4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister of Trade and Customs give the House any information regarding the reported outbreak of small-pox on the Eastern, now in Queensland waters?.
– The following report has been prepared for the information of honorable members and the press -
Information was received yesterday that the steamer Eastern arrived at Thursday Island at 7 o’clock yesterday morning. Upon her arrival, it was ascertained that one of the firemen had died from small-pox two mornings before, that is, on the morning of the 30th ult. There is no information yet to hand as to the condition of this man when the vessel was at Port Darwin. Information is, however, now being sought upon this point. The vessel has on board ninety-one Malays, who are being carried to Thursday Island .for employment in the Pearling Fleet ; and, according to the press, there are also 160 Chinese on board. No exact official information is, however, to hand upon this latter point. The fact that the patient was a fireman, that the crew are aliens, that the passenger-list contains so large a number of Asiatics, all combine to produce a set of conditions especially favouring the spread of infection, and greatly increasing the probability of an extended epidemic. Dr. Elkington, the Chief Quarantine Officer, Queensland, has been communicated with, and he has the advantage of the presence in Brisbane of Dr. Wassell, who is the permanent Quarantine Officer at Thursday Island. , Dr. Elkington advises strongly against the landing of any passengers at Thursday or Friday Islands, as there are absolutely no facilities no hospital accommodation, no disinfection arrangements,’ no isolation accommodation, &c, &c.- on either of these Islands; and in view of the grave risk of an extended epidemic, he does not consider that any one man can cope with this possibility as well as his own routine work. There areno Quarantine Stations anywhere north of Sydney where the quarantine of this vessel could be performed, and, therefore, it is necessary that the vessel be brought to Sydney. Instructions have accordingly been issued; to this effect.
MINISTERSlaid upon the table the following papers : -
Tasmanian Customs Leakage - Report from the Royal Commission, together with Proceedings, Minutes of Evidence, and Appendices.
Ordered to be printed.
Postal Department - Changes made in the administration of the Postal Department, Ministerially, Departmentally, and per medium of the Public Service Commissioner, from 1st January, 1908.
Customs Act - Regulations Amended, &c. (Provisional) -
Nos. 104, 126, 151-163, &c. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 60.
Nos. 131, 134, &c. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 75.
No. 21 - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 84.
Excise Act -
Beet Sugar Regulations (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 138.
Regulations Amended, &c. (Provisional) - Sugar Regulation No. 21 and Drawback Regulation No. 50 - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 59.
Drawback Regulation No. 50 - Statutory Rules 191 1, No. 76.
Conveyance of Excisable Goods - Statutory Rules 1911, No.129.
Manufactures Encouragement Act - Iron Bounty Regulation No. a Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 1391
Spirits Act - Regulation (Provisional)Standard for Industrial Spirits - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 101.
Sugar Bounty Act - Beet Sugar Bounty Regulations - Statutory Rules 191 1, No. 138.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional)
Military Forces -
No.106a. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 146.
No. 185-Re Thursday Island- Statutory Rules 1911, No. 147.
Financial and Allowance Regulations -
No. 152- Statutory Rules 1911, No. 143.
No. 188 - Statutory Rules 1911,. No. 144.
Universal Training - Senior Cadets - No. 56 - Statutory Rules 191 1, No. 145.
– I wish to know from the Treasurer when we may expect the Budget statement, and the Estimates?
– At the end of next week, or the beginning of the following week. . We could do nothing while the noconfidence motion debate was in progress.
Protection against Forgery.
– I wish to know from the
Treasurer what steps are being taken to give at least as great security as existed under the banks’ control against the forging pf bank notes? When the banks bad control, each institution returned the notes it received over the counter to the bank from which they were issued, and before re-issue the notes were tested as a precaution against forgery. Is the Treasury arranging to have its notes as constantly tested, to insure against forgery?
– The Treasury takes all the precautions within its power by way of check and countercheck. We expect the banks to take an interest in the notes, and advise us of anything in the nature of forgery, and this they do.
– In the Age of Saturday last, under the heading, “Rifle Shooting; Meeting of Victorian Association; the Home Affairs Department criticised,” it is stated, with reference to the Williamstown Rifle Range, that - the Home Affairs Department had commenced the erection of these targets, but, owing to its funds running out, it would not be able to complete the work. The Department would have to wait until the Estimates were passed before it could continue the work, and then the targets could not be got ready in time for the matches. As. one who, contributed to the revenue of the country, Mr. Merritt considered that the manner in which the Department had . erected these and other targets was an absolute scandal. (Hear, Hear !) The Association could complete the work for about£15 or£20, and the best thing would be to apply to the Department for permission to do this, at the expense of the Association.
A motion to that effect was agreed to.
I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs whether the statement made at the meeting of the Victorian Rifle Association as to the manner in which the Home Affairs Department has carried out the work of erecting targets at the Williamstown Rifle Range is in accordance with facts?
– It is absolutely incorrect. Any work intrusted to the Home Affairs Department is carried out like the operations of a first-class banking corporation. I am perfectly willing to enter into an agreement with any of these clever associations if they will give a sufficient bond for the carrying out of these works according to our plans and specifications.
– With regard to the interview which the Prime Minister had with a deputation from the Trades Hall on the subject of preference to unionists, will he see that the full text of the official report of the interview is made available for all honorable members?
– Any honorable member who desires to have a copy may get the officer who took the shorthand notes to make a transcript of them for him. We cannot do more than that. There is no secrecy in connexion with this Government.
– I wish to inform the honorable member for North Sydney that I shall lay on the table to-day the papers in connexion with Mr. Ramsay Sharpe’s report on the Sydney telephones.
– I ask leave to submit a motion without notice.
– I am sure that all members of the House, and perhaps all Australians, very much regretted to hear the sad news of the death of Lord Northcote, who was the third GovernorGeneral of Australia. Upon receipt of that intimation on the 1st instant, I cabled to Lady Northcote this message, “ Aus tralia deeply sympathizes with you,” to which I received to-day the following reply : - “Deeply grateful for Australian sympathy. - Alice Northcote.” The motion which I submit, and which I invite the Leader of the Opposition to be good enough to second, is in the following terms : -
That this House desires to express its deepest sympathy with Lady Northcote in the great loss sustained by her by the death of the late Baron, and to place on record its regret and grief at the untimely decease of the third GovernorGeneral of Australia, whose abilities and kindness had endeared him to its people.
The motion expresses our feelings better than we could do in other words. I am sure that those who had the advantage of the personal friendship of the late Baron and of Lady Northcote will remember it to their latest days. We all feel sympathy for her in her irreparable loss.
.- While it is perfectly impossible for us to attempt to express our individual or collective sentiments in this regard, or to formally place on record the deep appreciation which we all entertained for the late GovernorGeneral of Australia, I am reluctant to allow the motion to pass without some reference to the many directions in which the late Lord Northcote placed the people of this country under a lasting debt to him. As GovernorGeneral he had a most varied experience in our earlier politics, facing them in turbulent times, which must have elicited the spark of partisanship, if any existed, in the holder of his high office. Yet at his departure every party in the Commonwealth united in bearing the same testimony; they had been unable to discover in him, on any occasion, an indication of his personal leanings in Australian public affairs. His absolute impartiality has passed into a proverb. The conscientiousness with which he discharged both the greatest and the smallest of the duties devolving upon him, his patience, his consideration, his open-mindedness, were then fully recognised. I hope and believe they are never likely to be forgotten. Trained in a great school of statesmanship, with the splendid example of his illustrious father before him, and having been from his early years in direct relations with that great English statesman, Lord Salisbury, he came to us impregnated with the best traditions of political honour and impartiality. The consequence was that probably no public man in Australia ever established and maintained such intimate personal relations with men, not only of the most widely differing opinions, but of the most varied occupations and pursuits. He made absolutely no distinction of any kind between citizens of the Commonwealth.
He had an unrivalled knowledge of Australia, traversing its vast area more often and more thoroughly than had ever been attempted before, becoming able to enter into close touch with people of all classes and occupations wherever he met them. After every such visit a number of anecdotes passed quietly from mouth to mouth, illustrating his happy adaptability. He had been met just as he desired, with a frank manliness, by settlers and bushmen of all types, entering at once into mutual relations of confidence and respect. This was no small achievement, considering that, as all who knew Lord Northcote were aware, he was a man of extreme sensitiveness, retiring habits, and the most modest demeanour. Though he had many difficulties to conquer, in order to be at ease himself, he invariably succeeded in putting the man or the woman he was addressing at ease with him. In addition, Lord Northcote lent his valued aid to every healthy public movement or enterprise within the Commonwealth. There was nothing too remote to attract his personal interest if it was Australian. In fact, there was no better Australian in Australia than he during his term of office, or one who more warmly recollected Australia when he returned to his own country and to his former station in life. His character and kindnesses innumerable appealed to the heart of the country as well as to its head. In his public career he passed through the ordeal of stormy crises without a blemish, without making an enemy, without leaving an antagonist. In his private life in a similar manner he showed us what an English gentleman ought to be to become worthy of that title. He was the soul of honour. In these circumstances, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that it will be long before the loving memories which he left behind him can be obscured, much less fade away. He was trusted and loved. It is impossible to separate Lady Northcote from her late husband when recalling the multifarious social movements and social duties which they continually undertook and so hospitably discharged. Every one will admit that, absolutely united in their graciously unselfish aims, they entered eagerly into every effort that was made during their long and active term for the bettering of the conditions of any class or section of this community. There never was so thoroughly popular or democratic a triumph of organization witnessed in this country as the Women’s Exhibition, of which Lady Northcote was the head, with her husband as her ardent counsellor and supporter. By means of that exhibition, all classes of the community, of town and country alike, of every relation in life, were brought together for the common end of illustrating and advancing the interests of our Australian women.
Under these circumstances, it is with the greatest personal satisfaction, but with the profoundest regret, that I exercise the privilege accorded me of seconding the motion moved by the Prime Minister.
– Will the honorable member add that the High Commissioner has been asked to. represent the Commonwealth at the funeral ?
– I am reminded by the Prime Minister that Sir George Reid will represent the Commonwealth at the funeral ceremony, which takes place to-morrow, when there will return to the English soil he loved the dust of one of the most generous, gentle, and noble spirits that this country has yet seen, or is likely to see.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker be requested to convey the foregoing resolution, through His Excellency the Governor-General, to Lady Northcote.
Pennant Hills Wireless Station - Mail Subsidy : New Hebrides - Certificates of Postage - Freights, Colombo to Brisbane : Orient Company’s Charges - Telephone Service: Watson’s Bay and Vaucluse - Sydney Post Office: Working Hours - Overtime - Telephonists : Fines and Increments
-On the 23rd September, the honorable member for Lang asked the following questions -
The information was promised as early as possible, and is now to hand, the replies being as follow -
Day labour, about£200. 4. (a) The site has not yet been specially fenced.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral,upon notice -
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions : -
On the 15th inst. the honorable member for North Sydney asked the following questions : -
The Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, has now (furnished the following replies : -
On the 13th inst. the honorable member for Lang asked the following questions : -
The following answers have now been received : -
On the 14th inst. the honorable member for South Sydney asked the following questions : - 1. (a) How many telephonists in New South Wales have been fined since 1st January, 1910, up till the present; (b) for what breaches of the Public Service Regulations; and(c) what amounts were they fined ? 2. (a) In how many cases have telephonists in New South Wales been deprived of their increments; (i) for what reasons; and(c) for what periods ?
The Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, has now furnished the following replies : - 1. (a) 387.(i) Absence without leave. Asleep on duty. Allowing public telephone caller conversation without insertion of coin. Failing to sign on or off, or irregularly signing attendancebook. Behaving in an unseemly mannerChanging staffs without permission. Disobedience of instructions. Damaging office furniture. Failing to make “ engaged “ notes. Failing to properly attend to measured-rate cards. Failing to return official papers. Failing to report that a telephonist off duty had entered exchange. Failing to sign telephone-call docket. Failing to notice certain lines engaged. Failing to note condition of apparatus. Failing to leave exchange clean and tidy. Failing to make entries in night-call register. Failing to test line. Failing to assist telephonist on adjoining position. Failing to test faulty indication contacts. Failing to record results of junction test. Failing to record calls. Failing to forward covering certificate for sick-leave. Failing to prefix “City” or “Central” when replying to call. Failing to report late attendance of telephonist. Failing to complete tallying of calls. Failing to lock up head receiver. Failing to advise Head-Office of absence. Failing to test night alarm. Failing to report a trouble fault. Failing to apologize to caller wrongly called. Failing to repeat name of exchange when replying to call. Failing to make entry in apparatus-book. Faulty operating. Failing to supervise a connexion. Failing to properly attend to subscribers’ calls. Failing to advise Head-Office change of address. Holding private conversation. Incorrectly ringing over junction lines. Irregularly looping in on line. Insolence to monitor. Irregularly in exchange prior to proper time for taking up duly. Irregularly recording ineffective calls as effective. Irregularly giving “ engaged “ signal. Late attendance. Listening to conversation on line. Leaving exchange prior to handing over to successor. Leaving position and ringing up Central “O “ from staff assistant’s desk. Lax supervision over rest of staff. Leaving post of duty without permission. Making use of offensive remark. Making misleading statement in connexion with explanation. Mis handling apparatus. Making premature entries in position book. Out of call. Passing irregular remark. Permitting telephonist to cease duty prematurely. Prematurely disconnecting connexion. Ringing back on line. Smoking on duty. Switching off electric light without authority. Wrongly connecting caller. (c) For minor offences, telephonists have been fined from 10s. to £1. In the more serious cases, heavier fines have been inflicted, the highest being £3. 2. (a) Seventy-four telephonists have had their increments deferred since rst January, 1910. (4) Seventy-two, owing to adverse reports as to their conduct or efficiency; and two, owing to lengthy leave of absence. (c) One for ten months, one for nine months, one for eight months, ten for six months, one for five months, fifty-nine for three months, and one for on’e month.
Lee-Metford Rifle - Small Arms Factory, Lithgow : Supply of Flant
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he give instructions for the issue of a small nickel coin - having a hole in the centre - similar to the coins in use on the Continent of Europe and elsewhere, the said coin to be legal tender of the same value as the large copper penny at present in use in Australia?
– The question of substituting nickel coinage for the present copper coinage is receiving consideration by the Treasurer.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Is the motor car now in use in the Federal Capital the property of the Government. If so, was it purchased by the Home Affairs Department; at what cost, and whom from? What is the manufacturer’s name, and what power is the car?
– The only motor car used in the Federal Territory by the Home Affairs Department is a motor traction engine, which is engaged in carting cement, timber, and other material from the Queanbeyan railway station to wherever it is required. It was purchased by the Home Affairs Department, after tenders had been invited, from the “ CaldwellVale Motor and Tractor Construction Company Limited, Auburn, New South Wales”, for£1,100. It is rated by the makers at 60-80 horse-power.
asked, the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
– I made no such statement.
– I can refer the honorable member to it in Hansard.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he is aware that the Shipping Combine is charging excessive freights between Sydney and Adelaide, which charges will be very detrimental to the best interests of our producers ?
– I will ascertain and furnish the honorable member with the present rates, together with those charged five years ago.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House as to whether the Government approves of, and takes the whole responsibility for, the memorandum issued by the Home Affairs Department in regard to preference to unionists?
– Last week’s debate provided an answer to this question.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers supplied by the Public Service Commissioner to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:. -
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1.Itis hoped that the announcement will be made to-morrow.
Hotel Licences - Management of Railways
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
The number of licences issued by the Government of South Australia, and now existing, for hotels and public-houses in the Northern Territory?
– It has been ascertained that there are at present in existence seven publicans’ and nine storekeepers’ licences for the sale of intoxicating liquor in the Territory.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice, if he will place upon the fable -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Debate resumed from 22nd September (vide page 767) on motion by Mr. King O’Malley -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- In de ference to the strongly expressed desire of the public of Western Australia that this line should be constructed, and to what I think was really an implied understanding, that shortly after the establishment of Federation the matter, at all events, would be considered, and perhaps favorably, by the Federal Parliament, I intend to support this Bill, although I have doubts as to the Minister’s sanguine estimates being realized within the next ten years. I certainly believe that the estimates of cost of construction, and of the prospects of the line paying, owing to the character of the country through which it is to pass, have been over-sanguine. It is rather significant that we have had from engineers estimates of cost ranging from£5,000,000, in thefirst place, to the third estimate of, in round figures , £4,000,000. All are comparatively recent.
– The last was made after the survey.
– No doubt; but I under stand that even that estimate has been reduced. It is only within the last halfhour that I read the illuminating and comprehensive speech which the right honorable member for Swan delivered on thesubject, and in it I noticed a statement that the recent discoveries of water in the West had led Mr.. Deane, the Commonwealth engineer, to lower to something like £3,650,000 the engineers’ latest estimate of the- cost of construction. It is, at all events, somewhat significant that there is such a great difference between the estimates given now and those given in 1 901, when the question of the construction of the line was first mooted in this House. Some of the earlier estimates, although they are the highest, have been based, as regards profit and loss, upon a 3 per cent, interest rate upon the cost of construction, whereas the last estimates are based upon a 3 J per cent, interest rate. It has, therefore, been assumed that we shall be able .to float our bonds at either 3 or 3^ per cent, at par. Although I believe that the Commonwealth security will probably bring a little better terms than some - I do not say than all - of the securities of the States, I think the Minister will find a difficulty, judging from the price of money during the last six or eight months in England, in floating loans even at the rate of. 3^ per cent. We get then, on the profit and loss account, an estimate of the conversion in ten years of a loss of about ,£68,000 or ^£69,000 per year into a profit of about ^18,000 per year. There have been other reports which are not quite consistent with these estimates, but I do not want to weary the House by going too minutely into them. All these estimates ignore the fact that, since the earlier of them were made, the cost of construction, owing to the greater cost of materials, and the happily greater cost of labour - because the returns are far more proportionate to what the men deserve than they were perhaps ten years ago - will be appreciably raised. This point, as I say, is absolutely ignored by most of the reports that I have read, although I have riot had the opportunity of reading the last report of Mr. Deane. As regards the character of the country, I only hope that the paradise to which the Minister referred last week in such glowing and impassioned terms is. really capable of being created by the industry of man, as well as by the imagination of the Minister, in the centre of southern Australia, through which’ the line will pass.
