4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask the
Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether he will cause to be laid upon the table of the Senate a copy of the directions or definitions issued by the Department of Trade and Customs since the tabling of the new Tariff in the House of Representatives? These definitions and directions have been issued for the guidance of commercial men and others doing business with the Department?
– I will see the Minister of Trade and Customs, and if what the honorable senator requests be desirable, it will be done.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, without notice, whether it is a fact, as stated in one of the newspapers, that the whole of the workmen employed at the Federal Capital site have been discharged; also whether it is true that land-holders have not received payment for land resumed by the Federal Government ?
– I am able to answer the honorable member’s questions without notice, because the Minister of Home Affairs has supplied me with information. It is not a fact that men have been discharged wholesale, but certain roads upon which some men were employed have been completed, and, that being so, there is no other work of the kind for them to do. They have accordingly been paid off. There is no land purchased by the Department of Home Affairs that has not been paid for.
– May I ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether his attention has been called to an article published in the Age newspaper today headed “ Fitzroy Dock Fiasco - Causes of the Breakdown - Effect on the Commonwealth Government - Warning to the Fisher Government”? If so, are the statements contained in the article correct?
– The honorable senator intimated to me his intention to ask this question, and I have to make the following reply : -
The article in question contains so many qualifications and reservations that it is difficult to find any definite statement to reply to. For instance the following quotation is a sample : - “Mistakes may have been made; the Fitzroy Dock may be in a hopeless state of disorganization, but it may pull through all right, &c.”
It is undoubtedly the policy of the present Government to assist and encourage State enterprise wherever possible.
The statement that the revenues of the Commonwealth “ are being, and threaten to be, in still greater volume poured out at an alarming rate “ is inaccurate, unless reference is made to the whole Naval expenditure on construction, as the greater part of the money is being spent on construction in England, only£8,284 being spent on the re-erection of the Warrego during last financial year in Australia. It is also inaccurate to say that any of this money is spent without any check. The Naval Board’s accountant has access to the books of the dockyard, and naval engineers watch the construction of the boat.
The article admits that “ the Fitzroy Dock was probably the only State institution in the Commonwealth in a position partially to tender for any part of the gigantic operation involved ia the construction of a second-class cruiser and four destroyers.”
It goes on to delve into ancient history as to mismanagement of the dockyard in past years, omitting to mention that as a result of those inquiries matters wers put on a better basis.
The article points out that the British Government does not confine itself to one dockyard. The analogy is a poor one. The British Government is spending from 9 to 13 millions per annum on construction, Australia is proposing to spend less than£1,000,000 on local construction, spread over two years. Britain is able to keep numerous dockyards going because of the enormous amount of private shipbuilding. The comparative failure of Australian yards has been caused by that very policy of so dividing the small amount of work that was available, so that no one yard received sufficient to justify its erecting a proper plant; the result is half-a-dozen poorly equipped yards. This is the reason why Victorian firms are not in a position to do this work. It is to be noted that quite recently Victorian firms failed to tender for a local dredge.
No breakdown has occurred; the statement in the article is inaccurate.
Some faults were discovered during construction of Parramatta and Yarra, in England, but nobody would argue that that proved the English yards, in which they were constructed, were incompetent.
In regard to the contract to be entered into with respect to the construction of the secondclass cruiser and the three destroyers by the New South Wales Government, on the general acceptance of their offer, conditions of contract have been drawn up by the Naval Board, which are intended to fully safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth, in regard to the construction of these ships. These conditions are now with the New South Wales Government for their consideration and acceptance.
The question of number and location of naval bases has been the subject of a report by Admiral Sir R. Henderson, who was specially recommended by the British Admiralty, and which report is in the hands of members.
The Government has been guided in its decisions as to the works recently authorized in the Works Estimates by that report, and surveying work is to be at once proceeded with at Port Stephens, New South Wales; Port Western, Victoria; and Cockburn Sound, Western Australia, with a view to carrying out Admiral Henderson’s recommendations for the provision of Naval bases.
– Who is delivering this tirade?
– I am, at present.
– Who is the author of it?
– I am the author.
– I should like to ask the Minister of Defence whether he understands the statements in the Age to be an expression of opinion on the part of that journal, or whether it is not stated that the statements made therein indicate the mental frame of mind of Sydney men regarding these proposals?
– I am not in a position to enter into the mind of the author of the article.
– If the Minister will look at the article more carefully, he will see .that the Age is not affirming what is there stated, but that the opinions expressed profess to be those of Sydney men.
– I may have misunderstood, but I took it that the Age was giving expression to these views.
– The Minister ought * to read the article again.
– I should like the Minister of Defence to say whether, seeing that there are no Victorian dockyards where the work that is being carried on at the Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, can be done, the Government will see to it that the money is not spent in New South Wales in the meantime?
– If the conditions of contract which the Federal Government have submitted to the New South Wales Government are accepted, and the contract is signed, the work will be gone on with at the Fitzroy Dock, Sydney.
– Arising out of the Minister’s answer to Senator Blakey, I should like to have your ruling, Mr. President, as to whether, seeing that a member of the Senate is not allowed to express opinions in putting any question, the Minister was in order in making long controversial statements in reply to a question ?
– It has been the rule in the Senate to permit questions based upon statements which have appeared in newspapers. Senator Blakey asked whether certain statements contained in a recent issue of the Melbourne Age were correct. According to the practice of the Senate the question was in order.
– But was the Minister’s reply in order?
– There is nothing in our Standing Orders, or in our practice, to prevent the Minister from giving reasons in reply to a question.
– 1 wish to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether he is in a position to make a statement as to whether any stations have been selected in Queensland for wireless telegraphy purposes, and, if so, where?
– I have received no further information from the PostmasterGeneral on the subject. The honorable senator asked a question about it some time ago. If he will give notice of a further question I will inquire.
Senator PEARCE laid upon the table the following papers: -
Electoral - Division of Boothby, State of South Australia - Detailed Return in connexion with by-election on nth November, 1911
Federal Capital - Statement of Works carried out during 1910-11, and to date, and Preliminaries for Initial Works.
Lands Acquisition Act igo6 -
Jervis Bay, New South Wales - Commonwealth purposes : Notification of the acquisition of land.
Wivenhoe, Tasmania - Commonwealth purposes : Notification of the acquisition of. land.
Defence Act 1903-10. - Royal Military College of Australia : Report for the year 1910- 1911
– I beg to inform the Senate that 1 have here one of the longitudinal section photo-lithographic plans of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. I have obtained this plan in response to a request made by various honorable senators. It will be available for inspection in the office at the rear of the Senate chamber.
– Is the plan one of the whole length of the line ?
asked the- Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether the Treasurer will, owing to the increased cost of living, make provision on the Estimates to pay every officer with fifteen years’ service, and whose maximum salary is £200 a year or under, the maximum salary of his or her class as from the ist day of July last?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is, No.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to -
That standing order 67 be suspended for the remainder of the present session for the purpose of enabling new business to be commenced after 10.30 o’clock at night.
In Committee: (Consideration resumed from 1st December, vide page 3559) :
Clause 3 - (1.) Upon an Act of the Parliament of the State of Western Australia being passed consenting to legislation by the Parliament of the Commonwealth with respect to the construction of the portion of the railway included in the State of Western Australia or consenting to the construction of that portion of the railway by the Commonwealth, the Minister may, subject to this Act, construct a railway from Kalgoorlie in the State of Western Australia to Port Augusta in the State of South Australia. (2.) 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.
Upon which Senator Stewart had moved -
That the following new sub-clause be added. - (3.) A minimum wage of fourteen shillings per day of eight hours shall be paid to the workers engaged in the construction of the railway.
– As I have already intimated, I do not think that it is desirable that Senator Stewart’s amendment should be adopted, or that any such proposal should be embodied in an Act of Parliament. But at the same time I do think that the Senate is entitled to some information upon the point. Estimates have been prepared showing the cost of this railway. They have been set out under headings, totalling £4,000,000. A considerable portion of that amount must represent wages to the workmen who are to construct the railway. I think the Minister might inform us on what rates of pay those estimates have been based. If the rates then disclosed - and they, of course, must be available in the office of the engineer who framed the estimates - appear reasonable to the Committee, even Senator Stewart will see the advisability of withdrawing his amendment. An assurance that provision has been made for paying fair and reasonable wages is, I take it, all that he desires. I trust that the Minister will be willing to communicate the basis on which the estimates have been prepared
– I am informed th’at the first estimate was made on the basis of the highest rate of wages ruling in South Australia and Western Australia for the classes of labour employed in different kinds of railway construction work. When the estimate was revised it was increased, because of the increase of wages in those States. The present estimate was based on the highest rates of wages ruling for the different classes of labour in those States at the present time.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [3.17]. - I do not know whether Senator Millen is quite satisfied with the Minister’s statement.
– Certainly not.
– I think it would be advisable for the Minister to tell us the highest rate on which the estimates have been based. Of course, the motive which Senator Stewart has, and the considerations which no doubt influenced him, are excellent.
– I “ hae ma doots.”
– There can be “ nae doots,” as my honorable friend expresses it, that Senator Stewart has a desire, in common with other senators, that the highest rate of remuneration should be paid for the work done. Possibly he is surprised at his own moderation in proposing so small a sum as 14s. a day.
– I think that the men ought to be better paid.
– Probably if the honorable senator gets sympathy for his amendment, he may add another shilling or two; but that is neither here nor there. The objection, to prescribing the rate in the measure is that it would then be fixed for the duration of the work, and God knows how long that will be. That is the only “ doot I hae,” to use Senator Russell’s phrase, about the propriety of the amendment.
– That applies to every Act of Parliament.
– Yes; but in the case of contracts, wages may fluctuate from time to time. The reason why I. suggest to the Minister that he should give a more explicit answer is that I am informed that in a railway contract recently let in South Australia, the wages were fixed at 10s. a day. It is important to know whether the present estimate was framed on that basis, or on some higher or lower rate. I think that every one must agree that Parliament ought to be informed as to what is to be the total expenditure on a large national work. If the rate of wages is to be more than 9s. or 10s. a day, we should be informed of that for another reason. The line will go through what is admittedly, to some extent, at least, a waterless waste, far removed from all those conveniences of populous districts and civilization which workers in other parts of Australia enjoy. But the railway to which I referred just now is, I am told, to be constructed in a part of the country which is convenient of access from centres of population in South Australia. It is to be constructed in that fine, wheat-growing country which has been opened up, and is known as the Pinaroo lands. If a rate of that sort is fixed in that case, are we to assume that the rate for a gigantic line, passing through a great deal of what will be comparatively unexplored country, will not be fixed on a higher basis? We ought to be informed on that point, and have some means of knowing how the workers are to be remunerated. Of course, there are ways to meet difficulties in regard to wages in such circumstances, for instance, Ky the Government establishing stores. If that is taken into account, and the wages kept down to 9s. or 10s. a day, that is a way of getting over the difficulty, and, perhaps, Senator Stewart may be satisfied. At any rate, I add my voice to Senator Millen’s in asking the Minister if he will state that the highest rates have been adopted in framing the estimates, because otherwise his answer does not give any information at all.
– I should like the Minister to tell me whether Parliament will have any control, no matter what we may define in the Bill. If I understand the policy of the Government, as revealed by the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, and if I understand something which is going on in another place, it seems to me that, no matter what we may do, Parliament will have no control over this matter. The Minister ought to ‘be able .to inform us on the various points raised. Suppose that an honorable senator on this side proposed that twice the amount of wages should be prescribed in the Bill, and his proposal was carried, can the Minister tell us whether, in consonance with the policy of the Government, the Parliament would have any control ?
– I am astonished at the silence of the Ministry regarding this matter, and their refusal to accept the principle of a minimum wage. Of course, a side issue has been raised by Senator St. Ledger, and that is that it will not be possible for Parliament to have any control, in view of the policy of the Labour party.
– The thing which troubles me is where the control is to come in.
– I intend to refer to that point presently. What I am astonished at is that the Government do not accept the proposal of Senator Stewart. Whether 14s. per day is too high or too low should be a matter for discussion and argument, and if the Ministry were sympathetic towards the principle of a minimum wage, we should be able to arrive at a happy medium, which would represent the fair thing. The establishment of a” minimum wage is part of the platform of the Federal Labour party, and of every State Labour party.
– In South Australia it is 8s. a day.
– In this Parliament the Labour party have tried to their uttermost to get the principle embodied in various measures which involved a large outlay.
– That was in quite different circumstances, though.
– When the question first came under consideration here, we were told that it was impossible to prescribe a minimum wage. Was it impossible when the Labour party insisted upon such a provision going into the Public Service Bill? We then had the range of the whole continent to deal with. We had to provide for varying employments, with remuneration ranging from £2 per week to ,£2,000 per year. It was lon our insistence that the provision was inserted in the Public Service Bill. The mere fact that the Commonwealth servants may be subject to the Arbitration Court does not do away with the necessity for providing a minimum wage,_ because there is no suggestion that the .minimum wage provision should be removed from the Public Service Act, even if public servants are given a right to resort to the Arbitration Court. If it were reasonable to put that provision in the Public Service Bill when we were dealing with our employes throughout the continent, is it not reasonable to embody a similar provision in a measure for the construction of a railway through a portion of the continent with a far lower range of differing circumstances ? We have been told that we shall have artisans, skilled labour, unskilled labour, and boy labour, employed in the construction work, and, therefore, the principle of the minimum wage cannot be applied. Shall we have anything like the differentiation of employment in the construction of the line that we have in the Public Service? Do we not employ boys and girls in the Public Service? Do we not employ men at from £2 a week up to £2,000 a year? I do not think that there is a single progressive-minded person in Australia who would cavil at the provision in the Public Service Act. In this Parliament we have forced the acceptance of the principle upon other parties. In the State Parliaments we have tried to enforce the acceptance of the principle upon the Government. If it is fair to force the acceptance of the principle upon our opponents, undoubtedly it is fair to impose the principle upon ourselves.
– You do not trust our own Government.
– I replied to that remark the other night. We are told that the fact that I insist upon this provision being made shows that I do not trust the Government. If you are going to trust the Government, why do you want a Parliament; why not wipe it out?
– That is not the question.
– It is an- absolutely correct statement. Have we any guarantee that, during the construction of this railway, we shall have a Labour Government in power?
– Yes ; the common sense of the people will see to that.
– They may or they may not. We have seen some extraordinary things take place. We have no guarantee that a Labour Government will be in power all the while, nor have we a guarantee that a Labour Government will be in power in Western Australia or South Australia. On the other hand, if we, a Labour Government, are prepared to shirk our duty, have we any guarantee that the Labour Government which will come after us, or the Labour Governments in the States, will not shirk their duty also? We have the power here and now to embody the principle in the measure. If we prove unworthy of trust, we shall not deserve the confidence which the people have placed in us. I am not wedded to the payment of 14s. per d.ay. If any honorable senator can show ‘ me that the men who will be employed upon the construction of this line should be paid a different amount per day or per week I shall be prepared to fall in’ with his suggestion.
– How can we know what rate will be fair in three years? time?
– If we refuse to give horny-handed navvies a minimum wage whilst we confer that benefit upon a privileged class - I refer to our public servants - we shall be charged with having sympathy only with the aristocratic section of the community.
– Mock heroics !
– I am quite used to such sneers.
– The honorable senator is on the same side now as he has always been.
– Senator Henderson is on the side of the Opposition. Senator Millen has already announced his intention of voting with him in opposition to the amendment. There is not an honorable senator who can show me that whilst the principle of a minimum wage is a good one to apply to our Public Service, and to insert in the Labour platform, it is right, that we should now trample it underfoot. It has been said that some honorable senators are endeavouring to pose before the workers, but I fail to see why there should be any rivalry in this matter. We, upon the Ministerial side of the Chamber, have been returned to this Parliament for the express purpose of bettering the condition of the workers. I hope that we shall all remain true to that ideal, and that the amendment will be accepted.
– There is one thing which this discussion has accomplished, if it has accomplished nothing else. It has given us a plain intimation that we can absolutely discard the estimates for the construction of the proposed line which have been presented for our acceptance. The Minister of Defence has said that those estimates are based, upon the highest wages current in the two States through which the line will pass. Therefore, unless the wages paid in those States are exactly the same, it must follow as the night the day that there is a discrepancy in the estimates, because it is impossible to conceive of the Commonwealth paying a certain wage to a man upon one side of a boundary line, whilst paying a different wage to another individual upon the opposite side. To that extent, therefore, these estimates are unreliable.
– What a wonderful discovery.
