2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether it is true, as he is reported to have said, that it is the intention of the Government to ask Parliament to legislate in the interests of producers, as against persons who make secret commissions upon sales of produce, and, if so, under what power in the . Constitution is the Government acting ; further, whether it is the policy of the Government to encourage socialistic experiments of that kind?
– My honorable and learned friend ought to be a good judge of socialistic experiments . I delivered an address at Numurkah on Monday last, in which I incidentally referred to the evidence given by witnesses examined by the Butter Commission. At the same time, I pointed out that it was the policy of the Government to assist in placing the products of the Commonwealth upon the London market.
– That is very good Socialism.
– It embodies a sound commercial principle.
– I stated that it was the policy of the Government to assist ‘ the producers by appointing a High Commissioner, and in other ways. I pointed out at the same time that I understood that honorable members opposite were in accord’ with the policy of the Government in that direction.
– We do not know What the policy of the Government is.
– I said also that we were in favour of assisting the producers by establishing a Department of Agriculture, if we could do so, after a conference with the States Governments, on the lines suggested by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo. I believe that the proposal submitted by the honorable and. learned member will receive the general sanction of honorable members. At all events, honorable members may rest assured that it has the strong sympathy of the Government.
– I wish to ask the Min ister of Home Affairs whether he will insist upon the union minimum rates of wages being paid to the carpenters, and others who are working upon the” new offices of the Commonwealth in Russell-street? It has come to my knowledge that the rates now being paid are in some cases1s. or 2s. per day lower than those which are generally recognised in the trades to which the workmen belong.
– I understand that our ‘contracts provide, as directed by Parliament, that the minimum wage shall be paid to all workmen employed by the contractor. I have no knowledge of any exception having been made in connexion with the contract to which the honorable member has referred. If that condition, or any other, is not being fulfilled, it will be the duty of the Government to see that that is done.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH laid upon the table the following paper : -
Post Office Money Older Transactions, 1901, 1902, and 1903.
Motion (by Mr. Watson). agreed to -
Thatleave.of absence for one month be granted to the right honorable member for Adelaide.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– As this question refers to a very important matter, I thought it desirable to obtain all the information on the subject available in the Department. 1 and 2. As a general principle the working of vessels on Sundays is not allowed by the ‘Department, and no regulation in violation of that principle has been made. In July, 1902, Mr. Kingston, who was then Minister, directed thatt as a temporary arrangement, and pending further consideration, Sunday work might be allowed in Tidal Ports, Open Roafdsteads, and Outer Anchorages or other places on the Queensland coast, where the conditions were of an exceptional nature.
In May, 1904, the following order was issued by the Minister, Mr. . Fisher ; -
In regard to the carrying out of the regulations the following relaxation may be made with regard to the working of vessels on Sundays, and certain holidays, viz. : - Good Friday, Christmas Day, and Eight Hours Day.
Mails may be taken on board and landed, and passengers may land and embark, but no cargo may be shipped or discharged. (This was in accordance with previous practice.)
As to Queensland : That small ports where coastal vessels are in the habit of calling for (say) an hour or two for the purpose of loading local produce, Sunday work may be permitted when, in the opinion of the collector, there is absolute necessity for it ; otherwise the standing rule is to be strictly enforced.
In August, 1904, strong representations were made by representative merchants and others to the Minister (Mr. Fisher) in favour of relaxing the above arrangements (especially in regard to Keppel Bay), as a result of which instructions were issued that the previous practice should not be interfered with at that port till the 1st November next, in order to allow of readjustment of time-table of vessels and trains,&c. The representations above-mentioned were supplemented by a resolution of the Chamber of Commerce, Mackay, indorsed by the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, and supported by the Queensland Government, to the effect -that the conditions prevailing prior to the issue of the order of May, 1904, be reverted to at Flat Top and Keppel Bay, and were forwarded for the Minister’s consideration. The Minister decided that the concession granted in the case of Keppel Bay might be extended to Flat Top, the conditions as to both these ports being similar, on the understanding that it should not cover the loading of entire cargoes ‘or large quantities of produce.
Before the 1st of November the views of all persons concerned, such as the Queensland State Government, the various bodies connected with the handling of goods, the residents of the districts referred to, and the Chamber of Commerce, &c, will be fully considered with the object of arriving at a satisfactory settlement of the question.
It will be seen that the concession I granted to Flat Top Island was the same that had been granted by my predecessor in the case of Keppel Bay; that is, that the previous practice should be allowed to continue to the 1 st November in order to give us time to look thoroughly into the question. But the concession I granted was in a modified form, and only applied to portions of cargoes ; where there are large quantities of cargo to handle they will have to wait.
– I have reason to believe that that rule has been violated.
– Those are the instructions I issued.
asked ‘the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I am not in a position at the present time to give an estimate of the cost of paying salaries fortnightly, instead of monthly. This is a matter which has been brought up on several occasions. About two years ago I looked into the question, and a reference to the different Departments showed that considerable extra expenditure would be required for this particular purpose, and there were other departmental objections. However, as this is a matter within the control of the Minister of Home Affairs, who has to deal with the Public Service, I propose to discuss, the matter with him at an early date, and see whether, some arrangement other than that suggested by the Departments, which would mean extra expenditure, cannot be arrived at, by which a certain number of employes may be paid fortnightly. Personally, I am iri sympathy with the suggestion, if it does not disturb the Departments or cost too much.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information and lay it upon the table of Parliament in the form of a return.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable and learned member’s questions areas follow : -
I may add that that compensation was given to every one retired at that time, in consequence of retrenchment.
– I did not notice it was at the same time.
– The reply to the third question is : -
It was announced to Parliament at the time when these and other gratuities were approved that they were not to be regarded as a precedent ; and it is not intended to establish a practice of granting gratuities on retirement.
In Committee (consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message resumed from 13th September, vide page . 4580) 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 regret that in my remarks up to the present I have been drawn away by interjections from the subject immediately under discussion, namely, the desirableness or otherwise of entering into an undertaking of this nature without the consent of the States concerned, as provided in the Constitution. But having been drawn aside, I am compelled to follow a little longer the same line of argument. Considerable stress has been laid on the point that from a military point of view this line is absolutely essential for the safe defence of Australia ; and I propose to take up the time of the Committee in order to briefly refer to the opinion expressed by the ablest military authority we have in the Commonwealth - Major-General Hutton. I have not the pleasure, of a personal acquaintance with the General Officer Commanding, but I may reasonably assume, from the position he occupies - the salary for which is provided by the taxpayers - that he is well qualified for his duties.” The report of the General Officer Commanding on this matter was published, owing to the fact that the Minister of Defence saw fit to refer the report of the engineers on the proposed railway to the Defence Department. The first document dealing with the matter is dated 24th March, 1903.
– There is a later report than that.
– That interjection reminds me how well it would be if we practised what we preached. The right honorable member for Swan has always held forth to the House the desirability of doing to others as we would be done by, and no later than last evening we had him repeatedly explaining to honorable members who ventured to interject that they would be able to express their opinions in the course of their, own speeches. Since I commenced speaking I have been subjected to continuous correction at the hands of the right honorable member, but my desire is to inform the Committee of what, in my opinion, is our position, and not to be advised entirely by the right honorable gentleman. I have no feeling of resentment against the right honorable member on account of his interjections,, but he reminds me very much of a spoilt child, who is not subject to reproof in any way. I ask the right honorable member for Swan to consider from my point of view the time involved by his drawing me aside, even momentarily, from the main subject under consideration. The first document of March, 1903, is from the Secretary of the Department over which the right honorable gentleman presided, and is’ as follows: -
I have the honour to forward herewith copy of Report of the Conference of Engineers-in-Chief upon the subject of the proposed Transcontinental Railway and to ask that same may be considered by the Defence Department and report furnished, in view of the possible strategical importance of this railway in connexion with the defence of Australia.
The reply to that was -
In reply to your minute of 30th March last requesting that I would submit for your consideration a minute upon the Report of trie Conference of Engineers-in-Chief upon the proposed Transcontinental Railway, I beg to observe as follows : -
The contemplated extension of railway communication between Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and Port Augusta in South Australia is, from a strategical and military point of view, of unquestionable value. The isolation of Western Australia without direct land communication with the other live States of Australia will, in time of war, cause a general feeling of insecurity. Under the existing circumstances, Western Australia, for purposes of co-operative military assistance f r”om the other States, is as far distant from direct means of reinforcement as New Zealand is from the Eastern States of Australia.
In order, however, to correctly view the present construction of the railway in question as an important factor in the defence of the Commonwealth, it will be well to consider the special importance of Western Australia in the eyes of foreign powers, and the description of attack to which Australia is subject, and to meet which intercommunication between the States by land must be regarded as of paramount value.
The potential wealth of the gold-fields, and the vast extent of valuable and unoccupied land in the territories of Western Australia, render the acquisition of that portion of the Australian Continent a most valuable prize to foreign nations. The strategical situation, moreover, of Western Australia, dominating, as it does, the southern side of the Indian Ocean, and the converging trade routes from the West, must be considered as of the greatest importance to British and Australian interests.
As long as the supremacy of the sea is in the hands of the Royal Navy no serious attack on Australia upon a large scale may be considered as practicable. In this regard little attention need be paid to the temporary and .local effect of a raid by one or two of an enemy’s ships upon one or other of the undefended ports. It would, however, be the height of folly to disregard the possibility of the supremacy of the sea being temporarily or permanently lost.
I submit that the construction of a line of railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie would not materially influence the condition of the British Navy. Consequently the carrying out of this project would not sensibly affect the military or naval defence of Australia.
– It would mean a great deal in the defence of Australia.
– I will deal with that aspect of the question presently. The report continues -
It is impossible to foresee the result of naval warfare in the future, or to anticipate the effect of fleets acting on the part of a combination of great Powers hostile to British Imperial interests. In the event, therefore, of the supremacy of the sea being either temporarily or permanently lost by either of the foregoing possible contingencies, an attack on a large scale might be attempted with every reasonable chance of success either on the shores of Western Australia or on some other part of the immense coast line of the Australian Continent. It may be assumed that no Power or combination of Powers would undertake an attack of such magnitude without employing from 20,000 to 50,000 well equipped, well trained, and well organized troops, according to the extent of the contemplated operations.
It may be safely assumed that a hostile, invasion of the description indicated, and with a view to permanent territorial occupation, would never be attempted in Western Australia with a less force than 20,000 men, and that a force at least equal in numbers and equal in equipment would be required in defence.
It may be as well to state at once that a force of the requisite strength organized and capable of taking the .field does not at present exist in Australia, and that there are at present no local means of equipping such a force.
– At present.
– Yes. The right honorable member reminds me of the spoilt child again. He desires to see a railway constructed’ for the purpose of conveying troops which have no existence. Moreover, according to the best authority, we have no local means of equipping such a force.
– We are getting the equipment.
– I admit that. We are also growing older. The report proceeds -
The organization is wanting ; the departments necessary for a mobile army have yet to be created ; and there are neither sufficient guns, arms, equipment, nor ammunition available. It will therefore be seen that the construction of the railway as contemplated would, under existing circumstance, confer no advantage to Australia in its present condition of military disorganization and unpreparedness.
I ask those who argue that the construction of the Transcontinental Railway is absolutely necessary for the defence of Australia, to put forward something in refutation of that statement.
– Another report was issued ten months later than that from which the honorable member is quoting - a report which he has evidently not read.
– I have read it, and if the right honorable member for Swan will act upon the advice which he so constantly tenders to the Committee, by saying what he thinks during the course of his speech, he will be better employed than in attempting to put his ideas into my mouth. The report further states -
The most- that could be expected from the military situation at present existing would be the concentration of a certain number of armed men, who, without adequate organization, administrative departments, or the required equipment, would be quite incapable of coping with even an inferior number of an invader’s troops, carefully trained, organized, and equipped with the latest modern appliances, as they unquestionably would bc. _
It’ will, therefore, be seen from the foregoing that, important as it would be for defence purposes to possess Inter-State communication as proposed, the establishment of railway communication would in itself be of small value without a military force being in existence which could be utilized by its means with any reasonable hope of success.
It has been stated that a wonderful transformation has been effected in the military establishments of Australia since March, 1903. I would ask those who entertain that view to supply the Committee with authentic information as to the exact increase which has taken place in the strength of the Military Forces since that period, and as to their equipment to-day as compared with that which existed twelve months ago. I do not propose to occupy any further time-
– Go on.
– Criticism will not damage this proposal.
– I wish to be fair. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to discuss the merits of the proposed railway. We have only very meagre information in regard to it.
– Does that not indicate the necessity which exists for a survey being made?
– It may. But I have attempted to show that the obligation for completing this survey rests upon those States which will be benefited by the railway if constructed.
– The honorable member should not forget his water scheme.
– It is that sort of interjection which is responsible for the coining of the phrase “ log-rolling.” Surely the honorable member will not be a party to anything of that character. Let us deal with each proposal submitted upon its merits. The interjection of the honorable member suggests that in the future I may be interested in some irrigation scheme, and that therefore I should not criticise this proposal too harshly. It implies that if I do not wink at it I shall incur the wrath of those who are directly interested in the project.
– I did not imply any such thing.
– In the course of his speech the honorable member will have an opportunity of saying what he did imply.
– The honorable member is distinctly unfair, notwithstanding that a few minutes ago he declared that he wished to be fair.
– I have no desire to be unfair,- but it is not pleasant to be blocked in the middle of a sentence.
– The honorable member makes insinuations.
– I do not. I shall be only too delighted if the honorable member is in a position to refute my statements. Last night I referred to the astuteness of those gentlemen with whom previous Prime Ministers had to deal. I pointed out that the present Prime Minister occupies a unique position, in that, both in season and out of season, he has advocated the construction of this railway. If I understand their utterances aright, a number of members of the present Cabinet were not always wedded to this undertaking, or to the expenditure of any money. The correspondence which I have read proves that previous Prime Ministers did not entertain any idea of proceeding with this work until the assent of the States concerned had been obtained. Up to the present, the assent of the South Australian Government has not been secured. That Government has refuse’d to consent to the construction of this line, even if the closest investigation proves that the estimate of the probable cost will not be exceeded, and the survey does not disclose any unforeseen difficulties. I have already referred to a statement made in the Legislature of Western Australia, which is embodied in a pamphlet issued, I believe, under the auspices of the ex-Premier of Western Australia, Mr. James. Under the head of “ Remonstrances in the Western Australian Parliament,” we find at page 10 of this pamphlet, the statement that -
The matter came before the Legislature of Western Australia on October 63 on a motion in the Assembly for adjournment proposed by a gold-fields member, the leader of the Labour Party, when all the gold-fields members took the opportunity to indignantly repudiate what was characterized as “ the misinterpretation of the gold-fields sentiments by the Premier of South Australia,” and strongly condemned the latter’s utterances. Other members spoke in the same strain; and Mr. James read the recent correspondence between himself and Mr. Jenkins on the whole matter of the proposed railway. He announced that he had just received a letter from the latter, dated September 29th, in which it was stated that there was “no likelihood whatever “ of South Australia “ at any time “ passing a Bill for the construction of the Union Railway, “ except upon strict conditions as to both route and gauge.”
It is most extraordinary that no intimation of this sort has ever been made in any of the correspondence which has passed between the Premier of South Australia and the respective Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth. In correspondence with the Premier of Western Australia, the Premier of South Australia has refused point blank to assent to the construction of the line, except with reservations as to both route and gauge.
– That is merely the attitude of the present Premier of South Australia. We have had others who held a different view of the matter, and shall probably have such men again in office.
– That fe so, but I think that particular attention should be paid at the present time to the facts which I have put before the Committee. The present Premier of South Australia, whilst officially expressing the opinion that the Parliament of that State is not bound by promises made by his predecessors in office, would, nevertheless, attempt to bind the Prime Minister of the .Commonwealth in that way. He reminded the late Prime Minister, the honorable member for Bland, when a final appeal ‘was made to him, that the Commonwealth Government was practically bound to the expenditure involved in making this survey by a promise which had been made by a previous Prime Minister, but Mr. Jenkins would repudiate all obligations with respect to promises or pledges given by his predecessors in office. When we have to deal with such a gentleman we cannot be too careful in regard to our position. It is clearly and distinctly stated in the pamphlet: to which I have referred that it is only subject to the reservations named that there is any possibility of the South Australian Parliament assenting to the construction of this line by the Commonwealth. What does that imply so far as the questions of route and of gauge are concerned? We know that the lengths already constructed are not laid down on the gauge that we are likely to adopt as the standard for Australia.
– The Premier of Western Australia has expresed the willingness of his Government to construct a 4ft. 8 1/2 in gauge line up to the fields.
– The Enabling Bill passed by the Western Australian Parliament .shows that, if it shows anything at all. Between Kalgoorlie and the Western Australian coast there are over 300 miles of railway that will have to be widened.
– The State Government will lay down a new line.
– But what about the cost of making a similar alteration of the line between Adelaide and Port Augusta? Is one of the causes of the objection of South Australia to this proposal to be found in that consideration?
– There are two breaks there.
– I have no personal knowledge of the facts, but I gather from the reports that it would be possible to avoid altering the gauge of the complete length of line by making a deviation at Terowie. From a perusal of the reports, I believe that the question of the alteration of the gauge is a material factor in the attitude taken up by South Australia. That alteration will have to be carried out at the cost of the State, unless the Commonwealth is to control the whole length of the line.- In dealing with the gauges of the line from the fields to the sea-coast of Western Australia, and that from Port Augusta back to Adelaide, the pamphlet sets forth that- -
It should be borne in mind that the above estimates of cost by Mr. O’Connor, as well as those following by the Commonwealth engineers, do not provide for widening the gauge between Fremantle and Kalgoorlie, a work that will be necessary should the 4ft 8£in. standard be adopted for the trunk line to South Australia. By the Enabling Act passed by the Western Australian Legislature last session, which measure is further summarized in a further section of this pamphlet, the State is pledged to carry out this work of converting the existing line, if necessary, concurrently with the construction of the new line by the Commonwealth Government. In any case, seeing that the adoption of the 4ft. 8 1/2 in. gauge as the standard for all Australia is, in all likelihood, inevitable, the State will, before long, find it necessary to undertake the conversion of its trunk lines to that width.
The extent to which South Australia would go in making the necessary changes is a matter for that State to decide. One of the conditions which South Australia seeks to impose before agreeing to the Union Railway project is in .regard to the gauge. To avoid a break at Port Augusta, the South Australian Government aims at stipulating that the line throughout should be on the 3ft. 6in. gauge.
That is the difficulty, and it is for this reason that I insist that we should have, without any reservation whatever, the assent of the South Australian Parliament to the carrying out of this work before we spend even a shilling on a preliminary survey. The cost of. the survey will be practically part and parcel of the cost of constructing the line. The report continues -
But this width would not allow of a high enough rate of train speed ; besides, it is generally agreed by all engineering authorities that to adopt the narrow gauge for a trunk line of this important character would be a great initial error that would in the near future have to be retrieved at enormous cost. This prospect is the more evident in the face of the almost positive certainty that the 4ft. 8£in. gauge will be adopted as the standard for the Commonwealth, liven if the narrower width were to be decided upon for the new connecting line, there would still remain the awkward break at Terowie, the junction with the broad gauge (5ft. 3m.) portion of the South Australian railway system. The distance from Terowie to Adelaide on this gauge is 139! miles.
I wish to refer briefly to a statement which I made earlier in my address with regard to the opinions expressed in the Western Australian Parliament as to the construction of a line which would obviate for a considerable time the necessity for the construction of a railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, that is, the construction of a line from Kalgoorlie to Esperance. What I referred to was a statement made by a member of the Western Australian Parliament when the Bill empowering the Commonwealth to construct the proposed Transcontinental railway was under consideration there. That the fact is mentioned in this pamphlet is evidence that I was speaking according to the book -
In the course of the discussion, the Minister for Lands, himself a gold-fields member, remarked that, though it was true that the people of Kalgoorlie desired the Esperance line, they would not, in a choice between that project and the Union Railway, sacrifice the interests of the Commonwealth for the sake of the purely local convenience to be derived from the former line.
It is the general taxpayer of the Commonwealth who will have to nurse the baby if the Union line is made, and the obligation, therefore, rests upon us to see, before we sanction it, that the Commonwealth will benefit by its construction. We must be certain that we are justified in borrowing money for the purpose - a proceeding against winch this Parliament has hitherto set its face - before we sanction the construction of the line. Further evidence goes to strengthen the opinion which I have already expressed as to the improbability of the tract of country which the proposed line would traverse being developed to any extent. According to the report of Mr. O’Connor -
Up to the present the test boring operations carried on by the Western Australian Government for some time past have not resulted in tapping any sources of fresh water at moderate depths. But these operations have resulted in indications that reservoirs of the requisite freedom from any undesirable ingredient will probably be reached at greater depths, and this hope is strengthened by the knowledge that such supplies are found in country of similar formation elsewhere.
– Those anticipations have since been realized.
– If that statement can be substantiated .by quotations, from reliable authorities, I shall be delighted to hear that I am in the wrong ; but I have read official reports of later dates, and I have not found anything which contradicts the opinion which’ I have just read. I have already said that close to the coast there is not even pastoral settlement.
