are setting forth with such good intentions to prevent. I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the case of the Monumental Masons’ Union against the Master Monumental Masons, heard in the New South Wales Arbitration Court. The men claimed that the price of cutting and blacking letters on free-stone tombstones should be 12s. per 100, whereas the respondents contended that the price ought to be ros. 6d. The Judge considered it utterly absurd to suppose that reasonable men could .not arrange whether 10s. 6d. or 12s. 6d. should be paid for the work. I cannot say that, personally, I see that Che Judge’s remarks were called for, because the difference between 10s. 6d. and 12s. 6d. was the difference in the wages for the day, and many other disputes heard before the Court do not involve quite so much. However, this is what the Judge is reported to have said -
Trie Court having power to dismiss any matter at any stage of the proceedings, where it thinks the dispute trivial, considered this .absolutely trivial and dismissed it.
I do not know whether we are -justified in reflecting on the conduct of Che Judge, but if His Honor be correctly reported, I do not think that the men had their case properly inquired into. What I do say is, that the men ought to have had an opportunity such as I desire should be given, to submit their case to a primary or preliminary proceeding of conciliation ; and, if it were impossible to have the dispute settled in that way, then, no Judge’s time is too precious to be devoted to the work. Again,, in the dispute between the Barrier Branch of the Amalgamated Miners’ Association and the Broken Hill Proprietary Co., the men asked for a 10 per cent, rise, and the masters wanted a 10 per cent, reduction in the wages; and the decision of the Court was practically that the parties should continue on the terms which had hitherto prevailed. I am not going to say whether the decision of the Court under the circumstances of the miners at the time was reasonably sound or not; but I do say that questions of that character, decided on those lines, will inevitably give rise to further litigation, and increase the number of great industrial disputes rather than, tend to decrease them and bring about easy settlements. But there is another and a most flagrant case of settling disputes on the principle of splitting the difference. Some time ago in the New South Wales Court, the case of the Hotel, Club, Restaurant, and Caterers’ Employes Union was dealt with, and it is referred to on page 37 of the reports of the Arbitration Court. These men demanded sixty hours per week of six days, and the offer of the masters was seventy-one and a half hours for cooks, and seventy-eight for other classes of employes. The decision of the Court was in the first case .seventy hours per week of seven days, and in the second case seventyseven hours per week of seven days. The demand in regard to wages was for chief cooks, £3, the offer of the. masters was . 61 1 os., and the decision was £2 5s. ; for second cooks the demand was £2 5s., the offer was £1 5s., and the decision was £I 10s. ; for third cooks the demand was £1 15s., the offer was £1, and the decision was £1 5s. ; for general hands, the demand was £1 5s,, the offer 12s. and 15s., and the decision was £1 ; for casual employes, the demand was 15s., the offer was 10s., and the decision was 12s. 6d. In each of these particular cases, which involved the wages in different branches of this business, it will be seen that the demand and the offer were very wide apart indeed, and the only way which the Court could find to settle the dispute was to add the two sums together, and divide them. If that is to be the principle on which disputes of the kind are to be settled, we do not want a learned Judge, versed in British law, and a good deal of other law, and with a large salary, to settle such matters, because any ordinary, common-sense individual would be able to arrive at decisions of .this character. I do not deny for a moment that the Judges of such Courts give decisions involving points of very much greater importance than those which I have instanced; but I protest against that system of settlement for the reason, as I have said, that it must tend to increase litigation, and that it leaves behind it a more bitter and troublesome spirit amongst masters and men. If my proposal were adopted, we should say to the masters, in effect, “ What is the best you can offer?” and to’ the men, “What is the least you are prepared to accept?” The difference in the amounts would be reduced, and the parties brought so close together as to make it certain that the Arbitration Court would come to- a satisfactory decision, and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the parties themselves would deem it advisable to come to an agreement and have it registered in the Court. A similar plan is attempted in other countries. The honorable and learned member for Indi, in the early stages of the discussion on this Bill, made some reference to the Conseils de Prudhommes in France - ari institution which has much more limited jurisdiction than it is intended to give the Court under this Bill, but which works satisfactorily. I understand that in connexion with this organization there is a principle adopted, which, however, I cannot find referred to in any book dealing with the subject in the Parliamentary or other library. But a witness before the Royal- Commission, whose evidence I give for what it is worth, stated that in the Conseils de Prudhommes five of the arbitrators are selected by the masters from among the men and another five are selected by the men from amongst the masters. If that be the case, the principle is the same as that of the clause which I propose. Under such a system the masters would select moderate and reasonable men, who are not likely, for any purpose, political or otherwise, to carry matters to extremes, and similarly the men would select employers whom they knew to be the most honest and the best-disposed towards their employes. Such a plan would result in a set of arbitrators more likely to come into accord than would be the case if each side appointed their own arbitrators. We here have the principle of natural justice, for which I have been contending ali through my remarks, and which has been attained elsewhere. The facts will be best known to the particular masters and men selected as arbitrators, because they will be connected with the dispute; and, under the clause which I propose, the Court might be empowered to allow each party power to select a man from the other side. Above all, the clause would relieve the congested state of the Arbitration Courts. We know that, at the present time in New Zealand, and, perhaps, to a greater extent, in New South Wales, it is almost impossible to get disputes settled owing to the large amount of work with which the Courts have been rushed ; and the number of cases, so far from decreasing, is increasing. I do not, as some other honorable members do, hold the opinion that the Arbitration Courts create litigation. In many instances, after having once got an award registered, parties will not apply for another award, though they may ask for a variation to meet changing circumstances. The fact remains that both in New South Wales and New Zealand, the Courts are overburdened to the point of breaking down. In the principle of the new clause I have proposed, we have a means of making this class of legislation much more perfect than it is in the two States I have mentioned. I do not know to what extent honorable members consider that the Court will be occupied with disputes in different parts of the Commonwealth, but it is inevitable that if the High Court, in deciding as to. the extent of our power to interfere, should be in favour of the Arbitration Court under this Bill having very full, almost plenary powers to deal with the labour disputes of Australia, the Court will have an immense body of work - work which not one Judge, nor even six Judges, will be able to do. For that reason, more than any other, if wc desire this legislation to be successful in carrying out the objects which we wish to attain, and to remedy disputes, we must provide beforehand for preventing the Court being choked with applications, and so making it break down by the very weight and quantity of litigation. I say again, as I said in opening, that I desire this legislation to be successful. I wish to see it successful to the extent of ending our industrial warfare from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. In this clause, which I recommend to the consideration of honorable members, we have a means of making the Bill more perfect, and of carrying it into effect with less chance of disastrous failure than I fear will exist if some such principle is not adopted.
– I have listened to the honorable member for South Sydney during a part of his address with a great deal of interest and with a desire to bring my mind to support his proposal; but I candidly confess that while there is much to be said in favour of the amendment, I do not think, on the whole, that the balance of the argument is in favour of it. For instance, one of his contentions is that this proposal will do away with the congestion of business which exists in the Courts as at present conducted. I do not think there is any analogy between the Courts as at present conducted and the Court proposed to be established by this legislation. We are proposing to set up, for the first time, a Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. I venture to say that that Court will deal with and settle many matters which now go to the Arbitration Courts as at present constituted. Speaking with a great amount of practical experience on this subject, I do not think that a proposal of this kind would shorten the operation of such cases by one minute. I rather think that it would have a tendency to lengthen them. It often happens that a compromise is hit upon through sheer exhaustion or through disgust at the way in which the Court is spinning matters out. But if the alternative were to accept one proposal or the other, the issue would be fought out to the bitter end, particularly if there were a margin between the two offers which might make it worth while to conduct the argument with strenuousness, and at length. Therefore, the amendment would not save time, but would rather tend to lengthen proceedings before the Court. Neither would the honorable member’s proposal do away with the splitting of the difference about which so much has been heard. Remember that in all these cases proposals will emanate from both- sides before the matter goes before the Court at all. It is only after failure to agree that they will go to the Court for a final verdict. If the parties do make minimum offers to the Court, it would be a splitting of the difference on their own part, as compared with their previous offers to each other. Because, if thev could agree upon a basis of settlement themselves, there would be no necessity to go to the Court. It is only when they have made offers to each’ other and have failed to agree that they go to the Court and ask the Judge to split their differences for them, or to settle the case in any way he chooses. If they make fresh minimum offers to the Court, it will simply be doing . what the honorable member has been deprecating - splitting the differences themselves prior to their being argued in Court. But to my mind the Conciliation Court will unmistakably tend to promote good feeling as between the combatants. That is my experience of conciliation. It is different from arbitration. It often happens, as a result of splitting the difference and coming to an agreement around a table, that a good feeling is brought about between the parties. I fear that under a proposal of this kind good feeling would not be the result. Rather I should imagine that the party whose claim has not been accepted would leave the Court with a very bitter taste in its mouth. I do not think that in this respect the proposal of the honorable member has much to commend it. In view of the fact that we are setting up a Conciliation Court, I do not think that what he proposes (would be any better than the Court proposed to be set up.
– Can the honorable member show me anv provisions for conciliation in this Bill?
– That is the intention of the Bill, although it may have been carried out clumsily. The intention is to preserve and promote good feeling between the combatants. The very process of splitting the difference settles a great many more strikes than it provokes, and it does more than anything else I can think of at the moment to promote that good feeling which we all desire to see between employer and employé. On the whole, therefore, I think we had better stick to the proposal of the Bill, which leaves the matter to the discretion of the Court, and allows the President to step between the combatants and to reach the point of justice, no matter how difficult it may be.
– My clause also leaves it to the discretion of the Court. I trust the Court fully.
– Only in cases where special reasons appear. Ordinary cases would not be within the discretion of the Court. I have no doubt that the Judge would often, in any case in which he desired to step in, find special reasons. It is an easy matter to say that certain reasons are special. But that phrase itself is very vague, as applied to industrial disputes. What does the honorable member’ mean by “ special reasons “ ?
– I can show the honorable member much more vague expressions in othelr parts of the Bill. What, for instance, is a “ substantial majority “ ? .
– I am not carping at the honorable member’s drafting. Personally, I cannot see what special reasons he is alluding to. I fancy the honorable member had something in his mind when he was drafting this proposal.’ But I fear that it would lead to the protracting of cases, and to more! strenuous and bitter argument, while it would not be provocative of that good feeling which the Bill aims at promoting.
– The Government have a great deal of sympathy with the object of the honorable member for South Sydney. His idea is, of course, that each side should be induced to state the minimum of what it wants, and- not the maximum, which it hopes it might squeeze out of the Court. That is an object which it is always desirable to attain in connexion with litigation of any kind. But I am afraid that the amendment might, if adopted, lead to results that the honorable member himself does not contemplate. I listened with a great deal of interest to the illustrations which he gave of the . application of similar proposals. But I was not in the Chamber during the whole of his speech, and I do -not know whether he quoted the case of the wise ‘old man who had two sons, to whom he left his property. He directed that the elder son should divide the property, but that the younger son should ‘ have the first choice. He made that direction with a view of having the property divided as equally as possible. The instances which the honorable member gave are more in the nature of analogies than of parallel cases. In the first place, I should like to point out to him that the Arbitration Court is called into existence not merely to do what an ordinary Court does - that is, to settle a dispute arising between two parties, in which the rest of the public are at most very remotely concerned. It is called into existence to consult as far as possible the interests of the public as well as the interests of the parties to the dispute. It is more in the public interest - or, at any rate, as much in the public interest - as in the interest of the parties, that it has been thought desirable to create Conciliation and Arbitration Courts. In the second place, I do not think that this proposal would meet the objections raised by the honorable and learned member for Indi, where one side makes a claim in which it thinks that it is absolutely right - and possibly may be almost absolutely right - and consequently cannot see its way to make any concession whatever.
– Then it stands on its rights.
– I think that is not exactly the idea that is conveyed by the honorable member’s amendment. I also think that a proposal of this kind might possibly lead to what I may call experimental disputes. A dispute would be raised with’ a view of each side getting a knowledge of what the other side desired.
– Are we going to avoid that under the Bill, as it stands ?
– I do not think that we should encourage it. Possibly we may have a great many disputes specially raised for settlement by the Court.
– Not under this Bill.
– That is ‘harping back to a matter about which we have had a great deal of discussion. I venture to say that the Bill will be operative, in spite of the fears of some honorable members. I am sorry to hear the honorable member take up such an attitude. I do not think that any party in a great public matter of this kind - I do not mean necessarily a party in politics - has a rig’ht to say that it is going to make legislation ineffective because there happens to be some one thing introduced into it which that party does not like. That seems to me to be a very unwise proceeding.
– There are a number of objectionable things in this Bill. There is too much lawyer in it, for instance.
– There is not much lawver in the Bill as it stands. There is no lawyer at all in this clause, so that I am afraid I would be distinctly out of order in discussing that point.
– It will be an absolute dead letter.
– I think that the honorable member for Grey will admit that his interjections are not quite relevant to the clause under discussion.
– They are pertinent to what the Minister was just saying.
– Has the honorable member quite finished?
– No, I have not.
– Then, I am exceedingly sorry, because I have refrained from an swering ‘his two or three interjections, in the hope that I might thereby pacify his perturbed spirit. I would point out to the honorable member for South Sydney, in regard to the quotation which he made from the report of the Royal Commission on Strikes, relating to conciliation, that his amendment after all is not very relevant to this particular proposal, in that so far as I can see the Bill introduces conciliation rather than arbitration. Human nature being what it is, and not what it ought to be, I am afraid that this may not so conduce, and I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that, if each side is compelled to name its minimum, and knows that unless its minimum is accepted, that of the ‘ other side must, practically speaking, under this clause, be accepted, they will fight it out to the bitter end. Once each party has named what it regards as a proper minimum, there will be no hope of a compromise, and the parties will fight to win all for fear of losing all. That does not, I think, encourage the spirit of compromise. I would point out to the honorable member for South Sydney, that this whole Bill is in one sense, novel, that, at any rate, no such . Courts as are here proposed are of any long standing, and that if in addition to the new Count dealing with new subjects, we provide new methods of settling disputes, we may introduce too many experiments, and consequently, injure, rather than help the cause that we all have at heart. I would, therefore, ask the honorable member to be content with having brought this matter under the notice of the Committee. I may mention that the Government did try to see its way to accept the whole, or a portion of the new clause; but in view of the novelty of the proposal, and the objections to its adoption, we could not accept it.
– I sincerely hope that the Government will see its way to accept the amendment. I think that the honorable member for South Sydney has made out a good case for the creation pf a special Court. This is called a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and it seems to me that it makes a great deal of provision for arbitration and very little for conciliation. The constitution of these Courts provides for a preliminary inquiry into the question as to whether there is a case or not. In mv own country there is an official called the Procurator Fiscal, who holds an investigation, and says whether there is a case or not, and that function which is of very great value in Scotland has its parallel in France in the court which has been quoted by my honorable friend, and which serves a very great and useful purpose. It saves endless litigation, and, above all, brings in that principle of master and men meeting face to face and comparing their grievances, and thereby attempting to come to a just settlement. Moreover, the principle exists under the Factories Act of Victoria, in the shape of Wages Boards. I believe it will be found that if the men and masters come together and state their case to one another, they will see that very little litigation is required, and that the arbitration stage - an expensive one to both sides - need not be reached.
– That is not the experience of such Courts.
– I have been quoting instances to show that it has been.
– It is not our experience in Western Australia, anyhow.
– In Victoria the great value of the Factories Act lies in the fact that it has brought the men and masters face to; face before the Wages Boards. The principle of conciliation is at work. The minimum of demand on each side is made, and when the men see that the masters are reasonable, and the masters see that the men are rational, the dispute is half settled. But if an appeal can be made to the Court, and the lawyers are allowed to state the case from their point of view, they will prolong the dispute, and the result will be disastrous. I am always in favour of exhausting the lay element, which is common-sense, before we reach the technical and intricate element. I hope that reasonable men will look upon this proposal as a very useful supplement to a Bill which may be licked into shape and “made of some use in settling those disputes which we all profess to be so anxious “to settle.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Bill reported with further amendments.
Mr. REID (East Sydney - Minister of External Affairs). - There are two comparatively unimportant amendments which I forgot to move in clause 4, and I ask the House to allow me to go back into Committee in order to make them. I move -
That the Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 4.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Second recommittal).
Clause 4 -
In this Act, except where otherwise clearly intended - “ State Industrial Authority “ means any Board or Court of Conciliation or Arbitration, or tribunal body or persons, having authority under any State Act to exercise any power of Conciliation or Arbitration with reference to industrial disputes within the limits of the State.
Amendments (by Mr. Reid) agreed to -
That the following definition be inserted : - “ Special Magistrate “ means a magistrate appointed by that name under the law of a State.
That after the word “ State,” line 9, the following words be inserted : - “or any Special Board constituted under any State Act relating to factories, or such other State Board or Court as is prescribed.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments; report adopted.
– With the concurrence of the House, I desire to move the third reading of the Bill, so that it can reach the Senate to-morrow when it meets.
