4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the decision of the Government to use karri sleepers, treated or untreated, in preference to other more suitable timbers, in the construction of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway, is deserving of censure.
I have been compelled to take this action because so little notice has been taken of the information which I put before the House some weeks ago. I was under the impression that what I and other honorable members had then to say would be of the greatest value to the Minister of Home Affairs andthe officers of his Department in guiding them as to the proper timber to obtain for the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, which it is my desire to see carried out in thebest manner possible. In bringing that information before the House I was acting in the interests of Australia, this Parliament being a sort of committee to determine what is best to be done for this great country. Having travelled all over the world I am convinced that Australia, if properly managed, will prove to be one of the best countries there is, and it being the land of my adoption, which has done well for me, I should fail in my duty were I not to do my best for it. I must commence myremarks by repeating one or two of the statements which I made some weeks ago. As to the supply of jarrah available in Western Australia, I wish to again remind honorable members that a Royal Commission appointed by the Government of the State in 1904, and known as the Royal Commission on Forestry, after taking exhaustive evidence, reported with regard to the supplies of jarrah that -
Virgin jarrah forest to the north of the Blackwood River, and suitable for milling, is estimated at 2,000,000 acres. Based on the present rate of cutting, this would be equivalent to about thirtytwo years’ supply. To the south of the Blackwood River there are also considerable supplies of this timber; but, being so constantly intergrown with karri, blackbutt, and red gum, no fair estimate of quantities can be given. In addition to these areas, there are several millions of acres of jarrah country not of sufficient commercial, value for milling purposes, but which will, as the railway system develops, afford immense scope for sleeper-hewing.
That statement shows that there are large areas of country covered with jarrah which are not controlled by the saw-millers or any other combination. It is from this country that we should get our sleepers. Jarrah grows over a tract of country extending for150 or more miles, which has been opened up by railways running into the hills where the timber is found. In the past sleepers have been obtained for Government and private undertakings, under a system which is quite different’ from that adopted by the Minister of Home Affairs. A private contractor or a Government Department requiring sleepers would make it known that a certain price would be given for all of a specified size and quality delivered at sidings or stations named. Inspectors would then be sent to those places, where sleepers would be delivered by carters. Sometimes the carters employ hewers to secure sleepers for them, and sometimes the hewers undertake the delivery for themselves. Under this system thousands of men are set to work. Some of them go far back where the timber is most plentiful; others, who have not the necessary teams, get it from the rougher country nearer the line for which the sleepers are needed. It has never been the practice to call for tenders for the supply of sleepers, and thus put oneself into the hands of the saw-millers. If it is necessary to push on with the work quickly, both sawn and hewn sleepers are accepted;, but it is generally recognised throughout the world that hewn sleepers are preferable to sawn sleepers. A tree which is cross-grained may be sawn for sleepers, but if the grain is cut through, some engine, after a sleeper has been laid on the track - it may be the first which crosses it, or it may be the one-hundredth - will break it. The Department of Home Affairs should have attempted to procure hewn sleepers before arranging to accept sawn sleepers of either jarrah or karri. The fact that Mr. Holman, the Secretary of the Timber Employes’ Union of Western Australia, which has a membership of 3,000 or more, came all the way to Melbourne to try to secure the contract for the supply of sleepers for his union, shows that there is a large area of country on which jarrah is available. The members of this union know the country better than I do, and better than any other member of the House does. On his return Mr. Holman reported to his union as follows -
During my visit to the Eastern States I spent considerable time in my efforts to secure for Western Australia a fair consideration. I personally interviewed the Prime Minister, the Minister in charge of the work (Mr. King O’Malley), Senator Pearce, also Messrs. Thomas, Tudor, and Frazer, and the Engineer-in-Chief (Mr. Deane), and urged the use of our native timbers. I also made an effort to secure the work direct for the Union, but did not press this when I found the State prepared to supply. I personally advocated the use of jarrah sleepers in the work, but the reports concerning the powellised karri are favorable, and it is to be hoped that the anticipation will be realized to the fullest extent; though I regret to say that from what I saw in Melbourne an effort had been made to push forward the karri rather on the demerits of jarrah than upon its own merits. This, in my opinon, is altogether wrong. Jarrah has a world-wide reputation as a durable timber.Karri is splendid in superstructure; if the powellising will impart the necessary preservative qualities to the karri underground it will mean a vast increase in the marketable value of the forests of this State.
Why was this man, who knows that forest country from end to end, and understands the value of all these timbers, met, when he came to Melbourne, with a proposition like that, with the report that some one was pushing karri in preference to a better and cheaper timber? Something needs looking into.
– Who is the writer of that letter?
– Mr. Holman, Secretary to the Timber Employes Union of Western Australia, who came all the way to Melbourne to try to get for the union a contract for hewing sleepers.
– And he is a member of the State Labour party.
– At the bottom, Mr. Holman says that it will mean a vast increase in the marketable value of the forests to the State, clearly implying that unless the powellising process is a success this forest of karri will be of little value. If we require any more proof that karri is of no value, we have it in the Minister’s reply to my last statement, when he said that some wicked combine had cornered all the jarrah in Western Australia. My retort is that these karri forests have stood there all the time that the powellising process has been well known, as the Minister himself pointed out.
– For how many years ?
– The Minister stated that the process has been known in his own country for thirty odd years. There was no indication of the process being used when I came through the country, because the poorest sleepers to be found on earth were used. I saw half-round pine sleepers, rotten, and being renewed by tens of thousands. I claim that in view of the smartness of the Americans and Canadians,, had such a process as powellising or any other process of value been known, they would have used it freely. Why did the proprietors of this process come to this country where it is well known that we have the best hard woods in the world, and are supplying them to other countries at a big price, if this process is so good as is represented? Why did not these people go to Canada and the United States and powellise the timber which is of very little value at present instead of coming here and trying to powellise something which is already valuable, and has been proved to last at least four times as long as the timber in other countries lasts? Judging from my observations in those countries, pine sleepers rot about three or four times as quickly as the worst timber procurable in Au’stralia would rot. In other parts of the world a bigger field is open to the proprietors- of thisprocess. They could walk about there and. become millionaires, every one of them, if they could do what they claim to be able to do here. That there is plenty of jarrah available is proved, first by the Commission, and, secondly, by the secretary of the union. In support of my own statement I wish to mention that there is a large number of jarrah mills which are not connected in any way with Millar Brothers, or any other people. There are the mills of Bunning Brothers, Whittaker Brothers, Bartram and Company, Vincent Brothers, Lewis and Reid, Honey and Company, and the Timber Hewers’ Association, which I may say has probably one of the finest properties in the State. It was started as a venture in which all the men had an interest, and only within the last few weeks - the letter was really in the mail when I spoke here last - it was offered for sale. I have never had anything to do with any jarrah company, and do not want to. When I have had a railway contract I have put up a mill to cut the timber for the contract, and then sold the mill. The people I have referred to have one of the best propositions I know of. A portion of the fauna and flora reserve between Jarrahdale and Marradong, in the heart of the jarrah country, was granted to them. That proposition was sent on to me, and is complete in every way. It comprises the most up-to-date mills with two 40-ton locomotives, twenty-two 10-ton waggons, about 18 miles of rails, and country which is estimated to produce about 280,000,000 super, feet, which is more than twice - really three times - as much timber as will be required for the construction of the transcontinental railway. I never touch this class of thing, and so I handed the offer to the Minister of Home Affairs in reply to his statement that there was no jarrah available, and he said something to the effect that matters had gone too far. After I had left the offer with him for three or four days he turned it down.
– How much more timber would there be than will be necessary for this railway?
– Three or four times as much as will be required; but I take it that this is not the last railway that we are going to build. We have to start the construction of a line from Port Augusta to go north, and if this proposition was as good as stated there could be no harm in our getting into the groove of securing the best material available for building railways. If any reasonable proposition for the purpose had been put before the House it would have received my support.
– What is the difference in price between the two timbers?
– I should like to put this matter before the House in my own way. I presume that the reason why karri is being used is that the length of the sleeper has been increased. Knowing that they are dealing with an inferior timber the Department have increased the length of the sleeper - goodness only knows why.
– That has nothing to do with it.
– The longest sleeper that is used on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge in South Australia is 8 ft. 6 in.
– And on the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge the length of the sleeper is 9 feet.
– That does not alter the fact that in Canada, the United States, and every other country with that gauge we do not find 9 feet sleepers, even where timber of poor quality is used. I am afraid that some one has been accustomed to using sleepers of very inferior quality. If sleepers were used of the same length as in other parts of the world, instead of using karri, which makes it necessary to use a longer sleeper, the average cost of jarrah (sleepers at the mills, I believe, would be between 4s. and 4s. 6d. each, that is for a sleeper 9 feet by 10 inches by 5 inches. According to the railway rates - there are ten sleepers of this size to the ton - the freight to Kalgoorlie would be 3s. a sleeper. Therefore, the cost of a jarrah sleeper delivered at Kalgoorlie may be estimated at from 7s. to 7s. 6d. That would be 10d. per foot in length. If we were to use jarrah instead of karri we could certainly use 8 feet instead of 9 feet’ sleepers.
– Certainly. Having been all over the world, I venture to say that the best train in the world is the train which runs between Melbourne and Adelaide, over 8-ft. 6-in. sleepers on a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. It is freer from accidents than any other train in the world. We have adopted the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge; we should also use the best sleepers that we can get, and do the work in the most economical way that is possible. The 8-ft. 6-in. sleeper, which is used in South Australia with much success, would cost at the mill 4s. as against 4s. 6d. in the case of the 9-ft. sleeper, and the railway freight to Kalgoorlie would be 4d. less. The cost of a sleeper of those dimensions delivered at Kalgoorlie would be 6s. 8d. instead of 7s. 6d., which would mean a difference of £100,000 in the cost of 2,000,000 sleepers. Another consideration is that the use of a 9-ft. instead of an 8-ft. sleeper renders it necessary to lay the ballast a foot wider, and the extra cost thus involved amounts to about , £25,000, whilst the additional cost of platelaying and handling these heavier sleepers would be about £5,000. The 8-ft. 6-in. sleeper has been used with great success in South Australia, where the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge has been adopted, and there are no better constructed railways than are to be found in that State. In other words, in the construction of the South Australian railways, which are built on a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, and are, therefore, inches wider than the line which we are now engaged in laying, 8-ft. 6-in. sleepers are used, so that the 9-ft. sleepers proposed to be used in this case are, in proportion, 12½ inches longer than is necessary. Allowing for the reduced quantity of ballast that would be required, the total saving which would be made by using the shorter sleeper is about £130,000. We should not only make that saving, but I guarantee that we should have a better road.
– Then the honorable member means to say that an 8-ft. sleeper is better than a 9-ft. sleeper.
– There are tens of millions of tons carried over 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge lines, in the construction of which 8-ft. sleepers have been used, and that should satisfy honorable members that an 8-ft. sleeper is sufficient for our purpose. I do not imagine that the heaviest tonnage in the world is going to be carried over this railway; but if the Canadian Pacific Company’s railways, with their tremendous tonnage, can be run on 8-ft. sleepers, sleepers of that size should be sufficient for us. I come now to the cost of jarrah sleepers. The value to-day is about 4s. 6d. per sleeper, on trucks, at mill. Bunning’s have tendered for the supply of 50,000 at 4s.1d. at Collie, which is a fair distance from Kalgoorlie, and the price is 4s. 9d. each at Lion Mill. Their reason for asking the higher rate in the latter case is that Lion Mill is 100 miles nearer Kalgoorlie than is Collie, and they consider that they are entitled to the advantage of the reduced haulage. The Timber Corporation have tendered to supply 50,000 at 4s. 4½d. on trucks at Green Bushes.Whittaker’s tendered at 4s. 6d. per sleeper on trucks at North Dandalup, while the SouthWest Timber Hewers’ Association quoted 4s. 3d. per sleeper at their mills. Surely no further evidence is wanted in support of the contention that plenty of jarrah is available, and can be obtained from firms outside any combine. As a matter of fact, the timber employés sent their representative here with the object of trying to secure a contract for the supply of all the sleepers required. In estimating the cost of these sleepers I have taken into account the ordinary rates charged by the Government of Western Australia to carry sleepers to Kalgoorlie, taking as the basis of my calculation the fact that sleepers are run from Kirup at 30s. per ton. Kirup is about 70 or 80 miles further away from Kalgoorlie than is the district where the Timber Hewers’ Association saw-mills are located in a district that gives a minimum railage to Kalgoorlie. The district is a comparatively new one, having only been opened up in the last two or three years, and the freight between there and Kalgoorlie is the minimum that could be paid in respect of jarrah. I have selected as the basis of my calculation for the cost of haulage, a district some 100 miles further away from Kalgoorlie, because I recognise that all the jarrah sleepers required could not be obtained speedily enough in any one place to meet the requirements of this big undertaking. In support of my statement as to the value of jarrah sleepers, I propose to make a short quotation from a report by Mr. W. W. Dartnall, M. Inst. C. E., who, when the report was made, was Chief Engineer of Existing Lines, Perth, Western Australia.
– When was the report made?
– It was printed in 1906, and was probably prepared in 1904. Mr. Dartnall writes -
The species of timber chiefly used in Western Australia for sleepers is jarrah. The total number used on the railways, inducting renewals, hasbeen from 4,000,000 to 5,000,000.
Or more than two and a half times the number we shall require. I shall make a further reference to Mr. Dartnall’s statement when referring to a letter that has been written to the Minister with the view of inducing him to use karri instead of jarrah sleepers. Mr. Dartnall, who has had great experience in the use of jarrah, reported further -
The following instance is given of the life of jarrah sleepers where they have not been disturbed : - A portion of the Great Southern Railway, from Beverley to Cuballing, about fiftyfive miles in length, was laid with about I IO,000 S-in. by 4-in. jarrah sleepers, in the year 1886 or 1SS7, and the line was purchased by the Government in 1896- Practically none of the sleepers had been renewed when the line was purchased, and since that time the Railway Department has renewed about 4,300, equal to about 3.9 per cent., in eighteen years; and the balance is still in the road.
That jarrah was not powellised, and the balance is still in the road. This is not the evidence of a timber hewer or of any interested person; it is the testimony of a man of wide experience in the use of timber, who has at his command an office staff that can check all the figures relating to such matters. Surely no more convincing evidence as to the value of jarrah sleepers can be desired.
– Were those sleepers used in white ant country?
– I have yet to learn of any part of Australia where white ants do not exist. The papers relating to this matter have been laid on the table of the House, and among them is a letter by Mr. Light to which I take great exception. Mr. Light is a personal friend of mine, and having regard to a statement which he makes in respect of the use of karri sleepers, I am disposed to think that a mistake has been made in typing his letter, or in taking the instructions for it. Mr. Dartnall, who held office in Western Australia as Engineer-in-Chief of Railways, knows that jarrah sleepers were used while he was there, and he knows that they have remained for many years in an excellent state of preservation, yet Mr. Light in his letter writes -
Incidentally I would remark that the sleepers in use on the railways in this State are of local timbers, principally karri and jarrah.
I cannot understand how such a statement could have been made by Mr. Light. It is a contradiction of Mr. Dartnall’s statement, and all who are familiar with the facts know that it is incorrect on the face of it. The kindest view I can take of it ls that some mistake has been made. Mr. Light must have known very well that the specification for the supply of sleepers in Western Australia does not provide for the supply of karri sleepers. The Government of Western Australia, as a matter of fact, will not inspect, and never have inspected, karri for export, because they take the view that the export of karri as jarrah - both timbers having a similar appearance - would bring the timber industry of Western Australia into bad repute. This is the exact wording of the specification -
Unless the specification agreed upon between the contracting parties is in reasonably close accordance with this standard specification the Government will not accept the responsibility of inspection. (1) Sleepers may be cut from either of the following timbers - jarrah or wandoo.
Karri is not in it.
– Is that a Western Australian Government specification?
– Yes. That is a Government specification for sleepers in Western Australia.
– What is the date of that?
– That is included in the report to which I am referring. I say that no specification was ever issued by the Government of Western Australia for contracts within their own State which included karri for sleepers.
– That is ten years old.
– I have said that no specification was ever issued by a Western Australian Government at any time which included karri for sleepers in contracts for railway construction within the State. There is no doubt that Mr. Light was in possession of that specification and all Government specifications in the railway offices when he made the statement to some one in the letter I have referred to that karri was principally used for sleepers in Western Australia. That must be a typist’s error, or Mr. Light must have been misunderstood. I have here another statement which was really published as a guide to people requiring timber. It has a reference to the ports of shipment for jarrah and karri -
While both jarrah and karri are shipped from Hamelin, Flinders, and Albert, karri is not shipped from Fremantle, Rockingham, and Bunbury. Consignments from these latter ports may be relied upon as jarrah only.
The Government were good enough to publish that statement for the guidance of people as to the places from which they might expect to get karri or jarrah and to prevent imposition since the two timbers are alike in colour. The whole thing requires some explanation. I do not know who is to give it, or whether when it is given it will be satisfactory to this House. In the papers which have been laid on the table we have a report from the Chief Surveyor of Forests, Burma. He refers to ten different classes of timber, the names of which I should find it difficult to pronounce. I never heard of them before. This report was sent to some persons to induce them to adopt powellised timber. It looks all right on the face of it, and I thought it was at first until I found a reference to powellised sleepers and their condition at a certain date one year from the time they were put in the ground. We know that almost any kind of common timber will last a year in the ground. I afterwards looked to find out what was done with nonpowellised timber, and discovered that it was put in the ground and left there for two years. Yet some one has had the audacity to submit this to grown-up people as showing that powellising is a satisfactory process for the preservation of timber. I find here also a letter which if it were not to some extent the reason for the acceptance of karri sleepers would be amusing, but, in all the circumstances, it is a most serious thing for the Commonwealth. I find that a gentleman known as Professor D. F. McKenzie, in the Old Country somewhere, has an oven which is supposed to create some kind of fungus similar to dry-rot. According to his statement, he has experimented, with some little bits of wood sent to him, and has put them in this dry-rot oven of his. I regard his letter on the subject as so much dry-rot. Different kinds of fungus are found in different parts of the world, and it is possible that a fungus which attacks timbers in one country might not so readily attack the timbers of another country. I claim that no experiment made in another country, and especially no artificial experiment, should be considered sufficient Ito warrant action involving such enormous expenditure. The suggestion is monstrous. Such a production as that to which I have just referred might impress an infants’ school, but it should not have been submitted Ito grown-up men. A letter by Mr. Light, dated 21st March, is the one in which he mentions that the powellising system has been tried. I find that they put thirty sleepers down in a sand cutting between Perth and the river. It is well known to railway men that any kind of sleeper laid in sand will last two or three times as long as if laid in ordinary soil. The reason is that sand is somewhat of the nature of a proper ballast. The best ballast is bluestone, or some metal, because it allows of good drainage and air. Sand provides to .some extent for drainage and air. Timber laid in sand is not entirely, boxed in, and can be reached by the ah-, so that moisture may be evaporated. Our sleepers in Western Australia have had very little chance. When the goldfields line was first started, it was laid with jarrah sleepers and light rails. Tremendously heavy trains were run over it, and later the weight of the rollingstock and of the train loads was increased, with the result that on the light rails the dogs worked. They must work under such conditions. That is why I advocate for the transcontinental railway 80-lb. rails and jarrah sleepers. If that course were followed, we should have no dogs working, because the rails would not bend. Where light rails are used they bend and pull the dogs back.
– Is that not a good reason for having long sleepers also?
– No, that has nothing whatever to do with it. In dealing with Mr. Light’s statement I wish to say ‘that the alleged test of the few karri sleepers laid in a row for a term of a few years has no bearing upon the matter. The case would perhaps have been different if a length of line had been laid somewhere in the neighbourhood of the country in which we are to build the transcontinental railway, which is 400 or 500 miles from where these karri sleepers were tried. A successful test of these sleepers for a mile or 20 miles near where we shall be laying the transcontinental railway would have been something for us to consider. Let me further state that mt would be strange in a line 8 or 10 miles long, laid even with the worst of timbers, if one did not discover thirty sleepers in good order. On a line where it is known that the slepeers are bad, patches are often found where the sleepers are all right. If I wanted to prove that bad timber would stand, I should put it in sand or in good ballast. I want to know why such a test as that is paraded to us as being of value. These sleepers were placed in a position where perhaps there are more maintenance men working than in any other part of Western Australia, because that is where all the traffic comes right into Perith from Collie and from the timber districts. The continual running of traffic requires more maintenance, and one would not expect to find that any fungus or white ants would get to work as readily where there is such continual vibration and disturbance’, as would probably be the case in the interior, where so few trains are run, and everything is comparatively quiet. Here is one of the most extraordinary things in these papers. We find from them that the EngineerinChief suggests that common timbers can be powellised and used. He asks for particulars, and suggests that the Commonwealth might erect works at Port Augusta, but what good that would be for powellis- ing timber for sleepers in Western Australia I do not know.
– Is the honorable member quoting ?
– One would gather that you were, whereas you are commenting. It would be as well to make that plain.
- Mr. Light refers in his letter to jarrah, and Iwant to bring this prominently before the House, because it is the part of these papers which was not quoted when the Minister replied to me. Anything that was in favour of jarrah beleft out, and I want to know why. Mr. Light says, after in a faint kind of way praising karri when powellised, and making the incorrect statement that karri is used principally as well as jarrah -
The virtues of jarrah are already sufficiently well known to render further comment needless. Suffice it to say that well-seasoned sleepers cut from this timber will last in the road-bed for many years without any artificial treatment whatever.
What else do we want? The Minister omitted to read that passage, and Iwant to know why we should be treated in this way. I did not bring this matter before the House in a childish manner. I brought it forward without reservaltion, and produced everything I had in connexion with it, and I fail to see why this information should have been kept back from the House. Mr. Light says here, “ With generally satisfactory results.” “ Generally “ is to my mind a qualification. He also says, “ The value of the treatment having been fairly well established.” All this points to the fact that the whole thing is purely an experiment from start to finish - an experiment in its infancy, and altogether so small that it should never have been considered as an experiment by any one who wished to build1,000 miles of railway. In letter No. 7, we find that our Engineer-in-Chief wrote to Mr. Thompson, the Engineer-in-Chief of Western Australia. Mr. Thompson has been EngineerinChief there for a number of years, and he is a man who, I am certain, would not make a misstatement if he could help it. He has had the handling of this timber in making and construction, specifications, &c, for many years. Hereis a letter written by our Engineer-in-Chief to Mr. Thompson, but there is no reply to it in the papers that have been produced. Why this silence on the part of Mr. Thompson? Is it that he does not want to commit himself ? The very fact of his silence should condemn the system.
– Is there no reply ?
– No reply whatever. The nearest thing to a reply to it is a letter, again from Mr. Light, which goes to prove that our Engineer-in-Chief ‘s letter was handed on to him by Mr. Thompson.
– There is a reply to it, then?
– From another man.
– That is an admission, anyhow.
– There is no reply from Mr. Thompson to that letter. Then Mr. Deane says -
I also note that the powellising plant at Bunbury was erected by, and is under the control of, the Railway Department. I was not aware of this fact, and on the 4th August I wrote to Mr. Thompson, asking him to favourme with some particulars of what had been done in Western Australia.
If there was any man who could have furnished those particulars, it was Mr. Thompson, without referring Mr. Deane to any one else.
– Could not Mr. Light?
– Mr. Light is in a different Department.
– Is he not a responsible man?
– I am not here to make a charge against any one’s honour, although 1 may be here to charge men with incapacity to carry out big works, or with want of knowledge. I have here a letter from Mr. Gorton, the director of the Victorian Powell Wood Process Company, which is really about as cunningly worded as anything I have ever struck.
– But you make no imputation on honour !
– I say it is cunningly worded - I presume to attain a certain end. It says -
With reference to the powellising of sleepers and timber for the transcontinental railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, we assume that at least 3,000,000 sleepers will be treated out of the total amount required, and that at least 20,000,000 feet of timber will be required for various other works and buildings, or, say, a total, not taking into account any future requirements during the continuance of the patent, of 100,000,000 super, feet. The royalty we asked, i.e. , as. per 100 super, feet, is the same amount that we are receiving from other Governments, and would amount, on this basis, to ,£100,000. We are willing, however, to accept the sum of ^60,000, payable in cash or Treasury bonds-
He does’ not care how he gets it - for the right to use the Powell process during the. continuance of our patent for the treatment of all timbers required by the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the transcontinental railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. The amount we would receive per sleeper is about 4d., which is small compared with the value in the lengthened life of the sleepers, apart from any cost of renewals, and the results of the process to date are as definite as it is possible to be.
With regard to white ant-resisting timbers, we venture to emphatically state that there is no timber suitable for sleepers that will resist the attacks of these pests, more particularly those in the country through which the proposed line will pass.
He has the audacity to make that statement notwithstanding the declaration of Mr. Dartnall that his experience is that the sleepers will stand for eighteen years -
With regard to white ant-resisting timbers, we venture to emphatically state that there is no timber suitable for sleepers that will resist the attacks of these pests, more particularly those in the country through which the proposed line will pass. The Western Australian Government recently powellised the whole of the jarrah sleepers and scantling required in the Port Hedland to Marble Bar Railway, and are enlarging the present plant to powellise all timbers used by them.
He further says that it will convert thousands of acres of inferior timber into valuable timbers for market. When he made that statement he must have been aware of the fact that the powellising process had not been a success in New Zealand. First I desire to show what this royalty of £60,000 means.
– Are they getting that £60,000 ?
– I am not certain, but honorable members opposite have a better opportunity of obtaining that information than I have. I hold in my hand a statement which has been printed with a view to proving that powellisation will accomplish almost anything. It reads -
So far as the writer’s experiment went the treated wood showed no tendency to warp, shrink, expand, split, or contract, even when exposed to the most unfavorable of conditions. By the treatment woods appear to become more close-grained, and capable of taking a better polish; while, in some cases, the improvement is so marked that the treated wood can hardly be recognised when compared with the natural untreated article. Pieces of powellised mango, salai, pine, &c, were buried in a hill of active white ants. In the same hill were placed pieces of the same woods untreated and in their natural condition.
After the lapse of ten days in an ant-hill they were not injured. Fancy that.
An Honorable Member. - Who says that?
– Mr. Norman Rudolph, of Victoria and Liverpool. He is evidently scattered a bit. He writes reports over a large area -
A large number of powellised and untreated pieces of different Indian woods are now being laid down, but it will be some time before any results caa be arrived at. Sleepers of various kinds of woods are also being tested on the railway in Burma.
This all goes to show that the powellising process is as yet only in an experimental stage. Here is a statement by Mr. James Mann, of the University of Melbourne Engineering School -
It is claimed for the Powell Wood Process , that a saccharine solution under the company’s treatment can be made to penetrate right through the densest wood without injury to the wood fibre or causing deterioration in any way.
I shall presently show how unreliable that statement is. I hold in my hand another statement that somebody has some inch flooring boards which have been powellised, and which are all right. If the process can be applied successfully at all, obviously it can be applied to small timber. I come now to statements made by Mr. Saunders, who is in the employ of the Commonwealth. He has tendered the only evidence which I regard as of any practical value in regard to this process. In a memorandum! to the EngineerinChief for Railways he says -
In further reference to the white pine powellised sleepers which were tried in New Zealand, I understand several thousands of these have decayed, and the Railway Department have cancelled the existing contract with the New Zealand Powellising Company for the supply of sleepers.
That communication is dated 30th April of the present year.
– That is a serious statement.
– That is another letter which was not produced by the Minister of Home Affairs when this matter was formerly under discussion. The statement has been made by this company that they are in a position to make any timber valuable by means of the powellising process. They say they can even make poplar, which is the least valuable of all timbers, valuable. Mr. Saunders says -
I understand that the karri sleepers have been tested in the ground for five or six years under similar conditions to those existing on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway.
Somebody has evidently misled him. They were not laid down under similar conditions. As a matter of fact, they were tested 400 miles distant from Kalgoorlie. Mr. Saunders continues -
These sleepers, when powellised, are saturated with the solution, which should be driven off in the drying room, being kept in the rooms about seven days under a temperature of 120 degrees -
That is part of the contract into which the Government are entering - otherwise the sleepers will shrink when placed in the ground, and are likely to loosen the dogs.
I wish now to quote another letter from Mr. Saunders, which the Minister of Home Affairs did not read to the House when this subject was previously under review. To my mind, it is the most important communication in the whole budget, because it damns the project with faint praise. It is dated 10th June, 1912, and reads -
I have the honour to report that my experience with powellised wood dates back about four year3, when I was engaged as engineer and manager to proceed to New Zealand to erect the works in that country for the New Zealand Powell Wood Process Limited. The process is called powellising after Mr. Powell, an Englishman in London, who protected the process by letters patent all the world over. Shortly put, the process consists in boiling the timber in a saccharine solution, and so expelling the air and sap contained in the wood thereby creating a vacuum in the timber. When the boiling is discontinued, timber which is 1 inch thick is allowed to remain in the solution for five hours, during which period the saccharine solution thoroughly saturates the wood, carrying with it the arsenic, which prevents white ants from attacking the wood so treated. It has been fully demonstrated in several parts of the world that timber so treated is immune from the ravages of white ants. It has been claimed, however, by the patentee that the process will preserve all wood from being attacked by dry-rot. This statement has not been borne out in New Zealand, where thousands of white pine sleepers have shown very marked evidences of decomposition after being two years in the ground, and the Railway Department have cancelled their contract with the Powell Company for all orders they had placed with the company.
White pine in the ground never had a worse name than has karri. The latter totally disappears, and it has partly disappeared in twelve months. -
White pine is a poor wood at best, and it had never been experimented on by the company to ascertain whether it would resist the attack of dry-rot after being treated, it being generally accepted that the process could preserve all wood. Powellised karri has been tested in the dry-rot ovens in Scotland, and Professor McKenzie has reported that it will resist the attack of dryrot, a fact which is brought out by actual experience in Western Australia, where it is reported to be standing very well. A great difference exists in the nature of white pine timber and karri. White pine untreated is little used, but some of the karri that was used in constructing railway trucks for the Victorian Railways some twenty-five years ago is still in use.
We know that it is a good timber for railway trucks-
It is known that karri, untreated, is of little use for sleepers, but it would appear that the wood possesses some characteristics that make it amenable to treatment by an artificial presernative ; but for what length of time the powellised karri will last in the ground it is impossible to say.
That is the best that this gentleman can say. The whole thing is in the experimental stage, and he does not pin himself to any definite statement -
All powellised sleepers after treatment should be seasoned ; in no case should they be bored and adzed before being treated, otherwise a very irregular road would eventuate.
Have we time to season it? I may tell honorable members that karri cannot be properly seasoned under four years-
The very emphatic claims put forward by the Powell Process Company as to the merits of seasoned powellised wood have hardly been borne out by experience. In a commercial sense neither the New Zealand nor the Sydney company has been an unqualified success. The initial cost of the works is very heavy. A plant costing £18,000 would turn out about 250,000 superficial feet per week in seasoned timber up to 1 1/2-in. thick, and it is apparent that the thicker the timber the longer it would take to season. The arsenic badly attacks the galvanized iron, the steel treatment trucks, and the other ironwork which comes in contact with the arsenical solution or steam emanating therefrom.
