4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3.0 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the statement in to-day’s newspapers that there has been an enormous increase in our Customs revenue because of the increase in importations, I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether it is his intention to take action to protect the people of Australia against those outside ?
– The honorable member, I presume, wishes to know whether the Government intends to re-open the Tariff this session. My reply to that question is, *’ No.”
– Has the Minister of External Affairs any progress to report in connexion with the - ..supply of the metalwork for the stores at Port Darwin ?
– Plans were prepared and tenders called for this building by the Home Affairs Department. No response was received. Steps were then taken by that Department to bring the matter specially under the notice of firms engaged in that class of business, and quotations were invited to be sent in by the 2nd of September. No such quotations have been received, but a request has come to hand from the Sydney office that the time for receiving quotations be extended for a week. It is understood that some of the firms in that city are likely to send in quotations.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received a communication from the Imperial Government in reply to his representations about the Panama Canal ?
– I have received a communication to the effect that a despatch is on its way. It will come to hand perhaps next week.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs received a letter from Messrs. Joyce Brothers intimating that they have been compelled to close their cotton mills at Ipswich by reason of the existence of Free Trade? Is he prepared to assist the industry, either by imposing a protective duty on cotton goods, or by giving a bounty for their manufacture?
– A bounty equal to 10 per cent, of the value of the product is paid on ginned cotton; but Parliament deliberately determined that cotton piece goods should be on the free list. The giving of a bounty for the manufacture of cotton is under consideration. I have been informed by the firm referred to that it is its intention to close its mill. I do not think that it is correct, as has been stated, that forty adults were employed there ; in my opinion, there were nothing like so many.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs read the following paragraph, which appears in this morning’s Argus: -
BUNDABERG (Q.), Monday.- At a meeting of the sugar manufacturers at Bundaberg to-day, it was decided, in view of the fact that there was a probability of the Excise and bounty being abolished, to pay a sum of 8s. 8d. per ton for cane in lieu of the present 6s. 6d. paid through the Customs as bounty immediately the Excise was dropped, provided the import duty be not lowered.
Has the honorable gentleman been approached from any quarter, and will he take steps to ascertain, whether similar resolutions have been carried elsewhere, and what is the general feeling respecting the abolition of the bounty and Excise on sugar? If offers of this nature are general, does he intend to take any steps to abolish the bounty and Excise?
– I have read the statement. No communication has been received from any other place to the effect that the price of cane will be increased if the bounty and Excise are abolished. This abolition could not take place without special legislation. I am not aware that any other manufacturers have made a similar offer.
Training Ship “ Tingara “ - Consolidation of Act - Cadet Uniforms
– According to the newspapers, while there are plenty of applicants for enrolment at the Naval College, there are not so many offering for training on the Tingara as was’ expected. Does not the Minister representing the Minister of Defence think that if the facilities for promotion were more numerous, there would be more applicants?
– I cannot reply to the question, unless the honorable member can suggest additional facilities.
– Will the honorable gentleman take steps to have issued as soon as possible, in a consolidated form, the original and amending Defence Acts.
– The Minister of Defence has that matter under consideration. I shall be able to give the honorable member a reply in a. day or two.
– I wish to know why it is that no cadet officer has yet been supplied with a uniform, although some of them were appointed eighteen months ago.
– I am not aware that none of the cadet officers appointed eighteen months ago has a uniform, but if the honorable member will. give notice of the question, I shall bring the matter under the attention of the Minister. I know of no reason for delay in supplying uniforms.
Undergrounding of Telephone Wires - Fremantle Wireless Station - Letter-boxes on Railway Stations.
– I wish to know if it is a fact that, owing to the completion of certain sections of the undergrounding of telephone wires, a large number of men are likely to be out of employment soon? If so, will the Postmaster-General take into consideration the advisability of immediately commencing other sections, so that they may not be out of . work longer than is necessary.
– During this week, the men of certain gangs will have finished the work on which they are engaged, but the departmental officers are trying to find out whether the services of some of them cannot be utilized elsewhere.
– I wish to know from the honorable gentleman whether the wireless station at Fremantle has been completed and taken over by the Government.
– It is the intention of the wireless expert to proceed to Fremantle next week, when, if the tests are satisfactory, the station will be taken over.
– Has any determination been yet arrived at in regard to the fees to be charged on letters posted in the receiving-boxes on railway stations?
– The action taken by the Department some time ago was with a view to bringing Victoria into conformity with the other States. A return is in course of preparation giving the names of places in which the post-offices are not convenient to the railway stations, and it is possible that special consideration may be given in those cases.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
General Post Office, Sydney : Sorters - Overtime - Assistant Supervising Officers
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will the Minister afford the House the following information for the years 1907 to 1911 inclusive : -
United States tonnage entered at -
New Zealand ports;
Ports of the United Kingdom;
Canadian ports? 2. (a) Australian tonnage;
New Zealand tonnage;
Tonnage of the United Kingdom ;
Canadian tonnage ; entered at the ports of the United States?
The imports and classes of imports into (a) the Commonwealth and (4) New Zealand from the United States of America?
The exports and classes of exports from (a) the Commonwealth and (4) New Zealand to the United States of America?
– I shall be glad to furnish all the information we have at our disposal at an early date.
MINISTERS laid on the table the following papers : -
Public Service Act - Department of Home Affairs - Appointment of Mr. C. A. Hoy as Draftsman, Class E, Professional Division, Public Works Branch, New South Wales.
Public Service Act - Postmaster-General’s Department - Promotion of A. J. Odgers as Clerk, Fourth Class, Central Staff.
Debate resumed from 30th August (vide page 2830), on motion by Mr. Thomas -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
We have had no information from the Minister or from the Government as to their intentions with regard to the alteration of the gauge of the existing line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek. This is an important matter, because it will entail a considerable expenditure to convert the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge into a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge.
– Cannot the Minister give the information now?
– I should think he could, df he wished.
– What information?
– Whether the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge from Port Darwin to Pine Creek will be altered to 4 ft. 8J in. at the same time that the proposed new railway to the Katherine River is constructed, in order that the whole line may be utilizable without a break of gauge. Otherwise it will necessitate two sets of rolling-stock on the one short line of railway. It will be a costly matter to alter the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to 4 ft. in., especially in that country. The sleepers are of steel and iron, and new sleepers will have to be obtained, because those used for a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway cannot possibly be used for a 4 ft. in. Personally, I have come to the conclusion, although I have felt very strongly upon the question of the uniformity of gauge in Australia, that it would have been better if we had constructed the proposed line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. I say this because I believe the right way to extend that railway - and it will have to be extended in some direction, because it cannot stop at the Katherine River - will be into Queensland, and not down from north to south.
– What about the agreement?
– That is not to say that the agreement will not be carried out with South Australia, if there is an agreement, and I believe there is, with that State, that the railway shall go from Oodnadatta.
– The agreement is that the railway must touch some point on the northern boundary of South Australia.
– If there is such an agreement, the fact of our carrying the railway through into Queensland to connect with the western railway system of Queensland does not mean that we are not going to carry the other line into South Australia later on. As the Queensland railways are on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, I think that it would have been better had the Minister determined to construct this short line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. It will have to connect with Queensland, and if it is constructed on the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge, it will mean that, eventually, when a connexion with Sydney is made, we shall have two breaks of gauge between Sydney and Darwin. The line from New South Wales will go through by Bourke across the border to join at about Tobermorey with the western railway system of Queensland. There will be a break there, because the Queensland railways are on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, and if we eventually connect with the Northern Territory line, we shall have another break of gauge. Although I have been very strongly in favour of uniformity of gauge in Australia, I have realized the enormous difficulties in the way, and believe that, for the present, it would have been better had we constructed this line on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. It would have done away with the necessity of converting the line from Darwin to Pine Creek to 4-ft. 8£-in., and done away also with the break of gauge when we connect with Queensland. I was staggered by what one of the Queensland Railway Commissioners told me. I mentioned before in this House what he told me, and some honorable members thought I had made a mistake; but I say again that I was informed by one of the Queensland Railway Commissioners that it would cost something like ^27,000,000 to convert their gauge from 3 ft. 6 in. to 4 ft. 8£ in. If that is so, there are almost insuperable difficulties in the way of securing a uniform gauge for the whole of Australia.
– Queensland would, not convert the whole of its railways. I dare say it would convert its main lines.
– Then we should not have a uniform, gauge for Australia. If only the main lines were converted, matters would be as bad as ever. We should still have two breaks of gauge in going from Sydney to the Territory. We should have a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge in the Territory and in New South Wales, and a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge wedged in between them. However, if we are to have the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge, it is to be hoped that the Government will endeavour to grapple in some way with the enormous problem of a uniform gauge for Australia. It is the duty of the Government to make, at all events, some attempt to grapple with it, because the difficulty is being accentuated every day. More lines are being constructed in the different States on different gauges, and the longer it is left the worse the difficulty will be. However, I am not going to find serious fault with the Minister for bringing forward this proposal, because I realize that at some time or other the railway must go to the Northern Territory. The only way in which we can hope to create settlement in that portion of Australia is to give it railway communication. The reason why I offer no serious objection to the survey of this line is, that whether the line connecting north and south goes through the Territory into South Australia or through Queensland into New South Wales, it must go from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. Those who visited the Northern Territory will be quite prepared to admit that. I think, however, that we should have had some expression of opinion from the Minister of External Affairs as to the route which he thinks the through line should ultimately take. We have not had information either as to the adoption of the uniform gauge from Port Darwin to the Katherine. We are spending something like ,£500,000 a year on the Northern Territory, and it contains less than 1,000 “ white people. That seems to be an absurdity, and the only way in which we can improve the position of affairs and relieve the taxpayers of Australia of an enormous burden is by connecting the Territory with the centres of civilization in the Commonwealth. The sooner that work is under taken the better. I suppose I should not be in order in referring to what I believe to be the expenditure of money unnecessarily in certain directions in the Northern Territory, but I will say that I consider that money is being unnecessarily expended in connexion with the treatment of the aborigines. I shall not pursue that subject further in dealing with this Bill. I have said that I shall offer no objection to the proposed survey, but I still hope we may get a little more information from the Minister of External Affairs.
.- Every one who considers the Northern Territory for a moment must agree that the whole secret of its development lies in the extension of the railway system. I do not, therefore, intend to oppose this Bill, My only regret in connexion with it is that it does not go far enough. As the honorable member for North Sydney has said, no matter what idea one may have as to the route to be adopted for connecting Port Darwin by rail with the south, a line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River must form part of the through line. Its construction is absolutely necessary, and the sooner it is carried out the better. At the same time I should like to say that what we seem to be losing sight of altogether is that the Northern Territory does not consist merely of the land in the north. An enormous part of it is very far south from the coast, and comprises country which those who have been over it claim to be excellent pastoral country, and rich in mineral resources. This country cannot be developed in any way whatever until the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta is continued into it. The development of the Northern Territory, so far as railway construction is concerned, is one of those ‘ matters which can only be coped with by the adoption of a bold policy. It is a matter in connexion with which we can all heartily concur in the well-known expression of the right honorable member for Swan, “ What is a million? “ What are two, three, or four millions in the development of the Northern Territory? It issomewhat singular that the South Australian Government should at both ends have stopped the construction of the transcontinental line a considerable distance from the good country. The country between Pine Creek and the Katherine River is comparatively poor country. It is not until you get to the Katherine River that you strike good land. At the southern- end we have a long non-paying railway ending in very poor country, when if it had been continued to the MacDonnell Ranges it would have assisted largely to develop the Northern Territory, and would probably have been a paying line. I cordially support this Bill, but I hope that when the Minister comes forward next year to ask us to authorize the construction of the railway he will be able to include in the measure submitted for the purpose an authority to construct the line from Oodnadatta northwards. Something was said by the honorable member for North Sydney with reference to the gauge to be adopted for this railway. I agree with him in thinking that it would be a great mistake to have a break of gauge at Pine Creek. At the same time we have to consider that sooner or later the existing gauge will have to be broadened, and I think the difficulty might be met by making earthworks, bridges, and sleepers on the line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River wide enough to carry a 4-ft. 8^-in., or even a 5-ft. 3-in., railway. The line should for the present be laid down on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. It would never do to have a break of gauge at Pine Creek; it would be even a greater mistake at present to propose the pulling up of the whole line between Pine Creek and Port Darwin, and its reconstruction on the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge. There is rolling-stock at Port Darwin now which will be sufficient for some time to come to cope with the traffic on the line between Port Darwin and the Katherine River, and the new section should therefore be laid down on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, though, as I have said, the earthworks, bridges, and sleepers should be constructed to carry a broader gauge. I consider that we should deal with the extension of the line from Oodnadatta northwards in exactly the same way. The carrying of these railways into undeveloped portions of the Territory should not be hampered by the great expense that would be involved in converting hundreds of miles -of existing lines into railways of a broader gauge.
.- I suppose that the Minister of External Affairs does intend to follow the.course suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland in the survey and construction of this line. In a chat yesterday with one of the engineers who has, I think, been in the Northern Territory and knows all about the country, it was impressed upon me that it would be folly at present to lay this line down on the broader gauge proposed, but that the survey should be made with a view to a 4-ft. 8J- in., or, as I prefer, a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge line, and in the meantime the railway should be laid down on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, so that the existing rolling-stock might be made use of.
– That is the idea.
– I also agree with the honorable member for Gippsland that the proper policy in connexion with the development of the Northern Territory is to at once face the project for the construction of the through line. I asked yesterday for a rough map to be prepared for me to show the distances between the ends of the lines in Queensland and New South Wales to the route of the transcontinental railway which the South Australian Government contemplated constructing eventually if the Territory had not been handed over to the Commonwealth. I might remind honorable members that South Australia has done a great deal in connexion with the Northern Territory that justifies the reasonable expectation that the complete railway will be constructed without much delay. The proposal to construct it should not be one of the remote possibilities of Federation.
– Hear hear ! But, at the same time, we have the financial obligation to face now.
– There is not much in the financial obligation. The Commonwealth took over the Territory with a debt at the time of transfer less in amount than the bonus paid to the sugar industry in Queensland and New South Wales. I think that, according to the last Budget figures, we have actually given for the purposes of the futile policy into which a Royal Commission is inquiring about ,£3,400,000 in bonuses. The total debt on the Northern Territory at the time of the transfer was about ,£3,200,000 or £3, 300,000. So that it is a fulfilment of an obligation to carry out that railway. It was part of the consideration of the transfer. The only real obligation was the discharge of that debt. There is another reason which, I think, should induce honorable members to realize the expectations of South Australia in this matter, that the construction of the railway should not be postponed. That State faced a great many large obligations. It constructed the overland telegraph line at an expenditure of about £600,000, the extent of line being 1,160 odd miles. Since the uniform Tariff, there had been up to the time of transfer a loss of , £20,000 to South Australia in Customs revenue in connexion with the Northern Territory. That may seem strange, but South Australia had a separate Tariff for the Northern Territory until 1901. Owing to the uniform Commonwealth Tariff coming into operation, that separate Tariff disappeared.
– Yes; I made an estimate some years ago ; and the difference between the old Tariff, under which there was a pretty stiff tax on such articles of consumption as rice, and the Tariff under Federation represented about £20,000. In addition to that, there was a loss through leakage over the border. There was no check upon the passing of commodities between the Northern Territory and Queensland, for instance. The South Australian Commissioner of Audit estimated that there was a fair loss to South Australia, no bookkeeping check being capable of being applied. There was also a loss of £15,000 a year for some time in consequence of the Eastern Extension Company’s so-called monopoly - it was not really a monopoly - being interfered with by the Pacific Cable, because the Eastern Extension cables caused a quantity of telegrams to go over the South Australian line.
– Still, the business people of South Australia got cheaper cables.
– The whole of Australia reaped that benefit. I am not objecting to the policy ; but it is just as well to remind honorable members that if one adds up the profit and loss connected with the Northern Territory one finds that there has been a considerable loss of revenue for some years to South Australia through becoming part of the Federation, apart altogether from the large expenditure in previous years for the purpose of transcontinental projects. Our Commissioner of Audit, in a report prepared at the time of Federation, showed that about £5,000,000 of the public debt of South Australia was in connexion with transcontinental projects connected with the Northern Territory. I think that we ought to decide upon the route of the connecting railway as soon as possible. A survey has been made from Oodnadatta to the MacDonnell Ranges, somewhere beyond Alice Springs, about 295 miles. I asked a question of the South Australian EngineerinChief yesterday, and he told me that they had made this survey.
– Mr. Graham Stewart’s survey is for 350 miles.
– I saw Mr. Graham Stewart yesterday, and obtained the distances from him. I believe that a survey has already been made to the Katherine.
– A flying survey, yes; but this is to be a permanent survey.
– A flying survey has been made beyond the MacDonnell Ranges, and we have constructed 478 miles of line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. Had the Territory not been taken over by the Commonwealth, the chances are that the connexion to the MacDonnell Ranges would have been made, and the gold-fields there effectively tested. If this line is made, it will be possible to connect up the ends of the Queensland railway system without very great expense ; that is, if one takes into account the class of country that will be tapped by it, and the possibilities of developing that country. Looking at the map before me, I suppose that a line is built to Cobar. The distance to Broken Hill is not given ; but from Broken Hill to the South Australian railway system that runs to Port Augusta, a line of 334 miles could be run. That would be right up tothe line from Adelaide to Port Darwin. Looking at the Queensland system, one sees that there is a line from Brisbane to Charleville, 483 miles, and to connect that with the border of South Australia would meanthe construction of 325 miles of railway.
– How far from the border is the end of the Queensland line?
– It depends upon the point taken. We have to take the country tobe tapped into account. I understand that it is fairly good country. Barrows Creek, on the central route from Oodnadatta,. would be something like 800 miles from Charleville. There is also a line fromRockhampton to Longreach, 424 miles. That line could be connected with the SouthAustralian border by making the connexion, downwards by a line of 292 miles, or a direct connexion might be made from Longteach straight across Queensland into theTerritory, to connect with a point about half way up the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line. I have not the exact distance,, but I believe it to be, on a rough estimate, something like 555 miles.
– That will be done,, eventually.