– Is it the- pleasure of the House that the Prime Minister have leave to move the suspension of the Standing Orders?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
Motion (by Mr. Reid) agreed to -
That the Standing Orders be suspended so as to allow the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to be passed through its remaining stage this day.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message resumed from 9th June, vide page 2243), on motion by Mr. Batchelor -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the survey of a route for a railway to connect Kalgoorlie, in the State of Western Australia, with Port Augusta, in the State of South Australia.
– I do not desire to weary the Committee with any long argument in favour of the motion. The project for the construction of this railway has already been discussed, and there will be further opportunities for discussion when the Bill is brought in. ‘ I shall only say that- the proposal has found favour, not merely with the last Administration, but also with its immediate predecessor, and the present Administration see that the duty of bringing it forward is imposed upon them. I am sure that honorable members will all recollect that at an early stage of the Federal movement an opinion was current that Western Australia was not likely to enter into the proposed union of the Colonies.
– Why was this proposal not put into the Constitution?
– I am coming to that point. We were quite prepared to believe that if Western Australia did come into the Union she would put forward certain conditions in return for certain disadvantages which it must be admitted she would suffer. One of these conditions^ - the permission to impose a tariff of her own on a gradually decreasing scale - was embodied in the Constitution.
– Was .the construction of the railway made a condition?
– And the question of constructing this railway was also raised.
– That was not a condition.
– I am going to state the case exactly as I know it from making inquiries.
– This railway is not provided for in the Constitution.
– I am aware of that. That question was raised, and whilst it was not agreed to, consideration was promised, after due inquiry, by at least some of the Premiers, and more especially by some of the Ministers in South Australia, to this request from Western Australia.
– Does the Minister mean the Premier of Victoria?
– I mean some of the Premiers who attended the conference at which the question of the Transcontinental Railway was discussed. As the Prime Minister - who was a party to that gathering - has already stated, whilst no agreement was arrived at that .the line should be constructed, consideration was promised to the project, and to that extent the expectations of the people of Western Australia were raised. . Further than that, certain correspondence took place between the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia upon which I do not intend to enlarge. That correspondence went much further than did the members of the Premiers’ Conference, in the direction of attempting to connect Western Australia and the eastern States by rail, and it also gave rise to legitimate expectations, on the part of the people of Western Australia, that this matter would receive earnest consideration. That is the situation as I find it. I approached this question with a mind entirely unbiased. Upon one occasion, it is true, I did attempt to check discussion upon this, proposal, but I stated my reasons for doing so. I said later -
I took objection to this measure at a similar stage on a previous occasion, but for the sole reason that I considered that, owing to the important business - practically a vote of censure - then before Parliament, it was not proper to interpose the motion. To-night, when I was questioned as to my attitude, I stated that I would make no objection to the motion being passed as formal.
I took no objection whatever to the proposal as such. What I did object to was that it should be interposed when there was practically a motion of censure before Parliament.
– Does not a very similar position of affairs exist at the present time ?
– Not that I am aware of. I have not yet observed any motion of censure.
– It is coming all right.
– Does the Minister’ know of any instance in which the other States have contributed towards the building or the survey of a railway in New South Wales or Queensland ?
– I am not aware that they have been asked to do so.
– Queensland is just as impecunious as is Western Australia.
– It is not a question of impecuniosity. We know that in Western Australia very considerable discontent exists owing to the non-fulfilment of what was regarded as a promise that the proposal to construct the Transcontinental Railway would receive earnest inquiry and examination. That discontent, if illegitimate, it might be our duty to ignore, although it would be very unfortunate if any substantial sense of injustice were allowed to exist in any of the States when we had the power to remove it. In view of what has taken place, and realizing what has led to the anticipations of Western Australia, I say that if we refuse to expend one penny in inquiring whether this important railway connexion should take place, we shall be justifying that discontent, and each representative of that State will have the fullest warrant for supporting the indignation of its people.
– What will the survey cost?
– The expenditure in this connexion is limited to £20,000. If the line be constructed, I understand that Western Australia is willing to pay her portion of any loss upon it - that ‘is, upon its own length. But the people of that State claim that the understanding under which they joined the Federation was that the Federal authorities would inquire into the! feasibility, the payability, and the desirability or otherwise of constructing that railway.
– Would the line be owned by the Commonwealth Government?
– If it were constructed by the! Federation, undoubtedly it would. But I would point out to honorable members that at the present ‘.stage the question of construction is not under consideration. The whole point involved is, “Do we think that Western Australia has such a legitimate case for inquiry that the Federal Government, which would own the line, if constructed, should expend a limited sum in making that inquiry?”
– Then the! ,£20,000 is really to be spent upon an inquiry ?
– Yes ; by adopting this resolution, Parliament will not be committed to the construction of the line in any way.
– Who has to pay the £20,000?
– The Commonwealth Government.
– What is the1 use of saying that the expenditure contemplated is for the purpose of making an inquiry?
– What is the use of urging that the survey cannot partake of the nature of an inquiry, because an expenditure is involved? Perhaps the honorable and learned member for Parkes has not read the terms of the resolution. I do think that a sufficient case has been made out by the people of Western Australia to warrant an examination being made into the cost of the proposed railway and the route it should take, if constructed. If the resolution be adopted, Parliament will still retain the power to sanction the work or otherwise, according to what, on the information gained, honorable members deem themselves justified in doing. I do not intend to enlarge upon the matter. I will only add that the justice of the claim of Western Australia ‘has impressed itself upon three Administrations. Surely that is some indication that there is reason for the request which is made by that State. I can quite believe that at a later stage reasons may be advanced in favour of the construction of the railway - such, for example, as its value from the stand-point of defence, and the desirability of having an approach to that important part of Australia by a means which could not be interfered with “By any Power, which might be at war with Great Britain, placing fleets upon our coast. There are other reasons which might be urged in its favour - many reasons. But I quite admit that, despite all those reasons, we may find, after this survey ‘has been made, that it is not desirable to construct the proposed railway. Nevertheless,’ I ask the Committee to give to Western Australia at least that .consideration which is now asked, and to sanction a limited expenditure, so that we may know what the construction of the railway will involve, and so that we may be in a better position at a future date to decide whether that portion of the continent should be connected with the more thickly populated, and more favorably situated, eastern shore-line of the Commonwealth.
– Do the Government propose to ask Western Australia to contribute anything towards this expenditure of £20,000?
– Western Australia will contribute.
– How much ?
– She will contribute her proportion according to population.
– Do the Government propose to ask Western Australia to contribute anything more than her Federal proportion ?
– That State will contribute the proportion for which she is liable. The honorable ‘and’ learned member knows that if we pass a measure authorizing the expenditure of ,£20,000 that expenditure must be allocated in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
– Do the Ministry intend to ask Western Australia to contribute more than her proportion ?
– Would it be fair to ask Western Australia to contribute to a proposal which may condemn the line?
– The proposal to construct the railway, I would remind the honorable and learned member for Parkes, is not now before the Committee. The matter immediately under consideration is a proposal to expend £20,000 upon a survey of the line. That money will be allocated under the provisions of the Constitution just as other expenditure is allocated. If we consider that the claim of Western Australia is altogether baseless, that she has no title to consideration in this matter, that she should never have put forward her proposal, and that no encouragement should have been given to it before she joined the Union, we might put it on one side, and we could then deal with the question entirely from the stand-point <;f the desirability or otherwise of constructing the proposed railway. But I think that the western State ‘has established, at any rate, a good case for inquiry, and as the Commonwealth Government, and not the States, will own the railway, if it.be eventually constructed - because the, undertaking affects not only Western Australia, but also South Australia and the eastern States we should at least elicit the facts necessary to enable us to decide whether the work should be undertaken or not. I therefore commend the proposal to the consideration of honorable members.
– I intend to support the proposal of the Government, though I do not wish it to be understood that, because I. shall vote for a survey of the proposed Transcontinental Railway, I shall, therefore, if I am in Parliament when subsequent action is taken in regard to it, consider myself committed to vote for the construction of the line. I am endeavouring to keep an absolutely open mind in respect to the main question involved in the project we now have before us. One cannot look with indifference upon the proposal to connect by rail the extreme western State of the Commonwealth with the more thickly populated eastern States. Such a connexion must eventually be of immense importance to Australia.
– It must come. sooner or later.
– The later the better.
– It must come some day. To my- mind, it is important; for commercial as well as -for strategic reasons, that there should some day be this connexion ; but whether, with our comparatively small population, we are at present justified in expending between ,£4,000,000 and £5,000,000 upon the work, depends altogether upon the probability of its returning, within a reasonable time, at ‘east a fair proportion of the interest on the cost and the working expenses of the railway. The evidence we have on the subject so far is somewhat meagre. Optimistic statements have been made by the representatives of Western Australia as to the possibilities of the line, and I am sure we all sympathize with their patriotism, but there is comparatively little evidence upon which an unbiased observer can form an accurate opinion of its prospects. I have seen the reports of the engineer who made a flying survey of the route as to the character of the country passed through, and they have rather surprised me. He admitted that the opportunities for the conservation of water, which are so necessary to make the country reproductive, are not apparent ; but he seemed to have the firmest opinion that the land would, in a large measure, eventually prove profitable for pastoral settlement. The question of water supply would be an immediately pressing one, if the railway were constructed, but we have recently had rather encouraging reports as to the possibility of obtaining artesian water within the areas that would be traversed by the line. We have, therefore,, I think, sufficient evidence to justify us in expending the comparatively small sum asked for in obtaining a proper survey of the proposed route. I take it that that survey will not be an investigation merely of the country within, say, a few hundred yards on each’ side of the direct route, from a point at the head of Spencer’s Gulf to Kalgoorlie, but that cross-sections will be made to determine the nature of the country north and south of the proposed line. If that is done, we shall ‘have a more comprehensive idea of the character of the country that will be served than can be obtained from a mere flying survey of the direct route. In regard to the question asked of the Minister of Home Affairs by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, I may say that’, immediately on assuming office, some months ago, I entered into’ communication with the then Premier of Western Australia, Mr. James, to ascertain whether his Government would guarantee to bear a larger share 01 any loss that might accrue from the construction and working of the proposed railway than would have to be borne by the State in proportion to .its population, and, after a number of communications had passed between us, some of which have been laid- upon the table of the House, ‘he stated that he was prepared to promise, on behalf of his Government, a liberal contribution over and above what t’he State would have to pay on a population basis towards meering any loss which ‘might accrue during the first ten years after the line was constructed.
– Was anything said about the increment in value which would be given to the land along the route of the line?
– No; but seeing that it is State-owned land-
– And seeing, moreover, that the State is not to pay for the railway !
– At any rate, private individuals will not obtain the benefit of the added value given to the land by the expenditure of the Commonwealth.
– As the State owns the land through which the line would pass, the interjection of the honorable member for Moira adds force to the contention that Western Australia may be expected to make a special contribution towards meeting any possible loss ; and the Premier of that State met my suggestion in a most liberal spirit.
– His promise was a rather vague one.
– He very properly pointed out in the correspondence that, as it is not known what the railway would cost, and as it is impossible to make any proper estimate of its cost until a survey has been undertaken, it is rather premature to state definitely what contribution the State would make ; but I regarded his offer as one made in the most generous spirit, and I am given to understand that the present Government of the State is willing to carry out the undertaking arrived at between us.
– The point I wish to emphasize is that the Federal expenditure will increase the value of State land.
– That is so with all Federal expenditure. Even the erection by the Commonwealth of a post-office increases the value of the adjacent State land.
– I have always been a believer in the idea that persons through whose land a railway is made, should give to the State some guarantee against loss on its construction and working, and, when a member of the New South Wales Parliament, 1 was one of those who moved to get the principle adopted in connexion with some of the railways constructed by the State of recent years. What I speak of is not a betterment tax, as the term is ordinarily understood, but a guarantee against loss to the authority constructing the railway. The principle was adopted years ago in the Irish Light Railways Act, and has been found to work most satisfactorily ever since - the land-owners guaranteeing to the constructing authority, whether it be the State or a private company, a certain proportion of any loss that might accrue from the construction of a line.
– More than half of the proposed railway will be in South Australia.
– I was successful in getting the principle I speak of incorporated in some of the measures passed by the New South Wales Parliament of late years sanctioning railway construction, and the result encouraged me to ask of the Premier of Western Australia the question to which I have referred - Whether his State would be prepared to bear a proportion of the loss, if any, which might accrue in connexion with the construction of the line? As I have said, I was met in a most generous spirit.
– Did the honorable member ask the same question of the Premier of South Australia?
– No; but I asked the Premier of South Australia if he would be prepared to ask the State Parliament to pass a Bill to sanction the construction of the line.
– Why did not the honorable member ask the same question of both Premiers ?
– In arrangements between Governments, just as in business arrangements, it is well to proceed step by step, arid the first step to take was to get the Government of South Australia to consent to ask the Parliament of the State to sanction the construction of the line through its territory. Up to the present time the South Australian Parliament has not given that sanction ; but, under the Constitution, it must be given before the railway can be constructed by the Commonwealth.
– South Australia has agreed to the survey being made.
– The Government of the State when in communication with me raised no objection whatever to the survey being made, but they refused to commit themselves on the main question as to whether they would or would not ask the Parliament of South Australia to sanction the construction of the line.
– The honorable member regards the motion merely as one to provide for an investigation. It does not bind him in any way.
– Quite, so. I Shave already said that. I hold myself free, if the evidence seems to warrant such action, to vote against the proposal to construct the line if it is ever brought forward, and I happen to be here at the time.
– The question is whether the investigation should not be undertaken at the expense of the people who would chiefly benefit.
– The whole Commonwealth would benefit.
– The question asked by the honorable and learned member for Parkes is a matter for argument. It is not one upon which one can dogmatize. There is more reason why the Commonwealth should take some share of responsibility in connexion with this proposal than would apply to any other railway proposal that might come before us, since it is one which has in view the giving of communication to a State which is widely separated from the other States.
– Does the honorable member think that there was a tacit understanding on this matter ?
– I do not attach very much importance to the promises or semipromises made on the subject by those who at the time had no authority to speak for Australia. The people of Western Australia may have been led into looking upon Federation more favorably because of the statements of certain leading politicians of the other States than they would otherwise have done.
– There is no doubt about that.
– Still that fact does not bind the people of Australia as a whole, though it should bind those who made the promises to exercise their influence and to give their votes for the construction of the line.
- - Why should not the Commonwealth also build a bridge to Tasmania ?
– The suggestion has been made that the Commonwealth should subsidize a line of steamers between the mainland and Tasmania.
– If the honorable member for Newcastle would furnish designs for a bridge which could be constructed at a reasonable cost, I, for one, should be prepared to consider the matter. I am glad that the Government have seen fit to introduce this Bill at an early stage, and I shall support the proposal it contains.
– I “do not think that there is any necessity to emphasize the proposition that, although the Committee may agree to this motion, no honorable, member will in any way be bound to subsequently vote for the construction of the proposed railway. There is no need to look so far ahead as that in any criticism of the proposal now before us. I think that this is a very serious matter, and although I have every desire to assist the Government in their legislation, the explanation, which we have had does not seem to me to recognise the seriousness of so novel a proposal.
– It is not a novel proposal, because it” has been before two Governments.
– Although a comparatively small expenditure is involved, the principle at issue is a very large one. The Commonwealth is, for the first time, being asked to undertake the first stage in the construction of a railway primarily for the benefit of one State, and we should therefore consider what principle is to be observed in these matters. The Minister, in explaining the proposal to the House, said that we must remember that the railway would ultimately belong to the Commonwealth. Now, in the history of railway construction in Australia, the consolation of Governments which have constructed railways which gave no immediate return has been that they are increasing the value of their landed estate. I admit that the sum now asked for is a comparatively small one.
– What is to be the cost of the proposed survey?
– The1 amount is not mentioned in the motion.
– No, but I understand that that is to be the maximum ex- penditure
– That is the sum provided for in the Bill.
– Although the sum provided for is comparatively small, we are now being asked to take a preliminary step which involves a very great principle. We are being asked to construct a railway at the expense of the Commonwealth, while the whole of the increment in value which it will give to the land through which it passes will go, not to the Commonwealth, but to a State.
– That will always be the case when the Commonwealth constructs a railway.
– Yes, but as this is the first instance in which we have been asked to sanction such a railway, the Committee should consider very carefully the precedent which’ we are establishing.
Mr.Fowler. - Do we not establish that principle every time we build a post-office ?
– No; because the principle was established when we built our first post-office. The honorable member is a most enthusiastic supporter of this project, and naturally so, not only in its preliminary, but in its ultimate, stages, and I wish him to recognise that an important principle is involved in the proposal now before us. I do not wish to single myself out as an opponent of it, but, years ago, when Federation was being advocated, I opposed the idea of the Commonwealth constructing this railway at an expenditure of many millions of money.
– This railway?
– It was never proposed before.