– I know that nothing matters to Senator Story so long as he can let us know that he is occasionally present. Can anybody reasonably contend that we are going to build this railway through adistrict which is devoid of all those things which go to make life endurable, by paying men the same rate of wages that is paid inside the more favoured districts? Yet the estimates have been based on the assumption that no extra allowance will have to be made.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– Surely I can accept the Minister’s statement.
– It is not my statement. It is the honorable senator’s usual method of twisting statements.
– I understood the Minister to say that these estimates have been based on the highest rates of wages paid in the States of South Australia and Western Australia. Is that correct?
– I will answer the question presently.
– Now, who is twisting? The Minister should answer “ Yes “ or “ No “ to my question.
– It is not my complete statement. It is the honorable senator’s cunning way of endeavouring to trap me.
– The Minister never makes a complete statement. However, I will pursue my argument on the assumption that the honorable senator has said that these estimates are based on the highest rates of wages prevailing in the two States concerned. Upon that assumption I want to point out the conclusions to which we are driven. It is impossible to suppose that we can get men to work in the country which this line will traverse for the highest wages which are paid inside the better districts. Senator W. Russell himself saw the difficulty in which the statement of the Minister was placing him, because he interjected that the ruling rate of wages in South Australia is 8s. a day.
– On the Labour platform. But that was some time ago.
– I am not quarrelling with the honorable senator. I am accepting his statement without reservation. There has been placed in the Labour platform of South Australia an affirm ation that 8s. per day should be paid to labourers. Quite recently we know that a little trouble occurred there in connexion with a road job. The men struck for more than 8s. per day, and the Labour Government told them that it would not pay them more ; that it had proceeded with the job on the assumption that 8s. per day was the ruling rate of wage, and that it would allow the work to stand still rather than concede their demands. Consequently, we may assume that 8s. per day is the current rate of wage in that State.
– It was.
– I am speaking of a trouble which occurred within the past three weeks when Mr. Vaughan, the Treasurer of South Australia, refused to concede the demands of the men. For the purposes of my argument it is immaterial to me whether the highest wage paid in South Australia is 8s.,9s., or11s. per day. But no man will go into the Nullarbor Plain and work there for the same wage as is being paid in the settled districts.
– They will go beyond Tarcoola.
– If these estimates of the cost of construction are based upon the assumption that men will be obtainable for the wages which are current at the terminal points of the line it is clear that they must break down. Is it the intention of the Government to ask men to work in the Nullarbor Plain for the rate of wages which is current in the settled districts of South Australia?
– The men will settle that for themselves.
– Yes.But in proportion as they settle it by demanding a higher wage - in proportion as the sense of fair play which animates this Parliament comes into operation - they will get more than the local rate of wages, and just in that proportion will these estimates break down. We cannot adhere to them if they are based upon the assumption that local rates will prevail unless we send forth to the world at large the statement that we are going to build this line by paying the rate of wages which is current inside the settled districts and no more.
– According to the honorable senator’s argument no estimate could be prepared.
– That is according to Senator McDougall. I am quite prepared to believe that he is unable to form an estimate. But I venture to say that we have formed an estimate of what is a fair rate of wage to offer men who go into undesirable districts to work. We have done that in connexion with our Public Service. I would further point out that a person who is about to settle in pastoral country, in another portion of Australia, would not say, “ Because a certain thing cost me so much on the Liverpool Plains, New South Wales, I shall be able to obtain it where I am going for the same amount.” If the Minister is prepared to tell us that a percentage allowance has been made in excess of the current rate of wages paid inside the settled districts-
– The honorable senator must take the engineers for fools if he thinks they did not do that.
– Then we are entitled to know what percentage they have allowed. But I am proceeding on the assumption that the Minister has stated that these estimates are based on the current rates of wages paid in the respective States.
– He said the highest rate paid.
– We have been told that the highest rate paid in South Australia is 8s. per day, because the Government of that State refused to give more.
– Who told the honorable senator that?
– Mr. Vaughan told me in the statement which he made to the public press.
-That statement did not refer to the country west qf Port Augusta.
– Of course it did not. But if an allowance has been made by the engineers in excess of that rate we ought to be told what percentage that allowance represents.
– I cannot understand why the Government refuse to give the desired information to the Committee.
– The honorable senator will not give them a chance to do so.
– They have had repeated chances. I was in the gallery of the Senate when the Minister of Defence rose to reply to the debate upon the second reading of the Bill, and when he indulged in such a lot of “hifalutin.”
– It was a very effective reply.
– In my opinion it was a very lame one. He was asked how the estimate of £4,000,000 for the construction of this line was arrived at, but he gave no information upon the point. A great furore was aroused on Friday when Senator Stewart proposed the insertion of a minimum wage in this clause. But on looking through the Queensland Hansard I find that in doing so the honorable senator was perfectly consistent. In every similar Bill which came before the Queensland Parliament during the time that he occupied a seat in it he endeavoured to secure the insertion of a minimum wage clause. How can Senator Stewart be wrong in asking for a similar provision here? I consider, however, that his proposal that the minimum should be 14s. per day is absurd, but I believe that Senator Stewart was forced into proposing it by interjections from the other side.
– No, it was Senator Millen who advised the honorable senator to do it. He told him that if he would make it 14s., he would support him.
– I know that when Senator Stewart proposed that the minimum should be 12s., Senator de Largie and other honorable senators from Western Australia said that that would be sweating wages, because men were getting 14s. a day in Western Australia at the present time.
– Is the honorable senator serious in making that statement.
– Yes. It was for that reason that Senator Stewart altered his amendment. He no doubt believed that honorable senators opposite were in earnest in what they were saying, and now it appears they were only poking fun at the honorable senator, because he moved the amendment. I am prepared to support a reasonable minimum of 9s. or 10s. per day. That is about the wages paid to navvies working in such country as this railway will traverse.
– No, they are being paid much more in Western Australia.
– Perhaps the honorable senator will stand up and tell us where they are being paid more than 10s. a day in Western Australia.
– I can tell the honorable senator, without standing up, that navvies are being paid 13s. 8d. a shift at Port Headland.
– The honorable senator needs to get about Australia to know a little.
– I have been over more of Australia than has Senator Lynch, and before the honorable senator came to the country. I am not a new chum like the honorable senator. There must be some exceptional circumstances connected with the work to which Senator de Largie has referred, or such a wage would not be paid for navying work. The honorable senator will not say that 13s. 8d. a shift is the average wage paid to navvies in Western Australia.
– We are not talking about the average wage, but about the minimum wage, and I have stated the minimum wage paid at Port Headland.
– We know that the average wage is above the minimum. Men mining in Victoria may get from £2 5s. to £$ per week, but the average would probably be £2 12s. 6d. per week. All that we ask of the Government is that they shall give some indication of the minimum wage which is to be paid in the construction of this railway-. The Minister has said that the engineers have based their estimate on the wages paid in South -Australia and Western Australia. Honorable members are aware that not very long ago there was a strike of navvies in South Australia, who asked for an increase of wages from 8s. to 9s. per day, and the South Australian Minister of Works refused to accede to their demand.
– So the honorable senator’s leader has just said.
– The statement appeared in the public press along with reports of interviews between the representatives of the men and the Minister. Quotations from the press made by honorable senators on this side are not believed, but when Senator Blakey quoted from the press this afternoon, the Minister thought it necessary to make a long statement in reply, which will probably fill a column of Hansard. The statement has appeared in the press that the Minister of Works in South Australia refused to give navvies there 9s. a day, and we have no assurance that this Government will . not act in the same way in connexion with the construction of this railway. I hope that the Government will give us some more information on the subject, and in the meantime I may say that if Senator Stewart will reduce the minimum he has proposed, I shall be prepared to support his amendment; otherwise, I cannot do so.
– There are one or two points which I should like to put to the Committee. One is that this Government, or another Labour Government, will initiate this work. Either honorable senators on this side have confidence in this Government, or they have not. This Government, as they have proved by their past administration, will pay a fair minimum wage, if they are given the privilege of initiating this work. If they do not they will have to make way for another Labour Government that can be trusted to do so. It is not a fact, as stated by Senator Givens, that the Labour platform contains a proposition for the payment of a minimum wage. What it does contain is a reference to arbitration, as the Labour party’s method of securing the minimum wage, and indeed of fixing all rates of wages, is a reference to the statutory authority of the Arbitration Court. Senator Givens says, why then did we put a provision for the payment of a minimum wage in the Public Service Act. The answer is : For the simple reason that the people who were being brought under the Act at that time could not go to the Arbitration Court. This Government to-day have brought in a Bill to give the public servants the opportunity to go before the Arbitration Court if they are dissatisfied with the wages they are receiving.
– Then do the Government propose to repeal the minimum wage section of the Public Service Act?
– If the public servants had had that opportunity before the passing of the Public Service Act it would not have been necessary to include a provision for the payment of a minimum wage in that Act.
– Will the new Bill referred to by the Minister cover the men who will be employed on this railway?
– Of course, it will cover the whole of the Commonwealth employes. So that we have this position : First of all, honorable senators can trust this Government or they can not. I am not putting this to the Opposition, to Senators Symon or Millen, but to members of the Labour party. They can trust this Government, or they cannot. If they can, I make the statement now that the Government will see that a fair minimum wage is paid to the men employed on this line.
– Suppose there is some difficulty in the starting of the railway, through delay in negotiations with the State Governments, and the construction of the line is not begun within the next two years.
– I shall not dodge that suggestion either. If Senator Givens fears that the friends who are now supporting his action in this matter will assume control of the Treasury benches, and will not give a fair minimum wage to the men working on this line, let me point out to him that he will have no guarantee for the payment of such a wage in the insertion of such a provision in this Bill, because if a Government composed of our honorable friends opposite were in power, they could repeal that provision.
– They could do nothing of the kind,because there would be a majority of Labour men in the Senate who would prevent them.
– Then they could not be in power. I am assuming that the party opposite have a majority, and are in power.
– They might have a majority in another place, and be in power.
– In those circumstances, they might be in office, but they would not be in power; and they would not be in office very long, because, if there were a majority against them in the Senate, they could not pass a single Bill. This would probably lead to a doubledissolution; and it might then follow that they would later be in power as well as in office, and might do what Senator Givens fears may be done. This Government is pledged to give a fair minimum rate of wages. We are pledged also to give the men who will be employed on this line the fullest opportunity and facilities for bringing their case before the Arbitration Court if they are not satisfied with the wages paid to them. I appeal to honorable senators to accept this as a fair statement, and as being in absolute conformity with the Labour platform.
– Is the minimum wage principle right or wrong?
– It is right. It was the party on this side that fought for it, and they have decided to achieve it by means of arbitration. Senator Millen assumed that the pastoralists of New South Wales, in their ordinary business capacity, take into consideration something which the Engineers-in-Chief of Australia, in drawing up the estimates, did not have the business capacity to foresee. He assumes that they did not know that when men are sent at some distance from their home station, they naturally expect and require a higher rate of pay than they can get in the centres of civilization.
– I assumed that on the honorable senator’s own statement.
– The honorable senator assumes that these engineers were so childish that they did not reckon that beyond Tarcoola the men employed on this line would require a higher rate of wages than if they were working in the vicinity of Port Augusta.
– What extra rate have they allowed for?
– The honorable senator must take my statement. He will getnothing more. I am not in a position to quote the whole schedule of rates upon which the estimate of theengineers is based ; but I say that any one who desires to be assured must be satisfied with my assurance that all these factors have been taken into account in the making of the estimate. Of course, some honorable senators see a double purpose in this amendment. One is to hinder the passing of the Bill, and the other to throw an apple of discord amongst honorable senators on this side. Hence the joy with which the amendment is greeted by such friends of the minimum wage principle as Senators Sayers and Millen.
– How will this hinder the passage of the Bill?
– This discussion is doing so. I have, in consequence of it, been required to offer a much longer explanation than I desired to make, and an explanation which Senator Givens ought never to have asked me to make. I have briefly outlined the position, and I say that there is no ground for assuming that we have takenthe rates in Adelaide and Perth to be the same as the rates at Tarcoola and Coolgardie. The engineers themselves have had to pay men more when they sent them to work at Oodnadatta than when they were working at Adelaide. The Western Australian Commissioner has had to pay more at Kalgoorlie than at Perth; and when I add that the engineers have taken the highest rates paid in South Australia and Western Australia for this class of work, I think I am entitled to say that we have made a proposal with which the Senate might be satisfied.
– The Minister of Defence repeats the statements upon which I have previously commented. He tells us that the engineers have based their estimates upon the highest rates of wages paid in two States. But he does not tell us what rates of wages they have allowed for in the middle of the Nullarbor Plain. I am asking for information on that point. The Minister will not give it to us. If he were not so sure of his majority I venture to say that this information would be regarded as perfectly reasonable. I do not want the Committee to vote on the assumption that the Minister has given the information for which I have asked. He has done nothing of the kind. He has simply told us that the engineers have allowed for the highest wages paid in South Australia and Western Australia. In the case of Western Australia he specifically mentioned Kalgoorlie. But does the Minister seriously expect men to work in the middle of the Nullarbor Plain for the same wages as they would receive at Kalgoorlie?
– I did not say so.
– If these estimates have been loaded to make up that difference I asked what percentage was added? Surely that was a reasonable request. So reasonable was it, indeed, that the Minister takes refuge behind his obedient majority, and simply will not give us the information. I wish to emphasize the fact that the Minister has not even- told us that the engineers did make that allowance. He has never given that assurance yet. I have no doubt that many honorable senators, misled by his plausible language, thought that they had got a Ministerial assurance to the effect that the engineers had made this allowance.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that the engineers did not know their business?
– If they did make that allowance will the Minister give us a definite statement to that effect? Instead of doing so, he asks us to trust them as reasonable men who would be bound to do such a thing. What he said was that ordinary men would do so. He asked what pastoralists would do. We are, therefore, asked to assume that the engineers, knowing their business, did make this allowance. I have asked for a plain business statement that does not require us to assume anything. If the engineers have discharged their duty in a business-like way, let the Minister tell us that they have loaded these estimates by a percentage to meet the naturally anticipated increase in the cost of labour, and to what extent they have done so. Why do not honorable senators insist on the information being given ?
– Because we trust the Government.
– The honorable senator raises this parrot cry about trusting the Government. It is not a question of trusting them, but of what is due to this Senate. Should this legislation be passed without information which we ought to have? I hope I have made my position perfectly clear. I say that we have simply been asked to believe that the engineers have loaded their estimates to make allowance for the additional cost of labour. I do not want to be asked to assume anything. I ask to be told definitely - did the engineers make this allowance? Did Mr. Deane, in bringing these estimates forward, make an allowance for the increased cost of labour in carrying out the railway? If he did, what allowance was made?
– He would be a fool if he did not.
– Nevertheless, we have had no assurance that he did.
– The. honorable senator will find in the report that an allowance is made for contingencies.
– Does Senator E. J.
Russell know what the allowance amounts to? It is only £5,000.
– I think that is 5 per cent, on the whole sum.
– Does 5 per cent, then represent the increase which Senator E. J. Russell would advocate should be paid to the workmen on this line? Will he say that, in his opinion, that amount is sufficient?
– I have not looked into the details, and cannot give an estimate.
– But I want to go into details. If Senator E. J. Russell knew nothing about the subject he should have held his tongue.
– I have just as much information as the honorable senator has. I am taking the engineers’ estimate.
– It is because I have not the information which is required that I am on my feet now.
– It is because the honorable senator objects to the Bill that he is on his feet.
– I understand then that Senator E. J. Russell is of opinion that s per cent, is a sufficient allowance to make to these men.
– A railway is being built in South Australia under conditions similar to those which will prevail on the Nullarbor Plain, and the engineers know what is being paid there.
– Where is a railway being built under conditions which can be compared to those along this line?
– In the north-west of South Australia.
– Surely the honorable senator would not contend that the discomfort on that line is equal to that which will be experienced on this line?
– The cost of living is even greater.
– Then there can be no difficulty in the Minister giving us the information, that we want. He asks us to believe that the engineers, as sensible men, have loaded their estimates. I ask him to tell us whether they have done so or not, and not leave us to assume anything. The Minister said that I had misrepresented him, a charge which he frequently makes when 1 place him in a cleft stick. I now wish to show who is the adroit manipulator of other people’s utterances. When we were dealing with the question of authorizing the construction of this railway, reference was made to the country through which it was to be constructed. Speaking on the second reading, I’ distinctly affirmed that the country west of Tarcoola was unoccupied. Senator Pearce, in his reply, brought down specific facts to show that the country east of Tarcoola and west of Spencer’s Gulf was occupied. I interjected, correcting him, affirming that I did not for a moment state that there was no stock east of Tarcoola. He then accused me of trying to twist my previous remarks. He said -
All this stock is located west of Spencer’s Gulf towards the Western Australian boundary. The honorable senator’s statement was that the sheep were at the head of Spencer’s Gulf.