– The country near the coast is worse than that further inland.
– The proposed railway would be only fifty or sixty miles from the coast, and, according to the most eminent meteorologists in South Australia and Western Australia, the country which it would cross has an annual rainfall of only five inches.
– Fifteen inches.
– On the coast, the rainfall may be from twelve to fifteen inches, but what are the conditions which prevail between Port Augusta and the border, or between Tarcoola and the border ? The people of South Australia know enough about that country to know better than to try to develop it.
– They appear not to know as much about it as the honorable member does.
– Although a previous Premier of South Australia gave a certain promise in regard to this railway, the State is now opposed to its construction.
– That is because of the influence of the vested interests at Port Adelaide.
– That may or may not be so ; but the forecast made many years ago with regard to the possibilities of that portion of South Australia lying beyond what is known as Goyder’s line is being confirmed every day - that permanent settlement beyond that line is practically impossible.
– I do not think that it is an agricultural country.
– I would like to know how much stock it can carry. Notwithstanding the advances of settlement in both South Australia and Western Australia, can any honorable member say that stock is being carried on the immense tract of country which stretches from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie? The public men of Western Australia have stated openly that it would be impossible for a rabbit to cross from South Australia to the fertile fringe of Western Australia.
– The rabbits have, nevertheless, come across.
– They have come round the coast.
– The statement which the honorable member repeats was made by the Age and a few Victorian legislators.
– The Age is not interested in making a statement of that kind, except for the advantage of the public; but at any rate I am not responsible for statements which appear in that newspaper.
– The honorable member’s opinion seems to agree with them.
– I am responsible for my own utterances only. I find that quite enough, without taking responsibility for the statements of a newspaper. I have shown that Victorians . have gone to the north-western parts of Western Australia, to the interior of Queensland, and to the western parts of New South Wales, to get land, and is it likely that they would have left untouched the country through which the proposed railway would pass, and which is so much nearer at hand, if it were worth anything ?
– There are millions of acres of splendid country in Western Australia still awaiting development.
– That is so, and I have no doubt that Victorians will take up that land before the people of Western Australia. My position is that we are not justified in spending money on the proposed survey until we have obtained the consent of both the States concerned, and that has not yet -been granted. Furthermore, I think that the survey should be undertaken jointly by the Governments of those States. The amount at issue is not a very large one.
– It comes to about ijd. per head of the population.
– For that reason I think that the States concerned should undertake the work, and not ask the Commonwealth to do so. The amount of money involved is not a matter for serious consideration, but the underlying principle is of the utmost importance.
– An attempt is being made to introduce the thin edge of the wedge.
– Just so. I think that Western Australia and South Australia may fairly be asked to come into line, and agree to have the survey made at their own expense - the question of repayment by the Commonwealth may be considered at a later stage- and when the whole of the information necessary has been obtained, we . might be called upon to consider the question of the construction of the line. At present, however, I do not think it is desirable that we should spend one shilling in connexion with the project. We have evidence that the South Australian Government have refused point blank to assent to the Commonwealth constructing the line, except under certain conditions which it is thought necessary to impose to protect the interests of that State. I do not think that we should be justified in spending any money under such conditions. It is not in any antagonistic spirit that I object to the proposal now before us. I regret that I was drawn into a discussion on the merits of the line, because I admit that we have not the information necessary to enable us to speak of them except in general terms. There are many undertakings, such as the irrigation schemes referred to by the honorable member for Fremantle, which could be undertaken by the Commonwealth ; but honorable members must recognise that this Parliament can do nothing in that direction without first obtaining the consent of the States concerned. We should first have to consult the New South Wales, South Australian, and Victorian Governments. That is why I say that in order to be consistent, to preserve our self-respect, and to avoid encroaching upon the rights of the States, we should, in all fairness, ask Western Australia and South Australia to proceed with the survey, and to place themselves in a position to make a definite proposal the merits of which could be fully considered.
– My honorable friend, the member for Moira, during the course of his remarks drew attention to my previous attitude with regard to the construction of this line, and wished to know - I think that he was speaking in a jocular way - if I had altered my views since I took a seat upon the Treasury benches.
– I said that I did not know what were the Minister’s views; but that I was under the impression that he was an economist.
– I do not suppose that my honorable friend would, for one moment, suggest that I would alter my views upon an important question of this kind for the sake of a seat upon the Treasury benches ; but as I value his good opinion, as I do that of most honorable members, I feel it is only fair that I should briefly explain my position. I say at once that I have always entertained very grave doubts whether the financial prospects of the proposed line would justify the large expenditure involved in its construction. I have expressed this view on many occasions, and my doubts have not yet been removed. I still entertain the same views that I have held for a considerable time past, but I think that it is only fair to say at once that my opinion, like that of other honorable members, has been founded on very imperfect data. I recognise, on the other hand, that the representatives of Western Australia, who know more about the matter than I do, are strongly of opinion that the construction of the line would be justified. Now, what is the question that we are required to consider? We have been asked by the Western Australian Government to make a survey of the line, and satisfy ourselves whether there is any warrant for its construction. Now, it appears to me that that is not an unreasonable request to make. I had long since made up my mind to support the proposal for the survey of the line. The honorable member for Grampians has just handed me a copy of Hansard ‘ containing an interjection of mine with reference to this matter.
– If the survey is favorable, will the Minister support the construction of the railway?
– I shall explain my views upon that matter in due course. The honorable member for Grampians, when speaking upon the Address-in-Reply, upon the 17th March last, said : -
I do not see the need for a survey in which every level would be taken, and every peg put into position, because that would be too expensive.
– The honorable member would like to see a flying survey made. .
– Something a little more definite than a flying survey.
– A trial survey.
I had for a very long time past made up my mind to support a trial survey, in order that we might have some information to guide us in our consideration of the merits of the project.
– Has the Minister any idea what the survey will cost?
– The amount allocated for the work is , £20,000, and I may tell my honorable friends that I am not the person to advocate the reckless expenditure of £20,000, or of even half that sum. I have, however, to ask myself whether the request now made by Western Australia is a reasonable one. In the first place, we have to consider the position of that State, which is so situated that it does not derive any benefit, that I can discover, from the Federation.
– How much does Tasmania derive from it?
– I hope my honorable friend will not interrupt me, as I am making only a very short statement in reply to the honorable member for Moira. The trade carried on between Western Australia and the other States is very large, and is almost entirely in favour of the eastern’ States. Western Australia is not a producing State, but is a very good customer of the other States, for whom she provides one of our best markets. She does not enter into competition with the producers or manufacturers of the eastern States. The right honorable member for Swan last night pointed out that the trade of Western Australia is at the present time £17,000,000 per annum, and we know that that trade, and also the population, is rapidly increasing. Therefore, honorable members will see that an expenditure of £20,000 is a mere fraction, in comparison with the benefits that the eastern States get- from their trade relations with
Western Australia every year ; and it would be churlish on our part if we were to refuse so small a request as is involved in a survey to set the question definitely at rest. My opinion, as I have stated, is that the results of the survey will not prove favorable to the construction of the line; but I may be doing an injustice to Western Australia in entertaining that opinion, and it is right that the question should be settled on its merits. I do not think that the amount involved is an unreasonably large concession to make to a State from which we derive such large advantages in connexion with trade. In addition, I may say that the last three Governments have pledged themselves to this work, and it would require very strong, reasons to justify us in ignoring the pledges given. I admit at once that the Government have no power to bind Parliament ; but, at the same time, we ought to consider that Western Australia consists of our own kith and kin, and is the only portion of the Commonwealth which derives, so far as I can discover, no visible benefit from the Federal union. In view of the fact that we derive the large advantages to which I have referred, we should give some consideration to the request for a survey of this line. At any . rate, we should think twice before repudiating the promise or promises made by former Governments. This is my position in a nutshell. I do not intend to be a party, unless the results of the survey justify it, to committing the Commonwealth to the- expenditure involved in the construction of the line ; that is a serious matter, to be dealt with on its merits. But the construction of the line is not the question before us. What we have to consider is whether we should’ or should not accede to the request of the people of Western Australia, and ascertain for ourselves at a very moderate cost all the facts connected with the proposed railway. I have for a long time thought that the information now desired should be obtained. I would be one of the last members in the House to now commit the Commonwealth to the larger and further expenditure involved in the construction of the line. Of course, if the results of the survey afford any justification, I shall be very pleased indeed to learn that I have been wrong ; but I am strongly of the opinion, from the meagre information at my disposal, that the line would not pay. When we obtain the information disclosed by the survey, and when we have the whole of the facts before us, we can consider the further question of the construction, and we shall also then have to consider the terms in regard to the proportion of the loss to be borne by the States which derive most benefit from the work. The honorable member who last spoke knows that the South Australian Government, consented to the survey through their territory ; and I do not agree with him that we should refuse to get the necessary information in the meantime because that Government attach a condition to their consent. If it be found that the financial prospects do not justify the construction of the line, it will not be necessary to proceed further. The people of Western Australia are reasonable, and will be satisfied with the results disclosed; I understand that their only desire is to have the matter dealt with on its merits.
– What does the honorable member call “justification”?
– If the returns from the line would substantially pay the interest on cost of construction.
– Then the Minister would borrow money at once to construct the line?
– When the honorable member says “at once,” that is a very different matter.
– It bears on this question.
– No. In the first place this survey will ‘take a considerable time. We know that at the present time the money markets of the world are not in a favorable condition for borrowing for a large work. To borrow under present condition’s would be to load this line for all time to come with an unfairly large interest charge. I am perfectly sure that the Western Australian members would be the first to sav that, if the results of the survey do justify the construction of the line, we ought to wait for more favorable conditions for borrowing before entering into the obligation. But those are matters which will be. dealt with at the proper time. In the meantime we have only to consider whether we shall accede to the wishes of the people of Western Australia to the extent of expending £20,000, in order to ascertain the financial prospects of the undertaking, and to guide us in determining whether we are justified in proceeding further. I believe I am as strongly impressed with the necessity for economy as is any member of the House, but, careful as I should be before committing the Commonwealth to the con- struction of the line, I hold that the request now made is reasonable and moderate. It is due to our friends in Western Australia that we should accede to their desire to the extent they now ask.
– I intend to imitate as far as I can the excellent example set by the Minister of Trade and Customs, who dealt with this question in a very brief way. There are many reasons for taking that line of action. There is the consideration that this debate has arisen, as few debates have done, in this or any other Parliament, on a motion in connexion with the introduction of a Bill; and I quite agree with the right honorable member for Swan that this is a most extraordinary proceeding. Western Australia, as the Minister of Trade and Customs has admitted, receives absolutely no benefit from Federation ; and yet, on the very first occasion on which the representatives of that State ask for what may be considered a right, the request is met by an innovation in the procedure, and a reluctance even to give leave for the discussion of a Bill to make a small appropriation. As this debate will have to be gone over again on the various stages of the Bill, if leave be given to introduce the measure, it seems to me that we are now following a very purposeless procedure. In one respect I have great pleasure in congratulating the Minister of Trade and Customs, who certainly gave me the impression some time ago that he was opposed to this railway, and even I think to a survey. It is very satisfactory indeed to witness such a rapid conversion. I would not suggest for a moment that the fact that he now occupies a seat upon the Treasury benches is in any way responsible for this remarkable change of front. I can only attribute it to the fact that some additional information has reached the honorable gentleman. I think that he is quite consistent in the matter, and I congratulate him upon desiring more information in reference to the project, before we finally decide to construct the railway. I feel sure that when the final survey has been made, the honorable gentleman will be agreeably disappointed to find that the information thus obtained will justify him in voting for the construction of the line. Before dealing with that aspect of the. matter, however, I wish to refer briefly to the remarks of the honorable member for Moira. He appears to blame Western Australia, as he blames South Australia, for neglect in bringing this matter to a practical issue. All I can say is that nothing has been left undone by the Government and the people of Western Australia to advance this project. They have met the Government of South Australia upon every possible occasion, and in every possible way. But a most extraordinary thing has happened. Two Premiers of South Australia pledged themselves to endeavour to induce’ the Parliament of that State to give legislative sanction to the construction of this line. Subsequently a third Premier came into office, who absolutely repudiated those pledges. I think that nothing more could have been done by Western Australia than has been done. To explain the action of South Australia in this matter, I should like to quote the report of an interview with a .gentleman who at the time dominated the politics of that State, although he was not its Premier. Mr. John Darling, upon 3rd March, 1903, whilst on his way to London, was interviewed in Perth in reference to this project. He said-
We,, in South Australia, are extremely anxious for the development of our northern country, and for that reason I would not be prepared to recommend the Western Australian line until the line from Oodnadatta to Port Darwin is accomplished. I may tell you candidly that as far as I am concerned at the present time, if a Bill to give the consent of South Australia to your line were introduced into Parliament I would oppose it. We want our own Transcontinental line, and the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta .line would very prejudicially affect our chances of getting it.
Then the interviewer asked him this question -
What better prospects does the Port Darwin line offer?
To that inquiry Mr. Darling replied -
We have very fine country in the north to develop, and we have the possibilities of a great gold-field at the Macdonnell ranges, about 1,200 miles from Adelaide.
The interviewer then put this further question to him -
Is it a better field than Kalgoorlie?
Mr. Darling’s answer is significant. He replied
Perhaps not; but it is in South Australia, you see.
That is the secret of the opposition to this railway. That interview explains why the Premier of South Australia repudiated a promise which was given by two of his predecessors - a promise which is upon record in the papers that have been laid upon the table of this House. Many people in the eastern States appear to be ignorant of the great resources of Western Australia. I regret to say that it appears to be what theologians call “ invincible ignorance “ in some respects, for the newspapers will not give the people an opportunity of learning the true facts of the case. 1 have in a small pamphlet here some particulars of the developments which have recently taken place in Western Australia, which I wish could be conveyed to the electors of the Commonwealth. I quite agree with the right honorable member for Swan that if we could get to the people of Australia and place our case fairly before them we should gain their enthusiastic approval of the construction of this line. Unfortunately, for some reason or other - perhaps because New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria, particularly the last named, have sunk a large amount of loan money unprofitably in railways - this great national work which is essential to connect the scattered portions of the continent is decried. When this little pamphlet was prepared by the Premier of Western Australia some two years ago, its population numbered 220,000, of whom an exceptionally large proportion were adult males. Its territory embraces an area of upwards of 640,000,000 acres, and comprises almost one-third of the area of the Continent. Its revenue amounts to upwards of £[3,600,000 per annum, although no income or land tax has yet been imposed. Its Savings Bank shows a sum of £[1.908,898 to the credit of depositors, while the ordinary banks have local assets of nearly £[6,500,000 sterling. These figures have since been added to considerably, because the population has materially increased. It’s imports amount to upwards of £[7,000,000 per annum, and its exports to-upwards of £[9,000,000 per annum. It has eighteen declared gold-fields, for which full administrative facilities are provided. These gold-fields have produced more than £[40,500,000 worth of gold, weighing upwards of 330 tons (avoirdupois), the output for 1902 being worth £[7,947,663 ; whilst for the last four years the output has exceeded £[6,000,000 per annum. The Minister of Trade and Customs has said that Western Australia is not a great producing State.
– But it is a great consuming State.
– That fact is to the advantage of Victoria and the other States. T think that the Minister unintentionally conveyed a wrong impression. Not only is Western Australia a great producing
State from a mineral point of view-
– I merely desired to show that our trade relations with Western Australia were all to our advantage, because that State consumes what the other States produce.
– The Minister’s remarks, nevertheless, might convey a wrong impression. Western Australia possesses upwards of 400,000 cattle, and 2,750,000 sheep, and has more than 250,000 acres under cultivation. Its pastoral leases comprise upwards of I 00,000,000 acres-
– Western Australia is not exporting to the other States.
– Certainly not. I merely wish to correct the statement of the Minister, which might, perhaps, convey a false impression to the public. I feel sure that he did not intend to reflect upon Western Australia.
– I said that we were under an obligation to that State.
– Quite so; but as I happened to have the figures before me, I thought it apropos to submit t’hem to the House. Western Australia annually produces almost 1,000,000 bushels of wheat, or an evenly distributed average of 10 bushels to the acre; over £80,000 worth of coal; ,£110,000- worth of copper; £50,000 worth of tin; and over ,£73,000. worth of sandalwood. She exported, in 1902, £[7,500,000 worth of gold bullion and specie ; ,£500,000 worth of timber ; £500,000 worth of wool; and over £111,000 worth of hides and skins. In addition to that, she had an output of £178,000 worth of pearls and pearl-shell, and about £[200,000 worth’ of other products. It is also worthy of mention that provision is made for a sinking fund in connexion with every loan floated by the State, and that out of its loan indebtedness of £[15,000,000, no less than ,£13,500,000 represents expenditure on reproductive works. In other words, the whole of that sum is yielding interest. I have no desire to weary the Committee by any lengthy address, because I feel sure that the spirit, of fair-mindedness which prevails in this House will cause honorable members to recognise the desirableness of leave being granted to introduce this Bill, and that, if necessary, we shall be able at a later stage to present all the facts required to enable honorable members to arrive at a decision. I was rather amused, ‘however, by the speech made last night by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, who proposed that Western Australia should be called upon to pay the cost of the survey, subject to the condition that if the railway were constructed, and proved a sound investment, the State mighapproach the Commonwealth, and induce it to recoup it in respect of this indebtedness. That is a suggestion which might have emanated very well from a pawnbroker, or from some person having but a limited political vision ; but coming as it did from one who professes to have the widest political outlook, it certainly occasioned me some surprise.
– His outlook is so wide that he cannot cover its whole extent.
– That is so. Another remark which was made by the honorable and learned member for Indi also caused me some astonishment. The right honorable member for Swan very pertinently inquired whether the opponents of this proposal objected to it on. the ground of the expenditure which the construction of the railway would involve, and went “on to ask’, “If that be so, are they prepared to give a private company the right to build the line, and to control it for a prolonged period?” The honorable and learned member for Indi subsequently objected to anything being done in that direction, urging that, although the Commonwealth might not be prepared to build the line, we should very naturally object to hand over the undertaking to a syndicate. But the right honorable member for Swan expressed the opinion that if a syndicate were prepared to undertake the construction of the line, believing that it would be a profitable undertaking, the Government of the Commonwealth ought not to hesitate to build it. I am sure that will be the opinion expressed by the people of Australia. If the undertaking be good enough for a syndicate, it ought surely to be good enough for the nation. The honorable member for Moira indulged in a variation of the proposition made by the honorable member for Parkes, that South Australia and1 Western Australia should be asked to share the cost of the survey ; but from the quotations I have made, from the opinions expressed by a leading South Australian politician, it will be seen that it is simply absurd for any one to tell us, that we should first obtain the assent of South Australia to this project. , As I have al ready explained, that State has a rival line in contemplation ; and while this scheme holds the field she will never look with a kindly eye upon the proposal to construct the line which Western Australia desires. I am free to admit that it would be very foolish for South Australia to attempt the construction of the great Northern Railway. What population would it serve at Port Darwin? There we have a population of some 300 or 400 Europeans, whilst the remaining residents consist chiefly of Chinese. On the other hand, a railway extending to Coolgardie and the eastern gold-fields of Western Australia would serve a white population of at least 50,000, all earning good wages, and spending their money freely. If Kalgoorlie were on the route of the projected northern line, South Australia would be very anxious indeed to connect it with the railway systems of the States. I agree further with the right honorable member for Swan that the principal advantages derived from the construction of the transcontinental line would be reaped, not by Perth or Fremantle, but to a very material extent by South Australia. I am absolutely convinced that a large number of the residents of the eastern gold-fields of Western Australia would avail themselves of this railway to travel direct to Adelaide when they wished to visit the eastern States, in preference to journeying vid Perth and Fremantle, as they do at the present time. In these circumstances the construction of this line would not be in the interests of the coastal towns of Western Australia. Nor can it be said that there is anything inconsistent in this proposal with the projected construction of the railway mentioned by the honorable member for Moira, running from Kalgoorlie to Esperance Bay. It is absolutely idle for any honorable member to speak about obtaining the assent of the South Australian Government to this proposal. The Commonwealth Government has already done all that is possible in- that direction. The late Prime Minister certainly did all that he could to obtain the assent of South Australia. He pressed the Premier of South Australia for a reply to an inquiry whether the Parliament of that State would consent to pass a Bill, allowing the line to pass through South Australian territory. In a final answer to a message, asking the plain question whether he would carry out the promise made by his predecessors to introduce a Bill giving legal authority for the construction of the line, the Premier of South Australia telegraphed as follows : -
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.
The present Government, following the action of its predecessors, has now asked the House to agree to pass a sum necessary to allow the making of a survey which is the preliminary regarded by South Australia as essentia] to the giving of her consent to the -construction of the line. That being so,I think that the representatives of Western Australia have a fair claim to consideration. I would urge the Parliament to consider very seriously the position of the western State. The Minister of Trade and Customs has truly said that Western Australia has received no benefit, and is not likely to receive any advantage from Federation. . He might well have gone further, and have said that Western Australia has made very considerable sacrifices for Federation. In these circumstances I think it is incumbent upon the people of the other States to consider the position of the western community. It cannot be denied that the isolation of Western Australia constitutes a serious menace to the permanency of the Federal Union. We know very well that in the corporeal sphere the disuse of a member is followed by its atrophy.