That is a nice proposition for us to attack ! This is from the only man who has had practical experience of this treatment, and yet we are told by the director of the company that the process does not depreciate the plant. On the one hand you have a man who has a proposition for sale, and, on the other hand, a man with experience of the actual working of the process. Mr. Saunders goes on to say -
The Victorian Railways, in 1908, investigated the claims advanced by the Sydney Powell Process Limited, and forwarded some timber from Melbourne to be treated and seasoned by the company in Sydney.
In this case the timber was powellised by the company in Sydney-
Mr. Woodroffe states that when the timber was returned to the Newport Workshops it was noticed that the surfaces of some of the hardwoods had sunk, and when sawn lengthwise the timber was found to be badly checked, in small openings. The cedar seemed quite satisfactory.
Cedar will stand anything - it is so good.
– Will it stand white ants?
A committee was set up in 1910 by the Victorian Railways Commissioners to report on the matter of seasoning and powellising wood, and they reported at the time they could not recommend its adoption. In justice to the Powell process, it might be advisable to obtain a copy of this report, as I understand it is not proposed to repudiate the process altogether; and, further, an explanation is given as to the cause of the timber checking.
They were not satisfied with the experiment in Sydney, and appointed a Committee of Inquiry. Some one has told this gentleman that the process is not to be repudiated altogether ; but who has led him to believe that ?
I have seasoned powellised birch up to r£ inch thick for flooring boards quite successfully, but I was not successful with sizes over 1 1/2-in. thick.
We have to deal with timber 5 inches thick -
The greater portion of the timber seasoned by the Powell process has been successful, though in some of the inferior woods the timber shrinks very much after being through the treatment; but the cost of artificial seasoning is naturally very high.
Mr. Saunders gives the process faint praise, and then warns us that the cost of artificial seasoning is naturally very high. Had I been the Minister of Home Affairs, and had in the Department an officer of this experience, holding the opinions he does, I should not have rushed on with this process, but would have appointed a Committee to make inquiries quite independently of the opinions expressed in the correspondence. We know that “ reports” can be obtained on almost any subject. Many people have suggested systems for obtaining gold from the sea water, and we know that gold can be so obtained in small quantities, though, as in many other cases, the cost is prohibitive. It is quite likely that thin or small wood can be so impregnated with’ arsenic in an experimental way as to make it thoroughly resistant to insects; but we have to deal with ^1,000,000 worth of material, and we ought to make certain that we are on the right track.. We have a statement as to the cost of powellising timber up to i£ inches thick. But if thicker timber is powellised, the process must naturally take longer. Timber ii inches thick is only three-tenths of the thickness that we have to deal with.. We have to deal with 5-inch timber. It is easily seen that at the rate of ^18,000 for a plant for ri-inch timber, it will cost £6,000 for each 1/2 inch in thickness. That is to say, for 5-inch timber the plant would cost ^60,000. I am informed on good authority that it is quite possible that the process would take three_times as long for the thicker timber. That is to say, it would take three times as long to penetrate the inner 2 inches of a 5-inch block of wood, as compared with making the preparation penetrate from each side of an inch and a half piece. As I have said, ^18,000 is the lowest estimated cost of a plant. Mr. Gorton, the director, puts down the figure at ,£20,000, but I am taking the estimate of Mr. Saunders, who has had the practical experience of erecting a plant. A plant costing ^18,000 will treat 250,000 feet super per week. But I wish to show that 250,000 feet a week will be of no use to us. We have been informed that it is hoped to plate-lay two miles per day. I do not think that that can be done. If one mile per day can be plate-laid it will be splendid work. To do that nearly twice 250,000 feet super per week will be required. Any honorable member can figure out the number for himself. On the basis of 2,000 sleepers per day, 12,000 per week will be required, and that will amount to 450,000 feet super of timber instead of 250,000. As a plant for powellising 250,000 feet super, per week will cost £60,000, it is easily seen that a plant that will fulfil our requirements will cost double that amount; and we shall require such a plant at each end of the line. That is to say, we shall require a plant costing £120,000 at each end.
– Nearly a quarter of a million.
– That is so. These are not estimates, but are taken from the company’s own figures. Moreover, the size of the plant will have to be increased to get the output we require. On the company’s own figures, the expenditure on plant and royalty will amount to not less than £300,000. But after that expenditure is incurred we have to provide the solution, the labour, and the drying sheds to treat all this timber for seven days. In other words, we have to treat 1,200 tons of timber at each end each seven days. Has any one any idea of the real magnitude of this proposition ? It means that we have to deal each week at each end of the line with 1,200 tons of timber, all of which, has to be dried in a temperature of 120 degrees in shelter sheds. It is little wonder that Mr. Saunders, our engineer, pointed out that artificial treatment was an expensive game. He knows. He has tried it.
– I thought that the honorable member said that the process cost 4d. per sleeper.
– No; the royalty is 4d. per sleeper. After we have paid that, we have to provide labour, solution, and fuel. I think it would stagger us if we knew the quantity of fuel that would be required to powellise 200,000 tons of timber in sheds that have to be specially built. It reminds me of what a friend of mine once said, that there were people in the world who if they had been brought up as farmers would have planted their wheat with a gimlet. It seems to me that whoever determined upon this policy has not realized the magnitude of the proposition. A stroke of the pen will not do for this sort of thing. I claim that the cost will be at least is. per sleeper ; but a friend of mine, of great scientific knowledge, assures me that my estimate is at least is. under the mark, and that it will cost nearer 2s. per sleeper for handling, drying, and treating. There is another element that has not been mentioned. Directly sleepers were powellised in Western Australia each man handling them- had to receive extra pay. It is a well-know fact that arsenic “ plays up “ with men. They get sores under their arms and between their fingers. I have the assurance of one of the chief metallurgists in Australia that it is the same with men who are working in arsenic factories. It was found necessary to pay the men working in Bunbury at the treatment plant extra wages. But is even extra pay a proper compensation for handling such stuff? One of the boats that went to Port Hedland laden with powellised sleepers had to bring her load back, because the men would not unload the timber. The diffi culty was got over eventually by inducing some men to do this objectionable work. But it is certain that the handling of timber that has been treated with arsenic is injurious to the workmen. We are assured by those interested that the solution is harmless, but if that be so why is it that wall paper treated with arsenic is forbidden by Act of Parliament? Surely it must be a different kind of arsenic that is used for powellising if it has no effect upon the men who handle the timber.
– Does the honorable member mean to suggest that we could use jarrah in that country without powellising it?
– I have brought evidence to prove that jarrah has been in use from eighteen to forty years.
– In that kind of country?
– I make this statement in conformity with evidence. I wish to read the following paragraph from a newspaper published in Western Australia -
The very first result of the powellising of sleepers has been that the labour rate in Bunbury has increased considerably. The effect of this proposal to powellise sleepers on the railway would be that every man who touched the sleepers would be entitled by precedent to a substantial increase in wages. Had they conferred with the timber people, they might possibly have learnt a few more things to their advantage.
I have here also a statement from the manager of the powellising company in Sydney, who says -
In the first place, our business is to preserve wood. We do not care what wood it may be. We can treat it so that it will Be impervious to dry rot, fungi, or white ants.
This man has the audacity to make that statement when he has in his office conclusive evidence that the process will not successfully treat all kinds of wood. He must have an account of the New Zealand experience in his office. The interview continues -
Have you no doubt about powellised karri ? - None whatever. I know that neither white ants nor dry-rot will affect them. Certain questions have been asked in the Federal Parliament, but they were only instigated by interested firms who want to crush karri out of the consideration.
– That is untrue, so far as I am concerned.
– I am sure that the honorable member for Parkes is the last man in the world to be charged with having an interest in jarrah, nor have I any interest in any mill or other concern connected with jarrah. I had a mill on the Bridgetown line, but I shut it down as soon as I obtained the timber required for the” contract ; that is fifteen years ago or more. Mr. Julius, a very clever engineer, who is now running the powellising process, gave a lecture in which he dealt with kyanising, creosoting, Boucherie. and burnettising, the latter being probably the oldest process of all, having been known for hundreds of years. It provides for the use of chloride of zinc, which is a preservative, but probably, like many other systems, burnettising is too costly for practical use. The lecturer then dealt at some length with the powellising process of treating timber. According to him, the essential part of this process consists in boiling wood in a saccharine solution, after which it is artificially dried. No mechanical force is used, nor is the timber subjected to the action of steam at a higher temperature than a few degrees above normal boiling point of water at atmospheric pressure. He quoted Professor Boulger as saying in regard to the treatment -
It may claim to have raised soft woods to the level of hard woods.
If that be so, why is it not used in Canada and America, where they have no hard woods ?
When powellised, spruce, and even poplar, may be used for paving. Thus, poplar may, when treated in this way, become what it has never hitherto been, a timber.
Many honorable members may be interested in a description of the disease known as dry-rot. I have taken it from the best authorities. It is a fungoid disease of timber which occasions the destruction of the fibres, and reduces it eventually to dry dust. The fungi will float in the air, and alight on adjacent timber. The spores of the fungus will find a way through brickwork, concrete, and similar material in order to reach woodwork which may be on the other side. No system can be very good, that does not drive out the sap. In France, as long ago as 1669, a royal decree prohibited the felling of timber except between 1st October and 15th April; and Napoleon I., in an order issued to the Commissioners of Forests, directed that the felling of naval timber should take place only between 1st November and 15th March, and during the decrease of the moon, because of the rapid decay occasioned by the fermentation of sap when timber is cut at other seasons. The Minister, like a fish with a bait, has jumped at one of a number of processes which have been experimented with for centuries, and this process has been found by the New Zealand Government, which is the only one that has adopted it, to be unsatisfactory. The primary cause of decay is the presence of sap. There ar% numerous processes for preserving timber - Kyan’s. patented 1832, the Boucherie, a French system, Blythe’s, and Burnett’s. Steaming or boiling is sometimes resorted to as an artificial means of seasoning, but the Government of Victoria have proved that timber deteriorates when boiled. The better way is to place the timber in an iron chamber in which a partial vacuum is created by exhausting the air. The preservative is useless unless it is forced in at a pressure of 100 to 160 pounds to the square inch. In my opinion, such a process could not be applied to any but valuable timber used in small quantities. It could not be used for so large a quantity as 200,000 tons. We have been told that the powellising process came from the United States, but it appears not to have succeeded there.
– I thought that it came from New Zealand.
– -The Minister told us that it was being used in America some years ago. I have quoted from the report of Mr. J. B. Johnson on tests of timber made for the Forestry Department of the Board of Agriculture of the United States, which mentions many systems. In rebuttal of the contention that powellised wood will not be attacked by insects, let me read the following telegram received from the secretary to the Fremantle Harbor Trust in reply to a request for information made by me to the chairman of the Trust, who is the Engineer-in-Chief of Western Australia -
In reply your wire re powellised piles and timber, some forty or fifty powellised piles have been driven in Victoria quay reconstruction. They have- been down about a year, but condition yet unknown. Powellised sleepers have been used here as test pieces, which, after fourteen months’ submersion, showed teredo just beginning to attack wood, and after two and a half years, wood was found to be badly bored by teredo.
– What is the date of the telegram?
– 12th September last. I think that I have shown very conclusively that this process needs further consideration before it is adopted. I have here a statement which the Minister made to the Melbourne Herald, and in which he said - he was surprised to find honorable members so faint-hearted. The durability of the sleepers had been proved.
I have also aletter from one of the oldest residents in Western Australia, and a man of note, too, in which he says -
There has been a lot of experiments regarding a white-ant destroyer, both in karri and jarrah, but I have not seen one remedy yet, nor do I think one will ever be found. The latest is called powellising, but I am of opinion, and it is from my actual experience that I speak, you can steam, boil, or soak in boiling liquid any poison known into karritimber to be laid underground, and in two years it will begin to rot - the effect of the poison will then be gone. Both dry-rot and white antwill attack the sleepers, more so in stiff, clayey land than sandy soil.
That is the statement I made, too -
And in five years the whole line will require relaying.
The only timbers that will stand both dry-rot and white ant of which any quantity can be obtained in the southern portion of Western Australia are white gum, jarrah, sandalwood, and raspberry jam. The two last-named are very scarce, and small in butt, and the quantity could not be got at any price. … I think I am about the oldest country settler in Western Australia at the present time, and consider it my duty to publish my experience of karri timber for underground works, especially railways passing through all kinds of soil, and which may prevent a recurrence of the disaster so fatal to the Great Southern.
We all knowthat the whole of the sleepers on the Great Southern Railway from Albany to Wagin had to be pulled up at the end of two or three years and replaced with jarrah sleepers. I have here another statement -
I do not think the present time and finances opportune for the Government to enter into such a series of drastic experiments as they are contemplating. Powellising may be very well in its place, but until it has proved the life of a karri sleeper against jarrah, I maintain that jarrah does, and always will, hold its own in the hardwood timbers of the world, and this any one acquainted with the jarrah timber industry can prove. I speak from nearly twentyfive years’ experience of the timber trade in Australia…..
Here is another statement -
If the timber is dry before being put into the powellising vat, it will Be a success as far as keeping white ants away -
– Who supplied it ?
-It is a letter which appeared in a. newspaper from a timber man.
– By whom is it signed ?
– This is signed by Mr. Alexander Anderson, a well-known timber man, who writes as follows: -
If the timber is dry before being put into the powellising vat it will be a success as far as keeping white ants away, as plenty of practical men in this State can testify ; but to expect to make a job of green timber is where the mistake is made, for it does not take an expert to understand that you cannot boil the moisture out of timber and put another in at the same time.
I hold that any process would be a mistake unless you first treated the timber and then put something back. The reason why I am making this quotation is because Mr. Alexander Anderson is referring ‘to a system which has existed for getting sleepers ever since I have been in the State-
Why not put a price on and take delivery at any station in the State, saying that they will take white gum as well, as the proper white gum is just as good as jarrah. Take all the sleepers up to where the line is going to start, also the powellising plant, prepare the sleepers, and they will find that about90 per cent. of handling is finished with, before being put through the process.
Another timber man - and a good timber man, too - writes in these terms -
I was in the karri country for some years, as far back as 1886, and the chief timber we were supplying was karri for about 280 miles of railway. The line was completed in three years, and the sleepers that were first put in were rotten then, and had to be replaced.
At the end of three years the first sleepers were found to be rotten - that is, before the line was handed over.
– They had to start to rebuild the line?
– As soon as the Great Southern Railway was finished they had to relay the sleepers. The writer says -
Powellising may do some good to the karri, if carried out properly, not in the manner it was carried out at Bunbury for the Port Hedland Railway.
That is exactly what I say. When the powellising has to be carried out on a large scale, and the engineers are being edged on from the central office to hurry on with the work, what sort of chance will the process get ? The sleepers will be bundled through the vats, and the process will never enter the timber. Mr. Boyes, of Lion Mill, says -
If those sleepers were used, the taxpayers would suffer in years to come. Those who understood karri were all of one opinion - it was all right off the ground, but no good on the ground. Even if it were powellised he did not believe it would last more than a few years.
I have here leading articles which appeared in Western Australian newspapers, and the best that they can say is that the report on the sleepers that were put in near the Bunbury bridge -
They look upon it as an experiment again.
But is the value of the trial such as to justify the construction by the Government of some five or six State saw-mills, and the erection of powellising plants?
Further on, the writer says -
There is every reason why powellised karri as a sleeper should be experimented with on a scale of limited magnitude; and this- experiment could properly be made with the supply from one mill.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I ask for an extension of five minutes,
– Order !
– Can I not ask for leave to speak five minutes longer?
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to continue? .
– For five minutes.
– Thank you. I want only time to read extracts from another leading article.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat? Some honorable member interjected “ for five minutes.” All that I can do is to ask if it is the pleasure of the House that the honorable member may continue his speech. The standing order distinctly says that the time allowed to an honorable member for speaking shall be one hour and thirty-five minutes. The honorable member has occupied that time, and he now asks for leave to continue. Is it the pleasure of the House that he have leave to continue his speech? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I wanted an opportunity to quote this article from the Western Australian -
It is claimed for the powellising process that it renders karri immune against “ dry rot “ and the attacks of white ants. From the reports of specialists who have subjected the treated wood to the severest of tests, except the test of extended time -
That is the test which is all important to Australia - the test of extended time, the claimants have much in their favour; so much, indeed, that had the Federal Government limited its demand for powellised karri sleepers to about 210,000, or enough to cover 100 miles of track, it would have merited every commendation for the trial it was giving to karri.
That is the best that they can say about the process. I think that I have proved conclusively that more should be known of this system before it is used any further. I do not propose to deal with other letters on the matter. I asked for an extension of only five minutes and I am satisfied. I think that I have put the case to the House in a manner that should appeal to honorable members on both sides. I have done my best. I know that honorable members here have information which perhaps I had not a chance to get. I suggest that great care should be taken in using karri for sleepers on this railwaySuppose that the line should be required for defence purposes, what a calamity it would be if at the very time that ‘ we wanted to bundle a lot of troops or war material across the continent the road were found to be in the same state as was the Great Southern railway after the lapse of a few years ! I cannot see why jarrah, which can be obtained in ten times - aye, one hundred times the quantity that karri can be obtained in-
– And more cheaply, too.
– Yes ; I fail to see why karri should be forced upon us by any one. I cannot understand it. Where is the motive? What is going on? I am certain that if we went at the proposition in a business-like manner we should have steered clear of all these pitfalls, and should have gone no further than the Western Australian newspaper says. If the Government had made the experiment as indicated by that journal, we should all have been with them in trying to prove something of value in this big country, but it was altogether wrong for them to go into the business wholesale and risk so much money. Look at the matter in this way : Seven shillings each for sleepers, means 7s. 6d. up there; add another 2s. to run them on our own line, 250 miles, and they will cost us about 10s. when we get them on site. By the time they are in the road they will have cost 10s. or ns. each. That will easily run into about £750,000 for 1,500,000 sleepers, but when we add the price of powellising, we can see that it is going to cost us considerable over £1 000,000 for these sleepers. Even if we cut the cost which I have estimated on the Minister’s own figures in half, over £1,000,000 for the quantity of sleepers required must be expended, and if we have to replace them a few at a time, it will cost £1,500,000 next time. Besides, how do we know what it will cost for accidents and delay and trouble ? What right have we to make this experiment? It is monstrous to think that, on the flimsy statements made in these documents, any one could be got to listen to the suggestion, especially in view of the fact that we have an engineer in charge of the line at the Port Augusta end, who has been in charge of the very system which has induced the Minister to adopt karri, and he condemns it right out. I hope that my remarks have not been taken in any way to condemn any officer, but I do say that the Government, if they do not listen to the evidence that is forthcoming, are deserving of censure.
– Would you say plainly what you mean when you ask “ What is the motive behind it all “?
– Is the motive in the interests of the powellising company^ I have proved that it is not in the interests of the Commonwealth.
– Make it perfectly plain, if you will.
– I have made it as plain as I can, I say it has not been proved, beyond an experiment, that this system is of any use. We know that karri, without some system of preservation, is not suitable for this purpose. That has been proved, and is acknowledged. The only trial that it has had was in a line 280 miles long, and every sleeper had to come out. It cost £75,000 to replace them in that length of line.
– The honorable member asked just now, “ What is the motive behind it all?”
– I ask : Why has the system been forced upon the country? It may be that the Prime Minister is being made a tool of by some one.
– By whom?
– I do not know. I want to know. That is what I am here for. I want to learn why the country is being served in this way. I say, and mean, that the decision of the Government to use karri sleepers, treated or untreated, in preference to other more suitable timbers, in the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, is deserving of censure.
– I have listened for the last hour and a half to the honorable member for Fremantle, and really it was pathetic to hear an honorable member, who owes his all to the great State of Western Australia, slandering ons of her great primary industries.
Honorable members interjecting -
– Order ! We have had silence during nearly the whole of the speech of the honorable member for Fremantle, and I appeal to honorable members to continue it..
– While sitting here and listening, I was dreaming a little of Canada, and I thought to myself that such a display would never be seen or heard in a Canadian Parliament. The Canadian or United States’ citizen never slanders his own country, or its industries.:
– Neither did I. I am protecting my country.
– It is the protection of the wolf to the lamb.
– That is no argument.
– Order ! I again appeal to the honorable member for Swan to discontinue interjecting.
– 1 beg your pardon, sir, I only interjected once.
– There is a motive behind this motion, and a deepseated one too. It is !the last wail of dying monopoly’s defence in this House.
– Do not talk rubbish ; talk some sense if you can.
– These are great men. It is the last- stand of monopoly’s defenders in this House.
– Order ! Will the honorable member confine himself to the motion.
– I am coming to it. I hold that the motion is an attack in defence of monopoly, which is the Jarrah Company of Western Australia, who have all, or a great portion, of the jarrah monopolized. My attitude is against monopoly, and in defence of the interests of Western Australia.
– The honorable member must not discuss the question of monopolies.
– The honorable member for Fremantle said that jarrah could be put in the ground, and that white ants would not attack it. If I can prove that this statement is without foundation, then his whole argument falls to the ground. He also said that karri was poor, bad, useless timber. I have brought here samples of both karri and jarrah that I want to exhibit. But first I wish to quote what is said about karri in a report issued by Millars’ Karri and Jarrah Forests Limited, 72 Bishopsgate-street, London.
– Is that an official report of the company ?
– Yes, it is the company’s own report.
– Is it a business advertisement ?
– It is one of their own business advertisements.
– They wanted to sell karri.
– Here is what they say -
Karri for Wood Paving : The Best Material for Street Paving. - For years past the principal problem by which vestries and municipal engineers have been confronted is - What is the safest, most sanitary, least noisy, most durable and economical - in fact, the best material for street paving ? One of the objects of this pamphlet is to show that material to be karri, and that this famous timber is not only the best for street paving, but that it leaves its competitors -stone, asphalt, and pine - far behind. In the matter of durability, it is, of course, not equal to granite, but it is more lasting than any other material in use for street paving; it is certainly more sanitary, and it is, in the long run, vastly cheaper. It is already extensively recognised that wood must supersede all other materials for paving the principal streets of large towns, and the one thing necessary has been to discover the best wood. All tests so far made give the supremacy to karri.
– What is the date of that?
– I do not see the date on it, but I shall give the date later.
– It was long before the Millars’ Company were interested in jarrah.
– What I am quoting from is not a document prepared by the Western Australian Labour Government, but a publication by the Millars’ Karri and Jarrah Company.*
– Millar formed a company down near Albany at one time, but it was not the same as the present Millars’ Company.
– Why does not the honorable gentleman permit the Minister to proceed?
– Order ! I again appeal to the honorable member for Swan to cease his interruptions. He will have ample opportunity to discuss the motion. He will have an hour and thirty-five minutes in which to do so if he pleases.
– I was trying to put the Minister right.
– At page 5 of this report the Millars’ Company say -
In the matter of durability, Mr. Petsche, late city engineer of Paris, in his book, already quoted, placed karri third on the list of the hardwoods of theworld, the iron wood of Borneo coming first andliem next, teak being fourth on the list, and jarrah fifth.
– For what purpose ?
– For all kinds of work for which hardwood is necessary -
But for the purposes of street paving karri has now taken the first place in Paris, and the demand for it is steadily on the increase, the municipality having submitted it to tests as exhaustive as they have proved satisfactory.
That is the opinion of the chief engineer of the city of Paris.
– That refers to the use of karri on a concrete foundation.
– On page 6 of this official report I find the following-
These observations of Mr. Petsche are confirmed by others. Mr. W. Nisbet Blair, A.M.I.C.E., Engineer to the St. Pancras Vestry, is strongly in favour of the use of karri and jarrah in road paving. Mr. Blair, in February, 1896, read a paper on wood paving before the Association of Municipal and County Engineers, and referred therein to the observations of Mr. Mason, of St. Martin’s Vestry, that in the Strand, opposite the West Strand Post Office, yellow deal had worn down 4½ inches in twelve months. This was replaced by jarrah, which wore 2½ inches in three years, or¾ inch per annum. Next came a trial of karri, of which the wear only amounted to1-5th inch per annum.
In view of that statement it is extraordinary to find people coming here and saying that karri is useless because it happens to be owned by the State of Western Australia.
– No one said so at all.
– The evidence the Minister is quoting is perfectly useless.
– At page 8 of this report I find this reference to a Melbourne test -
In Melbourne, where a certain amount of Inter-Colonial rivalry had to be faced, karri has been utilized for street paving with the most satisfactory results. In Flinders-lane, one of the principal thoroughfares of Melbourne, karri blocks were put down, and after five years were taken up for the purpose of examination. They were found to have suffered no deterioration or change; in fact, the blocks were found to be practically as sound as when they were laid down.
– Who is the author of the report from which the honorable gentleman is quoting?
– This report is published by the Millars’ Company themselves. I quote also the following statement from page11 of the pamphlet -
Karri for Railway Purposes : Karri for Sleepers. - We now come to another important use for karri, that is, in connexion with railways, as regards both their construction and equipment. Owing to its extraordinary toughness, there is no better timber for sleepers, as, in the first place, this quality renders it unnecessary to cut them to the dimensions found necessary in the case of softwood. Karri is also greatly the superior of pine in the matter of weight, a fact which will be fully appreciated by railway engineers. The crushing strain is proportionately greater, and in proof of this fact, official tests will be recorded further on in these pages. Owing to these reasons, the chairs for railways do not require such an extensively broad base as is necessary in using softwood. Karri sleepers do not need to be creosoted; in fact, they can be used in all climates without preparation of any kind.
– Does the Minister agree with that?
– No, I do not, because we know that it is not so. I have here specimens of karri treated and untreated. I produce for the inspection of honorable members two specimens of karri timber taken out of the ground ; one is a specimen of powellised, as treated by the Western Australian Government, and the other was untreated. It will be seen that the powellised specimen is as sound as when it was put down, whilst the untreated specimen is eaten through by white ants.
– That is the answer to the Millars Company’s report.
– Here is a specimen of untreated jarrah, and I ask honorable members to have a look through it.
– Where was it taken from?
– From Western Australia, the honorable gentleman’s own State.
– What part of Western Australia ?
– The note attached to this specimen reads - “ Jarrah sleepers, laid 14/9/08 Untreated.”
– Is the honorable gentleman not slandering the industry?
– No, I am not slandering the industry. Comparisons are odious, but they bring out colours, and
I am trying now to meet the charges of the honorable member for Fremantle. I have here another specimen, marked “ P.W. File, 5067,” that was in 1908. Honorable members will see that these specimens after a test of six years, show that the untreated jarrah has been eaten right through and the powellised jarrah has remained sound. They show also that there appears to be no difference in the condition of the powellised jarrah and karri specimens. Talk might go on for centuries, but these specimens are evidence from their own State, which honorable members from Western Australia cannot overlook. Here is yet another exhibit. It is a jarrah survey peg used in Western Australia, and as honorable members will see it has been largely eaten away by white ants. I ask honorable members to inspect it for themselves. I hold emphatically that the statement made by the honorable member for Fremantle that jarrah is immune from white ants falls to the ground.
– He did not say that it was immune from white ants.
– He said that it would last for eighteen years anywhere.
– I have here a report presented to the Indian Government by a Committee which met at Delhi on 16th January, 1911, and consisted of Mr. G. Deuchars, Senior Government Inspector of Railways (President); Colonel E. W. Walton, R.E., Deputy EngineerinChief, North-Western Railways; Mr. J. Adam, Deputy Engineer-in-Chief, O. and R. Railway; and Mr. A. L. Davis, local director of Millars’ Karri and. Jarrah Company in Bombay. Itis set forth in the report that Mr. E. Verriéres acted as secretary during the whole of the tour, and that after the inspection of the NorthWestern railway he took Colonel Walton’s place as the delegate of that railway company in addition to discharging the duties of his office as secretary. The following are the general conclusions of this Committee on which, as I have said, Millars’ Karri and Jarrah ‘ Company was represented -
– Was karri included in those tests?
– No ; but the honorable member for Fremantle said that jarrah was immune from attack by white ants. In a pamphlet issued by Millars’ Karri and Jarrah Company, we have the statement -
Orders for karri for jetty piles are now being received from many parts’ of the world, and experience goes to show that it meets all the requirements of a good submarine timber. A pile taken from the jetty at Albany, where the water positively swarms with the teredo, after’ being immersed for a period of five years, was found to be virtually as sound as on the day it was driven into the ocean bed -
Will the honorable member for Fremantle deny that statement? - as only a small portion of the exterior of the pile had been pierced by the worm in a few places. These piles can be cut up to 90 feet in length, and, in fact, to the largest dimensions that a ship can carry. In the waters of temperate latitudes, karri piles would last a century or more. They will stand driving without a ring in the hardest bottom to a greater extent than any other timber.
I shall not take up the time of the House by quoting further the encomiums passed on karri by Millars’ Karri and Jarrah Company. Western Australia has expended a good deal of money in testing these timbers, and surely honorable members will not say that tests covering six solid years are of no value. I invite honorable members to look at the sample of karri to which I have previously referred, and which looks as if it would remain0 sound for another forty or fifty years, or perhaps for another century.
– Where was it obtained? :Mr. Fisher. - The honorable member can examine it for himself.
– In Western Australia; the details appear on the sample. The Government of Western Australia have made experiments and have found that the powellising process is a simple one. Surely every one knows that sugar is useful as a preservative, and that arsenic will not only destroy life but that at the same time it has an efficacious effect as a preservative. Powellised timbers have been tested. When honorable members say that we are not to use anything that has not been proved by tests extending over very many years, then they must hold that we should not think of using internal combustion engines or. anything else in connexion with this railway unless an experience extending over, perhaps, centuries has proved it to be a success. If that course is to be adopted, then all progress must be at an end, an j we shall not be able to use karri sleepers in the construction of our railways until their effectiveness for the purpose has been proved by tests extending over, say, 100 years.
– Does not the honorable member think that the tests should be made on a small scale?
– If the timber is a success, does it matter whether it is used on a large or a small scale?
– It would if it were proved to be a failure.
– But it has proved a success wherever it has been tried. In the Western Australian Hansard, there appears a report showing that on nth July last Mr. McDowall, in the Legislative Assembly, asked the Premier -
The, Premier of Western Australia has at his back the biggest majority that any Premier of that State has had-
– What? Of white ants?
– The majority of the people of Western Australia havconfidence in him, and, with the exception of the right honorable member for Swan, no Premier of that State has ever had a bigger majority than he has. In answer to this question, he replied -
On the joint recommendation of the EngineerinChief and the Chief Engineer of Existing Lines. I would like to read a statement as well, not only for the information of members, but for the information of the public, dealing with this question. It is as follows : -
During 1906 a series of exhaustive tests of the hardwoods of Western Australia were carried out at the Midland Junction railway workshops -
Will the honorable member for Fremantle deny that ? Further, the tests were carried out under a Liberal Government, and not under a Labour Government.
