7th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– A few days ago the. honorable member for Darling asked if I could procure information as to the quantity of oil that had been produced at Newnes, New South Wales, the cost of that oil per gallon, and the’ present position of the industry? ‘ The. Acting Premier -of New South- Wales has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions: - 3,047,163 gallons of oil have been produced by Messrs. John Fell and Company at Newnes since March, 1915.
The working expenses of Messrs. John Fell and Company over a period* of two years and a half were £127,’283, or 9.9d. per gallon, but previous expenditure in capital and plant by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation was £1,500,000.
The shale deposits are ‘ practically intact. The renovated plant is in good condition.
– Some time agoI think, prior to the dissolution of the last Parliament - a promise was made on behalf , of the Minister for Defence to give consideration to my suggestion that Australianborn internees should be separated from foreign-born internees in the Concentration Camps. Has anything been done in the matter ?
– I do not think that anything has been done, but I shall bring the matter again under the notice of the Minister.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral reply to the question I asked yesterday, namely, why the letterboxes in Melbourne were closed at 5 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, although the train that took the letters away did not leave until the following morning?
– I have received information over the telephone, but shall wait until the facts have been stated to me in writing before replying to the honorable members’ question.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook), by leave, agreed to -
That for the remainder of the session the Library Committee have leave to sit during the sitting of the House.
The following paper was presented: -
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at Byron Bay, New South Wales, for Defence purposes.
– Has the Minister for
Home and Territories yet done anything in connexion with the case that was mentioned here last week, a man with great responsibilities having been deprived of employment and a returned soldier put in his place?
– The honorable member has in mind the case of Mr. Yates. Ihave already stated that Mr. Yates was given temporary employment for twenty and a half months, which is nearly double the time usually allowed. I asked whether it was possible to find another place for him, but at the time none could be found. If a place can be found forMr. Yates, I shall be only too glad to give it to him. I shall make inquiries about the matter again.
– When are the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee likely to be appointed ?
– The Government has not yet had an opportunity to consider the matter, but I hope to make a statement regarding it next week.
Recruiting Speeches - Transfer of Soldiers from State to State.
– What action is to be taken in regard to the statements alleged to have been made at Maitland by a Lieutenant Murray which, last night, I brought under the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence?
– I am waiting for the Hansard report of the honorable member’s remarks to refer the matter to the Minister for action. Mr. RILEY.- Does the Minister know that soldiers are still being transferred to Victoria from other States to complete their drill here, and that great inconvenience is thereby caused to them and their friends ? What steps are to be taken to prevent this?
– I explained the whole matter fully last night, and refer the honorable member to the Hansard report of my speech for that explanation. In New South Wales there are three special schools of instruction, and there are several other special schools inVictoria. Men who desire to be trained in these schools are selected in the different States and sent to the schools for training before going abroad.
– A number of . men were brought to Victoria from South Australia to form a special corps, but. have since been transferred into the infantry, and kept in this State.
– In some cases that has been done at the wish of the men themselves.
– These men wished to return to South Australia.
– I am not aware of the facts in the case referred to. Conditions change occasionally, because of oversea contingencies, of which we cannot have foreknowledge. It is essential for purposes of training that men shall be sent from other States to New South Wales and Victoria to receive instruction in special schools.
– But why is everything centralized in Victoria?
– There is no such centralization. There are three ‘ training schools in New South Wales.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I am informed as follows : -
Mr. TUDOR (for Mr. Higgs) asked the Prime Minister,upon notice -
Having reference to his statement in the House of Representatives on 14th March, 1917, as follows: - “The. Central Wool Committee have also recommended that the manufacture of wool tops shall be controlled by the Commonwealth during the war period. This has been confirmed, and agreements have been prepared for the proper performance of contracts for wool tops for Japan.” - Will he place on the table of the House a copy of the agreements referred to above?
– I have already laid on the table, by way of answer to the honorable member’s previous question, the principal clauses of the agreements. The agreements themselves are in the possession of the Central “Wool Committee.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1, 2, and 3. I am not aware.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, reports as follows : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Stepswill be taken to compile the particulars to enable replies to be given to the honorable member’s questions.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Me. CRITCHLEY PARKER.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Groom) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 27th July (vide page 624), on motion by Mr. Watt -
That this Bill be now read a second time..
. - It is not my intention to traverse the history of the project to connect Kalgoorlie with Port Augusta by rail, or to refer to that period during which differences of opinion existed in political circles in various parts of Australia as to the necessity for building the line. I feel that honorable members, the Government, and the people generally of Australia, are very pleased that the work is now nearing completion after several years, during which two Royal Commissions have inquired into various phases of it and the character of several officers attached to the work of construction, and numberless charges have been levelled against Ministers and officers controlling the work. We may safely leave all that aside, I think, and deal with the actual work itself. The matter of the cost of the. line over and above the estimate has been dealt with by the Minister and by several honorable members who have addressed themselves to this Bill, and the House generally will accept the Minister’s statement that . this has been brought about mostly by the fact that material has greatly increased in cost since the estimate was framed. The estimate was based upon prices for sleepers, rails, and material generally, which were much lower than obtained when the actual work of constructioncommenced. But after allowing for the increases quoted by the Minister over and above the estimated cost, there is still a large sum to be accounted for, to which I wish to refer briefly, and which I believe has been responsible largely for the increased cost. No work of such magnitude as the construction of the railway entailed could be taken in- hand, and successfully carried through when control was divided, as it was during the construction of this line. As a matter of fact, we had in charge, for a considerable time, a Minister who appeared to have no confidence in the responsible officer under him, and who was so lacking in business methods as to be continually running to the rank and file of the staff employed on the construction of the line in order to discover some little point to use against the Chief Engineer, or some other officer. I refer to Mr. King O’Malley, who, in my opinion, was responsible for a very large part of the increase in the cost of constructing the line.
It is impossible for a Government engineer to carry out any public work satisfactorily where the Minister in charge has not only no confidence in him, but is prepared to listen to tales, no matter from where they may come, and seems to have no time to listen to the case for the engineer. Divided control on work of this character makes economy absolutely impossible.
– Does the honorable member think the men on the job went slow ?
– I think that the Minister who was in charge of the job at the time to which I refer gave the men every encouragement to go slow, and to rebel against the authority under which they were working. It was not a question of the works being under the control of the Engineer-in-Chief, or of the Minister being in charge. For a considerable period, at all events, the construction of this railway was in charge of the secretary of a union at the Kalgoorlie end, and the secretary of a union at the other end. While I am a unionist, and always have been, I do not think a work of this description can be successfully carried out if it is in charge of a union secretary at each end. Mr. O’Malley, owing to the way in which he encouraged discontent among the men working on the line - owing to his readiness to listen to complaints from all and sundry, and to his unreadiness to listen to his engineers - brought about, for a considerable period, a state of chaos at both ends of the line which was certainly against both economy and discipline. I was asked by the honorable member for Darling a moment or two ago whether I believed the. “ slow-up “ policy had been adopted upon the works. I do not know whether it has or has not been, but I do believe that the taxpayers did not get a fair deal from a number of workers on the line.
– They would get a fairer deal from them than they would from a contractor if the work were done by contract.
– I know that the contractor is the honorable member’s pet aversion. The word” contractor “ is to him anathema.
– Have a look at that part of the line constructed under Teesdale Smith’s contract, and then express an opinion upon it.
– I was responsible for an exposure of the work of a number of contractors in Western Australia. I have always held that profits that have gone into the pockets of contractors could have remained, with much better advantage, in the pockets of the taxpayers. The difference between success and failure in the day-labour system lies in adequate supervision, and, what is most important, in a sense of responsibility on the part of the workers towards the State and towards themselves. The Western Australian Government have tested more closely than any other State Administration in Australia, as far as I know, the value of daylabour as opposed to the contract system, and there have been times when day labour has proved a positive failure. I could quote quite a number of works carried out in Western Australia - particularly large sewerage works around the metropolitan area - where the men employed were not even true to themselves. The moment the work became a Government job, plumbers - not the labourers, I am glad to say, but the craftsmen - seemed to think there was an opportunity to make a little more than was a fair thing.
– The same might be said of contractors.
– I am not “barracking “ for the contractors. My sole contention is that for every £1 expended on public works the taxpayers should receive a fair return. I am opposed to the letting of contracts where the work can be done more economically by day labour.
– Surely the honorable member would allow the work to be done by day labour where itcould be done equally as well.
– When the honorable member speaks of the work being done “ equally as well “ he must) not forget thatwe have to take into consideration the quality as well as the cost of the work.
– The State gets better work from day labour than from the contract system. Day labour work is not scamped.
– Where contract work is scamped the blame rests just as much with the Government supervisor as with the contractor.
– Have not many contract works been scamped inthis country?
– Yes ; but that does not prove anything.
-It proves that some contractors are robbers.
– I shall not say that it proves they are robbers, but it shows that the contractors concerned must have had sleepless nights in thinking out a way of getting outside the specifications and endeavouring to pile up extras. On every Government work, in addition to the contractor and his engineers, there are Government supervisors, who are supposed to have a thorough knowledge of the specifications, and to see that the work is carried out according to specification and not scamped in any way.
– That duplication of employees is avoided under the day-labour system, whereas under the contract system you have the contractor’s engineer and a Government engineer to watch him.
– That is so. But in building railways by day labour in Western Australia, we have often found that, just as in the case of contract work, the Department charged with the running of the railways has had to expend a tremendous amount of money on the line even after the Public Works Department has handed it over as complete. In that) respect, therefore, there is no difference between the day-labour system and the contract system. There should be no necessity for a duplication of officers. Such a duplication appears to me to be a waste of money; but I cannot help confessing that the deal received from a number of craftsmen in connexion with certain work in Western Australia was such as to lead to the belief thatthey had no sense of their responsibility to those who were paying their salaries. Evidence could, if necessary, be brought forward in connexion with the sewerage works of Perth, that men who were receiving 13s. and 14s. per day, and who were employed in connecting up the sewerage system with the houses of working men who were receiving only 8s. and 9s. per day, failed to give a fair deal, not, only to the Govern- . ment that employed them, but to their own fellow workmen.
– What stupid nonsense you are talking ! Would you pay a doctor only 8s. a day because a labourer only gets that amount?
– That interjection is on a level with a number of others that I have heard. There was no suggestion in my remarks that one man should be paid the same as another, but there was a suggestion, and it has always been my contention, that a man who on the daylabour system is getting 13s. or 14s. a day should, above all others, be prepared to give a fair deal to other men who are receiving only 8s. and 9s. a day.
I now desire to touch briefly on another pet theory of the Official Labour party and the Labour party of old. It may appear strange to honorable members opposite when I inform them that in what is perhaps the most solid labour centre in Australia - the gold-fields including Kalgoorlie - I was returned as an absolute opponent of the principle of preference to unionists.
– Is that why the electors of Western Australia rejected Mr. Scaddan the other day?
– Let us keep to the one point ; but if I were to speak candidly I could say why I think the electors rejected Mr. Scaddan. It is probable that the electors thought he showed a lack of backbone, just as a number of honorable members opposite have shown in reference to those who are serving their country at. the Front.
– Mr. Scaddan was returned unopposed a few months before.
– ‘And I was returned for Kalgoorlie only a few weeks ago.
– Only temporarily.
– Whether it be temporarily or for a lengthy period my constituents at least have the satisfaction of knowing that their present representative is not one who is always trying to look two ways at once. I was elected because the previous member could never make up his mind whether he was a con.scriptionist or an anti-conscriptionist ; like quite a number o’f honorable members opposite, he wished’ to lead the people from behind.
From the stand-point of a unionist 1 have always, been opposed to the system of preference, unless it could be shown that there was victimization - unless it was necessary to protect the ardent leader of unionists. But to make a general principle of preference seems to me, from the stand-point of unionists themselves, to be bad. I believe that the system has been the cause of a considerable increase in the cost of public works in Australia. Men are now joining unions who, possibly, have no sympathy with unionism; they are simply joining in order to get, positions. I ask ardent unionists whether the presence of this class of men in unions tends to the strengthening of unionism?
– It is compelling the shirker to bear his share of the cost of arbitration.
– As I have said often from the platform, I have no sympathy with the man who will stand aside and watch others work for the improvement of conditions without taking a share either financially or otherwise. Such a man is neither more nor less than a “ scab.”
– You would not compel him to pay his contributions?
– No more than I should allow him to benefit by any of the improvements conferred by the Arbitration Court. The man who shirks his duty in this regard, and who will live on the work done by his fellow men, is not a good member of the community, but he is a no bigger scab than the man who will allow others to fight the battles of the country for him. I do not know any bigger scab than the man who declines to assist his fellow men in fighting for the existence of his country, or the man who, like a number of honorable members I know, would prevent others from fighting.
– Are you a judge of scabs?
– If I were I might, be able to classify some of my honorable friends opposite.
– I was an upholder of unionism before you were born!
– I have heard a similar remark quite a number of times. I also heard an interjection some time ago referring to me in connexion with the Engine-drivers Association.
– I must ask the honorable member to confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– I apologize, for I recognise that I was wandering somewhat from the question. I was dealing with the increased cost of public works over and above original estimates, and pointing out that this, to a great .extent, is accounted for by the increased cost of material and increased wages. I also stated that, in my opinion, a good deal of the enhanced cost is owing to the fact that the Government have never got a fair deal from a number of the workers. I cannot see how it is possible for any work to be undertaken and successfully carried out where there is divided control, such as that on the transcontinental line, between the .Engineer-in-Chief, the Minister, and union officials at each end. As I have said, I have always been opposed to indiscriminate preference to unionists, but I am going to loyally abide by the promise of the Prime Minister and his Government that they would make no alteration in the Labour legislation which has been placed on the statute-book, or brought about- by means of regulations. Honorable members opposite know that indiscriminate .preference to unionists is not good from any stand-point. If preference is necessary for the protection of the workers, then I would give it ; but, if it is to make the work of the country a monopoly of men who, very often, do not believe in unionism, I am against it.
– Do you believe in compulsory unionism?
– I am not going to reply to that, unless I am able to’ do so at some length. It is very easy for a man, in endeavouring to briefly reply to such an interjection, to say something that does not exactly describe his position. I absolutely believe in a man being a member of a union; but, as I say, I also believe that the system of preference has been the cause of a large increase in the cost of the construction of this line of railway. It means that an EngineerinChief, or any responsible officer, before employing a man, has to consult an irresponsible person outside, in order to ascertain whether the prospective employee is or is not a member of a union. I did hear that a number of unionists in Melbourne and in other parts of -the Eastern States desired that work should be given to unionists, even in preference to returned soldiers. A number of returned soldiers have been employed on this railway, and it was urged by a section of the community that their employment should be conditioned by membership of a union. I shall always protest against a policy of that kind, and I believe the majority of members of this House will agree that- a man who has been overseas to fight for his country should have preference over any other pers/>n.
I recognise1 that for a number of years tins railway will be a burden on the taxpayers of Australia”? For that. I make no apology on behalf of Western Australia, the public men of which for many years have asked for the construction of the line. Nor do I think that the people - of that State should show any extreme gratitude or go on their knees to the people of the Eastern States because at last the project is nearing completion. I have always advocated ‘the construction of railways as much as possible. For the opening up of country, the building of railway lines, particularly from ports, is a good policy, and I shall always support railway construction by the Commonwealth to the fullest extent that our finances permit.
In regard to the operation of the line I am not at all sure that it will be an economical policy to create a Federal Railway Department. Once a new department is created, there are always ambitious officers anxious to build up to greater importance their sub-departments. For the time being, instead of duplicating the management of the railway system,, we should allow the Government railway staffs of Western Australia and South Australia to operate this line on behalf of the Commonwealth. ‘
During this debate some honorable members, who seem to be entirely opposed to the railway, drew all sorts of gloomy pictures as to its future. I quite realize> that the railway will be a burden for a number of years, but I am also convinced that without it the country through which it will pass would never be properly populated. There is country along the route that one day will be brought under cultivation. In the first place,, it will be utilized for grazing, but our experiences in Western Australia has been that country which we believed a few years ago to be suitable only for grazing is to-day growing wheat successfully.
Often the statement has been made that the construction of this line is justified from a defence point of view, but I am not at all concerned with that aspect of the undertaking. If the day ever comes, within the next twenty years at any rate, when we have to face an enemy on Australian soil, we shall be in a pretty ba<f way, and the safety of this country will not be determined by our ability or inability to transfer an army from one side of the continenti to the other. I could noi* help smiling when the honorable member for Cook waxed indignant because the Commonwealth Government had not already made military arrangements for transferring large armies from one part of Australia to another. He showed keen interest in the defence question, and I should have) thought that the last man to complain of laggardness on the part of the Common- wealth Government in regard to defence should be the man who objects to-day to> Australia using the whole of her resources in the present war. When the Honorable* member has come to a realization that1 it is necessary for Australia to give her utmost assistance in nien, material, and money in order to assist in winning the> wart it will be time enough for him to take, the Government to task for any neglect of military arrangements in connexion with this railway. An honorable member has interjected that the honorable member for Cook intends to enlist. If ‘that is true,. I am pleased to hear it.
– That will be a chance for you.
– The honorable member for Batman believes in everybody but himself going to the war.
– There are many people in Australia who hold the same opinion. 1 cannot) be placed in that category, because it is owing to no fault of my own that I have not been at tile Front for the last eighteen months.
Frequent reference has been made during this debate to the failure of the Western Australian Government to carry out its promise to broaden the gauge from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle. At the time when the Bill to authorize the construction of a 4-fto. 8^-in. line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle was before the Legislative Assembly in Western . Australia, I opposed it, because I believed it was beyond the capabilities of a population of 300,000 to borrow £6 per head for the construction of’ a line which, in my opinion, is a national concern, the cost of which should be borne by the Commonwealth, Government, for the reason that the State Government would derive no greater return from the broad-gauge line than from the existing 3-ft. iB-in. line. At the same time T recognise that Western Australia, having underbaken to broaden the gauge, should have carried- out its promise. It must be evident to every honorable member, however, that for financial reasons the carrying out) of that undertaking is impossible, and if we desire a uniform gauge throughout Australia, sooner or later the Federal authority will realize that it must either provide the money for Western Australia to construct the line, or the work must be carried out by the Commonwealth, itself. I agree that an effort should be made to standardize the gauge of the main trunk lines of the Commonwealth as soon as possible.
After very many years of agitation, the east-west line is nearing completion, lt lias cost a great deal more money than should have been expended on it, and the construction has extended over an un. necessarily long time. But the people of Western Australia, at any rate, are very pleased with the stage to which the work nas already advanced, and will be even more gratified when the line is open for traffic.
.- “Before entering into the merits or demerits of the’ Bill, I should like to say a few words about the construction of the
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. It is recognised that Federation would not be complete without the construction of this line, and that its construction is a debt due to Western Australia for entering the Federation. It will doubtless take time to prove what will be the value of the railway for other than Federal and military purposes. It will open up a vast area of country, the greater portion of which I believe will be found to be good pastoral country. During the past ten or fifteen years the increase of stock throughout the gold-fields in Western Australia has been wonderful. The finding of water in those areas has added enormously to their value.
I do not know what the possibilities of the railway from the point of view of the development) of mining will be, but I am very pleased that the Minister for Works and Railways is taking an interest in the mining possibilities of the area opened up by this line. There are auriferous areas in the Warburton Ranges, and when country is settled, even if it be only for pastoral purposes, that settlement renders great assistance in the opening up of metalliferous areas. I do not think that the ‘ possibilities from an agricultural point of view are promising, although close to Eucla there is some magnificent country. I may say that this is the only place that is indicated ‘on old maps of Western Australia as “ grand agricultural country.” Whether the line will prove to be of any value for agricultural purposes ‘it is difficult ‘to say, unless Mr. Balsillie’s new wand, which the Minister is disposed to experiment with, proves to be more effective than I anticipate is likely. The line will open up a very great deal of country, and I am hopeful that in a few years’ time there will be an augmentation of traffic other than that anticipated from Kalgoorlie and from the carriage of mails and passengers east and west.
A great deal has been said concern- ing the method adopted, in the construction of this railway. I am satisfied that if it had been constructed by contract it would have been completed nearly two years earlier, and we might easily ‘ have saved over £2,000,000. Its construction has really been one of the most notorious administrative disgraces that we have ever had in Australia. It has been a scandal almost from the beginning to the present time. We are told that the line will be completed about the end of September, but goodness only knows how many more strikes will take place between now and then, and it is impossible to say when the railway will really be open for traffic. I have never been one of those who are tied down to the system of building railways by contract. I was a Minister of the Crown for many years in Western Australia, and our Liberal Administration there generally called for contracts for public works. But we asked our .engineers to give us an estimate of the cost of a work, and if we found the contractors were putting their ‘heads together and asking too much for the construction of a line, we undertook its construction by day labour. A number of railways were constructed in the West by day labour, and good work was done under that system. There is, however, one grave objection to the day-labour system, and that is the scope which it affords for the introduction of pernicious political influence.
– What about the political influence that prevents inquiries into the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway ?
– What inquiry was prevented ?
– The inquiry asked for by Mr. Elliott.
– The honorable member refers to a dismissed public servant, who made some statements reflecting upon the work of his superiors. Are we to have inquiries into all complaints of that kind ? We did have one inquiry at the instance of a young fellow named Gilchrist, who, I imagine, would be one of the friends of the honorable member for Barrier.
– Why did the Prime Minister squash the inquiry ?
– According to the report of the Judge who conducted the inquiry into his complaints, the man Gilchrist should have been placed upon his trial. I was referring to the objection to the day-labour system, due to the introduction of pernicious political, influence. As a member of the Public Works Committee, I have had an opportunity of seeing a good many works constructed for the Commonwealth by day labour, and I can appeal to honorable members on the other side who have also been members of the Public Works Committee, and inspected those works with me, to say what has been our experience of the day-labour system. I went down to Flinders, where a wharf was being constructed, and I found a huge excavation 600 or 700 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 20 feet deep. I asked why the excavation was made, and I was told that it was because they could not drive the piles through the sand. I made so much noise about it there and here that the balance of the piles, nearly half of them, were driven without shifting a yard of sand. . I can tell the Minister’ for Works and Railways that it is going to cost, according to an estimate, some £2,800 to put up reinforced concrete sheathing where the earth was taken away.
– Where are the officers responsible for that?
– I shall come to that presently. The worst feature in this case is that the earth was being removed by trucks and tramways from this excavation, and although I am satisfied that it should not have cost more than 2s. per cubic yard, the departmental admission was that it cost 9s. 4d. per cubic yard, although not a single yard of this earth should ever have been taken away.
– Will the honorable mem-‘ ber say what Department had charge of that work? Was it the Naval Works Department ?