I denied that statement at once; and I shall show that the Minister wilfully, and, I think, intentionally, misrepresented me. I said -
Let the Minister produce the Ilansard report to-morrow and he will see that he is wrong. He is wilfully misrepresenting me.
He went on to give further official facts as to the stock between Spencer’s Gulf and Tarcoola. I shall quote what I actually said on the subject. I said - “ How is it that no one has pushed beyond Tarcoola?” Again-r-“ My contention is that the reason is that there were tremendous difficulties which caused them to stop at Tarcoola.” A little further on - “ The reason was that even the most enterprising of graziers did not care to go beyond Tarcoola, because the country beyond is too inferior for serious consideration.” Those statements absolutely justify my assertion in interjections during the Minister’s speech that he was misrepresenting me. I affirmed that it was the country west of Tarcoola which was not stocked. The Minister sought to show that I had spoken of the country west of Spencer’s Gulf. These quotations make it clear that when it comes to a matter of misrepresentation there is no one to equal . the Minister of Defence in this chamber. There is no one who is so adroit, and so slim in catching up a portion of another senator’s sentences and twisting them to suit his own purposes. I say that he is doing the same thing now when he assures this Committee that I have twisted his remarks with regard to the attitude of the engineers. Whether I have twisted them or not can be set at rest in one moment by the Minister replying clearly and definitely to the two questions which I have asked.
– On page 20 of Mr. Deane’s report there is a revised- estimate, with items, totalling £4,045,000. This estimate gives three items - clearing, fencing, and earthworks, the last item only being increased. Clearing represents ^£16,000, fencing £8,000, and earthworks £425,000 as compared with £355,000 in the earlier estimate. Mr. Deane must have had some reason for advancing these estimates in this way. He must have had some facts to work upon. If that be so, surely it is easy enough for the Minister to tell us that Mr. Deane has also advanced the wages estimate 2s. per day, or whatever the amount may be.
– The wages estimate has been advanced, because wages in the two States have gone up. But there is nothing to show that the wages estimate has been increased to allow for the peculiar nature of this work.
– Surely the engineer has advanced his estimate by £70,000 on some method. He must have known what his grounds for the advances were, and the Minister should tell us what wages are to be paid, and what estimate the engineer had in his mind when he settled these items. If his estimate of the cost of wages is to be considerably increased, naturally the cost of the railway will go up. No matter where we sit, this information ought to be supplied to us.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [4.16]. - I think it is a great pity that, in dealing with the practical discussion of details, so much heat and vehemence should be imported as the Minister - I am sure unadvisedly - imported, not merely by interjection when Senator Millen was speaking, but in his reply, because, if we cannot calmly discuss details after the principle has been admitted by the second reading, we shall be greatly hampered, and the minds of honorable senators will be upset a good deal by irritation. Of course, Senator Givens is really responsible for most of this heat, because he ignited the fire, I think.
– I am very cool now.
– I should like to pour oil on the troubled waters between my honorable friend and the Minister. I think that the atmosphere ought not to be so charged with electricity in discussing a practical question because the Minister and a most loyal and able supporter - Senator Givens - have fallen out. I consider that the Minister’s attitude towards the discussion has confused the issue a good deal, and extended the debate beyond the range which it should have occupied. Because, after all, this amendment does not involve a question of the confidence of the Senate in the Labour Government. The Minister was not content with that statement, because he also said that it involved a question of confidence in a succeeding Labour Government, a suggestion with which, perhaps, human endurance could hardly put up. . We are dealing with a simple amendment in reference to details. I am not in favour of the amendment for the reason which I gave before. I think it would be very inadvisable to provide for a minimum wage in any Railway Bill. In an extended work of this kind, who can tell what the rate of wages may be at the end of twelve months or two years ? In my opinion, no practical man would seek to introduce a fixed rate as a minimum wage to be paid on a railway enterprise of this sort. I do not take up the view that the amendment of Senator Stewart is an insult or a vote of want of confidence in the Labour Government. He would be the very last man to propose anything of the kind. Therefore we ought to remove from our minds any consideration of that sort, and look at the matter from a practical stand-point. The construction of the railway has been agreed to, and the question is not as to whether the estimates will be increased by the wages necessary to be paid in outside country, but as to whether the amendment, if adopted, will increase the cost of the work. That ls a question which the Minister might answer. I ask the honorable senator if he is in a position to say whether, if the wages were fixed at 14s. per day, the cost of the work would or would not be increased? I do not believe for a moment that the railway experts took into consideration so high a minimum wage as 14s. If they did fix a minimum wage of 8s. or 9s. or 10s. per day, I see no reason for maintaining an air of mystery. In that case, it would naturally follow that the adoption of this amendment would increase the cost of the work. I trust that the present, or any Government, if the work is to be done by contract or day labour, will take care to pay fair wages, having regard to the exceptional condition in which the work has to be done.
– When I proposed this addition to clause 3 I had not the slightest idea that the Government would refuse to accept it. I must confess that I have been very much surprised by the heat which has been brought into the debate, and by the anger which has been displayed by a number of honorable senators, including members of the Government, at the idea of a minimum wage being provided for. For a good number of years I have been a supporter of the Labour movement and in Parliament. On every occasion when a Railway Bill has been submitted, the members of the Labour party have endeavoured to introduce a minimum wage,- and have been met with exactly the same arguments as the present Government use. We have been asked, “ Can you not trust the Government who will pay the best wages ruling in the district?” In fact, every argument used, and every statement made by the present Government, was used on those occasions. The members of the Government party were expected to trust, and did trust, the Government. I know that there is a general impression in Parliament, and outside of it, that a Government ought to be trusted by its own supporters. But I think that we are getting new ideas with regard to the machine of government, just as we are getting new ideas in respect to a great many other things. The members of the Senate are responsible to the country, not only for their individual actions, but also for the actions of the Government. I wish them to remember that fact. The Government is merely a Committee of Parliament; and what Parliament is virtually asked to do is to abdicate its functions and to trust itself entirely in the hands of its Committee. That is not a thing which would be done by any wise set of business men anywhere. One of the cardinal points in business is to take nothing on trust. We have a duty here, more especially those who belong to the Labour party, and that is to lay down a distinct rule in the Bill with regard to the payment of labour. I think that the Government, instead of being hostile, should welcome a proposal of this kind. In any case, I maintain that the members of the Senate, more especially those who have been elected as representatives of Labour, should take very good care that the Government do not make any mistake in this matter. I am not saying that I do not trust the Government. Whether I trust the Ministry or not has nothing to do with the matter. I have a duty to perform here, and I intend to perform it. If I happened to be a director of a public company, and it came to grief, would it be any excuse onmy part if I said that I trusted the manager? Would the shareholders be satisfied with that? Would they not rather turn round and say to me, “ Did we not make you a director - did we not hold you responsible to us for the management and the conduct of the company’s affairs? Yet you give us the excuse that you trusted the manager. If we had trusted him we need not have appointed you at all.” Similarly, if the country is to be ruled by a Committee of Parliament known as a Government, we might just as well dispense with Parliament and have a permanent Government, so to speak, and let things go on swimmingly in that fashion. We the members of this Committee have a duty to our constituents, and the question of trusting or distrusting the Government has nothing to do with the matter. We are told that the workmen on this railway will have the
Arbitration Court to appeal to if they are not satisfied. But I want a minimum wage laid down in the Bill. I named 12s. per day, which I thought was a fair thing, but I was met with the objection from the other side that I was attempting to reduce wages, when I was doing nothing of the kind. I was simply stating a minimum which honorable senators themselves now admit is very much above what is likely to be paid at one end of theline.
– On what data did you arrive at that minimum?
– On the demand of honorable senators on your side.
– Of Senator Millen.
– I will tell Senator Ready the data. This measure authorizes one of the most difficult pieces of railway construction which has ever been attempted in Australia.
– You said that the line is to be built over a desert.
– That is exactly why the work is going to be difficult. In nearly every other portion of the Commonwealth, as the honorable senator ought to know, men engaged in railway construction have been in a great measure surrounded by settlement. Living, of course, has not been cheap ; but it has not been in most cases extravagantly dear. It has been easy to get supplies. Water was handy. But for hundreds of miles along the proposed railway, provisions will have to be carried from the terminal points to the men engaged in its construction. I believe that water and firewood will have to be carried. In fact, every necessary of life will have to be carried hundreds of miles - perhaps 1,000 miles - to them. That will make the construction of the railway difficult to the men employed upon it, and costly to the Government. For that reason I desire that Parliament shall lay down a minimum wage which will compensate the workers for the extra cost of living, and for the isolation to which they will have to submit.
– Men will not work there if they can do better elsewhere.
– It is most extraordinary how history repeats itself. Methinks I am sitting on the Opposition benches in the Queensland Parliament listening to the utterances of the most hardshelled Conservatives in the country. When
I was endeavouring to get better wages for the men employed upon the construction of various railways in that State, the Conservatives used to say exactly the same thing as Senator W. Russell, “ If you are not satisfied you may go elsewhere.”
– He did not say that.
– A decent livingwage ought to be paid to these men. It is not a question of trusting the Government. I recognise that the Ministry have done a great deal of good work, because that work has formed a portion of the Labour platform. But this is a question of whether or not we have a duty to perform?
– We are not all so highminded as the honorable senator.
– This is a business proposition. Senator Ready occupies a similar position to that occupied by a director of a public company. In such circumstances would he trust the manager, or would he lay down lines upon which that manager should proceed. It is not a question of whether we are high-minded or lowminded, but of whether we are businessminded. So far as the public servants of the Commonwealth are concerned, I look upon the Arbitration Court as a tribunal to enable the Government to evade a difficulty. The doctrine of the Labour party is that a living wage shall be paid to every man - a wage which will enable him to live comfortably and to rear a family. I believe that Parliament is in a very much better position to lay down the rate of wages which ought to be paid to those in its employ than is any Arbitration Court. It has the direct mandate of the people behind it.
– It is the last place in the world to lay down wages.
– How long has my honorable friend discovered that? He is going back to the old Conservative standpoint. In effect, he says, “ We cannot satisfy the clamour of our public servants, and, therefore, we should refer them to the Arbitration Court.”
– What does the honorable senator say in that regard?
– I say that I was sent here to get a living wage for every man, irrespective of whether he is employed by the Government or by private enterprise. I say that Parliament has only a limited control over persons who are employed by private individuals, but that it has an unlimited control over its own employes. The men who will construct the proposed line will be employes of the Commonwealth, and every Ministerial supporter is pledged to see that they are paid a living wage. When I mentioned 9s. per day, I thought that it represented the lowest sum which would enable men to live decently at the better end of the line - that is to say, the South Australian end.
– Nine shillings per day is the wage paid in that district now.
– The honorable senator was one of the foremost to sneer at me when I mentioned 12s. per day. He said that men were getting 14s. per day. But I knew there was a great deal of hypocrisy about the statement. However, at the request of certain honorable senators, I raised the minimum from 1 2s. to 14s. per day. I do not think that is a farthing too much to pay men who will have to labour all day long in the broiling sun at the hardest work in the Commonwealth.
– It depends entirely upon circumstances. A man may fill a barrow only once in half a day.
– The men who will be engaged upon the construction of the proposed line will be employed in one of the most unpleasant industrial enterprises which has been undertaken. To my mind, Parliament is superior to any Arbitration Court in the matter of determining wages. An Arbitration Court has a number of circumstances which it must take into account. It has to balance one thing against another, and it costs a great deal of money to obtain an award from it. In some cases, too, months, or even years, may elapse before an award can be obtained. During that period a difficulty may arise with the men who will be employed upon the construction of this line. But if the keynote be struck by Parliament in this connexion, the Government will know exactly where they stand. If Parliament affirmed that 14s. per day should be the minimum wage payable, the more efficient men would naturally receive an amount considerably in excess of that.
– Fourteen shillings per day might be too large a minimum to pay to those who will be employed on the line between Port Augusta and Tarcoola.
– That is not my fault. I specified 12s. a day as a fair compromise, having regard to the different conditions which obtain at either end of the line. But honorable senators would not have that. . In effect, they called me a sweater and other objectionable names.
– All of which -the honorable senator deserved.
– Here is another opponent of a minimum wage. Senator Needham says exactly what the old ConservativeTory gang used to say every time an attempt was made in the Queensland Parliament to insert a condition of this kind in a Railway Bill. Their cry is repeated even in this democratic Senate. But my conscience is clear. I have a duty to perform to the people who sent me here. That duty is to insure the payment of a living minimum wage, as far as I possibly can, to every employ^ of the Commonwealth, and that I am attempting to do. I trust that, despite what the Minister has said, Government supporters will recognise that they have a responsibility in this connexion. I hope they will realize that they are not justified in leaving the determination of the wages which shall be paid to any Government. The Ministry ought to welcome any expression of opinion on this matter, because, after all, their supporters are not only responsible to the people for their own actions, but also for those of the Government. If the Government make a mistake, Labour supporters outside of this Parliament at once come to us, who are supposed to keep the Government straight-
– Honorable senators have undertaken a great responsibility.
– Apparently, it is much greater than I imagined. The Minister of Defence has said that the Government have always been careful to pay their employes the highest ruling rate of wage. But I would ask him to go into our Public Service to-day and inquire of the men employed in the different Departments what they think of the matter. I have been told by public servants on dozens of occasions that this Government is a worse sweater than any Government which has existed since the inception of the Commonwealth.
– Did not the honorable senator think that the picture was a little overdrawn ?
– I am merely telling the Committee what I have been told.
– Because it suits the occasion.
– Because it is a fact. It may be that nothing will satisfy the members of our Public Service. Be that as it may, grievances exist. I read some time ago in the press a statement te the effect that the wages which are being paid to men employed at the Federal Capital are less than those being paid in the surrounding district.
– Why did not the honorable senator inquire as to the truth of the statement?
– I had no opportunity of inquiring. I suppose that Senator Needham read the same statement. What I point out is that however much the Government try to make themselves believe that they are model employers, there is a great deal of unrest and dissatisfaction in the ranks of the Public Service, and more especially in the lower grades of the service. They continually complain of being underpaid and overworked.
– And yet if a vacancy occurs there are thousands of applicants for it.
– Hunger drives people into the Public Service, just as it drove them into the ranks of the navvies who were employed by Senator Fraser when he was a railway contractor. I am not commenting upon these statements, but simply relating the fact that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction in the Public Service with regard to under-payment and over-work. I have given the Committee quite good reasons why honorable senators on both sides should vote for my amendment. Senator Pearce twitted Senator Givens and myself with being supported by members of the Opposition. It is a strange fact that not a single member of the Opposition is going to vote for my amendment.
– Dictated to by the Opposition.
- Senator W. Russell makes a most unworthy insinuation. He says that we are .being dictated to by the Opposition.
– I say that Senator Stewart is.
– The only word which would characterize Senator W. Russell in this connexion is a word which I would not be permitted to utter here. It is a word which is composed of four letters. The honorable senator has not the slightest warrant for any such mean insinuation as he has made.
– Things are not what they seem.
– Does the honorable senator repeat that I am being dictated to in this matter by the Opposition ?
– I say that the honorable senator was dictated to in this case by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Why should I be dictated to by the Leader of the Opposition? Am I acting in opposition to the platform and practice of the Labour party ? During last session the Labour members in the Queensland Legislative Assembly almost rent the roof off the chamber in trying to get a minimum wage provision placed in a Railway Bill, and members of the Queensland Government opposed to them used exactly the same arguments against their proposal as Senator W. Russell and those who sit around him use against the amendment I have moved. Yet the honorable senator twits me with being in the hands of the Conservative party. If he could only see his own position, he would know that it is he who is in their hands. It does not matter what turn the political wheel may take, no Labour party in this Parliament can, after this, ever propose a minimum wage provision in a Railway Bill. If they do so, they will be charged with insincerity and hyprocrisy. If they refuse to include such a provision in this Bill now that they have the power to do so, they cannot with any show of decency hereafter ask any other Government to put such a provision in a Railway Bill.
– Did not the Queensland members take the action referred to because they did not trust the Queensland Government ?
– Have I not already replied to that argument. Has not Senator Lynch a responsibility of his own? Is henot also responsible for the actions of the Government ? Is he going blindly to trust any Government?
Seator Lynch. - I am satisfied from the actions of the Government that they can be trusted.
