9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) tookthechair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What total sums of money collected by the Commonwealth Taxation Department have beenrefunded to taxpayers by the Department in the pastfive years as having been wrongly collected under -
– The question is somewhat ambiguous, as it is notclear what is meant by the word “wrongly”. In any case the collection of the desired information would involve a detailed analysis of many thousands of refunds of the taxes in order to determine which of them fell within the class covered by the question. It is considered thatthe time andexpenditure whichwouldbe necessary to obtain the information are not warranted in the circumstances.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that the British Phosphate Commission purchasedtheNaura Chief inGreat Britain?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether new regulations in connexion with wireless telegraphyhave been recently agreed upon; and, if so, will he supply members with a copy forgeneral information?
– Wireless broadcasting regulations have been approved, and copies will be made available as soon as the Government Printer is able to supply them.
Mr.FENTON (for Mr. Gabb) asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Whether an agreement between European nations has yet been arrived at in regard to the validity of patents?
If so, has Australia entered into an agree ment with such nations, in the matter of patents?
Is it safe to-day to take out a patent throughout the world, i.e., would a patent registered in Australia be recognised throughout the world!
If not, in which countries would such patent be recognised?
– The answers to the honorablemember’s questions are as follow.: - .
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
What is the total amount spent by the Federal Government in building soldiers’ houses?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
To 30th June, 1923, the amount expended in the construction of War Service Homes, including in some cases the cost of purchasing the land on which the houses were built totalled £7,763,234. This figure includes a sum of £1,800,000advanced to the South Australian State. Savings Bank for the provision or War Service Homes; but that institution has not supplied information as to. the actual sum expended, andwhat part of the expenditure was in connexion with -
the construction of homes;
the purchase of homes and the lifting of mortgages.
To 30th June, 1923, the total expenditure in the Commonwealth in connexion with (a) purchase of land and construction of homes thereon; and (b) purchase of homes and the lifting of mortgages, equalled £15,030,386, which figure includes the advance of £1,800,000 to the South Australian State Bank.
Supply of Insulin
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Use of African Coal
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - .
Mr.ANSTEY asked the Minister for Trade and Customs,upon notice -
What is the quantity of stemmed tobacco imported into the Commonwealth during each of the last five years?
What is the quantity of uncovered cut tobacco manufactured within ‘the Commonwealth during each of the last five years?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Relief of Distress
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether the Commonwealth Government Woollen Mill at Geelong was, at any time, worked more than three shifts per day?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question as printed is, “ No.” I understand there is some error in the printing of the question, and I may inform the honorable member that the Woollen ‘ Mills were never worked more than one shift a day, but considerable overtime was paid for on various occasions in times of stress during the war.
asked, the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the poverty existing owing to unemployment among returned soldiers and others who are forced to sleep out in the Sydney Domain on these cold nights, will be agree to make the H.M.A.S. Australia available for sleeping accommodation for these poor people ?
– It is regretted that H.A.M.S. Australia cannot be made available for this purpose. The vessel is moored out in Sydney Harbor, and access from the shore is not possible except by boat. This ship is still in reserve with valuable stores on board, and must remain so until a decision has been reached as to the method of scrapping her to comply with the Washington Treaty.
– On Friday, 13th instant, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish this information -
The following papers were presented: -
Imperial Shipping Committee on the De- ferred Rebate System- Final Report (Paper presented to British Parliament).
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 8 of 1923- Postmaster-General’s Department - State Heads of Branches Association.
No. 9 of 1923 - Commonwealth Legal
Professional Officers Association.
– I move-
That on each sitting day, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of general business.
Honorable members know that it is customary, when the House is nearing the end of the session, for Government’ business to be given precedence over private members’ business. The practice has been followed for a very long time, and I have no doubt that honorable members will agree to its being adopted on the present occasion. Some time ago the Government announced that it proposed to terminate the present session on the 24th August. I know that certain honorable members on the Opposition side of the House do not approve of that decision, but I would remind them, that one of the primary duties of the Government of the day is to make the necessary arrangements for the conduct of the business of Parliament. That is one of the duties which honorable members opposite would insist upon discharging if they occupied the Government benches. During the present session private members have had the usual facilities for introducing subjects of particular interest to them, but the end of the session isnow not very far distant. It is proposedto introduce the Budget tomorrow, and in ‘ order to give honorable members the fullest possible opportunity of considering the Budget, the Estimates, and consequential legislation. Ministers propose that Government business shall be given precedence. I feel sure that honorable members will agree to the motion, and thus afford themselves every possible opportunity to discuss measures, particularly those dealing with the finance of the country, which will come before them. Owing to the nature of the business which will have to be transacted between now and the end of the session, honorable members will have ample opportunity to bring under the notice of the House any matter to which they desire to draw attention.
.- I have no intention of objecting to the motion. I realize that if the House Is to rise on the 24th August, private members’ business must give way to Government business. At the same time, I wish, again, on behalf of this side of the House, to protest against Parliament being closed on the 24th August, after such a short session. - 1 am under the impression that in addition to sitting on Tuesdays, we shall shortly be .asked to sit on Mondays. The legislation that has to be dealt with in the remaining three or’ four weeks of the session is very important, and should receive the attention of every member in this House. I doubt very much, if it can. have the attention it deserves in the short space of time remaining before the 24th August. Parliament will not be able to do its best work if honorable members are required to sit every day in the week. Some of us would like to get the business done and go home. In that respect I am in the same category as other honorable members. We cannot aifc from Monday until Friday inclusive, and until a late hour every night, and do justice to important legislation. The Prime Minister has indicated that when the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) delivers the Budget to-morrow, many matters arising out of it will require consideration, and will necessitate legislation. He said that he wanted to give the House sufficient time to deal with the Budget. I fail to see how we can deal with all this legislation in the limited period of three weeks. The Prime Minister would be wise, even at this late hour, if he would agree to the House sitting until it has had time to deal with necessary legislation in a proper and efficient way. It is not in the best interests of Parliament or the country that legislation should be rushed through. If we make mistakes in passing legislation the responsibility will be ours. In hurrying to close the session too early we may do things which we may regret afterwards. I am not opposed to the Government appropriating the time usually allowed to private members, but I object to rushing legislation through in order to close the session on the 24th August. The House should be allowed to sit, if necessary, for another two months. It would not make any difference to the Prime Minister, for the Opposition would grant him a pair, but it would make all the difference to the efficient conduct of the business of Parliament.
.- I object strongly to the constant whittling away of the rights of members of this House by. the Government. Private members have retained very few privileges since the present Government took control of the House. Members have no channel tor ventilating matters of importance to their electorates and the people generally. A few weeks ago about £4,500,000 was voted by this House after only three and a half hours actual debate. I admit that the Prime Minister sat for thirteen and a half hours moving, “ That the question he now put.” Like a marionette he kept bobbing tip, and like a phonograph he kept repeating, “ I move, ‘ That the question be now put.’ “ Members of the Opposition vainly endeavoured to discuss matters which they considered of vital importance to the people of Australia. The Ministers of the different Departments could give no information, and the Prime Minister himself was equally without it. The “ Bill was forced through, and members of the Opposition were prevented from speaking upon many matters of importance. That privilege waa taken away by the brutal “gag,” and now the small privilege remaining is to be removed also. It is absolutely impossible for the programme of legislation proposed by the Government to be passed in the short period between now and the 24th August. I do not know whether the Prime Minister and the Government think that members of this House are so many children, or that the people outside have no knowledge of what can be done before 24th August. If the Government had any capacity or ability to carry on the affairs of this country, it would have met the House shortly after it was elected. We know, however, that certain assassinations had to take place. Certain men had to be removed, and others placated. Certain warring factions in the different groups, which have now been welded together more or less harmoniously, had to be reconciled. At last, after a delay of something like six months, an understanding was brought about which has carried the Ministry through so far. From a Government such as the present one we could not expect much more.’ I shall say no more about the vote of £4,500,000, after three and a half hours? discussion, and thirteen and a half hours’ gagging, but there are on the notice-paper most important legislative proposals- of vital interest to the public, the discussion of which should take at least six months. Can the Budget be adequately analyzed and criticised in less than four weeks? Of course, if the Government are ashamed of their Budget, and desire to prevent a full discussion of it, they are proceeding in the right way to achieve their object. There will not be sufficient time between now and the 24th August to adequately discuss the Budget. The Navigation Bill, which involves a most important principle, should not pass through this House with less than two weeks’ discussion. The Seamen’s Compensation Bill is a highly controversial measure, which should receive at least three weeks’ consideration. The Air Defence Bill is another proposal which cannot be disposed of in a few hours. It was discreetly dropped by the last Government, and rumour in the corridors is to the effect that it will suffer a similar fate at the hands of the present Government. Certainly, there is very little chance of its being passed in this House, even if the Prime Minister again applies the gag continuously for thirteen hours. Other measures listed on the business-paper are the Naval Defence Bill, Sea-carriage of Goods Bill, New Guinea. Bill, the Boy Scouts Association Bill - God forbid that we should forget the boys scouts - and the Papua Bill. It has become the fashion for people to ask why so much time is wasted in Parliament, but adequate discussion is the only protection which the people have against an incompetent Government rushing through the House legislation that is unwise and unpalatable to the electors. When I first entered Parliament I formed the opinion that a great deal of time was occupied in useless discussion, but as the years go by - may there be many more of them - I have come to the conclusion, as the result of bitter experience, that legislation can be passed too -hurriedly. Work can be perfunctorily done, and its results become a danger to the people. If the Government should even attempt to pass, before the 24th August, all the proposals that have been listed x they will be guilty of madness. The only way in which that programme can- be disposed of is by the extension of the session for at least six or eight weeks beyond the announced date of closing. Even in that time some of the proposals must be scamped. There must be in the Government programme a good many innocents which are doomed te be slaughtered, and one. is forced to the conclusion that the Government knew when they listed them that many of them had not the slightest chance of being agreed to. It is all very well to dress the Ministerial windows, to say that so much work must be done in a certain time; and to attempt to run the legislative machine to a schedule ; but tie Government cannot do that, and they are not justified in attempting it. Now we are told that private members are to be further deprived of their privileges. I shall continue to voice my objection to the whittling away of the rights of members, especially when I know that that course could have been avoided had the Government had the courage to submit their legislative proposals to the House six months ago.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) that honorable members should be very jealous of their privileges. I stress that point for the benefit of those honorable members who are new to the House. Private members have few privileges, indeed. They have not many opportunities of giving publicity to matters which they regard as being of public importance. Their greatest opportunity is private members’ day, which the Government are now coolly proposing to abolish. I ask honorable members to realize what the Government’s motion means. There is on the businesspaper a most important motion in the name of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into alleged grievances concerning the- administration of- the War Service Homes Department in New South Wales. I take it that that honorable member did not lightly place that notice upon the paper. He was surely seized of his responsibility as a member ; he must have thought that this matter was one of great importance. There have been allegations of grievous wrongs and mal-administration, and he took advantage of his privilege as a private member to give notice of a motion which would enable publicity to be given to the matter. Now the Prime Minister is practically gagging him, and casting a reflection upon him, inasmuch as he says in effect, “ The notice of motion by the honorable member for Richmond is of no consequence; we must close this Parliament so that “I may go to London.” It matters not that there may have been mal-administration in connexion with “War Service Homes in New South Wales. It matters not that returned soldiers are unemployed and sleeping in the Sydney Domain. At all costs Parliament must be closed, and the Prime Minister must go to London. I hope that the honorable member for Richmond will not lightly allow his rights to be set aside. There are other honorable members who, with equal sincerity, I believe have given notice of motions. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) has tabled & motion in reference to the construction of a railway line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs as part of the through North-South railway. The Prime Minister cannot deny the importance of that proposal^ but he is asking the House to set it aside. The honorable member for Bass is a noted explorer. He has travelled from end to end of this vast continent. He has been at what is known as “ the dead heart of Australia.” I have heard the honorable member deliver lectures on the subject of the Northern Territory, and from these one might he led to believe that the exploits of explorers like the late Lord Forrest and others fade into insignificance beside the wonderful achievements of the explorer from Bass. As a result of his vast experience, the honorable member has placed this notice of motion on the business-paper, declaring that the construction of the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs should be proceeded with at once. This is a question of vital importance to South Australian representatives, and it will be interesting to see whether those gentlemen are prepared to allow the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to sweep away their opportunity of discussing it. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), who has a personal knowledge of the poverty and destitution that prevails in our midst, has a notice of motion in favour of the granting of a destitute allowance. He believes that it is the duty of Parliament to give a lead in the alleviation of distress, and is therefore anxious to have the matter discussed here. I could quite understand the Prime Minister dealing in the way proposed with motions standing in the names of members of the Opposition, but what has the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) to say about the swamping of his motion in favour of the contract system being adopted for all Government work? This is a question in. which quite a large number of honorable members behind the Government are deeply interested, and the support given by the honorable member for Riverina to the contract system,- in opposition to day labour, was one of the grounds on which he was elected to this House. If the honorable member permits himself to be robbed- of his rights it is certain that his constituents will call him to account at the next election. There is a proposal in the name of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the necessity for provision being made by the Government for an adequate direct shipping service between Melbourne and Hobart. Session after session during the years I have been a member I have heard representatives from Tasmania complaining of the present inadequate shipping facilities. I ask Tasmanian representatives who sit behind the Government to consider -carefully before they support a motion which will have the effect of depriving the island State of a much needed service. Then, Mr. Speaker, your illustrious predecessor, the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) has a motion urging the necessity for the authorization by Parliament of the publication of Hansard. I understand that without the authorization . proposed Hansard is not covered by parliamentary privilege, and actions for libel may be brought on what appears in its columns. The honorable member for Lang desires to place it beyond all doubt that Hansard reports are not subject to the ordinary processes 6t law. Surely honorable members generally will insist on having an opportunity to affirm that Hansard ‘ is a parliamentary document. There is another important motion on the notice- paper in the name of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill), who is a new member, and the Prime Minister should not deprive him of an opportunity to submit his motion. I hope honorable members will not be prepared to “ gag” themselves. The opening words of the motion are - ‘ ‘ That a Select Committee of seven members, representing both sides of tha House- “ You will notice, Mr.
Speaker, how fair the honorable member for Wannon is. He desires both sides of the House to be represented. The full text of the motion is -
That a Select Committee of seven members, representing both sides of the House, be appointed to inquire into and report upon the alleged non-fulfilment of the verbal undertaking placed before the House by the Minister for Trade and Customs prior to the passing of item 275 of the Customs Tariff on 9th November, 1921, as recorded on pages 12538 and 12530 of Hansard of the session 1920-21.
– It is a matter affecting the honour of this House.
– Yes; it directly affects the honour of a member of the Cabinet.
-The honorable member may not now discuss a motion standing on the notice-paper.
– What I complain of is that, if the Prime Minister’s motion is carried, the House will be deprived of its right to discuss the motion of the honorable member for Wannon. It is a matter of very great importance, affecting the honour pf a member of the Cabinet, and it concerns the political sincerity of many members of the late Country party. I am surprised at the Prime Minister attempting to brush aside a motion containing a reflection upon the honour of one of his own Ministers. I feel sure that he has not read the motion. If he realized its importance, he would be anxious to have an opportunity to defend the honour of his colleague. I hope that he will reconsider his decision. There is also a motion standing in the name of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney).
– It is not in order for an honorable member to indulge in tedious repetition. By a mere recital of the motions on the notice-paper, and the application of the same criticism to each item, the honorable member cannot avoid the charge of tedious repetition. I warn the honorable member.
– I appreciate the attitude you adopt, Mr. Speaker, and I take your’ warning to heart ; but I think that the motion of the honorable member for Melbourne is the most important of all. It should convince the Prime Minister of the iniquity of his proposed action. I think that I ought to be allowed to make a passing reference to the motion. Itreads -
That in view of the pronounced favoritism of those who possess the gift of distribution of public works -
This House declares that all architectural plans, designs, specifications, &c, of all works for the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Bank, the estimated cost of which amounts to £3,000 and upwards, shall be thrown open to the public competition of the architects of Austrafia…..
The matter is very important from the stand-point of the architects of Australia. I have no desire to show how the proposal of the honorable member. would benefit the Commonwealth. Of course, it would encourage art-
– An honorable member may not discuss the merits of a motion on the notice-paper.
– I have no desire to do that; but what I am complaining of is that the motion of the Prime Minister would prevent honorable members, from giving expression to their opinions on the subject. In the interests of the new members especially, the House should not be deprived of its rights in this respect. It is the clear duty of the Government to keep Parliament in session, and not to close it up hurriedly to enable the Prime Minister to visit Great Britain. Why could not the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) be left in charge of the House during the Prime Minister’s absence?
– That matter may not be discussed on the present motion.
– It is a reflection upon the Prime Minister’s own colleagues to suggest that they cannot be trusted to lead the House during his absence. The motion of the Prime Minister casts a reflection upon every honorable member who has a notice of motion on the business sheet. I hope honorable members will insist on their right to place motions on the notice-paper and to have them considered.
– The motion has been debated, at some length, and it has been dealt with as though there -were to be an infringement of the rights of honorable members. The Government intend no such thing. The action now proposed has been taken in every Parliament of the Commonwealth. I have all the facts before me, but I do not intend to delay the House by presenting them in detail. I shall tell honorable members what happened in 1912, when a Labour Government was in power. The House rose on the 21st December, and private members’ day was abolished on the 10th September, over three months before the House adjourned.
– But that Labour Government gave the Parliament time to discuss matters.
– Nothing unusual is to be done in the present case. Though it has been suggested that the Government are doing something improper, and are trying to take away therights of honorable members, there is not the slightest foundation for any such suggestion.
