House of Representatives
18 July 1906

2nd Parliament · 3rd Session



Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 1428

THE “BLUEJACKET” CASE

Mr.PAGE. - I desire to direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to a report in this morning’s Argus, under the heading, “ The Bluejacket Case,” which contains serious allegations against certain officers of the Telegraph and Telephone Departments, and to ask him if he will cause a rigorous inquiry to be made into the conduct of those officers ?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Postmaster-General · EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– I have already given instructions for the fullest inquiry to be made, and a report to be furnished to me.

page 1428

QUESTION

POSTAL APPEAL BOARDS

Mr McDONALD:
for Mr. Hughes

asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -

  1. How are the Appeal Boards appointed to. deal with matters in the Postal Department constituted ?
  2. Is he aware that the Appeal Boards as at present constituted are distasteful and unsatisfactory, and will he consider the advisableness of establishing a Board freed from departmental bias and influence to deal with all matters of appeal ?
  3. What special reasons exist in New South Wales for the appointment of the Senior Inspector and Storekeeper on this Board ?
  4. How are the departmental duties of those officers discharged while they are on this Board?
  5. Is he aware that at times there is considerable delay in dealing with cases, and in bringing inquiry to a conclusion?
Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Protectionist

– Inquiries are being made, and answers will be furnished as soon as possible.

page 1429

QUESTION

POSTAL OFFICIALS’ ALLOWANCES

Mr BROWN:
CANOBOLAS, NEW SOUTH WALES

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

  1. In distributing increased allowances amongst Postal officials, what is the distinction between “statutory” and “deserving” officers’ allowances, and on what basis are the latter determined ?
  2. Is it a fact that in the latest distribution of “deserving” allowance very few postmasters and telegraphists have derived benefit from this source ?
  3. Is it to be assumed that the officers in the lower grades of the service are not “ deserving “ officers; and, if not, how is it proposed to recognise their services?
  4. Will he furnish a list of those deriving benefit from the “deserving” officers’ allowance, with their status and salaries?
Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Protectionist

– Inquiries are being made, and answers will be furnished as soon as possible.

page 1429

QUESTION

OVERTIME, GENERAL POST OFFICE, SYDNEY

Mr HUGHES:
WEST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that a protest has been lodged by the principal officers of the Department in the General Post Office, Sydney, respecting their inability to cope with their work within ordinary working hours, and the consequent large amount of overtime attendance to duties thereby involved ?
  2. What action, if any, has been taken as the result of such representations?
  3. Is there any objection to placing the papers relating to this matter on the table of the House?
Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Protectionist

– The answers to the honorable and learned mem- ber’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Representations were made personally to me in the matter.
  2. Inquiries were instituted, and a rearrangement of the work has been made which will set free a number of officers whose services can be utilized in relieving the pressure complained of.
  3. There is no objection to placing the papers on the table of the Library.

page 1429

QUESTION

SYDNEY EXCHANGE TELEGRAPH OFFICE

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

  1. Was it by his knowledge and authority that the telegraphic instruments connecting the Royal Exchange of Sydney with the General Post Office of that city had been suddenly removed without notice to the public?
  2. Has not the Exchange in question been a telegraphic centre for the commercial community for many years, and was it not one of the most important and frequently used centres in the State of New South Wales?
  3. Is he aware that telegrams from that part of the city have now to be sent to the General Post Office by messenger - a distance of over a quarter of a mile?
  4. Is he aware that the tube connexion between the Exchange and the General Post Office is out of order, and incapable of use for the purpose for which it has been established?
  5. Is he aware that the officials who bad been in the Exchange some years and had become acquainted with the special requirements of the mercantile community have been removed from that centre and inexperienced persons substituted ?
  6. Will he state the Departmental reasons for these several changes, and for thus reducing the business conveniences of the mercantile portion of the Sydney community ?
Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Protectionist

– Inquiries are being made, and answers will be furnished as soon as possible.

page 1429

QUESTION

POSTAL REGULATIONS

Mr MAUGER:
MELBOURNE PORTS, VICTORIA

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

In view of the public feeling against the evils of gambling, and in favour of doing everything to suppress the evil practices, will he consider the Postal Regulations in order to make them as stringent as possible to that end ?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Protectionist

– I will consider the Postal Regulations, with the object referred to.

page 1429

QUESTION

NEW GUINEA OFFICIALS

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

asked the Prime Minister,, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that in an action by a shipowner against the Commonwealth for the alleged seizure and detention of a ship’s papers by the Government officials of New Guinea, the Crown Law Officers of the Commonwealth have set up as a defence that the Commonwealth is not responsible for the acts of those officials done in the course of their official duty ?
  2. Does he not consider that such a defence is calculated to impair the public respect for New Guinea official acts generally, and materially lower the official authority of Commonwealth officers in New Guinea?
  3. Does he approve of such a defence being set up against all claimants where New Guinea officials are concerned ?
Mr DEAKIN:
Minister for External Affairs · BALLAARAT, VICTORIA · Protectionist

– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -

This case is now sub judice. The action taken has been upon the advice of counsel, and with the approval of the Commonwealth Law Officers.

The Prime Minister does not, under these circumstances, feel called upon to comment upon the proceedings.

page 1430

QUESTION

PUBLIC SERVICE : SUNDAY LABOUR

Mr POYNTON:
GREY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

asked the PostmasterGeneral,upon notice -

  1. Does not a regulation under the Public

Service Act provide that time and a-half shall be allowed for Sunday labour?

  1. Does not the Postal Department charge double rates for telegrams on Sundays?
  2. Does the Minister not think that, in such cases where officers have to work on Sunday for the convenience of the Department, they should be paid at the rate of time and a-half or allowed time off - a day and a-half for every Sunday that they have to work?
Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Protectionist

– This is a matter within the province of the Public Service Commissioner, who furnishes the following replies : -

  1. Yes, when an officer works seven days in a week.
  2. Yes; consequently, the business is light and intermittent.
  3. Time off in lieu of Sunday work is not given. Payment at time and a-half rates is always made if an officer has worked seven days in a week, but if only six days and one of them is Sunday, he is not paid because he has already has one day in seven off duty.

page 1430

QUESTION

DEFENCE FORCE RIFLES

Mr MALONEY:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA

asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence,upon notice -

  1. Does he consider it advisable in the interests of Australian defence that our forces should be armed with a rifle that is the equal in efficiency in every respect to the rifles adopted by foreign powers?
  2. If so, would the Minister of Defence have any objection to authorize that the Woodford short service rifle be compared and tested for efficiency with a more efficient design of the service rifle?
Mr EWING:
Vice-President of the Executive Council · RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -

  1. Yes. The rule followed in the past has been to adopt the rifle used in the British army-
  2. The Woodford rifle is not known to the military authorities, but, if particulars are furnished to the Minister of Defence, further inquiries will be made.
Mr MALONEY:

– As a personal explanation, I should like to say that, in printing the question, my writing has been misread. I had no intention to mention the “Woodford” short service rifle, the weapon I had in mind being the short service rifle sent out to Australia. I will give fresh notice for to-morrow.

page 1430

QUESTION

SOUTH AUSTRALIAN TELEGRAPH OFFICES

Mr POYNTON:

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

  1. Will the Minister say what inconvenience has occurred through the telegraph offices in the State of South Australia closing on Saturdays two hours earlier than on other week days?
  2. Why was such inconvenience never experi enced prior to the Commonwealth controlling the Department ?
  3. Why has the same or greater inconvenience not occurred owing to other States closing throughout the whole week two hoursearlier than the principal eastern States?
  4. Will the Minister rectify the anomaly either by causing all States in the Commonwealth to come into line, or by reverting to the conditions which, prior to the advent of the Commonwealth, were found adequate for the needs of the various States?
Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Protectionist

– Inquiries are being made, and answer’s will be furnished as soon as possible.

page 1430

LEAVE OF ABSENCE

Mr SPEAKER:

– I desire to point out, in regard to the motion for granting leave of absence to the honorable members for South and East Sydney, that standing order 45 requires that the cause of absence shall be stated. Does the honorable member for Dalley wish to amend the motion ?

Mr WILKS:
Dalley

.- With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will move it in an amended form which will comply with the Standing Orders. I. move -

That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. G. 13. Edwards), on account of ill-health, and to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. G.H.Reid), on account of public business.

Mr Bamford:

– As a point of order, I wish to know if the honorable member for Dalley can in one motion move for the. granting of leave of absence to two honorable members?

Mr SPEAKER:

– The motion is now perfectly in order; but, if any honorable member desires me to do so, I will put separately the two questions which it contains.

Mr Webster:

– With all due deference to the honorable member for Dalley, I think that the two questions should be put separately.

Question - That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. G. B. Edwards) on account of ill health - resolved in the affirmative.

Question - That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. G. H. Reid) on account of public business - proposed.

Mr FRAZER:
Kalgoorlie

Mr.

Speaker-

Mr SPEAKER:

– The motion cannot be debated.

Mr Frazer:

– Can it be amended ?

Mr SPEAKER:

– To move an amendment would be equivalent to debating the Question. The motion is precisely on allfours witha motion for the adjournment of a debate in this respect, that only the” mover and the seconder may speak upon it, and they may not debate it. No other honorable member may address the House in regard to it, except on a point of order. Mr. Crouch. - Is the motion unopposed ?

Mr SPEAKER:

– It takes priority over other motions, and may be opposed ; but the vote must be taken without debate.

Mr Webster:

– Do I understand that honorable members may seek to be relieved from attendance upon their parliamentary duties for reasons other than illness or incapacity - that they may neglect their work in this House to perambulate the country ?

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member is debating the question. So far as his point of order is concerned, I would inform him that leave of absence may be asked for any reason whatever ; but it is for the House to determine whether it shall be granted.

Mr Carpenter:

– As the motion cannot be debated - for which I am sorry - I wish to ask whether in agreeing to it, and granting the leave of absence asked for, honorable members can be taken to indorse the absence of the right honorable member for East Sydney? If they can, they will be placed in a false position by voting for the motion.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The effect of carrying the motion will be that the leave of absence provided for in the Constitution will have been granted.

Question, resolved in the affirmative.

page 1431

JUDICIARY BILL

Second Reading

Mr ISAACS:
Attorney-General · Indi · Protectionist

– I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Honorable members are aware that the High Court of Australia was organized in October, 1903, and has, therefore, been in operation for nearly three years. In section 4 of the Act it is provided that the High Court shall be a superior Court of Record, consisting of the Chief Justice and two other Justices, who shall respectively be appointed by commission. That is to say, the High Court shall consist of three Judges, the minimum number mentioned in the Constitution. The Bill provides in clause 2 that section 4 of the Act shall be amended by omitting the word “ two ‘ ‘ and inserting in lieu thereof the word “ four,” so that the section shall then read -

The High Court shall be a superior Court of Record, and shall consist of the Chief Justice and four other Justices, who shall respectivelybe appointed by commission.

The rest of the Act will, of course,apply to the five Judges, as it now does to thethree. Honorable members have before them, in the correspondence which has been printed and laid on the table, a vast amount of information as to the views of their Honours, the Justices of the High Court, with regard to the necessity of strengthening the Bench. I would direct attention to the fact that every effort has. been made by the Government to ascertain the views of those having the best means of affording information with respect to the necessity for that course, and with regard to the business and the prospects of business coming before the High Court, and before the Justices, outside of the ordinary business of that tribunal. Honorable members will see that the Prime Minister directed inquiries tobe made, which have led to the correspondence now in the hands of honorable members. I think that it will be admitted that the High Court of Australia has gained the complete confidence of the public. Inherently it is in a position of enormouspower and influence, and I think it is not too much to say that its decisions have justified the highest anticipations of its best friends. Apart from the Supreme Court of the United States, I do not think there is any legal tribunal in the world which has so much power. Even the House of Lords and the Privy Council may find their decisions upon any point whatever reversed by an Act of the Legislature. That is not always so with us. It is so in Canada in many respects, but so far as Australia is concerned, the Supreme Court has the almost unique power of controlling, by its decisions, the efforts of the Legislature itself. That, to my mind, is a veryimportant consideration.

Mr Johnson:

– It is a very dangerous power.

Mr ISAACS:

– I cannot conceive why it should be regarded as dangerous. I think it would be very dangerous if the Constitution did not provide for some legal control over the exercise of parliamentary power. This question was threshed out in the Federal Conventions, and provision was made in the Constitution for the powers to be exercised by the High Court. It would be of no use to apportion jurisdiction to the Commonwealth and the States respectively unless the Constitution provided for such control and would insure that the respective Legislatures would operate only within their own ambits. As I ha.ve said, the High Court was organized nearly three years ago, and honorable members will find in the report of Mr. Castle, the Principal Registrar, which is dated the 10th July - the report was brought up to the last moment prior to the tabling of the correspondence - a considerable amount of information that will enable them to judge of the enormous increase of business before the Court. The Court was established on the 5th October, 1903, and from that date until the end of that year sat for twelve days, and heard two appeals and eight motions and applications. In 1904 they heard’ thirty-nine appeals and forty motions and applications. For the moment, I am passing; by the original jurisdiction of the Court. In 1905 the Court heard sixty-four appeals, and seventy-two motions and1 applications. During the present year they have already decided no fewer than forty-two appeals, and a very large number of motions. The number of appeals which they have dealt with during the first half of the present year is nearly as large as the total number dealt with last year, and the cases now awaiting attention will be more than sufficient to keep the Court employed for the greater part of the remaining portion of this year. In addition to that, even since the corres pondence was printed, a number of other appeals have reached the position of just being entered for hearing in the High Court. To my own knowledge, certain cases are coming forward from the State tribunals in South Australia and Victoria, and I presume that the same thing is happening with regard to other States. The amount of appellate business alone that has to be transacted by the High Court is, to my mind, sufficient to justify a measure such as this. It must be within the observation of honorable members, as it is certainly within the observation of those who come into professional contact with their Honours, and of those who have an opportunity of personally judging as to the manner in which those honorable gentleman transact their business, that the strain and stress upon them in their almost continuous application to appellate work is enormous. Those who, like myself, have had personal opportunities of judging, know full well that the magnitude and importance of the cases brought before therm and the industry and the application they bring to bear, must involve an enormous strain on their Honours. It is well known to those who practise before them that, however strenuously arguments may have taken place during the day, their Honours come prepared next morning in a manner that shows that they have been working overnight in dealing with many’ difficult problems.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– How would the strain upon the Justices in connexion with the appellate jurisdiction be lessened if their number were increased to five ?

Mr ISAACS:

– If the number of Justices, were increased, an interchange might take place which would perhaps enable judgments to be considered, and there would not be that intense strain which now has to be undergone bv their Honours-, in order to dispose of the business as it comes along.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I am inclined to think that with a larger Bench there would be more conflict of opinion, and, therefore, more strain.

Mr ISAACS:

– No. I think I ‘can best answer the honorable member in the words of the learned Chief Justice, who, in his letter gives many reasons from the public stand-point, why the Court requires to be strengthened. In paragraphs 6 and 7, he says -

  1. The appellate business of the Court is of a very onerous and responsible character. In the large majority of cases, it is expedient, if not necessary, to reserve judgment. The present continuous pressure of work leaves us very little time for research, and for the preparation of written or even oral judgments. We do not think it desirable that a Court of final appeal should work at such constantly high pressure, from which, however, there is no prospect of escape so long as the number, of Justices is limited to three.
  2. Apart, therefore, from the question of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, we are of opinion that - if suitors desiring to have recourse to the original jurisdiction of the Court are to have a fair opportunity of doing so, and if the imminent risk of dislocation of the appellate work of the Court is to be provided for - it is absolutely necessary that some addition should be made to the number of the Bench. We think, further, that it is very improbable that Mr. Justice O’Connor will be free at any time during the present year to discharge his functions as President of the Arbitration Court.

In a previous portion of his letter His Honour the ‘Chief Justice says that a sitting of the Full Court was appointed to be held at Adelaide on 21st inst. The letter is dated 8th May. His Honour pointed out that that business had been withdrawn, and that but for this accident the Court would certainly not have been able to dispose of the business still remaining to be heard in Sydney before leaving for Melbourne for the sittings of the Full Court appointed for the 28th May. He added, “ In the actual state of affairs, it is possible that we may do so.”

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Is it unusual for a Court to have business left over - that is constantly happening.

Mr ISAACS:

– It is very hard for the High Court to overtake arrears of business. In other Courts, the Judges may interchange, and the business may be brought up to date in that way, but the Justices of the High Court are continuously on the move from one State to another dealing with cases as they come along, and if once their business falls into arrear it is difficult for them to pick it up again. His Honour the Chief Justice pointed out that it was doubtful whether the Court would be able to dispose of the business still remaining to be heard in Sydnev before leaving for Melbourne for the sittings of the Full Court on the 28th May. As a matter of fact, the Court had to allow some business to stand over in Sydney and come on to Melbourne, and so strenuous were their efforts to finish the business in Melbourne in order to enable them to get back to Sydnev that in one case, of which I have a vivid recollection, arguments on a very important point had to be suppressed, and the cases merely handed in to their Honours.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Is there any record of the number of days upon which the Court sits during the year?

Mr ISAACS:

– Yes, so far as the information could be completed. The appeal business of the Court is constantly growing. There is no doubt that the Court has so far established itself in the confidence of both the professional and the general public that its business, is increasing. I should like to point out, as a tangible reason that will appeal to honorable members from a commonsense point of view why the appellate business is likely io increase. The High Court has power to hear’ appeals from the judgment of a single Judge in the States Courts. Therefore, there is no necessity, unless the parties desire it, for appealing first to the Full Court of a State, and subsequently to the High Court of Australia. Now, I must say that these continuous appeals constitute a very expensive process, and in many cases would result in the ruin of a litigant. I can best illustrate the position by citing one case which came within my own personal experience. There was a litigant who was not very wealthy, and whose widowed mother and sisters were to a large extent dependent upon him. He lived in a neighbouring State, and he was willing - in order that their rights to certain property should be asserted - to incur the expense of an action. The case, came before a single Judge of the Supreme Court of the State in question, and he was defeated. Had there been no appeal direct to the High Court - in other words, had this litigant, in case of defeat, been forced to appeal first to the Full Court of that State, he would have been able to go no further. On the contrary, assuming tha* he had won his case, he would have been carried further, either to the Privy CounCil or to the High Court, and he would not have been able to stand the expense of that litigation. Consequently, if that had been the position, he would never have appealed at all. But, having the right to appeal from the decision of a single Judge of the Supreme Court of the Stale direct to the High Court, he was able to bear the costs involved. He did so, and he succeeded in his action. I mention this case as a practical illustration of the reason why litigants are likely - wherever they can do so - to appeal direct to the High Court. By so doing their case is determined once and for all. There is no right of appeal subsequently to the Privy Council. The decision of the High Count is binding, or, as the Chief Justice says, “It is a final Court of Appeal.” But whilst it is most advantageous to litigants that the number of appeals should be cut down, and that finality should be reached as early as possible, it is extremely important that the learned Justices of the High Court should not be rushed in the work which they have to perform, and that their decisions should be given after careful deliberation and full consideration. In this connexion I would point out that that tribunal, occupying as it does, a position of much dignity and responsibility, has to decide questions which involve not merely the interests of individuals and of large corporations, but the welfare of the States themselves, as well as of the Commonwealth. We can easily imagine very important questions indeed coming before the High Court - questions in which the rights and powers of the States Parliaments, as well as the constitutional powers of this Parliament, will be in dispute. It is, therefore, of the highest importance that the Court shall not be hurried in its deliberations, but shall be afforded the fullest opportunity for considering its important decisions. As matters stand, it is absolutely impossible for it to do the work which the public demand of it. If we go a step further, we find that the Constitution Act vests the High Court beyond any power of recall, with certain original jurisdiction.. The only other original jurisdiction with which it has been invested has reference to the interpretation of the Constitution. There are several cases at present awaiting decision by the Court, and I am told that some eleven writs in its original jurisdiction have been issued this year, of which I think two are ready for trial. At the present moment there are eleven outstanding cases, most of which, if not all, I think, we may expect sooner or later to be brought before the Court, that is to say, if the desire of those who have instituted the; actions, to obtain a decision from the High Court without any serious delay, can be satisfied. I would also point out the advantage of litigants being able to appeal direct to the High Court, from the stand-point of the expense involved, and the saving of time effected.

They might bring an action in the Supreme Court of a State upon a matter in which the State Court has concurrent jurisdiction, and as a result of that action they might be carried by way of appeal to the Full Court of that State, and subsequently to the High Court. In any case there would be at least two hearings, whereas if the litigation were commenced in the High Court the parties might agree to state a case for the Full Court, or the Justice who hears it might refer the matter to the Full Court, where it would be finally determined. The public appreciate this fact, and desire to avail themselves of the High Court, and it is only right that having created that tribunal it should be equipped with the numerical strength necessary to enable it to discharge the public functions for which it was called into being. I now come to another matter - I do not know what to term it, because it partly involves questions of original jurisdiction - but it is really one of auxiliary jurisdiction. This Parliament has seen fit to invest the High Court with original jurisdiction in mar.y respects. In this connexion I do not wish to refer to the many Acts which we have passed, such as the Customs Act, the Excise Act, the Post and Telegraph- Act, the Property for .Public Purposes Acquisition Act, the Electoral Act, the Defence Act. the Patents Act, the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and the Trade Marks Act. But I specially wish to refer to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and I would invite the attention of honorable members to the urgent letter of His Honour Mr. Justice O’Connor upon this subject, dated 25th April, 7906. He says -

Circumstances have arisen which make it my duty to bring under the notice of the Government the present condition of business in the Commonwealth Court of Arbitration. A dispute alleged to have arisen between the Merchant Service Guild of Australasia, Employes, and the Commonwealth Steam-ship Owners’ Association, Employers, was some months ago in proper form brought before that Court. On the 5th inst. both parties came before me to fix a time and place for hearing. The hearing will necessitate an inquiry into the status, wages, daily duties, and hours of employment of the officers of the mercantile marine of Australasia in the service of the steam-ship owners of Australasia. It is clear from the statements filed by the parties, and from the facts put before me on the application, that the case involves issues of vital interest to both parties, and of vast importance to the public, and, further, that having regard to the relation of the parties, and to the nature of the dispute, it is essential that the matters in difference should be settled as soon as possible, and when once entered upon should be heard continuously until determined. A month’s continuous sittings of the Court, at least, in my opinion, would be necessary for the hearing.

I have some personal knowledge of that case, having been consulted in regard to it, and I think that the honorable and learned member for West Sydney is possessed’ of similar knowledge. I think that he will bear me out that a month is a very small period within which to expect that matter to be settled. To my mind it will occupy at least two months, and probably more.

Mr Webster:

– It would be determined very quickly if it were settled within two months.

Mr Hutchison:

– I hope that the Court will be able to deal with all the matters mentioned bv His Honour.

Mr ISAACS:

– I hope so. But they cannot be dealt with, as matters stand at present. His Honour says - .

Looking through the list of the appeal sittings of the High Court for the remainder of the year, it is impossible to find even two or three days, much less a month, of the working time of the Court which is not fully occupied. In practically all the appeals three Judges are required to constitute a Court.

I have no hesitation in saying ‘that the appeal business is much more congested now than it was when that letter was written. His Honour continues -

On the hearing, therefore, of the application, I find myself obliged either to take a course which would suspend all the appeal business of the High Court for a month, or to postpone the hearing of this most important dispute indefinitely.

I honestly think it is more likely that His Honour would have to postpone the whole cf the appeal business of that Court for three months than for one month.

Mr Wilks:

– Would it not be better to limit the Court to its appellate jurisdiction ?

Mr ISAACS:

– That is impossible. The Constitution vests a large amount of original jurisdiction in the Court. We could not have a Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act without the High Court. Nobody would give to a Judge of the Supreme Court of any one State power to declare what the law should be in all the States. If an appeal were granted from the Full Court of. a State to the High Court, the whole of the three Judges would have to be engaged upon it.

Mr Wilks:

– Then all the legislation! that we have been passing has been for the purpose of providing work for the High* Court?

Mr ISAACS:

– Even in the debate which took place upon the Australian Industries Preservation Bill, the opinion universallyexpressed was that complaints lodged under that measure should be investigated by a Justice of the High Court rather than by a Boar8. His Honour proceeds -

As the alternative, in my view, less harmful1 in the administration of justice, I adjourned the application until August, in the hope that some chance might before then leave an interval ir» the High Court appeal business, but I see at present no prospect whatever of such an interval. If this condition of the High Court businessarose from temporary, causes not likely to recur, the position would not be so serious. But the condition has not arisen from temporary causes. It is the result of- the steady growth in the appeal business of the High Court, and all the indications are of a further increase rather than, a diminution in its volume.

I can say distinctly, both from my position as Attorney-General and as a member of the practising Bar, that His Honour’s statement, is quite within the mark. Mr. Justice O’Connor continues -

Unfortunately, therefore, a delay amounting to practically a denial of justice to the partieshas become inevitable.

I think that no stronger words than those - “ a denial of justice” - would be used. Seeing that we have told men that they must not strike, and that we have warned employers they must not lock-out, if so far we have only nominally created a tribunal to settle disputes between them, it is a denial of justice to take away from them the rights which they formerly had of urging their own interests, without giving .them the substituted right, namely, the intervention’ of the State to settle their disputes. His Honour continues -

In my view, it will continue to be inevitable so long as the presence of the High Court Judge, who is President of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, is essential to constitute the HighCourt sitting to hear appeals. In other words, so long as the High Court consists of three Judges only, it is impossible that one of those three Judges can adequately discharge the duties of the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.