– This is not a question of trusting any Government, but of individual members of the Senate doing their duty. I have duties to perform here, and one of them is to see that, so far as I am able, men employed on this line shall be paid a decent living wage. That is a duty which I cannot pass on to any other member of this Parliament, without being false to the trust which the people who sent me here reposed in me. Senator Lynch says in effect to the Government, “ You can do just whatever you please; I have no responsibility in the matter.”
– The Government never required the honorable senator’s dictation to raise the salaries of the public servants in the past, and I think I can afford to trust them.
– I have never attempted to dictate to the Government, but I have tried on every occasion, as I am trying now, to discharge my duty to the people who sent me here. I will put this case to Senator Lynch. Probably the honorable senator will say that my supposition is impossible. But let us suppose for the sake of argument that the Government do make a mistake with regard to the payment of these men, and Senator Lynch is challenged by his constituents in Western Australia on the point. Will they regard it as a sufficient excuse if he tells them, in reply, that he trusted the Government? They would tell the honorable senator that they sent him here to do a certain thing, and that, no matter what Government was in power, it was his duty to do that, and that, in neglecting to do it, he had not done what he was sent into this Parliament to do.
– They sent him here to support the Government.
– Indeed ! No matter what the Government might do, or might not do? Here is another proposition. We must support the Government at all hazards. If I were to go out of political life to-morrow, that is a position I should never agree to. I have an independent duty to perform here. So long as the Government follow the lines of the Labour party’s policy, I will support them. In this case, they are going in exact opposition to that policy.
– According to Senator Stewart.
– Yes. Senator Stewart is not responsible to anybody but Senator Stewart, and he is quite able to take his own part, here or elsewhere. If the reasons for and against this amendment are weighed by the people outside, I am sure that the balance of judgment will be rather with myself than those who are opposing this very fair proposition. Even
After all that has been said, I ask honorable senators, out of loyalty to a principle which has been adopted by the Labour party, and carried into effect for nearly twenty years, to vote for placing a minimum wage in this Bill.
– When Senator Stewart was speaking, I interjected that he’ was dictated to by the other side. I want to prove that statement. When the honorable senator got up to move his amendment, whether it was for any practical purpose, or merely to “ stone-wall,” I am not supposed to know, he mentioned 12s. perday as the minimum wage which should be fixed. Immediately he did so, Senator Millen interjected 14s., and Senator Stewart accepted that.
– The honorable senator is telling a distinct falsehood.
– (Senator McColl). - Order !
– That is how I understood it, and those are the words I heard.
– Did the honorable senator hear nothing else before that?
– Yes, I did.
– Then why does not the honorable senator tell the whole truth ?
– I heard Senator Givens, who was loud, long, and furious, and, it seemed to me, a little dangerous. I object to this sort of thing. So far as I am concerned as a Labour member, I take the stand that the workers ought to get a fair and living wage. If work has to be done in connexion with two railways in South Australia, this line and another in a district in which it may be more pleasant to live than in the country through which this line will pass, workmen will be able to offer their services at either place on the conditions specified, and unless a higher rate of pay is offered for work in the desert, as some honorable senators have described this country, I think that men will not be willing to go there. I can refer honorable senators to what happened at the last general election. I was at Wallaroo along with the present Premier of South Australia, Mr. Verran, and I heard him state from the platform there that he was going for the minimum wage of 8s. a day. That statement had a good effect, and had an influence in the return of the present Labour Government to power in South Australia. But certain circumstances have arisen since then. The men have not been available for employment offering, and wages have gone up gradually in connexion with labouring and other work. I wish to mention another matter which honorable senators have perhaps overlooked. I know that there is not the slightest possibility of Senator Stewart’s amendment being carried, though it may still serve its purpose. But if it were carried, and the railway was being constructed a year hence, what would happen to the poor farmers of Western Australia and South Australia? If they wanted workmen, where would they get them?
– From the railway.
– Just so. I want to see the producers protected. I want to see justice done. Senator Stewart suggested a word with an ugly meaning as describing me. I think the honorable senator is cantankerous. I happen to know him; otherwise I should have been cross. But I do not worry about what the honorable senator says. He is out for “ stone-walling,” and he is a grand hand at it. He is assisting Senator Savers and others who have been doing a great deal of that kind of thing throughout the present session. But in spite of that, we shall carry the Bill. It is amusing to see that some of the supporters of the Bill, on the second reading, are showing their teeth against it now. Why were they not consistent, instead of adopting a “Yes-No” course? If they do not approve of the Bill, why did they not vote against it straight away on its second reading?
– I do not wish to inflict myself unnecessarily upon the Committee, but when an honorable senator makes use of a misstatement with regard to my action-
– You made a few yourself.
– I do not think so.
– The honorable senator only charged honorable senators on this side with hypocrisy, and a few simple things like that.
– I think it was evident on the face of it. In any case, I wish to put Senator W. Russell right. He accused me of being dictated to by the Opposition.
– By Senator Millen.
– I deny that. What happened was this : When I moved my amendment of 12s. per day, as I have already pointed out, it was met with quite a chorus of voices from the Government side of the chamber.
– The honorable senator should say the Labour side, and take himself out of it.
– I was told by one honorable senator that I was trying to reduce wages. I was told by another that 14s. per day was being paid in Western Australia. Another honorable senator stated that 16s. per day was being paid. There was., in fact, a regular chorus from the Government side against me. One honorable senator, who is not present today, said, evidently in an ironic vein, “ Why not make it £2 per day?” Senator Millen, when he heard this chorus, said, “Why not make it 14s. per day?” It was a suggestion by Senator Millen which T was not bound in any way to accept. It was not because he interjected that I moved that 14s. should be the minimum, but because I believed the statement of honorable senators on the Government side that 12s. would be too low. So far from my being dictated to by the Opposition, as Senator W. Russell would lead my constituents to believe, I can assure him that if the Opposition attempted to dictate to me, they certainly would not succeed. I would not allow myself to be dictated to either by the Government or the Opposition. I do not wish any false impression on this subject to go forth to the electors.
.- Ministerial supporters say that they are content to trust the Government in the matter under discussion. That has always been the plea whenever the Labour party have tried to secure the insertion of a minimum wage provision in a Bill. The supporters of a Government, of course, always trusted them. From this time forth, no Labour party in Australia can ask a Government to which they are opposed to agree to a minimum wage provision, inasmuch as the Labour party, now that they are in power, have opposed the amendment submitted by Senator Stewart. We must assume that their past advocacy of the minimum wage was so much hypocrisy.
Question - That the new sub-clause proposed to be added be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Route of the Railway).
.- I point out that no other route has had anything like a “ fair show “ in connexion with this railway. The Engineers-in-Chief, in conference, expressed the opinion that the Gawler route should also be examined, and Senator Keating, when Minister of Home Affairs, gave instructions that the Gawler . route, in addition to the Tarcoola route, should be inspected. Later on, it was discovered that the money voted by Parliament was not sufficient to provide for the examination of the two routes. Hence, the Gawler route was never examined. There is, however, strong evidence to show that it would be the more payable route of the two. Persons interested in the Gawler route may very well complain that they have not received fair treatment in the matter.
– Is the Minister prepared to furnish further information with regard to a* route nearer the coast?
– We are satisfied with the route that has been submitted.
– In my second-reading speech, I drew attention to the difference of interpretation which appeared to be put upon Lord Kitchener’s, report on this subject. The danger of running a railway along the coast is perfectly clear to any one who has studied the subject. Is there not a possibility of getting an alternative route whereby we should not have 250 miles of the line running within 70 miles of the coast, and capable of being cut by any raiding force?
Clause agreed to.
The gauge of the railway shall be four feet eight and a half inches.
– This question of gauge ought not to be dismissed hastily. There is no doubt that the various States are largely interested, and some of them will have to pay for the conversion of their present railway gauges. Yet they have never been consulted. The 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge has been adopted on the basis of the Railway Commissioners’ Conference report of 1897. No other gauge has been properly considered. I think that the matter ought to be left open for further inquiry. An investigation need not take long. Expert opinion should be obtained as to which is the best gauge for Australia, and the whole of the States should be consulted.
– Who is to determine?
– The question should be determined by the very best modern engineers. This Committee is not qualified to determine a technical engineering question. The gauge that might suit a closely populated country might not be so appropriate to a country like Australia. We ought to consider the situation of countries similar to our own. I shall not labour the question, but shall content myself by moving -
That the words “ four feet eight and a half inches “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ such gauge as may, after inquiry, be determined.”
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [5.12]. - I quite agree with Senator McColl that we may profitably spend a few minutes in discussing this question of gauge. I am inclined to agree with what he said as to the desirableness of postponing the final decision as to what the gauge shall be until such time as a definite agreement can be arrived at upon the important question of a uniform gauge for Australian railways. But I doubt whether the amendment could very well be inserted in this Bill. At any rate I should like the honorable senator to consider the point. I wish this question of gauge could be considered altogether apart from the enthusiastic devotion which some honorable senators have towards this particular enterprise. There are many people who are thoroughly in favour of the construction of the railway. There are others who think that this proposal is premature, though, undoubtedly, the line must be built at some time. It is an essential of the Commonwealth that this line should be constructed. There are others, again, who are of the opinion that the route might be varied, but all, I think, are agreed that there should be a gauge adopted which will disturb existing gauges as little as possible, involve the different States in as little expense as possible, and set up for all time a great trunk line from the west of Australia to the east, on which there shall be no break of gauge to interfere with the proper conduct of the passenger and goods traffic. From that point of view, of course, this question, as Senator McColl has indicated, has really two aspects - three aspects, probably, but two, I think, of immediate importance. One is the national aspect, involving the question of a uniform gauge throughout Australia, and the other is, from my point of view, that which very intimately concerns South. Australia. I think that the latter view has been rather ignored, I will not say by those who have been the thick-and-thin advocates of the line being constructed at the present juncture, but all round pretty well. From the national aspect, I do not intend to say much. I think that the Government have missed or thrown away an opportunity which may never come again of enforcing a uniform gauge on the railways of Australia.
– A glorious opportunity.
– I know the great difficulty - no one knows it better - and I know the differences that must exist throughout the States as to what ought to be the uniform gauge. But I do not think that it was beyond the wit of man, not beyond the wit of the present Government, to devise some means by which a body of men, with authority to do so, could have been got together, with the assent of the States, to determine once for all what should be the uniform gauge for Australia. I believe that the present Government could have done it.
– Have they not done so already ?
– No; and I hope that my honorable friend will not interrupt in that way, because I do not wish to introduce any controversial matter. From the national aspect, I merely say that I believe, although I am in opposition to the Government, they had the capacity, if they had only taken time, to have settled once for all that great question. In the contemplated construction of the line they had a lever, which they will never have again, to secure in Australia a uniform gauge. Take the case of the other transcontinental railway, which, I think, stands first, and ought, in my conscientious belief, to have been constructed first. The transcontinental railway, which is of supreme importance to Australia at the present juncture as a nation, is a line bisecting the continent from north to south. But the Parliament has decided otherwise. If we had the consideration of that line before us, it would not be so much mixed up with the other lines of the different States as to raise the question of a uniform gauge. The line to Western Australia is the one line which afforded what Senator Keating has called “ a glorious opportunity,” and which, in addition to that, might have been a lever in respect to all the States to bring about a uniformity of gauge, which every one desires to see accomplished. I am sorry that that has not been done. I think that we shall all be sorry, and sorrier as the years go on, unless some approximation to it is made in dealing with the gauge in this Bill. We cannot, of course, retrace our steps in that respect. We cannot settle the question of a uniform gauge for Australia.
– In what way was this lever to operate ?
– Because the strong desire on the part of South Australia, and of many people in Victoria - a. majority I should say - to have this railway built, might not have been gratified unless the question of a uniform gauge was settled, at least as far as three States are concerned. The interests of Australia as a nation were concerned in dealing with this national undertaking on the broadest possible platform, and one of the matters which ought to have been settled was the question of having a uniform gauge for a great trunk line from east to west. In that sense - not that force should have been applied - it was a lever. At any rate, it was an occasion which might have been used for the establishment of a uniform gauge. The national question cannot be dealt with in the Bill, but from the point of view of South Australia, which is most intimately concerned with this matter - Victoria to a less extent - we can at least make some step towards it. If we adopt the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, South Australia will’ be the only State in the position of having three gauges. We shall have the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge from the border of Western Australia to Port Augusta; the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, unless some other line is built, from Port Augusta to Terowie; and the 5-ft. 3 -in. gauge from Terowie to Adelaide, and thence to Serviceton. We have no lines south of Adelaide, except the Mount Gambier line and the little Kingston branch, on any other than the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. It will be a great hardship to South Australia to be placed in the position of having three gauges. It will be a great hardship, and a great disadvantage in the working of this transcontinental line, to have two breaks of gauge to contend with. That point has to be considered. If South Australia should decide that the best thing to overcome all this would be to have a uniform gauge of 4-ft. Sh-in. right down to Terowie, or some other point on the 5-ft. 3-in. line, it would involve, so I am told, an outlay of about 000,000. Surely, that is a very unfair position for the State to be placed in. A great deal of controversy has been raised there in regard to the question of gauge. I am not in the confidence of the Government, but I know from what appears in the press that the Government, although their sympathy isentirely with the Commonwealth Govern: ment as a Labour Government, are very strongly against the adoption of the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, and, I think, naturally so, unless, of course, the latter are agreeable to insert a provision laying upon the Commonwealth the obligation to make compensation to South Australia for the enormous expenditure which will be involved. Either we shall have this great trunk line hampered as to the conduct of its traffic in a way which would be disastrous, or we shall impose upon the taxpayers of South Australia this very heavy obligation to build a line on the same gauge to connect with the 5-ft. 3-in. line. If they are to go on beyond that, and turn from the 5-ft. 3-in. to the 4-ft. 8)-in. gauge, we shall be in the distressing position that every passenger feels who goes to Sydney of having a break of gauge at the border.
– Every one who- goes to Brisbane has two breaks of gauge.,
– Yes. The railway position in Australia, I think honorable senators will agree, will be inde- fensible and ludicrous. If the line is constructed on the5-ft. 3-in. gauge, South Australia is quite willing to establish a new and shorter route - down by Brinkworth, I think - on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge to join with the existing 5-ft. 3-in. line, and we would then have a magnificent trunk line from Kalgoorlie to Melbourne on that gauge. That would be a noble railway work, and certainly something much more worthy of being regarded as a national undertaking than that which at present is proposed, as far as gauge is concerned. I do not want to occupy time unduly, and I do not think that anything is to be gained by reading the reports of the different engineers as to which is the better gauge. My own feeling, which I suppose I may express in spite of them, is that the 5-ft 3-in. gauge is the one which ought to be adopted. We know that there are many countries where the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge exists. We know that there is no finer railway service in the world than the one in England, which is entirely on the standard gauge. But we hear from America that, althoughthey have that gauge, they are agitating for a wider gauge. Putting all that aside, I ask honorable senators, is not the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge a far finer gauge for our great trunk line from the Indian Ocean, on the one side, to the Pacific Ocean, on the other, than is the 4- ft. 8½-in. gauge, or part of it, involving all the differences and difficulties which I have pointed out. It is not a line of 100 miles which we are about to construct, but one of over1,000 miles. Why should we not pause, and say, “ We will adopt the widest gauge we have without considerations involving in a measure the power or the size of a particular locomotive “ ? Is it not far better to solve the doubt, to settle all these questions at once, by adopting the 5- ft. 3-in. gauge? However, if honorable senators are prepared to adhere to the proposal in the Bill, we in South Australia can only make our protest, and offer these considerations, with a view of taking the opinion of honorable senators on the matter, without having any vehement or controversial debate, which I do not desire. I do not wish to postpone the consideration of the question longer than is necessary to take the opinion of the Senate. If Senator McColl will temporarily withdraw his amendment, I shall move three amendments which I shall mention now, so that I need not say anything further about them. My first amendment will be to insert at’ the beginning of the clause these words, “ Conditional on the consent of the State of South Australia.” That will giveeffect to my honorable friend’s view, and enable the matter to be discussed. If that amendment be defeated, I shall move a test amendment to strike out the words “four feet eight and a-half,” with a view to inserting the words “five feet three “ in lieu thereof. I really think that that is the gauge we ought to adopt if there be any doubt on the subject. If my second proposition be rejected, I shall then move the insertion of a proviso to the effect that South Australia shall be granted compensation for any alteration which may be rendered necessary in her gauge by reason of the adoption of the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. But I should prefer my first proposal to be carried, because it would lead to a conference.