During 1906 a series of exhaustive tests of the hardwoods of Western Australia were carried out at the Midland Junction railway workshops, and in reporting upon karri timber for use of sleepers, the investigating officer, Mr. G. A. Julius, B.Sc, M.E., stated, inter alia - “ Two karri sleepers had been in service m a damp position for nineteen years, showed many signs of dry-rot, yet still retained their hold upon the dog spikes to a degree quite sufficient to render them safe ‘in the road. Karri, whilst in every other respect almost unequalled as a sleeper timber, is prone to develop dry-rot if used in damp ground. In regard to the development of dry-rot, it” is established that the presence of the sap is the chief source of trouble . . . and such a process is now being experimented upon as promises not only to render the timber practically immune to dry-rot, but also to attacks from white ants, and should this process prove successful . . . there is no doubt that karri will prove one of the most valuable sleeper timbers in the world.” (Vide Western Australian Timber Tests, 1906, page 23.) The process referred to is that known as ‘ powellising.’ “
– In what year was that?
- Mr. Scaddan was speaking of what happened in 1906.
During October, 1906, a number of karri sleepers were powellised at Midland Junction workshops,, and placed in the line with untreated ones in places favorable to the development of dry-rot, and where dry-rot already existed. During November, 1909, some of the sleepers were examined, and dry-rot was found to exist in some of the untreated ones. One powellised and one unpowellised sleeper were removed from the line and examined by the Departmental analytical chemist, who reported upon them in March, 1910, as follows : - “ I find that the untreated karri is affected by dry-rot.”
We do not deny that. We admit it. “ These timber diseases seemed to have travelled in a certain direction, as one side and the end are the parts most affected. I found in several places along the side that the apparently affected area extends to a depth of five-eighths of an inch. At these places the fibres in the karri had almost disappeared, having given place to a granular and friable mass, which could be readily removed with the finger nail. It is impossible to say whether the dry-rot has penetrated deeper. … I have examined the powellised karri sleeper and ‘ find it free from the above disease. In no part of the sleeper can any of the fungi be found, and the fibre is sound all over the portion exposed. The condition of the sleeper is much more sound than the untreated sleeper.” On 23rd November, 1910, two sleepers (one powellised and one unpowellised) were taken out of the road. Superficially they both appeared thoroughly free from dry-rot; they were sawn in halves; were found to be sound ; and one half section of each was subjected to analytical examination, the analyst reporting in May, 191 r, as follows: - “I have to report having made an examination of the two half sections of sleepers received from the Chief Engineer of Existing Lines, marked ‘ A ‘ and ‘B’ respectively. ‘A’ powellised 1st November, 1906 - Upon careful examination of this sleeper, and inspection under the microscope of a section, I failed to discover any evidences of dry-rot. The sleeper appeared to be in a fairly sound condition, and, if anything, a little better than ‘B.’ ‘B’ unpowellised.- I failed to discover any evidences of dry-rot in this half sleeper. The fibre appears as sound as that in< sleeper marked ‘ A,’ and fairly well preserved. Apart from a crack through the section taken, the timber was as sound as that in ‘A.’ In every way, the sleeper marked ‘ B ‘ is superior to the unpowellised sleeper inspected in March, 1910.” Karri timber is a most suitable timber for use as railway sleepers, as it holds the dog spikes firmly, no reboring being necessary, and the detrimental influences of dry-rot and white ants being removed by the powellising treatment, karri may be considered as the best ‘ sleeper ‘ timber far excellence. Culvert timbers. - Ir* May, 1908, a culvert on the Jarrahwood sectionwas renewed with powellised karri timber.
Yet the honorable member for Fremantle said that there has never been a karri sleeper put down in a railway in Australia -
This culvert has been subsequently specially examined’ at intervals, and the timbers found to be in good condition. P.W.D. experiment. - During August, 1908, the Public Works Department had some pieces of powellised and unpowellised karri timber placed underground at Broome, where white ants are particularly voracious. The timbers were unearthed on nth> February, 1909, the treated piece being untouched, whilst the untreated piece was almost completely eaten away. Karri is also largely used for car and wagon construction purposes. Its average life when used in wagon undernames as head stocks and bogie bolsters, &c, isnot less than eighteen years, nor less than twentyfive years in the other parts of the framing, and. the first cost in Western Australia is stated to beat least 10 per cent, less than for the steel frame,, besides which (while having equal carrying capacity) the timber frames possess greater flexibility than the steel frames, and consequently are less easily derailed, and when damaged are more easily and quickly repaired. It was found that the flooring planks in the trucks bulged up during the winter, necessitating the removal of a. plank and its replacement during the summer,, but since the timber has been powellised this difficulty has been overcome. The powellising process for the preservation of timber has been adopted in other parts of the world, and plants are installed in several other States of the Commonwealth, notably New South Wales, Victoria,, and New Zealand.
– Are there any powellised sleepers used in New South Wales?
– Allow me to read the following : -
Last Monday telegram received in presence of? Governor, Premier, Minister for Public Works,. Chief Engineer of Existing Lines, Western Aus-, tralia : - “ Karri sleepers were taken up after beingsix years in ground, and no sign dry rot. Also powellised karri was produced from culvert at Denmo line, put inside jarrah culvert that had been destroyed by white ants; said karri culvert put there 28th April, 1908; same perfectly sound, and no sign white ants or dry rot. If Minister Home Affairs wants confirmation, get him wire Premier; also dogspikes good as new, and nearly impossible to get out.”
The powellised karri was not destroyed, while the jarrah unpowellised was destroyed. This communication is from Western Australia.
– Who is that from?
– From the engineers.
– What are the names ?
– I have not the names here, but I can give them. We have been told by the honorable member for Fremantle that the Government of New Zealand have abandoned powellising.
– It was Mr. Saunters who said that.
– He was then speaking of soft pine. Does the honorable member for Fremantle say that pine is a hard wood? It is always regarded in Western America as a soft wood.
– I, too, should say it was.
– This is an extract from a letter received from the New Zealand Powell Wood Process Limited, 6th October, this year -
We are now exceedingly busy, and theRailways have ordered a further 50,000 sleepers at an increased price - 4s. each - so they must be satisfied.
The following letter ought to be placed before honorable members -
New South Wales Powell Wood Process Ltd., 56 Hunter-street, Sydney.
Dear Sir, - In reply to your letter of the 1st inst., I am directed to forward herewith a copy of a report regarding powellised flooring, which has been submitted to the Commissioners by their Engineer-in-Chief.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) Harold F. Norrie,
Re Powellised Flooring. 1 beg to report that powellised flooring has been used in several basement floors subject to damp conditions and decay of woodwork. The floors in question were previously kauri and T. and G. hardwood respectively, laid on 6-in. concrete beds. Owing to moisture from the concrete, and absence of ventilation, the flooring had decayed throughout a period of six months. It was decided to try powellised flooring, which has been laid now twelve months, and, from recent examinations made, had resisted deterioration and liability to dry rot, which was conspicuous in the untreated wood.
I would recommend that a future consignment of flooring be obtained and used for repair work at rates quoted. (Signed) W. Bruce,
– I have ‘ a letter from the Engineer-in-Chief, Mr. Deane, written long before I agreed to accept powellised timber, and after that gentleman had carefully investigated the whole question. No one will deny that Mr. Deane is one of Australia’s most eminent engineers; but, though he recommended me to adopt karri sleepers, I postponed the matter in order to look into it myself. I claim to know as much about business as do honorable members opposite ; and it will be admitted that my Department is administered on a more uptodate system than that adopted by any Liberal Government.
– Do not talk about that “digest”
– I shall notI know it hurts. In the light of experience, and of what all the engineers in Australia said, including Mr. Deane
– Was Mr. Deane the first to recommend karri?
- Mr. Deane went very carefully into the matter, and recommended karri. I have a letter from him to Senator de Largie, dated nth October this year.
– The Minister had made up his mind before then.
– I desire to say that the Western Australian Government declined to supply us with karri unless it was powellised ; they would not hurt the reputation of their State, of which they are so proud.
– Would the Minister have taken karri unpowellised?
– I agreed to take the timber powellised, because, for the reason I have stated, the Western Australian Government would not supply if otherwise. I take it as a compliment that the Western Australian Government have taken this order from us. It was their; patriotism, and their desire to see the railway built, that prevented them allowing the order to go elsewhere.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.30 p.m.
– The honorable member for Fremantle suggested the existence of some ulterior motive of which the Prime Minister is not aware.
– I said that there might be something of which he did not know.
– A charge should not be brought against a Minister unless it is made straightforwardly. If any misconduct is alleged against me, I must answer for it. My honour is just as much to me as is that of the honorable member for Fremantle to him. He said that the powellising company gets £60,000.
– I said that that was their offer.
– What does the company get?
– That has been stated. We have nothing to do with the powellising company, our business being with the Government of Western Australia, which is furnishing us with sleepers at so much apiece.
– How much?
– That matter is not , yet settled. The business is closed and yet not closed, because we are dealing with other parties as well. We have nothing to do with the powellising company except in this matter : The company made an agreement with the Government of Western Australia in connexion with which the promise was made that if there were any reduction in favour of any one else it would Be extended to the Government of Western Australia. I brought about a reduction, and the Government of Western Australia will get the benefit of it. That is all we have to do with the company. On a former occasion honorable members were extolling our EngineerinChief, and denouncing me, yet now they are denouncing the EngineerinChief. On the 19th July he wrote the following letter -
Tenders for Sleepers. the Secretary,
I shall be glad to be informed as to what the
Minister decides with regard to sleepers. I have already made my recommendation, and I have no reason to go back upon my opinion that it would be quite safe to adopt the principle of powellising for karri sleepers. I forwarded a memorandum on the 17th inst., setting forth the data that I had collected on the subject.
That letter was written because I was sticking up the whole business until I could be satisfied that the powellising process had been sufficiently tested to make its success a certainty. The Engineer-in-Chief was objecting to the delay, but I was making inquiries all over the world. Honorable members opposite have the idea that no one but they know anything about business. Let me now read the letter of the EngineerinChief to which I referred before the luncheon adjournment. It is dated nth October, 19 12, and is as follows -
Memorandum for the Secretary,
During my visit to Western Australia, I went with Mr. Chinn to see one of the karri forests that was being worked by the Westralian Powell Wood Process Co. Ltd. near Bridgetown. Mr: Bethell himself accompanied me to the mills and through the forest. The company’s manager, Mr. Martin, was also with us during the forest trip. The karri is a very fine timber tree, often with a great thickness of stem 6 to 10 feet through near the base, and running up with a smooth barrel to 150 and 160 feet. The trees generally are sound throughout. The sawn timber presents a fine appearance very similar to. jarrah, f romwhich it is often very difficult to distinguish it. Here and there were trees on the ground which had fallen down, and were in a state more or less of decay, but there was no appearance of the rotting process going on at a faster rate than many kinds of good timber. When going through the forest we came across a place where karri had been felled and cut up fourteen years ago and where slabs and portions of timber were lying on the ground. These, quite contrary to what might be expected in a timber of such bad reputation, were perfectly sound, so that at least in some cases the timber will stand the vicissitudes of the weather without decay. That karri, under some conditions, is very liable to decay, and in others withstands the effects of dry-rot for a great many years, is undoubtedly a fact. I cannot speak from my own knowledge, but the statement’s are made, and can certainly be verified. There is a jetty at the termination of the Karridale line, near Cape Leeuwin, where the decking is composed of karri, and has existed for a great many years and is still in fair condition. I am told that the railway to Denmark was made for the purpose of carrying karri for the Albany line, and that although those karri sleepers laid on the Spencer’s Brook to Albany line have some time since been replaced on account of their having rotted, those that were laid on the Denmark line are, many of them, still in a serviceable condition. The durability of karri seems to depend on conditions which are not thoroughly understood. It is probable that the young and sound timber of mature trees away from the heart and nearer the sap is likely to be more durable than that taken from the centre of the tree. It may be also a fact as is generally re- cognised in the case of timbers of the northern temperate region, that its durability depends on the time of the year at which it is cut, as also on the position in the forest where it has grown, whether on a slope or in wetter ground and in lower situations. I append copy of a letter which Mr. Gorton has favoured me with, which he wrote to Senator de Largie during the recent discussion. There are many points in Mr. Gorton’s letter which deserve consideration in the discussion on the value of karri, powellised.
The following are some extracts from Mr. Gorton’s statement -
Some ironbark timber 5 feet long 12 inches by -12 inches was treated by the Powell process by the Western Australian Government to determine the penetration point definitely, and upon cutting sections from the centre of those timbers after boiling, chemical tests showed the presence of saccharine matter and the other chemicals carried in with it in the very centre of the sections.
Seasoned wood is of itself practically imperishable, neither air nor moisture having any destructive effect upon it, but it is liable under certain circumstances to be attacked and more or less re-dissolved by the action of living protoplasm similar to that by which it was originally secreted, or rather, perhaps, by the amylolytic enzymes or ferments of such protoplasm. In green or imperfectly seasoned wood, the nitrogenous matter remaining in the wood itself is the source of decay ; whilst, on the other hand, after complete seasoning of the tissues, if the wood has not been refilled with some preservative - especially in the absence of proper ventilation - it may be attacked by the action of the living protoplasm of some other plant, such as “ mould,” “ rot,” or other saprophytic fungus, or the cellulose-bacteria present in the soil. To secure the permanent durability of the wood, it is necessary, therefore, either to remove the fermentable sap, or to render it chemically : inert. Effective wood preservation - certainly if it is to be expeditious, and so obviate the prolonged locking up of capital - must be accomplished by some impregnation method. The substance to be utilized for impregnation must be antiseptic, fairly liquid or soluble, and in- expensive. Some such substances render the wood gritty, and thus interfere with its conveision ; or, as in the case of creosote, impart an unpleasant smell, and produce a surface unsusceptible of paint or polish. Creosoting seriously increases the flammability of the wood, although the temperatures used in the process are insufficient to coagulate the albuminoids. It might not seem a priori probable that sugar would answer the purpose; but the Powell process has demonstrated that it does so. Sugar is a simple, stable, carbo-hydrate, incapable, in the absence of soluble nitrogenous matter, of nourishing septic organisms, when in solution it has a high boiling point, and has been shown experimentally to have a greater power of diffusion through wood than water has.
The result of the test carried out by the Western Australian Government and others conclusively demonstrated the fact that jarrah contains 50 per cent. of moisture.
It was also demonstrated that powellised karri reduced in weight 20 per cent. and increased in strength 50 per cent.
– No, it is the statement of the professor.
– From what document are you reading now?
– From Mr. Gorton’s letter to Senator de Largie.
– I thought the honorable member said he was reading from the professor’s report. *
- Mr. Gorton is quoting that statement from the report of the professor.
– It is from Julius’ report, is it not?
– It is from, one of their reports, but it comes through Mr. Gorton. I suppose the writer is a technical man. The honorable member for Fremantle said that Western Australia did not have a brand for karri for exportation, because karri was such inferior timber. That is an extraordinary statement, seeing that in a document I hold in my hand the brand for karri is given.
– You need not misrepresent the honorable member.
– Misrepresentation is the prerogative of the Opposition. This document states that “ any special brand required by the purchaser may be impressed on the other end.”
– What the honorable member for Fremantle referred to were the Government specifications for sleepers, which he pointed out did not include karri.
– The honorable member for Fremantle said that the ports of shipment were a general guide, and that while both jarrah and karri were shipped from Hamelin, Flinders, and Albany, karri was not shipped from Fremantle, Rockingham, or Bunbury. Consignments from these latter ports, he said, may therefore be practically relied upon to be jarrah. But did the honorable member tell the House that that was because there was no karri in those sections of the country ?
– Of course I did.
– Yet the honorable member, with all the brazen audacity of Philip, declared thatI concealed certain facts when I was speaking some time ago.
– I read that; it is in Hansard.
– No, the honorable member did not tell the House that the reason why karri was not shipped from those ports was that there was no karri there.
– Of course there is not ; we all know that.
– The honorable member made great fun of Professor Norman Rudolph. He said he was of no consequence ; but I say he is a Master of Arts, and if there is anything in your university degrees, then he possesses a highly trained intellect. I do not think any member of this House possesses the degree of M.A.
– There are several on this side, including the honorable member for Darling Downs and the honorable member for Illawarra.
– Professor Norman Rudolph is a Fellow of the Institute of Chemistry of Great Britain and Ireland; M. Sc., Victoria and Liverpool; Chief of the Department of Applied Chemistry of the Indian Institute of Science. Is it not a nice thing to say that this man is nobody ? If that statement came from myself it would be different, because I think a man makes himself. This man won your prizes in your universities, and got to the top. If those degrees are no good, then, your universities are useless, and we ought to abolish them. The professor was asked -
Is there any danger whatsoever to animals or human beings from the fact of a poisonous substance being present in the finished wood?
He replied as follows -
The wood yields no trace of poisonous matter to cold water, and only a trace can be occasionally extracted from the finely powdered wood after prolonged boiling. In fact, the poisonous substance can only be completely recovered by destruction of the wood with concentrated nitric acid. There exists no possible chance of the poisonous substance being dissolved out of the wood so as to cause danger to animal or human life. The poisonous matter is not loose, but firmly embedded in the very cellular tissue of the wood, and hence there is no possibility of the poison detaching itself in the form of dust, and thereby causing danger. There is no fear of the poison having any effect on the carpenters or those who handle the wood. Unless the worker actually ate the sawdust or shavings in fair quantities, no evil effect could possibly result. (Signed) Norman Rudolph, M.Sc., Vic. and’ Liverpool, Fellow of the Institute of Chemistry of Great Britain and Ireland.
I have no ill-feeling in this matter. The honorable member for Fremantle declared that the effect of the process would be to raise the wages. That is the great bogy. The one thing that my honorable friend: sees standing out in front of him like the horizon is that it is going to raise the wages of the working man, on whose back he climbed to power. -The honorable member for Perth interjects that it will mean more money. I would ask him to leave this matter to the honorable member for Fremantle, and not to go into the wages question. The honorable member’s cry is that the working man is going to. get something out of it.
– Fancy the working men, who by their toil enrich the world, having to be beggars themselves. That is the doctrine that the honorable - member for Fremantle preaches. The honorable member for Fremantle also said? that Mr. Thompson, the Chief Engineer, of Western Australia, did not answer Mr-. Deane’s letter.
– I said the reply was not’; included in those papers.
– The honorable member said Mr. Thompson never answered Mr. Deane.
– I said that the fact required explanation.
– The honorable member has had thousands of men working for him, but does he sit down and answer every letter that comes into his office? He could not answer the thousands of letters that come into a big Department. Mr. Deane’s letter was handed to Mr. Light, and Mr. Light replied to , him.
– That is what I said.
– I said so, but the honor- - able member did not.
– I have Mr. Light’s letter here, or bits of it. The - honorable member for Fremantle said it . would cost us . £300,000 for the royalty and powellising, that sum including . £60,000 for the royalty.
– How much royalty / are you giving?
– My honorable friend will get that from the Western Australian Government.
– That amount includes the plant.
– We are not building a plant.
– You are paying for it.
– We are paying so much a sleeper.
– How much?
– When the question is settled my honorable friend will know. There are things that are not settled yet, just as in the case of the rails. My honorable friends are always asking about those, but we have to do business first.
– What have they offered the sleepers at, per sleeper?
– All that information will be laid on the table when the contract is signed. The honorable member for Fremantle said there had been no tests carried out in any shape or form -to prove absolutely that the process was successful. I have produced Mr. Scaddan’s statement from Hansard, and what his engineers said. Does the honorable member think that we ought never to test or try anything new?
– The honorable member came to me only lately about an automatic coupling. Had I been guided by the doctrine that he has been preaching to-day, I should have allowed the old bumpers and couplers that have been murdering people on the railways for years to be used; but I immediately adopted the honorable member’s suggestion, because it recommended itself to me. The statement has been made that the Western Australian Government are not using powellised karri sleepers. I have been informed that they have ordered a million powellised karri sleepers for use on their own lines. Did the honorable member for Fremantle tell the House that when he was speaking?
– What is the date -of that order?
– My honorable friend can wire over and find out.
– If you know, you can surely tell the House.
– No, I am only concerned with the facts. The honorable member for Fremantle said the Western Australian Government never had done, or would do, any business in karri. Mr. Light, the Engineer-in-Chief for Existing Lines, Western Australia, reports that powellised karri sleepers have been found free from dry-rot after being some years in the ground, in a place where the conditions were most favorable for the development of dry-rot.
– Thirty sleepers.
– When embalming was first discovered in Egypt, was it not a proof to the world that corpses could be preserved? The thing is preposterous, but it only shows me the hopelessness of the Opposition. They are “ goners.” Mr. Light also reports that untreated sleepers put in at the same time were affected, and states that the tests generally are satisfactory. Tests for dryrot and white ants have been made of the powellised wood in numerous places-Cue, Marble Bar, &c. - over Western Australia by the Public Works Department and others, and the results have invariably been most satisfactory. Will the honorable member say that Mr. Light is not a responsible man ? Tests have also been made by the New South Wales Government Entomologist, Mr. Froggatt, one of the greatest authorities on such matters in Australia. Successful and severe tests have also been made of the power of powellised wood to withstand dry-rot and white ants in the Philippines, Malay States, West India, South Africa, and other countries. -
– What tests has Mr. Froggatt conducted? He is not a chemist.
– Is he not? Professor G. S. Boulger, of London, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, authority in the world on timber, after tests, pronounced in favour of powellised timber. The honorable member, asked this morning, “ What does a London man know of the testing of Australian timber?” He might just as well say that if a London professor discovered a cure for cancer, that cure would be of no use in Australia. If we send to a professor in London samples of various woods, and also a collection of Australian insects, surely he should be able to make tests and investigations in regard to them. Is it reasonable to suggest that a professor, merely because he is an Englishman, or resides in London, cannot be an authority on any Australian subject? When Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood, no one at first believed in his theory, and he was reduced almost to the verge of starvation. He had to deal with an opposition very like that against which we have to contend. His opponents were not to be convinced, because they had no intelligence. And so when Galileo discovered that the earth was round, he was laughed at by thousands of people because he dared to differ from the view that had been preached for hundreds of years that it was square. He was finally sent to gaol. With all respect, I say of the Opposition, “ God help them ! “ Professor D. F. McKenzie and Professor Norman Rudolph, high authorities, have added their testimony as to ‘the value of powellised timber. In view of these expert opinions, it seems to me that jarrah and other woods in their untreated state are liable to dry-rot and to be attacked by white ants. The life of an untreated jarrah sleeper in Australia is from twelve to fifteen years; and I dare say that the life of a sleeper used in an American railway is about twelve years. I have here a powellised karri block, which has been down for six years. Will any one, looking at it, say that it would rot within the next six years?
– The Opposition know nothing about it.
– I know that; and I am trying to teach them. Here is a piece of powellised karri. Will any one with a modicum of intelligence say that it will not last six years?
– Where does it come from?
-From Western Australia.
– But from what part of Western Australia?
– The label on it does not show.
– Read the whole statement on the label. There is not a tittle of evidence.
– Here is a piece of ordinary pine, which was buried at Midland Junction, Western Australia. It is a piece of powellised timber. Then I have here a piece of jarrah, unpowellised. I invite honorable members to look through it. Here is a piece of treated jarrah, which was put down in 1908, four years ago.
– When was it taken up?
– I do not know. The facts are on the file; my honorable friends can search them out for themselves. I have here a jarrah peg, half eaten away, which I also invite honorable members to examine. I have only, to say, in conclusion, that if the Government has made a mistake, which we deny - though we take the full responsibility for it - then our Chief Engineer and alii the Western Australian engineers, who havemade the tests, are also mistaken in their conclusions.
– Surely the honorablemember accepts the responsibility, as the Ministerial head of his Department?
– Certainly. 1 am absolutely responsible; but our EngineerinChief, if we are wrong, cannot possess the knowledge with which we credit him, in view of the recommendation of the New South Wales authorities.
– This piece of timber, which the Minister said had been down for six years, was down for only fivemonths.
– I did not say that it had been down for six years. The honorable member need not try to bluster. He does not run this House.
– The honorable, member would not read the inscription.
– I am not hereto read it. It is open to the honorablemember, or any one else, to read it.
Several honorable members interjecting -
– I have frequentlyappealed for order. The honorable member for Fremantle was allowed to speak: without interruption; but the Minister-,, since he rose, has been subjected to interjections and questions which must handicap. - him in making his speech. I appeal to honorable members to discontinue these interjections.
– I held up for the inspection of honorable members a piece of karri, which I said had been down for five years, whereas the honorable member for Flinders has read the inscription on a . piece of jarrah. I am not troubling about . jarrah in this connexion. We do not claim- . to know everything. We claim only that we have been guided by the best evidence; obtainable, including the recommendation - of our own engineer. After the engineer had recommended the use of karri I continued to hold up the contract. Here is a letter which he wrote asking us to go on with the work. In order to be sure that there would be no mistake, I held up the; matter several times.
– Did Mr. Deane ask the Minister to go on with the use of karri sleepers ?
– Here is a letter which he wrote in July. His- recommendation was made long before that, but I did not complete the contract, because I wanted to be sure that we should make no mistake. Then Mr. Deane wrote this letter to the Secretary of the Department asking what I was going to do in regard to the sleepers.
– Why did he not take the jarrah sleepers?
– I have nothing to say as to that. I can only say that, according to the best evidence obtainable, powellised karri is infinitely superior to powellised jarrah. It would be useless to use untreated jarrah in white ant country.
– Why forsake the jarrah sleepers?
– The Opposition raised a storm on one occasion because they said that I had not been guided by my officers, and now, in this case, where I have been guided by the advice of the technical experts of the Department, because I do not understand these things myself, I have again done wrong.
– They did not advise the honorable member not to use jarrah sleepers.
– They advised the use of karri. I would remind the Opposition that it is a bad thing for a man to try to score off his own country ; it is a bad thing to try to hurt the industries of your own country, or in other ways to injure it. We have acted in the light of the experience of the Government of Western Australia, and of people who have made fair tests, and have given to the world the results of those tests. We ought not to say anything that would hurt or condemn them.
– Are the samples on the table Western Australian Government samples ?
– They are all from Western Australia. I have to thank the House for the attention with which it has listened to my remarks, and I am sorry if I have hurt any one’s feelings.
– Do not apologize.
– We want to be fair all round. I hope that when the Opposition have had time to sleep on this matter, and to think it over carefully, they will recognise that we have made a good bargain in the interests of the people of Australia, and that we have made a success of the construction of the railroad so far as we have gone.
– What is the bargain?
– We have knocked out the jarrah combine.
– Not only that, but we have in a sense said that all the powerful and skilfully manipulated combinations-
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the matter of combinations.
– All the powerful and skilfully manipulated combinations which the Labour party are opposing are fighting us, and we have decided, after the most careful consideration, to take this action.
– We are grateful to the Minister for such information as he has given us in the course of his speech extending over an hour and a half. The Opposition are grateful always for small mercies, and we need to be thankful to the Minister at all times for any little information that may leak from him. We are grateful to him also for the disquisitions in which he has indulged concerning the value of certain courses at the university ; the value of degrees in classical and other attainments; the nature and value of protoplasms, and his references to Harvey’s theory of the circulation of the blood; the embalming of mummies, and such like matters; but just what they have to do with the practical question before the House, it would puzzle any man outside the honorable member’s own country to discover. May I remind him that, however interesting these matters may be, they are so much dust thrown in the eyes of the House, and have nothing whatever to do with the one question with which we have to deal.
May I say at once what that question is? The honorable member is entitle’d to tell the House why this important and far-reaching change has been made, and what the cost of making it will be. Those are the only two questions at issue, and they are the two questions that he has left severely alone. The rhodomontade in which he has indulged is idle when discussing a practical business proposition of this kind. His testimony may go for what it is worth, and really one wonders what it is worth when one sees these experts - men trained to scientific inquiry - making different reports in respect to the same matter within a short space of time. They change, it seems to me, mora readily than do politicians.
– The honorable member is a good judge of that
– Ditto; I dare say that we are both good judges. I am beginning to think that we know nothing about the matter after hearing these conflicting reports from gentlemen eminent in their various walks of life. The point that I wish to make is that it is time that this Parliament had some independent source of inquiry of its own. It is time some body was interposed between the public Departments and the public so that we may ascertain from independent sources exactly what the rights and wrongs of these questions are. The State Parliaments in this regard are far ahead of us. They have their public works committees, their commissions of accounts, and other sources of inquiry. We, however, have to rely upon the Minister, who, in tum, has to rely upon his Department, and there we end the matter, so far as the expenditure of millions of money is concerned. Here we are asked to make an experiment involving hundreds of thousands of pounds, and running it may be, eventually into ,£1,000,000, without any inquiry outside the Department. There is no other Parliament in Australia, and I doubt if there is another Parliament in the British Dominions, with the same lack of means for adequate inquiry. If anything has strengthened that conviction, it is the conflicting reports from the expert engineers regarding the simple matter of powellising. We are making a completely new departure, and the utmost secrecy is observed regarding it. The Minister declines to give us any information until the contract has been signed. It is a new and strange doctrine that a business arrangement between a State Government and the Commonwealth Government may not be divulged to the House. We have not been accustomed to this kind of dealing with large matters, especially between two public bodies. It is not as though there were other competitors in the market; no tenders have been called for, and, therefore, it is not a question of divulging prices. We have, on the one hand, the Parliament of Western Australia, and, on the other hand, the Parliament representing the whole of the nation, and yet we are told that the utmost secrecy must be observed until the contract is signed, sealed, and done with. It will then be too late to give the information desired. Before an additional £500,000 is spent in this way, the House has a right to know every detail of the specification. We ought not to be kept in the dark in this underhand way - for it is nothing else - about matters which vitally concern the nation and the pockets of the people.
We ask why this change has been made, and the Minister will not tell us. The question will not be settled by exhibits such as those produced by the Minister, for these settle nothing. We are not even told the conditions under which the exhibits were obtained ; and the Minister certainly attempted to mislead the House just now in regard to certain of them. First he said that these exhibits were six years old, and then something less than that, and we find out that they are five months old, and, therefore, absolutely valueless for any purpose whatever.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct.
– The honorable member is not representing the Minister correctly.
– What does the honorable member mean? This matter is a very simple one when resolved into its elements. It seems to me that the onus is on the Government to prove, first, that the change from jarrah and other approved timbers to karri is of advantage to the country as a whole - not of advantage to one State, but of advantage to the taxpayers generally - and, secondly, that the change will enable the work to be carried out at less cost than heretofore. The Minister will not, I think, deny that there is a certain element of- risk in this undertaking. His longest experiment is one of six years, and that is a short life for a sleeper; and the honorable gentleman has no right to take such a risk until he can demonstrate that there will result some undoubted material and financial advantage to the whole of Australia. We are going to buy 2,000,000 sleepers for this railway, and 1,500,000 are to be obtained, from the Western Australian Government under conditions which, it seems to me, if we may believe the evidence of practical men, will make them more difficult to get, and, therefore, more costly than were the sleepers of the olden days. For instance, we are told that jarrah grows on hard solid mineral ground, while karri grows on soft ground ; and this must make the karri more difficult and costly to obtain in damp or wet weather. Surely we should be given some reason for the proposed change when jarrah is easy to obtain and karri is difficult.