His Honour must have felt an enormous pressure upon him to induce him to communicate to the Government spontaneously - as he did in that case - his views upon the matter. When his; letter came to hand, the Prime Minister, who had charge of the matter,. was not content. He referred it, through me, to the Chief Justice of the High Court and his colleagues, and we invited their views upon it, altogether apart from the question of arbitration, and having regard only to the ordinary business of the Court. Then came the letter of His Honour the Chief Justice, in which he speaks on behalf of himself and all his colleagues. I have already sufficiently referred to that communication, and I need only add that his undoubted opinion was that an increase in the number of Justices was desirable. In order further to afford Parliament an opportunity of learning the minds of the Justices in regard to the extent of the increase required, I wrote to His Honour the Chief Justice upon the -19th June. Upon the 20th June, His Honour replied -

Having regard to the risk of interruption of the appellate business of the Court by the temporary illness or absence of one of the Justices, the importance of making provision for the exercise of the original jurisdiction of the Court which is now, of necessity, practically in abeyance, and the discharge of the functions of President of the Arbitration Court by one of the Justices, we are of opinion that the strength of the Bench should be increased by the appointment of two additional Justices.

So that the Government have done all that they could to bring before honorable members the authorative opinion of those whose only concern is, and must be, the proper discharge of their functions. These learned gentleman, who are placed far above any personal considerations, have informed the House and the country that they find a strain imposed1 upon them which is, indeed, hard to be borne. Struggle as they may, even in dealing with their appellate work, the strain upon them is very great. Further, it is not to be forgotten that the quality of the work is a very essential consideration where judicial decisions are concerned. We have to consider, not merely the quantity - which is very great - but the quality of the work. A hastily or imperfectly considered decision might mean the ruin of a litigant, the crippling of a Stave, or the fettering of the Commonwealth. Placed, as their Honours are, in a high and distinguished position, with a great responsibily centered in the Court, it is only right that, when thev appeal to Parliament, saying, “ We cannot do our work with satisfaction ; we cannot endure the strain,” we should recognise the position. They are only human, and are subject to the vicissitudes of humanity. That being so, we should recognise the posi- tion and inquire into it. We have done so, and the Government say to the House and the country that it is impossible for the Justices to properly discharge their functions unless they are assisted. It is for the House to say whether that assistance shall be given, and what its extent shall be. Mr. Castle, in his report pf the 10th ultimo, writes -

In 1906 the High Court has continuously been engaged from the close of the summer vacation until the commencement of the winter vacation, either in holding sittings or travelling to hold sittings. As the greater part of the business before the Court had to be dealt with by a Full Court of three Justices, no Justice has been available to try original jurisdiction cases, or cases in the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.

Mr Johnson:

– What is the interval between the summer and the winter vacations ?

Mr ISAACS:

– Speaking from memory, I think it extends from the middle of February to the end of June. I shall point out directly what is the vacation in all the States, so that honorable members may judge of the matter for themselves.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– It is a question, not of what is the practice of the States Courts, but of how long the Justices of the High Court work.

Mr ISAACS:

– I shall deal presently with that point. Mr. Castle continued -

Notwthstanding the continuous work, the Court has been unable to dispose of all the business on the lists, and certain cases have had to stand over until the next half-year. In Sydney there are eight ca; es now awaiting hearing -

I am not in a position to state definitely that that number has increased, but according to hearsay it has. in Melbourne five -

I know that additions have since been made to that number - in Brisbane one, and in Perth several more. The Registrar at Perth expects that there will be quite twenty cases for hearing by the time the Court sits there in October next. The DeputyRegistrar in Melbourne expects that two or three additional cases will be set down within the next few days.

Then he goes on to say -

In my opinion, there is no reason to expect any falling off in business in the future. The increase in business has been continuous, and, although perhaps the business will not continue to increase at the same rate as it has in the past two years, I believe that it will continue to increase, especially in the States of Western Australia and Queensland.

Mr Conroy:

– Was that written after the Privy Council had decided that certain sections were ultra vires ?

Mr ISAACS:

– There has been no such decision by the Privy Council ; but even if there had been, it would not affect this matter in the slightest. I shall now answer the inquiries made as to the vacations. The High Court vacation was fixed by Parliament itself in the schedule to the High Court Procedure Act. We know, of course, that the Justices have power to make a rule bearing; on the subject, but Parliament decided that the vacations of the High Court should be eight weeks in the summer, and four weeks in the winter.

Mr Wilson:

– Out of those vacations a month could be set apart to enable the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to deal with the cases listed.

Mr ISAACS:

– One month would not be sufficient to enable that Court to deal with the business set down for its determination. A case in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, in which I am engaged, will occupy more than one or two months.

Mr Wilson:

– That could be taken next year.

Mr ISAACS:

– If the honorable member were one of the workers concerned, he would not say that ; he would desire to have his rights established with the least possible delay. 1 come now to the States Courts. In New South Wales, the summer vacation is eight weeks, and the winter vacation three weeks; in Victoria the summer vacation extends over six weeks, and, although there is no provision in the law for a winter vacation, the practice is to have a fortnight’s holiday in July. In Queensland the summer vacation is eight weeks, and the winter vacation four weeks; whilst in South Australia the vacation is two months in duration, extending from 25th December to 25th February. I believe, although I am not sure on the point, that notwithstanding the absence of a rule providing for a winter vacation in South Australia, there is a practice under which the Judges can obtain some holidays in the winter.

Mr Conroy:

– A vacation is not always a holiday; a Judge has often much hard work to do.

Mr ISAACS:

– Quite so. In Western Australia the vacation is two months - extending from 24th December to 25th February, whilst in Tasmania the long vacation extends from the 17th December to 28th February. It is not due to the Justices of the High Court themselves that they enjoy the vacations named; the Act itself provides for them.

Mr Johnson:

– I do not take exception to ‘heir vacations.

Mr ISAACS:

– I was going to say that it is impossible to do without them. In England, the Courts enjoy a vacation of about three months.

Mr Johnson:

– These vacations are very necessary.

Mr ISAACS:

– That is so. The pressure on the Justices, is tremendous ; and if they need a rest they can secure it only during a vacation. If the High Court were to sit in a State during the ordinary vacation of the Supreme Court of that State, where should we find the legal gentlemen engaged in the cases listed for hearing? They would be away on their holidays.

Mr Robinson:

– They would come back very quickly if they had briefs.

Mr ISAACS:

– I do not think so.

Mr Wilson:

– Where the carcass is, there will ‘ the eagles be gathered together.

Mr ISAACS:

– I am sorry to hear the honorable gentleman refer to litigants as “ the carcass “ ; I desire 10 speak of them far more respectfully. If there is any other question on which I can enlighten the House, I shall be pleased to do so. The High Court, in order to limit the number of appeals, for special reasons, has laid down precisely the same rule as the Privy Council has done relative to the grounds on which special leave to appeal will be given. I should, perhaps, read the views of the learned Justices to show that they are not assuming to themselves the power to hear further appeals by granting special leave, other than under the rule laid down by the Privy Council. In the appeal case of Dalgarno v. Hannah (1 C.L.R., 8), the first case dealt with by the Court, the Chief Justice said -

With regard to the second ground, we think that the rule to be applied by the High Court in dealing with applications for special leave to appeal in cases below the appealable amount should be substantially that laid down by the Judicial Committee of -ths Privy Council, in. the case of Prince v. Gagnon.

The quotation from the judgment of’ the Privy Council, which the High Court applied to itself, is as follows: -

Their Lordships are not prepared to advise Her Majesty to exercise her prerogative by admitting an appeal to Her Majesty in Council from the Supreme Court of the Dominion, save where the case is of gravity, involving matters of public interest, or some important question of law, or affecting property of considerable amount, or where the case is otherwise of some public importance, or of a very substantial character.

The Full Court has refused leave to appeal in several cases. It did so, for instance, in the case of Johansen v. The City Mutual Life Assurance Coy (2 C.L.R. 186). The case was under the appealable amount, and the Court said that where there were mere questions of fact involved - where there was no important question of law involved - if the judgment appealed from was unattended with sufficient doubt to justify the granting of leave to appeal, they would refuse that leave. They also refused leave in the case of Norton v. Taylor (2 C.L.R. 291) applying the Privy Council rule that there was not sufficient reason to doubt the correctness of the decision to justify them in granting leave to appeal. . In three or four other cases, which I need not enumerate, they have applied the same principle. They have cut down, as far as they can, the special cases in which leave to appeal is granted, and they find that the work of dealing with the limited number of appeals allowed by Parliament and the Constitution, has practically outgrown their strength. If we desire that the Court shall maintain the high position allotted to it by the Constitution, and the high position that it has won for itself in the public estimation and confidence - if we desire that it shall perform the duties intrusted to it in various other directions, and that there shall be a denial of justice no longer than exists at present - then I think that the Parliament will agree to the passing of this Bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Conroy) adjourned.

page 1438

BOUNTIES BILL

In Committee:

Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to-

That it is expedient’ that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of bounties on the production of certain goods.

Resolution reported and adopted.

Ordered. -

That Sir William Lyne and Mr. Deakin do prepare and bring in the Bill.

Bill presented by Sir William Lyne, and read a first time.

page 1438

MAIL SERVICE TO EUROPE

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
Postmaster-General · EdenMonaro · Protectionist

– I move -

That this House approves the agreement made and entered into on the 7th day of July, 1906, between the Postmaster-General, in and for the

Commonwealth, and Sir James Laing and Sons, Limited, for the carriage of mails between Adelaide and Brindisi.

It is hardly necessary for me to speak at length since a very explicit statement with reference to this contract has already been made to the House by the Prime Minister,, and the agreement itself has been laid upon the table, so that honorable members no doubt are by this time fully seized of its effect. I should like to point out, however, that less than a year ago, namely, on 4th October last, it was my pleasure to move the ratification of another contractin respect of the Same mail service. At that time there was a general review of the conditions of past contracts for the carriage of mails between the State Governments, the British Government, and various steam-ship companies, and it is, therefore, not necessary for me to go back again into what is ancient history by giving the amounts paid in each case, and showing how, step by step, conditions have been improved, by obtaining accelerated speed, larger vessels, and a better service. I wish, however, to call the attention of honorable members to the contracts which immediately preceded and led up to the making of this one. The first contract of which I shall speak is that for a weekly service, made in 1897, between the Australian States, the British Government, and the Peninsular and Oriental and Orient Steam-ship Companies. The subsidy paid under that contract was £170,000, of which the Australian States paid £72,000 and the British Government £98,000. Under it, the maximum time for the journey of the Peninsular and Oriental steamers was 686 hours, and of the Orient steamers 696 hours, the mails being landed and embarked in Europe at Naples by the Orient Company and at Brindisi by the Peninsular and Oriental Company. That contract expired on the 31st January, 1905, and was followed by a contract between the British Government and the Peninsular and Oriental Company for a fortnightly service, the period of transit being accelerated from 686 to 662 hours, and the subsidy increased by about £10,000.’ It is difficult to ascertain the exact amount of the increase, because the contract is for the carriage of mails to the East as well as to Australia, but the period of three years, for which it has force,may be extended to ten years, and it is provided that, if there is an extension, the British Government shall be entitled to a reduction of subsidy.

The period of three years after which the contract may or may not be extended terminates simultaneously with the period of the contract between the Commonwealth Government and the Orient Steam-ship Company, when; in all probability, the British Government will probably try to enforce a new set of conditions similar to those which we shall enforce under the contract which the House is now being asked to ratify. It is hardly necessary to remind honorable members of the difficulties and troubles which were experienced by past Governments before the existing contract with the Orient Company was entered into, because, no doubt, before the debate closes, my predecessor in office will give the House a very graphic description of his troubles and tribulations in that connexion. We know what excitement there was through the country before the matter was settled. Deputations representing various branches of commerce were constantly waiting upon Ministers, and the public were clamouring for some definite arrangement. I refer to the matter now only because I do not wish honorable members to forget the many difficulties which crop up in the making of contracts of this kind. There must be at least two parties to every bargain, and the demands and requirements of, each party take a great deal of consideration. In this case, I think that all that has been asked for is fair play, reasonable treatment, and a good service for a proper payment, and I think that I shall be able to show that these requirements will be met. The subsidy now given to the Orient Company is ^120,000 a year, an increase upon that paid under the contract with the Peninsular and Oriental and Orient Companies and the British Government, to which I have already referred. What brought about the existence of two separate contracts, one between the British Government and the Peninsular and Oriental Company, and the other between the Commonwealth and the Orient Company, was our legislation, indorsed by the people of this country, requiring that white labour only shall be employed on steamers subsidized for the carriage of Australian mails. This Government, immediately after the ratification of the contract with the Orient Company, gave that company notice of the intention to terminate it, one of the articles in the agreement being that two years’ notice of the intention to terminate should be given by either party. We gave that notice early, because we thought that a better contract could be made, and wished to take time by the forelock. _ We did not desire to be again placed in a corner, finding ourselves at the last moment practically in the hands of. companies which, being the only ones in the trade, could dictate their own terms.

Mr Wilson:

– The Government may be in the same position again, if the ships required under this contract are not built.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– I think I can show that all reasonable and businesslike precautions have been taken to provide against a contingency of that kind. We have ascertained that those with whom we are dealing are responsible men, whose reputation in the ship-building world is second to none.

Mr Wilson:

– But suppose the necessary company cannot be floated?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– I ask the honorable member to allow me to finish my statement. When I have laid the facts before the House, I shall be glad to hear his criticism. It is almost pleasing to me that some one has at length been roused to the expression of unfriendly criticism. When the conditions which we laid down were first made public, it was said that the Government, to placate a certain party in this House, had made provision for the purchase at any time of the ships used in the service. That criticism was silenced bv pointing out that a similar provision exists in the British contract, and io most other contracts. It was also said that we were asking for teo much, and that our conditions would not be accepted by any tenderer. Mr. Paxton, a representative of the Svdney Chamber of Commerce, said some time afro that no company would tender for a service under the conditions laid down. But, in a letter published in this morning’s news.papers he SalE that the conditions obtained by the Commonwealth are too good ; that we have all the best of the bargain ; and that it is a one-sided contract; although, in the next sentence, he declares that those with whom we have contracted intend sell the concession - an absurd statement, in view of his first position. Every one of the conditions which we originally laid down has been accepted, and several others have been added, the additions being such as exist in the present contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and have been sanctioned by this Parliament. I should like to know if Mr. Paxton’s criticism has received the indorsement of the Chamber of Commerce, because it is important that the community should, understand whether such bodies represent the commercial interests of the country generally, or. as I am afraid they appear to be, ‘they are really partisans. Of course, if they become partisans, and the fact that they are so is admitted, their criticism can be rightly valued.

Mr Knox:

Mr. Paxton says that the contract is an excellent one.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– Yes but in his next sentence he says that the other party to it will sell the concession, and make a lot of money out of the sale.

Mr Johnson:

– Does not the PostmasterGeneral think that thev will do se?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– I have yet to learn that it is a crime for ship-builders in England, and men in the shipping business in this part of the world, to come together to bring into existence an Australian line of steam-ships, which will increase the competition in ocean transport between this country and Great Britain. Those who complain that a ring or combination now exists for the prevention of competition should welcome the new arrangement. These who have faith in Australia will agree with me that “there is plenty of room for the new Australian line as well as for the Orient Steam Navigation and the Peninsular and Oriental Companies. According to the statements of the chairmen of the Peninsular and Omental and Orient Steam Navigation Companies, and a number of big financial institutions, a great expansion of business is expected in Australia, which means that there will be more produce, more passengers, and more mails for ocean-going steamers to carry. Evidently those who have entered into this contract think that something of that kind, is about to happen, because they have bound themselves to provide boats of heavier tonnage than those now carrying our mails, to give an accelerated speed, and to meet all the requirements of the travelling public.

Mr Johnson:

– How can an expansion of business be rightly anticipated with an Anti-Trust Act in operation, whose effect will be the stoppage of importations and the restraint of trade?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– The honorable member has fully discussed the provisions of the Anti-Trust Pill : we are dealing now with the conditions of the proposed new mail contract. In the first place, in order that there might be the keenest competition in the tendering, we advertised our conditions in Great Britain,

And copies of them were distributed all over the world. It was made known that a postal service only was asked for, the mails to be carried between Adelaide ar.d a port in Southern Europe, with an extension of the journey of the steamers to an approved port in Great Britain. Parcel mails are carried by sea for the whole distance between Great Britain and Australia, and therefore we require that the steamers carrying our mails shall go on to an approved port in Great Britain, in order that, by sending our parcels by sea, we may save the heavy cost of transport across the Continent of Europe. That is purely a postal matter. We asked for an acceleration of speed, and imposed a number of other conditions, which we thought would be in the interests of the Commonwealth, and at the same time enable those who tendered to provide a good service. In anticipation of objections that our conditions were too harsh, a provision was inserted that tenderers might offer to provide a service under any conditions they liked as to route, speed, or terminal ports, subject always to the stipulation that thev must man their steam-ships with white labour, and to the understanding that a preference would be given to the contractors offering to carry on the service with vessels of the highest speed. I think that honorable members and the public generally will approve of the latter condition, because extra speed means extra trade. It will bring us closer to the markets of the world, and into more intimate relations with other parts of the Empire, I have referred to the very few criticisms that were’ directed to the conditions immediately after1 they were issued. It seems to me that that was the time at which any objections should ha;ve been urged. I notice that the Government have been taken to task for not having imposed any conditions with regard to the carriage of cargo. I was absent from Australia for several months, during which period this matter was handled by mv colleague, the Vice-President of the Executive Council. m conjunction with the Prime Minister. T know, from the documents that have been brought under my notice since my return, that every effort was made bv them to afford the States Governments an opportunity to express their wishes in regard to the con- ditions of contract. The negotiations which were carried on reflect the greatest credit upon the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and I am .glad to say that the mail contract is’ described by one of the Brisbane newspapers this morning as one of the most important executive acts since Federation was established. When I returned from England, I found that nearly everything in connexion with the mail contract had been arranged, and the credit in connexion with the transaction’ is due to my honorable colleague who had charge of my Department during my absence, and I have much pleasure in paying this tribute to the ability and judgment which he has displayed.. I desire to call attention to the fact “that when the contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company was under discussion, the late Premier of Queensland, Mr. Morgan, stated that if the contract had been made for a service terminating at Adelaide, and all the States had been placed on an equal footing, Queensland would have raised no objection. In connexion with the present contract, tenders were invited in plenty of time, and as I have said, very little criticism was directed against the conditions proposed. We received only, five tenders, and in accordance with the conditions, which provide that only the three lowest tenders shall be disclosed, particulars relating to those only have been placed before honorable members. One tender was informal, and there was one other besides those regarding which information has been given. Honorable members will readily understand that business men who enter upon these great undertakings do not care to come into conflict with one another, and that, furthermore, no public good can be served by publishing the particulars of the tenders, except to the extent provided for in the conditions. Whilst one can understand the eagerness of honorable members to obtain particulars whilst negotiations are proceeding, matters must be dealt with upon a business footing. It is the duty of the Government to make the best possible bargain with the contractors, as it is the aim of the contractors to do the best they can for themselves. Business men who conduct important negotiations such as those which have just been concluded, would laugh at the idea of placing the other side in possession of valuable information. I join my honorable colleagues, the VicePresident of the Executive Council and’ the Prime Minister, in saying that, in “ the

[ST]

course of negotiations, we were met by the representative of the contractors in the most liberal spirit. He was anxious to secure a good contract, but always remembered that there were two parties to the bargain, and that what was required was an efficient service at a reasonable cost. I take it that we all recognise that the introduction of a third shipping combination, into the Australian trade will tend to the advantage of the community, by bringing about more competition, and, probably, a reduction in rates.’ I believe, moreover, that the contractors will not only have a strong commercial backing, but also strong support from the public. It seems to me thats it is a good thing for us to have a line of steamers, manned by white men, with the Australian flag flying at the masthead. The new line of steamers will be, I believe, partially owned in Australia, and I think that we should give the contractors “every assistance reasonable in carrying out their undertaking.,

Mr Johnson:

– At what port will their steamers be registered ?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– At’ some port in the Commonwealth. That should be sufficient for the honorable member, because I do not think that it is desirable to introduce any provincial feeling into the matter. It will be seen that, beyond the advertised conditions, the agreement contains three paragraphs, 14, 15, and 16. These are practically identical with clauses 32, 34, and 35 of the agreement with the Orient Company, and, consequently, have already received the approval of this Parliament. Clause 1.4 provides that the Government will use their good1 offices with the States Governments to secure to the mail contractors facilities equal to those granted to other ship-owners. No one can take exception to that. Clause 15 refers to fresh legislation. Clause 16 contains the usual provision as to what may take place in the event of a declaration of war. The contract provides that we shall have complete control over the carriage of all mails, and that all the postage received in regard to letters shall belong to us. No mails can be put on board at any port without the approval of the PostmasterGeneral. The contract is for a term of ten years. The alternative period mentioned in the conditions of tender was seven years. It has been complained in the past that, owing to the short period for which the contracts were entered into, it would not pay any new combination to construct ships necessary to perform the service, and the Government were thus left at the mercy of the old contractors. Provision is made that if, at the expiration of five years; any competing line of mail ships is providing an improved and accelerated service, we shall be entitled to call upon the contractors to provide an equivalent service. A subsidy of £125,000 is provided for a 636 hours service, and the contractors are entitled to extra remuneration to cover the cost of an acceleration of speed to the extent of twenty-four hours upon the trip one way ; but the total sum payable to them is not to exceed £25,000 per’ annum over and above the contract price.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– There is nothing in the contract that would enable the Government to demand an accelerated service.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– The contract will give us power to demand an acceleration of speed.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Clause 5 does not seem to me to be clear upon that point.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:
EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES · PROT; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Owing to the short time at the disposal of the contractors, the contract provides that they shall not be required during the first six months to conduct the service with the ships that are to be built according to the conditions of contract. They must, however, provide vessels that will carry the mails within the specified time. I think that it will be found that the contract is very clear upon that point. It has been drawn up under the advice of two of the ablest lawyers in Australia, namely, Mr. Croker and the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor. It is provided that the steamers shall each have a registered tonnage of at least 11,000 tons. I think it is most desirable from the stand-point of the Commonwealth that we should have trading to Australia ships of a better class than those now coming here. The new vessels will be able to accomplish the voyage in quicker time than the present mail steamers ; they will provide three times the refrigerated space that is’ now available, and they will afford additional inducements to travellers. The contractors recognise that they will be coming into competition with powerful companies who are now engaged in. the Australian trade, and that they must be thoroughly up-to-date if they are to enjoy a fair share of that trade. They feel that if they can offer the public something better in the way of accommodation* than they have hitherto been receiving they will be considerably assisted in carrying out their undertaking. I would point out in this connexion that the average tonnage of the eight Orient steamers engaged in the present service is under 7,000. The average tonnage of the ten vessels comprising the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s fleet is less than 8,700 tons. In addition to the ships being of 11,000 tons register the contract provides that the plans for their construction shall be submitted to the Government. That is a most desirable state of things from our stand-point, and it will also be of assistance to the contractors, because, when once we have entered into this undertaking, which provides for the payment of a sum considerably in excess of £1,000,000, the Government, and succeeding Governments, will naturally feel that the interests of the new contractors are, to a very great extent, their interests. If the contractors prosper it will be an indication of the prosperity of Australia, and there is no doubt that every reasonable assistance will be accorded to them, not only by the Government of the day, but by the Parliament and people of the Commonwealth. In this matter, as in others of much smaller magnitude, the success of one naturally hinges upon the other. I have very little doubt that everything will run smoothly, and that the service will prove of very great benefit to the people of the Commonwealth. As regards the question of a further acceleration of speed, I have already pointed out that, at the end of five years, if any other line of mail steamers trading to Australia is completing the voyage in less than 612 hours, arrangements can be made for the vesselscarrying the Commonwealth mails to provide an equally expeditious service. I have also pointed out that the port of registry must be within Australia. That seems very little to say, but what does it mean ?

Mr Johnson:

– The Postmaster-General will not say which is to be the port of registry.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– I cannot control that matter; but I hope it will be Twofold Bay, the Federal Capital port. After all, it does not matter very much in which capital the vessels are registered. The important point is that they will be registered within the Commonwealth, which will make the undertaking practically an Australian one.. Australia will be interested in it, and that fact is something of which we may be proud. No doubt it will be the forerunner of many other undertakings, and when members of the Opposition come to view matters from a better stand-point, we shall probably be able to build some of these great ships in Australia. I hope that that day is not far distant.

Mr Johnson:

– When we block up our ports by tariff walls and anti-trade Bills?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– Surely it is not the honorable member speaking who prevented us, by every means in his power, from establishing the iron industry in Australia - an industry which would have enabled us ourselves to undertake the building -of ships? This is a serious business. Hitherto honorable members opposite have proved the stumbling block which has prevented us from bringing about the desirable state of things of which I speak.

Mr Johnson:

– Nonsense. We cannot build them !

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– When I was in Glasgow recently I saw some of the biggest ships in the world launched there, -and I am credibly informed that there are men living in that city who can remember the time when they could step across the very spot where those vessels were launched. How, then, can the honorable member for Lang exclaim, “ Nonsense, we cannot build them “ ?

Mr Johnson:

– We have not the necessary plant or the material.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– We have all the raw material in this country. I look upon that as. a most desirable end to aim at, though owing to the attitude art the honorable member, and some of his friends, it does not seem possible of attainment just now. As some question has been raised regarding the deposit which has been mad’e with the Government, I wish to say that we have a deposit of £2,500.

Mr Johnson:

– That is a very small deposit for so lar,ge a contract.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– The honorable member was a member of this House when contracts were left without any deposit being required at all. In addition, we have in the bank a guarantee of .£25,000, which is as good as a deposit, so that practically we have in hand £27,500. A further demand for an additional £25,000 can be made at any time, if it is considered that sufficient progress is not being made with the construction of the necessary vessels. [Si]- 2

Mr Johnson:

– The Government have not the first £25,000 in’ hand. They have’ only £2,500. “

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– The bond, that we have received is, in the opinion . of men who are competent to judge, absolutely as good as 25,000 sovereigns. It; is a bank guarantee. But why, I ask,; was not that objection taken when the. conditions of the contract were first sets forth? The amount of the deposit was, clearly stated then, and any company pos>sessing a line of steamers was at liberty to tender for the contract.