– Yes, I believe it v was. There was another case of the construction of an embankment, the work in connexion with which was worth about ls. per cubic yard, whilst admittedly the cost to the Department was 7s. 3d. per cubic yard. I do not blame the departmental engineers for this kind of thing. I am satisfied that most of them try to do the work intrusted to them honestly and, economically, but at the start of a job they find that amongst the men there are halfadozen agitators causing trouble. They dismiss these men, and then the dismissed men go to the member for the district, the member goes to the Minister, and the Minister inspects the job, makes a sort of inquiry, and authorizes the engineer in charge of the work to reinstate the dismissed men. The engineer, finding no Ministerial support, allows things to drift, and the result is chaos and extravagance. That has happened through- out the country, at the Small Arms Factory, and in connexion with nearly every Government work. It is the introduction of this political influence which has prevented, and will continue to prevent, our being able to carry out public works properly on the day-labour system.
-The men are the masters.
– Take the case of work at Cockatoo Island Dock. We know what has been done there. Honorable members have only to read the reports of the Public Accounts Committee, the majority of whose members belonged to the other side, to see what happens under the day-labour system in the construction of public works. I was waiting at the Glenferrie station on Wednesday last for a train, and I saw there ten or twelve navvies shifting dirt. One man might have done the work that eight of them were doing. If one had a cinematograph to take a moving picture of those men at work, it would have been a nice picture to send to the boys at the Front to enable them to realize what was being done for them.
– The men shown in the moving picture of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, which we saw last night, were working hard enough.
– That picture . was a revelation. Honorable members saw the track-laying machines at work, and I remember that when they were bought the engineers reported that they -would lay 3 miles of track per day. Will the Minister in charge of this work deny that these platelayers arranged that they would lay only 1 mile of rails per day, and that when they had completed that distance, they would sit down and wait till 5 o’clock in the afternoon?
– That is the position at present on the western end ofthe line. I am endeavouring to get the men to lay11/2 miles per day, but they will not do so. I talked to them inthree languages about a month ago, but it had no effect.
– Had this work been carried out on the contract system the.line would have been completed eighteen months ago, and the Commonwealth would have saved £2,000,000.
– Why not say that we would have got the line built for nothing ?
– I am not addressing my remarks to the honorable member.
He has his instructions, and no facta will influence him. He knows perfectly well that- a similar system of “go-slow” is operative at Cockatoo Island to-day. To my mind all parties to an industrial dispute should be compelled to abide by the awards of the Arbitration Court.
– Then make the Commonwealth Government adhere to the awards.
– The honorable member knows that the great majority of these strikes took place whilst men who were sympathetic with them occupied Ministerial office.
– Do not get annoyed, but tell us what strikes took place.
– I am not getting annoyed - I am merely emphatic. But any honest man ought to be annoyed when such things take place. In my opinion, a big mistake was made, and a good deal of useless expenditure incurred, owing to the desire of the Government to run this railway themselves. Had they made overtures to the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia, I feel sure that arrangements could have been made for the running of this train service for a number of years with results which would have been economical to all concerned.
As the honorable member for Wakefield is aware, when this work was started, elaborate specifications were prepared for the establishment of huge workshops at Port Augusta. A large staff was concentrated? the members of which commenced to draw plans for the building of locomotives and rolling-stock. In short, a new Department was created without a really competent staff. In making that statement, I am not reflecting on anybody, because - as is the case in the shipbuilding trade - it takes years and years for an efficient’ department to be created, which is capable of preparing plans for locomotives and rolling-stock generally. The cost of the workshops at Port Augusta was estimated at £260,000. Personally, I have no desire to see another department created, and it would be wise even now for the Minister to consider the advisableness of negotiating with the State Governments concerned, for the purpose of running the east-west railway for some time to come. He has to create a new department.
– I have heardthat statement before, but it is not correct.
– The honorable gentleman is the Minister for Works as well as for Railways, and he should have around him a staff which is competent to carry out all the engineering works likely to be undertaken by the Government. Under this Bill, it will be necessary to create an almost similar staff in the Railway Department, because that Department will be charged with the construction pf railways., The honorable gentleman will, therefore, need’ an engineering and surveying staff
– We have it how. The honorable member’s statement would have been correct three or four years ago7 but it is not correct to-day.
– The men who have been engaged in connexion with this work occupy only temporary positions.
– The supervising engineers and all their staff, “ Yes.’_’ > They will be disbanded when construction work ceases.
– I think it is a dangerous thing to place in the hands of. a Railway Department the construction of its own railways. In my judgment, these lines should be built by the Works Department and handed over to the Railway Department. A good deal of the expenditure which is incurred in building new lines is frequently taken from loan funds. The Minister knows perfectly well that in connexion with the laying down of a. new siding, or the making of additions to a railway station, for example, a portion of the expenditure is often charged to loan account and a portion to revenue. If the whole of that expenditure is in the hands of the Railway Department, there will be a danger of loan money being allocated to works which > should be constructed out of revenue.
When the Minister was speaking upon this Bill, he failed to make any reference to the powellised sleepers used in its construction. We have given a’ magnificent trial to ,a new process, in which we have employed a timber that in the absence of that process would have been a complete failure. Of course, it is absolutely impossible to judge of the efficacy of the powellising, treatment except after the lapse of a reasonable period. I wish to know from the Minister whether the sleepers which were subjected to the powellising process, and which were used in the construction of this line, lave been efficiently marked to enable them to be identified, so that we may be able to determine whether or not that process is a success. I shall be very glad if it proves to be efficacious.
– The constructing engineers assured me en route that all the powellised karri sleepers have been properly located and marked.
– I merely wished to get that fact placed upon record. Ordinary karri timber will last for several years in the ground, and good karri timber has been known to be underground for eighteen years, and still ia good condition; but, speaking generally, unless it is subjected to treatment, it soon becomes susceptible to the ravages of dryrot.
The agreement made with the Western Australian Government some years ago for powellising the timber was, in my opinion, a very great scandal, as, under the original document, royalty to the amount of £82,500 would have been paid’ if the whole of the sleepers had been treated. Fortunately, the number of sleepers was reduced, and a corresponding reduction, made in the amount of royalty paid.
– And it is doubtful if the patent is ‘a valid one.
– The Bill gives the Minister absolute control of the railways, this power, being contained in clause 45, which states -
The Minister may direct the Commissioner to make any alteration in any existing practice or carry out any system or matter of policy, ….
Having had vested in him this power, the Minister will have absolute political control over’ the Commonwealth railway system. In the Western Australian Act we provided that, subject to the provisions of the Act, the Commissioner should have the “management, maintenance, and control of all railways the property of the State.” I was Minister of Railways for six years, and during that term realized the pernicious effect of political interference ; but I can say that, during the whole of that time, only one man, the Commissioner himself, was responsible for his position to me. We had a marvellous record, showing a reduction in expenditure, increases in wages to our workmen, and considerable reductions in freight charged producers. I was the first, and, I think, the only, Minister of Railways in Australia to bring the rate for superphosphates down tod. per ton per mile. We also carried low-grade mineral ores for the same rate, and at the end of my six years of office we were able to show a magnificent profit.
– That was hardly a fair test, as you had an ideal Minister and an ideal Commissioner. We have to provide for the average man.
– In the present instance, I think it is possible we have an ideal Minister for Railways ; but the Minister should not forget that the time may come, perhaps in the near future, when we might have in office a Minister who willrepeat some of the experiences recorded during the construction of this line. Of course, I understand that the preceding clause must be read in conjunction with clause 45; but I am anxious not to place too much political power in the hands of the Minister. Ministerial control over the Commissioner is,in my judgment, quite sufficient, for I have noticed that, as a rule, a Commissioner is desirous of giving effect to the wishes of his Government.
I must congratulate the Minister upon the introduction of a new principle to Railway Acts in the provision for a public inquiry in case of any serious accident. Hitherto when a serious accident has occurred on any of our railway systems, it has been the practice for the Commissioners to appoint their own officers to hold inquiries, and in too many instances the responsibility for accidents has not been disclosed. The fact that a public inquiry will be held into any accident causing loss of, or danger to, human life, will, I have no doubt; greatly minimize the risks, because the railway officials will be more careful than, perhaps, in other circumstances they would be.
I would like to impress upon the Minister the fact that the by-laws do not seem to be as complete as those drafted under the Western Australian Act; and I should like him to consider whether it would not be advisable to have by-laws authorizing the Commissioner to establish a voluntary superannuation, sick, accident, and guarantee funds. This pro- vision appears in the Western Australian
Act, and I notice that, out of 8,300 employees, over 4,000 contribute to the funds. The Western Australian railway report for 1913-14 states -
The Death Benefit Fund, which, on 30th June last, had been in existence for seven years and four’ months, had, on that date, 4,800 members, being an increase of 504 members during the year…..
The forty-three levies raised during the year yielded £9,764, raising the total disbursements since the inception of the fund to £40,404.
Membership in the Provident Fund has risen by 416 in the course of the twelve months, and on 30th June last stood at 4,486. The collections amounted to . £5,530, and disbursements to £4,852.
The employees are not compelled to contribute to the funds, but if they do the Commissioners are empowered to retain from their wages and salaries sufficient money to keep them financial in the books of the funds.
– Do the Commissioners or the Government contribute to the funds?
– No. The scheme has proved such a boon to the men that I think the Minister might very well consider whether the Commissioner should not be given power to establish similar funds in connexion with the Commonwealth railways. I do not think the powers given to the Commissioner under the Bill will enable this to be done.
We are now approaching the period when the east and west will be connected by rail. This has been promised for a long time, and although there may be some reflection on the Western Australian Government for not having complied with the promise they made some years ago to continue the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge from Kalgoorlie to the coast, I hope honorable members will realize that Western Australia has passed through a very depressing time during the past few years. Financially, things are not at all good over there, and even though that promise was made, I do not think any pressure should be brought to bear on the State Government at this period to keep it.
– Why not? Mr. GREGORY. - Because of the financial condition of the State. There is already a 3-ft. 6-in. railway from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle offering reasonable facilities for the carriage of goods, mails, and passengers. I should not like to quote from memory what the cost of a new railway from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle would be. It was suggested that the new line should run practically alongside the present one, in fact, that a third rail should be put down, but, if we are going to a heavy expense in this matter, I hope that for the greater portion of the distance the new line will run through new country, and open up new areas. I should not like to see pressure brought to bear on the State Government, and the cheapest course adopted, because in the end this would mean a very big waste. If we brought pressure to bear on the State Government they could not at present carry out the work of constructing a new line unless the Commonwealth Government specially lent them the money to do it. .
– I am told thew are engineering objections in the matter of curves and grades to the third rail proposition, or to the adoption of a parallel course.
– There are objections, especially near Perth, so far as the grade is concerned. On the other hand, there is a very fine area from Northam for about 100 miles to the east that would be served by the construction of a railway some distance away. That, however, is a matter for special report. One does not like to offer an opinion without going specially into these questions, but I hope too much will not be made of the fact that up to the present time the Western Australian Government have not fulfilled their promise. I know the financial condition of the State is such just now that to fry to force it to construct the railway would be exceedingly embarrassing to the State, and result in no benefit to the Commonwealth.
I am glad to think the transcontinental railway is nearing completion, and hope that when honorable members go across there they will realize that we have Federation complete. I also hope that the interior, north and south of the line, will be developed, arid that the Commonwealth Government, in dealing with any area that they will possess on either side, will always consider it an advantage to spend money to locate water supplies. When I had charge of water supply matters for the back country in Western Australia, as I had for many years, I always thought the discovery of water was the finest asset that we could give to the back country. We used to bore for water wherever we thought we could find a supply, even if it was not needed at the time for mining purposes. When we found fresh water it always put an added value on the country. I do not think any reasonable expenditure by the Government in their own areas for the purpose of discovering supplies of water will be money wasted. On the contrary, water will always be found a very great asset there. I welcome the measure, and hope that we shall all do our best to make it a good one.
.- I wish first to congratulate the Minister for Works and Railways on the way in which he introduced the Bill. He gave us a good deal of information, and a complete synopsis of the undertaking from its very start to the present time. I regret that the only Government supporters who have spoken on the measure should have taken up the time of the House by discussing everything from the very start of the railway. All that has gone past. The questions, of constructing the line, the gauge, and the . sleepers, have been debated here time and ‘ again, and no good purpose can be achieved by repeating the arguments today..
– We want to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
– My desire is to be a little practical. The Bill provides machinery for running the railways, and for the appointment of a Commissioner. That is the crux of it. What is the good of talking about the desert and the. strikes that have taken place during construction? I know it is a very convenient time for some people who want to get off a lot of spleen about the working man, and how he has loafed, and the strikes that he has been responsible for, but all that does not affect the Bill. All those things are matters of the past. We ought to be grateful to the men who have left civilization and gone into the interior to construct the line.
– Then was the Minister out! of order in saying what the railway cost?
– No, because the cost is not complete; but other speakers did more than criticise thecost. I am not speaking of the honorable member for Dampier in particular, but the whole debate seems to have gone beyond the scope of the Bill. The Government seem to have no particular desire to push the measure through.
– Don’t say that.
– It has seemed to me that speakers on the Government side have gone into matters of that kind at length, and then concluded by saying, “ I do not wish to say any more on the Bill, but will reserve my further remarks for the Committee stage.”
– Another Minister is going to speak after you have sat down.
– I understand that the Treasurer has something to explain when he gets up.
I am pleased that the Bill provides for a Commissioner to control the railway. While the engineers who have constructed it are a fine body of men, and we are proud to have such a splendid staff for railway construction purposes, I believe a business man who has had some experience of railway traffic should be appointed as Commissioner.
Whilst a good deal of fault has been found with things that have taken place during the construction period, I have hot heard any Western Australian or South Australian members complaining about the lack of conscientious fulfilment of certain promises made to this House when the construction Bill was introduced. We were told that we were to get so much land on each side of the line, and that when we began to build it the Western Australian Government would be only too glad to start at once to build a line on the same gauge from Kalgoorlie to Perth - a distance of about 300 miles.
– Three hundred and eighty-seven miles.
– Has anything been done to carry out that promise ? Has any complaint been made about the lack of responsibility on the part of the Governments of the States ? Not one.
– South Australia did not give any pledge.
– But the right honorable member did.
– Then I hope he will use his influence to make the Western Australian Government keep their promise. I intend to suggest a way by which he can make them keep it.
The honorable member for Wakefield made a long speech, the kernel of which was that the South Australian and Western Australian Governments should be asked to control the line on behalf of the Commonwealth. What a farcical proposal - that two State Governments should carry on the control from each end of the line over 1,200 miles apart! It would convey the idea that the Commonwealth Government and their officers had not the capacity or ability to manage the line. I never heard such a proposal from any representative man before, and I regret that any honorable member should have so little confidence in his own Government and officers as to make such a proposal.
-It was not a question of capacity, but a question of economy.
– The honorable member for Wakefield did not demonstrate where the economy came in. If any man advocates economy he ought to show where the saving is to be effected, and that is just what the honorable member did not do. He said the line could be managed better by the two State Governments. The Commonwealth Government, if they are worth their salt, will say, “ Having constructed the line we will manageit ourselves, irrespective of the State Governments.” I want to put a consideration before the Treasurer, who I know intends to address the House in support of this measure. My mind is made up that this line has been principally built for defence purposes. I suppose that he will admit that.
– No, not solely.
– That was one of the strong reasons urged upon this House when the construction of the railway was proposed.
– I never used that reason.
– I, for one, am prepared to finish the line, so as to complete the defence of the Commonwealth in the west, but until Western Australia carries out faithfully its promise to the Commonwealth, there should be no traffic run on the line.
– That is cutting off your nose to spite your face.
– The Commonwealth has constructed the railway, but the Government of Western Australia are not carrying out their compact. Have they made any offer in that direction? Not the slightest. I am waiting for information from the Minister for Works and Railways regarding the strip of land which is to be handed over to the Commonwealth on each side of the route.
– Roughly speaking, the agreement is that the strip shall be a quarter of a mile wide from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. If we use the land in South Australia for township purposes, it has to be handed back to the State, but that condition, I understand, does not apply in Western Australia.
– Apparently, the Commonwealth cannot build a township on the strip in South Australia unless it is prepared to hand the land back to the state. I trust that the Government will stand up and defend the rights of the Commonwealth in that regard. We have spent nearly £6,000,000 in constructing this railway, yet we are to allow the South Australian Government to treat this Parliament and the Commonwealth in such a shabby manner as to require that when a township springs up on any part of the strip the land shall be handed over to the State. We all have a duty to discharge to the people of the Commonwealth. We have no right to allow one State to flout this House. We have spent- £6,000,000 on the construction of the railway with the object of connecting the two States, and also for defence purposes. If the line is completed, it will be available for defence. But when we begin to run trains we shall start to lose more money. Unless the Government of Western Australia are prepared to introduce a uniform gauge on the State railway from Kalgoorlie, the Commonwealth has no right to’-run any traffic om the line, because it will be gradually losing money. I suggest to the Minister that he should bring this matter before the Government with a view to protecting the national interests. The Commonwealth is not run for the benefit of Western Australia only.
– No ; but the trouble is that the present Government arrived after the mischief was done.
– Still, we have the power to say that no traffic shall be run on this line until the Western Australian Government have completed the bargain.
– Do you know what the Western Australian Commissioner is ask-, ing us to do now?
– He is asking us to give him a proportion of the fares which we collect on the transcontinental line, because he is going to lose traffic by its construction.
– What are the Government going to do?
– We are saying “ No,” because the request is so preposterous.
– I am glad that we have a Minister who is able to say, *’ No,” now, because he has not been able to say, “No” lately. I think that the honorable member for Dampier will agree with me that, as regards the maintenance men and employees generally on this line, good conditions should be established and maintained. The men will be isolated, working hundreds of miles away from their homes. In this measure we should inaugurate the principle of the men working forty-four hours a week. The provision should be so elastic -as to meet the case of a man who is employed on a’ long run, but for a whole week the working time of the men should nob exceed forty-four hours.
– This line will involve less strain .than any other railway in the Commonwealth.
– But the men will be isolated; they will be working in a desert’.
– Too much leisure will hurt them 1
– Iti is nob so isolated as many other places.
– I am only going by the pictures which I saw screened last night. I hope to have the pleasure of going over the line when it is opened for traffic.
Another point I would like ‘the Minister to consider is that where there are gangs of men, say, 20 miles out, the cottages shall be pub at the end of each section, so that there may be a community of families, and an opportunity to educate the children. I think that the Minister and the Government will also admit that it is a fair suggestion, that the Commissioner should erect decent houses, and give the men enough land to cultivatel and so induce them to live there. Unless we do such things for the railway men, this line not bet a success.
I trust that the Government will consider whether the line should be opened for traffic until they get a written bond from the Western Australian Government to complete its bargain, and as regards South Australia, until it eliminates the condition that wherever a township is established along the route it shall be handed over to the State. Why should we allow the State to take from us the advantage which ensues from creating a population along the line, and perhaps starting a mining township ? Why should all that land be handed over to the State Government afterwe have spent £6,000,000 in opening up the land ?
– I am not particular to a million or two. These are matters which I trust the Minister will look into, with a view to protect the interests of the Commonwealth against South Australia. I hope they will also get a guarantee from Western Australia that the gauge of the line from Kalgoorlie to Perth shall be made uniform with our own gauge within a certain period. No one can object to that. If, however, this Bill be allowed to pass without a provision in that direction, we shall hand over the whole of the traffic on the. line without having adequately protected the people of the Commonwealth.
I again compliment the Minister upon the way in which he introduced the Bill, and I trust that, in Committee, we will deal with the vital points, such as the appointment of a suitable man as Commissioner. The proposed salary, I think, is not too large.- One thousand pounds is not too much to pay a man to control nearly 2,000 miles of railway.
– Two thousand pounds.
– That is better. I thought that the salary was £1,000. That is all I wish to say on this question.
– I do not desire to address the House except for a very short time. I could not very well allow this Bill to go through without saying a word or two in regard to a matter in which I have taken very much interest for so many years. I wish to congratulate the Minister upon his introduction of the Bill. I think, so far as I was able to judge from giving it a little consideration, that it is founded upon experience, and is likely to do what it is desired shall be done under its provisions. I do not feel that it is necessary to say anything as to the necessity for this railway. That matter was settled long ago.- I rejoice that the work of construction is nearing completion. Altogether, perhaps one ought to be satisfied that the line is about to be completed. But I may say that, if those who advocated Federation in Western Australia in 1899, or sooner than that, had been told that the work would not be completed until 1917, I think that they would have hesitated to join the Union.
– They dared not hesitate.
– The honorable member comes from a far-away place in North Queensland, andI suppose he cannot know as much about Western Australia as I do, who was Premier of the State at the time, and was in close touch with its people. The prospect of being joined up with the Eastern States operated as a lever to influence the people of Western Australia to assent to Federation. Their difficulty in the way of securing rail connexion with, the Eastern States was not the bridging of the gap of 450 miles between Kalgoorlie and the South Australian border, bub the getting South Australia to make 600 miles of railway on its side of the border. I thought at the time that this great work would be completed within three years after. Federation, and that expectation largely influenced the people of Western Australia to vote for the Union. I rejoice that the line is now nearly completed. There have been numerous delays, bub I do not now wish to blame any one foranything that has occurred. Now that we have won what we were fighting for, I am ready to forgive even those who opposed the enterprise. The work has cost more than was anticipated. I thought that it could be constructed for £4,000,000, which was the estimate of cost, and I had good reason for thinking so. Notwithstanding what has been said by the honorable member for Dampier and others, conditions have changed considerably during the last few years. Materials and provisions have increased in price, and the rates of wages have increased, so that what was a fair estimate a few years ago was less than the line could be constructed for under present conditions.
I wish to refer to the promise of Western Australia that if the Commonwealth would construct this railway the
State would make a railway from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. There is not the slightest doubt that the people of Western Australia were in earnest when they made that promise,, and an Act was passed by the State Parliament authorizing the work. That Act, however,, lapsed after five years, because within that period the Commonwealth had not begun the construction of the transcontinental line. But, until hard times came, I never heard it said in Western Australia that the State would not fulfil its bargain. An Act authorizing the raising of £200,000 for the construction of a line to Merredin, .a length of about eighty miles, was passed, but it was repealed under the Labour Administration of Mr. Scaddan, and the money was reappropriated for other purposes. From tha,t time the State has gone from bad to worse financially, and it is now said, I believe with some truth, that it is not in a position to find the money necessary to redeem its promise. Moreover, the work would now cost double the amount which, when the promise was made, it was estimated to cost. It was thought that the line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge could be constructed for £1,000,000, but now it is said that it would cost £2,000,000, which is a big sum for a State with a small population to provide. I protested in the press here against the re-appropriation, considering it a breach of faith, but I am not prepared to say that the Government! now in power in Western Australia can -do more than it is doing. Those in Western Australia with whom I have been associated in politics have always said that they were prepared to fulfil their pledges as soon as possible, and . that if the Commonwealth would find means for getting the money, they would build the line at once. The Minister for Works and Railways is a good negotiator, and he, no doubt, will see what can be done further, so that we may have a railway without break of gauge from PortAugusta to Fremantle, the golden gate of Australia. Just as San Francisco is the golden gate of the United States, so may Fremantle be called the golden gate of Australia. I hope to see a. line on a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge carried right from Fremantle to the City of Adelaide, so that through passengers, when they have to change trains, may do so in a beautiful city.