The honorable member for Fremantle, who is a practical man, declares that, under some circumstances, it will take three or four times as long to get karri sleepers as it will to get jarrah sleepers, and it seems inevitable that the ultimate cost must be considerably greater. In the next place, we are constructing a railway through difficult country, and have to meet conditions which do not obtain in the more moderate and temperate latitudes. We had the white ant to deal with,and a long length of line to travel under adverse conditions, with hardly any population as yet. If there is one thing more than another that ought to weigh with the Minister, it is the element of permanence as attaching to the sleepers, and every other attribute of a railway over the western plains. Even if he has to pay more money, the one question with him ought to be, “ Which will give us the greatest permanence - which will save time hereafter in the way of relaying and repairs? “ Under all the circumstances, it seems to me that this railway is the very last on which experiments of this kind should be conducted.
I am not here to say whether powellising is a good or a bad thing. I am inclined to think that under certain circumstances, and for certain purposes, it ought to be a good thing. But my point is that the Government ought not to risk these experiments in connexion with a line of railway that must be very costly in any case, and may prove to be more costly by reason of the risks run. If it is desired to try experiments, why not begin on a modest scale at either end of the railway? That would be a reasonable course to take, but to risk three-fourths of the whole line is absolute recklessness in dealing with the people’s money.
First, let us get it into our minds that there is plenty of superior timber available; there is no timber famine in the West, and there is not likely to be for many years to come. It has never been suggested, as the Minister of Home Affairs would have us believe, that jarrah is immune from the white ant. I do not know any timber that can be said to be absolutely immune from this pest, either in Australia or any other part of the world. The white ant when out for food will tackle anything called wood, and, therefore, it is absolutely foolish for any one to suggest that jarrah or any other timber is immune. It has been said, however, and proved by practical experience, that jarrah will last longer in this country than almost any other timber except ironbark. Of jarrah there is abundance in Western Australia; and all the statements as to what has been done in other parts of the world, where timber is less plentiful, and the sleeper difficulty is acute, have no bearing whatever on the Western Australian problem. There is plenty of this good timber easily obtainable, and fairly cheap. We are told also that the jarrah is more easily obtainable than is the karri. In some places the jarrah is 200 miles nearer to the proposed railway, and we are told that on the average it is 100 miles nearer ; and surely that is a consideration. We are told that jarrah can be obtained in about a quarter of the time, in some circumstances, that is required to get karri; and then there is the fact that jarrah has always been preferred by all the Governments of Australia. Karri has been absolutely barred even in Western Australia until now. It has been shut out absolutely from all the Government specifications ; and we now hear for the first time that it is to be tried in the West.* The Minister, however, did not tell us how long it is since that decision was arrived at ; it may have been come to, for all we know, in the last few days. The honorable gentleman seems to think that it is a proper Ministerial attitude to flout the House, and tell honorable members that he will not give any information such as has been asked for. I have never known any such attitude taken up by a responsible Minister in any Parliament with which I have had to do.
– His supporters tolerate it !
– Then, so much the worse for his supporters. There is no Parliament in the world but this where such an attitude would be tolerated.
– I am sure that the honorable member has never known a Minister to decline to give particulars to Parliament, especially in regard to papers from which he is quoting. When we, however, ask the Minister what he is quoting from, he says, “Go and find out,” and he evidently thinks that is proper treatment for honorable members.
– When the honorable member for Parramatta was in office, and we asked for information, he “ gagged “ us.
– I must ask the Honorary Minister not to interject.
– This is the first time I have interjected to-day, and I am doing so only because the honorable member is making an incorrect statement.
– Instead of jarrah, which is said to be cheaper, more easily obtained, and of better quality, the Minister is buying karri, which ‘is undeniably subject to dry-rot - every one admits that, and the experience of Australia proves it - is full of an acid sap which eats the dogs when the timber is used for sleepers, and in the green state contains 54 per cent, of moisture, so that, untreated, it is practically valueless for sleepers. We have been told that a square block of karri retains its sap, and at the end of two years still consists of 28 per cent, of moisture, showing clearly that karri is useless below ground. Moreover, it is a timber of which white ants are peculiarly fond.
Many of the tests in regard to the effect of the powellising process in protecting the timber from white ants are, in my opinion, valueless. When two pieces of timber are put into a white ants’ nest, one poisoned with arsenic and the other untreated and full of sap, the fact that the white ants attack the untreated piece and leave the other does not prove the success of the process. White ants possess very fine tastes, so that an experiment of that kind is futile.
Why is karri being adopted instead of jarrah? We have asked the Minister if it is cheaper, but he will not tell us. We have asked him to compare the two timbers, but he will not do so. He has made the statement that treated karri is better than treated jarrah ; but no one supports it in the papers which he has read, except the celebrated Brother Chinn, who says that he was told that by Premier Scaddan. Not one of the experts puts it down in black and white. The honorable member for Fremantle covered the whole ground in a business-like fashion, and put before the House a case which there has been no attempt to answer, and which it would Be difficult tq answer. I never heard a more business-like statement It was buttressed with facts which seem incontrovertible. To term the Ministerial statement a reply is to make a great call on the imagination. The honorable member for Fremantle showed that the powellising process is a very ancient one. It has been known for thirty years - so’ the Minister says - in America; but no instance in which interior timber has been preferred to superior timber, either in America or elsewhere, has been brought forward by the Minister. If the system has been a success in America, for thirty years, Australia has wasted millions of pounds by not adopting it.
– I have not the slightest doubt of that.-
– That is a serious reflection on our engineers. If the treatment has been successful in America for thirty years, why have the best engineers of Australia ignored it? The Minister tells us that the treatment has been used in America for thirty years, but he cannot mention a railroad there in which powellised sleepers have been laid and shown to be a success. The fact is that the treatment has not been proved a success in any part of the world, though it has been experimented with foi’ years past. The Minister told us of tests that have been carried out in Australia ; but the only practical test was the laying down of thirty powellised sleepers. Those sleepers, however, were laid in sandy soil, in which timber will last longer than in any other, because of the free drainage and circulation of air, and in which white tints are not likely to attack it. The honorable gentleman would have made out a stronger case had the sleepers been laid in a damp situation.
– Those sleepers were taken up after three years.
– Yes. They were down for three years only, under the most favorable conditions. White ants will not work in. sand when they can get any other soil.
The Minister referred to laboratory tests in New Zealand, Victoria, New South Wales, and Western Australia. He flourished the accomplishments of the professors who made them, but gave us no information regarding the dimensions of the timber experimented with, though we were told that in one case a white-pine board was used, and that in another case the timber was an inch and a half thick. In no case does a sleeper seem to have been experimented with. In the absence of information regarding dimensions, the statement of the results of the tests is worthless.
– What have the dimensions of the timber to do with it?
– Everything. While solution may go through an inch of wood readily, it may not penetrate through 5 inches. Karri is well enough for Superstructure, and other work above ground, and the powellising process may be a valuable one. I have not a word to say against it. My contention is that the Government had no right to risk thousands of pounds of the money of the public on an experiment of this kind, when there is plenty of timber available which does not need treatment. The Minister took, us all over the globe, and mentioned experiments in India and England and other places. What is their value to us? I have Been told that nearly every country has its own fungus diseases, and the fact that fungus does not develop in one part of the globe does not prove that it will not develop in another, where the climatic conditions may be more suitable to it. The results obtained in other countries are of interest, but they are not conclusive proof regarding the value of the powellising system to Australia.
The testimony from New Zealand is conflicting. According to the Minister, he has received from the secretary to the Powellising Company a letter stating that it has secured an order for 50,000 sleepers from the New Zealand Government at an increased price of 4s. a sleeper.
– Is 4s. a sleeper the increase in price?
– Yes. That seems to suggest that the powellising process is a very costly one. If it is to cost the New Zealand Government 4s. extra for each sleeper treated, that is not a reason why we should use treated karri instead of untreated jarrah.
– The Minister was not clear on the point.
– He said that the contract with the New Zealand Government was for a supply of sleepers at an increased price of 4s. a sleeper. But of what value is the statement without all particulars.
– The New Zealand Government would not incur this extra expense if it did not think the process a good one.
– Is it not singular that the Minister would not give us any details regarding the matter? He blurts out these facts ; and when we ask him a question, he tells us to go and find out ! He quotes the bald statement of one man in this business to another man in the business. I suggest no lack of bona fides in this matter, so far as these letters go. I merely suggest that they are the correspondence of people who are interested in pushing their process and in doing business. Therefore, their value, I submit, is less than the value of the testimony of disinterested people. The honorable member for Fremantle the other day wired to the New Zealand Premier, who is a disinterested person, and the reply he received was that they were not using the powellised sleepers; and that certain experiments had been made which had not been successful. The honorable member was told, further, that, in certain circumstances, the powellising process for timber used in waggon and carriage building had been successful, demonstrating what everybody knows, that there is no better timber in the world for superstructure work than karri ; but showing also, in a most deadly way, that the experiment’ in regard to sleepers used on railways had failed in New Zealand, as elsewhere.
– Has that wire been read to the House?
– Yes. It is in Hansard. ‘ Here it is -
Your cable re powellised timber, experience in New Zealand insufficient-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member not to quote from the report of a debate that has already taken place on this subject.
– The New Zealand Premier says that their experience so far is not sufficient to enable an authoritative statement to be made ; but that experiments had been made which were not entirely successful. On the other hand, he hears that experiments have been made on wood used for building waggons and carriages that have been fairly successful. Mr. Saunders, the engineer in charge of the Port Augusta end of the transcontinental railway, has had experience in New Zealand with the powellising process. Why, then, was not his opinion put before the House with the others? Why was his opinion left out, and the others put in ? It is very singular that the man upon whom the Government are relying to carry out the work of constructing one part of the railway has not been asked to furnish an uptodate report. Why is Mr. Chinn brought up-to-date, and not Mr. Saunders? The reason appears to be obvious.
– Do you know anything about Mr. Saunders?
– He has been in New Zealand, and knows all about the powellising process. Speaking of the experiments there, he says -
It is claimed by the patentee that the process will preserve all wood from being attacked by dry rot. This statement has not been borne out in New Zealand.
That is Mr. Saunders’ experience in a practical way, and a statement like that is worth a ton of the other things that have been quoted. He has been there and seen the process tested.
– He was employed by them in New Zealand.
– He was sent there, I believe, by this very company ; and, therefore, if any one should speak in its favour, it should be he ; yet he turns it down. He says it is a fact that -
Thousands of white pine sleepers have shown very marked evidences of decomposition after two years in the ground, and the Railway Department have cancelled their contract with the Powell Company for all orders they had placed with the company.
Nothing could be more damaging than that fact.
– The cable from the New Zealand Premier scarcely bears the construction that you place upon it. He says that there is insufficient evidence to give an authoritative opinion, and that some of the sleepers which were supposed not to be properly treated were unsatisfactory.
– The construction I put on it is that the Premier of New Zealand is not able, after a two years’ test, to say anything in favour of the sleepers powellised in his own State. He would be anxious to preserve the reputation of his State, and would find a good thing to say of these experiments if he could do so honestly; but all he can say is that the powellising process is good for the lighter work above ground, as to which there is no argument.
– He said the experiments made did not permit him to make an authoritative statement either way ; and that where the result was unsatisfactory, the process was not properly applied.
– All I say is that he is unable to utter a word in favour of this process, as applied to sleepers in> New Zealand. Mr. Saunders further says -
For what length of time the powellised karri’ will last in the ground it is impossible to say.
The Minister says that it has been demonstrated, and that he has no doubt in his own mind about it. His engineer, however, -says that it is impossible to say whether the experiments will be successful or not, and adds-
The very emphatic claims -
Those are the claims made by the company in favour of their process - have hardly been borne out by experience.
He also states that the arsenical effects produced upon galvanized iron and dither articles of that kind used in the process are very marked. If the arsenic is going, to affect the iron in and about which the men work, the honorable member cannot tell me that it will not have any effect, upon the men themselves.
– The arsenic will have no effect on the black iron, but it will have on the galvanized.
– I do not know. I only take the statements of men who do know.
We come, then, to Victoria, where this matter has been very earnestly studied, with a view to finding out whether the process could be used without risk. In 1908 a Royal Commission was appointed in Victoria to investigate this very matter, and Mr. Woodroffe says that they turned it down as being unsatisfactory, after applying strict tests. In 19 10 the Railways Commissioners set up a Committee to inquire into the matter, and they also turned it down. They said they were unable to recommend it after inquiring in the most careful way concerning its merits. I presume that New South Wales- has investigated the matter, and, so far as we know, there are no sleepers being powellised there. I believe that South Australia, after making inquiries, is having nothing to do withit. Arenot these facts in themselves significant? Can the Minister put a man like Mr. Chinn alongside this combination of engineering ability in the rest of Australia, and say that his opinion should prevail against theirs? Can he say that what Mr. Scaddan said to Mr. Chinn should outweigh the experiments made, and opinions expressed by these clever engineers throughout Australia ? The thing, to my mind, is preposterous. Let us hear- what Mr. Chinn says. He seems to be the influential man in these documents, and to have a good deal to do with the assessing of the final judgment in regard to the powellising of karri. He states -
The Chief Engineer for existing lines is thoroughly convinced that treated karri sleepers are better in every respect than jarrah.
He does not say whether they are better than treated jarrah, but later on he says -
The extra cost for the powellising will more than double the life of an untreated jarrah sleeper.
Afterwards, detailing’ a conversation he had with Mr. Scaddan, he says -
Mr. Scaddan informed me that all the Government engineers (in Western Australia) have convinced him that powellised karri is better than treated jarrah.
Why, then, is it that not one of those engineers has made the same report in the papers ? How is it that Mr. Chinn’s statement, or, rather, Mr. Scaddan’s statement, cannot be substantiated? If all the engineers in Western Australia have demonstrated to their own satisfaction that treated karri is better than treated jarrah, why has not one of them up to date put it on paper ? While the engineers may have told Mr. Scaddan, and Mr. Scaddan may have told Mr. Chinn, and Mr. Chinn may have communicated the fact to the Minister, not one of them can be got to put a similar statement in black and white upon paper.
It is on these uncorroborated statements concerning other men’s opinions that this whole matter is being decided in a reckless way, and with an utter disregard of the taxpayer’s pocket. Mr. Light here comes in to throw a little light upon the subject; He is, I presume, one of those engineers who are supposed to have reported to Mr. Scaddan; yet when Mr. Light puts anything on paper at all, it is this -
The superiority of. jarrah is so obvious as to need no comment.
What he tells Mr. Scaddan we do not know; but that is what we get from him when he begins to let light in upon the matter. He does not turn the powellising process down, but says it is worth experimenting with, and that, with certain limitations, he believes it to be good. At the same time, he says that, as between jarrah and karri, there is no comparison; that the merits of the one over the other are so obvious as to need no comment. He says further, and this is all to which he will commit himself, that “ powellising is generally satisfactory so far as timbers generally are concerned.” It will be observed that Mr. Light leaves karri altogether out of the question. He simply makes a general statement concerning timbers as a whole. He says that powellising is generally satisfactory, but when it comes to pitting powellised karri against jarrah, or any other timber, Mr. Light leaves us absolutely in the dark. All that the Minister knows of the opinions of these experts is summed up in the statement by Mr. Chinn that they have said these things to Mr. Scaddan, and that Mr. Scaddan in turn has said them to him.
What is the position in India? The latest information is that a Royal Commission has been appointed to inquire into the whole matter. It is by no means settled. The problem in India is a very acute one. The white ant there is as voracious as it is in our own tropical latitudes, and the authorities are Searching for some process which will give them immunity from white ants. The whole matter so far is in the experimental stage. They think so much of the idea, however, that they have appointed a Royal Commission to investigate, and are making experiments with twoplants which they have purchased for the purpose. Fancy two plants being used in a country with a population of 300,000,000 or 400,000,000. That is the extent of the testimony that we are able to gather from India, and with this kind of testimony the Minister is trying to buttress up his action in ignoring all precedents, and giving karri a preference over jarrah.
We have been shown two pieces of wood - a treated and an untreated piece - which were placed, I believe, in the same ant hill. But why the Minister should regard that as a test, I do not pretend to know. No white ant would be so foolish as to eat a piece of poisoned wood when it could obtain just as readily a sweet, sappy piece of unpoisoned timber. All that the experiment proves is the absurdity of making it. Until the Minister has placed in an ant hill a piece of his powellised wood without accompanying it with a piece of untreated timber, he will never be able to point to such an experiment as a test, because white ants will not eat poisoned wood when there is alongside it a piece of timber that is sappy, sweet, and luscious. It would be a fool of a white ant that would do anything of the kind, and white ants are not foolish.
Then we find that Mr. Oxenham, secretary to the Postmaster- General’s Department, is brought into the matter. He reports that telegraph poles in white ant country about Sydney have been found to be sound after being in the ground from one to one and a half years. He makes the sapient observation that he thinks this experience is a test of the value of powellising. The Minister can find hundreds of poles not touched by white ants after being years in the ground.
– In some cases, after they have been in the ground for thirty years.
– How absurd it is to say that the fact that one or two telegraph poles have remained in the ground for from one year to one year and a half without being attacked by white ants is testimony to the value of this process. And so with the whole of this evidence. Why the Minister will take these risks I do not know, but he cannot expect the country to be prepared to take them, even if he is ready to do so. It is idle to say that because we ask for further inquiry - because we say that the people’s money should not be flung about in this reckless way until proper tests have been made - that we are trying to slander our country, we are whooping in defence of a dying monopoly, or that we are attacking the Government because it is attacking monopolies. Such talk is absolute rhodomontade. The Minister is very hard pressed if he has, in this House, to resort to that kind of specious pleading to bolster up his case.
One of the most amusing features of this debate has been the action of the Minister in quoting from an advertising pamphlet issued by Millars’ Jarrah and Karri Timber Company. He quotes from the business advertisement of a firm that has karri to sell, and is trying to dispose of it on the continent. What they say in defence of their wares is proof of the value of those wares !
– A pamphlet twenty years old.
– Fifteen years old. Then the Minister brings in a French engineer, who says that karri blocks laid down in the streets of Paris have proved a success. No one would deny that statement. But let us consider what the paving of streets with powellised wood blocks means. The blocks are laid in the first place upon a concrete bed, so prepared that no water, save the little that may ooze out of the concrete itself, can lie on it. In addition to that, the wood blocks are thoroughly tarred. If not completely immunised, they are so covered with tar that water is excluded, and the blocks are given the best chance. To say that that is a test of the value of karri when used underground, is to make an absolutely futile statement. Such a test may be good, enough for a company anxious to sell karri for profit, but it is not one on which the Minister should rely when making an experiment of this kind. There have been similar tests, I believe, in Melbourne and Sydney.
– Mr. Bruce’s test was a good one. He took up a damp and rotten floor, and put down powellised karri, which he afterwards found to be sound.
– That is not a test at all. When he took up the timber he found that only the inside, or lower portion, had rotted.
– That was not so in the case of powellised timber.
– It was the case in respect of unpowellised karri. But that after. all, is not the point. The Minister made the quotation with the object of showing the value of untreated karri, and the quotation from Mr. Bruce’s report proved that the statement made regarding, the experiments in Paris is worthless. Here we had two tests. Blocks were laid in the one case in Melbourne, and in the other in Paris. The one test was successful, and the other failed. The one, therefore, neutralizes the other, and we come back to virgin ground, with nothing proven.
The same may be said of all these statements. Concerning Mr. Deane, I wish te speak with the utmost respect, but I am bound to say that his latest report strikesme as being weak, and that I do not quite understand it. I freely confess that I always have had, and have to-day, the greatest respect for Mr. Deane. The details he gives us, however, in regard to this matter are very meagre. There are nopapers to show what went before Mr. Deane’s final summing up of the matter. The Minister fold us to-day that there had’ been a good deal of correspondence between Mr. Deane and himself. Why is= that correspondence not included in the departmental papers ? Why does he not show us what the correspondence was, and how Mr. Deane came to express his finalopinion? The papers show nothing at all from Mr.- Deane in the early stages of the negotiations. There is nothing but the one letter, confirmed by a short note a little later on. Standing by itself, it makes me wonder what has gone before, and I wonder all the more because of the respect I hold for Mr. Deane’s opinions. The letter, however, is there, and it counts for what it is worth. We have to set Mr. Deane’s opinion on the positive side, as that of a careful, cautious man who knows what he is doing, alongside all the other opinions, most of which are contradictory, and to make our final assessment of the whole case.
The more I look into this matter, the more it seems to me that before this country commits itself to an experiment of this kind, involving, it may be, over £1,000,000, there ought to be a further inquiry by members of this House, or a Royal Commission set up for the purpose. No other Parliament in Australia spends money under the conditions that we do, and to the same extent.
– There are five letters from Mr. Deane in the correspondence laid on the table.
– The right honorable gentleman is correct, but he will not find in those letters any expression of opinion by Mr. Deane. With the exception of the last letter, they consist only of inquiries. We have in them such statements as, “ What are you doing? “ “Is this so? “ “ Make this experiment, and let me know,” and so forth. The Prime Minister will find that in only one letter is there an expression of opinion by Mr. Deane, and that that opinion is confirmed by a short note, which finalizes the whole question.
– He summarizes all his inquiries in that recommendation.
– He does. But what does he say? He says that the evidence of these people appears to be favorable. There is no discussion of the merits of this case by Mr. Deane.
– He says, in effect, “ I have already made my recommendation, and I have no reason to look back on my opinion.”
– Quite so. But will the honorable gentleman look at Mr. Deane’s letter? Mr. Deane quotes his authorities, and he says, without any experimentation of his own - without having been present at any of these experiments - “ The evidence appears to be favorable.” If I recollect rightly, he does not make a definite recommendation. He relies upon the evidence placed before him by various professors in different countries, but he does not say that he has himself seen any experiment of the kind.
– Read the first letter from him, when I was delaying ‘the decision.
– In that letter, which is the last, and not the first, Mr. Deane said he would be glad to be informed as to what the Minister of Home Affairs had decided in regard to the sleepers.
– I had kept him waiting.
– Has the Minister ever put this proposition to Mr. Deane? Has he ever given Mr. Deane the option of using jarrah or karri?
– Anything he liked.
– Does the Minister say that?
– Yes; anything he liked. I never interfered with him at all.
– That knocks the foundations from underneath the honorable member.
– It does not ; it only makes the matter more mysterious, because in one of Mr. Deane’s former letters he suggests that if the powellising process turned out to be good, it might enable them to deal with second-class timbers in Victoria and Tasmania.
– We have no second-class timbers in Tasmania.
– It is Mr. Deane’s expression, and not mine. Mr. Deane seems eventually to have suddenly abandoned that idea. Why? There is nothing about second-class timber in his final report. Mr. Deane’s opinions would be infinitely more conclusive if it could be shown in black and white that he had decided as between the merits of jarrah and karri, both of them treated. That is the final and only test, and in its absence the. House is not justified in incurring the expenditure. Mr. Deane, in his letter, went on to say that “ evidence seems to be strongly in favour “ of the use of the powellising process. I should have thought that the Minister would have undertaken some experiments of his own.
– I kept Mr. Deane waiting for months, to make sure,, before I gave the order.
– But why could the Minister not authorize some experiments to be made on his own account ?
– What is Mr. Deane there for?
– To do anything the Minister directs him to do.
– According to the honorable member’s argument, we ought to sack Mr. Deane.
– The honorable member has said that three or four times, but I do not know why, because it does not follow at all from my remarks. Mr. Deane went on to say that it was possible that sleepers, in second-class timber, might be obtained in Victoria at a cheap rate. I observe that he does not mention Tasmania in this connexion, and, therefore, I owe an apology to the honorable member for Bass. In the same letter he said that if the powellising process were applied to such timbers, it would be necessary to erect works at Port Augusta, and so forth.
That is a letter to the Engineer-in-Chief at Perth ; and it is one to which no reply is forthcoming. At the same time, Mr. Chinn informs us that the EngineerinChief had told Mr. Scaddan all the things of which we have heard.
– There was a report from an officer in the Engineer-in-Chief’s office.
– But there was no reply from the Engineer-in-Chief, although he had beep asked specifically to reply. My own opinion is that enough is shown in the papers to warrant an independent inquiry into the whole affair. There has not been sufficient inquiry by the responsible Minister to warrant this great new departure involving such risks and expenditure.
– The motion goes. a great deal further than that statement..
– The motion declares that, inasmuch as the Government have not done these things, they are worthy of censure. Any” Government committing itself to such experiments at the public expense, and declining to furnish estimates of cost or any other details - declining positively and point blank to inform the House - is deserving of the severest censure.
– I regard this debate as one of the most important that has occupied our attention this session. We are at the initiation of big railway undertakings, and there has been a Department created, with pro fessional officers of experience gained in services other than that of the Commonwealth. I have listened with great care and interest to the statement of the honorable member for Fremantle, and of the reply of the Minister of Home Affairs. With the opening statement of the latter I was extremely disappointed, because it was, from his own stand-point, most unfortunate. He declared that the object of the Opposition is to protect monopolists, while the object of the Department and himself is to fight the monopoly created in Western Australia in the railway sleeper trade. The experience of the honorable member for Fremantle, as a contractor and railway builder of long residence in Western Australia, ought to have been sufficient for the House when he assured us that outside the areas owned by what is described as a monopoly there are areas on which jarrah can be obtained, in fully matured condition, sufficient, not only for the purposes of this railway, but of two or three railways of similar length. That honorable member quoted from a report of a Royal Commission in Western Australia, which declared that there are between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 acres of jarrah timber available on Crown lands. The Minister of Home Affairs unfavorably contrasted jarrah with karri, though his views have been refuted scores of times since this matter has been under review in the newspapers and by people of experience in Western Australia. The honorable gentleman, in the course of his remarks, quoted from a pamphlet, an advertising medium, published by the very monopolists, Messrs. Millar Brothers, whom he condemns. The statement relied on by the Minister in this pamphlet was one to the effect that karri is a first-rate timber for very -many purposes ; but the Minister did not inform the House that the pamphlet was twenty years old, and that it was printed and published by those whom he describes as an injurious monopoly. This same company about twenty years ago set itself to work to boom the karri industry, not only in Australia, but in different parts of the world j and it went so far as to erect. mills and provide plant in Western Australia to the value of from £70,000 to ,£100,000. At that time Millar Brothers were building the Great Southern Railway in the western State; and if ever there was a wholesale condemnation of any timber, in its untreated state, it is afforded in the fact that all the karri sleepers laid down in that line had, by the time the railway was finished, to be replaced with jarrah. The effort of that firm to open and extend a business in this timber within and without Australia was as short-lived as its use of karri in the construction of railways in Western Australia, so that the Minister of Home Affairs could not have been more unfortunate in his illustration. He said that the honorable member for Fremantle had declared jarrah to be immune from white ants, but that is not so. It is not the opinion of engineers that jarrah is never attacked by white ants; no one pretends that it is immune from the attacks of either white ants or dry-rot. If there were any doubt about its resistant qualities, or about those of other timber, it could quickly be settled by placing the timber in the earth in the Northern Territory. But from what we know of karri, and in view of the meagre and insufficient results of the experiments with it after powellisation, it is a mighty risky thing, and will probably . be a mighty costly thing to the taxpayers to use it for sleepers for the Western Australian railway. Before many years have passed, we shall have ample demonstration of the value or otherwise of this treatment, and, in my opinion, the results will not justify the action of the Government in putting aside a wellknown and tried timber to experiment with an unsuitable timber which has been treated by a process of which the success has not been proved. No business man, no engineer, foreman or ganger who has had the handling of sleepers, and knows how much the life of timber has to do with the cost of maintaining a railroad, would recommend this course.
– Then, are we to use jarrah? ‘
– That is a matter of opinion. The experience of South Australia shows that there are few better timbers in Australia for railway purposes than red-gum sufficiently matured and thoroughly seasoned, which, as a sleeper, has a life, not of six or ten years, out of thirty years. Unfortunately practically none of that timber now remains. There is no timber which white ants and dry-rot will not attack, and if the best once obtainable has gone, we should get the next best. The risk of choosing a bad timber treated with a process insufficiently experimented with is one that we are not justified in taking. I do not know our Engineer-in-Chief, but understand that he has a wide, varied, and valuable experience as a railway engineer, and has acquired an excellent reputation in the Australian engineering world. Reference has been made to his recommendation of powellised karri; but any one who goes through his letters will see that,, although his confidence in powellised karri appears to have grown slightly, his recommendation of it, if he does recommend it, is qualified. Had I been in the positionof the Minister, and received such a recommendation, I should have sent it back 1 and asked for a straight-out statement of opinion, with the facts on which it was. based. There cannot “ be found halfadozen, and I question whether there canbe found three, responsible engineers in Australia who would agree with our EngineerinChief. The most valuable opinion onthe powellising process given to the Minister came from Mr. Saunders, the engineer at the Port Augusta end of the line,, and nothing that he said justifies the Minister in using powellised karri, unless he wishes to enter upon a gambling speculation.
– What was the timber with which Mr. Saunders had experience in New Zealand?
– In New Zealand his experience was chiefly withpowellised pine, which he said was not a success.
– What does he say of that timber?
– That it is a poor timber; but I ask what poorer timber than karri can you choose to put in the ground? Objection was taken to the statement of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition condemning powellised karrion the strength of Mr. Saunders’ New Zealand experience; but having read Mr. Saunders’ statement, I consider that the honorable gentleman was justified in what he said. Admitting the inferiority of the New Zealand timber, I would point out that the Powellising Company claims to’ have made as complete a success with its process in New Zealand as elsewhere; it does not distinguish between the result of its operations there and in other countries. Mr. Saunders, having been in the employ of the company, is in a better position than any other engineer to speak of the results of the process.
– Has he said anything de finite against karri?
– The best evidence regarding the life of a powellised sleeper is altogether unsatisfactory, since it does not extend beyond six years. The honorable member for Maribyrnong suggests that karri would give better results when powellised than were obtained from the New Zealand pine. I have here a sample supplied to me by the chairman of the Supply and Tender Board of South Australia of a karri post which was in the ground for seven or eight years. Its condition is an evidence of seven years’ life as a post in ordinary ground. It shows the effect of white ants on and above the surface of the ground. Under the ground, the result would naturally be worse.
– Where was that post?
– In South Australia. I do not know the locality ; but the honorable member will have a big contract if he wants to find a country that is free of white ants. Like the poor, they are always with us, and are always likely to be ; although there may be a limited area here and there without them. I simply submit that sample for what it is worth.
– What is it worth?
– It is worth just about as much as a lot of this timber will be worth before it has got through half the life of a jarrah sleeper, plus all the cost that will be involved by the powellising process. I asked the chairman of the Supply and Tender Board of South Australia, through the courtesy of the Government, for information on this subject, and he has given me this note -
Some karri sleepers purchased eighteen or twenty years ago were highly unsatisfactory. While in stock they were, attacked by white ants and, rendered practically useless. Some of them had to be destroyed. Some sleepers had previously been used and were extremely unsatisfactory. South Australia has not used any karri sleepers since that date, and will not use them now on any account. Karri was used for marine work in* South Australia, and found absolutely useless. It was quickly destroyed by the teredo. Will not use any more karri for such work. Karri has been found to be quickly destroyed in the ground by white ants, and destroyed out of the ground by dry-rot. The locomotive department seven or eight years ago purchased up to 75,000 super, feet of karri and now has almost entirely discarded its use. Karri has the worst possible reputation as a wood for any purpose.