Mr Johnson:

– Any established company.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– I do not object to honorable members barracking for , some of the companies which have missed , this contract. Personally, I fail to see. much difference between an established ‘, company, whose ships are unable to carry’ out the conditions of the contract as to speed, and a firm cf ship-builders, con- ,cerning whom we have made the closest inquiry, and concerning whom we have obtained the most’ satisfactory assurances.

Mr Johnson:

– It is only a firm whichis interested in the building of tramp’ steamers.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– The hon’orable member may endeavour to throw discredit on the contractors.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I would point out that these constant interruptions, amount- . ing almost to a dialogue, must be disconcerting to the Minister. Honorable members will be at liberty to make their speeches when the Minister has concluded.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– It is very hard to have one Laing criticising another. It would give me very much pleasure indeed if the honorable member stood aswell as does his namesake across the ocean. Without any hesitation, this £25,000 was placed at our disposal, and1 from our inquiries we are satisfied that there need be no fear entertained of the standing of Sir James Laing and Sons. Seeing that we occupy that position, I ask whether the successful tenderers are not in a position at least equal to that occupied by the companies which already possess a line of steamers? is it reasonable to suppose that the former would gut up £27,500 if they did not intend! to see the contract through ?

Mr Johnson:

– They have twelve months in which to hawk their concession around.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– Nothing of the kind. I have received assurances under that heading also. They do not propose to do anything of the kind, but intend to proceed with the work of building a fleet of steamers for themselves. I have that information from an undoubted financial authority. Does not the honorable member think that the firm are strong enough to undertake the work?

Mr Johnson:

– They are strong enough-

Mr SPEAKER:

– If I had not already called attention to the interjections of honorable members, I might suppose that the Minister’s question warranted a reply. But I would again point out that these dialogues must be very disconcerting to an honorable member who has prepared his speech.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– The honorable member for Lang asks such pertinent questions - questions to which such complete and reassuring answers can be given - that I am obliged to him for enabling me to elucidate some of the points connected with the contract. What does the accelerated speed under the new agreement mean ? It means that we shall obtain a regular service of 636 hours, or twenty-six hours less than the service at present ‘provided by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. When we secure a 612 hours service, it will be fifty hours less than the mail service providedby that company.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– But we cannot obtain a 612 hours service under the proposed contract.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– I am disposed to agree with those who assure me that we can. What does that mean in comparison with the present ‘Contract, which some people would evidently like to see extended? It means a difference of sixty hours. Is there no advantage to be derived from a service which is sixty hours less than that provided at present? But, as a matter of fact, we shall secure a service which is eighty-four hours less. This accelerated speed will mean that correspondence received by an, incoming mail can be replied to from Sydney, in the case of the 636 hours service, by the same vessel ; while, if we secure a 612 hours service, it will permit of answers being forwarded all the way from Brisbane. In my opin ion, that is a very decided advantage, and! one that is worth paying for. Some honorable members appear to think that the provisions of the contract are not sufficiently stringent. Need I point out that the penalties provided are very drastic indeed? Under the existing contract, if a. mail steamer is twenty-four hours late, thepenalty imposed is £100. If a vessel istwentythree hours late, no fine can beinflicted. But, under the new contract, the penalty provided is £5 for every hour that a vessel may be late in delivering itsmails. The accelerated speed of the new service will mean that residents of all thecapitals will be able to answer letters by return post, and to catch the outgoing mail. That will be of very great advantage.

Mr Kelly:

– That is with the accelerated service ?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– Yes. Even, under the 636 hours service, the residents of Sydney will be able to reply to their correspondence by the outgoing mail. Probably, business people even in Brisbane will’ be able to forward replies by the outgoing steamer, because the first term of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam NavigationCompany’scontract will expire about thesame time as the current contract with theOrient Steam Navigation Company, and, naturally, theBritish Government will ask the former company to provide a serviceequal to the new service of the Commonwealth. With a little pressure, doubtlessthe Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company will be able to do that. If” the acceptance of the proposedcontract will expedite the transit of British mails, it will-‘ prove a decided gain to the entire community. There is no need forme to say very much more in regard to this contract. I should like to add that the Government expect to secure an accelerated train servicein connexion with, it. After paying a large sum to expedite the carriage of mails oversea, we do not think it is right that they should be permitted to remain in any capital for any considerable time. They should be forwarded on by train without delay.

Mr Cameron:

– Are the Government takingany steps in that direction?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– Yes, weare taking steps in that direction, even inconnexion with the mail service to Tasmania. It will not be very difficult to accomplish our object, because the State authorities will recognise that our request isa reasonable one. The running ofthetrains should be expedited, so that the- people may receive their mails at the earliest possible moment. I have alreadystated that the negotiations conducted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, the Prime Minister, and the Secretary for the Post Office, with Mr. Croker representing Sir James Laing and Sons, were conducted in the most business-like and friendly way. A liberal spirit was exhibited on both sides. Mr. Croker endeavoured to meet us in a reasonable way, and did all that he possibly could to bring about the early acceptance of the contract. So far as we know - and surely the Government ought to know - there is no warrant for the statement that the subsidy is nearer £250,000 than £125,000 per annum.

Mr Wilks:

– Is the honorable member going to oppose my amendment?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– I shall deal with it in due course. I am glad to see that the honorable member, together with his right honorable leader, has adopted the view of the Government that it is necessary ‘ to establish great industries in Australia, and that, whilst we ought not to aim at the impossible, anything that is reasonable and proper for the encouragement of great industries should have our support. It is pleasing to hear that the honorable member’s leader stated in Queensland that he would help to establish such industries, and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see our big mail steamers constructed at Mort’s Dock. I would point out that there is plenty of room for three great lines of steamers in the service between Australia and Great Britain. I’ have nothing to say against either of the other two. We hope that they will remain in the service. Competition is the life of trade, and competition between the three lines would be highly beneficial to Australia. This contract, although not very pleasing to some who cannot ‘view these matters except from a party stand-point, is viewed with satisfaction by the Government. They took a risk in giving notice of their intention to cancel the present agreement, and when they did so all sorts of gloomy forebodings were indulged in. The acceptance of the contract by a firm of undoubted strength is highly gratifying. It is to be hoped that every contract that is let will meet with no sharper criticism than has been levelled at that now under consideration. What have the opponents of the contract said? They have simply declared that it is a very fine one, and that they can not understand how the contractors are going to carry it out. I would point out, however, that the Orient Company have succeeded in carrying out a similar contract with a smaller subsidy, although in that case they had not to provide such fast or such large steamers as will be required under the one which this ‘House is now asked to ratify. We know very, well that the larger the steamers the greater the trade and the consequent returns. That being so, it is difficult to understand the criticism which has been levelled at the contract unless some of it has come from an interested source, and is designed to throw an obstacle in the way of the acceptance of this agreement.

Mr Lonsdale:

– It is a contract with shipbuildens.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN:

– They are the sort of people with whom we desire to make contracts. We need to enter into agreements with men who can not only supply us with the stipulated service, but are capable of providing an increased service when it is required. Once these great s’hip-building firms start to build steamers for the Australian trade, it is to be hoped that the number of vessels which they put on the service will steadily increase. The question before us is one in which every class is interested. It is a matter that affects every one, and should appeal to all of us, not from a party, but from a national, stand-point. I take it that there will be no opposition to the ratification of the contract, although, naturally, some criticism will be offered j but before we talk of refusing to ratify it we should ask our-, selves what the alternative is. What should we have in front of us if we refused to ratify the agreement? Let us recall our position when we were practically at the mercy of the ship-owners. Having regard to all the circumstances, I commend this motion to honorable members, believing that the contract is an excellent one, that it will result in great good to the people, and’ that it is one of which we may well be proud. Although the contractors are ship-builders carrying on business in Great Britain they are of our own kith and kin, and I hope that this large expenditure on an Australian service will be but the beginning of many Australian lines. I sincerely trust that the day is not far distant when we shall be able to more Tully supply the wants that we have been paying others to provide for us, and that we shall be able ere long to build our great mail steamers in Australia, thus findingwork for our own people, instead of sending it out of the country.

Mr THOMAS:
Barrier

.- I rise with a great deal of pleasure to move -

That all the words after the word “ House “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - “is of opinion that, in the best interests of the Commonwealth, the Government should purchase and control ‘a fleet of mail steamers capable of maintaining a fortnightly mail service between Australia and Great Britain.”

If my amendment were adopted we should have a State-owned mail service between Australia and Great Britain. I desire at once to disclaim any credit for having originated the proposal that we should have a State-owned mail service. The suggestion came neither from the Labour Party nor any socialistic body, but from a Conservative member of the House of Commons - Mr. Henniker Heaton.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Conservatism and Socialism are closely akin.

Mr THOMAS:

– Verywell. In one of his speeches Mr. Henniker Heaton dealt with the matter, and showed that the subsidies paid by the British and Australian Governments would be quite sufficient if capitalized to provide for a State-owned fleet. Before I conclude, I hope to be able to quote the views of others outside the Labour Party who advocate a State-owned mail service, and thus to show that if there be any credit or blame attachable to my proposal, then the whole responsibility does not lie entirely at the door of the party of which I am a member. I brought this matter forward on one or two occasions last session, and as the outcome of my action a Select Committee was appointed to inquire into the desirableness of establishing a State-owned shipping service. During the recess that Select Committee was converted into a Royal Commission, in order that it might complete its investigations. I desire to thank the Government for its action in that regard although they have not seen their way clear to adopt the recommendations made by six out of the eight Commissioners. I believe that good work has been done by the Commission, and that even if we are unable tocarry our proposal into effect at the present juncture, the investigation made by us will hasten the day when we shall be able to do so. Before proceeding to deal with the main arguments in favour of the amendment, I should like to read a letter from Mr. Kenneth Anderson, Managing Director of the Orient Company. Immediately on the publication of the report of the Shipping Service Commission I sent a copy of it to Mr. Anderson, and received from him the following reply : -

Martin-place, Sydney, 2nd July, 1906.

Dear Sir, - I am much obliged to you for the copy of the Shipping Commission report.

To-morrow’s or Wednesday’s papers will probably contain some comments of mine which will be of interest to you.

I read with regret in the report the phrase as to the Orient Company not publishing balance sheets “ for reasons best known to itself.” It. contains an innuendo which, in view of our desire to afford the Commission every assistance in our power, I think we might have been spared. Besides, the statement is incorrect.

Australia, when all is said and done, owes not a little to the Orient Company, who have consistently lost money on their service. Surely we might look for fair criticism, to put it no higher than that. - Yours truly,

Kenneth S. Anderson

In answer to that letter I wrote at once- -

Parliament House, Melbourne, 4th July, 1906

Dear Sir, - I am in receipt of your letter of 2nd July.

I extremely regret that the words “ for reasons best known to itself,” should have caused you regret, and in view of that I am very sorry that they should have appeared in the report. Ican assure you that in no way were they meant as an innuendo. The meaning I meant to convey was that you, being a private company, could simply please yourselves whether you published them or no, and for reasons best known to yourselves you did not publish them, as you had a perfect right not to do. In view of the fact that you do publish your balance sheets, I regret all the more that the paragraph appeared in the way it did.

I had an idea that the Orient, being a proprietary company, did not issue a balance sheet, simply because they did not choose to do so.

Personally, I very much appreciate the assistance you rendered to the Commission, an appreciation which was shared by all the Commissioners, and it makes it all the more worrying to me that a paragraph which could have been phrased a little differently, and conveyed as I purposed a complimentrather than otherwise, should have been so badly framed as to convey an innuendo where no innuendo was intended.

Might I read your letter when I am speaking on the mail contract in the House. I will then publicly take the opportunity of stating what I have written in this letter? So far from being in any way ill-disposed to the Orient Company, the fact that for so many years the company employed white stokers, and was prepared to do so again in the contract with the Commonwealth Government, I can assure you is reckoned, as far as I am concerned, to your company for righteousness ; and I go as far as to say that, whilst I am strongly in favour of the Government running their own mail boats, yet if the Government does not do so, and’ arrangements are made with any private company, 1 should have been pleased to have seen the Orient Company the successful tenderer. I regret that the words cannot be withdrawn now from the report, but I will take the first opportunity in the House of making an explanation. Can you suggest anything else? I shall be glad at your earliest convenience to have a short- note from you.

I remain, Yours sincerely,

Josiah Thomas.

I received a very kind and generous letter from Mr. Anderson in answer to that communication. As I have said, six out of the eight members of the Shipping Service Commission reported in favour of a Stateowned service. A great deal of criticism has been hurled against that report, and particularly against paragraphs 4 and 5, which deal with the estimated income and expenditure of a national line. One of the metropolitan papers has declared that the figures therein given have been so riddled that it would be the height of folly to make any attempt to carry out the proposition. In’ the Commission’s report £90,000 per annum is allowed for interest, £760,000 per annum as the cost of the round trips. £150,000 for insurance, £150,000 for de preciation and sinking fund, £57,000 for managerial expenses, calculated at71/2 per cent, on the £760,000 before referred to. making the total expenses £1,207,000.It is estimated that the income from passenger traffic would be £701,900, while subsidies for mails, &c, would come to , £150,000, and the freight on State imports would return £100,000, and ordinary freights £368,000, making a total of £1,319,900, and giving a surplus over expenses of £112,900. In a criticism of our recommendations published in the Age newspaper, it is stated that “we fondly gave a mass of figures which we considered unchallengeable, and to incontestably prove our case;” but we expressly state in thereport that we had no definite and reliable figures upon which to base an estimate, though it might be taken for granted that private companies would not send vessels to Australia unless by doing so they hoped to make profits. We were of opinion that the shipping companies which have done business with Australia in the past, and are still trading here, have not acted as philanthropists. They do not send their vessels here to render a splendid service to this country.

Their object is to make a profit. Two companies - the Peninsular and Oriental and Orient Steam Navigation Companies - have been carrying mails between Australia and Great Britain for more than twenty years. Of these companies, it is stated authoritatively that the last-named has not found its business profitable. Mr. Kenneth Anderson told us that in some years the company made a profit, while in others it did not, there being a loss on its operations in the aggregate. Of course, that statement must be accepted as correct, though why the operations of the company have not paid is a question which I cannot answer. Its steamers may not have been sufficiently large, its capital may have been too small, or there may have been other reasons. The Peninsular and Oriental Company, on the other hand, has been highly prosperous, and, for a great number of years, has done exceedingly well. There are some who say that it makes its profits, not on its Australian trade, which is unprofitable, but on its tradewith India and China, though I venture to think that it must be assumed that the Australian trade is not unprofitable, because a company would rather make larger profits on a smaller tonnage than smaller profits on a larger tonnage.It may, however, be accepted as an axiom as true as the assertion that the whole is greater than its part, that the mail companies doing business with Australia either have made, or are making, or hope to make, profits. If the business of the mail companies had been wholly unprofitable, there would long ago have been a big cry for the Government to undertake this service. If there were no profit in the operations of mail companies, every Chamber of Commerce in Australia would have affirmed that the services which they perform should be undertaken, not by private enterprise, but by the Government, and the ladies of the National Association would have been ready to admit that, even if the performance of these services were left to the Government, there would be no interference with the sanctity of the marriage tie, and no undermining of the great cardinal principles of Christianity. The fact that the Government has not been asked to carry on these services is evidence that they pay. The Age newspaper is a strong advocate of the establishment of an Australian Navy, of which I, too, am in favour; but that is because there is no profit in keeping up a naval force. Men of war are in themselves costly structures. They are filled with delicate mechanism requiring expert care and attention, and are practically obsolete almost before they are launched. But, according to the Age, the establishment of an Australian Navy would be patriotism. That is because there is no profit to be obtained from such .an undertaking. But directly it is proposed that the Government shall undertake a service which would yield a profit, that is lunacy. Putting entirely apart the figures which we have given, we claim that facts show that private enterprise does pay, though the assertion that the Government can do the work as well as it is now done is quite another matter, with which I shall endeavour to deal later on. For the moment, it is sufficient to contend that the mail companies find their business profitable, and, in all probability, will continue to do so. Nearly all the metropolitan newspapers of Australia have paid the Commission the compliment of criticising, the figures which we have submitted., and, of course, we cannot object to fair criticism. It would occupy too much time to deal one by one with the statements which have appeared in these newspapers, and, therefore, I shall content myself with pointing out that, while they all agree that our estimate of income is an inflated one, and our estimate of ..expenditure altogether too low, they differ entirely among themselves in matters of detail. I shall, however, refer more particularly to an article which appeared in the leading columns of the Age, since that is a protectionist newspaper, which is supporting the Government, and, therefore, argues strongly against the proposed establishment of a national fleet, and for the acceptance of the Government proposal. In this newspaper a statement appeared, on the authority of Mr. O. Gordon Wesche, the acting superintendent in Australia of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, to the effect that the estimate of £3,000,000 which we had set down as the probable cost of the eight steam-ships necessary for the service which, we propose, is not large enough, because five steamers of the Mongolia and Macedonia type cost £2,500,000. I had first .intended to ask him if he had been correctly reported, because mistakes sometimes occur, and I thought that he probably meant £1.500,000. I did not do so, but no contradiction of the statement has appeared, and it is accepted’ and quoted in the leading article of the Age to which I have referred. On the 8th December, 1904, however, in a newspaper called Fairplay whir-h is, I believe, one of the leading shipping journals of England, the annual balance-sheet of the. Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company appears, and Sir Thomas Sutherland, the chairman of the company, who roust be taken to know something about its operations, is reported to have said that the Macedonia, the Marmora, the Mongolia, and the Moldavia - all four of which are of the type referred to by Mr. O. Gordon Wesche - together with the Pera, the Palma, and the Palmyra, three steamers which are not mail boats, but average 7,500 tons each, cost £1,681,954 9s. 9d. If the three 7,000 tons vessels which I have named had been given to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and had cost nothing at all, the Mooltan, which is the fifth vessel of the class referred to by Mr. 0. Gordon Wesche, would have had to cost £818,045 10s. 3d. to make up his estimate of £2.500.000 as the cost of the. five. On the other hand, if the three vessels of the Pera class had cost £150,000 each, the Mooltan would have had to cost £1,268,045 to make up his estimate, and the other four of the same class £308,000 each. The writer in the Age newspaper, dealing with our figures, puts the cost of the boats that would be required at £400,000, though, as he accepted the statement of Mr. O. Gordon Wesche, he should have put it down at £500,000 each. I do not know why ‘he made a reduction of £100,000 for each vessel, unless it was because he wished to let the Commission down as lightly as possible. If that was his intention, I think that he failed to perform a public duty. He also says that at least ten vessels would be required. We recommend a fleet of eight vessels ; but he says that, in addition, there should be a reserve vessel at each end, to be used in the emergency of the foundering, wrecking, or temporary withdrawal, through any cause, of any of the eight. Estimating the cost of the vessels employed at £400,000 each, it would mean the keeping of £800,000 of capital idle to carry out that suggestion. I should like to know if any private company would be foolish enough, stupid enough, or mad enough, to transact its business in that way. If eight -vessels could perform the service, would a private company keep two other vessels lying idle merely to meet emergencies ?

Mr THOMAS:

– I do not know ; I guess not. Mr. Kenneth Anderson thinks that a fleet of nine vessels is necessary, and while there may be reason for employing nine,’ it would be absurd to employ ten vessels. We suggest that £150,000 should be laid aside as an insurance fund, and £150,000 as a deposit towards a sinking fund to cover depreciation. If the eight steamers started off and made no profit at all for the first twelve months, that is to say, if they merely paid their working expenses, we could immediately proceed with the construction of another steamer. That, however, would be a matter for consideration by the superintendent of the fleet. , I am quite prepared to admit that we might lose a steamer on the very first trip. ‘ If Socialism is, so bad as some people represent it to be, possibly a special storm’ would be raised by Providence to destroy one or more of our steamers. Some of us were taught that a special storm was raised by Providence in order to save England from the Spanish Armada. Many honorable members may have heard also the story about the hungry Jew who went into a restaurant, and whose nostrils were assailed by the savoury odour arising from some frying bacon. After a struggle he overcame his conscientious scruples, and enjoyed a hearty meal of the forbid’den meat. The weather was fine when he entered the restaurant, but when he emerged from it a heavy thunderstorm was raging, and he remarked, “ What an awful row to kick up over such a small sin.” It may be that Providence will raise a storm in order to cripple our socialistic mail sendee from the outset. What ever may be said against’ Government control, it must be admitted that the lives of those who are engaged in conducting Government and municipal transit enterprises, and any passengers who may be carried by them are much better looked after than are those who have to depend upon private undertakings. Whilst, as I say, it may be necessary to build a ninth boat immediately, we may assume that we shall be no less fortunate than the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, who, during the period that they have been trading to Australia, have been wonderfully free from losses” at sea. Moreover, improvements are being effected every vear, and the risk of loss of property and life at sea is -being minimized. I should like to know whether Sir James Laing and Sons propose to provide nine boats at the outset. In connexion with the new service, it must be remembered that the voyage will be shortened to such an extent that one week extra will be available upon each round trip for docking or other purposes.’ We are told by the Age that the Commission have over-estimated the receipts from passenger fares and freights, because they have fixed upon an amount representing double the income derived by the Orient Steam Navigation Company. That company having only averaged’ £540,000 per annum from passengers, fares, and freights, if we add £100,000 to represent the subsidy they have received, their total income has amounted to £640,000. Mr. Kenneth Anderson told us in his evidence that the average working expenses of one boat upon an average round’ trip amounted to £32,000. As the Orient steamers make twenty-six trips per annum that would represent a toi&l expenditure of £832,000, without making any allowance for depreciation or interest .upon capital. Therefore, according to those figures, the company have been sustaining a loss of £200,000 per annum. We may reasonably add another £200,000 for interest on capital and depreciation. Therefore the Orient Steam’ Navigation Company have apparently been going back to the extent of £400,000 per annum for the last twenty years. If this be the fact, they have undoubtedly done great service to Australia. They deserve to be treated as patriots, and’ should be very generously considered. We are also told by the Age that not only have we estimated that we shall receive twice the amount derived by the Orient Steam Navigation Company, but that the receipts from the Stateowned service are expected to practically equal those of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. The ‘passage read’s as follows: -

This is just about double the entire average annual revenue of the Orient Company during the last four years, and it nearly equals the total revenue of the Peninsular and Oriental Company earned by operations which embrace, as well as its Australian trade, a weekly service between England and Bombay, and a fortnightly service between England and Japan, China, Calcutta, and the Straits Settlements, as well asMediterranean and Egyptian .subsidiary lines.

We estimated the income of the Stateowned service as £1,300,000, and I find, by reference to the balance-sheet of the Peninsular and Oriental Company for- 1904, that their gross receipts amounted to £3,008,655 18s. 8d. When I went to school I was not taught that £1,300,000 was practically the same amount as £3,000,000 We anticipated that boats fully equal to those described by the post.masterGeneral would be employed in the State-owned service, and that they could be built for £375,000 each. Mr. Kenneth Anderson estimates that steamers such as we indicated would cost £400,000 each. Therefore, there is a difference between our estimates of only £25,000 per vessel. We sent to Mr. Coghlan a number of questions to which he has supplied very interesting answers. Among other things, he tells us that it would be possible to procure steamers of 12,000 tons, fitted with ordinary reciprocating engines, at a cost of £355>°°° each. He mentioned that, in addition to this sum, we should have to provide money for the purchase of pantry furnishings, cutlery, and so on. We asked whether it would be of any advantage to have eight steamers built by one firm of ship-builders, but Mr. Coghlan strongly urged that we should not place an order for more than two steamers with one builder. He informed us that, in the event of our ordering two steamers from the one contractor, we might rely upon a reduction of from 1 to 2 per cent, in the cost. That would represent a saving upon each steamer °f £7,000, which would be ample to provide all the pantry furnishings and cutlery required. That would leave £20,000 for the substitution of turbine engines for reciprocal’ ones. * The figures quoted by Mr. Coghlan show that we have not greatly underestimated the cost of the steamers required. Mr. Coghlan may make mistakes, but I think that every honorable member will admit that he takes the greatest possible pains to obtain “accurate information. He states that steamers such as he describes would be capable of conveying 350 firstclass, 170 second-class, and 500 third-class passengers. The Commission do not indicate in their report that this would be the best class of steamer to employ. Evidence was given by Mr. T. A. Saunders, of Perth, which appeared to commend itself to some members of the Commission. He suggested that accommodation should be provided for a large number of passengers of the one class, upon much the same lines that the White Star steamers carry passengers. He stated that the White Star line had created a traffic for itself. If we were able to fill steamers such as Mr, Coghlan indicates with passengers for only five months in the year, and carried no passengers whatever during the remaining, seven months we should, I think, do very well. Of course, we might not be able to» make full use of our passenger accommodation for even five months, but we might rely upon securing the whole of the passengertraffic now carried by the Orient Steam Navigation Company, which would haveto retire from the passenger tradewhen the mail subsidy was withdrawn. We might reasonably expect also to securesome of the passengers who now travel by the Peninsular and Oriental Company’ssteamers. Then, again, we may reasonably assume that all Government officials, from the highest to the lowest,, when travelling on business, would proceed by the national steam navigation line.. At present, when a Government official requires to pay a visit to England, sufficient money is given to him to defray the cost of his passage, and he is free totravel by any steamer that he chooses. Otherwise, we should simply be feeding one private company’ as against another. But if we had an Australian line of steamers in the fullest sense of the word, I’ venture to say that all State officials travelling ‘between’ here and England - irrespective of whether they were going; home upon private or Government business - would travel by those vessels. Public sentiment would induce them to dothat. I now come to our coastal trade. As honorable members are aware, there is a considerable amount of passenger trafficbetween the various ports of the Commonwealth. All this traffic would be thrown in to make up the five months’ full passenger trade. The Commission have set down £150,000 by way of subsidy. At the present time the Postal Department is= paying a subsidy of £120,000, and infuture it proposes to pay £125,000. TheQueensland Government makes . up thedifference between that amount and thepresent mail steamer subsidy of £150,000.. If the Queensland Government is prepared to subsidize a private company, surely it should be willing togrant equal assistance to a national* line of steamers ! The Commission further say that we mav reasonably ask the States to annually contribute- £100,000 by way of freight on State imports. At the present moment a good?