I have heard prophesies of loss and disaster in connexion with this railway, but I do not doubt that its effects will be even more beneficial’ than I who am sanguine about it, anticipate. Very often great projects are discounted at first, against which, later, no one has the pluck to say a word. I have experienced that sort of thing.’ For many years I had to carry on my back an enterprise - the great Coolgardie water scheme- which has proved almost the salvation’ of Western Australia. It was at one time spoken of as a pall hanging over the country, and as the Forrest curse. But what is thought of it now? Those who opposed it are looking about to find something they said in its favour. Similarly, the honorable member for Wakefield will one day regret that he said so much against this railway.
– I shall be delighted when the day comes that will falsify my expectations.
– The honorable member will then, I feel sure, have the manliness to admit that he was wrong. The country through which the line passes will all be settled, but at present), without means of transit, settlement is impossible. It is by no means a desert country. Although the rainfall is not regular, grass grows there, and stock thrives. The country for 200 miles eastward of Kalgoorlie is auriferous. There are not many mines there, but more will, I hope, be discovered when exploration becomes easier, and better transport has been provided.
– Will the railway solve the difficulty caused by want of rain ?
– I hope so. I do not agree with those who say that rain cannot! be brought from the clouds. More remarkable things have happened in the experience of the honorable member and myself. No one would have thought a few years ago that it would have been possible to transmit a wireless message from Fremantle to Singapore, but that has now been done. If we can send messages through the air, I do not see why we should not be able to bring rain from the heavens.
This line runs for 600 miles through South Australia, and 455 miles through Western Australia. I want honorable members to bear those figures in mind. It is not so much the character of the country through which the railway runs that I am most anxious about; it is the country to which it goes that I am thinking about. At a point 387 miles from Fremantle it passes through the richest gold mile in the world, and beyond that spot you get to Western Australia proper. I should have thought that the honorable member for Wakefield would be rejoicing that he had had built by the Commonwealth in his State 600 miles of railway at no expense to the State, whereas the western State - which has only 455 miles - is pledged to build another 387 miles from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle at a cost of £2,000,000. I feel sure that Western Australia will carry out its promise and build that line as soon as the financial position’ is arranged. South Australia is called upon to bear no expense in that regard, and yet we find the honorable member for Wakefield dissatisfied and wailing. I listened to his remarks , with some pain, but also with a good deal of amusement, when I remembered that he Bad supported the Bill which authorized the construction of the railway.
– South Australia was just as anxious as Western Australia was to have the line built.
– South Australia has done very well out of it. An immense expenditure has been incurred, including the wages paid for the labour, engaged on the construction of 600 miles of railway arid the carriage of traffic over that length of line. I could .not understand what the honorable member desired to achieve by his speech - whether he wished to recant, whether he regretted the vote he had given for. the construction of the line, or whether he wished us to believe that he would like to undo what has been done.
– No; but I would like to have had the line ‘built at much less cost.
– Was it the object of the honorable member to protest against the cost of the line ? If that was his object, every one will agree with him. All would have liked to see the line cost a great deal less. No one is anxious to see waste or extravagance, and I have not the slightest doubt that in the building of this railway there has been waste, and perhaps a good deal of expenditure, that might have been avoided but had to be incurred because of the difficult conditions under which the railway has been built. We have had different Ministers and different engineers in control, and probably the magnitude and isolation of the work itself contributed to the increased cost.
I wish to show that this railway is not going to an unpopulated and unknown country. It is going to one of the. most progressive States in this continent. It is going to a country with a population of over 300,000 good, loyal British people, who have done their duty on every occasion by sending men to fight our battles and the battles of the Empire. The people of Western Australia are loyal Britishers. The revenue of -the State is over £5,000,000 per annum. The deposits in the State Savings Bank amount to £5,000,000, or over £14 per head of the population. There are 3,000,000 acres of land under crop. The live stock number 6,000,000. Before the war, the State had a trade of £20,000,000 per annum. It has working railways with a mileage of 4,500 miles, and 10,000 miles of working telegraph and telephone lines. The value of its timber export is £16,000,000. Before the war its ‘annual export of timber waa £1,000,000 worth. The value of the wool export has reached a total of £20,000,000, and averages £1,000,000’ per annum. Hides, skins, and similar articles have been exported to the value of £3,000,000. The total export of sandalwood and mallet bark has amounted to a value of £4,000,000. The total gold production has reached a value of £140,000,000, and a great deal of that gold came out of the Golden Mile and the surrounding country, through which this railway will pass. The value of its tin production is £1,900,000; of its copper production, £1,500,000; of. its lead production, £600,000 ; and of ite coal production, £2,000,000. Altogether, the Western Australian mining output has reached a value of £1467000,000. Last of all, the’ yield of pearls and pearl-shells has amounted to a value of £7,000,000’. Other exports have reached the total value of £5,000,000. That is the country to which this railway will go.
Some pessimistic people talk about the enterprise of joining the east and the west together, two sides of a great continent, and think that the Commonwealth is doing a great thing in spending £7,000,000 in doing so. They fancy that the Commonwealth has ruined itself in doing it. But when I was Premier of Western Australia, and at a ‘time when we had there a population of little more than 130,000, we undertook the Coolgardie water supply scheme, which- cost nearly £4,000,000, and I am glad to say that it has paid its way. As Mr. Joseph Chamberlain once, wrote to me, “After, all, it is the great things which succeed. It “is of no use shrinking and peddling nowadays. Those, who wish to succeed must risk something, and courage finds its own reward.”
– Had the right honorable member -come from South Australia he would not have risked much. .
– I do not think that the honorable member for Wakefield could have expressed his real thoughts in regard to this railway when he spoke as he did a few days ago.. If, as his words seemed to infer, he believes that the building of this railway, which is going to bring together the peoples of the east and the west- of this great continent, is likely to ruin this country, then he has no faith in Australia. Progress would never be possible under the regime of a man who entertained such a view:
– What return does the Treasurer think his Department will receive from the building of this line?
– As I said when I first advocated the construction of the east-west railway, I believe that within five years of its completion it will pay its way. No railway, unless it runs through a veritable El Dorado could be expected to pay from the day of its opening. The mere construction of a line does not in itself make the grass grow better, cause flocks and herds to increase, or wheat to grow quicker than before, but it is undeniable that it is by the facilities that are offered for transit and enterprise that wealth is built up, In that respect I believe this railway will prove of great benefit to Australia. It will be a boon to the whole of the people, and I am confident that five years hence there will not be in this House a man who is prepared to condemn its construction.
My belief is that it must succeed. If an enterprise, designed as this is, to link up the east and the west of this great continent by means of a railway running through country that is by no means a desert, and which will open up possibili ties for trade and enterprise, does not. succeed, then I shall indeed be surprised. I feel certain that as “ the night follows the day “ so shall we never regret what we have done in this direction.
The speech made by the honorable member for ‘Wakefield was not such as I had expected from him. He has been too long in public life to indulge in such pessimism as that to which he treated us last week. Listening to him, one would have thought he would have us undo all that has been done. I would say to him, however, “ Let us not look backward; let us look forward,” The past is of value to us only in so far as “it affords us inspiration and guidance for the future, and I appeal to honorable members to leave the past behind, and to look hopefully ahead. I regret that the line has “ cost so much to build. I certainly did not think it would involve so large an expenditure, but I hope and believe that it will be the forerunner of many other great works for the advancement! and progress of Australia.
.- Most of my experience of railway work has been gained at the business end of a pick and shovel, and since I know nothing of the country traversed by this line, I should not have spoken but for the remarks^ j regarding the day-labour system which were made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and the honorable member for Dampier. In dealing with the construction of the east-west railway,, they laid great stress on what they termed the waste of public money involved in carrying out that work under the day-labour system. I have here a report by Mr. J. Elliott, then the construction superintendent of the transcontinental line, to the Honorable King O’Malley, who was at that time the Minister responsible for this work. The report so impressed Mr. O’Malley that he appointed a special Board, consisting, I believe, of the Chief Engineer, Victorian Railways, and another departmental officer, to investigate the charges which Mr. Elliott made. The disruption of the Labour party then took ‘ place, and the present Prime Minister saw fit to cancel the appointment. I have no means of ascertaining the correctness or otherwise of the statements made in this report, but certain portions of it, if true, give to the day-labour system, as practised in constructing this line, a complexion altogether different from that which the honorable member for Dampier and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie attached to it. For instance, Mr. Elliott writes -
What I would like done is this: Get the csot of the earthworks done and platelaying; then the cost of the work done behind, separately, and you will be astounded. Our prices in carrying out the forward work are lower than they have ever been in any railway built in Australia.
– That is not a report, but a challenge, is it not?
– It is a .report in which Mr. Elliott gives his experience of the building of the line. He goes on to say-
My cuttings and banks average below ls. 6d. per cubic yard, but when the back work is added it does not look so nice, noi- is it, as they have no idea as to how to carry out work. All that bothers them is status. Every one seems to be worried as to who he is. If I have any information to give, or order anything, I write the Acting Engineer, and he forwards same.
Mr. Elliott claims that the cost of earthworks and platelaying under the daylabour system was lower than the cost of such work in any other part of Australia.
– I do not wish to interrupt the honorable member, but I would point out to him that the document from which he is reading is not a report, but really a series of charges.
– Whatever its verbiage, it may be regarded as a report to Mr. O’Malley, who was the Minister then in charge of the Department. What is asked is that a special tribunal be appointed to inquire into the statements made.
– Read the opening words on the first page, “ I hereby challenge,” and so forth. It is not a report, but a series of charges against -the Department.
– The Minister is re’ferring to a different statement altogether. The statement from which I am quoting is dated 1st September, 1916, and is headed, “ History of East- West Railway, Port Augusta end,” starting “I joined the Commonwealth Railways on 18th November, 1912.” As I said before, the Minister may differ from me in regard to my verbiage, but I call it a report of work done, and I have not at any time referred to it as a departmental report. There is another matter mentioned -
There is another matter will startle you, and that is the huge amount of money that is paid away in expenses, that is to say, for instance, Mr. Seerey, the man in charge of telegraph line, comes up the line periodically, and every day ho is away he draws so much for expenses during his absence from Port Augusta. I just quote one case, and there are a large number of these cases of officers drawing as much money for expenses as their salaries, and, needless to say, this money is more than half profit. If these men are supposed to be in charge of different works up at the rail-head they should live up there the same as I do.
Those expenses are all used as against the day-labour system, of course. There is another statement showing how matters were conducted by the staff, and not by the men who were working on the daylabour system -
As I pointed out before I carried the construction and traffic out to the 69 mile, and when I resumed at the 106-mile Mr. Hobler put Mr. Egerton as in charge of the line, but like all the others previously appointed out here, purely a figure head, as they very seldom come out on the work, and they most certainly had nothing to do with the constructional part, merely sat in the office as a record person. If I wanted a pound of nails or a camel I wrote to Engineer So-and-So, he wrote to the Superintending Engineer, and so it was passed on. . . Then, again, we have the stores branch’ at Port Augusta, as stated previously, under Mr. Poynton, who in turn has a man called Mr. Jude, a clerk of some sort, who has never had any experience in railways. He also controls the loading up of materials, while the Construction Branch has no say. _ I have been on about 3,000 miles of construction, but I have never seen such a huge misfit in my life, and it is still going on, and will, and there is yet time to save half a million of money by appointing a general manager, some person who .has the ability to go along, and no matter what is wrong, be in a position to make alterations, no’ matter whose department it is. As it is now, it is always, “ Oh, Mr. So-and-So is in charge of the matter,” and by the time the matter is attended to pounds and pounds have been wasted. I defy all concerned to contradict my statements, and I say without any fear, of contradiction that no engineer since the start of this line has done anything towards the building of this line other than retard it and write letters.
Here is one instance-
A water scheme of pumping water from the tanks that were to be filled at this 363 mile was inaugurated, and a 5-mile pipe laid, &c, and which was not used, and cost about £600, and has now been pulled up.
That, I suppose, is also added to .the cost of the day-labour system. Here is another statement -
The Traffic Department had a dep6t put in at the 114-mile (Pirmba), where they stacked thousands of sleepers and rails, and after we went some 30 miles beyond this they still kept bringing material from Port Augusta to this depot (Pirmba); also the plate laying material to the head of the line, and although we wore idle many a day for hours the Traffic Department had not sense enough to draw from the Pirmba depot, when they knew their engines were breaking down day after day. If they had not the material stacked at Pirmba say every second day, it would have enabled them to deliver their material to time, also kept the water up, instead of which, hours day after day wore wasted.
Another incident, which, I suppose, might be used as a charge of slowing down, or something of that sort, is related under the heading of “.Shifting of Camps” - The Superintending Engineer can produce dozens of cases where his gangs have been waiting for the traffic to send their train along to shift, and they have been kept waiting for hours, and, of course, paid for the time waiting.
Take just one instance for example.
Blair’s gang wanted to shift from the 307 mile to the 305 mile. This gang had to wait from Friday to Monday, and the expense of same was £104.
This sort of thing is a common occurrence, and I ask that the Superintending Engineer produce the different delays and the amount of money lost through same.
These are a few extracts taken at random from the statement) or report which was sent to Mr. King O’Malley, with a request that there should be an inquiry. As I said before, I am unable to say whether the statements made are true or not, but the charges are definite. This man was left in his employment by Mr. O’Malley, who appointed a Board ; but when the disruption in the Labour party took place, that Board, for some reason or other, did not function. I understand that something like £300 was paid to .the gentlemen who constituted the Board, bub I do nob know whether any of that was refunded. Another statement made is -
I was informed that a man named Castles had a machine coming that would do all the earthworks at the rate of 5 miles per day, so I thought that was good, as it would mean less trouble to me. Well, after a lot of delay, trouble, and expense, it was discovered that the machine was of no use, although the then Assistant Minister for Home Affairs came up and had a trial given him, and he afterwards stated in the Adelaide papers that the trial had been successful, and Castles got a cheque for the machine, and she has never done a day’s work since, and is lying at the 32-mile, a monument to silence.
– That was bought by Mr. O’Malley and the first Engineer-in-Chief, Mr. Deane.
– I do not care much who bought or paid for it; I am merely urging the necessity for an investigation, no matter to whom the blame may be attachable.
– The case was pub before the Australian Workers Union at Port Augusta, bub that organization would not touch it.
– I’ am not concerned with where the case was put, or what became of it; I am submitting that this report, if -there is anything in it, seems to throw a different complexion on the statements made by the honorable member for Dampier and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, in their attack on the day-labour system.
– You are using Elliott’s statements to disprove theirs.
– Surely /it would appear that a statement to which so much importance was attached by the Minister then in office that he appointed a Board to investigate-
– I think the ancient King did a number of funny things on this line, and this is one of them !
– That may be, but if a statement or report of this kind were published in the press over the name of a man who, judging by what he says, has had over thirty years’ experience in railway work of various kinds, from 1884 down fo 1915, some importance ought to be attached to it. >
– Elliott went in person before the last Minister for Works.
– I understand that Senator Lynch paid a visit to the western end of the line, and in an interview with. Elliott advised him to have a hearttoheart, talk with the officials whom he charged.
– Senator Lynch invited Elliott into his carriage at the rail head, and said to him, “You have made these charges . Here are the men concerned ; make your statements in their presence.” But Elliott said .that he must have a properly constituted inquiry, and he refused to say anything.
– At any rater the net result of the conversation in the carriage was that Elliott was granted leave of absence without any inquiry into his charges being held. He has made a definite statement “ containing dates and figures, and as one interested in day labour from the point of view of the men who work on the line, I consider that, on the face of it, the statement calls for investigation. After reading this statement, I am satisfied that if the matter were investigated, it would be found that the blame for the increase in the cost of the construction of therail way was not attachable to the men wielding the pick and shovel, but rather to incompetent officials who were drawing high salaries, and the expenses complained of by Mr. Elliott.
.- I shall make only a brief reference to the case which has justbeen mentioned by the honorable member for Barrier. Elliott was a muck ganger, and for a number of years held a junior position to Mr. Bell in Queensland. On theeast- west railway he seemed to suffer from the hallucination that he wasthe Kitchener of the job. In fact, he called himself the Kitchener of the railway, and he believed that he could teach everybody his business, no matter how technical it was. In the report which the honorable member has read, Elliott referred to certain coats, although he could have had no information by which to check those costs. Later, he began to write to the press, and to abuse his officers, and when Senator Lynch gave him a fair chance in the railway carriage at the head of the line to make a statement of his charges in the presence of the officers concerned, he took a high and mighty attitude, and refused to answer. In tie circumstances, there was no alternative for the Minister but to discharge the man.
Instead of honorable members being critical of the cost of this line and the period occupied in construction, they ought to join in general commendation of the men who have carried through one of the moat colossal works ever undertaken in Australia. Any man Who looked at those pictures shown in the Queen’s Hall last night without a jaundiced mind would realize at once the stupendous character of this undertaking. To commence with, there was a stretch of over 1,000 miles of country without a drop of water, and when we were at the rail-head, water was being carted 400 miles for every man and beast on the job, and there were over 400 horses engaged. The pictures last night gave honorable members some idea of the extent of the commissariat arrangements; every article used on that line had to be provided on wheels. Honorable members must Have noticed the magnificent sheets of water that have been created, but the pictures did not show the camels carting water to the men when they were excavating the reservoirs. I shall prove to the House that that line was constructed cheaper than any other line in the Australian States. Mr. Deane estimated the railway to cost £4,045,000, and his estimate provided for a mud-ballasted road, 70-lb. rails, and a wage of 10s. per day for general labour. The average wage actually paid has been nearer 14s. per day. Let us look for a moment at’ the increase in the cost of materials. Prior to the war fish bolts were £21 16s. per ton; the present price is £32 10s. per ton, an increase of 44 per cent. Dog-spikes have increased from £16 to £20 per ton, water-piping from10d. per foot to1s. 2d. per foot, and galvanized iron from £16 2s. 6d. to £33 7s. per ton. A tremendous quantity of piping is used, because the water is conveyed for many miles through pipes, and gravitated acrossthe sand-hills to the Nullabor plains. I have here a list of materials showing increases of 44, 26, 42, 50, 59, 106, 30, 91, 108, 51, and 25½ per cent., as compared with pre-war prices. The great business genius,- who was formerly a member of this House, is largely responsible for the increased cost of constructing the line.
It was thought wise, at one time, to call for tenders for steel rails for the line, and tenders were sent in. Butthis business genius turned down those tenders, in his wisdom, and advertised for fresh tenders, under the name of “ J apan.” The result was that the same firm that had tendered on the previous occasion sent in tenders in response to the advertisement by “ Japan,” but at from 5s. to 6s. per ton more than their previous tender. This great business man, of whom we heard so much, accepted the latter tender.
-Who called for tenders under the name of “ Japan “ ?
– Mr. King O’Malley. After he had turned down previous tenders from the same people, he accepted a tender at 5s. per ton more.
– Be fair to King O’Malley, and say now why he did so.
– Because he thought he was a great business genius. It was the same business genius whobought the Castle’s machine referred to in the report, and sent it up to Port Augusta, where it has remained on the scrap-heap ever since. These are some of thereasons for the cost of this line. When men responsible for the work became so offensive or negligent that they had to be discharged, it was this same business genius who put them on to the job again. He would not allow an officer on the job to discharge a man. Honorable members will readily admit that that kind of thing added materially to the cost of this railway.
Now let us consider the cost comparatively. I find that the capital cost of the Port Augusta to Oodnadabtarailway, exclusive of rolling-stock, was £4,774 per mile. This is for a 3-f t. 6-in. line, with 41-lb. iron rails and 50-lb. steel rails, andthe line was built when the cost of labour was 6s. per day, and materials cost very much less than at the present time. This line is 478 miles long, and, exclusive of rolling-stock, costatotal of £2,282,018. If it had been of the same length as the Kalgoorlie toPort Augusta railway, it would have cost a total, exclusive ofrolling-stock, of £5,021,156.
– How many years is it Since that line was built?
– It was built over thirty years ago, when men were getting 6s. per day.
– How does the country through which the railways go compare?
– There were, perhaps, more engineering difficulties on the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta than on the other line; but the facilities for providing water were infinitely better, and a great portion of the country through which the line goes is as flat as the Nullarbor Plains. The actual cost of the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie line will be £5,807 per mile.
Let us consider now the cost of some lines the construction of which has been recently undertaken. A contract was recently let by the South Australian Government for the construction of a line from Salisbury to Port Augusta, to link up with our line ; and the cost of the section between Salisbury and Long Plains, which will go through flat country as easy for railway construction as one could imagine, will be £8,051 per mile.
I omitted to mention that, as a matter of fact, we did call for tenders in connexion with the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. Tenders were called for the earthworks on the section between the 122-mile peg and the 260-mile peg on the Port Augusta side. Three tenders were sent in, and amongst them one from Mr. Timms, the gentleman who offered to construct the whole line for £2,000,000. His was the lowest of the three tenders, but none was accepted. The work was subsequently carried out by day labour for £37,327 less than the lowest tender received from contractors for the work.
—Wasit a heavy section?
– No, it was not as heavy as some of the sections of the line.
Let us consider now the cost of railways in the various States, inclusive of rolling-stock. I find, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, that the cost per mile of railways, including rolling- stock, in the various States, up to the 30th June, 1916, was as follows: - New South Wales, £16,434 per mile; Victoria, £13,266; Queensland, £7,004. Mr. Laird Smith. - The Queensland railways are on the narrow gauge.
– That is so. The cost per mile of railways in South Australia is given at £7,881 ; in Western Australia, £5,138; and, in Tasmania, where there is some most difficult country for railway construction, the cost per mile is stated at £8,539 per mile.
I have also some information to give honorable members with respect to the time occupied in the construction of various lines.I have had a comparative statement made covering a length of about 1,000 miles, or about the length of the line which the Commonwealth has constructed under conditions more adverse than those applying to the construction of any other line in Australia. This will be admitted by any one who is not biased. We have been placed at a very serious disadvantage in the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. I am sorry that the honorable member for Wakefield is not in his place. He has complained that in the construction of this railway we started before we were ready, and he had many other complaints to make concerning the line. Has the honorable member- forgotten why we started before we were ready? Is it not a fact that when the Act authorizing the construction of. this line was passed by this Parliament thousands. of men, were gathered in Port Augusta from every State in the Commonwealth seeking work there? Did not the honorable member -for Wakefield attend with a deputation to ask this Parliament to proceed with the work in order that the men should not be starving or be left dependent upon the small population of Port Augusta?