This statement is signed by J. W. Jones, chairman of the Supply and Tender Board of South Australia. Mr. Jones is secretary to the Commissioner of Public Works. He is a man of considerable ability, and in his position as chairman of the Board, he has the advantage of the expert opinion of every engineer and every practical man using this timber in South Australia.
– Was the timber you are talking about treated?
– No. I admit that the evidence of the treatment which has taken place in South Australia is of a very meagre kind ; but it is very much better than the treatment in Western Australia of a couple of sleepers under a culvert. The most amusing part of the whole business is that the Western Australian Government, possessing this magnificent inheritance, if all that is claimed for the powellising process can be sustained, has not had the pluck to try to build their own railways by means of powellised karri, instead of palming this tale off on a friendly Federal Government, and thus putting the burden of the experiment on this Parliament. If it is a failure, if the timber when treated cannot be shown to have a longer life than six or eight years, the loss on an undertaking such as the transAustralian railway, will easily run into a million pounds and more. Nobody on this side of the House discourages or condemns experimenting with this kind of timber; but we say that the experiments that have been made are, at the best, of the most meagre character, and the details of the experiments, as submitted to the House, are more unsatisfactory than the meagreness of the experiments themselves. We ought to have a professional opinion, if obtainable, with each exhibit submitted to the House. We want to know what the engineer has to say under whose authority and supervision the experiment has been made. If we had that information, the experiment would be of some value for the guidance of honorable members. When giving South Australia’s experience, I shall quote, in the first place, the price that South Australia is paying for jarrah sleepers to-day. South Australia has been using jarrah sleepers ever since I have been in the country, and I suppose before, except that some ten or twelve years ago, during a time of depression, when it was essential that every pound should be kept in the country, she resorted almost entirely to the use of redgum.
– Good stuff, teo.
– It is, if matured. Where South Australia was unwise was in the fact that the redgum she was using was not fully matured.- It is a good thing to get matured timber, but it is better still, having got it, to have it well seasoned. Every Government should insist on having a stock ahead for two or three years, and even four years, because the third and fourth year will improve it so much in character, and so greatly increase its resisting powers when in the ground, as to much more than pay the interest on the capital lying idle. South Australia to-day is dealing almost entirely with jarrah, on the one hand, or steel sleepers on the other. No information has been submitted to the House as to the cost of the powellised timbers contracted for by the Minister of Home Affairs, and we ought to have had it. That is a remarkable and unjustifiable, and, I believe, unprecedented, omission on the part of the Minister and the Government. What sort of a position are we in? We have an estimate of the cost of the railway, made a long time ago, and we have recently had intimations, which we ought to regard as practically a revised estimate, by the Engineer-in-Chief, that because of the rise in wages and other contingencies, the railway is to cost more. But what is the value of an estimate to guide the House, when one of the principal items in the construction of the railway - the cost of the sleepers - is practically unknown? It is unknown, at all events, to the House, or to this side of the House. The present price for jarrah sleepers in South Australia is as follows: - For 5-ft. 3-in. broad gauge, size 8 ft. 6 in. by 10J in. by 5^ in., 6s. 2d. delivered on trucks at Port Adelaide; size 8 ft. 6 in. by 10 in. by 5 in., 5s. 11 1/2d. and 6s. delivered on trucks at Port Adelaide.
– I am glad you told us, because I think your Government charge us a little more for them.
– South Australia is the Scotland of Australia, and its people know how to make a little when they make a deal. For 3-ft. 6-in. narrow gauge, size 6 ft. 6 in. by 8 in. by 4 in., the prices are 3s. ojd. and 3s. 0 3/4d. each on trucks, Port Adelaide ; and for size 6 ft. 6 in. by 8 J in. by 4 J in., 3s. 5d. each on trucks, Port Adelaide. I have here also the prices for steel sleepers under a contract let on 1 st April, 1 9 10. Something may have to be added now to the price obtaining at that time. For 5-ft. 3-in. broad gauge, the price paid by South Australia for steel sleepers was 6s. 6d. each on trucks at Port Adelaide, including duty; and for the 3-ft. 6-in. narrow gauge, 4s. 3 1/4d. each, on trucks Port Adelaide, including duty. South Australia has found for the last forty or fifty years that for a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge an 8-ft. 6-in. sleeper is ample.
– The 9-ft. sleeper is better.
– I believe New South Wales uses a 9-ft. sleeper for the 4-ft. 8J-in gauge; but the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada use for a 4- ft. 8J-in. gauge the same length of sleeper that South Australia uses for a 5- ft. 3-in? gauge. It should be remembered that the fastenings for the steel sleepers are considerably more expensive than the fastenings for the wooden sleepers. But, taking everything into consideration, as far as price is concerned, and omitting the duty, which the Commonwealth Parliament would not have to pay, the steel sleeper would be absolutely cheaper than the wooden sleeper. There is no reason why the steel sleeper should not be manufactured in Australia.
– Does it make as good a bed?
– The honorable member will be able to form an opinion after I have quoted the view of the experts in South Australia. As far as tests are concerned, the information supplied to me is as follows -
Special tests have been made with a few kairi sleepers and pieces of karri timber on the railway lines, some in the natural state untreated with any preservatives, and some treated with “ Jodelite.” The results in both cases have been very unsatisfactory.
The following example is a fair illustration of the whole : -
Pieces of karri laid in the railway track, some treated with “jodelite” and some not so treated - the results were as follows : -
The test started in 1899.
After two years the treated timber was in fairly good condition, but just being attacked by white ants. The untreated timber was riddled with white ants.
At five years the treated timber was badly attacked by white ants, the untreated timber was quite destroyed.
At ten years the treated timber was practically destroyed.
– Was that after powellising ?
– No; the timber was treated with “ jodelite,” a chemical process, for which similar claimswere made to those made by the Powellising Company for its process. The results are better, because in this case there is, at any rate, a ten-years’ life, and the very best results submitted to the House in regard to the powellising system show a life of only six years -
No tests have been made in South Australia with the powellising process treatment of sleepers.
Hundreds of thousands of jarrah sleepers have been used in South Australian railways with very satisfactory results. They are invariably very good for at least 15 to 20 years.
I wish to repeat that the experience of South Australia shows that, for the last thirty or forty years, jarrah sleepers have been good for, at least, fifteen or twenty years.
– What is the honorable member quoting from?
– From a communication from the Chairman of the Supply and Tender Board, South Australia. This Board purchases all the timber and stores for every Department in South Australia. The Board frequently obtains from its engineers and other expert officers reports on purchases. There is nothing as to which the Board is more particular than timber.
– I merely asked my question for the sake of information.
– I appreciate the honorable member’s interjection. When South Australia was importing jarrah sleepers from Western Australia, there were only one’ or two inspectors who had sufficient knowledge to warrant the Board in sending them to Western Australia to inspect and pass the jarrah supplied. The reason was that, under certain conditions, jarrah and karri are so similar in appearance that it requires an expert who has had a good deal of experience to detect the difference between them.
– Can an expert detect the difference ?
– Not always. We had in South Australia one expert, Mr. Brown - who has now retired - whose capacity for distinguishing between jarrah and karri was so sound that the Board never felt perfectly safe unless he was available. Many good practical men will tell one that they cannot distinguish a karri from a jarrah sleeper unless they apply the fire. The one has a white ash, and the other burns with a black ash. The action taken to-day by the Opposition is considered by us to be a public duty. Speaking for myself, I should feel worthy of being condemned if I did not do everything in my power to exert all the influence I possess to induce the Government, even at this late period, to change their deter mination, if the contract is not absolutely signed. The Government are not dealing with an ordinary private individual in regard to this contract. They are dealing with another, and a friendly, Government. There is not an atom of justification for the Government undertaking such an enormous responsibility on the strength of such meagre experiments and reports as we have had. If the Government desire an experiment to be made, by all means let them try one on 10, or 50, or even 100, miles of railway. But they ought not to risk enormous loss, and to jeopardize the safety of the transcontinental railway, by this experiment on such an enormous scale. In all probability, most of the work on the railway will be done at night. Safety ought to be the first ‘and last consideration. Moreover, high speed cannot be obtained without reliable railway . material. For these reasons, I ask the Prime Minister and the Government, even at this late hour, to reconsider the matter, and to resort to a limited experiment, instead of a wholesale one, as now contemplated.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat, in his concluding words, has admirably stated the object of the Opposition in challenging the action of the Government now in question. Our desire is, if it be not too late, to prevent the Government from finally committing themselves to a course of action which will undoubtedly involve the country in an enormous expenditure upon evidence which, to my mind, and to the mind of every honorable member on this side of the House, after full and careful consideration of the material available, is entirely insufficient. I am not going to weary the House by going over ground which has already been covered by previous speakers. We have a Minister in charge of the Department of Home Affairs who, whatever his abilities may be, has not - I think I am justified in saying - had extended, or even any, experience in connexion with the conduct of great business undertakings ; certainly not in connexion with the conduct of undertakings in the nature of large railway construction. Therefore^ - and the Prime Minister will admit so much - the House is entitled to scrutinize carefully the evidence brought forward in support of this new departure in railway construction. We are entitled to ask what is the evidence on which the Government are prepared to enter into commitments amounting to very many hundreds of thousands of pounds in connexion with timber for sleepers - into an experiment which, in spite of all the theoretical evidence brought forward, must be admitted never to have been applied in extended practical use in this or any other part of the world. That is the outstanding fact which cannot be got over by reading reports from various gentlemen, no matter how learned they may be in purely chemical laboratory work. We have had placed before us - and for some weeks have had an-opportunity of discussing it amongst ourselves - the whole of the evidence on which Ministers have chosen to adopt this new departure. I shall not attempt to criticise the value of that evidence. But it may be divided into two or three classes: There is, first of all, the evidence of what may be called the pure theorist, the university professor. We have Mr. McKenzie, who, I have no doubt, is a very able man. His opinion, I do not question, is entitled to every weight. We have also the views of Mr. Rudolph and Mr. Troup. All these gentlemen have made reports. There is one criticism common to all of them. It is that their reports have been made with respect to pieces of wood supplied to them by the Powellising Company for the very purpose of obtaining their opinion. Of course, one should not reject evidence obtained under such circumstances; but it is evidence which ought naturally to be carefully scrutinized. A prudent man would naturally ask a few questions about it. « He would say, first of all, “I want to know the kind of specimens that were submitted, and whether they consisted of small pieces of wood, or were bulky specimens like sleepers?” Again, he would say, “ I want to know whether these specimens were prepared for testing by the company which is interested in the process?” . He would also ask, “ What is the exact process to which the specimens have been subjected, and how long have they been immersed in the solution?” I do not suppose that there is any man on either side of the House who would deny that, if you set up. a piece of timber and manage to saturate it through and through in all its fibres with a saccharine solution carrying with it arsenic, it will give immunity from white ant. Whether it would also give immunity from dryrot is a matter upon which I cannot express an opinion, not being an expert. I am free to acknowledge my own limitations.
My only object is to try to weigh the evidence submitted by the experts, and I do not suppose that any one will dispute that, if you could saturate a 9-ft. by 5-in. sleeper with this arsenical solution, it would have the effect of protecting it against white ants. In one description which is given of this process of treatment, the statement was made that first of all the sap must be entirely eliminated from the wood. It must be dried out. The wood is then subjected to a solution in a condition in which it will absorb the solution throughout. That is a process which it would take some’ days to apply to a piece of wood, only i£ inches thick. We have no “evidence as to how long it would take to apply it to sleepers. But it is very probable that it would extend over many weeks. Take, for instance, Professor McKenzie’s statement, which I have no doubt is perfectly correct so far as the material at his command was concerned. We have no means of knowing what was the size of the specimens that were submitted to him. It is not at all likely that those specimens were sleepers. The probability is that they were comparatively small blocks of wood. Those blocks having been submitted by the company which is interested in securing a good report upon the efficacy of the process, the next question which a prudent man would ask is, “ How long were they subjected to that treatment? Doubtless they were subjected to it for a long period.’ Having obtained these pieces of wood, what was done with them by the persons to whom they were submitted? It stands to reason that they could not be subjected- to the same test to which sleepers would be subjected. They could not be placed in the ground for three or four years. Obviously the test which Professor McKenzie adopted was that of applying a chemical process to them with a view to ascertaining whether or not they had been saturated throughout. For instance, Professor McKenzie says -
Examining the tissue of your treated timbers under the lens of a powerful microscope, I did not find a single “ thread “ of mycelium or a spore. There being no penetration by mycelium, there was, consequently, no disintegration of the cells or general tissue.
– That is plain enough.
– If the honorable member merely desired to ascertain whether these small pieces of wood were thoroughly saturated. that would be enough. But the proposition with which we are dealing is one for the construction of a line which will necessitate the supply of 2,500 tons of sleepers, which, for the most part, will be cut in a green state, weekly. What on earth is the value of telling us that Professor McKenzie has applied his microscope to a small piece of timber cut into sections, and that he found that there were no spores or mycelium there. Then the examination of Mr. Troup and the Indian experts was exactly on the same plane. I submit with great respect to my honorable friends opposite that if they were dealing with a proposition of this kind on their own behalf, as practical men they would say, “I am not going to reverse the policy which has been followed in all the railway construction undertaken throughout Western Australia. Jarrah has been there for generations, and I will not adopt a timber which has been rejected merely because of tests which have been conducted by these university professors. ‘ ‘
– Then the honorable member does not value the opinions of professors very much?
– I value them very highly so far as they go. A professor’s opinion as to a small piece of wood which has been carefully prepared for his inspection may be very valuable so far as it goes. But it does not go far enough. We are asked to reverse the policy which has been followed by the Western Australian Government, and by all other Governments, in regard to this powellising process, and to adopt an entirely new timber - a timber which is entirely unsuitable unless it be subjected to a particular treatment. What is the other evidence in support of it? It amounts to two or three reports from Mr. Light, the EngineerinChief of Existing Lines. It is rather a remarkable fact that he wrote three letters - I think that a fourth was read for the first time by the Minister of Home Affairs today - in which he exhibits a rising scale of hope in this process. His first letter is extremely cautious, his second affords the process a little more encouragement, and in his third communication he becomes enthusiastic. But there still remains the broad fact that he has never been permitted to use it.
– They are preparing to use it now.
– What is the evidence of that?
– The establishment of a powellising plant for the treatment of karri sleepers.
– We heard for the first time to-day a statement by the Minister that an order has been given for the supply of a million sleepers there. I asked, by way of interjection, when and under what circumstances that order was given, and, in reply, the Minister told me that I might telegraph to Western Australia and get the information myself. I am, therefore, incapable, of dealing with that last fact. But I propose to deal with the materials on which the Minister came to his decision, and also those on which Mr. Deane arrived at his decision. Undoubtedly, in his last letter, Mr. Deane says that he thinks it safe to proceed.. But, whilst he says that, he refers to his previous letter, in which he gives his reasons, which do not, in any instance, depend upon any personal conclusions at which he has arrived. If Mr. Deane’s statement were based upon anything in the nature of personal observation or reports made to him - reports which he had investigated and supervised - I should place the greatest reliance in them. But in this particular instance he stands in no higher position than does any honorable member of this House. The next evidence which has been brought forward is that given by a number of architects. But these gentlemen deal entirely with the suitability of karri for a superstructure. I do not know that She honorable member for Fremantle has ever set up the position that karri is not a suitable timber with which to build trucks, for example. Then what is the use of putting before us the statements made by a number of architects, even though they include Mr. Eales, a gentleman whom I know personally, and respect?
– May we not assume some things ?
– The difficulty is that these architects do not say anything about the process. Then we have one or two Indian reports on the matter. A gentleman, writing from Burmah, expresses a somewhat qualified approval of this treatment. We have, also, a report from Mr. James Mann, of the University, of .Melbourne Engineering School, who expresses a general approval of it. He says -
It is claimed for the Powell wood process that a saccharine solution under the company’s treatment can be made to penetrate right through the densest wood without injury to the wood fibre or causing deterioration in any way, but rather improving the appearance, increasing the strength and durability, absolutely immune from dry-rot and other fungi, white ant and other insect proof, rather less shrinkage than naturally seasoned wood, and about the same loss in weight. It is also claimed that the fibres are consoli- dated, subsequent shrinking is reduced to a minimum, that the polishing and painting qualities are improved, that it is more impervious to moisture, and, in consequence, will expand less when submerged. It claims, also, that the treatment facilitates the impregnation of timber with such chemicals or poisons as will prevent the destruction caused by ship worms and other marine borers.
Mr. Mann adds ;
Having recently inspected a number of both treated and untreated specimens I. am of opinion that most of these claims are well founded.
In the first place, I would point out that he has merely inspected these specimens, just as Ministers inspected the blocks of wood on the table of the House, and he says, “ I think most of these claims are good.” He does not tell us which of the claims are good. For the purpose of determining whether karri sleepers are good, it would not matter to us whether or not the marine borer is likely to affect them. I hear honorable members say that it is a fair thing to assume something. It is not a fair thing to assume anything in this connexion. If we were “dealing with a process which had been tried and proved in one part of the world, we might assume a great deal ; but when we are dealing with a scientific experiment, which has practically never been tried in railway construction, it is not safe for us to assume anything in its favour. We have a kimber which, according to all the experts, has been thoroughly proved by experience - I refer to jarrah - to be eminently suited for railway sleepers. We have another timber which, untreated, is admittedly entirely unsuitable for this purpose. A claim has been PUt forward by an interested company that a new process, known as powellisation, or saturation with a saccharine solution under certain conditions, will render this timber as good as jarrah. Before we accept that claim and commit this country to an expenditure which it is difficult to calculate at the present time, we ought to have a good deal more than assumption in its favour. We ought to have something in the nature of proof,” or, as the honorable member for Wakefield has said, we ought to make a working experiment over a few miles with these sleepers. The Government ought to do something to insure that, in practical construction, the claims of these interested companies and the departmental experts who are inclined to favour the use of this timber, are justified.
– If we did, the honorable member would be the first to condemn us.
– I think that the honorable member has just awakened. I should, at all events, be the last to condemn him. Passing over a number of letters, we come at last to the final reports on which, apparently, the Minister has definitely acted. The first of these, to which I wish to refer, is a report dated 27th February, 191 2, by Mr. H. Chinn. I think that we have heard of Mr. H. Chinn before ; and we have here the first-fruits of that very remarkable appointment which was made by the Minister of Home Affairs, and was severely criticised in this House on another occasion. We have here a report, which I shall read, and which, I venture to suggest, shows, in every line of it, the zeal of the newly-appointed gentleman who desires to justify his appointment to the position in which he has been placed. He shows, in the report, an inaccuracy and looseness of statement which, had it been before the House on a previous occasion, would have added very much weight to the remarks of those who criticised his appointment. Mr. Chinn has been appointed, I understand, Supervising Engineer at the Kalgoorlie end of the line. He therefore occupies a position of great importance and responsibility. He was, no doubt, asked to report on this matter, and this is what he says -
At an interview with Mr. Scaddan, the Premier of Western Australia, on Wednesday last, he informed me that the Western Australian Government intended erecting sawmills at Wilgarrup, near Bridgetown, for the purpose of cutting karri timber into sleepers and scantlings, to be used on their railways and public works, and was desirous that sleepers and timber should be obtained from them for the construction of the transcontinental railway.
It will be observed, in the first place, that Mr. Chinn is charged primarily with the duty of protecting the Commonwealth. In any dealings which the Government may have with the Government of Western Australia, his duty is to the Commonwealth, and to the Commonwealth alone. But, apparently, he accepts this statement without question or scrutiny. He knows, to start with, that the Western Australian Government has never used - I think I am correct in saying - one karri sleeper in the construction of its own railways.
– Only a few by way of an experiment.
– The honorable member is referring to the experiment with some thirty karri sleepers. The Government of Western Australia has never used karri sleepers, except in the one case, in which, for the purposes of an experiment, it put down alternate karri sleepers, to the number of thirty, near Perth.
– They refuse to allow karri sleepers to be used.
– The Government of Western Australia have not authorized their use in railway construction; and, what is more, in the specifications for contracts for the construction of any line, they expressly exclude karri from the timbers that may be used. That being the position of the State Government, Mr. Chinn puts forward Mr. Scaddan’s general statement that, whilst the State Government are not going to use karri for this purpose, they propose to erect works for the cutting of karri timber for sleepers. He then goeson to say -
I explained to him that it was understood that the Western Australian Government would be willing to grant an area to the Commonwealth Government to enable us to cut our own supplies, but it seems to me now that the State Government have satisfied themselves that powellised karri is superior to jarrah for any use, they are desirous of doing the thing we hoped to do ourselves.
What authority, in a matter of this importance has Mr. Chinn for the wild statement that the Western Australian Government have satisfied themselves that powellised karri is superior to jarrah for any use? What documentary evidence has he in support of that statement? If the Western Australian Government have satisfied themselves in this way, they can have done so only on the reports of some responsible engineering officer. Where are those reports?
– There is, in the correspondence, a report of the Engineer of Existing Lines in Western Australia.
– I have referred to such documents, and Mr. Light not only does not go to anything like the length to which Mr. Chinn goes, But he gives a rather qualified approval to the use of powellised karri sleepers. On the other hand, Mr. Chinn makes the wild and blatant statement that the Government of Western Australia have satisfied themselves that powellised karri is superior to jarrah for any purpose, and that they are desirous of doing that which the Commonwealth had hoped to do. Mr. Chinn goes on te* report that; -
Mr. Scaddan informed me that all the Government engineers have convinced him that powellised karri is better than- jarrah.
– Does the honorable member question khat statement ?
– I do absolutely. If any of these statements were true, we should have the evidence that is usually forthcoming in support of them from every Government Department. We should have the ordinary evidence of expert departmental engineers. Then Mr. Chinn goes on to say -
Mr. Scaddan informed me that all the Government engineers have convinced him that powellised karri is better than treated jarrah, and as. the karri forests are quite in the hands of the Government, whilst the jarrah areas are almost exclusively in the hands of Millar’s Company -
– And that is not true.
– Here we come to the milk in the cocoanut. We are coming now to the root of the whole matter. We are reaching the one thing that colours all the expert reports - that adds weight to all these perfectly worthless tests on whichthe Minister of Home Affairs has actually based his decision. I am informed, although I have no personal knowledge ot the subject, that this statement, if not entirely untrue, is, at least, grossly exaggerated. Mr. Chinn goes on to say that - the State Government are determined to utilizethis timber (karri) for their own benefit.
Are honorable members prepared to accept Mr. Chinn’s word in respect to thatmatter ? -
Mr. Scaddan told me the Government would” be prepared to tender for karri sleepers if tenders were called, and would undertake to deliver according to our requirements.
I have not yet written to the Premier seeking some definite proposal, but will do so in the course of a few days, and will communicate toyou his reply.
Mr. Light, the Chief Engineer for Existing Lines, is thoroughly convinced that treated karri sleepers are better in every respect than jarrah,. and that the extra cost for powellising will morethan double the life of an untreated jarrah sleeper.
Having regard to the letters which havebeen read more than once in this House - the letters written by Mr. Light himself - I say that Mr. Chinn’ s letter conveys ir* every line of it, not only the grossest exaggeration, but evidence of a total unconsciousness of the responsible duty which he owes to those whom he is advising inthis matter. We come now to two letterswhich form part of the material on which the Minister of Home Affairs decided to adopt this experiment - two letters written by Mr. F. W. Saunders, supervising engineer, which the Minister, unfortunately, forgot to read to the House. Mr. Saunders has had experience of powellised karri and other timber. I am told, and believe, that, prior to his employment by the Commonwealth, he was in the employ of the Powellising Company, so that he speaks as one who has been, more or less, behind the scenes. He now occupies on the eastern end of the trans-Australian railway the position that Mr. Chinn occupies at the western end. He had experience in New Zealand.
– And experience in Western Australia long ago.
– He had experience which he gives in a letter dated 30th April, 19 12 - a later letter than any of the others to which I have referred. It reads -
Memorandum for the Engineer-in-Chief for Railways : Powellised Sleepers.
In further reference to the white pine powellised sleepers which were tried in New Zealand -
May I be allowed to point out, before I read further from this letter, that a good deal has been said of the efforts made by New Zealand, from time to time, to use either powellisation or some similar process for the treatment of its timbers? I believethat these efforts have been due largely to the fact that there is not available’ there the same class of hardwoods that we have, and that the Government are obliged to look about for some method of dealing with timbers which, untreated, are quite unsuitable for this purpose. Mr. Saunders wrote -
In further reference to the white pine powellised sleepers which were tried in New Zealand, I understand several thousands of these have decayed, and the Railway Department have cancelled the existing contract with the New Zealand Powellising Company for the supply of sleepers.
I am not attempting to speak as an expert, but it seems to me, after reading the evidence available to us - and it is rather scanty - that if you once succeeded in getting the solution into the whole fibre of the wood, then, whether it was white pine, or karri, or jarrah, you would probably render it immune. I should suppose that would be so. That remark would apply to the treatment of white pine, or any olther timber ; but the real difficulty is that in dealing with a huge railway construction scheme of this kind - an undertaking in which we must deal with hundreds of sleepers every day, and with thousands of sleepers every week - we have to consider the possibility of adopting any process that will thoroughly and completely saturate such large pieces of timber. There is the further point that these sleepers are cut, for the most part, green. They contain a good deal of sap, and the question is how you can apply to such timber a process that will thoroughly saturate it? To test that point, when we come to the experience of those who, like Mr. Saunders, have tried to reduce it to practical use, we come to evidence which is worth having. We come to the evidence of, not a University professor or an interested company expert, but a practical man, who is trying to put this new theory into practice. What does he say? He says -
In further reference to the white pine powellised sleepers which were tried in New Zealand, I understand several thousands of these have decayed, and the Railway Department have cancelled the existing contract with the New Zealand Powellising Company for the supply of sleepers.
– Read what he says later.
– I intend to read the whole of the letter. I have no doubt that powellising for certain purposes-
– What are the purposes; what is your limitation?
– I do not think that in a matter of this sort, in which we are all deeply concerned, it is of the slightest use to attempt to put up an unfair argument. It is of no use to press an argument further than it goes. As I am reminded by an honorable member, who is a practical expert, this process will be more effectual on a sleeper which is seasoned than it will be on a green sleeper. It must be remembered that the bulk of these sleepers will have to be cut from green wood. Mr. Saunders continues -
To cut 8,000 sleepers a day, equal to 300,000 super, feet, the saw-milling plant would cost nearly£100,000.
These sleepers, when powellised, are saturated with the solution, which should be driven off in the drying rooms, being kept in the rooms about seven days under a temperature of 120 degrees, otherwise the sleepers shrink when placed in the ground, and are likely to loosen the dogs.
It has been said that the dogs hold as well in karri as in jarrah. I believe, from what some of the experts say, that karri has a longer fibre, and probably will have that effect as long as it remains sound -
I understand that the karri sleepers have been tested in the ground for five or six years under similar conditionsto those existing on the Kalgoorlie to Fort Augusta railway.
There is no doubt the timber, when thoroughly impregnated with arsenic, is immune to attacks of white ants.
I do not suppose that any one would, or could, dispute that; but where the company have tried to reduce it to practice they have been obliged to abandon their contract. I intend to refer to that matter in a moment. That report was made by Mr. Saunders on the 30th April, 1912. He wrote a further memorandum to the Department on the 10th June, 1912. Both reports were made while he was supervising engineer, and, therefore, while he was an officer under the Minister of Home Affairs. His second report reads as follows -
I have the honour to report that my experience with powellised wood dates back about four years, when I was engaged as engineer and manager to proceed to New Zealand to erect the works in that country for the New Zealand Powell Wood Process Limited.
The process is called powellising, after Mr. Powell, an Englishman in London, who protected the process by letters patent all the world over.
Shortly put, the process consists of boiling the timber in a saccharine solution, and so expelling the air and sap contained in the wood, thereby creating a vacuum in the timber. When the boiling is discontinued, timber which is 1 inch thick is allowed to remain in the solution for five hours, during which period the saccharine solution thoroughly saturates ‘the wood, carrying with it the arsenic, which prevents white ants from attacking the wood so treated. It has been fully demonstrated in several parts of the world that timber so treated is immune from the ravages of white ants.
It has been claimed, however, by the patentee that the process will preserve all wood from being attacked by dry-rot. This statement has not been borne out in New Zealand, where thousands of white pine sleepers have shown very marked evidences of decomposition after being two years in the ground, and the Railway Department have cancelled their contract with the Powell Company for all orders they had placed with the company.
White pine is a poor wood at best, and it had never been experimented on by the company to ascertain whether it would resist the attack of dry-rot after being treated, it being generally accepted that the process could preserve all wood.
– It is not fit for sleepers, anyhow.
– I do not suppose that any one will say that their timber is as good for sleepers as is the hard wood found in Australia, but they have to make the best of the timber they have.
– He says that it is an inferior wood.
– It is an inferior wood - it is a soft wood - but I doubt very much whether the evidence would make any wood inferior for this purpose to untreated karri. The latter is obviously, according to all the evidence, dangerous -
Powellised karri has been tested in the dryrot ovens in Scotland, and Professor McKenzie has reported that it will resist the attack of dryrot, a fact which is borne out by actual experience in Western Australia, where it is reported to be standing very well.
He is still going on reports from Western Australia as to the thirty sleepers, some of which were taken up after three years and examined. Then he says -
A great difference exists in the nature of white pine timber and karri. White pine untreated is little used, but some of the karri that was used in constructing railway trucks for the Victorian railways some twenty-five years ago is still in use.
– Hear, hear !
– I think that my honorable friends and the Minister of Home Affairs are entitled to the full benefit of the fact that there is expert evidence that, by its structure, karri is amenable to this treatment. But that is not the point. The question is whether, in the practical application of this process on a large scale to great blocks, and within a reasonable expense, it could be made a practicable substitute for jarrah.
– What is the evidence against it?
– I should, have thought that where we are committing the country to a new experiment at an enormous expense, the question to ask is not, “What is the evidence against it?” but “What is the evidence in favour of it?” Mr. Saunders continues -
It is known that karri, untreated, is of little use for sleepers, but it would appear that the wood possesses some characteristic, that makes it amenable to treatment by an artificial preservative, but for what length of time the powellised karri willlast in the ground it is impossible to say.
All powellised sleepers, after treatment, should be seasoned ; in no case should they be bored and adzed before being treated, otherwise a very irregular road would eventuate.
The very emphatic claims put forward by the Powell Process Company as to the merits of seasoned powellised wood have hardly been borne out by experience.
Here we have the practical man speaking.
– That is a very clever utterance.
– I think so. Mr. Saunders feels the responsibility of his position. He points out his own experience, and where he is drawing inferences from what he is told by others, he says, “ This is what is said to have taken place in Western Australia “ -
In a commercial sense, neither the New Zealand nor Sydney Company has been an unqualified success. The initial cost of the works is very heavy. A plant costing ,£18,000 would turn out about 250,000 super, feet per week in seasoned limber up to ii inch thick -
Of course, that would be a mere drop in the bucket compared with what we should have to do - and it is apparent that the thicker the timber the longer it would take to season. The arsenic badly attacks the galvanized iron, the steel treatment trucks, and other iron work which comes in contact with” the arsenical solution, or steam emanating therefrom.