Mr Lee:

– It would entirely depend upon the price charged.

Mr THOMAS:

– Exactly. There need wot be any additional cost to the State. But even if there were an additional cost, compensating advantages would be supplied by a national fleet of steamers. The Commissioners further say that we should endeavour to obtain acargo of about 4,000 tons for each steamer each way. The . steamers we suggest would be capable of carrying 5,600 tons of cargo. Space, however, must be allowed for the accommodation of refrigerators, passengers’ luggage, &c, so we allow for only 4,000 tons. If we could annually secure £100,000 by way of freight on State imports, only another £100,000 would require to be supplied by the merchants of Australia. Would not they be prepared to grant a preference to a fleet of this kind? They loudly proclaim that we should use Australian goods as far as possible, and I quite agree with them. If there be anything in the statement that -we should purchase Australian goods simply because they are Australian, surely there is something in the suggestion that imported goods should be brought here by Australian -owned boats ! If our local merchants refuse togrant a preference to a national line of steamers,they can scarcely approach this Parliament with a request for increased duties upon certain articles.

Mr Salmon:

– The honorable member is speaking of the manufacturers.

Mr THOMAS:

– Does not Mr. McKay, of the Sunshine Harvester Company, import the steel and iron which he uses? In passing,’ I may mention that the present freightupon a good manyproducts which are carried by the mail steamers is £210s. a ton. The Commissioners do notsay that it should not be less, but basing our deductions upon the present figures we hold that an estimate of 4,000

Mr Lee:

– Not in all cases. The AberdeenCompany do not charge that.

Mr THOMAS:

– The mail steamers charge it. The freight upon fruit ranges from £3 to £3 5s. per ton. I venture to say that if a national fleet of steamers were established, there would be no necessity for the Commonwealth Government to enter into arrangements with the States Governments for the latter to guarantee the export ofa certain quantity of perishable products, because the exporters themselves would be only too pleased to enter into a definite agreement with a Stateowned line of vessels. Although the Aberdeen Company does not charge £3 10s. per ton for the carriage of butter to the old country, the evidence tendered to the Commission was that the exporters prefer to pay a little more than is charged by other vessels to secure the carriage of their commodity by the mail steamers, because of the regularity which characterizes their arrival and despatch.Inmyopinion,itwould be unwise for the exporters of perishable products to place themselves absolutely in the hands of the mail companies, because if they did so the latter would soon increase the freight upon butter from £3 10s. per ton to £7 per ton, which was the rate formerly charged. At the recent annual meeting of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, Sir Thomas Sutherland referred to the unremunerative freight at present being charged for the carriage of butter. But if we had a Government line of steamers, which would undertake the carriage of that commodity to the old country at £3 10s. per ton for a definite period, no difficulty would be experienced by the exporters in making a satisfactory arrangement. I admit that a Government line of steamers would not be able to convey the whole of the butter exported from Australia. Some of it wouldhave to be forwarded by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s steamers. I have already pointed out that, even if the income derived from a. national line of steamers were £112,000 less than we have estimated, the revenue and expenditure would still balance. I admit that the figures which I have quoted are merely estimates, and that figures can be made to prove anything.;

Even when the Tariff discussion was in progress, we frequently saw free-traders and protectionists alike quoting from the same volume of Coghlan in support of their rival contentions. But the question is, “ Can a line of mail steamers be made to pay?” If it can, the Government should run a line of their own; but if it cannot, we have no right to become mendicants by asking a private company to undertake the work of carrying our mails for less than cost price. It has been said that the Government cannot run any concern as economically as can a private company. In this connexion, I may mention that the Commission, examined the Chief Railways Commissioner of every State except that of New South Wales, where Mr. Harper represented the Railways Commissioners. None of these gentlemen can be called Socialists, and every one of them is opposed to the idea of establishing a national line of steamers. But when we asked them whether the work at present being done by the railways could be performed more economically and expeditiously by private enterprise they said that it, could not.

Mr Lee:

– Did the honorable member expect to receive any other answer from them ?

Mr THOMAS:

– According to the honorable member’s dictum, the evidence given in the opposite direction must also have been biased. Mr. Tait, the Chief Railways Commissioner in Victoria, has, during most of his life, been associated with privatelyowned lines. He has been vigorously attacked at various times by members of the Labour Party, and that fact would not predispose him to labour ideals. Yet he says -

My experience, having been engaged on what might be called a privately-owned railway for over twenty years, and for the last three years on a State-owned railway, is that the public receive fully as good, if not better accommodation and service, having regard to the circumstances, from a State-owned railway as they would receive from a privately-owned railway in similar circumstances. I should like to add that my experience here leads me to think that there is no need of competition in the Australian States, at least to keep the railway management and the railway staff of State-owned railways up to the mark, for we have the critic with us always, and in every part of the country.

It has been said that there is no elasticity in the method of determining the freights to be charged upon ocean-going steamers, and that that constituted a great trouble. I confess that when I assumed the position of chairman of the Select Committee upon Shipping I thought that, probably, there might be too much red-tapeism and notsufficient flexibility in the method of determining freights, and that these factorsmight militate against the idea of a Stateowned line of steamers. I am very pleased to say that without exception, so far as I can remember, the members of the Chambers of Commerce whom we examined, although opposed to a State-owned service,took the view that non-elasticity of freights between England and Australia, as the result of the Shipping Conference, was a good thing. Mr. Keep, who is a prominent merchant carrying on business in Melbourne, was examined by us, and, although strongly opposed to a State-owned service, said, when dealing with the Shipping Conference, and the elasticity of freights,, that -

It is an advantage to the importer to havefreights stable, so that he may know exactly what his goods will cost him before he orders them, and also that he may know that he is paying the same rates of freights as are charged to his competitors.

That was practically the evidence of ali the members of Chambers of Commerce ex,:1 by us. It must be recognised,, therefore, that inflexibility of freights,, whilst not being disadvantageous to the Government, would be highly advantageous: to the commercial community. Some people object to the rigidity of our railway freights, but if the Railways Commissionerswere able to vary them according to their own sweet will, there would be a hue and’ cry throughout the country.

Mr King O’malley:

– We should have the curse of the American rebate system.

Mr THOMAS:

– Quite so. One feature of the present contract affords mesatisfaction, and that is that, so far asthe Post and Telegraph Department is concerned, it provides only for a postal service. I have urged on more than one occasionthat the service paid for by that Department should be a postal one pure and’ simple. But I have also urged in this House that it is not sufficient for the Government to arrange merely for such a service - that whilst the Post and Telegraph Department should not be debited with thecost of anything more than the carriage of mails, the National Government should make arrangements for something more than a postal service. Practically every other country, with the exception of England, is; doing this at the present time. The Governments of Germany, France, Norway, the Argentine, Japan, and even the United States, are now entering into contracts with shipping companies to provide for something more than the carriage of mails. Not long ago, a Select Committee of the House of Commons presented a report dealing with the matter, in which it said -

That the subsidies given by foreign Governments to selected lines or owners tend to restrict free competition, and to facilitate the establishment of federation and shipping rings, and, therefore, that no subsidy should be granted without Government control over maximum rales of freight, and over this combination of subsidized wilh unsubsidized owners to restrict competition.

The time has come when the National Government of Australia should deal with this question. It was once said by a great statesman in the House of Lords, that the key of India was in London, and I venture to say that if Australia is to make, in the next decade, the progress that it nas done in the past, it will be necessary for us, not merely to be able to supply our own requirements, but to be in a position to hold our own in the markets of London. So far as perishable products are concerned, it is not sufficient that we should be able to satisfy the requirements of the few people scattered over this great Continent ; we must be in a position to supply at least some of the needs of the struggling masses in the congested parts of the old country. In order that that may be done, freights must be regulated, ‘not by a. board of directors in England, but by a member of the Government. We have in power, I believe, a Protectionist Ministry. It has been proclaimed as such from the house-tops, and I understand that one of the objects of protection is to do away with all imports. The desire of the protectionists is that everything that can reasonably be made in Australia shall be made here. I take it that there can be no objection to their contention that if it be possible everything necessary to satisfy local wants should be produced in Australia. I cannot say whether or not_that is economically possible or whether ft is a sound proposition, but I assume that ft is the policy of the Government and of the great protectionist party. Some years ago. when the present Minister of Trade and Customs was Premier of New South Wales, he attended a banquet given by a steamship company conducting a service between

Sydney and Vancouver, to celebrate, if I remember rightly, the placing of a new steamer on the line. The honorable gentleman, speaking on that occasion, wished the company all success, saying, “ I hope that you will have this boat going full of produce to Canada, but returning empty.” I trust that I have not misquoted the honorable gentleman, but I understand that the words I have attributed to him express the legitimate desire of the protectionists of Australia that we should be able to supply all our needs.

Mr Johnson:

– Quite irrespective of the’ cost !

Mr THOMAS:

– I am not dealing with that phase of the question ; 1 am simply pointing out that the desire that we shall produce everything that we need is a laudable one, although I cannot say whether or not it is economically possible of fulfilment. The point is that if that is the object of the protectionist party it must result in freights to England being increased, since there would be no back- load ing. If these steamers had to return empty from England the freights to the old world would be double what they would otherwise be. If the Government were able to bring about such a happy state of affairs as the production in Australia of all that is required to satisfy our wants, they should be in a post tion to say to the producers: “It is immaterial whether as the result of our legislation there is no back loading. We shall take care that you are not penalized by having to pay more than, you would otherwise do.” Unless they were able to take this stand the advantages of their policy would be minimized. There is one question to which I should like an answer, and that is. as to whether or not the company with whom the contract has. been made is to be a member of the Shipping Conference in England. If it is not to be a member of that conference, then heaven help it - it will need! all the assistance that a kind Providence can give it to save it from. ruin. On the other hand, if it is to be a member of the conference the position will be rather serious, so far as the people of Australia are concerned. It is) necessary -that we should have some information on this question. I am not opposed per se to the Shipping Conference, which is described by some people as a “ ring.” I am a trade unionist, and, as such, believe that every worker who fails to join a union is a fool, to himself and his family. I have no particular objection to an employer enjoying the right to join a union whatever may be the name by which it is called ; but some of the features of the Shipping Conference in England are certainly inapplicable to a trade union. In the first place it would be interesting to learn whether they keep open their books. Much has been said in this House as to preference to unionists, and the closing of the books of unions. I have been a trade unionist for years, and am a strong believer in unions, but I hold that as soon as unionists declare that they will work only beside trade unionists, they must throw open their books, so that a worker who wishes to join their union will be able to do so. I have expressed! this opinion before, and will do so again. The same remark will apply to the Shipping Conference. Mr. Kenneth Anderson, when before the Commission, was asked by the honorable member for Kennedy whether any company, by subscribing to the articles of association, could join the conference, and his reply was that it depended upon the financial backing of the company. Then, again, Mr. Barnes, acting superintendent in Queensland1 of the Australian United Steam Navigation Company, was asked by the honorable member whether any company other than the Australian United Steam Navigation Company. Howard, Smith, and Company, and the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, trading on the coast, could join the conference on subscribing to the articles of association. The reply was, “Oh, no; we can do all the work ourselves.” Mr. Paxton, when interrogated on the same subject, said that it was not a fair thing that, after all the pioneering work in connexion with the establishment of a shipping service had been completed, other companies or firms should he able to step in. and reap the benefit. As a trade unionist, I am prepared to grant the employer the same- right that I ask for the employ^ ; but if trade unionists declared that their” books were to be closed, what a howl of indignation there would be. The honorable T. C. Beirne, a member of the legislative Council of Queensland, informed us that, although he had loyally abided by the Shipping Conference - that, although through his broker he had caused all his goods to be sent out in vessels owned by members of the Conference- he was threatened1 with the loss of his deferred rebates, because his London broker had sent goods to a person in South Africa by a vessel which was outside the compact. What would the editors of the Australian daily newspapers say if trade unionists took upon themselves the responsibility of saying that, although an employer here had done everything they desired, he ought to be penalized because of the action of an employer in South Africa ? I think they would be writing their articles in the deepest gall. Another arrangement of the Conference is that a profit shall be paid, not only on the ships that are working, but also on the ships which are idle, that is, on the whole of the capital of the companies interested. If, in Australia, the trade unions were to ask that, not only shall the men who are working be paid, but that also the men who are not working shall be paid, what would the ladies of the National League say? A company subsidized by the amount by which the proposed company is to be subsidized should not join the shipping ring, though, if it does not, those who send cargo by its vessels may be boycotted by the other companies. If, however, we established a national line, the shipping companies would not dare to boycott consignors, because behind a Government are the full resources of civilization.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Is the honorable member able to say that his party will vote with him on this matter?

Mr THOMAS:

– That is not a subject for discussion at the present moment.

Mr Fisher:

– This is not a party question.

Mr THOMAS:

– I should like to know what wages are to be paid to those employed by the proposed new company. It has been stated in the newspapers that they are to be paid the Australian rates for deep sea vessels, because, I understand, our sailors do not ask for the same rates of wages ‘for long voyages as they expect when employed on coastal trips. We ought to pay those concerned in the carriage of our mails and cargo white men’s wages. We require that there shall be white stokers on the mail boats, and we should also require that they shall be, paid white men’s wages. We are determined not to wear boots, clothing, or hats made by sweated labour, and we should not allow the goods which we’ use to be carried by sweated labour. If it were necessary, in order to make a national line profitable, to put aside a subsidy equal rn the difference between the cost of paving the rates of wages adopted bv the Orient and Peninsular and Oriental Companies, and the Australian rates, we should be amply jus-. tified in doing so. If we had a national line, a great deal of money would be spent here which is now spent elsewhere. That should^ please our protectionist friends, and even the honorable and learned member for Werriwa. We should not provide that a man living in Great Britain should not be employed on the steamers, but, within a very short time, through force of circumstances, the officers, engineers, and crew would all be ‘found establishing homes in Australia. Indeed, if we paid Australian rates of wages, we might reasonably ask them to do so. With their homes established here, they would, of course, spend most of their money here, which would be more advantageous to the Commonwealth than the spending of their money in England - not that I have any prejudice against the old country, but that I think that, when the interests of Australia and Great Britain clash, we should consider those of Australia first.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Here we have a good man gone wrong.

Mr THOMAS:

– If I have gone wrong, it is in connexion with a very good cause. The Commission recommend that £150,000 should be put aside annually as an insurance fund. Of course, we touch private interests at every point. Instead of that money being handed over to a private’ company, the Government could insure its own boats. The money would not necessarily be spent here, though I shall listen with pleasure to the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Dalley in support of his proposal that the boats shall be built here. I think that it would be a grand thing if they could be built here, provided that the work was as satisfactory as that obtained in Great Britain, even though the price might be a little more.

Mr Batchelor:

– Has the honorable member for Dalley the support of his party ?

Mr THOMAS:

– The Commission also recommended the setting aside of £150,000 as a sinking fund. These recommendations raise the question whether the cry of Australia for the Australians is raised in earnest, or is merely an electioneering cry. Those who support that principle are being offered an opportunity te carry it into effect, and to bring about the spending of money in this country, bv .giving the Australian trade to Australians, instead of to English ship-owners. I wish now to briefly refer to a criticism of our proposals which has been made by a Mr. Paxton. I do not kr.ow if it will be presumptuous for me to tell the House who Mr. Paxton is, or whether honorable members all know him. At any rate, I shall say that he is a member of the Chamber of Commerce of Sydney, and chairman of its shipping committee, and, at the conference of Chambers of Commerce, recently held in Perth, he was asked, I suppose as the leading shipping expert present, to move a motion in condemnation of the proposal for a Stateowned fleet. At the time the ‘ Commission had not. presented its report, and was still engaged in the taking of evidence, but that is a mere detail. By the courtesy of the honorable member for Kooyong, the president of the Chambers of Commerce of Australia, honorable members have been supplied with copies of Mr. Paxton’s speech. It is a “whale” of a speech; but I shall not deal with his criticism in detail. He says that the Commissioners seemed to think that State-owned vessels giving a fortnightly service could carry all the produce of Australia; but we had r.c such idiotic idea, as our report will show. As a last argument, he alludes to some* thing which he alleges I said to him during a private conversation on the mail-boat. It seems to me that such conversations ought not to be made the text for a public speech ; but, although I do not remember the occurrence, I agree with the sentiments which I am alleged to ‘ have expressed, and do not treat Mr. Paxton’s conduct in repeating it very seriously. He said that the Orient Steam Navigation and the Peninsular and Oriental Companies have a rule that divine service on their boats on Sunday mornings shall either be conducted bv a clergyman of the Church of England, or be the service of that church, and that he asked me whether there would be a similar rule in force on the vessels of the proposed national line. My reply was quoted to the effect that, as’ Australia has not a State religion, we could not make it a rule that the it o’clock service on Sunday mornings should follow the Church of England ritual. I am not a member of the Church of England, but I like the service of that church, and. when at sea. unless ill, never fail to attend it. At the same time, I admit that, under the circumstances, the Government could not lav down the rule that only that service should be followed. Mr. Paxton used my statement as an argument against the establishment of State-owned vessels, because he said that without such a rule there would be three or four clergymen of different denominations each desirous of holding a service, and the result would be that the harmony of the passengers would be interfered with. The contract which the Postmaster-General asks us to ratify has been greatly boomed in the newspapers. I do not know of Any which has been more boomed. We have been told that turbine steamers are to be employed, that the Government are to control the ‘rates of freights, and that Australian rates of wages are to be paid. The PostmasterGeneral in his excellent speech said not a word on any one of those three points ; but I should like some information in regard to them. There are other places besides Australia in which this matter is being considered. Having read in the newspapers cablegrams to the effect that the New Zealand Government contemplated the establishment of a line of State-owned vessels, I wrote to the late lamented Right Honorable Richard Seddon, asking him if that were so. He gave my letter an immediate reply, the full text of which is printed as an appendix to the report. In it he stated - ,

There is no doubt whatever that there is a combination of the shipping companies in New Zealand, and the Government are determined, by legislation or otherwise, to break the monopoly. To do it by legislation is rather a protractedand expensive method -

No Anti-Trust Bill about that -

Chartering or having State-owned steamers, is, in the opinion of the New Zealand Government, the only direct, definite, and efficacious . way of solving the problem ; and if the present unsatisfactory state of things continues, Parliament and the people will be prepared at an early date to try the experiment.

The late RightHonorable Mr. Seddon’s treatment of the subject was very different from that of the Queensland Ministry, whose policy, when we wished for evidence from them in relation to our inquiry, seemed to be one of shuffle. In Natal, the question has also been raised, the following motion, movedby Mr. F. S. Tatham, having been carried unanimously: -

That, in the opinion of this House, the time has arrived for consideration of the question of establishing direct communication with England by a line of steamers owned or contracted by the Colony, and that the Government be requested to give consideration to the whole question during the recess.

With regard to the conditions to which the Norddeutscher-Lloyd steamers were subject, Mr. Kenneth Anderson was asked -

Do you consider that a restriction in any way ? - I do ; but if you have a Government at your back it does not matter much what restriction it imposes provided it is willing to pay the cost. A perusal of the N.D.L. subsidy agreement leaves one under the impression that the N.D.L. are as much a Department of the State as a private trading corporation.

This shows that other Governments besides ours are considering the question of exercising more and more control over transit services by. sea, as well as by land. We have been told that we should not establish a State-owned mail service, because no other country has embarked upon such an enterprise. If ‘there were anything in that argument, we should never effect any reforms. If our ancestors had entertained that idea, we should still have been wearing fig leaves instead of the clothes which are now a source of comfort to us. It seems to me that it is our privilege, freed as we are from the shackles and manacles of old prejudices, to be in the van of the reform movement, instead of lagging in the rear. I may not be able to carry my point - to-day. It is possible that vested interests will be too strong, prejudice too powerful, and ignorance too rampant, to permit of my doing so. I have lived long enough, however, to know that that which is sneered at to-day, and regarded as utterly impracticable, often becomes the actuality of tomorrow. I had the pleasure of introducing into the New South Wales Parliament a proposal for a national scheme of insurance for miners. The Government opposed the idea, and the newspapers were strongly antagonistic to it. I was told that if I had not more cheek than brains I would never have submitted my proposal. I, however, lived to see, whilst still a member of the New South Wales Parliament, not only my proposal, but one going much further, carried on the voices by the two Houses of the New South Wales Parliament, and I noticed in the Argus recently a laudatory account of it, and ‘an announcement to the effect that the antiSocialist Premier of Victoria intended to introduce a similar measure. I venture to say that the time will come when not merely our mails and passengers, but most of our cargo, will be carried to and from

Great Britain in State-owned steamers. It may be left for some one better able to advocate the cause to bring about the reform at which I am now aiming, but I shall have the satisfaction of knowing that I was the first to bring it under the notice of the National Parliament of Australia.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– In moving -

That the debate be now adjourned,

I desire to congratulate the PostmasterGeneral, and the honorable member for Barrier, upon the admirably lucid speeches they have delivered.

Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.

page 1457

KALGOORLIE TO PORT AUGUSTA RAILWAY SURVEY BILL

Second Reading

Debate resumed from 29th June (vide page 914), on motion by Mr. Groom -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Mr KELLY:
Wentworth

.- When I last addressed myself to this question, I quoted extracts from the reports of the right honorable the Treasurer to indicate the nature of the country through which the proposed railway would pass, and also to ‘show the intimate relationship which the survey proposal bore to the eventual construction of the line. Now that, the courtesy of honorable members has permitted me to continue my remarks, I find that I am not in a position to guarantee the correctness of my right honorable friend’s none too satisfactory accounts of the territory north of the Australian Bight. I absolutely agree, however, with the view that if we pass this Bill we shall pledge ourselves to the construction of the line in the event of the estimates of the cost of construction and the annual loss upon the working of it not being proved incorrect. The survey of a railway is surely the initial stage of its construction.

Mr Webster:

– Not necessarily. It may prove to be the death of the line.

Mr KELLY:

– I say that, unless the estimates of the cost of construction and the annual loss upon the working of the line are proved to be too low, we shall, by passing this Bill, have taken one of the preliminary steps towards the construction of the railway.

Mr Page:

– That is absolutely correct.

Mr Webster:

– Without a survey we shall have nothing to guide us.

Mr KELLY:

– We have the reports that have already been presented to Parliament. Knowing how closely associated the proposal for the survey is with that for the construction of the line, it is our duty to examine carefully the whole railway scheme. If honorable members think that a capital outlay of £4,500,000, together with a yearly deficit of £70,000, is too much to pay for the travelling convenience of a small section of the Australian public, I trust that they will declare against the railway at this stage, instead of supinely puttingoff their decision until three years hence. Are we so fabulously, wealthy that we can afford to throw £25,000 up the spout? Honorable members should face the position. The outside public will ask why their funds should be wasted, and they will not be satisfied when they are told that honorable members have not the courage of their convictions, or have been log-rolled into temporary complaisance.

Mr Webster:

– The honorable member voted in favour of the proposal.

Mr KELLY:

– On the last occasion that a similar Bill was before the House I explained that I would vote for the second reading, in order to give the representatives of Western Australia an opportunity of proving the soundness of their statement that the line would pay. I said -

I voted originally for the consideration of the measure, and afterwards for the second reading, because I wished to test in Committee the question which is at the bottom of my amendment. I have voted for the Bill so far, although I am opposed to the construction of the railway, because I wish now to prove whether or not the Western Australian representatives think that the verdict of the survey will be favorable to the construction of the line. . I merely wish now to ascertain whether the representatives of Western Australia are prepared to back their opinion that the railway will prove a great success as a business undertaking. I move -

That the following proviso be added : - “Provided that the States of Western Australia and South Australia, collectively, or individually, undertake to refund to the Commonwealth the cost of this survey, in the event of the Commonwealth not deciding within two (2) years of the completion thereof to construct the said railway.”

When my amendment was lost, I took up the position which, so far as the railway is concerned, I have always maintained, and I opposed the Survey Bill with all my strength. Honorable members who, after hearing that statement read, insinuate that I have changed my views with regard to the proposed railway will insinuate anything. I am rather disappointed to hear that certain remarks have fallen from the Treasurer, who, I understand, recently told his friends in Western Australia that one of the reasons why he severed that close association which he formerly enjoyed with the right honorable member for East Sydney was that the right honorable gentleman was not sufficiently energetic on the question of the transcontinental railway line.

Sir John Forrest:

– I have not been in Western Australia lately, and I have not made any such statements.

Mr KELLY:

– I accept my right honorable friend’s assurance.

Sir John Forrest:

– I did not think that I was well treated by the right honorable gentleman at the end of the first session of this Parliament, but I have always stated the right honorable member has been a very good friend to the railway, and has always been in favour of the survey and of the construction of the line.

Mr KELLY:

– I am very glad that the right honorable gentleman acknowledges that the right honorable member for East Sydney has always done everything possible.

Sir John Forrest:

– Where did the honorable gentleman obtain his informationfrom some anonymous correspondent, I suppose?