– One argument the honorable member for Wakefield -used was that the men gathered there were eating the people of Port Augusta out of house and home.
– Exactly. A reference has been made to the number of men employed outside railway construction work, but those making these references have’ overlooked the fact that in ordinary railway construction work departments are already established. Construction is distinct from all that. Our position at the outset was that we had not a railway officer. We had to create departments to carry out the work. Then we have had in some instances to have recourse to outside contracts and, to the best of my knowledge, not one was completed within the time agreed to by the contractor. Construction was hung up for rolling-stock. We had, to buy a couple of secondhand engines, chiefly because of the agitation to start the work at an early date, and we had to get along as best we could.
Why, there has been carried over this Une material probably equal to one-third of the goods traffic of Victoria. Then I venture to say that there has never been a better road constructed. Even on the unballasted portion of it, during the recent Ministerial trip the train travelled at more than sixty miles an hour, and one could- scarcely detect any movement in a glass of water placed on the table in a carriage whilst moving at that speed. The rolling stock has been built in the most attractive way from the stand-point of the travelling public. The cars arc lofty, and every convenience for passengers has been provided.
In my opinion, it is exceedingly fortunate’ that we are so near the completion of ‘this work to-day. Within a ‘ short time, unless a great im- provement takes place in connexion with the war, I anticipate that we shall have very few steamers employed in our coastal trade, so that the whole of the goods traffic to and from Western Australia will have to pass over this line.
The Treasurer has already stressed the- fact that the railway will run, into the richest gold-field in Australia. Personally I am satisfied that the’ undertaking will not be the unproductive one that some persons would, have us believe. Prom the stand-point of the time occupied in building this railway, I wish to make a few simple comparisons. I find that in New South Wales the .building of 1,144 miles of railway occupied fourteen years,, in Victoria the construction of 1,000 miles’ occupied twenty-one years, in Queensland the building of 1,099 miles covered five years, in South Australia the construction of 1,001 miles occupied twenty-nine years, and in Western Australia the laying down of 1,187 miles extended over six years. So that, both from. the point of view pf its cost’ of construction per mile and’ of the time occupied in building it, the eastwest line will stand the most searching, scrutiny. The expenditure which- has characterized the carrying out of this vast, undertaking is explained by the fact that the officers in charge of it were provided with, the very best and most up-to-date machinery. Where have honorable members seen employed upon any other line a machine such as they saw last evening, delivering a continuous supply of sleepers on the road?
– But the platelayers have never laid more than a mile of rails per day.
– That is not the fault of the machine. With its aid they could lay a mile in six hours, or even in four hours.
– In France there is a machine to-day with which they can lay 30 miles of rails in a night.
– I helped to build the line between Melbourne and Adelaide, and I was also employed on the construction of the Ararat to Hamilton line, and I know that in the matter of ‘platelaying nothing done in Australia has ever approached the work accomplished on the east-west line. There is nobody who -wishes more than I do -to see a workman receive better pay. We used to pride ourselves upon the fact that when unionists were engaged’ upon the job, the employers obtained the best results. But what is the position to-day ? Recently there was a strike ‘on this, transcontinental line which lasted over twenty days. What was the cause of the trouble) The men had to walk half-a-mile further from their camp to the rail bead. They walked this distance in Commonwealth time, and while they were in receipt of lis. per day. Yet they struck for twenty days because the Government, being short of engines, could not send up an engine and trucks to carry them over that half mile. The great business genius who presided over the Department at the time, settled that strike by paying the strikers half-time for the twenty days they were recalcitrant. Only a little while ago, work was held up for three days because the men were required to walk 100 yards more than they had to walk previously. In other words, they struck because they had to walk 100 yards. These tactics,. I submit, are absolutely foreign to trade unionism. Another gang of men ceased work for a certain period because they were not credited with three minutes’ overtime on account of delay in reaching their camp.
– We sacked that lot.
– Things would have been much better if the Department had been handled by a strong man before. It was impossible to. carry on satisfactorily under the system previously in vogue. As a matter of fact), if a man were dismissed for being drunk on an engine, the late Minister for Home Affairs would issue instructions that ‘he was to be reinstated. In regard to any kind of misbehaviour he ruled that no man’ should be discharged unless he himself was first consulted. To apply a system of that character to such an enormous undertaking as the construction of this line was nothing short of midsummer madness;
I am satisfied that this line will not involve the wasteful expenditure that some persons appear to think it will. It will traverse a good deal of country that is admittedly dry. But on the western end of it very good water has been discovered, and for 260 miles on Uie eastern end of it, a supply of excellent quality is available. As a matter of fact, no less than 100,000 gallons have been pumped daily from Kingoonya for some time without diminishing ‘ite volume. The railway will not traverse any country which cannot be used for pastoral pur poses. Iti will pass through as fine mulga,
Bait-bush, spear-grass and geranium country as can be found in any -part of our dry areas.’ For example, Coondambo, the extreme north-west station, which I have known for more than thirty years, has never yet’ experienced a failure. That is situated in salt-bush and mulga country, and the ‘ territory extending from .that centre is of the same character. Nobody can Bay what is the rainfall between the two points I have indicated. Last year was undoubtedly an exceptional year. But we have no data to guide us as to the rainfall. As a matter of fact, when a traveller starts from Kingoonya with camels, as a rule his one anxiety is to get through ‘as quickly as possible, so we do not know what the rainfall is. -At this stage I would like to say a word’ or two concerning the experiments carried out by Mr. Balsillie. I admit that I have been, and am still, sceptical.
– Do you* think they are “bally silly”? - .
– -No, I Would hardly put -it that way. While I am sceptical, I feel that, on the evidence of last year’s work by this gentleman, the Government are fully justified in deciding to carry out further experiments. I am not going to say that the increase in rainfall over the area selected by Mr.’ Balsillie was the result of his experiments, but I must admit that the rainfall over a radius of from 50 to 100 miles was higher than in any other part of the north of South Australia.
– It was a peculiar coincidence.
– Yes, it was; and if, by an expenditure of £20,000, we could discover some means of improving the rainfall in that part of the country, the Government would be perfectly justified in sanctioning it.
I do not intend to deal in detail with” the Bill. In my opinion, the measure is absolutely necessary. When we took over railway properties from the various States, we were unable to guarantee permanent’ positions to the men who accepted Commonwealth service. The original Bill tied us down in that respect, and, to that extent,, the Department was handicapped in its selection of ‘ men;’
– We have, done very well in many cases, I think.
Mi. POYNTON’.- I quite agree with, the ‘honorable .member, and think it would he cruel if we did not now secure these men in their positions, because, when they were induced to come over, they received a promise that, if they gave satisfaction, their interests would be properly safeguarded.
– But does this Bill protect them satisfactorily? I am afraid not.
– It protects them in their existing rights.
– I .am not quite .sure, and I would like to see it more definitely expressed.
– I think the Bill does safeguard them; and, in any case, I am sure the Minister will be prepared to listen to any suggestion in this direction. Some honorable members appear to have an idea that it would be better to vest the control of the Commonwealth railways in the State Railway Departments. Personally, I would be sorry to see that policy perpetuated, in view of our experiences under the agreement with the South Australian Government in relation to the Oodnadatta line.
The Government, in my opinion, Te perfectly justified in creating this new Department, and I feel confident that the Commissioner to be appointed will see that it is not overloaded. ‘ His reputation will he at stake, so we may look for efficiency in control and working, and in that way .we will be able more adequately to safeguard the interests of the taxpayers than under a system of control by two independent State authorities, neither of which would be responsible for the cost of maintenance or management. Instead of ‘adopting the *role of carping critics, we ought to. congratulate the Government and those responsible for the construction work on what has been done.
.- The speech made by the Minister in introducing the Bill was, I think, one of the most interesting we have listened to in this House, for, apart from the information given to us, . we all have a feeling of satisfaction that we are within measurable distance of the completion of this line. The pictures shown last ‘evening were an illuminating indorsement of the information furnished by the Minister in his second-reading speech. I am very pleased indeed that, in spite of all the disadvantages and the episodes associated with the construction of this line, we are now approaching the completion of what, after all, is a great national work, altogether too long delayed.
It is quite easy at this time of day, of course, to criticise previous Parliaments which had the opportunity to carry out the bargain made with Western Australia at the beginning of Federation, whereby this line was to be constructed. There is no doubt whatever that this was the price we were expected to pay for the entry of Western Australia as an integral part of the Federation, and it is most unfortunate that, on the completion of the Commonwealth portion of the contract, the Western Australian Government are net in a position to guarantee their part of the bargain. I am prepared to support the present or any other Government in any arrangement of a reasonable character with the Western Australian Government to avoid the break of gauge at Kalgoorlie, and I am in sympathy with the suggestion made by the honorable member for Dampier to-day that it would bean advantage to select a new route from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle instead of merely widening, the existing railway from the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to 4 ft. 8J “in. Probably a quicker and easier route could be obtained, and, while I am not sufficiently well acquainted with the survey of the present line or the contour of the country to estimate that possibility, I think the proposal would mean a direct and immediate advantage to the Commonwealth. .
We had a similar instance in Queensland. For some time we had been discussing the ‘ coastal connexion of the New South Wales and ‘ the Queensland railway systems. For many years the Queensland system has ended at Tweed Heads, and the .New South Wales system at Murwillumbah, leaving a gap of something like. 70 miles. Now a new route has been discovered from Kyogle to Beaudesert., which will link up the two systems, but that will have this disadvantage, that, unless the New South’ Wales broad gauge is carried on right to Brisbane from Beaudesert,, we may havethe break of gauge again. Every member of this Parliament and the members of previous ‘ Parliaments have been specially interested in discovering some method of avoiding the break of gauge, which is one of the most serious handicaps affecting the. commerce- and union of the States, and most important in its bearing on the effective defence of the Commonwealth. The break of gauge difficulty is increasing in its’ seriousness, and if the Minister in charge of the Bill can make the first- step to get over it by following the suggestions he himself made regarding the connexion between Adelaide and Port Augusta on the one hand, or by coming to some arrangement with the Western Australian Government for that Government- to’ build a new line connecting Kalgoorlie with Perth, or for the Commonwealth to have authority and power to continue their own Hue from Kalgoorlie to Perth,’ he will be doing a great service to the country, which would he remembered in his favour for many years to come. This seems to be one of those questions which offer a man the great opportunity of his life, and the Commonwealth Minister of Railways who will make a move towards overcoming the break of gauge difficulty in Australia will rank himself as one of the best men that the Australian ‘Parliament has ever produced. I know all abouti the difficulty of finance, but the Minister himself will admit that that is not insuperable.
– I do not think the gauge problem’ will ever be settled definitely while the States have the railways. We may ameliorate it ‘a good deal, but shall not be able to settle it.
– I quite agree. The only solution of the problem - and I think this may be taken as the first step towards it- is for the Commonwealth sooner or later, to take control of the railway systems of this country. When the late lamented Lord Kitchener was here, he drew special attention to the difficulties consequent on the irregular method of railway construction at present in operation in this country. Our railways seem to run nowhere. They seem to have no general or specific object, but run in a sort of haphazard erratic fashion that does not lend itself to any concentrated or effective style of meeting the interests of the country. There again we are faced with the difficulty that, while we have six authorities - leaving out Tasmania - constructing railways in Australia, we cannot have that cohesion in railway construction that is necessary to get the best results, and give the country the best service. If this Bill is the first ‘step towards securing a strategic railway policy that will work towards a definite plan, and seek some common national objective, it may be “indeed welcome.
I have heard many objections to the Bill on the ground that in a time of economy, such as this is declared to be, we should not establish new offices or create new departments. I cannot see that this proposal is going to mean any serious creation of new departments. It practically means uniting into a cohesive, intelligent plan all the machinery that we have at present.- If there is any truth in the press report- I fondly hope it is true - that Mr. Bell is to be the first Commissioner,. I believe we shall establish here and now in Australia a systematic control of the Commonwealth railway system, which in its turn will react to our mutual advantage, on the railway systems of the States. ,
– Is the present EngineerinChief a traffic man?
– I do not think this is the time or place to discuss his qualifications. I believe his particular qualification is in relation to construction’.
A good deal has been said about the method of construction adopted on this line, and much well-deserved criticism has been directed against - the Ministers who were in charge; but how can one expect any other results, considering the continual change of control ? When the line was started, Mr. O’Malley was Minister. He was. displaced by a change of Government; and Mr. Kelly was in charge for twelve months. Then Mr. Kelly gave place to Mr. Archibald, and Mr.- Archibald in turn gave way to Mr. O’Malley. Then Senator Lynch had a few months in office,’ and now we have Mr. Watt. Thus there have- been six Ministers in charge of affairs during the construction of the line.
– If there had been no interference with administrative matters, it would not have mattered.
– My compla’int is that there has been interference, because the policy of construction has been so frequently changed.
– If there had been a definite contract the change of Ministers would not have mattered.
– The honorable member is so fond of the contract system that he would even be willing to contract for the defence of the British Empire in the North Sea. Mr. O’Malley was the Minister in a Labour Government whose policy was that of day labour. Mr. Kelly represented a Government whose policy was that of contract.
– But he did not follow it.
– But he did, and no member who was here during that Parliament can forget the storm raised over the contracts made with Teesdale Smith. Then Mr. Archibald had his ideas, and Mr. O’Malley again came back with his. I am not discussing whether they were right or wrong, but am simply pointing out that the continual change of Ministers was bound to create disturbance in the methods of construction, and that always leads ‘to expense. No private business could bo conducted with such continual changes in managership. We could therefore, not expect from that policy the satisfactory results which will come from what I believe this Bill will provide - continuity of policy and a settled system of management.
– Then we had two different engineers.
– That was the very next remark which I intended to make. We had two different engineers at the work.
– If they had been loft alone they would have been all right.
– “ I hae ma doots.”
– I have none.
– I have not yet been convinced that we were wise in so far as we did follow the advice of Mr. Deane. I think that he led us astray. He led us astray, as the honorable member for Grey has pointed out, in regard to what his estimate provided for and what it did not provide for. We have been on much safer ground since Mr. Bell has been in charge of the Department. The system of construction, I think, has been better on the whole, and much more economical as well. However, the point I am seeking to make is that, having the disadvantage of so many masters or too many cooks, it was inevitable that there should be acertain amount of unsatisfactory working. But is that at all uncommon? Is it not an unfortunate fact that, in Australia generally,’ railway construction has. always been full of difficulties and of ob jections, furnishing plenty of opportunities for severeand critical examination ? Australia has tried both the daylabour and the contract system.Railways built under the latter system have been severely and properly criticised. It is an incontrovertible -fact that every State in the Commonwealth, after the- experience of past years, is now carrying out its railway construction policy largely, if not altogether, on the day-labour system. To my mind, this Bill has its principal virtue in the fact that it is going to establish a department which will give us some settled system of railway management and construction. We must expect in years to come a considerable extension of our railway authority, and that is without taking cognisance of the possibility of ourRailway Department exercising control over the railways now held under State authority; I think the sooner that day comes the bettor.
Another virtue in this Bill, and one which commends it very much to me, is that the Commissioner is loaded with the responsibility of the management of this railway, and, therefore, I presume that anything in the nature of political control or influence will be eliminated from the operation of our railway works. There, again, I touch one ofthe most unfortunate facts in regard to railway construction in Australia, because every State has had some log-rolling and political influence, exerted with most unfortunate results. One can welcome the early introduction of a system which will protect the Commonwealth against the exercise of political influence. Every one knows that in years past’ railways have been built to please members of Parliament. Railways have even been built into electorates to affect elections.Railways have been built which ought not to have been built. Railways have been built to places where they were never likely to pay - built purely for political purposes.
– “Would not that happen under Commonwealth supervision?
– It would happen more under the Commonwealth than it does under State supervision .
– Then, again, we have the other fact that places which ought to have had railways have not been served, and the districts and the States have suffered accordingly. It is not only in country districts, but in. the cities as well, that we have illustrations of the misspending of public moneys in the construction of railways which are of very little use. Every week, sometimes more than once a week, I cross a line beyond Kew. I think it is called the Outer Circle railway. It covers a considerable distance ; the trails, . the platforms, the bridges, and everything else aTe there, but there is no traffic.
– Yes, there is. The line is ruin from both ends; but in the centre there is a little gap which is not used.
– That railway, I understand, was built at a time when Victoria had plenty of money to spend. It was thought that it would be a very useful line, and possibly it may be yet.
– It was a product of the land boom.
– Every State in Australia has built railways into corners, dead-ends, ‘and places which did not need a railway service, or where the State could never hope to make a line pay or he successful. I think that this Bill will give the Commonwealth some protection against that kind of thing, because not only have we the added experience of the States in that respect, but we are trying to lay down, based on that experience, a system which will demand of the Commissioner the fullest investigation, the surveying of’ the lines, and the estimating of the cost of construction.. Then we further protect the Commonwealth by getting the Public “Works Committee to make an inquiry, and Parliament itself is to be the final authority to determine whether the construction of a line shall be commenced. On the whole, I believe that the Bill will give the Commonwealth a better start in regard to the management of its railways, and the construction of new lines, than perhaps the States have had. We would be very foolish, indeed, it would be rather reprehensible from many points of view, if we failed to avail ourselves of the experience of the States.
In this measure there are two things to which I take very strong exception. One clause provides that the Commissioner shall have power to build railways along public roads and on public reserves, and that there shall be no compensation claimable, but that compensation may be allowed. It is in regard, to the proposal that the Commissioner shall have power to enter upon public reserves and build railways there that I wish to offer an objection. Some time ago a Lands Acquisition Bill was ‘brought before the House, and - it was sought to give the Commonwealth power to take part of public reserves for Commonwealth purposes. The opposition to that provision in the House was sufficient to cause the abandonment of the Bill. In Australia we have too many unfortunate illustrations of interference with public reserves. The public reserves in the cities are altogether too few mow to allow of any encroachment either for a railway or for any other purpose. The Queensland Government persuaded the people of Maryborough to allow them to use a little bit of a reserve in the centre of the town for railway purposes, and now under various pretexts that reserve has been wholly taken, and promises made in respect of it have nob been honoured.
– I have obtained another, reserve in place of it.
– I question whether any quid pro quo would have made up for the reserve that has been lost. We should guard jealously against’ encroachment on public reserves by Government Departments. At Townsville, notwithstanding the protest of the municipalities of Townsville and South Townsville, and the petition of the residents of the place, the Naval Department has erected a wireless station on the corner of the principal reserve, making it useless for the purposes ‘ for which it was dedicated, and this notwithstanding .that in any direction within half a mile an equally suitable site could have been found.
– That is typical of the methods of the Department.
-Similarly, the Commonwealth Railway Department might find it convenient to run a line through some reserve at, say, Kalgoorlie, notwithstanding the protest of the local people. We should prevent that, and I hope’ that the Minister will favorably consider an amendment to that end.
– The honorable member Will not find me unsympathetic in regard to the preservation of public parks and recreation grounds, though I am not with him on .the whisky question.
– I had not known that the Minister is a mind reader; the next question with which I am about to deal is ‘the proposal to. allow the Commissioner t’c provide for the sale of alcoholic liquors on the transcontinental trains. When the people of Australia realize that the proposal has been made there will be such a storm of protest against it that the Minister’ will wonder what has struck him.
– The honorable member is doing his best to let the people know what is being done.
– I am doing my best to raise t”he alarm. In introducing a deputation to the Minister the other day, I told him that it was the beginning of what I thought would be a furious bombardment. I shall do my best to keep the fires of public indignation well stoked. At the present’ time, all over the world, the opportunities for obtaining drink have been restricted. I do not think that any question is more prominently engaging the public attention, than the liquor question. There is a strong agitation for the reduction of the hours within which liquor may be sold, in order to limit the opportunities for drinking. Yet this Government proposes, not only to allow passengers to obtain alcoholic liquor at refreshment stations along the line, but also to sell it “bo them on the train itself. I am informed that alcoholic liquors may be purchased on the Perth to Kalgoorlie express; but the first consideration of those in charge of railway matters should be the safety and comfort of the passengers. Iti is a strange thing that, while the Minister provides all sorts of penalties to be inflicted on railway employees who ‘may be found under the influence of drink, he is taking power - and he informed the deputation t’o which I have referred that this proposal is indorsed by the Cabinet - to place temptation under their noses in the trains themselves.
– Is not alcoholic liquor always obtainable on board ocean-going steamers ?
– The cases are not analogous. Those on a steamer at sea are removed from all opportunity of getting liquor except on board, but railway passengers may purchase what they need at the various refreshment rooms along the route. I am heartily in agreement with the provision that the refreshment rooms on this line shall be subject to the laws of the State in which they are situated: The people of the State .are entitled to say under what conditions liquor shall be sold within its boundary; certainly the Commonwealth has no right, to enforce its wishes upon a State in this matter. The Minister might have waited until a demand had been made by passengers for the sale of liquor on the train
– Does the honorable member doubt that there will be such a demand ?
– Yes. If, a plebiscite of passengers were to be taken after the first three months, there would be a majority against the sale of liquor on the train.
– Of a plebiscite of the people of Kalgoorlie?
– I think so. If the Minister had been content to begin the running of this line without this particular provision, leaving it open to later developments to show whether there was any necessity for it, he would have been proceeding on good lines; but he proposes ‘to start in the wrong way in the hope that later on it will turn out’ to be right. Surely the best method is to begin in the right way, and afterwards find out if you are wrong. ,
– I will make a contract with the honorable member. I will tate a plebiscite on the matter amongst those who go to the opening of the line.
– I would be heartily in accord with the Minister if h°i would promise to make public the result of the plebiscite, because members of Parliament are not all such thirsty souls that they cannot take a railway journey without spoiling their bodies and their tempers, and interfering with the comfort of their fellow travellers. The Minister promised the deputation “ that waited on him that he would make very severe regulations to deal with this matter, but no matter what regulations are made the liquor business will beat a man every time. If a man wants to drink we cannot .stop him from doing so by regulation.
– Then of what use is it to prevent the sale of liquor on the trains?