– And then by death.
– Exactly. I am afraid that unless you make your Union felt in the extreme western State of the Commonwealth, unless you give the people there some tangible advantages as a reward for the many sacrifices which they have made, a strong feeling of antagonism against the Federation will grow up in that community.
– There is no doubt about it.
– I would ask the members of this Parliament to consider what it was that lost England her North American Colonies, and estranged Ireland from the Empire for. centuries? Was it not that the legislators of Great Britain attempted to rule in defiance of the wishes of the people of the North American Colonies and against the wishes of the people of Ireland? And are we, in this twentieth century, to repeat the disastrous mistakes which have clouded the history of Great Britain ? I am not one to talk secession, or the dismemberment of the Union; but if the people of Western Australia are goaded into action, I should not be surprised if within the next four or five years a very strong agitation arose against the Union in that State. Of course it would be our duty to deprecate anything of the kind ; but if the people of Western Australia were to say, “ We no longer wish to remain federated,” how could we prevent them from collecting their own Custom’s duties, and managing their own affairs, as they did prior to Federation.
– The southern States of America were very soon prevented from doing that.
– Yes, by the use of swords and bullets.
– If honorable members are so niggardly as to grudge a small outlay for the construction of a railway which would cement the Union, can they contemplate with equanimity the possibility of a much larger outlay later on to keep it intact ? That is a consideration which should not be lost sight of by responsible men. I do not say that any prominent person is likely: to advocate secession ; but at this stage of our history we should not allow anything to happen which would give the people of Western Australia, or of any other State, reasonable grounds for resentment or antagonism to Federation. We have hitherto endeavoured, so far as we could, to legislate for other parts of the Commonwealth in accordance with the wishes of’ the persons concerned. We have made great sacrifices to maintain the policy of a White Australia. The people of Western Australia have never grumbled at having to put their hands into their pockets to pay the sugar bounties, nor have they grumbled because the State of Victoria has received the major portion of the benefits which have been obtained from Federation. Neither are they likely to grumble if, in the future, New South Wales, which has large coalfields, becomes the home of manufactures, whose competition may drive similar manufactures out of Western Australia.
– Some of the Western Australian manufacturers have already left that State and come to Victoria.
– I hope that Parliament will consider the aspect of the matter which I have put before it. I do not wish to be accused of talking dismemberment or disunion ; but we should endeavour to see a little ahead, and not give to any part of our community reasonable grounds for feeling that it has been tricked into joining the Federation, and that it is now being unjustly treated.
– I do not desire to unduly extend this debate; my intention is to offer only a few remarks pertinent to some. of the statements I have heard in this Chamber. I believe that the vast majority of the people of Western Australia would not affirm the truth of the statement that any State entered the Union only to obtain material advantages. Behind the creation and the existence of the Australian Union is something very much greater than material interest - the spirit of fellowship and brotherhood. Federation was the result of an uprising in the direction of nationality, and was not brought about for material reasons. But while saying that, I differ from those who think that no weight should be given to material considerations in our national life, and that the proposal which we are discussing is a novel one. It is nothing of the kind. The Dominion of Canada is probably more like our Australian Commonwealth than is any other Union which . now exists, and we find, on looking back upon her history, that several of the States of the Dominion, prior to joining the Union, made requests similar to that which has been made by the State . of Western Australia. Let me give the Committee one or two instances. Although the population of Prince Edward Island was probably as patriotic as any other community which is now part of the Dominion, it refused to join the Canadian Union until some’ £300,000 had been promised by the Dominion to get rid of the private ownership of land which existed in the State. The people of Prince Edward Island were not disloyal or selfish ; but they felt that the matter was one with which they could not deal themselves, and therefore the’y asked the Dominion to assist them. Then, again, in 1870 the Dominion paid the old historic Hudson’s Bay Company some £300,000 before Rupertsland and the North-We’st Territory would join the Union. Again, to take a more nearly, analogous case, British Columbia in the same year refused to join the Union until the Dominion Parliament had definitely undertaken to construct the Canadian-Pacific railway. Further back - in 1867 - at the time when the Canadian Federation was consummated, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick took up a similar attitude in regard to the construction of the railway fromQuebec to the seaboard of the Maritime Provinces. In all these cases what were primarily local or State needs were attended to by the Federation, which had, perhaps, only a secondary interest in what was done. Therefore what is now proposed is no new thing in the history of Federal Governments. The honorable member for Coolgardie made reference to the unwisdom which characterised the attitude of Great Britain towards its colonies in North America, which we now know as the United States. It is unnecessary to enter into a dissertation on the principles of taxation. The statements of Burke form a treasury for the intellectual world, and he summed up the situation in this way, “ It does not matter very much,” he said, “ whether we are taxing the people of North America or whether we are not; the question is, do they think we are taxing them?” To determine a similar question, I have spent some little’ time in investigating the speeches made to the people of Western Australia in regard to the proposed Transcontinental Railway. Whether those who were in power were entitled to make promises or not, and whether such promises were sufficiently . definite to be tangible, there is no doubt that the vast majority of the people of Western Australia believed that a compact was entered into. Then, taking Burke’s view of the situation, we come to the question, not whether a promise was made, but whether they believed that it was made. I feel sure that they did so believe.
– There is no doubt that it was made.
– The honorable member knows that some honorable members who believe that no such promise should have been made, state that it was made by persons without authority, and it would be very difficult to say on whom responsibility should rest.
– A promise was made by persons holding responsible positions.
– That aspect of the question has also been discussed, and it has been contended that the responsibility incurred was personal rather than national. I thoroughly believe that if the people of Australia thought that a contract had been made, chey would have no hesitation in consenting to the proposed survey, which would cost little more than one penny per head of the population of the Commonwealth.
– One-penny farthing per head, or sixpence per family.
– That is not very much to pay for a principle, and I do not think that the Australian public would worry themselves over that aspect of the matter. It is very much more difficult to display enthusiasm with regard to national questions than with regard to personal matters. I am quite satisfied that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports would be very enthusiastic with regard to any work that would ameliorate the condition of the electors in his constituency. Similarly, the Mayor of Bundaberg would no doubt be very enthusiastic with regard to any proposal for bonuses which’ would tend to ameliorate the condition of the sugargrowers of the north. But when honorable members are asked to deal with a question, which relates to some portion of the continent far removed from their own constituencies, and beyond the region of local interest, they feel that they have to accept a grave responsibility. They will, without hesitation, do what they know their constituents would like, but few men care to be called upon, to explain that they have done something witE regard to which their constituents are in doubt, or which may be they believe is not necessary, or that they have not been prompted by their knowledge of the benefit to their constituents, as much as by the higher sense of responsibility to the people of the Commonwealth as a whole. We ‘are under the same obligation to do what is right and just to the people of Western Australia as we are to see that justice is done to our own constituents. We cannot, perhaps, expect our constituents to view the matter in quite the same light as we do, but we ought to endeavour to divest ourselves of local influences, and to do the best we can for the whole Commonwealth. Even though an honorable member may have doubts with regard to the construction of the railway - and I grant that I have serious doubts - he can scarcely object to take the view adopted by the leader of the Opposition. The honorable member for Bland said, and quite rightly, “ We go no further than the question of exploration and inquiry ; so far Australia is prepared to go.” So far he bound himself, and we are not asked to go any further. When the Transvaal war broke out we were astounded to find that the English officers knew nothing of the topography of the country - we were equally astonished to learn that the Japanese knew all about Manchuria - and yet we are not at all astounded that the representatives of
Australia and the Defence authorities should know nothing about that vast tract of country which extends from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie.
– We have had foreigners making more careful inquiries than have our own Defence Department.
– It appears to me scandalous that we should have no knowledge of a tract of country extending half-way across the continent, and it is incumbent .upon us to make the proposed inquiry. Even if an honorable member does not believe in the railway, he might still vote in favour of the proposal for a survey. I should support it even though no railway were projected, because it is imperative that we should know something with regard to the continent we are called upon to govern. If in any other State there was 1,000 miles of territory, regarding which the States Departments and the representatives of the people knew nothing, I should gladly vote £20,000 to defray the cost of an investigation. Without binding myself to the construction of the railway, I think it is right and proper that the Parliament should vote the proposed sum of money for investigation purposes, in order that we may be furnished with essential information as speedily as possible.
– I am gratified at the tone which the debate has taken, and I aim also glad that it is thoroughly understood that all that we are required to do at present is to make out a reasonable case for a survey of the proposed line. Some time ago I was told that a number of honorable members were under the impression that the line was being advocated in the interests of a small gang of persons in Perth and Fremantle. A statement to that effect was made in the Chamber, and I take the first opportunity to say that it is absolutely incorrect. The people of Western Australia are almost unanimously of opinion that a line should be built to connect that State with the eastern railway systems. It is not surprising that this feeling should exist, when we consider the number of persons from the eastern States who have settled in Western Australia, but who still have interests of, a domestic or other char- acter in the places from which they came. I have a return prepared by the manager of the Money Order Office in West- ern Australia, dated nth April, 1904, showing the amount of money forwarded through his Department from 1898 to 1903 inclusive to the other States. During that period £426,721 15s. 6d. was remitted to South Australia.
– That amount was made up of small sums, forwarded by means of money orders, and was apart altogether from any remittances by cheque or draft.
– Quite so. £1,316,353 8s. was remitted to Victoria.
– That was an absolute present to Victoria; we received no quid pro quo.
– I suppose that the men who sent the money had to work for it?
– Yes, but they presented it to the people of Victoria.
– During the same period £491,511 ns. 5d. was remitted to New South Wales, £68,904 4s. lod. to Queensland, and £96,033 9s. 3d. to Tasmania, the total being £2,399,524 9s. In view of the ties which exist between many of the workers in Western Australia and their families and relatives on the other side of the continent, it is only natural that kindly feelings should be entertained by them towards the Other States, and I can assure honorable, members that they feel greatly disappointed when antagonism is expressed towards the proposed railway. The promise given to Western Australia prior to her joining the Federation imposes a moral obligation upon representatives of at least some of the States to do all they can to assist in bringing about the construction of the proposed line. Some reference has been made to the remarks of two Premiers of South Australia, but unfortunately the position of affairs is not thoroughly understood by honorable members, or by the people of Australia. The right honorable member for Adelaide1, when Premier of South Australia, used expressions which fully justified the people of Western Australia in believing that they would receive the hearty co-operation of South Australia in securing the construction of the railway. The right honorable gentleman, in one of his letters to the right honorable member for Swan, said -
This would, indeed, be an Australian work worthy of undertaking by the Federal authority, on behalf of the nation, in pursuance of the authorities contained in the Commonwealth Bill. It is, of course, a work of special interest to Western Australia and South Australia, and I devoutly hope that the day is not far distant when the representatives of Western Australia and South Australia may, in their places in a Federal Parliament, be found working side by side for the advancement of Australian interests in this and other matters of national concern.
Some doubt having been subsequently expressed as to the1 attitude of South Australia, the right honorable member for Adelaide communicated with the honorable member for Swan as follows : -
Cannot understand reference to probable reluctance of South Australia to permit Federal construction of railway connecting colonies. We have no fear of any such anti-Federal, “ doginthemanger “ policy-
These communications clearly show that the people of Western Australia were justified in expecting that the great national work which they desired to see carried out would receive strong support in the Commonwealth Parliament. It is not, however, our wish that the commencement of this great work should rest on sympathy, so I desire to present a few facts concerning the great Western State, which do not appear to be universally known in the East. At the present time, Western Australia possesses a population of nearly 250,000, a great proportion of which is comprised of adult males. It cannot be disputed that Western Australia is the greatest mining State in the Union, lt contains eighteen declared goldfields, and during the period that mining has been actively carried on £10,000,000 have been disbursed in dividends. Last year the dividends paid aggregated £1,500,000. During the same period the coal produced was valued at £86,000, the copper at £110,769, and the tin at £52,102. I think it will be generally admitted that a State which is capable of producing such a large quantity of gold is worthy of some consideration. At the present time, Western Australia has about 100,000,000 acres under pastoral lease. Despite the statements which appear in the newspapers of the eastern States, it is a fact that a considerable portion of the country which would be traversed by the proposed railway has-been taken up by pastoralists, who have stocked it. In dealing with the pastoral resources of the western State, and particularly those on the route of the proposed line, it is only reasonable that I should quote from the report of Mr. Muir, who travelled over it upon camels at the instance of the Western Australian Government, and made a flying survey. He states -
I was led to believe, prior to starting this trip, that the country to be traversed consisted almost entirely of a desert -
Had he been resident in Victoria we should probably have said that he had been reading the Age - composed of sandhills and spinnifex flats. This impression proved, however, to be perfectly erroneous, unless a waterless tract of country, though well grassed and timbered, can be called a desert. Interspersed through this forest are numerous flats covered with grass, as well as with salt-bush and other fodder shrubs. The soil is of good quality, and the growth of grass and herbage luxuriant. At about 200 miles, rolling downs of lime-stone formation are met with, covered with a luxuriant growth of grass, and occasionally a salt-bush flat. This country is lightly timbered with myaporum, and presents a beautiful park-like appearance.
Honorable members should bear in mind that Mr. Muir occupies a responsible position, and that his estimates in the past have always proved absolutely authentic. Yet what has been pictured by the newspapers as a desert, he describes as country “ presenting a beautiful park-like appearance.” His report continues -
Close to the coast a narrow belt of mallee runs, and further inland small belts of myall and myaporum are met with. This country is also well grassed, and salt-bush and other feed bushes are plentiful. To the north, near the 31st parallel of latitude, the country is more open. In fact, from the South Australian border, for 250 miles in a westerly direction, it is one large open plain of limestone formation, fairly well grassed throughout. Taken as a whole, this stretch of country is one of the finest I have seen in Australia, and, with water - which doubtless could be obtained if properly prospected for - it is admirably adapted for grazing purposes, and will, without doubt, be taken up some day from end to end. At the time of our visit this tract of country must have been at its driest, as the settlers at Eyre and Eucla informed us that it was the worst season they had experienced for the. last twenty years. From our observations, it was quite evident that there had been a long dry spell, extending over fully twelve months, I should think. Still the grass was sound and strong, growing for the most part to a height of twelve inches.
When a report of that description is presented by a gentleman, who certainly should bo a reliable authority upon the matter, and whose reputation is at stake, I think that honorable members should attach more weight to it than to the rash statements published by newspapers which desire to cater for the lowest instincts of a few people in other portions of the Commonwealth. I believe that, if the facts were fairly presented to the people of Australia, they would unhesitatingly support this proposal. I would further point out that last year Western Australia possessed 3,000,000 sheep and 400,000 cattle. In addition to that, she produced about 1,000,000 bushels of wheat.
The State has also enormous possibilities for agriculture. There are about 10,000,000 acres open for selection, extending from Geraldton in the north to Esperance and Albany in the south, which contain some of the finest agricultural land to be found in any portion of Australia. I have travelled over a vast extent of that country, and its fertility cannot be questioned. When experienced settlers take up this land, Western Australia will become a very important agricultural State. I do not think that too much weight should be attached to the arguments of the honorable member for Moira on the question of defence. He urged that at the present time the eastern States have not large standing armies, which, in the event of Western Australia being serious! v threatened, could be readily transported across the Continent. But the same remark, I would point out, would apply to any country in regard to any war which has ever taken place. At the opening of hostilities in South Africa, Australia did not possess a large number of troops which she could immediately place in the field. Nevertheless it was soon realized that if troops were required for patriotic purposes, they could very speedily be organized. I think it will be readily conceded that the defence of a country is to be measured by its strength at its weakest point. Personally, I am of opinion that, in the event of hostilities, the first State in Australia to be attacked would be that which possessed large resources in the shape of rich gold mines, which had not many men to defend them, and which possessed no means of obtaining assistance from its eastern neighbours. It will be seen that, under such circumstances, the western State would occupy a very precarious position indeed. Looking at the matter from a common-sense stand-point, I think that, in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth, facilities should be provided for the transport of troops with the least possible delay. I would further point out that at the present time there is a large passenger traffic between Western Australia and the eastern States - I believe the official estimate sets it down at about 50,000 annually. If it were possible for people in the western State to travel to the east without being called upon to undergo the inconvenience and discomfort attaching to a sea trip, I venture to say that the number of passengers travelling to and fro would be considerably increased. There is always considerable uncertainty as to the hour of sailing, and that in itself constitutes an objection to the present means of communication. We must also remember that many people have a natural objection to travelling by sea. There is another aspect of this proposal which has an important bearing on Western Australia. It is well known that the Commonwealth is visited from time to time by a ‘large number of European tourists and others who combine pleasure-seeking with business, and are always anxious to obtain information as to the opportunities for profitable investment which Australia affords. The people of Western Australia believe that if facilities were given to these visitors to leave the mail steamers at Fremantle and to travel thence by rail to all parts of the Commonwealth, they would spend at least a week at the metropolis and a week at the gold-fields before proceeding” overland to the eastern States.
– How many oversea passengers leave the mail steamers at Adelaide and continue their journey to Sydney or Melbourne by railway?
– I have no figures before me that would enable me to reply to the honorable member’s question; but I would remind him that to travellers from other parts of the world Adelaide does not offer as many attractions as does Western Australia. I therefore assume that any return which might be prepared on the subject named could not be taken as a fair indication of the number who, if this line were constructed, would leave the mall steamers at Fremantle and travel overland.
– My question was, how many people travelling by mail steamer - apart altogether from Western Australians - land . at Adelaide and go on to Melbourne or Sydney by train ?
– I was under no misapprehension as to the question put by the honorable and learned member.
– But the honorable member cannot answer it.
– I have no data bearing on the question, but I think I have supplied a sufficient answer to it. I have heard many passengers on mail steamers express their determination to land at the first available opportunity, and I consequently conclude that a large number of travellers by the mail steamers bring their sea voyage to a termination on reaching ‘Adelaide. The attitude taken up by Western Australia in regard to this question has been somewhat severely criticized hy two honorable members who have addressed themselves to this question. The honorable and learned member for Parkes last night expressed the opinion that Western Australia should be called upon to pay for the cost of the preliminary survey. He urged that if the Government of that State wished to obtain information relative to the projected line they should be prepared to pay for its collection. But in the event of the Commonwealth constructing the line and working it, would the honorable and learned member be prepared to support a proposal to give Western Australia the larger proportion of the profits that might be obtained from it? That is an aspect of the matter which the honorable and learned member has not seriously considered. I believe that Western Australia is acting in a very generous way, and that there is no desire on the part of the representative men of that State that the’ Commonwealth should be called on to bear the whole burden should the line be constructed and prove less successful than we hope it will be. Mr. James, the late Premier of Western Australia, made what I consider was a fair offer to the late Prime Minister. He stated in a telegram dated 18th May last -
On condition that Commonwealth is allowed a free hand as to route and gauge of railway, 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 it will be liberal, and abundantly satisfy the. Federal Parliament of our sincerity in this connexion, arid our belief that the work will soon be a directly paying one.
The tone of that message does not suggest any desire on the part of the representative public men of Western Australia to place the Commonwealth in a false position. I would point out further, that under the Enabling Act passed by the Western Australian Parliament, the Government of that State are pledged to an enormous undertaking. I refer to the lifting and relaying of the railway from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie, in order that it may correspond with the gauge adopted by the Commonwealth for the great national line. It must also be remembered that the alteration in the gauge of that line would render it different from the other State lines. In view of the undertaking given in the Enabling Act, I think we may safely assume that the Government of Western Australia are quite prepared to undertake their just responsibility in this matter. The attitude adopted by two honorable members who have spoken during this debate is worthy of some attention. The honorable member for Moira asserted that the cost of the survey must be seriously considered, and the same view was expressed by the honorable and learned member for Indi. In glancing over the pages of Hansard this morning, I was unable to discover any evidence that these honorable members had always been so ready to take exception to the proposed expenditure of a few thousand pounds. We urge that the building of this railway is a great national undertaking which should be entered upon by the Commonwealth, in order that the pledge given to Western Australia, prior to Federation, by a number of the leading public men of Australia, who advocated the Union, may be redeemed. But the honorable member for Moira, and the honorable and learned member for Indi object to the preliminary survey simply on the ground of the cost. When various other proposals - involving considerable expenditure - of a far Jess important character, have been submitted to the House they have not taken up that attitude. I find that they joined with other honorable members in voting a sum °f £IO>°°° to enable the Duke and Duchess of York to be lavishly entertained during their visit to Australia in connexion with the opening of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– When they voted in that way the money had already been spent.
– That is immaterial to the point at issue. The money should certainly not have been spent in that way, and the fact that it was so expended did not relieve the Ministry of their responsibility to this House. We find, however, that these two arch-priests of the gospel of economy, while not prepared to support a comparatively small expenditure in connexion with an undertaking designed to cement the Commonwealth, did not hesitate to vote for the expenditure of a sum of £[10,000, most of which was handed over to Victorian society. The greater part of that amount was expended, I suppose, in the purchase of champagne, and on decorations, in order that the Duke and Duchess of York might be lavishly entertained ; but it was of no material benefit to any citizen of the Commonwealth.