This part of the memorandum is important -
The Victorian Railways in 1908 investigated the claims advanced by the Sydney Powell Process Limited, and forwarded some timber from Melbourne to be treated and seasoned by_ the company in Sydney. Mr. Woodroffe states tha when the timber was returned to the Newport workshops it was noticed that the surface of some of the hardwoods had sunk, and, when sawn lengthwise, the timber was found to be badly checked, in small openings. _ The cedar seemed quite satisfactory. A Committee was set up in 1910 by the Railways Commissioners to report on the matter of seasoning and powellising wood -
We have not been favoured with a report of that Committee, which I think would have been useful in this discussion - and they reported at the time they could not recommend its adoption. In justice to the Powell process, it might be advisable to obtain a copy of this report, as I understand it is not proposed to repudiate the process altogether, and, further, an explanation is given as to the cause of the timber checking.
Is it not an obvious fact? Here is a fairminded practical man, who is trying to do the best for his Department. He gives a due amount of weight to what he has heard as to sleepers in Western Australia. He says that, so far, they are reported to have done fairly well, and, so far as his own experience goes, the practical application of the treatment was unsuccessful. For what reason it was unsuccessful he does not say, but I should think that the reason is obvious, and it is that probably the’ process applied with reasonable economy was not satisfactory and effective. There was not a thorough saturation of the sleepers. Then he goes on to say, as any practical man would say, “ What other evidence have I ? This process was submitted to the Railways Commissioners ; they went into the matter, and appointed a Committee of Inquiry, but the Committee turned it down. I do not think that the Committee meant to say that the process ought to be rejected altogether, but that it required further investigation.” I recommend this letter more than all the evidence put together here to the consideration of the House. I think it is an honest letter. I think it is a candid, careful” scrutiny of the evidence on the whole case by the only man who has had any real practical experience.
– And, on top of it all, the Engineer-in-Chief makes another statement.
Mx. W. H. IRVINE. - I am going to deal next with the letter from the EngineerinChief, if the honorable member will allow me to proceed, t have already mentioned it. Then we have this statement by Mr. Saunders -
I have seasoned powellised birch up to i£ inch thick for flooring boards quite successfully, but I was not successful with sizes over i£ inch-thick
That is very important -
The greater proportion of the timber seasoned by the Powell process has been successful, though in some of the inferior woods the timber shrinks very much after being through the treatment, but the cost of artificial seasoning is naturally very high.
That is a letter which I think ought to give the Engineer-in-Chief, as well as the Minister for Home Affairs, pause before committing the Government to the purchase of .1,500,000 sleepers, before committing the country to the establishment of a plant which may cost a very large sum, and which is estimated by those who know at between £200,000 and £300,000 - I do not know whether that is too much or not - before committing the Government to practically purchasing a royalty. We are told now that the Government are neither going to erect a plant nor to purchase a royalty, but to get the same work done by the State Government. On what terms we r-ic not told. We are not allowed to know that. Honorable members on the Government side have to open their mouths and swallow this thing just as much as we have to do. unless, of course, they have some information which we do not possess, although I do not believe that they have. I assume that the Minister is taking up quite an honest position when he says, “I am not going to give the House any information until a contract is signed.”
– He has a further business arrangement to make, which might be affected by disclosing certain information’ to the House. I think that that is a fair position.
– Sometimes it may be, but in this case I think it is not. In the first place, practical men will tell you that where you have a long railway to construct you do not call for tenders for the supply of all the sleepers as you do in the case of other material. You have to get your sleepers where you can, and the usual thing is to fix a price, and then call for persons who are prepared to bring in the sleepers at that price. If the Government have really gone with experts into the question of what the price of jarrah or karri sleepers, hewn or delivered at Kalgoorlie, ought to be, I cannot see any difficulty in “them saying, now, “ This is our price. We want to see how many people will let us have sleepers at this price.” Ordinary tendering by competition is, I am assured, impracticable in connexion with the supply of sleepers, and therefore this consideration really would not apply. The next consideration is the enormous magnitude of this committal which the Government are now entering into. They are not dealing with one amongst a number of tenderers, but with the supply of 1,500,000 sleepers, which, at 2,000 sleepers to the mile, will, cover, I think, 700 miles of this line. A huge portion of the line is covered by this commitment, which the Government are going to enter into without asking or giving the House the slightest opportunity of really knowing what the true position is. I see that the honorable member for Gippsland is here now, and I should like once more to refer to Mr. Deane’s report. I say again that I. believe Mr. Deane to be a very honorable and efficient gentleman in the discharge of his duties. I think that he approached this subject first with the greatest caution, but, from beginning to end, he has not expressed an expert opinion based on his own observation. The Minister cannot, by simply asking the EngineerinChief to read, over all these reports, and asking him what he thinks of a certain process, relieve himself of responsibility in the matter. If Mr. Deane had come here and said that, as a man of experience and practical knowledge, he had applied tests, it would have been a different matter. He says in his letter -
I shall be glad to be informed as to what the Minister decides with regard t’o sleepers. I have already made my recommendation, and I have no reason to go back upon my opinion that it would be quite safe to adopt the principle of powellising for karri sleepers. I forwarded a memorandum On the 17th inst. setting forth the data that I had collected on the subject.
His letter of the 17th states that he wrote to Mr. Light, and referred to the various reports by Professor McKenzie, and others, including Professor Boulger, who may have a great many letters after his name, but does not know much about karri or of Western Australia. Mr. Deane refers to Mr. Bethell’s letter of the 24th -
On 24th July, 191 1, Mr. Bethell wrote to me, forwarding two samples of Victorian mountain ash, both out of the same board -
This I take to mean ordinary i£-in. boards - one in its natural condition, and the other powellised seasoned, showing a very great improvement due to the process. This was in compliance with a request which I had made to Mr. Bethell. .On 2nd September, ron, Mr. Light, Chief Engineer of Existing Lines, Perth, wrote to me on the subject of the Powell process.
He then quotes a passage from Mr. Light’s letter, referring to the thirty sleepers of which we have heard so much -
I think it will be seen that the evidence as to the effective treatment of karri by the Powell wood process is very favorable. Since writing the above, a telegram from Mr. Light, Chief Engineer of Existing Lines, Perth, conveys the following information : - “ Powellising karri culvert perfectly sound, although erected for test purposes inside old jarrah culvert which had been destroyed by white ants.”
This letter does not mention the time or where this occurred, and I should like to ask how long the timber had been there, what were the scantlings of the timber, and. the kind of process to which they were first subjected? On these points we have no information ; and I venture to submit to honorable members on both sides that Mr. Deane, great as his expert standing is, does not even profess to have any opinion of his own on the matter; he simply takes a number of other opinions, summarizes them, and places them before the Minister. Mr. Deane has not quoted Mr. Saunders, though I am not sure that Mr. Saunders’ communication is not a subsequent one. It is a curious thing, however, that he does not include Mr. Saunders amongst the other authorities. I cannot believe that it was intended to suppress this communication of Mr. Saunders; but it is remarkable that the report of the only practical man of any experience does not appear amongst the data on which Mr. Deane forms his opinion.
– Has the honorable member seen the latest report of Mr. Deane, after his recent return from Western Australia. ?
– I have, but what does it amount to? Substantially, it says that Mr. Deane was taken by an officer of the Powellising Company, and another gentleman, to see a number of karri logs which had for some time been lying on the surface, and that they showed no signs of white ants or dry-rot.
– He said that they showed some signs, but not much.
– He said that the logs had been there fourteen or fifteen years.
– But not lying on the ground there?
– But they were not powellised, and they cannot be put forward as a test of the process.
– That is what is said in his report.
– Yes, but it is not a test of the process.
– It is a test of the timber.
– Nobody disputes the fact that karri is a magnificent timber for many purposes, but it is not suitable for sleepers underground. This is admitted and stated in the clearest terms by Mr. Saunders, who is a practical expert. The question whether this timber can be made suitable by this process has not yet been effectively settled. I ask whether any business man in this House, if he were entering into a contract, not for 1,500,000 sleepers but for 100 or a smaller number, on his own account, and it was essential that they should be saturated with an antiseptic mixture of some kind, would not, first of all, insist on having the treatment set forth in the specifications? He would require to know, for example, how long the timber should be treated, whether it should, first of all, be desiccated by some process so that it might more readily absorb the mixture, and how long each process should take. I wonder if the Minister, if one of his own supporters were to ask him whether any of these precautions had been taken, would be prepared to give an answer. We have no chance of an answer over here.
– Do not say that !
– We have asked for similar information, and an answer has been refused.
– I suppose the same answer was given as we get from the other side sometimes, namely, that “the time is not opportune.”
– Very likely; that is the reply that the Minister has given. It is a reply, however, that is very unsatisfactory, under the circumstances of the case. We are now committing ourselves to a vast expenditure on altogether untried ground, and we are not even told the price which is to be paid - -whether it is sufficiently large to allow of an expensive treatment being carried out effectively. We are not told whether the contract describes any of the essential conditions; and, on the grounds I have stated, without using any words of heat, I urge on honorable members on both sides to consider whether we are not taking a hasty and ill-considered step in entering into this vast undertaking without some further inquiry and investigation.
.- I have listened with much attention to the debate, for which I regret there should be any occasion. There is no necessity, in my opinion, for this Parliament to be placed in a position to warrant our challenging the Government in regard to this great railway, the construction of which we all desire to see proceed quickly and without difficulty. But I regret that the action of the Government in this matter, and in other matters to which I need not now refer, leads us to the conclusion that much delay and great and unnecessary expenditure must result. We have had an exhaustive statement from the honorable member for Fremantle, who has so marshalled his facts as to make the case plain to honorable members. We have also had the speeches of the honorable members for Parramatta, Flinders, and Wakefield, which must make us feel that we are not acting wisely or reasonably in this important matter. Personally, I would not be a party to a motion of this sort if it were merely what is usually termed a party move - if it were merely intended to unnecessarily hamper the Government. I am not actuated in the slightest degree by any other motive than a desire to do what I consider is right in the interests of the whole community. I believe that a great error has been made, and that the result will be, as I have just said. vastly increased expenditure and great delay, both of which are quite unjustifiable and unnecessary. The honorable member for Fremantle showed no party bitterness or feeling in an address which should commend itself to the House; he gave a very moderate statement of the facts, and showed us day and date for everything he said. The case he placed before the House seems to me incontrovertible; and, if it is not, I hope some honorable member opposite will show in what particulars the honorable member erred. The statement of the Minister of Home Affairs that we on this side are advocates of monopoly, and adverse to working men getting their fair share of profits, and rhodomontade of that sort, is quite unworthy of an occasion like this. I am not aware of any honorable member on this side who has anything whatever to do with a monopoly or any interest in the timber industry. For myself, I may say that I have never been interested, directly or indirectly, to the extent of a penny in the timber industry. Such insinuations are uncalled for. They are unnecessary and, being incapable of proof, are unjustifiable and improper. That is not the way in which we expect a Ministry to controvert statements of a serious character in connexion with a proposal involving the expenditure of vast sums of money, and the incurring of a great responsibility. With respect to the. suggestion that honorable members on this side are trying to decry or injure a product of the Commonwealth, I would ask whether any one for a moment believes that the honorable meml>er for Fremantle, or any honorable member on either side, would desire to injure any product of the State of which he is a representative ? Such a thing is too ridiculous. We know that our judgment is believed at times to be warped and influenced by consideration for the interests of the products of our States.
– I think we should battle for things Australian more than we do.
– During my political life, I have been accustomed to notice the representatives of districts, so far from desiring to do something adverse to their interests, being most anxious to further the interests of their districts, even to the extent of doing more for them than others have believed they deserved. Therefore, it is wicked to suggest that any honorable member desires to injure a product of his own State, or would be influenced by such a motive in order to secure some party advantage. If this motion is not based upon truth and right, and cannot be supported by incontrovertible facts, it will recoil upon honorable members on this side. We know very well that if we launch motions of censure that are without foundation we shall only injure ourselves, not only in. this House, but throughout the country. We know that we must have a good case before we challenge the Government by a motion of censure, and that unless we have a good case we had much better leave it alone. We have a right to expect that Ministers charged with great responsibilities shall be very careful and cautious. I must say that the Minister of Home Affairs looked very anxious this morning. His countenance seemed to me to show that he was very nervous, and felt that he had a bad case to handle. I hope honorable members opposite will not permit party influence to induce them to bolster up a bad case. If the Government have made a bad bargain, and are doing that which is not in the interests of the country, the sooner they recede, so far as I hey honorably can, from their position the better. We have been given no information in connexion with this matter. A letter has been read from the Victorian Powell Wood Process Company, in which the statement is made that they require £60,000 for patent rights to powell ise sufficient timber for the railway. We have not heard from the Minister of Home Affairs as to whether he has agreed to pay that money.
– He says that the Western Australian Government are going to pay.
– We shall have to pay it.
– Yes; we shall, indirectly.
– If the Western Australian Government purchase the patent rights to powellise the timber required for the railway, they will not make the Commonwealth a present of ,£60,000. They will add that amount to the price which will be charged for the sleepers. If they do not purchase the patent rights, we shall get the sleepers so much cheaper. We have no information as to the amount to be paid for the patent rights, and no information as to the amount to be paid for the sleepers.
– Is it not a question of whether the sleepers will be all right when we get them?
– I want to know what the Government are going to pay for them? How much are the Government paying for sleepers delivered at the termini of the proposed railway? Where are the contracts for. the sleepers ? I asked a question on this point, and I was told, as I have been told in connexion with other questions I have asked, that I should get the information in a few days, or in a week or two. I have been told that the contracts will be placed on the table as soon as they have been signed. That is a nice way in which to treat this Parliament. Six weeks, or two months, ago we were told that a contract had been made with the Western Australian Government. I saw, in the Western Australian newspapers, that the Premier of the State had informed the State Parliament that he had made a contract with the Commonwealth Government for so many sleepers. We can find out nothing about that contract. We cannot find out how much is to be paid for the sleepers and how much for the patent rights to powellise them. We cannot find out whether any contracts have really been made. That is not a business-like way in which to act, or’ a proper way in which to treat this House. I ask where the contracts are, and the only answer I get is that as soon as they are signed they will be laid before Parliament. In connexion with large projects involving heavy expenditure it is the practice of Parliament to demand that the contracts shall be laid before it before they are approved or signed. I remember that the mail contract was not signed until Parliament had approved of it. Why should a contract for sleepers, to cost £750,000, and if powellised, probably £1,000,000, be entered into by the “ Government without this House having an opportunity to criticise its terms before it is signed? What satisfaction would it be to honorable members on either side to have a contract, involving such an immense sum of money, laid before us with the intimation that we have no power to do anything in the matter because the contract has been signed ? That is reversing the ordinary procedure. 1 have been accustomed to a Parliament demanding to know all about an important contract before it is signed. At any rate, such a contract should not be signed in secret. But the method of doing all these things is changed nowadays. It is like beating the air to ask the present Govern ment for any information, and instead of supporting honorable members on this side’ in a demand for information to which they are entitled, honorable members opposite seem to glory in supporting Ministers in withholding information, no matter how unreasonable, or how unusual, their conduct may be. We cannot get any information from the present Minister of Home Affairs. We can get no information with respect to the rails which are to be fastened to the sleepers that are at present under discussion.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot discuss the rails.
– The rails are pretty close to the sleepers, but I bow to your ruling, sir. The Minister of Home Affairs quoted, with great satisfaction to himself, from Millars’ pamphlet with regard to the virtues of karri. The honorable gentleman knew so little about the matter that he thought the pamphlet was issued by the Millars’ Karri and Jarrah Company, or “ The Combine,” as it is called, that is operating in Western Australia to-day. As a matter of fact it was issued by a different company altogether that was in existence about fifteen or twenty years ago, and was engaged in cutting timber near Albany, at places called Torbay and Denmark. That company had no jarrah timber. They hari only karri, and were trying to get it on the market in the Old Country for wood-paving. It was with that object that they issued the pamphlet from which the Minister of Home Affairs quoted. When the Minister was reading from this pamphlet, I felt surprised to find Millars’ Company saying that karri was better than jarrah and every other kind of timber, and it then occurred to me to ask the honorable gentleman what was the date of the pamphlet. He replied that he did not know, but we now know that it was published fifteen years ago by an entirely different company, The mill owned by the old Millars’ Company, at Denmark, was taken down and removed long ago. The Minister of Home Affairs was not aware of these facts, and, like a drowning man grasping at a straw, when he found Millars’ name on a pamphlet extolling the virtues of karri, he thought it would be a good thing to use in this debate. He did not know that the present Millars’ Karri and Jarrah Company was not the company publishing the pamphlet, and that it was published fifteen years ago. With respect to the charge that honorable members on this side are supporting a monopoly, I should have said, when referring to the matter before, that I have had no communication whatever from the timber companies in Western Australia. I have had one or two letters from managers, and propose to read some extracts from them. I received those letters because I sent them a copy of a former speech, knowing them to be interested in the timber industry. I got some replies from them, but I had no communication directly or indirectly with the Millars’ combine, or any other jarrah company doing business in Western Australia. So that all these insinuations about our being influenced by a monopoly are, so far as I am concerned, without the slightest foundation. I am here to deal with this matter as a public man, on public grounds. What I say on this motion is what I honestly believe, and I am not actuated by any other motive than the desire to see that what is right is done.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I wish to give the House some information regarding the economic uses of jarrah and karri, and propose to read from an official document from the Public Works and Railway Engineering Department of Western Australia, presented to the Premier of Western Australia in 1906, entitled, Notes re Timbers of
Western Australia suitable for railways, engineering works, and constructional purposes generally, -It is therein stated that -
The jarrah timber is the most generally employed for railway construction, railway sleepers, marine and engineering works of all kinds, and building construction, and is specially suitable for underground use, and where in contact with wind and water.
The late Mr. C. Y. O’Connor, M.I.C.E., at one time Engineer-in-Chief in Western Australia, and a distinguished Western Australian official, said of it -
For durability and general construction work of all classes, jarrah is undoubtedly one of the best of all State timbers. It is almost exclusively used throughout the State in railway construction work, as sleepers, piles, bridge beams, &(:., and shows great durability both in and above ground.
Mr. Palmer, M.I.C.E., who succeeded Mr. C. Y. O’Connor, supplemented that opinion with these words -
In addition to the uses more particularly dealt with by Mr. O’Connor, jarrah has been em ployed more or less in all classes of building: operations in this State, and as its qualities havebecome better known, and the difficulties in- ‘herent in working so dense and hard a wood?’ have been overcome, its employment has been. increasingly great.
Mr. Moncrieff, M.I.C.E., EngineerinChief in South Australia, gave this opinion, of it-
Jarrah has been used for railway sleepers, in. the construction of bridges, wharves, and jetties,, and for general work in buildings, such as goodssheds and platforms, where a heavy durabletimber was required; and where the timber wasof full growth, and seasoned before use, it hasin every case proved satisfactory.
Of karri, it is stated in the report that. -
This timber is largely used on the Governmentand private railways of the State fox car and’ waggon frames and bodies with much advantage, as illustrated in the special report furtheron by Mr. E. S. Hume, Chief Mechanical Engineer for the State railways. It is also employed’ for bridge timbers, flooring, planking, telegraphpole arms, felloes, shafts, and fruit cases, and? is in high repute and very wide use for streetpaving blocks, being considered by many municipal surveyors as equal to jarrah for that purpose but is not well suited, as a rule, for underground work, or in damp situations.
– When used for streetpaving, karri is put underground.
– Wood blocksare tarred. Jarrah and karri are much alike in the appearance of the wood.
– Are they not the same timber, the difference depending on the situation ?
– No. Jarrah. is eucalyptus marginata, and karri is euca lyptus diversicolor . The trees are quite- different in appearance. The jarrah is like the stringybark, while the karri has-; a creamy-coloured bark, and grows to ari’ immense size and height, but their wood’ is much alike. I have had some experience with both, but should not like to say of two samples which was which. Thereis, however, a simple test which I have-‘ known for years, and which is referred tain the following terms -
The following test is the simplest, and themost generally and readily applied, though itcan hardly be regarded as altogether reliable : - A splinter struck from jarrah, and placed in aflame, generally burns to a firm black ash, one from karri to a somewhat woolly white ash ; also when the flame of the burning splinter is blownout, karri tends to glow for some little time,, jarrah to go black out quickly.
I have made two tests with pieces from thebottom and the top of the samples on thetable, and obtained a white ash in each instance,- so that it would appear that neither of the specimens is jarrah, and! that both are karri. As to the durability of jarrah, the late Mr. C. Y. O’Connor stated that -
For durability, jarrah is undoubtedly one of the best of all State timbers. It shows great durability, both in and above ground. Piles in river bridges, erected fifty-four years, have been withdrawn and found perfect in every respect. Piles withdrawn from wharves and jetties, after having been in position over 30 years, have been found to be almost as good as the day they were driven.
Of karri, it is stated -
It is not generally considered that karri is a suitable timber for underground works or placed in water, but there are records of it being used >under such conditions for thirty to forty years with only a very small amount of decay. In superstructure work of wharves and jetties, it has been taken out after twenty years’ service, and found not only practically as good as when first emplaced, but even better, being perfectly sound throughout, and extraordinarily hard, so as to be almost unworkable with ordinary tools.
Of jarrah and wandoo, a white gum, eucalyptus redunca, which used to be used for felloes and other purposes requiring great strength and hardness, it is said that they are “ practically proof against white ants in the temperate parts of the State.” Of course, in the tropics, at places like Derby and Cambridge Gulf, the white ants will attack any timber, but they do not attack jarrah as readily as other timbers, and in the temperate parts of the State it is as reported here “ practically proof against white ants.” As for dry-rot, most timbers are subject to the disease, against which it is very hard to find a preventative. The report states -
Neither jarrah nor tuart nor wandoo are liable to attack by dry-rot, unless under conditions exceptionally favorable to its development. Karri, however, seems somewhat prone to this pest.
Tuart is eucalyptus gomphocephala, a wonderfully fine tree growing on the coast between Perth and the :Leeuwin. Mr. Dart.nall, M.I.C.E., Chief Engineer for Existing Railways, says -
The species of timber used in Western Australia for sleepers is jarrah, eucalyptus marginata. The total number used on the railways, including renewals, has been from 4,000,000 to 5,000,000.
The following instance is- given of the life of jarrah sleepers where they have not been disturbed : - A portion of the Great Southern railway, from Beverley to Cuballing, about 55 miles in length, was laid with about 110,000 8-inch bv 4-inch jarrah sleepers in the year 1886 or 1S87, and the line was purchased by the Government in 1896. Practically none of the sleepers had been renewed when the line was purchased, -and, since that time, the Railway Department has renewed about 4,300, equal to about 3.9 per cent., in eighteen years; and the balance is still in the road.
The remainder of the railway from Cuballing to Albany, 300 miles, was laid with karri, and in a very few years it all had to be taken’ up. That was done long before the Government bought the railway from the- company in 1896, about eight years after its construction. As one went along the line one could see every few yards where there had been a fire to bum the rotten sleepers that had been taken out. They were put in under the impression that they would last. The Engineer-in-Chief of that time thought they were as good as jarrah, and authorized the company to put them in. It was convenient for the company to use karri, as the supply of that timber was nearer to hand, and they put in karri sleepers for nearly 300 miles. Every one of them had to be taken out in a few years, whereas the experience in regard to the jarrah sleepers put in for the last 55 miles, which was closer to the jarrah country, was as detailed by Mr. Dartnall, in the statement which I have just read. That experience was very satisfactory in regard to the jarrah, and very unsatisfactory in regard to the karri. Those extracts prove that the jarrah is the best timber in Western Australia for sleepers. There is no question about it. One does not want to urge one’s personal opinion or knowledge too much, but it is A B C to me that the railways of Western Australia have all been built with jarrah. We never thought of using any other timber. The white gum may be good, but it is not so easily obtained, and is harder to work. Jarrah is easily obtained and easily worked. There was not a sleeper put in a railway line in Western Australia when I was there that was not jarrah. I do not think that any other kind of sleeper has been put in since - and I have kept in touch with matters in that State - except it may be on some of the spur lines, where they use any timber they ‘can get that is close by. They put round sleepers in, and, I believe, use white gum when they can get it, but for all the main railways of the country the jarrah is universally used. lt is the best, and, speaking generally, the Government have never, that I am aware of, used any other. There was no occasion to do so in the early days, because the karri was not so close; but when we had the disaster with the Great Southern Railway, of course we never used karri any more for sleepers. We say that no Government in Western Australia has, up to the present time, used karri, treated or untreated, for sleepers. That being so, I ask the Government what the necessity is for using powellised karri in preference to jarrah. That is the point I have been thinking and cogitating over, in order to ascertain what motive could have induced the Government to take a new timber, however good reports there may be about it, in preference to a
A-ell established timber whose durability and fitness for the work is known, and which, in Australia, is unrivalled. I cannot understand to this moment what has induced the Government to take this step. The Prime Minister is a Scotchman, and has his head screwed on, as Scotchmen generally have, so that he should not wish to be extravagant, or take undue risks; and why he ever let himself approve of the use of powellised karri with all its surrounding difficulties I cannot understand. We have to get the powellising plant, which is to cost a quarter of a million to start with, and then, as the honorable member for Fremantle told us, all the material, the liquid, the arsenic, &c, has to be- obtained, and there is all the labour, and an enormous amount of fuel to pay for. In addition there must be immense delay. They cannot do these things in a month. The mills have to be put up. When will they be able to supply the Government with powellised karri sleepers? Their construction has not been begun yet, and it will take a long time before they are in a position to supply the Government, whereas, in the case of jarrah there is an army of hewers already at work, and the Government could get tens of thousands of sleepers at once. Why then they should embark upon a new scheme, which is not certain or proved yet, taking all the risks of the delay and the extra expense, for nothing, and worse than nothing, I do not know. The chances are that it will do great injury all round. If the karri sleepers were cheaper, there might be something in making the change, but they are dearer. They cannot be put on the trucks as cheaply as jarrah. Jarrah is an easier tree to work than karri, and the karri timber is further away from Kalgoorlie, and further from Bunbury, the port at which the sleepers will be shipped for Port Augusta. It, therefore, must cost more. I do not know the figures, but the honorable member for Fremantle said that it would cost ,£500,000 more to produce the karri sleepers than it would to produce the jarrah. The karri is more difficult to obtain, and in winter time the Government will’ not be able to get it at all, because, in that country, where there is 40 inches of rainfall, the ground becomes spongy and soft where the karri grows, and it will not be possible to haul timber there in the winter.
– We can get Tasmanian blue gum then.
– I do not mind the use oT Tasmanian blue gum, if it is suitable. If it is suitable, I hope it willbe used. There will be much more delay in getting the karri. In fact, I consider that a year, or two years, will be added to the time when the railway will be completed by using a timber in regard to which we have to begin de novo. The jarrah can be got more quickly and cheaply, and, above all, is better. We know, at any rate, that in using the jarrah we should be taking the best wood for sleepers known in Australia. Whatever may be the outcome of powellising, or any other process, jarrah is the best timber in Western Australia for sleepers at the present time, and is used by everybody. The action of the Government is inexplicable to me. I have tried to understand it. I have asked myself, what is the reason for it all ? Why should people go out of their way to obtain timber from difficult positions, and under difficult conditions, entailing more trouble and delay ? Yet it Is being done, I do not know why. It seems to me that there is no reason that is based on business or experience to warrant the action of the Government. . It is the most unbusinesslike proposition that was ever put before a sane body of people. I should like some one to explain why, with all these disadvantages staring them in the face, the Government should run away from a good article, which is close at hand, cheaper, and far better. About a fortnight ago, I made some remarks in the House about this timber, and sent my speech to a few people in Western Australia who are experienced and interested in timber. I did not expect any replies, merely sending a copy of the speech with my name in the corner, but I received some letters acknowledging, the receipt of it, and expressing opinions about it. One is from a manager of Millars’ Karri and Jarrah Company, Mr. James Kelly, whom I know very well.I did not expect any reply from him, nor did I write tohim, but simply sent him my speech. He says -
There is no doubt that karri timber is very good for railway trucks and superstructures, but, with all the proof we have had, it is no good for sleepers. . . . They might just as well put “ banksia “ in the line as karri.
Banksia is a wood which grows all over Australia, and is named after Sir Joseph Banks. It is not a hard wood, and is not used in the ground -
There is abundance of jarrah available in this State on Crown lands - 1 presume he means on lands that are not leased - to secure sleepers for two railways like the transcontinental. After the experience we had on the Beverley to Albany line -
He was in Millars’ employ then, on the southern line - with the karri sleepers, I quite indorse your remarks in the House. . . . The jarrah sleepers are the cheapest to produce . . . I am pleased you have put up this fight against the karri for sleepers, as it will be on. record, when -the karri is rotten in a few years. I erected 280 miles of sawn karri telegraph poles- they were 6x6 posts - and by the time I had finished erecting they were rotted off at the surface, and had to be replaced with jarrah poles within two years.
That is an unasked for letter, written to me. I have another from a man very experienced both in karri and jarrah. I shall not give his name, because he probably would not like me to do so, but I am quite willing to show it to any one who likes to ask me for it. He has had more experience in the karri country, and the cutting of karri timber, than probably any man in Western Australia, and he has also had considerable experience in jarrah. At present, he is engaged as manager of a jarrah mill. He writes -
I say unhesitatingly they are going to do the karri as much injury as the Western Australian Land Company did when they put it in the line from Albany to Beverley. Like yourself, nothing would delight me more than to see the process make karri impervious to dry-rot and white ants, but you may be certain it will not. I will grant that, with arsenic, you can make timber white ant-proof (absolutely if you use enough arsenic). Arsenic is.not soluble entirely, and therefore its effects can be made permanent, but a man who invents a process that will make timber indestructible from dry-rot in all weather and under all conditions will soon be a multimillionaire. Fancy thirty sleepers in a cutting in East Perth ! Can any man who knows the subject think that this process would not be snapped up in India where the maintenance cost is annually solarge if it were proved to be effective?
It will be recognised that the writers of these letters are reasonable persons, and are well qualified to speak on this matter.
– Are they interested in Western Australian jarrah?
– One of them was manager of a karri company for years and years, and I know that his personal interests are very much against saying a word in disfavour of karri. He volunteered this statement to me without being solicited. Has the test of the powellising process been sufficient? I cannot think that it has been. All the evidence we have is that thirty sleepers were placed in a sand cutting somewhere near Perth. That may be something, but what sort of evidence have we had submitted to us as to the procedure adopted in trying the experiment? Who put in the sleepers; who took them out; and who inspected them periodically?
– How long were they subjected to the process before they were put in?
– Experiments of this kind ought to be carried out systematically. The sleepers ought to have been put in and taken out at certain times. There should be evidence as to the conditions under which they were put in, and the conditions under which they were taken out. We should be satisfied that they were not tampered with in the interval. I do not for a moment insinuate that they were tampered with; but if the Government are to spend a million of money upon sleepers, the evidence in regard to the experiment ought to be conclusive and satisfactory. Then, again, where did the specimens now lying upon the table come from ? Who sent them here? Were they packed properly, and how did they come? I have heard - though I can hardly believe the statement - that they came from the powellising company’s office in Melbourne, and had been there for years. Is there any truth in that statement?