– I believe it will be. I understand that Queensland intends to construct a line to connect the ends of railways already constructed. It would be comparatively easy to tap the central line of Australia, either on the east or the west. That would form a large chain of connexion with Port Darwin and Port Augusta. But honorable members seem to think that only a short line need be made from Cloncurry to connect with the Northem Territory. That is true. The distance to the border would be only 125 miles; but to strike the Pine Creek line would necessitate - taking the only route that has been suggested - the construction of 600 miles of railway. I mention that because we cannot palter with this subject, and imagine that the proper interim policy is to make a- connexion with Queensland. I understand that the Katherine will be the terminal point, no matter what route is selected, and if there is to be an extension, then, instead of connecting with the Queensland railway system by means of a line 600 miles in length - which after all would not be a transcontinental line - it would be far better to face the construction of the thousand and o3d miles of railway remaining to be laid between the Katherine and Oodnadatta. I hope the Minister will consider this point. It has been mentioned by others that a connexion could be made between this line and the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway at a point, the name of which I forget for the moment. I believe that a connexion could be made straight up from the route of the proposed Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway to Oodnadatta. We should thus have a 4-ft. 8J-in. line to Oodnadatta, leaving the existing 3-ft. 6-in. line to act as a feeder, from a different direction, to the transcontinental railway. I trust that the Minister will, as soon as possible, face the whole policy of constructing the central line. A survey ought to be made. The reports that have been presented by such men as McDouall Stuart, and Messrs. Brown, Giles, Winnecke, Gillen, and several others, as to the country to be passed through, while not of an optimistic character, are sufficiently encouraging to justify us in facing this bold policy. Major-General Edwards, just before Federation, recommended the construction of the central line, and Lord Kitchener, nine or ten years afterwards, indorsed that recommendation, so that it is recommended from the point of view of strategy as well as of development. As the honorable member for Gippsland has said, it is better to face the policy boldly, so that the anticipations of South Australia may be as soon as possible realized.
– There seems to be a tendency on the part of some honorable members to advocate a deviation of this proposed line to connect with the Queensland railway system. I am opposed to any such deviation. Our policy, whether it be in relation to railway construction or other developmental work, should be for the development of the Territory. That, I take it, is our primary object.
– -Which ever way the railway goes that is the idea.
– As to the particular section to which this Bill relates, there can be no doubt. Whether it is intended later on to make a deviation to the Queensland border or to carry the line as nearly as possible through the centre of Australia, the line now proposed to be surveyed will be required. I trust, however, that no State influence will be brought to bear to try to bring this railway, which is primarily for the development of the Northern Territory, into touch with the railways of other States, in order that they may be made better paying concerns than they are. Viewing the matter from a broad Australian stand-point, we must recognise that the sooner we have a railway from the north to the south, and as near the centre of Australia as possible, the better it will be for the Commonwealth. I think we should find that a line following the overland telegraph route would serve the purpose. I certainly disagree with the honorable member for North Sydney and the honorable member for Gippsland with respect to the question of gauge. It is true that there is already in existence a section of railway built on a 3-ft. 6-in gauge; but why should we palter any longer with this question? The Parliament has decided that the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie shall be built on a 4- ft. 8J-in. gauge - an opinion with which I did not agree - and not a length of railway should Be constructed by the Commonwealth which would not observe that decision. I hope that there will be no departure, so far as the question of gauge is concerned, from the determination’ of both Houses of Parliament. If any departure were contemplated, I should like to see the 5- ft. 3-in. gauge adopted, since I believe that it would prove more serviceable. But Parliament in adopting the 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge for the trans-Australian railway has, rightly or wrongly, determined what shall be the gauge for Australia, and I hope that there will be no departure from that decision. I sincerely trust that no desire will be shown so to construct this railway as to serve some Queensland or New South Wales interest. The honorable member for North Sydney has mentioned that the Queensland railways are constructed on a 3-tt. 6- in. gauge. I understand, however, that all the recently-laid lines of that State have been so constructed in the matter of clearings, cuttings, the building of culverts, and so forth, that they can be readily converted into 4-ft. 8J-in. lines. Recent surveys have been made I understand on that plan. There can be no special objection to this Bill, as it merely authorizes a survey, but I wish to emphasize the two points that, in view of the decision recently arrived at, all Commonwealth lines should be built on a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, and that, if there are no insuperable engineering difficulties in the way, we should construct a line as nearly as possible through the centre of Australia from the Katherine River to Oodnadatta. I hope that a far bolder policy will be adopted in the matter of railway construction, and that the day is not far distant when we shall have this railway stretching from north to south. Such a line would be of great value from the point of view, both of development and defence. I hope that these two main principles will be strictly adhered to.
– It seems to me, with regard to the proposed survey, we are going ahead a little too rapidly, and in a wrong direction. What I think should be done before we commit ourselves to the survey of a direct line of railway, with its ultimate construction in view, is to have some trial surveys in other directions, with the object of opening up suitable country for settlement. Now what is the terminal of the present proposed railway, and what interests is it going to serve? My knowledge of this portion of the country has been gained, I must admit, from a brief run through it, but it seems lo me that it is proposed to construct 60 miles of railway to practically nowhere, to serve no existing interests-
– The honorable member is quite right, except that it must go farther ultimately.
– If the intention was to stop there, I think that the honorable member would be right.
– That is quite true. And it will have to stop there for a long time to come. I know it is in the mind of the Government that the line shall ultimately go in that direction, but I think that from the point of view of immediate advantage it would be very much better to commence the work of construction from the southern end, so as to give access to the Macdonnell Ranges. I do not know personally, but I understand from honorable members that there are pastoral and other interests already there which would be directly served by a railway constructed from the southern end. If part of the Ministry’s policy be to construct a line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta as one of the first railway projects in connexion with the Territory, it would be wiser, I consider, to start from the Oodnadatta end and work up to the Ranges, serving existing interests there and perhaps helping to promote settlement in those regions. So far as my knowledge of that portion of the country is concerned, this line is not likely to serve any interests which are not already served by the present Pine Creek line, for there is no settlement between that point and the Katherine River ; and the Government are embarking upon the expenditure of a very large sum, for I believe that the cost of construction will be nearer £12,000 a mile than £10,000. That will land us into the expenditure of a very large sum which, without a concurrent development policy, will be practically thrown away. Again, it seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse, so far as that end of the Territory is concerned ; because the Government are doing nothing in the way of providing a policy to develop the country, and thus help to make the line, at any rate to some extent, self-supporting. There is no population there at present to serve, and, so far as we know, there is no indication of any attempt being made to provide for population to open up that part of the country which this line is intended to serve. In any case, I think that if the Minister is going to regard it from the defence point of view he is not carrying the line in the proper direction. While I was in the Territory we had the advantage of the presence of one of our best naval experts, and I veil remember that, in a speech which the Commander of the Pyramus delivered in response to a toast at Port Darwin, on the occasion of Lord Northcote’s visit, he expressed the view that whatever railways were constructed through the Territory from Pine Creek, from the strategic point of view, and from the stand-point of defence, it would be absolutely necessary to carry a line through the western portion of Queensland from Pine Creek, connecting up with the various western termini, existing or projected. There was at that time, on the part of the Queensland Government, and I think that the scheme is still in contemplation, an idea of extending these termini still further westward. 1 am informed that a railway connecting up the various terminal points of lines running from the coast into the western portion of Queensland would serve a very fine stretch of agricultural country, would, from the naval and military stand-point, be very serviceable in enabling supplies to be rapidly conveyed to Port Darwin and other portions of the Territory. At any rate, that is the view which was taken by the Commander of the Pyramus. He pointed out that the commissariat question was one of the chief difficulties with which an army would have to contend in connexion with the defence of that portion of the country. He considered it was highly important that rapid means of communication between the coast and the Northern Territory, which the present system of Queensland railways would afford if connected up with the Pine Creek terminus, should be availed of for the purpose of conveying troops, and also munitions of war, stores, and other requisites for a defending army. He dwelt upon the different advantages which the ports of Queensland, and also the railways, would afford for getting into communication with other States, and bringing supplies and troops quickly from one place to another. So far as this proposed railway is concerned, it certainly will not be of any advantage in that respect, and when, for the present, it is going to terminate at the Katherine River, I cannot see what immediate advantage it is going to be for developmental purposes. There is no population to be served down there, nor do any industries exist there. It is practically a virgin country, and the Government therefore propose to run a railway to practically nowhere, at a probable cost of over threequarters of a million sterling. Ultimately, of course, as the Minister has said, it is proposed to extend the line, making it a portion of the line connecting Port Augusta with Pine Creek and Port Darwin. But from that point of view, it seems to me that the Minister is starting to construct at the wrong end. If, however, the line were constructed from the southern end, there would be a chance of the railway immediately serving existing interests there, and being of advantage in conveying intending settlers to a portion of the country which, at any rate, holds out a very much better hope of profitable settlment than does the hungry looking country through which the proposed line is to be constructed. With regard to the gauge, I do not altogether agree with the honorable member for North Sydney that the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge should be adopted if the railway is to be carried through to Oodnadatta. It seems to me that if it is intended to construct a through railway .we should have the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge, but in order to do this it will be necessary to pull up the existing line to Oodnadatta. I am informed that the greater part of it will have to be pulled up anyhow, as it is practically worthless, except as old iron. If the track has to be pulled up, and a new line constructed, I think that we ought to adopt the standard gauge. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has spoken about the possibility of a wider gauge, but I would re mind him that experience has shown all the world over that the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge is the best one for all practical purposes.
– I think that modern experience points just the other way.
– No; as a matter of fact, decisions have been ar rived at to pull up wider gauges.
– Practically everywhere. You can go through the whole of Europe, and you will not find anything but the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge; you can go through the whole of Great Britain, too, and find nothing but the standard gauge.
– Countries like Great Britain and America cannot have any other gauge, as they have so many lines.
– That argument is not borne out by known facts. If the honorable member Wl allow me to finish he will see what I am coming at. Throughout the whole of Great Britain the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge is found to be the best. Wider gauge lines have been laid down in England, one of which, when I was there recently, still remained unused. The honorable member for Fremantle informs me that, during his visit to the Old Country, this particular line was torn up. It was the last remaining one of the wide gauge lines laid down in England. The fact that these wider gauges have been discarded is significant. Throughout America and Canada, the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge is the recognised standard gauge.
– Those lines were laid down half a century ago.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– All new countries have adopted the broader gauge.
– I happen to know that the honorable member is wrong, because, when I was in America and Canada some twelve months ago, I was informed by railway engineers that they will not have any other than the standard gauge, because they do not regard any other gauge as so serviceable. In that country, vast loads are hauled over the standard gauge. Had a broader gauge offered any points of superiority, the persons who are intrusted with the construction of lines there are sufficiently wide-awake to have adopted it. They know which is the most serviceable and economical gauge to work.
– One has only to travel on the two gauges in Australia to know which is the better.
– The most competent railway engineers of the world have decided to reject both the narrower and the wider gauges. Indeed, the consensus of engineering opinion all over the world is in favour of the standard gauge of 4 ft. in. In conformity with that opinion, all duplications of existing lines are now being constructed on the standard gauge. 1 would also point out that another grand trunk line is now being run through Canada by the Canadian Northern Railway Company upon the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge.
– The honorable member and myself agree upon some things.
Mr.’W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.- I returned to Australia from England by way of Canada and America for the express purpose of inquiring into these matters. I knew that we had to deal with these transcontinental railway projects, and I visited both the Old Country and Canada, without any preconceived notions in favour of a particular gauge. I desired merely, with an open mind, to gain information; and the whole of the information which I was able to collect supported the adoption of the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. Men who are investing millions of pounds in railways are not likely to throw away their money upon a tried and discarded gauge. The wider gauges have been tried in America and are being discarded. In England, the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge was laid down alongside the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge in some portions of the country; but, finally, it was abandoned, because it was found that the latter enabled a higher speed to be attained, and could generally be worked more satisfactorily. The last of the wide-gauge lines in England has now been torn up.
– That country is tied to one gauge.
– Upon this matter, the honorable member is as much a layman as I am ; but yet he assumes to speak with all the assurance of an expert, and in opposition to the matured opinions of men whose lives have been occupied with practical railway problems.
– A Victorian expert.
– He does so merely because Victoria was prompted by jealousy of some of the other States, to lay down a wider gauge, and thus effectively to separate herself from them. But she will ultimately have to discard it. In the matter of railway gauges, and in some other respects, Victorians will yet have to exhibit themselves in a more Federal light. There is not the slightest doubt that the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge will be the gauge ultimately connecting Melbourne with Albury and other places. We must profit by the mistakes of the past and mould our policy in such a way as to secure the best results to the people. We cannot afford to throw away millions of pounds. _ We shall have “a hard task to ‘justify ourselves before the taxpayers, if, in the light of past experience, we fritter away money on a gauge which has not proved itself to be the most serviceable. In Queensland, too, the lines will have to be standardized on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. I am informed that in some of the railway extensions of that State this fact is being kept in view with the idea of ultimately widening the existing gauge. There is another phase of this question which is worth careful study before any large expenditure upon railway construction is incurred by the Commonwealth, and the matter of gauges of all widths may, as a result of investigation, not need to be further considered. 1 do not know whether the Government have considered the advisableness of utilizing the mono-rail system in connexion with these transcontinental lines; but before we embark upon any heavy expenditure on railway extension throughout the Northern Territory, or, indeed, upon the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, serious inquiry should be made into this question. It is one which has been exercising the minds of railway engineers in the Old Country, and it is possible, therefore, to obtain a good deal of information in regard to it. I do not refer to the Brennan mono-rail, because since that invention was put forward some very improved proposals have been forthcoming. I have read a good deal about this question lately, and I find that some time ago a Royal Commission was appointed by the Imperial Parliament to inquire into a new mono-rail proposal ; and that the evidence given by some of the most eminent engineers of Great Britain and elsewhere, seems to point to the fact that in the not far distant future an improved mono-rail system will be the system both for long and short journeys alike. I think it would be wise if the Government made some further inquiry into this system before embarking upon a large scheme of railway construction. Considerations of cost, safety, and speed, in connexion with the mono-rail system should all be carefully investigated before we are committed to a large expenditure upon any extension of our present railway systems. Perhaps I may be pardoned for making one or two quotations from the evidence of these experts in regard to the proposal to construct a mono railway from Manchester to Liverpool. Sir Frederick Bramwell, past president of the Institute of Engineers, and past president of the Institute of Mechanical Enginers, gave this evidence^ -
In your opinion, is the mode of construction of the line that is proposed here adapted for attaining high speeds? - In my opinion it is, both for safety and Jot comfort.
First, with regard to speed. How, in your view, does this proposed scheme compare with the ordinary two-rail line? - To my mind, very favorably for high speeds.
You have faith in the strength and stability of such a method of construction? - I have.
To summarise your evidence, do you think that by means of this mono-rail some of the greatest obstacles to high-speed travelling have been removed? - I do.
And that you can attain on the mono-rail system a speed of 100 miles an hour with safety? - Yes. I should put it at more than that. I should say, with much greater safety than you could travel at a lower speed on a two-rail line.
In your opinion, further, I gather there is no difficulty in applying proper and sufficient brakepower? - I am absolutely confident there is none. I think, as regards both safety and comfort, the mono-rail is far ahead of the two-rail.
Those opinions were confirmed by Mr. John C. Hawkshaw, president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Mr. R. Elliott Cooper, a member of the Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Monsieur Gerard, Inspector-General of Belgian State railways, Chef du Cabinet of the Minister for Railways for Belgium, and President of the Royal Commission appointed to report upon the mono-rail ; Monsieur Degraux, managing director of the Traction and Materials Department of the State railways of Belgium, and a member of the Belgian Royal Commission ; and by Mr. Thomas Briggs, Lord Mayor of Manchester. This is a statement by Mr. William Mather, a member of the sub-committee -
I may say, as an engineer, in looking at the details of Mr. Behr’s patents and his drawings of methods he has adopted in overcoming certain obvious difficulties, he has certainly shown most extraordinary ingenuity, and has, it appears lo me, arrived at the position of having reduced to very simple terms an extremely complicated problem. From an engineering point of view, I think the provisions made for insuring durability, ease, and comfort in the details of cars or carriages have been thoroughly threshed out, and although there may be some improvements to be made, I think the scheme is ripe for any body of enterprising commercial men - and we have no lack of such men in this country - the scheme is ripe for enterprising commercial men to take hold of and go a step beyond what we are endeavouring to take to-day and consider whether some suggestion should not be made oF a public character to establish this railway between Liverpool and Manchester.
The report of the sub-committee is as follows -
Your Committee are of opinion that Mr. Behr has demonstrated, by elaborate practical experiments before competent judges, that his system has stood as severe a test, in the engineering sense, as any new invention can be put to, short of actual application on a commercial scale.
With respect to Mr. Behr’s patents, your subcommittee append Messis. Abel and Imray’s reports, dated 10th and nth October, 1805, and 30th March, 1899, from which the following are extracts : -
The arrangements set forth involve a number of- ingenious details which, in our opinion, render the carriages and motors capable of well fulfilling their purpose - comfort of passengers, and safety at very high speeds.
YOU have so fully elaborated the essentials of the system that it would be very difficult to contrive rolling-stock for this purpose without having recourse to some of the inventions protected by your patents.
– Was not a line built in India on the mono-rail system?
– A line was projected; but I have not been able to ascertain whether it was actually built. I understand that a short line was laid down in Ireland, and gave very satisfactory results. I have no brief for the Behr patent, and know nothing of it beyond what I have read in these reports.
– Is it the same as the Brennan patent?
– No; the principle is wholly different, and does not rest upon gyroscopic action to preserve the equilibrium, as in the Brennan monorail. The Behr system is an improvement on the Brennan system, and has been reported on most favorably by Lord Kelvin, and other engineering experts. My only purpose in referring to the matter is to induce Ministers to make further inquiries into the mono-rail question before committing the country to expenditure on railway construction- involving millions of money. The system may have been brought to an even greater state of perfection since these reports were published. Before any large expenditure is undertaken in connexion with the construction of the transcontinental railway, every means should be taken to ascertain whether a better result could not be obtained by means of some mono-rail system than by the present two-rail system, with which speeds are necessarily limited. It is claimed for the mono-rail system that, if it were adopted, one could travel from Sydney to Melbourne in between four and five hours, and from Melbourne to Kalgoorlie in twenty-four hours or less, without discomfort, and at less risk than exists now at ordinary speeds with the two-rail system. These facts justify delay with a. view todetermining whether more rapid transit, with ease, comfort, and safety, is not procurable. One of the engineers who has reported on the mono-rail, has declared that, with it, you get about 95 per cent, of safety as compared with any other system ; that there is no limitation of speed within 100 or 200 miles an hour; and that even higher speeds may be obtained when experience has suggested further improvements. The experts declare that, on the mono-rail system, you can travel at the rate of 100 miles an hour comfortably, and even faster, with absolute safety. It is surely worth the while of the Government to get the most up-to-date information regarding the mono-rail system generally before undertaking any railway construction. If it be found that the mono-rail system is not suitable, the present proposals can be carried into effect. In any case, I hope that the question of the standard gauge will be fully considered if the Government decide to discard the monorail idea, and that we shall not make any of the mistakes that have been made in the past in having these various breaks of gauge, so far as Commonwealth railway construction is concerned.
.- It is somewhat of a problem to me why we should be discussing this question at all. If we were dealing practically with the needs of the Northern Territory, we- might regard this as merely a preliminary proposal of the smallest kind, only worthy of consideration in so far as it furnishes a. base for operations on a much larger scale. If the Minister would add to his present proposal for a survey authority to make this line without further delay on the survey being completed, this House ought to accept it, and I believe would accept it.