– That was it. If those honorable members were prepared to support a vote that was of no lasting or even temporary benefit to the people of the Commonwealth, surely they 7 y should not censure such a proposal as that now before the House, which involves the interests and the welfare of a vast number of people. I believe that the Committee will adopt a course that will enable the fullest investigation to be made and the most complete data to be obtained before we are asked seriously to determine whether the Commonwealth should construct this line. Its construction would be undoubtedly a momentous undertaking involving a very large expenditure, and I think tha’ the feeling manifested during this debate shows that there is a desire on the part of honorable members to obtain the information necessary for our guidance. I hope that the division will show that a majority of the House is prepared to take into consideration the whole of the facts which have been presented in justification of the Government proposal, and that the ultimate result will be assent to a proposal, designed to secure the safety and the peace of the citizens of the Commonwealth.
Mr. SKENE (Grampians).- I may say at once that I intend to vote for the motion, but that I shall do so on the distinct understanding that I shall not bind myself in any shape or form to support the construction’ of the railway if the survey does not disclose some better possibilities than have; so far, been presented to our view. There is to be no implied contract. We have heard much of implied compacts, but I desire to make my position perfectly clear. I consider that the proposed undertaking will be rather a work of exploration than an actual railway survey. Since this question was first brought before us, a good deal of additional information has been presented, which throws some .light on the character of the country through which the railway would pass. It cannot be denied that the line would run through some excellent grazing country, but the difficulty seems to be to secure an adequate water supply. I assume that the survey! party would be provided with boring appliances, and would do its best to discover any underground supplies that might exist. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie read some extracts from a report by Mr. Muir, which I had pre1viously seen, and which I think bear out the statements made to me by the right honorable member for Swan and others in regard to the grazing capacity of the country through which the projected line would run. The right honorable member for Swan tells us thai in his early explorations he passed through some excellent grazing land along the southern line. I do not know to which of these routes Mr. Muir refers in his report; but I think that he deals with a line designed to go further north than this railway would run. There can be no question, however, that a large area of good grazing country would be traversed, although, as I have already remarked, there is a difficulty in regard to securing a water supply. Mr. Muir deals with difficulties in the way of boring and of tapping any sources of fresh water, but he is very indefinite in regard to the rainfall. He states that the average rainfall is from seven inches upwards per annum - a very low one - but the statement appears to be somewhat inconsistent with the paragraph in which he informs us that the route passes through an area in which there are periodical rains, some of them of a tropical nature.
– How could he possibly determine the rainfall there?
– That difficulty occurred to me when I was reading the report, for I know that no one has lived in the part of the country referred to long enough to enable any reliable data as to the rainfall to be obtained. I feel also that a good deal might be said from the point of view that the gold-fields are likely to be permanent, and to carry a large population for manyyears to come.
– There is no doubt about that.
– It is also to be remembered that where there is a long haulage, the rates for railway transport are proportionately cheaper than where the distances are short. Some years ago, when Mr. Speight was Commissioner for Railways in Victoria, I found that in this State we were paying as much for the transport of our wheat for a distance of 160 miles as was being paid in New South Wales for haulage for a distance of 300 or 400 miles, and that the case was similar in regard to fat stock. Mr. Speight told me that the reason for the difference was that the New South Wales Commissioners could afford to charge less for ‘a long haulage than he could afford’ to charge for a short haulage. Then, again, although ‘the country through which the proposed line will pass may not afford much traffic to the line, that will not matter much if a full train load is obtained at one end and carried right through to the other end. The honorable member for Wilmot has referred to the likelihood of water competition ; but that competition is not likely to be so severe as it is in the eastern States, where the distances are shorter. At the present time goods intended for the gold-fields have to be placed on steamers in Melbourne, transferred to the train at Fremantle, and then conveyed some 400 miles by rail, whereas if the proposed railway were constructed, only one handling would be necessary, and the total railway journey would be only about 1,000 miles.
– That argument applies particularly to passenger traffic.
– I do not think that the passenger traffic alone would be sufficient to justify the construction of the line, though no doubt the passenger fares would materially supplement its earnings.
– There would also be the conveyance of mails and of stock.
– Does the honorable member think that stock would be carried over the line?
– Stock are now travelled and conveyed by steamer from Kimberly to the gold-fields, and properties many hundreds of miles distant have become valuable because of the market which has been given by the gold-fields. In America stock are taken by train much longer distances than that under consideration.
– And they lose less condition in the trucks than they lose on a bad track.
– No doubt, because they are taken care of, taken out of the trucks to be watered, and are not in the trucks for a very long period at a time. Possibly the construction, of the Esperance line would create competition by water. I have not altered my opinion in regard to’ this matter. When speaking on the address-in-reply, I said that I was disposed to vote for a trial survey of the line, and the information which has since been obtained has confirmed me in the view that it would be a wise thing to have the survey made.
– It seems to me that there has been a great deal of discussion upon this motion which is -not al together necessary! We are not now being asked to decide whether £6,000,000 should be spent upon the construction of a Transcontinental Railway ; all that we are asked to do is to vote a certain sum of money to enable a survey of the route of the proposed line to be made, so thatwe may know the nature of the country through which it would pass, and the prospect of the railway becoming a paying one. This is not a parochial or a provincial matter. The proposed railway is net to connect two points in a State ; it is a continuation of one of the greatest highways of the world, the continuation of a highway which practically encircles the world. The object of the line is to unite the railway systems of the east with the railway systems of the west, to complete a magnificent chain which, when finished, will extend from Cairns on the north, round to Fremantle on the west. In a country like Australia, where there are very few large navigable rivers, no canals, arid an almost unindented coastline, so that means of water carriage are few and inconvenient, it is necessary, in order to give opportunities for settlement and progress, to provide other means of communication. If we are to progress as we deserve to do, we must construct railways to give free intercourse amongst our people, and to carry goods readily from one part of the continent to another. This is one of the chief means by which we may increase our population. We have heard a great deal about the falling off of population; but we cannot expect our population to increase unless we provide facilities such as I speak of. I believe that the reason why Western Australia progressed so slowly for many years was, that she was almost entirely isolated from the other States; and when the proposed communication is given, she will no doubt progress very rapidly. Prior to Federation, New Zealand felt that, surrounded as she was by the seas, it would be better for her to stand alone; but Western Australia saw that it would be to her advantage to join the Union, and one of the inducements held out to the people of that State for coming ‘into the Federation was, I believe, that the proposed line would eventually be constructed by the Commonwealth. Even if it is not constructed verv shortly, the time is not far distant when it must be made, because it is an absolute necessity. Are we going to repudiate a bargain which was made wilh the people of Western Australia? The bargain made with the people of New South Wales in connexion with the Federal Capital has practically been repudiated, because a site has been chosen where it was never expected that the Seat of Government would be placed, but is this Parliament going to act similarly towards Western Australia?
– Who made the bargain with Western Australia? There was no bargain.
– The construction of the proposed line was held out to the people of Western Australia as an inducement to join the Federation.
– By whom? By the right honorable member for Swan.
– If the right honorable member for Swan held it out as an inducement, he had, no doubt, good authority for doing so. When the survey has been made it will be necessary to inquire as to the benefits which would be obtained by the construction of the proposed line. One of the great advantages which I foresee from its construction is that it will tend towards the unification of the great British Empire, because it will bring us nearer to the mother country, by cutting off the long and unpleasant sea journey which those who now come from Europe to Australia are obliged to make in order to get to the eastern States. _ If we can do anything to draw closer the bonds of union, to tighten the crimson threads which unite us to the mother land, it is’ our duty to do it. The proposed railway would shorten the journey to Europe by some’ days, and would make it a much pleasanter one than it is now. Those who have travelled between the eastern States and Europe know that the most unpleasant part of the journey is that between Fremantle and Adelaide. In summer time cyclones sweep across the vast expanse of water which has to be traversed, while in winter time icy blasts come from the south, making the journey round the Leeuwin and across the Great Australian Bight a very unpleasant one to the average traveller, so that many who have not suffered from sea sickness in the earlier part of the voyage become iJl the’re. I believe that every one who could’ avail himself of the overland journey would take it, in preference to the voyage by sea. The proposed railway would also give’ us a great many advantages in connexion with the carriage of our mails. Our letters would be delivered in shorter time than they are now, and thus trade and commerce with Europe, and between the eastern and western States of the Commonwealth, would be facilitated and accelerated. Whatever may have been the report of Major-General Hutton on the subject, I believe that the proposed railway would be of great advantage to us if we we’re at war with a foreign nation. We know how Russia has. been pushing forward her railways. We have read how a former Czar took his ruler and drew a line on the map from St. Petersburg to Moscow, to indicate how he wanted a railway to run. The question of cost was of little importance to him. We see now how the Russians have carried their railways through Siberia, and across Manchuria, and we know .the ‘ use to which they have been put for transport purposes during the war. The Dominion of Canada, by the construction of the CanadianPacific railway, and the United States, have both set us examples which ‘we might well follow in this matter. When the railway which now runs from San Francisco to New York was in contemplation, no one cared much for the fact that for many miles it would have to traverse the desert. It was not required to pay foot by foot. What the people of the United States desired was to get quickly from one part of the Union to another. That railway runs for thousands of miles across barren, waterless, alkali plains, where from his rising to his setting the sun never throws the shadow of a human being on the soil. Therefore, although water may be scarce along the route of the proposed line, and the country to be traversed may not be all that we might desire, we must regard it as a highway for the conveyance of passengers and of goods. I think, too, that if the line is constructed on the 4 ft. 8j in. gauge, which already obtains in New South Wales, that gauge will eventually become universal. ‘
– Does the honorable member know what it would cost to make that gauge universal ?
– I have not gone into the question of cost, but the first cost should be the last. We know what inconvenience and expense the present breaks of gauge entail, and we have the assurance of the present Government of Western Australia that they would be prepared to alter their gauge to make it conform with that of the proposed railway. If the same gauge were in use in Western Australia, and in New South Wales, I do not think that it would be long before it was adopted in the other States, If the railway is constructed I hope that we shall have no trouble in connexion with” refreshment rooms at various stages. The personal inconvenience to which we now have to submit when travelling upon the railways is considerable, and the health of travellers must be seriously affected owing to the conditions under which they have to take their meals. This is a matter of very great moment, and I trust that the cars will be so arranged that passengers will be able to dine as they travel. If the construction of the railway were entered upon a considerable amount of work would be provided for those of our citizens who are in urgent need of employment, and the money of the Commonwealth could not be spent to greater advantage. There are no great engineering difficulties to be overcome, because the right honorable member for Swan tells us that the country is level for the greater part of the way. We have heard that water is scarce, and that the rainfall amounts to only seven inches per annum. I consider that the rainfall is a minor consideration, because we know that plentiful supplies of water can be obtained by means of artesian bores. I should like to know the source of the opposition to the project. Is it not instigated to a very large extent by the shipping companies, who fear that their interests will be seriously affected by the diversion of traffic? I have no sympathy with those whose opposition to the railway is prompted by consideration for vested interests, and I entirely object to the introduction of log-rolling into this Parliament. We have had enough of that in the States Parliaments. Some objection probably comes from the magnates’ of Perth and Fremantle, who would prefer to see a railway constructed from Kalgoorlie to Esperance.
– They do not wish to see that line constructed.
– -They certainly do not desire to see the connexion made between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta, and they would prefer the other line as the lesser of two evils. I do not bind myself to vote for the construction of the railway, but I think that £[20,000 would be well spent in’ making a survey, and in securing the information that is essential to a full consideration of the merits of the project. I shall, therefore, vote for the measure.
– I feel deeply interested in the proposal now before us, not because the railway would traverse a considerable portion of the electorate which I represent, but because I have, for many years past, advocated the construction of the line. As long ago as 1894, I submitted a motion in favor of the construction of reservoirs, and of putting down artesian bores along the line of route that would probably be followed by a line connecting Port Augusta with Kalgoorlie. I considered then that the time was not far distant when a railway would be constructed, and I thought we should pave the way for it as far as possible. Upon that occasion I was beaten by only one vote. Later on I obtained a return from the Railway Commissioner of South. Australia, in which he gave an approximate estimate of the cost of constructing a railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, and also of the probable annual expenditure and revenue. He was strongly in favour of the proposal that South Australia should construct a line to the Western Australian borden if the Government of the latter State would agree to build a railway to meet it. At a later date i tabled a .motion, based upon the recommendations in that report, to the effect tha: the line should be constructed. At this time Federation had practically been agreed to, and in view of that fact, and of the promises which were distinctly made by representative men in the Commonwealth to induce Western Australia to join the Federal Union, the proposal was withdrawn. I am very sorry that the South Australian Government have taken up. an attitude of antagonism to the project. I have no hesitation in saying that they have been largely influenced in this matter by consideration for the vested interests of Port Adelaide, and that Mr. John Darling, who dominates the policy of the Government, is very largely responsible for the present situation. I am glad that honorable members are not disposed to indorse the attitude of the South Australian Government. I am not in a position to-day to say whether or not the line would pay. We may have our own ideas as to the desirableness of- connecting the two States by railway; but we shall need more information before we can express any definite opinion as to the commercial prospects of the railway. We have been told that certain gentlemen from Western Australia have traversed the country from Kalgoorlie to the border. They have given us a description of the timber to be found there, and of the various edible bushes which contribute to make the country suitable for pastoral occupation. They have also stated that the rainfall amounts to about seven inches per annum and upwards. No man can be in a position to exactly state the rainfall over that area of country, because no one has lived there long enough to collect the necessary data; but the fact that gum trees are growing in a belt 100 miles long, and about 100 miles broad, is in itself an indication of a good rainfall’ over that particular portion of the area. Then again, we are told that wellgrassed plains extend for almost the whole distance from Kalgoorlie to the border. In some instances the grass was dry, and in other cases green, and it was in places as high as twelve inches. These are also indications of a good rainfall. I have traversed, and know the character of, about 300 miles of the ‘ country from Port Augusta westward. In South Australia, we have passed through one of the worst droughts ever known, which has extended over a period of . practically seven years, and the country to which I refer was the only part of the northern pastoral districts of South Australia from which the pastoralists were not driven out by the drought. That is another indication that the 300 miles in question possesses a more favorable climate than do many of the northern portions of South Australia. Personally, I am of opinion that it is desirable to construct this railway for the purpose of connecting the eastern States with Western Australia. I cannot see what Federal tie binds us to the western State if that State is to continue isolated. But altogether apart from that consideration, I claim that the Transcontinental Railway possesses all the possibilities of a remunerative undertaking. At the present time Kalgoorlie has a population of from 40,000 tq 50,000. These people have to depend for their supplies upon all parts of the Continent. They have relations with every other State. If they desire to visit the eastern portion of Australia they first have to travel 400 miles to reach the coast. Then the shipping companies charge them about twice as much in fares as they would be called upon to pav if it were .possible for them to travel by rail. That is the secret of some of the opposition to the present proposal. In my opinion, Kalgoorlie is destined to occupy much the same position in regard to Australia as Broken Hill occupies in regard to South Australia. It will provide an opening for all the perishable products of the other States. When we consider that between 50,000 and 60,000 persons annually journey between Western Australia and the eastern States, it is easy to imagine what number would travel if a railway were at their very door, and if they could cover the distance in half the time that is at present occupied, and at half the existing cost. I do not fear the result of information being obtained relative to this project. I do not think it would be proper to say to Western Australia, “You must incur the expenditure necessary to obtain a survey of the line proposed, and if we subsequently ascertain that it is likely to prove a remunerative work we will recoup you your outlay.” That would be a very unfederal spirit to .evince. But, apart from these considerations, I claim that the construction of the proposed railway opens up great possibilities from a mineral standpoint. In South Australia some 300 miles along the route which the line would traverse, there is a gold-field which has already produced thousands of ounces of the precious metal. I believe that this railway, if constructed, would prove a base from which prospectors would go out and make rich discoveries. I feel pleased with the tone that has characterized this debate, and I am confident that no honorable member who votes for the motion will have cause to regret it. After all, what does the proposed expenditure represent ? The large sum of i£d. per head. I am confident that no person in the Commonwealth will begrudge that expenditure to obtain information regarding a great national undertaking. If the report is not satisfactory I shall not advocate the construction of the line. Nevertheless, I believe that it will confirm the opinions of men who are familiar with the country which it would traverse. It is a singular circumstance that those who are not acquainted with that country are the loudest in their condemnation of the proposal. For example, last night the honorable member for Moira spoke about “miles and miles of sand hills.” Yet to-day, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie quoted the report of Mr. Muir, of the Lands Department of Western Australia, a thoroughly practical man, who gave quite a glowing description of the country. In South Australia, Mr. Wells, of the Survey Department, who was engaged exploring this territory for about six months, prepared plans of it for me, and his description of the land upon the South Australian side of the border tallies exactly with that given by Mr. Muir of the territory upon the Western Australian side. I trust that honorable members will support the motion.
– It is not my intention to speak at great length, but I do not think that I should be justified in giving a silent vote upon this question. The utterances of the right honorable member for Swan, and other representatives of Western Australia, would almost incline me to vote in favour of the proposed expendi ture of £20,000 for the survey of this railway. I know how anxious they are to secure it. To-night, ‘for the first time in the history of this Parliament, we shall probably witness the whole of the representatives of a State voting together.
– That shows how solidWestern Australia is upon the question.
– In explaining the Ministerial policy the other day, the Prime Minister declared that, if the Government were allowed to reach recess, they would use it to cultivate cordial relations betwe’en the States and the central Governments. Evidently that feeling has already been created in Western Australia, for to-day we find every representative’ of that great State voicing the same opinion upon this question. I trust that during the remainder of the session they will support the Government as they are doing now. Personally, I have to bear in mind that I represent a portion of Queensland, and I must therefore consider the best interests of that State. Much as I should like to support’ the right honorable member for Swan, I fe’el obliged to vote against this motion. If the proposed railway is of so much importance to Western Australia, why cannot that State incur the. expenditure necessary to obtain a survey of the route ? -Why cannot it satisfy this Parliament that the construction of the Transcontinental Railway is possible, and that the territory through which it would pass is not a barren and waterless waste ? If it were to expend £20,000 upon its own account, I think that it would be’ able to make out a very good case indeed. Such an expenditure would show that its people had confidence in the undertaking. But apparently they are’ not prepared to risk £[20,000 to satisfy themselves and this Parliament that the construction of the line is’ practicable. I will not venture to say how many millions sterling the proposed railway would cost, because it has been variously estimated at £4,000,000, £5,000,000, and £6,000,000, and upon each occasion the right honorable member for Swan has contradicted the estimate. It is undeniable, however, that the undertaking would involve an expenditure of some millions.
– How much does the sugar bonus cost ?
– If Queensland were allowed to secede from the Federation she would be very glad to forego the sugar bonus. It has been urged by several speakers that there was an understanding between the Premiers of the various States’ that the Transcontinental Railway should be constructed. Possibly there was also an understanding that one of the first measures submitted to this Parliament should have for its object an interference with rhe great sugar industry of Queensland. During the last election campaign I was frequently asked whether I would support an expenditure of £20,000 upon obtaining a survey of the proposed railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. This was a live question in Queensland. I had no hesitation in declaring that I , would not be a party to penalizing Queensland to that extent. The northern State has already been penalized sufficiently, and has received very little consideration at the hands of this Parliament.
– Queensland has received more consideration than has any other State.
– She has not received the slightest consideration. Indeed, the feeling in Queensland to-day is that if it were possible to do so that State would gladly withdraw from the Federation. This afternoon, the honorable member for Coolgardie stated that if this railway’ were not constructed it would create a feeling of antagonism throughout Western Australia, and that its people would use every means in their power to secede from the Federation. All I can say is that Queensland would be only too glad to join with that State with a view to gaining the same end.
– The electors do not show that by their votes.
– Why does Western Australia desire special treatment? The Constitution provides that every State shall be treated alike by the Commonwealth. No preference is to be given.
– No sugar bounties.
– There is to be no interference with States rights. The Constitution provides that there shall be no discrimination shown in dealing with the States, and yet we have now before us a proposal to give two States an advantage over the others.
– Why should we specially legislate for South Australia and Western Australia at the expense of the other States? Queensland will be called upon to pay something like £4,000 as her proportion of the . £20,000 which it is proposed to spend in making a preliminary survey.
– Western Australia has helped to pay for the sugar bonuses which benefit Queensland.
– Whose fault is that?
– It is not the fault of Western Australia.
– Did Queensland ask that there should be any interference with the sugar industry of that State, that kanaka labour should be abolished, and bonuses given by the Commonwealth to enable white labour to be substituted?
– She did, through her representatives.