– The remedy for wrong-doing is not to increase facilities for wrong-doing, but to tighten up the restrictions against it. If the honorable member knew that there was no provision for the supply of refreshments on the trip to Western Australia, he would provide himself beforehand. Some years ago I was a member of a deputation that waited on Mr. Evans, the Commissioner for Railways in Queensland, and asked him to bring railway refreshment rooms under the provisions of local option polls, so that if the people decided by a vote to restrict the selling of liquor, refreshment rooms should not claim exemption on the ground that they were Government property. Mr. Evans told the deputation that if he could get Ministerial approval there would be no liquor refreshment bars on any railway station in Queensland. He was only acting in line with what experience in other countries has taught. Tu all the big railway systems of the world, particularly those of America and Great Britain, the regulations in regard to the consumption of liquor by. -employees aud passengers are, becoming tighter every day.
– In most of the big British railway stations there are gigantic hotels at which’ people can live.
– Those are at. the terminals; liquor is not supplied on the train. We cannot compare the short journeys in Great Britain with the journey on our transcontinental railway. I am quite willing to admit all the disadvantages in that respect. There is no doubt that there are very stringent rules, and they are strictly applied, prohibiting the employees of the big railway companies in America from, taking drink. Many companies even go so far as to say that if it is found that an employee off duty is addicted to drink he will be dismissed. Every railway in America enforces the rule that any employee found on duty under the influence of drink will be summarily dismissed. In the refreshment room at ‘ Moss Vale, in New South Wales, there is a notice prohibiting the supply, of liquor from the bar to any railway employee, and prohibiting any person from being supplied with liquor- to be consumed by any railway employee. There is a very good reason why this restriction is imposed on railway employees. Behind the engine-driver there may be hundreds of human lives absolutely at his mercy. So many railway accidents have- been proved to be the result of the enginedriver having taken liquor, thus reducing his ability to read signals or handle his machine - in fact, reducing his nerve controlthat the companies, for the sake of the protection and safety of the travelling public, have had to impose the stringent , regulations to which I have referred.
– The recent general experience in Australia is that drink has not been the direct cause of railway accidents.
– I was not talking of Australia. I was talking of America at the -time. Men who are under the influence of drink can never do their best. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but. it can be said that as a general rule the man who does not take drink is the one who can be depended on . We should have men who can be depended on when we have trains travelling at a high rate of speed, and in a service in which there are so many dangers a,11 6 perils to t.he public. It has been proved on a scientific basis that even one glass of liquor reduces a man’s ability to read signals, reduces his control of himself, and to that extent reduces- his control of the machine he is handling-. Does the Minister think it fair to submit the travelling public fo unnecessary risk and danger ?
An Honorable Member. - Surely the Bill does not propose to allow engine-drivers and guards to get liquor on the train ?
– Why should they not be as able to obtain drink as the passengers? Is it claimed that the enginedriver will riot be able to get liquor if he feels that he wants it?
– That will depend upon the regulations that are imposed.
– Does the Minister think that although the railway employees are prohibited in most of the States from purchasing liquor at railway refreshment rooms, they can be actually prevented from getting it?
– I do not say that; I say we can by regulation restrict it to the travelling public.
– It is impossible to frame a regulation that will guarantee that only passengers will get the liquor.
– Whether the train is dry or wet?
– Then honours are even.
– If, as the Minister appears to be willing to admit, there is a danger of engine-drivers or other train officials taking strong drink at the present time, despite- the lessened facilities for obtaining it, is it not reasonable to assume that the danger will be increased by the broadening of those facilities?
– Railway officials in the eastern States can pick it up, theoretically, at every station, but we do not have accidents or slow runnings because of drinking on their part.
– We have had accidents, but I do not say that they have been due to drink . Consideration for the safety and comfort of the travelling public demands a guarantee that, so far as possible,- no employee of the Department, and particularly no employee in charge of a train, shall have facilities for obtaining drink which it is possible to deny him. The Minister’s responsibilities, as well as the risks ofthe travelling public, will be increased if a liquor bar is provided on the east- west trains. Travelling on railway trains nowadays is sometimes made most uncomfortable by the presence of intoxicated men. One cannot travel on any line without becoming more or less cognisant of that fact.
– That is a very exaggerated statement.
– An intoxicated person will not be allowed to board a train.
– Does the honorable member suggest that an intoxicated person is never to be found on a train ?
– I have travelled a good many thousand miles by train, and have never seen one.
– I have travelled less than the honorable member has done, but have seen many. Even at the present! time, with reduced facilities for obtaining intoxicating liquor, women and children, as well as male passengers by rail, are often subjected to considerable discomfort) by the presenceand unf ortunate conduct of drunken men. If that is the position with these reduced facilities, how is the Minister going to convince the travelling public that their discomfort will not be increased by having a liquor bar on these trains ?
– At present travellers can buy liquor along the route: They buy liquor in bulk, and consume it in the course of the journey. Under our proposal, there will be no opportunity to buy liquor along the route. It will be obtainable only on the train, and we can restrict its supply on the train.
– The Minister should be equally competent to restrict the sale of intoxicating liquors at refreshment rooms.
– The States allow refreshment rooms to remain open.
– But the refreshment rooms on the Commonwealth line will be under the Minister’s own control. The public will fear that where there is this perpetual menace - this perpetual opportunity to obtain drink on these trains - there must be a greater risk of discomfort than there is under the existing system, which permits of the sale of liquor at refreshment rooms at staffed intervals along the route.
– If the honorable member succeeded- in securing the elimination of this clause from the Bill, I believe that travellers on the east-west line would curse him down to the third and fourth generations.
– If the Minister would begin by declaring that liquor should not be sold on trains, he would meet the wishes of a large and interested section of the travelling public. If after a reasonable experience it was considered necessary to provide these liquor bars on the trains, then I think the honorable gentleman would be on much firmer ground than he is at present.
– I will make a bargain with the honorable member. The Government will take the powers for which this Bill provides, but will run the east-west trains for a month or two months “ dry.” During that period we will take a plebiscite of those who travel on the line as to whether or not there should be a liquor bar.
–Does the honorable member think that a two-months trial would be fair to me ?
– It would not carry us into the summer months and, therefore, would give the honorable member the best chance he could have. Once we got into the hottest months - January and February - he would be “ done.”
– The Minister is offering to do something for which there is no demand. The people of Australia to-day are looking, not for increased, but for lessened facilities to obtain strong drink. I am confident that if the honorable gentleman could ascertain the views of the travelling public, he wouldfind that there was a very strong feeling against the establishment of liquor bars on the trains. He knows what was said by a deputation which recently waited upon him.
– It represented only one section of the community.
– A fairly large section, and one which at the last elections, at all events, was behind the present Government, and not behind the Labour party.
– I think that the honorable member secured some of their votes.
– Quite so ; but the official temperance people of Brisbane at the last election were opposed to me. I am fighting their battle, but that does not prevent their fighting me.
– Did not the honorable member, after the previous election, thank the publicans for having secured his return?
– No; I thanked them for their support. Honorable members smile, but the laugh has yet to come. The publicans of Brisbane know that, as a matter of principle, I disapprove of their trade, but they know also that I have never descended to the personal abuse of them as individuals. They think it far better to have an honest opponent, and know where he is, than to have as their representative a man of whom it cannot be said that he is either the one thing or the other. I am prepared to believe that many of the hotelkeepers of Brisbane supported me on political grounds at the last general election. Not one of the publicans has any doubt whatever as to my attitude on the liquor question. If there is a matter on which my opinion is fairly well known, it is that of the liquor traffic, my feeling towards which is purely antagonistic, to the extent of my being :a straight-out prohibitionist.
– Do you know what the people of Midlothian told Mr. Gladstone ?
– Yes; I was there when they told him.
– They said they were not against him if he interfered with their kirk, but they were if he interfered with their whisky.
– It is to be deeply regretted that Mr. Gladstone spoiled his glorious career by the introduction, in the shape of grocers’ licences, of the most in sidious source of liquor supply. That most unfortunate fact the temperance people have never forgotten nor forgiven. I was a youngster in Midlothian at the time, and I happen to know what occurred.
When the Bill reaches the Committee stage, I shall move an amendment eliminating the clause to which I have referred, in the hope that .the ‘Minister will consider it wise to reduce to a minimum the danger either to the railway servants themselves or to the .travelling public. Let us, at any rate, start in that way; and if, later on, there is created, or can be created, a .public demand for these facilities, then, as a Democrat, I must bow to the decision of the people. Whether they be right or wrong, I suppose the people must have what they desire; but neither the Minister, the Government, nor this Parliament, has any right to do anything that will increase, and very greatly increase, the discomfort and danger that may attend the1 travelling public. Sitting suspended from 6.25 to 7.^5 p.m.
.- Several honorable members seem to have been discussing matters which might have been more suitably discussed before the large expenditure upon this railway was undertaken. We have now to make the best of what has been done, and I think we are indebted to the Minister for having so clearly described all the details in connexion with this, great work. I trust that in Committee we shall be able to alter the clause in the Bill relating to the time for which the Commissioner is to be appointed. In Queensland we have had considerable experience of railway construction, as may be judged from the fact that to the end of 1914, in addition to many other lines in course of construe- ‘tion, there had been built in that State’ 4,877 miles of railway, as compared with 3,972 miles in New South Wales, 3,835 in Victoria, 2,323 in South Australia, 2,967 in Western Australia, 519 in Tasmania, and 146 in the Northern Territory. We in. Queensland may claim some right to speak with experience of railway construction, and we have found that it is absolutely essential, if lines are to be constructed cheaply, and the ‘best work is to be done, to have a responsible head. It seems to me that one of the principal reasons why the cost of construction of the east-west railway has been so much in excess of the estimate is the fact that the Commonwealth, has not in complete charge of the work a responsible man ofexperience.” If the responsibility rests upon a Minister who has had no practical experience in railway construction and management, and he is allowed to interfere with the Engineer-in-charge, or the acting Commissioner, we cannot expect to get the same results” as if the work were under cue absolute control of a re- - sponsible Commissioner or Commissioners. The Commonwealth has been fortunate in securing, during the later stages of the construction of this line, an engineer of such ability as Mr. Bell, although he has not been vested with . the powers which should have been reposed .in’ him. After a long experience of him in Queensland, we regarded him as a most capable engineer and well qualified to control “this work for the Commonwealth. But of what use is it. to have a man, possessing his knowledge and experience, if . he is not allowed to control railway construction as he would have done had he been given full authority over the work? .
I am glad to find that at the eleventh hour the Government propose to hand over the management of these “works to a Railways Commissioner, and I trust’ the appointment will be given to the gentleman who is now the Chief Engineer for the Commonwealth Railways. Mr. Bell had a good deal of practical experience before he entered the service of the Commonwealth, and he must have extended his knowledge since. Some honorable members have objected that Mr. Bell is not a traffic man. In Queensland we regarded the position of traffic manager “as subordinate to that of Railways Commissioner or Chief Engineer; and just as a business man may employ managers to control separate ‘branches of his. enterprise, so can a competent Railways Commissioner find a suitable man to manage his traffic. In any case, I notice “that the B’ill provides for the appointment of a Deputy Commissioner, and there is no reason why the deputy should not be an officer having all the necessary knowledge of traffic management. Had the construction of this- railway from its commencement been under the control of a responsible Railways Commissioner, having the same powers as the Railways Commissioner in Queensland, and who could not be interfered with any more than can a Supreme Court Judge, the- mistakes 1 which we have heard criticised so freely in the House during this debate would never have taken place. It is always a grave error to allow a Minister to interfere in matters of which he knows little or nothing; and as there has been) in connexion with the Commonwealth Departments, frequent changes of Ministers, it has been impossible for any Minister togive valuable guidance to the Engineerincharge.
– The- Minister must be able to lay down the policy.
Mr.- CORSER.- The Minister may’ lay down the policy for the consideration of Parliament, but when that policy has been adopted by Parliament, it should be handed over “to a Commissioner, who would be responsible for seeing that effect was .given to it. Our experience of that system, in Queensland has been so satisfactory that I am sure the Government would not seek to depart from it. It has saved the State considerable sums of money. That State comprises 429,000,000 acres, and - apparently contrary to, the desire of the honorable member for Brisbane - the Government is now succeeding to some extent in effecting a policy of decentralization. We have lines running from the ports along the eastern seaboard to tap the hinterland. Those honorable members who compared the cost of the transcontinental ‘ line with the cost of - similar lengths of line in Queensland and New South Wales omitted to mention that a line rising in altitude 3,000 to 5,000 feet must cor*1 rauch more to build than a line on practically level - country such as that through which the east-west ^railway passes. “ As honorable members “know, railway construction to the Blue Mountains of New South Wales is very expensive. The railway from Brisbane to the ‘Darling Downs climbs a distance of 3.000 feet, and the line from Cairns to Kuranda and the Barron Falls was also an expensive work. But none of those lines can be compared with a straight line presenting no engineering difficulties.
Another thing that should not be lost sight of in estimating the comparative cost of this line is that, in the case of many lines constructed in all the States, the bridge work has been very extensive and costly, whilst such costly work has been unnecessary on the Kalgoorlie to Port
Augusta .railway. Notwithstanding all that has been said here, I am still , convinced that the construction of the line has been too expensive, and that iti would never have cost as much as it has done if it had been under the direct control and management of a man responsible only to Parliament for its economic and businesslike construction.
Much has been said upon the necessity for the line. Ite construction has been but the fulfilment of an agreement with Western Australia upon entering into the Federation . We know that it is regarded as a strategic line, and that alterations have been proposed in the railway systems of the different States, because lines -may be required for defence purposes. I do not know whether I am right, but I have certainly ‘ held the opinion for a very long time, that it will be many years yet before we can hope to be in a position to utilize our railway lines with material advantage should we be attacked by any large Power. We are but a population of 5-5000,000, in ° possession of an enormous territory, and even -though we had developed a strategic railway system, we could not hope t6 defend ourselves alone. We must look forward for many years yet to come to the power of the Empire’ for our effective defence. The despatch of our boys to the Front in the present war, and the excellent account they have given of themselves, will help to endear us to the Mother Country, and no doubt while we are still unable to protect ourselves, she will always be found at our side.’ In a young country such as this, we should, in my opinion, devote all the money we can spare, to encouraging people to come here, because an increasing population will be our best means, of defence, and to the de7;.velopment of our primary products by the construction, not of strategic lines, but of railway systems .that will serve for the transport of the produce of the country to our ports, from which it may reach the markets of the world. That is the policy which we have successfully pursued in Queensland-,- and hence that State has been able fo do what no other State of the Commonwealth has done. Prior to the war, in 1914, Queensland was able to show a balance in excess df exports over imports to the value of £6,000,000. That State could never, have achieved such a result but for the extension of railways throughout its territory. Judging by the picture shown in the Queen’s Hall yesterday, it seems to me that we should not ‘think of settling people in the country traversed by the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, whilst in each of the States there is yet so much better land available for settlement. In Queensland, there are no less than 415,000,000 acres still unalienated, including as good land as any in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member did not think that the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway would create settlement.
– I have said that it was constructed as one of the conditions upon which Western Australia agreed to enter the Federation, and whether it was good, bad, or indifferent, it was only right that that arrangement, having been made, should be carried out. But there is no justification from the strategic point of view for spending more money on this line than is absolutely necessary.
I am ‘convinced that to extend the proposed term of office of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner from five years to< seven years would result in considerable advantage to the community as a whole. Parliament should not. have to appoint or renew the appointment of the Commissioner more frequently than can possibly be helped.
– It will not have to do so. It is the Governor-General in Council who will do it.
– We have many changes of Governments, and if we had a Government in power with a man at the head of this Department like Mr. King O’Malley, he might, if the opportunity offered, refuse to reappoint, the Railway Commissioner, desiring rather to retain the power in his own hands. If we provide under this Bill that the term, of office of the Railway Commissioner shall be seven years, his control of the railways “could not be interfered with during that term, so long as he did his duty. I think it has. been found, as the result of past experience, that seven years is, if anything too short a term for such an appointment. I have known instances in which Ministers and political parties have tried to bring influence to bear upon heads of Departments where a fresh appointment, or the renewal of an appointment, has been necessary. The less political pull there is in connexion with any Government Department the “better it is for the country.
I hope when the Bill is in Committee to submit an amendment extending the term of office of the Railway Commissioner from five to seven years, and I trust that such an amendment will command the sympathy and support of the Minister for Works and Railways.
– Honorable members will agree, after listening to the speech made by the Minister for Works and Railways in introducing this Bill, that it demonstrated the advantage of a Minister travelling over the district under his supervision. The honorable gentleman gained his knowledge of this great railway from personal observation. I feel sure that his inspection of the line did much to enable him to give honorable members such a- lucid explanation of its construction in introducing this measure. I should like bo say how deeply indebted I feel to all responsible for furnishing us last night with the splendid picture of the railway and its “construction, which was exhibited in the Queen’s Hall. The information” it disclosed was invaluable.
I recollect the introduction of the measure authorizing the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, and, speaking from memory, I think I was the only Tasmanian representatives who voted for it.
– Was there a division taken on the Bill?
– I am not sure of that. I supported the construction first of all because I was led to believe, from reading the opinions of the Defence authorities that the railway was absolutely essential for the defence of the Commonwealth, and, secondly, because if we are to hold this rich Australia of ours we must demonstrate to the outside world that we are doing our best to develop it. I voted for the line, have watched its construction, and am not sorry that I voted for it. I feel sure it will do much for the development of our country, and that it may play an important part in the near future by enabling us to communicate rapidly between the various centres of the continent.
– There is a good climate in that country, too.
– I do not know anything about the climate. Ihave not traversed theroute. But I think that many honorable members have a wrong impression about the climate of Australia. Until I visited the Northern Territory, I had been taught to believe that it was a land of desolation. I found, however, that it was not so. Upon one station, many miles inland, I. inquired of the manager, “How many cattle have you here?” His reply was, “We have 15,000 head of cattle and 1,000 head of horses, but we are not stocked up. Upon another of our stations you will find 75,000 head of cattle; and stations on the Victoria Downs - Mr. Lewis’ property - are, I understand, stocked almost to their maximum capacity.”
– How many square miles does Mr. Lewis hold? His holding comprises the bulk of the Territory. .
– This line may establish the fact that the land along the route which it traverses is suitable for pastoral purposes.
– It has been used pastor ally for forty years.
– I amvery glad to hear that. I was also pleased to hear the explanation of the Minister in regard to the cost of construction of this railway. Theremarks of the honorable member for Grey clearly demonstrate that it has not been unduly costly after all.
– That has to be proved.
– Of course, it has. But I think that the honorable member will agree with me that most capable engineers have been employed in its construction. In addition to that these officers did what isfrequently done when officers change from one State to another - they took with them the best of their men. It is this circumstance which explains why we have such an excellent body of men engaged in the construction of the line.
The railway has been built through most difficult country, owing chiefly to the survey not having been completed. No -engineer was responsible for that, because I understand that the Government of the day were very desirous that the line should be constructed hurriedly. The honorable member for Grey and the honorable member for Wakefield were both very anxious to see the line started, and they waited on the Minister of the day, and begged him to put on all the men who could be employed at Port Augusta.
– I am not complaining now. Mr. LAIRD SMITH.- We have been informed by the honorable member for Grey that quite a number of men were unemployed in South Australia at the time, that they gravitated towards Port Augusta, and that, as the Government of the day were anxious to provide them with work, the railway was at once put in hand. In other words, the- line was started beforea permanent survey had been made. No doubt the procedure of the engineer who commenced its construction was guided largely by the policy of the Government. Ministers may have informed him that they wanted a light railway laid down, and he may have prepared an estimate for sucha line, instead of for the heavy line that we have at present. Although the cost of the undertaking does, at first sight, appear to be very heavy, when we take into consideration the. increased weight of the rails that are being used, and the better ballasting of the line, it will be apparent that we shall effect a considerable saving in the maintenance of this railway.
– I made allowance for all that.
– If my honorable friend knew as much about railway construction as he does about wheatgrowing, he would probably agree that the line has not cost too much.
There is another grand feature of this Bill which appeals to me very strongly, and in this connexion. I speak as an old railway man, with twenty-one years’ serviceto his credit. I refer to the proposed establishment of an Appeal Board.The railway officers of the various States have repeatedly asked for the creation of a Board of a similar character. Upon this body the men are to be represented, as well as the Commissioner, and there is also to be an independent chairman possessed of a judicial mind. If an able man is selected as its chairman,I venture to say that we shall have no trouble whatever with the railway service. My experience has been that, wherever the railwayservant is given a fair deal, he is easily satisfied. He will get sucha deal under this Board.
An honorable member asks me: “What about the position in New South Wales?” I do not wish to express an opinion upon what is going on in that State, because I know nothing whatever about it. But every mechanic who worked in the Railway Department with which I was connected had to put down his work on a piece of board. Upon that board” he marked the work on which he was engaged, and the time occupied in its performance. Thus the foreman was able to tell at a glance the cost of any work upon which a man had been engaged.
– It is possible to make that card system a task system.
– I was very pleased to note the Minister’s concern for the welfare of the men who areengaged upon this line. In my opinion, we cannot treat them too well. My hearty good feelings go out to them owing to the isolated life that they lead. I hope that in future the Department will be careful regarding the housing accommodation of these men.I trust that it will not coop them up in small cottages. _ Mr. Atkinson. - And the hotter the climate, the worse the buildings.
– That is often the case. I should like to see the Minister take notice of the workmen’s cottages which have been erected at Port Darwin. Those cottages are suitable to a tropical climate. They- are thoroughly provided with sanitary and bathing conveniences, and are everything that can be desired. If the living conditions of the men employed on this line are made comfortable, it will repay all concerned. I had a remarkable experience recently in the Old Country when I visited Lever Brothers. In the course of conversation, Mr. Lever said, “I want you to understand that I am nophilanthropist. Everything that you see here is run purely on business lines.” I welcome the “ Hear, hear !” of the honorable member for Wakefield, and I hope that he will allow us to adopt the system which I saw in operation there. At Lever Brothers we found each workman living in a beautiful cottage, in front of which was a lovely garden, which was kept in order bythe firm at a nominal cost. In addition, we found that there were two medical practitioners employed. The. works are built in two wings, and in the intervening area are lines of railway.
For the protection of the workers passing to and fro a tunnel has been constructed which is beautifully tiled and lighted with electricity. When I had inspected the tunnel, I asked a gentleman who was showing me round how he could regard it as a good business proposition, and he informed me that it would never pay them to have men crossing over without protection and getting killed by the locomotives which were running over different sections inside the works. I also saw ‘about thirty children there, and when they came out of school they were taken in motor cars into the country. When I inquired how this could be regarded as a good business proposition, I was informed it was looked upon as one of the best assets of the works, as the children were taken, into the country lanes of England and there obtained a knowledge of geography. “In addition to this, they were improved physically by the outing, and the boys, when old enough to enter the factory, made better men than otherwise would have been the case. The policy of the manager was to employ as many men as possible.