– It was mentioned at the Federal Conventions, and, during the Federal campaign, the representatives of Western Australia contended that ultimately that State must be connected with the eastern railway systems, in order (hat it might be brought into close union with the State in which the Capital was to be established.
– And reasonably so, too.
– The right honorable gentleman can advance that view when he addresses the House. The fact that previous Governments have been in favour of making the proposed survey atfords no argument why the work should be undertaken by the present Government.
– At all events, it is an evidence of unanimity on the part ot those who have been in power.
– It shows that we are entitled to expect the Government to call upon the people who are going to be so largely benefited by the construction of the line to contribute to the initial cost. Surely it is fair to say to the people of Western Australia - “ We are perfectly willing to embark upon a preliminary survey, with a view to the ultimate construction of this line if, in view of the fact that you are to be specially benefited, you will contribute something more than your pro rata or per capita share towards the cost.” The Government might very well say to the people of Western Australia-
– And also to the people of South Australia.
– Yes, and also to the people of South Australia - “ In the report furnished by certain engineers upon this line, it is represented that it is likely in ten years to produce very satisfactory results, and, inasmuch as these results cannot be produced until this preliminary expenditure of£20,000 is incurred, you should contribute more than your share per capita.” It might be very fairly said - “ This railway will primarily benefit you both, by establishing a trade so large that the profit resulting from it will defray the interest upon the large capital outlay involved, and by enormously increasing the value of your territories, and, therefore, we shall expect you, in the first place, at all events, to find the money to defray the cost of the preliminary survey. If the Commonwealth should ultimately decide to construct the line as a Commonwealth property, we shall return you the£20,000 expended upon the survey.”
– A very good suggestion.
– I do not expect honorable members representing Western Australia to sympathize with my attitude upon this question. It is very natural that they should desire to have the work carried out in the interests of their State. I wish them to accept my assurance that I am taking up my present position only because I think that it is fair and equitable to the other States that the expenditure involved should come primarily out of the pockets of the two States to be specially benefited, even though it may ultimately be recouped by the Commonwealth.
– Would the honorable and learned member apply the same principle to the expenditure upon the Federal Capital ?
– I should be very sorry if any representative of Western Australia were to think that I offer my criticism in any spirit of Inter-State rivalry. I have all along been disposed - if I have not actually manifested that disposition - to deprecate the practice of constantly setting up State against State, arid it is because I endeavour to look at this question in its preliminary stage from the Commonwealth point of view, that I should , nave liked to see some principle laid down by the Government to justify the proposed expenditure without first making a strong demand upon the two States which are to be specially benefited to contribute the money in the first place.
– We all have to contribute towards the expenditure upon the Federal Capital, which is to be located in the New South Wales territory.
– I should like the Committee to consider this proposal in the light of a precedent. It will be said byandby that the precedent does not depend upon the proposed work being a railway, but upon its being a public work; and I can quite foresee that in the future attempts might be made to place more enterprises of this kind upon the shoulders of the Commonwealth, on the ground that Western Australia was receiving this advantage. As I pointed out, the two chief advantages, if not the only ones that are likely to result from the construction of the line, apart from the fact that it will bring the western State into closer union with the eastern States, will be the establishment of commercial traffic between Western Australia and the eastern States, and the great increment in value of territory which will accrue to Western Australia and South Australia. At the present time this Committee is very ill-informed as to the character of the country through which the line is to pass.
– We admit that.
– I have read the report of the committee of engineers who were appointed to inquire into this matter, and I say that, although a flying survey is a work which is peculiarly within the province of an engineer, a member of that profession is one of the last men in the world to be considered qualified to estimate the commercial results of a proposed railway. I had the honour of being the Minister for railway construction during the three years that I occupied the position of Secretary for Public Works in New South Wales, and I know very well that one never thought of asking the engineers who made the flying survey in connexion with a new line to express their opinions upon its commercial prospects. All the engineers were asked to do was, in the course of their professional business, to make their flying or their ultimate survey, as the case might be, and the Railway Commissioners were called upon to report upon the commercial prospects of the line. It is provided in the Public Works Act of New South Wales that no proposals shall be submitted to the Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation until the Railway Commissioners have added to the information supplied by the engineers, by reporting upon the commercial prospects of a project. Of course, this may be considered a mere side issue here, but it is important that we should recollect that the Committee is not at the present time in a position to form any clear conception with regard to the character of the country through which the railway will pass.
– -Oh, yes ; we have the reports furnished by the surveyors who travelled over the proposed route.
– I have read most carefully the reports of the engineers. Mr. Henry Deane, Engineer-in-Chief in New South Wales, travelled over a portion of the route, and he was one of the engineers ‘ who made the estimate of the probable cost, and stated that the line was likely to produce satisfactory results in ten years. I am not, for a moment, attempting to criticise the line as a commercial undertaking. That would be premature. But the fact that we are not committing ourselves to the construction of the line affords no reason why we should in silence, and without full consideration, pass a proposal - the first of its kind in the Commonwealth - to spend £20,000 upon the survey of a line which is to benefit primarily two States which are not being asked to contribute one copper, beyond their -per capita proportion, towards the expenditure. That is my point, and I contend that my position is a sound one. I am not speaking in any spirit of antagonism to Western Australia, because no one would be more pleased than I should be if the commercial prospects were such as to justify the construction of the line. I think that it is one of the most unfortunate circumstances in connexion with the Commonwealth that the centres of population are so wide apart that it is almost impossible for men who do not give .up the whole’ of their time to political work ‘ to attend Parliament, and take part in its deliberations. I should be one of the first to rejoice if the commercial prospects could be shown to justify the construction of the line. I would most strongly impress upon the Committee that it is only fair that we should ask the Government for an assurance that all the necessary steps have been taken to obtain from the States which are likely to be primarily benefited by the construction of the line, some substantial contribution towards the proposed expenditure.
– It is hopeless to expect South Australia to make any special contribution.
– I do not know that. I can hardly conclude that it is hopeless to make such a request, even in the case of South Australia, because we know that some hundreds of miles of the present South Australian railways would be upon the route of the proposed transcontinental line. The traffic upon the Port Augusta railway at present is limited, and every one must recognise that if a through line were ultimately constructed, and a large trade such as would be necessary to justify the proposed work became an accomplished fact, South Australia would benefit very largely from the increased traffic over her existing line. Therefore, it ought to be very easy to demonstrate, not only to the Western Australian Government, but also to the South Australian Government, that a very great future would be in store for them. It would surely be reasonable for us to say, “ We are perfectly willing to take this preliminary step, but we are not going to do it at the expense of the Commonwealth if the project should not be undertaken. If you, between you, will contribute this comparatively small sum - because it is a comparatively small sum - we shall undertake-
– If the States wished to incur the expense of the survey, they need not ask the consent of the Commonwealth.
– Is not the fact that there is no movement for the construction of the proposed railway in those States a very strong argument against the present proposal r
– There is a movement in Western Australia.
– Then lef the movement go on !
– We. can do nothing except with the consent of the South Australian Parliament.
– One honorable member for Western Australia says there is a movement in that State in favour of the construction of the railway, but when I turn to the right honorable member for Swan, who has infinitely greater experience, he says, “ We can do nothing without South Australia.”
– Not can we, because the proposed line would pass through 550 miles of South Australian territory.
– I am perfectly well aware of that. That is my reason for pointing out that the Government might well have approached these two States, and have asked them to contribute a large part, if not all, of this expenditure of .£20,000, subject to one condition. If the line be ultimately constructed, it will undoubtedly be Commonwealth property, although if the sanguine accounts we hear about the land are true, it will add enormously to the increment of Western Australian State property. The Prime Minister is now present, and I would submit to him that the Commonwealth should have approached the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia, and have said, “ We are perfectly willing to embark upon this preliminary survey-
– The two States could embark on it, even if we were not willing
– I would answer that interjection by asking why they do not embark upon it? If Western Australia and South Australia are going to benefit to the extent to which my right honorable friend- says they will by the construction of this line–
– I have not said anything.
-I have heard my right honorable friend speak of the merchandise . which is to be carried over the line, and of the passengers who will be in such a hurry to reach the eastern States, that they will leave the comfortable and snug decks of a Pacific and Oriental or Orient steamer for a three days’ railway journey across a stretch of country-
– Was the honorable and learned member ever in a storm?
– In many, both political and natural. It would have been a very fair thing, from a business point of view, had the Commonwealth Government said to the two States concerned, “ This is a scheme which, if it results in the construction of the line, will enormously benefit you. The preliminary survey will involve an expenditure of £20,000. We are perfectly willing to embark on this survey, provided that you will pay the cost, on the understanding that if the railway be ultimately constructed, and become Commonwealth property, we will recoup you in respect of it.”
– A tremendous expenditure ! The honorable and learned member has such small ideas.
– I have impatience manifested in front of me, and behind me. I need only an exhibition of it on either side, to allow of my pointing out my position by paraphrasing a well-known poem. What I. am endeavouring to do in the midst of these frequent interruptions, is to consider this matter from a business point of view. We are bound to’ have regard to that consideration in dealing with the finances of the Commonwealth. We should say to the two States concerned, “ This undertaking may result ultimately in the construction of the line ; the railway will be of enormous benefit to you in view of the increment in the value of the land which will take place on both sides of it.” It might be said to South Australia, “ It will put you into much closer touch with Europe,” and to Western Australia, “ It will put you into much closer touch with the eastern States. We are perfectly willing to take this preliminary step, provided that you bear the expenditure in the first place, on the understanding that if the line be ultimately constructed, and owned by the Commonwealth, it will recoup you in respect of this outlay, as being part of the total cost of the scheme. If, on the other hand, the survev results in demonstrating the practical impossibility of making this line, by reason of “its great cost, as compared with its commercial prospects, we shall expect you to bear this cost.” I think that is a very fair proposal. The late Prime Minister has told us that he approached the Premiers of Western Australia, and South Australia with regard to the ultimate cost. He seems very satisfied - although I confess that I should not have been, had I occupied his position - with the promise of generous treatment which he received.
– That was in regard to the loss on the line.
– The leader of the Opposition said that he had received promises of the most generous treatment from the Premiers of the two States.
– No; from the Premier of one State.
– From the Premier of Western Australia; they are a prodigal lot over there.
– Let me argue the matter from the point of view that he received the most generous offer from the Premier of one State. That generous offer however, was of a very vague, noncommittal character. It was simply this.: “If the line is ultimately carried out, we shall be prepared to enter into some liberal arrangement with regard to the loss upon its maintenance.” That is just about as definite as the promise which a Minister has frequently to make to deputations that he will give the subject-matter of their request “careful consideration.” I have made that promise hundreds of times, and know very well that it left me just as free as I was before I made it. This reliance on the generous offer of the Premier of Western’ Australia to contribute a fair share to the loss which may occur when the line is open to traffic, seems to me verv much like shutting the stable door after the. steed is stolen.
– The Western Australian Government offered to contribute the loss on their own length of line.
– For the first ten vears.
– That loss could not be ascertained until the line had been constructed, and it would be too late then to take exception to the degree of generosity which the State Government - and there might be half-a-dozen or a dozen different Governments between now and then- might show. I submit that my suggestion is a fair one. I urge, quite irrespective of the Government proposal, that it would be reasonable for the Commonwealth Government to say to the people of Western Australia - “We should like to discount your generosity of ten years hence ; we should like a little cash. We should like you to join with South Australia in bearing the cost of this preliminary survey, and if the line ultimately becomes ours, inasmuch as this is a necessary preliminary expenditure - very much like an architect’s fees for the plans for the construction of a house - we will take it off your hands, and recoup you for what you have done.” We are creating a precedent with regard to the construction of a new kind of public works in the States - works which ultimate admittedly in an increment of wealth to the State in which they are constructed. The circumstances of a proposal of this kind are unique. The Commonwealth is asked to expend money that will add largely to the wealth of Western Australia, and we shall be perfectly justified, therefore, in approaching the Governments of the two States in the way I have suggested.
– South Australia would say that she would not do anything of the kind.
– Then she would show her want of bona fides in the matter.
– She has already done that.
– If the Western Australian Government said, “We are not prepared to pay .anything beyond our per capita contribution on the Commonwealth expenditure,” they would also show a want of bona fides. I think that this is a very fair test. The right honorable member for Swan, who has been accustomed to throw hundreds of thousands of pounds about in connexion with water schemes and other works, should now realize the enormous importance which attaches to the construction of the proposed railway. I offer my comments not in any spirit of antagonism, but in the belief that the people of the Commonwealth are entitled to have this matter considered from a more business-like point of view. The hands of the Governmentwould be materially strengthened if they were able to tell the House that they had approached the Government of Western Australia, and either that they had refused absolutely to contribute a penny to the cost, or that thev had undertaken to pay the whole cost in the first case. If the Western Australian Government refused absolutely to contribute to the-cost, I believe it would lead this House to say that it showed their want of confidence in the proposal ; because, after all, the cost of the preliminary survey, in proportion to the ultimate cost of the construction of the line, is much less than that of a mere rough sketch of a proposed building. If I were about to construct a building for some relative, and he said to me, “ I will not even pay for the cost of a rough plan at the first stage,” I should say “Well, you take very little interest in the matter, and I think that you are scarcely justified in asking me to put my hand in my own pocket to pay the cost of even a rough sketch for your building.”
– A fine Federal spirit !
– The interruption is of sufficient importance to justify an answer. I hold that I am advocating the true Federal spirit, and I challenge the right honorable member to point to a single instance in which I have ever encouraged in this House any spirit of rivalry between the States. I have endeavoured always to forget the landmarks of the States, and to treat the funds of the Commonwealth as the funds of the people of all Australia.
– The honorable and learned member forgets that the States are now federated.
– I know that we arc.
– What about the implied promise ?
– I am deprecating a proposal on the part of the Government to spend £20,000 on a preliminary survey, without first endeavouring to obtain the money from the States. The expense is to be incurred in carrying out a work which is to ultimately benefit, not the Commonwealth, but the States concerned, because it is admitted that we cannot expect any profit from the railway during the first ten years of its existence. It would, therefore, be a huge expenditure on the part of the Commonwealth, for the benefit of the States. I admit that the desire to join Western Australia with the other States by railway evidences a Federal spirit; but to say that we should look upon this proposal as if it had been provided for in the Constitution - to say, as we have been told, that there was a sort of implied agreement between Western Australia and the other States - that although the Constitution did. not provide for the construction of the line, there is an obligation on the part of the Commonwealth to make it - is, in my opinion, to very materially strain the situa-tion which exists between the different. States; and I do submit that what I have said to the Committee is by no means inprejudice of that Federal spirit, which jealously guards the expenditure of the funds of the Commonwealth.
– I regret that the debate upon this matter should take place in Committee. I have no doubt that the course adopted is in accord with the Standing Orders, but it is not in accord with the practice to which I have- been accustomed. Resolutions founded on messages from His Excellency the Governor, with reference to the expenditure of public money have in my experience, generally been agreed to as formal matters, and the debate upon the measure covered by the message has been reserved for the second reading of the Bill dealing with the subject. I think that is a more convenient practice than that which has been followed on the present occasion, as, under the practice now followed, a long discussion may be. initiated upon the Governor-General’s message, and there may be another long debate upon the second reading of the measure. I do not know who is responsible for this course of procedure, but I think the motion now before us might have been allowed to pass as a formal matter, and we could have taken the debate on the second reading of the Bill, which would have been at once introduced. The message in this instance covers a recommendation to appropriate funds for carrying out a survey of a railway to connect Eastern and Western Australia. Such a railway has been long talked about, much desired, and, in my opinion, and in the opinion of those who think with me, is absolutely essential ‘ to the real federation of the Australian States. Honorable members are, of course, aware that Eastern Australia is separated from Western. Australia by a large extent of unoccupied country, and that there is no practical means of communication by land between the two except by several months of travel between the settlements on the eastern and those on the western side of the continent. The whole of the traffic, the whole of the .trade between the eastern and western States of Australia, is conducted by sea, and it has been the desire and the hope, not only of Western Australians, but of all who take a broad view of the ultimate prospects of the continent that the connexion of the eastern and western States by railway should be undertaken. I very much regret that my honorable and learned friend, the member for Parkes - I think I may refer to him as such, because he is my friend personally - should have made the speech 7 t he did just now. I have been accustomed to listen with pleasure to the honorable and learned member. There is no member of the House to whom I have listened hitherto with greater pleasure, even when I did not agree with him, than ‘ the honorable and learned member. But tb-night he seems to have wandered away from those broad statesman-like views he has so often uttered, which were not 1 limited by considerations, for any parish, town, or city, and not even by the ocean that surrounds Australia. To-night I could hardly believe that I was listening to the honorable and learned member for Parkes. The views he enunciated seemed to me to be more fitted for the consideration of a matter affecting a small township or parish, and were certainly altogether out of place in dealing with a matter which affects the whole continent of Australia. We are not here dealing with the interests of Western Australia, or any particular State, but with the greater question of the Federation of continental Australia, and with what is embodied in spirit, if not in words, in the Constitution under which we live. I do not suppose that there is any one in Australia, or out of it, who will be found to argue that the Federation we are enjoying at the present time can be considered complete when one-third of the continent, with a quarter of a million of people forming a. very, progressive .State, remains separated’ from the rest of Australia, without any means of communication except by sea. Any one who takes the trouble tovisit Western Australia will find that the voyage will , occupy him four days, during the greater part of which time he will probably be out of sight of land,- and when he reaches Fremantle I find it difficult to believe that there will be foremost in his mind a feeling that he is still within the boundaries of the Federation he left four days before. He -would rather be inclined to believe that he had reached some island in the Indian Ocean separated altogether from the country he had left on the eastern side of Australia.