Mr KELLY:

– I at once accept the right honorable member’s assurance, and I am glad to hear him say that the right honorable member for East Sydney has done his utmost to further the project.

Sir John Forrest:

– I did not say that. I said that he had always been a good friend to the railway.

Mr Robinson:

– In that regard, he has made one of the greatest mistakes of his life.

Mr KELLY:

– Exactly; but I am glad to have it placed on record that the Treasurer is satisfied with the action of the right honorable member for East Sydney.

Sir John Forrest:

– I was not satisfied when the measure was talked out in the Senate at the end of the first session of this Parliament.

Mr KELLY:

– For four years the right honorable gentleman was a member of the Barton and Deakin Administrations, and yet he never so much as submitted a motion in favour of the -construction of the transcontinental railway.

Sir John Forrest:

– That is not accurate.

Mr KELLY:

– Did the Treasurer introduce, a Bill dealing with that matter?

Sir John Forrest:

– I asked for leave to introduce one, and the motion was opposed.

Mr KELLY:

– Was opposition to a motion for leave to introduce a Bill sufficient to deter the right honorable gentleman?

Sir John Forrest:

– It was my Bill which passed through this House.

Mr KELLY:

– The Treasurer was in. office for four years without accomplishing anything in connexion with the transcontinental railway, and yet the right honorable member for East Sydney, who wasin office for only one year, was successfulin passing aBill authorizing the survey through this House. Because that measure was defeated in the Senate on itsmerits, the Treasurer professes to be dissatisfied. Surely he must see that, if anybody can impute a want of energy to the right honorable member for East Sydney in connexion with this matter, he cannot do so in face of the fact that he has never submitted a Bill dealing with it, although he has been a Minister of the Crown for four years..

Mr Watson:

– He is distinctly culpable, I think.

Mr KELLY:

– To-day we have an additional evidence of his intense anxiety to proceed with this work.

Mr Watson:

– What is his latest effort?

Mr KELLY:

– I refer the honorable member to the business-paper. Originally this Bill occupied a high place upon the business-paper, but to-day it was put down below the proposal for the ratification of the English mail contract. The Treasurer did not have even a kick left in him when the proposal was made to defer the consideration of this measure.

Mr Watson:

– What did the honorable member wish him to do?

Mr KELLY:

– I wished him to show a little fight, just as he did in connexion with the proposal to impose a Federal land tax. I wished him to tell the Government that he intended that this railway should* receive consideration at the earliest opportunity, and that he would not consent tohave the Bill postponed to convenience a humble individual like the PostmasterGeneral. There is one other complaint that I have to make against the Treasurer. Not content with endeavouring to cloak the iniquities of this proposal - not satisfied with attempting to gain support for it by any and every means-

Mr Watson:

– That is not a fair statement.

Mr KELLY:

– The Treasurer has actually sought to induce one’s leader to influence him in connexion with the Bill. That isa very unfair proceeding. I have been approached by honorable members upon this side of the Chamber, and have been asked to forego my right to discuss the merits of this proposal-

Sir John Forrest:

– I did not ask the honorable member to do that.

Mr KELLY:

– I think that the right honorable gentleman asked other honorable members to approach me.

Mr Watson:

– I do not think that he would do it.

Mr KELLY:

– I say unhesitatingly that a proposal which has to be “ hushed “ through a deliberative assembly is not worth £20,000.

Mr Page:

– Who wanted to do that?

Mr KELLY:

– The Treasurer, who had not at kick left in him when this Bill was placed in a lower position upon the notice-paper.

Sir John Forrest:

– Have I sent any message to the honorable member either directly or indirectly? The honorable member can speak as long as he likes so far as I am concerned.

Mr KELLY:

– Since the Treasurer has given such a flat denial to my statement, I will ask him whether he has suggested to any honorable member that it was not a right thing for me to continue talking in opposition to this Bill. Did he not suggest to the deputy leader of the Opposition that he might ask me “to desist from talking?

Sir John Forrest:

– Not the honorable member particularly. I wanted to get along with the business. . It is of no use talking about a project which has already been discussed so much.

Mr KELLY:

– Then there is something in the accusationwhich has been made. If the proposal embodied in the measure is defensible, it requires no cloaking.

Sir John Forrest:

– If everything that onesays privately to an honorable member is to be repeated here, we shall have to be exceedingly careful.

Mr KELLY:

– Then the Treasurer did speak to an honorable member privately? J did not know that the communication was private, or I should not have referred to it.

SirJohn Forrest. - The honorable member knew very well that it was private.

Mr KELLY:

– After this digression, I now propose to revert to my original contention, namely, that this Bill, and the construction of the transcontinental railway, are inseparable.. I propose to deal with the reasons which have been urged in favour of the construction of the line, and to regard this Bill as one of the preliminary steps in connexion with that undertaking. Let me take the five main points which have been advanced in favour of the work. They are: - (1) That there was an implied pre-federation promise that the line would be constructed ; (2) that it is constitutionally impossible for Western Australia alone to construct it; (3) that for national purposesof defence it is necessary ; (4) that it is expedient for developmental purposes; and (5) that it will benefit the east of Australia as well as the west.

Mr Mahon:

– It will benefit the east more than the west.

Mr KELLY:

– These are the five points which have been urged in favour of the building of the line. I intend to prove that each of these points is a bad one, and that, therefore, all must be bad. I have often been struck by the ease with which the representatives from Western Australia can flutter , from one argument to another without following any to a conclusion. It appears to me that they rely more upon mere clamour than upon argument.

Mr Mahon:

– Would the honorable member mind letting us have a list of the shareholders in the various Australian shipping companies?

Mr KELLY:

– I do not know why my honorable friend asks me that.

Mr Mahon:

– There is a good reason for it.

Mr KELLY:

– Before I conclude my remarks, I intend to quote the utterances of the honorable member, and I hope to make him a convert to his former views upon this question. In order to ascertain what justification exists for the plea that there was an implied pre-federation promise that the Commonwealth ‘would construct this transcontinental line, I have carefully searched the debates of the Federal Convention. My task was made singularly easy by reason of the golden rule which was laid down by the Treasurer that he, and he alone, should speak in the Convention on behalf of the great Western State. If I had had to look up the speeches of the six delegates from Western Australia I might have experienced considerable trouble. But the right honorable gentleman felt that he alone was worthy to speak on behalf of that great State-

Sir John Forrest:

– What justification has the honorable member for that statement ?

Mr KELLY:

– Perhaps I have gone a little too far, and if so, I withdraw my statement.

Sir John Forrest:

– What is the use of making random assertions of that kind? -

Mr KELLY:

– It is not a random assertion. Not another delegate from Western Australia had the temerity to so much as open his mouth in the Convention.

Sir John Forrest:

– That statement is absolutely without foundation.

Mr KELLY:

– I cannot find a record of any speeches by the other delegates.

Sir John Forrest:

– Perhaps the honorable member does not know their names?

Mr KELLY:

– The name of the State which a delegate represented always appears after the name of the delegate himself. I have looked up the Treasurer’s speeches in the Melbourne Convention, and I find that although he spoke no less than eleven times in favour of a special Tariff for Western Australia, he never once opened his mouth upon the question of the construction of the transcontinental railway. In that gathering, he clearly expressed his conviction that Western Australia was too great a. State to live upon the charity of the other States. Therefore, so far as the representation of Western Australia is concerned, there was no preFederal promise made that this line should be constructed. The first quotation which I desire to make from the Treasurer will be found upon page 1123 of the Melbourne Convention debates. The right honorable gentleman said -

All I can say is that we do not want anything from any one; we are quite content as we are - even without a railway.

Mr Mahon:

– We- do not want any favour now. We merely desire justice.

Mr KELLY:

– Is it justice that Western Australia should step in and ask the Commonwealth to construct this railway for her?

Sir John Forrest:

– Nobody has ever asserted that there was any promise made during the Convention debates that the transcontinental railway should be constructed.

Mr KELLY:

– But everything which transpired at the Convention points in the opposite direction. Upon the same page, the right honorable gentleman is reported to have said -

I think I pointed out the other day, but I may as well repeat it here to-night, that Western Australia stands in a peculiar position in regard to Federation - in a position altogether different from that of any other colony in the group. One reason for this is that we are not able to point out, in fact no one here has attempted for a moment to point out - I hope some one will do so if he can - that Western Australia can in any way gain by Federation at the present time.

That was the statement of the Treasurer, who was the leader of the Western Australian delegation - that no one could point out that Western Australia could in any way gain by Federation. Not even a railway !

Mr Wilson:

– Thev did not expect to gain anything at that time.

Mr KELLY:

– They did not.

Sir John Forrest:

– No; but the eastern States have gained something frOm us. They have gained £233,000, whilst Western Australia has gained nothing from them.

Mr KELLY:

– The Treasurer himself did not expect to secure the construction of this railway as the result of Federation. So much for the implied promise. The next quotation I desire to make from the remarks made bv the Treasurer, when attending the Convention, relates to the Commonwealth powers of railway construction. The right honorable gentleman said -

There can be no doubt that, as time goes on, the powers of the Federal Government will increase, and who can tell what our future requirements may be ; the honorable and learned member (Mr. Reid) said that he would only approve of the construction of railways for strategical purposes, but is not every railway used for those purposes?

I commend that statement to the right honorable gentleman, who has since tried inferentially to claim that this is the only raillway that is urgently required in Australia for strategical purposes. He continued -

I can only say that we have already built our railways up to within 400 miles of our boundary, and we shall be quite able to build other lines for ourselves when we can agree with our friends to join us on the border.

Sir John Forrest:

– We have net been able to agree with our” friends at the border.

Mr KELLY:

– Exactly I am goin,g to submit an amendment that it be a condition precedent to the making of this sur- vey that the right honorable member’s friends at the border - as he describes them - shall give us a guarantee that they will consent to the construction of the line. That is the point. As a member of the Convention, the right honorable gentleman said inferentially that the only obstacle to his proceeding with the construction of this line as Premier of Western Australia was the disinclination of his “ friends1 at the border “ to meet him. I ask him to remember that fact. He went on to satisfy the delegates from the other States that, so far as railway construction - general railway construction, that is ; not this particular railway - by the Commonwealth was concerned, they would be safeguarded. He said -

There will he quite sufficient security for the rest of Australia in the fact that, before a railway can be constructed, the Parliament of the Commonwealth will have to agree to it; and it seems to me that if the Parliament of the Commonwealth lias to agree to the construction of a line, New South Wales need not be afraid - the right honorable gentleman meant, of course, to include Victoria and Queensland - because she will have a very large share of the representation in the lower House to guard her interests.

I would remind honorable members that according to the Treasurer we are here to guard the interests of the Eastern States. I wish to make a few more quotations before turning from the views of the Treasurer to other matters. The right honorable gentleman not only wished Western Australia to look to herself for her own development, but actually resisted the handing over of the railways of the States to the Commonwealth. He expressed one of his reasons for this attitude in the following terms: -

I know that in our Colony the railways are one of our great revenue-producing instruments. But that was not the reason why I voted against the proposal. I do not think any one voted against it because he was afraid of the responsibility of taking over the railways. As self-supporting and reproductive works, they would be amongst the best assets the Commonwealth could have. Taking the whole of the railways of Australia, they are not only self-supporting, but also reproductive, and, therefore, my honorable friend was altogether wrong when he said that we were afraid for the Commonwealth to take over responsibility for the railways. I would vote tomorrow for taking over all the railways of the Colonies, and not be afraid of the responsibility ; but the reason why I voted against the provision was different altogether.

I invite the attention of honorable members to this statement -

We use the railways for opening up our territory -

He was referring to the territory of the States - and giving a means of transit to our colonists, and we desire to extend them in any way we wish, at the time and in the direction where they are required, untrammelled by any other authority .

Here we have a statement bv the Treasurer, clearly showing that he did not expect that the Commonwealth would ever be asked to enter upon railway construction, even for the benefit of Western Australia. He went to the eastern States, however, and asked for certain concessions in the way of a peculiar protection for the western State. I do not propose at the present juncture to quote the right honorable gentleman at any length on this phase of the question.

Sir John Forrest:

– I did not say anything about it at the Convention. I spoke of something else.

Mr KELLY:

– It is clear that the right honorable gentleman did not anticipate that the Commonwealth would be asked to construct this railway. ‘

Sir John Forrest:

– This proposal has nothing to do with what I said about other matters at the Convention.

Mr KELLY:

– The Treasurer paid the greatest attention to. the demand for a special Tariff for Western Australia, but perhaps I should be out of order in quoting his remarks on that subject. So far from his attending the Convention with a desire to make the views of Western Australia in regard to this railway heard, his only anxiety seemed to be to get away from it. On many occasions he complained of the protracted nature of the proceedings, so that it was not. because of want of time that this matter was not brought befo’re the Convention. Indeed the contrary appears to be the fact, since the right honorable gentleman said at one of the sittings

We have devoted too much time to this subject - a certain subject then before the. Chair -

I have come a long way to do my duty, and I have not unlimited time.

He complained of the protracted nature of the proceedings of the Convention, and this bears out my . statement that it was not for want of time that he failed to bring forward the question. So much for the history of the Convention. The next step taken in this matter was the presentation of a report by a Select Committee appointed by the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly of Western Australia, recommending that before that State joined the Federation the absolute authority for the Commonwealth to construct a railway in any State without the sanction of that State should be embodied in the Constitution.

Sir John Forrest:

– The recommendation was not so wide as that ; it dealt with this one railway.

Mr KELLY:

– My memory led me to believe that the recommendation had, perhaps, a more national application than the somewhat provincial one which the right honorable gentleman gives it. The fact remains that the recommendation would, if accepted, have had the effect of forcing South Australia to give up portion of her land for the construction of the transcontinental railway. Despite this report, the Constitution was adopted by the five eastern States without any such power being vested in the Commonwealth.

Sir John Forrest:

– They did not feel justified in altering the Constitution, although we all were in favour of such an alteration.

Mr KELLY:

– If the right honorable gentleman said anything at the Conference of Premiers in regard to this subject, no mention is made of it in the official record. I do not think, if he had referred to it, he would have allowed his observations to go unrecorded.

Sir John Forrest:

– At that time it was thought there would be no difficulty in -securing the consent of South Australia.

Mr KELLY:

– By whom was that opinion held?

Sir John Forrest:

– It was the opinion of -every one. It never entered my mind that there would be any objection to power being given the Commonwealth to construct this railway.

Mr KELLY:

– Was the matter brought before the Conference of Premiers?

Sir John Forrest:

– I do not think it was. It was never thought of. Who would have thought that any one State would object ?

Mr KELLY:

– If such an objection was unthought of, why did the Select Committee make a recommendation that the Commonwealth should be given power to construct a railway in any State, with or without its consent ?

Sir John Forrest:

– Because the matter was much discussed subsequently. I never thought that there would be any objection.

Mr KELLY:

– There is nothing more certain than that the five eastern States adopted the Constitution without the power suggested by the Select Committee being embodied in it, and that Western Australia herself afterwards accepted the Constitution in, that form.

Sir John Forrest:

– Because we had an assurance in writing from the South Australian Government that there would be no difficulty about the matter. The honorable member knows that that is so.

Mr KELLY:

– I am speaking from memory, but I think that the Premier of South Australia at the time wrote that he would introduce in the House of Assembly a proposal in the terms sought by Western Australia.

Sir John Forrest:

– He said that he would carry it.

Mr KELLY:

– No.

Sir John Forrest:

– I shall hand a copy of the letter to the honorable member.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.30 p.m.

Mr KELLY:

– During the adjournment, the Treasurer has handed to me a letter which the then Premier of South Australia wrote to. him on this question.

Mr Frazer:

– Who was the Premier of South Australia at the time?

Mr KELLY:

– The honorable gentleman whose loss to South Australia means our inestimable gain. - I refer to Mr. Speaker.

Mr Fowler:

– If he were on the floor of the House he would teach the honorable member a few things.

Mr KELLY:

– I hope that my honorable friend is not trying to canvass votes by saying what Mr. Speaker would or would1 not do under certain circumstances. That is hardly a proper remark. The honorable member is evidently anxious about the fate of this measure, and, on the merits of the proposal before us, has cause io be. so. But his opportunity to express his opinions will come later on, when he rises to speak in favour of the Bill. As the Treasurer seems to attach great weight to the letter, I propose 10 read it before offering any criticism upon it. It is as follows : -

To .assure you of our attitude in the matter, I will undertake, as’ soon as the Federation is established (Western and South Australia both being States of the Commonwealth) to introduce a Bill formally giving the assent of this Province to the construction of the line by the Federal Authority, and to pass it stage by stage simultaneously with the passage of a similar Bill in your Parliament.

I honestly believe that on occasions in the past the representatives of Western Australia have allowed themselves to be gagged in regard to this matter. On a former occasion, when the Bill seemed to be in rather a predicament, the Treasurer was apparently the only one amongst them who could muster sufficient public spirit to speak in advocacy of the claims of his State.

Sir John Forrest:

– They all spoke in favour of the measure.

Mr KELLY:

– I am referring to an occasion when the other four representatives of Western Australia were silent, and the Treasurer alone burst’ into angry protest. It is a curious thing that the right honorable gentleman, if he really attached as much importance to the construction of the proposed railway as his writing to the Premier of South Australia would seem to show-

Sir John Forrest:

– When did I write to the Premier of South Australia?

Mr KELLY:

– The . right honorable gentleman had a conversation with him on the subject, and apparently asked him to furnish a statement of the effect of that conversation. Had he, when the Convention was sitting, thought as much of the construction of the proposed railway as he apparently thought of it at the time of the writing of this letter, he would1 have made some mention of the matter. He was in a position at that time to know the aspirations of his own State, and yet, of all persons, he then ignored her claims. At any rate he said nothing about the construction of the line then. On the contrary, he said in Convention that Western Australia was prepared to furnish means for its construction from her own resources. But after the Convention had finished it’s work, he wrote to the- Premier of South Australia, and now relies on his favorable reply to force the will of South Australia upon the other five States.

Sir John Forrest:

– The Constitution provides that the Commonwealth shall not build a railway through a State without the consent of that State, and the letter was written to inform me that the Premier of South Australia would undertake to place before his Parliament the Bill necessary to give the Commonwealth power to con struct the railway through South Australian territory. No other State had anything to do with the matter.

Mr KELLY:

– Does the Treasurer suggest that only South and Western Australia are concerned in this project?

Sir John Forrest:

– The letter deals only with the granting of parliamentary consent for the construction of’ a line through South Australian territory, and no other State but South Australia could give that consent.

Mr KELLY:

– Apparently the right honorable gentleman does not like his pre- Federal doings to be inquired into; but I must deal with another phase of the same question. He received directions from a joint Committee of the two Houses of the Western Australian Legislature to ask for the insertion in the Constitution of a provision to enable the Commonwealth to build a line through a State with or without the consent of that State.

Sir John Forrest:

– I do not know thatthose resolutions were passed by both Houses.

Mr KELLY:

– That is not the question. The Joint Committee of the two Houses of the Legislature of Western Australia made certain recommendations, and I take it that upon them the Treasurer approached the Premiers of the other States. He conferred with them in Melbourne, with a view to seeing whether certain modifications could not be made in the Constitution. As a result of that Conference, New South Wales received certain concessions. So if at the time he had thought the matter of any importance, why could he not have asked1 the Conference to deal with the subject referred to in this letter ? He did nor do that.

Sir JOHN Forrest:

– I have already explained why. We did not think that thiscontingency would arise.

Mr KELLY:

– Apparently the Treasurer did not think that the railway would be built, because he did not mention the matter at the Convention. In the second place, he seems not to have thought that any difficulty would be thrown in the way by South Australia.

Mr Carpenter:

– He had too much faithin human nature. The honorable member ought to justify that faith.

Mr KELLY:

– I do not feel called uponto abrogate my position as a representativeof the people, and allow Western Australia without protest to dip her hand into the pockets of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, because of the Treasurer’s peculiar faith in human’ nature ! It is abundantly plain that Western Australia did not originally ask for this railway, and that the people of the eastern- States had not heard of it when they voted for the Constitution.

Mr Fowler:

– They heard of it, and indorsed it.

Mr KELLY:

– How did thev indorse it?

Mr Fowler:

– Their leading men were all pledged to support it, long before Federation.

Mr KELLY:

– Does the honorable member seriously suggest that the proposed construction of the Transcontinental Railwayby the Commonwealth was put forward in the eastern States, either at the time of the first Federal vote, or when the Constitution came to be accepted?

Mr Fowler:

– It was put forward when Western Australia was struggling to enter the Federation.

Mr KELLY:

– As a voter who took an active interest in Australian affairs at the time, I assure the honorable member that the proposal was not heard of by the masses of the people of the eastern States. It is not dealt with in the Constitution, and was not mentioned on any of the thousand platforms from which the electors were addressed.

Mr Fowler:

– The honorable member is referring to a time when he was busy spinning his top.

Mr KELLY:

– Surely the honorable member does not envy me my one good quality What is of importance in this Chamber is the views uttered, not the age of the person uttering them. The proposed construction of the Transcontinental Railway was not before the people of the eastern States when they were being asked to vote for the acceptance of the Constitution. I say that without fear of contradiction, except by the misguided representatives of Western Australia.

Mr Hutchison:

– There is no one here to contradict the honorable member.

Mr KELLY:

– Many of us have at times to speak in the absence of those who should be here to listen.

Mr Fowler:

– The honorable member must have a bad case, since not one member of his party is present.

Mr Wilson:

– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.)

Mr KELLY:

– I was flattered, if anything, by the absence of many honorable members. I took it as an expression of confidence -in my views. I am, however, extremely gratified that the representatives of Western Australia are present, and I hope that, before it is too late, they will see reason to change their attitude in this matter. I shall say no more on the question whether an implied promise that the proposed railway should be constructed was obtained by the people of Western Australia from the people of the eastern States prior to Federation. I think that the history of the case proves that there is nothing in this contention. If there is nothing in it by itself, it can have no force in conjunction with other claims. I therefore hope that we shall hear nothing more about any implied promise to Western Australia. The next point that has been strongly urged by the representatives of Western Australia is the constitutional inability of that State to construct a line on its own account. It is pointed out, and very properly, that if the people of South Australia are opposed to the railway, they can refuse to connect their system with that of Western Australia, and thus defeat the project. In order to answer that plea it is only necessary to refer to sub-section xxxiv. of section 51 of the Constitution, which empowers this Parliament “ to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth “ with respect to “railway construction and extension in any State,” but only “ with the consent of that State.” It is obvious from this that this Commonwealth is in the same unfortunate position as is the ‘‘State of Western Australia. We could not take any of the steps preliminary to the construction of the line without the consent of the State, and it is, therefore, selfevident that Western Australia has no claim upon us, owing to her being placed under a special disability in the matter referred to. The next point urged bv its supporters is that the railway is necessary for the purposes of national defence. We are told that the eastern States must be free to help Western Australia if command of the seas is lost. I desire honorable members to treat this question in the same way that I have asked them to deal with the other points brought forward in favour of the construction of the railway. If the argument with regard to the defence aspect of the question is good at all, it must rest absolutely upon its own merits. I would first ask honorable members whether the expenditure of £4,500,000 upon the construction of a railway through a waterless and inhospitable waste would be justified in ‘the interests of Australian defence? We have been told that the first essential to our defence is sea command. If command of the sea is absolutely assured, Western Australia, in common with all other States, is safe. If we spent £4,500,000 upon increasing Imperial naval strength, we should probably place our command of the seas beyond all question, and thus insure the safety of the Commonwealth. I want to know, however, how the pouring of £4,500,000 into the desert would help the people of Australia, or the people of the Empire, to retain a command of the seas - a command which absolutely underlies the whole problem of Australian defence. In dealing with defence, we should discuss the questions relating to it in the order of their importance. I have dealt with the subject of sea command, and the next in order of importance is population. I would ask the Treasurer how an addition of £4,500,000 to the already overwhelming debt of Australia would offer additional inducements to persons abroad to come here and settle on the land? Obviously, it would do nothing of the kind, and I think I have shown plainly that the construction of the railway cannot be permitted to enter into our consideration of defence matters. Western Australia is safeguarded from invasion from oversea, not by the mere handful of people who live in the’ south-eastern corner of this Continent, but solely by the naval power of the great Empire of which Australia is only a small section. If command of the seas were once lost, the eastern States could not possibly succeed in repelling an invasion in the west. Honorable members may ask whether we would not do something to help Western Australia. That reminds me of the remark of MajorGeneral Sir Edward Hutton in answer to a question addressed to him by the Treasurer as to whether the proposed railway would be useful to Australia from the defence point of view. He said that he did not think it would be of much use to construct a railway if we had not the troops to send across to Western Australia.

Sir John Forrest:

– He stated that our troops were not sufficiently equipped, but we are getting over that difficulty now.

Mr KELLY:

– I think that my memory is to be relied on, even if his version be correct. It must be plain to the Treasurer that if we are to spend money upon defence, the first object of our solicitude should not be a desert railway, but the equipment of our men.

Sir John Forrest:

– We have a million of men capable of bearing arms.

Mr KELLY:

– Even so, we could not repel an invading force in Western. Australia if we lost command of the seas. ‘ If the railway was built, and an enemy had command of the seas, it would cost us an enormous sum of money to transfer a force, with the necessary equipment, from the eastern States to Western Australia. It would probably cost us £5 per ton for freight, and a large sum per head for the conveyance of our soldiers, whereas the enemy could forward his munitions to the seat of war at a cost of, perhaps, only 15s. per ton. What would be most likely the outcome of a struggle between our 4,000,000 people and, say 60,000,000 people overseas, under such conditions as I have indicated? The answer is obvious. Owing to the vastness of our territory, and the fact that we are a mere handful of people, we have no defence against external aggression unless we retain command of the seas. The’ railway can be of no .possible assistance to us as an element in our arrangements for defence. Now I propose to deal with another argument that has been brought forward in favour of the proposed railway. I refer to the alleged national expediency of its construction for development purposes. If we desire to spend our money to the best advantage, we should first develop the country that is likely to prove most valuable. We are now asked1, however, to first select a desert which absolutely appalled the Treasurer when he cast eyes upon it. If we searched Australia through we should not be able to find any more dismal and unpromising tract than that through which the railway would pass.

