4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator PEARCE laid on the table the following papers: -
Gauge of Australian Railways : Letter from Acting Premier of Victoria to Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, suggesting Conference between responsible Ministers of the Commonwealth and the States. &c.
Gauge of Australian Railways - Reply by Mr. James Alexander Smith, C.E., to comments of Mr. H. Deane, M. Inst., C.E.
Ordered to Be printed.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence if he has any information to give the Senate with regard to two letters from the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia to the Government of the Commonwealth that appear to have gone astray?
– I am very sorry and considerably annoyed to have to say that I gave the answer to this question previously that these letters had not been received, because that was the answer supplied by the Department concerned. On Senator McColl again raising the question. I made further inquiries, and I am now informed that the letters in question have been received, and that they had been received at the time Senator McColl first asked the question. I can only express my regret and annoyance that, quite innocently, 1 gave the Senate misleading information supplied by one of the Departments. I have made the necessary arrangements to have copies of the letters prepared for honorable senators.
– By leave of the Senate, I wish to make a personal explanation. When a division was being taken last night, I was making some remarks to Senator Needham when Senator Henderson said something which I took to be a reflection upon my regard for the truth. I do not think that the honorable senator meant what he said in that way, but I took it in that way at the moment, and made a very sharp reply, in which I used an expression which I ought not to haveused. I am very sorry that I used it, and I apologize to Senator Henderson for having done so.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
If the Government has, as stated in the press, received notice from the Marconi Company in reference to an alleged infringement of its patent rights?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
The Government has received an intimation from the Marconi Company that they have commenced proceedings for infringement of their patent against the users of the Telefunken System in England ; that instructions were cabled on the 14th instant to their representatives in New Zealand to commence proceedings against the users . of the Telefunken System . in that country ; also that similar instructions with regard to Australia had been mailed to their attorneys in Melbourne.
asked the Minister representing thePostmaster-General, upon notice -
Senator PEARCE (for Senator Findley). - The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
Debate resumed from 29th November (vide page 3337) on motion by Senator Pearce -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Millen had moved -
Thatall the words after “ That “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ as the Commonwealth Government is not possessed of sufficient powers from the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia to enable it to proceed with the construction of the railway through the said States, and to control its management thereafter, and as this Senate is not supplied with sufficient information on (a) the proposed route ; (a) the cost of construction ; and (b) , the probable revenue and expenditure and interest charged - this Bill be not proceeded with until the Senate is further informed on these points; and, further, as the proposed railway serves directly to assist the development of the States of South Australia and Western Australia, this Senate is of opinion that the Government should consult with the Governments of the two States, with a view to devising an arrangement securing to the Commonwealth a reasonable portion of any value added to the lands along the line of route and accruing from the construction of the said line.”
– In addressing myself to this Bill I wish to say as briefly as possible that I think that Senator Millen has made out avery good case indeed for the inquiry asked for in his amendment. It has to beremembered that this is one of the most important works that the Commonwealth has yet been asked to undertake. It is not only an important, but, I venture to say, an inevitable, work for the Commonwealth. The circumstances surrounding it are such that we’ should enter upon it with the fullest consideration and the adoption of the most careful precautions such as are usually observed in connexion with similar undertakings in the States and in any selfgoverning community. Iam not referring now to the actual cost which it is estimated this work will entail. I realize that it means the initiation of a railway policy for the Commonwealth. We know that in each of the States there is a railway system. These have been brought into being by following different policies. In some respects they are the same, and in other respects they are totally dissimilar. We have the advantage of the experience of the States to guide us in this matter, but it would appear that insubmitting this proposition to Parliament the Government have not been minded by any considerations either of the past or the future. Senator Millen’s amendment is aimed at securing information, much of which is regarded as essential in connexion with the submission of any railway proposition to a State Parliament. Other information asked for it isalmost indispensable that the Commonwealth Parliament should have before it enters upon a railway policy at all. Senator Millen has asked for information as to the route of the proposed railway, more definite information as to the cost of construction, the probable revenue and expenditure, and interest charged. So far as the route is concerned,itis a most important factor for consideration before any determination of the question whether or not this railway should be constructed. I am reminded of a very recent instance which occurred in one of the States, where the slightest deviation from what was understood to be the route of a certain railway led to a celebrated case in which certain suggestions were made which had to be determined upon by a Royal Commission, inasmuch as they involved the position, integrity, and status of one of the highest officers of the State. That position of affairs was brought about in the main by the fact that the question of route was not definitely determined upon, or rather was not made unmistakably understood by every member of the Parliament. It was thus fairly open to members of that Parliament and the public outside to assume that one route was taken which was hot the route which the
Government subsequently stated was intended to be taken. In connexion with the case, members of the State Parliament referred to gave evidence in which they honestly expressed their opinion as to the route proposed for a line which, so far as the length and importance are concerned, was a mere bagatelle in comparison to the line referred to in this Bill. Yet it was found that there were most complete divergencies of opinion on the subject honestly entertained by members of that Parliament themselves. So far, therefore, as the route of this railway” is concerned, it is eminently desirable that Parliament should be informed exactly as to the route of the proposed line. There are many reasons for thatwhich I need hardly dilate upon at length.
– Does the honorable member say that the Bill does not indicate the route?
– No, I do not say that. But provision is made for deviations, and I think the route should be indicated with sufficient accuracy, and only after it has been clearly ascertained that no competing route for which there is any measure of support outside or within this Chamber has been compared with it, and has been unequivocally set aside. I believe that it has been suggested, not only in this Chamber, but outside, that there aresources other than that proposed by the Government which this line might take with greater advantage to the Commonwealth, to the line as a line, so far as the cost of construction and the return of revenue from its working are concerned. I do not think that we have had sufficient information to enable us to clearly and unmistakably express our preference for the route proposed as against all the other routes that have been considered in connexion with this matter here as elsewhere. I should say that I regard the cost of construction, and the probable revenue and expenditure and interest charged, as secondary matters in the sense that I do not think that it is competent for anybody to lay down with anything like an approximation to reasonable accuracy what will be the cost of a line of this character, and still less to estimate the probable revenue and expenditure of the line. This work, as I have said, is not only important, but inevitable. It must be undertaken by the Commonwealth at some time or other, and there is no doubt that it will have to be undertaken early. But that does not justify us in walking into the enterprise blindfolded, neglectful of the ordinary precautions which any man would take about a matter which involved the expenditure of . £100 or£200. It is precisely because Senator Millen’s amendment directs attention to the precautions which would be taken by a business man entering upon a transaction involving the expenditure of such a sum as I have mentioned, and because the precautions proposed are taken in every one of the States in connexion with works of a similar kind, that I think it should be regarded by the Government as essential in the proper consideration of this measure.
– They should accept it.
– Whether the Government are in a position to accept the amendment in relation to the course of business which they have laid down is a matter which is entirely within their knowledge, but I certainly think that, before asking Parliament to sanction this enterprise, precautions of this character should have been taken. In my opinion we would be regardless of our responsibilities - no matter how strongly we may believe in the necessity and justification for this connexion - if we said, “ Oh, we have not the time to inquire into those circumstances. We have not the opportunity or chance of finding out if the line could be constructed under better conditions.” That, in effect, is what the Bill says. Virtually it asks Parliament to sanction the construction of the line, and when the Government are asked what precautions they have taken in regard to the matters mentioned in the concluding paragraph of the amendment, what satisfaction have we got? Do we not all realize the state of uncertainty which exists in South Australia and Western Australia as to their policy towards the Commonwealth ? Do we not also realize the state of uncertainty as to what will be the policy of the Commonwealth to those two States in respect of this line if constructed? Why should we not have something more definite? Will any honorable senator say that, in the event of the railway being constructed with all these doubts and uncertainties surrounding the position, ten years afterwards, in connexion with some railway movement on the part of the Commonwealth, this may not be cited as an instance of its policy in relation to such matters? In matters of comparatively minor importance the Commonwealth has decided that it will take no course of action in relation to individual instances until it has a general policy which will apply to all cases. Is there any trouble in obtaining the information which is asked for in the amendment, or is there any doubt on the part of the Government as to what will be the result of taking such action as the amendment indicates should be taken? I do not think that there should be much trouble or much loss of time, and I believe that any differences which may exist between the three Governments would be solved on a principle of mutual understanding, and on a principle which, as far as the Commonwealth was concerned, would not, in relation to any future enterprises of this nature, prejudicially affect it or tie its hands in relation to other States. It will be realized that there are other railways which may possibly, in the very near future, come under consideration on the part of the Commonwealth Government. I allude, not merely to the possibility of a line from the northern part of South Australia to the southern or south-western part of the line from Port Darwin inland, providing that the line goes through the Northern Territory itself, but also the possibilities of lines which may be built either into or up to the borders of Queensland and New South Wales. There is the further possibility of a line to Western Australia, which may go more directly from east to west than does the proposed line; that is to say, farther north from the coast. There is not the slightest doubt that in connexion with any of these enterprises in the future, if they were decided upon, and certainly if they were contemplated, the Commonwealth will be bound to the respective States by whatever action it takes now in relation to South Australia and Western Australia. If we sanction this line, and proceed about its construction, is the Commonwealth, in respect to many matters, to be at the dictation of South Australia and Western Australia? If it is to be at such dictation in respect to any matters, then, assuredly, in the future, in connexion with any similar enterprise, it will find that it has made a precedent from which it will be hard to extricate itself. I think that it is not only desirable, but almost indispensable, that the information sought in the amendment should be obtained before further action is taken, because of the fact that we are now embarking upon a railway policy for the Commonwealth, and that whatever action is taken will bind the Commonwealth in the future. I intend to support the amendment on that ground alone.
– Speaking to the amendment, sir, I wish to direct the attention of the Minister of Defence to a rather important fact which has come out by interjection.
– Is not this your second time?
– Will the Minister listen to me for the third time? We did not get the answer except by interjection, and the comment was made by more than one speaker on this side that the matter ought to have come out in the speech of the Minister. As it was not given directly in his speech at the beginning of this debate, I rise for the purpose of asking him, if he chooses to reply, as I think he must do, for a clear and explicit answer to this question, Where is the money to build this railway to come from? By interjection, the Minister either expressly said, or left it to be inferred, that the answer was to be found either in his own speech, or in the Budget papers, or in some financial statement. As the question has been addressed in various forms from this side, but has not been explicitly answered, I beg to press again, even if it be for the second time, for a clear answer on that point.
– They are cutting down the note reserve.
– The Leader of the Opposition has just anticipated the next thought in my mind. The information ought, I repeat, to have been supplied in clear terms in the Minister’s opening speech. It ought to have been given equally explicitly during the course of this debate. I contend that it has not been given yet. This proposal involves an expenditure of anything from ,£4,000,000 to ^6,000,000, to which each State will have to contribute its share. When we are asked to pass this Bill, we, as representatives of the States, are entitled to have clear and full information on the point.
– Do not worry.
– I shall worry this Bill as long as ever I choose to do so; and the more interjections that are made by Ministers, the more irritation that is displayed by them and their supporters, I assure them that the longer will be my criticism. As regards the question of cost, I ask the Minister of Defence to assume the fact that we on this side are as well acquainted with the possibilities, financial and otherwise, underlying the Australian note issue as are the Government, and that when we have asked how this railway is to be financed, we have borne in mind and understood the Australian Notes Act. Is that Act to be used in any way with regard to the financing of this work? I also ask the Minister of Defence to consider that we on this side are fairly well acquainted with the general effect and provisions of the Bill called the Commonwealth Bank Bill, which is being considered in another place.
– Order !
– When we have a clear idea as to the provisions of one Act, and when we also know something of the possible application of the banking policy of the Government, we are entitled to ask, Where is the money to build this railway to come from ? I ask the question, in view of Acts which have been passed, and also in view of the expressed policy of the Government in another respect. Apart from these two questions, or, if you like, with them, what is the new financial scheme which the Government intend to devise in conjunction with financial measures which have been passed, or are contemplated to be passed? We are justified, not merely in criticising, but in holding up the Government, and exhausting every form of the Senate in order to get an explicit answer. I do not know whether I shall be transgressing the Standing Orders, sir. but from what I know and can gather of the financial policy which the Government have already outlined, they do not hold one stiver in cash for the building of this railway.
– Do not show us up in that way.
– That is exactly the position. Am 1 not justified in making this criticism ? On nearly every branch of my criticism, I am on pretty sound grounds. As far as we can gather from the Budget papers, and from what we know of the financial policy of the Government, apart from the Acts relating to the note issue-
– I rise to a point of order. I submit, sir, that the honorable senator is only entitled to discuss the amendment, which does not refer to the method of paying for the construction of the railway.
– I think that Senator Pearce is right. If Senator St. Ledger will look at die amendment, he will see that it relates to the cost of construction, probable revenue and expenditure, and the interest charged. I gave him one intimation that he was overstepping the Une.
– Quite so, sir. I admit the propriety of your ruling. I wish to submit another question. The second part of Senator Millen’s amendment reads - and further, as. the proposed railway serves directly to assist the development of the States of Western Australia and South Australia, this Senate is of opinion that the Government should consult with the Governments of the two States - for a certain purpose. It has been pointed out on the evidence of the report of the Commonwealth engineer, Mr. Deane, that a very large portion of the country through which this line will pass will be absolutely unremunerative for railway purposes. There has been no effective answer to that criticism. But Senator Pearce argued that we ought to consider the needs of the growing population at the terminal points, east and west. I consider that he was quite right in submitting that view. I take an instance from the railway construction policy of Ihe State which I have the honour to represent. The country lying between Cloncurry and Charters Towers, apart from the very narrow coastal fringe, is practically unremunerative. But 80 miles inland a population of between 25,000 and 40,000 people sprung up in consequence of the discovery of a gold-field, and a railway was constructed which ultimately proved remunerative in consequence of the profitable trade conducted between the two terminal points. But this line will be a powerful factor in developing the portion of Western Australia stretching south and east from Kalgoorlie. As Western Australia is certainly going to benefit to such an immense extent, she should be prepared to give some guarantee to the Commonwealth to cover the probable loss upon the line for a few years. There is no State in Australia which has not had to face similar disadvantages in connexion with its railway construction policy. This amendment simply asks the Government to direct the attention of Western Australia to the great advantages that will arise from the construction of the railway, and to ask her to give us some guarantee against loss. Are the other States to bear this burden? Is Western Australia to take all the proceeds from the railway which, at the expense of the Commonwealth, will make the other railways of Western Australia more remunerative than they now are?
– The honorable senator is getting away from the amendment by bringing in the question of whether this line will make other Western Australian railways remunerative. The amendment simply affirms that the Government should consult with the Governments of two States with a view of securing to the Commonwealth a reasonable proportion of any value added to the lands along the line of route.
– It is admitted by the Minister of Defence that this line will be a factor in the development of Western Australia. When we build the railway it will make many other railways in Western Australia more remunerative than they are now.
– I have pointed out already to the honorable senator that the amendment is confined to the added value of the lands along the route of the proposed railway. The honorable senator is debating the question of whether the construction of this line will make other Western Australian railways more remunerative.
– It is quite clear that this line must add value to the lands along the route, and ‘ will indirectly benefit Western Australia in other ways. If the Government insist on rushing through this measure as a matter of policy, this Senate, exercising its trust on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth, should insist on a clear understanding in reference to the matter raised by the amendment.
– - I have listened attentively to the debate on this Bill, and as one of the representatives of the State which will have to pay the largest amount towards the construction of the railway, I regret that, the route selected is the one upon which we are now asked to vote. Looking at this question principally as a defence proposition, I should have preferred to see a railway constructed running directly from Brisbane to Perth, or even directly from Brisbane to the south of the Northern Territory, or the north of South Australia, enabling a military depot to be formed, and thus establishing a basis for a railway which in time to come will have to be constructed through the Northern Territory. A railway built in that direction would afford excellent opportunities for connecting up New South Wales with South Australia .and Western Australia.
– Those projects must all come forward ultimately.
– I recognise that, and it is for that reason that I support the present proposal. If I could induce the Government to immediately undertake . the construction of a line direct from Brisbane to Perth, or to the Northern Territory, 1 would join with those led by Senator Millen, whose principal aim is, I take it, to obstruct the present proposal. Listening to the debate throughout, I find that two chief reasons have been given as to why this railway should not be built. One was elaborated very much by Senator Millen, who dissected very ably the report of Engineer Deane. He endeavoured to show how poor was the country through which the railway would run, and how little traffic it would have to carry. The other point was debated at length, and very strenuously, in another place, and will, I suppose, be considered fully in Committee in the Senate - namely, that the traffic on the railway will be so great that a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge will not be sufficient to carry it. I am rather confused between those two contentions. In Senator Millen’s view the country is so poor that there is no hope of traffic for years to come, except from the terminal points.
– That is the correct view.
– If that be so, Senator Sayers will not join with those v/ho hereafter will demand a wider gauge than 4 ft. 8J in. Which is the correct statement ? Is there going to be such an immense traffic over the line that the gauge which has proved sufficient for New South Wales will be utterly inadequate?
– The argument advanced is that if the line- is to be of any use for the rapid conveyance of troops and mails it must be constructed upon a wider gauge.
– Exactly. And the argument used is that we must employ more powerful locomotives upon it. We have learned from engineers’ reports that in America locomotives three times as large as those employed in New South Walesare being successfully used upon a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge. But even this knowledge does not satisfy the opponents of that gauge. They clamour for a still wider gauge, so that we may use even heavier locomotives upon this line for the purpose of transporting troops and munitions of war more expeditiously. To me it appears that this line ought not to have been the first undertaken bv the Commonwealth. From a defence point of view, a railway from Brisbane to Perth should have been given precedence. But the Government have not adopted that course. I think we can well afford to allow the Bill to pass, because it is an indication that they are determined to link up the east and the west by means of a railway. Measured by their contribution to our Customs revenue, or even to the revenue which is derived from land taxation, I say that half the cost to the Commonwealth Government will be borne by the people of New South Wales. But, notwithstanding that fact, I, as a representative of that State welcome this Bill as the first direct attempt on the part of the Ministry topre pare for the defence of Australia. If they experience any difficulty in raising the necessary money to carry out this undertaking, the construction of some of the vessels of the Australian Fleet unit may well be deferred for some time. The estimated loss upon the proposed line is £68.000 annually, and the interest upon the capital outlay involved is set down at £140,000. If the Government were to use the reserve which has accumulated in connexion with our note issue-
– If the Government were to use that money for the purpose I have indicated, it would not be a fair thing for us to still saddle this railway with an interest bill of £140,000 per annum.
– They are getting 3¾ percent. for the money they have loaned to the States.
– This railway, it is estimated, will cost £4.000,000, and that money will pay for itself from the very day that the railway is opened. I am’ pleased that the Government have taken such a practical step towards preparing for the defence of Australia. I shall support the Bill, and vote against the amendment submitted by Senator Millen.I recognise that it does not matter how much information is supplied to honorable senators opposite; when that question comes to be discussed, they will still be as dense as ever.
– Senator Millen himself engineered one of the necessary preliminary Bills relating to this railway through the Senate.
– Senator Millen commenced his criticism of this Bill with the remark that he had no information at his disposal, and then proceeded to speak for an hour and a-half, in the course of which he supplied us with a whole heap of information. When this Bill first came before Parliament I intended to support the adoption of the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, but I find that the Government have made such full inquiry into that question that it is entirely removed from the area of debatable propositions. I believe that for some years past the Victorian Government have recognised that the adoption of a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge is inevitable, and havebeen making their preparations accordingly. I merely rose to make these few remarks because . I recognise that the Government are not anxious to get the Bill through the Senate.
– Are we not?
– By their action last night Ministers showed that they were not anxious to get it through. I shall support the Bill, because I believe that the construction of the proposed line will strengthen the defence of Australia. I would ratherhave supported the building; of a railway through Central Australia, and the establishment of a military depot there as the first step towards the adequate protection of this country. Later on such a line could have been linked up with the railways of the different States.. When the details of the measure are under consideration in Committee, I shall ask the Minister whether he cannot arrange, with the various States, for the construction of branch lines by the Commonwealth to the proposed transcontinental line. One clause of the measure stipulates that the Commonwealth shall have power to link uponly one mile of railway with the central line. But I am not shutting my eyes to the tone of the recent utterances of the South Australian Premier.
– He has been grosslymisrepresented by the Melbourne press.
– Clause 14 reads -
By arrangement with any State, the Minister may -
No connexion which involves the construction of more than one mile of additional line of railway shall be made by the Minister in. pursuance of this section.
– That means that we have to get parliamentary authority to do more.
– If that be soand I recognise that we cannot give any Government unlimited powers of railway construction - I would like provision to be made in the Bill for the construction of lines to other States. As the proposed transcontinental railway will carry troops and munitions of war to the west in case of emergency, no sooner will it be constructed than it may be necessary to link up the railway systems of Queensland and New South Wales in a more direct way than they are linked up at present. That will be specially necessary if South Australia refuses to convert her main line to the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, as Victoria proposes to do.