– How much nearer to Europe is Western Australia than are the eastern States?
– I say on ‘my own behalf, and on behalf of the people of Western Australia, of whom I am one of the representatives in this House, that Federation as at present existing is not the Federation that we understood it would be when we entered into ‘ the compact of union. I know what were the feelings of the people of Western Australia - no one should know them better - at the time we entered the Federation. The one belief throughout the length and breadth of that State - a. belief encouraged by the utterances of the public men of Australia, and by the terms of the Constitution, as I shall show before I sit down - was that the condition of isolation that existed between Western Australia and the rest of the continent would within a short time - within a reasonable number of years - come to an end. The honorable and learned member for Parkes will probably appreciate my remarks when I say that the existing condition of isolation interferes very much - and to a larger extent than in the case of. any. other State in the Commonwealth - with the representation of Western Australia . in the Federal Parliament. It is not every* one, and in fact there are only a few people who are able to leave their homes for several months, and perhaps for a year, in order to attend to parliamentary duties. I have little doubt that, by the time I return’ to my home at the conclusion of this session, I shall have been absent . from it nearly a year, and this will not be the first time that that has occurred. There can therefore be no doubt but that the isolation of Western Australia interferes very largely with the representation of the State, because there are very few persons who have the necessary means and leisure to devote the whole of their time to public affairs.
– Would the construction of the Transcontinental Railway practically remedy that difficulty?
– It Would remedy it to a very large extent, because a Western Australian representative could go back to his State any and’ every day, and return .any and every day by railway, as is done by members representing, the other States.
– It would take him about three days to get there.
– If the honorable member will think for a moment he will admit that the long adjournments we have had occasionally during this session would have enabled Western Australian representatives to visit their homes, and spend perhaps a fortnight there before again returning to their duties in Parliament. That could not be done under existing conditions, as although the steamers communicating with Western Australia are good, and regular, they leave for and from that State only on certain days.
– How many days’ travelling! would be saved by the construction of the railway ?
– Two days’ travelling, at any rate, but it is not only the saving in the time occupied in travelling, but in the waiting for an opportunity to travel. If we had railway communication we could travel every day. I say again that the present condition of affairs largely interferes with the representation of Western Australia in this Parliament. We shall never obtain the same representation that may be obtained by the other States of the Commonwealth, because we shall never have the same. number of persons willing to come forward to represent the1 people of Western Australia, so long as they are without an easy and rapid means of getting backwards and forwards. If the difficulty were impossible of remedy, if the ocean divided us, and we could not help ourselves, we should have to make the best of it, but seeing that we can remedy the difficulty, I can see no reason why we should not set about it. I make1 this statement in the face of honorable members,, and of the people of Australia, that, if the people of Western Australia had thought that Federation would mean to them a continuance of the isolation to which they had been subjected ‘in the past, they would never have thought of entering it. Why should they have entered the Federation if it was not intended to be a real union, a closer union than it had been previously ?
– The right honorable member is speaking after the event; now he is sorry for it.
– I spoke, before the event. The honorable and learned member for Parkes has made statements this evening which show that he has not studied this subject sufficiently. I knew all about it before, but I advised the people of Western Australia to sink all minor differences, and to have faith in the justice and reasonableness of the people of. Australia. ‘ Perhaps some people may say that my views did not largely influence the’ result, but at all events they helped to induce the people of Western Australia to consent to Federation.
– Western Australia retained her Customs duties.
– That was settled in the Convention long before, and if
I had chosen to ask for the Transcontinental Railway in the Convention I should probably have got it too.
– Why did not the right honorable gentleman ask for it?
– Because I did not think it necessary. I kne’w the terms of the Constitution, but I shall not now anticipate what I propose to say later on. The principal lever used by myself, and by every other person in Western Australia, who advocated Federation, was that the union would result in the early establishment of railway communication between all the capital cities of Australia. That was the great lever used by us all in inducing the people of Western Australia to join the Federation. The honorable member for Wentworth smiles, but perhaps he does not understand the motives that I and others had in advocating Australian unity. We were not thinking only of ourselves, or of the present - we desired to strengthen the Empire ; we desired also to strengthen the bonds that unite us to the mother country. To present my arguments in proper sequence, I shall show what were the views submitted to the people of Western Australia by myself as Premier when I sought to induce them to enter the Federation. There was naturally a great desire that Western Australia should enter the “Union, it being felt that Federation with one-third of the continent not included would not be the Federation to which we looked forward. It was realized that any one who from selfish or parochial motives endeavoured to prevent or retard the true Federation of Australia, in the interests of the Empire, was taking a tremendous responsibility. No doubt that feeling influencedmany of us in trying our best to set aside, as far as possible, all minor considerations in order to consummate the Union. What did the right honorable member for Adelaide, Mr. Kingston, who was then Premier of South Australia, write to me on the’ subject of this railway being constructed, and with the sole object of inducing Western Australia to joinFederation ? He wrote -
We hope that it will not be long before Western Australians and South Australians are cooperating in the Parliament of the Commonwealth to bring this about, and we repeat that you can rely on South Australia’s sympathy and support.
– That is about as substantial as was the promise of the Premier of Western Australia.
– It was reported to me by one of my colleagues who had visited South Australia, before Western Australia had agreed to enter Federation, that he had heard remarks in Adelaide which tended to show that some people there were not in favour of the construction of the line, and on this the right honorable member for Adelaide wrote -
Cannot understand references to probable reluctance of South Australia to permit Federal construction of railway connecting colonies. We have no fear of any such anti-Federal “ doginthemangcr” policy.
What did our present Speaker, Sir Frederick Holder, when Premier of South Australia, write to me on the subject, and with the- same object ? He wrote to me on the 1st February, 1900 -
Following our conversation as to the possible blocking of the construction of a railway line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta by the Federal authority, by South Australia refusing the consent rendered necessary by section XXXIV. of clause 51 of the Commonwealth Bill, to the construction of the line through her territory, I regard the withholding of consent as a most improbable thing, in fact, quite out of the question. To assure you of our attitude in the matter, I will undertake, as soon as the Federation is established, Western and South Australia both being States of the Commonwealth, to introduce a Bill, formally giving the assent of this province to the construction of the line by the Federal authority, and to pass it stage by stage simultaneously with the passage of a similar . Bill in your Parliament.
– Western Australia must have been up for sale, and that must have been her price.
– Western Australia had not then entered Federation.
– That is why I sav that must have been the price.
– I do not see much sense in the interjection. There is no doubt that, as I shall show, the other States were looking after themselves, and the honorable member could not have been in public life at the time, or he would know that the State which he represents was not eager to enter Federation, and held back to the last.
– Queensland had no price.
– Yes, Queensland had ; . there was black labour.
– And that is costing all the States, including Western Australia, a good deal of money just now.
– Does the right honorable member not think it premature to discuss the merits of the railway claimed by Western Australia?
– In my judgment it is not premature. I want to show that there were inducements held out to Western Australia to enter Federation, and that one of those inducements was that it would not be long before the railway, for the survey of which a sum of money is now asked, would be completed. How can my remarks be said to be irrelevant?
– Why did the Western Australian people not stipulate that the railway should be provided for in the Constitution, as was the Federal Capital?
Mr.Bruce Smith. - Sir Frederick Holder merely said that the South Australian Government would authorize the railway going through their territory.
– What was the object of the letter of Sir Frederick Holder? The object of the letter was to do everything possible to induce Western Australia to enter the Federation, and the people of that State accepted the promise, which formed one of the chief reasons, the lever in fact, which induced them to join. The Western Australian people realized that with the railway, Federation would to them be a reality, because their State would then be joined to the rest of Australia, and not, as in the past, an isolated State - to all intents and purposes an island in the ocean.
– How does the letter read?
– I shall hand the letter to the honorable member who may then read it for himself. The offer to construct a railway to join States is not without precedent, as a means of bringing about Federation. In Canada Ave have the instance of British Columbia, which refused to enter the Union on the original terms. It was not until years afterwards that British Columbia undertook to enter the Union, and that was only on condition that the Dominion Parliament should construct a railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and run trains daily from either end. If the Western Australian people had been less trustful of the peopleof Australia. and had insisted on a similar condition, there is not the slightest doubt that long ere this a resolution would have been passed by the Commonwealth Parliament asking that State to join. We can hardly imagine a patriotic Australian believing that the Commonwealth would be complete if one-third of the continent were not included. As a
Federalist, I looked closely into the question, with the object of showing that some material gain would accrue to my State from Federation, but, so far as I could see, we had then nothing financially to gain; so far as the pounds, shillings, and pence aspect of the case was concerned, there was no advantage at that time to be gained by Western Australia. The railway, however, provided an inducement which could be placed before the people, as it would provide for daily communication with the rest of Australia. When we were holding up before the people of Western Australia the prospect of this railway communication, and the question was discussed from one end of the State to the other - when the adhesion of that State was one of the most important topics of the day, and was discussed in all the leading journals of the eastern States, and the public men of Australia showed intense anxiety that the Union should be complete - was anything said in the South Australian or the Victorian press, or indeed the press of Australia, or in Parliament, adverse to the proposal? Were the views which I and others placed before the people of Western Australia, and which were published in the eastern States daily, ever criticised adversely? Were the proposals, which I was then suggesting, described then by the press of Victoria as a “ gigantic fraud “ ? Nothing was said to lead any one to believe that what was being promised to the people of Western Australia was not likely to be accomplished.
– When Sir Edmund Barton announced the policy of the Govern: ment at Maitland, great disapproval of the scheme was shown throughout New South Wales.
– That was after Federation was established.
– Was Federation a matter of barter between the States?
– I admit that there was even a little barter.
– Western Australia got a special Tariff.
– And New South Wales got the Federal Capital.
– Any one would think that the honorable and learned member for Parkes and his constituents paid for the special Tariff, whereas the fact is that the people of Western Australia paid for it themselves, and it did not cost New South Wales, or any other State, one farthing.
– The right honorable member is very much magnifying my criticisms.
– The honorable and learned member should not criticise if he does not know the facts.
– I do not mind; the right honorable member is paying me a compliment.
– I do not entirely rely on my own observations and opinions in regard to this railway, and would like to quote what the present Prime Minister said in regard to it.
– -Was that when the Prime Minister was on a visit to Western Australia ?
– I do not think so. I wish the honorable and learned member would not interrupt. Before he finds fault, the honorable and learned member ought to make sure I am stating the circumstances incorrectly. Perhaps the honorable and learned member enjoys hectoring me, though I do not think he ought to do so, because I have a duty to perform which I ought to be allowed to carry out, without ridiculous interruptions from anybody. The Prime. Minister, in a press interview he gave at that time, is thus reported -
Mr. Reid pointed out that it would not be of advantage to Western Australia alone, but also to the rest of the Commonwealth. It would shorten the journey between the eastern States and Europe, and be useful for defensive purposes. “ Western Australia,” said he, “ is at the furthest end of the Continent, and hopelessly removed from the eastern States, so that it should receive consideration, especially in the direction of uniting it by rail with the other States.”
Prior to the first Federal election the Prime Minister, commenting on Sir Edmund Barton’s Maitland speech, said -
There is one part in the general statement of Mr. Barton’s to which I would like to refer, and that is the construction of the Transcontinental Railway. The work is one that must be carried out. lt is absolutely necessary from a commercial, military, and national point of view. Although I, for one, will hold the Ministry to strict acts in all matters anticipating approval, I think the Government might take upon themselves the responsibility of undertaking the initial work of exploring the best possible routes.
– The Prime Minister meant the Government of Western Australia.
– The Prime Minister did not mean anything of the sort, and the honorable member for Bourke does not think that the Government of Western Australia was meant. If the honorable member is going to misrepresent in his interjections, I shall take no notice of him. The report of the press interview proceeded - “You can tell them a good deal more than the plain fact that I am in no way opposed to the construction of the railway to Western Australia. You can say that I am very strongly in favour of it; furthermore, I am in favour of its being constructed at the earliest possible moment. I do not expect it to pay at first, and I think the Commonwealth should be prepared to cover any margin of loss. According to. the estimate prepared by Mr. O’Connor, and lately published, the loss will not be great. If I had anything to do with it I would, of course, endeavour to reduce that loss.” “ Don’t you think that the rest of the Commonwealth is, to some extent, morally bound to build the line?” “ Whilst there has been no legal compact yet,” replied Mr. Reid, “ there is some obligation inasmuch as the belief that the line would be constructed was one of the main reasons why Western Australia joined the Federation. Many of the representative men of the East I know pledged themselves to support the building of the railway, if Western Australia came into the Commonwealth.”
– Was that before the referendum ?
– No, it was after the Maitland address, and before the first elections.- The question is often asked - “Why does not Western Australia build this railway herself? The other States ‘have built their own railways, and why should not Western Australia do the same in this case? Why should the Commonwealth be called upon to build it?” If Western Australia had another State alongside, occupying the same position as she does, probably some arrangement would have been made by which the railway would have been built. But (honorable members must recollect that for more than half the distance the railway would traverse South Australian territory. The shorter distance by 100 miles or so is in Western Australia. So that if we were to build the railway to the border, we should still be from 550 to 600 miles away from the nearest railway station in South Australia. That is one reason. But, apart from that, the object of this railway is not to open up the lands of Western Australia, although it may have some effect in that direction. My honorable and learned friend, the member for Parkes, spoke of the great value that would be given to the lands through which the line passed. For my own part, I do not think that there will be any difficulty in getting as much land on each side of the railway from the Western Australian Government as the Commonwealth desires to obtain. But I do not think that that is of great importance. It is not the value of the land, but what comes off the land, that is of value. All that comes off the land would be available as traffic for the railway. It does not seem to me to matter twopence who owns the land, so long as it is utilized. Therailway would insure the utilization of the land, and whether it belongs to the Commonwealth or to the State is, to my mind, of very little importance.
– I spoke of that point to show that the State is going to get all the increment.
– I do not think that the land would be very valuable to the State. It was not well watered. In fact, there is no surface water upon it. The capital value of the land would be small. It is the facilities afforded by the railway that would insure the improvement and utilization of the land. That is another point which shows that the honorable and learned member for Parkes has not worked this matter out so thoroughly as he usually does. Otherwise he would not ‘have used an argument like that. In entering Federation, every State of the Commonwealth was actuated, in some degree at any. rate, by the hope of material gain. Every one of the States expected that Federation would bring about greater prosperity to its people. I do not know that they were wrong in thinking that. At any rate such is the case. But in Western Australia we were unable to show the people, although we had every desire to do so when we were advocating Federation with all our might that there was any material gain in sight. The only way in which we could show the people of Western Australia that thev would gain was by expressing the belief that their State would soon be connected by .rail with the rest of Australia. What we promised the people of Western Australia was that, as a result of Federation, this railway would certainly be built, that their isolation would be removed, and that a (higher political life would be brought about. We used the latter argument for all that it was worth. I have often doubted since Federation, was accomplished whether we have reached that higher political life. But, at any rate, we believed that it would come about, and that we should be on a higher plane, occupy a better position in the world, and be better able to assist the mother country in maintaining the Empire.
Those were the arguments which we used in order to induce the people of Western Australia to join the Federation. In all these noble sentiments, creditable alike to those who used them and to those who believed them - there was nothing about material gain. How could Western Australia build a railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta ? It is a very large undertaking for a State with a small population. We do not own one-half of the territory which would be traversed by the railway. The other half belongs to South Australia. We have no power or right whatever to enter upon such a project. Of what greater advantage will this railway be to Western Australia when it is built than to South Australia and to the rest of the Commonwealth ? Perhaps some of the honorable members who have been interrupting me so much will be able to tell the Committee what material advantage over the other States Western Australia will derive. If I were thinking only of the advantage to Western Australia, and of the profit that might come into the pockets of the people of that State, I should be acting a selfish part. I cannot see that great gain will specially come to us from the construction of the railway. On the contrary, it must be remembered nhat some of the gold-fields’ trade that now goes to Perth and Fremantle will be diverted to other States. An honorable member has said that the railway is desired for the purpose of assisting the people of Perth and Fremantle. But they must recollect that Perth and Fremantle at present get the advantage of the whole of the trade of the eastern gold-fields. Will any one venture to say that they will, get all that trade when the railway is built? Is it not evident that much of the Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie trade, instead of going to Perth, will go to Adelaide and Melbourne?