When the measure for the transfer of the Northern Territory from South Australia to the Commonwealth was first brought forward at Ministerial Conferences in 1906 and in 1909, the utmost stress was laid, not only upon the urgency of our deciding whether we should accept it or not, but, in the event of our accepting the responsibility, upon the “ urgency of our proceeding without a moment’s delay to take every step necessary to foster the settlement of the Territory.” We intended to place it, at all events, as far as we could, in such a position that we should be able to offer some defence in case it should be attacked. When the late regretted Minister of External Affairs, Mr. Batchelor, brought in the same Bill, word for word, in 1910, it was on the same plea. I have just read an expressive phrase of his, which seemed to sum up his view and the House’s view of the: situation. He said : “ Perhaps the strongest reason of all for passing the Bill authorizing the transfer is that in the meantime the development of the Territory is entirely suspended.” Practically, it has been entirely suspended ever since. Of course, the Minister has made’ a number of important appointments and secured the services of a number of men of ability. So far, there are preparations for doing something, but practically nothing has yet been done. Although the responsibility for the Territory has rested upon us now for something over two years, except in the way of appointments we have absolutely nothing to show for it.
The measure we are now considering ought to have been introduced in the session of 19 10, and passed with the authority to make the line. This line enjoys the rather extraordinary advantage of being approved by all parties, whatever their views of railway construction necessary for the Territory are. There has never been any doubt about this particular line. The whole House has been, and I think still is, absolutely united on all the large general questions relating to the Territory. I do not include among these the particular route to which the main line is to be restricted, or some questions of deviation that will be settled in due time.
– What about land tenure?
– -That question, like many others, is solved by the Ministry’s enjoyment of a majority in both Houses. If that does not settle the question, I do not know what will.
If we have anything to blame ourselves for, it is our supineness in dealing with the Territory. We ought to be much further advanced. In supporting the passage of the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill on 12th October, 1910, I pointed out - and the first sentence applies to a great deal that we are considering now -
We have no choice in this matter. We must take this agreement, because we must take the Territory ; we cannot afford delay. There have already been knocks at the door in the north, and may be more. Above all things, whatever we do, we should pass this Bill, with or without the condition as to route, and without another moment’s delay.
I venture to say now that a whole series of questions, about which there are natural and legitimate differences of opinion, ought to be met in a spirit that will induce honorable members to waive their individual judgments after they have expressed them, in order that we may get on at once with the real work of settling the Territory, and preparing it, in some degree, to hold its own. We have no choice. We must get on with the real work of making known its resources, which, I venture to believe, will prove to be far larger than the most sanguine imagination has yet painted. I do not mean bv that to indorse the forecasts already made. They are all speculative and based on little direct knowledge, but if that huge Territory does not possess many great potencies for development, it will differ from every other part of Australia, that we know to-day.
– So it does differ very much.
– It is a matter of opinion. I am old enough to remember the time when practically, even great enterprise now successfully carried on in Australia, except the pastoral, was condemned as impracticable, except within certain narrow areas. The longer I have lived, the more I have learned, from the practical experience of others, that difficulty after difficulty has disappeared, and resource after resource has been discovered. My faith, therefore, is based, first, on the general characteristics ot the growth of our States with which I have been most familiar, and, next, upon the general reports which we have already obtained from authorities who are sufficiently entitled to be termed experts to warrant us in taking further steps.
I remember when it was said not to be possible to grow wheat on the northern side of the Victorian Dividing Range. I remember when, to attempt anything like a water supply which should be controlled by artificial means, by the construction of storage reservoirs and canals, was ridiculed as a proposition never possible under Australian conditions. I remember when even the 640 acres granted to every selector was pooh-poohed as too small a block to expect any man to rear a family upon, when we had reached the utmost limit of our gold-mines, though only a few hundred feet from the surface. I remember how the depth at which the gold-bearing quartz must cease was fixed lower and lower. It was only as experience drove such doctrinaire notions out of our minds that we became able to realize that many of our mineral and agricultural resources are practically inexhaustible when attacked by scientific methods, after adequate study, and with a proper realization of local difficulties.
– Evidently men of capital have overlooked the Northern Territory for many years.
– Australia, has bred as many capitalists as has any country, except America, for some generations past. I do not say that our Australian’ problems have all been easy of solution. I do not say they have not involved losses, great patience,’ and thought, and inquiry. The same difficulties - some of the gravest new to us - still exist in the Northern Territory. I do not minimize those difficulties.
Again, I say, “ we have no choice.” This is a task which we have not sought out of ourselves. It is imposed on us by the fact that we are nationally responsible for Australia. We cannot afford to regard any area of the Territory as hopeless until we have thoroughly scrutinized and tested it by the most scientific and most advanced methods, with a view to discovering the best means of maintaining a white population on its soil, by opening up its resources. This is without question our duty, and a duty which we only render more difficult the more delay we permit. We ought to have been at grips with the problem many years ago, but the terms of agreement for taking over the Territory could not then be settled. We have had it now for two years.
– “ Fools rush in.”
– Where wise men fear to tread, and so do heroes. There have been heroes in Australia, who have taken their lives in their hands again and again in order to discover and develop its potential wealth. But for these we should have been left for a long time in ignorance of the real resources of this country. I hope the race of heroes is not extinct.
– There are very few of them left.
– Those who have died in this cause have died nobly. That was better than living fruitlessly or selfishly under some accepted conditions.
– They have benefited the rest of mankind.
– This continent has benefited enormously from their sacrifices. It is not, however, benefiting by the policy of the present Government, which is a policy of timidity, delay, hesitation, and parsimonious expenditure. We have to face the fact that this Territory must make a large drain upon the resources and energies of the Commonwealth. It means the facing of a number of problems which aTe not going to be solved in a day, or a month, or a year. The longer we postpone effective action, the greater the risk we shall run. We cannot afford time to dally over these questions. We are bound to face them now, and push on with their consideration. We have no choice.
This little trifle of a railway ought not, on its merits, to have occupied the time of the House for more than an hour; but it has been made the means of discussing a number of questions very relevant, no doubt, to the Northern Territory, but far from being relevant to the railway. I do not regret that discussion, since we are asked to do so little that is practical. I trust that the session will not close without our being asked to do much more than is proposed in connexion with this little railway. If the Minister of External Affairs finds, from the advice and reports of the men he has appointed to the Northern Territory, that he can reasonably invite us to sanction possible developments in other directions besides this and other railways, I can promise him the hearty support of honorable members on this side. Whatever view they may have taken of the transfer of the Northern Territory or the route for the transcontinental railway, we are agreed that, as we have become responsible for the Northern Territory, we must be prepared to face its problems in the most manly fashion.
We have had an overflowing Treasury, so that the Government have been able to undertake a great many enterprises which, in other circumstances, it might not have been reasonable for them to embark upon; but with this overflowing Treasury, it appears to me that, in addition to these first steps towards the settlement of a part, and a very small part, of the Northern Territory, we should be able, without delay, and without much talk, to push on with further developments. We must trust to the men of ability who have been sent tothe Northern Territory, supporting them, even though to do so may involve some sacrifice of our own judgments and” opinions. What they are doing at this distance we do not know. At any rate, I am personally prepared to trust to the judgment of our officials in connexion with this Bill. The foundation measure on the statute-book is not, in some particulars, all that I desired; but I adopted it with all my heart when I found that we must accept those terms or none. I think there are many members who are prepared to take the same stand now.
I ask the Minister of External Affairs^ to appeal to the House, and feel sure” that he will receive a generous response for anything undertaken with the object of opening up the Territory, thoroughly testing its resources, and settling it as soon as possible. He will be supported if he asks us to face problems, the solution of which must be costly, and must take a long time, but which will be more difficult the longer their consideration is delayed. I have really hardly said a word about this railway, being prepared to support the proposal as a mere trifle, in view of what we are called upon to do for the Northern Territory. I trust that the Minister will not allow the session to close without submitting some practical .proposals on an adequate scale for the development of the Territory, which can be recommended to him as ripe for attempt. After all, attempts are at present as much as we can expect in connexion with this Territory. I think that Parliament, and that Australia, ought to be prepared to make them. Whatever other perils may menace Australia, more are to be expected from this quarter than from any other. No Australian can rest satisfied until a very different condition of affairs prevails throughout the empty Northern Territory. There should be less cause for hesitation since this is the part of the Commonwealth in which the fortunes of the whole may be at stake. We have no choice.
.- It is very encouraging tq find the Leader of the Opposition prepared to support in so wholehearted a fashion any. proposal which” may be made by the Minister of External Affairs, who is charged with the administration of the Northern Territory. “It must be reassuring to the Minister to know that he has the promise of the honorable member for Ballarat that he will stand by him in any proposal that he may submit for the development and settlement of this vast Territory. I sometimes think that such remarks as we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition are made with a view to future contingencies. It may be a good thing to tell a Minister that he will not have the Opposition against him in any advance movement, when no big advance is being made. It may be a good thing to have Hansard to refer to later on, when complaints are being made of the laggardness of the ‘Government, and their failure to take advantage of support offered them by the Opposition. Such remarks may be little mile-stones left on the road to indicate the course of politics. I have seen the same kind of thing done before, and it is, no doubt, an astute course to take. I commend the honorable member for Ballarat upon his astuteness on this occasion ; but the honorable gentleman has talked very vaguely indeed. I disagree with his statement that, if there is any danger to Australia, the greatest danger lies in the Northern Territory. In my judgment, there is no foundation for any statement of the kind. I do not believe, for a moment, that the danger to Australia is anything like so great as it has been represented to be, even though the Northern Territory should be left as it is. As a matter of fact, I believe that the construction of a railway from the Northern Territory to the borderland of civilization in the Commonwealth would greatly increase any danger there may be; since it would enable those from whom, apparently, an attack is expected - but who, I think, are tied up in other ways by their international relations - to attack us more effectually than they could hope to do if no such railway were constructed. Assuming the supposed danger, our position will be weakened rather than strengthened by the construction of the railway.
– Then the honorable member thinks that Lord Kitchener has given us away?
– I do not know whether Lord Kitchener went through the Northern Territory, or realized the difficulties which would confront an invading force in having to traverse the Territory without a railway. I do not know whether he considered that aspect of the matter. But if there is any justification for the expenditure of money upon railway construction for the development of the Northern Territory, it should be spent on the continuation of the line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges.
– Why not both? We are not compelled to choose between the two.
– There is nothing in the country between Pine Creek and the Katherine River to justify a hope that *
Une through that country would pay for more than the grease on the wheels, even if all that was produced in the district were carried on the railway. The construction of this line cannot be justified on the grounds that there will be any return from it. 1 deplore, for more reasons than one, the fact that the Government propose to start the through line from the northern end. First, I do not think it is going to be anything like an encouraging proposition when it is finished. When we commence to reflect, after a year or two of experience, the desire to proceed further in the same direction may be annulled. As to getting material for the construction of the railway, if the desire had been to go the wrong way to work, the authorities could not have done it more effectively. If they wanted to make the railway cost as much as possible, and to render it more difficult to meet the interest on the capital charge, they could not have gone about the task in a more likely manner. Here we have a railway project that is going to cost a fabulous sum as compared with southern railways of a like character. The labour will be’ extremely expensive. To get material to that part of the continent will be enormously costly. The capital cost will be such that the thing would look like something done by men who had no reasonable apprehension of the amount of money they should spend on the construction of works of this character. The honorable member for Ballarat has argued that certain things were prognosticated in days gone by in regard to other parts’ of this country, and that those prognostications have been falsified. For that reason, he contended, we must not quibble about the development of the Northern Territory. I, however, compliment the Minister on going slowly. I say that he cannot go too slow.
– If I cannot, I do not know who can !
– The Minister is now making an admission that I am sorry to hear ; but it is so near the truth that I cannot quarrel with him about it. Nevertheless, I say again that he ought to go slowly in this matter. We know very little about the Northern Territory at present. The men who have been sent there by the Government have only recently arrived, and have not had time to form an opinion, or to investigate the conditions that exist, and that require investigation before we “rush in where angels fear to tread.” The statement made by the Leader of the Opposi tion would almost make one feel that the Northern Territory had only just been discovered. One would think that the British Government, which had possession of it before South Australia obtained control, must have found out something about it. As a matter of fact, there still exist evidences of attempts at settlement. The ruins of dwellings are there to bear witness to the failure of the British Government to settle “the Territory. Men have gone there, as they have gone to other countries, in the hope of making their fortunes. It is not as though this country had not been traversed and reported upon again and again. The reports are of a singularly contradictory character. Some men write up the Territory in grandiloquent language. Others pour enough cold water on it to freeze it. One cannot form an independent opinion, and feel sure that one is right, between these two kinds of reports. I tried to look into the matter for myself, putting questions to people who have been there for years ; but I am not yet satisfied. There is evidence of the expenditure of millions of money drawn from the British investor from time to time, and for which he never received a dividend.
– They evidently did not go far with mining experiments ; because, when the honorable member and I ‘ were there, we did not see a shaft 300 feet deep.
– The same mining experts were available to the investors in the Northern Territory as were available to other companies ; and the men who handled this money were, I suppose, just as anxious to see that the expenditure was carefully manipulated as experts have been in connexion with investments elsewhere. It would be folly to assume that the experts and investors cared not whether they obtained investments worth having or not. But the honorable member for Illawarra knows as well as I do that, right throughout the mineral belt in the Territory, you can see evidences of the folly of British investors.
– Hear, hear ! Everywhere.
– You can see evidences of the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds. It is simply talking like a child to say that investigations have not been made in the Territory. We can’ hope that some day the Eldorado of which an honorable member opposite spoke will reward the perseverance of the heroes who have gone there. But, so far, no such success has rewarded their efforts. We have had men of the highest standing in the pastoral industry, who have taken up hundreds of square miles of country, stocked it with cattle, horses, and sheep, and built their homesteads there. All that you can see to-day as the result of their efforts is the chimney of an old homestead here and there to mark the place when men have attempted to bring this country into occupation. I quite realize that we have a heavy responsibility in the Territory. But we ought to .go slowly and be sure of what we are doing. I maintain that the Minister has not sufficient data to go upon, even in regard to this railway. He has apparently brought forward the proposal more as an excuse, or as an indication that he is doing something. Apparently, there has been no sufficient consideration of the enormous cost that will have to be incurred to start to build a railway from that end ; and it will certainly be an enormous burden in regard to up-keep. We shall have an annual loss on this bit of a railway, as we have on the other portion. I have no hesitation in saying that time will prove that I am right in this prediction. Therefore, I can but hope that nothing which the honorable member for Ballarat has said, will induce the Minister to hurry pell-mell into expenditure in the Territory. I say that the problem cannot be solved unless we are prepared to look deeper into it than is indicated by a proposal brought forward to try to make people believe that we are doing something. Every section of this vast territory - the mining, the pastoral, and also the agricultural section - if there be one - requires the closest study at the outset so that the- Minister may know that he is making a start at the right end. Once a start is made along the wrong lines, we shall probably continue to go wrong; and it is because I think that sufficient study has not been given to this matter - that there has not been such an investigation as would warrant us in indorsing this proposition - that I am inclined to vote against it. I believe that it would be found more profitable to begin our railway policy by constructing a line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges. That section of the Territory should never have been separated from South Australia. If it had not been included in the Northern Territory, I doubt whether certain schemes would have been pressed upon us as eagerly as they have been. Since we have taken it over, however, it seems to me that from a commer cial, economic and effective stand-point, we should commence by building a railway from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges instead of constructing this cockspur line, through country which produces nothing, to a part of the Territory which is almost equally unproductive. I do not wish to labour this question, but I feel strongly concerning the Territory. I feel that my own State, as well as the other States of the Commonwealth, will have to “nurse the baby,” and that we shall find that it is a pretty heavy youngster to nurse. I do not know whether the Minister who is charged with the great responsibility of administering the affairs of the Territory has gone about the work of obtaining all the information necessary for his guidance in the right way. I link up the railway policy with that of land tenure. The land tenures and possibilities of settlement are all connected with effective railway construction. We have not only to consider what line of railway will give us the best return to-day, but what return we shall get from our land settlement by-and-by. The work of settling the people on the land is one that cannot be overlooked by any Minister. I personally am opposed to this proposal to spend money on a railway survey from Pine Creek to the Katherine River ; and if I could defeat it I should do so. The Leader of the Opposition, however, is quite satisfied. He believes that the Minister is adopting the right course.
– Not satisfied. Like Oliver Twist, he asks for more. ‘
– But the honorable gentleman is delighted, that the Minister is taking action, and would be still better pleased if he would move rapidly. When we come to discuss future Budgets, however, he will probably complain of the heavy expenditure that this rapid movement on the part of the Minister has involved. We must not forget that the Leader of the Opposition is not responsible for the construction of this line. The responsibility rests with the Minister of seeing that public funds are expended with due regard to the proper development of the Territory. I hold the view that this proDOsa.1 will involve a waste of money ; that it will not be productive, and that it is most injudicious, in view of the heavy initial cost that must be entailed in obtaining the material required for the construction of this line. I do not attach very much importance to the Leader of the Opposition’s eulogy, nor do I attach much importance to his enthusiastic prophecies concerning the future of the Territory. We have had references to the Jeremiahs who declared it impossible to do many things that were done in connexion with the pioneering work of the States, but such references have no .application to the development of the Territory. It has already been investigated and explored. We have reports, maps and charts in relation to the mineral, pastoral, and possible agricultural belts of country. We have maps and charts of the desert and the “ dead heart of Australia.” It is not because of want of investigation that we are in the dark as to the future of the Northern Territory. Whilst I rejoice to find the Leader of the Opposition prepared to offer the whole-hearted support of the Opposition to a Government proposal-
– I did not hear him say that.
– He said that the Opposition was with the Minister in this proposal.
– I think the honorable member is mistaken.
– If the honorable gentleman did not say that the Opposition would give the Bill their whole-hearted support, he did say that they would be with the Minister in every effort made by him to develop the Territory, and that he personally would favour a much larger expenditure than that now proposed. If the Opposition are not in favour of this Bill, and are prepared to vote against it, they will find me voting with them.