– The Minister said that they came from the west.
– He did; but I should like to ask whether the specimens came from . Western Australia, and, if so, when ?
– They did come from Western Australia.
– Quite recently.
– Can the Minister give the House the date when they came, and furnish particulars as to who sent them, and who received them? There certainly is a rumour flying about that for two years or so these very specimens were in the company’s office in Melbourne.
– The Commonwealth Government have been negotiating with the Western Australian Government in regard to this matter.
– I think I saw one of those specimens myself about two years ago.
– The honorable member for Wentworth must have a very fine memory.
– I am not satisfied myself in the matter. Satisfactory evidence is not forthcoming as to when the specimens were sent, by whom they were sent, when they were taken out of the ground, when they were received here, and where they have been since.
– The only specimen that has a date upon it informs us that it came out of the ground in 1909.
– I should like to know the history of the specimens. I took a little chip off one of them, and tested it. The conclusion I came to was that it was not jarrah.
– The right honorable member cannot tell jarrah from karri.
– Even a timber expert cannot distinguish karri from jarrah with certainty except by the burning test.
– Probably “the honorable member for Fremantle and myself are the only two members here who can distinguish, the two timbers.
– I do not know where the Minister gained his information, seeing that he has never lived in the karri country, or near it.
– Did I not? The right honorable member had better correct himself.
– Does the Minister refer to the Upper Blackwood ?
– Well, there is no karri there. There is none of it where the honorable member’s estate is situated.
– What ! Has he an estate?
– Is this another land monopolist ?
– I think we are entitled to know when these specimens were taken out of the ground, by whom they were forwarded, and who received them here? We want to know, also, whether there is any jarrah amongst them?
– I think we shall all be underground before we get that information.
– I, at all events, should like to have it. We, as an. Opposition, want to have the matter put right. On the evidence, I think that not one of those samples is jarrah, and I have applied two tests. Of course, I may be mistaken, but I think they are both karri.
– The honorable member for Fremantle examined them.
– Did he say they were jarrah?
– He could not come to such a conclusion by a simple examination of such old pieces of wood. There must be some test. I throw the utmost doubt upon the genuineness of the specimens, and I am not satisfied that they, came here recently.
– The right honorable member is a sceptic.
– In the public interest, I . am in this matter. Does any honorable member think that the tests we have had are sufficient to justify risking the laying down of a thousand miles of sleepers from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta? People must be optimistic if they think the evidence we have had in regard to the powellising process is sufficient. The experiments tried so far have been haphazard, slipshod, and farcical.
– What about the recommendation of Mr. Deane, then?
– He cannot tell jarrah from karri. If I cannot distinguish them’ by inspection, it is not likely that Mr. Deane can, who has never lived in the country.
– Besides, he does not profess to express a personal opinion.
– No. We are taking a dangerous and an unnecessary risk. We are not justified in taking it. As to what Mr. Light has said, I have to remark that I know him very well. I’ have known him since he was a’ very young man. He has always had a good character, and has progressed in the service.. But I must say that I am very much surprised at some of the statements attributed’ to him in his letter. I am inclined to think that there must be some mistake. I believe he says that karri sleepers are being used on Western Australian railways. If nhat be so, I can only say that I never heard of their being used, nor do 1 know of any necessity for using them, seeing that jarrah is available. It is absurd to think that this timber is being used in Western Australia, unless Mr. Light means that it was used twenty-five years ago upon the 300 miles of line where the karri sleepers had to be pulled up. I think there must be some error about his statement, and I should be glad to see the mattier cleared up. Then, again, there is the matter of the contract. A little while Ago, when I asked that the contract might <be placed upon the table, the Prime Minister said, “ Yes, certainly.” But I have not seen the contract yet. When I asked for the papers to-day, I was -told that they were not yet signed and sealed, but that when they were they would be placed upon the table. Is that the way to treat this House?
– I can give the right honorable member some good news now.
– It is two months since the Prime Minister made his promise, and I can see no reason why the contract should not be laid upon the table.
– What is the good news ?
– It is that the fifty men who were imprisoned in the Mount ‘Lyell mine have all been rescued.
– That is good; decidedly good.
– It is indeed. I ask the Prime Minister to fulfil the promise he made, and let us have the contract for these sleepers. What is the use of keeping it back?
– I am not keeping it back.
– We know that both the Premier of Western Australia and the Minister of Home Affairs said two months ago that they had made a contract. Why should we not know what the price is, and all about it? Surely there is no need for mystery.
– Hear, hear !
– As far as I am concerned, this is not a. party matter. I think I can speak for honorable members on this, side generally when I say that. We are moving in this matter only because of a feeling of urgent necessity. We could not get any satisfaction in any other way. We could not obtain proper answers to questions. We were very dissatisfied indeed with this proposal to spend £500,000 more than is necessary on the railway. Naturally I do not want the railway to cost a penny more than it ought to cost. I do not want this railway to bear the cost of £500,000 in order that the process of powellising shall be tested. I am quite satisfied with jarrah, which has stood the test of time. Why should these experiments be made at the expense of this railway? Why add another £500,000 to the £4,000,000, which it is said the railway will cost? Is it fair to the project? Surely there has been enough difficulty about it already? Should we then deliberately add £500,000 to the cost for no reason whatever?
– Yes, to make it more substantial.
-FORREST.- I do not think the honorable member believes that. It can be made quite substantial with jarrah sleepers. Sleepers which are good enough for all other railways in Australia are good enough for this line. I hope we shall soon see the contract, and know the price of the sleepers. I hope, too, that the Government will show a greater disposition to trust us. Because we are an Opposition there is .no reason why we should not be treated with fairness. Had we been given the information to which we are entitled, there would have been noneed for us to take the drastic step of submitting a motion of censure. At the same time, I do not regret that step, because we have thrown some light upon the subject, and we have shown that there was no other course open to us.
– Cook. - The Minister’s statements to-day have disclosed the need which exists for further inquiry.
– I cannot understand the Prime Minister being a party to the proposal of his colleague, because it is so unbusiness-like, so foolish, and so unreasonable. These powellised karri sleepers will cost a large sum in excess of the cost of jarrah sleepers. We know that we have a good article in jarrah, and why should we spend so much money in experimenting on another timber. If honorable members opposite will stand this sort of thing, they , will stand anything. I hope they will institute an inquiry into the matter. I ask them not to be pawns in the game, and not to be dragooned in this fashion.
– Do not be so severe.
– I have no desire to be severe ; but I fail to see why honorable members opposite, merely because they are supporters of the Government, should be asked to approve of absurd and unreasonable things.
– Order ! Will the right honorable member confine himself to the motion which is before the Chair ?
– I will. I will conclude by saying that I hope some action will be taken by. the Government to undo the harm that they are doing. There is not the slightest doubt in the mind of any reasonable person that the course of action which they are pursuing is not in the best interests of this country. I had hoped that wiser counsels would prevail, and that we should have been able to get this question settled to our satisfaction without having to take a .vote upon it. But we have been compelled to submit this motion in order to safeguard the finances and the general interests of the people.
.- During my recent visit to Perth, there was no question put to me more frequently than one which had reference to the proposal of the Government to use karri sleepers on the transcontinental railway. Time and again I was asked what they really intended doing in this matter, and I was forced to reply that present indications pointed to a deliberate intention on their part to use powellised karri. The next question put fo me was, “ What is the meaning of it?” That question has been asked several times tonight, and has not yet been answered by honorable members opposite. If anything were needed to convince those who have an open mind on this question that ‘the criticism of the honorable member for Fremantle was quite merited, it was the reply which the Minister of Home Affairs made to that attack. I have listened to a good many speeches by that honorable gentleman in this House, but I do not think I have ever heard a weaker reply to criticism than that which he made as a justification for his action in using powellised karri. His production of an ancient document which was issued by the Millar Company to advertise their karri was the most ridiculous feature of his reply. It would be very interesting to know where he managed to dig up that particular advertisement. I feel sure that it has been forgotten for many years even by those who were most interested in it, and that probably it had been put aside by them as being an altogether misleading statement of the actual position as regards karri timber. It has to be recollected that this karri grows in one particular district in Western Australia - in the extreme south-west, where the rainfall is heaviest. Of course, that is near the coast. Anybody who enters a karri forest for the first time, is at once struck with the magnificent character of the timber. There is scarcely anything like it to be seen in Australia. I doubt if such, a splendid timber can be found anywhere else in the world, so far as mere appearancegoes. That timber, I repeat, grows near the Western Australian coast, and is therefore easily transportable to convenient harbors. It was very natural, therefore, that,, in the early stage of the development of Western Australia, karri should be seized upon for exploitation. This company of Millar Brothers got to work in a forest near to Albany, and did their best to con> mend’ it to possible buyers in various partsof the world. But. unfortunately, while it is a magnificent timber in many respects,, much more was claimed for it at that timethan was subsequently justified by experience; and on that account karri has, toa certain extent, been under a cloud ever since. There is no doubt that it is an excellent timber for certain purposes, but I think even the most enthusiastic advocates of its use in its proper sphere would be the very last to claim that it has qualities which, justify its use as railway sleepers. We have had evidence quoted from some part of India, by one alleged authority, who says that, of all the timbers experimentedwith, it appeared that jarrah was the one most liable to white ants. I feel quitesure that there is some mistake there. In’ all probability, that authority has confounded karri with jarrah.
– They “rung” it in on him.
– The honorable member has anticipated what I was about to say. Karri has, sometimes unwittingly andsometimes intentionally, been substituted for jarrah for use as railway sleepers and* for other purposes for which jarrah is much more suitable. So that, in all probability, if this particular objection to jarrah were fully investigated, it would be found that the statement regarding the alleged liability of this timber to attack by white antsdoes not refer to jarrah at all but to karri. Reference has been made by honorable members upon this side of the Chamber toa test of powellised timber which was made in New Zealand; but I do not think that honorable members opposite, and the Minister in particular, fully realize the damning _ effect of that test as regards the contention of those who are interested in the powellising process. That test undoubtedly failed for one of two reasons ; either the powellising process is not what is claimed for it, or that it cannot be carried out effectively in practice. If it is not what is claimed for it even in theory - if it is not a preservative against white ants and dry-rot - the whole case for the Government falls absolutely to the ground. On the other hand, if the process cannot be effectively reduced to practice when it is applied to a timber like ‘white pine, it stands to reason that it will be still less effective when it is applied to a hard timber like karri. If it failed when it was applied to a soft porous timber such as New Zealand white pine, what reason have we for assuming that it will be more effective when it is applied to a dense timber like karri, which will be impregnated with much more difficulty ? The test which, was carried out in New Zealand ought to afford us convincing proof that we should hesitate before committing the Commonwealth to an experiment upon such a gigantic scale as the Minister contemplates undertaking. As regards jarrah, all authorities in Western Australia, and many outside of it, are at one in saying that it is a timber which is suitable in all respects for railway sleepers. In his reply this afternoon, the Minister of Home Affairs endeavoured to make it appear that the honorable member for Fremantle claimed that jarrah was absolutely immune to white ants. No such claim has ever been put forward. What is claimed - and justly claimed - is that the average quality jarrah will last at least twenty years when used as railway sleepers under the conditions to which, those sleepers are ordinarily subjected in Western Australia. That of itself is surely sufficient to justify its use for railway sleepers, without the Commonwealth being called upon to incur the risk of undertaking needless experiments in - other directions. In addition to the admission that jarrah is not always impregnable to white ants, I do not claim that it is not sometimes liable to dry-rot. A great deal depends on the quality of the timber, the district in which it is grown, whether it is dried before it is put into the ground, and many other considerations of the kind. We have had submitted to us to-day a small piece of jarrah that was placed in the ground as a surveyor’s peg. We are not told from where it was taken; we are not even told how long it was in the ground. For all we know it might have been there for thirty or forty years, and it looks to me as if it had been in the ground for a very considerable number of years. In any case, no one will contend that a piece of wood like that, pulled out of the ground, and presented to us, is anything in the nature of proof that the timber in question is liable to premature attack by white ants. I undertake to go along any line that has been made by surveyors, to draw out of the ground fifty pegs that have been there for ten years, and to show that for every one made of typical jarrah that ls at all decayed forty-nine are reasonably sound. I have looked carefully at the other two pieces of timber which have been presented to us, and whilst I agree with the right honorable member for Swan that it is very difficult to say whether they are karri or jarrah, still, assuming that the piece that is riddled by white ants is jarrah, I would point out that it was, in the first place, a very defective piece of timber. Any one who looks at it will realize th’at it lacks fibre; that it is very loose in the grain, and that, as a matter of fact, it is already disintegrating, even where the white ants have not attacked it. If it was part of a sleeper, it simply goes to show that it was hewn out of defective timber, and ought never to have been passed into use. I do not say for a moment that isolated cases of the kind will not occur. It is not always possible to check a defective piece of timber. But, taking the average jarrah, the record is so satisfactory that any Government proposing to experiment with another timber- ought to have overwhelming evidence to justify them in proceeding with that experiment. The Minister of Home Affairs endeavoured to make great capital out of the contention; that he was fighting a monopoly, and that those who brought forward this motion were the mouthpieces of monopolists in Western Australia. This House, and the country in general, are hearing this cry of monopoly so often that we are beginning to suspect, like the villagers in the story of the wolf, that it is used very frequently merely to scare the timid. There was, undoubtedly, no other justification for its use by the Minister to-day. To talk of a monopoly, in the sense that he wished to convey in connexion with this timber industry, is absolutely absurd to any one who knows anything of the situation. I have here a report issued by the Acting InspectorGeneral of Forests for Western Australia.
– What is the date of the report ?
– It is for the year ended 30th June, 1910, and is the latest I have been able to secure. The report gives a list of some twenty-three different areas of timber country held by various firms and individuals in Western Australia who have no connexion whatever with the alleged timber combine.
– Is the honorable member going to connect this matter with the question before the Chair ?
– I am. I would remind you, sir, that the Minister talked of fighting a monopoly in the timber industry.
-If the honorable member was in the chamber at the time he will know that I prevented the Minister from discussing that matter.
– I shall not pursue the matter further than to say that, according to this report, there are some 500,000 acres of timber country in the hands of various firms other than those supposed to be included in what is popularly known as the Millar Combine.
– Is there plenty of timber on that area?
– Yes j it is not likely that business people would take up large areas of land that did not carry the timber they required. This list comprises two areas of land held by the South- West Timber Hewers’ Co-operative Society Limited - a working man’s association composed of timber hewers who go into the forests in small groups’ and cut sleepers. They have in Perth a representative who disposes of the sleepers for them. There is a considerable number of - men employed in this work.
-Order ! The honorable member is now going beyond the scope of the motion.
– Then I shall not pursue the matter further, although it appears to me, sir, that the point to which I was referring is very relevant to the subjectmatter under discussion. Mr. Holman, who, I think, is at present Chairman of Committees in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia, and is also a member of the State Labour party, interested himself in an endeavour to secure for the cooperative working men of Western Aus tralia some portion of the work of splitting these sleepers. Among other matters upon which he commented was the fact that there was lying in the office of the transcontinental authorities in Western Australia
– Where? Here?
– In Perth, I think. He commented on the fact that there was lying in that office samples of jarrah sleepers of a quality that made him express the utmost surprise as to how they got there. They were so poor and unrepresentative in quality that he protested against their being regarded as fair samples. The question arises as to how these wretched samples of jarrah got into the hands of the authorities dealing with these matters? I feel quite sure that there will be, at least in Western Australia, a unanimous condemnation of the Government in connexion with this proposal. I have no hesitation in indorsing the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Fremantle, because I feel very strongly that, when a splendid material such as jarrah is obtainable cheaply and in large quantities, there is no justification for the remarkable experiment that is about to be made with karri. When in Perth recently I was informed by a gentleman, who is in a position to speak with authority, that the timber mills proposed to be erected by the State Government for the purpose of exploiting the karri forests in the production of these sleepers will not be in going order for, at least, twelve months. If that is so, surely the Government, in this respect alone, are culpable in a very great degree. They could have had, months ago, large numbers of men obtaining jarrah sleepers, which could have been stacked, and could now be drying; their quality in that way being improved in respect both of ant and weather resisting conditions. The Government, however, are now holding up the whole work. They are waiting for mills that have yet to be brought into existence, and for the creation of a plant to carry out a process which, to put it very mildly, has not yet gone beyond the laboratory experimental stage. I have no hesitation whatever in indorsing the motion of the honorable member for Fremantle, that the action of the Government in this respect is deserving of the censure of the House.
.- I cannot allow this debate to close without making a few remarks regarding the importance of the issue that it raises. I re- gret very much that I have, to some extent, to agree with the conclusions that have been arrived at by honorable members who are criticising the methods now being adopted in connexion with this large contract. If there is one thing more than another which this debate has served to emphasize, so far as I am concerned, it is the danger of trusting to any one man the decision of matters of such a vital character as this may be. In no part of the world, so far as I know, are matters involving the expenditure of very large sums left by the Government in the hands of one man, who has the power to determine whether the money shall be wisely or unwisely expended. If this debate points out anything to me, it shows conclusively that, sooner or later, in order to protect the Commonwealth against mistakes, we shall have to take a step in the direction which other civilized Governments have found it necessary to take. Mistakes may be made by any man, whether he be a Minister or not. Even a Minister is human, and it is not, in my judgment, wise to make possible the occurrence of such errors as are likely to take place under systems of the kind.
– New South Wales has a Chief Railways Commissioner to deal with these matters.
– She has three Railways Commissioners,’ and the others have as much to say as has the Chief Railways Commissioner.
– Nothing of the kind.
– I know that the Chief Commissioner has the final determination of any departmental matter, but his two fellow Commissioners act as coadjutors, and discuss with him all questions of this character. The one man in New South Wales to whom the honorable member refers has the advice of a very large number of competent authorities under him - men who, in their every-day life, are Brought into touch with matters that require the exercise of expert knowledge. We are now launching out into an arena where we are likely to be called upon to take the responsibility for the expenditure of not thousands, but millions of money. There is no necessary check upon the wisdom or otherwise of the decisions which are now arrived at. In a big concern of this character, the responsibility should never be thrown upon the shoulders of one man. I do not say that he may not do his best. I do not say that he acts dishonestly in arriving at a decision, but I do say that there is a danger as well as a tempta- . tion there which should not be placed in the way of any one man.
– What is the temptation ?
– The honorable member ought to know that without asking me a question.
– I think that that is a very serious thing for the honorable member to say.
– There is always a temptation if we allow lone man to decide whether he will spend millions of money in this way, that way, or the other way. Surely, the honorable member can see at once that there is a temptation.
– What do you mean, anyhow ?
– I mean that any one man is human.
– What does that mean ?
– It means that humanity is liable to err and to fall under temptation. If we had a weak Minister in that position, the honorable member would Know exactly what I mean when I refer to this power being vested in one man. In the State service, in matters of this kind, there is a responsible body - the Public Works Committee - who investigate very closely not only the wisdom of constructing a line, but the character of the construction, and make a report for the guidance of the Government and the Parliament.
– Not as to material.
– Even as to material. It is of no use for the honorable member to make these interjections. I know the conditions prevailing in New South Wales. They have not to deal with white ant or dry-rot troubles such as have to be combated in other countries. These are new conditions which, in New South Wales or any other State, would be considered by a Public Works Committee, which was anxious to do its duty, and which would point out what was the right course for the State to pursue. With regard to the acceptance of tenders, there is no justification for leaving to one man the final decision. There should be a Tenders Board connected with the Home Affairs Department, which is now charged with the expenditure of millions of public money. In my judgment, the time has arrived when a Tenders Board should be established.
– Selected from the Opposition ?
– No; selected from the nien who are capable of judging of these things, and able to investigate the evidence put forward before it comes to the Government or the House, and to give the reasons for their opinions for the guidance of the Minister in charge of the administration of these affairs. The security of the people in a matter of this kind lies in having a number of men qualified to give an opinion based upon evidence, which may be reviewed first by the Minister, secondly by the Government, and finally by Parliament. In that way the rights of the public are safeguarded. I am dealing with what I consider to be the need for an absolute change in the administration of the vastly extending operations of the Commonwealth. One must at least recognise that this is not child’s play. It is not the expenditure of a few thousand pounds which we are now considering. We are dealing with a very big proposition, which, if successful, will, according to its supporters, prove a boon to Australia; but which, if unsuccessful, will prove a curse. The question is, Are we satisfied that all has been done which should be done to find out whether we are on safe ground, or whether we are going practically in the dark with regard to the safety of the system which has been recommended, and, I presume, partially adopted, by the Government? I candidly admit that I have no confidence in the future of karri sleepers which are to be powellised in the fashion indicated. The evidence is not sufficient to convince me, as a practical man, that we are likely to get the result which is indicated by some of those who have given their opinions to the Government for their guidance. I take it that every one of us, no matter on which side of the chamber he may sit, has a vital interest in doing that which is the best in his opinion for the welfare of this country. In a matter of this kind, we should be sure of our ground. There should be no guessing or calculating, but there should be definite evidence that this process is going to be a success. The experiments which have been put forward do not give me that satisfaction which I should like to have. The evidence of the men who support this process is to some extent unreliable, because of their close association with the party interested in advocating its use; whereas the man whose evidence is strongest against its use is unbiased. Having a responsibility as an officer of the Commonwealth in the administration of the Railway Department he gives his opinion with some experience - with more experience than any of - the other men who have offered an opinion on the subject - and without any fear or favour. It has been stated to me that Mr. Saunders, who has been quoted a good deal to-day, indicated in his report that powellising would render the timber immune from the operations of the white ant, and would be effective as regards preventing dry-rot. Here is the last paragraph in his first report -
There is no doubt that timber, when thoroughly impregnated with arsenic, is immune to attacks of white ants.
What is that opinion worth? There is no doubt that if certain things are done, the timber will be immune from the attacks of the white ants.’ Of course, we all know that. Any man who knows anything about timber or its preservation knows that if it is thoroughly impregnated with arsenic, an ant cannot live in it; but the question on which I have a doubt is whether the arsenic thoroughly impregnates the timber. That is the whole point. The question is, Can a sleeper be impregnated with this solution? Nothing has been put forward to satisfy me that such impregnation can take place; and Mr. Saunders, while he says that the solution would be effective if the timber were thoroughly impregnated, does not offer an opinion as to the timber being capable of being thoroughly impregnated.
– Does not the peg on the table satisfy you?
– It depends upon where these pegs come from; an argument can be hung upon any peg. I know quite well that the white ant will attack jarrah, but the first question -which I think needs to be looked into is to what extent is the country to be traversed by this railway infested with white ants? Whether I am rightly informed or not, my information is that about a third of the route of the line is ant-infested country.
– The ant will very soon spread with a railway along the country.
– My honorable friend is talking about something which is not altogether a fact.
– It is a well-known fact that the white ants spread.
– I do not think that it is a well-known fact.
– Give them feed, and they will go for it.
– You have to give them means of getting to the feed.
– They will travel along the line.
– My honorable friend is suggesting that the white ants will meander over the route of the line once you lay a sleeper down to support them, but white ant country and country to which white ants may migrate are different things. In country where you have white ants, whether you like them or not, the question is whether you can deter them by powellising the sleepers. It has been established by testing that the jarrah will stand being covered in the ground, and remain intact for years. But that has not been established ‘ with regard to karri. With jarrah you have only to fear the white ant, but with karri you have to fear the white ant and the dry-rot, which are two different things; and of the two, the dryrot will be more prone to attack the sleepers all the way than will the white ant. Consequently we have to judge, as well as we can, whether the karri is not likely to be a defective material, apart from being attacked by white ants. With all due respect to those who are responsible, and without trying to make any capital out of my view, or to placate the Opposition in any way, because that is quite the reverse of my’ object in rising, I think that this is a matter for further inquiry. If we proceed simply upon what we have seen and heard we shall be taking a leap in the dark for which we may be very sorry. No harm could be done by a further inquiry by practical men, independent of those who have already reported on the subject, and certainly independent of those who are interested either in jarrah or in the powellising of karri. I feel that in making this suggestion to my friends on the Treasury bench, I am only doing that which is necessary from the stand-point of one who is anxious to preserve the interests of the Government and the people whom they represent. It has been put forward in favour of karri that its use would lie a means of curtailing the operations of a combine - no one is more anxious than I am to cut the wings of a combine - which has been proved to be working to the injury of the community, but when I am asked to believe that this is so, I have to ascertain whether the whole of the karri or jarrah timber in Western Australia is controlled by a combine.
– Nothing like it.
– From investigations I have made, I know that is not the case, but that, on the other hand, there is ample jarrah timber outside the Millar combine ; so that the argument in regard to defeating the combine does not, in my opinion, hold good. The area of karri forest that is available has been made use of as an argument in favour of the development of an industry by the utilization . of this timber in a new way; but it appears very singular to me that this karri timber country should have been allowed to remain unused when there are so many clever men who have been operating in Western Australia for many years, and know the value of timber, and the need of it all over the world. I do not wish to go into the merits of karri and jarrah timber, but I am told that, while there have been thirty years’ experience of powellising timber, that process does not seem to have favorably struck smart Canadians and Americans. We can reason from deduction as well as from facts; and we may take it that if there is a process which will give long life to timber we shall find men prepared in such countries as America and Canada to put their money into any undertaking connected therewith. The fact that this system has not been adopted in Canada, or, if adopted, has not been continued, appears to me to be a strong point against its adoption here. We have been told, on the other hand, that new patent rights have been taken out by this powellising company. I cannot ascertain when these patent rights were taken out; but it was recently, I believe, and, if that be so, we have had no opportunity to prove the utility of the process. We should not be the people to bear the burden of testing this process. If the old patent is the one referred to in connexion with the samples that have been produced here, it is a failure; and if it be a new patent, we have not, as yet, had sufficient experience to guide us as to its utility. It is stated that powellising makes timber dry-rot-proof, ant-proof, and borer - proof ; but until it is shown that there is a system of seasoning whereby the whole of the sap may be driven out of the green timber, and room made for the saturation, I shall not be convinced of the effectiveness of the process. Have we time to season our timber? It is claimed that all the sap may be driven out of the timber by a steam process; but for decades past efforts have been made to season timber in this way, and it has been “ turned down “ by modern scientists as impracticable and ineffective. To-day, even, in Victoria, timber has been seasoned by a new dry-heat method which really does drive out the sap and season the timber rapidly, in much the same manner as under natural conditions. In that way only can timber be seasoned, or made capable of absorbing a solution required for the purpose of making it ant-proof, or rot-proof.
– The timber has to be cut in the proper season.
– Of course, there are other factors that have to be considered. Timber has to be cut when there is the least quantity of sap in it, thus affording the best conditions for powellising ; but we have no proof that the timber for these sleepers is going to be hewn at such time.
– On the contrary, when the sap is down, and the ground is wet and muddy, is when this timber cannot be got at.
– If that be so, it is rather a strong argument against the effectiveness of the process of powellising timber of this character.
– It, can be ringbarked.
– But when we ringbark timber we stop, not only the sap, but also the natural seasoning, and it becomes subject to all kinds of grubs and pests. If ringbarking were an effective way of seasoning for practical uses, it would have been adopted long ago as a very cheap method; but we never find a sawmiller ringbarking commercial timber. Ringbarking does not, and cannot, produce the class of timber of which we are speaking. We have had a lot of evidence about the effect of saturating the timbers with this solution, but I am of opinion that there is no solution, nor any method hitherto adopted, which will drive the solution any distance into a hard wood. It is said by some who know that, even with a continuous boiling process, the solution penetrates not more than a quarter of an inch into a block of wood like a sleeper. It is the casing of the timber with the poisonous solution that preserves it against ants, but it is not altogether preserved against dryrot; and it is in the difference between karri and jarrah, in regard to liability to dry-rot, that we find the dangerous element. I can understand Mr. Deane’s report. I well know that he does not give his own individual opinion, but only an opinion, based on the opinions of others.
– His reputation is at stake.
– Only so far as hisexpressed opinion is concerned. Mr. Deane, with all his knowledge and ability, has not had the experience of this treatment of timber that has, say, Mr. Saunders, whowas pecuniarily interested in the company, and reported against the system of powellising.
– He did not report: against it.
– He did, practically. We can read into Mr. Saunders’ report what can be read into every public officer’sreport - a desire to state his opinion, with the reservation of not losing his “job.” That is generally what we find in all public servants’ reports; and I may say that without disrespect to those officers, who are but human. It is probably unwittingly done, but it is nevertheless there. We have been told that a plant tocost £18,000 would suffice to provide sleepers for this railway, but Mr. Saunderssays that the amount necessary would benearly £100,000. If we provide a, plant at ,£18,000, we shall be taking a most ineffective means to carry out a work whichwe are all so anxious to see pushed on.
– Look at Mr. Saunders’ next letter.
– He says-
These sleepers, when powellised, are saturated with the solution, which should be driven off in the drying rooms, being kept in the rooms about seven days under a temperature of r20degrees, otherwise the sleepers shrink when placed in the ground, and are likely to loosen . the dogs.
This seems to indicate that Mr. Saunders does not favorably regard the system. A timber liable to shrink with the effectsthere mentioned would prove very seriousin railway construction, where the safety of the public has to be first considered - safety which can be secured only by a wellballasted line laid on solid sleepers, with heavy rails properly secured. I knew Mr. Deane when he was in the service of the New South Wales Government, and I regard him as a very efficient officer and an honorable man. The only reason I can think of to justify his utterances on this matter is that he has adopted what appeared to himfeasible on the representations of thosewhom he regarded as better acquainted with the subject than he is himself, and he hastaken the line of least resistance in a half- hearted manner. This debate shows that the Government should take steps immediately to secure themselves from any charge of this character in the future by appointing a Committee of experts to deal with all contracts involving an expenditure of large sums of money. That is necessary to give a guarantee to the House and the country that things are being done as they should be done.
– Why not have an inquiry into this matter?
– I have already said that, in my opinion, this matter should be further inquired into.
– Let the Government agree to send it to inquiry, and we shall withdraw the motion.
– There are two other alternatives which might have been adopted to provide sleepers for the railway, and I do not know why they were not considered. We might have adopted reinforced concrete, or steel sleepers such as are used in the Northern Territory. If such sleepers were used, they would be proof against dry-rot and the white ant.
– There is no question about jarrah sleepers being satisfactory.
– Except so far as attacks by white ants are concerned. It is of no use to claim more for jarrah than is warranted, and it has been clearly proved that white ants will attack jarrah.
– Jarrah is used all over the gold-fields.
– Are jarrah sleepers on the gold-fields not attacked by white ants?
– Not seriously.
– The honorable member for Swan should know the gold-fields, and whether it is ant-infested country or not.
– There are white ants all through the gold-fields country.
– I do not know that I can accept the honorable member for Richmond as a guide in the matter.
– I lived there for seven years.