– She does not, by any means.
– I understood that, for years past, the rolling-stock of this State had been constructed with a view to accommodating it to the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge.
– Senator McColl himself said that this State had been preparing for it.
– If that be done, Victoria will take the Riverina trade from us. I hope that, in making provision for the construction of this line, the Minister will arrange to set apart reserves along the route upon which trees can at once be planted with a view to supplying the timber which may be required on the railway for all time. For many years New Zealand has been getting hardwoods from Australia, and planting them along her railways. When I was living in that country some time since, those hardwoods were being used for the purpose of repairing her lines. I think that South Australia and Western Australia may easily be induced to set apart at intervals along the proposed line areas upon which the timber can be grown for renewing it from time to time. If that course be adopted, in a very few years we shall have supplies of timber for repairing this railway ready to our hands at any spot where it may be required. I mention that, because I think that now is the time for the Government to be alert, and to make ample provision for the working of this railway for many years ahead. We have been told that South Australia and Western Australia will benefit most by the construction of this line. I have heard some opposition to the measure from representatives of Queensland, but, if I represented a State as rich as Queensland, I think I should be satisfied with its richness.
– Or a State that has received as much.
– I do not cavil at anything that Queensland is getting from the Commonwealth. I think it may be admitted that, with perhaps the exception of Western Australia, Queensland is the richest State in the Commonwealth, so far as its natural resources are concerned. . I have been through Queensland, and I am aware of its great natural resources, but I am informed by an honorable senator who knows Western Australia as well as Queensland, and whom I regard as very reliable, that Western Australia is as rich in natural resources as even Queensland. I accept the honorable senator’s word, and I say that if that be so, and this railway will link up with the eastern . States a State as rich as Queensland, we need not be much concerned as to whether it will cost £3,000,000 or £4,000,000, or as to whether the sand will blow over the line at certain places. We should recognise that in this Bill we are taking the first step to connect with the more closely populated eastern States this very rich, and as yet almost undeveloped, western State, which I believe will in the future add very materially to the wealth of the Commonwealth. I regret very much the line of argument followed by the Leader of the Opposition. It ‘is a habit with some people to brand as a desert all country with which they are not themselves well acquainted. I can remember that, when 1 was a boy, a railway was being opened to Orange, about 192 miles west of Sydney, and a very responsible and influential man said on the occasion that he had lived to see a railway open to Orange, and hoped to live to see a railway to Bourke. He was laughed at and ridiculed for suggesting that any State would run a railway through such desert country as the country between Orange and Bourke was supposed to be. But to-day there is a railway to Bourke, and almost all the way from Orange to Bourke wheatfields are being cultivated. We get into the habit of believing that the little place in which we live is productive and wealthy, and that the country beyond our horizon must be a desert. We have been told in this chamber that the Yass-Canberra district is a desert in which there is no water, and we are now told that the country through which it is proposed this line shall run is also a desert. Yet we open our eyes in wonder when people on the other side of the world say the same kind of thing about Australia. My experience of Australia, and I have been over a great deal of it, is that districts which we were led to believe were almost uninhabitable have been settled, and are now amongst the richest districts in the Commonwealth. I have said that one member of the Senate has told me that Western Australia will be as rich a State as Queensland when her resources are fully developed. If that be so, we shall find that the margin of desert country will, with railway communication, gradually shrivel up, and that, in the whole of Australia, the only country that will have the appearance of a desert will be that whose natural condition will still have remained unimproved by the hand of man.
.- I did not intend to speak upon the second reading of this Bill, because I have frequently spoken before upon the same proposal.
– It is an old foe in the honorable senator’s case.
– Yes, it is; but I thought that 1 should not remain altogether silent. I listened with a great deal of pleasure to Senator Millen’s speech. Though I do not say that I agree with every word he uttered, I heartily agree with the amendment which he has moved. I have been a railway contractor in country not far removed from the districts through which this line will pass, and, knowing the character of the country, I .think I am qualified to say a word or two on the subject. I am prepared to stake my reputation on the statement that if a railway is built through desert country, from which ~ there can be no local traffic, it must be expected to end in failure. Those who have lived any time in Australia must be aware of the great enterprise of the people, and honorable senators cannot point to a district in Australia, with the exception of that through which this line will run, that has not been developed during the long years of our occupation of this country.
– Will the honorable senator point to the towns marked on the map in the centre of Australia?
– I can refer the honorable senator to .the country through which the proposed line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek will go. It is pretty well all occupied. If the proposed route of that line were slightly deviated it would run throughout its length through country that is occupied. 1 know the country very well, and it possesses great mineral possibilities. I am not hostile to the proposal now before the
Senate because it has been submitted by a Labour Government. Honorable senators will admit that I was equally hostile to it when it was proposed by my honorable friends on this side. I am opposed to the proposal from conviction, and not because of party feeling. It is a mistake to build a line through country without natural water, and with an insufficient rainfall. There is a very low rainfall in the country through which the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta runs, but it will be only a hop, step, and a jump from this proposed line to the coast. Can any one be led to believe that this country would have remained unoccupied if it had been worth anything? I say that the fact that it has remained unoccupied is a complete answer to all that has been said about its possibilities. I refer those who wish to know more of the character of this country and its early history to Sir John Forrest’s statements about it, when he was exploring the country.
– Sir John Forrest never went over this country.
– He went over the best part of this country. But let me say that a Garden of Eden without an adequate rainfall could not be productive, and if a line of railway is run through country that is not productive, and can supply no local traffic, it must be a failure. I have been, not only a railway builder, but the owner of a railway from Echuca to Deniliquin, going through beautiful fertile country, and yet it has. not been a marvellous success from a financial point of view. There are lines even in Queensland in districts where there is a good rainfall which barely pay. lt is proposed, under this Bill, to construct a line 1,063 miles in length, and let me say here that it is proposed to make the line longer than is necessary. That is a very bad error of judgment, because if every ton of traffic on the line has to be carried 70 miles further than is necessary a great wrong will be done to the producers, and it must result in a great loss of traffic. It is proposed to construct a railway which will not cost a shilling less than £5,000,000 through country in which it will be impossible to get water unless by pumping. Much of the water that can be obtained by pumping will not be fit for use. When I was building the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta we had to carry water by our own trains for from 50 to 60 miles, and when our bullocks were unyoked in the evening it was impossible to find the yokes in the morning because they were covered with sand. T do not say that the whole of this line will be liable to be covered with sand, but there will be a great deal of sand on some parts of the line. The Commonwealth, no doubt, can afford to lose j£5, 000,000, but a terrible mistake will be made if this line is made 70 or 80 miles longer than is necessary. People will not travel by rail through country like this when they can travel by fine steamers along our beautiful coast. I say that there is no hurry for this railway at all. When it is suggested that it is necessary for defence purposes, I reply that it would be infinitely wiser to spend half the money in building a big ship or two. There will be no danger of the invasion of this country while the British Navy is able to come to our assistance. Let us wait until things are developed, and we have more population. Let me tell honorable senators that we have been very lucky in Australia. We never, previously had such seasons as we have had since 1903. During that time we have had good seasons, and good rainfall in every one of the States. If we get one or two droughts, as we may, and £70,000,000 has to be called up in London, we may be confronted with the reverse of our present happy, contented, and prosperous condition.
– Does the honorable senator not think that thousands of Melbourne people would flock to Western Australia on a day like this ?
– They would go by sea, but they would not go by this railway. They would be roasted alive if they did. I have already said so much on Bills dealing with this proposal that I need not now say any more than that I indorse what Senator Millen has said, and support the. amendment. r
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3.44].- I probably should not have spoken on the second reading of this Bill at all if it had not been for the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. The proposal for the construction of this railway between Western Australia and the eastern States is now an old tale amongst us, but. I recognise that railways, from the west to the east and from the north to the south must some day become accomplished facts. The question before us now is whether the time is opportune for the construction of a line, and whether this is the line which should be taken in hand first. It may be readily conceded that the Government are not in a position to undertake the construction of a railway from Port Darwin, and also the construction of another transcontinental railway. I think that if we consider these’, two matters together, we shall recognise very readily that it will be much more conducive to the interests of the Commonwealth’ if the railway from Port Darwin is first taken in hand. We have had an explanation made this afternoon by an honorable senator as to a source of revenue which the Government may tap in order to construct this railway, and save payment in interest. At the same time, honorable senators have heard from the Government that they propose to pay for the work, as far as they can, out of current revenue, and to borrow whatever may be necessary in order to complete the construction of the line within a reasonable time. It seems to me that if a raid is going to be made on the money which has been reserved for the protection of the notes which have been issued, if the public get the idea that the Government are not prepared to abide by the agreement which was arrived at when the Australian Notes Bill was passed, it will act most detrimentally to the credit of this country. Honorable senators may say, “ Oh, it is all very well; there will be no trouble,” but. they must bear in mind that they’ do not live entirely to themselves, and have to look to the credit of the country both here and abroad. I do not wish to labour this point, because I recognise that it may not be pertinent to the matter under discussion. I said that I recognised that there are two great railways which, ultimately, will have to be constructed. The question is, which line ought to be taken in hand “ first? To my mind, the construction of a line from Port- Darwin should be first undertaken. We accepted the transfer of the Northern Territory from South Australia with an express stipulation that we would build a particular railway. I do not say that it has to be built to-day or tomorrow, but it will have to be built within a reasonable time if we are going to keep faith with South Australia. We are under a certain obligation with regard to the Northern Territory. But is there an obligation which we have to fulfil in regard to Western Australia? We have been told times without number that one of the conditions on which Western Australia entered the Federation was that the proposed railway should be constructed. When I ask where is the evidence of that condition being made. I am told that some leading politicians made certain statements. Now, these statements have never been embodied in an Act of Parliament, nor were they ever placed before the people of Queensland or New South Wales, at any rate, when they were called upon to accept or reject the Constitution.
– That was due to the carelessness of the delegates from Western Australia.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - Am I concerned with that? Is the country concerned with it? A Constitution Bill was submitted to the people of this country for acceptance or rej’ection, and it contained certain special provisions with regard to Western Australia in order that it should be induced to enter the Federation. What were these conditions? One condition was that Western Australia was to have a certain concession with regard to the imposition of Customs duties. The Constitution also contained a provision under which the Federal Parliament could give financial assistance to States, if necessary. If it had been one of the valid considerations to bring Western Australia into the Federation, that the proposed railway should be constructed, it would have been provided for in the Constitution as submitted to the people, or the men who represented that State at the Federal Convention were recreant to their trust.
– That is just where they forgot themselves.
– They were either recreant to their trust, or most careless about the matter, or, what would be infinitely worse, an undertaking was given, the knowledge of which was suppressed, so far as other States were concerned. We all realized at the time, I presume, that sooner or later it would be necessary to link up the west with the east with an iron band, but I deny that there was any condition, or stipulation, or promise given to Western Australia which should be regarded as binding upon the people of this country. I consider that this measure ought to be dealt with solely on its merits, apart from any question as to whether Western Australia believed that this special concession was to be given to her or not. Is the time ripe to undertake this work?
– A long time ripe.
– The proposal has been before us for a long time, and all credit to the senators from Western Australia. They have worked hard and loyally for that which they believed to be right. I do not find the least fault with them on that account. They merely did their duty. Now, what is the position? Some time ago, Parliament passed a measure for the survey of a route for a railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. Many of us opposed the measure, but it was carried by a majority in each House, and we have a report on a flying survey.
– No; a permanent survey.
– We have not a detailed report, because there has not been a permanent survey. A flying survey has been made, and we have been provided with a general estimate of the cost of construction. I heard the Minister of Defence state last night that there were plans and books of reference. I ask him whether they are prepared in such a way that, if tenders were invited, a contractor could frame a tender for carrying out the whole of the work ?
– Do the plans and specifications set forth every particular which is necessary to enable a contractor to tender intelligently ?
– Absolutely, yes.
– By whom were the plans and specifications made, when, and in what time?
– By the staff which has been employed in the Home Affairs Department for the last twelve months.
– At a cost of £17,000 or £[18,000.
– Is there a survey peg in every chain of the line?
– I dare say that there is.
– The Minister has told me that a staff has been employed on this work for a year. A very pertinent question was put by Senator Givens as to whether pegs had been put down. There can be only one reply to the question - No.
– Yes. What were the surveyors paid to do?
– They were paid to make a flying survey, and report to the Minister as to the possibility of constructing a railway across this portion of the continent at a reasonable expenditure.
– In 1903 a flying survey was made by Mr. Newell, who was employed by the State Government.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - Even to-day the Commonwealth Government do not know what land they can take. They have no authority to take any specified area. I am told that, seven years ago, Western Australia passed a Bill providing for the construction of this railway through its territory. That” Act has expired by lapse of time, and I presume that it will be re-enacted. Did it set forth the route which was to be followed? Reserves of land were made long before the flying survey was made. The Commonwealth Government have not that exact information which they should have before they begin to build the railway.
– Why are not the plans and specifications here?
– The Minister explained that they are so bulky that they could not be brought into the chamber. Of course, the Department could have prepared lithographs on a small scale, which would have given some idea of them to honorable senators. Has the time arrived, I ask, for the immediate construction of this railway? To my mind, it has not, although I realize that the line has to be built. I realize that, for many purposes, the railway will be very valuable, even although it will not, as we are advised, pay working expenses and the interest on the outlay. Of course, we can only hope that in time that difficulty will be overcome, and that the expenditure will be recouped.
– Not in your day.
– I do not profess to be a prophet. If, as an honorable senator stated just now, Western Australia is quite equal to Queensland in wealth, we shall soon have a big population over there, and no one will rejoice more than I shall to find that the western portion of Australia, which we have looked upon as containing a great quantity of barren and useless country, is as rich and valuable country as Queensland proved to be.
– I can tell the honorable senator that there is a great future before Western Australia for farming, and I have been there twice.
.- I think we all believe that there is a great future in front of Australia, as long as its people are true to themselves, and adopt the wisest and best course in order to assist that prosperity.
– There is no State which assists immigration to the same extent as Western Australia does.
– I recognise that Western Australia is doing splendid work with regard to peopling its territory. I wish that the other States would do equally good work. I am not one to decry Australia, because the more I see and know of it the greater faith and confidence I have in its future. Throughout this discussion there has been an insistent demand, even from those who are going to vote for the Bill, for further information. The speech of Senator Gardiner appeared to me more like that of a man who desired to excuse himself for doing something opposed to his better judgment. He expressed the opinion that the railway through the Northern Territory was the proper one to undertake in the first instance. He pointed out that, from the defence point of view, the route of the proposed railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta is wrong, that it ought to be taken from Brisbane straight to Western Australia. Yet he intends to vote for the Bill. He will not even delay the passing of the Bill in order to get more information. Some honorable senators were so anxious last night to get a vote taken that it is not to be wondered at that they are, npt prepared to wait for a little more information to be supplied. Senator Millen asks by his amendment for more information. He has been told that he has received information. A little while ago Senator Gardiner pointed out that not only had Senator Millen information, but that he had dissected and criticised it most keenly. I interjected that Senator Millen had received erroneous information. Do not imagine that I am making a complaint with regard to the report of Mr. Deane as an engineer. I accept his report. I have known him for a great many years as an honorable and able man ; but when he passes away from his own professional work, and begins to explain matters, to point out the great value of the route, and to become to that extent an advocate of it, and when I heard Senator Millen, who happens to have some knowledge of portion of the matters referred to in the report, point out that a great deal of the report was erroneous and misconceived, I said at once, “ Here are two men, one who is an expert on one question, and one who is not, which am I to follow ? It is a matter for professional knowledge, judgment, and opinion. As far as concerns the purely engineering work, I accept Mr. Deane’s opinion explicitly. As to the pastoral possibilities, I prefer to take the opinion of Senator Millen.
– Senator Millen has never seen the country, and Mr. Deane has.
– I based my opinion on the official statistics.
– Official statistics are sometimes wrong, but in this instance an honorable senator who is engaged in pastoral pursuits has given us information from his own knowledge. When we have a difference of opinion of this kind, it is well that we should pause before committing the country to an expenditure of between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000 sterling. The Government are not possessed of sufficient powers from the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia to enable them to proceed with the construction of this railway, and to control its management. The Constitution gives us power to construct railways through- a State contingent on the consent of the State being granted. We ought therefore to obtain the consent of the two States concerned in the first instance. That step has not been taken. It is true that South Australia has passed a Bill, in connexion with the Northern Territory, which may give us sufficient powers ; but I am not quite certain as to its sufficiency. But no such Bill has been passed by Western Australia.
– We need not worry about Western Australia.
– There is a right and a wrong way of doing things. There is just a possibility of Western Australia laying down conditions which the Commonwealth ought not to accept.
– Western Australia has given an undertaking to introduce a similar Bill.
– But who can give an undertaking that the Western Australian Parliament will pass the Bill?
– Will the Government be satisfied with three chains of land along the line of route? That is all Western Australia offers.
– And all other land necessary for water supply or any other purpose connected with the railway.
– I do not profess to know how much land the Government ought to acquire. But I do say that if the Commonwealth is going to connect two States by means of a railway, it can only be justified on national grounds.. The railway must be of immense value to the States themselves, and they should be prepared to treat us most generously. Remember that the railway is not going to be built with Western Australian and South Australian money, but with the money of the whole of Australia. As Senator Gardiner has pointed out, the probability is that most of this money will come out of the pockets of the New South Wales people. I. take no exception to that. If the work is national, we must pay our share, even if it be a heavy one. That is our just position under Federation. I should be ashamed of New South Wales if she objected to pay her fair share of expenditure for national undertakings. But unquestionably two States will primarily benefit, and they should deal generously with the Commonwealth. We should .know what they are prepared to do before we pass a Bill of this character. Are we satisfied that they are prepared to meet the reasonable requirements of the Commonwealth Parliament and the people? We have not yet all the necessary information. We have an estimate of cost of construction, and of probable revenue, expenditure, and interest; but is that information sufficient to enable us to undertake this great obligation? Senator Millen’s amendment lays down the principle that as the railway will serve directly to develop Western Australia and South Australia, the Commonwealth should get some of the benefit from the added value given to the lands of those States.
– Suppose that principle were applied to the Federal Capital ?
– I do not see where the analogy, comes in. Under the Constitution the Commonwealth is entitled to an area of not less than 100 square miles. Parliament asked for 900 square miles. That, area was granted - nine times the area originally contemplated. In addition, New South Wales’ granted running rights for a railway down to Jervis Bay, and a strip of land on the coast. Therefore, New South Wales made a generous response. Have the two States to be benefited by this railway treated the Commonwealth similarly? I intend to support Senator Millen’s amendment, believing it to be a proper statement of the position. As to the question of gauge, my own inclination is to accept the gauge specified by Ministers. Some honorable senators may say, perhaps, “ As you come from New South Wales you naturally accept the gauge prevailing there.” But I take the view that the gauge question has been thoroughly threshed out el sewhere. The largest mileage of railways in the world is constructed on the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge. Mr. Eddy, formerly Chief Railways Commissioner in New South Wales, took into consideration the question of uniformity, strongly advocating that there should be one gauge throughout Australia. I believe that the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge was the one which he thought should be adopted.
– He left that open. I have his memorandum here.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD.- It may be that Mr. Eddy left the question open in the hope of securing the concurrence of the States to the establishment of a uniform gauge. I am informed that it is possible to run 400-ton engines over a 4-ft.8½-in. railway. At any rate, in the event of this Bill being read a second time, I shall not be found contesting the validity of the proposal made by the Government in this regard.