– Does the honorable member ‘ regard what the Minister said as a fairy-tale?
– I should never say that the -brain of the Minister of Home Affairs has -anything of the gossamer texture about it, but I do think that his imagination indicates some poetic sensibility, Which he occasionally brings to bear upon the’ hard facts of material construction, such as a railway. ‘ I have here a synopsis of the views of the South Australian Department as to the. character of the country that has to be passed through in constructing a line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta along the route proposed in the Bill. There is a difference of opinion as to whether that route, or one along the coast closer to the telegraph line, will be the better. I believe the matter was discussed last week in the South Australian Parliament, but I have not had a chance to read the reports. Some think that if the line is kept close to the coast it will develop a much better class of country. As I do not want to delay the line, I think it is better to accept the route now proposed, knowing that South Australia is a country of remarkable enterprise, and believing that if this line is constructed along the route proposed in the Bill, the South Australian Parliament will sanction the construction of a line to tap some good country along the route close to the telegraph line. The present South Australian Government have already put upon their policy the” construction of a developmental line along the lower and more coastal route. Boiled down, let me indicate what the South Aus-, tralian experts appear to have .”found the country to be. I am speaking now upon the authority of men who have surveyed the land in South Australia, but I shall deal,’ of course, very carefully with the Western Australian side in the presence of the right honorable member for Swan. We will assume that the first 170 miles from Kalgoorlie ‘is everything that the right honorable member’s imagination says it is. Starting from that point, we enter the stretch ‘ known as the Nullarbor Plains, extending into South’ Australia as far as Ooldea, distant “‘630’ miles from Kalgoorlie. This “gives- : 3 stretch of 460 miles from the Nullarbor Plains, which, I understand, is about the most hopeless country in Australia.
– What ? It . is all grassy land !
– I do not want to de,nounce any part of Australia. I would rather speak in terms of hope of all parts of the Commonwealth, and so I will convert my description of that stretch of country into “ the least hopeful part of Australia.” I am told by men who have surveyed the. land, having not merely crossed it once, but having been over the greater part of it and spent years on the country, that, for 460 miles along the Nullarbor Plains, starting at 170 miles from Kalgoorlie, the line will go through practically a .desert. This country is said to be .. uniformly practically destitute of trees ; the herbage is very poor salt bush, with a little Eremophila broom, and it is very inferior pastoral country.
– From whom is the honorable member quoting?
– From the experts of the South Australian Department. I asked them a few days ago to give me an idea of what the country was, because there are men in the South Australian Public Service who have surveyed it.
– The honorable member refers to the part from the South Australian border eastward?
– No doubt that is the country referred to. I said I should speak with the greatest modesty about the country lying in Western Australia. Nevertheless I believe that the character of the country from 170 miles from Kalgoorlie, for 460 miles to Ooldea, is as I have described it.
– I think that is the country which the right honorable member for Swan shunned when travelling about that part. .
– I do not think the right honorable member would consciously shun anything. The elevation varies from 340 to . 560 feet. The rainfall is exceedingly low. The low years areset down as giving anaverage of not more than 5 inches, and the good years about 7 to 8 inches as a maximum. From Ooldea, 630 miles from Kalgoorlie, to Winbring, a stretch of 100 miles, the country is described as very inferior sandhills. From Winbring, 730 miles from Kalgoorlie,to Tarcoola, 800 miles from. Kalgoorlie, it improves considerably, with mulga timber and more or less salt bush; and then from Tarcoola to Port Augusta, 1,060 miles from Kalgoorlie, the country improves greatly, being described as fairly good pastoral country, and in parts lightly timbered.
– What is the extent of the desert country?
– What is called desert extends for 460 miles out of 1,060 miles.
– The Nullarbor Plains are not bad grazing country. They are good country. The honorable member is wrong in his location.
– We have very much worse land than that in South Australia.
– What I am quoting is the opinion of experts, although honorable members may be able to show that it is wrong. From Tarcoola to Fort Augusta there are a few localities where large reservoirs to store storm-water could be excavated with fair prospects of being filled in good seasons. As regards the Nullarbor Plains, I may say that the South Australian Government have put down bores in a search for water, and the experts say that the best water in these borings has been found near the sea-coast, and not in the country through which the railway is to be constructed. However, the water found is too salt for domestic use, although fairly suitable for sheep. It is stated that 20 or 30 miles further in from the sea, in the Nullarbor Plains, the water becomes very saline, and, in places, as salt as the sea. In other places, there is about2½ ozs. salt to the gallon, which is about half as salt as the water of the sea. As regards the possibility of getting a water supply by boring I am told that there is no well water on the South Australian portion of the route fit for locomotives, and so far as is known to the officials of the South Australian Departments, there is no water to be obtained in wells or by borings on the Western Australian portion of the route, in any way suitable for locomotives. That may, perhaps, be qualified by’ what the right honorable member for Swan said last week.
– What the right honorable gentleman said cannot affect the statement made with respect to the country on the South Australian side.
– That is so; the water found on the South Australian side is as salt, or in some places half as salt, as sea water. The water becomes more salt, and the prospects more depressing as one goes into the Nullarbor Plains from the sea, and towards the country through which it is proposed the railway shall pass.
– Does the honorable gentleman know the depth to which the bores were sunk?
– I do not. I am sorry that those particulars were not given. I understand that recently Mr. Deane, whose report was referred to by the right honorable member for Swan, said that water has been found at two depths, 400 feet and 900 feet, and that, in one case, the supply was considered good enough for locomotives, though somewhathard. This may qualify the experience of the South Australian officials as to the portion of the Nullarbor Plains that is not within the boundaries of South Australia. I have stated what they think about the country within that State. The information given me certainly does not justify the anticipation of Ministers that this line is likely to pay within the next ten years. The memorandum supplied at my request sums up this matter in the statement that the reports as regards the line paying are greatly exaggerated. Instead of the line paying interest and expenses in ten years, it is thought that it will not even pay working expenses by that time. I support this line for the reason put, time after time, by Western Australian members that there was an understanding upon which I believe a good many electors of Western Australia acted - that this line would be carried out within a reasonable time after the inauguration of Federation. I think Western Australia is entitled to the construction of the line, because that State is, to a very large extent, except by the sea route, cut off from the rest ofAustralia. It is also a part of the military policy of the Commonwealth to construct two great transcontinental lines, of which this is one. The other - and I hope it will be the next - is the completion of the line from Port Augusta to Port Darwin. As regards the gauge, . there are two things we have to consider : uniformity of gauge, and the gauge upon which that uniformity is to be based. . Imoved in this matter in 1889, and I have before me a report of the debate which took place in the South Australian Parliament at the time. I then asked - and the House of Assembly accepted my motion-
That a Conference of the Railway Commissioners of the States should be held to decide, in the light of their expert experience, what ought to be the standard gauge.
I may say that Victoria had then, as now, as the gauge of the greatest mileage of railway construction, the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, and South Australia the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. They, at all events, in South Australia, looked at the matter from an Australian stand-point, because the Minister, in following me in the debate, stated that they believed that, in the light of more recent experience, the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge was the true gauge to adopt; but they were prepared, in view of the desirableness of at once settling the question, to adopt a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. That was in 1889.
– That is to say, that they had no faith in their own recommendation.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon; that was not the case. After the motion to which I have referred was carried, I went to the other States to try if I could, even as a private member, further the settlement of this matter. I saw Lord Carrington, who took a very great interest in the question, and spoke several times upon it, principally at a banquet, at the opening of the railway at Albury. I saw the Commissioner for Railways in New South Wales, Mr. Eddy, and made inquiries of the then Victorian Commissioner of Railways, Mr. Speight. The desire then was to have some standard gauge agreed upon, but there was some doubt as to whether the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, which had already been prescribed by the English Parliament in 1847,or 1848, or, in the light of experience, the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge was the better gauge for many purposes. In the debate in the South Australian House of Assembly, to which I have referred, it is shown that the matter was not looked at from a purely State point of view, because South Australia was prepared to alter the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge to that of 4 ft. 8½ in. suggested by another State. The Minister of Public Works, Mr. Howe, then stated that the Victorians said that the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge was the best, and Mr. Speight and our Railway Commissioner admitted its superiority; though, to secure uniformity, our Commissioners were quite willing, if it were practicable, to carry out the suggestion to narrow the gauge to 4 ft. 8½ in. That applied to the South Australian Commissioners. 1 am not sure whether it applied to Mr. Speight, but I doubt it, as Victoria, fearing a change to 4 ft. 8½ in., did not agree to confer. This was not the beginning of effort to do something in this matter. As far back as 1853 the General Council for Australasia, in considering the basis of a possible Federal Union, in a few matters, recommended that one of them should be the question of a standard gauge. That was at the very infancy of railway construction.
– Did not three States decide upon the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge in 1853 ?
– I believe so. I have read the history of the matter, and I believe there was some departure from the agreement by New South Wales after the importation of an English engineer. The New South Wales Legislature adopted for certain lines a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, on the recommendation of an engineer who was influenced by English experience. It was only then, as Professor Kernot pointed out in 1906, that an unfortunate mistake was made by New South Wales in abandoning what was supposed to be the standard gauge of 5 ft. 3 in. adopted by three of the States. I mentioned Lord Carrington’ s name, and I may say that at the Albury banquet he pointed out that with the construction of every additional mile of railway we increased the difficulty, as well as the expense, of conversion. If we make a mistake now in the construction of 1,063 miles of railway on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, ignoring the growing opinion of the world in favour of widening the gauges of railways, we shall be adding to the complexity of the question, and to the expense of conversion, which, I believe, ought to be borne by all the States of Australia together - with the exception, perhaps, of Tasmania, as that State will not be affected - in securing what will be a very great boon to all the States affected by the transcontinental railway. Mr. Eddy - and it is worth while quoting what he said, because he touched upon the question of how the conversion ought to be effected - begged that immediate action should be taken. He had been doing this for years in his reports, but speaking at a banquet he mentioned that twenty years hence, if concerted action were not at once taken - and it is now a little more than twenty years since he spoke - we would have a big bill to pay, and we would be charged with shortsightedness. He went on to say that, in 1857, uniformity of gauge was advocated by a railway commissioner of New South Wales. Then, in speaking at the opening of the Hawkesbury River bridge, . he said -
Every year the change is delayed the mileage and rolling-stock increase, and the cost of altering the gauge becomes greater. If the question could be settled at once, the change, if carried out in about four years’ time, and all additions to the rolling-stock constructed with the knowledge that at the end of that period it would have to be accommodated to the requirements of the universal gauge, the cost of making the alteration would be comparatively trifling, if divided between the four Colonies affected.
He declared that all the colonies affected should, on some fair principle, bear the cost of ordering rolling-stock, with a view to its being accommodated at a given time upon what was declared to be the standard gauge.- In 1888 there were about 7,788 miles of railway in all the States, whereas to-day there are 14,609 miles, proving that Mr. Eddy was justified in declaring that twenty years hence we would ‘ be blamed for our shortsightedness, and would have to face a much larger outlay in carrying out. any desired policy. The cost of adopting la uniform gauge is how comparatively greater than it was then, not only on account of the mileage of our railways having been doubled, but on account of the increased cost of labour and materials. I hope that, though we may look forward to a further increase in the cost of labour, we may be able to keep down the cost of materials which may be affected by combinations over which we may exercise some control either through the State Legislatures or through this Parliament. The history of the gauge question suggests to me that the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge was adopted, not as the best as between wide and narrow gauges, but as a better gauge than the extremely wide gauge of which the Great Western was a type, or the narrower gauges which had been constructed in parts of India and in some of the States of America.
– The Great Western gauge is a 7 -foot one.
– In 1847, or 1848, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed an Act which prescribed that the gauge for future lines, except those then served by the broad gauge, was to be 4 ft. 8J in. It was some time later that an engineer came out to Victoria and went back upon that arrangement by adopting the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge as the standard here. Referring to this matter in 1906, Professor Kernot, in a paper read to the Victorian Institute of Engineers, stated that the adoption of the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge was a mere accident.
– I would remind the honorable member that I have already allowed him considerable latitude in commenting upon the width of gauge to be adopted under this Bill. I need scarcely point out that on the motion for the second reading of a Bill honorable members are merely at liberty to discuss the general principle which is embodied in the measure. Questions of detail should be considered in Committee. I cannot allow an extended discussion upon the question whether the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge or the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge ought to be adopted, seeing that that question can be more effectively debated! at a later stage.
– I quite recognise, sir, that what you say is correct, but I am sure that I shall be excused if, on an occasion like the present, I enter a little into detail, because this is a very serious matter. As far as I am aware, the Government have not taken sufficient steps to obtain information as to what gauge ought to be adopted on the proposed transcontinental railway. There has been - no conference of experts since the report on the survey was presented, and I have reason to think that one of the engineers signed that report, which recommends the adoption of a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, under a misapprehension. It is common knowledge that that recommendation was the subject of some dissent or protest. Professor Kernot, in addressing the Victorian Institute of Engineers, on the occasion to which I have already referred, said -
Hadrailway-making started on a gauge anywhere between 5 and 6 feet, i am convinced we never would have heard of the present peculiar standard. It is noteworthy that nearly all attempts to break away from it in the early days of railway-making were in the direction of increase, and not of diminution, showing plainly that even then it was found hardly ample enough for growing practical requirements.
I will pass over the gauge adopted by the Great Western Railway. That was one of the extremely wide gauges, and which, being too wide, was not in the running as against the narrower gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in. But with a little more experience, Ireland, which sets the world an example in so many admirable lines, adopted the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, and with that fidelity to ideas which always characterizes her people has never departed from it. In the address to which I have already made reference, Professor Kernot pointed out that there was a very great misapprehension as to the comparative cost of wide and narrow gauge railways. In 1873, when an attempt was made to alter the gauge, a comparative test was made of the cost of constructing lines on the 5-ft. 3-in. and the3-ft. 6-in. gauges. I believe that in Victoria tenders were called for two lines, one in easy and the other in rather difficult country, both on the 5-ft. 3-in. and the 3-ft. 6-in. gauges. The result was that the narrower gauge showed a saving of only. £150 per mile in the former case, and of £181 per mile in the latter case. In his’ lecture, Professor Kernot, in referring to. this matter, pointed out that in the comparative tenders obtained in Victoria, a reduction of 33 per cent. in the gauges led to a reduction in . the cost of construction of only 3 to 4 per cent. The. writer said that he has inspected and travelled on railways both broad and narrow in many parts of the world, and his average experience was that “ as the gauge goes down the speed goes down, and the fare goes up in just about the same proportion. Mr. Hales supports that idea. He says -
The general character of the country is what the engineers call easy, and the difference in cost of the various gauges would not mount up so rapidly as it does in hilly or mountainous country.
– Does he say to what kind of country that comparative estimate refers?
– It is both heavy and easy; and he said that a 33 per cent. difference in - the width of the rails meant only a difference of from 3 to 4 per cent. in the cost of construction. I have looked up Professor Kernot’s lecture at Glasgow, where he referred to this matter, and also the lecture before the Victorian engineers in 1906, where he went into the difference in cost in figures. In the case of Victoria, he gave the difference in percentages - 3 or 4 per cent, on the cost of construction. That was based upon Victorian experience.
– He must have meant the difference in the length of the sleepers..
– I do not think it was so.
– Those conclusions could not be applied to railways in mountainous country.
– We are not here dealing with mountainous country.
– Average country?
– Easy and difficult, but not mountainous, country. Indeed, Professor Kernot referred to the fact that where you have mountainous country - as, for instance, in a State like Tasmania - there is no question as to the narrower gauge being more economical.
– The honorable member knows why? Because with a narrower gauge the curves can be sharper.
– Even that is discounted.
– Look at Queensland. There we have railways constructed on the narrow gauge, and the accidents are fewer th’an in any other State in the Commonwealth.
– What the engineers say is this-
Mr.Page.-Whatisthegoodoftelling us what the scientific men say when we have actual proof?
– The honorable memberis too well balanced in his judgment, and too urbane, to contradict a statement which he has not yet heard. I think that one of the engineer’s statements, which Professor Kernot adopts, is that if you travel at the same pace on the wide gauge as you doon the harrow gauge, youwillnot have any greater difficulties in the matter of curves; but, nevertheless, he admitted that’ it is better in mountainous country to construct narrow gauge lines. India, in many parts, has narrow gauge lines, but I read the report of a Commission some years ago containing the recommendation that 5 ft. 6 in. should be the standard gauge for the country. I am going to respect your decision, Mr. Speaker- as, of course, I ought to do -and say no more on this question of gauge except to remind honorable members that if the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge be adopted, we shall have a continuous line without any complications running from Fremantle to Albury. Western Australia has said very fairly that she is prepared to adopt the wider gauge for her railways if the Federal Parliament chooses it for the transcontinental line. I do not think that the point matters very much to Western Australia. The mere question whether her railway’s are 4 ft. 8½ in. or 5 ft. 3 in. cannot matter to- a State that has given its people those huge waterworks. Nor does it matter very much to Queensland. Indeed, I believe that it would be better for Queensland to have the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. Mr, Page. - We have a road ready from the New South Wales border right into Brisbane, and all the bridges and tunnels upon it have been constructed on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge principle.
– The point is this- cannot Queensland accommodate her line to the Western Australian gauge? It has never been shown that the line between Sydney and Albury cannot be accommodated to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. Has that ever been tested? Has the Minister submitted the question to the consideration of railway experts? At the present time we have experts sitting to consider matters relating to the rivers question. They have accumulated a mass of information sufficient almost to stagger one as to communication by water. Why should there not be a conference of engineers to consider this important matter?
– Would not the bridges and tunnels to which the honorable member for Maranoa refers have to be widened if the line were duplicated?
– It may be so. What I am asking for is that we shall have competent inquiry into this matter. My reading has shown me that some of the preconceptions which have stood out against the adoption of the wider gauge have been weakened by reason of the reports and lectures of competent engineers. It may be that the bias given to the judgment of some honorable members in this matter would be weakened under the influence of greatly extended knowledge. To sum up, the position is this : The 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge was never adopted on its merits against all other gauges. Secondly, the consensus of expert opinion seems to be in favour of the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, which gives greater haulage for equal length of train. I have mentioned that neither Western Australia nor Queensland can be very much affected whichever gauge is adopted. As regards New South Wales, which is the. State chiefly affected, I urge that, as the cost pf conversion to a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge would in all probability be apportioned amongst all the States, it does not appear that that State would raise any serious difficulty if the experts on the whole recommend a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. 1 would ask the Minister to arrange for a conference either of railway commissioners or of engineers, so that Parliament might be afforded some enlightenment on the subject in accordance with modern knowledge and experience. At all events, I hope that the matter will be settled in such a way as to render the possibility of conversion more favorable than appears to be the case at present.