– The honorable senator would then leave the clause as it stands?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Sir Josiah Symon) proposed -
That the following words be inserted at the beginning of the clause : - “ Conditional on the consent of the State of South Australia.”
– Senator McColl has complained that Parliament has not sufficient information to warrant it in adopting the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. What further information do we require? We already have the advice of all the railway experts in the employ of the States. If Senator McColl is not satisfied with that advice, he must desire us to take the advice of authorities outside the Commonwealth. Now, is it conceivable that engineers outside of Australia - granting that they are superior to our own, which I do not admit - would be as competent to give an opinion upon this question as are our own engineers, seeing that they do not possess the requisite local knowledge?
– Have the experts of Victoria been consulted ?
– Yes; and they have given their opinion.
– What experts?
– The Chairman of the Railways Commissioners and the EngineerinChief.
– The Railways Commissioners are not experts.
– They are experts in the management of railways, and the EngineerinChief is an expert upon railways from an engineering stand-point.
– That opinion was given fourteen years ago.
– No ; I am referring to the decision which was arrived at by the Railway War Council which met in February of this year, and which recommended the adoption of the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge as the standard gauge for Australia. That body was composed of the Railways Commissioners of all the States,- of the Consulting Railway Engineer, ‘ Mr. Deane, and of the chief military and naval officers of the Commonwealth. Then, too, we are fortified by the decision of the Conference of Railways Commissioners of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, which met in 1897, and which also recommended the adoption of the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge. Later on the six Engineers-in-Chief of the States recommended that that gauge should be the uniform gauge for Australia.
– Did Mr. Moncrieff agree to that?
– Yes ; and I will explain his attitude upon this question. His attitude is that, if he is given an assurance that the gauge adopted shall be that of the trunk lines to the capitals of Australia, he is in favour of the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge; but he objects to the- proposed transcontinental line being built on the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge unless a guarantee be forthcoming that the whole of the trunk lines will be converted to that gauge.
– That is the whole point.
– He does not say that the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge is not the best ; on the contrary” he says that it is. That is his attitude, as stated to Mr. Deane.
– He has not put it in print.
– I think so. In his letter of dissent, he says that he dissentsfrom the recommendation that we should adopt the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge except it -be conditional upon that gauge being made the uniform gauge of the trunk lines to the capitals. ‘ Senator Symon devoted considerable time to discussing the question of the unification of the gauges of Australia. But that is an entirely distinct matter from that which is involved in this clause. ls the construction of the proposed line to wait until we can arrive at an agreement upon that question? The honorable senator said that, with the consent of the States, the services of experts could have been obtained to deal with this question.
– What I said was that a body of men could have been got together. They need not be experts
– Who is more competent to represent the States on this question than are their experts?
– But they have no authority to bind the States.
– Nor has anybody else. No matter what body we might appoint, every State would claim the right to accept or reject its report.
– I doubt it.1
– Would any State nominate a representative to a conference, and agree to be bound by his decision ?
– I think so.
– I do not. If the States are prepared to trust their delegates to a conference to secure justice for them, they ought to be prepared to trust their representatives in this Parliament.
– But we are not fit to decide the question.
– Then, are State politicians fit to decide it?
– If neither Federal nor State politicians are fit to determine it, it is obvious that we must accept the advice of the railway engineers.
– We cannot establish a uniform gauge.
– Yes, we can. There is no objection on the part of the States to the adoption of a uniform gauge per se. Their objection is that they should be asked to transform, at their own expense, the gauge of their lines to the uniform gauge which may be adopted* Now I say that the representatives of the States in this Parliament have power to deal with that question. It is within the province of this Parliament to pool the cost of the conversion of the main trunk lines.
– We ought to do that.
– This is the only Parliament which can deal with the matter. Honorable senators have pleaded : “ Wait till we get the six State Governments in agreement.” But when will that be? If we wait till then, we shall wait till the crack of doom. Do we not recollect that three of the States arrived at an agreement in connexion with the distribution of the Murray waters - that their representatives met in solemn conclave and bound themselves to introduce Bills into their respective Parliaments to give effect to that agreement? Do we forget that each of the
Governments represented at that Conference had a majority at their back? But years passed by, and the agreement was never ratified. Then the Conference met again, with a like result. This sort of thing has been going on for ten years.
– That is why Federation was established.
– Exactly. If a decision is to be arrived at on this question, it can only be obtained from this Parliament. The Prime Minister has already announced that he recognises that the States have a just claim for consideration in the matter of the cost which will be involved in converting their gauges to the uniform gauge, and that the Government are prepared to favorably consider the question of sharing that burden.
– Can the Government alter the gauges of the State main trunk lines without their consent?
– I do not know why it isthat I seem to be incapable of making myself understood by the honorable senator. I have already said that no State objects to the adoption of a uniform gauge. South Australia does not object to the adoption of 4 ft. 8½ in. as the uniform gauge, provided that the Commonwealth will bear the expenditure of converting her existing main trunk line to that gauge. Mr. Verran has made that statement in the South Australian Parliament. That being so, I say that the remedy lies with this Parliament. If it believes that the Commonwealth should bear the whole cost of transforming the gauges in the different States to the uniform gauge, it can undertake that burden. If it believes that it should bear a part of that cost, it can undertake that obligation. No other Parliament in Australia can do that. To delay the passing of this Bill by inserting in it provisions such as are proposed, will not assist one iota to bring about a settlement of this question. Senator Symon has submitted a most extraordinary proposition. He proposes that we should only proceed with the construction of this railway conditionally upon the consent of South Australia being obtained for its construction on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. Already we have to ask South Australia to consent to grant the land necessary for the building of the line, but Senator Symon wants something more. He desires that South Australia should decide what shall be the uniform railway gauge for Australia.
– No; certainly not.
– Then the honorable senator cannot have read the clause if he says that. The words used are “ conditional on the consent of South Australia, the gauge of the railway shall be 4 ft. 8½ in.”
– That is the Kalgoorlie railway.
– I am aware of that, but did not Senators McColl and Symon say that by fixing 4 ft. 8½ in. as the gauge of this railway we should be fixing the future uniform gauge for Australia?
– I never said anything of the kind, and I do not believe it.
– Then my ears must have deceived me. The argument throughout on this Bill has been that we should delay this proposal, because by building this line on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge we shall be fixing the uniform railway gauge of Australia.
– I never said so.
– I said so.
- Senator McColl said so; other speakers have said the same, and I thought that Senator Symon also had said so. I say that if we are to go to South Australia for her consent to construct this line on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge we shall be practically asking the Government of that Slate to decide what shall be the uniform gauge for Australia. Apart from my position as a member of the Government, I could not assent to that as the representative of another State that should have a voice in the matter. All the States should have an equal say in that matter, and they can only do so in this Parliament, and particularly in the Senate. We have put forward, on the best advice obtainable in Australia, and after long and serious consideration by the experts and by the Government, the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge as the best gauge for this particular line, believing also that it is the best gauge to adopt as a uniform gauge for Australia. I trust that the Committee will reject Senator Symon’s amendment, first, because it would place in the hands of South’ Australia the power to determine what shall be the uniform railway gauge for Australia; secondly, because it tacks on to this Bill the question of the uniform gauge, which should not be tacked on to it; and, thirdly, because the gauge which has been recommended for this line has been decided upon on the best expert advice in Australia.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [5.47]. - Senator Pearce has entirely, and, I am sure, unintentionally misrepresented the view I put to the Senate. I never said that the adoption of the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge for this line would determine the uniform gauge of Australia. That never entered my head for a moment. In moving the amendment, I was dealing with the position of South Australia, which, as I pointed out, will have three gauges within her own territory if the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge is adopted for this line. That State has a special interest in the question of this gauge, subject, it may be, to compensation. We have been told by the Minister of Defence that the Prime Minister has made the statement that the Government will be agreeable that this Parliament should authorize compensation to the States for the consequences entailed upon them by the changes of gauge. That being so, 1 have no doubt that if my amendment is lost the Government’ will have no objection to securing to South Australia that compensation. But, as I have already said, I prefer the amendment because it does not express anything in detail except that the consent of the State most immediately concerned in this question of the gauge shall be obtained before the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge is adopted for this line. If South Australia is agreeable to the adoption of this gauge, or a basis for compensation for a change of gauge is arrived at, my duty is done, and I shall be perfectly satisfied. I never suggested or believed that the adoption of the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge for this line would determine the uniform gauge for all Australian railways.
.- It appears to me that the Committee should be supplied with the evidence upon which the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge is recommended.
– Honorable senators have all the reports-
– Those reports do not carry much weight. Apart from them we are surely entitled to the fullest information that can be obtained on this question, because it is a momentous step that we are about to take.
– Has the honorable senator read the reports ?
– Some of them.
– Why .did not the honorable senator read them all?
– Am I obliged to answer that question? I do not desire to have an argument with Senator Lynch, who is too young for me. I consider that this is a very momentous question. I should imagine that the Government would be quite, ready to agree to any reasonable proposal from either side. I appeal to them to think the matter over seriously, and do what I think the States of Australia would like to have done. It appears to me that it would be much wiser to adopt the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, which would then go straight through from Melbourne to Kalgoorlie.
– What is the objection to it?
– As a railway man I do not see any.
– It would then go straight through from Albury to Kalgoorlie.
– It appears to me that it would be simpler and wiser to adopt the gauge which, on the constructionof this line, would prevail, as Senator Vardon has said, from Albury right through to Kalgoorlie. When building the line a difference of two or three inches for a wider gauge would be a matter of very little consequence; the sleepers might cost a penny or two more if a few inches extra length were required, but that would be a verysmall matter. I wish the Minister to consider that if the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge were adopted, with the exception of a few milesin South Australia, we should have that gauge extending from Albury to Kalgoorlie. I cannot understand why the experts, have recommended the 4-ft. 8^-in. gaugeThere is no denying the fact that more work can be done on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge than on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. As a railway man I say that it is not necessary to be. so particular about the level, and the elevation of each rail, on curves with a wide gauge as with a narrow gauge. The elevation of the rails on curves must be perfect in the case of a narrow-gauge railway, or the carriages may jump and heel over. Where you have a wide gauge an inch or so out of the level, will not affect the running of trains so much. I quite acknowledge that the 4-ft. 8-in.. gauge is now practically the universal gauge in English-speaking countries, but I do not think it any better, or as good, as the. 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. The reason is obvious. There must be greater stability with a greater width of gauge. I beg the Government to reconsider this proposal, and to do what is best for all the States in connexion with such a very serious question.
– Judging by the speech of the Minister, and of some of our honorable friends on this side who have spoken so far, one would imagine that the only States in the Commonwealth were South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales. I wish to direct attention to the fact that there is a State called Queensland, which has a perfect right to be heard in this matter. Let me say in this connexion that Queensland has done what no other State in the Commonwealth has done so far. She has adopted generally the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge for her railways, but she has built one line on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, specially in order to fit in with the gauge adopted by her neighbour, New South Wales, as soon as the authorities of that State are prepared to complete the connexion. New South Wales has promised to build a line of some hundreds of miles in length along the north coast to the Queensland border. Queensland has already built a line from the capital of the State to the Tweed Heads on the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge. I have seen the line myself, and I know that the culverts, tunnels, embankments, and sleepers have all been prepared for a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge railway, but as the connexion has so far not been completed by New South Wales, Queensland has laid rails on that line on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, and is running her rolling-stock of that gauge on the line. I should like to know what is to happen if South Australia and Victoria are to decide upon the gauge to be adopted. The Minister has given us an assurance in connexion with the conversion of gauges, but I should like something definite to be included in the Bill. I should like an assurance that the Commonwealth Government will compensate Queensland if she has to convert her 3-ft. 6-in. line all the way from Brisbane upthe Little and Big Liverpool Ranges on to Toowoomba, and from there to Warwick, Stanthorpe and Wallangarra. That is a 3-ft. 6-in. line, and it has been a most expensive line to construct. Why should we have to alter the gauge of that line because New South Wales will not redeem her promise to complete the north coast line?
– We could not put that in this Bill.
– I do not know whether we could or not; but I point out that I am being asked at the present moment to isolate Queensland.
– Will not Queensland be able to link up with the New South Wales railways at Murwillumbah ?
– That is just the matter I have been discussing. We, in Queensland, have built our line down to the Tweed Heads, and are prepared to link up with New South Wales to-morrow. It is New South Wales that will not link up with us, because of some paltry fear that Sydney may lose the twopennyhalfpenny trade of the Richmond, Tweed, and a few other rivers on the north coast. What has Queensland left to offer? She has offered everything she can. Queensland has constructed a 4-ft. 8½-in. line to link up with the neighbouring State of New South Wales, by the nearest possible route to Sydney.
– Queensland will get the connexion soon.
– She has been going to get it for the last ten or fifteen years, but has not got it yet.
– If she keeps on asking for it she will get it.
– How can we ask the New South Wales Government to do their own business? We are sufficiently State righters in Queensland not to interfere with the way in which New South Wales manages her own business. I have said that we have a 3-ft. 6-in. line from Brisbane to Wallangarra; it goes over awkward ranges, and round sharp curves, and it will cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to alter the gauge of that line to 4 ft. 8½ in. Is there any promise given us in this Bill that Queensland will be compensated, not if we alter the gauge of that line, but if New South Wales does not continue her north coast line - which she has started at half-a-dozen places, and has hung up as much as she could - until it connects with the line from Brisbane to the Tweed Heads line? I do not propose to allow South Australia to dictate to us any more than I would allow any other State to do so. But I do say that this proposal should be the subject of further inquiry before the gauge is finally settled. I will support a proposal to that effect. Queensland certainly ought to be recognised as a factor in this matter. She must not be left out as a negligible quantity.
– Will the honorable senator support a provision for the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge being put in the Bill ?
– No ; that would separate Queensland from the rest of Australia by another 1,000 miles. We should have to rebuild 700 or 800 miles of railway in one direction, and 300 miles in another. This Government have not the remotest idea of laying down a single sleeper within the next twelve months. They are simply going to spend money on preliminary investigation. Why should they not, therefore, leave the question of gauge open until next session ? It must be remembered that Queensland is spending a large amount of money in extending 3-ft. 6-in. lines into her agricultural and pastoral districts. They are going to do her a vast amount of good. These lines will be far better for Australia than any number of railways running through deserts. If Queensland is to stop that work she certainly ought to have some say in this matter. To hang up the scheme for a little while would not matter a bit.
– How will the matter affect Queensland at all ? She will have to alter her gauge in any case.
– No ; because we have a line built from Brisbane to the New South Wales border on the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge. The New South Wales policy of connecting up with Queensland has been approved on paper, and little bits of the line along the coast have been built. There should be a definite arrangement that if New South Wales does not go on with that line Queensland will be paid compensation for altering her gauge from Brisbane to Toowoomba and Wallangarra.
– The criticism in regard to the question of gauge has been well deserved. But if Senator Symon will carefully consider his proposal, he will realize that it must be defeated. His amendment proposes that “ conditional on the consent of South Australia “ the gauge of the railway shall be 4 ft. 8 in. If that were agreed to, the whole of the rest of the States of Australia would be shut out of consideration, and the whole discussion would-be over.
– Not a bit of it.
– Could we not put in “ Conditional on the consent of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland”?
– If Senator Symon will adopt that suggestion I shall sit down at once. But his bald amendment, as it stands, cannot suit the representatives of other States. Once that thin edge of the wedge got in we should not have Senator Symon’s assistance to knock it out again if we found that it was wrong.
– Queensland will get compensation, because the Government have promised it.
– The Government cannot promise it. If both Senator Symon and the Minister promised compensation to Queensland it would not be satisfactory to us, because they could not bind the State Parliaments or this Parliament. I quite agree with Senator Symon that South Australia has a great interest in this matter, but I remind him that Queensland is also vitally interested. The radical defect in the whole scheme is that, from top to bottom, the Government have given no sufficient information as to how the railway is to be paid for; nor have they given us a scintilla of an idea as to how the States are to be compensated for alterations of gauges. It is useless to tell us to trust the Government. I would not even trust myself in such a matter. The whole question of gauges should be referred to a Commission appointed by the Government. It has been rightly pointed out that this Parliament is the only authority in Australia that has power to fix a uniform gauge in the interests of Australian defence. Before fixing that gauge, this Parliament ought to cause a proper inquiry to be made into the whole subject. No matter what gauge may be adopted, the States will be called upon to pay something. Queensland, in anticipation of meeting Australian requirements in the matter of defence, built a line from Nerang to the Tweed Heads, making all her cuttings and bridges on the 4-ft. 8j-in. standard.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Commonwealth could possibly adopt the Queensland 3-ft. 6-in. gauge?