– Quite a few minutes will be all that I shall require to make several, what I consider to be, necessary remarks on this Bill. As a matter of fact, I shall endeavour to model a speech rather on the style of Senator Millen’s amendment. I heard that amendment described by the Minister of Defence as “ a modified speech.” I cannot help thinking that that kind of modified speech is rather an improvement. Whether I can imitate it or not, I shall try. I do not intend to dilate on any other suggested railway scheme. This proposal should be considered entirely on its own merits. We have nothing to do now with lines in the Northern Territory or the Federal Capital. The only question is : Is this, or is it not, a sound and satisfactory commercial undertaking? I know that that question does not suggest pleasing ideas to some members of the Senate. But it is the question that any private person or company would ask. The answer is, “ Emphatically no.” I admit that, in matters of railway construction, the question of profit does not exhaust the subject for a moment. There are many indirect reasons, which are often stronger than the direct reasons, for building a given line of railway. But do such indirect reasons apply in this instance? Can it be said that this railway, in its indirect effects, is going to benefit Australia? Are we, by authorizing it, going to spend money that will give satisfactory results to the Commonwealth in an indirect way? I cannot see that in any way. I cannot see that the Commonwealth is going to derive that indirect benefit which ought to be a justification for building such a railway. Is it a direct benefit that the proposal is going to be a source of loss for a great many years? Certainly not. What is going to counterbalance that loss? Additional value given to land ? Increased settlement ? Where is it ? No one has suggested anything of the kind. In all the estimates of revenue which have been received, only one source of income has been suggested, namely, the revenue from passengers. It has never been suggested that there will be any revenue from the development of the land, from freight, from the carriage of stock. No one thinks for a moment that there is going to be any freightover this line. The thing is not thinkable in face of competition by sea. Any business man, looking at the thing from a commercial point of view, would say at once that there is nothing to justify the construction of the line at all. I am compelled, therefore, to ask : What is the real reason for it ? We all know the reason. This line is to be constructed for sentimental reasons. There are no others - none whatever. The sentimental reason I will admit, at once, is the real reason. It necessarily appeals to every representative from South Australia and Western Australia. The view which they take is, “ Because we think that Western Australia is isolated, whereas she ought to be connected by railway with the eastern States, we shall vote for the Bill.”
– Her isolation is not a matter of thinking, but of fact.
– And the sentiment which I have expressed arises from the fact. If there are other reasons why this line should be constructed, what are they? Of course, we have been told that it is required for defence purposes. But if the object of the Commonwealth be to strengthen our defences by the expenditure of £4,000,000, or £5,000,000, I submit that that money will be very badly expended upon this railway. There is not a member of this Chamber who could not propose a better scheme.
– Then, the honorable senator pits his opinion against that of Lord Kitchener?
– 1 do not, for a moment. Lord Kitchener may have said that for the purposes of defence the line will be useful.
– He did say so.
– But neither Lord Kitchener, nor General Hutton, has ever been asked whether the ,£5,000,000, which it is proposed to expend upon this line, could not be better spent in half-a-dozen different directions.
– Nor was Admiral Henderson asked that question.
– Exactly. If we wish to spend £5,000,000 in strengthening our defences it is ridiculous to suggest that we cannot spend it in a better way. Consequently this line is going to be built for sentimental reasons. How is it to be paid for, and are we justified in indulging in this sentimental expenditure? As far as I can understand the position, for the first year or two the money for its construction will be taken out of revenue, and the balance required will, subsequently, be borrowed. Now, there was a time when honorable senators opposite said that they objected to public borrowing.
– A great many of us are of that opinion still.
– We never said anything of the kind.
– We object to public borrowing except for reproductive works.
– At any rate, many honorable senators opposite have said that they object to public borrowing, except for reproductive works.
– That is in the Labour platform.
– And many honorable senators upon this side of the Chamber will agree with that view. But is the line which forms the subject of this Bill a reproductive work? Certainly not. The money for its construction is to be borrowed, and the people of Australia are to be made liable for its repayment with interest for purely sentimental reasons. Is the adoption of such a course justifiable? Where are we going in pur expenditure?
I recognise that this is a fairly heavily taxed community already and, as a Free Trader, I object to the enormous amount of revenue which is being raised through the Customs. I am perfectly certain that every true Protectionist equally objects to the same thing. Either that revenue will increase, or it will decrease. If it increases the bad state of things which obtains to-day will be accentuated, because it will be said, “ Oh, let matters remain as they are, because we require the money.” But no honest Protectionist will take that view. If Protectionists declare that the existing taxation is too heavy for the people of Australia, what will happen in regard to the demands which will be made upon us? There will be no way of meeting our enormous liabilities, except, through Customs taxation. It is true that we have a land tax in operation, but the amount which it returns to the Commonwealth is a mere detail. It yields only about £1,500,000 annually: and, to my knowledge, it has been allocated to half-a-dozen different projects. Consequently, the money to meet our obligations will have to come out of the only source of revenue which we have - the Customs. A few words more and I shall have finished my remarks. We have before us the example of South Australia, which indulged in a similar scheme to that which we are now considering - a scheme to build her own railway to the Northern Territory. But what was that State’s good fortune? When Federation was established, South Australia found a more wealthy authority willing to relieve her of the trouble which she had created for herself.
– We may find somebody willing to take over our white elephant.
– That is a position which I cannot possibly imagine. When once we indulge in this scheme, it -will be ours for ever.
– The Commonwealth may be called upon to do something for Tasmania shortly.
– That is a remark which the Minister of Defence might have better left unuttered.
– Then, why does the honorable senator say the same thing about South Australia and Western Australia ?.
– I have not said one word about the demands of South Australia or Western Australia. The only reference which I made was a playful one to the effect that South Australia was fortunate enough to get the Commonwealth to relieve her of a heavy burden. The Minister ought not to have dragged into this debate the reference which he made to Tasmania. What Tasmania deserves is a matter for this Parliament to decide. In conclusion, I have only to add that, as we cannot afford to build this railway, we ought not to pass the Bill.
.- On a question of such magnitude as that now under consideration, I cannot give a silent vote, and as the representative of a State who is, perhaps, more qualified to look at this proposal dispassionately and impartially than is the representative of any other State, it would be almost unwise of me not to express my views before a vote is taken upon the Bill. Senator Stewart’s innuendoes in regard to bartering, and his statement that Tasmanian representatives have been influenced in their attitude towards this Bill by the consideration that an application has been made for a grant to Tasmania, are absolutely unworthy of him.
– Did not the honorable senator hear the statement of Senator Lynch last night, that it was an inspired utterance? It will have its effect, too. The honorable senator is quite safe in getting for Tasmania all that he wants.
– The honorable senator’s mind must be very perverted. His trip to the Coronation has evidently given him a mental twist. During the course of my campaign, at a large public meeting in Launceston, I distinctly expressed myself in favour of the railway which forms the subject of this Bill. Perhaps that does not count with Senator Stewart, but it does with me and my constituents.
– I said nothing about the honorable senator.
– I resent the insinuation of the honorable senator that the representatives of Tasmania are influenced, in their attitude towards this Bill, by the fact, that that State is applying to the Commonwealth for a monetary grant. That grant will stand upon its merits. But the proposal which is embodied in the Bill is one which must be viewed from a broader ground ; and I am sorry that extraneous matter has been imported into the debate. During the time that I have occupied a seat in this Chamber, no representative of Western Australia has ever approached me upon the subject of the proposed railway.
I have never had a conversation in reference to it with any honorable senator from that State, either inside or outside of the Senate. Whilst the Western Australian representatives have had opportunities to bring the matter forward, they have never attempted to use those opportunities. Years ago, when I was merely a political student - and I still claim to be a political student, although I am, perhaps, a little more advanced now than I was then - I read the opinion of Major-General Edwardes, which is contained in a parliamentary paper dated 9th October, 1909. That officer said -
No general defence of Australia can be undertaken unless its distant parts are connected with the more populous colonies in the south and east of the continent. If an enemy were established in either Western Australia or at Port Darwin, you would be powerless to act against him. Their isolation is, therefore, a menace to the rest of Australia. . . . The interests of the whole continent, therefore, demand that the railways to connect Port Darwin and Western Australia with the other colonies should be made as soon as possible.
– Which railway does he put first?
– The railway to Port Darwin. I have just read it. But that isnot the question. The point is that this eminent general considers that these connexions should be made in the best interests of Australia. In 1903, General Sir Edward Hutton gave us an opinion practically coinciding with that expressed by General Edwardes. Later on, we had the advantage of the opinion of Lord Kitchener, who was specially invited to visit Australia to report on these very questions. These reports have convinced me that it is absolutely necessary, in the interests of the Commonwealth, that this railway should be constructed.
I might justify my vote on these grounds alone, but I shall say a word with respect to some of the arguments which have been advanced against the construction of this line. One with respect to the alleged inferior character of the country has already been ably replied to by Senator Gardiner. The king-pin argument adduced against this measure is that it proposes the construction of what will be practically a desert railway. I am quite used to that kind of argument in my own State. When King Island was first occupied, the land there was described as being absolutely worthless, or fit only to run a few sheep on. Yet it is to-day a very populous little island, and very much enhanced prices have to be paid by any one who wishes to secure land there. The same kind of argument has . often been used in connexion with centra] Tasmania. It is mostly made use of by Conservatives. The centre of Tasmania is held, for the most part, in big areas, and the statement that the country is fit only for sheep grazing has been persisted in for years, notwithstanding the fact that the lowest annual rainfall recorded for any part of that district of Tasmania is 17 inches.
We all know that modern farming methods have so improved, and modern science has made it possible to so increase the fertility of soil, that it is possible in agriculture to improve greatly upon what could have been done a few years ago. In dealing with a matter of this kind, honorable senators must depend upon. the reports of experts; and it is well that we have such reports because, if we had to adopt the opinions of honorable senators opposite, I should shudder for the result. We have received reports from men like Mr. Muir and Mr. Castella, who have been over the country traversed by the route of this railway, and say that they found a great deal of very valuable land there.
– It should be remembered that Mr. Muir is a surveyor.
– I understand that ; and I am further led to believe that Mr. Muir is regarded as one of the most reliable public servants of Western Australia. It is not to be believed that a man with a reputation like that, after going over the country, would submit a report to the effect that its character has been very largely misrepresented if he could nol fully justify that report. I prefer to take his opinion rather than the opinions we have h.,d expressed from the other side. We have listened to the criticism that we cannot find the money to build this railway. Senator St. Ledger wants to know how the Government are going to finance it. Others have said that the Government must resort te a borrowing policy. I believe that they will make an honest attempt to finance the construction of this line without borrowing; and if, later on, it should be found necessary to borrow, we shall have our financial machinery so perfected that, instead of having to go cap in hand to the money-lenders of England, we shall be able to call upon our own Commonwealth Bank to take a hand in floating the necessary loan for us and so save the brokerage and commission charges which have had to be paid on loans raised by the States. I suppose that honor - able senators are aware that the national debts of the States amount to about £270,000,000, and that of that sum, £80,000,000 has been paid in brokerage and commission, leaving out interest. Yet we are accused by Senator St. Ledger, and others of his kidney, with being schoolboys in finance when we propose to finance our undertakings honestly out of revenue. The history of the past proves that the financial policies of the States have led to loose and lavish expenditure. The motto, “ Easy got, easy go,” has been very applicable to the way in which the States have squandered the money they have raised by way of loans. 1 can quote an example of this kind of high finance from my own State. Tasmania has borrowed £11,000,000. She has paid £11,000,000 in interest, and still owes £11,000,000. That is the kind of thing which it takes a schoolboy to understand. It has been estimated, by good financiers in Tasmania, that if we had taxed ourselves to the extent of £200,000 a year for the last fifty years, we might have paid for our public works out of revenue. Yet we are to-day paying £400,000 a year in interest in little Tasmania. The borrowing system of the States has lent itself to loose and profligate expenditure; and I am glad to know that the Government intend to finance this great project, to a great extent, by means of the note issue. This will be more sensible than going to the money-lenders of Great Britain. The Government, also, will finance the undertaking, as far as possible, out of revenue.
– I wish I could get some sovereigns from the bank without paying interest.
– If we must pav interest, it is better that ‘we should pay it to ourselves than to people in England. It is better that we should pay the interest to ourselves than that we should have to send it to the Old Country in the form of commodities which are put into the hands of the people to whom the interest is due, and who are placed in a position to rig the prices which we secure for our commodities. Senator Vardon has talked against this Bill, and says he intends to vote for it.
– I am going to vote for the amendment.
– Some honorable senators from Tasmania will show that, in this matter, they a»e Nationalists.
– Is Tasmania looking for anything?
– The honorable senator should not say that.
– I have been rather surprised at the attitude taken up by Senator Clemons. I agree with the honorable senator when he says that we do not want any one to vote in support of Tasmania’s claims as a matter of bargaining. The honorable senator said that he would prefer to do without votes on those terms. While I agree with him, I am sorry to say that he left us in the lurch the last time we voted on Tasmania’s claims.
– It is well for the honorable senator to talk about my leaving Tasmanian representatives in the lurch.
– The honorable senator did not vote with us, anyhow.
– The honorable senator can use that for political talk in Tasmania if he considers it worth anything.
– It is at least a. tact.
– The honorable senator need not try it on here or with any one who knows me.
– I obey your ruling, sir. Taking all matters into consideration believe that there is only one course open to those who desire toseethe Commonwealth progress, and that is to vote for this Bill. If we voted for further information it would simply kill the measure. Honorable senators opposite may laugh, but what I mean is that the object of the request for further information is really to shelve the Bill. That is what honorable senators opposite desire to do. Honorable senators may. find, amongst the Senate papers, a pile of reports 2 inches thick, supplying data of every kind in connexion with this railway.
– There is no difference of opinion expressed in the reports, I suppose ?
– I think that the weight of opinion is all on one side.
– Can the honorable senator discover from this pile of documents how much land South Australia is prepared to give the Commonwealth?
– Probably not, but I do not consider that a very vital matter in view of the attitude which the South Australian Government have all along adopted towards this proposal. I am content to leave that matter to negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia. I am content to rest on the weight of evidence supplied by reports submitted to the Senate during the last ten years. I think that we should not prolong the agony by assenting to delay for the purpose of obtaining further information, but should, as speedily as possible, link up this vast continent with this great iron road.
– I have only a few remarks to make. I wish to say that Senator Gardiner was in error in stating that the Victorian Government must have been in favour of the construction of this line, in view of the fact that they were anticipating its construction in the building of rolling-stock for the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge. I have already admitted that rolling-stock has been converted in Victoria, but I have explained that the Government knew nothing about what was being done. It has been done by the order of some one’ in the Railway Department, but I have been informed that neither the Government nor. Parliament knew anything . about the change in the construction of rolling-stock. The letter which we have’ before us to-day by the courtesy of the Minister of Defence, from the Acting Premier of Victoria, puts quite a different aspect on the matter. Addressing the Prime Minister, Mr. Watt writes as follows -
Adverting to previous correspondence on the subject of theuniformity of the railway gauges in Australia; I have now the honour to inform you that this Government is of opinion that no satisfactory solution of this question can be obtained without a consultation between the responsible Ministers of the Commonwealth and the States.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
I think that is only a reasonable request. Honorable senators must remember that South Australia and Victoria are, to some extent, on the defensive in this matter. It interests them very vitally indeed, since, if this proposal be given effect to, it must dislocate and disarrange their whole system.
– I think T should ask you, sir, whether the honorable senator is in order, and whether the break of gauge may be discussed upon the amendment. I remind you that the honorable senator has already spoken on the main question.
– The honorable senator has already spoken to the main question, and he must now confine himself to the amendment.
– I am not mentioning the question of break of gauge. I arn speaking of engineering and financial problems, and these are mentioned in the amendment, which deals with the route, the cost of construction, the revenue and expenditure, and the interest charged. I wish to correct the idea that the Victorian Government have in any way signified their acceptance of this measure, or are prepared to fall into line. There are only two points which remain to be settled. One point I am not permitted to mention, and the other is the question of route. To my mind, the latter 5s very vague and shadowy. It is set down in the Bill, and will have to be carried out, unless, of course, the measure is amended. I hope that the Minister will deal with these two points in his reply. Very strong reasons have been laid before the Senate iri support of the contention that the right route has not been taken. That matter should, I think, be left open for further determination. I think that if the Minister will leave open the question of the route and the question of the gauge for further discussion with the two States, there will be no trouble in passing the Bill.
– I do not know that there is any need for a representative of Western Australia to apologize for speaking on this measure. I do not intend to speak at any length, because I recognise that the proposal has been brought before the Senate so often that it is very difficult to say anything fresh. If Senator Millen had not moved his amendment, I would have been quite content to allow the debate to close without speaking. When an amendment of that kind is submitted, and one remembers that since this question was last discussed here the membership of the Senate has changed to a great extent, it becomes necessary to point out that a great deal of information has been collected, and’ that the proposal has been discussed here from time to time. I have taken the trouble to look through the records of the Senate to find out how many papers .have been presented on the subject by various Governments.’ They would make an enormous pile. In 1901, Mr. C. Y. O’Connor, the EngineerinChief for Western Australia, and a very able engineer indeed, presented the first paper on the question from the engineering stand-point. In 1902 we had an equally well-known paper by Mr. Muir, who is a surveyor, and who spoke so well of the country between Kalgoorlie and Eucla. In 1903 we had a very important and favorable report from the Engineers-in-Chief of the various States. There is no denying the fact that they compiled the report under a sense of great responsibility, because they knew that they were dealing with a proposal in which their respective States would be financially concerned. Then, at the end of the year, we had a final report on the matter from the same gentlemen. In 1904 we had a report on the strategical importance of the railway. In 1905 we had a report by Mr. Castella on the boring operations carried on along the route, giving a minute description of the country, dealing with the possibility or probability of getting water, and explaining the actual working conditions encountered by the party which went over the route. In 1908 we had a report from Mr. Deane, when a survey was proposed. In j 9 10 we had several reports. The papers which I am enumerating are-, perhaps, some of the many reports which have been furnished. Probably I have omitted’ to quote a number of them in looking up the records. In J910 we had a letter from Mr. Thompson, the Engineer* in-Chief at Perth, on the probable water supply. That, together with telegrams as to the plan, and so on, is to be found iti Parliamentary Paper No. 15. On the 15th September of that year we had a still further report on the artesian water along the route presented, though it was not printed. In the present year we have had presented a paper by Mr. Hales regarding the gauges of the railways of Australia, and touching on the question of unification of gauge, and so on. We have had a memorandum on the same subject by Mr. Deane, and also a report by that gentleman, which is known as Parliamentary Paper No. 25. Later we had presented to us some correspondence between the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments on the gauge question. Another paper from Mr. J. A. Smith has been placed very recently before honorable senators. I find that still another paper by Mr. Deane - Parti amentary Paper* No. 49 - has been presented. To-day a paper by Mr. J. A. Smith was laid on the table by the Minister of Defence. It will be seen that, from time to time, the Senate has been presented with an enormous number of papers dealing with the finding of water, the nature of the country to be traversed, the cost of constructing the railway, and the probable revenue. Indeed, it would weary one to attempt to wade through the numerous papers.
– Where .is the money to come from to pay for this ralway ?
– That is quite another matter. I am answering the contention of the Opposition that the Senate has not been provided with sufficient information, and that the passage of the measure should be delayed in order to get further information. If we were to wait until the crack of doom it would be difficult to get information to satisfy honorable senators opposite. I see very little prospect of our getting better information than we have received. Now, how is it possible to get information about a country which, to a great extent, is unsettled? Such information can only be obtained from the engineers and surveyors who have prepared reports on various matters. I do not see how honorable sena’tors can expect to get better and more satisfactory information than that which has been supplied. Whether the railway will be a paying proposition or not is not, to me, a very important matter, for the reason that that fact was weighed when the line was originally promised to Western Australia. The very men who led Western Australia to believe that a transcontinental railway would be built as soon as Federation was brought about, knew the state of affairs. They made public references to the matter, and their words are on record where they said that they did not expect that for years to come the railway would be a paying proposition. Nevertheless, these men said that, as soon as Western Australia joined the Federation, so soon would the railway be built, and the union made a reality.
– How could they pledge the future Commonwealth Parliament?
– They promised, as far as prominent Federalists at the time could promise, that this railway would be built if Western Australia entered the Federation.
– I call that promise a bribe.
– Can any one question the position of Mr. Deakin at that time? Last night, the position of the late Mr. Kingston was referred to by Senator Lynch, who read the correspondence which took place, and pointed out the attitude, which was taken by South Australia. The late Mr. Kingston was not only the leading Federalist who’ gave that promise. The late Sir Frederick Holder was quite as emphatic as was the late Mr. Kingston, and Mr. Deakin, who leads the Opposition in another place, was still more emphatic.
– Not one of them could bind the Federal Parliament.
– We know that even an Act of Parliament would not bind them, because it could be repealed, but, so far as the words of a man occupying a responsible position in the Federal movement at the time are binding, the words of Mr. Deakin are, in my opinion, so conclusive and binding that no honorable politician, or honorable political party, led by him, can possibly get out of the obligation of redeeming his promise.
– He could only promise for himself.
– He promised on behalf of the eastern States.
– He could not promise except for himself.
– Certainly, any party led by Mr. Deakin would not be an honorable party if they repudiated the statement which he made to the people of Western Australia at that time. Perhaps the Senate is not aware that Mr. Deakin was in the position of a delegate for .Australia when he made the promise.
– Who made him a delegate ?
– Australia recognised his right to be one of the three men to go to the Imperial Parliament to see the Constitution Bill put through
– Who sent him there?
– The Victorian Government.
- Mr. Deakin was there representing the Victorian Government, and, to a great extent, ‘ the Federal Convention.
– I do not dispute that.
- Mr. Deakin went to England on that mission, and was holding a responsible position.