– The latest proposal is that the Chinese throughout the rest of the Commonwealth shall be sent to Queensland to engage in the sugar industry. A suggestion to that effect has repeatedly been made in the Victorian press. It is thought that if the Chinese were sent in this way to Queensland the white traders of other parts of the Commonwealth, and more particularly of Melbourne, would no longei be compelled to compete with them. Queensland is quite prepared to observe the laws passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, but if coloured labourers are to be employed in the sugar-fields of that State let them be kanakas. The people of Queensland are accustomed to the habits pf the kanaka, and, although Chinese may be very suitable for some classes of work, they are not fitted for the sugar industry. In the interests of Queensland I shall be compelled to oppose the motion. The State of which I am a representative might very well appeal to this Parliament for a similar vote towards the cost of a preliminary survey for a proposed railway to Somerset, in the extreme north of the Gulf of Carpentaria. It has just as much right to make such a request to this House as Western Australia has to ask that the . Commonwealth shall expend £20,000 in this way. But the people of that State would not dream of doing such a thing. All that they ask of this Parliament’ is fair treatment and consideration.
– Did they ask for the sugar bonus?
– I am not dealing with the sugar industry. I should not have mentioned the subject but for an interjection made by the honorable member for Newcastle, who must have avery sweet tooth. I. regret that I cannot support the motion, but I do not think that the State from which I come could fairly be asked to contribute £4,000 towards the cost of the survey of a railway that will be of no advantage to it. It has already been penalized by the extension of the Vancouver contract for the carriage of oversea mails, and by the increase of the subsidy from £[7,000 to £10,000 per annum, while it is to suffer still further by the refusal of the Commonwealth to provide in the contract that mail steamers shall make Brisbane a port of call. In the interests of Queensland, I feel constrained to oppose this motion, although I believe that it will be carried.
– I desire, at the outset to disclaim the suggestion made by the honorable member for Hunter, that the opposition to the motion has emanated from the shipping companies. I have not been approached by any shipping company, or by any individual in regard to” this proposal, and I intend to exercise my common sense in dealing with it, as I do with all other matters that ‘come before the House. The honorable member gives the House scarcely any credit for the exercise of common sense. The statement made during the debate, that we are bound by an implied compact to provide for this preliminary survey has, to my mind, no foundation. We are bound by that which was done bv the Convention in framing the Constitution Bill, which was accepted by the people. I was opposed to the Bill, but I intend, as a representative of the people, to faithfully carry out its provisions. I would remind the Committee that it contains no reference to this projected railway, and that we are not bound by any Conference of Premiers, which may have met, and have arrived at certain decisions, any more than we should be bound by any Conference of Premiers of the various States that might meet and make certain suggestions to this House. If a Conference of Premiers made certain recommendations, as the result of which Western Australia was led to accept Federation, I can only say that it is a matter for regret that such recommendations should have been made, when the Premiers concerned had no power to give effect to them. It has been stated by the right honorable member for Swan, that those who oppose this motion are adopting a dog-in-the manger policy.
– No. I quoted the statement made by some one else.
– But the right honorable member interjected during the course of a speech made by another honorable member in opposition to the motion, “ Is the honorable member going to adopt a doginthemanger policy”?
– No ; I said that we were not going to be dogs-in-the-manger.
– In common with others, I intend to oppose the spending pf £20,000 in carrying out the proposed survey; but in doing so, we are not adopting a dog-in-the-manger policy. Even if the Commonwealth refuses to undertake the work, Western Australia will be at liberty to carry out the survey, so that the case is not at all on all-fours with the fable of the dog in the manger, who could not eat the hay itself, and would not allow the ox to eat it.
– Why does Tasmania come to the Federal Parliament for a subsidy of £7,000 a year for a mail service?
– I might as well’ ask why the Western Australian Parliament does not subsidize the over-sea mail steamers for carrying her mails to England. It is only fair and reasonable that the subsidy to which the honorable member has referred should be paid; but that question is not now before the Committee. The right honorable member for Swan will not deny that he stated that if this railway were constructed, Western Australia might secure better representation. I do not think that that suggestion is at all complimentary to the present representatives of that State.
– He did not say that.
– He said that it would extend the choice of the people, and would perhaps lead to better representatives being secured.
– I said that the construction of’ the line would enlarge the choice of the people of Western Australia.
– And that they would obtain better representatives. I do not intend to quarrel with the right honorable member in regard to the matter, but holding as I do that the present representation of Western Australia is very satisfactory, the argument that the making of this railway might eventually lead to a change being made constituted one reason for my opposition to the motion. The right honorable member also said that land along the line of railway might be reserved for the Commonwealth, as it was not worth much. ‘ He is an authority on the value of land in the country through which the line would pass, and if his statement be correct, the Commonwealth would not be likely to be recouped in respect of an expenditure of £4,000,000 on the construction of the line by the revenue obtained from land so reserved.
– The honorable member had better come over and see our country
– I do not think that the railway would benefit Western Australia to the extent that many of the people of that State imagine. Although there is a railway between Melbourne and Sydney all the goods interchanged by those cities are sent t9 and fro by steamers, and the railway is but slightly used except for passenger traffic. I admit that if I were going to Western Australia I should prefer to travel by rail rather than by ‘steamer, but at present the Commonwealth is not in a position to incur the proposed expenditure. Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales have spent large sums in connecting their various capitals with the’ interState railway systems, and I think that the least Western Australia might be expected to do is to carry out this survey at its own cost, and to show, before we are asked to construct the line, that some benefit would be gained from it. When I offered myself for election I was asked whether I favoured the construction of the Transcontinental Railway, and I replied in the negative. I said that I was not in favour of the Commonwealth constructing one mile of railway until the whole of the railways and of the debts of the States had been taken over by the Federal Parliament. If we had entered into a unification, and the States’ debts and the railways of the States had been taken over by the Commonwealth, we should not have been troubled by many of the difficulties that now confront us. As . long as each State controls its own* railway system, and the States’ debts remain unconsolidated I am not in favour of a single mile of railway being .constructed by the Commonwealth.
– If the railways of the States had been taken over by the Commonwealth’ would the’ honorable member have favoured this motion?
– In that event the proposal to construct this line would have been taken into consideration with other propositions to build railways in different parts of the Commonwealth, and the1 railway would have been constructed had the scheme been shown to be a reasonable one. In any event, however, I should have to be convinced that it would be a payable undertaking, just as a member of a State Parliament requires to be convinced in regard to any projected railway in his own State, that it would be a profitable undertaking. If the people of Western Australia are so wealthy, and if the turnover of that State is as large as has been stated, they might very well carry out the survey at their own cost. If the people of Western Australia are not croakers they might very well build the line to their own satisfaction, and on a gauge in keeping with the remaining lines of the State. I do not wish to introduce to the notice of the Committee any of the difficulties’ under which the people of Tasmania labour by reason of action taken by the Commonwealth, but there are one or two matters to which I must refer. One reason given for the proposal to construct this line is that it is necessary for defence purposes. Tasmania entered the Federation, believing that it would secure a better system of defence than had previously existed there, but she has obtained not a superior but an inferior one. No provision has been made for a suitable steamer to carry troops to Tasmania from the mainland in the event of a threatened invasion ; but we are asked to construct a railway to Western Australia in order that troops may be carried to that State for defence purposes. On the other hand, one-half of the old members of the Defence Forces in Tasmania have been dismissed and recruits have been substituted.
– Surely Tasmania has benefited by the larger naval squadron that has been . provided since Federation was inaugurated?
– As a matter of fact, Tasmania is worse off now than she was prior to Federation. The people of Launceston have been deprived even of the convenience which they previously enjoyed through the displaying of a flag’ at the Post Office to indicate that a steamer was entering the heads. A large number of honorable members have committed themselves to the principle that there should be no borrowing of money for Commonwealth purposes ; but . how is the proposed survey, and the subsequent construction of the railway, to be carried out, unless we borrow money ? The States have found out that surveyors and ‘ experts often report upon a proposed line as cheap, and likely to be profitable, when it is really costly and unprofitable; and’ I think that That will be the case in connexion with this line. An honorable member asked last night, “Would you, by depriving the people df Western Australia of a railway, allow them to starve?” It would be very strange if the people of Western Australia were to starve because of the absence of this railway, seeing that the people of Great Britain, who have to get all their supplies from other countries, are wholly dependent upon sea carriage, and that the people of Tasmania are in that position too. The people of Western Australia have fared very well hitherto, and I am sure that if more vessels are required to provide them with food, they will be supplied. What I desire to see come about eventually is the taking over of all the railways by the Commonwealth. According to my reading of the Constitution, it will be an interference with State rights for the Commonwealth to undertake the proposed’ survey until the Parliament of South Australia has sanctioned it. A comparison has been made between the construction of the proposed line and the carrying out of Commonwealth works for the conservation of water ; but I do not think that the former is nearly so urgent a matter as is the supplying of water to a droughtstricken district. Much has been said about doing justice to the States; but it would be an injustice to four of the States if the Commonwealth Parliament sanctioned the spending, not merely of £[20,000 for the survey of the proposed line, but of the further sum of £[4,000,000 or £[5,000,000 required for its construction. I intend to oppose the motion, though, as m-e have had of late so many changes of Government, and so many parties have promised to support the proposal, I think it will be carried. If, however, honorable members voted in accordance with their individual opinions, I believe that it would be negatived.
– I have a perfectly open mind upon this question. Itis” not one which has engaged the attention of -my constituency to any extent, and I do not remember to have heard it referred to there; but personally I have given a great deal of consideration to it, and I view the proposal for the construction of this railway with a great deal of misgiving and distrust. Of course we are now being asked, not to sanction the construe-‘ tion of the line, but to vote a sum of money, for a survey to obtain information in regard to its prospects. The information contained in the reports now before honorable members is certainly very meagre. Those reports give very little: justification for the construction of the line, though they are admittedly based on the results of only a partial investigation of the country which it will traverse.
– Does- not the honorable member think that tHe States concerned should pay the cost of any survey that is made?
– If seems to me a reasonable contention that unless it can be shown that the necessities of the Commonwealth, from commercial, defence, or other national points of view, demand such a railway, the States which will benefit most by the construction of the line should bear the cost of its survey.
– Will not the construction of the line be of benefit to the whole Commonwealth ?
– That is a question I cannot at present answer, and is one upon which I desire information myself. The chief question for us to consider is whether the proposal is being put forward as a national one, and has in view the serving of great national interests, or whether it is being made in the interests of land gamblers and speculators. That is ‘ a point, upon which I wish to be satisfied before committing myself in regard to the matter. I should like to know whether at the present time the land -through which the railway would pass is in the possession of the State, or whether it has been alienated, and has passed into the hands of private individuals.
– It is almost all Crown land.
– Then I should like to know what steps are being taken to conserve the public interest by securing for the State . whatever increment in value may be created by the construction of the railway, and the aggregation of population in its vicinity. I have seen so much land speculation, and so much expenditure of public’ money by States Parliaments in constructing’ unprofitable lines merely to put money into the- pockets of private individuals, that- I intend to watch very carefully all proposals’ for railway construction by the Commonwealth Parliament, and tb try to as far as possible conserve to the . public any incre- ment of value which may attach to the public estate by such expenditure.
– In this instance the land through which the railway will pass belongs to two States, which will get the increment of which the honorable member speaks. It will not go to the Commonwealth.
– Not necessarily; some arrangement may perhaps be arrived at between the States concerned and the Commonwealth under which a certain proportion of the increment will be transferred to the Commonwealth. At any rate, the railway will be the property of the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth Government before committing itself to any scheme of railway construction should conserve national interests in this connexion. The Engineers-in-Chief of the various States who reported on this proposal on 27th July, 1903, are rather favorable to the construction of the line, though their investigations led them to believe that for a number of years the railway would not be a paying one. They say -
New tracts of country would be opened up for pastoral settlement both in South Australian and Western Australian territory, the chief difficulty at present lying not so much in the want of fertility of the country, and the absence of water, as in its inaccessibility.
The same may be said as regards mineral development. Recent discoveries show that the country for 175 miles east of Kalgoorlie, which is auriferous, may turn out to be highly productive and ‘a source of revenue to the railway. Tarcoola, and other mining centres in South Australia, if rendered more accessible, may come to enjoy prosperity after they have been more thoroughly and systematically prospected. The reports of the Government Geologist are not unfavorable.
We are of opinion that South Australia will gain by the construction of the railway. Not only will the railway revenue receive an impetus, and, as before indicated, opportunity for pastoral and mining development be afforded, but the State generally must be benefited by the increase of passengers and. other traffic which will come with the railway.
That statement confirms my opinion that South Australia, which is apparently going to benefit largely from the construction of the proposed line, might reasonably have been asked to contribute something towards the cost of its survey. The Commissioners say that to- the question as to “ the advis ability of constructing the proposed railway “’- “We find it very difficult to give an answer, in view of the fact that the monetary loss will, for the first few years, be considerable. -The revenue may prove to be higher than we have estimated, and the deficiency may tend to diminish from year to year more rapidly than has been assumed.
Then comes this summary - :
Our answers to the questions put to us are, briefly, as follows : - 1.We estimate the probable expenditure in construction at£4,559,000.
The probable revenue which may be depended upon after construction is, in our opinion, £205,860. If the past progress in Western Australia is maintained so that the present- population becomes doubled in ten years after completion, the revenue may also be taken as double, viz., £411,720.
I do not regard that as an excessive estimate. The Commissioners continue -
The. revenue may also be taken as double, namely,£411,720. The probable annual expenditure in working and maintaining the line immediately after construction we estimate at £114,406, which, added to interest on the cost of construction, at 3½ per cent.,£159,566, gives £273,966 for the total expenditure. After ten years, under the conditions stated, the working expenses may be taken as£210,000, and, in view of the necessary expenditure in improving works in the meantime, the interest on the enlarged capital will be£183,501, making a total of £393,501.
It will be seen that the estimated loss for the first ten years is £68,160 per annum, and after ten years the estimated annual profit is £18,219. In regard to the prospective loss, certain communications passed between the late Prime Minister and the Premier of Western Australia. On the 6th May the Prime Minister telegraphed to the Premier of Western Australia as follows : -
Re Western Australian Railway. - Representations made to me, feeling of members Federal Parliament towards proposal favours belief that opposition would be materially lessened if your Government indicate” . willingness to contribute stated proportion of loss, if any, during the first ten years. As matter under consideration of Cabinet, early reply desired.
The reply from the Premier of Western Australia was dated 18th May, and read as follows : -
On condition that Commonwealth is allowed a free hand as to route and gauge, of railway, 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 directly paying one.
That is satisfactory, so far as it goes, but I think that we shall require a greater guarantee than is therein afforded, before we commit ourselves to the construction of the line - a guarantee on the lines I have already indicated in connexion with the future increment in the value of land adjacent to the railway. There is another aspect of this question, which I admit is deserving of serious consideration, andthat is the bearing that the construction of the railway would have on the defences of the Commonwealth, and the protection of our interests in time of war. In that connexion, the General Officer Commanding the Military Forces, Major-General Hutton, was asked to furnish a report, from which I propose to read some extracts, in order to show the importance of the matter. Major-General Hutton, in his report, which is dated 14th May, 1903, says -
In reply to your minute of 30th March last requesting that I would submit for your consideration a minute upon the report of the Conference of Engineers-in-Chief upon the proposed Transcontinental Railway, I beg to observe as follows : -
The potential wealth of the gold-fields and the vast extent of valuable and unoccupied land in the territories of Western Australia render the acquisition of that portion of the Australian Continent a most valuable prize to foreign nations. The strategical situation, moreover, of Western Australia, dominating as it does the southern side of the Indian Ocean, and the converging trade routes from the West, must be considered as of the greatest importance to British and Australian interests.
These are very strong remarks, and coming from such an authority, are deserving of our most serious consideration. Nevertheless, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that Western Australia and South Australia will derive the greatest benefit from the construction of the railway, and I have always inclined to the opinion that those States should have been called upon to pay a large share of the cost of the proposed survey. But there is still another aspect of. the question to be considered? The Prime Minister has assured us that at the Premiers’ Conference, a certain under- standing was arrived at between the representatives of the other States and Western Australia. No agreementwas embodied in the Constitution, and no written bond was entered into, but an assurance was given by the Premiers of the States other than Western Australia, that they would support a proposal for the survey of the proposed line - I do not know that their promise extended to the actual construction of the line. If the Premiers who spoke for the people of the various States entered into a compact, I take it as binding on those States. - They spoke as the representatives of their respective States.. The fact that the compact was only of a verbal character, makes the obligation, if anything, the more binding upon us. It has been argued that other compacts, in which other States were concerned, have not been kept, and I know that a certain pledge was made to the people, of New South Wales in connexion with the Tariff question, which certainly has not been fulfilled. But I do not think that fact would justify the people of New South Wales in setting aside the promise made to the people of Western Australia in regard to the survey of this railway.
– What was the pledge referred to by the honorable member, in the case of New South Wales?
– I am speaking of the promise made by Sir Edmund Barton tothe effect that a protective Tariff would not be imposed, a tacit understanding to that effect having been arrived at. Although I do not personally approve of the compact made with regard to the survey of the route for the proposed railway, because I do not think it was a wise one, I feel bound, under the circumstances, to respect it. At the same time, I wish it to be understood that I do not regard my action as in any way binding me to vote for the construction ofthe proposed railway.
– I regret very much that this question is being regarded by certain honorable members from a State stand-point. I recognise that a railway, such as that projected; would be a thoroughly national work, and that its con-‘ struction is a matter of Federal concern. Whilst I am not at present prepared to commit myself to support the construction of the line, I feel perfectly justified in voting for the prooosal to spend £20,000 upon a survey. We mav find, after the report is presented to us, that it would not be advisable for us to construct the railway, but 1 venture to say that no honorable member is at present in a position to say whether or not the railway would pay, or whether it would develop good country, or traverse what has been described as a desert. If we were contemplating the settlement of a large population upon the country adjacent to the proposed railway line, we should look for arable plains and river flats, which would be capable of growing all kinds of produce ; but it must be recognised that, even though the country through which the line would pass may not be capable of growing a bushel of wheat, it may still prove oneof the richest tracts in Australia. I believe that the resources of Australia are capable of much higher development, and I think we should do well to have a survey made so that we may be in a better position to consider the possibilities before us in connexion with the proposed railway. Whilst I admit that at the present time we are not in a position to say whether the proposed railway should be constructed, I claim that, the idea of obtaining a proper survey of the country which the line would traverse is an . excellent one. It might perhaps be wise for the Prime Minister - to suggest to the two States chiefly interested in the undertaking, that they should despatch, under the control of those charged with the duty of making the survey, a number of prospectors who could simultaneously examine the country for some miles upon either side of the route, with a view to discovering any auriferous wealth which may exist there. I intend to vote for the motion, in order that we may gain further information respecting the territory which the proposed line would traverse. It has been urged that this railway should be constructed by the two States which are chiefly interested in the undertaking. To my mind, with the advent of Federation, the construction of transcontinental railways passed to the Commonwealth. I do not care what compact may have been entered into by the Premiers of the States when assembled in Conference. That does not influence me one iota. I do trust that the Committee will not regard this question from a State stand-point, as has been done by a couple of honorable members who have -addressed themselves to it. For example, the honorable -member for Oxley urged.that Queensland had not been tieated by tha Commonwealth in the same liberal way as has Western Australia. SinceI entered . this Parliament I . have endeavoured lo view every question which has engaged our attention from a purely national standpoint, and I venture to say that if we come to examine the matter without bias, we shall unhesitatingly declare that under Federation Queensland has received her due.
– In what way?
– The people of that State appealed to this Parliament to insure for them what they were unable to achieve for themselves in their own State Legislature, namely, the maintenance of a white population, and adequate protection to the sugar-growers. I believe that the honorable member for Oxley himself voted for the payment of a bonus upon sugar produced exclusively by white labour. In that respect I think that Queensland has received very substantial benefits at the hands of this Parliament. I do not regard the construction of the proposed Transcontinental Railway as a State project in any sense of the word. If the line is to be built at all, it should . be built for the benefit of the whole of Australia. At the present time we have not sufficient data to enable us to determine whether or not it oughi to be constructed. My own opinion is that any coastal line connecting South Australia with . Western Australia would represent an absolute waste of money. Any railway which will compete with” the existing service by sea would be utterlyuseless. In my judgment a Transcontinental Railway ought to traverse the interior of Australia, and to open up the inland portions of the continent. Believing that, I suggest that there should be attached to any party which may be sent out to survey a route from Tarcoola in South Australia to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, not only a couple of prospectors, But some such officer as Mr. Brown, the Government Geologist of South Australia, who is a practical man in every sense of the word. If that course be adopted, any expense which may be incurred in undertaking the proposed survey will not be entirely thrown away, even if the report be adverse to the construction of the line, because we shall at least ascertain the class of country which the proposed. railway would traverse. I would further point out that an expenditure of £20,000 when distributed amongst the States, does not represent ‘ any more than each would be calledupon to pay for the survey of an ordinary line of railway within its own borders. ‘ We have been told that the. territory which the Transcontinental
Railway would cross has already been prospected. I do not think that it has been prospected any more than Kalgoorlie or Coolgardie had been prospected before the memorable gold rush look place there. It is one thing for an individual to walk over the country and quite another for him to prospect it. For years before Broken Hill was discovered we know that the graziers in that locality were accustomed to use the galena obtained there as ornaments for their mantelpieces. They did not know that it contained silver.