– Land speculators in Wes- . tern Australia will get an advantage.
– I do not know that they will get any more advantage than land speculators get in the honorable member’s own constituency.
– I only want to see that the public interest is considered.
– Our land laws in Western Australia are very much in the interests of the small holder, and not of the capitalist. All town lands have to be submitted for sale by auction. The land system of Western Australia is, I believe, as good and liberal as that which obtains anywhere.
– Our land laws are as good as any in the world.
– But I quite agree with the honorable member for Lang that we must take care not to allow land speculators to come in and reap great advantages for- themselves. I have fried to show reasons why I take so much trouble in the advocacy of the construction of the railway. The conclusion at which I have arrived is that I believe that it will be a good thing for Western Australia, and a good thing for the whole Commonwealth, not on account of the trade that exists now - not because of things as they are - but because of the developments which will take place. I look forward a little. I look forward to this Commonwealth being built up on a safe, broad, and sound basis, and I know very Well that Federation never can be a reality for the people of the West until this railway is constructed. I feel that I have a responsibility for having assisted to bring the Commonwealth into existence, and that, consequently, my duty is to see that Federation is made a success, so that it may live in the hearts and’ minds of the people. It can never do that - it can never be a success - it can never come home to the people of Western Australia - so long as we are separated from the eastern States by 1,000 miles of unoccupied country. It must always be merely an idea - something which cannot be felt, which cannot be seen. Federation will be a delusion and sham - will remain so, and always must be - without this connecting link ; and those who were responsible for persuading the people of Western Australia to join the Federation will not have done their duty if the existing state of affairs is allowed to continue for an indefinite length of time. Now what sort of a place is Western Australia? Any one would think from listening to some honorable members that it is nothing but a little suburb, situated somewhere, with a little trade of its own, conducted by a few people. I should like to tell honorable members what, is the real position of Western Australia, in order to remind them of its value to the Commonwealth. Western Australia has a popula-tion of 250,000. and a trade of about £17.000,000 per annum. Although’ we have not half the population of Queensland, we have as large a trade, and our trade is much larger than that of South Australia. We have a trade of £72 per head of the population, which is double the value of the trade of any other State in the Commonwealth.
– How much of that is whisky ?
– I do not care whether it is whisky or what it is. I know that the duty on alcohol is very considerable.
– That is what I was thinking of.
– The important point is that our trade per head is double that of any other State. This little State has produced £51,000,000 worth of gold.
– Yet she cannot afford £20,000 !
– Last year Western Australia produced gold to the value of £9,000,000. We have never been asked to do this work; No one has ever previously suggested that the State should pay for the survey for. a national work of this sort. If it had been suggested I have no doubt. that there .would have been no reluctance on the part of Western Australia. We are not always thinking of a few pounds as some people seem to think. Any one would think to hear the honorable member, who represents a suburb of this city, that he and his district owed nothing to Western Australia. If there is one State in the Commonwealth that owes a great deal, and that ought to be. for ever grateful to Western Australia, and ready to assist us in every way, it is the State of Victoria. The working men of Western Australia have during the last eight years made a present to their relatives” in Victoria of nearly £2,000,000 - a free gift to the people- of Victoria. If any support to that statement is required let honorable members ask Sir George Turner, the present Treasurer. I am quite surprised at the! narrow views I hear expressed, generally by honorable members who represent’ places near Melbourne. I do not know why they express these views. They seem to forget altogether what Western Australia has done and is doing for Victoria. They are parochial.ists, and ungrateful ones, from the soles of their feet right up to the crowns of their heads.
– Does the right honorable member remember that Senator Playford said that this line would traverse 600 miles of a God-forsaken waterless desert?
– Senator Playford knew nothing about the country. I may tell the honorable member that if we want to make Australia a great country, there is no room for the petty ideas he is interjecting. I have always looked upon the honorable and learned member for Parkes as a well-informed man with broad ideas, whose vision goes far beyond the limits of Australia, and embraces the interests of the Empire at large. But when he says that we should . enter into negotiations with the two States about the repayment of this money, and makes a lot of fuss about an item of £20,000 in connexion with a great national project, I must say I am both astonished and disappointed. Does he know that Western Australia has spent a large sum, I should say quite £20,000, in examining this country, boring for water, and doing all sorts of things? Does he know that an expedition was sent out at the expense, not of the Federal Government, but of the State Government ?
– I do.
– Does the honorable and learned member know that for years boring operations have been going on there ?
– I do.
– The honorable and learned member talks about the expenditure of this sum as if it would ruin Australia. I do not look upon £20,000 as anything in a Federal matter of this kind.
– I am quite sure that if the right honorable member were Premier of Western Australia to-day he would not ask the Commonwealth for this £20,000.
– It is not the granting of £20,000, but the beginning of this great national’ work that we ask for, and the first step is to get the information desired. We might have done without this stage if South Australia had been willing, but she said that she was not prepared) to pass a Bill authorizing the construction of this railway through her territory until she was provided with full information in regard to the cost and the route. It is, perhaps, a reasonable request, and it necessitates the making of a survey.
– I should have thought that Western Australia had got all this information by now.
– It did not satisfy South Australia.
– It is not the expenditure of this ,£20,000, but the expenditure of the ,£5,000,000 behind it that we have to consider.
– In voting for the survey, the honorable member will not pledge himself to vote for the . construction of the railway, unless it is one which will commend itself to this Parliament. The voting of this money will not bind any honorable member. I wish to make my position quite clear. I am acquainted with this country, and I- know that there ‘are no engineering difficulties, but other people do not, and it is reasonable that they should get the information asked for. I am quite convinced that this project as a commercial undertaking will be favorably reported upon. But my conviction has nothing to do with any one else here. I shall be perfectly frank with honorable members. I look upon this survey as the beginning of the carrying out of this great project. If I did not believe that it would lead to satisfactory reports and estimate’s, that it was the first step in the direction of connecting the east and the west by railway, I should not ask any honorable member to have anything to do with the proposal. If I did not believe that the work could be undertaken on a commercial basis, and would meet with the approval of the people1 of Australia, I would not advocate the spending of a single sixpence on it. But that is no reason why honorable members should think as I do. They are only asked to say, “ We are going to get information, and when it is obtained we shall judge. We are notgoing to prejudge the case from the point of view of the honorable member for Swan. But we shall go this far - we shall get the information, and in doing so we in no way pledge ourselves.” From my point of view the position is altogether different. My belief is that the obtaining of this information will only be the forerunner to the carrying out of this great work. If ever there has been a project brought before the Australian people, which has been most grossly maligned by unjust criticism, it is this one. It has been said in the press of this State that the railway would not pay for axle grease. I would refer honorable members to the report of the late Mr. C. Y. O’Connor, Engineer-in-Chief of Western Australia. He reported upon this project with a full sense of responsibility, because under all ordinary circumstances, he might have fairly expected to live to see its completion. He had undertaken gigantic works in Western Australia which he honorably served, and had been proved , to be right in regard to works of greater magnitude and involving far greater risk than this one. Therefore, he knew what he was talking about, and had no motive to serve. I had resigned the Premiership, and had come here to join tine Barton Government, before he made his report ; so that it was made free from any influence I might be supposed to have had upon him had I remained there. His opinion was that the line would not pay immediately, but that the loss would be slight, in fact, that in ten years it would pay. He had carried out the great Fremantle Harbor works at a cost of £1,500,000. Every one said that that undertaking would never pay, but at the present time it is not only paying all working expenses, but also providing for interest and sinking fund. He had also carried out the great Coolgardie water scheme, and without his assistance and knowledge it could not at that time have been done, for my Government vere fortified in undertaking that work by the confidence we had in his ability and knowledge. What is the result of its construction ? Every one said that it would be a pall hanging over the country ; that it would ruin everybody. But for the half-year ending 30th June, it paid not only all working expenses, but also the interest on a capital expenditure of £2,600,000. I cite these facts to show that Mr. O’Connor was an able and reliable man. He had had experience of great works, first in New. Zealand, and then in Western Australia. He built all our railways, harbor works, and water schemes. In a lengthy report which, unfortunately, I have not with me, he pointed out exactly what he believed. His verdict was, that after ten years the line will be a paying concern, and that even in that interval there will not be very much loss. I predict that it will pay within three- years of its construction, I believe that it will pay even sooner, but I fix the period at three years. If I did not believe in this project I would not advocate it. I believe that it is necessary, not only in the material interests of this country, but also in the interests of the Federation of Australia.
– Is the object of this trial survey to prove whether the late Mr. O’Connor was right or wrong?
– If his report can be depended upon, why does the right honorable member wish us to spend £20,000 ?
– We require a survey to be made in order to obtain information, so as to satisfy the House as to what the railway will cost. Mr. O’Connor had not been over the whole of the ground. In my opinion, his estimate is not very far wrong 3 but South Australia, which is another party to this project, says that she will not even authorize the building of the railway until a survey is made and proper estimates are formed, in order that she may know exactly the position.
– Could not that be done by Western Australia?
– I have become accustomed to the croaking of some Victorians. I have been accustomed to men like the honorable and learned member for Indi all my life. I have had to fight them, and I am ready to do it again. I used to call them “little Australians” and “croakers.”
– The right honorable member does not mean to say that there are many men of that type in Western Australia ?
– There are plenty of them, and generally they have very little practical experience of the affairs of the country.
– When the right honorable member asked for the right to frame a special Tariff for Western Australia, he was the croaker.
– I was doing what the honorable and learned member was doing to his utmost, but I did not squeal and croak as much as he did. . I’ was trying to do the best I could for my own State, as he was trying to do the best he could for Victoria, and he squealed a good deal about it, when he did not get his own way.
– I did not squeal’ loudly enough to secure a special Tariff.
– That was proposed by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat as a means of inducing - or making it possible, as it was said, for Western Australia to enter the Federation.’
– How did he know what Western Australia wanted ?
– We had ‘ the’, reports and the statistics from Mr. Coghlan and others, and the outlook seemed then very dark for Western Australia. The opposition of my honorable friends to this project is only a murmur compared with the opposition I had to overcome in regard to many great works carried out in Western Australia. In Western Australia my opponents said, “ Every one will be ruined, and the whole place will collapse “ ; but there has been no collapse ; we seem to have flourished. Those who croaked most about the impending ruin cannot be found now. They have quite forgotten what they said. And so it will be with the honorable and learned member for Indi and the honorable member for Bourke. In a few years’ time when they see thousands of persons going backwards and forwards, and hear of Victorians reaping the reward of their industry on the gold-fields and on the lands of the West, they will conveniently forget that they ever opposed the construction of this railway.
– When we see that we shall admit that we were wrong.
– The honorable member is like one of the apostles mentioned in the Scriptures, who would not believe until he had seen. It must be remembered that the proposed railway is one to connect the eastern and western States of a great continent, and that it will pass through a temperate clime. The construction of such a’ railway could not be said to be a retrograde step; it must be a step in advance, a step in the direction of .union and progress. Five Commissioners, who were engineers, and who represented the States of Victoria, Queensland, S’outh Australia, New South Wales, and Western Australia visited the last-named State, the gold-fields, Eucla, and Port Augusta. They had before them the reports of the surveyors . who made an examination of the country which the proposed line would traverse, and the report of the late Mr. O’Connor, and they reported that the railway, if constructed, would pay at the end of ten years. It is not expected of engineers, who are hard, business men, that they should indulge in flights of imagination. They are rightly very careful in their estimates,. “
– They will all be out of their positions ten years hence.
– The reputation of a public servant is more to him than his position. If ‘his good name is taken from him, he becomes a very poor .man in deed. My own opinion is that the railwaywould pay after three years; but the secretary to the Commissioners, Mr. Gwynneth, who has had large experience as a contractor’s engineer, estimated that, instead of a loss of ,£2*49,435 in the first ten years, which’ is the estimate of the Commissioners, there would be a profit of .£173,850 if the shorter route through the Gawler Ranges were taken.
– The shorter route is the worse track.
– I think that it is the better route.
– I know what it ‘is like, because I have been over it.
– I have been over the shorter route through the Gawler Ranges.
– I have been over it a dozen times.
– I was closely observing the country when I crossed over it, though’ it is now thirty-four years ago. The Commissioners estimate that, after ten years, the profit from the line will be £18,219 per annum, but Mr. Gwynneth estimates it at £72,515 per annum.
– Is that making allowance for interest and working expenses ?
– That is making allowance for everything. I am not now in a position of responsibility in regard to Western Australia, but I have not the slightest doubt that any reasonable proposal made by the Government of the Commonwealth to the Government of that State will’ be fairly considered. The people of Western Australia do not wish to take any advantage of the Commonwealth. Western Australia has been most generous in the matter throughout. We know that South Australia will do nothing, but Western Australia has offered to indemnify her for any loss that she may sustain, for, I think, ten years after the construction of the line. Even if there were a loss, it ought not to be taken unduly into consideration, when weighed in the balance with the great advantage which would accrue from the cementing together of the peoples of Australia in a firm Federation. What is the loss of a few pounds compared with the achievement of such an object as that ? There “has been no more unjust or untrue criticism levelled at any project than that which has been levelled at this. It has been published of me personally in a Melbourne newspaper that I. wish to force a gigantic, fraud On the people of Australia. In the first place, I have no power to force anything upon the people of Australia.
– In what newspaper were those words published?
– I shall not give the name of the newspaper, but they were hard words to apply to one who has never done anything to cause him to be ashamed to hold up his head. I hurl them back at the writer of the article. They were untrue, unjust, and disgraceful words. Would it suit me personally to associate myself with’ anything which would bring I disaster upon my State or upon the Commonwealth? It would not. Fifty transcontinental railways are not as much to me as is my honour. Furthermore, I have been associated hitherto with successful enterprises, and would I knowingly nowassociate myself with a project which would be likely to.be a burden on the people of. Australia? I repudiate the idea. It would be altogether contrary to my interests to do anything of the kind. Those words were not fair, they were not honest, and they should not have been used in regard to a public man who, whatever may be his faults in the opinion of his opponents, has always been credited with a desire to do what was right. I ask honorable members who are opposed to this small expenditure of£20,000, and who seem to have pre-judged the case because they are unwilling to wait for the information which we wish to give to them, if its cost is their only objection to the construction of the proposed railway? If so, the sooner they say so the better, because then we shall know how we stand.
– The cost is a very great objection to the proposal.
– What other objection can there be?
– Would the proposed railway compete with the coasting vessels?
– I hope so. Otherwise it might not pay.
– That may be a reason for the opposition to the proposal.
– I hope not; but it must be remembered that it is our duty to open, up this great continent, and to make it prosperous. I have an object in asking if the cost of the proposed railway is the only objection to its construction. There is no other objection that I can think of. Are honorable members afraid of losing a few pounds on a railway which will bind Australia together in a manner in which it cannot otherwise be bound ? Are those who hold the cost to be an objection prepared to allow a private companyto undertake the enterprise, and to run it for all time under the conditions on which the railways of the States are run, or do they wish to leave the country through which the line would pass in the occupation of the kangaroos and native dogs? I hope that the honorable and learned member for Indi, who, I see, is taking notes, will refer to this matter when he speaks. I am not a company monger, nor do I know of any company willing to undertake this work ; but I believe that a private combination would construct the railway if it were granted a monopoly.
– If it is such a good thing, why do not the States construct the line?
– I believe that a private company would construct the line, if it were granted a monopoly, and were relieved from taxation for a long term of years.
– If it were also allowed to charge what it liked?
– No; I do not contemplate any such condition. I suggest that it should be required to carry passengers and goods at rates similar to those prevailing upon the Government railways. I have never advocated the construction of the line on account of the character of the country through which it would pass. The land is, no doubt, capable of improvement and development, but if that were the only prospect before us, I should not support it. My advocacy is based upon the fact that the great western State would be brought into direct communication with the rest of Australia. If the country through which the railway would pass is as bad as it is represented to be by a Melbourne newspaper, no one need have any compunction about giving away large areas of it to any company that might be willing to construct the line, nor need they hesitate to give them the most excellent terms for a hundred, or even a thousand, years; This newspaper states, with reference to the country between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, that -
Out of the 1,100 miles of railway which it is now proposed to construct at Federal expense, very nearly, if not quite, 1,000 miles is to run through territory which has no appreciable chance of being inhabited for generations, if ever at all.
If that were true, the country would be of very little value to any one; but the statement is not correct. The whole of the country from Port Augusta, through the Gawler Ranges, past Fowler’s Bay and Eucla, right on to Kalgoorlie, would be suitable for pastoral settlement when water supplies are made available.
– How much permanent water is available along the route of the proposed line?
– There is no doubt that water, could be made available along the whole length of the line.
– Does that apply to both routes ?
– I do not know the northern route, but I have travelled over a large part of the southern route, and am well . acquainted with it.
– I understood that efforts had been made to obtain water for years past, and that they had failed.
– No. Water has been obtained by sinking wells on the limestone tableland. Brackish water has been struck at a depth of 500 feet.