.- I trust that the honorable member for Gwydir has not resumed his seat under the impression that the Opposition intend to vote against this Bill. Whilst I do not absolutely agree with it, I am so impressed with the necessity of doing something to settle what is undoubtedly the most vulnerable part of Australia that I hesitate very much to oppose any proposition put forward for its development. I have recognised for many years that we must do something to people this part of Australia if the continent is to be preserved as a white man’s country. Railway development and land settlement run side by side in this regard ; but I agree with the honorable member for Gwydir that we must be careful that we do not begin with our railway policy at the wrong end. Has the Minister considered whether or not Darwin is the proper centre from which to enter upon .the development of the Territory ? Has he considered whether Wyndham or Cambridge Gulf would not prove a more desirable starting-point? The honorable member for Gwydir haspointed out - and every one who has visited that part of the Territory knows that his statement is correct - that the country between Darwin and the Katherine is absolutely poor. I understand that the railway from Darwin to Pine Creek was constructed by the South Australian Government to develop the metalliferous resources of that part of the country. As a matter of fact, it does not tap any agricultural land. Good agricultural country undoubtedly exists along the Katherine; and 1 should like to know whether the Minister has received any reports from the highsalaried officers recently sent to Darwin regarding the possibilities of agricultural settlement along that river.
– To what high-salaried officers does the honorable member refer?
– I refer, for instance, to the Administrator, Professor Gilruth, who recently made the magnificent discovery that good agricultural country exists on the Macdonnell Ranges. That is a fact of which we have known for years. lt is a fact which every one who has been here for the last fifty years has known perfectly well. Professor Gilruth is one of the officials I referred to, and I have no doubt that the Minister was as much surprised as I was to read that remark in the report of that highly-salaried official.
– He has not been down to the Macdonnell Ranges.
– No; but he mentioned in his report that there was some magnificent country there. The honorable member for Grey is laughing over this discovery. I am sure that he had a good smile to himself when he read this part of the report, because as a resident of Adelaide for a number of years, and as a representative of the Territory, he has known all about this magnificent country, and has talked to a number of honorable members about it. That is one of the discoveries which Professor Gilruth has made.
– Do you not agree with the professor?
– Yes. But it is remarkable that the eminent Administrator and professor should have only found out during the last few months what many have known for fifty years. I desire to know what the Minister proposes to do in connexion with the railway from Darwin to Pine Creek, which, as we all know, was constructed on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. In consequence of my absence in another State I had not the privilege of hearing the Minister’s speech in introducing this Bill, but according to a report in a Melbourne newspaper, which I have read in the Chamber, he said that there is an understanding that a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge shall be adopted on the line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. I should like to know why he proposes to have, even for that short distance, a break of gauge.
– Do you think it will be possible to run a train with a break of gauge ?
– I think that if the Minister intends to extend the railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River it might be advisable for him to consider whether the track from Darwin to Pine Creek should not be laid on what all experts say is the proper gauge, viz., 4 ft. in. I think that he might inform us what he proposes to do ; but apparently we are to be met with that smug sanctimonious silence which has been spoken of, and the House is to get no information on this point. I have referred to the possibility of developing the Territory from another centre than Darwin. A large number of honorable members have been at Darwin, and know the poor character of country through which the proposed railway will pass, and the magnificent country in the vicinity of the Cambridge Gulf. A large number of persons who are competent to express an opinion think that it would be very much better for the development of the Territory to have the principal port at Wyndham rather than at Darwin. It appears to me that .before any railway extension is undertaken a comprehensive report in regard to the proper mode of developing the Territory should be submitted to the House, and then we should know what we were doing.
– We are groping in the dark.
– Yes ; we are asked to pass a Bill involving an expenditure of £5,000 on a survey, but we do not know where that may land us.
– We do not even know the gauge of the line.
– No. I submit to the Minister, with all respect, that before he asks the House to pass the Bill he should give us a more comprehensive idea of his plan for developing the Territory than he has done. Moreover, we ought to have a distinct statement on the subject of the land policy. As honorable members know, three or four weeks ago I formally took exception to Land Ordinance in regard to that portion of the Territory which will be occupied by agricultural settlement. I raised the question of leasehold versus freehold tenure.
-Order ! The honorable member cannot refer to that matter.
– I only want to point out to the Minister, sir, that before he enters upon a system of railway development he ought to have a definite land policy. No one can say that he has such a policy when” the Land Ordinance under which he is attempting to act has been challenged on a direct motion here. In my opinion no Government should think of taking further action for the development of the Territory until the challenge of their land policy has been dealt with. We ought to know what the direct policy of the Government is; because, if Parliament means anything, the land policy of the Territory will depend upon the votes which will be given on my motion. What we are really considering now is, not the development of other parts of Australia, but the development of the Territory, recognising how essential that is to the rest of the Commonwealth. I wish the Mininster to distinctly understand that I am not opposed to expenditure on the Territory. I realize the absolute necessity of spending money there for developmental purposes, and I hope that in the course of his reply he will give us further information than he has already done.
– You said that you had not read what I said.
– I said that I had only had an opportunity of reading the Minister’s speech as reported in a daily newspaper. I do not know whether anything further will appear in Hansard, but, as he knows, that is not issued yet. We ought to have information in regard to the difference in gauge, and a statement in connexion with the possibility of developing the Territory from some centre other than Darwin. The whole country round Darwin is poor, whereas round the Cambridge Gulf and Wyndham there is an enormous area of rich, fertile country. Any expenditure in connexion with the Territory, if it is carried out on proper lines, cannot be too large, I think. I realize the necessity of developing the country, and also the possibility of a successful settlement in some portions of it - iti the Barklay Tableland, for instance, with the climate it possesses. We know from the experience of some of the stations there that cattle can be successfully bred and exported to other portions of Australia. We hope that when proper development has taken place it will be possible to export cattle to other parts of the world. I feel satisfied from what I have seen that there is a possibility of a big agricultural settlement taking place along portions of the coast. All these matters should be taken into consideration before a railway developmental policy is started. It appears to me that the ^Minister has not considered any of these things, but merely proposes to have a trial survey made of a railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River, through one of the poorest portions of the Northern Territory, without giving us any indication of the developmental policy of the Government. While I am not prepared to oppose any proper expenditure upon that Territory, I am not satisfied, from what I have heard in regard to this proposal, that we are embarking upon a sound policy. Further information should be forthcoming before we commit ourselves to the expenditure which will require to be incurred upon this project.
.- The Minister of External Affairs, in introducing this Bill, gave us a considerable amount of useful information. He is to be congratulated upon the fact that he did not seek to deceive us in regard to the nature of the country which will be traversed by the proposed railway. He distinctly told us that the line was merely intended to bridge over the country between Pine Creek and what is regarded as the fertile portion of the Territory. But when he informed us so explicitly that it was the determination of the Government to build this line upon the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge, he might have told us what cost would be incurred in altering the existing 145 miles of railway between Port Darwin and Pine Creek to that gauge.
– I said that a permanent survey would be made of a railway to be built on the 4-ft. 8$-in. gauge, and that an estimate would be prepared of the cost of a line upon the basis of a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge.
– My point is that the Minister should have informed us of the cost of altering the existing line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek to a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. I understand that the proposed railway to the Katherine River is intended, amongst other things, to develop the beef industry. I submit that if we lay down 50 miles of railway upon the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge at the end of 145 miles of line which has been constructed upon the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, we shall create a very peculiar position. Further, it will prove disastrous to the beef industry, because one of our first considerations in that connexion should1 be the quality of the beef, and this is bound to suffer if we subject cattle unnecessarily to the pain which is incidental to their transfer from one set of trucks to another. When the proposed survey is being made, I think we should secure an estimate of the cost of altering the existing line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek to the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge. An alternative scheme might be adopted by laying down steel sleepers of sufficient length to enable the Pine Creek to the Katherine River line to be converted to a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge at a later period.
– That seems a sensible idea. Does not the honorable member think that we shall do that?
– I listened with a good deal of attention to the Minister’s speech, but I did not gather that the Government intended to do that. Is it their determination to build this line temporarily on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge? By inference the Minister would lead us to suppose that it is, but he will not answer my question.
– It seems to me that there is an intelligent way of doing this work. I can hardly imagine anything being done other than what the honorable member has suggested.
– If there is an intelligent way of doing the work, it is the duty of the Minister to make a definite statement. I agree with the honorable member for Gwydir that the construction of a line of railway from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta through the centre of Australia will be an extremely dangerous proceeding, from the point of view of defence. Yet the building of that line is urged as a necessity from a defence stand-point. The experience of the Russo-Japanese war teaches us that the construction of a railway through a long stretch of country will simply mean opening the back-door to our enemies. Of course, it may be argued that Lord Kitchener has expressed an opposite view.
– Do I understand that the honorable member differs from Lord Kitchener ?
– I do. I am inclined to think that he did not enter into the merits of this question. He does not understand
Australian distances as we do. I am perfectly justified in saying that, so far from improving our position from a defence stand-point, the construction of the transcontinental railway from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta will weaken it. In my judgment, there is a better method of procedure open to us. Quite a number of honorable members have indorsed another railway connexion. If the Northern Territory is to be developed, undoubtedly it will require to be connected with the adjacent States. My own opinion is that it would be wise to link up that Territory with the most northwesterly extension of the Queensland railways. I understand that that extension has been constructed upon the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge.
– Does not the honorable member think that we ought to respect the agreement which, has been made with another State?
– At the proper time we should do so, but not at a time when such a proceeding would mean danger to the Commonwealth. Personally, I favour an extension of the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line as far as the Macdonnell Ranges.
– Is the honorable member prepared to vote in that direction?
– I am prepared to favorably consider such a proposal. To bring the line from Pine Creek southward through the Northern Territory would be a great mistake. Therefore, although I support the adoption of a policy of railway construction in the Territory, I do not favour the particular line for the survey of which this Bill provides.
.- During the course of this debate a good deal has been said in regard to the wisdom of constructing the proposed railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. I am not prepared to say that such a project is wrong, nor am I prepared to admit that it is right. I wish that the Government had come down with a comprehensive policy for the development of the Territory. It would not have mattered then had they told us that £10,000,000 would be needed, first and last. All we have is a Bill to authorize the survey of 60 miles of route, at a cost not to exceed £5,000. A few years ago, we had to fight very hard to get £20,000 for the survey of a route for a line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. I wonder whether the cost of the two surveys was estimated by the same engineer? If r £5,000 is needed to survey a line through country which is the paradise that this country has been pictured, with water obtainable everywhere, and every facility for getting about, more than £100,000 should have been put down for the cost of surveying the Western Australian route, which traverses long stretches of waterless country, and extends for a distance of more than 1,000 miles, as compared with only 50 miles in this case. I acknowledge that the Territory must be developed, since we have taken it over ; but not in a piece-meal, haphazard fashion. Apparently, the Ministry have been driven into a corner, and Ministers say, “The session is nearly up ; we must do something ; so we will propose the survey of a railway route.” We have not been told what would be gained by making a railway to the1 Katherine River; nor have we been supplied with plans showing the areas expected to be developed. Directly the Territory was taken over, a large staff of surveyors should have been sent there to gather information regarding it ; but we know no more about it now than we did when the Acceptance Bill was under consideration. The Government is following the haphazard policy which South Australia found itself compelled to drop years ago, when it pushed its lines tq Oodnadatta and to Pine Creek. If a proper policy were propounded, honorable members would be ready to vote sufficient money to give effect to it. We should have been given a classification of the country, showing what its different districts are capable of, and how they could and should be served by railways. In my opinion, we should commence by pulling up the present Pine Creek line. It was built twenty-five years ago, of 41-lb. rails, which are now probably worn out. To propose the survey of a route to the Katherine River for a railway which may be on the 4-ft. 8£-in. or the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge is a shandy-gaff proposal. Why does not the Minister determine at once that the gauge on this, and all Commonwealth lines, shall be the world’s standard gauge, which has been properly adopted for the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta? For the first 100 miles from Port Augusta, that line will travel in the direction of Port Darwin, and that- section of it could be connected with Oodnadatta and made part of the northern transcontinental line.
– The sleepers on the Pine Creek line would be useless for a 4-ft. 8j-in. railway.
– I doubt whether they would be of much use in any case, as they are very light. It will be necessary to use steel sleepers up there. We have been told that freezing works are to be constructed at Port Darwin, and that a big traffic may be expected over a line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. That traffic would also have to go over the Port Darwin to Pine Creek section ; and I doubt whether the existing line would stand a big traffic. It certainly would not carry such a traffic as should be anticipated for a transcontinental line. If it must be pulled up, it will be better to pull it up now instead of waiting until it has been found too light for the traffic. The rails could be used for sidings, ballast pits, and other purposes, and none of them would be wasted. The cheapest course would be to re-lay the line in the beginning. The Government should not have three or four lines of different gauges. All our rollingstock and construction plant should be of one gauge. Now that we have started out with the 4-ft. 8&-in. gauge, it would be a mistake to build any line on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. I am afraid I must differ from the honorable member for Gwydir about platelaying north from Oodnadatta. I can hardly see that that would be a proper thing to do, because we must consider the distance over which material has to be carried. If you wanted to construct north and south at the same time, you would have to go half way from the Northern Territory. You would have to start from the Territory and go down at least 600 or 700 miles. In constructing north from Oodnadatta, another difficulty would crop up. You would have to go over the Macdonnell Ranges, and would have the grade against you from Oodnadatta. You would have to rise 2,000 or 3,000 feet, and surely the honorable member would not advocate pulling all that heavy material over the top of that range, and dropping it down on the other side ? By starting from the north the material can be delivered at a port, and the engine work can be done from that port. On 6th October, 1910, Hansard, page 4252, the then Minister said that the gap between Pine Creek and Oodnadatta, was 1,063 miles. and on the same page he is reported to have said that the estimated cost of the connexion was £4,500,000, or £4,230 a mile. What sort of a game are they playing with us? We are told now that the estimated cost of the first 50 miles of that railway - the 50 miles nearest to the coast, where water is available, where the carriage required is shortest, and where the best conditions generally obtain - is £10,000 per mile. The present Minister has told us that the estimated cost of constructing the 50 miles is £500,000, which works out at £10,000 a mile. Besides this, the Government took particular care to stop at the bridge. If they . had gone another 20 or 30 chains, they would have had £170,000 more to add to the cost of that 50 miles of railway, and the cost would have become .£13,400 per mile for the easiest 50 miles of the 1,063. If the full 1,063 miles is to cost as much’’ as the easiest section, it will cost, in all, £14,244,200. I knew the House was not getting a fair deal when the first estimate of £4,230 per mile was made. It was made for the purpose of inveigling us into taking over the Northern Territory.
– Who made that estimate?
– Ministers are in a better position to find out than I am. The estimate was given to the House when the Territory was taken over.
– By whom?
– The papers are in the Minister’s office.
– I think I made it.
– The estimate was given to the House by the then Minister. I suggest that the Honorary Minister should have the papers searched, in order to find out who made it. Speaking on the North-1 ern Territory Acceptance Bill in 19 10, Hansard, page 51 14, I said that the estimate of £4,230 a mile was wrong. I said the estimate of £4,500,000 for 1,063 miles was wrong, an”d that a proper esti- mate would be nearer ,£10,440,000. The Minister now comes down with the first section of the line, which, according to his own showing, is going to cost, at £10,000 a mile, about £10,600,000. Surely this is a very bad showing-up for- the people who are estimating the cost of the railways with which we have to deal. I think” that the House should demand some further explanation of this matter. The estimate of £4,230 a mile, given by the Minister who introduced the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill in 1910, is for the gap between Pine Creek and Oodnadatta, which includes the most expensive part, where there is no water ; where the cost of running the material will be the heaviest; and where the wages to be paid to the men for working in the centre of Australia will be very high. Yet the estimate given by the Government for the first 50 miles, where they have water and. every facility, is £10,000 a mile, and they stop at the bridge. If that were included, the cost would amount to £13,400 per mile; so that there is really something which requires explaining. If the Government are determined to go on with this railway policy, they should carry it out in a business-like manner. They should have a proper survey made of the whole country, and tell the House why the railway is being built, and that an area of land of a certain class is available at the end of the line, or somewhere near it, or that it is necessary to build some other section to go into the good country. I would also suggest that, in handling railways such as this, the Government should purchase a complete and up-to-date railway construction plant, including locomotives, waggons for construction, hopper waggons, ballast ploughs, and steam shovels. The Government should then call for tenders; and allow the contractor the use of the plant at a certain charge, so that he will pay them interest on its cost. Then, when one section is finished, the Government will have on hand a suitable plant with which to go on constructing other sections. If a suitable plant has to be purchased for each section the cost of construction will be so high as to be prohibitive. The Government are in a position to purchase a better up-to-date plant than any contractor could afford to buy, and by letting such a plant to a contractor they could secure cheap construction. That was the system adopted in some parts of Australia years ago. When tenders were called for the construction of railways contractors were informed as to the number of locomotives and waggons of a certain class that could be hired from the Government, and the rates which would have to be paid for them.
– I understand that we are getting a very fine plant with which to commence the construction of the Western Australian railway.
– I dare say the honorable member is well-informed on the subject. He cannot expect me to know all these things, because I have been away for some time. If a proper system of railway construction is to be adopted the Government should supply sleepers, rails, and up-to-date plant, and let the contractors supply all wasting plant, such as horses, fodder, explosives, and so on.
– Should we not pay wages also, and pay the contractor something for taking the contract?
– The honorable gentleman may do as he pleases; he is not a railway expert. The advice I am giving is given as the result of years of experience of this kind of work. I am not treating this as a silly business in the way some Ministers appear to be willing to treat it. I am speaking seriously, and if my experience is of no more use to the House than to be made fun of by a member of the Ministry it is time the Opposition shut up. I am speaking of what I thoroughly understand, and I am not advocating anything for the benefit of the Opposition, but for the good of the Commonwealth. I am advising the adoption of the best system of railway construction which could be adopted to save money. If the Government had 20,000 miles of railways to build they could not do better than purchase an up-to-date construction plant as I have suggested. I hope that no railways will ever be constructed for the Commonwealth Government by day labour. The worst work ever done in the Commonwealth has been done by day labour.
– I can inform the honorable member that the finest piece of railway construction in the Commonwealth was carried out by day labour.
– I did not say that it was not, but that the worst Government work. has been done by day labour. It would be quite possible to carry out a very fine piece of work by day labour if we were prepared to pay ten times as much for it as it ought to cost. The weak point in connexion with construction by day labour is the fact that there is no supervision.
– Does the honorable member think that a contractor is in a position to pass an opinion on day labour?
– I think sense, not rot.
– ‘I ask the question seriously.
– I will tell the honorable member outside.
– The cost of extras sometimes charged by contractors would build a railroad.
– That is owing to imperfect specifications. I say that the worst work ever done in railway construction has been done by day labour. I would instance the railways which were built in Western Australia a few years ago under that system. In many cases it was found that from an inch and a quarter to an inch and a half of the dog was exposed to view, owing to there being so much twist in the sleeper. I can quote in this connexion one of the highest authorities in the estimation of the present Government, and especially of the Minister of Home Affairs. A gentleman named Chinn was the man who condemned the day-labour system in Western Australia. Week after week and month after month he wrote letters to the newspapers condemning the system, pointing out what bad work had been done under it, and how much better work would have been done by a contractor. I do not say that Mr. Chinn was qualified to be so critical, as I do not know anything about him. Although I have been engaged upon railway construction work for over thirty years in Australia I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Chinn or of knowing any one who had met him in connexion with railway work. I hope that these railways will not be constructed by day labour. The usual routine under the day-labour system is to fling money all over- the place for a start, and when it is found that the cash is running short to make a rush and scamp everything, with the result that the work is a disgrace in the opinion of any one who knows the business.