.- Up to the present time the proposal to construct a line from some point in South Australia across to the western gold-fields has had a somewhat stormy history. I recollect that some years ago, when the Watson Ministry was in office, they submitted a proposal for asurvey of the locality through which it was contemplated that the line should be run. It was singular that at the very moment when that Government submitted its proposal to Parliament a no-confidence motion was lodged. Amongst those responsible for that was the right honorable member for Swan. The no-confidence motion was successful, with the practical result that the railway proposals were laid aside for years. Again, the other day, after the second reading of the Bill which provides for the construction of the line had been moved, the right honorable member for Swan, at the instigation of his leader, launched another no-confidence motion against another Labour Administration, and had that motion been successful the construction of the railway might again have been delayed for several years. One is almost led to believe that with certain honorable members the railway is so much stock in trade, and that once it is made their political collapse must follow. Possibly once the work is finished those who have had so much to say about the grand and glorious possibilities arising from the connexion of the east and the west will regret the loss of something to advocate. I shall not offer a determined objection to the proposal, but I ask the Ministry to defer the carrying of the second reading, or, at any rate, the Committee stage, until effect has been given to the suggestion of the honorable member for Angas, and more information has been obtained concerning the route, and, particularly, questions of gauge. I hope, too, that your ruling, Mr. Speaker, preventing a discussion of the gauge question, will not be applied too strictly, because the provision which deals with the gauge to be adopted is a vital part of the Bill, and unless a clear statement be made respecting the gauge to be adopted a number of votes may be recorded against the second reading which otherwise would be cast for it. I do not know what moved the Ministry to adopt the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. Manifestly the construction of the line on that gauge will fix the standard gauge for the whole Commonwealth at 4 ft. 8^ in., and the States whose gauges are 3 ft. 6 in. and S ft. 3 in. will gradually have to alter the whole of their lines at immense expense. Apparently the gauge fixed in the Bill has been determined without ascertaining the opinions of experts, or consulting the people through the State authorities. I do not think that this Parliament will arbitrarily determine a question of such magnitude until it has been satisfied that the 4-ft. 8^-in gauge is the best. When leave to introduce die Bill was sought I asked for information touching the proposal, and was asked to wait until the second reading. We were told that the correspondence between the Governments of South Australia and the Commonwealth in reference to the matter would be laid on the table, but I have not seen a copy of it, and believe that it has not yet been made available. We were also told that the Minister of Home Affairs would give a full explanation in moving the second reading. The honorable gentleman may think that he gave an explanation, but as a matter of fact he had really nothing to say on the question of gauge. There was a fine statement to the effect that the railway would be built, the world notwithstanding, because we had decided to build it, but very little information was given. The cost of the work has been estimated variously at from £4,000,000 to £6,000,000, and in all probability the latter sum will be nearer the mark.
– Why not say £10,000,000 ?
– I am not so loose with figures as is the honorable member, who is notorious for his remark, “ What is a million?” Unless the right honorable gentleman is absolutely obsessed with the idea that the line must be built at all costs, he must agree with what I have just said. I am desirous of seeing the various capitals in the Commonwealth connected at the earliest possible moment.
– By a uniform gauge?
– Yes, by a uniform gauge of railway. But I am not prepared to assist with either voice or vote the rushing into an expenditure of this magnitude until more information has been given to us. Nor am I prepared to say in mandatory terms or tones that the railways of the Commonwealth shall be, though the rest of the Commonwealth differ, of a particular gauge.
– Does the honorable member know of any gauge which would suit the rest of the Commonwealth,?
– Perhaps I have not made myself. clear to the honorable member. I am not venturing an opinion as to whether the gauge should be 5 ft. 3 in. or 4 ft. 81 in., but I do think, in the first place, that we ought to have the opinions of experts on the matter. In the second place, I think that we ought to make some reasonable attempt to secure the cooperation of the State Governments in a work of this magnitude. And, in the third place, I do not think that we are justified in saying arbitrarily to the one State which is so much concerned - South Australiathat, apart from anything it may say or do, apart from its financial circumstances, 4 ft. 8 J in. shall be the gauge for that State, and that, until it chooses to adopt that gauge, its people will be subjected to the inconvenience of having three different gauges of railway over a few miles of their territory.
– Does the honorable member think that we would ever let the States to agree to a uniform gauge T
– It is impossible for me to say whether the whole of the States would ever agree to such a proposal; but, on the other hand, the honorable member is not able to tell me that there has been any definite, clear or sustained effort on the part of any Federal Ministry to secure the co-operation of the States on this important subject. I believe that there has been some sort of intermittent letter writing ; and that the Prime Ministers and the Premiers have occasionally, over a cup of coffee, or something weaker, discussed the matter in a general sort of way, but I know of no sustained or definite effort towards securing the co-operation of the States. At any rate, while we findthat Western Australia is prepared practically to accept any gauge so that it shall have a railway connexion, I think that, in all reasonableness, the other States might be generously consulted before we issue what will practically amount to a mandate to them. The Ministry observe a silence on this subject that seems to sit well on the shoulders of the sphinx-like Minister of Home Affairs. T do not know whether he has not made himself acquainted with the difficulties involved, or whether, with the lightness of heart characteristic of his volatile nationality, he assumes these difficulties with an utter disregard for the consequences.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the question of gauge is a light matter in the eyes of the Minister ?
– It may be a mere trifle in the eyes of the Minister; but it is a very serious undertaking, so far as the finances of South Australia are concerned, and, for the moment, that portion of the Commonwealth is more directly interested than is any other part. I do not know whether the Minister is in possession of the information, whether he has undertaken this stupendous task without first considering the proposal, or whether he intends to force it “through because he knows that a majority of honorable members are prepared to support him. If he has not that knowledge, 1 want to ask him if he will defer the second-reading stage of the Bill until we have a little more information on the subject, or if it is his intention to force the matter through practically this afternoon. It is clear that the Minister has not considered the subject, at any rate up to the standard of giving honorable members the information which they seek. I let him down thus lightly.
– What does the honorable member want the Minister to do - to go back on his own Bill?
– No; I am not asking the Minister to have the Bill removed from the notice-paper, but to defer further action until we have some information - in particular respecting the gauge - and until there has been a reasonable effort made to secure the co-operation of the States regarding that all-important point
– Does the honorable member think that it would lead to the possibility of securing that co-operation?
– I am not in a position to say what there is a possibility of securing, but we ought to endeavour to do so.
– We have just had a report placed in our hands.
– Yes, but I have not had an opportunity of reading the report, which is entitled, “ The Gauges of Australia and their Unification. Report of the Consulting Railway Engineer.” Perhaps the Minister would like me to put the whole of the report into Hansard, as he is not in themood to give honorable members any information on the subject. As I understand the attitude of the Ministry, they adopted a gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in., because, in the’ir view, it would cost about £2,000,000 to reduce the present length of 5-ft. 3-in. railway to a gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in., whereas to increase the present length of 4-ft8½-in railway to a gauge of 5 ft. 3 in. would cost something like £5,000,000.
– Does not the honorable member think that that is a very good argument?
– If, on the other hand a saving of £3,000,000 at the present time would mean a loss of £30,000,000 in ten or fifteen years, we would not be justified in adopting a penny-wise and pound-foolish policy. To save £3,000,000 at present - a nominal saving- and to expend or waste four or five, or ten, times the amount within a space of a few years would be a policy which would not reflect credit upon the House, and one which we ought not to hastily adopt. I desire to ask the Minister for information respecting the’ negotiations, if any, which have taken place between the Government of South’ Australia and the Federal Government. Up to the present time the information promised has not been produced. If I understand the situation, financial and otherwise, of South Australia, it is not in a position to-day to be forced by this Parliament to undertake an expenditure such as will devolve upon its people if arbitrarily a certain gauge of railway is forced upon its acceptance.
– Why was this not made known before we carried the original Bill ?
– So far as I understand, there was no original Bill ; all we did some time ago was to authorize a sort of flying survey. The fact that a house agent told the honorable member that a certain allotment was one that he should buy and reside on for the balance of his life would be no reason why he should be forced to buy it; and the preliminary survey in no way commits the honorable member to vote for the construction of the railway.
– How will South Australia be compelled to pay?
– At the present time, from Servicetown to Adelaide, and on to Terowie, there is a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge.
– That is the whole trouble !
– No; it is not the whole trouble. To such interjections, I may retaliate that the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge has been adopted, because, otherwise, there would have been trouble elsewhere in the Commonwealth. Judging from what has taken place in the past, we may conclude that, if the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge had been adopted by the Federal Government, the trouble would have been of such a character as to have stirred some honorable members to their inmost depths, and we should have had an unfortunate position similar to that created when Parliament decided on a Capital- site which was not approved by the parochialists of a certain part of the Commonwealth.
– We could not conceive of anything so foolish !
– I have no doubt that had the Government dared to adopt a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, there would have been dissent loud and long, and the honorable member for Gwydir would have been the loudest in giving expression thereto.
– How is South Australia financially involved?
– South Australia is concerned ‘in that at present a certain portion of her territory is covered by a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge railway, while from Terowie to Port Augusta the gauge is 3 ft. 6 in., and the proposal before us will make the railway from Port Augusta onward 4 ft. 8j in. If that is a satisfactory position for my honorable friend, it is not for me; and I am sure it will not prove satisfactory to the general public who may, in the future, ride on the railway.’
– How does South Australia propose to bridge the gap between Terowie and Port Augusta?
– No definite proposal has been made.
– South Australia is prepared to bridge the gap with a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge railway.
– No definite statement on the point has yet been made by the South Australian Government.
– But the Railway Commisioners have made a recommendation to that effect to the State Government.
– We know from practical experience that the recommendations of railway commissioners are put into the waste-paper basket time after time - that railway commissioners’ recommendations have no more weight than had the promises of politicians, twelve years ago, that South Australia would build the railway to the West if Western Australian would only come into the Federation. The Commissioners have recommended that the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge shall be continued; and that would get over one small difficulty, but it would not solve the problem of a uniform gauge for Australia. In New South Wales, there is a gauge of 4 ft. 81 in.,. in Queensland, a gauge of 3 ft. 6 in.j in Victoria and South Australia, a gauge of 5 ft. 3 in. ‘; and in Western Australia, a gauge of 4 ft. in. If honorable members are prepared to indulge in such complications in a nonchalant and indifferent manner, the House is scarcely in a frame of mind to’ deal with a matter of such magnitude and importance.
– There would be the same differences if the gauge were made 5 ft. 3 in.
– The honorable member seems unable to grasp my meaning, or, perhaps, I had better say, I have not made myself sufficiently clear. I am not asking for either a 5-ft. 3-in. or a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge.
– Then, what is the honorable member asking for?
– For some consensus of opinion amongst those who are directly concerned’ before this House issues a mandate. I am asking for a reasonable attempt on the part of the Commonwealth Government to secure the co-operation of the States, so that when we construct this line on a particular gauge, there shall be an understanding that the States -will at once start on the work of securing uniformity. Otherwise, for the next ten or twenty years, the break of gauge difficulty will unceasingly crop up, until Australia, from a railway point of view, will become the laughing-stock of the world. If honorable members are prepared to subject the Commonwealth to the ridicule of every traveller and visitor, simply because a few of them are obsessed with the idea that two particular States must be joined, willynilly, by a railway, they display a frame of mind which is not mine at the present moment. The Government ought not to force honorable members into such a position, while Ministers sit at the table without uttering a word, especially after the definite promise of the Minister in charge of the measure to furnish all information - a promise he failed signally to keep in his second-reading speech.
– We have only the report of one man, Mr. Deane ! What about the other experts?
– We have the commissioners, the engineers, and the War Council all in agreement.
– What about the defence point of view?
– I do not pose as an expert on defence, and I am not a member of that illustrious War Council, about which the Honorary Minister broke his sphinx-like silence a moment ago.- But with all the different gauges to which I have already referred, it seems to me that if we desired to transport 10,000 mounted troops from Brisbane to Perth it would take us twelve months to do so.
– Surely not.
– Even the transportation of 10,000 foot troops would take so many weeks that, long before they reached Perth, that city would be in the hands of the enemy, and I do not know where the right honorable member for Swan would be.
– I do not think it would take as long as the honorable member suggests.
– Those who have had even a slight experience of the work of transporting troops over railway lines will know something ofthe difficulties connected with it. They cannot be conveyed, as if on wings, from one spot to another, merely because a War Council says, “ Hey, presto ! “ or waves a magic wand.
– We could travel by foot between the two points in less time than the honorable member suggests. I came across Western Australia in five months.
– And the honorable member had to find his way.
– I know that the honorable member did. The point that I wish to make is that it will be, not the War Council in Melbourne issuing its orders, but rather the unfortunate minor railway officials and the transport officers, who are regarded as mere nonentities in comparison with the laced-officials of the War Council, who will have to overcome these difficulties. Upon the transport officers the administrative work will fall, and they will curse the Ministry for its silence on this subject. My attention has just been called to the following paragraph under the heading of “ Historical “ in the official report of the consulting engineer, Mr. Deane -
In April, 1897, the Premiers, in Conference at Adelaide, decided to request the Railway Commissioners of the respective Colonies to report on the question. TheRailway Comissioners of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia met in Melbourne in the following August, and furnished a report in which it was pointed out that it would cost less to change the 5 ft. 3 in. lines to 4 ft.8½ in. than those of the 4 ft.8½ in. to 5 ft. 3 in. ; that therefore the more favorable gauge was 4 ft.8½ in. The cost of reducing all lines of the wider gauge to 4 ft. 8½ in. was estimated at £2,360,500.
If that be the reason why the Ministry, or a section of them - for I think that the question of gauge was settled by the Cabinet, when the Prime Minister and two of his colleagues were attending the Imperial Conference - decided upon the adoption of a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, I can only say that they acted without having at their disposal the necessary information.
– Will the honorable member read the last two paragraphs on the same page of the report as that from which he has just quoted?
– My honorable friend was not present a little while ago, when I pointed out that it would be a pennywise and pound-foolish policy to save £2,500,000 or £3.000,000 to-day with the result that we might have to waste in the early future from £10,000,000 to £30,000,000.
– We are proposing what is the standard gauge of the world.
– All the more reason why we should not have it.
– We have in this report the further statement -
The question of the best uniform gauge again came to the front when the Engineers-in-Chief for Railways of the five States were called upon, in 1903, to report upon the selection of the route for the connexion between Port Augusta, S.A., and Kalgoorlie, W.A., and its estimated cost. Here, again, the 4-ft. 8jingauge was recommended.
At a meeting of the Railway War Council in February last-
This is most important - the Chief Commissioners of the States being present, the question of gauge was discussed, and it was unanimously decided to recommend the adoption of the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge.
We are asked to accept these bald statements as incontrovertible, without having placed before us any information as to the reasons upon which these conclusions were arrived at. other than that it was thought that the adoption of the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge would be the least costly . As I understand by my reading, the trend of engineering thought at the present time is towards a 5-ft. 3-in. rather than a 4-ft. &l-in. gauge.
– If that is correct^ it is extraordinary that the railway engineers of Australia should have unanimously reported in favour of the 4-ft. 84-in. gauge.
– The trend of engineering thought, as I understand it, is towards a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, and not a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, and every paragraph in this report by one man - Mr. Deane, the consulting railway engineer - leans to the adoption of the 4-ft. gauge because of its involving the least cost. Is that the only reason that has actuated Ministers in proposing the adoption of this gauge? We not only have a right to know the opinions of experts upon the subject, but we should also consult the different State Governments, and have regard to their financial situation to-day. We ought also to know whether this Parliament is prepared in the immediate future to assist the State Governments concerned in meeting the heavy expenditure that will be forced upon them by this proposal before we decide upon any particular gauge of railway for the whole of the Commonwealth. Mr. Verran, Premier of South Australia, visited _ Melbourne a day_or two ago to secure information upon the subject, and also to discuss this question of gauge with members of the Federal Ministry. I have not had an opportunity to meet him since, but I understand that his Government prefers the adoption of a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. I am not committed to either the one or the other. The question of gauge has no special significance, so far as I am concerned, neither does it touch my electorate; but I certainly have some regard for the general finances of South Australia, and am concerned as to whether this Parliament has a right to issue such an order as this. By doing so we shall force upon the States an expenditure that they cannot bear at the present time. We are to do this simply because one or two honorable members have been talking for some years in a largely sentimental manner about the desirableness of connecting two distant parts of the Commonwealth by means of a railway line. Up to the present we have not had any information as to whether the railway is likely to pay, as to whether there is water along the route, or as to whether each train traversing the line will not have to consist of one passenger carriage and five or six trucks, carrying water for the engines. According to the Minister of Home Affairs, and the right honorable member for Swan, there are one or two rockholes along the route. In other words, there are one or two blackfellows’ waterholes at which the engines are to be watered. One can imagine what will happen after a train has travelled somewhat laboriously over the Nullarbor Plains for 150 miles; one can imagine the tired engineer, his fireman, the guard, and probably the conductor of the luxurious carriage in which the right honorable member for Swan will be reclining, alighting at one of these rockholes, and with pannikins, or more probably with their old felt hats, because pannikins would be too heavy to carry, baling out of it sufficient water to renew the boiler supplies.
– What I should like to know is, whether the honorable member is in favour of, or against, the line.
– I love the honorable member too well to be harsh with him.
– The honorable member is not a very vigorous supporter of the line, is he?