– As far as Victoria was concerned.
– He was representing the whole of Australia.
– For a specific purpose.
– To see the Constitution Bill put through the British Parliament. On his return, he was met at Albany by a public deputation. At that juncture, the Federal movement in Western Australia was in a very critical position. The Federalists of Western Australia were just as ardent, perhaps, as the Federalists in any other part of the continent, but they realized that somethingmust be done to encourage Western Australia to enter the Federation. They recognised that the Federation was not to be a mere empty thing; that it was to be brought about for the benefit of the States ; and that if Western Australia was not to gain some advantage as well as the eastern States, there was little probability of its people voting yes.
– Unless they got what ?
– Unless their interests were conserved, and some tangible benefit was to come to them through Federation, they were not going to join just as Queensland would have refused to join if its people were not going to get some tangible benefit.
– We came in freely of our own volition.
– Queensland came in because she saw that the sugar industry was going to be curtailed, that its expansion was impossible, and that the kanaka would be in the State for all time, except for Federation. No State has benefited to such an extent.
– Queensland came in unconditionally.
- Senator St. Ledger was unknown at that time.
– I was fighting for Federation.
– The gentleman whose words I shall read, held a prominent place in the Federal movement. This is what he said at Albany -
He thought that special concessions were necessary before Western Australia would join the Federation.
– “ He thought.”
– Was he to express his own thoughts, or Senator Millen’s?
– He was speaking for himself, not for me.
– We have heard a great deal about Western Australia having selfishly looked for benefits. As a matter of fact, the Western Australian delegates to the Convention were too easily gullible. The interests of the State were sacrificed through the shortcomings of our politicians at the time.
– The delegates were a one-man selection.
– We might as well have sent ten junks of jarrah to the Convention. Sir John Forrest simply said to this man and to that “ come,” and they came. The people of Western Australia were not given the privilege of electing their delegates as were the people of the other States. Mr. Deakin said -
If the Western Australian delegates had put forward at the Convention any other special terms they would have been granted.
Mr. Henry, a Tasmanian, who was also a prominent member of the Convention, and took a prominent part in the financial debates, was on board the steamer when the deputation waited on Mr. Deakin at Albany, and according to the press report, he cheered that sentiment. Mr. Deakin went on -
Western Australia would secure the transcontinental railway if she joined the Federation.
Those words are definite enough.
The question was a national one.
– Certainly, but who is going to pay for it?
– Who should pay for a national work?
The question was one of national policy, and, personally, he advocated the construction of the railway at the earliest possible moment. For years the railway probably would not pay. But he believed the State of Western Australia would be connected by railway with the other States just as the State of British Columbia had been connected with the other States of Canada.
– So we all believe now.
– Then what is the meaning of this opposition, and of the hue and cry about precautions as to the financial aspect? The financial responsibilities were recognised twelve years ago. Yet we are still asking for the railway.
– Is not Western Australia going to do something for herself?
– No State in the Federation has done more for railway construction than Western Australia. We have the largest percentage of railways in proportion to population in the Commonwealth.
– If the Western Australian people will help themselves we will help them.
– Order ! Senator St. Ledger has spoken twice on this question, and he is now interjecting so much that it is difficult to discern whether he or Senator de Largie is making the speech.
– I have one other quotation to make to show that a promise was definitely made. Thereis a wellknown gentleman whom we are all pleased to have still with us. Some of the great Federalists have passed away, and can no longer, take the responsibility for their words. The one from whom I have just quoted is still filling a prominent position. There isanother who is also prominent in the affairs of this country. He recognised that Federation would be a mere farce if one-third of the continent was left out. He knew that Western Australia at that time was in a prosperous condition. She was building up her secondary industries.
Her people recognised that if they joined the Federation without getting a quid fro quo those secondary industries would be destroyed by the competition of the more advanced eastern States . As a matter of fact, . many of our secondary industries have been snuffed out by competition. The authority to whom I now wish to refer knew the feeling in the West. I refer to Senator Symon. I said last night that it was Senator Millen who introduced the Railway Survey Bill in the Senate. I find that I was mistaken, and that it was Senator Symon. The quotation that I shall make is from a letter sent by that gentleman to the Federalists of Western Australia. These few words show his attitude at that time. He said -
Federation must inevitably give to Western Australia at a very early date the transcontinental railway upon which your and our hearts are set.
It is quite poetical !
That will be one outward and visible link to join Western Australia with the rest of the Federation. In my belief the acceptance of the Commonwealth Bill by Western Australia will mean the complete inauguration of that work.
That is emphatic enough. I hold that Senator Symon ispledged to this work.
– Did the Western Australian people believe him?
– We did, and voted accordingly. If, however, we had depended solely on the Symons and Deakins we should have to wait for the railway for a long time yet. The intelligence of the electors of Australia, however, has put the Labour party into office, and the great work is about to become an accomplished fact.
– The honorable senator is content to follow Sir John Forrest.
– Sir John Forrest is following de Largie on this question, as he has followed me all along. I have never waited for a lead from Sir John Forrest. Ever since I entered the Senate I have taken a leading part to make the railway an accomplished fact. Without being; egotistical, I can claim that I have done as much as Sir John Forrest. I do not doubt that he has done his duty elsewhere, but I certainly do not take second place to him, or to any other individual.
– He will get the kudos.
– I know who will get the kudos in Western Australia.
– Sir John Forrest did not get much support in Western Australia, at the last State election.
– No, he had: only to bring a candidate forward for him to get defeated.
– Order !
– When interjections are made so freely, I can hardly be blamed for replying to them. However, I have little more to say. I congratulate the Government upon the business-like way in which they have proceeded with this measure. I hope that all the doleful predictions of the opponents of the scheme will be doomed to failure. I know something about the country through which the line will run. I know that much of it is good country. There are hundreds of miles in Western Australia that used to be considered desert, but which to-day are amongst the best wheat-producing land in Australia. The sandy soils of Western Australia have been shown by actual experiment to be excellent wheat lands of the best kind. Important towns have sprung up in parts that were formerly considered to be waste.. I dare say we shall find just as many pleasant surprises in the country to be opened up by this line. I also hope that therailway will do much to open up a large tract of auriferous country. If it does so, that will help to pay the cost of the line. I shall not touch upon the value of the undertaking from a defence stand-point, because that subject has been dealt with time and again. But 1 hold that we are entitled to connectWestern Australia by railway with the eastern States for no other reason than that of defence considerations. I congratulate the Government upon the
Very business-like methods which they have adopted to make this transcontinental railway an accomplished fact.
– As a South Australian, I should scarcely be doing my duty ifI did not occupy a few minutes in placing upon record my view of this Bill. When I was before the electors some six years ago, I told them, amongst other things, that, if returned to the Commonwealth Parliament, in order to do justice to Western Australia, I would support the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill which had so frequently been rejected. When I became a member of the Senate, that measure was brought forward by the Deakin Government, and I then fulfilled my pledge. At the same time, I made it clear that I was not committed to the building of the proposed line unless the report of the surveyors was a satisfactory one. To my mind, their report is a satisfactory one, and, therefore, I most warmly support the Bill. Whatevermay be said of the little troubles which the Opposition is endeavouring to rake up-
– What about the width of gauge?
-I would rather haveseena 5-ft. 3-in. gauge adopted, so far as South Australia is concerned; but, having followed the discussion which has occurred in another place, my opinion is that to fight for that gauge, would be merely a waste of time. I am prepared to trust the Government, and I am sure that South Australia will do. justice to the Commonwealth in connexion with this measure. We have been frequently told that the proposed railway will traverse worthless country. But I would remind honorable senators that, years ago, the same statement used to be made about South Australia itself, and that some of our best country was then described as valueless. The railway which we are now considering is to be constructed primarily for the purposes of defence, and defence being a national question, the undertaking ought to be paid for by the Commonwealth. I believe that the amendment which has been submitted by Senator Millen was concocted and prepared in the Caucus. I have weighed it in the balance and found it wanting I am glad to know that the Government will be in office when the preliminary arrangements will require to be made for the construction of this line, because I am satisfiedthat they will do what is right in the interests of the Commonwealth and of the States. On behalf of South Australia, I congratulate them, and I heartily support the Bill.
-Colonel CAMERON (Tasmania) [5.21]. - To me the debate has been most interesting, and especially the speeches delivered by representatives from South Australia and Western Australia. The glowing colours in which the future of those States has been painted, would almost lead one to suppose that there is no need for them to ask the Commonwealth to build this railway. They could easily carry out the work themselves. I was very much interested in the suggestion of Senator Gardiner that areas should be reserved along the route of the proposed line for the purpose of planting trees, with a view to supplying the timber which may be required for the railway in the future. He spoke of growing sleepers upon country which will not grow grass . The attitude which I have always adopted in regard to. this proposal is that Western Australia should be linked up with the eastern States. It is all a question of the route which should be adopted. I unhesitatinglysay that I shall support the amendment offSenator Millen, though, in principle, I adhere to my former view that Western Australia should be connected with the eastern States by railway. The vitalpoint which we have to consider is the route whichshould be followed.: If the information which has been collected is found to be incorrect, ‘and the line should provea most difficultline to negotiate, our money will have been wasted. Would it not be far better for Western Australia and South Australia to wait a little bit longer and make absolutely sure that the best route has been chosen? Then, if we haveto build a line through the desert, let us do so. But at present we do not know that there are not better routes unsurveyed. When we voted £50,000 for the survey of the proposed line, that survey was not restricted to this particular route. Senator Gardiner very wisely said, in effect, “ We want one line - a line which will give us a reasonable assurance that it will not be tampered with in time of national emergency.” The soundest words uttered in this debate emanated from him. We ought to ascertain what is the best route for the line to follow from the stand-point of defence considerations. I have heard military authorities declare that Western Australia should be linked up with the eastern States, but they have never expressed an opinion as to the route which ought to be taken. They have never been asked for such an opinion. Lord Kitchener, in his report, affirms that the railways which have already been constructed are a source of danger to the Commonwealth. If that be so, I ask honorable senators whether the proposed line will not accentuate the danger.
– Was not that opinion given mainly because of the break of gauge which exists?
.- Certainly not. I ask the Minister of Defence to give this matter some consideration. I am not hostile to the railway, nor do I desire to burke the consideration of this Bill.
– Will not the building of a double line be necessary?
.- Yes ; a single line will be an absurdity. I throw out these few suggestions in the hope that even, at this late hour of the day, the Government, and their supporters, will consider them as emanating from one who is not hostile to the measure, but who is merely desirous of insuring that the line shall follow the best possible route.
Senator E. J. RUSSELL (Victoria) 15.27]. - Although I recognise that very little remains to be said upon this Bill I do not care to allow a division to be taken upon the motion for its second reading without placing my views upon record. Though I do not believe that the measure is perfect, I wish to congratulate the Government upon their determination to reach finality on some of the big Australian questions which we have to face. Whilst I am not prepared to recognise any of the early promises which were made to the people of Western Australia in respect of the proposed line - because I deny the right of any politician to commit Australia to a certain policy - still I know that those promises had considerable weight with the electors of that State. I am not an authority upon defence matters, but even an ordinary layman can recognise that it is necessary that the eastern States should be linked up with Western Australia by rail, if we are to have anything like an effective defence of this country.. I support the proposed line, because I am an Australian, and have faith in Australia, and because it is just about time that we got a move on in order to evidence our faith in it.
– Have honorable senators opposite a monopoly of faith in Australia ?
– I do not know in what way I have offended Senator St. Ledger. I spoke in the singular.
– We oppose the line, but still we have faith in Australia.
– My only objection is that while the honorable senator has had such glorious opportunities for displaying his faith in Australia during the past fortnight, he has availed himself so little of them. He has such faith in Australia that he was prepared to support a 7-ft. gauge.
– No; I said that I would support the Government on the question of the width of gauge.
– Really the honorable senator has said so much on the subject that we are at a loss now to know what he desired to say. When we are told that the country through which this railway is to be constructed is a desert, I am reminded that it is not many years since responsible men - not people outside, or visitors to Australia - referred in this very Chamber to portions of Victoria, from which we are to-day receiving the most bountiful harvests, as desert country. I believe we have in this State a mile of railway for every 16 square miles of territory, yet we have large areas of land very suitable for wheat-growing upon which there is no settlement. Why is this the case? It it not because the land will not grow wheat, or is not fit for settlement, but because the Government of the State have so far neglected to provide it with railway communication. From our limited knowledge of the country through which this railway will run, it is suggested that the man is a hero who crosses it; but, as a matter of fact, we know very little about it.
– We want to know more, and that is why the amendment is moved.
– If I honestly believed that the country on the route of this railway, for some distance beyond the South Australian border into Western Australia, was the desert country it has been described, 1 have such faith in the development of Western Australia that I would still be prepared to support this railway. There are indications now of a strong tendency on the part of the people, especially of Great Britain, to look to Australia as a country in which to settle, and it is admitted that we have at present comparatively but a very small population. It may be said that it would not be possible to grow wheat all along the proposedrailway ; “ but no one will contend that there is not a considerable area of land which will be served by this line which could be settled, and thus aid in the progress of the country.I have always consistently supported both transcontinental railways. I believe that Australia can well afford to meet the cost of their construction. The worst that so far has been said about this proposal is that it may lead to an annual loss of £70,000 a year.
– No; that is the best that can be said about it.
– Honorable senators who say that have had plenty of opportunity during the debate on the second reading of this Bill to refer me to a worse statement concerning this line, but they have not been able to do so. I am not affirming the infallibility of the estimate that has been presented to us’. But I say that, in considering, we must not forget the enormous development of places in Western Australia that were considered some time ago to be unfit for settlement. Western Australia is being very rapidly settled, and I believe that, in a very short time, it would be found that this railway would pay.
– If we are going to’ pay for it now, should we not have some guarantee that we shall get our money back ?
– I am willing to consider that suggestion ; and. in answer to the honorable senator, let me say that, by first building the line, and then encouraging settlement, and so adding to its revenue-earning capacity, we shall take the best means of getting our money back. That is the course which has been followed in all of the States in connexion with railway construction. I could mention lines within less than 3 miles of this building that, when first constructed, did not pay, but which are now paying handsomely. Because this line would not pay from the start, that is no reason why we should hold back the development, not merely of Western Australia and South Australia, but of the Commonwealth as a whole. There is only one other point to which I wish to refer, and that is the gauge proposed. I say frankly that, prior to a perusal of the reports which have been submitted, I thought that the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, because of its greater width, would be superior to the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge proposed for this line. But, after looking through the reports, and carefully studying the whole position, I have no hesitation whatever in consenting to the proposal to build this line on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. I will give my reasons for saying so. During the last fifteen years, we in Victoria have been vitally interested in the question of the standard gauge to be adopted for Australia. Probably the bulk of the people who have not looked into the question deeply would claim superiority for the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge; but, during the period I havementioned our railways in this State have been controlled by eleven or twelve different Railways Commissioners, who have been building our rolling-stock with a view to the ultimate conversion of our lines to a standard gauge of 4 ft. 8i in. Tn the circumstances, whatever claim Victoria may have at one time put forward for the superiority of the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge appears to have been abandoned, and, from the information T have been able to obtain, on the most reliable authorities, I think it has not been proved that the 5-ft. . 3-in.gauge is very much superior to the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. I am prepared to give a wholehearted support to this Bill, and will content myself with trying to secure one or two improvements whichI think might be made in the measure in Committee.
, - One reason for submitting the amendment which has been moved by Senator Millen is that we believe a better route can be found for this railway than that proposed in the Bill. We believe, also, that more information should be obtained about other routes before the Bill is allowed to go through. The two States most directlyinterested have not yet made up their minds as to what they are going to do. We are being asked to pass this Bill before we have any authority from either of these States to construct a line within their territory. We have heard a great deal about the promise that was made to Western Australia ; but since the time when it is alleged that promise was made, the Western Australian Parliament has passed a Bill authorizing the construction of a railway within that State. Whether it was to follow the route of the line proposed in this Bill I do not know. But through some disagreement with the South Australian Government the Western Austraiian Act was allowed to remain a dead letter. We require further time in order to learn what terms Western Australia is prepared to give the Commonwealth. We wish to know what offer the Western Australian Government will make. We do not desire that the Commonwealth should be bound in this matter, whilst the two States specially interested are left free to do as they please.
– Who are “ we,” the honorable senator or the people of Queensland ?
– “ We “ are the people of Australia.
– This is the modern “ Tooley Street tailor.”
– At all events, I am not speaking upon this measure as an interested party, as Senator de Largie did. The honorable senator spoke solely in the interestsof Western Australia, because, in his opinion, Mr. Deakin, or some one else’, made a promise to Western Australia he says that we are bound to fulfil it. I say “ No; I repudiate it.”
– Mr. Deakin is the honorable senator’s leader.
– He is not my leader in this matter, anyhow.
– Then, the honorable senator should get out of his party.
-I opposed this proposal when it . was . submitted by Mr. Deakin just as I do now.
– I ask whether the honorable senator is in order in going over the whole of these matters?
-The honorable senator is not in orderin discussing the general questionon the amendment. . But if other honorable senators will continue to interject, and thus divert the speaker from the question, the Chair can. hardly be expected to be continually pulling up the speaker for replying to the interjections.
– I must ask you, sir, to excuse me. I was drawn off the track by interjections from in front and behind me by honorable senators representing Western Australia, whowere twitting me with opposing this proposal as a representative of Queensland. We should have further time to discover what is the best route for this railway. We should not rush into the construction of this line before the route has been properlydecided, or until alternative routes have been laid before us. It is a common practice in the States when railway construction is proposed to have alternative routes surveyed, leaving Parliament to decide what is the best. In this case that opportunity has not been afforded the Federal Parliament. ‘I think that there is sufficient evidence before us to enable us to decide that the route proposed is not the best route, andit would be wise to defer the construction of the line until we get more information. The Government seem to be in haste torush this measure through without knowing what the position of the Commonwealth will be. We have, so far, not been given a grant of land, not alone on either side of the proposed line, but for the line itself. The amendment further suggests that we should get further information about the cost of construction. Surely that isinformation which we should have. We have received information concerning this! proposal from the Government piecemeal. We have had an estimate of the cost of construction put before us only to-day, when almost every member of the Senate has spoken on the second’ reading and on the amendment.This shows that the Bill is beingrushed through without proper consideration. To-day, we have had placed in our hands a paper by Mr. Deane regarding the revenue and expenditure. I observe that he give a fresh estimate. I think that if cautious men were dealing with a proposal to expend a sum like this, they would say, . “ Wait for further information.” But on the last day of the debate on the second reading of this Bill, as I hope it will be, fresh information is placed in our hands. Probably more information will be supplied next week, and further information amonth hence. In his last memorandum, Mr. Deane says -
I notice that all the estimates we get, emanate from the two States directly interested in the construction of this railway.. We do not get any estimates from other engineering or railway authorities. The; estimate which I have just quoted was supplied ina previous memorandum. Mr. Deane is an engineer ; but I do not think that he knows much about the management, of a railway. I am not going to dispute hisengineering ability, but I think, from information I have received, I can legitimately dispute his ability as a railway manager. I do not know whether that estimate is correct or not. I very much doubt if it Is. Next,Mr. Deane estimates theworking expenses. I want the Minister in his reply to deal with this matter, because it is being watched by railway men who know what the cost is. It is of no use to set down figures in a document for our perusal it they will not stand the light of day. In the case of a railway which is to be taken through some of the poorest parts of Australia, where I think the working expenses will be more than on any other railway, the cost for 441,792 train miles is put down at 5s. per mile, or, in all, at £1 10,448. 1 should like to know from the Minister what authority there is for that statement. I am informed that the amount is insufficient ; and if that is the case, the report must be misleading. I have been asked to call attention to the matter by men’ who know the cost in other States. For what purpose can the cost be set down at 5s. per mile unless it is to reduce the deficiency as much as possible? What we want to know is, What amount a railway manager - not an engineer - would put down for working expenses? That includes the cost of stationmasters, guards, engine-drivers, porters, coal, water, and ether material. My information is that the -working expenses will’ be more on the proposed railway than on any existing line. The cost in this case is under-estimated, and persons think that it is under-estimated for a reason. They . may be wrong, or they may be right. I .do not know. I have simply conveyed to the Senate information which I have received from a man who is competent, if he likes, to give the truth. I ask the Minister in his reply to tell us on what this estimate is based? Nothing is allowed for the wear and tear of the line, for the gangs who will have to keep it in repair, unless, of course, the expense is included in the estimate of 5s. per mile. I do not believe that it is included, because I am told that even 5s. per mile is too low a sum to set down for ordinary working expenses. .Another part of the amendment reads -
And, further, . as the proposed railway serves directly to assist the development of the States of South Australia and Western Australia, this Senate is of opinion that the Government should consult with the Governments of the two States, with a view to devising an arrangement’ securing to the Commonwealth a reasonable portion of any value added to the lands along the. line of route and accruing from the construction df the said line.