– The honorable member is speaking for his own State, I hope.
– I am speaking generally, but I shall say a little for the State from which the honorable member for Gwydir comes. A few years ago it was proved by a Commission whose report I read that the most expensive and the worst work ever done in Australia in connexion with a Government building was done by day labour under Mr. O’sullivan.
– I should like the honorable member to verify that statement.
– The honorable member might mention the building to which he refers.
– It was mentioned in the report of the Commission. It was some years ago, and it was very costly, and very bad work.
– For bad work no day labour ever approached McLeod’s work on the fortifications.
– As I did not say it did, the honorable member is out of court.
– I have a recollection that a few years ago the work of one or two contractors in South Australia was not quite up to the mark.
– I am not speaking of what the Honorary Minister knows, ‘ but of what I know myself. I would not be responsible for the honorable gentleman’s knowledge. 1 am responsible to the people of Australia for the statements I make in this House, and I repeat that the most costly and the worst railway construction work ever done in Australia has been done for the Government under the day-labour system. That statement can be easily proved. I hope that no such system will be adopted in the construction of railways for the Commonwealth. If we are going to build railways we should have the. best advice, the best survey system, and the best organization of engineers. We ought to go about the business in a proper manner or leave it alone. We should not play with it. If Ministers believe that a haphazard crowd can be picked up to carry out works such as they have in hand I can assure them that they are mistaken. Notwithstanding all ..the experience I have had ‘in Australia, I know of very few men who are competent to carry out such works.
– I regret exceedingly that the Government are proceeding from the wrong end in this matter of railway construction. I quite agree with the previous speaker that it is about the most unadvisable and expensive business we can possibly undertake to commence a big policy of railway construction before we are ready. It is to be regretted that we have not full data respecting the country that has recently come into the possession of the Commonwealth before we begin a scheme of construction from the north. I am aware that this is simply a Bill for the survey, and not for the construction, of the line. But I take it that the survey of the 50 miles will involve construction, at all events, down to the Katherine. The Government have promised the House a report by a qualified Committee on the question of the development of the Territory generally, and especially of the northern portion of it. I think the statement was that there would be upon that Committee a railway engineer, a harbor engineer, and some other person who has had experience of the Northern Territory. The work of that Committee, as far as concerns generally advising on the future of the Northern Territory, need not be regarded as a considerable undertaking, involving such a long period as some honorable members might imagine. The data are already available. There are in South Australia public officers who have had experience of the Northern Territory for the last forty or fifty years. Expert opinion of the best character may be had. I do hope that in the near future the Government will secure, by a Committee or otherwise, the best available opinion, and will examine officers on the data in the Crown Lands Department, South Australia, so that we may have formula for a complete comprehensive policy.
– Are not those reports coloured ?
– There was jio purpose in colouring them when they were prepared for the South Australian Government. They were required by the Government for the development of their own territory, and there was no anticipation at that time of transfer to the Commonwealth. I am quite satisfied that the reports are thoroughly reliable. They can lie critically examined and the men who prepared them can be questioned. It would be a great misfortune in the handling of this great undertaking from the north, if we were to begin in a patchwork fashion j and if, after determining upon a course and completing the work, fuller information came to hand, and we found we had made a mistake. Therefore, it would be infinitely better for us to make sure of getting the most complete information before we start at all. There is no need for delay in tackling railway construction from the south. From the southernmost portion of the Territory northward, there are no such difficult problems as are simply bristling at every turn at the tropical end. In fact, at the tropical end of the Territory, we have to face difficulties as great as - in my opinion, infinitely greater than - ever presented themselves to any Government in Australia, or perhaps in any part of the world. We are now tackling that country in its most difficult part. The climatic and other conditions will make every effort towards development of the most costly character. We shall be fortunate indeed if at the end of a generation we have even a remote return for our outlay.
– There is no hope of even that.
– I fear not; though ultimately that country will be a great country. The difficulties to be overcome in the first instance, however, are enormous. That objection does not apply to the southern part. It has to be remembered that we have taken over, not only the Territory, but certain liabilities with it, as far as railways are concerned. The railway running down to Port Augusta includes the Port Augusta wharfs. Do the Government intend to utilize that property? Of what value is it to them?
– We are losing a lot of money upon that line.
– We are losing £80,000 a year straight off. The Government in their agreement respecting the Territory, took over the railway property between Port Augusta and Oodnadatta, with an undertaking to continue to carry the loss of £80,000 a year upon it. ls it our policy to continue to bear that loss, or to convert it into a profit, or, at all events, to minimize it?
– Does the honorable member think that we could wipe out the loss ?
– I think that South Australia could have tackled the problem; in fact, I am satisfied that she would have done so. Honorable members may suggest that South Australia was apparently willing for many years to carry the burden of £80,000 a year, without making an effort to minimize the loss. The reason was that after the railway to Oodnadatta was completed, there was for many years a complete cessation of railway construction in the State. When railway construction was begun again, it was on a very limited scale. But some time before the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth, there was a very strong opinion prevailing in South Australia that that State could not take in hand any public work more promising in character than the completion of the railway from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges. In fact, there was a motion in the South Australian Parliament to endeavour to leave out of the Territory to be transferred to the Commonwealth the portion of country including the Macdonnell Ranges. It was proposed that South Australia should retain the country south of the 22nd parallel instead of the 26th. If the people of South Australia had had an opportunity of voting directly on that proposition, and of committing South Australia to the immediate construction of a railway from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges, the proposition would, in my opinion, have been carried by an overwhelming majority.
– I wish they had had the chance.
– As a South Australian, I wish the same, because
I was strongly in favour of the State retaining the Macdonnell Ranges country. There is no speculation about that country at all. But there is a good deal of speculation involved in connexion with the development of the tropical portion of the Northern Territory, if we are to judge by the experience of New South Wales, and particularly of Queensland. Incidentally, I may say that up to date the people of Australia have given more than a sovereign for 20s. in its development. In turning the waste places of tropical lands into profitable country, the cost is so great, and the distance between the date of commencement of operations and the time when an absolute profit will be secured is so vast, that there must be a great deal of speculation as to what will happen. If this has been the experience of Queensland and New South Wales, how much greater will be the difficulty met with in handling the affairs of the Northern Territory, far distant as it is from the Seat of Government ? In trying to turn to the best account the Possession that has fallen into our hands, we need not delay for a moment developmental work from the south. The beginning of the Macdonnell Ranges can be reached by the construction of a railway not exceeding 300 miles.
– Which has already been surveyed.
– A preliminary survey has been made, and the fullest data are available. The country is known to pastoralists, and those concerned with pastoral interests all over Australia, as comprising some of the very finest pastoral areas on the continent. In the Macdonnell Ranges country we have 20,000,000 acres with an absolutely proved rainfall of from 10 to 22 inches per annum. Then, again, we have on our hands the burdensome railway between Port Augusta and Oodnadatta, on which we are losing about £80,000 a year, but which, if extended, would enable us to tap magnificent country that ought to have been opened up thirty years ago. The South Australian Government have believed for some years that such an extension would be the most profitable railway to which they could put their hands. Is it not doubly necessary that we should make that extension, seeing that we now own the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, without any contiguous lands for a distance of more than 400 miles? Why should we not try to turn that railway into account? We have it, and we have to keep it. Stopping where it does’, it practically runs to nowhere. But an additional 300 miles of railway would bridge over inferior country, and place us in touch with some of the finest pastoral land in Australia. We have there millions of acres fit, not only for pastoral purposes, but, by reason of its soil, its rainfall, and the climatic conditions, for wheat-growing and agricultural purposes generally. The only obstacle to the use of millions of acres of that country for wheatgrowing is that it is 600 or 700 miles from the seaboard, and that the necessary freight to the seaboard to-day would possibly make its agricultural occupation unprofitable. The day will come, however, when agricultural development in the Macdonnell Ranges will be not only profitable, but absolutely necessary to feed the people between Oodnadatta and Port Darwin. I hope that the Government will take these facts into their earnest consideration, and that a developmental policy will soon be tackled from the south. Meantime, the lands should be classified, a complete and comprehensive policy for the development of the whole Territory should be framed, and, when we have available the necessary data, railway construction from the northern end of the Territory should be entered upon.
.- Although this is merely a Bill to provide for a survey of the proposed railway, we have had in connexion with it a discussion regarding, not only the route which the railway should take, but as to the character of the country to be traversed, the cost of the survey, and the question of whether the line should be built by contract or by day labour. I think that the Government have acted wisely in proposing that a permanent survey shall be made. So far we have had only a preliminary survey, and if the Government had asked the House to provide for the construction of the line without a full and complete survey, I am sure that they would have been severely criticised. We are asked now to agree to a permanent survey for what will be a permanent railway, forming part of the line which we have agreed with South Australia to construct. The Government are proposing to carry out part of the bargain made with that State, and it seems to me that the question of whether the line should be built by day labour or by contract has nothing whatever to do with the Bill. When the survey has been made, we shall have an opportunity to decide what methods shall be adopted in constructing the line. The honorable member for Fremantle, however, has seen fit to make an attack on the day-labour system, and I feel that I should not discharge a duty that I owe to my constituents if I did not reply to him. I regret that the honorable member, whose experience as a contractor 1 respect, is not present. He asserted that the adoption of the day-labour system in constructing this line would prove ruinous. As a matter of fact, most railways in New South Wales are now built on the day-labour system.
– The honorable member said that some of the most expensive work had been carried out by day labour.
– And that some of the worst work had been done by day labour. The Government of New South Wales, many years ago, constructed its railways under the contract system, but railways are now being built in that State by day labour. I am in the building trade, and can, therefore, speak with authority as to what happens in connexion with the contract system. When a contract is signed, the first aim of the contractor is to get away from the specifications, while his second object is to have alterations made.
– -The honorable member is now dealing with a matter altogether apart from the question under consideration.
– I am replying to the honorable member for Fremantle.
– I allowed the honorable member for Fremantle to refer to the question of day labour, but did not allow him to discuss it in detail.
– He went into details very fully.
– I called him to order on two occasions.
– Shall I not be in order, Mr. Speaker, in replying to him?
– The honorable mem.ber will be in order in making a casual reference to the question of day labour, but I ask him not to go into details.
– Very well, sir. I know that the question of day labour is wide of the Bill, and I was surprised that some honorable members were allowed to discuss it. If we construct this railway under the contract system, our experience will be that of other Governments. The contractor will probably try to break away from the specifications in some way or other, with the result that we shall have litigation, and litigation in connexion with railway construction is something to which we cannot look forward with any pleasure. I remember a contract being let by a New South Wales Government to a contractor named McSharry, who, on the completion of his work, put in a big bill for extras. The bill was disputed, and it was decided to settle the matter by arbitration. The arbitration proceedings to determine whether the charges made on account of extras were or were not legitimate extended over so long a period that they cost more than did the whole railway line. We have no desire to have that experience in connexion with this railway, but if we let a contract for it we shall run that risk. The Government of New South Wales build their railways today by day labour, and 1 can assure the House that they would not go back to the contract system. The day-labour system has given them the utmost satisfaction. Under it they can suit their own convenience, and, as they supply their own materials, they know what they are getting. I hope that the Minister will not let a contract for the building of this railway. If he does, he will make a mistake. The honorable member also referred to an experiment with day labour in New South Wales when Mr. O’sullivan was Secretary for Public Works.
– Order ! The honorable member is not permitted to deal with that matter.
– I think that the honorable member for Fremantle referred to some buildings which had been erected in New South Wales under that system.
– I called the honorable member to order for making the reference.
– I hope honorable members will show their sincerity by passing this Bill, and getting a permanent survey made. I wish to keep the compact with South Australia, and to see this railway constructed, because I believe that there is a great future in front of the Northern Territory. Indeed, we owe a debt of gratitude to South Australia for holding so long to the Territory; and we should not be men if we did not honour our bargain with that State. I hope that the Bill will be passed, and that the survey will be started before the session is ended.
– Whilst I agree with the honorable member that the question of day labour is not before the House at the present time, I think that the Government policy for developing the Northern Territory is under consideration. I contend that, in regard to the few miles of railway which it is proposed to construct, the Commonwealth is entering upon a work which must be carried out on the most expensive system it is possible to contemplate. The line of 150 miles from Darwin to Pine Creek runs through country so destitute that only two trains a week were being run, according to the last report I have seen. . I do not know how many trains a week are run now.
– About the same number.
– We are running about two trains a week through country which is practically the same as the country through which it is proposed to construct this line of 56 miles. The Minister has not stated, nor has any one suggested, that the proposed extension will add to the revenue of the existing railway. It is running through country which is admitted to be as bad as it can possibly be.
– That is not admitted by me, and many others.
– That is from a productive stand-point. It is not necessary to labour the matter now by pointing out what the earnings of the railway are. According to the last report, they were such as to give the House one assurance, at any rate, and that is that it cannot possibly hope to obtain much revenue from the extension of the railway to the Katherine River. The railway from Darwin to Pine Creek was authorized in 1878 ; its construction was commenced in 1886, and completed in 1889. It was constructed at a cost of about £8,500 a mile, by Chinese labour; and the sick-list, as well as the death-rate, was something appalling. Roughly speaking, the railway cost over £1,000,000. The indebtedness on the Northern Territory is about ,£3,500,000. We are now reallyasked to assent to the construction of a railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. I contend that, if honorable members are not in earnest in this matter, it will only be a waste of time and money to authorize a permanent survey to be made. I should take it that the policy of the Government is to construct the line, and that the intention of the House is to authorize its construction when a permanent survey has been made.
– Hear, hear ! That is a fair statement.
– We are asked to take the first step in constructing a line through a tropical area, the climate of which proved so disastrous to labour during the construction of the railway from Darwin to Pine Creek. The House is asked to sanction the construction of 56 miles of railway on the most costlysystem, because no one could expect a Government to put up the very costly machinery which, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Fremantle, would be essential to a work of this kind. When the line is constructed, it will end at one of the largest rivers in the Territory - -unbridged - from which there can be no traffic, and which cannot attract any settlement. I think that, before the House passes this Bill, it ought to distinctly make up its mind as to what is to be the complete policy for the development of the Territory, and from which end the work of construction is to commence. From Oodnadatta, there has been the same flying survey made to the Macdonnell Ranges, as has been made from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. If we construct a line north-west from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges, there is a very great probability of such settlement ‘following the railway as would provide some revenue. The great question which the House has to settle to-night is the end from which the existing railway ls to be extended. I sincerely hope that the Government will not follow the advice of a great many honorable members, who have urged that the line should be constructed on a broad gauge, namely, 4 ft. 8J in. If there was a proposal to construct a railway through the Territory into New South Wales, or some other State, there might be some necessity to adopt that gauge; but I am one of those who hold that we should carry out our contract with South Australia and construct the railway north and south. Costly jetties have been erected at Darwin and Port Augusta; a railway is running from deep water at each end, and only thecentre of the continent has to be bridged.. It would be the very height of folly, I. hold, to adopt the broad gauge for what will really be a developmental line. According to the last returns 1 can get, in 1910 the railway from Darwin to Pine Creek carried 479 tons of mineral, 3 tons of grain, 1,633 tons of other goods, 50 cattle, 147 sheep and goats, and 57 other stock. The total earnings of the line were £12,254. In the same period, it carried”- 270 first class passengers, 1,573 second class passengers, and 5 passengers with, season tickets ; and a train was run twicea week. To suggest that it is necessary to have a broad gauge railway for developmental work such as that is ridiculous.
Mr.- Archibald. - Is not that nearly asbad as the Tasmanian railways?
– We are now dealing wilh a railway for which the honorable member is very largely responsible, having been a member of the State Parliament which fathered this system. Let me say, here, for the benefit of the honorable member who made a statement the other night that the Federation had to thank South Australia a great deal for carrying this load up to the present time, that the State never carried a load of one shilling. She never paid one shilling interest on the loans. As the bonds fell due, she added interest to them, and floated further loans.
– She was responsible all the time.
– She never paid a shilling interest on the loans.
– It has never been urged that she did. It is a well-known fact that she did not.
– Here we have a railway which is used twice a week, and which during a whole year carried less than 1,750 passengers - the Oodnadatta to Port Augusta line does rather worse - and to ask us to tear it up, and also to tear up the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, in order that we may adopt a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge, is asking us to erect a steam-hammer for the purpose of cracking nuts. In this connexion, I would remind honorable members that 3-ft. 6-in. railways have developed Queensland. When we recollect the train-loads of goods which are brought in from the Darling Downs by means of that railway, it is the height of folly to suggest that a similar gauge is not sufficient to develop the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member is acting in direct opposition to the expert from Fremantle.
– We have to accept responsibility for our own votes in this matter. I repeat that there is deep water at Port Darwin, and also at Port Augusta, and, consequently, there is no reason why a 3-ft. 6-in. line should not be continued from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta. I trust that upon this motion we shall take a test vote on the question of whether the development of the Territory shall be commenced from the north or from the south. We are pledged to South Australia to bridge the gap between Pine Creek arid Oodnadatta, and it does seem strange that the Government intend to stop this proposed survey at the Katherine River- -the very spot at which the battle of the gauges will begin.
– Oh’, no.
– At the Katherine River we shall have to decide whether the line from* Pine Creek shall be continued south to Oodnadatta, or whether it shall be diverted to the Queensland border. ] think that we should honorably abide by our agreement with South Australia. To my mind, it would be infinitely better to spend the money which it is proposed to appropriate for this survey in obtaining the survey of a line from Oodnadatta to. the Macdonnell Ranges. That should be the first link in the transcontinental railway through to the Northern Territory. Very valuable reports upon this country were prepared for the South Australian Government by some of the ablest men in the Commonwealth, and these are available to honorable members in our Parliamentary Library. As has been pointed out by the honorable member for Wakefield, they were made when the South Australian Government themselves intended to undertake the construction of this transcontinental line, and, consequently, there is not the slightest reason why their truthfulness should be doubted. They show that in the vicinity of the Macdonnell Ranges there is rich agricultural, pastoral, and mineral-bearing country, possessing a good rainfall and a temperate climate. If the Government would extend the line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges, and adopt a system of community settlement in conjunction with it, thereby enabling the men employed on the work to establish small homes for themselves on the land adjacent to the line, I believe we could build up a permanent and payable settlement in that country. We should thus be able to obtain a return that we cannot hope to secure by extending the line from Pine Creek southwards. It is not suggested that the proposed line to the Katherine River will yield any revenue. On the contrary, it is proposed to build this railway through the most barren and malarial portion of the Territory at an estimated cost of £10,000 per mile. If the remainder of the projected transcontinental line were constructed at the same rate, it would involve the Commonwealth in an outlay of more than £t 0,600,000. Everything points to the advisableness of appropriating the money which it is proposed to expend upon the survey of a railway to the Katherine River for the purpose of defraying the cost of the survey of an extension of the line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges.