The right honorable member for Swan made some reference to the overland telegraph line, but I would point out that officers of the Department engaged there are in a different position, although I admit they are isolated. The loneliness of the place is dreadful, . but each operator is a sound reader, and although he may not be taking a message himself, he will probably sit by an instrument for hours at a time listening to the messages going through, so, despite their loneliness, many of these officials are very well informed upon the events of the day. Their food supplies, however, are a disgrace to the contractor. The flour reached the depot in a weevily condition, and altogether the fare, when I was there, was very meagre indeed. I mentioned the case to the PostmasterGeneral on my return, and I hope he gave the matter prompt and careful attention, because the health of officials so situated should be the first concern of the Commonwealth.
I am informed that men on the transcontinental railway will not suffer many of the disadvantages that fall to the lot of the Northern Territory backblock settler, so far as trouble with natives is concerned. On the night that I reached
Maranboy tin-field, in the Northern Territory, I saw several natives chained up because it was alleged they had battered out the brains of a white man in his camp the previous night. I was’ told that they crawled , up to the camp, and, while one of the natives pressed on his’ feet with a stick, causing him to raise himself in his bed, the others struck him on the back of the head and dashed his brains out. I believe the natives do not appear in great numbers along the route of the transcontinental railway, so officials employed on that line are not likely to have very much trouble.
Tinder the” Bill, the Commissioner will have control, not only of the transcontinental railway, but of all the Commonwealth railways, including the lines in the Northern Territory. I feel sure that1” the Territory will develop rapidly under a judicious system of railway construction. As honorable members are aware, Vestey Brothers have given an indication of their confidence in the Territory by expending about £600,000 on their meatworks at Darwin. These buildings were under construction while we were on a visit to the Territory, and Vestey Brothers were looking forward to an extension of the policy of railway construction.
I wish to impress upon honorable members the great value of the tin-mining industry of the Territory. It was my pleasure to visit the Government battery at Maranboy, “under the management, of Mr. Studderd, a young man from my own State, who informed me that from one tin mine in Tasmania he obtained a return of only .6 per cent, to the ton, and made it pay. He was putting through this battery stone which was very easily treated indeed. There was very little fine tin in it, and when I saw the coarse tin going off the table I was impressed with the value of the asset we had there. Although they were mining under most primitive conditions - there was not an air compressor on the field, arid all the drill work was done by hammer and drill - the shaft was down about 70 feet, and they were getting an average of 8 per cent, stone. They were carting ‘the stone to the battery and putting it through, and it cost them £20 a ton to land the tin at Darwin, yet it was giving the mine-owners a net profit of 50 per cent. I quote these figures merely to show the value of the asset we have “up there on the route of the proposed railway to Mataranka. ‘
The Territory, roughly speaking, is about 400 miles wide by 900 miles long. The railway has been constructed, and is almost open for traffic for a distance of 200 miles, from Darwin to the Katherine River. That will’ serve much of the Territory fairly, well. They will drive the cattle from Willeroo and the Victoria Tableland on the western side, and the stock will also come in from Mataranka and the lower stations on the eastern side. No doubt after the war the Government will construct the railway still further south, as the struggle between Queensland and South Australia as to the route of the railway will not begin until it reaches Newcastle Waters, v I hope the honorable member for Wakefield will be in -the House at that time, so that we may hear him support the southern extension, of the line as ably as he advocated the flaking over of the Territory by the Commonwealth some years ago.
– Was your Committee further south than the end of the railway ?
– Yes, we were right down ‘te Daly Waters, about 90 miles further- south. I suppose that no white man has previously been in a lot of the country that we passed through on the direct southern route, but .in all parts w© saw excellent land. All that was required was water, and that was being obtained by bores sunk to about 200 feet. Immediately the water was struck it rose within 50 feet of the surface, and the authorities were of the opinion that it would be advisable to install an oil engine, and put- a’ couple of men in charge to pump the water into the troughs or billabongs for the cattle. If that were done, it would .open up a lot more cattle country. The only way to develop this great Territory is by railway Construction along the route I have mentioned, and to encourage men to go there and produce cattle. It is a great cattle-producing country, and the only way to develop it is to make it possible to bring’ the cattle down to the great institution which has been established at Darwin by the Vestey Brothers at such enormous expense. That firm has risen to the occasion in the treatment of its men. A large building in the nature of a bar racks has been erected for single men, and every convenience is provided for them. The building is very high off the ground, and a nice current of air can pass through and under it - an invaluable con- sideration in such a climate. If people running a private concern like that can do those things, the Government can surely do the same.
Every railway man will agree that it is most valuable that the Commissioner of Railways should .have charge of the construction of new lines. Under that system the engineer-in-charge of ‘construction is continually in touch with the traffic men who are going to use the railway. In a great railway concern ‘each department dovetails beautifully into the other. The Commissioner will have his chief civil engineer for existing lines, his chief mechanical engineer, his chief electrical engineer, chief accountant, and chief ‘ storekeeper, all of whom are continually in touch with him, and keep him posted up as to how things are going. If he is a capable man, and able to judge when he has a good officer, he will follow that officer’s advice, if he is satisfied that, that advice is in the best interests of the railway. A Commissioner who can work with his staff in that way is invaluable, because he gets the most out of his staff. Having worked on many railways, and ‘seen them taken over; from the construction department or the contractor, my experience has been this: The construction department is out to build the railway, and when the Commissioner and his traffic department take it over huge alterations have repeatedly had to be made. Many sidings have had to be put in. Other mechanical contrivances were put in the wrong place, and the reason was because the construction staff employed by the Government, apart from the railway altogether, were not in touch with the traffic men. If the Commonwealth Commissioner is given that great responsibility, he will be very careful to see that a railway is constructed as cheaply as possible, and that it is made so effectively that it will serve the best purpose in dealing with the traffic, not for a day, but for all time’. In my experience the great trouble has been that railways have been constructed by the States without looking far enough ahead, with the result that enormous sums had to be spent in making alterations after the lines had been in use for only a few years.
I feel sure that if honorable members go deeply into this question they will agree with me that the Minister is on the right track in causing the Railways Department to be a construction as well as a traffic department. That brings me to the establishment of what is called a separate Department. We have the assurance of. the Minister that, although this appears to mean the establishment of a new Department, it is only a re-organization of the existing Department. It is being re-organized along much better lines, with the result that we shall get more efficient work from all concerned, and have that co-ordination which is so essential to any Department if it is to be made a paying concern. Hence I have no fear that the creation of a Commissioner will largely increase the cost of the management of this railway.
I do not think that the line could be worked successfully under the management of two distinct bodies such as the Commissioner for South Australia and the Commissioner for Western Australia, because no matter how closely in touch they were geographically, the Commissioner in each State would be found to have a different system of working, and, consequently, we would not secure that co-ordination of work which is so essential to successful railway management.
– They have not a different system with the MelbourneAdelaide express.
– That is simply a train which is run through. The honorable member will find that the stock is largely found from this end of the line.
– It is not.
– There has been no inquiry into the matter. The Commonwealth is a separate entity from a State; and a State would not do this work for the Commonwealth for nothing. We all know that every Railways Commissioner tries to keep his staff working to the highest pressure. He cannot successfully run his system if the men are to live on the job. ‘ In my opinion railway servants are the hardest worked body of men in any Public Service.- Many of them have no fixed hours. They have very hard and responsible work to perform, and that is why I am so sympathetic with them. Does the honorable member for Wakefield mean to say that the State Commissioners could take over the management of this railway without increasing the staff? Does he say that the Commissioners would agree to take on responsible and increased duties without getting extra pay? Does he say that it would not involve the creation of much larger staffs? Of course it would, and we should have the States drawing upon the Commonwealth. The honorable member would find that it would not be less costly. But if we have a separate Department, then the Minister will be in close touch with the Commissioner, who again will be in close touch with all his staff, and that is where a big saving will be made.
Great improvements are provided for in this measure. It is superior to any State Railway Act.
– It is not.
– It is. Here, for instance, is an improvement. The Commissioner, I take it, will delegate part of his power to his storekeeper. If the latter sees a cheap line of goods required on the railway he will buy them at once.
– He cannot.
– Let me illustrate to the honorable member what I mean. Suppose that when the war broke out the storekeeper on a railway had had the power to buy galvanized iron at £19 per ton, where would he be to-day when the article is bringing £100 per ton? When I was in the Defence Department the gentleman in charge of a branch there was able to purchase a certain line of goods which, had he sold them to private persons on their arrival, would have given him a profit of thousands of pounds on his bargain. That is what the officer could have made in that case because he had a free hand. I would readily give the officer leave to buy, and the result would be a great saving to the Department. Hence I commend the Minister for including this provision in the Bill. .
I regret very much that the Government did not do what I asked them to do when the Bill was first under consideration. I was of opinion that the States should be compelled to give to the Commonwealth, to be handed over to the Commissioner, a grant of land for 100 miles on each side of. the route in respect to certain sections of the line, and the unearned increment to go to the credit of the Commissioner. I believe that the time is not far distant when, in the construction of railways which are supposed not to pay, but which are of great value to the State in which they are made, or she locality into which they are run, something of this nature will have to be done. In Tasmania there is a non-pay- ing line now. It was constructed into practically virgin country, although the land was taken up before the line was built. It was taken up at £1 per acre, but to-day it cannot be bought under from £3 to £5. What gave that value to the land? It was the construction of the railway. If the Commonwealth had been given a land grant, and allowed to credit the railway with the enhanced value accruing to the land, or the rents received for its use, I feel sure that the line would have become a paying proposition much earlier than it will—–
– What is the rent?
– It is 6s. a square mile at the present time, although you cannot get near the place, but the construction of the railway will increase its value four times. When the CanadianPacific line across Canada was projected, it was said that it would not pay and the Government was appealed to for a grant of money to assist the company.. The Canadian-Pacific Railway Company was given huge tracts of land, and this land, because of the construction of lines throughit, is now all under wheat. There are, I believe, three railways across Canada now. I would remind honorable members, too, of the way in which the railway which passes through Utah has opened up country which previously seemed valueless. Science has made such advances that it is questionable whether to-day there is such a thing as bad land. The land through which the proposed railway will pass may be beautiful land, compared with much that I saw under cultivation in Switzerland. There the cultivators go down to the river, and bring back to their terraced farms soil which has been swept down by avalanches. When they learn of the country that is available in Australia, they will come here in thousands, and the best way to attract population is to open up our territory with railways.
We have heard a great deal about the cost of this line, but I should like to know from the Minister how much money was borrowed outside Australia to pay for it. I do not think that even a shilling was so borrowed. The line has been paid for with money borrowed from the people, without a cent of interest being charged. No other railway in the world has been so constructed. We organized the credit of Australia, and £49,000,000 worth of bank notes were issued. Money was thus borrowed from the people without interest.. Had the Government had to go on to the London market for a loan, it would have gob probably only £96 for every bond for £100 that it gave.
– Why not build another line in the same way?
Mr.LAIRD SMITH. - No doubt that will be done. Instead of Australia having to send to Europe large quantities of wool, wheat, and other produce to pay the interest on money borrowed for this line, there is no interest to pay to any one outside of the Treasury. The honorable member for Wakefield knows that fact as well as I do.
I am of the opinion that the Minister is making a mistake in providing for the sale of intoxicating liquors on the trains that are to run on this transcontinental line. The first question that is put to a man who is under an examination to ascertain his qualifications for railway work is, “ What is the first care of a railway man?” the answer to that question being “The safety of the public.” Every railway man in Australia is liable to instant dismissal if he takes intoxicating liquor while on duty. This being so, I beg the Minister not to put temptation in the way of the Commonwealth railway employees. The men in charge of transcontinental trains will often be away from supervision, and if there is a bar on the train what will there be to prevent the crew of the train from asking their friend in charge of the bar to supply them with a drink?
– Would the barkeeper supply him if he were liable to instant dismissal for doing so?
– The crew of a train become very friendly, and ready to do each other services. The nervous strain put upon a man who is driving a train at high speed over long distances is very great, and it would take little to intoxicate such a man. A railway man who is known to drink is doomed, as every old railway man is aware. Should an accident happen, it is asked, “ Who was in charge of the train?” and should that person be a drinking man, those in authority will often conclude that he was drunk. Some of the biggest railway companies in the United States will employ only total abstainers.
– For enginedriving 1
– And as guards. I’.i is essential that the guard as well as the engine-driver on a train shall be sober. I heard of an accident occurring in a State. The cause could never be ascertained, but persons capable of judging held the opinion that it was due to some one becoming frightened, and applying the brakes suddenly, causing the engine to leave the road and capsize. The incident shows that it is essential that the full staff of the train should have their wits about them, and it is for this reason that I oppose- the provision which enables intoxicating liquors to be sold on trains.
We are very fortunate in having such an excellent body of officers and men employed in the construction of this railway, “and in having at. their disposal the most up-to-date machinery for railway building that can be found in any part of the world. No: thing better could be seen than the method of ballasting and plate-laying that was demonstrated to us in last night’s cinematograph display. Under the conditions employed in the construction of this line, there can be no slowing down, because the men have to work in time with mechanical arrangements. A machine must be kept going, and does not permit of any one man loafing. The’ cinematograph display showed honorable members the great part that machinery has played in the building of this railway. Consequently, I say that the Commonwealth has been fortunate in having secured such an able staff of . officers, and I hope that the Commissioner who is appointed will give that staff the preference to which they are entitled. No doubt they have left good occupations to come to this new work, with the hope of bettering themselves subse quently. If the Commissioner secures the services of these men he will have officers who are well acquainted with the country, and who will be able to carry on the work in the best possible manner. A good railway man to-day is valuable. He cannot be picked up anywhere. He has to undergo a very long «training. One great advantage that Australian railways have is that the majority of those in charge of the largest undertakings are men who have worked their way up from the bottom of the ladder. They °have worked their way through the Service from being porters and shunters, until they have become traffic superintendent? or traffic managers. In this way the State gets the advantage of having men with matured minds, combined with practical experience. Notwithstanding the criticism that has been levelled against this railway, time will demonstrate that, although we took a risk in building it, we were wise in having sufficient foresight to construct’ this valuable asset for the Commonwealth .-
.- I “ congratulate the Minister on the way in which he introduced the Bill. In a very clear manner he gave us a considerable amount of information. I also congratulate the Treasurer, who at last sees the consummation of a work with which he has had more to do than any other honorable member. The best speech that I ever heard the right honorable gentleman deliver in the Chamber was that which he made upon the second reading of the Bill which authorized the survey of this railway. On that occasion I was one of a rather small minority which opposed the Bill. The measure went through very easily on the voices. but I do, not know that this would have been the case had we imagined at the time that it was going to cost more than the £4,000,000 which the Minister in charge of the Bill told us was the estimated cost of construction. However, the measure did pass, and the railway has been built, and we have to foot the bill, whatever it amounts to, and make the best of the line,, whether it is “ good business for the Commonwealth or not. I feel that this railway would have to be built eventually. Every military authority who visited_ Australia and talked about the defence of the Empire pointed to the necessity for linking ( the east with the west. Further than that, there was a definite promise made to
Western Australia to build the line. That promise was made to induce that State to enter Federation.
In the present condition of affairs it will be wise to finish the railway as soon as possible. The position in regard to shipping is so straitened and so peculiar that , it behoves the Commonwealth to establish communication between the east and the west almost at once, even if it be only for the purpose of releasing many of the steamers that are now plying on the coast, which can be better employed in other parts of the Empire, where they are more urgently required. The completion of the railway should certainly enable the authorities to release some of the boats now trading between the east and the west.
It will be admitted that this is an up-to-date measure. It embodies many of the best provisions adopted by the various States as the result of the experience of railway working that has been gathered in past years. It also goes a step further. It deals with the officers and servants of the Railways Department in such a way. that it must be considered a liberal and enlightened measure. Whoever is in charge ofthe Department the men will receive fair treatment.
– There is nothing in the Bill about conditions for the men.
– I think there is, but whoever is working for the Commonwealth in connexion with its railways will find that if the Bill is properly administered, they should get a fair deal.
For the most part, this measure is one that can be dealt with best in the. Committee stage, but there are one or two points that may be noticed at this stage. In the first place, the decision has been arrived at that the railways of the Commonwealth shall be removed from political control and placed under a Commissioner. This is a step in the right direction. In the next place, it has been decided to hand over the construction of railways to the Commissioner. It is not a general practice in the States, but it is one with which I agree. In this connexion I should like to refer honorable members to a report issued by the Committee of Public Accounts, of which I had the. honour to be a member. When dealing with the construction of public works for the Commonwealth, we went into the question of building railways. We showed in our report that railway construction is dealt with in different ways in the different States, and after considering the evidence we made the following recommendation : -
In the opinion of the Committee, the construction of railways should not be separated from their running and maintenance. Regrading, deviations, and repairingthe permanent way entails a plant, staff, and operations to a large extent similar to those employed on original construction.
The arbitrary division of this work and responsibility in some of the States has not been advantageous, and, as regards the Commonwealth whose railway development is strictly limited, such a separation has even less to recommend it. The officer in charge should be directly responsible to the Minister.
I am glad that the Government have adopted that recommendation, since I believe it will make for the best interests of the Department.
I do not think the honorable member for Wakefield was quite correct in declaring that this Bill necessarily involves the creation of a costly Department. We already have a number of railway officers, with staffs working under them, and all that this Bill proposes is that they shall be organized into one Department. I am one of those who approach very charily a proposal to establish a new Department, because a Department, once created, develops a wonderful capacity for expanding, and very often becomes much larger than was anticipated. The Public Service of Australia is becoming a very large one, having regard to ‘the fact that it has to deal with the public utilities of a population of only 5,000,000; and I think, therefore, that proposals for the creation of new Departments must be very closely scanned. Having regard to the state of our finances, the Commonwealth will not be able to build many lines in the near future, and that being so there should be no reason to fear an undue expansion of the Railways Department. In these circumstances, I hold that the Minister is well advised in bringing forward this measure.
The Commissioner will take over a railways system the like of which is not to be foundin any other part of the world. We have some three lines, covering a very large mileage, and not one of them is a paying concern. It is difficult to say when profitable results from any one of these lines may be expected. Even the most sanguine cannot expect them to become profitable for very many years; but by adopting the principles laid down in this Bill we shall provide, in my opinion, for their management in the best and most economical way. I was disposed at first to think that it might be well to allow the east-west railway to be carried on by the South Australian and West Australian Departments, but after careful consideration I have come to the conclusion that we should not in that way effect any material saving. If no monetary saving is “to be secured by handing over the administration of our railways system to the State Departments, then I think there is no hope of any other advantage such as would recommend the adoption of that course. I -saw the moving pictures which were shown last night’ depicting work on the east-west line, and the country through which it passes. Judging from them, the country is not very promising; but there are many parts of Australia- notably the Mallee - which at one time did not look as well. The application of fertilizers has converged the Mallee, which was at one time regarded as so much waste land, into vast wheats fields that are worked with profit and advantage. I have no doubt that the eastwest railway passes through country capable of producing various crops, provided that an adequate rainfall could be secured. It is more than problematical, however, whether the rainfall is adequate, or falls at the right time.
– We have the means now of dealing with that trouble.
– I do not think that the experiments to which the honorable member refers have yet proved absolutely successful. I hope that before long their success will be demonstrated, and that a few ‘years hence travellers along this railway will be gladdened by the sight of thousands of acres under wheat.
There should be ample opportunity for mineral discoveries along the route. Tarcoola, for instance, has produced a lot of gold. Before the construction of this line, however, that- field was so . fax removed from a railway system that goldmining operations were carried on under considerable difficulties. These difficulties will now disappear, and it should not be long before new discoveries are ‘made.
Although the cost of building the eastwest railway is far in excess of the original estimate, I am surprised, in view of statements made in this House from time to time, that it has not cost more. Having regard to the number of strikes that have occurred amongst the workmen employed on the line, and bearing in mind the questions that have been raised in this House as to the way in which rollingstock and rails have been purchased, and as to various actions by responsible Ministers, the wonder is that the line has not cost considerably more.
– How do strikes cost the Department money?
– If a strike or any other occurrence consumes a lot of time, that in the end means money.
– The Department does not pay the men when they are not working. -
– But the loss of time means a bigger bill to pay. At the same time, I am of the opinion that the “ line could. and ought to have been built more cheaply.” The start was not made in the proper way, inasmuch as there was nothing like the survey and other preparatory .work that ought to have been done before the rails were laid; further, the necessary material was not acquired when it might have been purchased at a reasonable price; and altogether I cannot regard the business side of the proposition as having been satisfactorily managed. Had we adopted the contract system at one stage, we should have been able to accomplish what we have now accomplished for less money, though not very much, I admit. because the many changes and alterations made have involved much increased expenditure. I hope that the Minister and the Department generally will not get wedded to any particular system of work. In many cases I should regard the contract system as the best, but there are occasions when day labour .will prove the more efficient. If die responsible officers of the Department are trusted and consulted they, no doubt, will be able to say in nearly every case which system would prove the better. We have to face the fact, however, that on the Opposition benches there is a body of men pledged to day labour, and, unfortunately, in political shackles, with no possible hope of escaping from their thraldom. The question is not whether, there should be day labour or the contract system, but what is the best for the community. If day labour will do a job more cheaply and better, then let us have day labour, but where the contract system will suit the circumstances, for heaven’s sake let us use our brains and adopt it.
– We have tried both systems, and . the east-west railway has proved that day labour is the better. ~Mr. ATKINSON. - I do not say that there are not occasions on which day labour is the better, but I do not think the honorable member is right when he” says that’ the construction of the eastwest line has proved that day labour is to be preferred.
No one will regret more than the Treasurer, who had so much to do with the inception of this work, that Western Australia has failed us. I know there are excuses to be made’ for that State, which iri the last two years or so has had to face much political and financial trouble; but the Western Australian Government knew that this line was being built, and they pledged themselves to alter their line from Kalgoorlie to Perth, so as to bring the gauge into uniformity with the Commonwealth line. Under the circumstances, I think that the least the State could do was to honestly see that contract carried out. As a matter of fact, I do not think ti. at the various Commonwealth Ministers in charge of this work have kept the Western Austraiian Government up to the mark in this regard. Tt would be impossible to blame any particular Minister for Home Affairs, for we have had five or six since this work commenced, but some of them ought to have reminded Western Australia that the’ Commonwealth was doing its part fairly expeditiously under all the circumstances, and that the State ought to have made an effort to do its part. As things are at present, passengers will have to change trains at Kalgoorlie, whereas there ought to be a straight run. through from Port Augusta to Perth on the first trip.
This break of gauge is one of the most serious problems we have to face, and the attainment of uniformity will meanthe expenditure of many millions of money. Personally, I should not be surprised if, when the time arrives to do something, this Parliament took it into its head to build lines in altogether dif- ‘ferent directions in preference to waiting for an alteration of gauges.
– How about the line in the Northern Territory?