We have no guarantee from the State Governments concerned.. The land has been painted in glowing colours, by senators from South Australia and Western . Australia. I .do not: blame them ; in fact, I give them all credit for trying to get this measure put through. But I happen to represent another State, whose people do not think that it will be to their advantage to pay a portion of the cost of constructing this transcontinental railway, or to be saddled for all time with a share of the loss on its working. In Queensland we are constructing, at our* own expense, more miles of railway than it is proposed to com struct across a continent. We are not asking a State, or anybody else, to help us. .
– Order !
– Perhaps, sir, I am transgressing the rules a little. My information is that the needs of the people of the Commonwealth will be served better by the Senate accepting the amendment of Senator Millen, who has used very clear and concise language. If it is accepted, that will not prevent us, at the proper timeafter further information has been obtained, and the Senate knows what the State- Governments intend to do, and what facilities they are prepared to offer us - from dealing with the Bill on its merits. I do not think that it would be in the ‘interests of the people of the Commonwealth to pass the measure at the present time. I believe’ that a little delay will be advantageous, and will not defer the matter beyond what the States are doing. Neither of the- two States is prepared to act. We have . no. information that they are prepared to pass a Bill authorizing the Commonwealth- to build the railway this year. By carrying this amendment, next year we should know what the two States had agreed’ to do, and our own responsibility relating to the’ railway when it was built. Honorable senators on the other side are apparently eager to pass the measure without any information,’ and without any restrictions, and to allow, the State Parliaments, to make their ownterms. If the Bill is passed without this amendment,, the Ministry will say, “ We have an Act ‘ which authorizes us to’ build a- railway. ‘ Parliament has practically done with the matter, and we will make What terms we think fit with the States.” Be- fore honor-able senators pass the measure they should take time to deliberate. I arn sorry to say that the Senate does not seem to know what it is doing. It is not taken into’ the confidence of the Government or of the State Parliaments, but it is asked to pass a Bill ; and when we learn later what the State’s have done we shall be bound hand and foot, and cannot go back That is a very bad course for Parliament to pursue; it should not allow the control of this matter to pass out of its hands. I opposed this proposal when it was brought forward by Mr. Deakin. I am not opposing this measure because it is submitted by the present Ministry. I hope that even at the eleventh hour the Government will reconsider their position, and take time to ascertain what the two States intend to do. When they have satisfied themselves that the States are prepared to make reasonable concessions, and that at some future time we may be able to get our money back, they will, I venture to say, get the Bill put through with a great deal less trouble than they are going to have now.
– Before I reply to the remarks of honorable senators, I wish to read the letter fromthe Acting Premier of Victoria, which was omitted from the tabled correspondence with the Premiers. I find that no further letter has been received from the Premier of South Australia. But on the 6thof October last this letter was received by the Prime Minister from Mr. W. A. Watt, Acting Premier of Victoria : -
Adverting to previous correspondence on the subject of the uniformity of the railway gauges in Australia, I have now the honour to inform you that this Government is of opinion that no Satisfactory solution of this question can be obtained without a consultation between the responsible Ministers of the Commonwealth and the States.
It is, therefore, desired that a conference of such Ministers should he held as early as practicable to consider and deal with the political, financial, and engineering problems which are involved.
ThisGovernment further strongly urges that; pending such deliberation; the Commonwealth Government shouldtake the necessary steps to prevent a final decision being arrived at with respect to the gauge of the proposed transcontinental line intimately related as such subjects to the general question of gauge conversion, in which the States of Australia are vitally concerned.
I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that this gentleman proposed that a Conference of Ministers of the Commonwealth and of the States should be held to discuss and decide political, financial, and engineering problems, and that some honorable senators on the other side, who have been complaining of the want of information, are asking the Government to defer the consideration of this Bill in order that a Conference of politicians to deal with engineering problems may be held.
– We never asked for that.
– I know that as soon asI commence to deal with the objections they urged they will disown them.
– Will you tell us who asked you to adjourn the consideration of this Bill till the Premiers met?
-I also want to read some correspondence which has taken place with the Premier of Western Australia. On the 17th instant the Prime Minister sent this telegram to the Premier of Western Australia -
Bill for an Act called Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Act1911 has received approval of House of Representatives. Now under consideration of Senate. Clause three of such Bill provides that before construction of railway can be commenced Act must be passed by Western Australian Parliament consenting and agreeing to grant such Crown lands as in the opinion of Minister necessary for purposes of construction, maintenance, and working of the railway. Shall be glad if you will have necessary Bill drafted for State legislation, with view to early submission.
On the same date the Prime Minister sent the following memorandum to the Premier of Western Australia -
I have the honour to inform you that a Bill (copyenclosed) for an Act called the “ Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Act1911 “ has received the approval of the House of Representatives, and is now under the consideration of the Senate. You will observe that clause 3 of such Bill provides - “ The construction of the railway shall not be commenced until the States of Western Australia and South Australia respectively have granted or agreed to grant, to the satisfaction of the Minister, such portions of the Crown lands of the State as are, in the opinion of the Minister, necessary for the purposes of the construction, maintenance, and working of the’ railway.”
I shall be glad, therefore, if your Government will intimate its willingness to. grantto the Commonwealth any Crown lands as indicated in the clause quoted, and if the authority of the Parliament of your State is considered necessary, if you will take early steps to obtain it.
The first reply was received on 22nd November - .
Prime Minister, Melbourne. - Your telegram eighteenth, re Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway.Suggested Bill will.be drafted as early as possible and submitted to State Parliament now in session. (Signed) J. Scaddan, Premier.
The following telegram was received yesterday by the Prime Minister -
Prime Minister, Melbourne. - Transcontinental railway, re your wire eighteenth instant, this Government proposes to revive the West Australian Act No. 4 of 1903. I assume this will suffice. (Signed)J. Scaddan, Premier.
I am going to deal straight away with the point raised by Senator Sayers. Although thirsting for information which he challenged me to give when I rose to reply, Senator Sayers, knowing that I was the next speaker, immediately left the chamber. So much for his dying thirst for information ! The honorable senator pointed out that, in an estimate which he incorrectly said was supplied by Mr. Deane, but which was really the estimate of Mr. Moncrieff, the South Australian Railways Commissioner, the working expenses per train mile run were put down at 5s. Senator Sayers said that that was too low an estimate, and he gave that as an instance of the inaccuracy and unreliableness of the report from which he quoted. But if Senator Sayers will turn to the official Year-Book of the Commonwealth he will find that the cost per train mile run for the whole of the Commonwealth railways last year was 51.38 pence; that is, roughly, 4s. 3£d. per train mile, or 15 per cent, lower than the estimate in Mr. Moncrieff’s calculation. So that Mr. Moncrieff has increased the cost 15 per cent., although the average given in the official Year-Book is the highest for the last ten years. Another point was made by another honorable senator during the course of the debate, as to the weight of the rails. An attack was made on the engineers, who were said to be unreliable and unworthy of credence, because they specified 70-lb. rails. I have here a paper, which has also been supplied to honorable senators, containing an estimate ordered to be printed on 28th November, 191 1. It shows the length of the various railways throughout Australia, their gauge, the weight of the rails, and the speed of trains. I notice that the honorable senator who thirsted for this information has also gone out.
– References might be made to the honorable senator’s conduct in this chamber, if he wishes to be personal in that manner.
– When an honorable senator makes such remarks as were made on the point with which I am dealing, he must expect to get something back.
– The honorable sena- tor will get back more than he likes if he goes on like that.
– A man who looks for trouble is bound to get it.
– This return shows that on the railway from Serviceton to
– All those rails are being gradually replaced.
– Of course; rails are being replaced from time to time on every railway in Australia. In time we shall replace the rails on the line with which we are dealing. From Keith to Coonalpyn, 40 J- miles, 61 -lb. rails, the train travels 43-7° miles per hour, and the express runs at the rate of a mile in 1.37 minutes. From Coonalpyn to Murray Bridge, 54 miles, 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, 61 -lb. rails, the train travels 40 miles per hour, and the express runs 1 mile in a minute and a half. From Mount Barker Junction to Mount Lofty, nf miles, 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, 61-lb. rails, the train runs 18.55 miles per hour, and the express travels 1 mile in 3.36 minutes. From Mount Lofty to Adelaide, 19J miles, 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, 61-lb. rails, the train runs 22J miles per hour, and the express travels 1 mile in 2.66 minutes.
– The honorable senator might quote the case of some of the New South Wales lines, which now have 80-lb. rails.
– The point is that the argument was used that this line would be unsafe, and that here is a railway that carries some of the busiest traffic in Australia, over which express trains travel with the mails from Adelaide to Melbourne, and which runs through mountainous country. Yet it is provided with rails 9 lbs. lighter than are to be provided for this proposed railway, which will run over flat country with hardly a curve in it: Honorable senators opposite profess that they are quite willing’, if the line is shown to be necessary for the purpose of defence, to vote for the Bill. If they had heard my speech in introducing this measure, they would have listened to a quotation which I read from Lord Kitchener’s report on the subject. Some of them certainly heard Senator Ready’s quotation from Major-General Bevan Edwards._ The honorable senator also quoted “a telling pasage from Major - General Hutton. But notwithstanding this, after saying that they were prepared to vote for the line if it were shown to be necessary for defence purposes, they brush aside all these authorities, and say that the line is not necessary for defence purposes. I invite Senator
Cameron to read the extracts to which I have referred. As a soldier, he will attach to them the importance which they deserve. 1 now wish to deal with Senator Keating, because he has taken up a most extraordinary attitude on this question. Senator Keating now wants a survey of an alternative route. He suddenly discovers that it is not satisfactory to have a survey of one route only. In July, 1907, Senator Keating was a. member of the Ministry which introduced the Railway Survey Bill. He sat alongside his colleague, Senator Best, who moved the second reading of the measure. Not only was he a member of the Ministry which introduced the Bill, but he was actually the Minister responsible for the Department that superintended the construction of the survey. On 10th February, 1908, after the Bill was passed, Senator Keating, under the authority of Parliament, issued instructions for the survey. A copy of those instructions appears in a parliamentary paper presented by command on 13th October, 1909. It is entitled Instructions to the EngineersinChief in connexion with the Trial Surveys, and is signed by Senator Keating as Minister. The document contains the following paragraph : -
Route. - (1) It would appear desirable that both routes, namely, that vid Tarcoola and that vid Gawler Ranges, be surveyed.
He held then the opinion which he voiced this afternoon -
Consequently, in your deliberations and recommendations, I shall be glad if you will consider both routes.
He was perfectly consistent so far. But after the engineers received his instructions, on 14th February, four days later, in answer to. his memorandum, the engineers, according to a paper ordered to be printed on 6th March, 1908, wrote as follows : -
With regard to the question of surveying the alternative routes vid Tarcoola and the Gawler Ranges and Fowler’s Bay, we beg to point out that the sum of£20,000 respecting the expenditure of which we are asked to. deliberate is not sufficient to admit of a preliminary survey being made of more than one of these routes, as the cost 6f even an exploration over, say, 400 miles of the Gawler Ranges would amount to£1,200.
The significant thing about that is this : The Minister’s memorandum was dated 10th February, and Senator Keating retained office until November of the same year. But, notwithstanding that he then said that a second alternative route was necessary, and notwithstandingthat he is prepared to vote against this Bill because he is not supplied with information about an alternative route, he took absolutely no steps as the Minister controlling the Department, to obtain a survey of an alternative route.
– Because this survey was not completed.
– Was Senator Keating waiting to have the one survey completed, and did he want to bring the survey parties back, and disband them, and then get another Bill through Parliament, involving waste of time?
– That was not necessary.
– If Senator Keating then, as he says now, believed that before this railway should be proceeded with an alternative route should be surveyed, he as the Minister responsible for the action to be taken by the Government ought to have come down to Parliament and told them what his opinion was. But he went to sleep on the matter, apparently. From February to November he continued to be Minister of Home Affairs, and he made no provision for an alternative route.
– We had not sufficient particulars as to the result of the first survey.
– Neither had the honorable senator any particulars when he said that it was necessary to have a survey of a second route.
– The engineers reported that for that purpose extra money would be required. We could not give them that money without the authority of Parliament.
– Senator Keating has had sufficient Ministerial experience to know that there was an easy way out of that difficulty. He had the preparation of his Department’s Estimates, and all he had to do was to put a sum of money on those Estimates for the purpose of a second survey. If Parliament had passed that sum, he could have carried out the survey. That is the answer. Before I come to the criticisms of Senator Vardon, I want to deal with a piece of misrepresentation that has originated outside the Senate, but which evidently has affected some honorable senators inside; because one or two honorable senators have practically repeated what appeared in the press. I do not blame them for that, if they had no means of checking what was published.But that it was a piece of misrepresentation will be seen immediately. The Age of 29th November published the following paragraph as regards the attitude of South Australia: -
So disgusted is the Premier of South Australia with the Federal Government’s adoption of a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge for the trans-Australian railway that he. has said that his Government will take no further action to assist in the construction of the line.
Mark these words -
Hehas declared also that the Commonwealth will have to pay the cost of converting the 5 ft. 3 in. railway between Port Augusta and Adelaide.
SenatorW. Russell, reading his South Australian newspapers, came across the following little paragraph, relating to exactly the same circumstance, as reported in the Ade- laide press on the previous day.
– I think the Argus published the same news.
– The Argus published it correctly. This is the paragraph that appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 28th November -
When asked on Monday whether the Government intended to press their claim that the Western Australian railway should be constructed on the 5- ft. 3-in. gauge the Premier (Hon. J. Verran) said no further action could be taken in the matter of gauge, as the Federal Government had definitely decided upon 4 ft. 8½ in. The South Australian Government were now awaiting the Premiers’ Conference, when an attempt would be made to induce the Commonwealth Government to meet the expense of altering the gauges where necessary in the different States.
That is quite a different question. It has nothing at all to do with the construction of the proposed line. Here is the Argus report of the matter -
The Premier (Mr. Verran) in reply to a question, said that he had heard nothing of any hitch in respect to the Western Australian railway. South Australia had given all the necessary land, but had refused to give half-a-mile on each side to enable the Federal Government to build townships. He did not think that the Federal Parliament would alter the gauge, but if the Inter-State lines had to be converted the Commonwealth Government would meet half of the cost.
– Is the statement that South Australia has given the necessary land, correct?
– I do not think it is correct. I think that what Mr. Verran meant was that South Australia is prepared to give the land. I make these quotations for the purpose of showing that an attempt has been made at gross misrepresent ration for the purpose of affecting the result of this debate. If honorable senators could be led to believe that the South Australian
Government had refused to give the Commonwealth any land, that circumstance would have an important hearing upon the division on this Bill. Senator Vardon attempted to make considerable capital out of the fact that the other States had been connected by railway, so far as their trunk lines are concerned, at their own expense. That is quite true. But I would point out that those lines were constructed prior to Federation. If they had not been; the States would probably have put for-, ward a claim that the Commonwealth should pay for them. Without railway connexion of State with State, we get isolation. Westeni Australia and Tasmania are isolated iri a way that no other States in the Commonwealth are isolated, because all the other States have railway communication with each other. Therefore, Federation in the case of Western Australia and Tasmania cannot be as real as it is in the case of the other States. I was rather astonished to hear Senator Vardon’s prophecy that np European nation would come to Australia. When we see a European nation prepared to spend£2, 500,000 per day to maintain a war against a country for the purpose of grabbing part of the African desert, and of gaining control over a people who can be controlled only at the point of the bayonet - when we see a nation loaded with debt-
– Did the Minister say that a European nation was spending £2,500,000 per day upon a war?
– That is the statement which was made in the press.
– And it was immediately denied.
– In view of these circumstances, is it incredible that a Euro-; pean nation would attempt to capture and. hold a portion of Australia, especially if it be sparsely populated ? It is a big temptation to other nations to see the western portion of this continent isolated from theeastern portion, so far ns railway communication is concerned. During the course of this debate we have heard a good deal of Mr. Murray, who is a vigorous advocate of the Gawler Range route. SenatorVardon, in championing him-
– I merely read two or three sentences from his letter.
– The honorable senator attached considerable importance to his statements. As a matter of fact, although nosurvey was made of the Gawler Range route, the Engineers-in-Chief did take it into consideration. Mr. Deane, in a summaryof their report, says -
With regard to the advisability of substituting the Cawler Range route for the approved one, I beg to call the attention of the Minister to the following extract from the report of the Engineers-in-Chief of nth October,1911: -
The prospects of the country to be served by the Tarcoola route as to pastoral and mineral advantages were incomparably in excess of those to be expected from the Gawler Range route.
The Acting Surveyor-General, South Australia, in a minute to the Hon. the Commissioner for Crown Lands, dated 5th February, 1908, in recommending a route somewhat north of the proposed one, held out the prospect of tapping an area of from 117,000 to 120,000 square miles of pastoral country; and the Government Geologist and the Chief Inspector of Mines pointed out, in minutes of the 7th and 8th February, 1908, the prospects of the gold mines and copper mines in the districts traversed. With regard to the Gawler Range route it is to be observed that, while distance might be saved and economies effected by adopting it, the countries served would by no means be so extensive, and it has, moreover, already theadvantage, as far as the coast strip is concerned, of lines of steamers touching at various ports of call ; and as regards the area adjacent to the Gawler Range, we are informed that the South Australian Government have a well thought out project for extending to Port Lincoln-Yeelanna railway in two directions so as to tap it, and these ‘important lines are likely to be authorized. This being the case, it may be concluded that any further consideration of the Gawler Range route is quite unnecessary.
The above goes to show the reasons why this route was previously rejected, and it is scarcely necessary for me to point out that any wheat that is produced along that route would, undoubtedly, be carried to the nearest port, and would not go to the railway at all, as the steamer freight would be so much cheaper than any rate that could be charged for carriage by the railway. On the other hand, it may be expected that there would be a considerable amount of revenue owing to local traffic and produce from the country between Port Augusta and the sand hills, which are encountered 320 miles back.
The latest report which I have received from the Tarcoola mines is a favorable one. There is also the Glenloth district, which has been reported to be extremely promising. Stock returns show that there are now 300,000 sheep grazing upon the whole district as well as 35,000 hear) of cattle and horses. Some of the country, like the tablelands country, is stated to be of a high fattening value. Were the railway made, a very great development is bound to take place in this country, and would, undoubtedly, be found capable of carrying a very much larger quantity of stock.
In order to show that that is not mere assertion on Mr. Deane’s part, I have here an official map issued by the Crown Lands Department of South Australia showing the distribution of that stock. The squares through which the proposed railway will pass are numbered 767 and 767a and a reference to the footnote attached to the map shows that in districts 767 there are 4,657 cattle, 888 horses, and 157,735 sheep; in district 767a there are 6,248 cattle, 868 horses, and 32,491 sheep; whilst in district 768 there are 15,901 cattle, 2,962 horses, and 36,411 sheep.
– Between Tarcoola and Spencer’s Gulf.
– Mr. Deane said that there were no stock west of Tarcoola.
– He did not. The paper which was read by the honorable senator was to the effect that the country east of Kalgoorlie was unoccupied.
– Read Mr. Deane’s description, and the Minister will find that he says thatfrom 12 to 13 miles east of Tarcoola to Port Augusta the country is occupied.
– All this stock is located west of Spencer’s Gulf, towards the Western Australian boundary. The honorable member’s statement was that the sheep were at the head of Spencer’s Gulf.
– It was not. Let the Minister produce the Hansard report tomorrow, and he will see that he is wrong. He is wilfully misrepresenting me.
– Senators Givens and McColl commented strongly on the fact that this country has not been occupied. The former went so far as to say that the fact that it has not been occupied proves that it is not suitable for occupation. Does Senator Givens know that the land lying almost immediately to the south of Lake Gardiner was absolutely unoccupied when I left South Australia in 1892, and that in the State schools of South Australia I was taught that that country was desert, and unfit for occupation. Yet to-day South Australia is running a line of railway to branch in two directions for a distance of 150 miles from Port Lincoln into the heart of that country, and hundreds of acres of it are being taken up for agricultural purposes.
– None of that country would be fit for agriculture without phosphates.
– I know that. I shall presently prove from a book which was written by Senator McColl that the country through which the proposed transcontinental railway will pass, will one day be settled by an agricultural population, otherwise his theories are all moonshine.
– My theories are other people’s practice.