– If it were declared that that gauge would be satisfactory for defence purposes, then, inasmuch as the majority of the lines in Australia are on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, I should say “ Yes.” I -prefer that the determination of the matter should be deferred, and if an amendment is moved for the purpose of getting the matter considered by a Royal
Commission, I shall support it. I would remind honorable senators that the interests of Queensland must be considered. If this is to be a railway for defence purposes let it be remembered that Queensland has to some extent prepared the road for a 4-f.t. 8j-in. line along its coast to the border of New South Wales. If Australia it attacked from the north-western side, Queensland and New South Wales are the two great States which will have to bear the brunt of its defence, whatever gauge may be adopted for the transcontinental line. That is the most powerful factor which we can have in determining what should be the uniform gauge for Australia. I berlieve that in ‘this matter New South Wales will remain absolutely neutral, because she has only the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge. But whatever happens, the main line of defence from that side must come from the two great States which I have mentioned. If the States of Victoria and South ‘Australia are called upon to bear ah additional burden for converting their gauge to the uniform gauge, I feel confident that it will be equitably shared between the Commonwealth and those States.
– Are you satisfied of that?
– Well, I hope so.
– Then put it in the Bill.
– I am quite prepared to refer the whole question of the gauges to the decision of a Royal Commission; but if that inquiry cannot be obtained, I am inclined to think that, on the whole, South Australia certainly should not have the first conditional assent to this matter. I am sorry to disagree with Senator Symon, but I think that even he will recognise that it is almost an arrogant amendment for him to propose in the States’ House. I think that we had better adopt the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge if we cannot get the amendment which I suggest.
– It seems to me that the Opposition is hopelessly divided on the proposal of Senator McColl to have no decision, and on that submitted by Senator Symon that South Australia shall decide. I cannot see what the representatives of Queensland can have -to growl about, because nothing is more certain in this world than that the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge will not be accepted as the national gauge.
– But Queensland has the proposed national gauge from Brisbane to the Tweed Heads.
– If that is so all their interests would lie in accepting the Bill as it stands. I do not know whether it is quite in order to have a general discussion on the national gauge, unless we may fairly consider that whatever gauge is decided for this line of 1,000 odd miles will practically be the gauge for Australia in the future.
– How can that be ?
– I do not think that any one can reasonably doubt that if this railway is constructed on the 4-ft. 8-in. gauge, the transcontinental line from north to south will also be built on that gauge. When we remember the thousands of miles of railway which have been constructed in New South Wales on the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, it goes practically without saying that that fact will settle what the future gauge of Australia is to be. Senator Symon, I take it, fears that that will be the case, and that is the object of his amendment. He must be aware that practically this line, if “constructed on the 4-ft. 8j-in gauge, will of itself be that great lever which he spoke of.
– What I want to make sure of is that South Australia, which has two different gauges, shall not have a third gauge put on her back at her own expense.
– I quite understand the inconvenience which will be caused in South Australia. But it must be admitted that whatever gauge is now adopted, the fact that that gauge has been so adopted for this line, will of itself be a great lever in forcing it upon the whole of Australia ultimately. The gauge which is used for the trunk lines must eventually be applied to the branch lines. We are all aware that the Victorian gauge has been adopted by South Australia from the border as far as Terowie. We quite admit the inconvenience which would be caused by having three gauges in the same State. But if we are to have this transcontinental line constructed at all, then any amendment of this kind must involve considerable delay. One proposal is to get the consent of South Australia, with the clear knowledge that it will not be given.
– Oh, I do not say that.
– South Australia will not consent to this line being built on the 4-ft 8i-in. gauge, if there is an opportunity of putting up a fight for the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge.
– Or with adequate compensation.
– Just so. On the other hand, the references which have been made, particularly by Queensland senators, to New South Wales, do not express all the facts. Senator Chataway states that New South Wales came to an arrangement with Queensland that the latter’s south coast line should be constructed so as to be capable of carrying a road on the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge. Temporarily, Queensland has laid down a track on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, but the earthwork was constructed to carry a track on the broader gauge. The railway from Sydney along the north coast of New South Wales is to connect with that line. Already over 100 miles of the coast line has been constructed. A length of some 30 odd miles is open. A length of 100 miles to the Manning River is practically ready to be opened, and would have been open now but for some slips which occurred. Then contracts are being prepared for two other sections to be constructed simultaneously. In addition to that, there is a length of 147 miles of line open between Grafton and Murwillumbah. When the north coast railway of New South Wales is constructed, if not sooner, the gap of some 18 miles between Murwillumbah and the Tweed Heads will be filled up. I have been all over that country, and the Government of New South Wales have no reasonable excuse for not having honestly fulfilled their bargain to fill up the gap years ago.
– It should have been filled up long ago.
– It was not a Labour Government, but an alleged Liberal Government, which made the promise, and flagrantly broke it.
– Is it not a fact that the present Government of New South Wales have knocked off hundreds of men who were working on that line, and are delaying the completion of the work?
– It is absolutely wrong for the honorable senator to make that statement, because the present Labour Government of New South Wales are . now completing by day labour the contract which was thrown up by a contractor.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator not to permit himself to be drawn so far by interjections from the question before the Committee.
– I would not have thought of departing from that question, only that Senator Chataway devoted nearly the whole of his speech to pointing out that New South Wales had broken a contract with Queensland, though I could not see the relevancy of his remarks.
– Will the honorable senator confine himself to the general question of the gauge?
– What harm will it do Queensland if she is contemplating the adoption of the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge along her coast to have South Australia’s consent to the use of that gauge on this transcontinental railway?
– I cannot see why the matter should be left entirely in the hands of South Australia.
– But she is most immediately interested.
– Yes, in not having three breaks of gauge instead of two. This is not a matter for immediate concern only. It will be not only unfair, but ridiculous, for the National Parliament to decide to undertake a work if South Australia will consent, and otherwise to hang up the project indefinitely.
– Oh, no!
– There is no method of arriving at finality here, because the undertaking of the work is to be conditional upon the giving of the State’s consent.
– Only as to the gauge.
– Failing that consent, the line is not to be constructed, and this measure will be waste paper.
– Only as to the gauge.
– It is not what the honorable senator means, but what he says.
– That would not be the effect of my amendment.
– If the amendment does not mean that, it will be of no use; and if it does mean that, it will be a lot worse than that. AVe all want to see the line constructed ; but we are not prepared to put off the work indefinitely at the mere will of South Australia, however much we may respect that very fine State and its intellectual representatives.
– I assure my honorable friend that South Australia does not want to put off the work, but I think that she has not been well treated.
– I think that we should as soon as possible try to come to a simple arrangement, not with South Australia only, but with the States, to bear part of the cost of establishing a national gauge. I am not particularly enamoured of the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge in New South Wales. It might cost £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 to convert the existing lines to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, whereas it is estimated that it will cost probably only one-half of that sum to convert them to the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. That is a consideration, apart from anything which the engineers say. If we were considering the way in which the States borrow money, and expend millions in adding to their lines, and it cost £5,000,000 to establish the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge throughout Australia, I should be very glad to see it done. The first cost would be the last in that respect. If we are going in for a thing, it is wise to have the best which can be obtained. I desire to say a few words on that point, because New South Wales believes that the bulk of the evidence is in favour of the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. But there are other considerations which- appeal to my mind. One is that since Australia is a continent more devoid of inland waterways than is any other country, it must depend more on railway services than does any other part of the world of equal area, and more and more as the population increases will it be dependent on this means-of communication.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– It has been said that the people of Queensland are vitally interested in this matter on account of an arrangement which has been entered into between that State and New South Wales for the construction of a certain length of line on the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge. Now it is well to place upon record the fact that the existing line between the Clarence and the Tweed Rivers will have to be relaid and re-sleepered before it will be fit to carry Inter- State traffic.
– Our line to the New South Wales bonder was prepared for the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. But New South Wales, by reason of her railway policy, is isolated on both sides.
– We are attempting to bridge that isolation by filling the gap which exists between the Queensland and the New South Wales coastal railway systems. The line between the. Clarence and the Tweed will have to be reconstructed in order to render it fit to carry Inter-State traffic. I trust that whatever decision is arrived at by this Committee will have the effect of compelling a recognition of the necessity which exists for adopting a standard gauge for the Commonwealth. It will be the duty of the Commonwealth to pool the cost of that great national work. If the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge be adopted, it will not be fair that New South Wales should escape contributing to the cost of the conversion, of the main trunk lines of the States merely because she has already adopted that gauge. Further, I do not think that her people will be averse to paying their proportion of that cost. Another point which occurs to me is whether we need to make so much fuss about the existing break of gauge. Is it not possible that some of the many contrivances which are brought forward from time to time may effectively bridge that break of gauge until a uniform gauge is adopted ?
– Several have been tried in South Australia, and none has proved effective.
– There is a contrivance - a model of which has been shown in this building - which substitutes a third wheel in lieu of a third rail, and which is said to be eminently suitable to the purpose for which it was designed.
– Any number of such appliances are theoretically effective, but when they are adopted commercially, they fail.
– Exactly. But at present it appears that the substitution of the third wheel for the third rail and the adoption of a slot at the points, will overcome the break of gauge difficulty in a speedier and cheaper fashion than has yet been attempted.
– One engineer has told me that it is absolutely impracticable..
– That may be so. But we are all aware that in any branch of the Public Service, in almost any country,, there is a disposition to resent any improvement which may be put forward by an outsider. All State services have a tendency to become bureaucratic. Before this matter is finally determined the contrivance, of which a model has been exhibited in this building, might, with advantage, be referred to a Committee of In.quiry with a view to ascertaining whether its adoption is practicable. At any rate it should be subjected to a trial on a working scale. We should exhaust every possible means of overcoming the break of gauge difficulty, lt will take time to adopt a uniform gauge throughout Australia, and in the interim we might employ any stop-gap contrivance which is found to be effective. If we construct the proposed transcontinental line upon a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge that gauge will become the standard one throughout the continent. While I doubt whether, if we had a clean slate, it would not be wise for us to adopt a 5-ft. 3-in., or possibly a 6-ft. gauge, we must take existing conditions into consideration. The fact that it is very much cheaper to convert a wider gauge into a narrower one than it is to convert a narrower gauge into a wider one will always be an important factor in the determination of this question. While under other circumstances we might not object to spend £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 to settle it upon proper lines, it is a fact that the majority will always prefer to adopt the cheaper expedient. Those who have travelled in other countries will admit that the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge is capable of carrying heavy loads at a great speed, and that, consequently, it will meet our requirements for many years to come. Indeed, long before we are ready for any change, other devices may have entirely displaced the present system. I think, too, that the time is opportune to give consideration to the merits of the mono-rail system. If that system possesses any considerable share of the great advantages which are claimed for it, it is well worth investigating. As a national gauge, the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge is wholly impracticable. For that reason I think we might just as well vote for the clause as it stands.
– I shall not occupy the time of the Committee very long, but when we see a strong manifestation of a rather rare virtue in this Parliament, it is incumbent upon us to record the fact. Modesty has not hitherto been regarded as the strong point of this Assembly. But we ought to recognise the manifestation of it which comes to us from South Australia. We ought to realize that at least one section of Federal politicians is not devoid of this extreme virtue. Hitherto there have been some men like myself - ill-informed on the pointwho regarded that State as being rather aggressive. But now we are reminded that South Australia is the modest, shrinking violet which finds a little quiet, humble, unostentatious place in this bouquet of nations. I can only assume that Senator Symon is quite serious in his proposal.
– The honorable senator may assume that.
– I am doing so, and 1 am glad to have some warrant for my action, because it compels me to revise my estimate of that State. It is indeed refreshing that South Australia should give such an exhibition of the extent to which modesty can carry its representatives. But if this Parliament is to adopt whatever width of gauge it may choose subject to the consent of that State, ought not all the other provisions of this Bill to be subject to the same condition?
– It would be a good thing for the Commonwealth.
– I throw out this suggestion for the consideration of Senators Symon and Vardon. Seeing that so much ought to be intrusted to South Australia, will they also agree that that State, as the dominant factor, should foot the bill of costs? Their modesty might at least carry them to that extent.
– One step at a time.
– I propose to take that step by voting down the proposal which has been put forward by Senator Symon.
– While we are considering the gauge question it is only right that the Minister should tell us what are the intentions of the Government. If we are to adopt a National gauge for defence purposes, I would direct attention to the fact that the Queensland coast line will be longer than the proposed railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta.
– That is only a tramway compared with the New South Wales coastal railway.
– It has cost Queensland some millions of money.
– That consideration does not touch this question.
– It is the vital part of it. Senator Symon desires South Australia to be recouped the cost of converting her lines from the 5-ft. 3-in. to the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge. That is the gist of his amendment.
– It is not the gist of it. But that is what we want, and that is what the Minister has promised to give us.
– What I understood the Minister to say was that the Government would give the proposal favorable consideration. In order to bring about a uniform gauge, are the Government prepared to incur the expense of converting the line from Brisbane to Cooktown? That is what it will mean.
– They have not got to Cooktown yet.
– They are well on the way there. I believe a contract has been let for the line as far north as Cairns.
– It will be a few years yet before the line is taken to Cooktown.
– Let me remind the honorable senator that it will take a few years to build this railway. In Queensland we shall shortly have a line going practically for 1,100 or 1,200 miles along the Queensland coast, from the border of New South Wales north, and I should .like to know whether Queensland is going to be asked to convert that line from the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge for defence purposes. I want to know whether the Government are prepared to deal with all the States on the same basis as that suggested for South Australia. Surely they have a comprehensive scheme for dealing with this important question. I should like to be told whether they are prepared to assist the other States, as well as the State of South Australia, by bearing the cost; or a proportion of the cost, of the conversion of the gauges of existing railways.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [8.18]. - The attitude of my honorable friends from Queensland astonishes me. I should like to be told what a railway running to the far north of Queensland on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, and its conversion to a gauge of 4 ft. % in. has to do with this proposed railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie which is disturbing the gauges of the South Australian railways. The suggestion that South Australia is a, sort of bete noire to Queensland in connexion with this railway passes my comprehension. In this Bill itself two States are recognised as having a direct and immediate interest in the questions to be settled by the construction of this line, namely, “South Australia and Western Australia, and no others.
– Will not the others have to pay the piper?
– I am not saying that they are not to be heard on a great national question like this. My honorable friends from Queensland are so very sensitive in this matter that it is difficult to know what is moving them in their . objection to my amendment. We have in this Bill a perfectly proper recognition of the fact that the two States directly and immediately concerned are Western Australia and South Australia. As to the question of compensation, the State of South Australia is protected by subclause 2 of clause 3 to the extent, at least, that, before the railway can be commenced, that State must legislate so as to hand over to the Commonwealth the public lands necessary for the construction of the line. She, therefore, has, if I may use a common expression, the whip-hand.
– I am glad to hear it.
– The honorable senator need not shout out so loudly that he is glad to hear it. That makes me doubt his gladness. I think that kind of a shout is but a disguise to a real apprehension. I recognise what the Government have done in including in this Bill a provision which explicitly says that, before the line can be commenced, there is a step to be taken by South Australia. That was, of course, a necessary consideration ; but now, when it is a matter of compensation and the gauge to be adopted, these are questions which are largely to be settled, between South Australia and the Commonwealth. If South ‘ Australia chooses to say, “ We are not satisfied with what you propose; you must give us better terms,” she is in a position to hold her hand until the terms which she asks are conceded. The interests of that State may be protected by the State Parliament, whose duty it is to protect them. My amendment really embodies; in a more limited way, what is, to some extent, expressed in subclause 2 of clause 3.
– It is almost holding out a threat to the Commonwealth.
– No, it is a necessary step that has to be taken by South Australia. The Commonwealth cannot take one square yard of the public lands of South Australia without the authority of the South Australian Parliament. I am very glad that the Government have in this Bill so clearly recognised that. The only object I have in my little amendment, which does not! interfere in any way with the rights and prestige of Queensland, or any other State, is that the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge shall not be adopted without the consent of South Australia. I do not suggest that she is to dominate the whole thing, but that she should be in a position, without holding her hand under sub-clause 2 of clause 3, to negotiate with the Commonwealth Government on the lines indicated by the Ministry, and to secure what I believe every one will admit to be only a faircompensation in respect of the cost of altering the trunk line through South Australia to connect with the Kalgoorlie line on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge.
– What would happen if South Australia did not give her consent?