Sitting suspended from 6. 30 to 7-45 p. w.
– In conclusion, I could remind honorable members that we are being asked to sanction work which, according to the Minister’s estimate, will add another £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 to the already large indebtedness of the Northern Territory, a’ country where there are practically no taxpayers, and an inordinately large Public Service. The proposed line will not return anything to the revenue. I urge the Government not to proceed with this work, but to bring down a proposal for the survey of a line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges. If in connexion with such a proposal some policy for the settlement of the country is enunciated - in my opinion, the only policy would be in the nature of a community settlement - the unanimous support of honorable members is likely to be obtained.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Survey of route).
– Should I be in order in moving, to secure a test vote, that the words “ Pine Creek “ be omitted with a view to the insertion in lieu thereof of the word “Oodnadatta”?
– Such an amendment would take the Bill outside the order of leave.
– The amendment would not be in order.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Thomas), by leave, proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I should like the Minister to express an opinion as to the advisability of inquiring into the suitability of the. monorail system. I took the trouble this afternoon to put before the House opinions regarding it which had been given by eminent engineers of world-wide reputation. My suggestion is that in the interests of economy, efficiency, comfort, and speed of transit, the Minister should, before a final determination is arrived at, look closely into the question of mono-rail construction. I do not refer to Brennan’s patent, but to mono-rail systems generally. I ask the Minister whether he proposes to take steps to have such an inquiry made before proceeding with the construction of this line?
– I regret that the Bill has been so framed that in Committee it was not practicable to test the opinion of honorable members as to whether the construction of the proposed line should proceed contemporaneously with the construction of a line from Oodnadatta northwards to the Macdonnell Ranges, or whether the latter extension should not in any case be made first. I would remind the Minister of the statement of the honorable member for Wakefield that, when the policy of handing over the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth was still undecided in South Australia, the motion was made in the State Parliament that that portion which lies south of the 22nd parallel of south latitude should be withdrawn from the proposed surrender.
– South Australia desired then that the Commonwealth should have only the bad portion.
– I ask the honorable member for Angas not to discuss details.
– I do not intend to do that. Speaking from memory, there is about200 miles of dry and somewhat stonycountry north of Oodnadatta, which would be more or less unproductive, and would have to be bridged over. South Australia was prepared to face that responsibility, and it was proposed that the grant should be limited unless an assurance was obtained from the Commonwealth that a transcontinental line would be constructed. Therefore, I should like now to take a test vote as to whether the construction should not begin at Oodnadatta. There is a strong feeling in favour of extension from the south. The financial burden would be spread over six or sevea years, and should not press unduly if the big revenues which have come with prosperous seasons endure, and are managed economically.
– Does the honorable member suggest an extension northwards from Oodnadatta as an alternative to the line under consideration?
– Yes, or as a work to be carried on at the same time. A test vote would enable the Government to ascertain the opinion of the House on the matter. From what I have learned from experts in South Australia, - I know nothing about the matter myself - the construction of the line to Katherine River is sound policy, but it would be a much sounder policy to also construct the line from Oodnadatta northwards. That was the policy of South Australia.
– The honorable member must not go into that.
– I am sorry that I transgressed your ruling. I propose to move, as a test of the opinion of the House only,
That the word “ now “ be left out.
– You are prejudicing your chance on the real thing. There is no proposal for the construction of a railway before the House at present. It is Only for a survey.
– It may, perhaps, be rather premature for me to move the amendment now, but I wish to direct the attention of honorable members to the matter. I know there are a great many who desire that an expression of opinion should be given by the House to help the Government in the matter. That could be given by an amendment such as I have suggested, and perhaps, on consideration, some honorable member may afterwards move it.
– - Although I quite agree with the honorable member for Angas in the view he has taken, I do not think his proposal is a good one now, in view of the. trend the whole debate on the Bill has taken. When I spoke on a previous occasion, I referred to the proposal for a survey from Pine Creek to the Katherine River as being an indication of the railway construction policy of the Government, and, if that view had been taken throughout the debate on this Bill, it would have been a very good idea to take a vote of the character indicated by my honorable friend.
– The trend of the speeches has been in that direction.
– In some cases, but not in all. As this is only a proposal for a survey, it would be unwise to take a vote to-night on the question raised by the honorable member for Angas, but if he presses the amendment, I intend to support him. At the same time, if no vote is taken, it should be distinctly understood that, on the first indication of a Bill being brought in to construct a railway from the north end, a vote will have to be taken in this House on the question of whether construction should begin either at both ends or at the south end only. There is no necessity to worry very much about a survey so far as the southern end is concerned, because in formation on the subject has appeared in the Blue-Books of South Australia year after year, and should be available hers, the South Australian Government having had a flying survey made, and that part of the country is pretty well known.
– I take it that, if we pass the Bill for a survey, the House will not commit itself definitely to a general railway construction policy of any kind whatever. That is the impression left on my mind by the Minister’s speech. He announced during the progress of the debate that it was his intention to appoint a Select Committee, with a view to considering the whole question of the railway policy-
– Order ! I must ask the honorable member not to go into that question now. He must confine himself to the Bill.
– - The question is whether the authorization of a survey from Pine Creek to the Katherine River carries with it an expression of opinion by the House that any railway built in the future must start at one particular end.
-Order 1 That is not the question before the Chair. The honorable member is entitled now only to submit reasons why the Bill should, or should not, pass. If, for instance, the honorable member said that the passing of the Bill would commit the House to the day-labour principle, should I be justified in allowing him to discuss that question? If I permitted him to discuss on this Bill a matter that is not now before the House, it would open up a field to which there would be no end.
– I am only too eager to bow to the ruling of the Chair, but the question, I submit, is whether, having before us a proposal for a survey from a point A to a point B, we are not entitled to ask what the effect of passing it will be.
– The honorable member would have been in order in taking that course on the second reading. He is not in order in doing so on the third reading.
– Surely, on the third reading, we are entitled to review the probable effect of the Bill? We are giving reasons why the Bill should, or should not, pass, and surely the whole policy included in the Bill is now open to the consideration of the House.
– Only the policy involved in the Bill is open to the consideration of the House.
– So far as I am concerned, T submit that the passing of a Bill for a survey from A to B will not of necessity commit the House to support the commencement of the construction of a line from either one point or the other. The effect of the survey will simply be to furnish us with an official expert opinion as to the nature of the country between the two points. This will be information, in addition to other information already in our possession, to aid us in arriving at a definite railway policy for the whole of the Northern Territory. I do not think the Minister intends that this survey shall do more than supply us with information so that we may be in a position next session to proceed with some definite railway policy. The Minister stated that he believed that a line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River would be a necessary link, whether the main line went from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta, or from Pine Creek via the Katherine River to the Barklay Tablelands, and down the other way. The Minister said he thought it did not commit i he House to any definite railway policy, rind that his idea was, at some future time, to submit to the House a more complete policy for the development of the Territory.
– My object in desiring to submit an amendment was not to delay the development of the Territory, but to secure an expression of opinion from honorable members that we should proceed with the construction of the transcontinental railway from Oodnadatta northwards instead of, as proposed by the Government, from Pine Creek southwards. I think that on the third reading of the Bill we should test the matter to ascertain what, in the opinion of this House, the policy of the Government should be. It would be the height of nonsense to establish two separate plants for the construction of the line from the north as well as from the south. I hope that a test vote will be taken, and that it will be declared to be the policy of this House that the Government in the construction of the transcontinental line should proceed from the temperate part of Australia into what is known to be good country, with some prospect of a return from the railway, rather than from the tropical north through comparatively barren country, where there will be no chance of the line, as constructed, being remunerative.
.- Some of us are placed in a rather difficult position owing to the fact that this is perhaps the only occasion on which we shall be afforded an opportunity, even indirectly, of insisting upon the necessity for some more decisive step forward than that proposed by the Bill, which I have already supported as warmly as I could. What I understand honorable members generally desire to convey, though necessarily in an informal manner, is that while, supporting this little proposal for the survey of a line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River, they do so because it is a part of the through line. It is not to be assumed for a moment that the construction of this section will meet any of the necessities of the Northern Territory. On the contrary, we believe that an approach from the south is equally necessary, and look for some early opportunity of placing on record our desire to impress upon the Government the wisdom of at once considering a sufficient length of. railway construction from the south northwards to make the Government policy of constructing the through line perfectly clear. There is no hesitation except on the part of one or two honorable members to approve this project, which has been concurred in almost unanimously. But honorable members realize that they have now an opportunity, which may not again present itself, of impressing upon the Government the desirability of going much further than this in the direction of the ultimate construction of the great line through the continent of which this section will form a little link. We find ourselves placed in a position that formally suggests antagonism to a proposal with which every one agrees, because we are compelled to insist that the Government should not remain contented with this Bill, but before the session closes should submit another Bill making provision from the south for another section of the through line which will ultimately junction with the line dealt with in the Bill now before us. Our object is to make Ministers realize the wish of a great number of honorable members that the project for the construction of the through line shall be hastened as much as possible; that we shall hasten to make up for the inaction of the last two years ; that there shall be no further delay, but that we shall press forward with the completion of the transcontinental line. If we impress Ministers with that view we shall have done as much as it is possible for us to do upon this particular motion.
– I wish to emphasize what has been said, and to again protest against a policy which naturally creates suspicion in one’s mind. I do not say this offensively.
– The honorable member is suspicious on every question.
– On the contrary, I am one of the least suspicious men in this House. The Minister of External Affairs, in moving the second reading of the Bill, took occasion two or three times to emphasize the fact that the Government recognised their legal and moral obligation to carry out an agreement which involves the construction of the through line connecting north and south. In view of the honorable gentleman’s assurances it is singular that the Government should not have adopted in this connexion the simplest method of construction, and one which would have created an immediate return for the heavy expenditure which will be involved, but should have proposed to commence the construction of the line at a place where every difficulty presents itself, and where .every step must be taken at the very greatest possible cost, and without the least chance of a return in the immediate future. I do not wish to take undue advantage of the position in which the Government have placed themselves, but I wish to emphasize as strongly as I know how that, later on, when this survey is made, and we are considering the question of actively undertaking the construction of the line for the development of this important Possession of the Commonwealth, the necessity for the adoption of the most business-like plan of construction will, as far as possible, be forced upon the Government. I ask the Minister of External Affairs whether he will give the House some assurance that in this matter the Government mean business, not only from the point of view of their legal and moral liability which he has recognised, but from the point of view of the most businesslike plan to adopt in the construction of this railway. If the Northern Territory were, the property of a private individual, and he desired some immediate return from it, it would not take him two minutes to decide whether it would be more profitable to begin the construction of this railway from the south under conditions which would simplify its construction, or from the north, where he would be faced with difficulties on every hand. .
– I have listened to many honorable members on this question, and I am afraid that some have not said what they really mean. Rather than see a practical effort made to construct the transcontinental railway from the direction proposed by the Government some honorable members apparently would be willing to let the whole project go altogether. The honorable member for Wakefield and other honorable members have asked us to consider this matter from a practical business standpoint, but do they mean from the business stand-point of South Australia or of the Northern Territory and Australia as a whole ?
– From the stand-point of the Northern Territory, of course.
– Several honorable members on die other side have said that if we started the construction of this line from Oodnadatta northwards it would be a paying concern, and would open up the Northern Territory. But if profitable business could have been got -for a railway in the centre of Australia the South Australian Government would have extended the line from Oodnadatta northwards many years ago. We are dealing with a proposal for the development, not of South Australia, but of the Northern Territory, and it is the duty of the Government to develop the Northern Territory. Honorable members who can rise above the special interests of their own particular States will be prepared to admit that Commonwealth expenditure in the Northern Territory should be for the benefit of the Territory and of Australia as a whole. The construction of the line which the Bill now before us deals with will unquestionably benefit the Northern Territory. I am in favour of the railway proceeding directly from Oodnadatta, and would not allow it to diverge on the one side or the other. It seems peculiar to me that some honorable members should object to the Government developing the Northern Territory instead of developing portion of the State of South Australia. They may think that the policy which they advocate would be the best for the development of the Northern Territory ; but I do not think that they are looking at the matter from a proper business point of view: While I should prefer to see a larger proposition placed before the House, still, this Bill shows a desire to do something in the direction of development. The right honorable member for Swan smiles. I heard him say that if his party were in power he would go in for a big proposition at once, and would continue the railway right through from north to south. But it would not be a business proposition to start from the south only. He would have to build from the north as well. I do not doubt that the right honorable member, with his large ideas, and remembering the big schemes that he has carried out in the past, would hesitate to undertake this work. But I doubt whether his party would permit him. They would cry out about the great expense. The Leader of the Opposition wished the Minister of External Affairs to give a promise this session as to what his intentions were in regard to completing the railway. But I cannot help thinking that the expenditure already proposed will be condemned as extravagance on the part of the Government when the members of the Opposition take to the platform just before the next elections. I have discerned, in some honorable members, a desire to construct the railway in such a manner as will mean the development of South Australia rather than of the Northern Territory. But I think the Government are acting on right lines in starting from the north. I trust that they will keep in mind the fact that it is their duty to make prepartions for the completion of the line in the future, and that they will not be diverted from pursuing that policy by the influence brought to bear by the representatives of particular States.
.- I should like to say, again, that I do not think that this railway survey Bill induces us to come to the conclusion that the Government are really in earnest in trying to do something for the development of the Northern Territory. I understand that a survey has already been made. I should like the Minister to tell us what kind of a survey it is?
– A flying survey.
– Is it a trial survey made properly from levels, or only from barometrical observations? Has a section of the route selected been made? To what nicety has the survey been made? We should have had a map before us, even if only a reconnaissance survey has been made. I take it that a flying survey is simply one made by travelling through the country, and taking levels by means of the barometer, or with boiling water apparatus. But a trial survey is a real survey by levelling, and affords a splendid and reliable basis for a permanent survey afterwards. The trial survey made of the country between
Western Australia and South Australia is a basis for the railway in course of construction; but it is not a permanent survey. They are proceeding upon the general lines of the trial survey, keeping the permanent survey work some distance ahead of construction. The survey now proposed to be made is to cost £5,000. That amounts to £100 per mile. I do not know the nature of the country ; but I certainly think that this is a liberal amount for a survey.
– We are told that the work could be done cheaper if we had two survey parties instead of three ; but we want three in order to have the work completed in less time.
– I think that if the Government were in earnest, and recognised the necessity of building this railway, they would have asked us to authorize the construction at the same time as they asked for the survey, instead of waiting a year or two. I have to complain that the information furnished with regard to the matter is not what it ought to have been. There is a great deal of information available with regard to the country in question that has not been supplied to us. I should also like to refer to what has been said regarding the cost of the construction of the railway. If it is to cost £10,000 a mile, I despair of the opening up of this country in an economical manner. I cannot understand why it should cost such an immense amount. I should have thought that we could have built railways in such country for £4,000 or £4,500 per mile. But the £10,000 per mile does not even include the bridge over the Katherine. This excessive cost will be news to a great many people, and certainly makes us realize the great difficulty of opening up the country. Personally, I do not believe that it ought to cost so much if we set about the work in the right way. I hope that the Minister will say something to relieve our minds, at any rate, upon the point.I do not believe that if the line all the way from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek was authorized, it would cost anything like so much. I believe that we could get the work done for not more than £4,500 a mile. If it is to cost £10,000 a mile, I despair of opening up this country in an economical way. It has been urged that we should commence the survey of the transcontinental line from the south, instead of from the north. If we are going to build the line right through, there is a great deal to be said in support of the contention that we should commence at both ends. The transport of labour to the north, however, would involve a great deal of cost. There is much to be said in support of the construction of the major part of the work from, south to north, and also to the Queensland border. I hope the Government will give us some information regarding * the statements to which I have referred. I should be shocked to hear the Minister say that this railway is to cost £10,000 a mile after the survey has been made. Such an estimate would be altogether at variance with the view I have entertained as to the opening up of the Territory by means of railways.
– I hope that we are not going to divide on this question. It is not my desire that any honorable member should be placed in a false position, and it seems to me that if we proceeded to a division those who voted for the amendment would be considered by some to be against the proposition as a whole. It is generally recognised that this Bill provides for the survey of a railway which will form part of the transcontinental line. I do not think that that line should be commenced merely from the north, and I have been assured by the Prime Minister that it is not the intention of the Government to start from the north and go right through to Oodnadatta. That would be the most costly way of constructing the railway. I do not believe there is any necessity for us to wait for further information regarding the construction of the line from Oodnadatta northwards. As a matter of fact, all the information that the House requires regarding the building of 327 miles of railway from Oodnadatta to Burt Creek, beyond Alice Springs, is now available.
– We have never had the information.
– It is included in a report presented to the South Australian Government by Mr. Graham Stewart, who occupied some years in making what was known as a flying survey, although it was more complete than is any survey we have had in connexion with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. In his report, Mr. Stewart gives full information as to the ballast required, water available, lengths and heights of bridges, width of spans, the grades, and other details, including the cost of construction per mile. I do not think that the House would consider the
Government were justified In constructing the whole transcontinental line from the northern end. We already have in the south a line which is Commonwealth property, and on which we are losing £80,000 a year.
– I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the question before the Chair.
- I understood that other honorable members had been allowed to discuss the alternate routes. The object of the amendment was to allow that to be done.
– There is no amendment before the Chair.
– I am glad to hear it. I trust that when the report of the survey party is presented to the House, we shall have with it a comprehensive scheme providing for a start being made, at both ends, with the construction of the through railway. When the report is presented there will be nothing to prevent the House deciding that a start shall be made at both ends. As to the cost of the survey, I have already expressed my opinion, and I certainly do not wish to see any test question raised in connexion with this measure regarding the construction of the line from the south. Both proposals are equally deserving, but I think that if we started from the south we should be better able to develop the Territory.
Mr. SAMPSON (Wimmera) [8.32J. - Some figures presented to the House this afternoon by the honorable member for Fremantle demand a reply from the Minister. The honorable member, who is a practical railway contractor, with an experience in railway construction which is probably as extensive as is that of any other man in Australia, has pointed out what methods ought to be adopted if the line is to be constructed at a minimum cost. He has also shown that there is a grave discrepancy between the estimate of the cost of construction per mile which was presented to the House by a responsible Minister in 1910 and the estimate presented by the present Minister of External Affairs. The honorable member, whose figures have not been challenged, has shown “that the first estimate was £4>23o per mile.
– Right through.