– That is even more valuable than are the honorable senator’s theories. Senator Givens seemed quite annoyed when he discovered last evening that the Esperance Bay railway was going to be built by the Government of Western Australia. It was one of the sheet-anchors of his opposition to the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill that the Esperance Bay line would not be constructed by that State . He was proceeding to trot out the old argument, when he discovered that the Government of Western Australia have actually built half of that line, and are prepared to construct the other half. Then, he immediately seized upon the construction of that line as an argument in opposition to the building of the proposed transcontinental line. In doing so he evidenced an ingenuity of which the Senate has reason to be proud, and we all give him great credit for the facile way in which he got himself out of the difficulty.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
SenatorPEARCE. - I wish to say a few words now in reply to Senator Millen. I am sorry the honorable senator is not present, but I presume he will come in later. He occupies a very peculiar position on this Bill. 1 have here a volume of Hansard for 1909, and at page 268 I find the policy of the famous Fusion Government, of which Senator Millen was the representative in this Chamber, set out. I quote this paragraph from that statement of policy -
In addition to the ample provision required for Defence purposes and for the industrial projects already noticed, the outlay on the Federal Capital Site, the taking over of Ocean Lighthouses by the Commonwealth, and the construction, when authorized, of the railway line to Western Australia, have to be borne in mind.
It has to be remembered that that statement of policy by the Government of which Senator Millen was a member was published after the survey of this line had been made. It may be said that this is a somewhat indefinite statement. When it appeared in the public press, Western Australian senators and members of another place attacked the Fusion Government in Western Australia, and complained that this was a somewhat indefinite statement. But Sir John Forrest, the Treasurer of that Government, in defending them against our attacks in Western Australia, said that that statement meant that the Fusion Government were absolutely pledged to the early construction of the line. So that, what ever construction honorable senators may put upon the statement, that is the meaning which Sir John Forrest said the . Government intended those words to bear. Now, nearly two years later, after the data collected by the survey have been analyzed and worked up by a competent staff, we have Senator Millen saying that the proper course has not been taken in regard to this line. He says, first of all, that we should get the sanction for inquiry. He admits that this was done, to a limited extent, by the passing of the Bill for the survey. Then he says that we ought to refer the material collected to a body, such as the Public Works Committee of New South Wales. I believe that the Public Works Committee of New South Wales have done very good work. I do not know in detail the nature of the work they do, but I know that the Committee is composed of politicians, and not of engineers. They inquire into the advisability of the construction of a line, and it is not, I believe, any part, of their function to work up the details collected by a survey party to enable contracts to be let for construction. I think I am safe in saying, and I hope that New South Wales senators will correct me if I am wrong, that an inquiry by the Public Works Committee of New South Wales precedes the survey of a railway. First of all, representations are made to the Government that a certain railway should be constructed, the Government bring forward a resolution to refer the project to the Public Works Committee, and, if that Committee sanction the construction of the line, then the survey is proceeded with, and the data collected by the survey are worked up to enable the expenditure of the money. What has been done in this case that Senator Millen should complain, or should alter the attitude which he and the Government of which he was a member took up when they published the policy statement from which I have quoted ?
– There has been no alteration at all.
– The honorable senator now says, “ I am not going to permit you to pass this Bill. I want more inquiry. ‘ ‘
– I did not say so.
– The honorable senator’s action in moving an amendment for further inquiry shows that that is the attitude he now takes up. If his amendment be carried, it will have the effect of postponing the Bill. This Parliament, bypassing an Act, practically said, “ We shall investigate this work.” It voted money for a survey, and subsequently voted more money for the payment of an expert staff to collate the material collected by the survey.
– What Government did that?
– Several Governments.
– The honorable senator spoke of it as the Government of whichI was a member.
– Idid not say anything of the kind. I said that the Government of which the honorable senator was a member pledged themselves to the construction of the railway.
– No; to the survey.
– No; the survey was completed before the Fusion Government took office. What has been done in connexion with this Bill ? The proposal was referred to a Committee, not of politicians, but of railway experts - the five Engineers-in-Chief of the mainland States of Australia. These men came to the consideration of the question with a great advantage over the politician. A politician cannot rid himself of his party associations. If the Government he supports is committed to a Bill he feels himself, to some extent, bound to back them up, right or wrong.
– Right or wrong ? The honorable senator must be thinking of his own party when he says that.
– I say that a politician will feel that, if there is any doubt about a matter, he should give the Government of which he is a supporter the benefit of that doubt. Senator Millen knows well that that feeling is associated with party government. The material collected by the survey of this route was given to a Committee of independent experts - men who know all about railway construction from A to Z ; men who have had to construct railways, who every day are dealing with these very questions, and have been specially trained and educated to deal with them. These men considered the material, analyzed and weighed every bit of it, and then presented a joint report, signed by every one of them. On that report the present Government decided to bring forward this Bill to authorize the construction df the railway, and, in order that Parliament might be seised of every detail, the Government did not stop at that. They made provisipn by a vote of£5,000 for the appointment of a Consulting Railway
Engineer in the person of Mr. Henry Deane, who is one of the best in the Commonwealth. No one will say nay to that. He was given freedom to choose his own staff, and the material collected by a prosper survey, and not a flying survey, was placed in his hands, and on that he has prepared plans, specifications, and quanttities. He makes the statement that he is prepared now to supply the necessary plans, specifications, and quantities to enable any one to tender for the work.
– Were the EngineersinChief unanimous in their recommendation ?
– Yes, they were.
– On the gauge?
– No, . not on the gauge; but they were unanimous as to the cost of construction and various other items they put forward.They signed a unanimous report, but Mr. Moncrieff pointed out that he dissented from the recommendation as to the gauge, although the dissent is not shown in the main r.eport. I am pointing out, however, that this is an . immensely more reliable report than a report by a committee of non-experts could possibly be. Whilst Senator Millen puts forward as a justification for his amendment the statement that this should be referred to a committee for report, he refuses to accept the report of experts.
– I did not do anything of the kind. I was contrasting the ample means of inquiry provided elsewhere with the scanty means the Government have adopted in this case.
– The honorable senator in his attack on the Bill proceeded first of all to question the credibility of the report of Mr. Deane. In order to do so he seized upon one or two paragraphs in which Mr. Deane left the narrow path of the railway expert, and ventured to express opinions on matters somewhat outside direct railway questions. We may differ in opinion as to whether Mr. Deane was wise in doing so, and every member of the Senate is free to refuse to accept his conclusions on those subjects. ButI say that no matter how honorable senators, may question his testimony on those points which are outside the scope of engineering questions, they cannot affect the value of Mr. Deane’s report on the questions affecting railway construction in any way at all. Honorable senators should bear in mind that the Government have never asked, and do not ask, that the Senate shall make up its mind on Mr. Deane’s opinions upon any questions other than those of actual railway construction.
– If the line costs £1,000,000 more than is estimated, what remedy shall we have?
– It will not cost £1,000,000 more than is estimated. On that pointI am prepared to ask the Senate to prefer Mr. Deane’s opinion to that of Senator Sayers. We have had a strange spectacle presented by honorable senators on the other side.’ They have refused to accept the joint report of five of the EngineersinChief of the States of Australia, and have practically told the Governments of those States that they do not value the reports of the Engineers-in-Chief of their railway works. But at the same time, if any casual person writes a letter to a newspaper, anonymously or otherwise, they trot the letter out here and set it up against the reports of these responsible and expert officials. We have had Senator McColl quoting newspaper writers, and we have had Senator Sayers trotting out a Mr. Murray.’ I do not know whether he is a railway expert. I have heard that he is a mining prospector. By the way, it is singular that, while Senator Sayers has referred to Tarcoola as a worthless mining field, this mining prospector, who appears to have been living there for years, makes a sporting offer to take a party at his own expense over the whole of the route of this railway. He can scarcely be considered a pauper if he is prepared to do that.
– He is not a miner at all. We were told last night that he is a grazier.
– I do not know what he is. I say that Senator Millen occupies a most inconsistent position on this Bill. Having been a member of a Government who were prepared to construct this line, he is to-day the forger of a weapon destined to wreck it.
– Does the honorable member say that if my amendment were carried it would wreck the Bill ?
– Yes, undoubtedly; and in my opinion those who are support-, ing it are hoping that that will be the result.
– Why will the amendmentwreck the Bill, if it is carried ?
– Because the honorable senator must be aware that there will then be no chance to go on with it this session.
– There might be another session. The honorable senator means to say that the States concerned will not concede the fair terms we ask. That is the only way by which the proposal could be killed.
– If Senator Millen has any doubt as to what the effect of his amendment would be if it were carried, I venture to say that those who are in opposition to the Bill are all ranged behind him supporting the amendment. How is it that every opponent of the Bill is supporting his amendment?
– Because it is a reasonable amendment.
– It is supported, not merely by those who want more information, but also by honorable senators like Senator Stewart and Senator Givens, who honestly say thatthey will not vote for the Bill under any consideration.
– I want more information.
– These honorable senators do not makeany specious pretext about wanting more information. They state, plainly and bluntly, that South Australia and Western Australia should build the railway, and that they have no right to ask the Commonwealth to do so. That is an honest and straightforward way of dealing with the proposal, but all those who want to oppose the Bill support the amendment. I come now to Senator McColl, who is in the unfortunate position of having written a book. We all remember the old saying, “ Oh that mine enemy would write a book.” I hold in my hand the official rain map of South Australia for 1910, issued by Mr. H. A. Hunt, Commonwealth Meteorologist. Honorable senators will notice that, . wherever we are able to take records, we know the rainfall in those localities.
– 1910 was a good year.
– Certainly. At Tarcoola, where Mr. Murray - Senator Sayers expert - stated that there is no rainfall,the rainfall in 1910 was inches.
-May I ask Senator Pearce if he is quoting these figures to disprove Mr Deane’s, statement that the average. rainfall is 7 inches?
– I shall tell the honorable senator presently why I am quoting the figures. In 1910, the rainfall along the highest point of the Bight ranged from 786 points at Eucla to 890 points - that is nearly 9 inches - at Nullarbor Station, and 12 inches at Fowler Bay.
– That is in a good year right along the coast.
– I do not intend to miss any of these little points. In 1910, the rainfall at Tarcoola was 473 points, that is, 4.73 inches above the rainfall in the previous year.
– What would that make the rainfall in the previous year?
– Eight inches, which bears out Mr. Deane’s statement.
– He gives the average as 7 inches.
– The rainfall at Nullarbor Station - the highest point of the Bight - was 57 points below the registration for the previous year ; while the rainfall at Eucla was 233 points below the registration for the previous year. That shows that, in 1909, Eucla had a rainfall of nearly 10 inches, and that the other places had a rainfall of over 9 inches.It also shows that Tarcoola had, in 1909, a rainfall of over 8 inches, and in 1910, a rainfall of 12 inches. These two points cover the country lying between Tarcoola and the western boundary.
– That is the rainfall on the coast.
– Tarcoola is not on the coast. If the rainfall of 8 inches extends to Tarcoola, which must be at least 150 miles from the coast, it is reasonable to assume that it covers the whole area of that line running west from Tarcoola, which is only 60 miles from the coast. If honorable senators will refer to the official rain map of Western Australia, they willobserve a spot lying to the east of Norseman, and getting well up towards the line east of Kalgoorlie. In that spot, last year the rainfall was 10 inches.
– Is that Balladonia?
– No; this spot is north of Balladonia.
– Would it not be of more use if you gave us the average?
– I will tell the honorable senator why I cannot give the average. Only within the last few years has there been any settlement in that particular part ; but down at Balladonia, there has been settlement fora large number of years. Dempster Brothers have a station there; and, according to their rain-gauge, the average rainfall is 12 inches. On the other hand, at Kalgoorlie, the rainfall for 1910 was 9 inches. Coming along the coast, we find that from Eucla, right away down to Israelite Bay, the rainfall last year averaged 9 inches. At Israelite Bay, which is still a long distance from Albany, the rainfall was11½ inches. The point I want to make is that there is a rainfall. The assumption from these figures - and that is where it will be interesting to Senator McColl- is that there was a rainfall of 8 inches in the area through which the proposed railway will pass. I do not think that that is an extreme statement to make, in the light of these figures. Is there any doubt about the quality of the soil ? I have been 90 miles east of Kalgoorlie, and say that, excluding the belts of mineral country, there is no better soil to be found in the whole of Australia than is to be found in the eastern gold-fields country.
– For what?
– It is good red loam soil ; and if the honorable senator is a judge of soil and saw this country, I am sure that he would confirm my statement. I have been 90 miles east of Kalgoorlie, and I have met prospectors who have been out hundreds of miles, and they have told me that this quality of soil extends to the Nullarbor Plain, except, of course, where it is intersected by a mineral belt. I come now to Senator McColl ‘s statement of his investigation of dry farming. In 1909 the Senate was presented with a paper on dry farming, being “ a report by Senator J. H. McColl of proceedings at Third TransMissouri Dry Farming Congress, Cheyenne, Wyoming, February, 1909, and further investigations in America.” Referring to his arrival, he says, on page 1 - “What is Dry Farming?” I inquired. “Cultivation’ under low rainfall,’” was the reply. On asking where I could get particulars, I was referred to the Colorado Realty Association, Denver, where I saw sheaves of various grains of excellent quality, said to have been grown under a 12-inch rainfall.
– That is too much to wheat-growing.
– That is what Senator McColl learned when he commenced his peregrinations. On page 6 of his report he starts a chapter on the arid States and their rainfall -
These States are California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico,
Arizona, and the rainfall figures given are those issued by the U.S.A. Department of Agriculture.
In California the rainfall varies from 15.6 inches at Los Angeles, to 2.5 inches in Salton, while San Diego and San Jose have 9.4 inches and 14.8 inches respectively.
This is an important point, and this is where I invite the notice of my fellow Australians to the difference between the conditions in the United, States of America and our conditions -
Of this, over one-half falls in the winter months, a fourth in the spring ; the balance spreads over summer and fall, but little in the summer.
– One-naif of 14 inches, though.
– One-half of 14 inches is 7 inches, and one-half of 9 inches is 4J inches. The peculiar feature of the Western Australian rainfall is that, along the south-western portion of the State, the whole rainfall practically comes in three or four months. At Perth, I have known not a day to pass without rain in June, July, and August. I have known a stretch of four to five months in summer without a solitary drop of rain.
– Do you know how many months it takes to mature wheat?
– I do. In Siberia I saw wheat which matured in three months.
– Not the kinds of wheat -which we grow here.
– No. But the honorable senator, if he knows anything about the subject, knows that’ there are wheats and wheats. In this report, Senator McColl shows the difference. He says -
In Oregon the fall is 15.4 inches and 14.5 inches, the half falling in winter. In Washington State the fall is 8.3 inches at Spokane, and 8.9 inches at Yakima, of which the heaviest fall is in winter. In Nevada and Idaho the fall is from 12.9 inches to 7.3 inches, about half in winter and one-fourth in spring. In Utah it runs from 15.8 inches in Salt Lake City to 7.5 inches in Moab country, one-third in spring and one-third in winter. In Montana the fall is 16.4 inches to 13.6 inches, evenly distributed. In ‘ Wyoming over one-half is in spring and summer, and in Colorado it is the same, the fall running from 14.6 inches to 7.7 inches. In Nebraska two-thirds of the fall of 14. q inches is in spring and summer. Kansas, with 19.6 inches, has two-thirds in spring and summer. New Mexico, with 14.2 inches to 9.4 inches, has about one-half in summer, the balance over the rest of the year. Arizona, with 15.6 inches at Prescott, and 2.7 inches at Yuma, has one-third to one-half in summer, and but one-fourth in winter.
If these farmers get that rainfall, as Senator McColl seems to indicate, spread over a longer period, it is not of as much value as a rainfall of 8 inches in winter over the country to be traversed by the proposed railway. What art the results? On page 10 of his report, Senator McColl says -
My inquiries were made about Fresno and Tulare, and there they never had over 13 inches per annum. Mr. J. L. Good, of Clovis, near Fresno, has been farming twenty-three years, and was formerly managing for Mr. F. Tarpey, a large land-owner, but for the past seven years had been working his own farm of 2,800 acres at Clovis. He took off the crop in July or August, and as soon as the condition of the ground would permit he ploughed, getting as deep as he could, from 6 to 8 inches. After the weeds sprouted, say, in April, he ploughed again, and kept a clean surface on the land. He used a Stockton Gang plough, five shares in each, the draught being ten horses. His winter sowing was done in September and October, and the spring sowing in December and January. He cropped only once in two years, leaving a summer fallow, and seeded 60 lbs. of barley and 5.5 lbs. of wheat to the acre.. He had used the White Australia wheat for the past seven years, and had never failed to get a . crop. The rainfall had been from 10 to r» inches, never over the latter. The principal rains fell in December. January, and February. The average of the farms round him was 16 bushels, but he got from 20 to 30 bushels. He rotated wheat and barley. He had not us«d manures.
Dealing with the case of Mr. Bearss, another dry farmer, Senator McColl says -
The rain for the year was but 7.40 inches, but the soil was in condition to receive and hold it.
They did not get as much rain as fell at Tarcoola in 1910, but “ the soil was in a condition to receive and hold it,” because, as the honorable senator points out, it had been cultivated under a system of dry farming -
In the critical month of March but 0.6 points fell-
That is when the wheat was germinating - and yet the yields were excellent. None of the trial plots yielded less than twenty bushels of wheat.
That is with a rainfall of 7 inches. Senator McColl went to the United States of America and saw this done; but he is not prepared to get up here and say, “ I am willing to open up this vast province, because my experience in the United States of America proved to me that, by the system of dry farming, I can grow wheat all over that country.” Why is he not- willing to apply the lesson which he learned in the United States of America?
– I did not say that it could not be done there. I made no reference to that matter.
– If the honorable senator’s book means anything, it means that it can be done. If he saw it done in the United States of America, and knows that the soil of this country is good, and sees from these statistics that it has a rainfall of 8 inches, why does he refuse to open up this province to Australia ? I come now to another case. It may be said that this Was written about wheat-growing, but that everybody cannot grow wheat. Senator McColl was not content with wheat. Dealing with Texas, he says that the rainfall varies from 9 inches to over 40 inches, and he gives an instance of a man 20 miles north of El Paso, on the border of Texas and New Mexico, who, by dry farming, raised 2 acres of water melons averaging from 20 to 30 lbs. weight, and yielding $100 per acre. It positively makes one’s mouth water!
His milo maize, Caffir corn, sorghum, Mexican brown beans, black-eyed peas,’ onions, pumpkins, anr! other crops were ns successful as his melons, and he did this on 8 inches of rain.
I am surprised that Senator . McColl, after writing this, should vote against the proposed railway. It is really astonishing ! ‘ .
– Growing those crops on 8 inches of rain dees not mean 8 inches per annum. It means 8 inches while the crops are growing.
– The honorable senator cannot shuffle out of it in that manner. Senator McColl was’ too exact for such little tarradiddles to dispose of his evidence. He started by giving the rainfall of the State of Texas, and then he gave instances of places within the State where these crops were grown. Here are some of his conclusions -
We know that the low rainfall country is rich in the elements required for plant life.
That is a truism known to every one who has studied the chemical composition of soils.
Let an inch or two of rain fall on the desertlooking, land, and like magic it will become covered with the most luxuriant growth of the finest fattening properties for stock. This country has to be settled and made productive.
What are the lessons of the Dry Farming Convention that we may take to guide and assist us in this stupendous task.? We know that with ian average rainfall of ro inches, and even less, men can hold on and live. But before we have to rely on the 10-in. areas we have over [,000,000 square miles, or 640,000,000 acres, under a rainfall from io to 20 inches.
– Senator McColl there summarizes, the belief that 10 inches is- the minimum rainfall with which you can dry,farm successfully.
– I stand by everything that I wrote iri that report. But those people grow one crop in two years. They save two years rainfall for the one crop. I am very much obliged to the Minister for quoting from the report.
– I am very glad that I read it; it is very informative. Assuming that these people do grow one crop in two years, that simply means that they allow one paddock to lie idle while they are cultivating another. That merely involves giving farmers a larger area than they would have in other parts of the country. It does not mean that every crop is to be a failure one year, or that there is to be no crop at all one year, and that successful crops are to be obtained in the next. It means that they practise rotation of crops. Where is Senator Stewart, who dubbed the whole of this 1,200- miles of country “howling desert,” and in the same breath cried, .” We want more people in Australia-“? Is not that a magnificent way of attracting people to Australia - to send it forth to the world that one-half of Australia is a wilderness ? Because, remember, this is one-half of Australia, for this continent is only 2,400 miles across; Publish the news to the world that one-half of Australia is desert, and in the same breath cry, “ Let us have more people for this desert “I
– Would the honorable senator send out and invite people to farm land there for wheat?
– Yes, 1 would; and let me tell the honorable senator this : The Western Australian Government is proposing to build a railway from Norseman to Esperance, not merely to open up mineral areas, but to open up rich agricultural land there. There are people today who are taking up that land. There are people down below Norseman who are actually reaping good crops.