– I am prepared to support the Ministry in the proposal they have put forward, when they give information of a more reliable character respecting the cost of the railway; when they have given the opinion, not of one consulting engineer, but of the latest possible engineering experts, respecting what ought to be its gauge, taking into consideration the future of the Commonwealth, the probable cost involved in bringing about a uniform gauge, and the financial condition of the States ; and when they have shown that they have made a reasonable attempt to secure such uniformity of opinion as may result in uniformity of gauge ; but not when they are prepared, as at present, to force the measure through because they have a servile - I shall not say a servile, but a smiling - majority prepared to do anything, at any cost, so long as those two particular spots are connected by a railway. It matters not to them whether it is going through a desert or the luxuriant country spoken about by the honorable member for Wakefield and the honorable member for Grey, who a little while ago were tumbling over each other in their eulogies of the Nullarbor plains, which they visited once, and from which they ran with all possible speed. One of those honorable members penetrated for a mile or two into that country on one occasion in a motor car, .and stopped there in disgust for some time, until borne put of it by a farmer’s old horse. That ‘is the place from which those honorable members fled with all possible speed, in despair and dismay, because of its dryness, barrenness, and generally inhospitable character ; and yet to-day we hear that the same plains are carpets of green, and practically floricultural centres shedding orchids of rare value ! That is the sort of attitude which we sometimes see honorable, members adopt when a proposal which they have on foot is before the Parliament. From those gentlemen we have not heard a word of explanation. A few moments ago the second reading of the Bill would have passed without another word,- so far as the members who are favouring the proposals are concerned. From them at least might come something in favour of” it. We should not be subjected to the position of having to vote either for or against this important proposal when there are experts silent in the House. Up to the present, for all practical purposes, we have had the speech, if it can be dignified by the term - I do not wish to be offensive in any way - of the Minister proposing the Bill, a mild eulogy from the right honorable member for Swan, andi an even milder support from the honorable member for Perth. Where are the experts? Where are the men who will have this railway, willy-nilly, good, bad, or indifferent? Where are the men who know this country as a luxuriant land, capable of supporting the population of the world, so prolific is it in its growth? . Where are the men who assert that the place abounds with rivers and streams, and that there is no water difficulty? Where are those gentlemen who will lightly involve the Commonwealth in an expenditure of from £4,000,000 to £6,000,000? They should favour us with light on the proposal. They should have been to the fore expounding to us all the beauties and possibilities of the project, . and not left us in comparative darkness. While we have been favoured with a number of interjections, scarcely one of them will vouchsafe us information of a character likely to help the House to a satisfactory conclusion. Apparently even their interjections are now beaten back, and they sit there in the knowledge that they have a majority, and are going to put the Bill through, involving the Commonwealth in an expenditure of £6,000,000 in constructing a line on which, if the predictions of the honorable member for Angas are correct, the engine will be pulled up every few miles, while the driver scoops up capfuls of water from rock holes, and on which it will take passengers longer to get to their destination by rail than it now takes them by steamer’. Is it likely that those 55,000 people who now, according to the right honorable member for Swan, travel from the east to the west, will want to be dumped into the desert, where the honorable member for Grey was once dumped?
– I do not see how the honorable member can vote for it if it is such a bad thing.
– I am asking for information. I think we have a right to it.
– The honorable member is giving very erroneous information.
– The right honorable member for Swan signally failed to give us any information. I am doubtful if he is over-anxious for the line. I am almost sure that he is not overwhelmingly anxious to secure the consummation of the proposal, because his record stands as clear as the noonday sun - that twice he engineered no-confidence motions when this subject was brought before the House by different Labour Ministries. The first time he was successful, and put the project back a- number of years. He did not succeed on this occasion, but it was not his fault in regard either to speech or vote.
– That is a very inaccurate statement.
– The right honorable member should give us the information we require. The Minister of Home
Affairs also signally failed to give it. We are not justified in the circumstances in forcing a particular gauge upon the States, whether they like it or not, and irrespective of their financial position. We are not justified in undertaking in this lighthearted manner the expenditure of £6,000,000 upon the report of practically only one man, Mr. Deane, as to whether it will pay. His opinions are based upon an estimated expenditure of £4,000,000, but what railway of such magnitude, or anywhere approaching it, in the whole of Australia, was ever constructed for the cost estimated by the consulting or Government engineers? Scarcely one. We cannot have two or three miles of an extension of railway constructed at the present time at a cost even approaching the estimate put forward by the officials of the moment, and here we have a line of I,06c miles ! For us to suppose that it can be put down for the estimated cost would show us to be guilty of a most distressing optimism, seeing that we know that the country will have to bear the expenditure. I have entered my mild protest against the present position, and can do no more in the circumstances. Notwithstanding the plea put forward by the honorable member for Angas, and notwithstanding my request for more information, the Ministry are apparently determined to sit there quietly in their strength. Perhaps it is good policy, although it may ultimately prove to be bad, but, unfortunately, if, in the future, it is shown to be bad, those who are now forcing us into the undertaking, may not be the sufferers thereby. In the circumstances, Ministers would be well advised in delaying the second reading of the Bill until such information can be given to honorable members as will enable them to cast an intelligent vote upon the question.
.- I shall not occupy much time in debating the second reading of this Bill. I naturally feel some interest in the measure, because it was my duty in 1906 to submit the first Bill introduced to authorize the survey of the proposed line. We were not able to carry that measure at that time, but in 1907, I am glad to say, we were more successful. We then succeeded in passing, the Bill which authorized the survey. The survey having been accomplished, we are now very naturally being asked by the Minister of Home Affairs to give effect to it by authorizing the construction of the railway. I have read the Minister’s speech with considerable in terest, and I know that in his Department there are some of the ablest officers of the Commonwealth. But I must confess that I should like to have had a little more information from the honorable gentleman, chiefly in connexion with the means to be adopted for financing the undertaking. We may presume that with the modesty which is so characteristic of the honorable gentleman, he did not desire to give us all the information in his possession at once, and has reserved some for the Committee stage of this measure. I am exceedingly glad that we have arrived at the stage when a Bill for the construction of this line is submitted to this House I hope that before long the railway will b«; an accomplished fact. I think the people of Western Australia are thoroughly entitled to have this line constructed. If I had not thought so for the last five or six years I should not have been doing my best to back up the efforts of the right honorable member for Swan and other Western Australian representatives in endeavouring to carry the proposal to a practical conclusion. The contention of the people of Western Australia that this railway had been promised to them and that it was on the strength of that promise they entered the Federation has been sustained. I believe that the Western Australian people are justified in holding the view that they will not really become part of the Commonwealth of Australia until this commercial link between the east and the .west has been completed. Further, I am of opinion that for defence reasons it is necessary that this line should be constructed. Every expert who has written or reported upon the subject of Australian defence regards the construction of this line as an absolute necessity. Their statements upon the subject have been exceedingly strong, and they have pointed out that it is quite possible for the west to be seized and to be isolated as much as if it were an island in the Pacific, so far as any effort on our part to defend it without this line is concerned. For that reason alone the construction of the line is justified. As regards .the gauge to be adopted, the question is one which I prefer to discuss in Committee. I take it that the underlying principle of the. Bill before us is merely whether a line between the east and the west should be constructed or not. That is the question which will be decided by my vote on the second reading. I have nol had time to read the report which has just been handed to me, but I may be allowed to say that it starts off in a peculiar way with what may be described as an attack upon the Queensland 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. I do not quite understand the reason for this preamble, though if I had time to read the report throughout I suppose I should get it. ‘I opened incidentally a report on the subject by the last railway Commissioner of Queensland, the late Mr. Thallon, who, I think, was recognised throughout Australia as one of the greatest railway experts we ever had in this country. He was certainly one of our most successful railway Commissioners, and I wish to say that he did not deprecate the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. I am not advocating the adoption of that gauge as the standard gauge for Australia, but I think it is only fair to mention, his views in justification of the adoption of that gauge by Queensland. In a special report by him in 1908”, he says -
The gauge in America is 4 ft. 8£ in., the same as in Great Britain. In Ireland, it is 5 ft. 3 in., and in South Africa, 3 ft. 6 in. - the same as in Queensland. There is nothing scientific about the width of gauge, which might as well be 4 feet or 5 feet, as 4 ft. 8i in. ; but there is an advantage in having a uniform width. The most comfortable to ride in. I found by experience, was the 5 ft. 3 in. ; and if ever it becomes practicable to have a uniform gauge in the Commonwealth, I would strongly recommend 3 ft. 6 in., of which, at the present time, there are 8,410 miles constructed and under construction, as compared with 3,9 ir 9 miles of 5-ft. 3-in. gauge ; and 3,473 miles °f 4-ft- 85’ngauge; and, failing that, 5 ft. 3 in.
He was writing in 1908, but, of course, the mileage has increased since then.
It is a remarkable fact that in Great Britain the railway carriages are the same width - 8 ft. 7 in. - as the present standard in Queensland; while in South Africa, where they have what is called the narrow gauge, the width of the carriages varies from 8 ft. 9 in. to 9 ft. 1 in. The developments of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge on all the railways in South Africa are truly marvellous; and as that gauge is more flexible, and costs much less to install in mountainous country, such as we have between Brisbane and Sydney, I think Queensland was well-advised in adopting it in the first instance- With heavy rails (80-lb. to the yard) the locomotives (no tons) such as they have in South Africa, the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge would be found equal to all the traffic we can contemplate in Australia within measurable distance.
I should not have quoted that, but for the few remarks in the introductory part of the report which has been placed before me which seem to cast discredit upon the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge - a gauge which has been used so advantageously for the development of Queensland. I may be allowed to say that it would seem, from the various reports we have on the subject, that each
State engineer has appeared as the advocate of the gauge adopted by the State he represents.
– The Commissioners of all the States recommend a 4-ft. 8-in. gauge.
– -No; the Queensland Railways Commissioner never did recommend that gauge.
– A Queensland Railways Commissioner, prior to Mr. Thallon, did so.
– It has certainly not been recommended by any Queensland Railways Commissioner of recent years. However, no matter what view railway experts may hold, the consensus of opinion throughout Australia is that we should work up to the adoption of a uniform gauge. That is what we ought to aim at, and the only question to be considered is how, with justice to all the States, that ideal is J:o be attained. It seems to me that the best way to have attained it would have been to have a thorough investigation of each of the systems, and a recommendation submitted to us by some body on whose advice we could have relied. We were entitled to expect from the Ministry a policy on the whole uniformity question ; the previous report of engineers dealt only with the one line before them. I frankly confess that my leaning in the matter is towards the New South Wales gauge. That appears to me to be the better of the wider gauges, but I am not going to bind myself absolutely to that at this stage. When I examine the reports I find that, from the point of view of comfort, and for other reasons, the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge is held by some to be preferable. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that each man should be an expert only in his own department, and I should prefer, in a matter of this kind, to be guided by the opinions of scientific and expert engineers. However, there is a difference of opinion amongst experts on the question, and the great difficulty is to secure a definite and conclusive expert opinion on this subject.
– We have had expert opinions times out of number.
– We have had the experts differing times out of number.
– Lawyers differ, but we must have finality.
– That is what I am saying. I want to get finality on this question. ‘ .
– We shall all be dead before we” reach that.
– I think not. The Minister of Home Affairs has been in office for eighteen months, and has had an opportunity during that time of developing a complete policy, after consultation with the States. He has had an opportunity of corresponding with the different State Railway Departments arranging for the meeting of engineers, collecting evidence on the question, and submitting facts and reports which would have enabled the House to arrive at a final opinion upon the matter. My reading upon this subject induces me to believe that for all practical purposes the gauge which has been adopted in New South Wales is the best suited to our requirements.
– Here is a copy of the report of the consulting engineer.
– The honorable member is referring to Mr. Deane’s report. I confess that I have not had time to read it. It has only been circulated this afternoon. Upon the question of the width of gauge to be adopted on the proposed transcontinental line I intend to preserve an open mind. My own view is that we should merely- regard the division on the motion for the second reading of this Bill as an expression of our opinion that Western Australia is entitled to this railway, and that until it has been constructed we shall not have completed our Federation with that State either economically, commercially, or politically.
– I think that the Government are to be congratulated upon having brought forward a Bill to authorize one of the great national works of Australia. They have been extremely fortunate in that they have been called upon to undertake the management of Commonwealth affairs at a time in our history when great national questions have to be grappled with. They are also fortunate in that they possess the capacity to deal with these national projects. They have behind them a sufficient force to enable them to put forward their proposals fearlessly, and they are exhibiting a breadth of vision and a general regard for the wider interests of Australia which are calculated to confer lasting benefits upon the nation.
I listened very attentively to the remarks of the honorable member for Adelaide, who spoke of the injustice which was about to be perpetrated on South Australia.
– I thought that the honorable member was talking most of the time.
– During the course of the honorable member’s remarks I interjected several times, because I wished to ascertain how South Australia would be subjected to any injustice by reason of the adoption of a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge. Is it proposed to take anything from that State which it already possesses ? Certainly not.
– Yes. She will be compelled to adopt a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, whether she likes it or not.
– She will not. The Commonwealth will construct a transcontinental line upon a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge - a line which will connect with the terminus of a South Australian railway having a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. In other words, an additional service will be placed at the disposal of the people of that State, and nothing will be taken from them. The South Australian line, with the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, will secure additional traffic as the result of the construction of the proposed transcontinental railway, because it will be the connecting link between the latter and the South Australian main line to Melbourne.
– South Australia will get 650 miles of railway through her territory constructed by the Commonwealth.
– Exactly. Nothing is to be taken from the people of that State, and a great deal is to be given to them. Of course, South Australia, in her desire to obtain an increased benefit from the construction of the transcontinental line, may deem is advisable to convert her railway from’ Terowie to a 4-ft. 8-in. gauge. But that would be merely a business consideration, the adoption of which would enable that State to reap a larger profit by obviating the handling which would otherwise occur at the point at which the transcontinental railway meets the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line. So that the alleged claim which has been urged on behalf of South Australia is really a plea that something additional should be given to her by the Commonwealth.
It is rather a selfish attitude for South Australian representatives to adopt. The more populous of the States will be called upon to pay a much larger sum towards the construction of this line than will the smaller States. For instance, New South Wales, which will reap no commercial advantage from it, will contribute in the aggregate four or. five times the amount that will be contributed by South Australia, which will secure an enormous benefit from it. Seeing that the citizens of the most populous States have no grievance in this connexion, certainly those of South Australia ought to be very thankful for the advantages which will be conferred upon them by the proposed line.
During this debate, some reference has been made to the standard gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in. The honorable member for Adelaide wished to know what benefit it will be to the people of Australia if we adopt the gauge which has been universally adopted.
– I did not. The honorable member is quite wrong.
– I say that the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge is universally accepted by engineers as the standard gauge.
– What does the honorable member describe as “universal.”
– The whole of the British-speaking world, including Great Britain, the United States, and Canada, has adopted the 4-ft. gauge.
– The honorable member is considering the matter only from the stand-point of this planet.
– Yes. I am not considering it from the view point of the people of Mars-
– The honorable member is merely considering the “ma” State.
– As far as the “ ma “ State is concerned, the only part which New South Wales is being asked to take in this matter is to contribute a large share of the cost of an undertaking from which South Australia will derive a considerable direct benefit.
It is well known that parts of locomotives and carriages are made in the great railway workshops of the world for use on railways of the standard gauge. If Australia were at any time confronted with serious difficulties, and it were necessary to provide extra transport facilities rapidly, we might desire to have access to parts constructed in the great railway workshops.
– That is an argument for a break of gauge, because it could be contended that we play into the hands of an enemy by having a uniform gauge.
– It is a strong argument for the adoption of a uniform standard gauge throughout Australia. Of course, I am hopeful that all our locomotives and carriages will be manufactured in
Australia ; but it may not be possible at all times to secure everything that we require of local manufacture, especially at a time when Australia is so busily occupied industrially as is the case at present. It may, therefore, be a matter of great importance that we should be able to purchase parts at short notice.
South Australian representatives have made a point about the 150 miles of railway on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge which would have to be converted into the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge, and the cost that would thus be entailed to their State. But I would remind them that the Western Australian Government have voluntarily undertaken to convert 387 miles of railway from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie from 3 ft. 6 in. to 4 ft.8½ in. Surely when Western Australia is prepared to convert so large a mileage there ought not to be any quibble on the part of South Australia respecting the conversion of its little piece of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line, so as to provide a continuous line on one gauge from Perth to Brisbane.
There does not seem to be the difference of opinion amongst railway experts as to gauge that the honorable member for Darling Downs has represented. As a matter of fact, Queensland railway experts have adopted the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. At a sitting of the Railway Council on Defence, at which the Chief Commissioners of the State railways were present, with their engineers, and at which, although their Conv missioner was absent, Queensland was represented, unanimous support was given to the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. That fact is mentioned in Mr. Deane’s report, which was laid upon the table of this House to-day. It will be noticed, from the same document, that in 1903 engineers from the various States also met and adopted the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. As a matter of fact, there are very few railway experts in Australia who have not given their adherence to this gauge as a uniform standard for Australia.
The honorable member for Adelaide has referred to the difficulty that would be placed upon the shoulders of railway officers in relation to the transport of defence material. But, apparently, he overlooked the fact that the very men who will be responsible for transport have adopted the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge for the transcontinental line. I merely wish to add that I approve of the experts’ proposals on the points to which I have referred.
The general proposition is one to which we are committed. Western Australia has been promised railway connexion with the eastern States. I can only express again my regret - as I did also in connexion with the Federal Capital question - that these bargains were incorporated in our Constitution; but, the arrangement having been made, the duty devolves upon this National Parliament to see that they are faithfully carried out.
– Does the honorable member say that there is a constitutional obligation ?
– I should not have said that the undertaking relating to the railway was embodied in the Constitution; but certainly an understanding was arrived at which was placed before the people of Western Australia, by the leading public men of the States, when the question of Federation was being considered, and which is as binding upon us as if it had actually been incorporated in the Constitution.
I regard this as one of the great national projects that will be handed down to posterity, arid the name of the present Labour Government will live in the history of Australia as the Ministry which had the courage to undertake the work. This Government has undertaken some of the greatest problems confronting Australia. In a very short space of time it has placed the naval and military defence of this country upon an effective basis.
– Order ! The honorable member is not now dealing with the question.
– I am merely referring to these matters incidentally. Other great problems have also been effectively tackled. As a young Australian, and one who glories in the future of his country, I am very glad at this period in our national history to give my small support to one of the great undertakings lying ahead of us - a work which will go far to unify the interests and sentiments of the people of Australia, and help to make the inhabitants of this country one of the greatest nations of the world.