Questionput. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved -in the affirmative.
’.- I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In moving the second reading, I will briefly refer to matters in. connexion with the proposed extension which I think will be of interest to honorable members generally. The Bill provides for the extension of the railway system of the Northern Territory from the terminus at Emungalan as far as Daly Waters, a distance of 160 miles. The extension commences at a point 1 mile distant from the north bank of theKatherine River ; it will cross the river by a highlevel bridge, and will terminate some 360 miles south of Darwin. The advisability of the construction of the line has been under consideration by the Public Works Committee on two occasions. The first reference to the Committee was in 1915, in relation to the construction of a railway from the left or southern bank of the Katherine River, 63 miles 65 chains in a south-easterly direction from Mataranka, which was at one time called Bitter Springs. This section was inspected and reported oh in 1916. The construction of the line from Mataranka to Daly Waters, a distance of approximately 95 miles, was reported on in 1922, the route having been inspected in the previous year. The recommendation of the Public Works Committee in the case of both sections was that they should be constructed. In this House in 1920, on the motion of the then Minister for Works and Railways. (Mr. Groom), it was resolved that -
In accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-14, it is expedient to carry out the proposed work - Extension Pine Creek to Katherine railway southward as’ far as Mataranka.
A Bill to give, effect to this resolution was prepared, but it was not proceeded with. Last night the honorable member for Hindmarsh(Mr. Makin) asked for what distance the line now proposed to be constructed . has been surveyed. I replied, and I find I was correct, that the distance surveyed is approximately 77 miles. That leaves approximately83 miles of the proposed extension to be permanently surveyed. There has been a trial survey of the remainder of the line. If this Bill is passed the permanent survey for this remaining portion will be put in hand immediately, and completed. The estimatedcost of the line for which provision is made . by the Bill is £1,545,000. Honorable members will notice that this amount is in excess of the estimate submitted by the Public Works Committee in their reports. The Committee reported that the first’ section from, the Katherine River to Mataranka would cost £320,000, and the second section from Mataranka to Daly Waters would cost £925,386, or a total of £1,245,386, or £300,000 less than the estimate now submitted.
– Was not the estimate of the Committee that which was submitted by . the departmental engineer?
– The £320,000 was an old estimate for the section Emungalan to Mataranka, and the estimate now submitted is increased by enhanced construction costs and the greater cost of transport of rails, fastenings, and sleepers, all of which have to be shipped to Darwin, and transported over the existing line. The estimate - submitted to the Public Works Committee in19 15 - was much lower than the amount for which the line can now he constructed. The lower estimate was prepared in 1915, and since that time costs have much increased because of the enhanced cost of materials, rails, fastenings, cement, timber, &c, and the increased freight on rails, &c, to Darwin.
– Can the Minister say what was the difference between the estimate and the actual cost of the first section of the line?
– It has not been constructed. A Bill was prepared to give effect to the resolution approving of its construction, hut was not proceeded with.
– Was not a section of tie line constructed from Pine Creek to the Katherine River ?
– Yes; but that was before 1915. The estimate submitted to the Public Works Committee in 1915 was for a railway commencing on the south, side of the Katherine River. It was anticipated that the terminus of the railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River would be on that side of the river. But the terminus is still on the north side, and some 75 chains of railway have yet to be constructed to reach the Katherine River. A bridge is required over the river. This bridge is a very important’ part of the work, and it will cost a fairly large sum. The Katherine River drains a large area of country, and carries a great volume of water during the wet season. This necessitates the construction of a fairly extensive bridge with several . spans. The bridge alone is estimated to cost £95,000. This is an item which was not included in the estimate prepared in 1915. The Bill gives. particulars of the railway, . and the route is shown on the plans now before the House. The book of reference, submitted in accordance with the terms of the Railways Act, gives a list of the names of owners and lessees of lands along the route. A great deal was said on this matter last night by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.. Charlton), but I found on looking at the map this morning that much of the land traversed by the proposed railway is still unalienated Crown land. The area to be used for the railway is approximately 3 chainson either side of thecentre line of the railway. This will allow for public roads. It is proposed to construct the line on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, but the bridges will be constructed so as to permit of the conversion of the line to the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge’. Mr. Yates. - Also the sleepers.
– No ; only tie bridges and culverts. The sleepers will be such as are necessary for a 3-ft. 6-in. line. If the whole of the extension were made so as to be convertable into a 4-ft.81/2in. line the increased cost would be approximately £160,000. After ‘ looking at the question from all angles, tie Government considers that the most economical method is to build the railway on sleepers to carry a 3-ft. 6-in. line. These will have to be of steel, to resist white ants.
– That is the Queensland gauge.
– Yes, and it is also the gauge of the Oodnadatta line. Even if the railway is ultimately converted to the wider gauge, the sleepers will not be wasted. They can then be used for lines to serve as feeders for the main line. The line will be constructed of 60-lb. rails.
– Will the sleepers be of German make? German sleepers were tried in South Australia and they rusted.
– I can assure the honorable member that German, sleepers will not be used. At the commencement the line will not be a paying proposition. Very few developmental lines pay at the outset. They are, of necessity, constructed through sparsely-populated territory. A large indirect benefit, however, accrues from their construction. If we were to lay down the principle - I do not suggest for a moment that honorable members would do so - that we would not construct railways without an assurance that they would pay from the start, how could this country develop ! Where would this country be to-day if that had been the policy of the past, and where would it be in the future if that policy were adopted to-day ? I think honorable members on all sides of the House will readily recognise the principle underlying that statement. The estimates of revenue and expenditure are based upon the assumption that Vestey Brothers’ works at Darwin will be operating. The estimated revenue from the line will be £24,000 a year as against £26,700 working expenses. These figures will show a loss, not including interest, of £2,700 per annum. The interest charge at 5 per cent, will be, approximately, £77,250. That is how the loss upon “the line will actually occur. The total loss, including interest charges, will be £79,950 per annum. It will take time, of course, for the revenue to reach £24,000; but it is not anticipated that the period will be long, for the resultant development will, within a reasonable time, provide the amount of revenue I have mentioned. With the freezing works operating the estimate of revenue is regarded as conservative. The extension of the railway beyond Daly Waters, which will have to be considered later, will bring the line nearer to the better pastoral country, and there is every hope that with that extension the revenue from the railway will exceed the working expenses. The railway is part of the line that will ultimately be carried through from Adelaide to Port Darwin. This section is common to all the proposed routes. The fact was referred to last night, and I think it was stressed, particularly by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), that this extension was recommended by the Public Works Committee, on the assumption that the line would go to Camooweal, and that it was upon that assumption that the Commonwealth Government proposed te construct this section. The fact that the Public Works Committee gave that as a. reason for recommending the construction of the line does not justify honorable members in assuming that the same reason actuated the Government. If the line is ultimately, extended through the Territory, a spur line to Camooweal to link up with the Queensland system would not be objected to, even by South Australian members. The railway will assist in the , development of pastoral country, and that is one of the main reasons why honorable members on all sides of the House should support the Bill. Australia cannot be developed without railways, and if Parliament says that it will not build railways it will, in effect, say, “ We are not going to develop Australia.” The railway will assist in the settlement of the Roper River lands. This river empties into the Gulf of Carpentaria, and traverses country from the Gulf to the railway and beyond. The line will bring nearer to railway connexion the rich pastoral lands of the Barkly Tablelands. The Government has sent Mr. Hobler, Chief Engineer of Commonwealth Railways, to report upon the practicability of providing railway communication with Borroloola and a port at the mouth of the McArthur River. Mr. Hobler is already on his way, and the Government hopes to receive his report before the end of the year. The line will also pass within 12 miles of the Marranboy Tin-fields. At present those tin-fields are 45 miles from the railway. Honorable members -will see that the Bill is short, and to the point. Clause 5 provides for deviations of one mile on either side of the line defined in the schedule, but as a permanent survey has been made over a great portion of the route, it is hardly likely that any deviation will be necessary. Clause 7 provides for the appointment of officers. The desire of the Government is that the
Commonwealth Railways Commissioner shall construct the railway, and that he shall nob be hampered by any restrictions. Honorable members will understand that it is not proposed to give that power permanently to the Commissioner. The Bill relates only to the construction of this section of line. Under section 16 of the Commonwealth Railways Act, it was intended that all railways constructed or to be constructed should be vested absolutely in the Commissioner. The Commissioner, who is charged with the responsibility of conveying the public and working the traffic, must have full power over the lands through which the railway runs. In section 11 of the Northern Territory Administration Act 1910, it is provided -
No Crown lands in the Territory shall be sold or disposed of for any estate of freehold except in pursuance’ of some contract entered into before the commencement of this Act.
In other words, no lands in the Territory shall be alienated from the Crown, and whilst the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is a Commonwealth authority, yet in accordance with the usual railway practice, he is a body corporate, with distinctive powers, and it is necessary, in the interests of safety and good business, that the lands should be vested in him, as was intended under the Act providing for the control of the Commonwealth railways. Clause 9 is one that usually appears in Railway Construction Acts. It provides that in the event of any portion of the line being carried out by contract the contractor shall be compelled to pay to his employees the prescribed minimum rates of wages, and to observe prescribed conditions of employment.
– Is it intended to carry out the work by contract?
– It may be necessary to arrange for the carriage of materials by contract; and the Commissioner may consider it expedient to carry out small portions of the work by contract, and in that event it is desirable that the contractor shall not be permitted to employ labour at less than ruling rates of wages. It is a safeguard of which members of the Opposition should be the last to complain.
– Is it the policy of the Government to build the line by day labour?
– Considering the conditions under which the line will be constructed, and the remote and inaccessible nature of the country, the Government considers that the Railway Commissioner should do the constructing work, but that materials, such as girders for bridges, rails, &c, should be obtained by contract.
– Will the labour be day labour ?
– Yes, except for such portions of the line as the Commissioner may consider it expedient to construct by contract. It is not proposed to tie down the Commissioner by saying to him that no man shall be employed except under the day-labour system. If he considers it necessary, he will have the right to carry out any portion of the work by contract. In view of the extended debate last night on this question-
– It was justified.
– I do not for one moment say that the time spent was not justified. The honorable member must admit that no impatience was shown by myself or the Government regarding the length of the speeches; but in view of the fact that the Government gave a full opportunity to honorable members to discuss every phase of the question, I ask them to give this Bill an expeditious passage. There are no contentious matters in it.
– Will the Minister explain how the revenue of £24,000 is estimated ? Does it take into account the probable increase of revenue due to the closer settlement of the country following the construction of the line?
– No. I do not think - I speak with a certain amount of reservation - that the estimate takes into consideration a probable increase in settlement. I think the estimate is based upon normal conditions, and upon the assumption that the pastoral industry will provide the revenue stated. For instance, if cotton-growing develops, or any other new form of closer settlement makes headway, I assume that the estimated revenue will be largely increased.
.- I admit the concluding statement of the Minister, that the Government did not seek last night to burke the discussion on the motion relating to the construction of this railway. But there may have been several reasons for their forbearance. Probably one was that the Government had not come to a definite decision in regard to the Air Service Bill, and the debate upon the motion last night was a convenient stop-gap.
– Do not be uncharitable.
– Well, perhaps the Government recognised that South Australia is not receiving a fair deal in regard to the. railway policy for the Northern Territory, and they thought that it would not be right to ‘ ‘ gag . “ those South Australian members who wished to put the case for their State. As I do not intend to vote against this Bill, I shall not discuss it at great length;, but I wish to make it clear that any curtailment of my remarks is nob due to repentance of the attitude which some of my South Australian colleagues and I adopted yesterday and on Friday last. In spite of what has been said by the Minister, there is no evading the fact that the railway from Mataranka to Daly Waters is being proposed on the recommendation of the Public Works Committee, which recommendation was based upon the intention that that section shall be ultimately extended to Camooweal. No sophistry or camouflage can hide that fact, and it was because the majority - unfortunately, not all - of the South Australian members recognised quite clearly that this proposed line is recommended with the intention of ultimately extending it to the boundary of Queensland, that we opposed it. We shall not vote against the Bill, because we do not wish to create the impression that we are opposed to the construction of a line from Mataranka to Daly Waters. We realize that it must be built before the through North-South line can be undertaken. But we believe that if we could get precedence for the Oodnadatta - Alice Springs section we would have a stronger argument, when the northern section was ultimately extended to Newcastle Waters, for the bridging of the gap between that point and Alice Springs before any extension to Camooweal was undertaken. I foresee two other big fights in this Parliament. The next proposal will be for an extension of the proposed line from Daly Waters to Newcastle Waters, and we shall have the same specious argument advanced then, as has been put forward on this occasion, that such extension will be for the purpose of trying to make the line pay.
– Do not be pessimistic.
– I base my statement on South Australia’s experience during the seventeen years which have elapsed since the Northern Territory was transferred io the Commonwealth. I hope that before the next fight takes place the railway will have been extended from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, but I am doubtful of that hope being realized. The really big fight will come when this Parliament has to decide whether the extension from Newcastle Waters shall be in the direction of Camooweal or direct south towards Alice Springs. When that struggle opens I hope that all South Australian members will be united in pressing for the fulfilment of the contract made with their State.
– That will be the time to fight.
– That will be the occasion for the decisive fight; but, having watched the political game closely, I have realized that we can only gain this point by continually hammering and worrying the Government. Unfortunately, that attitude has not been always adopted by South Australian representatives, and therefore we find ourselves in our present position. South Australian members have held the portfolio of Minister for Home and Territories, and two of them, at any rate, were mild-mannered gentlemen, who did not put up as stubborn a fight for the rights of South Australia as others perhaps would have done. The Minister for Works and Railways has suggested that later on a spur railway may be built to Camooweal.
– No. I said that the sleepers to carry a 3-ft. 6-in.’ gauge line were not likely to be wasted, because they could be utilized in any spur line. For instance, if a spur line were built to Camooweal they could be used in it.
Mr.GABB. - The suggestion behind that remark was that the line to Camooweal would be merely a spur, but the thought in the minds of the members of the Public Works Committee, as revealed in their report, is that the Camooweal line will not be a spur, but a section of a main line to link up Darwin with the railway systems of the eastern States. Had that not been the intention of the Committee some of the Queensland members would not have fought as strenuously as they did for the Camooweal connexion, and would not have voted as they did last night. I do not begrudge Queensland whatever trade she can get from the Northern Territory; I hope that whatever is best for the Territory will be done. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) was very unfair to South Australian members when he said last night that so long as we could drag the trade to Adelaide we did not care anything about the development of the Territory. There is no South Australian who does not feel that the Northern Territory is part of his State. Therefore, we wish it well. We people of South Australia have always regarded the Territory as peculiarly ours, but too big a proposition for us to handle in the interests of the White Australia policy. We are not such fools as to think there is any possibility of the whole of the trade of the Northern Territory being dragged to Adelaide. I suppose we shall get only a small proportion of it. I have been wondering if the Minister, for whom I have great respect, has said to the South Australian members who voted against their colleagues last night, that he proposed to visit Alice Springs, and, if his investigations were satisfactory, in due course the line northwards from Oodnadatta would be built.
– I have not discussed that matter with them.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance, but I thought that perhaps by some such discussion he had influenced the vote of two South Australian members last night. The Minister cannot say that there is any justification for not proceeding with the . Oodnadatta- Alice Springs section until he has personally inspected the country. Surely it should be equally necessary for him to inspect the country between Mataranka and Daly Waters, which, to southerners,- is not as well known as is the country between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs. Nevertheless, I hope the Minister will go to Alice Springs - I am certain his health would benefit if he were there now - but I cannot accept the suggestion that the extension from Oodnadatta . to Alice Springs is dependent upon the Minister’s personal inspection and approval. No doubt a personal investigation will strengthen him in regard to any recommendation he may make to the Government, but the claim for that extension rests, not upon the Minister’s opinion, but upon a definite agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member is discussing the merits of a railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. That is not the proposal contained in the Bill.
– The honorable member for Angas has addressed ‘ his’ remarks to the proposal contained in the Bill, but he has also discussed other matters, and I was about to direct his attention to the necessity for confining his speech to the subject-matter ‘ of the Bill.
– If I were intending to oppose this Bill I would be perfectly in order in advancing reasons why a railway should be built elsewhere in lieu of that proposed.
– But the honorable member opened his remarks by stating that he would not oppose the Bill.
– I said that I would not vote against the Bill. South Australia has only seven representatives in this House of seventy-five members, and it is remarkable that when five of us fight against what we consider an indignity placed upon our State, an honorable member should rise to order and challenge our remarks. If I were to adopt that course and rise to order whenever a member’s speech wandered from the question before the Chair, the speeches would be a good deal shorter than they have been in- the past.
– The point of order has been decided, and it is not in order to discuss it further.
– I bow to . –…. ruling, Mr. Speaker. The statement has been made that the Mataranka-Daly Waters line cannot be expected to promote the early development of .the Northern Territory, and as there are several other projects which I consider would have a greater developmental influence, I wonder why the Government have submitted the proposal contained in this Bill. I have heard it stated also that the line from Mataranka to Daly Waters is. not expected to pay its way at the commencement. The Minister stated to-day, very truly, that if Governments constructed only those railways that would be immediately payable, very few would be built. 1 agree with the honorable gentleman, but the second proposal is one which, if it were carried into effect, would make a present Commonwealth line more profitable than it is now. The Public Works Committee, however, has said that the other proposal is only a piecemeal extension, and that profit cannot be expected until the line has been carried to other portions of the Territory.