– I think that we can trust the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments to come to terms on this matter. I have no desire to reflect upon the self-love of Queensland, or of any other State, or to interfere with the exercise of their rights by the representatives of those States in dealing with a great national question, but simply to give effect to the provisions of the Bill.
– I do not know why Senator Symon should suggest that Queensland has no right to interfere in this matter.
– I did not say so at all.
– If this railway were being built at the expense of the two States immediately concerned, Western Australia and South Australia, I admit that Queensland would have no right or title to interpose. I am very glad to have what I have said throughout the discussion upon this Bill confirmed by Senator Symon, and that is that this Parliament is being asked to pass a Bill for the construction of a railway which we have no right whatever to build until South Australia chooses to show her hand. I should have thought that the proper course to have followed would have been to wait until we knew what South Australia’s terms were, and so would be in a position to deal with that State. But the Bill is being rushed through, for some reason that I cannot understand. Senator Symon tells us that the Commonwealth cannot take one square yard of the public lands in South Australia for the purpose of the construction of this railway, without the authority of the State Parliament That was my contention before, but the Minister poohpoohed the idea, giving us to understand that he had something up his sleeve in the shape of the Lands for Public Purposes
Acquisition Act. I am prepared to take Senator Symon’s opinion on a matter of law, and he has conclusively shown Parliament and the country that the Government are rushing this Bill through to build this line and fix the gauge for Australia for some reason that has not been made clear. It is an utterly unbusiness-like proposition to propose to spend £4,000,000 on the construction of a line, and to determine the uniform gauge for Australia, before we have any right to a foot of land on which to build the proposed railway. When I said that I was glad to hear Senator Symon’s opinion, it was because it bore out my contention throughout the discussion upon this Bill, that in rushing this measure through there must be some ulterior purpose to be served. No one will contend that this line will be started within the next twelve months, and yet we are asked to pass a Bill leaving everything in the hands of the Government.
– I remind the honorable senator that the question now before the Committee is the gauge of the proposed railway.
– I am not prepared to trust Ministers even on the question of the gauge to be adopted, but honorable senators opposite are apparently prepared to trust them on every question. I am afraid that this amendment is loaded. It may be due to my ignorance that I do not understand it, but I believe Senator Symon to be quite capable of putting forward what might appear to be a perfectly harmless amendment, but which might have a much wider effect than I could anticipate. I am satisfied that, whether I agree with Senator Symon in this matter or not, the majority behind the Government will vote us down, and the Bill will go through. If this is a national question, all the States are interested in it; and if compensation is to be paid to one State for the conversion of the gauges of existing railways, the same treatment should be applied to all the other States.
– There is one aspect of the gauge question which has not, so far, been mentioned, and that is whether the States as such come into the question at all. I hold that before we can effectually deal with this matter, we must have the consent of the States to bring about a uniform gauge for the whole of, the railway systems of Australia. Seeing that the States have not asked us to do so, what right have we to interfere with their railways? If the Commonwealth were to undertake to settle the question of the gauge without their consent, we might find that we should be rapped across the fingers for doing so.
– Does the honorable senator not think that the construction of this line will settle the question of the uniform gauge?
– It might, and it might not. Many matters will have to be considered before the uniform gauge question is settled in Australia. But there are certain temporary expedients, that may be considered in the meantime, and which may get us out of the difficulties that we all admit to exist. I am afraid that we have not given the various inventions that might be of assistance to us a fair trial. The several States have been interested in maintaining their own gauges. The metropolitan centres have used their influence to prevent uniformity being brought about.
– The worst State of the lot is New South Wales in that respect.
– I do not know that New South Wales is worse than Victoria, or that Victoria is worse than South Australia.
– New South Wales has isolated herself from two adjoining States in railway matters.
– If Queensland had occupied a similar geographical position to that of New South Wales, she would probably have pursued the same selfish policy.
– I have no sympathy with New South Wales in regard to her railway policy.
– I have no sympathy with the great cities of Australia in this respect. The policy of concentrating everything in the capitals has been mischievous.
– There is a good instance in Western Australia in regard to the Esperance railway.
SenatorDE LARGIE.- I quite admit that Perth has been just as selfish as is Adelaide at the present moment. Existing interests have prevented a fair trial being given to inventions that have been brought into existence with the object of removing present difficulties. In the basement of this building at the present time we have a model of what is considered to be a very feasible means of overcoming the break-of -gauge difficulty. It seems to me to be an admirable invention. It is cheap and easy. It is an Australian idea, and perhaps that is the reason why it has not been given a trial. The principle is that of the third wheel. But absolutely nothing has been done to test it. Why has it not been tried? Is it a question of a prophet not being honoured in his own country, or are the Government engineers somewhat jealous of those outside the service? I do not know. The inventor, Mr. Bolton, I may add, quite recognises that the time must come when there will be a universal gauge throughout Australia. He merely claims that his invention is a means of getting over the difficulty temporarily. We have the authority of the most eminent engineer that Victoria has yet produced, to the effect that this third-wheel invention is both cheap and practicable. I refer to the late Professor Kernot. The following is his opinion on the subject -
This may be considered from the point of view of - 1, the rolling-stock; 2, the permanent way; and 3, the platforms.
The Rolling-stock. - The third wheel would add probably about 5percent. to the weight of the loaded vehicle, which would not be very serious as against the advantage of doing away with the effect of the difference of gauge. It would also throw the vehicle somewhat out of balance laterally. If the centre of gravity was symmetrically placed for the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge it would be out of balance for the 5 ft. 3 in. by 3¼ inches, and vice versa. By splitting the difference, however, and making it1and5/8 inches out on each gauge, this want of symmetry would probably be immaterial.
The Permanent Way. - At all crossings, special slots would need to be provided for the passage of the flange of the idle or nonweightcarrying wheel. These would weaken the rail as a beam, and a special reinforcement in the form, probably of a pair of fish plates would be required, but this does not appear to involve any very great difficulty or expense.
That opinion must carry great weight when we remember the position which Professor Kernot occupied in this community. Mr. W. Conyers, formerly Railways Commissioner in New Zealand, has written of the invention in the following terms -
In company with the late Professor Kernot, I inspected the model of your invention for negotiating the break of gauge between Melbourne and Sydney. There is no objection to a third wheel, the extra weight being inconsiderable.
It seems to me a very simple way of overcoming the trouble; the slotting and alterations at the crossings and points would not be a very costly business, and the figures mentioned by Professor Kernot, viz., 20s. per axle, and £2,000 for alterations between Melbourne and
Sydney, could not be very far out. I was Commissioner of Railways for New Zealand, and had many experiences in the unification of gauges, and do not see any reason why your scheme of the third wheel should not be used by the Government.
– What is the date of that letter?
– It was written on the 22nd November of the present year. Mr. Conyers, I may explain, is no longer, Railways Commissioner, but is living in Melbourne.
– Narrow-gauge axles would not suit the wider gauge lines. The 4-ft. 8½-in. rolling-stock could not be used on 5-ft. 3-in. lines.
– There would have to be new axles altogether.
– The axles would have to be tested. But it is considered by engineers that Victorian axles are strong enough to run over New South Wales lines.
– The cost of the wheel has to be added.
– Of course, that is so.
– If the writer of that letter were not an expert, I should say that his statement was mere nonsense.
- Senator St. Ledger has got into the habit of considering everything he does not agree with to be nonsense.
– I admit that the opinion is that of an expert. But if it were not I should say that it is nonsense.
- Senator St. Ledger has posed as an authority on a good many things. Does he now pretend to be a railway expert? I do not believe that the break-of-gauge obstacle is so serious as some people think. If the problem were entered upon in a determined manner, the difficulty could be got over, and I believe that the solution would be very inexpensive. I quite agree that in the end we must have a uniform gauge, but during the transition period an expedient of this kind might be valuable. When the question of conversion to 4 ft.8½ in. comes up for settlement, it will be soon enough to consider what portion of the expense will be borne by the Commonwealth, and what portion by the States. My own State is incurring enormous expenditure, without asking the States to help. But if it comes to a question of changing the gauge for the whole systemthroughout theState, then it, as well as the other States, will have to be considered, and rightly too. I recognise that NewSouth Wales - which is the one State of the five which will not be put to any expense - must consider the other States and bear its share of the cost.
– So it will.
– I have no doubt that it will do so cheerfully when that stage of our railway development is reached. I recognise that that is a matter which we cannot consider in connexion with this Bill. Our first duty isto decide upon a gauge for this railway. The EngineersinChief for the States, in fact all the authorities we possess, have recommended the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. We must adopt that gauge in the Bill. We have not the consent of the States to deal with the question of a standard gauge, and if we poke our nose into their business before we obtain their consent, we shall take a short cut to getting a snub which we might very well deserve. I advise the Committee to stand by the Bill as it is, and to adopt the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge as the only proposal which I think is at present feasible.
– I intend to oppose the amendment of Senator Symon. But I must recognise that no State in the Commonwealth is more concerned in this matter than is South Australia, and its representatives are in duty bound to put the case very clearly and strongly from every point of view with regard to a standard gauge. I take it that to adopt the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge in this clause will be practically to lay down a standard gauge. It is of no use for the Minister or his supporters to try to get away from the fact. If this is going to be the standard gauge, then the question of the conversion of the 5-ft 3-in. gauge to that gauge is an important matter, especially to South Australia. While I may differ with Senator Symon on this point, I recognise that he is perfectly justified in submitting the amendment, and that South Australia could not expect its representatives to be silent on this occasion. The Government know that they are attempting to establish a standard gauge, because New South Wales has the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, and Queensland is partly prepared for its adoption. When they brought down this proposal, the Government ought to have been able to give definite information on the point as to how the cost is to be apportioned amongst the States before seeking the assent of their representatives to this standard gauge. This is only another instance - and Senator Symon by his amendment has brought it out - of the crude way in which this important proposal has been submitted. All the States which will have to change their gauges will be liable to be put to some expense in order to meet the Commonwealth. The States recognise that fact, and the question is whether the Commonwealth is prepared to tell them how it will apportion the cost of conversion between itself and them. Every State has a right to know how the Commonwealth Government intend to deal with that question. If the gauge for this railway is to be 4 ft. 8½ in., and the States have to accommodate their main trunk lines to that standard gauge, who is going to pay the cost, and how much will each State have to pay? That issue has presented itself all the time, and yet since the introduction of the measure into another place until the present time, there has not been a single definite statement from the Ministry as to how South Australia or any other State is to be met or compensated. We cannot touch an inch of territory with regard to the gauge without the consent of the States. That fact is known to the Minister and his supporters. Every State, I take it, is prepared to cooperate with the Commonwealth so far as the main arteries of communication are concerned, especially from the point of view of defence. Before bringing this proposal before Parliament, the Commonwealth Government ought to have been able to meet the States and to say, “ We are making 4 ft. 8½ in. practically the standard gauge. It will cost South Australia, or Victoria, or New South Wales so much to fall in with this standard, and we are prepared to compensate you on a certain principle.” In that case every State would have known exactly its position financially. If I were in Senator Symon’s place, I should be inclined to obstruct every line of the Bill. The Government are under a deep obligation to that honorable senator because he is not pressing this very important point strongly. Were I a representative of South Australia I should not allow this railway measure to go through until I knew how that State was to be compensated, because it is the State which is most intimately concerned in this matter. Before the Commonwealth Government submitted a railway proposal of this kind, which will have the effect of standardizing the railway gauge for Australia, they ought to have been pre pared with estimates and a full account of how they intended to deal with every State by way of preparation for that gauge, and compensation.
– The honorable senator has repeated a statement three times. I ask him to keep as close to the subject as possible.
– I shall not pursue that line of argument further than to say that New South Wales and Queensland, so far as the gauge is concerned, ask for nothing, are in a position to defend their portion of the Commonwealth, and will be the first line of defence. The opposition of South Australia and Victoria, which are closely affected by the adoption of the proposed gauge, is perfectly justified, inasmuch as the Commonwealth Government have not given to either of them the slightest indication of where they will be financially after a standard gauge has been laid down in the Bill, and of where they will be in relation to the Commonwealth on a through gauge tor the respective capitals in Australia.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted (Senator Sir Josiah Symon’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I beg to move the amendment which was temporarily withdrawn -
That the words “ four feet eight and a half inches” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ such gauge as may, after inquiry, be determined.”
We have heard a good deal as to a very full inquiry having been made into the question of gauge, but I hold that there has really been no inquiry. We have been asked to take a number of statements on trust, while no expert evidence has been called or inquiry made of men who are expert at this work. The whole basis of this proposal is connected with the conference of Railways Commissioners in 1907, when Mr. Pendleton, of South Australia, Mr. Oliver, of New South Wales, and Mr. Mathieson, of Victoria, met together and decided that it would be a good thing to have a uniform gauge. They were not engineers, but Railways Commissioners, whose business it was to run the railways as economically as possible, and carry out any conversion at the lowest possible cost to their respective States. Later on the EngineersinChief of the various States, met in Conference, and indorsed the decision which had been arrived at by the Railways Commissioners. They practically said that, as the Commissioners had decided in favour of a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, they would follow their recommendation. But no inquiry was made by them into the merits of the different gauges. With the exception of Mr. Moncrieff, they merely followed the lines which had been laid clown by the Railways Commissioners. Mr. Moncrieff objected to the adoption of the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, but owing to some extraordinary omission, his dissent was not published for years. There seems to have been a disposition on the part of the Home Affairs Department to prevent the other side of this question from being discussed, with the result that at the end of six years Mr. Moncrieff was amazed to find that his dissent had not been attached to the recommendations of the Conference. I come now to the War Railway Council, which met in February of the present year, and which recommended the adoption of the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge. That body assigned no reasons for its recommendation. The Engineer-in-Chief of New South Wales was chairman of the gathering, and, as he had been associated all his life with the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, it was not likely that he would seek to substitute another gauge for it. Personally, I think that the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge is the better one. In the first place, it has 20 per cent, more capacity. In America the difficulty with which they are confronted to-day is that the great length of the trains running on the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge, renders them dangerous. Mr. Deane speaks of the time when we can duplicate our lines. But if we can avoid the necessity for so doing by adopting the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, surely we ought to do so.
– Does not he say that if duplication of the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge be , required, a single line of 5-ft. 3-in. gauge would not do the work?
– No. All the trend of modern transportation is in the direction of using larger engines, larger ships, and larger trains. There is no doubt that for many years we shall not duplicate our transcontinental lines. The cost would be so great that we should require an enormous traffic to warrant it. I would also remind honorable senators that when European nations had to select their gauges they were not at liberty to please themselves. They had to bear in mind considerations of attack and defence, and, consequently, they had to adopt gauges which were in conformity with those of neighbouring countries. They were bound to have a uniform gauge for military purposes. Our position is entirely different. We have a powerful, neighbour who may at some time or other be at war with us, and yet we are offering her the greatest possible facility for carrying that war into this country. That neighbour - I refer to Japan - is superseding her railways of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge by the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge.
– Why does she not adopt the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge?
– Because Japan is a hilly country. Yet it is now proposed that we should lay down the very gauge which will enable her to transport her engines and rolling-stock to Australia, place them upon our lines, and run them all over the continent. From that point of view alone this matter is deserving of very serious consideration. I cannot understand why the War Railway Council did not look at that aspect of the question. However, I have no desire to discuss it at length. Mr. Deane, in his report, speaks of the possibility of duplicating the standard gauge. He says that, given automatic signals - which, he omitted to inform us> would cost £1,500 per mile - by duplicating our lines and employing engines of 378 tons upon them, we could, with stations 5 miles apart, multiply the loading on our single lines 160 times. I have been told by engineers that his statement is ridiculous, because we should require to start a train every 11^ seconds to keep the lines occupied. We have heard a good deal during this debate about a contrivance which seeks to overcome the break of gauge difficulty by substituting a third wheel in lieu of a third rail. I know that engineers have discussed the third rail device, and that they have strongly condemned it. Whether the third wheel contrivance would be an improvement upon it, I do not know, but it seems to me that the overhang of the carriages would be dangerous. We know that in railway travelling everything depends upon the maintenance of balance.
– Anyhow, it is only a temporary expedient.
– Yes. It would be far better to institute an inquiry such as Senator Rae has suggested, even if the result should involve the expenditure of a few million pounds extra.
