5th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Call o? the* Senate.
Motions (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That standing order No. 378 be suspended so as to enable a Call of, the Senate to be made without the usual twenty-one days’ notice for the third reading of the following Bills, viz. : - Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill, Constitution Alteration (Corporations) Bill, Constitution Alteration (Trusts) Bill, Constitution Alteration (-Industrial Matters) Bill, Constitution Alteration (Railway Disputes) Bill, and Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill.
That there be a Call of the Senate on Tuesday, 98 December, 1913, for the purpose ot considering the third reading of the Constitution
Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill, the . Constitution Alteration (Corporations) Bill, the Constitution Alteration (Trusts) Bill, the Constitution Alteration (Industrial Matters) Bill, the Constitution Alteration (Railway Disputes) Bill, and the Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill.
Th© PRESIDENT.- I desire to intimate to the Senate that as the time is very limited, I shall instruct the Clerk, in addition to sending out a notice of the call of the Senate through the post, to intimate by telegraph to honorable senators who are in distant capitals that such a call has been ordered so as to give them an opportunity of being here.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 4th December, vide page 3732) :
Item 2. For the construction of a railway in the Northern Territory from Pine Creek to the Katherine River and Southwards, ^400,000.
– I notice that in 1912 a Bill was passed authorizing a survey of this proposed railway. I have been endeavouring recently, particularly this morning, to secure a report on the survey, but the only paper I have found so far - there may be other papers which have not been made available to me - is a general report by Mr. Henry Deane, Engineer-in-Chief of Railways, in which he allots about six lines to this proposal. He simply says -
The Commonwealth Government having decided on this extension, plans and specifications for steel rails, fish-plates, bolts and ruts, dogspikes, and for sleepers, have been pit-pared, and tenders, returnable on the 19th July, 1913, have been called for on behalf o’f the Department of External Affairs. In view of the adoption of a standard gauge in the near future, it has been decided that all dimensions of structures and materials ordered should be such as would be suitable for the wider gauge when the time for alteration arrives.
Surely that is inadequate! Surely there should be something else in connexion with the proposal available before honorable senators are asked to vote away nearly half-a-million of money ! We ought to have a description of the country through which the railway will pass. We should have an idea of the possibilities of development there. At the present time, as everybody knows, the expenses of the Commonwealth are being abnormally inflated through other, and in most directions, legitimate expenditure, and our resources for raising money are not too great. In the circumstances we should conserve our finances as much as we can, and certainly we should not be prepared to expend practically half-a-million of money on a railway in respect of which we have not yet received «i report. There are no plans, no specifications, no books of reference, not even a line descriptive of the nature of the country - whether it is pastoral, mineral, or agricultural land - through which the railway will pass. If that is the method of doing business which the present Government have adopted, it is certainly not creditable to them.
– Do you say that the information ought to have been obtained before a railway of this kind was projected by the Administration who have vacated office?
– I am not laying the blame at the door of any particular Administration.
– Blame the last Government; lay all the charges at their door: that is a fair thing to do.
– What I am concerned about at the present moment is that I am asked to vote £400,000. for the construction of a railway through country in respect- of which a report has not been submitted to the Senate. I do not care who is responsible for that fact. I shall not take the responsibility of recording my vote in favour of the item until I know more about the matter.
– I am going to make a statement about this item at once. I have not much to add to what I have already said, but I wish to explain to Senator Mullan the real state of the case, as he was not in the last Parliament. . I do not want to talk about Governments or to blame this Government or that Government. Towards the end of last Parliament, a survey of the route of this line was authorized to be made. Under that authorization a survey has been started, and is, I believe, practically nearly finished. Surveys in the Northern Territory cannot be made, and the reports on the results of such surveys supplied with that celerity which we can expect to be observed in the case of surveys made in other parts of Australia. The position is that, under the authority of Parliament, a survey of the route is being made, and Parliament is now asked to authorize a loan of £400,000.
– The survey, you say, is being made?
– Certainly, under the authorization of the last Parliament, given before this Government had anything to do with the matter. Parliament is now asked to authorize the borrowing of £400,000 to construct a railway. I quite agree with the position which the honorable senator has taken up. It is a perfectly legitimate one, although I think it is a little out of place at the present moment. Before the railway can be constructed, an authorizing Bill will have to be introduced.
– Why are we going to borrow money for it?