I hope that if the present Minister is in office while this line is in course of construction, he will make himself absolutely sure in Tegard to the officers responsible for the supervision. An expenditure of £1,500,000 is involved, and in that remote part of the country, if sub-contracting is permitted on the recommendation of the officers, the whole work will require careful watching. The Minister should, if necessary, have officers to watch officers, and see that no subcontracting is permitted.
– I assure the honorable member that I shall keep a sharp lookout.
– I am glad to have that assurance, because we can quite see how, if there is sub-contracting, personsmay bc able to make a “nice little bit” out of the Government.
.- There is no reason for any further discussion on the question of route. We have been told by the Minister (Mr. Stewart) that he intends to personally inspect the route from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, and that, if the result of his inspection is favorable, the Government will proceed with the survey of that section. I listened very carefully to the statement of the Minister, who told us the estimated cost of the proposed line from Mataranka to Daly Waters. It is impossible, of course, to have more than an approximate estimate, having regard to the remoteness of the country affected.
– The estimate was submitted only as approximate.
– I regret that there is not a larger attendance of members, because I wish to deal with the financial side of a proposal which throws the gravest responsibility on the Government, affecting, as it does, in the highest degree, the future of that part of Australia. If we permit the cost of this line to become unduly excessive, the burden of debt will have to be carried for half a century. We have no information as to how the estimate has been arrived at; we do not know what proportion of the expenditure will be on the railway line itself, and what proportion will be devoted to building, permanent and other station requisites and so forth. I deem it my duty on the present occasion to recall the history of the construction of the EastWest railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. In the absence of any statement to the contrary, I understand that the same official administration will have charge of the proposed line as had charge of the East- West line. The whole history of that line discloses a tragedy, a repetition of which should not be permitted. Estimates were carefully prepared, and every precaution taken in the preliminary stages. When Parliament approved of the construction, the Government of the day called in the assistance of the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia, the States more immediately concerned, and also of New South Wales, with the result that an engineer from each State was deputed to examine the survey, which had also been made by surveyors selected from each State. But, speaking from memory, the original estimate of cost, if not doubled, was exceeded by 75 per cent. Provision had to be made for workshops, and the officers in control prepared an estimate for cut-stone buildingsat Port Augusta, for which, on the authority of the Cabinet, a preliminary advance was made of £25,000 on account of the total cost of £250,000. I know that part of the country, and I also know something of railways and railway construction in other States of the Commonwealth. I made inquiries, and took as a basis for my calculations railway centres where ten or fifteen times more business was being done than was likely to develop in the case of the EastWest railway for half a century to come. I found that at Geelong, Ballarat, and other centres, instead of cut-stone buildings, iron buildings were provided for workshops; and I begged the then Government to appoint a committee of experts with a view to putting an end to the official proposal. My protests, however, were unavailing, until at last Mr. King O’Malley, to his credit, appointed two mechanical engineers of good standing to make the necessary inquiries. In a week those engineers returned with a report that for an expenditure of about £65,000 workshops could be provided adequate for all needs for the next thirty to fifty years. As a matter of fact, that smaller provision has proved quite adequate, and will meet all demands for the next fifty years. These facts give some idea of the first blunder made. No reliable estimates of the cost of the railway were given by the Chief Engineer in charge until the work had been three-parts or four-fifths completed. During the currency of the contract there were alterations which increased the cost considerably, but not to the extent that honorable members might imagine. The war, and causes arising out of the war, increased the cost, ‘ but the greater part of the’ materials, such as sleepers and rails, had been contracted for at pre-war prices. Regarding the small proportion of the material for which war prices had to be paid, and putting the most favorable construction on what occurred at the time, the conduct of the work was a calamity; the line proved a sink into which public money was poured because of the incompetency of the men in charge. There were numerous instances of waste of money along the whole line.
– The Teesdale-Smith contract, for one.
Mr.FOSTER. - That contract represented an infinitesimal part of the work. In the case of another portion of the line, the tender put in by Mr. Teesdale-Smith and his partner was excessive. I told the then Prime Minister that I had the assurance of a contractor that if the work were re-advertised, he would undertake it at half the amount named by Mr. TeesdaleSmith.
– Will the honorable member show the connexion of these matters with the Bill?
Mr.FOSTER.- I shall show a financial connexion. This is a matter of great, interest and importance to Australia as a whole, because the disaster of the EastWest railway is not yet forgotten. In all my thirty years of political life, I have never known so deplorable a business. The engineer who had charge of the construction said he could carry out the work for about half of the amount tendered ; and no doubt he could, in view of the assurance given to me by the contractor of whom I have spoken. There were numerous other mistakes. Quarries were opened up at great cost, expensive machinery was installed, and railways were laid to the quarries. It was subsequently discovered that the material in the quarries was quite useless for ballast.
– What has that to do with the present Bill?
– It bears on the matter of the construction of the railway. Scores, and probably hundreds, of columns were written in the press about the blunder, and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who was in the House at the time, was a member of the party responsible for it.
– I am waiting for the honorable member to apply his remarks to the Bill.
– The Government propose to construct the railwayin the Northern Territory under the same management. Do honorable members realize that the work will eventually cost millions of pounds? Are they prepared to see a repetition of such an outrageous waste of public money, which was due to incompetency on the part of the management?
– Most of the work was done after the Labour Government went out of office.
– As a member of the House at the time, I followed the construction of the East- West line from end to end, and I was everlastingly bringing the facts before Parliament ; but . no redress was granted. Although two separate Prime Ministers promised ah investigation, by expert railway men, of the cases brought under the notice of the House, no investigation was made. I call upon honorable members, as custodians of the public purse, to consider whether the construction of the proposed railway in the Territory should be proceeded with until we have data to. the last detail, and until we have secured the services of the most efficient engineers obtainable.
– Would the honorable member have said anything about the East- West line if the ‘Northern Territory railway had been started in the south?
– The criticism I have offered to-day was made throughout the period during which the East- West line was under construction. There is very little information available to the House regarding the rolling-stock for the Northern Territory line. There has never been a greater calamity in railway construction in Australia than there was in connexion with the East-West line, owing to the adoption of the day-labour system and the provision of an excess of rolling-stock both during and subsequent to construction. The present Government have placed the principle of Government work by public tender in the forefront of their platform. There is rollingstock on the East- West line to the value of about ?970,000, and the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) discovered fourteen engines at Port Augusta that had never been used. The Blue-Book contains an account of twenty-two such engines.
– On a point of order, what has the number of the engines on the East- West railway to do with the Bill before the House?
- (Mr. Watkins). A general reference only to the matter to which the honorable member has referred would be in order.
– I point out that it is impossible to build a railway without engines. There is a danger of providing too many engines in a similar fashion for the Northern Territory railway instead of leaving a contractor to decide the number of engines and the quantity of rolling-stock required, thus relieving the Government of that responsibility. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) does not like to hear the truth about the East-West line. If I am not permitted to tell the truth in this Chamber, I shall make it known outside. The press well remembers what took place.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER. An honorable member may not enter into a discussion of the merits of the private contract system as against government work.
– I put it to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I am dealing with the proposed cost of the railway, and I contend that the estimates are not reliable. God knows that Parliament has wasted enough money already, and it is time honorable members were in earnest in scrutinising public expenditure. There is another matter upon which I should like some information. Is the railway in the Northern Territory to be managed from Melbourne T
– They tried to manage Darwin from Melbourne, and they made a ghastly mess of it.
– It was like pouring public money into the sea. The construction of the East- West railway was managed from Melbourne. For years the work was directed by telegraph, and draftsmen in Melbourne were employed preparing drawings. A mistake was made in the construction of an engine house. It was found, when the building was well advanced, that the engines could not enter it. The foundations were of concrete, and dynamite was used, to blow up the massive concrete, the whole work having to be started afresh.
– Is the official who was then in charge still in his -position ?
– Yes. Buildings at Port Augusta were erected upon an unsuitable site, and they had to be pulled down and shifted. It is not pleasant for me to say these things, but I feel it to be my duty to do so. I urge honorable members to investigate the present proposal before they commit the country to an expenditure of a million and . a half of money. The total cost will amount to many millions before the North-South line is completed. The people should be saved from the financial burdens that could be prevented by efficient management.
– Is the honorable member referring to any particular individual in connexion with his charges?
– I am referring to the responsible engineers who constructed the East-West line. Anticipating the construction of the Northern Territory railway I asked Cabinet, when the Railway Commissioner’s period of service was nearing an end, if they would allow me to inform him that his term would not be renewed, and if they would agree to call for applications in Australia, Great Britain, Canada, and the United States of America, for the most capable engineer obtainable. What is required is a man in the prime of life, a high class engineer, who could be trusted to carry out a work of such importance as the Northern Territory railway which will have to be constructed at an enormous distance from the seat of government. All the leading railway experts of Australia agreed ‘that it was an outrage upon common sense when the con- struction of the East-West line was directed from Melbourne instead of the principal work being done on the spot. Railway work generally has been revolutionized of late years. The State Governments have realized the importance of obtaining as their Chief Railways Commissioners the most brainy men to be found. When New South Wales selected Mr. Johnston as its Chief Commissioner, men in that State such as those responsible for the blunders on the East- West railway made matters too hot for him. Not knowing which way to turn, he relinquished his post;, but when he was on bis way home, the then Prime Minister sent a wireless telegram asking him to return ‘to< Australia and take over the construction1 of the East- West line for the Government. He might have been prepared! if he had been asked while he was here to undertake the responsibility, but he had made his plans and continued his journey to the Old Country. Victoria, after similar experiences, followed the New South Wales example. In this State they decided to secure up-to-date men with new ideas, and they appointed more than one such man as Chief Railways Commissioner, beginning with Mr. Tait. We know what Mr. Tait did for the railway system of Victoria. Quite recently the railway revenue in this State was decreasing, and the different lines instead of earning pretty nearly full interest on the cost of construction were going back. The Victorian Government secured the services of Mr. Clapp, and the railways have again shown splendid results.
– Unfortunately, he put up the rates.
– He did put up the rates, but he has made the railways pay.
– He might easily make them pay, having a monopoly.
– The Railways Commissioners in all the States, have a monopoly. In South Australia -to-day they have appointed a man at the big salary of £5,000’ a year for the term of seven years. He has not been in the country six months and he has already saved more than twice the whole of his salary for the seven years of his. engagement. He has only just begun his work. One of his reforms in railway management is in the decentralization of control. The new mau in South Australia has, plotted out the railway system of. that State in three divisions, and he has taken three of the* brainiest and most efficient men. in the service, irrespective of age or status, and made them responsible for those divisions. They are expected to do the whole ‘ of the business of their divisions from their particular centres on the spot. Every railway man in South Australia will admit that this will result in enormous economy, and in great satisfaction to the people, who will be able to transact even their most important business in their own centres. The new Railway Commissioner in South Australia has withdrawn from Adelaide a big proportion of the staff previously employed there, because it is no longer required. I have, noticed in the newspapers ‘ that Mr. Clapp and his fellow Commissioners in Victoria are proposing reforms in the same direction. The Commonwealth Government should have the most efficient railway engineer in Australia, but instead, they have an’ engineer who was never anything better than a second-rate man-. We should have- the very best that money can provide. If we had gone on with the unification of the gauges of ‘ the railways of Australia, d’o honorable) members, think that the State railway ‘ experts would have consented to be led by a Commonwealth officer who does not possess their qualifications ? I do not wish to debate this .question unduly, but if I cannot convince members of this Parliament I intend, in the public press of the. country, bo insist that this National Parliament shall have in its service the best men who can be found in any part, of the. world,, to control and conduct these big railway undertakings, and thus avoid past costly blunders.
– The honorable gentleman had .his opportunity when he was Minister for Works and Railways.
– When- I was Minister for Works and Railways I did what I am doing now. I prepared the way for a policy exactly the same as that which I am now suggesting. There is no getting away from the fact that we have men who are riot fit for .the responsibility of big public expenditure. There is no sense < at ail in a man who is within- two. years of the age for retiring from the- Public Service,, being continued in control, if he is not the. best and most efficient, for the responsibilities ahead, because his engagement is for a definite period. We require only the most vigorous men in the prime of life to conduct these big undertakings.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Watkins). - Order! I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. He is taking advantage of the motion to make an attack upon a public officer, and that is not in order.
Mr.FOSTER. - I protest, sir, against that interpretation of my conduct. I am responsible to the people of this country for what I say. My statementhas had reference to the expenditure of the funds of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, and the possible cost of the railway under consideration. I stand by every word I have, said, and when I have heard a few criticisms I shall possibly return to the matter again.
.- I intend to oppose the Bill for strategic reasons. In doing so, I should like to traverse some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) concerning the East- West line as an example. Will the honorable member contend that there is a better railway in any part of Australia than that constructed from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie ?
– Why should it not be -a good railway?
– It is the finest railroad there is in the Commonwealth, and the man who was responsible for it was very proud of the job he had done. 1 refer to Mr. Elliot.
– Mr. Elliot agrees with every word I have said.
– I should like to have him. here to confirm that statement, which does not carry conviction, because, although the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster)was Minister for Works and Railways, and has said that he watched the East- West railway from the beginning to the end of its construction, yet he has never attempted to explain why twenty engines should have been left at Port Augusta unused. It should be a matter of interest to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth to know why those engines, in accordance with the policy of the Government of the time, have never turned a wheel. A story goes the rounds that the Government of the day were far-seeing and optimistic in the matter of railway construction, and that the twenty engines I refer to were built to be employed on the 4-ft. 81/2in. gauge railway from Oodnadatta to the Northern Territory.
– They were not.’
– That is the rumour. As the honorable member said nothing about those engines, I suggest that he does not know the reason why they were bought.
– I do know all about them.
– Then the honorable member has been more lacking in his duty to the Commonwealth than the officer whom he has maligned in connexion with the construction of the East-West railway. . He was a responsible Minister, and it was his duty to reveal these things, and not to leave it to a successor to discover them.
– They were published in the reports of the Department for years.
– If that be so, they were referred to in a way which concealed the information from the general public, or the present. Minister for Works and Railways would not have published the discovery he claims to have made.
– They were referred to in the annual reports of the Railway Commissioner for years.
– Then it must have been in such a way that no one knew what had happened. These engines may havebeen included in the rolling-stock of the EastWest railway, but no one knew that they were surplus stock that . had never been used, and should never have been acquired. I agree with the honorable member that we have not sufficient information with regard to the financial aspect of this proposal. I do not wish to see the Commonwealth Government fritter away public money. I do not desire that they should spend money as some was spent on the East-West railway when Mr. W. Kelly, then member for Wentworth, was Minister for Works and Railways. I would remind the honorable member for Wakefield that we now have in this House a member for the Northern Territory, and I suggest that if there is any maladministration such as has been referred to in connexion with railway construction in the Territory, the honor- able member for the Territory will not let it pass unnoticed.
– I dare say the honorable member could tell us something.
– Possibly he could tell us something about the railway which was authorized and never constructed. He might be able to say why the Government did not construct that line. I hope the present Minister for “Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) will hold the view that the Commonwealth is able to build its own railways. If we are not, we should make ourselves competent, and I think we could do so without importing fresh blood. I believe that amongst the engineers of Australia we could find some one competent to do what is required. We have had one or two importations recently, and amongst them Mr. Webb, the Railway Commissioner of South Australia. I point out to the honorable member for Wakefield that Mr. Webb has not yet published his first annual report, and he cannot say what saving he will make in the conduct of the railways. One thing he has done has been to cut out all cleaning of brasswork on rollingstock. He has had it all painted black, and in consequence has earned the sobriquet of “Dirty Dick” in South Australia, and the name well fits him. Personally, I am prepared to pay for a good hat if I can afford it.
– The honorable member does not pay, he talks. It is the people who pay.
– I pay as much as the honorable member for Wakefield pays. The honorable member parades as a farmer, but he is not a farmer. He does not depend solely upon his political salary, because he has been a storekeeper at Quorn since my entry into political life.
Mir. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER. - I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the motion.
– I was replying to an injection to the effect that I am not a contributor to the railway revenue of the country. I hope the policy adopted in the Northern Territory will not be that adopted in South Australia. The late Commissioner decided that a railway station should be not only a thing of utility, but a thing of beauty. He did away with all unsightly hoardings, and had picket fences erected and painted white. Three prizes were offered for the best kept stations in South Australia, and stationmasters vied with each other to win the prizes. A new station was erected, and probably such a station will be required in the Northern Territory when this extension is made. We built the new station. I do not know the opinion ‘ of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr.’ Foster), but all the taxpayers of South Australia were proud of it. A feature which was new to them was that the ramp was lined with glazed tiles. Over these glazed tiles there is now a big advertisement for “Velvet soap.” That is how the Commissioner is making a profit on the railways.
– The honorable gentleman is talking a lot of drivel.