-39l- - I support this Bill for the construction of a railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie very largely, if not entirely, for reasons of defence. I regard the proposed line as primarily a defence work, and as the proper complement of Federation, by linking up, as far as possible, the east with the west. In my opinion, the question of gauge is the crux of the whole business. When we determine what the gauge for this line shall be, we, in effect, determine the uniform gauge for all Australia. Indeed, if we are not doing so, we have no business, as representatives of the people, to proceed any further with the discussion of this question. The uniform gauge for this country should be absolutely determined at the outset. If I were to pay regard merely to the development of the country through which the proposed line will pass, I should stoutly oppose the adoption of a gauge wider than 3 ft. 6 in. Notwithstanding the magnificent colours employed by the Minister of Home Affairs to picture its resources, I agree largely with the honorable member for Angas that the South Australian portion of the route is average pastoral country, such as is to be found generally in the interior. The honorable member was a little severe in speaking of the Nullarbor country. With all deference to the surveyor responsible for the description of that country, I say that it is a little better than it has been represented; but when you get away from it on to the sandhills, the land for a considerable distance is poor enough. The serious question in dealing with this project is the question of gauge. In deciding it, we must have regard to the needs, not of the next twenty, or even fifty, years, but to a period still more distant. The making of the line is part of the defence policy of Australia. The railway will be a main trunk connexion between the eastern and western portions of the Commonwealth, and its gauge will probably become the standard for Australia. I am exceedingly dissatisfied with the way in which the proposal has been put before us, for which I blame the Government, not the Minister. This is the biggest railway undertaking that we are likely to be asked to consider, and the information put before us is very meagre. The information in the paper on the gauges of Australia and their unification is not what we have a right to expect. It is little more than a bald statement of the decisions arrived at by individuals and committees of railway commissioners and engineers. A matter so vitally affecting the future of Australia, and the treasuries’ of the States, is one on which Parliament and the public have a right to detailed information; not merely the statement of decisions, but the reasons leading up to them. I hope that full information will be supplied in Committee.
The Age has recently given a most interesting history of the gauge question, so far as Australian railways are concerned; and I hold in my hand a paper by the president of the Institute of Engineers in Victoria containing information much more valuable and practical than that which has been submitted by the Government. In 1897 the Premiers in conference decided to request their respective Railway Commissioners to consider what would be the best gauge to make uniform in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. The Commissioners met in Melbourne in the following August, and reported that it would cost less to change the existing lines to a uniform 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge than to a uniform 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, the difference in favour of the former conversion being £1,899,500. We did not need a conference of Commissioners to find that out ; any man of common sense would know that the one conversion would cost more than the other. What we are really concerned about ascertaining is which is the best gauge to adopt, keeping in view the possibilities of the future. For fifty years the big English railway companies have made 4 ft.8½ in. the standard gauge ; and while up-to-date engineers there advocate a wider gauge for economy of working, it seems likely that, taking everything into consideration, the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge must be retained. Let us apply the same principle to a larger country, which furnishes more nearly a parallel to Australia than does the United Kingdom. In the United States, for railway purposes of to-day, and the future, they have to deal with a Territory very similar to that which is contained in Australia, and for which provision has to be made. When America adopted the 4-ft. 81/3-in. gauge in the fifties - I think it was adopted generally in 1854 - the population numbered 26,000,000, and the railway mileage was similar to the railway mileage in the Commonwealth to-day; that is, roughly, 15,000 miles. According to a return compiled in 1909, America had then a railway mileage of 238,356 miles, and a population pf 91,000,000.
– The railway mileage is over 250,000 miles now.
– That strengthens my argument. If a gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in. met the position in America when the mileage was 15,000 miles, is it not reasonable toexpect that, with the extension of railway mileage and consequent increase of tonnage, the engineering ideas of its people are expanding, and expanding in the direction of securing greater economy in working, not only for the present, but for the days to come? I want particularly to emphasize this point : that if the conversion of the railways in Australia to a standard gauge would cost only £2,000,000, now is the time to determine that question without waiting for the days to come, when the increase, consequent upon conversion, will be infinitely greater. I appeal to-day for a wider standard gauge, because, according to the engineering journals - according to the best information which laymen can obtain - the wider the gauge the bigger the capacity for work; and the bigger the capacity for work, from the railway engineering point of view, the larger are the profits made in handling enormous traffic, such as has to be handled in the United States to-day, and such as will have to be handled in Australia, probably in fifty or one hundred years. It has been proved in every State that, where the traffic is heavy, the correct policy is to make the gauge as strong as engineering can do - to make a good, solid, strong road ; to use the strongest sleepers and the heaviest rails, in order to accommodate vehicles of a greater capacity. That applies to a gauge of 3 ft. 6 in. as well as to a gauge of 4 ft.8½ in. or 5 ft. 3 in. In the working mileage cost, and the consequent profits of a railway, everything depends on attention to those points. If that is the case, we should make provision, not for the immediate future, but for fifty years or a century ahead. I venture to think that, in ten or twenty years, if the march of railway progress should be in the direction of a wider gauge, there will be nothing but condemnation, not only for the Government, but for this Parliament, because we did not look ahead. I desire to make a short reference to the report to which our attention has been invited, but which I only had the opportunity to peruse about half an hour ago. The Minister in charge of this Bill laid particular emphasis on his War Council - on the fact that the Railway Commissioners for the States had in conference come to a certain decision. I want to know whether that deliberation was not a very preliminary step towards the accomplishment of a very large undertaking. I question whether that was the sole business of the conference, but, if it was the sole business, I doubt very much whether the Railway Commissioners had all the available data from the engineering point of view which might have been obtained when they, without such consideration as such a large question demands, came to a certain determination. If that determination, which I regard as a preliminary step, had been taken seriously by the State Governments, and the latter had been prepared to force the policy of conversion to a standard gauge. I venture to say that there is not a State Parliament which would not have demanded very much fuller information - the very latest information from the best obtainable engineers. We have no such information before us. We have no data in the report which is submitted for our consideration. The subject of gauge is referred to in another paragraph
The question of the best uniform gauge again came to the front when the Engineers-in-Chief for Railways of the five States were called upon, in 1903, to report upon the selection of the route for the connexion between Port Augusta, S.A., and Kalgoorlie, W.A., and its estimated cost. Here, again, the 4-ft. gauge was recommended.
Were these engineers instructed to consider the question of co-ordinating the gauges of the railways of the States to one gauge? If they were not so instructed, then, from this point of view, which ought to have been uppermost in their consideration, their recommendation is not worth a snap of the fingers.
– Order ! I think that I have allowed the honorable member fair latitude on the question of gauge.
– I have no interest in this railway outside that question, sir.
– Order ! The honorable member will have ample opportunity in Committee to discuss the question of gauge.
– With all respect for your ruling, sir, I will, in a word or two, leave the question of gauge alone, but to me this is everything. It involves a matter of millions. If the future cost to the people of Australia is not to be considered now, if that is not the cardinal principle in the consideration of the Bill-
– Order ! The honorable member is questioning my ruling. What the House is asked to decide now is whether a railway shall be constructed from one point to another, and not the question of gauge. The latter is purely a question of detail which can be considered in Committee. I ask the honorable member not to pursue further that line of argument.
– Probably, sir, you will allow me, on the basis of your ruling, to discuss the construction of a railway from one point to another - I desire to deal briefly with the question of constructing a line from Perth to Brisbane. In present conditions-
– The honorable member is trying to evade my ruling, and I ask him not to do that.
– I do not wish to evade your ruling for a moment, sir, and, therefore, I must defer what I have to say until the next stage. I intend to oppose the consideration of the measure in Committee until the Government give what, not only the House, but the country, has a right to expect. Proper information ought to be submitted to us when the Committee stage is reached. Leaving the question of gauge, I shall deal with the question of transport. I am not speaking as a South Australian; my only desire is to ascertain, on the best information, what is the wisest course to pursue. So far as transport from Perth to Brisbane is concerned, what is the position to-day? The proposal simply means fresh starts at Port Augusta, Adelaide, Albury, and the Queensland border. I once more appeal to the Government for that information for which all Australia is waiting, and without which the people will never be satisfied. Let us have material on which we can come to a determination in Committee.
– I do not intend to occupy more than a few moments. You, Mr. Speaker, in your wisdom, have ruled very strongly against any reference to the question of break of gauge, which has, therefore, to be left to a later stage, and to which I do not intend now to refer. I rise more to emphasize the point raised by the honorable member for Adelaide, namely, that we should have more information with regard to the measure. Last year we practically agreed to the construction of this railway when we voted a certain sum of money for survey purposes. The amount then voted will not be regarded as a serious item, and, therefore, we may take “it that the principle was admitted. There are several methods of dealing with the construction of this railway.
In the first place, it must link up the South Australian and the Western Australian railroads. If the Government are adapting a policy of railway construction, they cannot lose sight of eventualities; and it is absolutely essential that we should have further information in regard to the railway under consideration. The Government ought to be prepared to invite the House to lay down the policy tq be followed in connexion with future railways of this character. I take it that, at no distant date, we shall be discussing the construction of a railway at the expense of the Commonwealth in another direction; and the question naturally arises whether we are to adopt a railway policy utterly regardless of the expenditure that will be forced on any individual State. If that is the policy of the Government, it is decidedly an unfair one. I suppose, with the human nature that is in us, we cannot help a tendency to look at these matters from a State point of view; but, as far as possible, we ought to consider it as Australians, from an Australian standpoint. I urge the Government to give us full information as to their intentions in the future, in regard to this and other railways, so that we may know what burdens are intended to be placed on the States, and what burdens on the Commonwealth. I do not intend to say more at present, because I regard this as simply a machinery Bill, independent of the question of gauge, though the gauge is a fundamental point, which must come up for consideration in Committee. We are really wasting our time in discussing the matter in the abstract. No one, apparently, objects to the construction of a railway to Western Australia ; and the important point to be urged now is that of the necessity for further information, because there is no doubt that such information may ultimately affect the fate of the measure.
.- For two reasons I do not intend offering any opposition to the Bill. In the first place, the House, and I think the country, seem agreed that this is a railway that ought fo be constructed. I have always felt that there was some injustice in the fact that, while the other States have had to construct their own transcontinental railways out of their own money, this is the one railway to which all were asked to contribute. There was a time when, to talk of a railway from Northern Queensland to the New South Wales border would have been to suggest a great undertaking. That work, however, Queensland has done bit by bit, so that we may now say that the cost of that railway has come out of the pockets of the Queensland people. Again, at one time it seemed a tremendous undertaking to construct a railway from northern New South Wales to the Victorian border ; but as the years have gone by the thing has been done at the expense of the New South Wales people. And so with the Victorian railway running to South Australia. Now we have the last, for many years to come, of the transcontinental lines ; and, by some anomalous reasoning, the whole cost is to come out of the pockets of the people of the other States; each State not only has had to pay for its own transcontinental line, but is now asked to pay a portion of the cost of 1,000 miles of railway through the two States., pf South Australia and Western Australia.
– But all the States will share the receipts !
– I cannot see the honorable member behind me, but I know that he has his “ tongue in his cheek” when he talks of receipts. We know very well that the old saying about earning “ enough to pay for grease for the wheels “ applies forcibly to this proposed railway.
– It is a good spec ‘.
– The right honorable member foi .Swan is nothing, if not heroic, on any question touching Western Australia. I am urging these considerations merely because I desire them placed on record. While willing to see the measure passed - because I know my individual efforts could have no effect - I do not think the proposal has ever been considered on its financial merits. There has been too great a readiness to respond to that sentiment which the right honorable member for Swan has so frequently put forward, in rather grandiose language, as to “ binding the east with the west.” He has always urged that, when Federation was brought about, there was an implied undertaking that the east and the west should be connected by rail.
– So there was.
– I do not recognise implied undertakings, because they are differently understood by the different parties to them. I have no doubt that the people of Western Australia hoped that the line would be constructed. There was a stage in the Federal negotiations at which they had the courage, one might almost say the foolhardiness, to put down their foot and assert that they would not join the union. If they were ever in that mood they must have been equally in the mood to say, “ We shall join the union only on condition that you will undertake, byandby, to construct a railway line connecting Perth, or the more easterly towns of Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie with the eastern States.” They hoped that would be done, but they never dared to make it a condition precedent to joining the Federal partnership.
– Does the honorable member think they would have been justified in doing so?
– Views in advocacy of this measure are always coming from the representatives of either South Australia or Western Australia. One important feature of this line is that it will enable the European mails to reach the eastern States at least two or three days sooner than they would if they came round by sea. In these days of commercialunrest, when the making of money seems to be the primary purpose of life, and commerce is regarded only as a means to that end, no doubt commercial men look upon two or three days’ saving of time in the carriage of mails as a matter of great importance. That is certainly a point in favour of the railway. But we have not had as much information as we ought to have, before embarking upon this £5,000,000 enterprise, regarding the nature of the country which the line will traverse. The right honorable member for Swan has often told us that it is a fertile country. I happen to know, however, that he has not been through it. I have studied the story of his. very laudable explorations, and I find that the only occasion upon which he ever approached that part of the country through which this line will run was when he travelled by a schooner into the Australian Bight, took semi-circular tours into the interior and returned periodically to the schooner, where, I have no doubt, he found water and other comforts of ship-life awaiting him.
– Has not the honorable member read his book?
– Yes, and 1 have also seen its map. I do not regard the right honorable member for Swan, however, as an authority upon the nature of the country to be actually traversed. I have heard lately some vague statements of artesian or sub-artesian, water having been found, but I have not seen any parliamentary paper affording a sufficiently definite knowledge of the water capabilities of the country, or that seemed to throw much light upon the advantages of the railway, apart from the question of the implied promise and the increased speed at which we should receive our letters in the eastern States. When this matter was before the House, many years ago, I suggested to the right honorable member for Swan that he should induce the Western Australian Government to reserve 25 miles on either side of the line, the land to be vested in trustees, and sold ultimately for the purpose of redeeming some of the great expenditure upon the railway.
– But the honorable member says the land is no good.
– If it is valueless, a railway ought not to be constructed through it ; if it is any good, or is likely to develop into valuable land, such an area on either side of the line ought to be secured for the benefit of those who have to carry out the work. My contention was so convincing that the right honorable member informed me afterwards that the Western Australian Government had actually ‘ reserved those lands and placed them in trust. They have since backed out of their bargain.
– The honorable member has no right to say that they have backed out of anything.
– The right honorable member told me in this House that the Western Australian Government had undertaken to reserve these lands and place them in trust ; but I understood from him lately that they were not now prepared to stand by that arrangement.
– I have not heard that.
– I should like the right honorable member to say definitely whether or not they have drawn out of that undertaking.
– I have not heard anything about it since.
– I understood that they had backed out of it.
– From whom?
– From the right honorable member himself. I understood him to say that they would not now hold to the bargain.
– The honorable member misunderstood me. I said nothing to him about it, and, what is more, I know nothing about it. I said the difficulty was that South Australia had done nothing.
– The right honorable member led me to understand that they would not now hold to it. This railway, 1,050 miles in length, will extend for about 600 miles through South Australian territory, and yet the South Australian Government have not reserved any lands on either side of the route for the purpose I have suggested. The Commonwealth Government ought to have stipulated, as a condition precedent to the construction of the railway, that both States should make substantial reservations on either side of the line, and that those lands should be vested in trustees, who should be given power at some future date to sell them.
– To lease them.
– Well, then, if the honorable member pleases, to lease them for 999 years, as is done in England. If that were done, we should be able to redeem some of the debt which the Commonwealth will have taken upon its shoulders in connexion with, the construction of the line.
– We are in agreement for once.
– Then, I hope honorable members opposite will take steps to assist others, in Committee, to introduce into the Bill a provision that will require both South Australia and Western Australia to do something of that sort. South Australia has done very well with this Parliament. It has carried its Northern Territory scheme, and has shifted on to the shoulders of the Federal Parliament an enormous expenditure. I believe that something like £500,000 has been paid already out of the Federal pockets to maintain certain features of that South Australian bargain. That being so, South Australia might very well now say to the Commonwealth, “If. you will construct this line, which will run through 600 miles of our territory, we, recognising that it must improve the value of our lands, will reserve a certain area on either side of the line, and vest it in trustees,” for the purpose I have named. As to the question of gauge, I do not pretend to know anything about it. I am one of those who recognise that, apart from one’s own particular profession, one’s opinions on other people’s are not of great value. We must depend upon the experts. I recognise the value of Australia’s some day enjoying a uniform gauge; but how that is to be brought about must depend upon expert opinion as to the scheme that will involve the least expenditure. There is no doubt that no particular State can fairly have thrown upon its shoulders the whole cost of changing its gauge merely to enable that State to assimilate its gauge with that of another State. That will have to be a Federal expenditure, and there is before the Australian people at present such a variety of schemes that I do not consider I have sufficient knowledge to express an opinion upon the question. I do not know whether the Government have had time to digest the whole question, and all the data bearing upon it, but I take it that before they carry out the line they will allow the existing state of things in the larger States to be an important factor in determining the universal gauge for Australia. I take it that the question of the gauge is also a matter for military consideration, and that, of course, brings in the military experts as persons who ought to be consulted. I have not heard from the Minister any statement of the material that he and his colleagues have before them, and I do not think they have yet committed themselves to any particular gauge.
– Yes, a gauge of 4 ft. 81 in. is fixed by the Bill, and we cannot get any information about it.
– Then I hope we shall have a discussion on that clause, when we come to it; and I shall be glad to open my mind to the arguments of other honorable members in order to determine which, on the whole, seems the wisest course to adopt. I recognise that the House, and I think the country, has made up its mind that the railway should be constructed. I understood that Lord Kitchener strongly recommended it, and that is a great factor if we look upon It even from a military stand-point only. We also have the mail service to consider, which to a great commercial country like Australia is a matter of considerable importance. Whether the railway will ever be a passenger line, or a freight line, is more than doubtful, because we know that over a route of that sort, for stock or for merchandise, no railway could compete with water carriage. With regard to passengers, I have travelled many times around the world, and have found very few people who, when they take a long voyage, are in such a hurry that two, or even three, days is a matter of great importance. When against the discomfort of a three days’ journey over what is not yet a fertile district, whatever it may become with the help of artesian water, is set the comfort of travelling in a Peninsular and Oriental or an Orient steamer, I think even most people who are in a hurry will think better of a proposal to travel overland in a train.
– The honorable member is a regular pessimist.