– With a 12-inch rainfall! ‘
– No, with a 10-inch rainfall. ‘ The little coloured ring on the map which I hold in my hand shows where land is being taken up to-day.
– There is. a mighty difference between 8 inches of rain and 1.0.
– But Senator McColl showed that wheat can ‘be grown with,. a. rainfall of 8 inches.
– No ; 8 inches in the growing period.
– Perhaps Senator Millen will prepare a revised edition of Senator McColl’s report on dry farming. Does he mean the Senate to believe that Senator McColl went to America, made all these investigations, and wrote this voluminous report, for the purpose of telling Australians that you. can. grow wheat with a10-inch rainfall?’ Senator W. Russell could have told him that before hewent away, for that: honorable senator has grown many a bushel of wheat with a 10-inch rainfall, years and years ago. I was brought up in the northern areas of South Australia, where the farmers considered themselves lucky if they got 10 inches of rain. We did not need a report on dry-farming to tell us that that could be done. We knew it. What Senator McColl wanted to show, however, and what he proved, was, that with a 10-inch rainfall under dry farming you can produce far better results than under the old system; and that even with an 8-inch rainfall you can produce 20 bushels of wheat to the acre. An attack has been made by Senator Millen and others on the water-supply report. Not’, I challenge honorable senators opposite to dispute, the facts contained in this report.
-i do not; I accept them.
– Senator Sayers did not accept them. He quoted Mr. G. W. Murray as saying thatthe bores put down on the Nullarbor Plain had all bottomed without getting water ; and he brought that forward as an argument to prove the waterless condition ‘of the country to be traversed by this line. Now, as a matter of fact, what was done was this: The Western Australian Government sent’ out a trial boring party who only put down bores at intervals of a few hundred miles. They did not put clown bores to supply water, but to find whether water was there. And they did get the water. It rose 400 and 500 feet in the bores, and in one case it rose within 100 feet of the surface. Scientists to-day are able to test bore pressures, to analyze the quality of water, and to tell forwhat purposes it can beused. The experts give in these reports the flow that could be obtained, and they also give the fact that the water from two of the bores was fit for human consumption, which means that it was fit for boiler purposes also. In one case it was slightly brackish, but in all cases they declared it to be fit for boiler purposes.
– Are the Government going to depend on those bores for a. water supply ?
– Certainly not. They were put down to determine whether the water was there. It is there, and Senator Vardon knows how it can be obtained.
– I think I read of a proposal for piping water hundreds of miles.
– I am not saying that there is water all alongthe route of the railway. There is an area of some hundred miles - I forget the exact distance - where there appears to be no water. We shall have to supply water in that area from the bores. But there is no insuperable difficulty about that. That is no reason why this railway should not be built. Even if the line went through a desert, that is no reason why it should not be built. The most profitable railways in Australia run through unoccupied country for miles. The line from Petersburg to Broken Hill for years ran through unoccupied country, but it was the best paying line South Australia had. Why ? Because there was something at the end of it. It was never built for what could be got along the route. The most payable line we had in Western Australia for many years was that from Perth to Kalgoorlie, and in its most payable daysthere was not a settler east of Northam. Yet to-day there are settlers 150 miles east of Northam. The railway in the days to which I refer was actually paying better than it is paying now. To-day you have a population of 300,000 people on the one side. They are - I make this statement advisedly, but not boastfully - the wealthiest people in Australia, the people who travel most of any in Australia. You have these people on the one side, and on the other you have all the rest of the population of Australia. But honorable senators opposite say that those people will not travel along the railway - that they are not going to use it. I. have told the Senate before that when I travelled on the transSiberian line I talked with people who came from the south of China, and who, although they have magnificent Pacific and Oriental Company steamers to take them to Europe if they like, via India and the Suez Canal, nevertheless prefer to go overland. They used to; go by sea;, to-day they do not. They go on a long railway journey through China, through Manchuria, over the trans-Siberian line. They travel - how long do you think? Ten whole days right across the Continent. It is a far more costly trip than by steamer. Yet they prefer it. There is only one other point with which I wish to deal. Various railway experts on the opposite side have spoken about the cost of construction. I shall quote from Mr. Knibbs’ Official Year-Book of the Commonwealth, page 713. Here we have instanced the railway from Parkes to Condobolin, 62$ miles, which cost .£2,079 per mile. The line was opened in 1898. The railway from Dubbo to Coonamble, 95 7-8th miles, cost ,£2.463 per mile.
– Surely the Minister does not expect to build the proposed railway at the same price?
– We are not estimating the same price. We are allowing £3,000 a mile.
– :It will cost more.
– I come to Victoria. The line from Birchip to Cronomby, 26J miles, cost £1,548 per mile. The line from Rupanyup to Marnoo, 15 i-3rd miles, cost £1)787 per mile. The railway from Tailem Bend to Pinaroo, South Australia, 86^ miles, cost £1,470 per mile. Those instances dispose of the statement that this line is excessively costly. In any case, that point has been well disposed of by the six experts, who had before them all the necessary information about ballast, about the supply of timber, about water supply, and so forth. History has a knack of repeating itself ; and similar arguments to those which have been used against this railway have been used before. As I have been quoting from rather severe authorities, I shall conclude by citing a passage of a lighter character from- Alfred Russell Wallace’s Wonderful Century. I take it from page 30 of the book, where the writer deals with the history of railways. I think that Senator Vardon and others will almost think that they hear themselves speaking -
The Quarterly Review embodied the ideas of the educated public of the period, when it declared in 1824, that “ As to those persons who speculate on making railways throughout the Kingdom, and superseding all the waggons, mails, and stage coaches, postchaises, and, in short, every other mode of conveyance by land and by water, we deem them, and their visionary schemes, unworthy of notice.” And, again, in 1825, when it” was proposed to make a railway from London to Woolwich, and to travel on it “ at twice the speed of stage coaches with greater safety,” the reviewer remarked : “ We should as soon expect the people of Woolwich to suffer themselves to be fired off upon one of Congrieve’s ricochet rockets, as trust themselves to the mercy of such a machine going at such a rate.”
When the first great railways from London were in contemplation, much fear was expressed of injury by them, one of the most fantastic being that of the town of Northampton, which objected to have a railway and station there, on the ground (among others) that the smoke from the engines would injure the wool of the sheep.
When this question came before Parliament the Sayers, and the Millens, and the Vardons, and the St. Ledgers of that day, spoke thus - “ W.is the House aware of the smoke and the noise, the hiss and the whirl, which locomotive engines, passing at the rate of 10 or 12 miles an hour, would occasion?” “And,” they concluded, ‘* it would be the greatest nuisance, the most complete disturbance of quiet comfort in all parts of the Kingdom, that the ingenuity of man could invent.” Another member urged that “ such schemes were dangerous, delusive, unsatisfactory, and, above all, unknown to the Constitution of the country.”
He concluded -
He hated the very name of a railway - he hated it as he hated the devil.”
I appeal to honorable senators opposite to shake off their fears, and to assist us to do something with our magnificent heritage. I appeal to Senator Keating, as a young Australian, to dissociate himself from the old Tories, whose cry is always that the time is not ripe, whose plea Is always for delay, whose excuse is always that they have not sufficient information, and to help us to grapple with the problem of settling, not merely the fringe of country around our coast, but that vast interior which can be settled only by the construction of such a railway as we propose.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I have to complain that the Minister of Defence, during the course of his remarks - I hope unconsciously - misrepresented what I said in debating the motion for the second reading of this Bill. I do not think it is fair that such misrepresentation should be allowed to go uncontradicted. The Minister stated that I was visibly disappointed when I was informed that it was the intention of the Western Australian Government to complete the railway, which was already half built, from Kalgoorlie to Esperance Bay. Such a statement was grossly unfair, seeing that at the time the information was imparted to me, I expressed both pleasure and gratification at the news. I admit that I did not express any gratification that the railway had been constructed only half way to Esperance Bay, because I recognised that it had been built, not for the purpose of opening up communication with the sea coast for the benefit of the residents of the gold-fields’, but for the purpose of dragging more of the trade of those fields to Perth and Fremantle to be an additional source of profit to property owners and traders there and consequent satisfaction to the Minister who represents them.
– By way of personal explanation I wish to say that I had no intention of misrepresenting the honorable senator. I accept his assurance that he was not disappointed when the news was conveyed to him that the Government of Western Australia intended to construct a line of railway from Kalgoorlie to Esperance Bay, and I express regret that I misunderstood his attitude.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (SenatorMillen’s amendment) - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
– I move -
That leave he given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Post and Telegraph Act 1901.
In moving for leave to introduce this Bill, I may say that I did not expect the Government to give the evening to private members’ business, and consequently, even if my motion be carried, I have not the Bill ready to present to the Senate. But as the opportunities for submitting such a motion cannot occur very frequently during the remainder of this session, I take advantage of this occasion to ask permission to introduce this Bill. If it is granted I shall have the Bill prepared and bring it before the Senate later. I intend to be quite open and fair in the matter, and I say at once that my object is to amend section 57 of the principal Act for the purpose of depriving the Deputy PostmasterGeneral and his officers of what I consider the dangerous power which they at present possess to open and interfere with private correspondence. We are all aware that the Parliament of Tasmania has legalized the carrying on of certain sweeps, and the departmental prohibition of correspondence addressed to a certain institution in Tasmania has been the cause of very considerable inconvenience to many business people. Postal notes taken out, for instance, in New South Wales, are returned to the people who took themout, and they are put to very great trouble in cashing them, as they are frequently made payable to certain banking institutions. I have publicly stated that, in my opinion, it. is not the dutyof the authorities of the Post and Telegraph Department to interfere in any way with private, correspondence going through the Post Office. I draw a line distinctly between interference with correspondence passing thorough the- Post Office and addressed to business institution’s, and interference with the circulationthrough the Post Office of pernicious literature, for instance; The Bill “I propose to introduce will be framed with; theobjectoftaking out of thehandsofthePostmasterGeneral andhis officersthe power they now exerciseofopeningandinterferingwith correspondence chieflydirectedtocertain persons who are conducting “a business legally in Tasmania atthepresent time. I want the Senate to express the opinion that the business of the Postand Telegraph Department shall not be, so conducted that letters properly stamped may be opened or interfered with in any way. I presume that there may be some opposition to what I propose on. the ground that the interference of whichIcomplain has been permitted under the law with the object of preserving the morality of the community. I may say- in reply that if we are going to strain the powers of the postal authorities to enable them in this very doubtful way to improve the morality of the people, it may be contended that we should refuse to permit certain persons , to travel on the Commonwealth railways when we have constructed them. I venture to say that the Governments of the various States are quite as much interested in the morality of the people as is the Commonwealth Government. Yet we find that they give the people every possible facility to attend race meetings.
– They advertise them.
– They advertise them by advertising cheap fares on the railways to the race-courses, and they afford every possible facility for people to attend race meetings.
SenatorO’Keefe. - And members of Parliament lend their countenance by going to the races themselves.
– If members of Parliament did not do so they would cease to be representative men. If I am asked what the result of this postal interference on behalf of the morality of the people has been, I should say that it has been nil. Glancing through a newspaper recently I found that Tattersall’s Sweeps on the last Melbourne Cup, including special No. 1, and special No. 2, were all -filled. It is possible that the Ministercalled upon to, administer the Post -and Telegraph Departmentmay under the existing law have toadminister a provision in this respect with which he does, not agree. I feel sure, however, that the Postmaster-General who preceded the present occupant of the office, believed that in interfering in that direction he was conserving themorality of the people by preventing persons investing in Tattersall’s Sweeps. I believe that that gentleman conscientiously felt that to be his duty. I do not know anything of the views in this connexion of the present occupant of the office nor do I desire to know anything of them. am asking. the Senate to. give me permission to introduce a Billto provide that the PostmasterGeneraland his officers shallno , longer have the right to open any sealed correspondence of the character to which I have referred. I do not wish to take from them the right to prevent the circulation of pernicious literature. Ishould, like, however, to ask those who claim that they ought to have the right to interfere in this way in the interests of the morality of the people, how they can justify the circulation through the Post Office. of newspapers which certainly no member of the Senate would give to any member of his family to read? I feel that I shall have no difficulty in obtaining leave to introduce the Bill to which I have referred, in order that its merits may be discussed on the second reading. I wish the Senate to decide that the Post and Telegraph Department in this matter shall be conducted on the same lines as a private business.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16th November (vide page 2739), on motion by Senator de Largie -
That the report of the Royal Commission on Postal Services, laid on the table on 5th October, (910, be approved by the Senate.
– I feel it somewhat difficult to bring back honorable senators’ minds from the question of the Western Australian railway and Tattersall’s Sweeps to that of the report of the Royal Commission on Postal Services. Important as Have been the discussions on the transcontinental railway, and the motion of Senator Gardiner for leave to introduce a Bill, I think that die report of the Royal Commission on Postal Services is equally worthy of our very serious consideration. It is about eight weeks since Senator de Largie moved that it be approved by the Senate. Let me here extend my congratulations to the members of the Royal Commission for the splendid and very able report which they have made, so comprehensive in its nature, and dealing with every aspect of the Postal Service. At the same time, I want to single out those members of the Royal Commission who, despite the hostile and malignant criticism of the press, stuck to their posts. I venture to say that since the inception of Federation no Royal Commission has been subject to such bitter criticism as has the Royal Commission on Postal Services. So bitter was that criticism that we found some of its original members resigning their positions, lest they might be injured in another way. I wish to specially mention the fact that the Royal Commission included men who were determined to see the inquiry through to a finish: We are now in possession of a report so comprehensive in its nature that it has enabled the members of this Parliament to see where the weak spots in the Postal Service are. I might also say that since the presentation of the repot t the Government of the day have endeavoured - and endeavoured successfully - to meet many of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. There are still, however, some defects in the Postal Service which we may be able to rectify, and it is with that intention that I am addressing myself to this motion to-night. Last session, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, in reply to a question I asked, made a promise to the Senate. that ample .time would be given for the discussion of this report. I am aware that he, as Leader of the Senate, has been good enough to extend the time for the discussion of private business by one night. Notwithstanding that extension, I venture to say that the ample time which he promised last session to afford has not been given for the discussion of a report of this nature. Whilst I recognise that the Government have extended the facilities for dealing with private business by a night, I still contend that this report deserves more time for its consideration than has been allowed up to the present.
– You have had every Thursday night, and the matter has been put off.
– However, we must content ourselves with the opportunity which is offered. Perhaps it is somewhat unique that the report is being discussed at all. Royal Commissions sit and present reports, but usually the reports are shelved.The Royal Commission on Postal Services has had a chance to get its report discussed by members of this Parliament. There is one feature to which I desire to refer, and that is that when the Royal Commission was sitting evidence was called for. Every, employe in the Postal Service had an optunity of appearing as a witness, and the Public Service Commissioner had a similar opportunity.’ The point I want to make and I think it is a just one, is that after; he, and his employes, had that opportunity,’ we are to-day presented with a report from him reviewing the evidence given by a section of the Postal Service. I am not questioning his right in one way, but -in another I am. Whilst Mr. McLachlan is todaythe Public Service Commissioner, and whilst to a certain extent he is really the autocrat of the Public Service, he is also an employ^ of the Commonwealth Government. And to give him the opportunity to present this report, while the mouths of his employes were closed, was, to say the least of it, unfair. He gave his evidence on oath, and so did the men over whom he has the ruling hand. I think that the matter should have ended when the Royal Commission presented its report. But, after the evidence had been taken on oath from both sides, and the Royal Commission had drawn its deductions and presented its report, we find Mr. McLachlan coming in with another reply, and no opportunity given to the men whose evidence he, according to this report, entirely condemns. I could understand this being done if 4 chance had been given to both sides. It is well known that, according to the law which dominates the Public Service, it is unlawful for any section of the Public Service to circularize members of Parliament, but the employer of the Public Service can do that ad lib. ‘ What I want to emphasize is the evidence given in connexion with the sorters. In a memorandum by the Public Service Commissioner relating to recommendations of the Royal Commission, and presented to the Senate on the 15th September, 1911, I find the following paragraph : -
Sorters. - The position of sorter has received careful consideration in the new grading prepared by the Commissioner, Which became operative from rst January, 191 1. The rates of pay previously existing were as follow : -
Sorter -£144 to£156; increments of £6.
Senior Sorter - £162 to ; £168; increment £6.
Despatching Officer - £174 to , £180; increment £6.
The Royal Commission proposals were as follow : -
Sorter - £150 to £190; biennial increments of £8.
Despatching Officer - £200.
In a subsequent paragraph he says -
In making proposals as to rates of pay for Commonwealth sorters, re.iance was evidentlyplaced by the Royal Commission on New Zealand rates, which apparently provide for a maximum of£200.
It was pointed out in evidence by the Public Service Commissioner that while that rate purports to be the maximum attainable by sorters in New Zealand, it is not as a matter of practice paid, and that 45 per cent. of Dominion sorters were receiving less than the minimum of an Australian softer, while the average salary in the Commonwealth was£14 higher than in New Zealand. Despite the definite statement of the actual position of sorters in New Zealand, the Royal Commission reported (para. 383) that “ from an examination of the New Zealand Post and Telegraph Departmental List, 1908-9, your Commissioners discovered that a number of sorters now in receipt of£180 will reach the maximum of£200 per annum, in accordance with the Post and Telegraph Classification Act 1907. This Act came into force in April,1908, and provides that officers in the Non-Clerical Division mav advance from £50 to£200 per annum in fifteen years by £10 increments.”
I desire to point out that Mr. McLachlan’s statement replying to the evidence tendered to the Royal Commission is not correct. I have here a statement in rebuttal, as it were, of that alleged evidence.
– You mean that one of the statements was not correct?
– Well, in connexion with the sorters I will say - and I say it advisedly - that neither of Mr.
McLachlan’s statements is correct. Dealing with the New Zealand position, I have here the reply, which I will quote -
Table of Salaries.
New Zealand (1908 Classification).
Grade, 3. Position, sorter. Salary , £110 to £140 by three annual increments of £10 each.
Grade 2. Position, sorter. Salary,£150 to £170 by two annual increments of £10 each.
Grade 1. Position, sorter. Salary,£180 to £200 by two annual increments of £10 each.
Despatch clerk. Salary,£200 to£220 by two annual increments of£10 each.
Australia asproposed by Postal Commission.
Sorters,£150 to£190, with biennial increments of £8, a period of ten years. (Par. 385).
N.B. - Sorters in Australia have to serve as Letter Carriers or Assistants (generally a period of twenty years) before being promoted to Sorters.
Despatching officers, salary, £200. (Par. 386).
It must be further borne in mind that even since the Royal Commission presented its reportthe cost of living has increased. Even if the Government and the Parliament accepted in toto the report, thai would not meet the situation. I see that, in connexion with the cost of living, it is estimated, from official figures, that the purchasing power of £1 in 1904 was reduced to 16s. 3d. in 191 1. A salary of£190 in 1904 is only equal to £154 7s. 6d. in 191 1. A despatching officer in receipt of£100 in 1911 received an equivalent of £162 10s. in 1904. It may be added that the State of Victoria increased the pay of all members of the Police Force who had had fifteen years’ service1s. per day, or £18 5s. per annum; and those who had had less than fifteen years’ service were increased 6d. per day, or£9 2s. 6d. per annum. In South Australia, increases were also granted in consequence of the increased cost of living. There, again, I point out that, even if the Commissioner was correct in his estimate, and even if the full report of the Royal Commission was accepted, still, the recommendations fall short of the necessary remuneration to the men employed. The Royal Commission recommended that a board” of control or management should be appointed. That raises a very vexed question. For my own part, I support the recommendation. I consider that our Postal Service is too big for one man to administer it. But, not only has the Commissioner to administer this service, but also the Customs and the Defence Departments. There is no man breathing who is capable of grappling with the various problems that present themselves in. con- nexion with all those Departments. View the matter from whatever stand-point honorable senators choose, we can only come to the conclusion that, unless we adopt the recommendations of the Royal Commission, our Postal Service will not reflect credit upon Australia. It is true that we have reduced the price of telegrams and adopted penny postage. It is true that, in many respects, the Commonwealth Postal Service is exemplary. But it is also true that it is wanting in other respects ; and it -is because of the unwieldly nature of the service, and the fact that one man has to govern it and other services, that there is a weak link in the chain. I do not advocate political control, but I do desire that every one of our services shall be properly and ably administered. I do not reflect, in the slightest degree, on the personal ability of Mr. McLachlan; quite the contrary. He may be a Napoleon in his way, but the Postal Service has proved to be too big for him. That is the reason why I think we should centre the administration in a board of control. We must remember that at present there is no appeal beyond the Public Service Commissioner. No man dare say him nay, be he member of Parliament, Minister, or employe. It is high time that such a state of things was remedied. The only way that 1 can see for remedying it is to accept the recommendation relating to the establishment of a board of control. The Government of the day have brought down a Bill, the intention of which is to give public servants the right of appeal to the Arbitration Court. I welcome that project, and hope that it will become law. lt has been said that the postal servants are not desirous of appealing to the Arbitration Court. That may or may not be correct. But, claiming to have a wide knowledge of the postal servants of Australia, I venture to say that, if their own wishes were consulted, we should find that the majority of them were anxious to have this power of appeal. I refer particularly to the general division. I have no desire to see any privileged class established in Australia; and whilst we have one law tor workers outside the Public Service, we should not have another law for those within it. I believe that the present Government are considering the pensions phase of the question.