– I am stating what is actually happening. Is the honorable member for. Wakefield (Mr. Foster) prepared to say that my statement is not correct? I want to get away from the extraneous matter introduced by the honorable member for Wakefield, but I join with him in emphasizing the view that the Minister should display some sagacity and take all possible steps to see that the mistakes made in the construction of the East-West line are not repeated in the extension from Mataranka to Daly Waters, Now I come to the meat in the pie. The extension has been recommended by the Public Works Committee, but I challenge members of the Committee to state their opinions on this much-debated question, and to explain why they made the recommendation, and why they went outside the ambit of their instructions in dealing with a connexion to Camooweal which would settle for all time - or, as the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) said, “ for generations” - the question of the extension of the line through the centre of Australia. There is more in the recommendation than appears on the surface; and I believe that what I have suggested will happen if the recommendation is accepted. I did not make that suggestion without first drawing conclusions from the evidence printed in the report. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) said that South Australia wanted to “ drag “ everything to
Adelaide. Does it not look as if South. Australia has the best right to the traffic? Who is more entitled to it? Which State has attempted to develop the centre of Australia from its own territory? What State carried a railway to Oodnadatta ? What State built one from Darwin to Pine Creek? What State erected an overland telegraph for the use of the Commonwealth, and for the benefit of the eastern States, for many years? What but the central State of Australia ? When we ask that the promises made should be honoured, and that the Commonwealth shall do the work which, in the interests of Australia, cannot be done too quickly,, we are taunted with desiring to “ drag “ everything to South Australia. What does a line to Camooweal mean ? Does it not mean that business will be “ dragged “ to Brisbane, Townsville,or Cairns? Is that in the minds of the Ministers and the Public Works Committee? Mr. Combes has evidently got to work on the Committee. On the map supplied with the Committee’s report hehas outlined a proposal which he made to the Commission of which he was a member in 1914. The Minister has said that Mr. Hobler has gone toPellew Islands to see if that scheme is practicable. It appears that the intention is to side-step South Australia, not only for twelve years, but, as the honorable member for Lilley said, “ for generations.” There seems to be no limit. Honorable members may say that the proposed line will develop three- fourths of the Territory, but, after having studied the figures relating to its possibilities, I say that it will do no more than develop the northern ports and the north of the Northern Territory. The map issued with the report, if it shows anything, shows that. - But the larger idea of national development which South Australia conceived and desired to carry through, which would involve a railway right through the Territory, has not been considered. It is stated in evidence that the Oodnadatta line stops 80 miles short of the good country at Charlotte Waters. If the line were carried 80 miles further to Charlotte Waters and Alice Springs, a losing proposition might possibly be changed into a payable one. I say “ possibly,” because Mr. Combes stated that he had never known a pastoral railway that had paid working expenses and interest. Mr. Combes says that -
The extension I have suggested of the Queensland railway system across the Barkly Tableland would develop the Northern Territory better than any other scheme proposed. It would not pay directly; but I do not think there is any railway in Australia, serving purely pastoral country, that has ever paid working expenses and interest.
– Railways into pastoral areas in New South Wales do not pay.
– They do not pay anywhere. Some of the developmental lines into agricultural areas do not pay. In South Australia, practically all the developmental lines do not pay.
– They pay working expenses, but not interest.
– I should rather think they should.
Mr.Foster. - All the railways in South Australia paid 5 per cent, in 1910.
– I am speaking on the authority of the Hon. James Jelley, a member of the Railways Standing Committee in South Australia, who supplied me with the figures relating to the working of the South Australian railways. The country railways of that State are- carried by the metropolitan railways. It is . the same in New South Wales. Unfortunately, I cannot lay my hands on extracts from the Bulletin which answered that question completely. The Bulletin showed that in New South Wales there is not a developmental line that pays. Therefore, the fact that the Northern Territory line will not pay is no argument against building it.
– It is not an economical proposition to construct the line.
– It is, if one considers something more than pounds, shillings, and pence. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) will agree with that view when he considers production for use instead of for profit. At present it is only when the Government can see a profit that it is willing to do anything. If the honorable member will think along the lines of production for use, he will join the Labour Party. I asked the Minister - and I had a motive in doing so - why sleepers for a 3-f t. 6-in. railway will he used. He replied that those sleepers could be employed at a later stage for spur lines. I suggest that if spur lines are built they should be of the same gauge as the main line, so that there will be no necessity to transfer goods at the junctions. That, as appears from the evidence, was clearly the intention of the ‘Government.
– Sleepers would have a very short life in that country, and it would, therefore, be a mistake to provide at the start for an unnecessarily wide gauge.
– I have read that Powellized sleepers are lasting very well in the Northern Territory, and that only in one or ‘two instances has the white ant got into them. It is stated in the -evidence before the Public Works Committee that the powellized sleepers have won out. The intention of the Government was that the line should be built to a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. Wie are getting further away from the compact with South Australia. I quote the following evidence given before the Committee by Mr. Norris Garrett Bell, Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways, as set out on page 290 of the ‘Committee’s summary of evidence: -
If a 3-ft. G-in. line were built on a 4-ft. 8i-in. -road, it would be only necessary ‘to shift one rail in order bo convert the line ‘to the broader gauge. The newest .portion of the Darwin line has been laid on that principle, but the old .portion of the track is only made for a 3-ft. -6-‘in. gauge. ‘The disadvantage of -extending the present mileage of 3-ft. 6-in. railways is that it will be necessary to have more rolling-stock, both for the construction and the operation of the line, and when ‘the ‘line is converted to -4-ft. 8j-in. ‘gauge, that ‘Stock will be a drug in the market. Of course, it will be very many years before the 3-ft. 6-in. .gauge is converted throughout Australia, but I ‘hope it will not te long “be/fore other -gauges -are converted to the standard of 4-ft. ;8£-in. If (the ‘complete North-South line were to be built straight away, the first job would be to alter the gauge of the existing sections from Port Augusta to Marree or Oodnadatta, and Darwim to Emungalan (Katherine /River). But if the line is -to .he built piecemeal, it would pay to leave the existing sections as they are. There would be some advantage, if the Tailway followed ‘the eastern route, in baring * gauge uniform wish that -of the Queensland railways, in order .to enable quick .transit of trains and common use of rolling-stock, but cattle will never be carried satisfactorily for such long ‘distances on ‘a -narrow-gauge line. In Queensland the longest distance -cattle are travelled without detraining, watering, and feeding. is 580 miles. The detraining knocks the cattle about, and a this is always objected to toy the owners. The cattle are kept in the trucks up to 32 land 34 ‘hours, and then are detrained, fed, and “watered. But on the Bast-West line we can carry stock 1,050 miles, and keep them in the trucks for 48 hours. . .On a narrow-gauge line cattle trucks are so wide, comparatively, that it -is not safe to attain the maximum speed.
I -quote that evidence to show that the Government is doing something which, in its own judgment, it should not do. The object may be to fill up the gap created by the scrapping of the Air Force Bill. J t is for the members of the Public Works Committee to justify the position into which they have led the Government. They have to let South Australia know where it stands, and whether it will ever obtain a railway from south to north. No one supports ‘decentralization more than I. I do not believe in dragging everything to Adelaide. My idea of the best way to develop Australia is to put a railway right across the continent, with natural connexions east and west. It should be made a national railway. I support the North-South railway, because it is a national project, and will be of national benefit if tackled in a national manner. If, however, it is to be built piecemeal, the people of Australia, instead of having a railway line right through the centre of the continent, will have a line from Daly Waters to Anthony’s Lagoon, thence to the mouth of the McArthur -River, and that will be the -end of the -development of the vast Northern Territory which South Australia was good enough -to -give to the Commonwealth.
.- -I support the Bill, although I think that the Government are commencing railway extension ‘at the wrong end. ‘Had the exPrime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) been still at the head of the -Government, ‘the members for South Australia would be making speeches very different from those we have ‘heard from them during the last two days, because the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs would have been commenced as the first section of ‘the North-South line.. I regret, also, that the House has agreed to allow Government business to take precedence for the ^remainder of the, session, thus precluding me from submitting a motion, of which I gave notice some weeks ago, in ‘regard bo railway construction in the Northern Territory. Although I think the Government are extending the railway from the wrong- end, I cannot -oppose their proposal, ‘because the line is certainly going in the right direction. That is the only merit it has in the eyes of South Australian representatives. The Government are a little unwise in giving effect to only one portion of the Public Works Committee’s report. The Committee recommended the further extension of the existing northern section, and also the extension of the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, and I think that even now the Government will be well advised to construct the latter project simultaneously with the former. It may be news to honorable members that on the whole 160 miles of country -which the proposed line will traverse, there is not one occupied holding except that established by the Government at Mataranka. Certainly, there is a little mining at Marranboy, which is capable of great development, but I do not think that a distance of 45 miles from the railway would seriously handicap the production of tin. There are more people at Alice Springs than between the Katherine River and Daly Waters.
– How many are there at Alice Springs?
– There were fortytwo when the Sectional Committee of the Public Works Committee visited the place, but unless the Commonwealth is prepared to spend £1,000,000 to £2,000,000 in constructing the railway from Port Darwin further south to Newcastle Waters or Powell’s Creek, the line will be a heavy drain upon the finances of the country for many years. The extension from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs would have a better opportunity of paying its way than will the extension of the northern section. Experts say that the influence of a railway upon pastoral pursuits is felt for a distance of 100 miles on either side. A line constructed from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, a distance of 297 miles, would serve Mount Stuart, the actual centre of Australia, and a comparatively large number of occupied holdings.- I do not wish to mislead the House in regard to the quality of the land in different portions of the Territory. It is quite safe to say that the richest portion is the Victoria River district, for not only is that land equal in quality to that of the Barkly Tablelands, but it has an abundance of natural waters which the Tablelands do not enjoy. On the Tablelands illimitable supplies may be tapped by boring to a depth of about 200 feet, and there are wonderful natural grasses. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) said that the Public Works Committee would have great difficulty in justifying its recommendation that the northern section should be extended southwards to Newcastle Waters - I- personally think it should be carried further south before swinging to the east - but the country which the line will traverse is infinitely superior to that strip between Newcastle Waters and the Macdonnell Ranges. Evidence taken by the Public Works Committee supports that contention. Dr. Gilruth informed the Committee -
A railway to the Macdonnell Ranges will make the position much safer for the pastoralists, who have had difficulty frequently in getting stock even from the Macdonnell Ranges to Oodnadatta. That is a long, dry stretch, Oodnadatta being within the 5 to G-in. rainfall belt. EvenHergott Springs is within the 6-in. rainfall belt.
North of the Barkly Tablelands and in the Victoria River district there is a very good rainfall, varying from 15 inches to 20 inches per annum.. Those districts thus enjoy a wonderful advantage over the country further south. I remind the honorable member for Adelaide that the Public Works Committee was instructed to report upon two definite sections df the proposed North-South railway, and was not empowered to take evidence whether or hot the Commonwealth was keeping its contract with South Australia. A pronouncement upon that point was not the function of the Works Committee. Such a question must be determined by the High Court. In Queensland evidence was advanced that no compact exists.
– Did anybody say that? Mr. JACKSON.- I do not say that the compact does not exist.
– Why did the Committee go to Queensland for evidence?
– The Committee was asked to undertake a definite inquiry, and the proper procedure was to visit any places where evidence was available. As this proposed railway is essentially a national project, it was essential that the Committee should visit all States that were directly interested in it. The Committee took evidence even in Western Australia because of the possible effect which railway development in the north of the continent might have upon the Kimberley country. When witnesses como before the Committee it is not for members of the Committee to dictate what evidence they shall give. Queensland members of the Committee exercised their right to ask various witnesses their opinion regarding the arrangement which the State of South Australia was supposed to have made with the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member said that that question was not referred to the Committee. Evidently the Committee exceeded its authority.
– It was not referred to tha Committee, but I will not say that the Committee should have discarded evidence, that was presented to it.
– Does the honorable member think that questions regarding the compact were justified?
– I became a member of the Public Works Committee two or three weeks before the transcontinental trip by the sectional Committee was undertaken. The sectional Committee was composed of Senator Newland (Chairman), Senator Foll, and myself, and in matters of procedure I was guided by the two members of longer experience, and the Secretary.
– Who was in the chair when those questions were asked?
- Senator Newland. Such questions were asked not only by Queensland members of the Committee, but also by the Chairman of the sectional Committee. If honorable members ‘ will read the evidence, they will discover that the same issue was raised in South Australia, and, I believe, at least one South Australian witness expressed grave doubts whether any compact for the construction of the railway north and south exists. However, that issue does not concern the House at the present moment. The enforcement of the compact, if any exists, is a matter for the attention of South Australian members. 1 think I can safely say that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) and I wore the only unbiased members of the Committee.. I exclude the Chairman (Mr. Gregory), because, on account of illness, he attended very few of the meetings at which this reference was dealt with. The other members of the Committee comprised three Queenslanders, one South Australian, and one representative from New South Wales. Each of those three
States hopes to derive some benefit from the construction of the North-South railway. The Queensland members of the Committee wished to swing the railway to the east, in order to link up with the Queensland railways and ports, and the New ‘South , Wales representative helped them, because he thought that such a line would be extended south viti Boulia, Windorah, Eromanga, and Thargomindah to Bourke, thus forming direct communication between Darwin and Sydney. Of course, Senator Newland was battling for the interests of South Australia.
– For the honouring of the compact?
– No. He thought, as I think, that the first section of the railway to be built should be that from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, because the country is worth it. Such a railway would make a lot of land productive, and would have more chance of paying working expenses and contributing something towards interest and sinking fund than will the 160 miles of line from Mataranka to Daly Waters, where, as I have said, along the route of which there is not one occupied holding, except the Government station at Mataranka, which has been run . at a considerable loss for many years. Dr. Gilruth’s evidence, continued -
I consider that a railway extension in the north, and another in the south, from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, would he sufficient to open up the Northern Territory, without running a railway through 600 or 700 miles of poor country. A railway extension from the Katherine to Daly Waters would not traverse very good pastoral country. From the Katherine practically to Mataranka is all, poor country. There are patches of better country here and there, but the meTe fact that nobody has taken it up, although it is practically near to civilization, indicates the character of it without necessarily seeing it.
I think it is time the Government made some announcement as to when they will continue the line southwards from Daly Waters, and whether it is their intention to extend it eastwards across the Barkly Tableland into Queensland. Personally I favour the eastern extension, but it is no use attempting, with two little railways, or even with a through railway, to develop a country four and a half times the size of the British Isles. There must be many thousand miles of railway before that country can be properly developed. ‘ When the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) was speaking an honorable member opposite interjected that if the line were to be built from the south instead of from the north he would not be condemning the railway management. In fairness to the honorable member for Wakefield, I may say that when he and I discussed that phase of the question last week he was very definite as to what he proposed to say in the House to-day. I am confident that if the line had been taken from the south instead of the north the honorable member’s words would have been the same. Mr. Hobler, the Commonwealth engineer, when giving evidence before the Committee, suggested that, instead of a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, there ought to be a line to Marree, north to> Birdsville, and thence to Camooweal, across the Tablelands to Darwin. A more insane proposition could not be put before tha Parliament of any country. If we look at a rainfall map of Australia we find that the belt with a rainfall of under 10 inches is in the west pa’rt of Queensland, and that for something like 7001 or 800 miles the railway favoured by Mr. Hobler would go in a southerly direction, and eventually in a south-westerly direction, through country with a rainfall of from less than 8 inches to 3- inches. I shall read an extract from the evidence of a man who lives on the- very route of that suggested railway, and honorablemembers should ask themselves whether any one man who thought that a railway was likely to go through his property - of course, to his considerable benefit - would give such evidence- if he did not honestly believe it to be true. The witness was Mr. William John Crombie, whose, station is situated where the rainfall is $ inches, and where frequently no rain falls in twelve or fifteen months. He said -
Very little of the country- is subject to floods.
Honorable members may smile, but permit me to explain what that means. When rain conies to places in Queensland, as at Winton, the gently sloping country allows the water to, flow over a large- area, and to. flood thousands of square miles, but of a very shallow depth. I had a. letter some time ago from Birdsville stating that there had been no rain there for eight months,, but that the country all round was asgreen as possible.. The explanation is that the water had flowed, dawn some 200 of 300- miles., so that while there was no rain there was plenty of feed. That is what the witness meant. To proceed -
Very little of this country is subject to floods; the average rainfall is under 4 inches per annum. The bore water runs for about 2 miles through my country, and the stock have to be brought from any portion of the run to that water foi- a drink. I have put down fourteen wells, and in every instance have struck salt water - so salt, in some instances, that the hydrometer will not measure it. The deepest well was 98 feet, and the shallowest 54 feet. The cost of my putting down a bore would be altogether too great;, this bore here cost £11,000, and I do not think the country is worth it. Open bores are just a harbor for vermin-dingoes aud rabbits - and run to waste. It would be of more use if the water were confined in some way.
Here is the point to which I desire to call particular attention -
In my opinion, this country is not good enough to warrant the construction of a railway from Marree to Birdsville.
Yet an engineer for Commonwealth Railways says that the country is better in the . north of South. Australia than in- Central Australia. If - honorable members read that gentleman’s evidence they will see that he got badly “ tangled up “ in his description of the country at the Kimberleys, Alice Springs and Central Australia, and the north-east of South Australia. From honorable members who have read Professor Gregory’s Dead Heart of Australia, dealing with what is known as. the Lake Eyre Basin, I shall be disap-pointed if I hear any suggestion that the North-South line should be built in such a “ dog-leg ‘’’ fashion as through the Barkly Tablelands, the western portions of Queensland, and into the State of South Australia. I understand that in 1912 the Queensland Government proposed to construct a line linking up its - three main lines that run out from tha coast; but nothing has been done in that direction. I shall not be a party to expenditure on taking a line through any portion- of a State so poorly watered as is the west of Queensland.
– That is not true! It is not because the country is bad that no action has been taken. The case quoted by the honorable member is quite an isolated one.
– Has the. honorable, member seen that country I
– Yea; I have travelled over a. good portion.
– If the honorable member has been anywhere near Ben.dourie, and says that that country is good, he must have gone there with his eyes shut. For from 150 to 200 miles about Bendourie and Birdsville the country, if not exactly a continuation of sand-hills, has a poorer rainfall and is worse than any country in the Northern Territory.
– Why quote one spot, and say that it is typical of the whole of western Queensland ?