– When the right honorable member is my age, he will take a more pessimistic view of the project than he does now. His youthful sprightliness enables him to look more hopefully at life than I do. If in the future the railway cannot be utilized payably for stock, or goods, or passengers, then it will have to rely upon these two merits - defence and the power of carrying the mails faster than by sea. If this work is going to be done, I hope it will be done successfully. Another interesting aspect is that of finance. We have in power a Government that seem to have come out of the Arabian Nights, and is going to do everything without borrowing money. They have already borrowed 7,000,000 or £8,000,000 from the people by giving them I.O.U.’s in the shape of notes. Whether that is going to be continued further, or whether this railway is to be attempted to be built out of revenue, I do not know ; but I do hope that this is the last straw upon the camel’s back - that it will compel the Government to come honestly forward and say, “ We now recognise that we must borrow money for the capital expenditure necessary in order to construct this and similar great works.”
– One fact about this debate which impresses itself very strongly upon my mind, and no doubt appeals equally strongly to others, especially those who represent New South Wales, is the very different attitude assumed towards this question from the attitude that was adopted towards the Federal Capital question by some honorable members, particularly interested in the transcontinental railway. Although the latter was embodied in the Constitution and involved a moral, as well as, I believe, a legal, obligation to carry it out, yet the utmost hostility was evinced towards it, and attempts were made to block it at every turn. On the other hand, this matter was not embodied in the Constitution. It was claimed that it was equally binding upon the people of New South Wales to support it; but I pointed out several times, when the matter was previously under discussion, that there was no obligation on the people of New South Wales, or of any of the other States, to agree to the construction of one mile of the railway. There was no obligation, either expressed, or implied, iri the Constitution or otherwise, whatever private understanding may have been arrived at.
– There was. The leading New South Wales politicians told us that we would get the railway if we entered the Federation.
– Whatever private understanding may have been arrived at between the Premiers themselves upon the matter, it was not made known to the people of the respective States, nor was it put into the Constitution as was the Federal Capital condition. They did not hear a word about the agreement between the Premiers until it was mentioned on the floor of the House. I desire to emphasize the very different attitude which has been assumed towards this question by the representatives of New South Wales, as well as those of some other States which have no direct interest in the building of the railway, from the attitude of honorable members of some of the States towards the Federal Capital question when it came up for discussion in this Parliament.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7-45 p.m.
– I recognise that, from the point of view of defence, this transcontinental railway assumes an important significance which otherwise would not attach to it. Were it not for the reports on defence which we have had from eminent military authorities, I should be very much inclined to favour the postponement of this measure until we have fuller information on a number of points on which it is essential for this House to be informed. The question of cost and how the money is to be raised is one that should have been fully explained by the Minister in charge of the Bill. However, the question of defence must be kept steadily in view in considering this proposal ; and, in view of the great national importance of the question, I recognise that it is urgently necessary to deal with this matter at an early stage. At the same time, there is no reason why we should hurriedly accept the Bill unconditionally in the form in which it is submitted to us. I should like, among other things, some information as to what has been done in the matter of the reservation of lands adjacent to the route of the proposed railway, in order that we may guard against the exploitation of the land monopolist and the land speculator. Honorable members opposite appear suddenly to have lost all interest in the question of land monopoly.
– The honorable member can monopolize all the land through which this line will go.
– It may be that most of the land through which this line will pass is absolutely useless. It may be that it is the barren, waterless desert it has been described; but I am rather chary about accepting such statements, in view of the fact that similar statements were made about the Federal Capital site which I happen to know were absolutely without foundation. In any case, the railway will be a grand trunk line, and, as such, will offer facilities for more complete exploration and later development, which make it very necessary that we should safeguard the interests of the people in any increment of land value which may arise from public expenditure on the line. If my memory has not played me some trick, the right honorable member for Swan gave an absolute assurance to this House, when he was advocating the construction of this railway, that the Western Australian Government were prepared to reserve from alienation an area of land some miles in width on either side of the proposed line. We were also given to understand that the Government of South Australia were prepared to conserve the public interest in any increment of land value following upon the construction of the line in a similar way. I do not think that any special area was mentioned in the case of the South Australian undertaking, but one representative of that State gave us to understand that the South Australian Government would be quite prepared to meet that aspect of the matter, and would see that a large area of land on either side of the proposed line would be reserved from alienation. I have heard nothing of these undertakings in connexion with the Bill now before the House. Perhaps the Minister of Home Affairs will be able to give us some information on that subject. I should be prepared to assist any honorable member, and, if no one else takes action, to move in the matter myself when the Bill gets into Committee, in endeavouring to have a clause inserted to safeguard public interests in this direction. Honorable members opposite probably recognise the evils of land monopoly as well as I do myself, and they must be aware that the possibilities in this direction are practically unlimited, if the country through which this line will pass is at all habitable, and includes any large area of agricultural or pastoral land. This must be admitted to be, in the circumstances that I have indicated, a serious danger, and one which should be guarded against. I do not know that it is necessary to enter into any detailed discussion on the question of gauge on the second reading of this Bill, but I urge that it is one of the most important matters which can be considered in connexion with the construction of this line. We have to consider, not merely the line itself, but its use for the mobilization and rapid transport of troops from east to west of the continent. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that the question of the gauge should be satisfactorily dealt with in the light of the best professional knowledge which can be obtained on the subject, and apart from all considerations of conformity with the gauge adopted by any existing State. I do not propose to say any more on that aspect of the matter at present. I shall, personally, offer no objection to the second reading of the Bill ; but I do hope that, before the second reading goes to a vote, the Minister of Home Affairs will make some statement on the subject of the financial basis of the undertaking, and whether any proposal is to be made for the reservation of land on either side of the proposed line. The honorable gentleman might say whether any representations have been made by the Federal Government to the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia on this subject, and whether the State Governments referred to are still prepared to carry out the undertakings which, I understand, were given by both when the question was last under consideration in this House.
– I did not intend to speak on the second reading of this Bill, but I cannot allow the occasion to pass without expressing the surprise which I feel at the launching of such an extremely important measure, which really proposes the construction of the first great continental work undertaken since Federation, on such ex- tremely slender material as has been placed before the House. First of all, we have the important question of the gauges, about which I intend to say very little indeed at this stage. It must, however, be allowed, as I mentioned on the motion for leave to introduce the Bill, that what we decide to do now in regard to the gauge to be adopted for this line will, for all practical purposes, determine for all time what the uniform gauge for Australia is to be. If we decide upon a narrow gauge, that, undoubtedly, will be the result, because it would be practically impossible, except at enormous expense, to change the gauge from a narrow to a broader gauge. If the line were built on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge it might not be impossible to effect a change to the narrower gauge of 4 ft. 8 in., because, in that case, the cost involved would be only about 30 or 40 per cent, of the cost that would be involved in converting the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. But when we are asked to determine what gauge shall be a’dopted, I am impelled to inquire, “ With what information have we been supplied “ ? We have simply before us the reports of Mr. Deane, the consulting railway engineer. He deals with some reports which have previously been made by certain officers, and dismisses in a very summary way the arguments which are contained in them. The merits of those reports will be more a subject for debate when the particular clause dealing with this matter is under consideration in Committee. But I think honorable members will agree with me in saying that there has never been an occasion when a deliberative assembly has been called upon to deal with such a momentous question on such extremely slender material. There is another and more important point upon which we have not even been vouchsafed any information whatever - that is the question of how this huge undertaking is to be financed. I heard the speech delivered by the Minister in moving the second reading of this measure, and I have read it over again to-night. He told us that, originally, a conference of engineers estimated that the construction of this line would cost £5,000,000. He said that Mr. O’Connor subsequently made an estimate which reduced that amount by £600,000 - in other words, he estimated its cost at £4,400,000. The Minister also informed us that the latest estimate of its cost was £3,988,000 - a reduction of practically another £500,000. Though the details of this estimate are set out, the Minister has given us no information whatever as to what those details are based upon. We are simply asked to accept his statement that, though several years ago the estimated cost of the proposed line was £5,000,000, it can now be constructed for £3,988,000. Further, the Minister has failed to tell us where the money is to come from - how the undertaking is to be financed. I have had nearly twenty years’ experience of public life, and I have never known any deliberative assembly to be placed in such a position upon an important matter of public expenditure. The ordinary practice is for the Treasurer to make a Budget statement in regard to the revenues, the borrowings, the loans, &c, and the proposed expenditure, so that the House may have before it a general review of the immediate financial future. After that has been done, the House is afforded an opportunity of inquiring into the various construction Bills and other Bills which constitute the necessary authority given by Parliament to carry out works as to which the House has already been informed from where the money is to be obtained. That is the ordinary course adopted in the various State Parliaments. But, in this case, we have had no Budget statement presented to us. We are absolutely in the dark as to the position of the finances, except so far as we have been able to glean it from the newspapers, which necessarily contain conjectural accounts of the enormous increase of expenditure in every direction. We know that there has been a very large increase in many necessary expenditures - for instance, upon Defence and upon Old-age Pensions. We know that we are faced with a practically unknown liability in connexion with the taking over of the Northern Territory j and as to the means of meeting it we have not yet had any information from the Government. Yet we are now asked to pass this Bill, which is an authority for the immediate expenditure of the amounts which have been mentioned by the Minister in charge of the Department of Home Affairs, without any particulars whatever as to the direction from which the money is to be obtained. The honorable member for Parkes very properly drew attention to the fact that the Government have already intimated that borrowing is not part of their policy. In these circumstances, _ it is not an unfair question to ask the Minister whether he is prepared to depart from that policy in regard to this particular measure. It is a matter upon which we are entitled to information. Do the Ministry still, adhere to the policy which they have, previously laid down, that, under no circumstances, will they borrow, and that, if they are faced with a huge expenditure upon public works, they will necessarily obtain it from revenue. Before the division is taken upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I ask the Minister of Home Affairs to avail himself of the opportunity to answer my question. It is only reasonablethat we should be given an answer to it. If the Government do not propose to borrow, it seems to me that there are only two alternatives before them. The first is to impose immensely increased taxation, and the second to raise the funds necessary by the issue of some new form of paper money. I suppose that the Minister of Home Affairs does not know whether the Government policy in this matter has undergone a change. Some time ago it was pretty definitely announced
– We shall see that the road is constructed.
– I fail to understand what the Minister means by that interjection. He cannot build it out of his own funds. He must get the money in some way. Does he contemplate building this huge work by little instalments out of the annual revenue ? Surely these are matters upon which the House is entitled to ask for definite information. I admit freely that I cannot ask for a detailed statement in regard to the work, which will necessarily involve a number of contingencies that we cannot perceive. But we are entitled to know what is the policy of the Government before we authorize this immense undertaking.
– They know.
– I do not think that they do.
– Oh, yes. we are right.
– Then if the Minister knows, the House is entitled to know. Unless the Government, with their majority behind them, are determined to ride rough shod over all acknowledged traditions-
– We are the Christian party.
– The Minister has used a “ gag “ word which he frequently uses in private conversation. During the course of his speech, he told us something about spiritual consolation in sea-sickness, he gave us some information about Miltiades and Marathon, and he did not forget the seven hills of Rome, but not one word did he say to us in regard to how this immense undertaking is to be financed. We are not now asked merely to sanction the proposal to construct a railway from South Australia to Western Australia. We are not merely asked to give our approval to a proposal of that sort. I might be prepared to support the motion for the second reading of the Bill if it meant nothing more than expressing our general approval of such a line. Under some conditions, I should be inclined to vote for a proposal declaring that such a railway is desirable. But that is a very different thing from our being asked to let this Bill go through all its stages, and to vest the Government with authority to proceed at once with the construction of the line, and to spend all the money required upon it - money which is to be obtained from sources of which the House knows nothing. Clause 19 of the Bill provides that -
All moneys necessary for the payment of the cost of construction of the railway up to, and including the time of the opening of the railway for traffic, shall be payable - out of what? out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, or out of any moneys standing to the credit of the Loan Fund.
Surely we ought to be told how the money which is to be obtained from the Consolidated Revenue Fund is to get into that fund ?
– On Mr. Micawber’s principle.
– Yes; and surely we ought to be told how the money which is to be appropriated out of the Loan Fund is to get into that fund ? Those are questions which ought to be answered, before we authorize the Government to proceed with the construction of such a huge public work as this. As I said before, the Government are placing honorable members in a very unfair position. I believe that the majority of the members of this House are - I certainly am - in favour of proceeding, and proceeding early, with the construction of this great transcontinental railway. But I do protest against being forced to vote blindly for the construction of a huge work without the ordinary skeleton information which, at least, might be laid before the House. We have evidence - we have been told by the Prime Minister himself, if I remember rightly - that the Government are determined not to adopt the policy of borrowing for public works.
– As I have said, I am speaking from memory ; but certainly some Ministers have said so, and I understood that the Prime Minister himself had either given expression to such views, or had indorsed them. I ask the Minister now if that is the policy of the Government? Are we to vote blindly for this measure ? We ought not to be asked to do so.
– Did the honorable member ask that question when he voted for the Capital site?
– No; the decision of this Parliament in reference to the Capital site was the carrying out of an obligation embodied in the Constitution ; and, what is more, it did not authorize the laying out of a single penny, except so far as was involved by the terms of the Act which we passed - and that was a very small amount. Every particular amount expended on the Capital site has to be voted by Parliament.
– The honorable member knew that the Capital site would cost a great deal of money.
– We had a plain constitutional obligation, which we were bound to honour in some way. We were bound under the Constitution to authorize the construction of a capital somewhere. But in that matter the Government have to obtain the sanction of Parliament for every penny of expenditure incurred. Here, however, the situation is totally different. Here we have a proposed expenditure which may amount to anything from £3,988,000 to £5,000,000, for which we are asked now - at this moment - to give authority to the versatile and volatile Minister of Home Affairs, without one iota of information being accorded to us as to where the money is to come from. I sincerely hope that the Government will be prepared to favour the House with a little more information before the Bill passes through its final stages.’ I shall vote for the second reading, because I desire, as I think the majority of honorable members do, to express a general approval’ of the construction of the railway. But, unless we get the information for which I have asked, I for one shall feel that I cannot possibly justify my action to my constituents, or to the public, in authorizing the passing of the Bill through all its stages.
.- It is a source of gratification to me that this Bill has been introduced, and to see such general agreement expressed concerning the necessity for the construction of the railway. I remember that, away back in the nineties, I submitted a proposal in the South Australian Parliament for the purpose of preparing the way for this great work. I proposed that we should make provision for water conservation on the route along which the railway would have to be built. I also remember that, later on, I moved in the South Australian Parliament for an estimate to be prepared as to the cost of constructing the line, and the probable revenue that would be received from it. Mr. Pendleton, who was then Railway Commissioner, furnished the report upon the subject, which was laid before Parliament in due course. We have had various estimates of cost since. Strenuous attempts were made to prevent a survey being undertaken, notwithstanding all the promises that were given to the Western Australian people by certain representative men who were concerned with the promotion of Federation. We have now arrived at a stage when a practicable proposition is submitted to the Commonwealth Parliament. But some honorable members, like the last speaker, are very critical as to what the work is to cost and where the money is to come from. When I interjected just now asking the honorable member for Flinders if he ‘had made such an inquiry when a proposal was made with reference to the Federal Capital site, he said, “No; because that was carrying out a constitutional obligation.” Therefore, he argued, there was no need to ascertain where the money was to come from. If there was no actual constitutional obligation in reference to this railway, it has certainly been admitted in this House by members of every party that there is a moral obligation in consequence of promises made by leading men who were in the forefront of the Federal movement. This railway was offered to Western Australia as an inducement to her to join the Commonwealth.
– The Capital Site Bill did not authorize expenditure.
– The honorable member is not so green as not to know that the very passing of the Capital Site Bill meant the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
– To be subsequently approved by Parliament.
– Subsequently ?
– That expenditure is proceeding now.
– Of course it is, because Parliament voted the money.
– I have not heard the honorable member criticisethe expendture on account of the Capital site because it came out of the Consolidated Revenue.
– We have been told about that expenditure ; we have been provided with information.
– In what way?
– Because the whole subject was brought before the House, and the amount of money necessary was voted.
– That was long after the Bill went through.
– The Bill did not authorize any expenditure.
– The honorable member is. very innocent indeed. I say again that there is a moral obligation, at any rate, upon this Parliament to construct this railway.
– The honorable member surely does not say that the platform promises of old-time politicians constitute a moral obligation.
– The promise was made on several occasions. The question of whether the railway will probably pay has also been raised. We have the testimony of one of the best engineers that Australia has had, the late Mr. O’Connor, as well as that of Mr. Pendleton, who inquired into the matter from the standpoint of State interest. It might be thought, from some of the remarks that have been made, that the line will run to a dead-end in a barren wilderness; but, as a matter of fact, 400 miles from Perth there are towns in which there are over 70,000 persons settled, and one of the best mining fields in Australia. This population has family connexions in the eastern States, and would use the railway largely from the moment it was opened. There was practically no population at Broken Hill when the railway to that place was constructed ;. but the success of the mines there attracted such a large number of people that to-day the Broken Hill railway is one of the bestpaying in the South Australian system. Those who are interested in mining travel very largely. At the present time, however, before a person living on the Western Australian gold-fields can get to the eastern
States, he has to travel by train 400 miles westward, and then take passage by steamer from Fremantle. The journey costs twice as much as it would by a direct train, and occupies many more days. The cost of this journey, and the time occupied by it, prevent many people from making it ; and, moreover, sea travelling is always obnoxious to the majority of persons. If the population to which I refer had a direct railway communication with the East, every train would be full, especially if properly equipped. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Angas speak of the Nullarbor plains as wretched country. It is not such as he described it to be. I do not say that between Port Augusta and Perth there is not some poor country, but one cannot travel for 1,400 miles in any of the States without passing through bad country.
– What was the opinion about the Pinnaroo country some years ago?
– In 1893 I was a member of a Select Committee which examined that country, and was one of those who reported in favour of the making of a line into it. Opposition was shown to the project, particularly by one section of the South Australian House of Assembly ; but, later, the proposal was agreed to repeatedly by the Lower House, and rejected by the Upper House. The line was constructed only on condition that 100,000 acres should be taken up on a deferred-purchase system, and at first only one train a week was run on it; but now there are two trains a day which are well filled, and the line pays. Mr. Larry Wells, who is at present connected with the Commonwealth Taxation Department, has explored part of the country through which the proposed railway goes, as well as other Western Australian country, and he describes some of the land, referred to as useless by the honorable member for Angas, as being well grassed, and presenting every indication of water at a reasonable depth. In another report we are told that east of Kalgoorlie the route passes through 100 miles of box forest.