Mr Fowler:

– It is no more dismal or unpromising than the Riverina country appeared fifty years ago.

Mr KELLY:

– The honorable member is making a most extravagant statement. I would appeal to the honorable member for Cowper, or to the honorable member for Canobolas, to say whether they could not find within their constituencies large areas of land, without the services of a railway, which would be infinitely more worthy of development than country such as that through which the proposed railway would pass. I think it will be clear to honorable members that if the taxpayers of Australia are called upon to shoulder the burden of constructing this line for the advantage of the people of Western Australia, and of a few residents of South Australia, they will to that extent be prevented from developing their own territory. The very basis of the Constitution under which we are working; is that each State shall concern itself with its own railway administration. If four of the States have super-imposed upon them the burden of looking after the railway extension of Western Australia, their taxpayers will be so much less able to compass the development of those States. They have territory which is worthy of development, and which demands railway extension. There are many paradises in Australia, and we should endeavour to make them accessible rather than vainly try to make what I might almost call a “ hell” like the Western Australian desert, reproductive. The facts which I have adduced completely dispose of the plea that the construction of this line would be a national benefit, because of the country that it would develop. I propose now to deal with the last of the main contentions which have been put forward. We have been assured that this line would benefit the eastern States as well as Western Australia. Indeed, the honorable member for Coolgardie declared that it would benefit the eastern States of the Commonwealth more than it would Western Australia. It is a curious feature in connexion with this aspect of the question, that those in the eastern States who are most concerned in securing the gold-fields’ market for their produce have all along advocated the construction of the Esperance Bay line of railway, which, if carried out, would kill the proposal contained! rn this Bill. At a later stage. I intend to test the feeling of the House by submitting, an amendment, making it a condition precedent to the passing of the Bill, that Western Australia shall consent to the construction of the Esperance Bay railway. The honorable member for Coolgardie, who is now an advocate of this Bill of no mean, ability, has fortunately nut upon record in Hansard his opinion of the necessity for the construction of that railway Speaking in _ this House on the 9th October, 1902, he said -

Early last month I directed the attention of the leader of the Government to the burden placed on trade between the eastern States and the Western Australian gold-fields, by the refusal of the Western Australian Government to give the gold-fields access to their nearest seaport. In reply to a series of questions then addressed to him, the honorable gentleman intimated that the question was one to be determined by the proposed Inter-State Commission, and that section 102 of the Constitution could hardly be relied upon to cover the case mentioned by me. It is my duty to combat that view, and I submit for the acceptance of this House the following proposition : - “ That the construction of a railway between Esperance and Coolgardie, or some other point on the eastern gold-fields of Western Australia, is essential to the ‘ absolute freedom’ of Inter-State trade contemplated by the Constitution.”

He then proceeded to argue most clearly that the refusal of the Western Australian Government to construct this cheap means of trade transit to the gold-fields was an indirect infringement of the Constitution. As evidencing that he did not speak without a certain amount of heat upon this question, I quote the following passage : -

But the time has r.ow arrived when this Parliament should be prepared to listen sympathetically to complaints from a minority in any State who are being cheated out of the chief benefit which they expected would follow from the Federal union. 1

The benefit to which he alluded was InterState free-trade, which he maintained could not be secured until the Esperance Railway had been constructed. He continued -

What are known as the Eastern or Coolgardie gold-fields embrace an area of about 450 miles from north to south, and of about 250 miles from east to west; Their southern fringe is little more than too miles from the ocean at Esperance, where there already exists a safe and commodious harbor. This port is about 220 miles from the main centre of population on the goldfields, and is some 600 miles nearer than Fremantle to the eastern States. Fremantle lies to the extreme west, nearly 390 miles from Kalgoorlie. The whole of the passenger and goods traffic from the eastern States is thus carried some 600 miles by sea beyond the port nearest to its destination, and must then undergo an extra land carriage of 170 miles. For more than seven years’ the people have continuously agitated for the connexion of the goldfields with Esperance by Tail. Every appeal has been ignominiously rejected by the Western Australian Parliament, whose latest act is the refusal of a Royal Commission to investigate the merits of the proposed railway.

I ask honorable members to pay particular attention to the statements of the honorable member for Coolgardie.. When he assures us that for seven years the people of the gold-fields have continuously agitated for the construction of the Esperance line we may accept his statement without any qualification whatever. He goes on to say -

That refusal imposes upon every passenger and every ton of goods from the eastern States an extra haulage of 800 miles.

He further says -

This extra and unnecessary haulage, the cost of which is the clear equivalent of au import duty, is in flat ‘contravention of section 92 of the Constitution, which declares that “ trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.”

He went on to quote precedents which I do not deem it necessary to recapitulate - they are all set out in Hansard - showing the judgments bearing upon this question which have been given in the United States. He then proceeded to advance a number of other arguments in favour of the construction of the Esperance line, and he actually appealed’ to the Commonwealth to override the State authority in this connexion. I ask the Treasurer whether he thinks the people of Western Australia would consent to the Commonwealth undertaking the construction of the Esperance railway ? I hope that he will be able to enlighten us upon that subject, because it is one which is very vital to this discussion. I am afraid that the right honorable gentleman who. is so prone to interrupt when his voice is not altogether necessary is unable to reply to my ‘ question. The honorable member for Coolgardie actually went on to argue that the mere difference between a tramway and a railway would enable the Federal authority to construct the Esperance line without violating that section of the Constitution which prevents the Commonwealth from building a railway through any State without first having obtained the consent of that Slate. He urged that the authority of the Western Australian Government should be over-‘ ridden in order to give the inhabitants of the gold-fields simple justice. Nobody knows better than does the Treasurer that if we were to abandon the proposal to construct the Transcontinental Railway, so as to enable the inhabitants of the gold-fields to obtain cheap supplies bv the building of the Esperance railway, the Parliament of Western Australia would be against us. That State would then talk of seceding from the Union because the views of its coastal districts were likely to be overridden for the benefit of the people of the gold-fields.

The honorable member for Coolgardie further ,said -

Two objections are urged against the construction of the line. The first is, that Esperance is not a safe harbor ; and, second, that the railway would not be a commercial success. If either of these objections were sound, the proposal might be at once dismissed.

In view of the statement which he made inconnexion with the Esperance line, I hope - now that we are able to show him that the ‘construction of the Transcontinental Railway would result in an annual deficiency of £70,000 - he will assist us to successfully oppose this Bill. He continued -

Esperance harbor is completely landlocked, and is approached by a surveyed, well-defined channel, from 20 to 60 fathoms deep. During his visit in May, 1898, Sir John Forrest, the then Premier, is reported to have said, “He was well pleased with their harbor. He thought it an excellent one, and very little was left to be desired in its accommodation. They had a very good start to become one of the chief ports of the Colony.”

At a later stage I hope to afford the Treasurer an opportunity of proving the value of the protestations which he made upon that occasion. The honorable member for Coolgardie continued -

Let us leave mails, trade, and traffic out of the question, and consider the matter as it affects humanity. Here is a community of 50,000 people occupying a new territory destitute of any natural attraction, parched during nearly half the year by the fierce heat of a semitropical latitude. Water there is none, except what may be conserved or obtained by condensation.

Mr Mahon:

– There is now a’ river of water up there.

Mr KELLY:

– Is the honorable member satisfied with that? Is he no longer an advocate of the Esperance line?

Mr Mahon:

– I desired merely to correct the honorable member. I am not answering questions just now.

Mr KELLY:

– Certainly not that question ! The honorable member said -

Water there is none, except what may be conserved or obtained by condensation. Food is at what would here be regarded as famine prices. The people live in tents or iron buildings, which offer little or no resistance to the heat and dust storms. They are ill-supplied with schools, and entirely destitute of the means of recreationavailable in cities. Conceive the sufferings of little children growing up under such hard conditions, and amid so much unavoidable discomfort. They are chained to the sunbaked plains, though within a few hours journey of the seaboard. The monotony of their lives must not be broken by a glimpse of the ocean, nor by a gambol in its surges, because the railway which would bring them to the coast might damagevested interests in Perth and Fremantle.

That, I suppose is the fear of the Treasurer - r

I ask, must land values in the capital be kept up, even if the price be the lives of little children, who pine away for lack of the recuperating breezes of ocean and mountain top.

I commend that statement) to the Treasurer. The. honorable member for Coolgardie went on to say that -

It has been shown conclusively, I hope, that the refusal of this railway so outrages the spirit, if not the letter of the Constitution, as to demand soon or late decisive action by the Commonwealth, and that a gross injustice is being thereby inflicted on thousands who have laboured and suffered for the cause of Australian nationality.

The honorable member was referring to the Esperance Bay railway project.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– That was before the river was developed.

Mr KELLY:

– Exactly. The construction of the transcontinental line would defeat for all time the desire of those who favour the construction of the line from Esperance to the gold-fields.

Mr Mahon:

– Not at ali ; they are both necessary.

Mr KELLY:

– The little children and others living amid the unfortunate surroundings described by the honorable member for Coolgardie would’ have to continue to exist under those conditions. Since making his speech the honorable member has been and ceased to be a member of an Australian Ministry, and in consequence of that one accession to office he seems to have sacrificed the individual interests of his own constituents to the good of his party in Western Australia. Another par.liamentarian from the gold-fields who was. returned at the recent Western Australian elections as an ardent supporter of the Esperance Bay railway project, since becoming a member of a State Ministry, has had to think of the votes of the whole of the people of that State, and to go back upon the Esperance project. It is gratifying to know, however, that the people of the gold-fields are as anxious for the construction, of the Esperance Bay line as ever they were. I have here some cuttings from the Kalgoorlie Miner, dating from 23rd May to 19th June, which were sent to me a few weeks ago. I propose to quote from them, to show that on the goldfields the feeling is still strong on this question, although the political exigencies of great parties may have induced the representatives of the gold-fields in this Chamber to go back on the Esperance Bay pro-* posals. The Kalgoorlie Miner, which I understand is one of the largest journals on the gold-fields, writes as follows : -

The worst sample of all of evasion of the spirit of federation has been given in the matter of the persistent refusal to sanction the Esperance railway. One of the chief reasons for this refusal in the pre-Federal days was consistent enough from a protectionist point of view, that the building of the line would foster competition by the eastern States. After federation this reason, so utterly inconsistent with the spirit of union, was allowed to fall away into innocuous desuetude.

That seems to be the position taken up by ‘the gold-fields in this matter. The people there desire their produce to be carried cheaply from the east, so that the farmers of Western Australia shall not have a monopoly of the gold-fields market. We are assured by the supporters of this proposal that the Transcontinental Railway will give an opportunity to the farmers in the east, but the exercise of the smallest amount of common sense will show the folly of such a suggestion.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The Chinese wall has been extended.

Mr KELLY:

– That is so. We have it clearly shown that in pre-Federation days the State refused to sanction this line because of possible competition from the eastern States. If competition from the eastern States is what these honorable gentlemen require - if they desire cheap food for the people of the. gold-fields - I shall give them an opportunity at a later stage to join me in a proposal that it shall be a condition precedent to the passing of this Bill that Western Australia shall give an undertaking to build the Esperance Bay railway. So far as this argument goes, it is clear that the farmers of the eastern States, for whom these honorable members have expressed so much concern, would be much better served by the Esperance Bay railway, which the Transcontinental Railway is certain to kill. The Kalgoorlie Miner continues -

The opponents of the line have, since federation, been content to refuse their support without troubling themselves to give a reason. Mr. Keenan is the first to revive the old reason, ignoring the fact that Western Australia is now in federation with the rest of the Commonwealth. He explains most elaborately that the Government is taking steps to encourage land settlement, and that it would be inconsistent with the policy it proposes to do any act which would encourage competition from the eastern Slates - the States with which Western Australia is nominally in free-trade.

I commend that extract from the great gold-fields journal to the attention of honorable members. According to Mr. Keenan, a keen Western Australian, the construction of the Esperance Bay railway would prove destructive to the Western Australian farming monopoly. For that reason he is a keen advocate of the Transcontinental Railway, which would relegate the Esperance Bay project for all time to the background. The Kalgoorlie Miner of 23rd May contains a leading article on the Esperance Bay project, in which it says -

Of course the opposition from Perth and its surroundings would be very great, and there would be a hard battle to fight. Private greed and utter selfishness and indifference to the rights of others are not easily to be overcome, but still firmness in so good a cause would assuredly prevail in the end.

What sort of firmness in this good cause do we find in this House? The honorable member for Coolgardie, by inference, is prepared to make us believe that the mere establishment of that water main to the gold-fields was enough to make him forswear his allegiance-

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The type of men who nail their colours to the fence.

Mr KELLY:

– And having nailed them firmly to the fence, never get off it. The Miner continues -

Many reasons more or less plausible or more or less mendacious have been given for the downcountry opposition to the Esperance line, but not one broad and statesmanlike plea has yet been urged. Sir John Forrest, the arch-promoter of centralization, had several reasons of sorts on which to ring the changes. The newest case put forward is this : - “ The Government is now building agricultural railways in order to enable our local farmers to meet the demands of the consumers. “Local “ farmers, I ask honorable members to remember.

It would be bad policy at the same time to construct a line to enable the other States to enter into competition with our own producers.”

Is the Treasurer, who, I understand, accuses me sotto voce of “ stone-walling,” aware that this newspaper has charged him with making a certain statement?

Sir JOHN Forrest:

– I do- not care what it says about me. It has abused me for ten years or more, and is not likely to approve of mv actions now.

Mr KELLY:

– Did it properly report the right honorable gentleman when it attributed to him the quotation I have read ?

Sir John Forrest:

– When did I make that statement?

Mr KELLY:

– I am not in a position to say”.

Sir John Forrest:

– I think someone else made it.

Mr KELLY:

Mr. Kirwan is, I understand, the proprietor of the Miner, and the extract I have read is from an article published on 31st May last.

Sir John Forrest:

– I think it was the present Premier of Western Australia who made the statement in question.

Mr KELLY:

– I take it that a journal of repute would not attribute to the right honorable member a statement that he had not made.

Sir John Forrest:

– When did I make it?

Mr KELLY:

– The words appear in inverted commas.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Does the honorable member think that this has any bearing on the Bill?

Mr KELLY:

– I do, sir, because the Esperance Bay railway project will be relegated to the background in the event of the Transcontinental Railway Bill being passed. That being so we must consider what will be the effect of the passing of this Bill on the producers of Australia. The article from which I am quoting clearly shows that the producers in the eastern States could be served best by a railway from Esperance. Perhaps the farmers in the coastal districts of Western Australia are most anxious to secure the transcontinental railway, because they believe that its construction would kill off all opposition through the medium of a line from Esperance Bay.

Mr Wilson:

– Could they not be met by competition through the medium of the transcontinental railway ?

Mr KELLY:

– No/ I have made inquiries as to the freights likely to be charged, and the information I have obtained from those who ought to be able to speak on the subject is that, although live stock would be carried on the line owing to the necessity to convey it speedily to its market, all other produce would go round by sea in the ordinary way. That is my information, and it is obviously the view of the people of the gold-fields, Thev would not fight against the transcontinental railway, which would link them with the East, unless thev considered its construction would not be in their interests. The *Miner continues -

It is quite possible that the head and front of Perth opposition is that the healthy surroundings of Esperance would entice gold-fields people away from the alluring attractions of Perth. . . . As to the Western Australian farmers, they have had nearly five years of special duties to defend them from the business encroachments of the rest of Australia, and so far they have not been able to provide for the increasing population of the State.

There is a complaint that the special. Tariff about which the Treasurer was so anxious, has not effected its purpose !

Much has been said lately about the transcontinental railway, so vastly coveted by metropolitan land-owners ; but it is quite possible that South Australia would never authorize the construction of that line so long as she is directly menaced by the refusal to connect the gold-fields with Esperance. There is no reason why South Australians should not be selfish as well as our metropolitan people.

The article attributes the advocacy of this proposal entirely to the people of Perth and Fremantle.

Sir John Forrest:

– Does not the honorable member know that the gold-fields’ representatives have repudiated the statements of that newspaper?

Mr KELLY:

– Have they repudiated the Esperance Bay railway proposal ? I have read some most pathetic appeals by the honorable member for Coolgardie in favour of that proposal.

Mr Poynton:

– The owner of the newspaper from which the honorable member has quoted, lost his seat in this House chiefly because of the attitude which he took inregard to the proposed Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway.

Mr KELLY:

– I do not think so. I have here the report of a meeting held in Kalgoorlie, at which the honorable member for the electoral division of that name was twitted with having forsaken the Esperance Bay proposal after his election to this House.

Mr Mahon:

– As the honorable member appears to be so fond of making quotations, will hekindly read the passage I now place in his hands?

Mr KELLY:

– I am endeavouring to show the state of feeling on the gold-fields, and now the honorable member has handed to me an extract from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, dated 7 th September,1905. But I do not wish to enter upon an irrelevant controversy. The article from which I have been reading con cludes with these word’s : -

It is in a great degree to circumvent Adelaide that the opposition to the Esperance line has been so obstinately maintained.

That statement was borne out the other day by the attitude of the honorable member for Coolgardie towards the motion of the honorable member for Grey, affirming the advisability of the taking over of the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth. The State of South Australia is anxious that in taking over the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth shall reimburse her the money expended upon it, and construct a railway from Oodnadatta to join with the line from Port Darwin, and the honorable member for Coolgardie moved an amendment to the effect that the Commonwealth must not do more than repay the actual expenditure of South Australia on the development of the Territory. His object was apparently to deprive that State of the chance of having a transcontinental railway built by the Commonwealth through its territory. His anxiety, like that of the promoters of the scheme before us, was to circumvent Adelaide.

Mr Frazer:

– Is not the honorable member now imputing motives?

Mr KELLY:

– The motives are so transparent that I can hardly be said to be imputing them. I hope that South Australia will treat Western Australia in the same way as she is being treated, and refuse to entertain these iniquitous proposals. I have now examined each and all of the contentions put forward onbehalf of this proposal. I spoke first of the alleged preFederal promise to Western Australia, and showed that there was no such thing. I next dealt with the line as a means of defence, and showed that its construction could not be justified solely on that ground. I then showed that it is not worth consideration as a means for the development of the Commonwealth, and I have lastly made it only too clear that its construction will not benefit the eastern States. The evidence of the plaintiff having thus broken down, there is no need to call evidence for the defendants - the general taxpayers of Australia. If it were necessary to bring forward such evidence, I would adduce, first, the Constitution under which we were elected, and, in the second place, the estimates submitted to this House by the experts who were appointed to inquire into the project now under consideration. This is from the summary of their report -

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.. . . . The probable annual expenditure in working and maintaining the line immediately after construction we estimate at£114,400, which, added to in-

Merest on the cost of construction at 3^ per cent. - £159,566 - gives ^273,966 for the total expenditure.

Reference to the Constitution shows that the Commonwealth has no power to construct this line, if South Australia refuses to allow it to do so, while the opinion of experts is that it will cost over £4,500,000 to construct, and that the general taxpayer will be faced with a yearly deficit of £70,000. A further reason why the line should not be constructed is furnished by the enormous indebtedness of the various States. It is time that the Commonwealth put an end1 to piratical forays upon its exchequer. The States have been intrusted with the construction and management of railways, and if we assist any one of them, we shall soon have the others coming forward with requests for similar treatment. Therefore, we must be firm at the outset, and let it be known that we intend to do our duty, leaving it to the States to adequately discharge their proper functions. Lack of firmness on our part mav, by making each State desirous of gaining at the expense of its neighbours, be dangerous to the Union. We cannot build up a great nation on a basis of mutual suspicion and1 greed, such as the carrying of this proposal will create. We should rather endeavour to teach the scattered people of the Commonwealth that the true principle of nationhood is that each shall strive for himself, and for the good of all. Any other policy will inevitably lead to the disintegration of a unified Australian sentiment. On that ground alone I oppose the measure. There is a bar to the construction of the proposed line which the Senate very properly recognised. Paragraph xxxi. of section 51 of the Constitution prevents the Commonwealth from constructing a railway through, the territory of any State without the consent of the people of that State. Therefore, if we authorize the expenditure of £20,000 on a survey of the proposed route - probably thereby committing the Commonwealth to an additional expenditure of £30,000 or £40,000 - we may, when the work is completed, find that South Australia refuses to .give assent to the construction of that ‘ portion of the line which would pass through her territory, and we shall then be in a position at once humiliating and embarrassing. If we are determined that the line shall be constructed, we shall have to seek to amend the Constitution to force South

Australia to bend to the will of Western Australia; while, if we do not, we shall incur the bitter hostility of Western Australia. Therefore, I propose to divide the House or. an amendment which follows the precedent set by the Senate. The Senate considered this measure, with due regard to States rights, of which it is the special guardian, and adopted an amendment upon the motion for the second reading, of which I now propose to ask honorable members to approve. I move -

That all the words after “be” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ not further considered until evidence that the Parliament of South Australia has formally consented to the Commonwealth constructing that portion of the proposed railway which would be in South Australian territory, has been laid on the ‘table of the House.”

That would make it a condition precedent to the passing of the Bill that the Government should obtain a guarantee from South Australia not to offer any obstacle to the construction of the railway.

Mr CAMERON:
Wilmot

– I have already spoken on the main question, but I now desire to express my approval of the amendment, and my very great admiration of the able speech delivered by the honorable member for Wentworth. Hi’s remarks must have been convincing to any person with an unbiased mind. The proposed railway line would traverse South Australian territory for a distance of 650 miles, and I remember that, when a measure similar to that now before us was under consideration last session, the then Premier of South Australia stated that, although personally he had no objection to the survey being proceeded with, he would require to know a good deal more before he would consent to the construction of the railway. I think that we are fully justified in regarding his attitude as entirely hostile to the work. The sum of £20,000 would be quite inadequate to defray the cost of the survey of a line that would extend for 1,100 miles through a trackless desert, very much like the Sahara. If we pass the Bill, we shall probably be asked to supplement the sum provided for by further amounts, and in all likelihood an expenditure of £150,000 will be incurred before the survey is completed. Presumably, those who are favorable to the survey believe that it will be attended with good results, and that the House will eventually be asked to approve of the construction of the railway. According to my experience, those who advocate the construction of a railway always adopt the most hopeful view regarding its prospects. They invariably under-estimate the cost, and exaggerate the probable returns. I am afraid that the cost of constructing, the proposed railway has been under-estimated ; but, even assuming ‘ that the line can be built for £4,500,000, I should like to know where the money is to come from. At the very outset of our career as a Federation, the Labour Party laid down the principle, to which they have closely adhered ever since, and which has been indorsed by the present Government, that no money should be borrowed for the construction of public works. We know very well that, under the Braddon clause, we have to return to the States three- fourths of the Customs revenue, and that we have only between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 per annum with which to play “ ducks and drakes “ at the present time. The chances are that the operation of the Braddon clause will be extended, because most of the States recognise that, otherwise, justice will not be done to them. Therefore, I ask where the money is to come from? I do not regard it as at all likely that the Labour Party will forego their principles, so far as borrowing money is concerned, and I would ask them whether they expect the money to be raised by means of a land tax?

Mr Mahon:

– Hear, hear.

Mr CAMERON:

– If the money raised by means of a land tax is to be devoted to the construction of the proposed railway, what provision will be made for the payment of old-age pensions?

Mr Carpenter:

– There will be plenty of money for ‘both purposes.

Mr CAMERON:

– The honorable member evidently1 has no land. Honorable members must see that, owing to the financial difficulty with which we are face to face, we cannot construct the proposed railway. Therefore, it is of no use for us to expend money upon the survey. We know that the people of South Australia do not desire that the railway should be constructed, and, furthermore, that many of the inhabitants of Western Australia are indifferent on. the subject. The honorable member for Wentworth read newspaper extracts, which indicated that the residents on the gold-fields in Western Australia desired to secure the construction of a railway from Kalgoorlie to Esperance. Under these circumstances, it seems to me that the honorable member for Coolgardie would be adopting a patriotic course if he supported the construction of that line, rather than the project which underlies the present Bill. It is perfectly true that a former member for Kalgoorlie was rejected bv his constituents because of his advocacy of the Esperance line, and that his place was taken bv a much less brilliant luminary, but, at least, he perished in a good cause. I suggest that the honorable member for Coolgardie should follow in his footsteps, and immortalize his name bv recognising that the interests of the residents of the gold-fields would, best be served by the construction of a line to Esperance Baw I cannot understand the eloquence with which the Treasurer has painted the beauties of the desert, which he found so unattractive when he traversed it thirty years ago. I should like to know how he can reconcile his former statements with his present attitude. We know that he is an- able man, and that he is also possessed of sound common sense. He, therefore, ought to know that, representing as he does, not only Western Australia, but the whole Commonwealth, he has no right to come forward, and ask the whole of the States to engage in ar. enterprise which in all probability would result in. a ghastly failure. If I were a representative of Western Australia I should feel humiliated to come here, and plead that, although my State was one of the richest in proportion to population, the people were so poor, so mean, and so harrow-minded, that they would not put down their own money and construct the line, but preferred to come crawling to the Commonwealth. If they asked for assistance upon the grounds of their poverty, I -should be one of the first to recognise their claim. But T cannot forget the attitude which was taken up by the Western Australian representatives in the Senate only a few weeks ago, when they declared against Federal expenditure being charged per capita, and asserted that the little State of Tasmania must do the best that she could. When such narrow-minded’ and parochial sentiments are expressed by the representatives of a country which ought to be above such meanness it ill becomes them to ask assistance from the representatives of the other States.