– I did not say so, but it is typical of most of the country that this suggested line would run over. I am not concerned with the Gulf country, where the rainfall and the land are good, but with that portion where the Queensland Government hopes that the Commonwealth Government will build a railway which the State Government is afraid to build. I am disappointed that the Government has not seen its - way to accept the advice of the Public Works Committee, and proceed with the work of construction in the south. I was interested to hear from the honorable member for Wakefield that the Minister (Mr. Stewart) intends to visit Alice Springs, and to report to the Government on the position there. I sincerely trust that by car, or camel, or horse, he will have a look at the country the line will traverse, and then tell the plain truth in regard to both sections. I can quite understand that the Government cannot see its way to carry the line to Newcastle Waters, because that project would have to be referred to the Public Works Committee for consideration and report. But before we pass the second reading I think the Minister ought to assure us that the work now to be carried out’ is only part of the scheme, and that it is the intention of the Government to ask the Public Works Committee to report on the further extensions in the south, through to Newcastle Waters or Powells Creek, and also the extension across the Barkly Tablelands. If these works are carried out, I feel sure that for a number of years the railway requirements of the Territory will have been met. Then will be the time ta decide whether the line shall link up between Alice . Springs and Newcastle Waters or Powells Creek, wherever the terminus may be.
– What rainfall is there at Alice Springs?
– For twenty-eight years prior to 1920, there was an average rainfall of 10.73 inches.
– It is not my intention ‘to labour the question. What I am concerned about is the passing of the measure as :t stands, and that, I take it, is assured. There are, however, a few comments that I should like to make in connexion with the statement of the Minister (Mr. Stewart) . We are told that steel sleepers are to be used in the construction of this line. It is true that the Territory is somewhat infested with white ants, and that ordinary timbers are of little or po use in railway construction. The statement has been advanced that powellised sleepers are quite all right, but that I deny. Practical experience has shown that powellised sleepers are useless in the Northern Territory, where I have seen them penetrated at all angles by white ants. Where this treated timber is ex-‘ posed to the atmosphere, as in the stanchions of bridges, it becomes simply a mass of dry rot which can be kicked away. However, there is in the Territory a timber which resists all attacks, and it is available in quantities more than sufficient to meet the requirements of this railway. I refer to iron-wood, quantities of which were used in the construction of the original railway in the Northern Territory and are sound to-day. That is what could not be said even of steel sleepers. In view of the fact that the use of iron-wood would open up a new avenue of employment, the Minister would be well advised to discard both steel and powellised timber in favour of sleepers which will last not only for a decade but for a century. Iron-wood used in the Territory in the times of the Dutch settlement is quite sound to-day.
– What sleepers were used on the existing section of the line from Darwin?
– On the last section constructed by the Commonwealth, from the Katherine to Pine Creek, powellised and steel sleepers were used, the former on the curves, and the latter on the straight. The section from Pine Creek to Darwin was laid with a dish-shaped sleeper which has not proved in any way effective. Bust attacks it, and it cannot be compared with iron-wood for such work.
– Is there sufficient ironwood available?
– There is ample for the section now proposed to be constructed, but it is doubtful whether there would be sufficient for the whole line from Oodnadatta northwards, and for replacements. It was recently suggested that 8-ft. sleepers suitable for a 4-ft. 8i)-in. line could be supplied at 10s. each. I do not think that steel sleepers could be obtained nearly as cheaply as that, and I am certain that their life would not. be half that of ironwood sleepers. I hope that the Minister (Mr. Stewart) will consider this aspect, and also the matter of the gauge. The section constructed from Pine Creek to Emungalan was laid with a view to its subsequent conversion to the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, and I have no doubt the same practice could be followed on the section now under’ consideration. In view of the proposal to unify the railway gauges, it would save much expense if, in the first place, sleepers suitable for the standard Commonwealth gauge were provided, because, when the conversion took place, hundreds of miles of railway could be widened in a comparatively short time. If sleepers for the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge were employed, and we had to replace them, they would represent a total loss. Eight-feet sleepers would not be more expensive than those suitable for a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line. The average life of a powellized sleeper in the Northern Territory is less than twelve months, although the steel sleepers laid between Pine Creek and Emungalan in 1915 are standing well. The nearer they are to the coast the shorter the life of the sleepers, owing to the increasing humidity and saltness of the atmosphere. I understand that steel sleepers are useless for curves, and, therefore, ironwood should be adopted at least on all curves. The Minister (Mr. Stewart) remarked that the experts were of opinion that the extension of the line from its present contemplated terminus at Daly Waters to Newcastle Waters would pay. That is an astounding statement
– I do not think that I made that statement.
– If not, I must have misunderstood the Minister.
– As a matter of fact, the line cannot pay for the next hundred years.
– Railways in areas like the Northern Territory cannot be expected to prove profitable at the outset. Their object is to develop the country, and, if they do that, they will pay indirectly. It has been mentioned that the building of the proposed line would assist to open up the Roper River area, or Arnheim’s land, a district that I venture to say has not been visited by any honorable member. There are very few people, even in the Northern Territory, who have been there. It is one of the best watered and best grassed parts of the Territory, and this line, as suggested by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) will materially assist the development of. that area. It has been said that Mr. Hobler reported on the advisability of the construction of a line from Borroloola; but I maintain that it is not part of Mr. Hobler’s duty to suggest new routes. As a railway expert, his activities should be confined to the particular area through which he has been asked to build a line. It is not within his province to say where it is advisable to build a line,; he should confine himself to the construction of authorized lines.
– Mr. Hobler was sent as a railway engineer to give an estimate and to report on the possibilities from railway and engineering points of view.
– Some of the engineers have outlined railway policy before today.
– It has been suggested that Mr. Hobler’s remarks were a deciding factor, but I am glad to hear that statement refuted by the Minister. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has taken ‘exception to a statement that I. made yesterday by way of interjection. I did not wish to impute any ulterior motive to honorable members from South Australia, and I now unreservedly withdraw the statement that I made. Certainly I was somewhat heated at the moment, and I assure the honorable member for Angas that I willingly withdraw the remark. I am pleased that the Minister intends visiting the country that would be served by the southern portion of a North-South line, and I have no doubt that he will be greatly impressed with its possibilities. My own opinion is that the Oodnadatta-Alice Springs end of the line would be the better paying proposition for some years ahead, by virtue, not of its agricultural or pastoral potentialities, but purely because of its mining possibilities. Shortly after its construction, a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs would attract thousands of people to tho mining areas in the Macdonnell Ranges. The section now proposed to be constructed in the Territory will not be a large revenue-producer, but it will continue the railway in the right direction; and, if the land laws are administered in the interests of development, I am satisfied that the line will prove useful in the near future. If, however, the land is locked up, the line will merely serve a few large squatters. I am not deceived as to the intention of some of the advocates of a deviation from Newcastle Waters across to Camooweal. An extension to Camooweal Would not to any great extent assist the development of the Territory. The possibility of a line from Borroloola to Newcastle Waters has been mentioned, and that would be far more likely to lead to development than a deviation to Camooweal. The whole matter should be viewed from an Australian stand-point, and no consideration as to how Queensland should be linked up should prevent honorable members from giving effect to the best proposal for the settlement of the Territory. I am not much concerned whether the Queensland railway system is linked up at one or at any number of points, so long as a railway is built through the Territory. We have not only to consider South Australia and Queensland. Western Australia has just as big a moral claim as those -States to the development of parts of the Territory. The western portion of the Territory is identical with the north-west coast country of Western Australia. The main consideration should be how best and most quickly the Territory can be served. Great results cannot accrue from the extension of the railway to its present proposed terminus; but I am satisfied that the right route has been selected, and’ that ultimately the through line will be completed. I am at all times ready to support a step in that direction.
– I do not wish to give a silent vote on the. Bill. I am asked to vote for the expenditure of £1,500,000 on 160 miles of railway. I have before me a line of railway 200 miles in length which has lost in round figures, £720,000. I have not yet been informed of- the productivity of the land adjacent to the proposed extension, or what it is suitable for. We are asked to spend £1,500,000, and we do not know who is going to occupy the land adjacent to the line, whether the land is now occupied, what is the productivity of the land, or what the railway, when constructed, will carry.
– The honorable member will get that information from the report of the Public Works Committee.
– -I have not that information. We are informed that one train a fortnight is sufficient over the 200 miles of railway already constructed, and, in these circumstances, is it not mad-cap folly to propose the expenditure of £1,500,000 to extend this line for 160 miles.
– It is from a financial point of view.
– Then, from a financial point of view, I shall vote against the Bill.
. - I regret the absence of some members of the Public Works Committee, because I wish ‘to say with respect to one aspect of the matter, which has led to a very serious protest from representatives coming from South Australia, that there is a distinctly political flavour about the recommendation of the Committee. It has not given a judicial decision upon the matters submitted to it. I want to know why the Committee went out of its way to say anything about diverting this line to Camooweal, in Queensland. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) disclaim responsibility for that. I am not here to decry any portion of the Commonwealth, but I believe that if the North-South line is constructed in accordance with the agreement with South Australia, it. will be taken as nearly as possible directly south from Port Darwin until it reaches Oodnadatta. I was very glad to hear the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) refer to the claims of the centre of the Northern Territory. There is a vast area in the centre of the Territory, the possibilities of which have not yet been determined. Some of us have followed the reports of explorers who from time to time have advanced into the interior of Australia, but we really do not yet know what are the resources of Central Australia. I do not believe that wo ever will know its resources until there is railway communication with those parts that have not yet been thoroughly investigated. There is a tendency to divert railways at the expense of the Commonwealth in the direction of a certain State, which, because of its population and financial position, is in a position to look after its own interests without looking to the ‘Commonwealth for the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
– Who suggested that that should be done?
– I say that the Public Works Committee went out of its way to make mention of Camooweal in connexion with this project. The Committee’s decision was a political decision. If Committees appointed by this House are to give political decisions, the sooner they are abolished the better. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who, according to nil reports, has splendidly filled the position of Chairman of the Public Works Committee did not, because of illness, take part in the investigation of this proposal, .except perhaps in the formulation of the report in conference with his colleagues. This afternoon the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) made the statement that when the Chairman was absent from meetings of the Committee, there were only two unbiased members of the Committee who took evidence in connexion with this matter.
– Did the honorable member mention their names?
– Yes. He was one of them himself and the other was the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). That leaves the other members of the Committee to explain their position. I am not imputing wrong motives, but when three members pf a committee who come from the same State make a long pull and a short pull in a certain direction the House does not derive much benefit from the investigations by that committee. I hope that this is the last occasion upon which it may be said that political and State views have been taken of what should be regarded as a great national undertaking.. The honorable member for Darwin .(Mr.. Whitsitt) has complained that we are being asked to spend .£1,500,000 upon this extension. A3 he does not know the quality of the soil along the route or who occupies it, he intends to vote against the proposal.
– That is business, and I came here to do business.
– The honorable mem-“ ber comes from a comparatively small part of the Commonwealth, and we have to deal in this continent with vast distances. I suppose that in every State, including Tasmania, it is possible to point to certain sections of the railway system that are* not paying.
– Yes, but nothing like this.
– It all depends on the outlook. We are following the example of other great countries, where the people have regarded railway construction not merely from the pounds, shillings, and pence point of view, but have constructed railways which are being operated to-day to great advantage, although they do not pay. The Governments of those countries do not expect them to pay for years to come.
– But they confer indirect benefits.
– I recognise that same indirect benefits may follow from the 0011struction of this line. I believe it was the Fisher Government that made the arrangement for the taking over of the Territory by the Commonwealth, and we have too long pursued a mark-time policy there. Notwithstanding certain legal interpretations of the agreement with South Australia, the essence of the contract is the construction of a direct North-South line.
– That is the only line that can help the Northern Territory.
– It would assist the development also of other parts of Australia. I believe that Professor Gregory was responsible for the statement that there was a “ dead heart “ in Australia. I disagree entirely with that statement. We talk loosely of “dry areas “ and “sandy tracts,” but nomadic tribes, of Arabs who at one time made a bare living, in certain portions, of the Sahara Desert found that by boring they were able to obtain water from below the surface of the land, and could use it for irrigation, and. they were subsequently able to carry on very fine farms. We need to disabuse our minds once and. for all of the idea that there are great tracts of barren country in Australia. We know that at one time, on maps’ of Australia, there was1 written across the Mallee the words “ Desert country.” That was one of the greatest libels ever- published. Geographers have often made similar mistakes in their descriptions of country. I will not say that from an agricultural point of view, but certainly from a mining point of view, Central Australia has marvellous, resources, and may yet open to- the; Commonwealth practically unlimited wealth. By carrying a Hue into that district we shall be doing something which will lead] to the development of Australia generally. I hope that I have misinterpreted a. promise which the Minister gave as a. reason for saying little about the section of the NorthSouth railway connecting Oodnadatta with the: Macdonnell Ranges. He said that as, soon as he could be relieved of bis parliamentary duties he intended to make a journey from Oodnadatta along the route of’ the- line inquired into> by the Public Works Committee. I hope, he did1 not give; that as a reason for delaying the construction! oil that section, and’ that before* tha Bill leaves’ the Committee stage he will say what course- the Government intend to pursue with regard to that part of the recommendation o# the Public Works Committee-.. We ax©’ bow being asked to expend £1,500,00,0. on the construction of 160 miles of railway in the Northern Territory, and I think that ths expenditure will cover a. number of years. When I was a member of the Public Works Committee an inquiry was made into the construction- of an extension’ from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. It should be- remembered that the- Katherine Baver is’ a very- wi’de> stream im the wet season’, and those’ charged! with the construction of a- bridge over that, river will need) to secure the> structure im such a> way that it will not be wasted away in. flood time. That wiM ba one of tha engineering; difficulties associated with this extensions. The bridge is estimated to cost £90,000’, but I think its- construction* will’ occupy a very considerable, time.
– It should not, as. there, are good high banks on either side, of the river.
– There, will be no difficulty about it at all.
– If the honorable member will’ take the trouble to read the evidence which has been taken on this matter he will find that during a certain portion of the year it is absolutely impossible to carry out any bridge construction at the Katherine River. I know of several bridges which are in hand at the present time; and they are taking a long time to build. The- engineers engaged on this bridge will have- to- guard against the torrential rains,, otherwise the first half of the bridge may be -washed’ away before they will be able to proceed with the second half. I have heard the evidence tendered by men who are qualified to testify. They state that it will be no easy matter to build a bridge over the Katherine River. The building of this bridge will delay the work very considerably. I presume that it will’ be necessary to construct the bridge- before an engine can be used to convey structural materials to other parts of the line. Until the bridge has been completed’ very little but earthworks can be put in hand. I am not speaking now as. a pessimist, but I am pointing out. how long the southern part of the line, will be delayed if it has to wait for. the completion, of the northern’ portion.. The Minister may say that he would, like to see the country himself,, and be in. a better position to make a recommendation to the Government from first-hand knowledge. I hope, if he makes such, a visit, drat he”, wilt bo accompanied by those who are capable! of giving him expert advice. Although- I voted for th® amendment: moved- by the honorable member for Angmai (Mr. Gabb) I did not like some of the words contained in it. I would! like- to- see the work undertaken concurrently at both ends of the line. The present Government, like every other Government, is prepared’ to spend only a certain amount’ of money per annum m railway construction work., I believe1 there will be other’ difficulties.. It appears from the map that, not only the Katherine River, but the- King Sliver., tire Roper- River, or its’ tributaries^, and! the Birdum River willi have to be> crossed’-
– The greatest engineering problem is the Katherine River.
– I know that the construction of the line was stopped at the northern bank of the Katherine River because of the big expense involved in building the bridge. The Minister has corroborated my view, that in tropical countries very considerable difficulties have to be overcome in bridging rivers. 1 understood the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) to say that very little of the land adjacent to the line is occupied. In this connexion the Minister has made available to the House a typed schedule headed “Northern Territory Railway Extension. Book of Reference of Land Required for Proposed Extension of Darwin-Emungalan Railway to Daly Waters. Length, 160 miles 35 chains. Minimum width of land required, 600 links.” This schedule gives the names of the lessees of land through which the railway will pass. I do not think that one foot of the Territory has yet been relinquished by the Crown. Perhaps the Minister could confirm that statement.
– I do not think there is any freehold in large areas.
– Certain companies are mentioned in the schedule, and by referring to the map I find that they are supposed to hold large areas on either side of the line. Willeroo and Manbullo Limited. Kruger and Walden, and F. E. Thoneman arc names printed on large :areas.
– ‘The honorable member will be able to deal with that aspect of the question when the Bill relating to a Land Ordinance in the Northern Territory is brought before the House.
– There was force in the contention of the Leader of the O/pposition (Mr. Charlton) when he said that it would have been better for the House to deal with the Northern Territory Crown Lands Bill before dealing with the extension of the railway. If the House knew how the Government intended to act towards those who hold land under lease or licence, it would be better able to handle the proposal to construct a railway. Bovril (Australian Estates) and N. A. and A. V. Miller are well established in the district. I was afraid that the Minister intended to adhere to the intention of having all work done by contract. In that event, many abuses would creep in. Honorable members may say that abuses would creep in under a system of day labour, but the abuses would be, much greater if the work were carried out by contract. If contractors were operating . there, the Commonwealth would require a well-paid army of inspectors to see that the work, was done honestly. I am glad that, notwithstanding the protests of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), the railway will be constructed by day labour. I trust that the supervision over the work will be such as to insure efficiency. Day labour can be, and has been, made a success in Victoria by proper supervision. There is no reason why the Commonwealth Government should not do its work by day labour.