– Sturt was water-bound at the Pinnacles for six months.
– We have yet to learn . that there is not another Broken Hill in Australia, or that there is not a second Kalgoorlie or Coolgardie. If the proposed survey served no other purpose it would at least offer facilities for the discovery of other rich mineral resources, and in that way the Commonwealth would be amply repaid for the outlay. Considering the importance of this question from a Federal stand-point, and the view which honora’ble members take as to promises made in this regard to Western Australia, I say that no gigantic work of this description should be attempted by the Federal Parliament unless we have the fullest information at our disposal in relation to the project. It is because of this belief that I propose to vote > for the motion, but practically on the condition that the Government will see that a thoroughly organized party is sent out, so that the character of the country may be . properly ascertained. It is not sufficient for , us to know that the land which would be , traversed by the line consists of good agri-. cultural country, or that it is suited to only ‘ one purpose. Let us know positively whether it does not present other great possibilities, which would support a railway of this description. I feel that if a party ‘ consisting of surveyors only were sent out, , we should obtain from them a report very ! similar to that presented from time to time ; to States Parliaments for or against the . building of- various railways. It would deal , only with the agricultural prospects of the I country to be served, and other cognate i subjects. Railway surveyors cannot be ex- jpected to have any knowledge of the I mineral possibilities of the country to which : I have referred. Whilst this survey is being ; made, it would be easy for members of the , party to explore the country north and south j of the projected route; In that way they : would be able to furnish us with a general knowledge of the true character of the country through which the line would pass. I do not see that there is much force in the argument that the construction of this line is necessary for defence purposes.
– It may become very important in that respect.
– That is so. It may be said that if we build such a line solely for defence purposes, it should not go so far south as is proposed. It might be more desirable to start from a point further north on the eastern side ; but, in any event, if we spend money on the building of transcontinental railways, we should be careful that they do not run too close to the coastline. It should be our province to see that they penetrate more thoroughly into the interior, so that Australia may be developed in the true sense of the word. It is because I feel that the time has come when this Parliament should do something to develop the resources of Australia, that I am now prepared to support the making of this survey ; but whether I shall vote for the construction of the line will depend on the nature of the report to be furnished by the surveyors.
– It was not my intention to speak at this stage, but I think it desirable to briefly deal with one or two points. When the Constitution Bill was before the people of New South Wales, I pointed out that the cost of the construction of a railway line of this character would probably be foisted on the eastern States. I suggested that it was probably due to a promise that this line would be constructed that the people of Western Australia had become favorable to the proposal that that State should enter the Federation. I did not know at the time that such a compact .had been made ; but it appears, from what has been said during this debate, that it was promised that the proposal should be brought before the Parliament, and .that, it should be pressed to construct the line. I intend to support the carrying out pf the preliminary survey, but on the clear understanding that in doing so I shall not bind* myself to vote for the construction of the railway. Unless the Bill necessary to provide for the making of this survey’ is to contain a stipulation that the States concerned shall reserve the land for some fifty or 100 miles on each side of the proposed route, so that speculators may not come in and derive all the benefits flowing from the construction of the railway, I shall not vote even for the survey. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I shall be no party to giving any private individual an undue advantage. Suppose that prospectors accompany the survey party, and discover a rich gold-field along the route ; who is to derive the benefit from that discovery ? Are we to construct the line merely for the advantage of a few speculators? Are we to spend the money of the people in this way, with the object of enriching a few private individuals? So far as I am concerned, we are not; I hold that any step taken . by us in this direction should be so safeguarded as to preserve to the Commonwealth the benefit of the increased value given to the lands along the line.
– The honorable member is a Socialist ; he wishes to nationalize the lands.
– There is nothing of Socialism in my composition. I hold that every man has a right to that which he earns or produces, and that no one is justified in depriving him of any part of it. I am equally firm in the belief that that which the State produces, by constructing railways or other public works, belongs to the whole of the people, and that no private individual has a right to derive the sole advantage. If this railway be constructed, with the result that the value of the land along the route is increased, the increment in value should belong to. the Commonwealth, or to the States which construct it.
– Could not that be arranged ?
– I desire that provision shall be made in that direction. Irrigation works and railways have been constructed in Victoria, which have led to a few men becoming wealthy at the expense of the State ; the poor have been taxed in order to enrich a few. I am not here to support anything of the kind, and I wish to make it perfectly .clear that I shall vote for this survey upon the understanding that the Commonwealth will be protected.
– The honorable member is row a protectionist?
– I am a free-trader. A protectionist is a man who desires to give the capitalist something out of the pockets of the poor; but although1 1 am not a protectionist I Hold that we should protect our rights. It- has been suggested that” a private syndicate would, con struct this’ railway.
Suppose some syndicate were prepared to build the line, what concession would it demand? Would it not be given the land on either side of the railway ? And surely if a private syndicate be entitled to the land along a line of railway which it constructs, the Federation should not be put in any worse position.
– There is no objection to that.
– Such a reservation must be made. We must make it clear that no individual is to reap the fruits of that which is produced by the State, and that the Federation shall secure any increment in the value of the land along the route which may result from the construction of the line. I shall vote for the motion, but I do not say that even if the survey be made I shall support the construction of the railway.
– The honorable member for Newcastle has made two suggestions. The first, which I think is an excellent one, is that if the survey be carried out, prospecting operations should be conducted in connexion with it. That is indeed an admirable proposal. As to the second suggestion, made by the honorable member, I am more than a little doubtful. He urged that it would be well, in the interests of Australia, that the railway, if constructed, should not touch ‘at Port Augusta, but should be carried very much further inland. If that suggestion be acted upon, I can only say that there will be no enthusiasm manifested by the people of South Australia in the construction of the railway.
– There is none now.
– I intend to vote for. the motion. I favour the’ carrying out of this survey ; but I do not wish the Committee to be under the impression that this statement implies that I would approve of the immediate construction of the railway.
– Not even if the report of the surveyors be favorable?
– In taking up this position, I believe that I am expressing the view of the majority of the people of South Australia. They are not hostile to the railway, but they feel that it is not a work about which there need be anyspecial hurry. They hope and believe that in the country lying between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie there is great mineral wealth ; but that remains to be proved, and’ until we gain much more satisfactory information than we possess at the present time, the people of South Australia think we should go slowly. They hold that there is no justification for immediately plunging the Commonwealth into the tremendous expenditure which would be involved in the construction of the contemplated line. That is a reasonable attitude. There would be no justification in present circumstances for constructing the line. Even if the railway existed, the great bulk of produce and merchandise would be carried by steamer, because of the cheaper rates which the sea route affords. Suppose a railway now existed, there is no doubt that many persons in Western Australia, wishing to visit the eastern States, would travel by train; but very many others would trawl by steamer, because, as in the case of cargo, that would afford a cheaper means of passing from Western Australia to the other States. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie stated to-day that if the railway were constructed, persons coming to Australia by the great ocean-going steamers would land at Fremantle, and travel overland to the eastern States. If the line were constructed, the experience of Fremantle would, in my opinion, be a repetition of that of Adelaide. Persons coming to Australia by the mail steamers, and intending to visit Western Australia, would, of course, land at Fremantle. It may be that many of th’em would continue their journeys to the eastern States by train, but there is no doubt that those travelling to Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney, would complete their voyages by mail steamer. Whilst I hold this view, I am ready, as I have said, to vote money for the survey, because I think it is most desirable that the fullest information should be obtained, and I believe! that the time will come when such a railway as is now contemplated will be constructed.
– I intend to vote against this motion. In the first place I do not believe for one moment that 1,100 miles of country could be properly surveyed at a cost of £20,000. It is utter nonsense to say that it is possible to carry out this work for so small an outlay, and the statement that it could be done suggests ignorance on the part of those who make it. It seems to me very contemptible of the people of Western Australia and of South Australia to ask the people of the other States to bear a part in paying for some thing which will primarily tend to their individual benefit.
– They look upon it as a national work.
– It is not a national work; it is simply a proposed survey. In support of that contention, I would point out that Mr. Jenkins, the Premier of South Australia, while perfectly willing to allow the people of the other States to find the money for the survey, declines to pass a Bill enabling the Commonwealth to construct the railway, until it has been made. If Western Australia and South Australia are as anxious as they pretend to be to have the line made, they should carry out the survey, and then say to the Federal Parliament, “ Here is a survey, and proper estimates. We know what the line will cost to construct, and we offer you the land through which it will pass.” They are putting the cart before the horse, and are asking the other States to pay for a work which they should do themselves. Although we may make this survey, we shall have no power to construct the line until the Parliaments of South Australia and Western Australia- have passed enabling measures to allow of its construction. Therefore we may be throwing our money away for nothing. I protest against the carrying out of this work by the Commonwealth, and I shall vote against the motion.
– I regret that the first speech made by the hon.orable member for Wilmot, after taking his place on the Opposition cross benches-
– I have always sat in Opposition. I am an independent.
– At any rate, I regret that the first speech made by the honorable member since I have (been sitting on the same side as he is is so unsympathetic towards Western Australia. Since I have had the honour of a seat in this Chamber I have felt a particular sympathy towards the representatives of Tasmania, because that State is situated similarly to Western Australia, though, if anything, its isolation is more complete, and, while it is possible to give overland communication to Western Australia, Tasmania must re- ‘ main for ever shut off from the mainland by the sea. For this reason I regarded it as quite proper a few months ago for the representatives of the two States to join hands on a matter in which they were mutually interested. But while I regret that most of the representatives of Tasmania are opposed to the present proposal, I think that it would not be hard to persuade the Committee that the charge which they bring against the representatives of Western Australia of asking for a special concession would lie more at their own door, since the Commonwealth is paying £9,000 per annum to subsidize a Tasmanian mail service, and the amount is, I understand, to be increased to £13,000.
– But that amount is debited to Tasmania alone.
– Tasmania does not pay the whole of it.
– Yes, it does. Victoria did pay £1,000, but . now Tasmania pays the whole sum.
– If the honorable member can produce sufficient evidence of that, I shall be glad to accept his denial ; tout at the present time I understand that Tasmania does not pay the whole of that subsidy. I was particularly glad to have the assurance of the honorable member for Barker in reference to the attitude of the people of South Australia with regard to this proposal. If there is one thing which has caused me pain in connexion with it, it is the supposed attitude of the people of that State towards the project. I had the honour to be a member of the South Australian Parliament when this subject was first discussed. I distinctly remember that when the draft Constitution Bill was’before the people of South Australia, two very strong arguments were used by its supporters to induce the people of that State to accept it. One was that South Australia would be able 1o hand over to the Commonwealth the Northern Territory, whose administration costs £100,000 a year, and the other was that they would thereby obtain railway communication with Western Australia.
– I do not think that the making of the proposed railway was used as an argument for the acceptance of the draft Constitution, though the opening of markets in Western Australia and elsewhere was.
– I do not say that the honorable and learned member used the railway argument, but others did, and those who are acquainted with the Federal movement know that there was a distinct understanding that the railway should be built very shortly after Federation. The right honorable member for Swan has been criticised for not having had that compact put into the Constitution ; but we know that one of his characteristics is that he is frank and open, and trusts people. I believe that when he obtained the assurance of the Premiers of the other States, that the railway should be made, he was content to abide by it. He entered into an honorable agreement, and I am not going to say that the other parties to that agreement will not honorably keep it. But the enthusiasm aroused on behalf of Federation died away, and, as a natural consequence, a reaction set in, which in South Australia took the form of a feeling against the proposed railway, because it had been suggested that, instead of going to Port Augusta, it might be taken right across to Sydney.
– Who suggested that?
– I do not say that it was suggested by any Government officially, but it was suggested. A rumour to that effect was in existence. The result was that a feeling of antagonism to the proposal grew up in South Australia. I have always said that that antagonism is merely temporary, and when I visited the State a fortnight ago, and spoke to several persons on the subject, I was glad to find that the attitude of the present Premier does not represent the prevailing views on the subject.
– He does not oppose the proposed survey.
– I am speaking of the larger project - the construction of the line. So far as I can ascertain, the people of South Australia are not averse to the construction of the line. They do not suppose that injury will result to their State from its construction.
– They wish to have that proved.
– If there is not sufficient evidence of the fact already, I am convinced that further inquiry will supply it. I cannot understand how ‘ opposition to the project grew up in South Australia. It has always been thought that that State would be the chief gainer by the construction of the line, and I am not sure that that is not so. At any rate, the Committee can afford to treat very lightly, indeed, the supposed antagonism of the State to this project. I believe, that when we come to face the question of the construction of the line, it will have no more ardent supporters than the representatives of South Australia.
– When it has been proved that it will be a reproductive work.
– If South Australia had never constructed a line until it had been proved likely to be reproductive, her present magnificent railway system would not exist. While I was a member of the South Australian Parliament, a motion was introduced affirming the desirability of constructing a railway from Port Augusta to Tarcoola, as a section of a Transcontinental Railway, but as the State, like most of the other States, was not very flush of money at the time, it was said, “ Why should we spend money in making a section of a great national railway which the Commonwealth intends to carry out?” The feeling that the Federal Government would one day construct the line did more than anything else to prevent the motion from being carried. The honorable member for Moira last night, referring to the promise of the late Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Walter James, to treat the Federal Government very liberally in sharing any loss that might accrue from the construction and working of the line, said that it had not been repeated by the present Premier, and that we did not know that he would consider himself bound by the promise of his predecessor.
– My statement related to the experience through which we are at present passing with the Premier of South Australia.
– I am quite pre.pared to grant that, in view of the fact that in some cases one Premier will .not keep the promise made by his predecessor, the honorable member’s criticism was justified. In order to set the matter at rest I decided, after consulting with some of my colleagues, to send a telegram to Mr. Daglish, the present Premier of Western Australia, pointing out that we were open to that criticism. I have recently received the following reply.-
I have wired Government an indorsement of my predecessor’s telegram to Mr. Watson re Trans-Australian Railway.
That, I . hope, will remove any fear that the present Government of Western Australia does not fully indorse the promise made by its predecessors in office. I desire to reply to some of the statements which have been made with regard to the absence of water along the route of the proposed line. Several quotations have been made from reports, principally with the object of showing that the whole of the country between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie is a waterless waste. Some few weeks ago I brought under, the notice of the then Prime Minister a report that had been received from Mr. ‘Muir, a gentleman who was sent out by the Western Australian Government to examine the country along the proposed route. I pointed out that in addition to the fact that Mr. Muir stated that he had passed through 10,000,000 acres of good pastoral country, he reported’ that he had put down two artesion bores. One had struck -water fit for human consumption, whilst the other was yielding 70,000 gallons daily of water suitable for stock purposes. Therefore, it. is only fair to state that there is every indication that upon further prospecting a supply of artesian water will be found,’ sufficient to enable the country adjacent to the proposed line to be profitably occupied .by pastoralists. At present we have at Kalgoorlie an abundant supply of fresh water, and I believe that water could be conveyed by gravitation for almost any distance along the proposed railway. Therefore, the water difficulty is not a very serious one, and there is no reason why it should be held up to induce honorable members to oppose the proposal for a survey. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Newcastle that the surveying party should partake of the character of an expedition for the purposes’ of general inquiry and exploration must commend itself to every member of the Committee. I believe that the Western Australian Government would be only too glad to avail themselves of an opportunity to attach one or two good prospectors to an expedition of that kind. ‘The trouble hitherto in connexion with prospecting parties has been due to the absence of some responsible head, and I am sure that if a capable man were intrusted with the control of the survey party, the money devoted to prospectingwould be well spent. I shall certainly do my utmost to secure the adoption of the suggestion of the honorable member. We know that for 200 miles to the eastward of Kalgoorlie the country is auriferous, and there is no reason why’ we should not find another’ Kalgoorlie, near the eastern border of the State. If we should discover another goldfield of that description, the Commonwealth would no doubt be prepared to construct the proposed line almost without the asking. I think that it’, is due to the’ honorable Walter James, the, late Premier of Western Australia, who has thrown himself into this movement with very great energy, and to whom we are indebted for very much of the information contained in the pamphlet from which honorable members have so extensively quoted, that we should express our thanks to him. He has given us a great deal of information about the State, and several honorable members have assured me that they, until they perused the pamphlet, had no true idea of Western Australia or its trade possibilities. I mention this as a matter of bare justice. Before I conclude, may I say that the people pf Western Australia have never doubted that the Commonwealth Parliament would, sooner or later, construct the proposed line. They have been a little surprised at the opposition - or the supposed opposition - of South Australia, but I believe that will shortly be removed. When the first step is taken, as I believe it will be shortly, towards the carrying out of this great work, the people of Western Australia will begin to believe that the Federation which they were induced to join is, after all, going to prove to their advantage. I am not suggesting that they joined the Union with any selfish motive. If they did so’, they have certainly been disappointed. The Treasurer, at the time of the last election, stated that so ‘far as Federation had gone, Western Australia had not derived one pennyworth of benefit from it. I do not think that that could be said of any other State. We are not speaking selfishly when we ask that some consideration should be extended to our portion of the Continent, and: that some evidence should be afforded that Federation will bring advantage to those who need it most. I am very glad indeed that the proposal has been received in such a friendly spirit, and I hope that before long, not only will the survey be completed, but that the construction of the line itself will also be commenced.
Mr. CAMERON (Wilmot).- I desire to correct a mistake made by the honorable member for Fremantle. He said that Tasmania benefited to the extent of £[9,000 per annum owing to the other States paying a large portion of the cable subsidy. I interjected at the time that his statement was incorrect. Had the statement been true, the representatives of Tasmania might have- been regarded as taking up a selfish attitude in opposing the proposed survey. I would point out, however, that Tasmania has always had to bear her own burdens. The Estimates for 1902-3 and 1904-5 show that Tasmania has received no assistance from the .other States in regard to the cable subsidy,- and that she is debited, year after year, with the full amount of her liability in that regard.
– My figures were official.
– That is for the bookkeeping period.
– It will be time enough when the bookkeeping provisions of the Constitution cease to operate to talk about making the proposed survey. Tasmania has not received any assistance from the other States, and so long as she has to bear her own burdens, it will’ be grossly unfair to ask her to contribute towards an expenditure such as that now contemplated.
– I should like to explain why, at the present juncture, at all events, I am forced to vote against the proposed expenditure of £[20,000 upon a survey for the proposed Transcontinental Railway. I think that, if we agreed to spend £20,000 or £30,000 in the manner described, it could not be said that there had not been some recognition given to the desire of Western Australia. By sanctioning this expenditure we should to some extent prejudice our judgment as to whether or not the railway should be constructed. We should take the first step in the direction in which the people of Western Australia desire us to proceed, and raise anticipations that might operate as an obstacle to the exercise of a free choice when we were called upon to consider the claims of the railway itself. The reports, which are before us indicate that the country through which the line would pass is not of such a character as to raise very sanguine hopes that an expenditure of several millions of pounds upon a railway would prove profitable. When I first entered the South Australian Parliament, in 1887, I received’ a letter from a gentleman who had travelled over a considerable portion of the country that would be traversed by the proposed line. As there was some suggestion at the time that a railway should be constructed- to Eucla, he asked me to strongly oppose the idea, because (he country was the most hopeless- that he had ever passed through, although he had explored a considerable portion of the territory lying between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, and also to the northward towards Port Darwin. With regard to the proposal to spend £[5,000,000 upon the construction of the railway, I think that those of us who object to the Commonwealth borrowing ought to hesitate before we encourage the idea of incurring such an outlay. Suiely there is not the slightest hope that, within the next ten or fifteen years, this Parliament will be prepared to spend such a large sum of money upon a railway which would pass over 1,000 miles of the most hopeless country in Australia. We have not yet decided what is to be the Australian standard gauge. No doubt we should adopt the 4ft. 8½in. gauge, but that question has hot yet been’ settled.’ In 1888 or 1889, I induced the South Australian Legislative Assembly to pass a motion to the effect that the Governments of the States should be requested to decide upon the standard gauge to be adopted for the Commonwealth. Victoria was then disinclined to come to any decision upon the point, because she did not wish’ to surrender her 5ft 3m. gauge. New South Wales was willing that the matte/ should be considered by the Railway Commissioners, but Mr. Mathieson did not see his- way even to enter into a conference on the subject. I do not think that we should entertain any idea of constructing 1,100 miles of railway upon the4ft. 8½in. gauge until we know that that gauge is to be adopted as the standard for all Australia. It would be just as well if the Government took this matter in hand, and asked the States Governments to decide at once upon a standard gauge, so that any railway stock that may be ordered may be suitable for usewhen a uniform gauge is established. If we agreed to the proposal for the construction of the Transcontinental Railway, we should have to establish a Department of Railways. The new line would be controlled for 1,100 miles by the Federal Railway Department, whilst portions of the. South Australian sections would be controlled by the authorities of that State, and the line from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie would be under the railway authorities of Western Australia. That is a state of. affairs the possibility of which we should contemplate. It seems to me, therefore, that we might wisely defer projects of this sort until it has been decided that the Commonwealth shall take over the whole of the railwavs. Then we shall have power to unify their gauges, and to consolidate their management. Reference has been made to the correspondence upon this Question which passed between two exPremiers of South Australia, namely, the present right honorable member for Adelaide and Mr. Speaker, and the Government of WesternAustralia. I certainly’ think that if either of those gentlemen were Premier of South Australia to-day he would be under a moral obligation to submit a Bill to its Parliament with a view to testing its feeling upon the question of granting permission to the Commonwealth to construct the suggested -line through South Australian territory. I am sorry that that undertaking was given, but I know something of the circumstances, because I had a good deal to do with the correspondence which passed” between the members of the Convention and several prominent public men in Western Australia, in reference to the adoption of the Constitution. To a great extent I had. charge of the campaign in Western Australia in favour of the adoption of the Federal Constitution, and I know that some Perth people openly stated that, under Federation. South ‘ Australia would never consent to the construction of this line. I am also aware that in some quarters there a strong disinclination existed to enter the Federal union. Indeed, the Executive of the day was disinclined even to submit the Bill to the electors, and there was a strong suspicion abroad that this bogey regarding the disinclination of South Australia to consent to the construction of the suggested line was being held up to frighten the electors from voting in favour of union. Several letters were written to me, asking me to test the’ opinion of the present right honorable member for Adelaide and Mr. Speaker upon the point, and to ascertain if South Australia would be likely to block the construction of the line. The right honorable member for Adelaide, Mr. Speaker, and I, having tested the feeling of the people of that State,’ I wrote some letters, which appeared in the Western Australian newspapers, and which, I believe, had the effect of decreasing the opposition - which may or may not have been genuine - evidenced in some quarters against the Federal . Constitution. We are aware that there was a strong disinclination on the part of the Western Australian Government to’ accede to the general desire of the people of that State, and to the almost unanimous desire of the residents of thegoldfields, that the question of the adoption of the Constitution should be submitte’d tothe electors.