– For 270 miles the country is already settled, and the settlers there were not driven out during the drought period.
– Yes, the country, as far as the head of the Australian Bight, is already settled. Western Australia is prepared to leave the determination of the route, the gauge of the line, and everything else to the Commonwealth Parliament. The State Legislature passed an Act, the preamble of which is so well written, and represents so clearly the objects in view, that I shall read it to honorable members. The Act was assented on the 29th September, 1903, and the preamble reads as follows : -
Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia, being desirous of securing closer union, and the benefits of mutual protection and defence, and being desirous also of enjoying the advantages of freedom of trade, commerce, and reciprocal intercourse, have, by the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, formed one federal and indissoluble Commonwealth : And whereas, in furtherance of these objects, power has been conferred upon the Parliament of the Commonwealth to make laws for the construction and extension of railways in any State with the consent of such State : And whereas, on the faith of the early construction of a railway to connect the Western and Eastern portions of the Commonwealth, by means whereof they could enjoy the full benefits of such union, the people of Western Australia did agree to the said Constitution, and to form part of the Commonwealth. And whereas, to enable the Parliament of the Commonwealth to execute and maintain those essential provisions of : the Constitution which were intended to confirm the people of this portion of the Commonwealth in that assurance of protection and defence, and the advantages of postal and commercial intercourse, and of freedom of trade by land and’ by sea, which are enjoyed By members of the Commonwealth elsewhere, it is desirable to authorize such Parliament to construct a railway as aforesaid. . . .
– There is not one word of official warrant for that preamble?
– I do not agree with the honorable member, and his assertion is not justified.
– I say that there is no official warrant for the statements contained in the preamble.
– Why does not the honorable member remain quiet until I have finished ? The second section of the Act from which I have been quoting reads as follows: -
Subject to section six hereof, the Commonwealth Parliament may make laws for the construction and maintenance-
Of a railway from Kalgoorlie to the eastern boundary of Western Australia, commencing at the termination of the existing railway system of the State at Kalgoorlie, and proceeding thence to the said boundary by such route as the Commonwealth Parliament may determine, and
Of a railway from the Port of Eucla running due north to a point intersecting the route of the railway aforesaid.
The latter part of the section refers to a small railway from Eucla, which might b8 required for construction purposes. Then there is provision for empowering the Commonwealth to acquire land, and another important section which shows the bona fides of the’ Western Australian Government. It indicates their willingness to incur a very large expenditure, which will probably amount to , £750,000. It is provided that -
Not later than the time when the Commonwealth Parliament commences the construction of the first-mentioned railway, the State of Western
Australia will commence the construction of a railway from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, on the same conditions as to gauge and rails as those laid down by the Commonwealth Parliament in connexion with the work undertaken by it, and shall complete the same by the time the Commonwealth has completed the railway aforesaid.
Then it is enacted that the Act shall be void unless the Commonwealth Parliament shall have agreed to, and shall have commenced, the construction of the railways within five years from the passing of the Act.
– That is really an Act to permit the Commonwealth to construct the line.
– Yes; but the honorable and learned member cannot have failed to notice that the Western Australian Government undertake to alter the gauge of their own railways in order to make their gauge uniform with that adopted by the Commonwealth Government. That would probably involve the alteration of 387 miles of railway from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle from the present 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to -the 4-f t. 8j-in. gauge, and a very large expenditure, amounting to at least ,£750,000 would have to be incurred in effecting the necessary changes in connexion with sta-, tion buildings and sidings, and in widening the permanent way. Therefore, whilst the Commonwealth are asked to undertake the survey and construction of the proposed line, they must not forget that Western Australia is willing to incur an immense’ expenditure in order to secure a direct and uninterrupted means of communication from Fremantle to Port Augusta.
– What is the reason of the limitation as to time in section 6?
– The reason is that the Western Australian Government cannot consent to have the matter “hung up” for ever. They have undertaken to change the gauge of their line from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie, and they cannot allow matters to stand in abeyance for more than five years. At present all alterations and additions on that line are at a standstill, and they must remain so until the Western Australian Government are in a position to know what the Commonwealth Parliament intends to do.
– They will become annoyed, and construct the railway themselves.
– Personally, I think that five years is too long a time to allow.
– That Act is a threat to the Commonwealth that if it does not. undertake the construction of the line within a certain time it will not be permitted to do so at all.
– Surely the honorable and learned member does not mean to say that ?
– It looks very much, like it.
– Does not the honorable and learned member see that some limitation as to time is necessary, because whilst . the matter remains in abeyance no improvements can be carried out upon the existing line from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie.
– What is to happen if the Commonwealth does not commence! the work within five years?
– I cannot say what Western Australia will do; but probably she will despair of Federation conferring any benefit upon her.
– Probably she will secede from the Union !
– No doubt she would have very good cause for dissatisfaction. In this matter, Western Australia has not acted the part of the doginthemanger. Her Legislature leaves the whole questions of route and gauge to the Commonwealth Parliament, and undertakes to alter 387 miles of existing line, in order to make its gauge uniform with that of the railway constructed by the Commonwealth. I do not think that any one can argue that in anything Western Australia has done in this matter she has shown any narrow or -parochial spirit. All through the negotiations she has. acted in a Federal spirit, not in her own interests only, but also in the interests of the whole of Australia. If honorable members compare the action of that State with that of South Australia, they will probably come to the conclusion t’hat Western Australia has some great benefit to gain to make her so urgent in her advocacy of the railway, whilst the sister State is so apathetic. The more the matter is looked into, however, the more clearly it will be seen that the contrary is the case, and that the greater advantage will lie with South Australia. No advantage will be gained by Western Australia that will not also be conferred upon the sister State. Even in connexion with the construction of the railway itself, South Australia will gain more largely, because if the Gawler Range route is adopted, large quantities of railway material will probably be landed at Streaky Bay, Denial Bay, Fowler’s Bay, and Eucla. Western Australia cannot deliver her railway material to similar advantage. Before a single spike can be driven on the Western Australian side, it. will have to be carried for 387 miles from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie. Then, again, a great portion of the traffic which now goes to Fremantle will probably be diverted over the new line to South. Australia and other States, and will not’ benefit the coastal settlements of Western Australia, which at present enjoy the whole of the trade with the gold-fields.
– Did the right honorable gentleman say that, to the people of Perth ?
– Yes;; and. I told them that notwithstanding that at first sight it. might, appear that the proposed railway would operate against their interests-,, in my opinion it was certain that, where one. man travelled now a hundred would travel when it was -constructed, and that for every ton of goods that now passed in- or. out of the, State-, hundreds of tons would be forwarded,I further, represented to them that if they adopted a broad, liberal,, and patriotic view of this question,, they would gain . rather than lose by ‘their action. I. think that that is, a perfectly sound position to take up, and I thoroughly believe that the people of Western Australia, as a whole, will benefit’ by the establishment of direct and’ rapid, means of communication between the western State and the larger centres of population, in. the east, and by the encouragement which will be given to trade and commerce with all parts of the Common-, wealth. The honorable’ and learned, member for Northern: Melbourne at once sees that, on the face of it. the proposal does not appear to be- largely in the interests of the people of Perth and Fremantle ; but on reflection he must agree with me that the broader and wider view which. I have indicaited is. the sounder and nobler one to adopt. I think I have- already said that. I feel a responsibility in this matter, because I took a very prominent part in the Federal campaign,, and in recommending the people of Western. Australia to join the Union. I feel that it is, my duty to, do all that I can to make the Union satisfactory to the people of the State of which I am a. representative.. But my- hands are tied. We. have no means to do any-thing. There is no means of communication between Western- Australia and the eastern States, except the sea route. There has been no true realization of Federation, so far as the people of Western Australia are concerned.’ They realize the inconvenient side of it, when a request, for a post-office is refused, or when; a proposed telephone extension has to be referred to Melbourne for decision. On the pther hand, if we had a railway running daily between the east and the west, and hundreds of people travelling to’ and fro upon it,. Federation would then be a reality to all parts, of the Commonwealth. If no railway existed between Melbourne and Sydney, between- Sydney and Brisbane, and between Melbourne and Adelaide, we should have these States wholly apart, and their peoples knowing scarcely anything of one another. Such a conditionof affairs- would, be- almost beyond endurance. The representatives of Western Australia cannot reach, their homes, except by means of a sea voyage. As I. have already said, that state of affairs very materially interferes with Che representa.tion of Western Australia, in the Federal Legislature, because but. few men can afford to leave their homes and their business for. many months in order to. devote their whole time to their parliamentary duties.
– The- construction of this line would not- improve the position in that respect.
– It would, because it would improve our means of travelling to and from our homes.
– But it could not improve the present representation of the State.
– I do not wish to say one word adverse to my colleagues in the representation of Western Australia, but for the reasons I have, mentioned, the isolated condition of Western Australia certainly interferes materially with the choice of the! people of that State.
– The railway journey would annihilate the representatives of that State.
-It would do nothing- of the kind. I have had some experience of travelling; long; distances bv rail. I have travelled across America! on several occasions. The railway journev occupied eight clays when I first crossed it, and yet after’ alighting at a: railway station I was; very glad! to get into> the train again, for I. found that the railway carriage was more, comfortable, than any other place. The present state of affairs, so far as Western Australia is concerned, is not Federation, but .isolation. It :makes Federation a sham. I distinctly say once more that I should not have advocated Federation had I thought that this state’ of isolation would continue indefinitely. But it cannot remain as it is. The people of Western Australia will never rest content while it lasts. The only thing that makes them apparently contentis .the hope that the existing position may soon be brought to an end. Is it reasonable that they should ‘remain isolated from and unknown to the’ people of the other States that they should have no -means of communication with those States except that which the .sea affords? Why did they .agree to enter the Union? Does the Parliament of Australia intend to refuse to carry out the obligation to build this railway ? Some one has said there is no such obligation. .1 assert that there is. The Commonwealth is under an obligation to protect every State from invasion. How is it going to protect Western Australia? That State might as we’ll be an island in mid-ocean as a State separated from the rest of the Union by many hundreds of miles of unoccupied country, and without railway communication with the other parts of the Commonwealth. Was it ever intended that Western Australia should depend upon its own resources for its defence? Why was it provided in the Constitution that the Commonwealth shall protect every State from invasion when, as long as the present state of affairs continues, we cannot defend Western Australia, or send a single man to protect it ?
– Captain Mahan says that a naval base-
– I am speaking of the Constitution.
– But the right honorable member should listen to what Captain Mahan says-
– The honorable and .learned member should not interrupt me. The Commonwealth, has undertaken to “ protect every State against invasion,” and unless every effort is to be made to carry out that obligation, those words in the Constitution must be idle and meaningless. I would even say that those words are worse than meaningless, .for they are fraudulent, if they do not mean what .they say. In my opinion, however, they do .mean what they say. I believe that the people of Australia are on my side - that they are on the side of Western Australia. I have never addressed a public meeting on this question in any part of Australia without re.ceiving encouragement for the views I have expressed in regard to it. On one occasion I addressed a public -meeting in South Australia, consisting of over 1,000 persons, a large majority of whom, I was told, were hostile to the project ; but I never was better received in my life than when I was advocating before that meeting the construction of this railway. The same remark will apply to the feeling in Victoria. The honorable and learned member for Indi believes that his constituents are opposed to the construction of the line, but I very much doubt if they are. I am prepared to prove the sincerity of my belief by going to his constituency and asking for the support of his constituents, even with the eloquence of the honorable and learned member against me. The people of Australia are not mere timeservers ; they are not going to break their word, or disregard the written Constitution to which they have agreed. They have undertaken to protect each State from invasion, and they, must ‘set about ‘the work of putting themselves in a position to do so.
– But the construction of this line is not provided for in the Constitution ?
– The people of Australia desire a Federation that is not a sham. They want something real. They believe more in the importance of Western Australia than does the honorable and learned member for Indi.
– Oh, no !
– The people, of the rest of the Commonwealth know that Western Australia has been a good friend of Australia, and carried them safely over a period of distress, and helped them when they needed assistance. They are not ungrateful. I rely, upon the people of Australia to a larger extent than I rely on some of their representatives. I am quite certain that the people of Victoria, and, indeed, of -all Australia, will adhere to the understanding arrived at in regard to this matter, and will adhere to the spirit of the Constitution. They .know that a moral understanding exists that (the line -shall ,be constructed, .and they will see that it is carried out. Who are our opponents ? Have they ever done anything for this country? Let them stand before us in a row, and point to any great work that any one of them has carried out - to one monument that reflects to their credit?
– They are sitting behind the right honorable member.
– I am not speaking of any honorable member of this House in any personal sense, but I assert that our opponents are merely the “do-nothings.” The pessimists and/ the croakers of former days in Western Australia cannot be found now, because all the works which they opposed and decried have been successful. They have subsided, although many of them would now take credit for the construction of works which they did so much to prevent. I would say to the people who are opposed to this undertaking that they may delay this great work, but not for long. It is not a paltry little railway to run through one solitary town or district, but a line which is going to connect the eastern and western sides of Australia, and bind the people of the Commonwealth together. They may be able to delay the work, but it will not be for very long, for I firmly believe that Federation and broad-mindedness will, in the near future, in this and all other great national matters, conquer and subdue the “ little Australians,” the pessimists and the parochial lsts.
– I think we can all very heartily congratulate my right honorable friend, who has just resumed his seat, on the genuineness with which he advocates this project. I believe that no honorable member could throw more personal fervour into his advocacy of any proposal than the
Tight honorable member has thrown into this, but I regret, for his sake, that I feel compelled to oppose the motion. I am sorry that my right honorable friend refers to those who, like myself, believe that as trustees of the money of the people whom we represent, we are not justified in looking at an expenditure of, £5,000,000 as a mere nothing
– It is not £5,000,000. Our opponents always add a million, but never think of taking one off.
– £5,000,000 has constantly been referred to in this House as the probable cost of the railway. But let us take it at £4,000,000 ; a million is nothing to the right honorable member.
– At present we are concerned with a proposal to spend only £20,000.
– If there is to be a survey, is it to be made with the genuine intention to proceed with Che work, should it be favorably reported upon?
– Does the construction of a line always follow the making of a survey? How many surveys of projected lines have been made in Victoria without the work of construction following?
– I agree with the honorable member’s suggestion that surveys ought not to be made unless it is intended to proceed with the actual work, should the report of the surveyors be favorable.
– It is not my suggestion.
– The object of the proposed survey is to obtain necessary information.
– My ‘honorable and learned friend will surely agree that if we secure the necessary information, it should be with the honest intention to proceed with the work provided that the information proves favorable.
– If the information turns out to be favorable.
– However roseate the report might be, I hold that we are not in a position to spend £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 in the near future. On that ground alone, I am prepared to object to the proposal. Whatever may be the eventual prospects of this gigantic- work - and it is a gigantic work - however desirable it may be, and I admit it is desirable that at some time or other the iron band of union should exist between east and west - I think that at present we are not at all in a position to spend out of our revenue, or to borrow with advantage on’ the credit of the Commonwealth, the huge sum of £4,000,000 or ,£5,000,000 necessary to make this railway. When we look at the Act of Parliament which has been forcibly brought under our notice by the right honorable member for Swan, we find that it is to expire in 1908. We are told, in effect by Western Australia, “ If you do not undertake this work by 1908, you are not to do it at all.” That is the limit. I, for one, am not prepared to say that Australia is. by some means, to raise £4,000,000 or £5,000,000, and to expend it in making a railway within the period named. What the distant future may bring is another matter; but
I am not prepared to say that even £20,000 is in our present condition a mere trifle. I do not know that any one will dispute the proposition that, in the future, population will require and justify the construction of the line. I am not in a position to offer any opinion on that phase of the question, but I do say, that whatever the future may bring forth, the present is not the time for us to embark on such a great undertaking. If we are not prepared to enter upon it within a reasonable time, then we have no right now to expend £20,090, because by the time we should be able to undertake the enterprise, conditions might have materially altered for the better or the worse - I hope and believe for the better. We are told by the right honorable member for Swan that, after all only a few pounds are involved, and he wishes to know why “ these croakers” should object to the expenditure of a few pounds. That is a very light way to talk of a large sum of money. If we were to propose the expenditure of £20,000 on some projects, I am sure that we should be told that it was not a small sum.. It seems to me that to expend £20,000 in the way proposed would be to throw it away. I deny that it was any part of the bargain between Western Australia and the rest of the ‘ Commonwealth that this railway should be constructed. I never heard of it as a bargain, but I do not deny that it was a laudable desire and ambition on the part of Western Australia - and a desire that I can heartily reciprocate - that the eastern and western States should be united by easier and more facile means of communication than at present exist. The question is whether we can afford at the present time to provide that means of communication, or whether the prospects now. justify it, or will do so within the immediate future. I do not think it is an answer for the right honorable member to say that, if the only objection be the cost, we should allow a private company to do the work. That is a most fallacious argument. If the Commonwealth or any State is going to say that because a project, however inviting it may look in the future, is not one which the financial condition of the Commonwealth or of the State concerned will justify at the present moment, it is therefore to be handed over to a private company as a monopoly, we shall find ourselves at no great distance of time in a very perilous position. If that position were taken up, we should fetter our hands in a way from which we could not hope afterwards to free ourselves. I do not think that that argument is a sound one, however alluring it may be for the moment. I cast my mind back, and recall a time in our history when Brisbane was not connected with Adelaide. We see that they are connected to-day, but it requires time and patience to give effect to these undertakings. We must wait, in my judgment, for some further development of our population and territory before we can justify the expenditure of the very large sum of money we are now asked to expend. I should like to have heard the present Minister of Trade and Customs upon this subject, and should have been pleased if he had followed the right honorable member for Swan. I know that his views, if expressed, would not be found to be in accord with those which have been announced by the right honorable member for Swan. I think it is wrong that the right honorable gentleman should refer in the way he has done to those of us who, in Victoria and in other States, feel that they cannot support this proposal, which, if it mean’s anything at all, is only the, thin .end of the wedge for the largest expenditure of money proposed since the Commonwealth came into existence. I take this opportunity of saying that, whatever may be our desire for closer union and quicker communication , with Western Australia, well disposed as we all are to that State as to the other States of the Commonwealth, we feel regret that the circumstances of the Commonwealth to-day do not justify us in supporting the proposal of the Government.