– It has been stated that it cost £300 to remove one tree by day labour in that part of Australia.
– Work carried out on the East-West railway line showed the great superiority of day labour. Private contractors would have charged £2,000,000 to do work which the Commonwealth Government did by day labour for £900,000 less.
– The Government did not call for tenders for that work.
– Some of the keenest and cleverest men in Australia tendered for that work. Some of the most prominent contractors in South Australia sent in tenders. The prices asked by the tenderers were so high that the Commonwealth Government decided to do the work itself. The result was that it saved nearly £1,000,000. I support the motion. Before the Bill reaches its final stage perhaps the Minister will make an announcement as to what the Government proposes to do regarding a railway between” Oodnadatta and the Macdonnell Ranges.
.- I do not wish to be understood as opposing the
Bill, but I hope it will not in any way prejudice the construction of the line from Oodnadatta northwards. I rise to answer certain allegations that have been made during the discussion. The Government must have some reason for starting the line from the northern end, while making no provision for the southern end. It may be that a departure from the agreement made with South Australia is contemplated. It is essential for the development of the Northern Territory that there should be a direct line north and south, as proposed in the agreement with South Australia. Running out from that line there might be spur lines -to develop the country to the east and west. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) referred to the construction of the EastWest line. His remarks had reference probably to clause 9 of the Bill. While it is the intention of the Government not to let the whole of the work, or any large section of it, by contract, the honorable member for Wakefield endeavoured to prove to the House that work done by contract is cheaper than that carried out by day labour. When dealing with the question of contract versus day labour last Thursday, I quoted very extensively from a report by Mr. A. W. Robinson, Chairman of the Railways Standing Committee in South Australia. I do not wish to repeat what I said on that occasion, but in reply to the honorable member for Wakefield, to apprise the Government of the true position, I desire to place the full facts regarding the construction of the East-West line before the House. The honorable member for Wakefield was unable to state offhand the estimated cost of constructing the transcontinental railway. The report of the Railways Standing Committee in South Australia shows that the estimate submitted by Mr. Henry Deane in 1911 was £3,508 per mile, excluding rolling-stock. The greater portion of the construction was carried out by the present Commissioner, Mr. Norris _ G. Bell, and it was estimated that the final cost of the line would be £5,807 per mile. The total estimated cost was £4,045,000 and the actual cost to June, 1919, £6,04,5,017, or £5,750 per mile, lt has been said that there was a shameful waste of public money because the estimate was exceeded by £2,300 per mile. Complaint might just as reasonably be made that the line was too cheaply constructed, because in 1913 the South Australian Railway Department estimated that a similar line, with the same ruling grade, between Salisbury and Port Augusta, would cost £7,833 per mile. Mr. Deane’s estimate and the estimate of the South Australian Railway Department were based on wages at 10s. per day, whereas the average wage actually paid was 13s. 0 1/3d. The actual expenditure included £1,246,265 for work for which Mr. Deane’s estimate made no provision whatever. It is only fair to state the details of the work which was actually carried out, but not provided for in the original estimate, because the comparison made by the newspapers and everybody else is a comparison of the estimated cost with the actual cost.
– The justification for my remarks is clause 9, which will allow the Commissioner to carry out work by contract. Upon that point certain remarks were made by the honorable member for Wakefield.
– I called the attention of the honorable member for Wakefield to the fact that his remarks were wide of the issue. I ask the honorable member to make them as intimate to the Bill as possible.
– I am endeavouring to show that it is in the best interests of the Commonwealth that no portion of the proposed railway shall be constructed by contract. The figures I have quoted prove that the East-West railway was built more economically by day labour than it could have been built by contract. In the same report is a statement by Mr. Bell to the effect that between the preparation of the estimate in 1911 and hia assumption of office in 1914, additions and alterations were made to the original design,1 specification, and conditions, which added to the estimate almost
I sincerely hope that . the Minister will order that the proposed line bo built departmentally.. The contractor has to incur the same costs as has the Department, and in addition the Government have to pay him his profit. A good deal has been said about the surplus rolling-stock at Port Augusta. I assure the Minister that there is a good deal more rolling-stock there than he is actually aware of, and he might consider whether it could be converted to the 3- ft. 6 -in. gauge and used on the North-South railway.
– The locomotives cannot be converted.
– Any surplus rolling-stock that cannot be converted should be disposed of as soon as possible and other stock purchased. This material was bought at a time when it was proposed that the North-South line should be built on the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge, starting from Kingoonyah. I believe that the line was actually surveyed, . and the Government of the day displayed . great foresight in procuring the additional rolling-stock which is stored at Port Augusta to-day.
– The line was not surveyed.
– No railway should be constructed in the Northern Territory that will prejudice the direct North and South lineand despite what has been ‘said by the honorable member for Wakefield and others, all construction should be fey day labour.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I wish to reply to one or two speeches made in the course of the debate, particularly the speech of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster). It was an extraordinary speech, and, in effect, a tirade of abuse directed at Mr. Bell, the present Chief Commissioner of Commonwealth Railways. As it was made in a place where Mr. Bell himself cannot reply,I should be lacking in my duty, as the Minister in charge of the Department, if I allowed the statements to pass unchallenged. The honorable member for Wakefield accused the Chief Commissioner of incapacity, and in proof pointed to the results of that officer’s workin the construction of the Transcontinental Railway. The honorable member contended that the estimated cost of that line was largely exceeded because of the Commissioner’s incapacity. It is perfectly true that the estimated cost was largely exceeded ; but I deny that that was because of any incapacity on the part of the Commissioner. I should like to quote a few figures in regard to thecost of the line. The estimate, prepared before the present Commissioner took office, was £4,045,000. It was an estimate far lower than it should have been. Excluding rolling-stock, it represented £3,508 per mile. The rails, fastenings, and sleepers alone cost £3,000 per mile, which, under the estimate, left a little over £500 per mile for laying the road, doing all the earthworks, building the bridges, culverts, telegraph lines, and so forth.For permanent way material alone the estimate was short by no less than £1,270,000 ; that was for the purchase price of the material, and landing it on the works. The weight of rail was increased from 70 lbs. to 80 lbs. per yard. Ballasting was done as against earth packing; additional earthworks were carried out in order to give better grades. A great deal of the line was ballasted in a more permanent way, and resulted in a line superior to that anticipated when the estimate was framed. Perhaps the best way of proving that the cost of construction was not excessive is by comparing it with the cost of construction of railways within the State of South Australia. The actual cost of the railway, excluding rolling stock, was £5,900 per mile. The Gawler to Angaston line, in South Aus- tralia, cost £8,728 per mile, while the Riverton to Clare railway cost £9,167 per mile. The Gawler to Angaston line was built when materials were cheap and wages were low, and, under the circumstances, the cost of building the transcontinental line was not excessive.
– Compare like with like’
– These figures have been quoted before, and the fact that they make the honorable member uncomfortable does not deter me from quoting them again. I have had prepared a comparison of the costs of work carried out under contract by Mr. Teesdale Smith over 14 miles, and by the Commissioner over an adjoining 14 miles. Under the Teesdale Smith contract the price of cuttings was 4s. 6d. per yard, and under the Commissioner 2s. 3$d. pei’ yard. The price of banks under the Teesdale Smith contract was 2s. 6d. per yard, but under the Commissioner this cost was included in that of the cutting. Under the Teesdale Smith contract the price of side cuttings was 2s. fd. per yard, and under the Commissioner ls. 44d. per yard. The price of surface formation under the Teesdale Smith contract was 60s. at IS feet wide, and under the Commissioner 42s. Id. at 17 feet wide. The honorable member for Wakefield, although he cannot deny these facts, uses alleged excessive cost of the line as a proof that the Commissioner is incompetent, and unfit to undertake the construction of the line contemplated by the Bill. I do not know whether the honorable member, when Minister for Works and Railways, ever travelled over the transcontinental line.
– I have travelled over it.
– When the honorable member was Minister ?
– The honorable member has accused the Chief Commissioner of incompetency, but it appears that when he was invited by the Commissioner to travel on the line he did not accept the invitation.
– The Commissioner invite the Minister !
– Then I shall say that the honorable member did not accept what was a very proper suggestion for the Chief Commissioner to make. The EastWest line is the best equipped and the best conducted in Australia, and it gives greater satisfaction to the travelling public than any other railway in this country, and probably in the world. These results have been obtained under the control of a Commissioner who for half an hour today was the subject of a tirade of abuse from the honorable member. Let me now quote some of the opinions expressed by world-wide travellers on the way in which the East- West line is conducted by the present Commissioner.. The original letters in which these opinions appear may be seen by honorable members if they so desire. In one letter it is stated -
The railway struck rae as being extremely well managed and equipped.
Another letter says -
I do not think T could have been more comfortable.
I have travelled in many parts of the world, and I do not know in any service more careful attention to the travelling public.
I have travelled in most of the famous European expresses, and this year crossed North America by the New York Central and Canadian-Pacific Railway. Your cars exceed anything I experienced in America in comfort.
– I do not deny that.
– Then I pass on. The recognised standards of cost in operating railways are, for maintenance, the cost per average mile of railway open, and, for locomotive and traffic working, ‘the cost per train mile. The management under Commissioner Bell compares more than favorably with that in South Australia. The maintenance of permanentway under Commissioner Bell costs £72 per mile, while on the South Australian railways that cost is £171 per mile. The traffic working on the Commonwealth line costs 19d. per mile, and on the South Australian railways 28d. per mile. The honorable member for Wakefield cannot refute those figures.
– They do not mean anything I
– The honorable member went on to say that the extra locomotives referred to were ordered by Mr. Bell. As a matter of fact, these locomotives, which, in the words of the honorable member, “ have not turned a wheel,” were ordered by the Fisher Government, and not at the request of the Commissioner.
– Perhaps it would be only fair to say that they were ordered for the North-South railway.
– I am not going to discuss that question now. In any case, they were not ordered by Mr.- Bell as excess engines which he thought he would require.
– Was Mr. Bell Commissioner then ?
– Then, how do you know that he did not order the engines?
– I have seen the files, and have ascertained when and how they were ordered.
– I rise to a point of order. Are the Minister’s remarks relevant in a second-reading speech on the Bill?
– The honorable member’s point of order is scarcely a good one, in view of the fact that several honorable members have been permitted to discourse on the relative costs of the East-West railway in contrasting the contract and day-labour methods of construction.
– I did not get such latitude.
– The honorable member had reasonable latitude, and the Minister must have the same, and no more.
– I ask for no more but I shall not unduly labour the point. I should like to quote an extract from a speech made by Mr. A. W. Robinson, M.L.A., of South Australia, in moving the adoption of the eighth general report of the Railway Standing Committee in the House of Assembly, Adelaide, in 1920. Referring to construction costs of the East- West line, he said -
The fictu.il cost to Juno, 1919, was £0,045,017, or £5,750 per mile. It is said to be a shameful waste of public expenditure, because the estimate was exceeded by £2,300 per mile. It might be just as well to complain the line was too cheaply constructed because, in 1913, the South Australian Railway Department estimated that a practically similar line, with the same ruling grade, between Salisbury and Port Augusta, would cost £7,833 per mile.
I quote these extracts in order to show that the Commissioner, who will have charge of the construction of this line if the Bill passes, is not, as suggested by the honorable member for Wakefield, incompetent, but is a man who can safely be trusted with such an undertaking. The Commonwealth Railways Commis sioner has had a long and honorable service. He was for twenty-eight years in the service of Queensland, and has been for nine years in the service of the Commonwealth. He- has rendered loyal and faithful service. The honorable member for Wakefield suggested that he intended to get rid of this officer because of his incompetence. I wish to say that I do not concur in the opinion which the honorable member expressed. I do not regard the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner as an incompetent officer. Only to-day he has been appointed for a further term of two years, which will bring him up to the age limit for retirement - sixty-five years. That should indicate my opinion of him, and during the next two years I can leave it to members of this House and the public to decide whether the honorable member for Wakefield or myself is the better judge of a competent railway engineer. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) suggested the use of ironwood sleepers, and we will go carefully into the points he has raised.
– What sleepers are proposed, according to the estimate of the cost of thi* line? I understood that as many wooden sleepers were destroyed by white ants, it was proposed to use concrete or steel sleepers.
– The present intention is to use steel sleepers, but in view of the remarks which have been made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, if the Commissioner finds on investigation that there is some substitute for steel sleepers which would give as good or better results, we will not tie ourselves down to their use. There have been many complaints by honorable members coming from South Australia. They have complained that for years and years not a solitary thing has been done towards the construction of the NorthSouth line. That is perfectly true, but the present Government is not responsible for the inactivity of previous Governments. After six months of office it has submitted this Bill to the House, and a concrete proposal for the expenditure of over £1,500,000 on the North-South line. It is strange that honorable members should complain of the inactivity of the Government when it is the only Government that has so far shown any desire to be active in the construction of the line.
– But the present Government is active in the wrong direction.
– Let me say that the construction of the southern section of the line is not lost sight of by the Government. It is under consideration, and in order that We may be fully apprised of the conditions under which its construction must be proceeded with, I intend, as I said before, to go over the route of this section, look at the country for myself, and report upon it to the Cabinet. It has been suggested that lorne members of the Public Works Committee have not the necessary experience to enable them to give a valuable opinion as to the pastoral and other possibilities of the country through which the extension proposed by this Bill will pass. Perhaps, without trumpet-blowing, I may be permitted to say that I have had some experience of new pastoral country and practical experience of agriculture. I know as well as most honorable members, and better than some, what are the potentialities of new and undeveloped country. I have great faith in the inland districts of Australia. The history of settlement in this country is that the pioneers who took up the out-back portions were regarded as optimistic lunatics. In the early days in Victoria when pioneers went out-back to Donald, Birchip, and Rainbow, in the lower Mallee, they were regarded as fools who had gone beyond the safety lino. But a few years later men moved out to Woomelang and to Ouyen, also to Carwarp and the Yatpool country, where I selected land. The pessimists asked us, “ Do you ever expect to grow wheat in that country ?” and when wo put in our seed in 1914, and there was a drought, and we grew no wheat, they said, “We told you so.” We replied that although we grew no wheat, settlers 150 miles further south grew none in that season. To-day Carwarp aud Yatpool are sound agricultural settlements, though less than ten years ago the land was used only for the raising of a few sheep. I believe that the history of the Mallee will be the history of other outback country in Australia, and that land that is to-day regarded as beyond :he pale and useless, will by future generations be regarded as sound pastoral country, if not also as sound agricultural country. That is my opinion, and I think I can say that the other members of the Government hold the same view. We have great faith in the outback country, and so far as our financial position will permit, we will do all that we can to open up the back portions of Australia. This Bill represents a first instalment of work in that direction, and as the motion has been fully debated, I ask honorable members to give the Bill the quick passage its merits deserve.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
The Commissioner may, subject to this Act, and to the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917, extend the railway in the Northern Territory by the -construction of a railway from the southern terminus of the railway in the Northern Territory to Daly Waters.
.- This clause gives power to the Government to extend the Northern Territory railway to Daly Waters. I do not suppose there is one member of the Committee who would vote for the extension of the line to Daly Waters unless he knew that the Government had a distinct intention to carry it further. I was unfortunately ill when the report of the Public Works Committee was being considered, and I, though Chairman of the Committee, had no association with it. But it shows that this extension will carry the Northern’ Territory line into very poor country. The recommendation of the Committee in favour of it is based on the presumption that further action will be taken, by the Government, and I think that the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) should take honorable members into his confidence, and tell us what the Government intend to do after the line is constructed to Daly Waters. He should say whether it is intended to continue the line directly south or divert it towards Camooweal. The Public Works Committee has recommended ‘that the line should be diverted towards Camooweal, but we should know the intention of the Government, if it has come to a decision on the point. I think that we should consider first of all the development of the Northern Territory. I would vote at once for the construction of a line from Oodnadatta northwards as far as the
Macdonnell ‘ Ranges* with the object of connecting with the1 good country to the north of Oodnadatta. Something should be: done to make the lot of people in that central area better than it is.. I. do not think that suck a railway would pay, taut it would help to- develop; the interior, and I would; willingly, vote for its construction. Reports; recently received show that there isi a very large area of good country in the Macdonnell Ranges,, but there is a big intervening area of poor, country. I do not know whether honorable, ‘members have read the voluminous evidence . that has been collected -in connexion with this matter. I acknowledge the promise made to the South Australian Government for lie construction of the North-South railway, but the object of this Parliament at the present time should, be to develop* the Northern. Territory, and give tha people who, we hope*, will1 go’ there-, some- chance to make a success, of their work. Mr. Clarke,. Mr.. Combes, ‘ and Mr. Lindsay were appointed a Commission to- make an examination of the northern part ofthe Northern Territory,, but they were recalled after about seven months, and before they could nearly complete, the work whichthey had undertaken. Their report,, so far as it goes, is an admirable one, and T think the Government would be well advised if they appointed another Com mission of three persons completely outside of Parliament, one of whom should’ be an engineer, to make a thorough examination of the north,, even though they should occupy twelve months in doing so ; in order that this Parliament should1 ‘ be provided’ with accurate information on the possibilities of the country.. Te have had’ recently a report from Admiral Clarkeson upon the Pellew Islands:, and1 there might yet. be a- request for a railway from lie Northern Territory line to the coast near there-. Such a Commission as I have suggested should enable this Parliament and the people to discover what can best be- done for the development of the- Northern- Territory. The sooner we realize that we- can in no circumstances retain’ control’ of- the Northern Territory unless we- people- and develop it-,, the better.. We. know that these isi some wonderfully good country on- the Victoria) River-, and that the proposed extension now under consideration1 will approach the Barkly:’ Tablelands, where there- is country –that is; most, highly, spoken of… If we cam point to resonances that may be developed) in the-. Territory, people may be induced to go there. I would not vote for- a penny of this expenditure if I thought- the- Government would not continue the line in a south-easterly direction. The 1’ong section of the line will not be able to pay for axle- grease, unless it is- connected with existing railways by being- taken either right through to South Australia or to Camooweal. It is for’ the House to say whether the railway should- be taken right through- or ro Camooweal. I do not express- any opinion on that point. I object to the allegation of bias. I do not believe that members of the Public. Works Committee- were actuated by bias in preparing their reports. Even Senator Newland1, who is a representative of South Australia, indorsed some of the Committee’s decisions. It would be much better if we could’ get outside gentlemen, with a knowledge of the Northern Territory, to advise us what to. do to develop it.