– The honorable and learned’ member admits that Western Australia was lured into Federation under false pretences.
– I do not believe’ that Western Australia w,as . speaking as a . unit then. I know that some of her public men stated that, unless they got a guarantee from South Australia, prior to the adoption of the Constitution, that the railway would be constructed, it would probably never become a reality. It was asserted, however, that that was not the genuine feeling of the people - that there was no anxiety that a guarantee should be given.
– It is a pity that we did not get the guarantee, all the same.
– Guarantee or no guarantee, there was’ a moral obligation on the part of the right honorable member for Adelaide, and upon Mr. Speaker, to see that the voice of South Australia was expressed upon the point by its Parliament. I do not know that the present Premier of that State, Mr. Jenkins, ought not to test the feeling of the people there by submitting a Bill to the State Parliament. But there are difficulties in the way, and I will tell the honorable member for Coolgardie one of them.
– The Port Darwin railway.
– -That may operate as an objection, although I do not think that it does. Why, I ask”, did we insert in the Constitution a provision setting out that the construction of any Transcontinental Railway by the Commonwealth should be subject to the consent of the States through which it would pass?
– That provision does not apply solely to the construction of the transcontinental line?
– - If w.as Inserted to enable a State to say “Yes.” or “No” to the construction of a line along a, route, which might prejudicially affect its interests. That is the obstacle which- presents itself to our acquiring the consent .of the South Australian Parliament to the. construction of this line. Naturally, its Legislature, desires to know the exact route which it will follow. Personally, if I had the opportunity, I would submit a Bill asking, for the consent of that Parliament to the construction of the line, owing to the inducements which were held out to Western Australia by the right honorable member for Adelaide and Mr. Speaker, when they filled respectively’ the position ‘ of Premier of South Australia.” Moreover, if the will of Australia were expressed ‘in the Commonwealth Parliament, “I hold that no State ought,’ if the route were a proper one, “to dissent ““from’ the ‘construction of this line.” It is’ possible that ‘ it can be. built even without the- consent of South
Australia.1 In America, inter-State lines can be constructed by. Congress without the consent of the States, lt has been held by some that the provision in our Constitution merely means that we cannot construct a purely State line without the consent of the .State interested ; that the Commonwealth .has power not. only to construct an inter-State line, but, with the consent of the State concerned, a State line. That deduction is based upon the assumption that eventually the construction of all lines will be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. That is the opinion expressed by Professor . Harrison Moore, in his work on the Constitution of Australia. I know that our power in this respect is doubtful, but I do not for a moment assume it is certain, that we could not construct a Transcontinental Railway without the consent of South Australia, especially in view of the opinion of such an eminent jurist as Professor Harrison Moore. At the same time, I do not think that the expenditure proposed is at present justifiable, and as it may be construed into an expression of opinion in favour of the line, I shall certainly oppose it.
– I trust that this motion will not be regarded as an expression of opinion in favour of the proposed Transcontinental Railway. The whole purpose of the survey is to obtain sufficient data to enable us to determine whether or not the line should be constructed.
– In the experience of the honorable and learned member, does a railway invariably follow a survey ?
– I believe that in New South Wales about a couple of thousand miles have been surveyed, across which no railways are ever likely to be constructed. If I am asked to deal with this question from economic considerations only, I should say that there is not sufficient evidence before me to enable me to decide whether the proposed railway should be undertaken or not. The motion is intended to assist honorable members to arrive at an impartial opinion as to what ought to be done. But I will go further, and say that the expenditure of a very small sum of money, such as is proposed, ought cheerfully to be sanctioned, when we reflect that by our refusal to grant it, the people of Western Australia will feel they are not receiving that consideration to which they ‘are entitled. It appears that .before they joined the Federation, representations were made to them that this line would be constructed. In order to allay any feeling of irritation in that great State, we ought, therefore, to consent to the expenditure proposed. In dealing with the question of a Transcontinental Railway, I claim that we ought to have regard to something more than its purely economic aspect - we should regard it from a political and moral stand-point. We should view it politically, as bringing the States into closer relationship with one another. and morally as carrying out an implied promise. Although, economically speaking, it might be shown that just at present the construction of such a line would not be warranted by the immediate returns, there might be other advantages which would accrue from its construction, and which would outweigh the disadvantages. At the present time, however, we are merely asked to vote a sum of money to enable a survey of this line to be made. When we are called upon to determine whether or not the railway shall be constructed, we shall be able to weigh the economic advantages or disadvantages which would accrue from such an undertaking, and to consider them in connexion with the political gains to be derived from bringing the other side of the Continent into still closer communication with the eastern States.
– There is no doubt that a good deal of discussion upon this subject has been somewhat wide of the mark, inasmuch as we have heard considerable talk relating to the construction of the Transcontinental Railway rather than to the immediate survey of a route. At the same time, I recognise that we cannot, in reason, entirely exclude from a debate of this kind the question of the advisability or otherwise of constructing the suggested railway. I think it is necessary that a prima facie case should be established in favour of the construction of the line, even before a survey is undertaken. While I make that statement I admit that a survey does not necessarily bind this Parliament to build the railway. We have heard a great deal about the paucity of information regarding this project, and of the biased nature of the information which has been supplied to this Parliament by the representatives of Western Australia. I am quite willing to admit that the data furnished may not have been as ample as is I necessary, and I am even prepared to concede that some of us may be biased, in favour of this project. If that be so, I contend there is a still greater necessity for this Parliament to satisfy itself by an impartial inquiry as to whether the statements of the Western Australian representatives are accurate or otherwise. We could not ask this Parliament ,to adopt the motion if the construction of the railway appeared upon, the face of it to be an utterly wildcat scheme. We must submit some evidence to justify the expenditure , of this money. I think it has been shown that, in many respects, Western Australia has a claim upon the Federal Parliament for consideration. I do not say that she has any claim for special consideration, because it seems to me that the principle upon which we propose to act has been adopted in some of the legislation which’ we have already passed. It is said that the live question associated with the Federal campaign throughout Australia was the cry for a White Australia. I agree with that view ; but, in making Australia white, we rendered a remarkably good service to Queenslanda service which’ the State itself could not have carried out so effectively. Western Australia is in this position: that she contended in connexion with the Federal campaign, that Federation meant to her not so much the question of a White Australia as the question of an Australia of any kind. Without this railway there is no Federation in any true sense of the word for Western Australia. She is isolated from the rest of the Commonwealth to as great an extent as is New Zealand at the present time. Even from- the sentimental consideration, Western Australia is entitled to plead her cause on the floor of this House, with all the earnestness of which her representatives are capable.
– Would the honorable member support the expenditure of £5,000,000 on a sentimental consideration ?
– Not on a sentimental consideration alone, but I contend that the sentimental consideration which brought Western Australia into the Federation is ohe that should not be lightly ignored by the Federal Parliament. It is argued that the proposed railway would particularly benefit the western State. As a representative of the capital of Western Australia, I say without hesitation that the direct effect of the construction of this railway on the business interests of my electorate would be decidedly injurious. There are large numbers of persons in Perth and Fremantle, consisting chiefly of business people, who do not desire the railway. They enjoy a very pleasant monopoly of the trade of the gold-fields, all of which has to pass through their hands, and they realize that if the Transcontinental Railway were constructed, a material part of that trade would pass into the hands of merchants in the eastern States, and particularly of South Australia. To the gold-fields, the railway would undoubtedly be an advantage, because the present roundabout journey which has to be covered by goods and passengers would thus be rendered unnecessary. We are told that few passengers would travel by the overland route. I take it that nearly every person who wished to go to the eastern States from the goldfields of Western Australia would un- doubtedly travel’ by the direct overland route, because the total expenditure so incurred would be less than that to which those who use the existing roundabout means of communication are put. Time is wasted on the sea route, and hotel and other expenses are incurred that would be avoided by travelling on the Transcontinental line.
– If that be so, the steamers engaging in the trade between Fremantle and the eastern’ States will reduce their fares.
– It is very necessary that they, should do so, because they are much higher than they should be. If the railway brings rates down to a normal level, it will even in that respect do some good. I listened with some surprise to the speech made by the honorable and learned member for Angas. I am unable to follow the honorable and learned member in the attitude which he takes up. He wishes us to understand that in some way or other. South Australia, while interested in the scheme, is yet afraid to touch it. It is to be regretted that this attitude of hesitation on the part of that State was so carefully concealed from Western Australia when she was being urged to enter the Federation. .We had the most earnest promises of support and sympathy from the statesmen, and the leading newspapers in South Australia, and, so far as I have been able to learn, not one warning voice was raised, as . the honorable and learned member for Angas tonight suggested, with regard to the hesitation of South Australia to sanction the construction of this railway.
– But the line then was to be on the 3ft. 6in. gauge, and it was never proposed to take it to Sydney.
– There were no definite proposals then any more than there are at the present time; the wish was that the Federal Parliament should consider, as soon as possible, the construction of the line. The particular route to be traversed was to be left in abeyance until the Parliament actually dealt with the subject. I do not know of any difficulty which arose in regard to details, or that they were considered at a time probably so remote, from the date when the railway would be constructed. I speak as one having some knowledge of the relations of South Australia with Western Australia at the time of the Federal campaign. I took a considerable share in the whole of that prolonged and arduous struggle. in the western State, and towards the close of it was secretary for the Federal Executive of Western Australia; but it comes to me as a surprise to hear the honorable and learned member for Angas referring to difficulties which were never suggested to those interested in the Federal campaign in Western Australia. We have heard, on several occasions, of the attitude which was taken up by the right honorable member for Adelaide. _ Time and again he sent Western Australia the most emphatic messages indicating his enthusiastic support of the proposal now before us; but I do not intend to read those messages. Then again, we have the position taken up by Mr. Speaker, who was then Premier of South Australia, and who. in a letter with which I think most honorable members are now familiar, pledged the Government of that State to undertake the introduction of the necessary legislation to enable the railway to be constructed by the Federal Parliament. In addition ‘to that, Senator Symon, in a letter addressed to the Hon. Walter James, on 27 th June, 1900, and published in the Western Australian press, wrote as follows : -
Federation must inevitably give to Western’ Australia at a very early date the Transcontinental Railway line upon which your and our hearts are set. That will be one outward and visible link to join Western Australia with the rest of the Federating Colonies. In my belief, the acceptance of the Commonwealth Bill by Western Australia will mean the speedy inauguration of that work.
In glancing, almost at random, over thefiles of South Australian newspapers, I have come across some interesting statements. In the South Australian Register, of 20th February, 1889, we find the following comment on the action of Sir John Forrest, in holding out railway communication with the eastern States as an inducement to the western State to enter the Federation -
Regular communication by rail is an indispensable condition of complete federation, and this is one of the reasons which make it important that the whole Continent, and not a part of it, should be, from the first, included in the Commonwealth.
I have also an extract from an article published in the Adelaide Advertiser on 2nd August, 1900, immediately after the triumphant vote cast in favour of Federation by the people of Western Australia. In commenting on that vote the Advertiser wrote -
We have been unable to deny the justice of objections to some provisions of the national charter that particularly affect our neighbour on the West. . . . The omission of any definite pledge of a transcontinental railway connecting east and west has been undoubtedly a trial of- faith. The Commonwealth is, in duty bound, to reward the confidence displayed in its sense of justice by according to Western Australia considerate, and even generous, treatment, and so shaping its policy as to justify abundantly her people’s patriotic choice.
In view of these and a great many other public utterances and press statements, I fail to understand the attitude of the honorable and learned member for Angas, who now declares that there was some considerable hesitation on the part of the State of which he is a representative, and that some warning of it was given to Western Australia. Had that been so, I am perfectly certain that Western Australia would not have been in such a hurry to enter the Federation. As I have already said, the one material factor was the promised construction of this railway, enabling ‘ the sentimental consideration to which I have referred to take practical form. We have been asked why Western’ Australia does not build this railway for herself, seeing that she is so anxious to have it constructed. I wonder if the honorable member, who put that question, meant that Western Australia should run a line of railway into the middle of the desert, and leave it there; or did he think that, notwithstanding its present attitude, Ave were likely to obtain the permission of South Australia to run a railway in our own particular way through its tenilory ? The suggestion that Western Australia should construct this line is absurd, and need scarcely be argued. This scheme will be of some benefit. to Western Australia, but it will be equally beneficial to the eastern States. I do not know of any State that will not reap some advantage in the matter of communication with Europe. It will be of advantage to the people of Sydney to Rave their letters going backwards and forwards at several days’ less interval than at present. Queensland will obtain a similar advantage.
– The saving- would not be as much as two days.
– If the object is to save time in the conveyance of letters to Europe, the line should go north.
– A much quicker delivery could be given along the proposed route than along any other route which is possible at the present time. A portion of a report by Major-General Hutton was read by the honorable member for Moira, but he omitted what to my mind was the most important part of it, and made it appear that the General Officer Commanding is unfavourable to the proposal. This is what Major-General Hutton wrote -
The contemplated extension of railway communication between Kalgoorlie in West Australia and Port Augusta in South’ Australia is, from a strategical and military point of view, of unquestionable value. The isolation of Western Australia without direct land communication with the other five States of Australia will, in time of war, cause a general feeling of insecurity. Under the existing circumstances, Western Australia, for purposes of co-operative military assistance from the other States, is as far distant from direct means of reinforcement as New Zealand is from the Eastern States of Australia.
In order, however, to correctly view the present construction of the railway in question as an important factor in the defence of the Commonwealth it will be well to consider the special importance of Western Australia in the eyes of foreign powers, and the description of attack to which Australia is subject, and to meet which intercommunication between the States by land must be regarded as of paramount value.
The potential wealth of the gold-fields and the vast extent of valuable and unoccupied land in the territories of Western Australia render the acquisition of that portion of the Australian Continent a most valuable prize to foreign nations.
A week or two ago I received from .Western Australia a newspaper, containing an article with the somewhat sensational heading - .
Spying out the land. Foreigners in Australia.
The writer shows what has-been happening in Western Australia, because of the free and easy British way in which foreigners are allowed to look about, and to-do as they like, so long as they do not break the laws of the country -
Two years ago a German war vessel came here. The officers were shown everything, but the information they were given was not enough, so they sought it themselves. Every day that cruiser was at Fremantle boat parties were sent out exploring. One- day they “ did “ the coast as far as Rockingham, examining the beach carefully, observing suitable landing places, taking bearings, soundings, and spying out the land generally. Next day the coast-line in the opposite direction was surveyed, and, to cap all, they then came into the Swan River, and were seen by dozens of people. One of these, an official high up in the Lands Department, actually saw them in Freshwater Bay taking bearings, sounding the channel, and sketching the river and the surrounding country. Nothing was said, and they departed with sufficient detailed information to be worked into useful war maps in Berlin.
– Could they not buy charts which would contain all that information ?
– No, I do not think that it is available. The writer also mentioned the fact that two gentlemen have, lately visited Western Australia, inquiring into our methods of land settlement’ and agriculture, and that they were discovered by the officers of the Department of Agriculture to have very little knowledge of the subject on which they professed to be experts, and were regarded by those with whom they came into contact as gentlemen who had some other important business on hand, which was to inquire into the resources of the country, and to make themselves acquainted with the conditions, to be met with by an invading force. Those statements indicate the importance of Western Australia to the Commonwealth from a defence point of view. That State has the largest production of gold, and its territory comprises one-third of the whole continent. It is capable of supporting a tremendous population, and every month more land which is suitable for occupation is being discovered. During the last year or so millions of acres similar in character to the Darling Downs have been found in the north-west, in what was alleged to be desert country, and although much of Western Australia is regarded by some people as worthless, envious eyes are being cast upon it by foreign Powers. In conclusion, I would say that no honorable member who votes for a survey of the line need think that the people of Western Australia will regard him as pledged to vote for its construction. All we want this Parliament to do is to inquire carefully into the whole question. We admit that more inquiry is necessary, and if that inquiry turns out unfavorable, we shall be satisfied to wait until circumstances justify the carrying out of the work. It is remarkable, however, that nearly every honorable member who has visited Western Australia recognises the need forthisrailway. We had several visitorsthere some time ago, all of whom said that they had not before even imagined the potentialities of the State to be what they are. I do not think that the motion is likely to be defeated, but if it is, we shall only have to induce a few more honorable members to visit the’ State in order to secure later on an overwhelming majority. In spite of some display of provincialism, I hope that the true Federal spirit, which has been so much in evidence in this Parliament, will to-night operate in a way which will gladden the hearts of the people of Western Australia, and encourage them to remain faithful to the Federation which they entered in the hope that their interest would be safeguarded. That hope I, for one, continue to entertain.
– I am sorry that I cannot support the motion, because I know how earnest the representatives of Western Australia are in regard to this matter, and I have a great deal of sympathy with them. But I agree with the honorable member for Bass that the proper course for Western Australia to take is to make this survey, and, having proved that the line can be constructed, that it would pass through good land, and that a railway, if made, would pay something like working expenses and interest on cost of construction, they would be able to present a much better case to the House. No doubt the people of Western Australia ‘have to some extent been misled in regard to this matter, though not by the Federal authorities. If the Federal Parliament sets itself to carry into effect all the fairy tales which were told in the States in support of Federation prior to the referendum being taken, it will have a very extensive order to fill. In Tasmania all Sorts of ridiculous statements were made as to the results of Federation.
– The Commonwealth has to pay for an improved steamship communication with Tasmania.
– I am reminded by the right honorable member for Swan that the Federal Government, by giving a larger mail subsidy, has improved the communication between Melbourne and Tasmania; but I, for one. never advocated the granting of that subsidy, nor am I prepared to sav that I would have advocated it had I been a member of this House when it was proposed. Most of the States are at present financially embarrassed, and some of the States Parliaments are imposing heavydirect taxation to make up the balance lost to the State Treasurers through Federation. This is, therefore, not the time to ask States which have made great sacrifices for Federation, to pay for a railway from which they will get no direct benefit. To my mind, the matter is purely a State one, and, seeing that the main arteries of communication in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and a great part of South Australia have been constructed’ at the expense of the States concerned, it would be absurd to dove-tail in a small length of Commonwealth line.
– Not a small length.