– I can accept the honorable member for Swan as a guide as to the character of the gold-fields country, and I am sure that he knows a white anthill when he sees one. Though white ants may work underground, they give indications of their presence by building mounds. I think it has been proved that jarrah is liable to attack by white ants, but it is not liable to the more serious evil of attack by dry-rot.
– The average life of a jarrah sleeper is twenty years, irrespective of attacks by white ants or dry-rot.
– That is not so.
– I cannot be guided by the opinion, however honestly held, of those who may be vitally interested in urging the virtues of jarrah. I know that it is a good timber, and is being used all over the world. I know that it is largely used for street-paving. We have had a statement quoted from Millars’ Karri and Jarrah Company as to the value of karri timber for street-paving.
– That was twenty years ago, and it was from an entirely different company to the present Millar’s Karri and Jarrah Company.
– Nothing of the kind. The pamphlet was published in 1897.
– That must be nearly twenty years ago.
– No; only fifteen years ago.
– A very large amount of information may be gained in fifteen years. I wish to point out that no conclusion can be drawn as to the life of karri when used as a railway sleeper from experience of its value in street-paving, where small blocks are laid close together on a concrete foundation, and probably inclined so that surface moisture runs off. It is a very different matter to place the same timber in the earth as a sleeper. All authorities on timber are agreed that karri is an admirable timber for construction purposes above ground, but it is ruinous to use it where it has to be covered with earth. I feel that this discussion may do good. The Government may adopt the propositions I have indicated as necessary for themselves and the country, and a mistake of this kind may be prevented in future. I think that a mistake has been made, and I should be very sorry to have the Commonwealth repeat the experience of New Zealand in the use of white pine and beech. Admitting that these are soft woods, it is clear that it must be far easier to season and powellise soft woods than hard woods.
– The experts do not say that.
– I do not care what the experts say on that subject. I know something about timber, and I know that in- a soft wood you have an open porous timber which can be much more readily impregnated with a preservative solution than any hardwood can be. That does not need argument. According to the evidence we have, the system adopted in New Zealand was discredited, and the sleepers laid there had to be replaced with other sleepers. I feel that, unless the system for which the new patent is claimed possesses some virtue hitherto unknown, it is possible that before the transcontinental railway is completed we may be in the unhappy position of having to startesleepering ththe line from the end at which we commenced it. That would be a very serious blow to the reputation of those who are advising us in the matter of railway construction. It would be a lamentable experience to reflect upon if it were found that it might have been avoided by an inquiry at this stage. I urge the Government to adopt the precautionary methods I have suggested, and I trust that something may be done to make it clear to honorable members, and the country, that the Government are pursuing the right course, and one which will be advantageous in the interests of the railways we are about to construct, and of the people who will have to pay for those railways.
.- I wish to express my concurrence with the contention of the honorable member for Gwydir that the decision upon a matter of such vast scientific and financial importance should not be vested in any one engineer, or any one Minister. The decision in a question of such far-reaching and transcendent importance should be left to a board or commission, as is done under the railway systems of the various States. Few disinterested listeners to this debate will not admit that the facts submitted and arguments advanced indicate that there are grave doubts as to the wisdom of the decision arrived at by the Minister of Home Affairs in entering into this contract for powellised karri sleepers for the great transcontinental railway. It is somewhat significant that two honorable members, representing Western Australia on the Government side, have not replied to the arguments submitted from this side. From their silence it may be assumed that they have not an effective reply to give. There is a certain ominous silence on the Ministerial benches which speaks volumes. There may be many honorable members opposite who have been impressed with the arguments used during this debate, but do not feel called upon to be as outspoken as the honorable member for Gwydir has been. It is a matter for congratulation that the debate was launched by the honorable member for Fremantle with such calmness and moderation, and so comprehensive a survey of the position. It has been continued on both sides with moderation and prudence. Our desire has been only to get at the truth, and to enable the House and the country to arrive at a correct decision in the matter. If the Minister of Home Affairs had not advanced so far in his negotiations in connexion with the contract with the Western Australian Government it is probable that he would have seen fit to stay his hand and take further advice. Whether in view of the volume of information that has been brought out during the discussion he will yet see his way to reconsider his position remains to be ascertained. We, on this side, have merely done our duty in exercising our parliamentary privilege to raise this question in the usual manner. We have endeavoured to establish the principle of Ministerial responsibility, admitting at the time that the question involved is purely one of judgment. It can hardly be said to be a political question; it is more of a scientific and technical question, but the issues are vast and important, and the decision arrived at may largely affect the future progress and successful working of the transcontinental railway. In its inception, and also in its passage through this House and the Senate, the proposal for its construction had many critics. In the country it was described by opponents as “a desert railway.” It is deeply to be regretted that the first step towards its actual construction is embarrassed by this grave doubt as to whether we shall not be involved in serious financial loss and engineering blunders which may lead to delay, and public dissatisfaction. I feel constrained to repeat the question put by the honorable member for Swan, and ask the Minister primarily responsible for this contract why a departure was made in this case from the beaten track of railway construction in Western Australia? Why was it deemed necessary, or considered wise or prudent, in beginning such a big job as the transcontinental railway, involving 1,000 miles of construction, at a cost of £3,000,000 or .£4,000,000, to depart from the precedents of railway construction ir> Western Australia? In previous railway construction in that State over 4,250,000 sleepers have been laid, and in nearly. every case they are of the orthodox timber, jarrah.
– And over 3,000 miles of railway.
– Yes. The railways of Western Australia have been built with jarrah sleepers unpowellised.
– On some of the branch lines, white gum sleepers have been used; but in no case has karri been used.
– According to Mr. Hassell, as a sleeper white gum without sap comes first, and jarrah second. In view of these facts, it is strange that the Department of Home Affairs, in beginning what may prove a colossal scheme of railway construction, has seen fit to undertake a doubtful and dangerous experiment. Why has it thought it necessary to test the powellising process at such a risk? The process may in time prove to be a most valuable one. I have no bias against it, and, when PostmasterGeneral, sanctioned the testing of it in connexion with a number of telegraph poles, which were erected and are now under observation ; but it will be some years before it can be ascertained whether the claims of the patentees are justified.
– The process has been used in India for years with success.
– In Australia, it is still at the experimental stage. The only experiment made with railway sleepers was conducted near Perth with a few sleepers, and it has been objected that the situation chosen was too favorable, the soil being sandy, whereas to test the process properly a clayey situation should have been sought. Seeing that this sole experiment with railway sleepers is thus open to criticism, it is strange that the Government should be willing to risk millions of pounds by adopting, the system. The New Zealand experiment with white pine is said to have been a failure, and in no part of the world has the system been applied with success to railway sleepers. The Department is acting most unwisely in spending so much on the faith of a few opinions founded on a limited number of experiments, none of them sufficiently searching to justify generalization. What we require to know is whether karri sleepers powellised will be cheaper, more economical, and more durable than jarrah. The Prime Minister should give us some information on the subject.” Will a saving be effected by adopting the powellising system, or will the expense of the line be greater with the use of powellised karri sleepers than if jarrah sleepers be used?
Secondly, is there a risk of the powellised karri sleepers failing ? The honorable member for Fremantle has told us that powellised karri sleepers will be more costly than jarrah sleepers. We have been told - and it has been practically admitted - that the royalty will amount to £60,000, the company having claimed £100,000, but having modestly reduced its claim; and the honorable member calculates that a plant for treating the sleepers will cost £240,000, and that the cost of treatment at is. per sleeker will be £100,000, or altogether £400,000 for the powellising alone. Why should the Department commit itself to this enormous expenditure when there is an abundant supply of jarrah timber which could be used without the necessity of powellising it? Regarding jarrah, I draw attention to a passage in the report of Mr. Light, the Engineer for Existing Lines in Western Australia, submitted to Mr. Deane. Attention was not drawn to this passage by the Minister when he brought the report before the House on a former occasion; but it is desirable that it should be emphasized. Mr. Light says -
The. virtues of jarrah are already sufficiently known to render further comment needless. Suffice it to say that well seasoned sleepers cut from this timber will last in the road-bed for many years without any artificial treatment whatever.
If that be so, the Department should have made a contract for the supply of jarrah sleepers, there being no expert demand for resort to the expensive process of powellising, which, it is estimated, will add nearly halfamillion pounds to the cost of the sleepers. It is true that reliance is now placed upon the fact that Mr. Deane has, in effect, sanctioned it, but, as already pointed out in the very powerful analysis to which these reports have been subjected by the honorable member for Flinders, Mr. Deane does not give any direct opinion of his own. He has no personal or professional knowledge of the value of karri, or of the virtue and potency of the powellising process. He merely deals with schemes put forward and the technical reports of other people, and, in the end, practically gives his sanction to it, but that does not relieve ihe Government of the day from their Ministerial responsibility of advising the House and the country, and giving the final decision upon the question. No Minister, in the face of Mr. Light’s opinion, is able to say that he was constrained to resort to the powellising contract because jarrah unpowellised was not safe, seeing that Mr.
Light says it is perfectly safe even without preservatives. Whilst dealing with the question of the merit and virtue of jarrah as a sleeper, I should like to quote from a letter published in the West Australian of 16th July, 1912, and signed by Mr. John F. T. Hassell, M.L.C., writing from Kendenup, on the Great Southern Railway. Mr. Hassell is one of the oldest country settlers in Western Australia, and is well acquainted with railway construction and the merits of the various Western Australian timbers. He draws attention to what he calls the disaster so fatal to the Great Southern Railway in that State some years ago in connexion with the use of karri for sleepers. He gives the history of the matter, which makes most interesting reading. He states that, in 1887, when the Great Southern Railway was being started, Mr. E. M. Young, the General Manager of the Company, asked his opinion about karri timber for sleepers. Mr. Hassell strongly advised the company to have nothing to do with it. However, he goes on to state that some Government experts, “ like the men of the day, who are buying ships and trams, river ferries, flour mills, timber mills, &c, persuaded Mr. Young with sheets of evidence of the durability of karri,” and the company took their advice, and disregarded his. Millar Brothers were allowed to use karri timber for sleepers on the line between Albany and Wagin, a distance of 150 miles. Mr. Hassell says that about a year after the first sod was turned, he happened to be waiting to pick up the train near his home. He was accompanied by a native servant, whom he told to put his ear on the rail to hear if the train was coming. The native said, “ I cannot hear the train, but I can hear the white ants going for the sleepers.” Mr. Hassell examined some of the sleepers, and found them riddled. He took an early opportunity of informing Mr. Young that his railway sleepers were being eaten, and, as a result, the whole line for that distance of 150 miles was ripped up, and relaid with white-gum and jarrah sleepers, some 300,000 in number. ‘ The cost of that experiment of using karri, and its subsequent replacement by white-gum and jarrah, amounted to£90,000. That was a lesson to the railway contractors in Western Australia which they never forgot, and ever since they have avoided karri for railway sleepers. The idea has never been revived until the present Labour Government came into office, and now the suggestion has been made that they should resort to powellised karri. Mr. Hassell in his letter states that, as a sleeper, white-gum without sap comes first. He says -
I have been using it for over sixty years in fencing, buildings, bridges, and in every other work where timber is required, and it is the most durable, either in or out of the ground. Jarrah comes next.
I should like the House to know what he says about jarrah without preservatives -
If jarrah is allowed to get properly dry before putting it in the ground, it will last good nearly as long as white gum, and the life of those timbers is about fifty years. I have buildings and fences on my station at Kendenup erected by my father in the year1839; the white gum timber especially being quite solid and’ sound underground at the present moment.
In another portion of his letter he ridicules a lot of the experiments called powellising, stating -
I am of opinion, and it is from my actual experience that I speak, that you can steam, boil, or soak in boiling liquid any poison known into karri timber, to be laid underground, and in two years it will begin to rot - the effect of the poison will then be gone. Both dry-rot and white ant will attack the sleepers, more so in stiff clayey land than sandy soil, and in five years the whole line will require relaying.
There is the reply to that experiment in the neighbourhood of Perth, in the shape of powellised karri in sandy soil. The test is of no value or importance whatever. It is no proof of the efficiency and potency of the powellising process on karri in clayey ground. I should like to quote, in confirmation of Mr. Hassell’s opinion, an extract from the report of Mr. Saunders, the Supervising Engineer, as follows -
It is known that karri, untreated, is of little use for sleepers. . . . For what length of time the powellised karri will last in the ground it is impossible to say.
Thus the Government’s own engineer says there is no evidence to show for what length of time karri will maintain its immunity from attack underground. It may be that, for a certain time, the powellising will render it immune from attack by white ants, but for how long is not certain. It might depend upon local conditions, soil, and the vibration of the line caused by more or less traffic. With reference to dry-rot, this writer says that there is no proof whatever that any immunity will be given to karri by the powellising process. In face of facts such as these, it seems almost incredible that a responsible Government, having no interest in the matter, except to do what is right and best in the interests of the country, and to secure rapid ‘ construction and efficiency, should launch upon a contract^ like this, so open to criticism from friends as well as from political opponents. There is no guarantee that the powellising process will be effective.
– What are we to do, then?
– We should follow the old beaten track, and use jarrah sleepers. The Minister has committed an error of judgment, and his colleagues will do the same if they support him in entering upon this contract. There is no necessity for it. It will land us in a world of troubles, which can easily be avoided by using the timber that has been employed in Western Australia for years, and which experience has proved to be effective and serviceable. There seems to be merely a desire for change. The Minister says, “Why not try something new?” By all means; but before we leave the old we should have some demonstration of the superiority of the new. Why should the Government of the Commonwealth pay for this experiment?
– Does the honorable member, suggest that we should take more time?
– We should save both time and trouble by using jarrah sleepers. The honorable members who have put forward this motion are anxious to see the railway proceeded with. They believe that both time and money would be saved by using jarrah sleepers. The use of powellised karri will cost £500,000 extra - including £60,000 for royalty, £240,000 for plant, and £100,000 for the process and treatment, with the additional possibility of the working men who have to handle the poison- laden sleepers being paid higher rates of wages. In fact, it is impossible to say what extra expense will be involved in this unfortunate experiment. It is asserted that the contract is not yet signed. What that means I am not quite sure.
– The Minister has said that the terms are not finally settled.
– If that be so, there is still time for the Government to stay their hand. I understood the Minister to say that a contract had been made, but not signed.
– He said that the price had not been arranged.
– The matter may be still open for consideration. I join with other honorable members, especially those from Western Australia, who havelocal knowledge, in urging the Government to reconsider the matter. The promoters of the motion have handled the subject with great judgment and moderation, and1 in a manner of which Ministers cannot complain. I trust that care will be taken to avoid disaster in connexion with the great transcontinental railway - disastereven greater than that described by Mr. Hassell in connexion with the Great Southern line.
.- I have’ listened with a considerable amount of attention to the case presented by the mover of the motion and to the reply of the Minister of Home Affairs. ‘I may add that I have tried before to-day to get to the bottom of this subject. I must say,, without hesitation, that I never heard a weaker case than that presented by theMinister in connexion with a colossalundertaking to lay sleepers over 750 milesof road, in accordance with a system that has been tested with only thirty sleepers. One can hardly believe it possible that aman in his sound, sane senses would incur such a great risk as this. If the Ministerwanted to have a test made of the powellising process, no one would have objected’ to experimenting with 10 or 20 miles of line. I hope that the matter is not yet finalized. At any rate, it is not finalized to the extent that we can get information as to what the price to be paid is.
– Suppose we delay the construction for a few years?
– I say candidly that I would sooner have the construction of the line delayed for a few years than see a 1,000-mile stretch laid down with karri, sleepers.
– We might well savethe money by letting the work stand back.
– I would sooner see it pUt back than have this mistake made.
– We will make you sit up, and will put it off.
– Is that the way to speak of a great national undertaking - “ We will make you sit up “ ?
– Jarrah has been, used for sleepers for many years, and I have no hesitation in saying that jarrah sleepers are preferable to karri sleepers for the railway which we are abou’t to undertake. Surely there are no more difficulties and dangers in connexion with this railway than there were in connexion with the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line. Yet jarrah* sleepers are used on that railway, and have given good service for years. Now we are toldthat 1,400,000 karri sleepers are to be used, in face of the testimony that karri placed in the ground will not last two years. As a matter of fact, the whole of the road in New Zealand on which an experiment with karri was tried has had to be pulled up. The chief supporters of this proposition are the powellising company, who claim that, by their process they can effectively improve timber of any description whatever. But I would point out that in New Zealand, not only has the pine which was powellised by this very company been pulled up, but . the beech also. Yet it is proposed to use karri sleepers on the transcontinental railway for a distance of over 1,000 miles. I venture to say that if that course be adopted, the road will have to be re-sleepered within a few years, and everybody knows that that operation will cost twice as much as the laying of the sleepers did originally. There is yet time to avert a disaster of that sort. If we wish to experiment with karri, let us lay down a few miles of the line with powellised sleepers made out of that timber. If we do that, the karri forests will not vanish in the meantime. But do not let us build 1,000 miles of railway on the evidence of their durability which has been afforded by thirty sleepers that were laid in the comparatively dry sand under the most favorable conditions.
– What does the honorable member for Swan say to that? Shall we tie up the undertaking for a while?
– Undoubtedly, let us hang it up for a while. Far better to do that than to make the mistake which is contemplated. In any case, it will take only a short time to obtain further information on this matter. Let us get tome independent testimony regarding the efficacy of the powellising process. I have no desire to speak at greater length. I have entered my protest, and I feel sure that many of those who are now urging the claims of karri will live to see the day when, having regard to the reputation of that timber, they will, after it has undergone the powellising process, regret that they had anything to do with this experiment.
.- I did not intend to take part in this debate.
– Why break a good resolution ?
– Nor shall I consult the Honorary Minister as to my right to make a few remarks at this stage. We are witnessing a most extraordinary spectacle to-night. Notwithstanding all the statements which have been made by honorable members upon this side of the House, and in spite of the speeches which have been delivered by the honorable member for Gwydir and the honorable member for Grey, we are evidently to receive no Ministerial reply, excepting that which emanated from the Minister of Home Affairs. Surely this is a matter of such grave national importance as to call for some statement from the Prime Minister, either in support of his colleague, or in reply to the criticism to which the Government proposal has been subjected ? I take no stand upon the merits or demerits either of karri or jarrah. But I do say that the evidence which has been placed before the House should be a sufficient warning to Ministers that further information should be forthcoming before the country is committed to the expenditure of a large sum of money upon what is, after all, a more or less doubtful experiment. It has been stated, by way of interjection, that the opposition to this experiment has been prompted by a Jarrah Combine. There is no foundation whatever for any such statement. There is no evidence available of any desire to sub- < stitute jarrah, or steel sleepers, or reinforced concrete sleepers, for karri. The whole point at issue is whether we should undertake the great experiment of laying down 700 miles of railway with doubtful sleepers. If the Western Australian Government are anxious to prove that powellised karri is suitable for railway sleepers, their proper course of action is to conduct an experiment in a reasonable manner. I protest that, after all the criticism to which the Ministerial proposal has been subjected, no reply is forthcoming from the Prime Minister on a matter of such grave national importance.
.- I wish to put those honorable members who desire a full inquiry to be conducted into the merits of powellised jarrah in their proper position. I intend to move an amendment to the effect that the construction of the transcontinental line should be deferred until a Royal Commission has inquired into this matter, and submitted its report. That is a perfectly fair attitude to take up. We have had a good deal of discussion to-day, and it seems to be the unanimous desire of the Opposition that there should be the fullest investigation into this matter. The Labour party, as a party, have nothing to lose by investigation; but the people of South Australia and Western Australia will, of course, be concerned over any delay which may occur in pushing forward the construction of the line. I have no desire to delay its construction, but I court the fullest investigation into this matter, because I believe that the Government will come out on the right side.
– I cannot accept the honorable member’s proposal.
– I move-
That the words “ the construction of the transcontinental railway should be deferred pending the appointment and report of a Royal Commission in regard to the best timber for sleepers to be used in the construction” be inserted in the motion after the word “ House.”
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Commission should visit India?
– I trust that members of the Opposition will avail themselves of this opportunity to have the fullest investigation into this matter. When the Royal Commission has submitted its report to Parliament - it cannot do that until next session - I trust that the building of the railway will be pushed forward with all possible speed .
.- The amendment is intended to place representatives of Western Australia in an awkward position; but in that respect it will certainly fail. The use of jarrah sleepers is not in question, and the construction of the railway can, therefore, be proceeded with. The question that we are considering now is whether or not powellised karri sleepers are suitable. Let the Government, if they so desire, appoint a Royal Commission to investigate that matter ; but I contend ‘that nothing has transpired during this debate to show why the railway should not be constructed at once, and jarrah sleepers used in its construction.
– It is quite refreshing to see my honorable friends opposite at last coming to their senses over this matter. There is a flutter in the Government dovecote.
– And a still greater flutter among the Opposition.
– We know quite well what is happening on the other side.
– Will the honorable member address himself “to the matter before the Chair?
– I am trying to do so.
– The honorable member must do so.
– I am pointing out what is the genesis of this amendment. I am entitled, I think, to show that the amendment is the result of dissatisfaction on the part of honorable members opposite.
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to do that.
– Not entitled to do that? Where are we coming to?
– Will the honorable member address himself to the matter before the Chair?
– I am trying to do so, but it is really most difficult, Mr. Speaker, under your rulings-
– Order ! The honorable member has adopted this course so frequently that I have to call his attention to it. I regret to have to do so, but he is constantly casting some reflection upon the Chair, and he knows that he must not do that. He must confine his remarks to the amendment before the Chair.
– I am doing my best to confine myself to the amendment; but I have yet to learn that I am not entitled to say that this amendment is the outcome of dissatisfaction on the other side. Honorable members opposite are dissatisfied with the motion, and we have in the amendment an expression of their dissatisfaction with what the Government are doing in this matter.
– Will the honorable member address himself to the matter before the Chair?
– I am only pointing out that honorable members opposite are dissatisfied with what the Ministry are doing in this matter. I do not wish to digress from your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but we have heard a number of honorable members opposite expressing themselves as wholly against the Government proposal to go on with the construction of this railway by using sleepers that have been subjected to the new process. We have heard them objecting to the spending of these huge sums of money without a full inquiry, and without a proper test of the new process proposed to be set up. The alternative now, it seems, is the alternative of revenge on the part of a number of honorable members on the Government side of the House, who have framed an amendment expressly declaring that the construction of the railway should be deferred, in order that a Royal Commission may be set to work.
– To go to India.
– To go to India. Very well ; that is to say that honorable members opposite, for mere purposes of party revenge, are prepared to defer indefinitely the construction of this railway. Now we know exactly what this amendment means. I am not in the least disturbed. I know that honorable members opposite are not game to carry it.
– We are.
– They are not.
– We are.
– They are not game to put it to a vote.
– Try us.
– If the amendment is carried, it will be the severest vote of censure that could be passed on this Government.
– No fear !
– That is all I have to say, and if the Government’s own supporters decide to censure the Minister of Home Affairs in this way, I shall not complain.
. - I should like to ask what attitude the Government are taking up in regard to this amendment? I desire that there shall be an inquiry, but I do not wish the construction of the line to be deferred. There is no necessity to delay it. The motion which we have been discussing simply declares that a certain course is undesirable. The alternative course is very clear, and no delay is necessary.
– How can the railway be constructed without sleepers?
– Plenty of sleepers can be obtained. If the Government had done their duty, they would have had sleepers long ago, both at Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta. I desire to move -
That the words “should be deferred” be struck out.
– The right honorable member has already spoken, and therefore cannot move the amendment.
– On a point of order, I should like to ask Mr. Speaker whether it is not competent for an honorable member to speak to an amendment when he has spoken only to the original motion?
– Any honorable member who has not spoken to the motion may move an amendment, but, since the right honorable member for Swan has already spoken to the main question, he cannot do so.
– I move -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ should be deferred.”
I agree with the honorable member for South Sydney, that it is highly desirable that there should be an inquiry. It is exceedingly pleasing to this side of the House to see at last so many honorable members opposite asserting their independence, and declaring that they believe that the action we have taken is perfectly justifiable. It was taken in the public interest, and the amendment from the Ministerial side perfectly justifies us. We heard this evening an excellent address on this subject from the honorable member for Gwydir.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the main question; he can only, deal with the amendment.
– I only want to discuss the amendment. Apparently both sides are now agreed as to the necessity for holding an inquiry, and the point is, should the construction of this railway be deferred pending that inquiry ? There is absolutely no reason to defer its construction, and only those who are hostile to this great national project want its construction to be deferred.
– That is too thin.
– Nobody else wants the construction of the line to be deferred. We heard an interjection to that effect from the opposite side. There is no reason for any delay, because the Minister can go on with the earthworks, and lay part of the line with jarrah sleepers, which it has already been proved are suitable. We know that jarrah is safe. The Minister can go on with the preliminary work for some hundreds of miles while an inquiry is being made into the powellising process.
– How are you going to get along for several hundreds of miles without sleepers?
– The Minister can get sleepers, because we know that there is any amount of jarrah available in the forests of Western Australia. He can use jarrah sleepers, and get along with the work of construction. There is really no necessity why this great national project should be delayed for a single day, but there is’ a reason’ why an inquiry should be made as to whether the powellising process is a right one or not. No one on this side has suggested for a moment that this experiment may not be successful. It may be eminently successful, and we all recognise that any experiment which will make even our worst timbers available for this purpose will be a boon to Australia .as a whole. No one is opposed to an experiment being made. Now that we are all agreed upon an inquiry, what we say is, “ Do not delay for a moment the construction of this great national line, which is necessary for the development of the West, and the defence of Australia; go on with the means which we have, and in the meantime make the necessary inquiry as to the powellising process.”
– Is the amendment seconded ?
– I rise to second the amendment, sir.
– The honorable member has spoken on the main question, and, therefore, he cannot second the amendment.
.-! beg to second the amendment, and to point out that there is no necessity to delay the beginning of this line for a single moment.
– We shall have the Commission for fun.
– The honorable member must know, if he has gone into this question at all, that over 2,000,000 sleepers are required for the construction of this railway. The Government are ordering 1,400,000 karri sleepers, and therefore there must be about 700,000 jarrah sleepers required.. It must be obvious to every one that it will be utterly impossible within twelve months from this date to lay 700,000 jarrah sleepers. Those who submitted this precious amendment with the idea of trapping any honorable member on this side have fallen into the soup. Another point is that there will not be a single rail delivered until the end of this year. It would be utterly impossible to get the rails to carry on the work.
-Order! I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the amendment.
– I am showing why the beginning of this line need not be deferred, and why certain words should be struck out of the amendment, and, therefore, I think that I am at liberty to point out that, not only will there be sleepers available, but it will not be possible for the
Department to get sufficient rails to utilize all these sleepers. There is nodoubt in my mind that the line could be carried straight on from to-day, and without a moment’s delay ; a commission could be appointed, an inquiry made, and we should then know whether this experiment is likely to prove successful or disastrous. My own opinion, based upon the evidence which has been placed before us, is that the experiment will prove disastrous. As regards the precious samples which have been placed upon the table, what are they worth? Theyare absolutely valueless.
– You know as much about a piece of wood as-
– I worked in the bush for a number of years, and so I do know something about a bit of wood.
– So have I.
– The honorable member knows, if he has worked amongst timber, that he can go into any scrub or forest he likes and pick out timber which is, as a rule, immune from attack by the white ant, and he can cut a green tree and find portions of it riddled with the white ant. It all depends upon where the timber is cut from, and in what circumstances. The samples on the table are absolutely valueless. With regard to the precious thirty sleepers, that is the only practical test which has ever been made of the powellising process in regard” to sleepers. The Minister pointed out that the untreated1 and the treated sleepers had been taken up after a term of years ; that, in one case, . there was absolutely no difference between the treated and the untreated sleepers which a scientist could discover - and that was after they had been down for three years - while in the other case there was a very slight decomposition. That proves conclusively that the thirty sleepers have been subjected to a test in the most favorable conditions which” it is possible to conceive of.
-Order! The honorable member is now discussing the main question.
– I am pointing out one fact, sir, because I did not speak on the main question. I urge that, while we are all agreed that an inquiry is necessary before we commit the country to this vast expenditure, there is absolutely no necessity to defer the commencement of this line for a day, and, therefore, these words should be struck out and the amendment carried in the amended form.
– I am amused at the ridiculous position in which the Opposition find themselves since they moved this motion.
– Are you going to support the amendment?
– No. It is my desire to see the railway proceeded with. I am not like the Opposition.
– What !
– The Opposition set out this morning with the determination to delay the construction of this railway if they could not get their own sweet will in regard to the use of jarrah sleepers.
– The honorable member is going beyond the question before the Chair.
– The Opposition set out with the determination that there would have to be jarrah sleepers ; and we are now told that while an inquiry is being conducted as to the use of karri, jarrah sleepers can be used. The honorable member for Darling Downs has evidently joined the “ Nationalists “ brigade.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs asserted that we on this side were not Nationalists, whereas he was a Nationalist.
– I did not raise the issue.
– Order 1
– There is no doubt that the honorable member for Darling Downs raised the “ National “ flag. The Opposition evidently desire to take charge of the business of the House, and they de clare, as I have said, that, while the question as to karri sleepers is being investigated, jarrah should be used. If the people of Western Australia and South Australia cannot see through the thin veneer of this motion, they are not as wide awake as I thought they were. The Opposition try to be very funny in this matter; but they have “ fallen in,” and they do not like it.
– We shall see about « fallen in.”
– The honorable member for Parramatta can alford to be joyful; he does not represent a South Australian or a Western Australian constituency. I should like to know what the right honorable member for Swan thinks about his associates who are trying to de lay the construction of this railway, which, I understand, has always been the aspiration of his life. I notice that the right honorable gentleman got a little bit frightened when an inquiry was proposed. I have been out of the House for an hour or so, and I find that a peculiar position has been created. Whether several honorable members on this side have agreed to the suggestion of the Opposition that this railway should be delayed, I do not know ; but it is very evident that the Opposition are taking advantage df something that has been said on this side, and are determined to push their point in regard to jarrah sleepers. The honorable member for Richmond said, unmistakably, that the Government could go on using jarrah sleepers while there was an investigation in regard to karri.
– The honorable member’s own Government ordered the jarrah sleepers.
– It has not been proved that jarrah_ sleepers offer the most resistance to dry-rot and ants. What I rose for was to find out who are the Nationalists here. The Opposition started out in a very jubilant manner, but the right honorable member for Swan nearly took a fit a little while ago when he thought that the construction of this railway might be delayed. I ask the Opposition to say, candidly, whether they intend to delay this railway by enforcing the use of jarrah sleepers?
– I think honorable members opposite must see that their attempt at a vote of censure has brought about circumstances which are not only embarrassing to them-
– Not in the slightest.
– But which amount to an attack on a national principle. I ask my friends not to press their amendment, but to vote against all . amendments, and thus get rid of the original question, the censure motion. Now honorable members opposite find themselves in a difficulty, they are trying to wriggle out of it.
– I desire to withdraw my amendment.
– The House is in the position that the honorable member cannot withdraw his amendment. The honorable member for Darling Downs has moved a further amendment which must first be disposed of.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the amendment - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted- put. The House divided.
Majority … …11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
House adjourned at 11.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 October 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121016_reps_4_67/>.