.- I indorse the contention of the. honorable member’ for Swan ((Mr-. Gregory), that / when railway matters are under consideration, and the interests of various’ States are concerned, the opinions- of expert authorities, should be secured!.. lft for no other reason,. I would say that because of the- interjection made by the. honor ab Le member foc Bass. (Mr. Jackson.) when the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) was speaking;. The honorable member for Bass stated, that there- were really only two unbiased members, of, the Public Works Committee. That, admission, proves conclusively that, it. is most desirable, when matters, involving the interests of various States are.- being considered,, that the- Committee should be- free from- the influence of the; prejudices which? have,, unfortunately^ been exhibited, on the present occasion in the* report of the Committee. Some honorable members- ha>ve made such- a strenuous effort on. behalf of South- Australia,, because they feel, that the- report of that Committee is not free from bias, and; that the> interests., of that State, are being subordinated. When, we realize that there are three members- from Queensland upon the Public Works. Committee,, the report should be accepted with caution. We are fully justified in advancing, strong claims as representatives of South Australia. I hope the Minister willgive the Committee, an assurance of the bona fides of the Government withregard to the agreement with SouthAustralia, and satisfy honorable members that the’ Government will giver due. consideration to the. interests, of the people in the southern part of the Northern Territory. I was much impressed by the contribution, to the debate of the. honorable member for Bass. He stands, as a representative of Tasmania,, in an unbiased position. He has travelled through the Territory and over the route, which is being considered!.
He. expressed very definite, opinions- regarding the claims of the people in the southern part of the Territory. If representatives of Committees, appointed by Parliament are to, be actuated in future by State prejudice,, justice will not. be done to. those States which have the smallest representation.
– Members of the Committee desired me to take the trip through the Territory in place, of one of the other members. That, action does not indicate State bias.
– For the sake of the added’ value that would have attached to the report, I am sorry that, the honorable member for Swan(Mr. Gregory) did not take the place of. one of the. Queensland representatives.
– I. made that inter jection in order to show how anxious members of the Committee were that every State should be represented.
– It is nevertheless evident that, into the deliberations of the Committee, State prejudice has intruded’. I am pleased to- be able- to assure the House thatnosuch unfortunate factor operates upon another Committee that functions in matters of public concern. The report of the- Public Works Committee is not, because of State prejudice, as’ valuable as it should be. The representatives of South Australia are justified in exercising their rights in- this’ House, and expressing freely the fears they entertain regarding the intentions’ of the Government.
Mr.MACKAY (Lilley) [8.39]. - I verymuch regret, the , unwarranted attack made, upon members of the Public Works Committee, and particularly upon the
Queensland members of that Committee. I also express- my- very great surprise at the remarks of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson).
– Did the honorable member hear them?
– I did not; but. I asked the honorable member privately whether he had said that only two members of the Public Works Committee were unbiased? He modestly included himself, and said the other unbiased member was. the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews).. I. think it is characteristic of the honorable member for Bass that he should, push his, own barrow in that way. I draw the. attentionof honorable members to. the fact that the motion complained of had nothing to do with the reference: submitted for inquiry. The Minutes of Proceedings state-
Senator Foll moved ;
That the Committee place on record its opinion that the construction of the section Mataranka to Daly Waters, willof itself, contribute very little towards the early development of the Northern Territory, and that the ‘recommendation for its construction is- only agreed to- as being a section of an eventual line’ across the Barkly Tableland, to Camooweal,vid. Newcastle Waters.
That, motion, was seconded by me, and the Committee divided as follows,: - Ayes, five; consisting of . Senator Foll, Senator Newland, Senator Plain,, Mr. Jackson,, and myself. Noes, one;. Mr. Mathews. It will be seen that the. name of a. representative from South’ Australia (Senator Newland), appears in the division,, and, although thehonorable member for Bass says that only two members of the Public Works Committee are unbiased, he himself supported the resolution complained of. I protest against the attack made, upon members of the. Com-‘ mittee, some of whom are members of another place, and particularly against the innuendo that the Queensland members of the Committee used their position to influence the report against the interests of South Australia. Any one who reads the report, will come to the conclusion that the Committee based its resolutions upon the evidence submitted.
– The honorable member knows that, the Committee- went outside: the references to it.
– I do not know anything of the kind. The resolutions deal with the reference, and with the reference only. Some extracts from the minutes on which the resolutions were based have been quoted for a purpose, but not to unduly influence Parliament. I submit that the Committee has merely endeavoured to do its duty.
.- This afternoon, I made certain statements as a matter of public duty. They gave me, not pleasure, but pain. I intend to speak as plainly again to-night in reply to the Minister (Mr. Stewart). Every word he has said has been said several times , before. and is in print. All his arguments have been replied to. He has not replied to a single vital objection raised by .South Australian members.
– The honorable member is not in order on this clause in replying to a speech made on the motion for the second reading.
– Then I shall take another course. The clause relates to “ Power’ to construct the railway,” and I shall deal with the men who will be intrusted with that work. I ask for your ruling, sir, whether the clause giving authority to construct does not provide the Committee with an “opportunity of discussing the capacity of the officials who arc to have charge of construction.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Clause 7 provides for the appointment of officers.
– Those are officers to be appointed by the official in charge of construction. Upon the clause now. before the Committee, I can appropriately repeat in the public interests the statement I made this afternoon, that the Government are proposing to allow this work to be constructed by officials whose past services prove them to be unequal to the big responsibility involved in future undertakings. I reiterate with emphasis every word I uttered this afternoon in that regard. Not one charge that I made has been refuted by the Minister. I know that the rolling-stock is all right, but the man who designed the coaches could not continue longer under the control and direction of the present Railway Commissioner, and he left the Com monwealth Service to take another appointment at double his former salary. I could continue for hours mentioning the names of most efficient men who found it impossible to remain under the control of the Commissioner.
– Was it because of the Commissioner, or the double salary, that the officer to whom the honorable member has referred left the Commonwealth Service?
– Because of the Commissioner. The Minister has a great deal to learn in regard to this matter. I do not blame him, but I do blame the senior members of the Ministry, especially the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), and Senator Pearce, who have knowledge of a waste of public funds to an extent unprecedented in the history of this country. I feel bound to say this. Are not business methods to be employed in connexion with public works ‘f Are we all incapable? I charge those honorable gentlemen who were Ministers at the time that these great losses occurred with incapacity similar to that of the officials. The taxpayers of this country will suffer the loss of millions of pounds if the methods of the past are continued. It seems a tragedy that our memories of the awful losses of public moneys are notmore vivid. The Minister of Works and Railways referred to the cost of construe.ing the East- West railway.
– That is not the railway to which this Bill relates.
– I do not desire the same losses to be incurred in connexion with the construction of the North-South railway. The East-West line presented no engineering difficulties; it was one of the easiest constructional projects in any part of the world, and one section runs in a straight line for over 350 miles on a level plain. The Minister compared that surface line with the Long Plains railway which, although traversing fairly level country, was one of the heaviest and best roads ever undertaken in Australia. If such a ridiculous and outrageous comparison was inspired by the Commissioner, it proves the calibre of man he is. We know of structures that were erected at enormous costs, and then pulled down. I could continue for two hours enumerating similar mistakes, every one of which has been recorded in Hansard, and has been criticised by every metropolitan newspaper in Australia. These things are forgotten by the gentlemen who to-day have the handling of the public purse, and advance such trashy replies to the charges made against them. The Attorney-General was a member of the Ministry when the then Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) sent a wireless message to Mr. Johnson asking him to return to Australia, and take over the completion of the East-West railway, because the Commonwealth was in such desperate straits. In regard to the Teesdale Smith tenders, I told Sir Joseph Cook that I could get him a tender for half the amount that the line was costing by day labour. Three or four contractors had put their heads together, and the Government did not realize the fact. After £2,000,000 had been spent on the railway I introduced Mr. Joseph Timms to the Prime Minister in 1913, and he offered to complete the railway for another £2,000,000. The Government submitted the offer to the engineer, who afterwards became Commis*sioner, and he stated that he could build the line as cheaply as could a contractor, and he recommended that he be allowed to complete the job by day labour. Let the Attorney-General deny that statement.
– Quote Smith and Timms’ tender for earthworks, which was 2s. per yard higher than the cost by day labour.
– I told Sir Joseph Cook that if he would advertise for tenders he would receive an offer to complete at 50 per cent, below the unsatisfactory tender. Mr. Timms offered to put down a very big deposit for the completion of the line. His intention was that two or three big contractors should co-operate and build the railway rapidly. There was enough capital behind the group of contractors to carry the scheme through. They would have had the responsibility of finding rolling-stock, and the Commonwealth would not have had on its hands nearly £1,000,000 worth of rolling-stock, which is -.lying along the line to-day, and cannot be sold. There is hardly a locomotive on the railway of the right type for drawing an express train. These are solid facts, and the opinion I am expressing is shared by the best railway men in Australia. The construction of the East-West railway made day labour stink in the nostrils of the people, and drove more nails into its coffin than has any other work carried out by the Government. I repeat every word I said about the incapacity and inefficiency of the officials who built that railway. I am only echoing the opinion of leading railway men.
– The honorable member has no authority to say that.
– I “have; and I charge the Attorney-General with having been as much responsible for that disastrous business as was anybody else. I ask the people of the Commonwealth to decide whether that sort of thing is to continue. The Minister for Works and Railways has explained that the decision whether day labour or contract shall be employed will not rest . with the Government ; authority to do as he pleases is to be given to a man who has shown that he has no organizing capacity, who does not know how to handle men, and amongst whose employees there is seething discontent.
– The honorable member must see that under cover of this Bill for the construction of a railway he is attacking :i public official.
– Are ‘ we not making a decision regarding the expenditure of public funds ? Do we not represent the taxpayers ? I ask the present Government whether they have abandoned the policy of the previous Government, which was contract labour wherever possible, subject to check by departmental estimate. My voice will be lifted again and again in protest against wasteful expenditure. What is to become of the people of the Commonwealth if their money is to be expended by people who have committed such blunders in the past?
– I had no desire to take part in this debate, but in view of the statements made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), in which he has seen fit to make an attack upon a public officer who is not here to defend himself, I shall give the House my experience of that officer,.
– You have said this before.
– I cannot recall that I have ever publicly in this House said anything about the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner (Mr. Bell). The honorable member, for reasons best known to himself, has adopted an attitude of strong personal hostility to Mr. Bell.
– There is not a word of truth in that. I tell you that to your face.
– Then the honorable member has taken this attitude for no reason at all. Either he has reasons or he has no reasons. I have investigated some of the statements he has made tonight, and I tell honorable members that there is no foundation in fact for them. The honorable member for Wakefield has accused me of some responsibility for expenditure in respect to the construction of this railway. I had nothing whatever to do with that expenditure. I was not in the Government at the time when most of the money was expended.
– You were in the Cook Government.
– I was in the Cook Government, but I had nothing to do with this railway at the time. The honorable member knows that. To some of the statements made by the honorable member to-night there is a direct and complete answer. I shall tell the House my experience with this railway. As Minister, I came into touch with it from 1918 to 1921. After that the honorable member took control of ifc from me. While I had control of the Commonwealth Railways I was brought into association with the Commissioner of Railways, Mr. Bell. I could not have had a more conscientious, capable, and efficient officer oi staff than I had during the whole of that period.
– You knew nothing about the business; you are a lawyer.
– I admit I am a lawyer. Perhaps the honorable member has followed some calling which has fitted him to be a better judge than I am. I am telling the House, without bias, what my experience was. Before Mr. Bell was engaged by the Commonwealth Government he had had years of experience in
Queensland, and I understand that every Minister who has. had anything to do with him in Queensland has regarded him as a most capable, just, and efficient officer.
– He is still serving Queeusland.
– He was in charge of constructional work there, and the work that was carried out during his term of office with the Queensland Government; stands to-day as evidence of his capacity and efficiency.
– You are talking childish stuff.
– The. honorable member has taken advantage of his position :n this House to attack a man’s reputation, and because I am telling the truth he has lost his temper.
– Perhaps you will allow me to state that I have ,a right and a public duty to say that a man is inefficient.
– The honorable member has a perfect right to express any opinion he likes, but when he exercises that right to make statements such as he has made to-night, I cannot permit them to remain uncontradicted, because they cast a reflection upon the credit of one of Aus- * tralia’s best .public servants. I refuse to sit here and allow a man to be attacked behind his back.
– The honorable member may consider it to be rubbish, but I do not. I think my duty is to stand by a man who has served me, as Minister, well.
– Who has the duty to stand up for the country ?
– My experience of Mr. Bell is that he is one of the most careful and economical officers we have in our Service.
– He is Scotch ; that is the best thing about him.
- Mr. Bell has all the virtues of the Scotch. The honorable member was most unjust to him. He was also unfair in some other remarks he made. He stated that in the opinion he had expressed he had behind him the weight of all the railway authorities of Australia.
– I did not say that. I said I had behind me the leading railway men in Australia.
– The honorable member was not justified in saying that. I have had opportunities to gauge the opinion of the leading railway men of Australia on this subject. I know that one of the highest railway authorities who has ever visited the Commonwealth expressed the opinion that Mr. Bell is one of the greatest railway experts we have. The honorable member knows to whose opinion I refer.
– I know that the leading railway men in Australia do not take the figures that man gave, nor do they agree with him.
– It is most unfortunate that the honorable member should have taken advantage of his place in this Chamber to make an attack on a public servant. I make no apology for my intervention on behalf of Mr. Bell, because, in my experience, he is one of the best public servants Australia has ever had.
– On a personal explanation, I ask you, Mr. Watkins, whether the Attorney-General is justified in saying that I have made an attack on a public officer when, conscientiously, and according to my view of my duty, which I took an oath to perform when I came into this Parliament, I have only tried to show the Committee that certain officers are incompetent and inefficient, and yet are intrusted with the expenditure of millions of money.
– The honorable member is only continuing his attack. He is not making a personal explanation.
– I have not made an attack on any individual. I have only done my duty in saying that this man is inefficient.
.- I have every sympathy with the Minister in the position in which he has found himself. It is not a new experience for Ministers in this House. I recollect that a former Minister who was deposed indulged in the same kind of talk. Irefer to Mr. King O’Malley. We are becoming accustomed to these attempts to shift responsibility. I trust that the Minister’s successor will not be subjected to this treatment. In justification of Mr. Bell, it may be said that Australia has one of the best railways in the world in the EastWest line, and it was constructed under day labour in the middle of the war. ‘ I take up the debate from the point where it was left by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), though I do not propose to say whether the Public Works Committee has been impartial or partial. I shall let the Committee’s actions speak for them-, selves. I refer to, its report. Senator Foll moved -
That as the agreement attached to the Northern Territory Acceptance Act No. 20 of 1910, has already been amended to meet circumstances which have altered since its ratification, the Committee place on record its opinion that arrangements be made with South Australia which would further amend the agreement and permit of the construction of a railway which future development will show to be in the best interests of Australia.
I ask the Committee what it meant by that, motion, which was carried? What right had the Committee to attempt to interfere with the compact made between the Commonwealth Of Australia and the State of South Australia? Clearly, and distinctly the Committee exceeded its authority in making the proposal contained in that motion, which is completely condemnatory of the Committee, and shows the attitude it has adopted. I find that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) voted for that motion. Will he tell us by interjection the reasons that impelled him to do so?
– I will not; but I will make a few remarks upon it later.
– I hope that the honorable member will not deal cursorily with it, but that he will go fully into the question. The Public Works Committee unquestionably exceeded the ambit of the references to it in giving expression to the views contained in that motion. It has made a distinct side step. That is not the only paragraph in the report which shows the attitude of the Committee. The report is one of the most inept productions that we have ever had from a Committee which was appointed to deal with a big public work. It has recommended a line that will lead nowhere and which, it admits, will contribute very little towards the early development of the Territory. Is this all we are to expect from a Committee which collects public fees and peregrinates all through Australia ? Another resolution of the Committee which carries condemnation with it reads -
That the Committee place on record its opinion that the construction of the section
Mataranka to Daly Waters will of itself contribute very little towards the early development of the Northern Territory, and that the recommendation for its construction is only agreed to as being a section of an eventual line to cross the Barkly Tableland to Camooweal, via Newcastle Waters.
The Committee has placed on record for “all time that it agrees to the construction of a railway which will not contribute to the development of the Territory. Had the Committee done what it really wished to do ib would have recommended, straight out, that a line should be constructed to Camooweal’ via Newcastle Waters. Honorable members will see that that statement is justifiable if they look at the map which is attached to the report. Why is that map attached to the report? It contains on it dotted lines which represent railways that the Committee suggest shall be constructed. One of those lines is from Daly Waters to Anthony Lagoon and then on towards Pellew Island, in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
– The honorable member is getting wide of the question, and quoting the Public Works Committee’s report on other lines.