– The length is far too big. I believe that the proposed railway would confer enormous advantage upon Western Australia and South Australia, and as Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria have built their railways out of State funds, Western Australia and South Australia ought to accept the responsibility of building their own. If members like myself, who do not intend to vote for the construction of the railway, consented to the survey, we! should mislead the people of the Western State, and perhaps lead people to purchase land along the proposed route. If we do not intend to construct the railway, the money spent upon the survey will be practically thrown away. We have no money to spare for such a purpose at present. I believe that at the end of the current financial year the States will receive very little more” than the amount which we are compelled under the Constitution to return to them. When once we reach the end of our tether, so far as the money available out of the Customs revenue is concerned, we shall have to face the imposition of direct taxation upon the people of the Commonwealth, and I am not prepared to consider any such proposals at present. I hope, further, that the Commonwealth will not be under the necessity of entering upon a policy of borrowing for many years to come. I should not be willing to borrow money, except for some very urgent and essential work, from” which the Commonwealth would receive a very large direct or indirect benefit. ‘ Under these circumstances,” I regret that I “shall have to vote against the proposal’. “
– I think that the subject has ‘ now been pretty well discussed from both points of view. The honorable members representing Western Australia, whilst they have naturally shown a great deal of earnestness in addressing their arguments to the Committee, have adduced very weighty reasons why we should accept this proposal. I have- so often expressed my views in favour of this project that I do not propose to detain the Committee on the present occasion. I simply wish to say that, although I have taken up this Bill as the third in the line of succession, I have done so with the sincere desire to see this work become an accomplished ‘ fact. Of course, we must not disguise from ourselves the obvious truth that a number of honorable members who are voting with us on this occasion, reserve to themselves the right to review their position if the result of this survey is discouraging to the project. I think that no honorable member can quarrel with them for taking up that attitude, because it is a perfectly fair one to assume. I hope that this preliminary step will be taken, and I think that there is a great deal of value in the suggestion of the honorable member for Newcastle that this survey should be the occasion also for some geological inquiry, and some sort of prospecting as to the mineral resources of the enormous tract of country affected. We know that, while it is not very difficult to discover whether or not soil is suitable for agriculture, the richest discoveries of mineral wealth have been made in the most unlovely and most unpromising localities. We have many instances of that. We need only remember such mines as those at Broken Hill and White .Cliffs in New South Wales, and also some of the mines in Western Australia. In the most barren wastes may lurk untold wealth, and this piercing of the Continent, even by means of a survey, may lead to the most valuable discoveries, and bring to- the Commonwealth a very large return. To my mind, one of the most pleasant features of this proposal is that it is at least an’ attempt to make some sort of recognition of what was an absolutely certain understanding - so far as the men in authority in that day could enter into one. My friend, the right honorable member for Swan, pressed this matter upon the Premiers, and he might have pressed it upon them . much more pointedly than he did. He might easily, I believe, have made the construction of the railway a condition of the attachment of Western Australia to the Federal union. But instead of that, he trusted to assurances which, I confess, do not bind honorable members here. I should be very sorry to say that they did bind honorable members, except to the extent that the men in authority who represented the States became parties to a great national compact such as this undoubtedly is. I think every honorable member desires, so far as he conscientiously can, to give effect to such an understanding.
– Every honorable member should adhere to his own policy, anyhow.
– I have always felt, in regard to this matter, a very strong obligation. As I say, it must not be pushed too far. As the honorable member for Barker has said, we cannot spend millions upon sentiment ; but I base my support of this project upon the practical ground that I believe h will turn out to be a really great, useful, national work. As the honorable member for Fremantle has suggested, I received a very short time ago a telegram from the Premier of Western Australia, which confirms the statement made by his predecessor in the telegram of the 18th May last, to the effect that Western Australia will be prepared for ten years after the line is constructed to bear its share of any loss in excess of the contribution that would be due from that State upon a population basis. Therefore, the present Premier of Western Australia continues the undertaking that was given by his predecessor, and I think that we must all admit that the great and progressive population over in Western Australia have shown a desire to back their opinions by making a considerable sacrifice. Under these circumstances, I sincerely trust that the Committee will agree to the motion.
– I expected that the Prime Minister would give us some outline of the promises that were made by himself and others at the Federal Conventions, and during the Federal campaign. The right honorable member for Swan states that he was clearly given to understand by the Premiers of the other States that if Western Australia consented to enter the Federation the Transcontinental Railway line would be constructed. The. Prime Minister has indicated that some promise of that kind was given, and that he feels under an obligation to carry it out. The debate has indicated to me that the anti-BiIIites did not overstate the case when they represented that the Federal movement was being engineered by a few men who were running it upon a system of barter ; that each State was being invited to come into the Federation, not in any broad spirit of union or brotherhood, but with a view to derive some specialbenefit that was promised by those who were at the head of the movement. The right honorable member for Swan has indicated how strongly he was impressed by the promises then made, and he stated that if an undertaking had not been given that the proposed railway would be built, Western Australia would never have entered the Union. Now the Prime Minister tells us that if the right honorable member for Swan had desired the Premiers of the other States to enter into a distinct compact, they would probably have acceded to his request. I quite believe that they would have gone to any length in order to bring about the Federation, that they would have given Western Australia all that she desired, and that they would have proceeded even further than they did, in order to meet any objections on the part of Queensland.
– The South Australian promise was made’ subject . to the approval of Parliament.
– There was not a word about that in the communications sent by Sir Frederick Holder and the right honorable member for Adelaide.
– The right honorable member for Adelaide has been represented as having pleaded with Western Australia to join the Federation, and as having given a distinct assurance that the railway would be built. It is also alleged that the Prime Minister made a promise of a similar character. It would probably be difficult to ascertain how many persons were out with fishing lines endeavouring to hook Western Australia into the Federation. No doubt the right honorable member for Swan would require a very distinct promise upon the subject, and he has stated that if the proposed railway is not built, Western Australia will reconsider its position so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. Personally, I think that that State is deriving more benefits from Federation than were ever anticipated by the strongest advocates of the movement. I listened very carefully to the right honorable member for Swan, whom I regard as a good judge. of country, but he failed to give us any assurance that the territory through which the line would pass would be of a character calculated to provide traffic for a railway, or likely to prove capable of any appreciable development. Certainly, there is no prospect of the railway paying the interest on the cost of its construction. Furthermore, we have no information as to the extent to which water will be available along the proposed route. I have listened to the debate very attentively, and I unhesitatingly affirm that no representative of Western Australia has submitted any evidence to show that the country through which the projected line would pass possesses any productive value. No attempt has been made to prove that it possesses a reasonable rainfall, or that it can be artificially supplied with water. I do not propose to detain the Committee at any greater length. Boiled down, the position seems to be, “Is the railway a necessity?” As far as development is concerned, I do not think that it is a necessity. From a defence stand-point, however - quite apart from the compact which it is urged was entered into with Western Australia prior to the accomplishment of Federation - I feel bound to support the proposed expenditure of £20,000. I recognise that a stitch in time saves nine, and, seeing that in years to come we are likely to be threatened with difficulties which will puzzle the most astute’ statesmen, I claim that we should at least put our house in order. The defence of Australia cannot be effectually undertaken under conditions as they exist to-day. It is necessary to connect Western Australia with the eastern States in order to guarantee a proper line of defence for this continent in the future. From that stand-point I shall support the motion, without committing myself in any way to advocate the construction of the railway should the report of the surveyor be. adverse to it. I think that the suggestion which has been thrown out by the honorable member for Newcastle is an admirable one. If any evidence were forthcoming as to the existence of mineral wealth along the route of the suggested railway, it might secure for that undertaking an acquiescence which would not otherwise be given.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … … 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Dugald Thomson do prepare and bring in the Bill.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This measure has been before the present Parliament and the late Parliament for a very long time, and I shall be very glad if we can dispose of it as soon as possible. On the 12th November, 1901, the late Parliament resolved to accept the control of this Territory, and the measure which is now under consideration was introduced in consequence of the approval then declared by the House. Its provisions were discussed upon a former occasion. It passed through Committee, and was reported to the House. Its clauses are therefore thoroughly familiar to honorable members, and I shall consequently content myself with submitting the motion in favour of its second reading.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Office of LieutenantGovernor).
– We have now reached the machinery provisions of the Bill. Although the measure was dealt with in the last Parliament, we have to remember that there are several members of the House to whom it is new, and that on the last occasion the information at our disposal was somewhat limited. That beingso, I think it would be advisable for the Government to postpone the consideration of this and the succeeding clauses of this part of the Bill until the next day of sitting, so that we may have an’ opportunity to consider whether any amendments are necessary.
– I should like to say tomy honorable friend, that, so far as I can see. there is no possible objection to these clauses.. Although they are important, in one sense, they are absolutely unavoidable. We must have a Lieutenant-Governor of the Territory, but this clause does not involve the question of his salary. That matter is dealt with in another part of the Bill . This is a form of machinery similar to that adopted in dealing with territories of aii kinds in the British Empire. There is nothing new in it. It has been tested for many years in the administration of Crown Colonies, and it is really very important that we should proceed with business. When we reach any clause which honorable members consider to be open to discussion, or to present- any difficulty, I shall be happy to postpone it if requested to do so. We may just as well deal with these clauses, to which, I am sure, there will be no objection.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas).- There are a number of clauses in this part of the Bill to which I do not take exception, but when we reach the clause dealing with the Executive Council and its powers-
– I shall be prepared to postpone’ that clause.
– There is also a clause dealing with the question of land tenure-
– I shall be prepared to postpone that or any other clause, the consideration of which honorable members express a desire to defer.
– I intend to propose a new clause of very great importance, with regard to the prohibition of intoxicants and opium, and I trust that the Prime Minister will consent to its consideration being deferred until to-morrow.
– It cannot be dealt with at this stage.
– A proposed new clause cannot be dealt with until the Committee has disposed of the- clauses in the Bill.
– I am aware of that.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 (Appointment of officers).
– It has been pointed out by a number of residents of British New Guinea that the appointment of honorary magistrates in the Territory has not been so satisfactory as it might have been. Those who know the country well state that many of the diggers have been unable to secure the appointment of ‘ magistrates whom they consider worthy of selection and that the rule which in this respect usually prevails on the mainland, has hot been followed. Very strong representations have been made to myself and other honorable members that the honorary magistracy of the Territory has not been recruited in the most desirable way. The clause now before us would enable the Lieutenant-Governor to continue the practice which has prevailed in the Territory, and which does not meet with the approval of the white settlers, especially of the gold diggers. I suggest that if a man is nominated, at a large meeting of diggers, for appointment to the magistracy, that fact should be a strong recommendation to the Lieutenant-Governor. There should be no select class appointed to this office - an office which is very important in a country where so few honorary magistrates are to be found. It has been alleged, however, that appointments to the magistracy have been made solely from a class which is practically a privileged class. I am sure that we have no desire to see that practice continued, and as the complaint which I make comes from a source that I believe to be entirely reliable, I trust that it will receive consideration.
– I promise the honorable member that I shall bring the remarks made by him under the notice of the pre sent Administrator, and that I shall obtain a report from him. I think that would be the most effective way to give effect to that which the honorable member desires.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 18 and 19 agreed to.
Clause 20 (Power to grant land).
– This clause was inserted in the Bill, as introduced by the Barton Government, by the decision of an enormous majority of the House, and I do not propose to suggest that it be altered. As the Territory to which this Bill will apply is so new, I think that no harm will be done, certainly for some time to come, in giving effect to this clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 21 and 22 agreed to.
Clause 23 (Meetings of Executive Council).
– I wish to secure some information in regard to this clause. It appears to me that it would give too wide a power to the LieutenantGovernor. He is to constitute practically the whole Administration. He will have power to appoint all the officers, to classify them as to seniority, and to dismiss them at his own sweet will. I do not think that is a power which we should grant, more especially having regard to the history of government in some Crown Colonies.
– It is proposed to give the Lieutenant-Governor power to. suspend, not to dismiss anv officer.
– He is to be both prosecutor and judge. I should like the Prime Minister to consider the desirableness of postponing this clause. It was subjected to some discussion when the Bill was before us on a previous occasion, and I think that, although no definite action was taken, some very strong opinions were expressed in regard to the powers proposed to be conferred on the Lieutenant-Governor.
– Its provisions are similar to those which prevail in relation t., other Crown Colonies.
– Clauses 21 and 22, which have been dealt with, are, perhaps, the most important. . It seems to me that this series of clauses should have been postponed.
– Clauses 21 and 22 have already been passed, but I am prepared to postpone clause 23.
– I fail to see why this clause should be postponed. It covers a practice which is followed in every State in the Commonwealth, as well as in the Commonwealth itself. My only objection to this part of the Bill is that it relates to matters which should be dealt with, not in the measure itself, but by regula tions. The Letters Patent and the Royal’ Instructions to Governors deal with all these matlers. We propose to provide in the Bill itself that there shall be meetings of the Executive Council, and that a certain person shall preside at those meetings, while various other matters that are really governed by the instructions issued by the Crown to all Governors in the British Dominions, arealso provided for. The clause embodies nothing that is new, and I cannot, therefore, see any reason for postponing it.
– I think that the whole of these clauses should be postponed, so that there may be a fair discussion of them. It is not right to those who are developing New Guinea that we should rush the Bill through as we are doing.
– All these clauses were passed by the last Parliament.
– I admit that ; but since then further information has been obtained. I think that the Executive Council has been a blot on the Administration of New Guinea. Evidence which has been forthcoming during the last few months shows how lax the administration under the old system has been, and it is proposed to perpetuate it by appointing to the Executive Council officers who are practically interested in covering up the abuses which have taken place.
– There is a similar provision in the Constitution of every Crown Colony.
– That is no reason why we should apply it to New Guinea. I have come into contact with a good many of those who are helping to develop that country. Most of those who go there come back with their health shattered, and are of little use afterwards.
– The honorable member is not speaking of the members of the Executive ‘Council, I hope.
– I am speaking of those who make it possible for the Government officials to draw big salaries in administering the Territory. At the present time the miners who are developing the country have no “ say “ in its management.
– The question is whether the clause shall be postponed, and the Prime Minister has agreed to its postponement.
– I desire to obtain from the Prime Minister the assurance that the clauses dealing with the Executive Council will be recommitted, since they- were rushed through at such a rate that no one could follow what was being. done. The honorable member for Moira is to be congratulated for giving us an opportunity to think about what we are doing. In my opinion, those who are engaged in developing New Guinea should be represented on the Executive Council, and, I think, therefore, that the method of appointing that Council should be altered. Will the Prime Minister give an opportunity for the recommittal of the clauses to which I refer?
– Will he agree to the recommittal of clauses 2 1 and 22?
Clauses 24 and 25 agreed to.
Clause 26 -
The Lieutenant-Governor only shall be entitled to submit questions to the Executive Council for advice or decision ; but if the LieutenantGovernor declines to submit any question to the Council when requested in writing by any member so to do, that member may require that his written request, together with the answer of the Lieutenant-Governor thereto, be recorded on the minutes.
– I wish to know what the Prime Minister thinks of the wording of this clause.
– What is provided in the clause is a rule in connexion with the government of every Crown Colony.
– New Guinea, under the Administration of the Commonwealth, will not be a Crown Colony. We should, therefore, see that things are done as we wish them to be done. It has been alleged - I do not know with what truth - that the records’ of some of the judicial decisions arrived’ at in New Guinea, which are of great importance to certain persons, cannot be found. Therefore, I ask, what is the use . of requiring the Lieutenant-Governor to record his answer to a written request, if the records are to be subsequently lost ? If the Prime Minister is able to tell me that the records of judicial transactions have hitherto been kept, I shall be very glad to hear it. I should like his assurance that -they have been properly kept and safely housed. - The CHAIRMAN.- We are dealing now with the recording of the answers of the Lieutenant-Governor to questions submitted in writing by any member of the Executive Council, not with judicial records.
– May I point out that the highest court of appeal is in some cases the Executive Council?
– The keeping of minutes of the proceedings of meetings of the Executive Council is provided for in clause 25, which we have passed.
– Cases involving capital punishment must come before the Executive Council, and therefore the decisions of that body will at times be the decisions of a Court. It is alleged that certain judicial record’s have been lost, and I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether that statement is correct. A case involving capital punishment must come before the Council, and the Lieutenant-Governor might decline to submit to the Council a question in regard to it. The answer to the request for the submission of a question must’ be recorded in the minutes, and would be virtually a judicial record. Would the Prime Minister be surprised to know that there are at present in Australia men who have been twice charged in New Guinea with murder, and with other crimes, who are, nevertheless, respectable individuals? It is alleged, however, that the records of the judicial proceedings in their cases cannot be found, .so that it is impossible for them to be used to prove that they are not guilty. In dealing with a Territory so far removed from the Seat of Government as New Guinea is, we should take every precaution, and I ask the Prime Minister to see that attention is paid to this matter.
– The minutes referred to in the clause would not be judicial minutes. In reply to what the honorable member has said about the destruction of records, I would point out that we are now beginning a new state of things, and that the confusion which has existed in the past, will not continue. I cannot be responsible for what has occurred in the past, but we shall have control over the future administration of the Territory, and so long as the new minutes are properly kept I think that all that is necessary will be done.
– Will the Prime Minister allow any clauses to which honorable members take exception to be recommitted?
– Certainly. I have no desire to push the Bill through too rapidly. I will give every facility for recommittal to any honorable member who, on reconsideration, sees any need for asking for it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 27 (Lieutenant-Governor may act in opposition to advice ?
– -This clause provides that if the Lieutenant-Governor acts in opposition to the advice of the Executive Council he shall forthwith report the matter to the Minister. Should he not rather report to the Governor-General?
– If the appointment were by letters patent, the proper course would be for the LieutenantGovernor to report to the Governor-General; but as the appointment will be made under Statute, the proper person to report to will be the Minister.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 28 (Legislative Council).
– I understand that there is likely to be a considerable discussion on this clause, and I desire before its consideration is postponed, to indicate t’he nature of an amendment I propose to move. The clause at present provides that the Legislative Council shall consist of the Lieutenant-Governor and the members of the Executive Council, together with such non-official members as the Governor-Gen- eral appoints. I desire to move an amendment, which will have the effect of making the Council partly elective. Instead of the non-official members being appointed by the Governor-General, I propose that they shall be elected by the white residents of the Territory.
– I shall endeavour to obtain more or less correct information as to the number of white persons in British New Guinea, and as to how they are distributed over the Territory. They might be so scattered that it would be difficult to bring into operation a provision such as the honorable member suggests. However, I shall endeavour to ascertain whether it is practicable to carry out his idea.
Clause 29 -
The presence of at least three members of the Legislative Council (including the LieutenantGovernor or the member presiding) shall be necessary to constitute a meeting of the Council for the exercise of its powers.
– I move -
That the word « three” be left out. with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ onethird of the.”
The clause as it stands would doubtless prove sufficient to meet the present circumstances, but it makes no provision for the expansion of the Legislative Council by the appointment of non-official members. The Council might consist of six members of the Executive Council, and twelve other members, making a total of eighteen, and in such a case a quorum of three would not be sufficiently large.
– I do not object to the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 30 to 35 agreed to.
Clause 36 postponed.
Clauses 37 to 39 agreed to.
Clause 40 postponed.
Clauses 41 to 47 agreed to.
Clause 48 -
There shall be payable in every year out of the revenues of the Territory, which to that extent are hereby appropriated accordingly, the sum , of ^1,250 for the salary of the LieutenantGovernor, and the sum 0/ ^1,000 for the salary of the Chief Judicial Officer of the Territory.
– I do not think that the salaries set down for the Lieutenant-Governor and the chief judicial officer of the Territory are sufficiently large. The administrative duties which will fall to both these officers will be of a difficult character, and as the climate is very unhealthy, I do not think that we can expect men of high qualifications to accept the positions unless Ave are prepared to pay them substantial salaries.
– Did not an Acting District Court Judge in New South Wales accept an appointment as Administrator of New Guinea ?
– Yes, but Acting Judge Murray happened to be a man of an adventurous spirit, and I do not think that our selection should be limited in connexion with appointments of this kind. The salaries provided for in the clause are very small when Ave compare them Avith those which are earned by professional men, by bank managers, and others holding similar responsible positions. Under the circumstances, I ask the Committee to consider whether we are paying a salary which is commensurate Avith the dignity of the office. I submit that Ave are not. In our craze for economy Ave are practising a false economy. Of course, if Ave intend to provide for the payment of a pension in case of retirement as the result of illness, that fact might reasonably be taken into’ consideration in fixing the salaries of these offices ; but in the absence of such a provision, I should like to see the amount raised to not less than , £2,000 per annum for the Lieutenant-Governor and £1,500 for the Chief judicial Officer.
– I would point out that the position of Chief judicial Officer was recently filled at the salary named in the Bill, and that there were a very large number of competent applicants for it - men of great ability, who were thoroughly fitted to discharge the duties of the office. The present appointment was made at £1,000 per annum. In the face of a test of that character in the open market, I hold that we are not called upon to increase the salary. Of course there may be some allowances made in connexion with the appointment, and probably these will make up the difference. The Bill simply fixes the salary which is to be paid, and I could not see my way clear to increase an amount which has been fixed so deliberately.
– I wish to draw altention to the fact that this clause contains the first reference in the Bill to the Chief judicial Officer. In the case - of a Crown Colony, that position is almost equal to the office of Lieutenant-Governor. Consequently it is only right that the position should be defined by Parliament. The Bill contains no reference to the appointment of the Chief Judicial Officer, or to his taking the oaths of office. The schedule simply refers to the oath of allegiance and service by the Lieutenant-Governor. The Chief Judicial Officer is not called upon to take a proper oath, such as should be provided to maintain the dignity of his office, and to keep him independent of the Executive power - a very necessary thing in a Crown Colony. I should like the Prime Minister to consider this matter.
– I shall do so.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 49 and schedule agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Reid) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- As I understand that the Prime Minister has already ‘ consented to the appointment- of a Select Committee to inquire into the question of old-age pensions, I desire to ask him whether he can see his way clear to give the motion dealing with that matter precedence upon the business-paper to-morrow, so that we may get to work without delay.
– I shall be only too happy to do so, to the extent of any power that I have in the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.27p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 1904, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040914_reps_2_21/>.