– The Government are committed to that line as part of the agreement under which the Territory was acquired, and there is no doubt that if, in this connexion, we are able to secure the services of the present EngineerinChief, Mr. Bell, his experience on the east-west railway will offer him many hints in the way of better and cheaper construction. If the States continue to build lines of different gauges, as they have done ever since Federation came into existence, we shall have to seriously consider whether we cannot assist them in unifying the gauges. Of course, if lines have to be built in other directions, the question of strategic railways will become very much more prominent, and -it may be that lines will’ be branched out from Port Augusta to New South Wales or Queensland. - It is a question that the Department will have to seriously consider, and no doubt in due course this Parliament will have to take a- hand.If something of that sort is not done, the sooner the States pay attention to the gauge problem the better. They should be more careful when ‘ building their lines in future.
.- I da not propose to discuss the details of this Bill or the history of the railway, although to me, as a new member, I was interested to hear the past history of the line discussed. I thought I had entered a Federal’ Parliament, but I was amused to find South Australian and Western Australian members regarding the undertaking as a State concern. I could not help wondering how South Australia had managed to foist the Oodnadatta railway on the Commonwealth Government, but I was forced to the conclusion that there must have been some smart men in South Australian public life when the transfer was arranged. The manner in which the Bill was presented to the House appealed to me very much. Since I have been in this Parliament Bills have been brought forward apparently without the Minister in charge knowing much about what was in them; and after a brief introduction of the measure) the Minister has absented himself from the House, leaving members to talk by and large. I am glad that the Minister for Works and Railways has set a very good example, which I hope other Ministers will follow.
It is of no use to cry over spilt milk. I do not propose to debate the causes which have resulted in £6,500,000 being spent on the construction of a railway which was estimated to cost £4,000,000, but I am satisfied that if the people of Australia had known before the line was started that it would cost £6,500,000, the work would never have been authorized. However, this Bill is a machinery measure to authorize the future management of the east-west railway and the other two lines controlled by the Commonwealth Government. A decision had to be made as to whether Parliament should manage the Federal railways system or whether it should be made independent of Parliament and placed under a Commissioner. The Minister has wisely decided to create a Railways Department controlled by a Commissioner and divorced from political influence. At the same time, I hold the opinion that the control of these railways should not be taken too far out of the hands of this Parliament. The Legislature must have a free hand at all times, but. some clauses of the Bill seem to take from Parliament that measure of control which should be reserved to it.
I refer particularly to the provision by which the Minister may say to the Commissioner, “ You carry out’ a certain policy.” The Commissioner may protest, and the Minister may then retort, “ My instruction is that you carry out this policy,” whereupon . the Commissioner may say, “ Very well, I will carry it out, but if it leads to any extra cost, that cost will be debited against the general fund, and must be paid back to the railway out of ordinary revenue.” Under such a provision as that I can foresee a smart Commissioner making this railway pay very quickly. Does that clause refer to freights and fares, for instance?
Mr.Watt. - It refers to any question of policy involved, but the AuditorGeneral must be satisfied.
– The Minister might say to the Commissioner, “ This line would pay better if you lowered the freiehts and fares.” The Commissioner might argue that lower freights and fares would not pay, but the Minister might order a reduction. Then the Commissioner, with the aid of his accountant, would make up a nice little bill to be paid by the Commonwealth out of ordinary revenue. Although the provision may seem right on the face of it, I foresee trouble.
Mr.Watt. - We have operated a similar provision in the Victorian Railways Act in connexion with coal and wheat.
– The Victorian Government may have had to agree to some such arrangement, but they have not been compelled to adopt it by the Railways Act. Will the provision operate in the opposite way ?Suppose the Commissioner says to the Minister, “ I must raise freights or reduce the train service,” and the Minister says, “ You must not do either.” Can the Commissioner then make a charge against the ordinary revenue of the Commonwealth ?
– The Minister has to give a positive direction, and not merely assume a negative attitude. The Bill refers to a positive interference by the Minister.
– That would refer to positive interference bythe Minister in the management of the railway. It has not been necessary to put this arrangement in plain language in the Victorian Railways Act.
– It is in more definite language in the Victorian Statute than in this Bill, as I shall explain in Committee.
– I will leave that point till the Committee stage, but the thought occurs to me that in the endeavour to place thisRailways Department away from political influence we are about to hand over to the Commissioner too much power, and are taking from Parliament the right to control its own railways. That policy can be carried to extremes. It is possible to push the objection to political influence too far, because Parliament, after all, must be supreme in the management of its railways. I have directed attention to this- matter because it occurred tome that a smart Commissioner, working the clause to which I refer for all it is worth, might make it appear that a railway was paying for itself, when; as a matter of fact, it would be paid for out of ordinary revenue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions).
.- There seems to be a little confusion in some quarters with regard to the definition of “ Railway service,” which in this clause is stated to mean ‘ ‘ employment under the Commissioner,” and that refers, I presume to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to be appointed under this Bill.
– Yes. Mr. FENTON.- It is my intention, when we come to it to submit some amendments to clause 52, which deals with employees. It occurred to me that if such amendments were agreed to they might involve consequential amendments in this clause. .
– I do not think so. I think that this definition clause would cover such amendments.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 -
– I hope that the Minister for Works and Railways will be able to give the Committee some assurance as to what the position of the Commissioner is to be. If the intention is in any way to create a new Commonwealth Department, I am quite against it. We have had two Bills introduced here within the last two or three days, each of which proposes the creation of a new Department.
– I think so. We have had over and . over again assurances from Ministers than proposals submitted to this House would not involve the creation of new Departments. When the Prime Minister’s Department was created we were told that it would be only a little one, with a secretary and one or two other officers, but its cost last yearhad run up to £30,000, and this year it may well reach £100,000.
– It has taken over the work of other Departments.
– Yes; but there has not been a decrease of £1 in the expenditure of the Departments from which that work has been taken over.
– The Prime Minister’s Department has created a great deal of work of its own.
– It used to be alleged of the ordinary Englishman that if he had nothing particular to do he said, “ We must go and kill something,” and it would appear thai when Ministers and their chief officials have nothing to do they say, “ Gome, let us create a new Department.” Australia is not at present in a position to face the creation of new Departments. For what are we asked to appoint a Commonwealth Railways Commissioner? I suppose that not more than a dozen trains ‘ per week will be run over the three lines of ‘ which he will have control, and none of these lines would pay more than half their working expenses if’ trains were run upon them on the proposed time-table. “Under this clause, we are. asked to appoint a Railways Commissioner, and I say that unless we get an assurance that some existing Commonwealth officer is to be given, in addition to his present powers, the powers of a Railways Commissioner under this Bill, and that! no increase of our railways staff is proposed, the Committee should seriously consider whether this is a Bill which ought to be passed at present. A measure to impose a war profits tax has just been introduced, which is expected to give us a return of less than £500,000 in taxation, but it involves the creation of a new Department.
– That is not correct.
– I think, that the honorable member for Grey said that it would require a very great) number of new officials.
– We cannot discuss that measure now.
– I am quite aware of that, but I have referred to it because I believe that in dealing with the Bill now before the Committee we should have some definite assurances from the Government as to what may be involved by the passage of it. We know that railway construction works by the Commonwealth have practically ceased, and that we have a considerable staff of constructing’ engineers. So far as I have been able to gather, the present Chief Engineer of Commonwealth Railways, Mr. Bell, is an exceedingly competent and reliable man, and if it be proposed that in addition to the duties of his present position he is” to act as Commonwealth. Railways Commissoner, we shall need besides him only a good traffic man, with a few subordinates, to run the whole of our Commonwealth railways. If it is proposed to create, as we have in each of the States, an entirely separate Department under a Railways Commissioner for our exceedingly limited railway service, the thing is an absurdity. The position of Australia to-day is such that the Government: . and honorable members should pause before consenting to any measure involving the creation of a new Department to add materially to the already huge and growing army of our Government officials. We have only to go on as we have been doing for the next few years, and about every other man one will meet will be a Government official. We know that, and it is well known outside also. No more inopportune time than the present could be suggested for the creation of a new Commonwealth Department.
– And then we talk about winning the war.
– -During the present session we shall be asked to face a very serious task in imposing drastic taxation. We must impose severe taxation to enable us to pay interest on our war debt. It will run into more millions than we shall be in a position to’ estimate until the Budget has been presented. We do not know what provision’ is to’ be made to meet” the payment of interest.
– Notice has been given- of a further loan of many millions.
-I hope it will never be proposed in the Commonwealth to raise loans in order to payinterest. We are faced with an enormously increasing expenditure due to the war, and none of us can say when it will cease. We should be. exceedingly careful in the circumstances before adopting any measure which will create a new Department.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– Yes, that. suggestion which, unfortunately, neither side in this House has so far been prepared to discuss. What I suggest is what any ordinary business man would do if. the Commonwealth railways were his own concern. I have said that our railway construction work has practically ceased.
– Oh, no ! We have over 80 miles of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway still to construct.’
– We have the. Pine Creek to Katherine River railway.
– That has been constructed, but there is a bridge on that line yet to be finished. There are 80 miles of construction necessary to bridge the gap in the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway.
– We do not need the whole of our- engineering staff to bridge the gap of 80 miles in that railway.
– Did I say anything that would lead the honorable member to believe that we do ?
– Yes, the honorable gentleman did. Year after year we have been adding enormously to our civil list, which is a highly-paid list. Now that our railway construction work is about to cease, surely wecan get one of these officers to run about a dozen trains a week over our three lines of railway. All that should be necessary is a good traffic man to supervise the. whole of them. I want the Minister to tell the Committee what will be the powers of the Commissioner, what staff it is intended to place under him, and what will be . the total expenditure of the new Department which it isproposed to create.
– I think the inquiry of the honorable member is both a reasonable and a pertinent one. He evidently wishes to know whether this Bill means the creation ofa new Department.From one point of view, my. reply is “Yes,” and from another point of view it is “ No.” It all depends upon whetherwe aredealing with actualities or terms. From the constitutional standpoint, this Bill will create, for the first time, the personnel and powers of a Railways Department. But, from the’ standpoint of . actuality, all the men whom we require are already in our employ. As a matter of fact, we have at present more men than will be required when the work of construction has been finished. But as the railways, are permanent assets, prudent administration naturally suggests that certain permanent appointments should be made. The present EngineerinChief, who is Acting Commissioner, has no statutory authority whatever. If honorable members will look at the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Act, and at the Pine Creek to Katherine River Railway Act, they will observe that throughout every section of those Statutes entire control is vested in the Minister. The Minister is authorized to construct a railway, and to do all those things -which it is necessary or convenient to do. He may appoint officers, and he may dismiss them. In short, he is the Czar of the road.. Now, in the early stages of railway construction, and even up to the present point of development, probably that was the best course which could be adopted. But inevitably there. must come a time when the three . railways belonging to the Commonwealth, and carrying more or less traffic, need to be differently controlled, and it occurred to the Government, therefore, that it was proper to lay down a system of control in connexion with these valuable assets. I think we have adopted a reasonable arrangement, which provides for . non-political management. Nobody quarrels with that, I suppose. The Engineer-in-Chief, who is Acting Commissioner to-day, is in receipt of a salary of £1,800 a year. Although Mr. Bell has not suffered in the comments which have fallen from the lips of honorable members, some misapprehension appears to be entertained as to the part which he has played in connexion with this project. My experience of this gentleman is that he is a singularly capable, experienced, and conscientious officer. I speak of him only as a constructionist, . in which capacity alone do I know him. If he receives the appointment of Commissioner - and I may say that the Government has not yet considered the matter at all, deeming it wise to- keep its mind quite open until Parliament has authorized it to make the appointment - his maximum increase of salary will be . £200 a year. In my judgment, if he receives the appointment, . he should discharge the duties of Engineer-in-Chief aswell as those of Commissioner. When these lines are being operated, extra duties . will necessarily fall on him, which will warrant the additional remuneration . It will, of course, be two years before actual construction work on the east-west linewill terminate. I amhopeful that by the end of September the line will be open, and safe for traffic; but it will not be completely ballasted for two years. The fine discoveries of stone in . the various quarries along the route, will render long haulage necessary, and the . work of ballasting . will, consequently, occupy a coupleof years.But concurrently with the progress of that work, the line will be opened for traffic. I’ am not qualified to judge, nor is any honorable member in this chamber,- how many passengers are likely to travel east and west over this line. This line will be of” vast service to the community by the relief it may afford to the shipping before the end of the present year,, and we ought to open it as soon as we can safely use it. That is one reason why we are pushing on with the construction.
– Do you think you will be able to compete with water carriage?
– I do not know that there will be much water carriage then. I am aware that the honorable member is a careful student of this question, and without unduly stressing the problem, I would point, out that there are two or three very fine vessels inthe coastal trade on the Western Australian route. It is possible that those vessels could be doing much better service elsewhere, and they may be called to that service.
– We have been expecting that every day. .
– We all know what this means, and it is our duty, therefore, to get this railway ready for the carriage of passengers and goods, whichhitherto have been seaborne. Probably the Western Australian members more keenly appreciate the situation than members from the Eastern States.
– Will the Western Australian Government be able, to fulfil their agreement with regardto the standard gauge to Fremantle ?
– That is another question which I am hoping will be amicably settled by -both the South Australian and the Western Australian Governments in the future. There are some other officers - in the employment of the Commonwealth, such as the mechanical engineer, and the director of supplies and transport. Both are very capable men, and their services, or the services of such men, will be needed in operating the line. The object of the Bill is to place the railways of the Commonwealth under statutory authority, and not subject to vicissitudes and interference by Ministers. I said very libtle when introducing the Bill to try and locate blame. I am not so much concerned about that as I am about the question of having the line in running order as quickly as possible. But I can say, without any invidious distinction, that I believe the officers have been blamed for much of that for which politicians were responsible. Officials’ of a Department have their mouths closed, and cannot stand up in their own defence. I know, however, that while they may have been, endeavouring to do the dead-straight-thing, political conditions have turned the line of policy and administration the other way. When we, have statutory power vested in the . Commissioner, with the limitations imposed upon him which this Bill suggests, I am confident we may look for more’ efficient and economic administration.
.- The honorable member for Franklin complains that we are about to create a new Department, but 1 think every one knew when we constructed the railway that we would require a Department, and, in view of that fact, this is not the time to raise any objection. The proper time was when the Survey Bill or the Construction Bill was under consideration. Either we have to go on with this proposal, or else ask the States to manage our railways, and, when we remember the nature of the agreement arrived at with the South Australian Government for the control of the 000dna.datta line, surely we can do as well ourselves. Some honorable, members in this House and elsewhere have lately been objecting that too much money is being spent on public Departments, and that we have too many public servant’s. If they hold that view, why do they not point to some of the Departments which, in their opinion, may be dispensed with ? It has been my misfortune lately to travel over a private enterprise railway - Emu Bay line, in Tasmania^ - and I know the conditions that prevail there. I ask the honorable member for Franklin, or any other honorable members who are protesting against this clause, if they are prepared to hand over our railways to private enterprise?
– That is not the question.
– We are always having this complaint about increases in Departments, but does the honorable member for Perth desire our railways to be managed by the States instead of by the Commonwealth.
– Certainly not.
– Neither do I.
– The trouble fs, .they have been promising economy,, and they cannot give effect to the policy.
– Yes. It is all very well for members to get up on the public platform, and point to the temporary positions in the Public Service, but after all there are only about 3,000 employees in these positions, and the complaint, therefore, is very much a bogy created in order to put a certain amount of life into the cry for economy.
The Bill provides for the appointment of a Commissioner at a salary of not more than £2,000 per annum, and I think the time will soon come when it will be demonstrated that, by reason of the lower salary received by him, he will be inferior in status to some of the State Commissioners with whom he will necessarily be obliged to confer from time to time. The powers of the Commissioner should be strictly defined. I would not like him to occupy a position - as in the case of some of the State Commissioners - in which he may be able to flout Parliament itself. While he should have security of tenure, it is equally right that he should “not have power to override Parliament, and impose on the workers ‘conditions which Parliament might not approve.
– I hope we will always have a Commissioner strong enough to resist improper pressure from Parliament.
– I am not suggesting that there would be improper pressure, but I do object to a Commissioner being able to dictate policy to Parliament.
– Or buy German goods against the wishes of Parliament itself.
– That is another matter, to which I do not wish to refer just now. I am in favour of the Commissioner having control of the line, but I do not want him to have autocratic power. We desire to secure fair and proper treatment for the employees and to have an assurance that they will be afforded the opportunity of going to the Arbitration Court for the redress df grievances.
– Does the Arbitration Court always settle grievances ?
– I am convinced1 that some people in Australia, at all events, have done their best, by a policy of pinpricks, to put the workers of Australia in their present position.
– The Arbitration Court has done better than any other tribunal in the settlement of disputes.
– Yes, and it has not received from some people in the community that respect which it deserves.
– I desire to point out to the honorable gentleman who has objected to the creation of a new Department, that only one accident need occur to involve the Department in expenditure which would pay the salary of the Commissioner for twenty years, and the way to make an accident possible is to neglect the opportunity to organize the railways system. The only efficient system is that under which the principal officer is responsible to the Minister and the Minister to Parliament.
.- I agree with what the honorable member for Denison has said, but I can go further and point to one of the rules of the Peninsular and Oriental Shipping Company requiring the dismissal of all the officers, from the third mate upwards, whether they were on the. bridge or not, if any ship meets with an accident.- I do not hold with that policy at all.
– That is the rule with nearly every shipping company.
– I can only speak with regard to the Peninsular “ and Oriental Company, which has acted in a most brutal manner towards their officers in this respect. It has been the custom in the Victorian Railways Department to sack or suspend the small men drawing small -salaries whenever any accident has occurred. I would like to see the Commissioner himself placed under suspension for any accident resulting in serious Injury to any persons. The terrible accident that happened at Richmond was due to the starvation of the line, attributable to the ploicy of the Department.
As to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition about the difference in salary between the Federal and State Commissioners, there are Judges in the Supreme Courts of the States . drawing much higher salaries than the- High Court Judges, and with pension rights which the High Court Judges have not, although they certainly receive enough to make provision for their qld age. If our Commissioner does not receive as large a salary as the State Commissioners, he is at least their equal in position, so that he will lose no prestige if we consider £2,000 a year sufficient. I shall vote against any proposal to increase the amount.
– It will not be con. sidered sufficient very long.
– I am reminded of a conversation I had with a wealthy American, who owned many miles of railway and fifteen newspapers « in the United States. He told me that when he wanted a man he would go. to Canada or the United States, where they build in one year more lines of railway than any other ten countries in the world put together, and choose one of the young men, perhaps the second or third, pay him 5,000 dollars a year, and put him at the head of affairs. He said this in response to my allusion to the late Mr. Speight, who was brought from the Great Western railway of Eng- land to be Railways Commissioner for Victoria at £3,500 a year, although, according to Whitaker’s Almanac, the company of which he had partial control in England built only half-a-mile. of railway in one year, during which the United States built no less than 37,000 miles. I have sufficient confidence in this country ‘ to think that we can raise good men in our own midst. The American who has charge of the starch factory at Footscray told me yesterday that he found our Australian workers most intelligent.
If the Commissioner that we appoint shows a desire to go outside of Australia for his goods, I would make it compulsory on him to give preference to the Homeland. In Victoria on one occasion the Railways Commissioners, against the desire of Parliament, sent to Germany and paid more money to that nation, and to Krupps in particular, for their goods than they would have cost to buy in England, or even to produce in Australia. I take it that, it is the intention of the Government not to allow that iniquitous policy in connexion with the Commonwealth railways.
– There is a special clause designed to prevent it.
– I believe that the starving of the railways by Sir Thomas Tait in Victoria was the cause of the terrible accident which occurred here. Any day one can see on our suburban lines - on the Brighton line, for instance - some of those little old wooden carriages placed between long, raking, heavy steel carriages. Any one who understands anything of railway matters knows that if there was the slightest shock they would be crushed into matchwood. If one of those old carriages is mixed up in any accident on the Victorian railways, I would dismiss every one of the Commissioners. I believe that if the whole train was made up of those carriages an accident would not be so serious as if mixed types were used. I mention this ‘here, although I do not hope to change the ways of the Victorian Commissioners.
– The Commonwealth cars are all girdered bogies - none of the sixwheelers the honorable member speaks of.
– As the Minister agrees with my views on this matter, my warning may not have been uttered in vain.
T believe the Commissioner, even with £2,000 a year, will be able to get his three meals a day, and I hope ‘the honour of the position will be sufficient to stimulate him to make our railway system a credit to the Commonwealth. I trust, also, he will take to heart the saying of Mr. Ford, one of the greatest employers of labour in America: “ If I pay a man more than he asks or more than the award1, I earn from him his goodwill, and if you have the goodwill of the workers under you you get far more work from them than if .they feel ill-will towards you.”
.- This Bill brings us close to the conclusion of the great east-west railway project. We all listened with much interest to-day to the fine characteristic speech of the right honorable member for Swan, who sees in the connexion of ,the east and west of the continent by this means the hope of a brighter future - particularly, I think, for his own State: The right honorable gentleman showed that he had confidence in the country, and that this work was the fulfilment of a great na tional compact. The Bill creates practically a Department, and its management, and the clause places the management in the hands of a Commissioner, who > is to have continuity of tenure and practically full responsibility. I approve of that principle. The honorable mem-, ber for Franklin pointed out that . the modern tendency is for every Minister .to wish to see a more important and bigger Department around him. We are investing the Commissioner with very full powers. For a considerable time the success of the line and its working will depend upon the most friendly cooperation between the States -at both ends of it. I am hopeful that for a very long time we shall not see in the Federal Department a desire to set up all the great, semidepartments which we have under the existing State systems, (that is to say, constructional and other departments. I trust that advantage will be taken of the existing machinery and the up-to-dateness of many of the State Departments, instead of gradually building up, at a time when the resources of the country are urgently required elsewhere, a huge constructional Department. I do not desire to see at this early stage a rivalry set up between the dual systems in Australia. We have now practically a Commonwealth Department, though not a competing factor with the State Departments, but if they stait, on two different methods of construction, two different sets of working organization, we shall, soon have a demand springing up from the people of this country for one unified system of railway control. I. believe that it will come, and I regard this Bill as an instalment. There can be no do uht that the people of Australia will not stand dual systems. However, I hope that for a considerable time to come - and this is the only reason which prompted me to rise - the people of Australia will be content to use the railway organizations they have to cater for the public requirements as they have done hitherto.
, -Quit© a variety of systems of railway construction have been tried in Australia, and I think that the consensus of opinion now in all the States - and iti seems to be accepted in this House - is that control by a Commissioner with individual responsibility is likely to produce the best results.