– Pensions, or a superannuation fund?
– There is a desire to legislate on the subject, which I think will receive favorable consideration from the Government. In conclusion, I shall mention only one other point. It was not fair to a section of the Postal Service that the Public Service Commissioner should have issued a final reply when the lips of the members of the Commission were sealed. I cannot lay too much emphasis on that point. If 1 were to consult the dictionary, the only word which I could find to describe such conduct would be the word “ despicable.” I am satisfied that, in the hands of the present Government, the intentions of the Royal Commission will be honorably and faithfully observed. So far, the Government have met them, lt is their intention to go further. Our public servants must have the same freedom of thought and speech as the man who is today their autocrat; and I hope that the day is not far distant when the powers vested in him will be taken away, and when more power will be given to “Parliament and to the Minister.
– I join with Senator Needham in recognising the work done by the Postal Commission. No Commission of which I have any knowledge has sat so long, made such exhaustive inquiries, or presented so full a report and recommendations as this Commission has done. I should have preferred that the motion submitted by Senator de Largie had not committed us to an absolute indorsement of every recommendation. When the adoption of a report was moved in another place, the words, “ in a general sense,” were used. It would have been better if those words had been adopted in the motion before us. A number of the recommendations have already been acted upon. Probably we shall all admit that it is impossible to carry out others. Generally speaking, however, the recommendations are sound, and have been submitted with a genuine desire to improve the service. I wish to address myself to one or two matters only. One has reference to those public servants who came over from the State service to the Commonwealth. They were transferred with the full assurance that no officer would lose his rights or his accruing rights. More than that, any one who reads the debates of the Convention, will find that very great stress was laid upon this point. It was recognised that if the public servants did not feel sure that their rights would be conserved under the Commonwealth, they might refuse to vote for Federation, and their influence through- out the Commonwealth mightbe large enough to defeat the carrying of the referendum upon the Commonwealth Bill itself. I do think; that some of those officers! and especially some of the South Australian officers, have been shamefully used in this respect. They have cause for very serious complaint in regard to the treatment which they have received. I notice that their case was put before the Commission in very clear terms, and I am sorry that the conclusion at which that body arrived was not more favorable to them. Their case is thus put upon page 65 of the Postal Commission’s report -
The representatives of the Post and Telegraph Association in South Australia stated that -
Theloss of accrued and accruing rights is the South Australian officers’ greatest grievance. . Officers were assured before Federation that the Constitution effectively preserved rights accrued and accruing, but the compact was broken by the Commonwealth authorities in every instance, except in the matter of retiring allowances. Consequently, a very large proportion of the South Australian officers have suffered monetary losses ranging from £5 to£150 per annum, and. loss of status to such an extent that in some cases postmasters with thirty-five and forty years’ service are junior to officers who served under them as messengers.
That is a very serious statement for them to be able to make.
South Australian postmasters, postmistresses, and . a number of assistants were deprived of accrued and accruing rights by the abolition of emoluments under the 1904 classification. These emoluments were not gratuities.
That is a pointwhich I wish to emphasize. The emoluments which they received in excess of their salaries were not gratuities. Had they been, these officers would have been placed in a very unsatisfactory position so far as the rest of the service was concerned. More than that it was made abundantly clear by the late Sir Charles Todd that these emoluments were not gratuities, but were regarded as part of the statutory salaries. ‘
Under the State, the officers in question were remunerated partly by statutory salary., and partly by sundry emoluments, such as Savings Bank salary, rebate on sale of stamps, and free quarters, which were regarded as part of their salaries.
If these emoluments were not regarded as part of their salaries they ought to have been paid into the Consolidated Revenue, and the officers should have been paid the salaries actually due to them.
Individual losses range from £1 4s. to £157perannum, and subsequent promotion has made up the loss in some eases. The total amount involved is about£4,000 per annum, or a total of about . £20,000 up to the time of giving evidence.
So that the amount involved was not a very serious one after all. I would also point out that the existing and accruing rights which should have been preserved to transferred officers, would have been confined to a gradually decreasing number. One of these officers, the late John Bastard, who suffered more than didanybody else, died some years ago. Others. such as Mr. Holder, have retired from the service. These gentlemen would have been gradually passing out of the service, and the particular rights of which I speak would have been limited to them.
I know that that is. a fact, because I was a member of the South Australian Parliament at the time. That State had then been passing through years of depression. Times were bad, and the Government had to say over and over again that they were not able to pay to certain officers increases which were recognised as being actually due to them. It was to prevent these officers from suffering some of this loss that the South Australian Parliament pro moted them to the next class.
On transfer to Commonwealth these increments were paid for three years, but they were stopped when Parliament approved of the 1904classficica- tion, and the right to subsequent increments was repudiated by the Commissioner on the AttorneyGeneral’s opinion. They considered that if Parliament had been aware of the conditions this would not have happened.
I am also of that opinion.
Several of the officers received their increments pending the adoption of the classification by Parliament, but were subsequently put back to their classified salaries, being deprived of £10 to £20 per annum thereby.
That was a very serious loss for them to sustain.
Otherwise they might have had an additional five years’ service.
These witnesses claimed that the High Court’s decision in the test cases concerning State rights was not logical, and that restitution should be made.
Paragraph 264 of the Commission’sreport contains this lame conclusion -
Your Commissioners are unable to recommend the introduction of legislation by the Commonwealth Parliament to overcome the decision of the High Court.
If there was only one way in which justice could be done to’ a number of mcn who had faithfully served the State for some years, that way should have been taken, even if it involved the necessity of. introducing legislation for the purpose. It is a very bad thing for any Government to break faith with their servants. Such an act creates dissatisfaction, justas in the South Australian branch of the Post and Telegraph Department it has created very serious discontent. This dissatisfac-, tion has been simmering in theminds of these officers for years, and I think they have very just cause to complain of their failure to receive that consideration which was due to them. They are in a position to say, “ We were transferred tothe Commonwealth Service with the full assurance that all our rights would be preserved. Those conditions have not. been complied with, and as a result we are suffering seriously to-day.” I should have been glad if the Commission had been able to recommend parliamentary action with a view to abolishing this dissatisfaction, and doing justice to some 200 men. Another very important recommendation made by the Commission relates to the establishment pf a board of management. I am thoroughly in accord with that recommendation, which reads -
Your Commissioners consider that in order to secure sound and economical administration a basic change is essential, and recommend that a board of management, consisting of three directors, namely, a general manager (chairman), a postal director, and a telegraph and telephone director be appointed to control the Department. From a careful consideration of the requirements of the Department, it is deemed advisable to allot the functions and duties of the respective directors as follow : -
I do not wish to say a single word in depreciation of the Public Service Commissioner. I believe, from what I have seen and heard of that gentleman, that he is a very capable, conscientious officer, who endeavours to discharge his duties impartially. But the Postal Service is a very large one. It is divided into two branches the postal on the one hand, and thetelegraphic and’ telephonic branches on the other. It is almost impossible for one man to thoroughly grasp and efficiently administer the whole of this vast service. I am quite sure that the officers generally would be satisfied if an expert were appointed , to control the Postal Branch of the . service,, and it ought not to be impossible to select from the large number of officers available, a man of high qualifications, and one . who would enjoy the complete confidence of that division of the service. On the. other hand, we might take a man from the Telegraph and Telephone Branches equally high in his own. profession, and possessing in an equal degreethe confidence of the officers of those branches, and we might then put the Public Service Commissioner, or some other man, at their head, and give these officers a voice in the management of this great Department. If I can lay any grievance I. have before a man who understands my trade, and all the conditions surrounding it, I can at least be sure that he will thproughly understand my complaint, will be able to accept any suggestion I make, or give a valid reason why he does not accept it. I believe that the servants of this Department would have a feeling of much greater confidence if they could be sure that in connexion with its management there was a man thoroughly conversant with the whole of the details of their work. They would know that if their grievances were put before him he would be able to understand them, and would probably consider them sympathetically. I mean by that to say that he would desire to do what was right, not only in the interests of the Commonwealth, but also in the interests of the servants of the Department. I am very glad that thePostal Commission have made this recommendation. I believe it to be worthy of consideration and adoption. There is one matter in connexion with this recommendation upon which I am not quite clear. It is suggested that provision should be made for an appeal from any decision of the proposed board of management. I understand that the servants of the Department all desire that even if the proposed board be appointed, they should have a right of appeal from the decisions of the board. I say frankly that I am not quite sure as to what authority could be set up which would satisfy them on appeal, if they were dissatisfied with the decisions of the board. There is another matter which is the cause of dissatisfaction in the service, and it is connected with the practice of examinations for promotion. I dare say that in many cases examinations are very good things.
– They are very good for those who -pass them.
– That is so. But there are occasions when they work a good deal of injustice to men who have been long years in the service. There are men who know the practical details of the service from A to Z. But if you set them down at a table and ask them to answer questions in a literary fashion, they may not be able to do so as well as a young fellow who has just come from school or college. I had brought under my notice only a little time ago the case of two men who were line foremen, and desired to apply for a vacancy for a line inspector. These men had served for twenty and twenty-two years respectively as line foremen. They had also, on occasion, done the work of line inspector so satisfactorily as to secure the commendation of their superior officers. Naturally, they thought that the way was open to them to step up from the position of line foremen to that of line inspector. But they were suddenly confronted with the fact that they must pass an examination. I do not wonder that -such men should feel that it is hardly fair that they should be expected to pass an examination when they had the whole of the practical work at their fingers-ends, had satisfactorily carried it out for years, and were capable of taking up the duties of the superior position. I do not think that such men should’ he asked to pass an academic examination in which they may fail, while a younger man with scarcely any practical experience may pass and secure a position over their heads. I believe that I am right in saying that there have been cases where, as the result of examinations, younger men have been put over the heads of practical men who have been many yea rj in the service, and when difficulty has arisen, and the man possessing the theoretical knowledge has been unable to do the work, the practical men, over whose head he has been appointed, have had to be called to do it for him. I do not think that that is a state of things which ought ‘to exist. Whilst I am not averse to examinations in a general sense, I do think that men who have rendered long years of service, and are capable of doing the work required of them, should not be subjected to examinations of that sort, and to the possibility of losing status by having a junior passed over their heads.
– The recommendation of the Commission would alter that. They recommend that promotion should depend on merit, and merit alone.
– I know that that is the recommendation ; but I believe that the Public Service Commissioner, in his report, says that he wants two things to be taken into consideration, namely, seniority and merit.
– No; the Public Service Commissioner ignores seniority.
– I may be wrong about that. But, in my opinion, other things being equal, the man with seniority should receive promotion. I do not say that a man should go up in the service simply because he is senior to others. If he is an inefficient man, he ought not to expect to be preferred to a man better qualified for promotion. It is no injustice to an inefficient man to put over his head a man possessing more merit. I think the Government might very well take this matter into consideration, and modify the provision with respect to examination to such an extent as to secure that men who have been long in the service, have acquitted themselves well, and done their work satisfactorily, shall not lose the result of their years of labour simply because they are unable to pass academic tests. There is another matter which was mentioned by Senator Needham, and that is the suggested superannuation fund. I mean by a superannuation fund a fund to which the officers of the service shall be obliged to contribute, and, having done so, shall have the right to claim certain benefits in certain cases.
– I think that the officers should have a certain voice in the control of the fund.
– I agree with the honorable senator. We have such a system in operation in South Australia. There is a superannuation fund there, which is under the control of the service itself. The officers have to contribute to the fund according to the salary they receive, and, in certain cases, they get relief from that fund, and. on retiring, receive a superannuation allowance of so much for each year of service. I believe that the establishment of such a fund in connexion with this Department would give satisfaction throughout the service. A man would then know, on entering the service as a young man, that if he served for thirty or forty years, when he reached the age of sixtyfive and would be obliged to retire, although he might be still capable of service, he could fall back upon the fund to which he had contributed, and from which he would have a perfect right to receive a yearly amount to prevent his falling into destitute circumstances, or even having to apply for an old-age pension. There are some other matters, especially connected with buildings, to which I should like to have referred, but, as it is growing so late, I do not wish to keep honorable senators longer. An opportunity may be afforded to discuss one or two matters in connexion with the Postal Commission’s report later on, and I shall therefore say no more at the present time. I wish to repeat, however, that I hope something will be done for the South Australian officers to whom I have referred, and that, so far as the control of this service is concerned, serious consideration will be given to the recommendation of the Commission, and some scheme devised which will give general satisfaction.
Debate (on motion by Senator Henderson) adjourned.
. I move -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, section 51 of the Constitution should be amended so as to permit of legislation for the payment of pensions to widows of any age.
It is not my intention at this hour to occupy the time of the Senate for more than a very few minutes. But I should like to submit the motion which has been standing in my name on the business-paper for some weeks. Paragraph 23 of section 51 of the Constitution provides that this Parliament shall have the power to legislate for the payment of invalid and old- age pensions. If my amendment were carried, and acted upon, it would involve merely the inclusion of the word “widows” in the paragraph referred to. The passing of this motion will commit the Senate to nothing. If it be carried here and in another place, I take it that it will be regarded as an instruction to the Government to bring down a Bill within the statutory time before the close of the last session of this Parliament to provide for the taking of a referendum of the people on the question whether section 51 of the Constitution should be altered as I propose. . As the section stands, it gives this Parliament power only to pass legislation granting invalid and old-age pensions. Legislation has already been passed under section 51 for the payment of pensions to persons who have reached a certain age, and also under certain conditions to invalids. My desire is that that section of the Constitution shall be so enlarged that this Parliament will have the power to provide for the payment of pensions to widows, irrespective of age, and that is how my motion is worded. Of course, I do not mean to suggest the payment of pensions to all widows, but that it should be in the power of this Parliament to provide for the payment of pensions to widows in certain conditions analogous to those which now surround the payment of pensions to persons of a certain age and to invalids. If this motion were carried, and it were desired by a majority of each House of this Parliament that this provision should be made, it would still be necessary to get the consent of the people of Australia, which, of course, could only be obtained by means of a referendum. If my motion were carried, I would follow it up, within the prescribed time laid down in the Constitution, by asking, next session, for leave to bring in a Bill to refer the matter to the people at the next general election. It is hardly worth while to go into the merits of the question to-night, but I may mention that, since I placed the motion On the notice-paper, I have learned, through the daily press, that New Zealand, which’ was, I believe, the first British country to pass an Old-age Pensions Act, proposes to extend the principle of pensions in the direction indicated in my motion. I have read that notice has been given by the New Zealand Government of their intention to bring in a Bill to extend the principle of paying pensions to widows under certain conditions j and the conditions outlined in the necessarily brief notice which we get in the press were similar to those which I had in my mind. My idea is that, if it is necessary that men and women of a certain age, and invalids, should be able to demand a pension, not as a charity, but as a right, there is equal justification for widows who are left penniless and with children of tender years to support, to draw some weekly or monthly payment from the Commonwealth or State Treasury. No doubt every honorable senator, in travelling through his own State or through Australia, has frequently come across cases of very great hardship - cases in which widows have been left penniless, and with two, or three, Or half-a-dozen young children, not one of whom is able to earn anything. These widows, if they have not any relatives or friends who are able to assist them, are thrown on the charity of their kindly neighbours, or on the charity of the State. I know that it will be argued in some quarters that it might be better for this Parliament to leave each State to provide for such cases than to seek this power from the people. But the very same argument was used, and could be used just as properly, when the question of granting old-age and invalid pensions was first brought before the country. There is equal justification for the payment of a small sum from the Commonwealth or State Treasury to widows who are left with young children in .indigent circumstances. This is not the right time to discuss the amount of the pension. What 1 desire is that the people shall have an opportunity of saying whether or not this Parliament shall have the power to legislate in this direction.
– As long as «they are widows, I suppose?
– Yes, as long as they are widows, and widows with children under a certain age. All these, however, - are matters of detail which would necessarily have to be dealt with in the Bill which would have to be passed after the Constitution had been altered, by inserting the words ‘ ‘ and widows ‘ ‘ in paragraph 23 of section 51. The Parliament would then have the power to grant pensions to widows in certain conditions.
– Would you make the payment of these pensions universal?
– That is a detail which would have to be considered in connexion with the Bill itself.
– You would not put any limitation in the Constitution?
– No, obviously it would be unwise to seek to put any limitation in the Constitution. My desire is simply to introduce the words “ and widows “ into the paragraph.
– Or even to put in a new paragraph “ Pensions to widows.”
– That is a matter which can be better dealt with in a fuller Senate, and in the following session. I feel thoroughly satisfied that there will be a majority in each House of this Parliament in favour of taking a referendum on this subject. It has been argued, many and many a time, that our legislative power in regard to old-age and invalid pensions could be better exercised by the States, owing, perhaps, to the varying conditions which obtain. But the argument which was used to combat that argument might be used in connexion with my motion.
– If you could get the principle of your motion affirmed by either or both Houses, and assented to by the Government the form of the alteration of the Constitution could be left to them.
– That might well be left to the Government, and it would be a very simple matter to deal with. What I wish to get affirmed now is a great human principle. I am quite satisfied that every member of this Parliament has in his mind a number of instances where splendid citizenesses - women of the finest type, and mothers of young families - have been thrown upon the world, and have to depend entirely on the charity of their neighbours, or the State, or a local body. This is a matter which I think could be dealt with better by the Commonwealth as a whole than by a particular State. I do not mean to suggest that the States do not provide in a more or less haphazard way for these cases. But they only provide for individual cases. In Tasmania individual cases have been dealt with by the State Government, only under compulsion - only when a number of friends have represented that something ought to be done. It is not satisfactory to the recipients of the State relief that they should be dependent entirely on the whim of the Government. I have tried to get something to guide me in the matter, but I do not think that there is any British country which has legislation providing for the payment of pensions to widows in these conditions.
– All British countries are deficient in that respect.
– Since I placed this motion on the business-paper, New Zealand has taken some steps. I do not know whether a Bill has been brought before the Dominion Parliament, but f know that some weeks ago a proposition was made that a widow should be allowed a certain sum for each child under a certain age up to four or five children. I am not going into details to-night. As the hour is late, I ask the Minister whether he has any objection to allowing’ rae to continue my remarks on Thursday next.
– The honorable senator cannot ask leave to continue his remarks. At present there is no motion before the Senate. I cannot put the motion, and it cannot be seconded until he has finished his speech.
– If that be so, I shall be debarred from completing my comment.
– The honorable senator will have a right of reply.
– It seems to rae to be the wish of the Senate that we should adjourn soon, and I shall therefore content myself with submitting the motion.
– May I suggest that if the pressure of public business prevents Senator O’Keefe from proceeding with this question during the present session, my honorable friend should endeavour to obtain from the Government (an assurance that their sympathy io in favour of his motion, and that they will take action in .the matter? lt that were so, the Government might at the next election submit a referendum question to the electors for an alteration of the Constitution to enable Parliament to legislate. The exact form in which the question should be submitted might be safely left to the Government. Having once obtained the power, Parliament could exercise it if and as it chose. I venture to say that if the motion were pressed to a division, that there would be but one opinion as to making some such provision as that moved for. If the Government would give Senator O’Keefe an assurance that they are willing to take the course that has been indicated, he would achieve his object, no matter if the pressure of business crowded out a further discussion of the subject this session. As Senator O’Keefe has said, in reply to interjections, he is not so much concerned about the exact form in which the constitutional amendment is framed, believing that the subject can be safely left to the Government and the Crown Law officers to draft what is required in proper form. They would know exactly what was aimed at. If the people of Australia approved of an alteration of the Constitution, it would be for Parliament to determine what subsequent action should be taken. I agree entirely with Senator O’Keefe’s object. The amount granted to widows might be a pittance in the sense that it would be a small sum; but at the same time it would not be a matter of charity or sympathy. Widows would be treated exactly as the Commonwealth now treats invalids and persons of old age.
– It is rather a difficult matter to reply to the question which has been put by Senator Keating. It must be recognised that the matter contained in Senator O’Keefe’s motion must be submitted to the Treasurer, who will inquire in’to it. Then the Government would have to take it into consideration. It is impossible off-hand for me to make any statement such as has been suggested. But 1 can assure Senator O’Keefe that every opportunity that can be afforded will be afforded.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 November 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19111130_senate_4_62/>.