– The last Parliament obviously intended to authorize the construction of the line. The moment that the survey is complete, and the accessary Bill is passed, we propose to go on with the work of construction. That is the position in which we are. The honorable senator’s question about particulars regarding the line would be a very appropriate one, I venture to submit, not on this Loan Bill, but on the Railway Construction Bill. The money cannot, and will not, be spent till the Bill authorizing its expenditure is passed. This is merely the necessary preliminary step of raising the money, in order that that Bill, if Parliament approves of it, may be given due effect to. If, however, it rejects that Bill, no harm will have been done. By authorizing a loan for the purpose, we shall be ready to go on with the construction of the line if that is approved. So much for that particular point. Generally, I wish to say a few words regarding the Northern Territory, because I have heard Senator Buzacott and others use expressions questioning the desirability of passing this item. The people of Australia have undertaken a serious and difficult responsibility with regard to the Territory. There are two ways of approaching that responsibility to-day. I do not care who may be in office. One way is a courageous one, and the other, in my opinion,’ is a cowardly one. We have acquired the Territory, and we must endeavour, to the best of our abilities, to make it a useful adjunct to the Commonwealth.
The other policy simply invites failure. It is cowardly, because those who support it practically say, “ This is a difficult proposition, and we will not touch it.” No one can affirm that any expenditure of money will be certain to produce a good result. But in this case there is no alternative. The object of acquiring the Northern Territory was to settle it. If it is to be of any use at all, we must populate it. We cannot expect it to be populated unless we give reasonable facilities for people to settle there under some circumstances or other. Amongst the requirements is some kind of a railway policy. What is the position in regard to this line? When the Commonwealth took over the Territory we found there a railway running from Darwin to Pine Creek, about 146 miles. I believe it was originally constructed by the South Australian Government with a view of promoting mining enterprise. As far as I know the facts, it did not succeed. The railway did not realize the hopes of the South Australian Government when they constructed it.
– It was constructed as a section of the transcontinental line.
– It certainly stands there to-day as the northern end of the transcontinental line.
– That was the whole object.
– Personally, I believe that the South Australian Government built it for mining purposes. It stopped short at Pine Creek. By the unanimous consent of everybody who knows anything of the Northern Territory the line can be of no use unless it is extended 54 miles to the Katherine River. The country beyond, in the opinion of those who know it, is country that it is worth while to develop, hence the proposal for this line. It is, I admit, an expensive proposition. The expenditure is quite enough to make any man who looks at the thing seriously realize what the financial responsibilities of the Northern Territory are. But if the railway stops at Pine Creek it is worth nothing. If we extend it to the Katherine River there are justifiable hopes that it will make the whole line payable and useful in developing the Territory.
– By what means?
– By giving access to the country beyond the Katherine
River. We have heard comments and questions, perfectly justifiable, with regard to freezing works. Between the party opposed to us and ourselves there is an enormous difference as to who should build those works. Before I make a plain declaration on behalf of the Government, let me say this : Whether those freezing works at Darwin are run as & State concern - whether this Commonwealth invests its money in them - or whether they are built by private enterprise, in either case there must be railway communication. No man, however anxious he may be to establish State freezing works at Darwin, would say that they can succeed unless we build this railway. They may not succeed in any case. But, at any rate, this requisite must be provided before the freezing works are built. Questions have been asked as to whether the Government intend to construct State freezing works. They do not. They have not the slightest intention of doing so. What they are prepared to do is to offer such reasonable facilities to enterprise as will attract settlers, and promote the success and usefulness of the Northern Territory.
– - I should not have risen, except for the emphatic declaration of the Minister that the Government do not intend to construct buildings suitable for freezing purposes in the Northern Territory. I say, in all seriousness, that if the Government are going to spend a considerable amount of money on a railway to the Katherine River, they might as well hand that line over holus bolus to private enterprise if private enterprise is to control the freezing works. It is useless to spend huge sums of money in developing the Northern Territory, particularly in regard to railway construction, if private enterprise is to be intrusted with the erection of the freezing works. We hope that the development of the Northern Territory will promote an export trade in frozen meat. There are evidences in different directions that people interested in monopolistic institutions in other parts of the world have their eyes on Australia. Some make bold to say that they already have a foothold in this country. If that be true, it will be a comparatively easy thing ‘for those interested in the Meat Trust to start operations in the Northern Territory. This Government is going to encourage the growth of trusts in Australia such as exist in America. The amount of money we are called upon to vote with respect to a railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River might as well be thrown into the sea, under such circumstances.