– For 170 miles it passes through forests of salmon gum.
– Those who have any knowledge of country are aware that heavy timber is evidence that the soil is not poor. As to the gauge to be adopted, I am willing to vote for a gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in. I have recently travelled, not only on all the railway systems in Great Britain, but also for long distances on the United States railways, and throughout Canada, and in every case the line on which I travelled was of 4 ft. 8½ in. gauge. One of my last trips in England was from London to Cornwall, and we went from London to Exeter, 180 miles, in three hours. I had lunch on the train, and, although we were going so fast, I hardly felt the movement of the carriage. There are 90,000,000 people in the United States to-day, and they are well served with lines of a gauge of 4 ft.8½ in. In view of these facts, I think that that gauge will serve the population of Australia well for fifty, or. even one hundred, years, to come, for both passenger and goods traffic. I venture to say that in a hundred, or, perhaps, fifty, years, if the population and the production of this country should have developed to such an extent that the wider gauge of 5 ft. 3 in. is needed, we shall be in a very much better position then to bear the cost of the alteration than we are today.
– I believe that the honorable member would be prepared to accept a 2-ft. gauge for the sake of getting this railway.
– I will not say that.
– I think we are justified in assuming that the honorable member would accept a gauge of 5 ft. 3 in. just as cheerfully as a gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in.
– If we decide upon a gauge of5 ft. 3 in. we shall have just the same trouble in coming to an agreement as we shall have in the case of a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge.. Again, if we decided in favour of a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, there would be a howI raised in several of the States. There is no possibility of our coming to an agreement with the States, except on general lines. It has been said that there has been no recommendation of the proposed gauge. On two or three occasions the State Railways Commissioners have recommended a uniform gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in.
– As a matter of expediency and nothing more.
– They have made that recommendation. All that we have heard on the other side has been a statement from some person that in the future, the standard railway gauge for the world will be5 ft. 3 in.
– I am afraid that the honorable member is not looking at this question from the broad stand-point ofVictoria and its financial exigencies.
– I was just coming to the broad, national stand-point, and I trust that the honorable member will support a proposition which I am going to make. In my opinion, the alteration of the gauge, in whichever States it is effected, should be treated as a national work, because it will be undertaken for national purposes, and the cost ought to be debited to the States on a per capita basis. Will the honorable member for Wentworth support that proposition ?
– Does the honorable member mean so far as the line from Adelaide to Sydney is concerned?
– Yes, right through.
– I certainly think that New South Wales ought to contribute something towards the cost of the alteration.
– I venture to say that if we can arrive at an agreement on those lines the whole difficulty will be gone.
– Will the honorable member support the inclusion of a clause to that effect in the Bill ?
– I shall be in the chair when the Bill is being considered in Committee, otherwise my honorable friend would find me one of his . warmest supporters in his endeavour to put such a provision in the Bill.
– It does not arise in this Bill.
– Exactly. I would point out to the honorable member for Flinders that, without any statement by the Government, every business man must realize that the cost of all big works will not be borne by the general revenue; that many of them will have to be carried out with borrowed money.
– What about the policy of the Labour party?
– Can the honorable member point to any plank in its policy which condemns the borrowing of money for carrying out reproductive works?
– The whole propaganda of the Labour party at the last election was “No Commonwealth borrowing.”
– No; the honorable member is entirely wrong.
– It included the floating of flimsies, if you like.
– The policy of the Labour party is to. borrow for reproductive works, and I have already convinced the House that this will be a reproductive proposition. I think that, at a later stage of the Bill, the Prime Minister might state the attitude of the Government in regard to the .phase of the question which I have just put. I venture to repeat that if an agreement can be obtained with regard tq the allocation of the capital cost, there will be no further trouble about the question of gauge. I shall not occupy more time, as the chief discussion on the Bill will take place in Committee. I feel quite satisfied that, inasmuch as it will serve a population of from 60,000 to 80,000 persons, empty trains will not be run on the railway when it is constructed. At present, over 100,000 persons travel each way by the steamers every year, and I believe that the railway fare, estimated on our mileage scale, will be less than one:half of the steamer fare, not to speak of the greater pleasure which will be experienced. I support the second reading of the Bill.
.- I do not propose to delay the’ House more than a few minutes in discussing the measure at this stage, as it is essentially one for consideration in Committee, seeing that the principle was accepted in the past, and cannot well be fought now.
I have come to the conclusion that in view of the obvious impossibility of South Australia and Western Australia combining to carry out a work which will mainly develop their territories, it devolves upon the people of Australia to see that the railway, which is advisable from a defence point of view, is constructed. As honorable members know, I opposed the measure previously, mainly on the grounds that, inasmuch as the representatives of Western Australia, at the Federal Convention, did not ask that the construction of this line should be a responsibility upon this Parliament, and inasmuch as developmental railway construction was left as a responsibility, and, consequently, a burden on the exchequers of the various States, this Parliament should allow the two States concerned to do the work. But since then we have found that Lord Kitchener, in his report, strongly advises the construction of the line; and, accordingly, for the reasons I have given, I withdraw my opposition to this measure, and will do nothing to hinder its progress.
I should like to say, however, that it is essentially a measure which should have been introduced after we had had some sort of statement from the Prime Minister as to where the money for the construction of the line was to come from. It is rather extraordinary to throw down a proposal, involving an expenditure of some £4,000,000, and not let the trustees of the public purse know how it is to be financed. We have the Minister of Home Affairs, in whose careful hands the essentially business proposition is, telling us that, in certain matters of administration, he will endeavour to follow, and, indeed, emulate, the best-known and most economical precepts of privately-run, and, therefore, well-run, organizations : we had the party to which he belongs assuring the electors at the last general election that they are opposed to the initiation of Commonwealth borrowing; and now we have the honorable member who has just sat down telling us that borrowing for reproductive works is a cardinal plank in the platform of the Labour party, and that this proposal is essentially a reproductive work.
– He said he had convinced the House of that fact !
– The honorable member said that ; but I do not wish to do him an injustice, seeing that, when he said so, he was smiling almost as loudly as the House was laughing. I do not think we ought to endeavour to humbug ourselves that this is going to be immediately a reproductive work. It may be a necessary work ; but the estimates of the experts, which may be regarded as reliable, show a yearly deficit for at least ten years ; and we must go into the” matter feeling that we have to shoulder a responsibility that the two States mainly concerned cannot apparently agree to shoulder together.
– For how long will there be a deficit?
– I think the Commissioners reported that there would be a yearly deficit on the working expenses for ten years, gradually effacing itself.
– To what amount?
– The estimated deficit for the first year is, I think, £40,000, gradually lessening until it disappears in ten years. That, of course, is only an estimate; there may be a very much larger loss. If, as I sincerely hope will not be the case, the Western Australian mining fields begin to exhaust themselves, the deficit will be very much greater. But we must face the position honestly and fairly - there must be no humbug - and I regret that the Ministry has not given us an opportunity of doing so, inasmuch as they have not said how they propose to finance the railway.
There is only one other feature to which I desire to refer at the present stage; and that is in connexion with the gauge question. Whenever a subject, no matter what, comes before this Parliament, I always look with friendly interest to find out what advantage for their State the representatives of Victoria hope to extract from it.
– That comes very well from a New South Welshman !
– On this particular occasion, I find that we are asked to deal with this matter on what I might describe as “ broad lines.”
– As was done with the Federal Capital question?
– As the honorable member did with the Federal Capital question? Why, sir, he wore out the stone stair-case of the Age office in order to find out what that newspaper desired should be done in regard to the Federal Capital 1
– This is sheer brutality !
– What absolute nonsense it is for the honorable member to plead virtue now, when he is again carrying out the mandate of the same newspaper, which he professes to scorn, but in support of which he really acts in this House ! However, I do not wish to enter into these matters. The support given by Victorian representatives to the 5-ft. 3-in. proposition is based on an absolutely false conception as to the carrying capacity of the line in the future.
– - Here is another authority.
– I know there is only one authority to which the honorable member will listen, and that is the anonymous authority behind the pen of the Melbourne Age. But I desire to put the position, as I understand it, before honorable members. In the United States, there are long distance, lines, carrying freight in vast bulk from one side” of the continent to the other, because sea communication round the Horn is so lengthy as to make the direct land carriage pay. The trains travel at a uniform speed of 8 or 10 miles an hour, a vast number of carriages being drawn by one huge engine. The actual power of the locomotive, so far as it has been perfected, is to a certain extent governed By the width of the gauge.
– It is governed by the gradients.
– I ami speaking of level grades - all things being equal.
– I must ask the honorable member not to go too much into detail.
– I do not propose to do so. The distance the stoker can throw his coal is, of course, governed by his power; and the narrower the gauge the less power there can be for the engine. But the same tremendous engine power will not be required on the Australian line. What we require is to have the railway services uniform as far as possible. The greatest advance in railway construction is required in the richer territories that are not yet developed, especially in Queensland and portions of New South Wales, where it would not pay, as an ordinary proposition, on short lines, to have a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, ls it’ fair, simply because it seems to suit the financial exigencies of Victoria, at present, that we should build this line on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, and make it practically impossible ever to get all the States into line in the matter of gauge?
– There is one short line on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge between Deniliquin and Moama, which has been running for the last thirty years.
– That is a private line which the honorable member is producing as a proof of all the virtues ! No doubt there was a hope that that line would be, and, in my judgment, it ought to have been, connected with the Victorian railway service.
– It is now.
– Then, it is, and necessarily ought to be, of the same gauge as the Victorian line, in order to permit of reciprocity in the matter of rolling-stock. The honorable member’s interjection is no answer to my statement. If we were to suddenly ask the Government of Queensland to convert all their railways from: 3-ft. 6-in. to a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, it would not only bankrupt that State, but prove a big proposition for the Australian people to face. That is the real question we are deciding ; and I ask honorable members to look a little beyond the present exigencies, or the present fright, of the Victorian taxpayer. After all, that taxpayer’s responsibility will be infinitely less, since he has not to put down new sleepers or tunnels, than will be the responsibility of the taxpayers of the other States, who will have to make wider tunnels, bridges, and culverts, and put down new sleepers to carry the wider line. We are all here, I trust, as representatives of the people of Australia,
– Why refer to the States?
Why not deal with the question of what is a proper gauge for Australia?
– That is what I wish to do. I want to look at this question from an Australian point of view.
– The honorable member is raising a lot of false issues.
– I am afraid that the honorable member, who is looking so wise, is not quite gathering the purport of my remarks. I am dealing with the States, because it is the people living in them who will have to bear the taxation to meet the cost of railway alterations in those States. I am dealing with them, not as State authorities, but as people resident in the various States. If we take Australia as a whole, we are bound to confess that the obligation resting upon the Australian people as a whole would be infinitely greater if we built this line on a5-ft. 3-in. gauge than it would be if we built it on a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. What is more, they would not get a return for their money, because this line will not carry tremendously long freight trains on the American basis. It will always be cheaper to send the bulk of our freight to Western Australia along the sea route, which is almost as short as the proposed railway will be. There is, consequently, no analogy between this position and the position of America, where you have what is comparatively a short route across the continent as compared with the tremendously long sea route round Cape Horn.
I sincerely hope that when we go into Committee honorable members, and especially the representatives of Victoria, and some of the representatives of South Australia, will consent to look upon this question from the point of view of the Australian public.
– Does that mean the necessities-
– Whilst my honorable friend sees safety behind the wide- waving sheets with which he is now enveloped every morning, he will, I suggest, benefit eventually the people of Australia more by looking carefully and prudently at the question of what railway taxation will be required from the people of Australia as a whole. I would remind honorable members of this southern State that, if we bankrupt the people of the rest of Australia to correct the misdoings of this Parliament - if it does misbehave itself in this connexion at the present juncture - we shall do the people of
Victoria infinitely greater harm than we should do by asking them to bear their share of the cost of this national undertaking. When we reach the clause in question in Committee I hope we shall deal with it without heat, looking at it purely from the point of view of Australia ; and if that is done I am sure we shall agree to construct this line on a 4-ft.8½-in. gauge instead of a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge as suggested.
.- The Bill before us merits more than ordinary scrutiny on the part of honorable members,. Some do not seem to realize the extent of the obligation upon which we shall enter by passing the Bill in its present form. It will involve us in an expenditure of from £4,000,000 to £6,000,000, and we need to ask ourselves what return the people are to get for the money they will be called upon to expend. I am surprised to learn that the honorable member for Wentworth has at last been converted into a supporter of this proposal. He tells us that his conversion is due to Lord Kitchener, who, in regard to matters of this kind, seems to have exercised a remarkable influence on those honorable members who are more or less of a military caste. There are, however, sides to this question other than those put forward by him ; there are phases of it which require the most minute investigation on our part. We agreed, some time ago, that the Commonwealth should bear the cost of a trial survey, so that we might have placed before us some information as to what we should have to meet in constructing the railway. I was prepared to vote for the Bill providing for that survey in order that we should obtain the information so absolutely essential to our guidance in deciding whether or not we should enter upon a large undertaking of this character. The survey has been completed, and we are told by those who carried it out that the construction of the line must involve Australia in a heavy annual Joss. The honorable member for Wentworth says that the estimated working loss is about £40,000 per annum ; but such an estimate in respect of the maintenance of 1,000 miles of railway constructed through country such as that described this afternoon by the honorable member for Angas is absurd. The honorable member gave us a very good indication of the class of country to be traversed on this side of the Western Australian border, and the information with which he furnished us was obtained by him from a number of impartial authorities. I believe that the annual loss on the working of this line, even assuming that we run only a nominal number of trains upon it. must be far more than £40,000.
– I think that the estimate is either £40,000 or £48,000.
– It is between £40,000 and £50,000. The information put before us is very meagre, and has been presented so late in the day that we have not had an opportunity to realize the momentous importance of this question. The latest report reached us only to-day, so that it is impossible for us to have become fully seized of its contents. Now that we know what is likely to be the annual working loss, now that we have an idea of the character of the country to be traversed, and of the importance of the question of gauge as it affects the railways already in existence, what are we prepared to do? In connexion with the building of this line there is another big financial obligation which must be considered by those responsible for the administration of the finances of the Commonwealth. We are asked to involve the States other than those through whose territory the line will pass in a proportion of the cost of construction, and we are also told that the States through which this railway will not pass will be expected to pay their portion of the cost of bringing the different railway gauges into conformity with it. That is a new proposal. It was not put forward when we were asked to support the survey of the line. These arguments were not used by certain gentlemen to induce honorable members to give them their votes; but to-day they tell us that they expect it to be an Australian affair, and that every State will be asked to pay in proportion to its population towards the cost of establishing a uniform gauge throughout Australia. Looking at existing Australian conditions, is such a proposition fair? New South Wales and Victoria, and, to a certain extent, Queensland, have had to build their trunk lines themselves as States out of State money, and the people of the respective States were responsible for any losses that might have been incurred. Those States did their part of the work in running the trunk lines through their territory ; but now, not only are they ‘asked to share the cost of carrying the trunk line between South Australia and Western Australia, but these gentlemen actually have the audacity to ask them to foot the bill for bringing about a uniform gauge for the Commonwealth railways and the State railways that will connect with them.
– The Federal Government can take over all the railways and manage them, if they like.
– Only with the consent of the States.
– The present proposal relates to the gauge from Brisbane to Perth, and does not involve the reconstruction of the gauges all over the State railways.
– If the conversion which the honorable member has proclaimed to-night is worth anything; if his argument that Lord Kitchener’s report has made him a convert to the railway which he has hitherto viciously opposed, is to hold water, he must know that the whole of the railways in all the States must be made uniform as regards gauge; otherwise they will be of no use for the purposes which Lord Kitchener recommends.
– If this measure is carried, the financing of that proposal is not immediately affected.
– The moment we decide to construct the railway, and- -the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge is included in the Bill, it is certain that there will be an appeal to this Parliament, as the Parliament of Australia, to bear the total cost of converting the railways to a uniform gauge.
– We will deal with that as it arises.
– I am not prepared to leave these things until another day. They ought to be decided before we commit ourselves to this large expenditure. A man who knows anything about his business will not sign a contract which is going to involve him, not only in the obligations that appear on the face of it, but in other obligations which must inevitably follow from it, without first reckoning up the total cost.
– Who is paying all the cost of the Capital site? New South Wales gets the whole benefit.
– If there is to be any result from the prophecies uttered by honorable members when we passed the Capital Site Bill, establishing the leasehold principle for the Federal Territory, the revenue from the land, which will be leasehold for all time, instead of being sold as has hitherto been the custom, will, I hope, in days to come, redeem the whole of.- the cost of the Capital ; site, and of the” buildings erected by this Parliament. The expenditure of that money is merely an investment.
– All the land there will have to be bought.
– Even if we have to buy the land, that does not invalidate my argument.
– Are not the Government negotiating about the question of the 25-mile strip on each side of the railway?
– That is another point upon which the honorable member used to be strong, but he has now let it drop out of sight. I suppose Lord Kitchener did not put it in his recommendation, and, apparently, some honorable members on that side of the House take it for granted that Lord Kitchener understands more about Australia than they, as the representatives of the Australian people, can possibly be expected to do.
– What is the honorable member’s position on that subject?
– When the question was before the House, I supported the proposition to secure 25 miles of land, or at least 12J miles, on each side of the railway, so that we might have some asset on which we could realize to meet the loss that must inevitably follow the construction of the line. The honorable member for Parkes put that proposal forward again today, saying that the right honorable member for Swan promised him definitely that, if he would only vote for the Bill, he would’ undertake to guarantee that the State of Western Australia would reserve that land for the Commonwealth. Can the right honorable member for Swan now give the House an assurance that the Western Australian Government are still prepared to hand over to the Commonwealth land to a width of ,25 miles along the route of the railway?
– On either side.
– I thought the honorable member meant a total width of 25 miles. Apparently, the strip was to be 50 miles wide. Are we to take it that we can rely on the Western Australian Parliament carrying out that understanding? No one would believe that the honorable member for Parkes would try to deceive the right honorable member for Swan. The honorable member assures us that the right honorable member for Swan made that distinct promise to him, and I take it that upon that promise the right honorable member got the honorable member’s vote. Is he going to carry out that promise?