Mr LONSDALE:
New England

– I intend to support the amendment because I hold that the proposed Transcontinental Railway should not be constructed until we have obtained from South Australia her consent to it passing through her territory. I understand that that State hasalready given her permission for a survey of the line to be made, but she has not consented to the line itself being constructed. I do not think that we should incur any expenditure until that consent is forthcoming. I want her consent, because I realize that if a line is constructed, and if the taxpayers of the other States contribute to its cost, all the advantages which can be derived from it should belong to the whole Commonwealth.If it is to be a Commonwealth railway, all the advantages accruing from its construction should be used for Commonwealth purposes. But whilst we allow the land through which the line will pass to be held practically by South Australia and Western Australia, the benefits which will flow from its construction must remain with them.

SirJohn Forrest. - We get the money from the States.

Mr LONSDALE:

– The Treasurer interjects that we get the money from the States. How do we secure it? Is it by loan ?

Sir John Forrest:

– No, by taxation. We are the same people.

Mr LONSDALE:

– Then I understand from the Treasurer that the capital cost of the railway isto be raised by the taxation of the lands of the Commonwealth ?

Sir John Forrest:

– I did not say so.

Mr LONSDALE:

– I inferredthat the cost of the railway would come out of loan funds. The Treasurer replied that it would not, but that it would be raised by land taxation.

Sir John Forrest:

– I did not say anything of the kind.

Mr LONSDALE:

– Then we do not understand each other. The cost of the line, I repeat, will be raised by means of a loan, the interest upon which will be paid by the Commonwealth.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I wish to remind the honorable member that the amendment deals purely with the question of obtaining the consent of South Australia to the passing of the line through her territory, and I cannot allow any other matter to be debated.

Mr Johnson:

– Upon a point of order, may I ask if the submission of the amendment at the present stage precludes discussion of the main proposal ?

Mr SPEAKER:

– At the present moment, the only matter before the House is the amendment of the honorable member for Wentworth. Until that has been disposed of, no other matter can be debated. After it has been dealt with, the discussion of the general question may be resumed.

Mr LONSDALE:

– It appears to me that I shallbe in order in advancing reasons why, before we agree to this Bill,we should obtain the control of the land through which the projected line will pass .We must do that if we are to secure the enhanced value given to that land by the construction of the railway.

Mr SPEAKER:

– There is nothing whatever in the amendment concerning the control of the land through which the proposed ‘ railway will pass. The only question at present under consideration is whether the consent of South Australia. to the construction of the line shall be obtained before the work is proceeded with.

Mr LONSDALE:

– It appears to me that I should be in order in discussing the other question, but I bow to your ruling in the matter. Personally, if I had submitted the amendment, I should have framed it in much strongerterms. Seeing ‘ that the whole of the Commonwealth will have to bear the cost of the construction of the line, we have a right to secure all the advantages which accrue from the undertaking. Under the present proposal the whole of those advantages will be enjoyed by South Australia and Western Australia. That being the case, surely the Commonwealth should be secured in some way for the advance which it makes.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member is not discussing the question.

Mr LONSDALE:

– The question appears to me to be a very narrow one. If I cannot debate it upon the lines I have been pursuing, it is idle for me to discuss it at all I shall certainly not vote for the construction of the line until the Commonwealth is afforded some substantial security. Regarding the manner in which the necessary money should be raised, I would suggest that there are a couple of honorable members in thisHouse who would be able to procure it in a very simple fashion. I refer to the honorable member for Perth and the honorable member for Brisbane. We might adopt their scheme for raising the necessary amount by means of a note issue.

Mr WILSON:
Corangamite

– After the exhaustive speech of the honorable member for Wentworth, we may fairly say that the question of the desirability of authorizing the survey of the proposed transcontinental railway has been thoroughlydiscussed. I fail to see how we can reasonably proceed any further with the Bill, unless the amendment which he has submitted is agreed to. But before discussing that question, I should like to direct your attention, sir, to the fact that a quorum is not present. [Quorum formed.’] I was pointing out that the House was placing itself in a ridiculous position by authorizing expenditure upon a survey of the proposed line before the principal condition under which that line can be constructed, has been complied with. As the honorable member for Wentworth has pointed out, the preliminary survey may possibly cost £100,000 before it has been completed. That money, which has to be contributed by the whole of the States, would be absolutely wasted if South Australia .refused her consent to the construction of the line through her territory. That is the crucial point in connexion with this Bill. If the South Australian Government refused its consent to the line traversing its. territory, enmity would undoubtedly be created between that State and Western Australia. On the other hand, South Australia might be asked by this House to put its hand to something which might prove very costly. That State will have to bear a large share of the annual loss upon this railway, because there can be no doubt that its construction will involve a large annual loss. Prom the report of the engineers, I gather that that loss for the first ten years of its construction is computed at £86,696.

Mr Poynton:

– Upon a point of order, I desire to know whether the honorable member is in order in discussing the cost of the- proposed line?

Mr SPEAKER:

– I was not listening at the moment, but if the honorable member went beyond the scope of the amendment before the Chair he certainly was not in order.

Mr WILSON:

– With all deference to the honorable member for Grey, I would point out that I was dealing, not with the question of expenditure, but with the estimated annual loss on the maintenance of the Transcontinental Railway, and showing that a proportion of that loss would have to be borne by South Australia. The annual loss for ten years would be, it is estimated, no less than £86,696. If the South Austra lian Government would thus incur a loss of at least £100,000, in addition to the loss of the territory required for the construction of the line through that State, can it be reasonably asked to give its consent? The length of line running through South Australian territory would be 650 miles, and that running through Western Australian only 450 miles. It is obvious that the bulk of the loss of territory would fall, not upon Western Australia, but upon South Australia, whilst the actual loss on the working of the line would be borne on a population basis by all the States. South Australia has had a bitter experience of desert lines. Honorable members are aware that she has at the present time a line running through the desert to Oodnadatta, and it seems to me that if South Australia is to be guided bv her experience in that regard, she is unlikely during the present century to consent to make such a sacrifice as the construction of this line would involve. When the people of Australia generally become apprised of the true position, they will be hostile to the project. We have to consider the character of the land in South Australia through which this line would! pass. It is difficult to obtain any information on the subject, except from the report of the engineersinchief who made the preliminary survey, but the Treasurer has given to “posterity some particulars df the country on the Western Australian side.

Mr SPEAKER:

– That has nothing to do with- the question.

Mr WILSON:

– The extent of the sacrifice to be made bv South Australia depends entirely on the nature of the country which she will be asked to hand over to the Commonwealth. If the land required for the purposes, of this line were worth £40 an acre the sacrifice would be enormous, whereas if it were worth only Jd. per acre it would be a mere nothing. I have no doubt that the people of Western Australia think that an expenditure of a million of money is worthy of consideration, although it mav be nothing to the Treasurer, who has so often asked, “ What is a million ?”

Mr SPEAKER:

– The only Question is whether or not we should proceed any further with the motion in the absence of the consent referred to in the amendment. It seems to me that a consideration of the reasons why the South Australian Government may or mav not consent is- beyond the scope of the amendment.

Mr WILSON:

– I am endeavouring to show that it is absolutely ridiculous to proceed with the consideration of this Bill until the. consent of the South Australian Government has been obtained to the construction of the line through their territory.

Mr SPEAKER:

– That is perfectly legitimate.

Mr WILSON:

– Quite so. I am also endeavouring to show what is involved in the proposal that a preliminary survey shall be made. If the survey prove satisfactory it must necessarily follow that at some time or other we shall have to ask the South Australian Government for the territory necessary for the construction of the line in that State. That being so, we have to carefully consider the nature of the sacrifice she will be asked to make.

Mr SPEAKER:

– That is where I part company with the honorable member. The question is not what action South Australia is likely to take, but rather what action we should take. We have to consider whether we should or should not proceed with this proposal in the absence of the consent named in the amendment.

Mr WILSON:

– I was endeavouring to proceed within those lines. Those who ask us to favorably consider this motion are seeking to place us in a ridiculous position, and are reallyacting unfairly to the people of the Commonwealth. We must remember that the cost of making this survey will have to be borne by the people of the whole Commonwealth, and we should therefore ask ourselves whether we shall be justified in incurring the expense when we have not even the consent of South Australia to the construction of the railway through her territory. The honorable member for Wentworth has mentioned the position taken up by that State. There have been some vague promises that she will at some time or other give her consent, but so far as we know no resolution has been passed by the local Parliament indicating that it is favorable to the construction of the line. In these circumstances, honorable members should not hesitate to vote for the amendment, since it outlines the only logical position that can, be taken up. Honorable members of the Labour Party seem to have broken away from their convictions. One of the planks of their platform is that loans shall not be raised for the construction of railways.

Mr Carpenter:

– This Bill is only to provide for a survey.

Mr WILSON:

– Honorable members of the LabourParty wish us to believe that if the survey is satisfactory no further action will be taken. We are the trustees of the people, and should be careful to refrain from incurring any expenditure unless satisfied that we shall secure the best possible value for our money. The amendment should be carried unanimously, for by supporting it honorable members would show that they were logical, and desired to further the best interests of the Commonwealth.

Mr GLYNN:
Angas

.- I approve of the amendment, considering that it would be regrettable if we spent £20,000 in making this survey without having at least an assurance that South Australia will consent to the construction of the line through her territory. The question of the likelihood of South Australia giving that consent is involved in this amendment, but, looking at the declaration of the policy of responsible persons in that State, it appears to me that the Government of South Australia is not likely to give it, at all events for some years to come.

Sir John Forrest:

– They will break their word if they do not.

Mr GLYNN:

-We are not going into that matter at! this stage.

An Honorable Member. - It would be a gross breach of faith.

Mr GLYNN:

– I am not to be tempted to discuss a matter that would be out of order.

SirJohn Forrest. - The honorable and learned member knows that my statement is correct.

Mr GLYNN:

– The right honorable member is always ready to throw out a challenge when he knows it cannot be accepted. The amendment precludes my dealing with that phase of the question, so that I shall not accept the invitation of the Treasurer.We ought to deal withthe probability of the South Australian Government allowing this railway to be constructed through their territory in considering whether, without the consent of that Government, we should enter upon an expenditure of £20,000 on a preliminary survey. Apart from the question of whether a promise was or was not given, it is unlikely that that consent will be obtained for. someyears.

Sir John Forrest:

– I do not agree with the honorable member.

Mr GLYNN:

– I am sorry to differ from so eminent an authority.

Mr Fowler:

– The consent might be consequent upon the survey.

Mr GLYNN:

– That trenches upon a further field of controversy that I am precluded from entering. I do not know that the probability is sufficient to induce us to agree to this expenditure of £20,000.

Mr Mahon:

– Would hot the information gained by the proposed survey be useful at any time?

Mr Johnson:

– It might not be worth what thesurvey would cost.

Mr GLYNN:

– That is the point. Is it worth £20,000? It would, perhaps, be more useful to know the possibilities disclosed by the survey of a route for a line between Oodnadatta and Pine Creek, which would be a railway connexion of far more importance than that advocated. It is not an easy sea voyage from Adelaide to the Northern Territory, but it is a comparatively short trip from Adelaide to F remantle.

Sir John Forrest:

– Hardly any one lives in the Northern Territory.

Mr GLYNN:

– We might well try to get people to live there.

Sir John Forrest:

– South Australia has been trying to do so for the last thirty years, but without success.

Mr GLYNN:

– It is generally thought, though I do not know that it is absolutely certain, that the Commonwealth cannot construct a railway through the territory of a State without the consent of that State. An experiment might be tried by continuing the Oodnadatta line northwards.

Sir John Forrest:

– South Australia has power to make that line.

Mr GLYNN:

– The point is, could the Commonwealth construct such a line without the consent of the State concerned ?

Sir John Forrest:

– No.

Mr GLYNN:

– That is the prevailing opinion, because of a provision in section 51 of the Constitution. I do not say that it is certain that the consent of the State is necessary. In America there is no such provision in the Constitution,, but there Congress has power to construct any line for the promotion of trade and commerce between the States which is clearly shown to be necessary to maintain communication. I do not know that it has been clearly shown that it is necessary to construct a line for about 1,000 miles across a desert, in order to maintain communication with Fremantle. We are therefore confronted with two problems - first, as to our constitutional power, and, secondly, as to the necessity for the line for the maintenance of trade and commerce. To vote an expenditure of £20,000 on the survey on the off-chance - which is suchas probably even Mr. Wren would not take - that the South Australian Government will, in its present temper, consent to the construction of the line, is merely pitching money away.

Sir John Forrest:

– I understand that the people of South Australia are now in favour of the construction of the line.

Mr GLYNN:

– In that case, the House should have no hesitation about agreeing to the amendment, because the carrying of it will create very little delay. All the Treasurer will have to do will be to appropriate a small part of his large surplus for the despatch of a telegram to the South Australian Executive, asking it to notify him of the consent which he says the people of that State are so desirous to give. Surely we should show South Australia the courtesy of making that request, especially if, as the Treasurer thinks, it is certain to be granted. I shall support the amendment.

Mr McWILLIAMS:
Franklin

– I shall support the amendment. One ofthe objections generally urged against Government enterprise is that less business aptitude is shown by Government officials than private persons display in dealing with their own affairs, and the amendment merely asks the Government to do what any private firm or individual would do if this were an ordinary business transaction. It asks the Government to obtain from South Australia, prior to the carrying out of the survey, its sanction to the construction of the line in the event of the survey proving satisfactory. The Treasurer has said that the members of the South Australian Government now favour the construction of this line.

Sir John Forrest:

– No. I said that the people of South Australia favour its construction. I have heard that a great change has come over their views.

Mr Wilson:

– The honorable and learned member for Angas denies that.

Mr McWILLIAMS:

– Any great change in the opinions of the people of South Australia will soon find its reflex in the opinions of the Government, and therefore there can be no harm in agreeing to the amendment. What would be the posi- tion if, after we had spent £20,000, or even £30,000, or £40,000, on this survey - because public expenditure generally largely exceeds the first estimate - the South Australian Government refused to consent to the construction of the line? The evidence which we have goes to show that the South Australian Government are anxious to bring about an extension of the railway beyond Oodnadatta, which makes it likely that they will place an embargo upon the construction of the line under consideration, and although it has been suggested that the Commonwealth can under any circumstances construct this railway, the best opinion is that, under the Constitution, it has no such power, and the gravest complications may therefore result if any attempt is made to construct it against the wishes of South Australia. As the proposed railway would traverse a greater distance in South Australia than it would traverse in Western Australia, the former State is the more interested in this proposal, and it would be absurd for us to sanction expenditure for the survey of the route while it remains hostile to the scheme. No honorable member, and no sane man outside, would expend money on the survey under these conditions. We are asked to take too much for granted, and, before spending a shilling, should obtain the consent cf South Australia to the construction of the line, in the event of the survey proving satisfactory.

Sir John Forrest:

– Even then the honorable member would not vote for the survey.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– Not on the information which has been placed before us. The Treasurer, whose business capacity is well known, would not in private life act on the lines which he is asking the House to follow. We are asked to go to the States, whose citizens are already very heavily taxed, and ask them to provide money for the survey of a railway which will probably never be constructed, because South Australia will not grant -her permission. I do not know of any such proposal ever having been brought before an Australian Parliament. So far as we can judge, from the information available to us, South Australia is hostile to the construction of the railway, and we shall have to take our chance of her refusal to allow the work to proceed. I trust that the amendment will be agreed to, and that Western Australia and South Australia .will join in having the line surveyed. When they have done this, it will be time enough for them to come to us and ask us to construct the railway. I am sure that if the Treasurer thought that South Australia would block the construction of the railway, he would not ask us to vote money for carrying out the survey, but he takes too optimistic a view of the case. Until we are assured that South Australia will agree to the construction of the railway, we should not pass the measure.

Mr PAGE:
Maranoa

– I cannot understand the attitude of the Government with regard to this Bill. If the Government of South Australia are favorable to the proposed railway, why cannot the Government produce evidence of that fact?

Sir John Forrest:

– They have consented to the survey.

Mr PAGE:

– But thew have not consented to the construction of the railway. Our position is similar to that of a man or woman causing a piece of land to be surveyed and plans to be drawn for a house subject to their being able to obtain permission to erect it upon a certain site.

Sir John Forrest:

– The South, Australian Government desire to know what route the proposed line will take before they give their consent to its construction.

Mr PAGE:

– What is the use of their imposing any condition of that kind ? The chances are that the £20,000 proposed to Se voted will be spent before the survey is more than half completed, and that we shall be called upon to spend a very much larger sum.

Sir John Forrest:

– Those remarks do not come with very good grace from the honorable member.

Mr PAGE:

– I am merely telling the truth. The State I represent would have to pay its proportion of the cost.

Sir John Forrest:

– Western Australia pays something for Queensland too. We pay for her mail subsidy and her sugar bonus.

Mr PAGE:

– Does not Western Australia, as well as Queensland, get the value for her money? I am here to protect the interests of Queensland in ‘the same way that the Treasurer seeks to protect trie interests of Western Australia.

Mr Carpenter:

– Queensland will get her money’s worth out of any contribution she may make towards the proposed survey.

Mr PAGE:

– I doubt it very much. I do not see why Western Australia should come to us cap-in-hand, and ask us to perform for her work which the other States have had to do for themselves.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I would remind the honorable member that the question before the Chair is an amendment requiring the consent of the Government of South Australia to the proposed survey to be notified before the Bill is proceeded with. It is not in order for the honorable member to discuss the main question.

Mr PAGE:

– I quite understand the position. As we are to be called upon to find the money for the proposed survey, I think that it is necessary that we should have some evidence that the Government of South Australia are willing to allow the work to proceed. Under the circumstances, I shall oppose the second reading of the Bill. From the observations that I was able to make when I was recently in Western Australia, and from the reports published in the newspapers, I believe that half the people in Western Australia do not want the survey made.

Mr Carpenter:

– That is not correct.

Mr PAGE:

– I could quote the case in which the, Mayor of Kalgoorlie-

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order. That has nothing to do with the amendment.

Mr PAGE:

– I think it has a great deal to do with the amendment. The survey might be started from the Kalgoorlie end of the proposed line, and, unless the South Australian Government permitted the work to be completed, the expenditure incurred would be so much money wasted. Unless the Treasurer can give us some definite assurance with regard to the attitude of South Australia, I shall oppose the Bill. Will South Australia consent to the survey being proceeded with in her territory ?

Sir John Forrest:

– They have said so.

Mr PAGE:

– They have said that we can spend £20,000 on a survey, but they have to decide what shall be the route. For that reason alone I think that the Government should have no hesitation in accepting the amendment of the honorable member for Wentworth.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– I wish to explain the vote which I shall give upon this question. I am diametrically opposed to the railway, but at the same time I intend to vote against the amendment, because it seems to me that those who vote for it will be pledging themselves to support the construction of the railway, in the event of South Australia giving permission to make the survey through the territory of that State. The Government of South Australia would be standing in its own light if it refused permission for the survey to be made. The construction of the railway would benefit that State, because the other States of Australia would bear the expense. I do not think that the amendment is of any value, because I believe that South Australia will not refuse its consent to the survey.

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

.- I do not desire to detain the House for more than a few minutes; but I wish to move a further amendment. I hold the view that it is desirable in connexion with the construction of any railways in Australia - and especially in connexion with any that may be constructed by the Commonwealth - that the lands upon the route proposed to be surveyed should be conserved in the public interest. It is in furtherance of that view that I propose to move a further amendment. I believe that honorable members generally are in accord with the principle which I have stated. The terms of the amendment are similar to those which were adopted by this House in connexion with, that portion of the line which would pass through Western Australian territory. The Western Australian Government readily fell in with the suggestion. But we obtained no promise from the South Australian Government that it would take similar action,.My amendment is, therefore, designed to bring South Australia into line with Western Australia in this connexion. The amendment will read as follows: -

That all the words after the word “ until “ in the amendment be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ The Parliament of South Australia has agreed that all the available Crown lands for a distance of 25 miles on each side of the line should be placed under the control of the Commonwealth, so that the proceeds from the disposal of such lands shall go towards making up any deficiency that may occur in connexion with the expenditure upon the proposed line.”

Question - That the word’s proposed to be left out stand part of the question - put.

The House divided..

AYES: 32

NOES: 12

Majority … … 20

AYES

NOES

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment (Mr. Kelly’s) negatived.

That the Bill be now read a second time.

No portion of those words can be struck out, and no fresh words can be inserted.

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

.- It is a pity that the House has not had the benefit of the opinions of the representatives of South Australia upon this question. I understood that one or two of them did intend tospeak, with a view of throwing some light upon the probable attitude of the South Australian Government towards the proposal embodied in the Bill. It would be merely a waste of time to proceed with the measure, and subsequently to learn that the South Australian Government were hostile to the construction of the line through its territory. We ought to be sure that there will be no obstacles placed in the way of a survey of the route being undertaken. We must ‘recollect that, of the 1,100 miles to be surveyed, 650 miles are in South Australia. I do not intend to discuss the merits or demerits of the proposed railway, on account of the lateness of the hour.But it would only be fair to ask South Australia and Western Australia, which would chiefly benefit by the construction of the line, to bear a very large proportion of the cost of the proposed survey. It seems to me that those States should also guarantee the Commonwealth against any loss which might occur in connexion with the working of the line. I understand that the Western Australian Government has undertaken to bear a certain proportion of that loss for a period of ten years.; but no such offer has been made by South Australia, and, before proceeding further with the Bill, it would be advisable for the Government to endeavour to secure a similar guarantee from that State. The construction of the proposed line will involve an outlay of at least £4,500,000, apart from the cost of the survey. It therefore behoves us to seriously consider whether we are at the present time justified in committing ourselves to such a huge expenditure. I do not wish to detain honorable members at this late hour ; but when the Bill reaches Committee I shall avail myself of the opportunity to submit an amendment upon the lines I have indicated.

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON:
South Australia

– As there is an evident desire on the part of the House to proceed at once to the second reading of the Bill under consideration, I will, although I had intended to speak on the general question, confine myself to a sentence or two. When the Commonwealth has determined that a railway running east and west across the Continent is desirable, I am? sure that South Australia will put no unreasonable obstacles in the way, provided there is a disposition to meet the wishes of that State in regard to route and gauge. I regret that in this matter I have to differ from the honorable and learned member for Angas. I approve of the survey being proceeded with. No one can take exception to the position which South Australia takes up. The Government have given their approval of the survey for the railway being carried out. As to the railway itself,they will consider that at a later stage, when the results of the survey are known, and when the route and gauge of the line can be determined. Of course, as to these matters consideration will have to be given to the wishes of the State; but of this I am certain, that the demands of South Australia will not be unreasonable. They will, I am confident, be of such a character that the Commonwealth Parliament, if it decides to construct the railway, to Western Australia, will be able readily to accept them. Personally I agree with the honorable memberfor Angas that a railway from Port Augusta to Port Darwin is of much greater importance to Australia as a whole than a railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– When this exploitation Bill was before the House last session,, I voted against it. Since that time no new arguments have been brought forward to induce me to alter the opinion I had then formed. The Minister of Home Affairs, in introducing this Bill, put forward the same old argument, used so often before, that some irresponsible person, at the time the Federal Conventions were being held, bribed the right honorable member for Swan to induce the State of Western Australia to enter the Union. I do not feel disposed to give a vote which will plunge the Commonwealth into an expenditure of £5,000,000 because one person in South Australia made a promise to the right honorable member for Swan to induce him to bring Western Australia into the Federation. I cannot see how this rail way is to pay for axle grease. The expenditure involved in the construction of the line, the borrowing of the money, and working expenses connected with it, will amount to quite £5,000,000, and I should like to know where honorable members expect to get the interest upon such a sum from the working of such a railway. There is no railway in Australia that, in similar conditions, could be made to pay working expenses. We know that railways cannot compete against water carriage in the transport of goods, and this line must depend solely on the passenger traffic. Is there any. member of this House sanguine enough to believe that the passenger traffic over this line will be sufficient topay interest on £5,000,000 ? Some honorable members have said that they will not pledge themselves to vote for the construction of the railway, but when they are prepared to vote £20,000 for the survey of the line it is evident that they are prepared to vote for its construction.

Mr Poynton:

– Rubbish!

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– Why should honorable members be prepared to throw away £20,000 if they are not prepared to vote for the construction of the railway within the expense which has been estimated ? The rubbish is to be found in the proposal to vote £20,000 for the survey of a railway of this sort: It is all very well for honorable members, who represent districts through which the line would pass if constructed, to support this proposal.

Mr Poynton:

– Queensland is making a little out of sugar.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– People in the other States have an equal right with the people of Queensland to grow sugar if they please. So far as this railway is concerned, there is not the slightest prospect that it will pay, and the Commonwealth should not be run into an expenditure of this kind. I am surprised that members of the Labour Party should go back upon the principle they have adopted in opposing the borrowing of money for public works in the Commonwealth. Opposition to such a course is one of the planks of the Labour platform, and if this line is not to be constructed of borrowed money, it can only be by the adoption of the scheme for making money. which has been put forward by the honorable member for ‘Brisbane. Honorable members appear to be prepared to vote £5.000.000 for the construction of this line, no matter what the surveyors say.

Mr.Poynton. - The honorable member has neverbeen there.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– I know as much of desert country as does any member of this House, and I know something of a better class of desert country than that which will be traversed by this line. I was in Western Australia someyears ago. I know something of the best portions of that State, and cannot help wondering what the worst are like! I have been on the Blackwood River, and other portions of the State that are looked upon as good land. I have been also in the Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie districts.