– The Minister is now submitting to the House’ an estimate showing that the cost of constructing the first 50 miles of railway from the northern end will be £10,000 per mile. We ought to have from the Minister an explanation as to why the original estimate has been more than doubled. I do not ask for an explanation in any captious spirit. We know that the Minister has to be guided largely by the estimates presented to him by his responsible engineers ; but the first estimate presented to the House may possibly have been based on the contract system, while this new or later estimate from the engineer may have been based on the day-labour system. I think that the Minister should be prepared to lay upon the table the reports from the two engineers, in order that the House may know the data on which they based their estimates, differing so widely, as they do. Surely, before the Bill is read a third time, the House is entitled to see the report of the engineer who estimated the cost of the line at £4,230 per mile in 1910, and also the report of the engineer who estimated the cost of the first section of the through line - the first 50 miles - at over £^10,000 per mile.
– There are three rivers to cross.
– The three rivers referred to will not, I understand, present any great engineering difficulties. I have travelled across the country, and I think that there is only one very large river, and that is at the terminus. No provision is made in the estimate for the erection of a bridge there, which, I am informed by an authority, who, I believe, is as reliable as any authority we can obtain, would cost from £150,000 to £170,000, increasing the cost per mile by £3,000 or £4,000. The rivers which the line will cross present, I admit, certain engineering difficulties. We crossed them in ordinary vehicles, and I should say that the bridges will not be very costly. A bridge over the Katherine River, however, would be costly, because it is a deep river, with very high banks ; and, therefore, the engineering difficulties might he very considerable. I think that the House is entitled to know how the Minister accounts for the tremendous discrepancy between the estimates of the two engineers.
– I consider that any honorable member who votes against the measure will really vote against the development of the Northern Territory. I sympathize with those who think that the Government should construct the through line from the south as well as from the north ; but I fail to see that that idea can be advanced by obstructing this practical measure. In regard to the inquiry by the last speaker as to what the line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek cost, I wish to say a few words.
– That is not the question which we are discussing.
– It is most distinctly the question. That railway was constructed through a country with a heavy tropical rainfall of over 70 inches per annum. The country through which the proposed survey is to be made has identically the same sort of climate, and any honorable member must realize the difficulty of constructing a railway through country which is subjected to a tropical rainfall, and in which there are floods for at least six months in the year.
– Eight months.
– The records show that the period is six months. Even ordinary creeks and valleys are then swollen with heavy floods. It is impossible to cross at least one river, the Edith, without boats during the rainy season, and it is the bridge across this river which the honorable member says will cost very little. In my opinion, it will cost a fair amount, and the honorable member will find, too, I think, that a bridge over the Driffield will cost a fair amount. I notice, from the map, that there are three important streams which will have to be crossed. It is very unfair, indeed, to make a comparison between the estimate of the cost of the through line and the estimate of the cost of this portion of it. We all know that the through line will run through country where the rainfall is below 10 inches per annum. Furthermore, it will run through long stretches of sandy country, where it will be only a matter of throwing the dirt up from each side to make a bed for the rails. I trust that honorable members will allow the third reading of the measure to pass. I shall always be pleased to join them on any future occasion in urging the Government to bring forward a better railway policy ; and 1 hope that, by the time this survey has been completed, they will be prepared to come down with a further railway policy for developing the Northern Territory itself.
– I really think that the honorable member for New England, and those who agree with him, do not realize what is being asked for.
– We have had different voices ; we do not know.
– We ask for what I think the House is always entitled to have at the hands of a responsible Minister, and that is information as to the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money.
– We have no objection to that at all.
– The honorable member, and those who sit with him, probably have a very easy way of settling that question in another place.
– Not by any means.
– We claim our right in this Chamber to have full information with regard to how public money is to be expended ; and, so long as we sit here, I trust that we shall exercise that right. It is not a question of how much it will cost to build certain bridges, or even of the difference between the cost of this section and the cost of the rest of the line to Oodnadatta. The point is that the Government have presented two estimates to the House.
– That is not so.
– I am surprised to hear the Minister say that it is not so, because, if he will look up Hansard, he will find that, on the 6th October, 1910, when the Government presented the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill, they said that, in order to link up Oodnadatta with Pine Creek, a certain railway would be required, which could be built for about £4,300 a mile. Is that correct?
– That runs out at about £4,300 a mile. Of course, we all know the honorable member’s acute legal mind, but surely he is not going to pin me down to making a misstatement now because I preferred to take the cost by the mile instead of for the whole railway. The cost will pan out at about £4,300, or, if honorable members like, at, say, £4,200 per mile. We have now a proposal from the Government which means that they are prepared to put down only a section of the through line, and a section which competent authorities say can be more cheaply constructed than the rest of it, because of the natural advantages which the country offers, there being a port close at hand from which material can be easily brought, and also because there is the necessary supply of water, which, of course, is always a very- great factor in reducing the cost of railway construction. We are now told that the whole line is to cost £14,000,000, instead of £4,000,000 odd.
– Who said so?
– The competent authority to whom I have just referred, and he bases his estimate upon the figures which are supplied by the Minister. The latter has denied that the Government gave information to the House in 19 10 that the line would cost a certain amount ; but he surely cannot deny the statement which he made here on this very question within the last few hours. He tells us now that the whole line will cost £14,000,000.
– I never heard him say that it would.
– Then, perhaps, the competent authority to whom I have been alluding will tell me who did say it, and upon what he based the estimate which was subsequently read to the House by another honorable member. We are entitled to know from the Minister why there is this serious discrepancy between the estimate of 19 10 and the estimate of today. The statements of those who urge that we are obstructing the passage of this Bill are very wide of the mark. We should be wanting in our duty to the people of this country if we did not scrutinize carefully every proposition submitted to us, and more especially every proposition submitted by the present Government.
– During the course of his remarks, the honorable member for Lang asked me if I would take into consideration the practicability of adopting the mono-rail system in the development of the Northern Territory. Until he spoke I had no idea of any mono-rail system other than the Brennan. That, I understand, has not been perfected, and, consequently, the Government did not take it into consideration. I shall be only too glad to submit what the honorable member has said to the railway experts, but we do not desire to hinder the permanent survey being made pending consideration being given to his suggestion. We shall be very glad to get all the information which is available in that connexion, and if we can open up the Northern Territory by means of the monorail instead of by means of double rails, we shall be only too happy to do so. I wish now to say a word or two in regard to the remarks of the honorable member for
Grey concerning the development of the Northern Territory from the north. What I meant to convey in my previous remarks was that it is the policy of the Government to devote time, money, and energy to developing the north of the Northern Territory. We think that the problem which confronts us there is infinitely more difficult than is the problem which confronts us in the south. But not for a moment did we contemplate that, when the time came to put the transcontinental line right through from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta, the whole of it should be built from the north. Immediately that work is decided upon, in the very nature of things, a start will be made from both ends. That seems to me to be obvious. But the Government object to hindering the development of the Northern Territory until a line can be put through between the points I have mentioned, and, in the meantime, it is only fair that the Territory should be developed from the north. I am glad that no amendment has been submitted, because I could not have accepted it as in any way a test amendment. Had an amendment been moved and carried, we should not have proceeded with the survey, because we could not have accepted it as a fair test of the feeling of the House, seeing that quite a number of honorable members are absent, who had no idea that the whole question of the construction of the transcontinental line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek would be discussed. The reason we have submitted this scheme is because, in our opinion, no matter what views honorable members may hold as to where the railway should go after it has reached the Katherine River, all are agreed that it must go to the Katherine. After hearing the Leader of the Opposition speak to-day, I did intend to say that if the Bill passed the Senate as unanimously as it was apparently going to pass this Chamber, the Government would be justified, after a permanent survey had been made, in making the preliminary arrangements for the construction of the line, if Parliament was not then in session.
– Why not pass the Bill authorizing its construction this session ?
– We wished to take the House into our confidence, and that is why we did not proceed with the survey. We desired to afford honorable members an opportunity of speaking, not only upon the proposed survey, but upon the transcon tinental railway generally. In view of the discussion which has taken place, but without making any definite promise that before Parliament prorogues another Bill authorizing a survey from the southern end of the transcontinental line will be introduced, I will say that I am prepared to bring that matter before the Government.
– Why not pass the Bill authorizing the construction of the line this session?
– If this House is prepared to pass that Bill in the absence of a permanent survey, I do not think that the Government will object, because we are in favour of constructing the line as far as the Katherine River. When honorable members vote for this Bill, they practically vote for the construction of that Une. I have been asked why it will cost £10,000 per mile to build the railway to the Katherine, seeing that some years ago it was estimated that the transcontinental line through the Territory would cost only £4,500,000, or, approximately, £4,500 per mile. I can only say that I had the figures with me when I moved the second reading of this Bill, but no honorable member asked for them. They came from Hansard, and I sent them back to the office to-day. I have two estimates of the cost of that line, one of them by Mr. Graham Stewart, who is the engineer to the South Australian Government. He has made, not only a survey from Oodnadatta further north, but also a flying survey, and an estimate of the cost of constructing the line from Pine Creek to the Katherine. Apparently it was the intention of the South Australian Government some years ago, not only to build the railway from Oodnadatta northward, but also from Pine Creek southward. His estimate approximates closely to the estimate of Mr. Francis, our own engineer in the Northern Territory, whom I asked to make a flying survey of the line.
– ls he a . railway engineer ?
– Yes. The permanent survey is to provide for a line on a 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge, and it is intended to make the embankments and sidings wide enough to provide for that gauge. The sleepers, too, will be on the 4-ft. 8^-in. basis; but the rails will be laid, in the first instance, 3 ft. 6 in. apart. That will enable us to use over the proposed line the rolling-stock we now have on the line between Port
Darwin and Pine Creek, and will prevent a break of gauge at the latter place. When it becomes necessary to widen the gauge to 4 ft. 8 </inline> in., all that will have to be done will be to move one of the rails. The estimate of **Mr. Francis is somewhat higher than that of
– The work would cost much more now.
– Of course, wages and material are both higher. It is quite possible that 1,060 miles of railway might be built for an average cost of £4,500 a mile, although a section of it had cost £10,000 a mile. Ministers will regard the passing of the Bill as an indication that Parliament wishes the work to be pushed on. In reply to the honorable member for Darling Downs, T may say that it is the intention of the Government to appoint a Committee. The honorable member for Fremantle asked why a staff of surveyors had not been sent to the Territory. I would remind him that it is not easy to get surveyors. Some time ago when we asked for applications, not one person applied. Later, we were fortunate enough to get some one from Queensland, who is doing good work, and since then Mr. Day has been appointed. They are surveying blocks for selectors.
– Round the Daly River.
– How far from the proposed railway?
– About 60 miles.
– Beyond the Katherine ?
– Not so far as the Katherine. I believe that a steamer is to be docked in Sydney to-day which the Government will purchase, if found to be suitable, to assist selectors by plying between Port Darwin and the Daly River.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2nd August (vide page 1661), on motion by Mr. Fuller -
That the Ordinance No. 3 of 1912 (an Ordinance relating to Crown Lands, entitled Crown Lands Ordinance 1912), made in pursuance of the powers conferred by the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910 and the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910, be disallowed.
– I wish to make it clear that in speaking in opposition to this Ordinance, I am one of those who regard perpetual leasing under reasonable conditions as a tenure more conducive to settlement than freehold, because it offers advantages which freehold does not possess. This tenure was created to enable men having only a small amount of capital to use their money in developing their land, instead of having lo spend it on purchasing that land. But to make perpetual leasing successful and popular, you must free it from many of the restraints and conditions which now obtain. Men taking tip perpetual leases often require financial assistance, and leases must therefore be marketable. They must be capable of being given as security for advances to aid development.
– Does the honorable member suggest that leaseholders should be able to mortgage their land?
– Undoubtedly. If a leaseholder cannot mortgage, he is at a disadvantage as compared with a freeholder. It should be made as easy as possible to effect mortgages, if necessary. Perpetual leases, if free from restrictions, place their possessors in a better position than that of freeholders, because capital has not to be sunk in purchasing land. The great object of the perpetual lease tenure is to enable the Government to prevent the undue accumulation of land. There is always a sort of governmental supervizing eye on it, so that when transfers take place, there cannot be accumulations of land above what we may call the maximum living area. That is the object of a perpetual lease. It is given for that purpose. The next purpose is that there shall be re- appraisement at certain periods, when an opportunity is given of getting for the community the unearned increment that the community has created. Here, again, great care is necessary. For instance, a piece of undeveloped land, covered by dense scrub or heavy timber, may be taken up by a settler.’ The fee-simple or the perpetual rental of it at that time would be a mere bagatelle; but after the settler has put into it his capital and labour, devoting to it years of industry, it may become a very fine piece of pastoral or agricultural land. The assessor then comes along, and assesses it for rental purposes for the next period. That is where one of the prejudices arises against perpetual leasing with periodical re-appraisements. The assessor requires to be fully seized of the amount of work that has been put into the lease to turn it into what it now appears to be - a fine, open piece of pasture. He should know that when the man went on to it fifteen or twenty years before, it was nothing but a wilderness ; so that we cannot be too careful in connexion with assessors’ valuations in these respects. I have an idea that we can achieve all the good points aimed at without even a perpetual lease. The one grand feature about a Crown lease is that at every stage it comes under the notice of the Government, who can prevent the accumulation of land, and thus avoid the beginnings of monopoly. Otherwise perpetual leases would not have any particular virtue to me; but the same end could be accomplished if, in the Act, we associated with the grant of land a proviso that any transfer would be null and void if the transferee was not eligible in the first instance. That is to say, if the transfer of this piece of land to him would give him more than what we should call a maximum living area, the transfer would be null and void. If that condition was attached to many of our freehold titles, there would be very little difference between them and perpetual leases. I desire to impress on the Minister that a fundamental principle underlies all land laws. First you have those portions of land that you can utilize at once, subdivided into what may be called living areas. Those portions we generally term agricultural land, under various tenures, such as credit, perpetual leases, right of purchase leases, agreements with covenant to purchase, and so on. Beyond those you have again what are called miscellaneous leases. Those are leases which have only twenty-one years’ life, with the right reserved to the Crown to intervene at any time and resume, with, in most cases, six months’ notice, on paying reasonable compensation. Then you have grazing and cultivation leases, which, also, have a limited life; and a fourth class of lease, generally speaking, is called a pastoral lease. Why do we grant miscellaneous leases and pastoral leases ? Why is the distinction made? In the first place, the land is not required for closer settlement or other purposes at the time when such leases are granted. Hence we give a large area of land under a pastoral or miscellaneous lease, in most cases at a nominal rental ; but we always recognise at the same time that, as the people’s demand for land grows, there must come a time in the future, and that not so far distant, when the land will be required for closer settlement or other purposes. Consequently, we give no indefinite term of lease to such lessees. We give them a lease which may be for twentyone, twenty-eight, thirty, or as many as forty-two years. My gravest objection to the Ordinance before the House is that it grants perpetual leases of all classes of land. Never was there a proposition fraught with greater danger than that to grant pastoral leases in perpetuity. I may be met with the statement that the life of a perpetual lease, when it came to a question of resumption’, could be based only, say, on the freehold ; but why should we base it even on freehold?
– Would compensation be based on the freehold when the Government resumed it?
– I say not. Again, I have heard it said that the period of reappraisement is the period of the lease; but under the Ordinance that is not so. Under the Ordinance a revaluation of pastoral leases takes place at the twenty-one years’ period.
– And there may be a reclassification.
– And reclassification. There are appraisers to fix the rent, and in their work they are associated with a Judge.
– It is practically a twenty-one years’ lease.
– I do not admit that it is practically only a twenty-one years’ lease. The honorable member knows that the Judge has the final say in this matter, and no Judge would allow a rental equivalent to resumption or confiscation to be imposed for the second period of twenty-one years. Hence we have to face the fact that a perpetual lease is not only for a period of twenty-one years, But goes on for ever. What has been our experience in South Australia and other places with regard to the resumption of leases ? Remember that the powers of resumption under this Ordinance are practically copied fromthe South Australian pastoral laws. First we have to compensate, if we require to resume this country, for all improvement* that are useful to the holding that is being resumed. Secondly, we have to compensate for the unexpired portion of the lease resumed. I would ask practical men in this House what is the unexpired portion of a perpetual lease? If I take up land on a forty-two years’ lease, and occupy it for twenty-one years, I know that the unexpired portion of my lease is twenty-one years. But who will tell me what at any time is the unexpired portion of a lease in perpetuity ? How is any one to arrive at a basis of compensation for the displacement of the occupier of a lease in perpetuity? The compensation in such a case would lae so enormous as to be prohibitive. The next objection I have to this Ordinance is that under section 40 it permits existing lessees to surrender their leases and come under the Ordinance. We have in the Northern Territory at the present time pastoral leases, and what are known as permits. The permits give a right to occupation only from year to year. They were instituted many years ago. When it was first suggested that the Commonwealth might take over the Northern Territory, the South Australian Government determined to grant no leases other than annual permits to occupy, so that this Parliament might be left entirely untrammelled and free to determine what leases should be granted of lands in the Northern Territory. Prior to that time 229 pastoral leases known as “ Ninety Leases,” because they were provided for in the 1890 Act, were issued, embracing 100,970 square miles of country. Some of these leases expire in 1933, and others in 1944. The area embraced in these leases is equivalent to 64,620,800 acres.
– Including the best parts of the Territory.
– This area includes a large portion of the Barklay tablelands down to the Victoria River, and down to the Macdonnell Ranges. I may say for the information of honorable members that the bulk of the Macdonnell Ranges country is held under pastoral permits. There is an area of that country comprising 35,704,660 acres, held under pastoral permits, which are only annual leases to occupy. The pastoral leases to which I have referred as embracing 64,620,800 acres terminate, as I have said, in 1933 and in .1944. There is, therefore, a period when we can say that those leases will have come to an end. They Were taken up under the 1890 Act, and those taken up at that date have now run for twentytwo years. But if the holders are allowed, as proposed, to surrender their leases under section 40 of this Ordinance the lands they occupy will be locked up for ever.
– There would be a limitation of a maximum area of 3,000 square miles.
– I was just coming to that. The only case in which any advantage would accrue to the Commonwealth by the surrender of one of these leases would be where the lessee held more than 3,000 square miles, as by surrendering his lease, and coming under this Ordinance he would have to throw up all but 3,000 square miles. But such lessees would not come under the Ordinance; they would prefer to remain as they are. Lessees holding less than 3,000 square miles would probably take advantage of its provisions to secure more land, and the land they would take up under this Ordinance would be locked up for ever. I am sure that when honorable members realize what this means they will never sanction perpetual leases being applied to pastoral lands. The Ordinance provides for three classifications of pastoral land. For Class 1 the maximum area allowed is 500 square miles, or 320,000 acres; for Class 2 it is 1,000 square miles, or 640,000 acres; and for Class 3 the maximum area allowed is 3,000 square miles, or 1,920,000 acres. 1 ask honorable members to consider what that means. It is proposed to permit one person to lease 1,920,000 acres of some of the best country in the Northern Territory, and which if it had the benefit of railway communication would be equal to the best land in Australia.