– Before we consent to the construction of this line we should find out whether another route might not be preferable. The question is whether ( we shall consent to a line from Mataranka to Daly Waters.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member’s remarks would be quite in order on the second reading, but the House by passing the’ second reading has agreed to construct this particular portion of the line. The honorable member must not at this stage discuss the Bill as a whole, particularly the report of the Public Works Committee regarding other proposals.
– I can hardly see that I am out of order when other honorable members, including the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin’ have been allowed to discuss alternative recommendations of the Public Works Committee. I am now suggesting reasons why we should not agree to the clause, and pointing out that the Public Works Committee has recommended or suggested alternative routes. My contention is that the best route for the line’ would be to another terminus.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The House has already affirmed the proposal for constructing the line between the two points named in the Bill.
– Then it would appear that honorable members have no power to amend this clause; because, on the second reading, the House affirmed the proposal for building a railway, from Mataranka to Daly Waters. I was under the impression that it was the right of every honorable member to move an amendment to any clause, even if that amendment had the effect of altering the whole Bill. As I say, the Public Works Committee suggested alternative routes, even one into the territory of Western Australia. If we cannot act on the recommendations of the Public Works Committee, I should like to know why that Committee went beyond its ambit in this manner in order to suggest a policy to the Government. However, I can only say that if the route laid down in the Bill is approved South Australia will be penalized, and the agreement with the Commonwealth flouted.
.- It seems that something I said, this afternoon, has created a little consternation amongst my Queensland fellow members of the Public Works Committee. As soon as this fact was brought under my notice I gave an assurance that when my Hansard proofs reached me to-morrow I would see exactly the words I had used, and, if necessary, would withdraw any objected to. When I made use of the word “unbiased,” I may have been a little unfortunate in my choice of a word. Perhaps I can more clearly express myself by saying that the members I spoke of were the only “disinterested” members.
– That is worse !
– I do not think so. The Tasmanian and Victorian members of the Committee can hope to gain nothing for their States whether the line goes into Queensland or into South Australia, and that was what I desired to convey to honorable members this afternoon. I do not impute any improper motive whatever to the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Macleay), or the other Queensland members of the Public Works Committee. As members of that Committee, we have to draw our conclusions on the evidence given. After travelling through the Territory, I was moved to vote in the same way as the honorable member for Lilley voted. Let me say, in reply to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) that I came to that conclusion because of the fact that, when the line has reached Daly Waters, or a little further south, it would be far better to cross the Barkly Tablelands, where there is the finest pastoral country in Australia, than it would be to make the 400-mile stretch south to the Macdonnell Ranges. That was the reason I voted for the swing into Queensland, and also for the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.
– Senator Newland supported the same motion.
– Exactly; the three members of the Committee who went to the Territory voted in the same way, and I think honorable members would do well to accept their report.
– What right had you to suggest Camooweal ?
– Because Camooweal is on the border of Queensland.
– Yet you denounced that State this afternoon.
– I did not. This afternoon I spoke rather feelingly about the poor country in certain parts of western Queensland; I did not refer to Camooweal, but distinctly referred to the country south of Boulia. I shall not vote for any proposal that the Commonwealth construct a railway in western Queensland. The Queensland Government has given an undertaking that if the Commonwealth construct a line to Camooweal, it will link up the Queensland railway system.
– The honorable member having made a general reference, had better now confine himself to the clause.
– The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has said that the Public Works Committee went outside the ambit of its reference in the recommendations that it made. I am one who objects very strongly to the people of to-day tying down the people of to-morrow. We of to-day are suffering from promises made twenty years ago, and amongst these is that for the building of Canberra. I will not be a party to committing the House or the country to an expenditure of anything from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000 on a line north to south, or a line south to north, when a line to Alice Springs, and a continuation of the northern line to Daly Waters or Newcastle Waters, will do all that is necessary in the way of railway development for the next twenty or thirty years. Will the Minister (Mr. Stewart) assure us that it is the intention of the Government to continue the line from Daly Waters to Newcastle Waters, or even Banka-banka Station, as a portion of their future policy ? If so, I am prepared to vote for the clause at once.
.- The Government proposes to extend the line on the terms laid down in the Bill. The future intentions of the Government will be announced in due course. At present we ask only for approval of our present proposal.
– I wish the. Minister (Mr. Stewart) could give us an idea of the cost of taking the necessary railway materials around the coast to Darwin, and then by train, compared with the cost of sending them from Adelaide or Port Augusta on the already constructed line. In my opinion the latter course would be by far the preferable for the carriage of not only material, but also necessary labour. The Minister has not yet informed us, so far as I know, that he is assured of a full supply of labour for the line contemplated by the Bill. Adelaide, Melbourne, and even Sydney, are centres for the supply of the necessary men; and in view of the prevailing unemployment, I suggest that the Government take the course that will result in the readiest transport. Would any honorable member who had the choice prefer to undertake the construction of a railway from the Port Darwin end to the construction of a line of similar length from the Adelaide end ?
– Order! The honorable member is making a speech which would be more appropriate to the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
– I regret if I am transgressing, but I think that in arguing against the clause under consideration I am entitled to point out the difficulty of transporting material necessary for the’ proposed railway extension. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) rose in the fury of hia religious wrath against tha honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster).
– I rise to a point of order: I think it is hardly fair that the honorable member should proceed on these lines. We had a full and free discussion on the motion for the second reading, and I now ask that honorable members be confined strictly to- the question before the Chair.
The TEMPORARY’ CHAIRMAN.The Minister must see that clause 3 of the Bill is almost as wide as the Bill itself, so- far as it relates to the construction of the proposed line. I have tried to keep honorable members to the question, but I regret to say that on one or two occasions honorable members on the Ministerial side have attacked each other in a way they should not have done.
– I was alluding to what had been said by the. AttorneyGeneral, and the Minister for. Works and Railways did not condemn him for the way in which he spoke. I do not wish to say a word against. Mr. Bell. I respecthim, and have found him to be one of tha most courteous and gracious, gentler men I have ever met. But even such mem may make, mistakes. The AttorneyGeneral might have said that the railway to which he referred was. estimated to cost some £1,000,000,but did cost this country some £7,000,000. I believe that was due to tack of proper organization, and mot because it was constructed by day labour. The Minister for Works and Railways has claimed great credit: for- discovering so many surplus steam-engines..
– I have, done nothing of the sort.
– Them the . newspapers, have, done it fearthe honorable gentleman. ,
– I am not responsible for the newspapers-..
– The honorable gentleman has not contradicted what the newspapers said. Why did not the AttorneyGeneral, when he was Minister for Works and Railways, let the people know that nearly £700,000 of the. public money had been wasted; in the purchase of these locomotives.? Hehasattacked the honorable member for Wakefield, thoughhe knew that, with the exception’ of his references to- day labour, the majority of the statements made by the honorable member for
Wakefield were justified. If this clause goes to a vote I will vote with the representatives of South Australia, but I repeat that the Government would have been wiser if they had proposed the extension of the North-South railway from the south instead of from the north. That would have been more economical’. It would have saved great expense in the transport of material, and it would also have provided employment for many persons in Australia who are to-day looking for work.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Tbe gauge of the railway, shall be. three feet six inches.
– I take exception to the’ proposal of the Government in this clause to perpetuate and extend the- difficulty that has arisen in Australia as a result of the adoption in different States of varying railway gauges. To bring about a uniform railway gauge in- Australia now will involve the expenditure of a huge sum of money, yet for the railway extension now under consideration the Government propose a gauge which is not that which has been agreed to as the standard gauge for the Commonwealth .
– We must build thisextension on the same gauge as the existing line.
– Does the Minister not know that if the existing railway is ex.tended on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge the greater will be the length of line which, will ultimately have to be converted to. the standard gauge? It is desirable at. this stage to correct the mistake which has been made in the. construction, of the existing Northern Territory railway.. As soon as the line is linked up. with the-, railways, of the south, if this course is pursued, we must have rolling-stock for the- NorthSouth line- differing from that in use on the East- West line-. I recognised the difficulty in making this extension on a. 4-ft. 81/2in. gauge in view of the existing Northern Territory line, and also, of the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. But Ithinkthatitisdesirableatthisjuncture tocorrect the mistake that has been made.
– Does the honorable member suggest that this extension of 160 miles should bebuilt on the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge?
– I suggest that not only this extension of 160 miles should be constructed on that gauge, but that the existing Northern Territory line should be converted to the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge. I claim that that is a sensible suggestion. My great complaint in respect of many public undertakings in the Commonwealth is that those responsible for them contented themselves with meeting existing conditions, and did not look forward to the demands which would arise in years to come. Before honorable members agree to the construction of another 160 miles of the Northern Territory railway on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge they should realize what it will cost to convert it to the standard gauge of 4 ft. 81/2 in., and also the existing railway from Darwin to Mataranka to the same gauge.
.- I have nottaken part so far in the discussion of this matter, but I have listened with interest to what has been said. One thing that has been rankling in my mind since I read this Bill is this clause proposing the construction of the line on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. In view of the gauge of the existing Northern Territory railway, it does not seem to me to be a practical proposal to suggest, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh , (Mr. Makin) has done, that this extension shouldbe constructed on the 4-ft. . 81/2-in. gauge. I move -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ but the sleepersshall be of sufficient length to enable the gauge to be widened to 4 ft. 81/2 in. when required.”
– Is that not contemplated by the Government ?
– I understand that it is the intention of the Government to build the bridges of sufficient width to carry a 4-ft.81/2. line, but the sleepers, which are to be steel sleepers, are not to be ofsufficient length for this purpose, because of the comparatively small additional cost whichwould be involved. The Minister said that the additional cost would amount to £3,000 per mile, but in comparison to the total cost of the line that would represent but a small amount. We are proposing to spend over £1,500,000 in building 160 miles of railway, and by not having the sleepers of sufficient length for a 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge we shall be perpetuating the evil and inconvenience which has cost this country untoldmillions up to the present time. I was much struck by the picture which the Minister painted of what might happen in this part of Australia in the light of what has happened in other parts of the Commonwealth. How a man holding such views as he has expressed can recommend the extension of this line with sleepers capable of carrying only a 3-ft. 6-in. line I cannot understand. I have it on good authority that steel sleepers would probably last forty or fifty years. Who can say what will happen in this country long before that time has elapsed? Very little more than fifty years ago, in my father’s home, some wise people said that uniform railway gauges in New South Wales and Victoria were desirable, whilst others said that the railways would never meet in their lifetime. Yet before fifteen years elapsed the New South Wales and Victorian railways met on the northern bank of the Murray. The . same thing will occur again. This country is not going to . stand still. Iventure to think that we are in for an era of advancement and prosperity in this country never previously equalled since . the days of the gold diggings.
– The honorable member is an optimist.
– I have lived my life in the inland districts, and, like the Minister for Works andRailways, I am an optimist. I know land which fourteen years ago was considered to be outside the safe wheat-growing area. It was said that a man was mad to go into it. I did not hold that opinion, and I went into it. I saw the class of country, noted the rainfall, and turned down the advice given by Government statisticians and officials. That was only ‘fourteen years ago, and now that district is recognised as . one of the safest wheat-growing areas in New South Wales. The ‘Committee will make a blunder if it allows the clause to pass without making provision for sleepers long enough to carry a 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge line. I trust the Minister will accept the amendment. I realize that a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line is all that can be justified at the present time, and that for many years to come such a line will be sufficient. It is proposed to provide bridges of a width sufficient to carry a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge line, and sleepers of adequate length would entail only a small additional expenditure, and would save an enormous sum of money when the day comes - as surely it will - when it is necessary to convert to a 4-ft. Sit-in. gauge. The longer the day of conversion is put off the heavier will be the expense. Do not let us perpetuate in the Northern Territory the blunder that has proved so expensive in the south of Australia.
– I suppose that one who does not belong to South Australia, Queensland, or Western Australia, and has not lived in the Northern Territory, may still have the temerity to venture into the debate. Although I have not taken any part in the discussion, I have listened very earnestly to the speeches that have been made by honorable members who have been over the route of the proposed line. I have also been interested in the explanation given of the potentialities of the Northern Territory by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), and I have noted the little pleasantries between several honorable members on the Government side, who differ among themselves as to the route the line should follow. The question is whether preparation shall be made now for enlarging the gauge in the future to 4 ft. 8£ inches. I would prefer to see the line taken due south, as was arranged in the agreement with South Australia. I have never believed that the money to be spent on this line, whatever route it follows, would be wasted. The line will not pay for many years, but we should not look at this class of railway from the point of view of pounds, shillings, and pence. We should ask ourselves not whether the line will pay in the immediate or distant future, but whether its construction is wise in the interests of the country. Not very far from the proposed line there are, I understand, great possibilities for development. It is stipulated in the clause that the gauge shall be 3 ft. 6 inches, but no reference is made to the necessity for making provision for a wider gauge in the future. The Minister is aware that when the line from Port Darwin to Pino
Creek was extended to the Katherine River the original 3-ft. 6-in. gauge was adhered to, but bridges were built and sleepers were used which were suitable for a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge line. It is remarkable that every provision should be made up to a certain point for conversion, to a 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge, but that beyond that point provision is not made in regard to sleepers. It will be a patch-work job. I am informed by those who ought to know that to use tie longer sleepers would entail very little extra expense.
– It would cost about £160,000 more, or approximately £1,000 per mile.
– I do not think £1,000 per mile would be ill-spent in that way.
[9.581 - I hope the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) will not press the amendment. The estimate provides for bridges and culverts - including the large bridge over the Katherine River, which will Cost £95,000 - capable of carrying a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge line. The reason that sleepers suitable for a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge line were not included in the estimate was because the cost of conversion will not be great if the bridges and culverts do not require alteration. On the other hand, the initial cost of providing the longer sleepers would be approximately £160,000. The House has already passed an appropriation for £1,545,000, which will provide for bridges and culverts large enough, and strong enough, to carry a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge line. It is quite true that the line may be converted some time to the wider gauge, but that is not likely % to happen in the near future. I ask the honorable member to- withdraw the amendment, because his wishes have been met in every respect except the length of the sleepers. The Government has made reasonable provision for the future conversion of the line. I ask the Committee to agree to the clause as it stands.
.- I have yet to be convinced that the 3-ft.. 6-in. gauge is not suitable for Australian railways. What would have happened in Queensland if that gauge had not been adopted? The people could not have borne the burden of building railways on the 4-ft. 8^-in. or 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, and they would have had to ;be content with a much shorter mileage ofrailways than they have to-day.The South African and Tasmanian railways are of 3-ft.6-in. gauge, whilst the railways in Java are of metre gauge, which is less than 3 ft. 4 in. Nevertheless, the Javan railways, are so well built that the Sectional ‘ Committee of the Public Works Committee travelled in trains at an average of 33 miles per hour, including stoppages, and I understand on reliable authority that they run up to 42 miles per hour, notwithstanding that the carriages are 10 ft. 6 in. wide, inside measurement, which is greater than the width of the carriages on the 5 ft. 3 in. railways of Victoria. I support the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge.
– I am loath to withdraw the amendment, because it does seem ill-advised to incur a very large expenditure in making provision for the conversion of the waterways without making similar provision in regard to other portions of the. track. However, as there seems no prospect of the amendment being agreed to, I ask leave to withdraw it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Commonwealth Railways Ant 1917, the Commmisionermay appoint allsuch personsas he thinks necessary for the purposes of the construction of the railway or the working of the railway, before it has been declared open for traffic, land may authorize the employment of any persons for those purposes, and may . pay to persons soappointed or employedsuch salaries or wages as he thinks fit.
.- I move-
That all the words after “and” in line 8 be omitted, and the following words be in serted in lieu thoreof , “ and pay such remunerations as are decided by conciliation or arbitration.”
If industrial peace during the construction of the line is desired the arbitrary powers conferred on’ the Commissioner by this clause should be considerably curtailed. The employees should be given an opportunity, by means of conferences or arbitration, of having their wages and working conditions fixed. If the adjustment of wages is left entirely to the employer, the estimated cost of construction will be considerably exceeded. The amendment, if. carried, will extend to the employees on the work the same privileges and conditions as are enjoyed by employees elsewhere.
, - It is already provided by Statute that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1910, shall apply to industrial disputes in the Territory. I hope, therefore, that the honorable member will not persist with the amendment.
– The clause gives too much- power to the Commissioner. No man should have unfettered discretion regarding the wages he shall pay to those whom he may appoint. I therefore move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “ Provided that where such salaries or wages are over f 500 per annum the sanction of theMinister must be obtained.”
– - I accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 8 -
The provisions of section 63 of the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917 shall apply in relation to the acquisition of land for the purposes of the railway, notwithstanding the provisions of section 11 of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910.
Amendment (by Mr. Stewart) agreed to-
That the following words he added to the clause : - “ Provided that no person who is a lessee of lands from the Crown shall ‘be entitled to compensation in respect of the resumption or use of any of such lands for the purposes of the railway.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 9 and 10 agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported, with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Message, recommending appropriation, reported.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) :
Motion (by Mr. Austin Chapman) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to amend the Tariff Board Act of 1921.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Austin Chapman and! Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Austin Chapman, and read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate, with the following amendments: -
Clause 6. - Add the following new. subclause: -
In the absence of the Chairman from any meeting the members of the Board present shallelect one of their number to act as Chairman at the meeting.
Clause18. - Leave out “ consent of Parliament,” and insert in lieu thereof “ approval by resolution of both Houses of Parliament.”
Amendments considered in Committee, and agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230725_reps_9_104/>.