– He would have carried it out if he had been in office.
– If the honorable member says that seriously, he is lowering the morality of that side of the House far more than I ever thought him capable of doing.
– Will the honorable member vote for the line now if that condition is fulfilled?
– If the honorable member for Parkes had done what I expected a man, with the backbone that he professes to have, to do, and continued to fight for that condition, instead of voting with the right honorable member for Swan on the strength of his promise, thereby sacrificing his own independence of action, he might have a right to claim my vote now.
– Will the honorable member vote for it now?
– I shall tell the honorable member what I shall do when the question arises. So far as the reservation of land is concerned, I am absolutely in accord with the honorable member’s proposal. I was in favour of it at the time, and the honorable member for Parkes can rely on my doing what is right.
– The honorable member must be wrong this time if he is in accord with the honorable member for Parkes.
– The honorable member for Parkes looked so affected when the right honorable member for Swan denied his version of the honorable member’s promise, that my sympathy went out to the honorable member for Parkes as a deluded man. I shall continue to extend that sympathy to the honorable member until the right honorable member for Swan is in a position to tell me that his promises are going to be fulfilled by the Western Australian people.
– The honorable member for Parkes misunderstood me.
– The Minister of Home Affairs does not tell us, or is unable to tell us, what the Western Australian Government are going to do in this matter. We do not know whether they are prepared to give any land on either side of the railway, or to convert the gauge of their existing line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle to the gauge to be adopted for the construction of the transcontinental line. We have been told that the Western Australian Parliament has agreed to do these things, but we have no authoritative statement to that effect from the State Parliament. Now that South Australia has got the Northern Territory off her hands, her representatives are setting up a wail on the question of the gauge to be adopted for this line. I can tell them that if they wish to delay the construction of the transcontinental railway they will keep up this war of the gauges, because nothing is better calculated to delay its construction than this war between the advocates of the 5-ft. 3-in. and the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauges. The honorable member for Angas stressed the point greatly to-day, and the honorable member for Adelaide also made the gauge a very important issue. The honorable member for Grey would not mind what gauge was adopted, so long as he got the railway. It will go through country he represents, and he will be content with a railway upon any gauge this House may agree to. Why should we depart from the gauge which the Government have provided for in this Bill? We have to take the figures of the experts ; and from the financial stand-point the conversion of existing lines to the gauge adopted will involve an expenditure of £2,000,000 if the gauge be 4 ft. 8^ in., and £5,000,000 if . the gauge be 5 ft. 3 in. Here is a ‘ difference of £3,000,000 in the expense of conversion. We have no guarantee that this will be all the expenditure, as these estimates are merely approximate. We cannot see where we are going on the information so far given to us. The statement that £2,000,000 or £5,000,000 will be involved in the conversion of gauge is merely a bald statement made in a way which can create no confidence. On the matter of the gauge, I shall fight so far as I can for the adoption of the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge.
– Naturally ; the honorable member is a nationalist.
– Of course I am, and, what is more, in this matter I am an [Imperialist, because I remind the honorable member that the Imperial Government have adopted the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge as the standard gauge for English railways. The American railway magnates have in the main adopted the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge. No one will tell me that the men who run the railways of America, and who have had vast experience in the crossing of a great continent, have been so misled as to adopt the wrong gauge for the great railway undertakings they control. This is an Imperial matter; and the fact that Lord Kitchener advises the adoption of the 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge puts the guinea stamp on the proposal. I shall hesitate to vote for this Bill unless in Committee the Minister of Home Affairs is able to give us some idea of the cost of the conversion of the gauge of railways that will be connected with this line. We require to know whether the cost will be borne per capita by the States, by a tax placed on the land adjacent to the rail ways, or by the States through whose territory we are proposing to construct a trunk line, relieving them of the burden which, in the case of trunk lines constructed in the other four States, has had to be borne by the people of those States themselves. I trust that when the Minister of Home Affairs next rises to speak on this measure, he will, instead of going into ecstasies over the seven hills of Rome, come back to Australia, and let us know what the Government propose to do in regard to the development of this country, the construction of the line, the financial position, the gauge to be adopted, the cost of the conversion of the gauge of existing lines, the apportionment of the burden of that cost, and, if possible, an independent opinion, such as that given by the honorable member for Angas, of the character of the country through which this line will pass. The Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill was passed with the condition that a geologist should travel with the survey party, in order to discover whether there was any mineral wealth likely to be developed to which we might look to make the railway pay. What has been the result? The geologist’s report is merely a mass of generalizations which do not mean anything at all.
– We have obtained £150,000 worth of gold on that route.
– That may be, but I suppose it cost £500,000 to get it ; and if we could get at the real truth, it probably cost more than that to get it.
– Tarcoola has been a “cooler” for a great many.
– It has been a “cooler” for a great many. In the first place, many have perished in the attempt to reach it. In the second place, many never left it after they .got there; and in the third place, many, after they got there, wished .they had never seen the place. The honorable member for Grey is most optimistic in regard to any matter affecting South Australia. I may say, by way of example, that in the Northern Territory we were told that there was goldbearing strata there that gave a return of 20 ozs. to the ton.
– Did the honorable member take up some of that land?
– No ; old birds are not to be caught with chaff. I was not having anything of that kind. We were told, ‘ ‘ You will find stone there that goes 20 ozs. to the ton.” It might be true that a little bit of stone would give the return of 20 ozs. to the ton, but the balance would give no return. We all know the history of Tanami. Great hopes were entertained of that field, and some Melbourne residents invested money in it. They wish that they had not done so. To-day Tanami is regarded as oneofthe things of the past.
– It will yet be one of the best gold-fields in Australia.
– I heard the honorable member say that of the Golden Boulder, in the Northern Territory. He is equally optimistic in regard to everything which he feels it his duty to support. There is no more enthusiastic, wholehearted advocate in this House, or anywhere else, than he is on such occasions. If the country which the proposed transcontinental line will traverse is no more promising than is the mineral belt of the Northern Territory - if we have to rely upon the revenue from the railway to meet the interest charge upon its capital outlay - the result will prove very disappointing.
– The honorable member has not read the report of the right honorable member for Swan on this question.
– I am not guided in my actions by books. I could quote different authors, who have travelled over this country, and who have expressed diametrically opposite opinions in regard to it. The nature of their reports has depended upon the season.
– A peculiarlyimpartial report has been published by the right honorable member for Swan.
– The right honorable member may be excused for anything that he wrote in his wild and enthusiastic days. His report may well be eliminated from this discussion, because it has no bearing upon it. I recollect reading of his pilgrimages from various points in the Great Australian Bight a few miles into the interior when he was touring the fringe of this continent. I know that if he had not returned to the coastline very quickly he would never have returned at all. I ask the Prime Minister, before the debate closes, to tell us how this undertaking is to be financed. We are under an obligation to return to the States 25s. per capita for a period of ten years, and I can now see more plainly than ever the wisdom of the Labour party in resisting any extension of that term. If we are to incur obligations such as those we shall have to incur under this Bill, that period will prove all too long. I ask the Prime Minister to tell us who is going to carry the baby?
– I will before the debate terminates.
– I shall await the right honorable gentleman’s statement with very great interest. I am anxious to know who is to bear the burden of constructing this railway, together with the interest upon it, and the cost of the conversion of the gauges which will connect with it.
– Like a number of honorable members, I feel that, in dealing with this Bill, we are, to a very great extent, groping in the dark. It is at all times very difficult for a new member of this House to keep in touch with the various measures which come before it, but it is particularly difficult to do so when such extremely meagre information accompanies them as has been forthcoming in connexion with this Bill. We are, I think, unanimous as to the desirableness of linking Western Australia with the eastern States by means of a transcontinental railway. Were it not for the burning question of the gauge to be adopted upon it, little difficulty would be experienced in passing the Bill. But when a proposal of this kind is brought forward, the conflicting feelings of the representatives of the different States always manifest themselves.
– The different nationalists.
– Those who take but a passing interest in the railway administration of this country can detect flaws galore in it. The different State Administrations in the past seem to have sacrificed the interest of posterity, in railway construction, for the sake of ex- pediency. Consequently, it is not wonderful to find that we have different railway gauges in different States to-day. State Administrations have been so divided by State jealousies that uniformity could not be arranged. The enthusiasm of the New South Wales members with regard to the 4- ft. 8-in. gauge reminds me forcibly of the fable of the ant which climbed to the top of a pole. After it had turned round three times the ant came down again, and is described as having said it had seen the whole world. When I hear honorable members from New South Wales speak on a matter affecting the interest of their State they seem to me to consider that Sydney is very much what the pole was to the ant. When they look at New South Wales on the map they appear to think that they have seen the whole of Australia. Indeed, I am not sure that they do not think that they have seen the whole world. It comes with ill grace from the New South Wales members to accuse the Victorians constantly of being actuated by considerations of State interests. But this whole question is too large, and too serious, to be paltered with. We have only to look at the figures to realize what an immense amount of money is represented in this question of gauges. We have a total mileage of 3,982 on the 5- ft. 3-in. gauge; there are 3,643 miles of railway on the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge; and 7,710 miles on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. These railways represent a total capital cost of £146,630,911. When we realize the immense amount of money involved, we must see that the question is too great to be considered lightly. I wish to protest against being asked by this or any other Government to cast a vote on so great a question without having more information. I wish to know from the Minister in charge of the Bill, or from some other person who is prepared to take the responsibility, why a Conference of Ministers of Railways was not called to consider the question?
– There have been several Conferences.
– What information have we had from them ? I feel at a loss to speak about such a matter at all. The great majority of honorable members in this House are not railway experts. How are we to come to a conclusion as to the best gauge to adopt? Why have the New South Wales members arrived at a conclusion that the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge is the best? What expert advice has influenced them? What expert advice has influenced the Minister?
– Does not the honorable” member know that the recent Committee of Railways Commissioners unanimously recommended the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge?
– The question must be largely decided by engineering experts, and, as far as I can make out, the best advice is in favour of the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. I should have thought that the first thing for the Government to do would have been to arrange for a conference of the Ministers of Railways, or of the Railways Commissioners, and, following on that, for a conference of railway experts. Then we should have had some tangible information to guide us. At present I take it for granted that 80 per cent, of the members of this House are blindly accepting 4 ft. 8J- in. as the standard gauge. I maintain that it is not right to do so. In view of the way in which we are committing posterity, the question is too great to be trifled with in this manner. There is not the slightest doubt that whatever gauge is adopted by the Commonwealth will have to be adopted hereafter by the States. It is absolutely necessary, in the interests of the defence of the country, to have a uniform gauge throughout Australia. It is the height of folly to speak about an effective system of defence unless we have uniformity in our railway gauge. Victoria and South Australia have adopted the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. If we are to adopt a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, an enormous expenditure will be involved for those two States. I cannot ascertain from the speech of the Minister what the Government propose to do to reimburse Victoria and South Australia for the cost of conversion. Is there any proposal for the Commonwealth to reimburse them?
– Now the honorable member is considering the question on a broad, national basis !
– The question of defence is national. The responsibility of dealing with it cannot be shirked by the National Parliament. Apart altogether from the fact that I am a Victorian, I want to be satisfied as an Australian. But I cannot find out from any utterance by the Minister in charge of the Bill, or from any other authorized person, what is proposed to be done. Whatever gauge is adopted for the proposed railway will probably be the standard gauge of Australia for the next hundred years. We are bound, therefore, to consider the interests of posterity, and I, for one, do not wish to incur the odium of future generations by voting for a gauge which may not be the best for our future requirements. The honorable member for Grey told us that in travelling extensively through Great Britain and America, he was always on railways of a gauge of 4 ft.8½ in. But the fact that other countries use that gauge largely is not a reason why we should adopt it. The Australian railway system is big enough to make it safe for us to have a gauge of our own.
– The great size of Australia is one of the chief arguments for the broad gauge.
– That is so. The Minister of Home Affairs told us that the uniform adoption of the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge would cost less by some £3,000,000 than the uniform adoption’ Of the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. His estimate includes the cost of converting permanent way, altering tunnels and bridges, and other engineering works, but no allowance is made for changes in rolling-stock. Seeing that the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge is the standard for the world, as we are told by the supporters of the Government proposal, it ought not to be forgotten that should we make the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge universal, our discarded 4-ft. 8½-in. rolling stock will be readily saleable. I find that the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge is used by Great Britain, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, the United States, the Argentine, Egypt, and several other places. Discarded 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge rolling-stock would find a market in any, or all, of those countries. But discarded 5-ft. 3-in. rolling stock could be sold only in Brazil and Ireland, which are the only two countries which have made the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge their standard. It is estimated that our 4-ft. 8½-in. rolling-stock cost £7,815,359. If it were saleable at a reduction of 50 per cent. on its cost, it would fetch £3,408,129. Our 5-ft. 3-in. gauge rolling-stock cost £8,001,588, and it has been estimated by an expert that it would fetch only 15 per cent. of what it cost, or £1,200,238.
– I have had to prevent oilier speakers from dealing with the question of gauge in too much detail, and I think that the honorable member has now been allowed a sufficient opportunity to explain his position regarding the gauge proposal.
– I wish to add that the loss to Victoria by the conversion of her lines to the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge would be about £6,801,350.
– The honorable member is going too much into detail. On the second reading of a Bill, the principles of the measure alone may be discussed; the details must be left to the Committee stage. In this Bill, there is a clause providing for the gauge of the proposed railway, on which the honorable member will have an opportunity to make the statements which he is now making, which are not at this stage in order.
– I shall not elaborate the point any further, sir. I regret greatly that we have not been supplied with fuller information on the subject. We do not find any evidence in the speech of the Minister in charge of the Bill, nor has it been shown to us that he has acted on the advice of any expert in particular, or any number of experts. There has been one name mentioned tonight which I wish to quote. Honorable members, in elaborating their point in re-: gard to the gauge, said that it was adopted in America, and worked successfully there ; but these remarks are worthy of consideration -
The late Mr. Hardman, an American railway magnate, is reported to have said that they had duplicated many of the lines, quadrupled some lines, and built the largest locomotives that the gauge would allow. The congestion of traffic still kept ahead, and the only remedy he could see was the adoption of ft 5-ft. 6-in. or 6-ft. gauge.
That is the advice of the late Mr. Hardman, and I do not see that honorable members who quoted America as an example to us have gained much. I shall take an opportunity at a later stage to elaborate more fully the points I wish to make. I also regret that, on the question of finance, we have very indefinite information. I should think that, until we have a more definite understanding in that regard, it will be unwise to proceed with the project, which would entail so much expenditure, not only at the present time, but in the future. It is absolutely unfair to the States that they should be left in the position of not knowing exactly where they stand. It is more particularly unfair that those of us who are not experts should be asked to open our mouths and shut our eyes and take what the Government offers.
– I think it is very much to be regretted that the question of gauge has been introduced into this debate, because it seems to me that it has been magnified out of all proportion to its importance, and is taking the attention of honorable members away from the great principles which underlie the measure. I am one of. those who have always opposed this project, believing that Western Australia and South Australia should construct the line as other States have had to construct their lines. But the House has decided so often, and with an ever-increasing majority, that this transcontinental railway should be constructed as a Federal work that there is nothing for us to do now but accept it. I would remind the honorable member for Gwydir that, when the late Government urged the reservation of 25 miles of land on each side of the’ route, I suggested that the land should be reserved in alternate blocks. The honorable member for Swan promised that the land should be reserved, and I think that he kept his promise. I believe that representations were made by the Federal Government to the Government of Western Australia, and that the land was reserved. Iask the Minister of Home Affairs to state whether the Government communicated with the Government of Western Australia to ascertain if the reservation had been made, and if the latter Government were prepared to do what they had offered to do, and that was to hand over for Federal purposes the revenue derived from the land. It seems to be the usual thing now for a Minister to throw a Bill upon the table to be worried, and to allow honorable members to give to it whatever construction they choose. I undertake to say that never before in a Parliament in Australia has a measure entailing “ an expenditure of from £4,000,000 to£6,000,000, as this Bill does, been submitted without one atom of information being given as to how the Government intend to finance the project; whether they intend to carry out the work by day labour or by contract, or how long they propose to take over the work. We know that, in ‘the case of proposals of this kind, estimates of expenditure must be accepted not quite at their face value. If my memory serves me correctly, the first estimate of the cost pf this railway was received in about 1902 from Mr. O’Connor, who was then Engineer-in-Chief for Railways in Western Australia. It was, I think, considerably over £4,500,000, and he anticipated an annual loss of about £80,000 in working expenses. It is an extraordinary thing that, whilst, as every one knows, the cost of labour has increased enormously during the last ten years, the estimated cost of this line has got smaller and smaller with every proposal that has been made to the House.
– It shows that the original estimates were too high.
– Let us take the expenditure on the line at £4,500,000. I ask honorable members whether a proposal has ever been made to a Parliament in Australia to expend such an enormous sum on a public work without the Ministry vouchsafing one atom of information as to how the money was to be obtained. As we shall have an opportunity next week of discussing the Budget of the Treasurer, it would not be wise or proper to anticipate it. But I think that for years the Commonwealth Parliament has been undertaking enormous expenditures with about the same sense of responsibility as children feel when they go to a school picnic. It has never yet been shown, for instance, how we are to provide for the expenditure on this railway, to pay for the transferred properties, and to meet the liabilities on the Northern Territory. Everything is now taken here as a mere matter of form. Proposals are thrown upon the table by Ministers, and honorable members can interpret them as they like. It is not fair to the House or to the people of Australia that the Bill should have been allowed to reach this stage without the Treasurer having announced definitely how he proposes to provide for this expenditure of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000. Before the Bill leaves Committee we should get an assurance on two points - first, as to how the money for the work is to be raised ; and, second, whether the Government have ascertained if the Government of Western Australia are prepared, in accordance with their promise, to hand over a strip of land 25 miles wide on each side of the route. I think that the Government of South Australia should also be asked to make a similar reservation, because for years there must be a loss on the working of the line, and the revenue from these lands would relieve States not directly interested horn heavy charges on their revenues. . Taking this proposal in conjunction with the loss on the Pine Creek railway and the Oodnadatta railway, it behoves us, I think, before passing the Bill, to get a clear explanation from the Treasurer as to how the Government propose to finance the project.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Greene) adjourned.
House adjourned . at9,55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 October 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19111003_reps_4_60/>.