– Because private enterprise may make the railway payable?
– No ; because such works will be a costly proposition, and will not, under any circumstances, be undertaken by people other than those who have large interests in the meat business. Those who are largely interested in the trade at the present time are not Australians, but people who have already commenced operations in Queensland, and are only waiting opportunities for further exploiting different parts of the Commonwealth. Apparently, the Government are closing their eyes to that important fact, and are also anxious to give this octopus - because it is nothing less than that - further inducements in the Northern Territory. It is tantamount to saying to the people who represent this big American combine, “It is true that the late Commonwealth Government did intend to establish freezing works at Darwin, and did intend to develop the Northern Territory on national lines; but we intend to reverse that policy, and will afford facilities for you to establish your works in the Territory.” If there is one item of expenditure connected with the administration of the Fisher Government that was justifiable it was the utilization of the people’s money for works of the description I have indicated. We already have freezing works in different parts of Australia the capital for which has been found by whom? Not by private enterprise, but by the community. The people of Australia are extremely anxious about, and interested in, the frozen meat trade. It is because the Governments of the different States largely assisted the trade, exercising the most rigid supervision in regard to exported meats, that Australia is to-day in a better position as to the meat business than she has been for a considerable period. The frozen meats that are exported are realizing higher prices than ever. I hope that Parliament will have the fullest opportunity of expressing its opinion in regard to the attitude of the Government as to the erection of freezing works at Darwin. The freezing works are, in my opinion, bound up with the opening up of the Territory by railway communication. I repeat, in all seriousness, that we might as- well hand over the railways of the Northern Territory to private enterprise if we are going to allow it to control the freezing works at Darwin. If private enterprise is to control the meat industry of the Territory, it will, in my opinion, be merely wasting money to vote this amount for the extension of the railway from the Pine Creek to the Katherine. I have made this protest in the hope that we shall have an’ opportunity later on of preventing the Government from doing that which, apparently, they propose to do. Their proposal is, I think, one which is inimical to the best interests of Australia.
– I wish to enter an emphatic protest against this proposal. I entirely agree with Senator Mullan that at present we are utterly incapable of judging as to the wisdom of passing this item. The information that we possess is exceedingly sparse. We are told, first of all, that it is based on a proposal made by the previous Government. But that Government had as its policy the intention of providing for the sure development of the Territory. If, however, we take upon ourselves the responsibility of providing for the pastoral interests, we must establish such freezing works as will induce the development of the Territory. Yesterday we were favoured with the views of certain honorable senators who have travelled through the country which this line will traverse, and we heard their expressions of opinion regarding the uses to which it may be put. Senator Buzacott made the position very plain when he said that, as the pastoralists had guaranteed to provide freezing works if established there with a certain number of carcasses yearly, a trade would at once be established which would justify the building of the railway. But, apparently, the Government have no intention of establishing freezing works in the Territory. They intend to hand over the Territory to private enterprise, which will swallow up, not merely the freezing works and the railway, but the growers of the cattle also.
– How will it swallow up the railway?
– The moment the line has been built the Go vernment will hand it over to private^ enterprise with the greatest gusto. Thesocalled Liberals, who are in truth theConservative politicians of Australia,, have never missed an opportunity of handing over everything they could toprivate enterprise.
– What railway constructed by any Government in Australia has ever been handed over to private; enterprise ?
– No credit is= due to Conservative politicians on that account.
– Hear, hear! They are opposed to State railways.
– Exactly. Have they not made their intention soplain that he who runs may read?’ To-day they are proposing to do in theNorthern Territory the very thing that they have been unable to do in theStates? In the circumstances, it would be madness for us to agree to this item in> the absence of requisite information toguide us in the matter. To sanction theconstruction of the line if freezing worksare not to be established at Port Darwin would be one of the maddest acts that wecould commit. I shall certainly vote forthe rejection of the item. We shall then, be able to obtain such information as Wil enable us to embark upon a sane policy,, and one which will ultimately work out’ for the development of the Territory,, which, in the near future, we hope to seecarrying a large population.