– I am sure that Senator McColl will not take it as discourteous if I refrain from again traversing the old ground. There are many points upon which I should like to touch, but as they have already been dealt with, I shall content myself with saying that the Government cannot accept the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … …. 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [9.13]. - At an earlier stage of the day, I intimated my intention to submit an amendment in the form of a proviso to this clause with a view to securing to South Australia payment by the Commonwealth of the cost of converting her main trunk lines to the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, if that gauge were adopted on the proposed transcontinental line. But, on further examination of sub-clause 2, of clause 3, I am satisfied that the Parliament of South’ Australia will have power and must take the responsibility to secure that compensation if it chooses to exercise it. Therefore, whilst the insertion of the proviso would, perhaps, make the position clearer, Ido not propose to move it.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 -
The Minister may appoint, for any period not extending six months beyond the date on which the line shall be declared open for traffic, all such officers as he thinks necessary for the purposes of the construction or working of the railway and may authorize the employment of any persons for those purposes.
– In view of the fact that the Act under which we are working - the Northern Territory Surrender Act of 1907 - incorporates the Railway Clauses Act of 1876 of South Australia, I ask the Minister of Defence whether most of the arrangements in connexion with the railway will not be made under that Act, and whether we are not in this Bill seeking powers that are already given us in another form in the Northern Territory Surrender Act of 1907 ? I referred to this matter some time ago, but, so far, the Minister has made no reply to my criticisms on the point. I ask the Minister whether it has been inquired into ?
– I understand that the Northern Territory Surrender Act affects this Bill in only one particular, and that is in so far as the South Australian Parliament, by their Act, gave their legislative consent to the construction of this line. With that exception, the Northern Territory Surrender Act does not apply to this railway at all. The reason for the embodiment of the Railway Clauses Act of South Australia, to which Senator Chataway has referred, is that under the Northern Territory Surrender Act, South’ Australia was surrendering the Oodnadatta to Port Augusta railway and the Port Darwin to Pine Creek railway to the Commonwealth, and it was necessary, therefore, to incorporate the South Australian Act affecting the working of those railways in the other Act referred to.
– With other members of the Committee, I am glad to hear the Minister’s statement with regard to the effect of the Northern Territory Surrender Act. But, speaking with some diffidence about this
Bill, I am inclined to think that it goes a little further, though, perhaps, in a way which is not unfavorable to the Commonwealth. I was always of opinion with regard to the Northern Territory Surrender Act, that the sections which have been referred to were included for the purpose of placing the Commonwealth, with regard to the railways referred to, in the same position as the State of South Australia. I am inclined to think that the effect, on the whole, must be considered favorable to the Commonwealth.
– It placed the Government in the same position as South Australia in respect of the railways involved in the Northern Territory Surrender Act.
– If my opinion be correct, the effect is rather favorable to the Commonwealth than otherwise, because the Bill will give us exactly the same powers with regard to the railway that it is proposed to construct under this measure as would have been held and exercised by the State Government of South Australia if that State, instead of the Commonwealth, had constructed the line.
– I have before me the Railway Clauses Act of 1876 of South Australia, which, with the exception of some provisions, has been incorporated in the Northern Territory Surrender Act. There is no Western Australian Act under which we can work. The Act under which we are working is that referred to in the second preamble to this Bill, namely, the Northern Territory Surrender Act of 1907. I have looked up that Act, and I find that it incorporates the Railway Clauses Act of South Australia of 1876, with the exception of sections 12, 14, 15, and 17. I shall not delay the Committee by going through the various sections of that Act, which are incorporated in the Northern Territory Surrender Act of 1907, but on reference to them it will be found that they include rules by which we should be bound in connexion with the payment of compensation, punishments, actions in respect of alleged trespass, entry upon lands for survey, and so forth. I ask the Minister whether he has done me or the Seriate the courtesy of paying the least attention to the remarks I made on the second reading of the Bill, and whether he has yet discovered to what extent the South Australian Railway Clauses Act of 1876, with the exception of the sections to which I have already referred, will apply to this railway? Are we not, in the circumstances, binding this Parliament, under this Bill, to carry out a number of the provisions of the Railway Clauses Act of 1876, and, if so, have we any right to do so without the fullest consideration of the effect of the sections of that Act? So far, I have had no reply from the Minister. The honorable senator has had his attention drawn to the matter, and I should like now to know whether he has looked into it, and, if so, to what extent the Railway Clauses Act of 1876 will apply to our control of this railway.
– I direct the attention of honorable senators to section 18 of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910, which provides that -
Until other provision is made in that behalf by the Parliament, the Commonwealth in the construction, maintenance, and working, of any railways required or authorized by this Act to be acquired or constructed in South Australia proper, shall be bound by the Railway Construction Acts of the State, and the laws relating to the State railways to the same extent as the State would be so bound if the railways were being constructed, maintained, or worked by the State, but not to any greater extent.
We are making certain provisions in respect to this railway, and to that extent will not be bound by the Railway Construction Acts of the States.
– We will where our own Act is silent.
– Of course, wherever our Act is silent the Railway Construction Acts of the States will bind us, undoubtedly.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 -
All moneys received in respect of the railway shall be paid to and form part of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Commonwealth.
. I thought of suggesting to the Government that a provision might be added to this clause requiring an annual statement of receipts and expenditure, in respect of the railway, to be laid before the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Senator Millens If the receipts are to form part of the Consolidated Revenue Fund that will follow under our Audit Act.
– If that be so, I am satisfied, but I thought it was only right to point out that we should have some annual statement of receipts and expenditure.
– It is provided in this clause that all moneys received in respect of the railway shall be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. There will be two means of checking the transactions in connexion with this railway. The annual Estimates will account for every penny of expenditure, and in connexion with expenditure and receipts the AuditorGeneral is called upon under the Audit Act to make an annual report in, which they will be dealt with.
– I do not propose to detain the Committee or to suggest an amendment at this stage, but I wish to direct attention to what I think would be a desirable basis on which to establish our accounts with regard to the income from revenue earning Departments, such as these railways will be. I think it is extremely desirable that we should separate the receipts from our business undertakings from the ordinary revenue derived from taxation and otherwise.
– Would the honorable senator include the Post and Telegraph Department ?
– I think that the revenue from all our business undertakings should be kept entirely distinct from revenue which is the proceeds of taxation.
– That is proposed in New South Wales.
– I was going to say that in my own State, after many years’ consideration, it has been decided to introduce a system under which receipts and expenditure which may be included under the heading of business undertakings are to be presented, not merely for the consideration of Parliament, but for what is perhaps quite as important, the consideration of the world at large, quite distinct from receipts from taxation. Under this system it will be possible for any one on turning to the New South Wales accounts to tell exactly what the people of that State pay in taxation, and what are the results financially of the business undertakings of the State. Hitherto, through the practice of throwing everything into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, people have not only been unable to ascertain the truth, but have often been misled. It has been made to appear that, as compared with the people of other countries, the people of New South Wales have been very heavily taxed, when, as a matter of fact, more than half of the revenue handled by the Treasurer of the State was derived from some specific services which, in other countries, are rendered by private enterprise, and, therefore, do not figure in the national balance-sheet. I direct attention to the matter without any intention of moving an amendment, because I recognise that long before this railway commences to yield any revenue we shall be called upon, perhaps at a more opportune time, to deal more specifically with the method to be adopted in keeping our accounts. I wish now to suggest the idea, and I hope that it will find some measure of support amongst honorable senators, many of whom, perhaps, with myself, will be here when the matter comes on to be dealt with.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 18 (Books of reference or plans not necessary).
– What is the reason for this clause? It seems an extraordinary thing that the Commonwealth Government is to go into a State, take its land, and is not to be bound to give to the State any working plans or books of reference whatever.
– Of course, if the State Government requires any books of reference, the Commonwealth will supply them; but this clause will relieve us from the obligation which would otherwise be imposed by the South Australian Act alluded to by Senator Chataway.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 19 (Acquisition of lands).
– This clause gives the Commonwealth Government power to acquire “ any private lands,” under the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act 1906. Here we are brought up against a difficulty in regard to the railway. South Australia is under no obligation to grant the necessary Crown lands. Senator Symon indicated a little while ago that clause 3 gave absolute power to the South Australian Government to dictate terms to the Commonwealth. That is a very serious position.
– How does that affect this clause?
– The clause deals with “ any private lands,” whereas most of the land through which the railway will run will be public land. We have no power, and the Government apparently do not ‘propose to take power, to acquire public lands.
– That is dealt with in clause 3.
– I know that. What concerns me is that the State of South Australia will be in a position to exact her own terms.
– I rise to order. I submit that Senator Givens is not in order in discussing the position of the Commonwealth with respect to the acquisition of Crown lands. That matter is dealt with in a specific clause. Clause 19 deals only with private lands.
– The marginal note to this clause is “ acquisition of lands.” It will be just as necessary for the Commonwealth to acquire public as private lands. It could not be contended that it would be out of order for me to move to leave out “ private “ and insert “ public.” Therefore I contend that I am perfectly in order.
– I understood that Senator Givens was making reference to clause 3 merely by way of illustration. He is in order in raising the point with which he was dealing.
– I have no desire to create a lengthy discussion on the point, but I wish to direct attention to the difficulty which we have to face. I do not want South Australia to be in a position to dictate terms to the Commonwealth. I desire that we should take power to acquire public as well as private lands. Senator Symon has indicated that South Australia can exact her own terms.
– And lose the railway.
– The honorable senator knows that there are some people in South Australia who would not be sorry if the railway were not built.
– There may be a few.
– I have seen some strong articles in an influential section of the press to that effect. But I am not concerned with the South Australian view. I am concerned that this Commonwealth shall not be “ got at,” to use a colloquial expression. I do not wish to move an amendment; but I should like to have a little information as to whether we have power compulsorily to acquire public as well as private lands. The Commonwealth ought to be supreme, and not be dictated to by any State.
– We have no reason to believe that the South Australian
Government have any objection whatever to handing over, for the purpose of the construction of this railway, all the Crown lands that are required, free of any conditions whatsoever. The Government of South Australia have informed us that this is what they will do.
– Provided the Commonwealth agrees to their terms.
– They have not stipulated for any terms whatever. We have no reason to believe that theywill refuse to hand over the lands that we require. If they did refuse, of course, the railway could not be proceeded with. But there is a very good reason why we should not alter this clause by putting in “public lands.” We desire to obtain these lands free of charge. If we were to acquire them compulsorily, we should have to pay for them. The reason we provided for the acquisition of private lands in the clause is that, of course, we must pay for such lands. That is only right. But we expect South Australia and Western Australia to grant, free of charge, all the necessary Crown lands for the purpose of the line. Therefore, we do not propose to acquire them under the Lands Acquisition Act, which presupposes that the Commonwealth would pay according to a valuation arrived at by the Court. It is provided by clause 3 that the public lands shall be granted by South Australia and Western Australia. In their correspondence the Governments of those States have said nothing about conditions. It would be a most dishonorable thing if either State were now to turn round and say that it demanded conditions which were not even mooted previously.
– The honorable senator heard what Senator Symon said.
– I have heard things said by persons who have no authority to speak either for the Government or the Parliament of South Australia. The only people who can speak for those States are their Governments, and they have unreservedly said that they intend to grant the land that is required.
– The Minister tells us that the Government have obtained promises from the two State Governments with regard to the acquisition of lands.
– We have not seen those promises in the form of parliamentary papers.
– I have seen statements to the effect that the Premier of either South Australia or Western
Australia had said that the necessary lands for the building of the railway would be granted to the Commonwealth, but that it was not intended to grant one mile, or halfamile, on either side of the line in case the Commonwealth wanted to build a township. Is the Minister prepared to tell us what promises the Government have really received, so that we may know whether they are sufficient? Do the promises amount to this - that the States concerned will give us an area of land on either side similar to that which we have obtained for the purposes of a railway between YassCanberra and Jervis Bay? Have any assurances been received that the Parliament of South Australia will grant the land we require ? Or are we simply to say that we will build a 2 or 3 chain line? We have seen no definite promise or undertaking. Indeed, Western Australia has not even passed a law on the subject yet. Can we be supplied with information as to what area of land the Commonwealth will have - not only land for the line, but also land for stations, sidings, junctions, and so forth? Parliament is entitled to have that information.
– The Minister has told us that he assumes, as it is reasonable to assume, that the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia will give to the Commonwealth all the necessary means and facilities, so far as land is concerned, for constructing this railway through their States. We have a right to assume that the States which will benefit from the construction of the line will grant us the necessary land. But it must be evident that no Government can expect to get one pennyworth of land more than is absolutely necessary, unless we have an undertaking in black and white in the form of Acts passed by the State Parliaments. I do .not propose to follow up the important legal point that has been raised by Senator Symon, and to which Senators Givens and Chataway have addressed themselves. But it must be evident from this criticism that we have nothing more definite than the reasonable assumption that the two States will meet us in a reasonable way. -
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 -
All moneys necessary for the payment of the cost of construction of the railway up to and including the time of the opening of the railway foi traffic shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue’ Fund or out of any moneys standing to the credit of the Loan Fund, and the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the Loan Fund according to appropriations from time to time made by Parliament for that purpose.
– Every honorable senator thoi,oughly understands what is the Consoli-dated -Revenue Fund, but there is no mem* ber of the Chamber who knows anything about a loan fund for the Commonwealth.
– I shall explain that to the honorable senator.
– Throughout the debate on the second reading on this Bill, and, incidentally, in many ways, I have asked this question, Where is the money for building the railway to come from? I understand that if the Consolidated Revenue Fund is in credit, then from time to time, out of that fund the line may be built, but according to the Budget papers we have no reason to anticipate that any’ money will be available from that source for the purpose. In order to get over that difficulty there is mentioned in this clause a loan fund as the source from which the Government may pay for the work. So far as I know the Commonwealth has never instituted a loan fund. The parties have been so evenly balanced in this Parliament that the foundation and formation of a loan fund for any purpose has been steadily resisted, and it has been a proud boast - that, is proud according to the views of some honorable senators - that the Commonwealth never did borrow, and never had a loan fund. . I believe they have alE expressed the hope that it never will have a loan fund. What is the loan fund which is mentioned in this clause? How is the fund to be formed, who are to be the lenders to the fund, and what control, if any, will Parliament have over the formation, management, or distribution of the money in the fund?
– An opportunity will be afforded to the Senate to discuss this question , on a- Bill which is to be brought in to provide for the issue of Commonwealth stock. It will practically constitute a loan fund, and will refer,’ not only to this project, but also to others.
– Does that mean that the Commonwealth is going in for a general borrowing policy?
– No. If Senator St. Ledger will again read the clause he will see that under its terms it will not be possible for the Government to use one penny out of the loan fund for the purpose of building this railway, because it provides that the work is to be paid for “ according to apprapriations from time to time made by Parliament for that purpose.” This Bill does not appropriate a penny, so that before Parliament is committed to the expenditure of any money from the loan fund for the purpose of this railway it must pass an Appropriation Bill. When a Bill is brought forward for that purpose then will be the time for the honorable senator to discuss whether other arrangements could or ought to be made for the financing of the project. I do not propose to discuss, and I do not think honorable senators expect me to discuss or defend, how the construction of the line should be paid for, because the Bill does not commit the Parliament to any particular method of financing the proposal.
– I am very glad indeed to have heard from the Minister that the financing of this railway is dependent, to a large extent, upon a Bill to provide for the issue of Commonwealth stock, which we have yet to consider. In other words, the Government have put the cart before the horse. In the railway construction policy of every State Government, or of any other Government in the world, the methods of raising the money for the purpose have first been laid before Parliament, and the Railway Construction Bill has been passed afterwards. The point which I made in the beginning, and which I have maintained all through the discussion, is that we were passing a measure for the construction of the railway without knowing how it was to be financed, and we now have an admission from the Minister that there is not a single member of the Senate, and, I believe, not a member of another place, who knows how the money is to be found. We hear that it is to be provided by the institution of Commonwealth stock. What is the use of coming down to this Chamber, or to another place, and saying that when the Government are bringing in a Stock Bill they are not inaugurating a borrowing policy? They are doing so right away.
– Do you object to a loan policy?
– No. When a loan policy or a Stock Bill is submitted I shall be able to discuss it. The remarkable thing is that the first time the Government are committed to the carrying out of a national work they have to revert to the loan, or the stock, or the debenture policy, which for the last ten or fifteen or twenty years the Labour party have been howling against. This is a beautiful revenge, and I dare say that when we come to deal with the loan or stock fund, which is to be created for the financing of this project, we shall be able to ask the Government to explain their position, and possibly we shall find Senator Stewart, who is applauding me, strongly indorsing my view that on one point in the Bill they have had to swallow their whole platform,’ and that on another point they are swallowing the whole loan and borrowing policy of the States.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule, preamble, and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator McGregor) read a first time.
Senate adjourned at 9.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 December 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19111205_SENATE_4_63/>.