– I do not propose to take up much .time in dealing with this matter, but it is strange to me to hear the right honorable member for Swan put so much force into his arguments in the endeavour *to impress the Committee with the splendid thing it will be for this Parliament to embark upon railway construction at this particular time and in this particular locality. The right honorable member has given us to understand that this is not a matter of convenience or of advantage to the people of Western Australia. He holds that it will be of enormous benefit to the people of the Commonwealth if this railway is constructed at their expense, but to my mind the project will be of benefit only to the people of Western Australia. The right honorable gentleman said that he would tell us what an eminent engineering authority, to whom the question was referred, had to say with respect to the railway, and the country through which it is proposed to be constructed. I regret that the right honorable gentleman did not quote the opinion of Mr. C. Y. O’Connor, the authority to whom he referred.
– I think . the right honorable member for Swan said that Mr. O’Connor had not been through most of the country, and he did not regard that gentleman as an authority.
– He has not been through it, and, strange to say, we can find no one who admits that he has been through the country, or knows anything about it.
– Hence the necessity for further inquiry.
– The right honorable . member for Swan has, I believe, been through the country, but even he cannot speak authoritatively concerning it.
– Honorable members will not take the right honorable gentleman’s word on the subject.
– Yet we have estimates submitted as to the probable cost of the railway.. I am surprised that . the right honorable member for Swan did not quote Mr. O’Connor’s views, after telling the Committee that he proposed to do so. On the very best information available to date, Mr. O’Connor writes in this way in paragraph 2 of his report -
In an undertaking of this magnitude, traversing11,000 miles of country, which is mostly uninhabited, uncultivated, and waterless, although there are no engineering difficulties to contend with, there is necessarily a good deal of uncertainty as to its probable cost.
It is not to ‘me a matter of surprise to find that a State Government should be most anxious that some authority other than itself and its taxpayers should embark in such a national work as this - because a national work it surely is, as we understand national works here, that is to say, works in connexion with which there can be no possible hope that they will pay, or that there will be a justification for the expenditure involved in them.
– That is merely the honorable member’s opinion.
– If this undertaking is to be such a wonderfully good thing commercially and generally for the ‘development of ‘Western Australia, how is it that -the Go vernment of that State is so anxious that somebody else should embark in the construction of the railway and control the enterprise ?
– I have explained that only half the line would run through their territory.
– I take objection to the proposal, on the ground of the underlying principle with regard to the Commonwealth embarking in railway construction at all. The conditions under which we can embark upon railway construction, as laid down in the Constitution, are clear and distinct. A first essential is the authority of the States through which the railways prorosed to be constructed must pass. Up to the present time, no assent has been given by one of the States concerned in this proposed railway.
– There is consent to the survey.
– I am reminded of the wiles of the artful trapper, endeavouring to snare the last remnants of the warrigal. All the skill and ingenuity of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat and his successor in office have been applied with the utmost ability in a vain attempt to get the Premier of South Australia to say something definite on this subject.
– To keep his word, in fact.
– No, not to keep his word, but ‘to keep the word of, or some promise made by, a predecessor in office.
– He was a member of the same Ministry.
– That does not matter. Even the valiant right honorable gentleman is not going to side-track me on this occasion.
– Does the honorable member contend that a Minister is not bound by- a promise given by the Premier of a Government of which he was a member?
– I propose to tell the Committee exactly what the position is with regard to the correspondence . which appears to go back to 1900, and which was initiated by Sir Edmund Barton when leading the first Federal Administration. We have been reminded that three Governments have favoured this proposal, and have introduced it to this House.
– Four Prime Ministers have supported it.
– Let us say four. Three of them never succeeded in reaching anything definite with regard to their proposals.
– The honorable member would not’ allow a Prime Minister to do so on one occasion.
– I propose to-night, to show’ why I. think we have gone far enough, so far as action by the- present Administration is concerned. I propose to put this matter from my point of view. It is a strange feature in connexionwith the subject that, with the exception of the right honorable member for Swan, the only ardent and enthusiastic supporter of this proposal is the right honorable gentleman who at present occupies the position of Prime Minister. That is an extraordinary position. I should like some little information, which I have no doubt is available if we could get the benefit of it, to explain how it is that the position which an honorable member may occupy in this Chamber, or the party he happens to support, should have some peculiar influence upon the attitude he is likely to assume with regard to this proposal. I should be delighted if some of the honorable gentlemen,’ who were recently sitting in this corner, and some who were in Opposition, and who have now been elevated to the Treasury bench, would explain how the judgments which they previously formed have been influenced by the atmosphere of Ministerial responsibility.
– To whom does the honorable member refer?
– To the Minister of Trade and Customs, for instance. That honorable member has always posed as an economist of the first water, and I hare always looked to him for light and leading in matters of economy.
– The honorable member will be quite right if he sticks to that.
– I should like to have some information to show what has influenced honorable gentlemen. Even from the honorable gentleman who is in charge of this matter to-night, we have heard nothing very definite in the way of justification for the. position the Government are taking up. Not, perhaps, from anything on record, but from the general trend of his views politically, and his actions in Parliament, the Minister of Defence led me to believe that he was opposed to any pro posal of this sort, practically committing the Federal Parliament to an expenditure of £5,000,000.
– This does not commit Parliament ; it is intended only to secure information.
– It is the first step in the affirmation of a principle. We are being asked to establish a precedent that is going to influence us for all time.
– Remember that the present is a Coalition Government.
– Coalitions are responsible for a great deal. We saw one effect of a coalition this evening, when a division took place in this chamber. Certain honorable members have gone into alliance with others, and on the very first opportunity those who held out the olive branch to them were deserted by their sworn friends. Are we to have a repetition of the same kind of thing on this side of the House?
– If so, I am made only the more chary of these coalitions. In one vote this evening, we saw sworn allies running away from their brethren-in-arms.
– They ran away from their own bridge.
– Surely that kind of thing is not going to happen on this side of the House on this question? This is why I am most anxious, with the honorable member for Indi, to know what really is the opinion of the Ministers of Trade and Customs and Defence. I had some little hope that the Minister of Home Affairs, who introduced the subject this evening, would exhibit a desire to proceed on more economical lines than appears to be the case. It did. however, seem to me that the honorable gentleman’s heart was not in this matter. I honestly believe that the right honorable member for Swan could, have stated a much better case in support of the proposal than did the Minister of Home Affairs. I have been for some time diverted from the delightful correspondence that has taken place between the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth and the Premiers of South and Western Australia. I find that a letter passed from Sir Edmund Barton to the Premier of South Australia, in 1903, referring to correspondence which took place in 1901. It would appear that a period of two years had been allowed to elapse before the attack on this subject was renewed. Sir Edmund Barton wrote, in 1903 : -
I have the honour to invite your attention to the correspondence on the subject of the transcontinental railway that passed between us in 1901, and particularly to your letter of the 31st July of that year, in which you enclosed a communication from Mr. Holder, then Premier of South Australia, dated 1st February,1900.
That, I assume, is the historic letter referred to in which the Premier of South Australia made a promise that he would put no obstacles in the way of future negotiations with regard to the construction of this line. But, so far as. I understand, he certainly did not pledge his Parliament in any particular way.
– He said, “I undertake.”
– We shall deal with the letter later on. Then the Premier of South Australia replied to this effect : -
In reply to your letter of the19th inst., I have the honour to inform you, as I have previously informed the Honorable the Premier of Western Australia, that it would not only be unjustifiable, but useless to submit to Parliament a Bill for the construction of this railway (of which this State’s share of the cost would amount to a very large sum) without being in a position to give Parliament information as to the cost of the scheme.
That was in 1903. Then we have that able exponent of the- English language, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, coming on the scene in his capacity as Prime Minister. In a very long letter, addressed to the Premier of S’outh Australia, the honorable and learned member made every effort to pin down fhe former to something definite, but he absolutely failed to do so: The honorable and learned member even made an appeal, which is evidence that there was no intention, at that time on the part of the Commonwealth Parliament, so far as he was concerned as Prime Minister, to embark on any cost whatever until it was known exactly what the position of the Commonwealth was - until the assent of both States had been given to the proposal. This is the appeal he made in a letter under date 16th October, 1903 : -
The approximate cost of the work is expressly set out in the reports of the Board of EngineersinChief, dated T2th March and 27th July, 1903, which has been presented to the Federal Parliament. That Board consisted, as you are aware, of the best authorities on railway construction to be found in Australia. Its members were nominated by the several States, including South Australia. They devoted much time to the consideration of their subject, and their estimate may be taken to be the most definite that could be obtained until the line is marked out.
That is the pointed reply of the Prime Minister to the Premier of South Australia. The letter proceeded -
The request for further informationcomes unexpectedly at this stage, when all the knowledge that could be expected prior to a detailed examination of the route has already been acquired. Even that would . probaly alter the sum quoted, but very slightly, if at all. To make a complete survey might cost , £20,000, and before asking the Commonwealth Parliament to approve of this expenditure, it is only reasonable that the consent necessary under subsection 34 of ‘section 51 of the Constitution should be obtained.
Why is it that as Prime Minister he never departed from that principle ? He refused, and never did submit to this House a proposal to spend one single shilling even on a survey until that consent, which was not given during his reign as Prime Minister, was obtained.
– He never repudiated the consent given.
– But he never got the consent which was laid down as a stipulation. The letter went on -
Your Government and Parliament have much better information now as to the probable cost of the work than when Mr. Holder’s promise to th’e Government of Western Australia was made in1900, and I should be glad if you could see your way to consider this sufficient for present purposes, and at the earliest date pass an Act authorizing the Federal Parliament to proceed with the woTk. This has already been done by the Legislature of Western Australia.
– That is all right.
– What I want thi Committee to note is that, having made this request to the Premier of South Australia, the honorable and learned member for Bal; larat, as Prime Minister, refused, and never did submit to the House a proposal to spend one single shilling.
– The Prime Minister did so, before his Government went out of office.
– Certainly not.
– This same message was laid on the table.
– But it was never dealt with in Committee.
– The honorable member may remember that I submitted the motion, which was opposed by the other side for the reason that there was a political crisis. But the message and the Bill were before the House.
– But that was as far as we got.
– The proposal of the Government was made.
– This brings me to May, 1904, when, apparently, there had been a change of Government, and the following telegram was sent on the 7th, by the then Prime Minister to the Premier of South Australia : -
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway under consideration. Shall be glad to be advised whether, in event Commonwealth Parliament favorably considering question, you will be prepared to pass Act authorizing Federal authority to proceed with work of construction. As you are aware, this has already been done by Legislature of Western Australia. Greatly obliged if you will favour with early reply.
The reply to that telegram is to this effect : -
Replying your wire 7th instant, Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta railway, I advised your predecessor on 22nd February that if it was considered necessary for the State to pass an Act to give the Federal Government power to make the proposed survey, we would be agreeable to ask Parliament when next assembled to pass a short measure with that object. I do not suppose you intend to ask your Parliament to pass legislation providing for the construction until survey is made and some reliable estimate prepared . of probable cost.
– That is right.
– Honorable members will observe the diplomacy and tact with which the leader of the Government of South Australia evades the point which was put to him point blank; he does not answer the question, but simply dodge’s it.
– He wanted more information.
– There is a subsequent message from the Prime Minister, which is as follows: -
Your wire 10th instant, Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway. Shall be glad if you will kindly advise me disposition of your Government towards question of authorizing construction. The possession of your views upon this specific point will be of considerable value to Government in considering question of survey. Will you kindly favour me early reply?
The reply to that is to this effect: -
Replying your wire nth, Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta railway, when survey is made and reliable estimates of probable cost are prepared, we should be pleased to advise you as to what action we shall then ask the State Parliament to take.
The Premier of South Australia was beginning to make up his mind in a certain direction, but he had certainly decided that he was not going to commit his Parliament or people in the slightest degree to this line.
– He repudiated the promise made by the present Speaker when Premier of South Australia.
– The Premier of South Australia says that he is not tied by that promise.
– We do not agree with him.
– That is a matter of opinion; and we know we are tied by nothing but Acts of Parliament.
– That may be a Victorian, but it is not a British idea.
– Is the honorable member for Moira not tied by the caucus?
– I do not acknowledge any caucus. The Premier of South Australia goes on: -
The question of making survey has already been decided by your predecessors in office. Unless you intend to repudiate their obligations you need no further information in order to justify you in asking your Parliament to provide necessary funds for that purpose.
Honorable members will see the ingenuity of this gentleman, who refuses to be tied himself in any way, or committed to anything in particular, but who attempts to impress the Prime Minister with the idea that the latter, by some decision of his predecessor in office, was committed to a survey. That, however, is not correct.
– The message was laid on the table by the Government.
– If the Government desire to expend money for any particular purpose, they must get the authority of Parliament, and then take the responsibility.
– The Government had made up their mind to ask the Parliament for authority.
– I contend that before it is justifiable to spend one shilling on a survey, there must be the consent of the States through which the line will pass.
– I think that is rather a narrow view’.
– The view is not so wide as the line, of course. It was commencing to dawn on the Prime Minister that he was dealing with rather an astute gentleman, and he sent the following telegram : -
Regret you appear unwilling to intimate probable attitude of your Government towards KalgoorliePort Augusta Railway untilafter considerable expense that survey will- necessitate will have been incurred. May I take it that unless survey discloses facts not now known, involving very substantial increase on present estimates of cost, you will advise your Parliament pass Bill conferring necessary authority on Commonwealth to construct line, in accordance with promise of South Australian Government when Mr. Holder was Premier? You will readily perceive that Federal Parliament may naturally . be reluctant to authorize substantial preliminary expenditure unless they have some assurance that such expenditure will not be rendered resultless by your subsequent unwillingness to act in accordance with promise referred to. In reference to latter part of your telegram. The question of adopting or modifying the policy of our predecessors is a matter for this Government to determine.
The latter portion is in exact agreement with the position I took up in justification of the attitude of Mr. Jenkins. The honorable member for Bland, who was then. Prime Minister, said that he- was not tied by the’ determination of his predecessors, except in so far . as the policv of his Government determined he should go. It will be seen, that the attitude of the then Prime Minister was that therGovernment should not move at all, and although they did submit a proposal to the House to spend money on the survey, he intimated to the Premier of South Australia . that the Commonwealth Parliament could not be asked to authorize the expenditure until the assent of the South Australian Parliament had been obtained. I contend that we are in exactly the same position to-day. I venture to say that the honorable member for Bland should, in fairness, and in consequence of that undertaking, conveyed to the Premier of Sout’h Australia, oppose the expenditure of even one shilling on a survey, until the consent of South Australia is obtained.
– The Premier of South Australia expressed to me months ago the opinion that there would be no opposition.
– What is the use of coming here; and saying what the opinion of the man in the street is, when we ‘have an official statement from the Premier of South Australia?
– Does the honorable member mean in reference to the survey, or the railway?
– I am dealing with the survey. The reply to that querv was this:-
Replying to yours of 13th, I have nothing to add to mine of 12th inst., further than to state that survey and reliable estimates are always prepared before we ask Parliament by Act to sanction, the construction of any line of railway.
We have in the telegrams and correspondence which passed between- the Prime Minister- and the Premier of South Australia, a clear indication that the Premier of South Australia refused point blank, in the first instance, to acknowledge any obligation to be bound by any promise made by his predecessor with regard to the construction of the line. Even should the report be favorable, we have no intimation from him that tfie will ask the South Australian Parliament to consent to the construction of the- line.
– We take that risk.
– I venture to say that we cannot, under the Constitution take that risk. The first absolute essential before we spend any money is to obtain the assent of the Parliaments of the States through which the line is to be constructed. What right have- we to spend money upon a survey? Is it. not part and parcel of the expenditure debited to the construction of the line ?