– I would advise Senator Henderson not to oppose this proposal merely because the present Government may not carry out public works in the way in which they ought to be carried out. Asa matter of fact, I question very muck whether they will remain in office sufficiently long to witness the completion of this line. Before its construction can beundertaken. the necessary money must beproovided.
– That was not theprocedure which was followed in connexion with the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta, railway.
– There wereso many different stages connected with the Bill authorizing the construction of that line, that it would have been foolish to have talked of a loan before it waa presented to this Chamber. If effect “were given to the ideas of the Governmnent, as expressed by the Honorary Minister, to proceed with the proposed line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River would be a mere waste of money. It would be the acme of folly for us to borrow for the purpose of constructing a Sine into the interior of Australia if we were to take no steps to make it a profitable investment. We know full well that railways must be fed if they are to become profitable. If we are to rest content with building a line into the interior, ~we can scarcely hope to make the venture -ti success. I do not know what was meant by the words “ private enterprise “ as they were used by Senator Clemons, tut I do know that no railway in the Territory can be financially successful if some use be not made of it which will bring in .revenue. Unless we know what we are Sliming at, we cannot do justice to a proposal of this character. We must have some policy to enable us to make better use of the Northern Territory. We must do something more than merely build a railway into the interior. No doubt we shall get workmen to go there if the wages are sufficiently high. -
– And if they are required to work only six hours a day.
– That is quite long enough for men to work in that part of Australia.
– That is another reason why we should be cautious.
– Mention has been made of the establishment of freezing works at Port Darwin. Whether that is a desirable course to adopt I canmot say until I have heard more about the scheme. But, at the first blush, it does seem that such an enterprise would make for the development of the Territory. We know that nowadays the freezing of carcasses has become somewhat of a science. Indeed, the meat which is treated in that way can be landed in the Old Country in quite as good condition as if it had been lulled only the previous day. I wish to know what the Government intend to do with the Northern Territory. If they are -going to build this line, and then to hand it over to a few squatters–
– They will hand it over to the Meat Bing, as surely as night (follows day.
– I have my suspicions in that direction. We know what stock-breeders have done in other portions of Australia. In the north-west of Western Australia there is a large area which has been handed over to a few squatters. There we may witness the results achieved by private enterprise in its most perfect form. There not more, than half-a-dozen individuals have formed themselves into a ring.
– They are now selling out to the Meat Trust.
– I happen to know a little bit about this combination. It has been operating in Western Australia for twenty years, and it has been able to fleece the consumer there during the whole of that period. By utilizing the public money which has been expended in that portion of Western Australia for their own private benefit, the members composing this ring have crushed even the small squatter out of existence. The big squatter was able to charter vessels to convey the stock to market, whilst the small man was unable to do so. As a consequence, the big squatter has had the small man at his “mercy, and has been able, at a price fixed by himself, to purchase the small man’s cattle. The latter has had to take whatever price the Meat Ring has been prepared to give him. Ridiculously low prices have, in consequence, been obtained by the small man raising cattle in that part of the country during the last twenty years. He has never been able .to get more than £2 or £3 per head for his cattle. I may say that there are no finer cattle produced in any part of the world than are produced in the north-western district of Western Australia.
– The cattle must be brought on the hoof to the ports of shipment.
– That is quite true, because there are no railways in that part of the country. But when they have reached the port of shipment, in some instances hundreds of miles away from the station on which they were raised, there is only one customer with whom the small owner can do business, and that is the Meat Ring. The price paid for cattle by the Meat Ring for many years past has been only £2 per head. Even at that price they will take only the best beasts in the mob, and reject all inferior cattle. leaving it to the small pastoralist, if he pleases, to drive them back to the station again. The result is that the bulk of the cattle raised in that country by the small pastoralist are sold to the Meat Ring for practically nothing. This has all come about from the fact that the only means of transport has been in the hands of the big pastoralists. They have dominated the whole of the meat trade in Western Australia. When the ca’ttle are taken from the port of shipment to Fremantle for the metropolitan market, the Meat Ring again operates. It dominates the retail meat trade in Perth, Fremantle, and every other town in Western Australia. It fixes the price to the retailer, and, going further, it sells to the retailer only on the condition that if he sells below a certain price he will not be again supplied. The result is that the Meat Ring in Western Australia fixes the price to the small grazier, the retailer, and the consumer.