Some States have tried a Board of three Commissioners; some States have tried other forms of control; but I think that the Commonwealth Government are well advised in adopting. the system of control by one Commissioner, because then , we shall have a central authority and a concentrated responsibility, which will be a tremendous advantage.
I cannot quite follow the argument which has been raised in regard to the creation of a new Department. The Commissioner is to start with a salary not exceeding £2,000 a year. But surely no honorable member imagines for a moment that that limitation will long exist? It can only be looked upon at the present time as a salary commensurate with the responsibilities which the holder of the office’ will have inthe immediate future. Practically all the railways which he will have under his control are ‘the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, and the railway inthe Northern Territory. I do not look upon the salary proposed for the Commissioner as in any sense limiting future possibilities. Under Federal control the railways are going to increase in number. The responsibility of the Commissioner will increase, and I for one am quite prepared in the very near future to find the Government asking the House to increase the salary, because, as the responsibilities of the position increase, so the salary must increase.
– Order! I ask the honorable member not to discuss the question of salary at length, because it will be raised in another clause.
– I am discussing the question of the appointment of a Commissioner, which is a most important feature in the Bill. Already this week we have had an illustration of the , way in which the Commonwealth has lost the services of an officer simply because it could not give him the necessary emolument which a private, firm was prepared to pay. We shall be faced with a similar position later in regard to the Railways Commissioner. At the present time possibly the responsibilities attached to the office are small, but they are bound to increase; and I, for one, am not at all fearful as to the future.
There is another point which I wish to refer to. I notice that the Bill provides that the Commissioner shall be appointed by the Governor-General. That means that it is to be a Government appointment. I do not like that.
– What would you suggest in its place?
– I think that the responsibility for the appointment of a gentleman to this important position should be assumed by Parliament itself.
– I would remind the honorable member that that question is not covered by this clause, but by a later clause, which he will have an opportunity to discuss.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 -
The Governor-General may appoint a fit and proper person to be Commissioner, and may, on the happening of any . vacancy in the office of Commissioner, appoint a person to the vacant office.
– In this business we want the elimination of political control. The clause provides that the Governor-General may appoint a fit and proper person to the position of Railways Commissioner. That means a Government, appointment, pure and simple. It means that the Government, at their discretion, and without reference to Parliament, will appoint a gentleman to the office. Under ordinary circumstances, it might be all right; but I think, following on the suggestion of the honorable member for Franklin, that Parliament should be careful here. The honorable member for Indi also stressed the , point that Parliament should be willing to accept responsiblity in regard to these matters. I consider that the Minister ought to allow Parliament to have a say in regard to the selection of the Commissioner instead of the GovernorGeneral.
– We have responsible government.
–Youdo not say that I propose that?
– Yes. -The honorable member said the Parliament should retain some control.
– I believe that Parliament is the right authorityto appoint these responsible officers.
– How can Parliament appoint except by intrusting the Executive with . the selection ?
– If Parliament had the power now, what would happen? The Government would make the appointment in the end.
– Does not the honorable member . see the much stronger position in which it would place the Government, and the officer himself, if his’ appointment had the authority of Parliament? No doubt the Government desire to retain as many of these “plums” as possible in their possession for distribution among their supporters. I have only raised this question because I have been accustomed so often to hear talk of ‘ ‘ the spoils to the victors,” as a. principle observed only by the Labour party. It is refreshing to have the admission from the National Government that it wishesto reserve plums with which to reward it’s friends.
– The man likely to be appointed is the man who was appointed by the Government, which the honorable1 member supported.
– I hope that he will be appointed, because he is a man whom no political party can claim. Whatever his personal feelings, he has had the ability and courage not to show them, and has preserved his independence.
– Under somewhat difficult circumstances.
– Yes. But Mr. Bell will not be in charge of the line for ever, nor will the Minister always occupy his present position. Mr. King O’Malley may return, or the honorable member for Denison may become Minister for Works and Railways, in which case we should have as Minister a representative of Tas- mania, which of all calamities would be the most unfortunate.
Clause agreed to.
Case of Mr. Nelken - Prime Minister and Ministerial Party - War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill - Australian. Imperial Force : Separation Allowance - Repatriation Bill - Wool Clip : Country Bu yers.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to thank the Minister for Home and Territories for the courtesy he has shown to me in regard to the case of a man who has been absolutely ruined by the careless words used by his superior officer. A case was taken to the Court, and Judge Johnston, of all Judges, determined that this man had been born in a part of Poland that is enemy country, evidence being given by a woman who knew his mother and his grandmother there. This unfortunate man has gone, to New South Wales, where he has secured a billet at £2 a week, or thereabouts. He has received a notice from the Defence Department that he must pub in an immediate appearance in Melbourne, a matter into which I shall inquire tomorrow. I thank the Minister for Home and Territories for the following letter, with its enclosure: - 30th July, 1917.
Referring to your interview with me relative to the desire of Mr. Leon Nelken to obtain acopy of his memorial praying for Letters of Naturalization in New Zealand, I am glad to inform you that the New Zealand Government has kindly forwarded such copy at the request of this Government.
I enclose the document for Mr. Nelken’s use.
Let me now read the sworn declaration which this man made thirty years ago, when it was not fashionable to be a Russian, and was fashionable to be a German. The New Zealand Government would nob supply to him, or to the solicitor who acted on his behalf, a copy of his memorial praying for letters of naturalization, bub the Minister for Home and Territories was kind enough to procure a copy of it for me in order to remedy a wrong done to an unfortunate man. The declaration is as follows : -
Length of residence and desire to settle. Prayer.
And your memorialist prays that letters of naturalization may be granted to him.
Signature of memorialist, Leon Nelken.
I, Leon Nelken, the above-named memorialist, do solemnly and sincerely declare that all the above stated facts relating to myself are true as I have stated them; and I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of an Act of the General Assembly of New Zealand intituled the Justices of the Peace Act 1886.
Declared at Dunedin this Stamp 2s. 6d. 30th day of July, 1887, before me’.
I, the undersigned Andrew Mercer, do hereby certify that I know Leon Nelken, the memorialist named in the foregoing memorial, and that to the best of my knowledge and belief he is a person of good repute.
I again thank the Ministry and the Minister for the action that he has taken.
.- I wish to know whether the members of the Win-the-war party are goingt o pose any longer before the public as gentlemen who do not meet in caucus. I am informed that recently the party held a secret meeting, at which it discussed the conduct of the Prime Minister in attempting to domineer over his Ministers, and that attention was drawn tothe fact that he was ordering his Ministers not to answer questions without notice. Ministers resented this, and the party also resented it, and at the very next meeting of the House Ministers answered questions in the usual way. Iam informed, and, indeed, it is common knowledge, that the members of the Win-the-war party have been taking exception to the endeavours of the Prime Minister to take everything on his own shoulders ; and this has got to the ears of the public press, and the public press has pointed out that it is common rumour that the Prime Minister may leave for the United Kingdom. I am told that the Prime Minister attended a secret Caucus meeting of the Win-the-war party, and put it to them that it was up to them to stand by him, and carry a motion denying the state ments which are appearing in the public press ; and I believe that the secret Caucus meeting passed a unanimous vote of confidence in him. I understand that it was pointed out that, in the interests of the party, it was not right that the Prime Minister should be allowed to be pilloried in this way, and that the party should stand by him while he was Prime Minister; and, further, that he intimated that if they did not stand by him he would be disposed to surrender his position. I am not concerned about the. party passing the vote of confidence in the Prime Minister, because any one can see that the party is not a united one, and that it is not satisfied with the legislation which has been brought forth; but I think that it is due to the Minister for the Navy to tell us why that important measure, the Wartime Profits Bill, was not proceeded with to-day.
– After the Caucus meeting.
– Yes; after the secret Caucus meeting a Bill which the commercial part of the community want to have dealt with as soon as possible, so that they may know how much the Winthewar party propose to take from them in the wayof war profits, was postponed. We were “getting on with the Bill; at least we were criticising it - I do not think a single member of the Win-the-war party spoke in favour of it, and suddenly it ‘has been withdrawn. What is the reason for this? Is it that the party are so united that they are not prepared to allow the Government to go on with the Bill?
-Will the honorable member kindly say why he . withdrew the Bill that he introduced?
– My Bill was never withdrawn. Will the Minister for the Navy tell us why the Bill has been delayed, and when it is proposed to go on with it? Have the Government supporters demanded that the measure shall be withdrawn, and another take its place?
– I should like to answer the honorable member at the earliest possible moment. So far as I know, what has happened to the War-time Profits Bill is that the Bill is not being proceeded with at the present time, not for any political reason that I am aware of, but for the simple reason, on account of which any Bill may be postponed, that a great body of opinion seeks to understand the measure properly, and iis somewhat confused by the statements made by politicians in this House - the honorable member, to wit. In the train this morning there were a number of gentlemen coming over from New South Wales to see the Treasurer about this Bill. They pointed out to me the tremendous hardships that it laid upon them. However, when they reached Seymour, and perused the speech delivered by the honorable member for Capricornia, a change came over the scene at once. I do not know whether it was they or I who suggested that they had better leave the Bill alone, or they might get something very much worse if the honorable member should be allowed to have his way; but, at any rate, the consensus of opinion among them was that they were extremely fortunate not to be in the hands of my honorablefriend. May I add, after the cheers with which honorable members opposite have greeted my remarks, that all these men are small business men, who have just left working for a salary and begun businesses for themselves ? I am sure that they will be obliged for the ironical cheers from the Leader of the Opposition.
– I have heard of their sort before. They came to me many a time, all of them ruined, some of them so badly that, they had to take trips round the world to recover.
– It is always the small men who come lobbying.
– I am surprised to hear the gibes and sneers at the small men in the community. I hear no word of criticism or complaint concerning the big men ; but the moment the small men are mentioned there are gibes and sneers from honorable members.
– The gibes were at the right honorable gentleman’s description of the small men who can afford to pay a visit to Melbourne.
– We must allow the Minister to be a judge of small men.
– I fancy that the electors of Brisbane know some small men.
– They gave one of them a small majority.
– Yes, so small that I am not quite sure- . However, we will let that matter alone. I rose to give some information, but . honorable members do not appear to be willing to listen.
– What about the Caucus meeting ?
– I am not exactly aware of what took place at this so-called Caucus meeting. I was not there. I do not know whether honorable members have been up to their tricks in my absence. We never know what some people will do. But though I do not know anything about this Caucus, I have a very distinct recollection . of another Caucus meeting which took place once upon a time, and in which a Prime Minister was involved. It was not held in the ordinary Caucus room in this building; I think it was held at some private residence iu the city, and it is said that it was attended by twenty gentlemen. I believe that the object of the gathering was to supplant Mr. Fisher from the position of Prime Minister in favour of my honorable friend who is complaining tonight. His colleague, the honorable member for Cook, who sits cheek by jowl with him, will remember the private gathering at that, cottage.
– The right honorable member has an extraordinary imagination.
– I have an extraordinary memory for facts. Honorable members in this House know it to be a fact. The honorable member, drawing upon his own experience of that Caucus meeting, in which he figured so prominently, and reasoning by false analogy, imagines that we do that kind of thing over here.
– The Treasurer got ahead of the honorable gentleman to-day.
– Do not bother about me. It may comfort the honor-, able member for Capricornia to hear that I believe the opinion of our so-called Caucus is cordially, enthusiastically, and unanimously in favour of the leadership of the present Prime Minister. I think that .1 ought to make that statement, as ‘ I was not at the so-called Caucus to-day.
– If there was no dispute, what was the object of the vote of confidence ?
– To prove what a liar the Age newspaper is.
– My honorable friends opposite may cheer up. .Their time will come again some day - but not just yet.
. -I desire to call the attention of the House, and particularly, of Ministers, to a provision in the Defence Act which precludes the payment of separation allowance to the wife and family of a soldier if they are outside Australia. Under the Act, I believe, if the wife of a soldier leaves Australia - even if it is only to visit New Zealand - her separation allowance ceases. In order to illustrate the injustice that may be perpetrated under such a provision, I shall cite just one case. A day or two ago I received from -an old constituent of mine a letter, in which he pointed -out that one of Eis sons, who enlisted in the first week of the war, and has been fighting now for nearly three years, was invalided to England some eighteen months ago, and that while there he showed a great deal of wisdom by marrying the nurse who had looked after him’. He has now a wife and child, and that wife, because she and her child are not in Australia, is not allowed the separation allowance. She finds it impossible to live and keep her child on the pay ,of a private. The result is that my correspondent has to send home regularly a certain amount of moneys to keep the wife and child of this soldier, who has given three years of his life to the service of the country.
– This is the sort of thing that hinders recruiting. It is a shame !
– I brought the matter before the Assistant Minister of Defence, and at first gathered from the letter I received in reply, that the failure to pay the separation allowance was due to the fact that this soldier had not gained the permission of the military authorities to marry. I am informed, however, that there is in the Act a provision which disallows the payment of separation allowance to a wife or other dependant outside Australia. That, I think, is absolutely unfair. Surely we can allow the k wife .of a man who has gone to fight for us to live, if necessary, in any part of the world. The husband, doing his duty by the country, has earned for her that privilege, it might b’e necessary for the wife of a soldier at the Front to leave Australia with her family for New Zea land - another part of the British Empire not far away. In such circumstances this injustice would be emphasized.
There is also another side to the case. By reason of this provision the Government and the Department are saying, in effect, that a soldier must not marry OUt.side Australia. We should welcome, I think, on broad grounds, a man who will bring back to Australia - as in this case - a wife and a child. There is also the. moral side to be considered. The Department, in its wisdom, condemns the soldier - regardless of the time he has served, and the desire he may have to come back to this country - to a life of celibacy, or worse.. Surely it is not human, and we should not encourage anything of the kind. As the honorable member for Melbourne interjected, it is incidents of this kind that go a long way towards preventing us from obtaining a sufficient number of recruits. The gentleman who brought this matter under my notice has had a fairly heavy financial strain, and on top of it comes the necessity of helping to keep the wife and child of his son, who, as I have said, has given three years of his life to»- the service of his country. This gentleman has two sons at the war, and he feels this treatment very keenly. The lady desires to leave England for Australia where she would be among her husband’s people, and where she believes ‘the conditions are better, and her husband, if fortunate enough, would follow her later on. She cannot, however, leave England because of the regulation in regard to females travelling. This war may continue for another eighteen months or two years, and the restriction in’ regard to women travelling may continue for that time. In such circumstances she is not able, and may be unable for some time, to come to this country. The Assistant Minister for Defence led me to believe that he was entirely out of sympathy with this regulation, and I would impress ‘ upon him and the House the necessity of doing justice by those who have been prepared to risk all in fighting for the Empire.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the House the laxity shown by the Government in the conduct of business. If there is any measure which should be pushed through this House, it is the War-time
Profits Tax Assessment Bill. While in. Sydney on Monday last I was waited upon by several commercial people, who were anxious to ascertain when the tax would come into operation. Federal income-tax return’s must be furnished by the end of the month. There is a fear that there will be such delay that those concerned will have no means of ascertaining really what the taxation means,- and the Government ought to endeavour to afford the desired information.
Information is also desired as to the repatriation scheme. A machinery Bill has been introduced in another place, but that is not the real kernel of the business, and the country ought to know how the money is going to be raised. At the present time we really do not know what ‘the views of the Government are. Repatriation represents the only way in which we can recompense our soldiers and their dependants, and these people ought not to be kept in suspense. In some form or another the public have to find .the money, and I only hope that we are not going to resort to loan moneys.
– That is only a machinery Bill, and does not deal with the method of raising the necessary money. If it is intended to rely on voluntary contributions, we ought to know the facts, and some of the funds now being raised ought to be devoted to the purpose. The party to which I belong represents more than a million of people, and I submit that my views ought to at least be taken into consideration by the Government.
As to the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill, it is at the present time a puzzle, and an object of ridicule to every business man, and any information on thesubject would relieve many minds. If the. Government are not prepared to ‘take responsibility in the matter,- the House ought to be allowed to express an opinion. My own idea is that a large number of people have done very well out ‘of the war, and ought to be prepared, as; indeed, I think the great bulk of the people are,- to face the necessary taxation. I can only hope my remarks will bear some fruit.
.- I crave a few moments to bring forward a grievance associated with the country wool-buying business, and also affecting . the interests of some of the poorest and neediest of our settlers. Notwithstanding the fact that the British Government have taken over the wool clip, under the very advantageous terms that operated last year, the grievance which I then brought before this House remains unredressed; but I feel quite sure that if the case is properly represented, the Government will find some means of relief. So as to insure brevity, I shall read the case from the country wool merchants’ point of view, and add one word showing how the settlers are affected. The case is set forth as follows -
The present regulations restricting country buyers from purchasing over £10 worth from any one man is a farce, for the reason that at present prices it takes very little wool to run into that amount, and if it is necessary to impose any restriction on bond fide country buyers it should not be less than £100.
We think it is an injustice to impose’ any restrictions as to .quantity on a bona fide country buyer, who has been in the business, previous to the acquiring of last year’s clip. That, is, on men who have established country depots, and employ storemen and vanmen who go around buying skins, hides, wool, &c. - as these businesses have been built up at a big expense, and a considerable amount of- money invested in plant. It simply means that unless we are allowed to buy wool we cannot keep our vans going or keep our present staff employed. It would not pay us to send our vans out to buy short wool skins for three or four months after shearing, and we could not possibly keep them going unless we were allowed to buy wool in reasonable quantities, which’ would mean that we would practically go out of business -altogether, as we could nol ask our men to take a four months holiday, and expect to pick them up when it suited us, and we .contend that if . it were not for country buyers half the skins on the farms would never reach the market, and would be allowed to rot on the farms, or be eaten by weevil ; further than that many small clips that we purchase are very badly classed and sorted, and if they were put on the market in that state . they would not be so valuable as they are after we sort and re-class them.
The wool brokers, who are strongly represented on the Central and State Committees; are up against the country buyers, for the rea<son that practically all the produce bought’by us is sold direct to the shippers, thus saving the broker’s commission, and we contend that it is unfair that men who are interested are allowed to have a voice in imposing restrictions on country buyers; and further, that the present regulations are such that it will be impossible for country buyers to continue their businesses. Mr. Hughes made the statement when last year’s clip was purchased that it was not the intention of the Government to interfere with existing businesses, and we feel sure if our position was again put fairly before him our grievances would be remedied.
The- centralization that has taken, place in. the wool business’ has a. very serious effect, not only on, country wool mer chants, but,, as I say, on the very poorest and neediest of our’ struggling’ settlers1. It. is a very -great advantage to a settler to have the option of selling’ Eis small clip to the local buyer, and receiving his cash straight away, or submitting it to the appraisers at Sydney, or at any one of the appraising1 centres. If it can be shown, that the primary object pf the British Government - that is to secure for Britain and her Allies the wool of Australia- -would be at all interfered with or retarded, the bottom would fall out of the case I am attempting . to put before the House. But it is very clear that, on the contrary, if the small country merchants were allowed to carry on their business, and submit the wool when classed and put in large lots, to She. appraisers, it would simplify and expedite the work of the latter.
– The settler would not get as much, for his wool.
– We- should be allowed the1 option of selling to the local buyer, and the suggestion that the- country dealer is not as honest and straight as any other class, of dealer comes at a late- moment from the honorable member. The small man- who’ very often requires’ his money on- the spot is heavily handicapped bv the fact that he. must send his small clip, amounting to only, a bale- or two, to the central depot, andi wait, a long time until the- appraisement takes place. There is no necessity for that to be done1. The only reason for it is that the centralization of. the wool trade in the various big centres is perhaps, more convenient, as- it certainly is more, profitable, for the. big firms, who are represented to some extent on the Central Wool Committee. We men, -who represent country interests and regard centralization as one of the evils from -which the country is suffering, have a genuine complaint to make. I speak feelingly because at one time I was in such a position that- it was of vital importance to me that I should, be able to get the £20, £30, or £100 for my little bit of wool in order that I might meet my obligations to the- local storekeepers and others.- That is the position of hundreds of people throughout the States who are now compelled to send their wool to the central depots-. as it is so patent that the object of the. acquisition of the. wool clip will not be- endangered by re taining the small country-1 wool business ,. I trust1 that- any man. who claims to be’ a. representative of the country interests– will, see that it is his .duty to make a strong and emphatic protest. I believe that if the Government go fully into this matter they will see that some arrangement is. made by which this ruinous act of vandalism against country interests- is not perpetrated during the coming season.
Mr. KELLY (Wentwortb [11.7]..- May I, with all humility, suggest to the Government the advisableness of a continuance of business until about 11 o’clock, in- order to prevent a repetition of the extraordinary spectacle we witnessed this evening? The calculated comedy of the honorable member for Capricornia, after its submarining bv the Minister for the Navy, was succeeded by a legitimate soldier’s grievance, voiced by the honorable’ member for Kalgoorlie. But no sooner did serious business supervene on the nonsense of the honorable member for Capricornia than those members of the Opposition who were then in the. chamber, with but one exception, trooped out like a- lot of noisy and’ ill-conditioned schoolboys, and even that one remaining member has now departed- after listening to his own eloquence. Where he has gone I doi not. know, but I am sure’ that wherever he has gone’ his eloquence has’ de. served him the reward he- gets. It was’ bad’ enough to- have the calculating comedy of the- honorable member for Capricornia, but it was worse’ still to have the- futile farce of the honorable member’ for Bast Sydney on a subject in which he pretended to be interested, viz:, the conduct of public business, without a solitary member1 of his own1 party being present to try to make his’ remarks a little more coherent than they really were. Surely it is bad enough when a new member of the House- tries to voice a legitimate grievance, that the Opposition should show how little they think of the troubles with which our soldiers are faced ; but I think it is “‘over the odds “ when we find the honorable member for Capricornia coming into the House and trying, at the cost of the Prime Minister’s reputation, to make his peace with the Melbourne Age. It is not so long since the honorable member was’ threatening the reporters of all the’ papers for1 not recordinghia speeches ; he was1 declaring war on papers of all shades of ‘opinion except .his own. To-night he came into the .House deliberately to serve the ends of a paper for which he has always professed contempt. He has come here to dispute our frank avowal of confidence in our Leader, despite the statement to the contrary circulated by the Age throughout the State. I do not think much of the honorable member for Capricornia for trying .to make friends with a journal which he has always described as the mammon of unrighteousness. He is paying a big price for popularity in the future. It is quite possible that the honorable member originated the lie to which that paper gave utterance
– Order I
– I do not say that the honorable member told the lie, but that he may have suggested the misinformation to the paper. I do not1 compliment him on his endeavour to make peace with the proprietors of the Melbourne Age, as he has .done tonight, and I do not compliment the members of the Opposition on having, after starting a discussion, trooped out of the House without listening to the two serious speeches made by honorable members on this side.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 August 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170802_reps_7_82/>.