– The honorable member is now dealing with the railway, not with the survey.
– We certainly cannot construct the railway unless South Australia assents.
– No; and I go further, and say that we should not be justified in spending money on a survey until we have authority to construct the line. What’ is the position of the people of Western Australia? There is a tendency on the part of some persons to rush to their friends when they have a “good thing”- instead of taking advantage of it themselves. They seem to be anxious to hand it over to the first man they meet in the street. Go into any of our trading marts, and you will meet many persons who have “ good things “ to dispose of. Go to the Stock Exchange amongst our mining community. There are always men who have “good things” to dispose of. Go to our stock saleyards. There are persons there who have the “ cheapest and finest “ stock in Australia to sell ; but if you take . the stock at their price you are “ left “ every time. I agree with the man who once gave a piece of advice to the respected Judge of our Insolvency Court in Victoria, as regards accepting these “good things” from friends. After the man’s case had been heard, and’ his certificate- granted, he said, “ Take this from me, your Honour. If a friend comes to you with a ‘ good thing,’ club him ; knock him down.” That is the position the Commonwealth Parliament should take to-day with respect, to this “good thing.” . The best thing the Commonwealth Parliament can do is, to say most emphatically and conclusively to Western Australia, “ If this is such a ‘ good thing ‘ take the whole benefit of it to yourselves.”
– -Hand it over to a private company.
– No, I have always been opposed to the construction of railways bv private enterprise in Australia. I have always been an advocate for the State ownership of railways. If there is warrant for the construction of a railway, the State can construct it, and work it as economically; and as much in the interests of the people concerned, as any private company can.
– The honorable member must “be a Socialist. He should come over here.
– There is not a man on God’s earth who is not a Socialist to some extent. I have no dread of the word “ Socialism.” -I have no fear of being called a “ Socialist.” There are various interpretations of the word. Where is - the man who is not a Socialist to some extent, as we understand Socialism in the every-day sense of the word? He is not to be found.
– The honorable and learned member for Werriwa says he is not a Socialist.
– But the honorable and learned member for Werriwa takes advantage of our postal facilities, and other Government agencies. What is the use of trotting out that .bogy ? If there is to be no loss, why does not Western Australia” construct the line? If there is to be a loss, what proportion of it is Western Australia prepared to pay ? The late Prime Minister made an inquiry on this subject in a telegram dated 6th May, 1904. He telegraphed to the Premier of Western Australia -
Representations made to me, feeling of members of Federal Parliament towards proposal favours belief that opposition would be materially lessened if your Government indicated willingness contribute stated proportion of loss, if any, during the first ten years. As’ matter under consideration of Cabinet, early reply desired.
That was a line of inquiry for which the late Prime Minister is entitled to great credit. It showed a desire on his part to deal with a business matter in a business-like way. But what do we find on the part of the Premier of Western Australia? We find the same astuteness and .-slipperiness displayed again.
– There was no slipperiness about him.
– That may be, but the astuteness is there. He was Asked point blank to state what proportion of the loss his State was prepared to bear - 10 per cent., 20 per cent., or one-half, as the case might be. He was requested to make specific proposals as to what proportion of the loss his State would bear over and above the per capita share. What was his reply ? His telegram is dated 18th May. Therefore he had given due consideration to the subject. He had taken twelve days to reply.
– He might have been away.
– But the Premiers of States do not usually go away from telegraphic communication.
– I happen to know that he was away in a distant part of the country at the time, and that’ he had to consult his colleagues and others.
– It is evident he did not reply without giving due consideration to a matter of such importance. ‘ What
Avas his reply ?
On condition that Commonwealth is allowed a free hand as to route and gauge, of railways this State will be prepared for ten years after line constructed, to bear a share of any loss in excess of our contribution on a population basis. It would be premature to fix ,exact proportion we are prepared to pay at this stage, but I am confident that it will be liberal, and satisfy the Federal Parliament of our sincerity in this connexion, and our belief that the work will soon be a paying one.
He was asked to name a fixed proportion in clear and definite terms. He evaded that question, and answered in general terms that his State was prepared to pay a share under certain conditions. That illustrates the absurdity of relying on promises of this kind unless they are made officially as between recognised governing authorities or corporations. What would have been the value of such a promise made at that time? The then Premier of Western. Australia has gone out of office. He was honest, and if he had remained in power it would have been all right. But, as is proved in the case of South Australia, his successor could act at his own’ sweet will as to how far he would respect the promise of his predecessor. In face of what has actually occurred in South Australia-
– Very discreditable.
– That may or may not be so, but there are the facts, and that is what we have to deal with. Therefore, I urge that this Parliament is not justified in spending one shilling of money, even on a survey, until the assent of the States through which the line will pass has been obtained. Then will be the time to talk of the merits and demerits of the line, and the basis upon which tests are made. There is no fixity of route yet. Then we have Mr. O’Connor basing his estimates on money borrowed at 3 per cent. How can any man think of going into the markets of the world to-day and borrowing money at 3 per cent, on even gilt-edged securities ?
– The honorable member need not go further than the survey. He need not apply Kyabram principles on that point.
– The honorable member is not justified in accusing me of being a Kyabramite. Why does not the State which is going to get the whole benefit from the line, go to the expense of the survey, and then come with a clear case on reliable authority, and ask this Parliament to obtain the consent of South Australia to the construction of the line? If there is to be any development, will not Western Australia derive the benefit? Who else is asking for the construction of this line today?
– That does not prove that the benefit will be all one way.
– The right honorable member has to prove that those who are not asking for the construction of the railway, and will have to find the greater portion of the money, or accept a liability, will derive some benefit. What an absurdity it is to talk about the graziers or producers of Victoria or New South Wales sending produce by land for 1,100 miles, when there would be sea carriage parallel with the railway !
– It would’ not be parallel.
– Surely the right honorable member does not think that he is talking to an assembly of lunatics, when he submits a proposal of that sort. We have some sane men in our midst.
-The honorable member does not know the facts. It has to be brought back 400 miles.
– That is because of the rabid conservatism of the people of Perth and Fremantle. Instead of allowing the miners on the gold-fields to get direct communication to the seaboard, and cheaper access to the eastern States, they compel them to go to Perth and Fremantle. The right honorable member talks about the advantages which the eastern States would derive from the construction of this railway. We might have a few wealthy persons, to whom occasionally the saving of a day would be a matter of consideration, and who, under such circumstances, might take advantage of a railway journey of three days from Adelaide, or four days from Melbourne, or five days from Sydney.
– It will not take so long as that.
– It spoils a day now to get from Melbourne to Adelaide or Sydney, and the engineer, to whom the right honorable member has referred, gives 36 hours as the time likely to be occupied in travelling between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie.
– That is a very slow rate.
– It may be slow.
– The distance is only 1,100 miles, and the train could travel at the rate of 40 miles an hour.
– That is the statement of a very able authority, and I am prepared to accept it until I can get something better. The right honorable member talks about the great advantages which the producers in the eastern States would derive from a railway traversing this uninhabited and waterless country, by getting produce carried more cheaply by land than by sea. But why do not the legislators of Western Australia do their duty . to the people of its great mining centres, in which there are, I admit, many and profitable consumers of our produce, and give them direct communication to the seaboard?
– Does the’ honorable member think he knows better than they do?
– That is the opinion I have expressed, and it has been expressed here; too, by an honorable member representing the gold-fields.
– Who was thrown out on that very a’ccount.
– Still, it is quoted ii the pamphlet which has been distributed, with the compliments of the Premier of Western Australia.
– I do not think that the honorable member should bring in local politics.
– I am not bringing in local politics. But when this issue is raised, and the right honorable member has quoted western authorities, surely he cannot take exception to me when I meet him on his own ground,
– The honorable member does not know much about the matter?
– He is a discredited authority1.
– But the statement has also been made in the Parliament of Western Australia.
– In Parliament there are always partizans
– I am not questioning that view. If the honorable member for Perth says that this gentleman is a discredited authority, I am prepared to accept his assurance. But, would it not be to the material advantage of the miners in Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie if they had direct communication with Esperance, instead of having to go round by Perth and Fremantle ?
– They do not wish to go to Esperance.
– Of course they do not, because it might affect the vested interests of Perth and Fremantle.
– It would cost nearly a million of money to make that railway.
– We have the same thing in Victoria, and I venture to say in every other State of the Commonwealth. On the eastern and western coasts of Victoria our railways compete with water carriage. Expensive railways, constructed from Melbourne ‘ to western districts, are starved, so to speak, and their services are starved because they are brought into competition with water carriage. Will any one who is acquainted with the cost of produce, perishable or otherwise, argue for a moment that it can be carried as cheaply by railway as by water? That should, I think, settle for all time the question of the great advantage which the producers in the eastern States would derive from the construction of a railway to Kalgoorlie.
– Their produce would not be carried by water altogether. “There would be first a railway journey, next a water journey, and then another railway journey.
– Not necessarily. But take Melbourne as a centre.
– The gold-fields are 400 miles closer than Fremantle. The produce has now to go to Fremantle, and come back to the gold-fields.
– I am aware of those facts. But take Melbourne as a shipping port, and say there is a line from the goldfields of Western Australia to the nearest seaport, which is unquestionably on its south coast, and a line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie-
– A line from Esperance would cost £1,000,000 to construct. The honorable member wants us to spend that, I suppose?
– £1,000,000 is not so much as £5,000,000.
– That line would have been constructed long ago if circumstances had justified its construction.
– I am now dealing with the alternative proposal of spending £1,000,000 on one line, as against spending £5,000,000 on the other line.
– No, £4,000,000, if the honorable member pleases.
– I shall take that sum for the present time, and deal later on with the estimates, and see how they have been arrived at. Will any sane man argue for a moment, that, under the conditions I have stated, it would be possible to send produce from Melbourne as cheaply by railway to Kalgoorlie as by ship to Esperance, and thence by railway to Kalgoorlie ?
– There is no railway from Esperance, though.
– I know that there is not ; but I have submitted a proposition.
– It would cost £1,000,000 by the time the harbor was made.
– The cost of this Transcontinental Railway is given by this authority at £4,400,000. But that estimate includes no provision for contingencies.
– Very much more than is necessary for water, though.
– The estimate includes no provision for’ interest during the period of construction.
– Yes; I think there is some interest included.
– I shall be delighted to have it pointed out to me from his report.
– I think he does mention interest.
– He does mention interest, and he states what the 3 per cent, interest will amount to, provided that the line be made within a certain period.
– But the honorable member said that there was no interest included ?
– No interest is included in this sum of , £4,400,000. But, taking the sum total, his estimates amount to practically , £5,000,000, and are based on the assumption that the money would be obtained at 3 per cent. No one will venture to say, for a moment, that it could be obtained at that rate to-day, even with giltedged securities. Then, with regard to his estimates of revenue, what does he say? He states the number’ of passengers travelling per week, and he calmly assumes that if the railway were constructed, everyone of them would travel by railway instead of by boat.
– Not all of them.
– Yes; he says-
The average number of passengers each way per week, between Fremantle and the eastern States, for the last three years, has been about 400, and it has been fairly uniform for each of the three years. Counting both journeys, this means 800 passengers, per week, viz., over 40,000 a year, the majority of whom reside upon, or are connected with the gold-fields, and would consequently probably go by overland railway in order to save time and to keep in touch with their, business, unless it involved considerable extra expense.
Mr. O’Connor then deals with the question of stock traffic. I wish to again illustrate the position in that regard. In Victoria, when stock conditions are very favorable in Queensland, we hare one of the largest fat stock markets to be found in Australia. At seasons of the year a proportion of the fat stock coming into our market come from the north of New South Wales, the south-west of Queensland, and even from the Northern Territory of South Australia. Would any stock-owner attempt to send any stock by train for more than 200 miles to our fat stock market? Only an absolute necessity such as the saving of stock from starvation will impel a stock-owner to allow stock to be. more than twenty-four hours in a train. And no man will leave fat stock in a railway truck for that length of time. What an absurdity it is, then, to talk about sending fat stock into Kalgoorlie !
– They send fat stock long distances by train in New South Wales.
– They do under certain conditions, but where stock have been more than twenty-four hours in a truck, I venture to say that the owner has known beforehand that he could paddock them to freshen them up.
– Do not stock carried on a boat fare worse ?
– When stock fare worse on a boat than they do in a railway truck they go overboard.
– Does not that count?
– Of course it does. It accounts for the stock not being trucked on the railways. It is beyond my comprehension how any sane man can talk about getting a revenue from the carriage of live stock by railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. With regard to perishable produce, the position is practically the same. The only revenue that would be obtainable from traffic over the railway would be from the carriage of passengers and mails.
– The honorable member is too pessimistic.
– How is the railway from Melbourne to Sydney - a line only 600 miles in length, which is not more than half the distance from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, leaving out of account the distance from Adelaide to Port Augusta - to be regarded as a commercial undertaking? It must be remembered that in Melbourne and Sydney we have two cities with a population of about 500,000 each, while the intervening country is closely settled throughout, and devoted, to farming and pastoral pursuits. Yet, notwithstanding these enormous terminal populations, which should insure a large revenue from the carriage of passengers and mails, and the enormous traffic to be picked up at intermediate stations, due to the agricultural and pastoral pursuits followed in the intervening country, that line to-day, after having been open for traffic over twenty years, barely pays interest on the cost of its- construction? That being so, I ask what hope is there that a line connecting a town like Adelaide with the mining centres of Western Australia will pay?
– Western Australia is the best market in the world for farm produce.
– The whole population of the State is only about 250,000.
– There will be millions of people there in a few years.
– It will be the most . prosperous State of them all.
– Undoubtedly ; and when it has a population of millions the construction of the proposed railway may be justified. But why should we- spend money now to make a line across 600 miles of what, according to Mr. O’Connor, is uninhabited, uncultivated, and waterless country ? I understand that on the southern coast of Western Australia there is a fair shelter for steamers of moderate draught ; but how is it that there is not even pastoral settlement there?
– Because there is neither water nor feed for stock.
– Men have gone from the settled districts of Victoria to the Ord River, and the Cambridge Gulf country; but surely they would have taken up the country on the south coast, which is so much nearer, if it were of any value. The’ representatives of Western Australia speak of the great .advantages which the eastern States will derive from the construction of the proposed Transcontinental Railway-; but if the country through which it would pass is so good, why has not its proximity to the sea coast brought about its development? The reasons are that the limestone ‘ crops out on the surface; that, according to the information available, the rainfall is only about five inches per annum ; and that the country will not keep a rabbit. No matter how many railways were constructed there, that country would never support settlement, unless Nature became more bountiful.
– Millions of acres along the route’ of the proposed line have been applied for, but the land is being withheld for settlement until’ the construction of the proposed line is authorized.
– I see there the hand of the gambler and the land shark again.
– The applications I speak of have been made by pastoralists.
– Pastoralists are as human, and just as likely to gamble in land, as are other people. Why was not this land taken up twenty years ago, if it is good land? Why was it not taken up as rapidly as the country in the more remote north-western parts of Western Australia, or as rapidly as the dry country in western New South Wales and Queensland? That country is practically waterless for great portions of the year ; but it gives good pasture for stock, and the pastoralists who took it up, have been able to make provision for the conservation of water in it. But, although bores have been put down to a depth of 500 feet along the route of the proposed line, no water has been obtained.
– Yes ; the operations have been very successful.
– The water is salt.
– It certainly would not pay to condense salt water for stock. The country I speak of has not been settled, because it is unfit for settlement, and has no possibilities of development. I hope that before the discussion closes, other reasons beyond those given by the Government for the introduction of the Bill, will be advanced in support of this proposal to spend £20,000 without the consent of the States, which is required by the Constitution, on an undertaking of this kind. If the construction df a transcontinental line would be such a good thing for Western Australia as those who represent that State allege that it would be, surely so prosperous and wealthy a community could afford to spend £20,000 in surveying the route.
– The people of Western Australia have treated the people of the eastern States very well.
– If they could have obtained better conditions in other markets, the people of Western Australia would not have hesitated to obtain their supplies elsewhere.
– No. We are patriotic.
– Western Australia has been peopled by Victorians and New South Welshmen ; but those who have gone there are only human, and if they could have got better treatment elsewhere, they would not have dealt with the traders and produce merchants of the eastern . States. I should not have attempted to traverse the possibilities of the line, had it not been for the insistence of the right honorable member for Swan upon his view of the position ; I should have been content to rest my case on the undesirableness of the precedent which it is sought to establish’.
– It may be awkward for the honorable member when we come to deal with proposals for Commonwealth irrigation works.
– I shall be prepared to deal with all such questions as they arise. I was twitted by some honorable members opposite as to my position in connexion with this proposal, but I told them at the time that Ishould be able to explain my position, if I were given an opportunity to do so. As I have some further remarks to make, and the hour is late, I ask the Minister of Home Affairs to allow the debate to be adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 September 1904, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040913_reps_2_21/>.