– Does not the Minister reserve the right to resume the land at any time?
– He does ; under section 35 of this Ordinance, and I shall dea> with that right of resumption. In subsection 6 of section 35 it is provided that-
Where the land resumed has thereon any improvement, the property of the lessee, the lessee shall be entitled to be paid compensation for such improvement.
In sub- section 9 of the same section it isprovided that -
The lessee shall also be entitled to be paid compensation for any depreciation in the value of the lease by reason of any resumption, such compensation to be determined in the same manner as compensation for improvements.
– Suppose we delete that, what objection can the honorable member have then?
– I should not be in favour of the deletion of that provision without modification, but we have to deal with the Ordinance as it stands. It would be very unfair to wipe out the whole of the interest of a lessee, but I contend that there should be a limitation to each lease. My idea is that a lease for Glass 1 of pastoral lands should be for twentyone years, and for Class 2 for twentyeight years.
– Would the honorable member give compensation upon resumption ?
– I should give compensation for the unexpired portion of the lease.
– That would be no good.
– But in this Ordinance we have a proposition to give compensation for resumption in the case of a perpetual lease which has no limit. Under my proposal there would certainly be a limitation. In no case would I allow the term for third class country to exceed forty-two years, with re-appraisement as under this Ordinance. We should then know what we were doing. When we wanted to resume a piece of country, we should know what we had to pay. We could work out the cost of resumption on a practical basis. But I venture to say that no honorable member could bring down an estimate to show what it would cost under this Ordinance to resume a lease and give compensation.
– Compensation would only be given for the value of improvements.
– And not for the unexpired portion of the lease.
– It is a recognised principle that when you dispossess a man of his lease on short notice, you pay him a reasonable compensation for the unresumed balance of his lease.
– Why pay compensation for the balance of the lease?
– Because a man is entitled to get some reasonable compensation on that account.
– He is not under this Ordinance.
– The Ordinance says that-
The lessee shall also be entitled, to be paid compensation for any depreciation in the value of the lease by reason of any resumption.
– The lease expires on the resumption of the whole estate. Either the draftsman did not express his ideas properly, or what the honorable member says is not in the Ordinance.
– It seems to me to be clear that the lessee is entitled to be paid compensation for depreciation in the value of the lease.
– That means where part of his land is taken.
– Suppose the whole of it is taken ?
– Then he gets nothing except for improvements.
– Do I understand the honorable member to say that the Government can resume at any time without paying any compensation at all?
– I say that they do not compensate for the unexpired term which they cannot calculate.
– The Ordinance says distinctly that for an unexpired lease any depreciation is covered.
– That is where the balance is affected by the part taken.
– I speak as a layman who has had a great deal to do with legislation as to pastoral lands, and I venture to say that a common-sense reading of the Ordinance shows that the interpretation I have put upon it is correct.
– The honorable member is arguing on what the Ordinance ought to say, not on what it says.
– I take it that the words, “ The lessee shall be entitled to be paid compensation for any depreciation in the value of the lease by reason of any resumption,” mean compensation for depreciation if they mean anything. I take it that when the Government resume a portion of a man’s lease, he will be compensated on the balance. If they took the whole he would be entitled to be compensated for the loss of the whole.
– How could you calculate compensation when the rental value would be re-appraised after a certain term? You would not compensate a man for eternity when you knew that he could not live for eternity.
– If the Minister wishes to test the matter, let him resume any one of the 229 leases held in the Northern Territory.
– There are specific provisions applying to those leases quite contrary to this Ordinance.
– Clause 20 provides that-
The re-appraisement shall be made by the Classification Board, and notice of the reappraisement shall be given to the lessee, who may, within the time and in the manner prescribed, appeal against the re-appraisement.
The appeal shall be heard by the Judge of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, sitting with two assessors, one being appointed by the Director of Lands and one by the lessee.
The Judge hearing the appeal shall either affirm the re-appraisement of the Classification Board, or make such other re-appraisement as he thinks proper.
Do honorable members for a moment think that rent could be increased to such an extent that it would be equivalent to resumption, or, in other words, equivalent to forcible acquisition? The Judge would not allow that to be done.
– What is to stop it?
– The very fact that the Judge has to decide the matter according to justice.
– The Judge has to take into consideration improvements made by the Government.
– A little knowledge is a dangerous thing when you are dealing with large pastoral areas embraced within a territory of 335,000,000 acres. The honorable member probably has in mind the enhanced value that would be given to a property by the running of a railway line through it. Undoubtedly the construction of a line close to a certain holding would enhance its value, and the Crown would be perfectly justified in taking into consideration the increased value so given to it ; but there will be country under occupation hundreds of miles away from any railway. 1 feel so strongly on this question that I am prepared to resign my seat rather than be associated with an Ordinance which would lock up 335,000,000 acres of country. Is the honorable member for Denison prepared to do likewise?
– I make no promise thai I am not prepared to carry out.
– I am prepared to do that which I have just stated. No more serious blunder could be perpetrated than that of agreeing to an Ordinance under which perpetual leases could be granted in respect of pastoral holdings. 1 stake my reputation on the assertion that a more serious blunder could not be perpetrated than that of agreeing to this Ordinance as it stands. My knowledge of pastoral lands, and the exercise of powers qf resumption leads me to make that statement; and if this Ordinance passes as it stands, I shall hand in my resignation as a member of this House, and test the question immediately in my constituency.
– What would be the effect if the honorable member did resign his seat? He would be returned again.
– I might not be reelected ; but I refuse to be associated with a proposition that would lock up the whole of the Territory.
– The honorable member should not make any rash promise. Does he know that we cannot amend this Ordinance? Had the matter been dealt with in a Bill we could have moved amendments.
– This question of land tenure, relating, as it does, to such a huge tract of country as the Northern Territory, should have been dealt with, not by Ordinance, but in the form of a Crown Lands Bill. As it is, some of the most important matters affecting land tenure in the Northern Territory are to be dealt with by regulation. Even the basis of compensation is to be determined by regulation. The Territory is in a maiden state, and I fail to see why we should lock up country in this way. Land now leased at a rental of about is. per square mile, will be worth, in some cases, in our children’s time, more than that per acre. We are asked to go on blindly, )ret the honorable member for Denison seems to be satisfied.
– I am not at all satisfied. I should like to strike out the provision as to compensation in regard to the unexpired portion of a lease.
– The honorable member is now going to the other extreme. When the State resumes a man’s land for the benefit of the community, it should pay him some compensation.
– We might as well part straight out with the fee-simple of the land.
– Not at all. If the Government resumed a holding, compelling the lessee to scatter his herds, they should certainly pay some compensation. At the same time, I would not give a man a lease of pastoral lands for all time. A lease in perpetuity is, in effect, a freehold, save that under it provision is made for reappraisement and revaluations for rental purposes. I enter my protest against this Ordinance, and move as an amendment -
That the following words be added, “ until it be amended in such a way as will prevent any pastoral lands being let under perpetual lease conditions.”
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, 1 ask your ruling as to whether such an amendment can be put? Under the Northern Territory Administration Act it is provided that -
If either House of the Parliament passes a resolution, of which notice has been given at any time willim fifteen sitting days after any such Ordinance has been laid before the House, disallowing ihe Ordinance, the Ordinance shall thereupon cease to have effect.
Ii seems to me that this amendment is not germane to our power to deal with Ordinances relating to the Northern Territory, which is merely the power of disallowance. If we do not agree to the motion the Ordinance will take effect.
– I do not think it is my duty to give a decision on a question of law.
– This is a question of procedure.
– Under the Standing Orders an honorable member may move to add to, or leave out words from, a motion, or to omit words, with a view of inserting certain other words. The honorable member proposes to add certain words to the motion, and is in order in doing so. I have not to consider what may be the effect of such an amendment.
.- I think it will be admitted by honorable members on both sides that this motion has an important bearing on one of the most difficult problems with which we have to deal, and that is the settlement and development of the northern part of Australia. I for one do not propose to deal with the question in too carping a spirit. I do not desire to comment too severely on the actions of the Government in connexion with the Ordinance simply for the purpose of indulging in carping criticism. But I want to make some remarks about the Ordinance itself, and I take it that the vital principle involved is that of leasehold versus freehold. Perhaps it may be thought by many persons that the desire for a freehold is simply a matter of sentiment ; but, be that as it may, the sentiment exists. A man desires to have a bit of land, no matter how small or how large it may be. He likes to be able to look from his front door and to say, “ This land is mine, and I can leave it to my children after rae.” I think that this feeling is inherent, at all events in the British race.
– How many Britishers have it?
– A man likes to have a freehold, and will not be satisfied with anything else. I think it will be proved most conclusively in New South Wales that the men on the land are determined to have freeholds. The fact that the State is the landlord in their case does not affect the position at all. The State as a landlord is not very much different from an individual. What affects New South Wales, or other parts of Australia, will in time affect the Northern Territory. From the military stand-point, it is most essential that we should give our settlers a stake in the country. My view is that men who have a stake in the country, who possess a freehold, will be better defenders of it than will those who simply have a temporary occupancy of the land.
– Has no man a stake in this country unless he has a freehold?
– I do not say that there should be only freehold tenure in the Northern Territory, because we know that there must be pastoral leases. I take it that, with regard to town allotments, farming areas, and grazing areas, large or small, the tenure is to be only leasehold. If a man desires to convert a part of his holding into a freehold, an opportunity should be given to him to do so. There should be some system of conditional purchase, such as we have had in the States, so that a man may have an opportunity to convert a part of his holding into freehold at some time.
– The freehold business is retarding the Territory now, and has done so for years.
– We have not had very much settlement in the Territory, unfortunately.
– Speculators have got hold of the land, and will not allow settlement to take place.
– I do not think that that has affected things very much in the Territory. I have seen maps showing the freehold land, and a very small portion of the Territory has been taken up in that way.
– They have taken the eyes out of the country.
– I think that the freehold has been offered recently at a pretty low figure to the Government, if they like to purchase it. Whether it is a matter of sentiment or not, I think it will be found that the people will not be satisfied with anything short of the right to acquire, at all’ events, some freehold. It sounds very well to say that they will have a perpetual lease, and that such a lease is as good as a freehold; but in these leases we always find a provision for periodical reappraisement. That is where the evil comes in. A man is never secure in his holding. He improves his property, and builds a house, and at the expiration of a. certain period he finds that he has to pay a higher rent.
– Hear, hear 1 That is the great safeguard.
– No ; it is a great drawback and a great bar to settlement, because men will not take up land on leasehold tenure when they have no certainty as to what the rent will be at the expiration of a certain period.
– A great safeguard for rabbits.
– Yes. Men will not permanently improve their properties. A man, for instance, will not build a substantial house, but he will put up flimsy improvements, and his fencing will be of a flimsy character. He will say, “ I will hang on to the land while the rent is so much, buE at the end of a certain period the rent may be double, and I cannot afford to pay that. Therefore, I shall not put up permanent improvements.”
– You will not find that, as a Judge will have to decide it.
– So far as I can gather from the Ordinance, a great deal will have to be decided by the Administrator. For instance, clause 20 contains this provision -
The rental payable under perpetual leases shall be subject to re-appraisement every fourteen years in the case of town lands, and twentyone years in the case of agricultural and pastoral lands.
That, standing by itself, might not be so bad, although it is bad enough for a man to know that he is to have the land for only a certain period at a certain rental ; but he is in the dark, as it were, as to what the rental may be after the expiration of that period. The form of lease of town lands is to contain this paragraph -
And We declare that if by reason of the carrying out of any public work in the Northern Territory, any increase in the value of the leased land takes place, the Administrator may, from time to time, require the Classification Board to make a re-appraisement of the rent forthwith, and may, by writing, notify the lessee that such re-appraisement shall take effect at such date as the Administrator thinks fit to direct, in which case such re-appraisement shall take effect accordingly, but no further re-appraisement shall take effect until a period of fourteen years has elapsed since that date, unless some additional increase in the value of the leased land arises from some public work, and the Administrator directs a re-appraisement of the rent accordingly.
That is, I think, most ridiculous. We must keep in mind the vast extent of the Northern Territory. If a work is carried out in a part of the Territory 1,000 miles away - if, for example, a railway is constructed right down to the southern part of the Territory - it may be said by the Administrator that, by reason of its construction, land about Darwin, or Pine Creek, or somewhere else, has been increased in value, and therefore he may immediately order a re-appraisement of all the leases.
– How much would land be increased in value by a railway 1,000 miles away ?
– We do not know. That is left to the Administrator to decide. If he considers that land has been increased in value by reason of any public work having been carried out in any part of the Territory, he may order re-appraisements at any time, and as many as he likes. Will there be any security of tenure for a man who takes up land under a perpetual lease ? There will be no inducement whatever to men to take up this country, as it were, on the blind. They will not know what they may be run into. They will not know how often re-appraisements may take place, or what the rent may be from time to time. Sub-clause 6 of clause 20 reads -
Where the regulations otherwise provide or special provision for that purpose is contained in the lease. the re-appraisement of the rent may be made at less intervals than the periods specified in this section, and shall take effect accordingly.
I take it that, without there being any rise in the value of land due to the construction of any public works, the Administrator will have the power to order re-appraisements more often than the terms set down in the Ordinance. I do not know in what other way the Ordinance can be read. It specifies, first of all, that re-appraisements shall be made at the expiration of fourteen and twenty-one .years; but I take it that under the provision in clause 20 which I have just quoted, the Administrator will have power to insert special conditions in the lease, and that if such conditions are inserted, or where the regulations otherwise provide, a re-appraisement of the rent may be made at less intervals than the periods specified in clause 20, and shall take effect accordingly. Where is the sense of specifying periods of fourteen and twenty-one years in this Ordinance, seeing that the Administrator is given power to go outside of it, and to order re-appraisements more frequently ? It is a very absurd provision, and one which will tend to increase the feeling of apprehension which must exist in the mind of any person who contemplates taking up land under this leasehold system. Then, sub-clause (c) of clause 22, of division II., which relates to pastoral leases, provides for -
A covenant by the lessee that he will, within three years after the date of the lease, stock the land to the extent prescribed by the regulations, and keep the land so stocked during the continuance of the lease, and that he will not overstock the land.
I say that the framers of this Ordinance knew absolutely nothing about the business of grazing. It is impossible for a man to specifically set down what stock can be run upon a given area. He would indeed have to be an extraordinary mortal who could say what the land would carry if the seasons were normal.
– All pastoralists overstock in good seasons.
– They may, or they may not. It is very difficult to say when a man is overstocking. But, under this provision, he is to be penalized for so doing. A man does not overstock out of spite to the Government or the Administrator - he does so to his own disadvantage, and as the result of an error of judgment. But I take it that overstocking is to be regarded as a misdemeanour, although I do not know what the punishment is to be. The whole thing is absurd. I defy any one to say when a man is likely to be overstocked in a good season. In one month he may not be overstocked, but in the next he may be. If he finds that he is overstocked, in a country like the Northern Territory it will be almost impossible for him, at short notice, to get rid of his stock. Then, again, he may not be able to keep up a certain number of stock. He may count upon a particular increase, say, a lambing of 80 per cent., and he may get only 25 per cent. In that case, he would be understocked, and would therefore be breaking the law. Sub-clause (d) of clause 22 will prohibit anybody from applying for a pastoral lease of third class under division II., because it provides for-
A covenant by the lessee that he will fence the boundaries of the lease, as prescribed by the regulations.
That is utterly ridiculous. The maximum area of this third class land which a man may hold is 3,000 square miles, or, roughly, 55 miles square. It is obvious, therefore, that in such a case he would be required to fence 220 miles. I will undertake to say that £80 per mile is a low estimate of the cost of fencing in that country. I do not think he could put up a decent fence for that sum. The carting of the wire itself, a distance, perhaps, of 500 miles, by team would be a very heavy item indeed. Consequently, the fencing of the leasehold would cost £17,600, which would be an absolute bar to any person applying for it. We know that there are large stations like the Victoria Downs, the boundaries of which are not fenced. On that station, 100,000 cattle are kept, and black boys are employed as boundary riders.
– In the good old days in Scotland, people did not fence their boundaries.
– I do not know whether the Minister is referring to the time when they were cave-dwellers. The provision that lessees must fence their boundaries will prove an absolute bar to the taking up of this country.
– There is nothing in the Ordinance which says that they must fence.
– I differ from the Honorary Minister. The clause provides for a covenant by the lessee that he will fence the boundaries of the lease as prescribed by the regulations.
– “ As prescribed “ in the lease before he takes it.
– The Ordinance sets out that he must fence ; and the words “ as prescribed by the regulations “ refer to the class of fencing to be erected.
– I do not think it would be prescribed if it would cost £80 per mile.
– A poor fence in that country would cost that sum. In the first place, we have to consider the high price of labour. I do not know where a lessee would get the men to fence. If the country which the parliamentary party traversed in the Northern Territory is typical of the remainder of it, it would be very difficult to secure the timber for the fencing posts, in addition to which the cartage of the wire would be a very heavy item. But, even if the lessee spent ,£17,600 in fencing his holding, by the time he had completed the last ‘portion of the fence the first portion of it would have been eaten down by the white ants. They even ate into a billiard ball at Port Darwin. They also ate through sheet lead and concrete floor into casks of stuff. Honorable members saw that for themselves. These ants will eat through anything. I have seen a good deal of the effects of leasehold tenures in New South Wales. If you visit the farms of the men who are working on the halves system in the wheat areas, you will notice that their houses, stables, and other buildings are of the most flimsy structure. They realize that their tenure does not warrant permanent improvements. But a man possessing a freehold takes a delight in improving it, because he knows that it is his own, and that he will be able to hand it on to his children. The most prosperous people in the world are the French, most of the land in France being held in freehold. The curse of Ireland was the landlord and tenant system, and we are perpetuating that system in the Northern Territory, with the’ difference that the State will be the landlord. I do not know whether it was intended to provide in the Ordinance for compensation for the resumption of a lease, but no provision of that kind has been made. It is provided thal
– Does the honorable member contend that if I had a lease worth £5,000, and it were taken away, there would be no depreciation in its value?
– No. If you take his lease away from a man, it cannot be said to have depreciated in value, because it has ceased to exist as his lease. It is clear that the compensation referred to in paragraph9 has reference to compensation for depreciation of the remainder of a lease on part of it being resumed. I agree with the honorable member for Grey, that this matter should not have been dealt with by Ordinance, but that a Land Act should be passed for the Northern Territory. It is all very well to leave the Administrator power to deal with details, but the representatives of the people should determine the policy to be pursued in this matter. .
Debate (on motion by Mr. Laird Smith) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.15p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 September 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120903_reps_4_65/>.