Mr Poynton:

– Broken Hill is in desert country.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– Never mind about Broken Hill. The place is a desert. South Australia and Western Australia are unable to open up this country, because it is of no value. Honorable members have only to consider the rainfall of the territory to be assured of that. Wherever there is good country in Australia there are rivers or creeks, but there is not even a water-course, to say nothing of a creek or a river, in the whole of the territory through which this line will pass.

Mr Batchelor:

– What is the rainfall in Kalgoorlie?

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– I think it is about 5 inches per annum. There are no creeks or rivers there until you get down to Northam. Thatsays sufficient for the country. It is proposed that the Commonwealth shall be given a strip of country twentv-five miles wide on each side of the railway, but it is country that will not feed a grasshopper to the acre. If honorable members will travel through Western Australiathey will find that there is scarcely any animal life in the State. There is very little, even of insects. All that can be found in this territory are ants and flies, and vet we arebeing asked to put a railwaythrough such country at an expense of£5,000,000 to the other States in the Federation. Isay that the proposal is nothing but a buccaneering, filibusteringjob of the worst kind. In the State of Queensland we have been suf

Mr Frazer:

– Queensland gets cash as well as credit for it now.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– Magnanimous Western Australia says to us, “You make this railway, and we willgive you some territory, but no cash. “ Then when we come to deal with South Australia we have another magnanimous State, and she says, “We will give you a strip of land two chains wide on which to make the railway “ - that is, of the valuable territory through which the line will pass. I am surprised that some honorable members from Western Australia have not submitted a word picture of the great country which will be traversed by this railway. Why have they not painted a magnificent trip across the continent from Adelaide to Fremantle, in gorgeous carriages, passing through mountain scenery, and crossingvalleys and grassy slopes? It is a wonder that they have not done something of that sort. They ought to have asked the honorable member for Gwydir to paint the picture for them. They have told us of the grand territory which they possess ; but they have never opened it up. They have taken fine care not to spend any of their money upon such an undertaking.On the contrary, they seem anxious to bleed the otherStates I say so because they expect the Commonwealth to build 1,100 miles of a railway through comparatively worthless land, I am opposed to the expenditure of any public money on a survey. because the people in the other States would -derive no benefit from the construction of the railway I do not blame South Australia for stating that if she consents to a survey being made the railway must be built by the route which she favours. Posterity would have to bear the loss upon the railway when constructed ; therefore South Australia has a perfect right to demand that it 3hall be built through the best portion of her territory. I do not feel inclined to vote any money for the construction of such a rotter, railway.

Mr Webster:

– What about the defence of the Commonwealth?

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– I do not think that we want any defence. We have already provided quite enough defence. Indeed, we have spent too much public money in that direction. I am opposed to any defence system. I am not afraid of any nation coming to invade Australia, and I do not believe in maintaining officers merely to wear toggery. I do not consider that the construction of this railway has any relation to our defence system. Certainly, I do not look upon it as a factor in the effective defence of the Commonwealth. It has been interjected that leading members of the House support this Bill. Why has it commanded their support ? Most of those who are known as leading members in the House have been in the Ministry. With them it has been merely a question of concession in return for support. That is the long and short story of this business. Those who have not been in the Ministry have been free to vote as they like. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has been hobnobbing with honorable members, and trying to hoodwink them into voting for the survey of this railway. I give him credit for his action, and perhaps if I were in his place I would act similarly. I do not blame him for trying to induce any honorable members to vote for the survey of this railway, however unreasonable the proposal may be from a Commonwealth stand-point. It is all very well for leading members to vote for the Bill, because they have got support, or hope to get it. I trust that the Bill will be relegated to its proper place, and that is the waste-paper basket. I. cannot forget that if the railway were constructed the people in Queensland would have to bear a share of the loss on its working. I trust that if the House does not reject the Bill - and I do not expect that it will - the Senate, which seems to be stronger, and perhaps less shackled than we are. will take that step. It is because our members are practically shackled that they intend to vote as they do. No argument hasbeen adduced to justify a vote of £20,000- for a survey Every one knows quite well that the construction of the railway would cost £5,000,000 at least, because that isthe lowest estimate which has 50 far been furnished. In my opinion, -£20,000 is a very large sum to pay for the survey of a line 1,100 miles long. I have had a. little to do with surveying, but’ I have never known a case where it cost about £20 a mile to make a survey over country which is practically flat, and where the surveyor could take long sights.

Mr Conroy:

– The honorable member forgets what a terrible desert it is. That is why it is to cost so much per mile.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– The honorable and learned member, as a surveyor, knows that £20 a mile is an exorbitantprice to pay for making a survey for that distance.

Mr Conroy:

– I could make a very fine profit out of it at £2 a mile.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– Yes, and I should like to be in partnership with the honorable and learned member when, he was making the survey. I have had someexperience in connexion with long railway connexions, and I know what a survey costs per mile. I submit that £20 a mile is an exorbitant price to put down for making a survey over practically flat country. If the railway had to be constructed over mountains, such as are met with in New South Wales or Queensland, I could understand that rate being charged, because the surveyor would have to take short sights in order to get his levels. In this case, however, he could take five or ten chain, or even longer, sights. Practically there is no obstruction in the way because the country is fairly, open, and free from scrub. There is verv little mountainous country - in fact, no hill of any consequence, so that no one can say that there is any engineering difficulty to overcome. There is no creek or river to cross. There is no filling or cutting of any importance to make. No argument Kas been adduced to show that any one would be justified in supporting this measure at the present time, therefore I intend to oppose its second’ reading.

Mr. CONROY (Werriwa) [10.27!- I quite agree with, the denunciations which have been hurled at the Bill bv the last speaker. The very course which is being pursued in, regard to the Billby the Treasurer, a representative of Western Australia, is quite sufficient to put every honorable member on his guard. It must be remembered that no man in Australia has a better knowledge, of the nature of the country north of the Great Australian Bightthan has the right honorable member for Swan. No less than thirty-five years ago he went over that part of Western Australia, and no one who has read his descriptions of his travels will wish to visit the place. Let us see exactly what the Treasurer has done. For four years, when he sat in a Ministry, he never brought forward a measure for this purpose. He has now been in office for twelve months, and the Bill has only just been brought forward in a casual kind of way.

Sir John Forrest:

– I was beaten only last session.

Mr Lonsdale:

– It is brought forward because there is a general election coming on.

Mr CONROY:

– -Unfortunately, the Bill is being held up as a sort of bait to some persons in Western Australia - to show them what their - representatives are doing for them.

Sir John Forrest:

– The honorable and learned member voted for the Bill last time.

Mr CONROY:

– Under very different conditions, as I shall explain. At the present time it would be highly undesirable on the part of the House to pass a vote for a survey, when it really has no intention of authorizing the construction of the railway. In proof of my statement about the character of the country!, I might instance the sum. which the Minister in charge of the Bill has put down as likely to be the cost of levelling. I suppose that every one knows that through, agreat part of South Australia and central New South Wales, the regular charge for levelling is £2 a mile, and out of that rate men pay for the equipment of their camp, and make a profit ranging from £500 to £1,500, or £2,000 per annum.

Sir John Forrest:

– Is the honorable member speaking of levelling in connexion with railway surveys?

Mr CONROY:

– I would undertake to level the whole country, from Coonamble to Oodnadatta, and to make a handsome profit at £2 per mile.

Sir John Forrest:

– I do not think that the honorable and learned member could -do so.

Mr CONROY:

– There would be a big margin to work upon. The right honorable gentleman knows that between those points I should not go beyond a gradient of 1 in 50. So far as the bulk of that country is concerned, the gradient would, perhaps, be only 1 in 1,000, and one could take sights of 10, 20, or 30 chains each. The average would be 10-chain’ sights. I have been able to level 10 miles a day in country similar to that through which this line would pass, and 10 miles a day, at £2 per mile, would mean a handsome profit. The Treasurer, however, has asked that a sum of £20 per mile shall be allowed for this work, and probably that amount will not be sufficient, since the moment one leaves the coast one has to carry water on camels. That proves the nature of the country through which this line would pass. Long ago I took up country to the north of Eucla.

Mr Webster:

– Would it cost much to make a search for minerals along the route, and to report?

Mr CONROY:

– It would cost many lives; just as many lives were lost in prospecting for gold in Western Australia before it was found there.

Mr Hutchison:

– There is a gold-field along the proposed route; I refer to Tar-

Coola.

Mr CONROY:

– That is a good deal to the north of the proposed route. The fact that the Treasurer is compelled to ask the House to vote £20 per mile to carry out this work, instead of £2 or £3 per mile, is a striking commentary on the character of the country throughwhich the proposed line would run.

Sir John Forrest:

– I have consulted engineers, and several honorable members agree with them that the amount is, if anything, too small. ,

Mr CONROY:

– I should say that it is. In view of the difficulty of procuring water, I should be sorry to recommend any man to undertake the work at £20 per mile.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– The honorable member is making the country appear really worse than it is.

Mr CONROY:

– I am not quarrelling with the amount which we are asked to vote ;I think that it is insufficient.

Mr Hutchison:

– A man made the overland journey on a bicycle.

Mr Fowler:

– I know a man who brought his stock over, and he told me thai they were in better condition at the end of the journey than when they started. 1484 Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta [REPRESENTATIVES.] Railway Survey Bill.

Mr CONROY:

– Probably they kept withinfive miles of the coast.

Mr Fowler:

– No.

Mr CONROY:

– I do not know any other point, except north of Eucla, at which the overland journey could be made.

Mr Poynton:

– The honorable and learned member has never been there.

Mr CONROY:

– There are patches of rich soil, but the trouble is that there is practically no rainfall. There is no water available.

Sir John Forrest:

– The honorable and learned member has never been there, while other people who recommended the proposal have.

Mr CONROY:

– I have travelled over miles of similar country, and am accepting the Treasurer’s own description of the route. If it be an accurate one, a worse desert does not exist.

Sir John Forrest:

– The honorable and learned member is absolutely wrong. He should read what Mr. Muir, who wan there the other day, has to say on the subject.

Mr CONROY:

– No one is disputing the existence of large tracts of fairly good country along the proposed route, but the trouble is that they are destitute of water. Another objection is that, if this railway were constructed, it would enter into competition with the suggested line of Commonwealth steamers.

Sir John Forrest:

– That is a splendid argument.

Mr CONROY:

– Does the right honorable gentlemanthink that if the Commonwealth established a line of steamers it would be prepared to run through a barren country a railway which admittedly would not pay. Does he think that it is going to expend £4,000,000 on the construction of a line that would enter into direct competition with a State-owned line of steamers, and would not even return 1 per cent.

Sir John Forrest:

– The honorable member last session voted for the second reading of the Bill.

Mr CONROY:

– But I have since secured a great deal more information on the subject. It was not suggested at that time that we should spend £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 on a Commonwealth line of steamers. It is perfectly certain that if the proposal of the honorable member for Barrier is to be carried into effect honorable members who favour it cannot be in earnest in supporting the Bill now before us.

Mr Fowler:

– Why not? Is there not room for both ?

Mr CONROY:

– No; and even if there were, there is certainly not sufficient funds at our disposal to carry out both schemes. Without pledging myself to the course that I shall adopt in future, I may say at once that there are far more arguments in favour of our assuming control of a line of steamers than there are in support of this project. There is no question that the one might return full interest on the money expended, while the other would obviously not do so. Sometimes we are not absolutely free to vote as we please.

Mr Webster:

– What ! Not on the Opposition side of the House?

Mr CONROY:

– Nor on any other side. There are occasions when honorable members rely to a large extent upon the statements of others. When this Bill was previously before us I said that I would be prepared to vote for it, but I was careful to say that 1 should not commit myself in any way to the construction of the railway itself.

Mr Fisher:

– Does the honorable member think that this Bill commits us in any way ?

Mr CONROY:

– I am inclined to think, in view of the many votes on this question, that we are committing ourselves much further than was first intended.

Mr Fisher:

– It is said that the Bill commits us in no way.

Mr CONROY:

– I have come to the conclusion that, under the circumstances, my previous vote was rather a mistake, and that, in view of the extra information furnished to us, it is not desirable to hold out a sort of promise not likely to be fulfilled. It is clear that we should at. least have to ask South Australia and Western Australia, to construct branch lines; and Western Australia would not be likely to grant such a request. But it is clear that it would be ridiculous to construct the main line without the opportunity to connect with one or two of the only ports on that coast. Three years ago I was somewhat in favour of granting a sum for the survey.

Sir John Forrest:

– That is only eighteen months ago.

Mr CONROY:

– At that time, however, I wasquite unacquainted with the developments in mechanical traction that had, and have since, taken place. The improvements have been so great in this respect that we- hear of loads being carried on the road at as low a rate as 2d. per mile.

Mr Tudor:

– What weights are carried at that rate?

Mr CONROY:

– At that rate loads of 10 tons have been carried at a pace of 51/2 miles an hour, and lighter loads at 7 miles an hour. In support of what I say, I refer honorable members to a supplement to the Commercial Motor, an English publication, in which the results of this road traffic are shown to be really surprising. There are, for example, omnibuses, themselves a tremendous weight, which each carry from thirty-four to fifty passengers, and run 100 to 120 miles a day, and there are steam waggons employed on the road, and travelling 50 miles a day regularly, at a speed of from 5 to 12 miles an hour. In the face of these facts we may be prepared for great developments in this direction in a country like Australia. If produce can be carried in this way, it is clear that road traction, except where there is very great traffic, may to a large extent take the place of light railways. These mechanical tractors are able to call at farms, and then return to the road and resume their journey, and some of the heavier lorries are so constructed that flanges may be placed on them with little or no trouble when they reach the railway line, and, being of the proper gauge, they can be attached to a train without in the least disturbing the load. Under these circumstances, it is quite clear that many of us who on the previous occasion were able to support a proposal of this kind cannot give a similar vote on the present occasion. Even the advocates of this railway only look to the passenger traffic : and we must remember that at the present time, as atParis the other day, motor cars are running on ordinary roads atnearly one mile a minute. Doubtless some honorable members have travelled in a motor car at a speed of 45 miles an hour, and, with all these developments in view, the construction of arailway which would cost so much and toe used so little, would be a very doubtful experiment. If Western Australia were to construct a line from Kalgoorlie to Esperance, or elsewhere, I would say that the matter required further consideration. An entirely new aspect of the case would then be presented to us. and, under the circumstances, although I would not pledge myself. I might heartily support, not only a survey, but even the construction of the line, always keeping in view, however, the development in mechanical traction to which I have referred. In my opinion, it would be wrong to pass a measure which may lead the people of Western Australia to believe that a line will be constructed. Such a step might lessen the chances of the people of Kalgoorlie setting the line they desire from the gold-fields to the nearest port. I think it is extremely likely that,by taking advantage of some heavy clay deposits, and mixing the clay with the sand, a road might be constructed, over which motors could run just as safely and speedily as vehicles could on any type of railway likely to be constructed in that part of Australia.

Mr Fowler:

– Why worry about land traction when we may have locomotion in the air?

Mr CONROY:

– The developments in land traction are actually before us, and I venture to say that nineteen out of twenty honorable members have no idea of their magnitude. At any rate, I can say for myself that, although I have read a good deal on the subject, I had but little appreciation of the progress made in these means of travelling. I do not propose to go into this matter in detail,and shall not do more than state that, in the opinion of many sound judges, the days of road transport are coming back, and that, except where the traffic is very heavy, steam and petrol road waggons will largely do the work of railways. I am sure that, where there are good roads connecting outlying centres withrailway stations, these means of transport will be greatly availed of, and requests for small branch lines will become fewer. Vehicles such as I have spoken of have proved so useful in England and on the Continent of Europe, that it is practically impossible for the makers to supply the orders which are pouring in upon them, and any one sending from here would probably have to take those of a pattern four or five years old. Under these circumstances, I cannot repeat the vote which I gave on a former occasion, and must oppose the second reading.

Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided: -

Ayes … … … 29

Noes … … … 11

Majority … … 18

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read the second time, and committed pro forma.

page 1486

FEDERAL CAPITAL SITES

Mr SPEAKER:

– I have to intimate to the House that reports, accompanied by plans, dealing with certain Federal Capital Sites in the Yass and Lake George districts, were laid on the table on the 15th June last, and were ordered to be printed. The reports have been printed accordingly, but, as it would, cost over £100 to print the plans, it has been considered that this heavy expenditure should not be undertaken without the express consent of honorable members, and I propose to direct that until it is given they shall be displayed in some position convenient to honorable members, probably in the corridor leading to the entrance to this chamber.

page 1486

ADJOURNMENT

Motions for Leave of Absence

Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.

Mr HUTCHISON:
Hindmarsh

– I wish to draw attention to the need for an alteration of the standing order relating to the granting of leave of absence. Standing order 45 says -

Leave of absence may be given by the House to any member, on motion, after notice, stating the cause and period of absence; and such motion shall have priority over other motions, and shallnot be debated.

That standing order should, in my opinion, be amended to allow of debate, which is the practice of another place. To-day the honorable member for Dalley moved that leave of absence be granted to the right honorable member for East Sydney, on the ground of urgent public business, and it might appear that, in allowing the motion to be passed on the voices, we approved of the absence of the right honorable gentleman. I would point out that, when members of the Tariff Commission desired to absent themselves from their places’ in Parliament, in order to attend to really urgent public business,, the right honorable member for East Sydney disapproved of their going away to Western Australia, Tasmania, and South Australia whilst the House was sitting. So strongly did the honorable and learned member for Illawarra feel upon the subject that he considered that it was his duty to be in hisplace in the House, rather than to absent himself, even for the purpose of taking part in the proceedings of the Tariff Commission elsewhere than in Melbourne. I do not think that the right honorable member for East Sydney is attending to urgent public business. When it was sought to grant a month’s leave of absence to the leader of the Labour Party in the Senate, who was a member of the Tariff Commission, not only did honorable senators belonging to the party led by the right honorable member for East Sydney object to leave being granted, but they forced the matter to a division. The honorable senators who voted against the motion were Senators Baker, Dobson, Gray, McFarlane, Symon, Walker, and demons. Honorable members will find the division recorded at page 3342 of Hansard. The right honorable member for East Sydney is now in Queensland urging the electors to vote, and yet he is himself absenting himself from the House, and neglecting to vote upon matters of the highest importance. I think that he might have shown a better example. What is his record in regard to attendance in this House? On the 4th July Senator Higgs pointed out that during the first session of the first Parliament the leader of the Opposition attended only 93 out of 215 sittings; that is to say, he was absent upon122 days. During the second session he attended only 27 out of 68 sittings. In the first session of the second Parliament he attended 90 out of 122 sittings.

Mr BRUCE SMITH:
PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– He did that in order to keep me company.

Mr HUTCHISON:

– I would like to point out that during that year, when the right honorable member’s attendance was a little better than usual, he occupied the position of Prime Minister. During the second session of this Parliament he attended 29 out of 90 sittings, and was therefore absent upon 61 days. We have seen very little of the right honorable gentleman during this session. He was not here to express his opinion upon what has been described by members of his own party as one of the most far-reaching measures that has ever come before this or any other Australian Legislature. I think that it was his duty to be present, not only to speak, but to vote. It would appear, from the action of some honorable members of the Opposition, that the right honorable gentleman was very glad to be absent. Some of his supporters put up a great show of opposition to the Australian Industries Preservation Bill, but not a single member had the courage to call for a division upon the motion for the third reading. In 1904, when the honorable member for Barrier directed attention to the absence of certain Ministers, the right honorable member for East Sydney stated that it was their duty to be here, and that they were paid to be here. Now he is absent from his place in Parliament, and is endeavouring to undermine the positions of honorable members who are here doing their duty. If it is an urgent matter for the right honorable gentleman to conduct a campaign upon the lines he is now following, it is equally urgent for honorable members representing Queensland to be in that State looking after their own interests. The right honorable gentleman is reported to have stated that he had given up the present Parliament, and was now appealing to the electors. If that be so, instead of seeking for leave of absence, he should have sent in his resignation. I trust that the Standing Orders will be amended, so as to enable honorable members, before granting leave of absence, to satisfy themselves that the member who is seeking to be relieved for the time being from attending to his duties in the House is engagedupon urgent public or private business. I am sure no one would raise his voiceagainst leave of absence being granted to an honorable member who had really urgent business to attend to.

Mr CONROY:
Werriwa

.- I am surprised that honorable members should object to the absence of any individual member. It seems to me that that is a matter for his constituents rather than for us. Many men may be transacting the business of the country, eventhough they may not be present in Parliament. I have always thought that it was a mistake on the part of the Federal Convention to require that the attendance of honorable members should be recorded like that of schoolboys. The mere act of walking in and out of the Chamber does not constitute attention to parliamentary duties.

Mr Lonsdale:

– Many honorable members walk in and out of the Chamber, and nothing more is seen of them.

Mr CONROY:

– I do not wonder at that. I have done the same thing myself, and I shall do it again. The factthat that course of conduct is pursued is largely due to our sitting days being too numerous to permit of our giving proper attention to our work, and making ourselves thoroughly acquainted with the measures which we are called upon to consider. An honorable member’s attention to his public duties should be judged by his public acts, and notby the mere record of his attendances in this Chamber. Certain honorable members who have the best records in the matter of attendance have clone so little actual legislative work that when they make a proposal we merely smile. I remember that last week I characterized one honorable member as the most stupid man in this Chamber. Another honorable member interjected, and upon looking at him I had to acknowledge that perhaps I was mistaken.My regard for the truth compelled me to withdraw my remark.They are both remarkable for their attendance. We are going much too far in placing any value upon the mere attendance ofan honorable member. Ofcourse. Ministers ought to be in their places, but I do not think that in our hearts we regard regular attendance in this House as any guide as to the mental effort which one is making in the discharge of his legislative duties. Of course, if the honorable member for Hindmarsh admits that he has called attention to this matter merely for political ‘purposes, there is nothing more to be said. I wasvery thankful to-day that, even after the outburst of two or three honorable members, when they found that their object was sufficiently attained they did not call for a division on the motion for leave of absence.

Mr Carpenter:

– They were more generous than the honorable member’s party was in the Senate towards Senator McGregor.

Mr CONROY:

– I must say that it shows the nature of some persons when they would do such a thing. I regard a motion of this kind as being purely of a formal character. No good purpose would be attained by altering the standing order in the manner suggested. Indeed, if I had my way, so far from having a standing order regarding attendances, I would not allow them to be recorded, especially after what I have seen take place in this Chamber when important matters have been considered in the absence of a quorum.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– If all honorable members were like the right honorable mem.ber for East Sydney, there would never be a quorum.

Mr CONROY:

– In that case, this Parliament would be doing no harm, and we should arrive at a happy negative state of affairs that we do not seem able to attain now!. The honorable member for Capricornia is one of those who sit so frequently in the Chamber that we cannot very well complain of his protest. But when there are so many of us who offend, and who feel it to be necessary at times to leave the chamber for purposes of relaxation, we ought not to complain. Indeed, some of the best work I have ever done has been when I have been out of the Chamber looking up matters in connexion with work that had to be done here. I could not have dived so much into history if I had not taken advantage of opportunities to lea-ve the Chamber for the purpose of looking up authorities. . It would be a most dangerous thing if a motion for leave of absence were not at any time allowed to be taken as formal.

Mr Fisher:

– Except in a case where a member leaves the country and shows that he is taking no interest in the proceedings of Parliament.

Mr CONROY:

– Of course in such a case the circumstances would be entirely different. I trust that the greatest warmth of political feeling will never allow us to descend to such a level as to refuse formal leave when it is asked for.

Mr WEBSTER:
Gwydir

.- I do “Ot think that the matter under discussion is that which has been suggested by the honorable member for Werriwa. It is not a question whether the attendance record is correct or not, or of whether honorable members should on occasion be granted leave of absence. It is purely a question of whether a member holding the prominent position that the leader of the Opposition holds - a responsible position on a level with that held by Ministers of the Crown - should be absent for such long periods as he is. We cannot say that the right honorable member for East Sydney stands in the same position as a private member. Further, I venture to say that the honorable member for Werriwa, -with his knowledge of political history and parliamentary precedent, cannot point to any case in Australian history where a leader of the Opposition has left Parliament sitting to conduct an electioneering campaign in a distant part of the country.

Mr Conroy:

Sir Henry Parkes did the same thing, and gave as his reason that Parliament did not truly represent the electors.

Mr WEBSTER:

- Sir Henry Parkes never left Parliament sitting to engage in an electioneering tour. I watched the career of Sir Henry Parkes from the moment when I first entered the State of New South Wales, and I know of no such case as the honorable member has referred to. It is deplorable, that the leader of the Opposition should take upon himself the task of going into the electorates of honorable members while they are attending to their duties in this Parliament, and should endeavour to cut the ground from beneath them, whilst at the same time he asks for leave to enable him to do so to a greater extent than he has already done.

Mr Conroy:

– Surely he is doing good work in stirring up the electors to vote at the next election.

Mr WEBSTER:

– I venture to say that if the Minister of Trade and Customs were to ask for leave of absence from this House while he was going through the electorate of Werriwa, the honorable member would be one of the first to raise an objection. If it is right and proper for the right honorable member for East Sydney to leave Parliament while it is sitting, it would be equally right for every member of this House to retire- to his own electorate for the purpose of campaigning. But to what position would Parliament be reduced if that were done? We might as well shut up at once; and possibly some honorable members might consider that that would be a good thing. But we have not closed the Parliament. The Government have decided that there is important business to be done, and whilst this House is anxious to discharge its duty to the electors, it is disgraceful for it to grant honorable members prolonged leave of absence.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member must not reflect upon a vote of the House.

Mr WEBSTER:

– I am not reflecting upon it. I merely say that we are not acting in a way that is creditable to us as a deliberative assembly, when we allow an honorable member to neglect his duty in the way that the right honorable member for East Sydney is doing.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 11.21 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 July 1906, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060718_reps_2_32/>.