– The Honorary Minister, by interjection, has suggested that the honorable senator’s remark’s are not quite relevant. I have allowed him a good deal of latitude. I presume that he intends to connect his remarks with, the question immediately before the Chair, and I ask him to make the connexion more directly.
– I shall do so; but I object, sir, to you, as Chairman, taking any notice of an interjection or a hint from the Minister, or from any one else, whilst I am speaking. If the Min- . ister has any objection to make, he should make it by raising a point of order in the proper way.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks more directly to the question before the Chair.
– I shall do so, but not by direction of the Minister.
– I have allowed the’ honorable senator to travel pretty wide of the mark.
– I dare- say that I did get away from “the question, to some extent ; but I object to the Minister or any one else dictating to you in the matter.
– The honorable senator will kindly connect his remarks with the question be’fore the Chair.
– I can very easily do that. We are considering a proposal to borrow money for the con struction of a railway in the Northern. Territory, which, if it is to be of any use, must depend upon the traffic to be derived from station properties in the Territory. I do not presume to know very much about the Northern Territory, but. I do know something about the north-west, of Western Australia. I know that cattle from the Northern Territory are shipped to the ports in Western Australia towhich I have been referring, and the trade is dominated by the people of whom I have spoken. There is, in my opinion, danger in building this railway in the Northern Territory, unless we know what, is to be done with the railway when itis built.
– I can inform the honorable senator that the American Beef Trust have an option, which expires tomorrow, on the Ord River station, with 70,000 head of cattle on it.
– I am thankful for that information. No doubt, the American Meat Ring will follow the tactics which have been adopted by the Meat. Ring in the north-west of Western Australia. It is quite a mistake to imagine that the Americans know everything that is to be known about the tactics of a trust. The people of Western Australia, are often called “ sandgropers, “ and are presumed to be somewhat backward; but I can assure honorable senators that the “ sandgropers “-who form the Meat Ring in Western Australia can give even the Americans a few points as to the way in which to manage the affairs of a trust. All that a meat ring established in the Northern Territory need do is to learn what has already been done by the ring operating in Western Australia. They will then be masters of the situation, will be able to control the meat industry of the Northern Territory, and, consequently, will be able to control the proposed railway.
– I thought that the Western Australian Government broke up the Meat Ring of that State.
– To their credit, be it said, the Western Australian Government did endeavour to do something of the kind; but they were up against a big combine controlling twothirds of the meat industry, and it was no easy matter, even for a Government, to break up the Meat Ring. The State Government spent money in establishing a service of Government steamers; but they were faced with a very difficult task in having to fight against the competition of the steamers run by the Meat Bing. Some improvement has followed from their efforts, since they have given the small squatter in the north-west a -chance to improve his position. He is now able to secure a more reasonable price for his cattle; but the difficulty is that he cannot supply a sufficient number of cattle to keep the Government steamers going continuously. The fact that the Government steamers have not been as successful as they might be is due to this difficulty. We have to consider the possibility of the proposed railway in the Northern Territory ultimately getting practically into the hands of a few squatters, when the abuses will follow which have occurred in the northwest of Western Australia, which is the country nearest to the Northern Territory. In the circumstances, the Government should consider whether it is not necessary to do more than merely build this railway, and, in the words of the Minister, hand it over to private enterprise.
– I never used any such words. I never said that we would hand the railway over to private enterprise.
– The honorable senator said something of the kind.
– I did not say it,
And the honorable senator knows that I <lid not say it.
– I do not know that the honorable senator did not say it. I know that it is the principle for which he stands, and if he repudiates the principle of private enterprise, it is news to rae.
– I do not repudiate any statement that I made; but I shall mot allow the honorable senator to assert that I made statements which I did not
– Order ! Honorable senators should address the Chair.
– I certainly believed that Senator Clemons stood for the principle of private enterprise, as against State enterprise. I understood him to say that it is not the intention of the Government to act upon any other principle in regard to this railway than the principle of private enterprise. I may have misunderstood him, but I do not wish to misconstrue anything he said. In connexion with this proposal, we have been given no information by the honorable senator other than the statement that, at all events, the Government do. not intend to adopt the principle of Stateor Government enterprise. I am sure the honorable senator cannot very well take exception to that statement. If we build the proposed railway, and the Government make no effort to open up the country, we shall only be wasting so much public money. It seriously tests one’s loyalty to a principle to be asked to accept the proposal put forward in this bald way, without anything being said to recommend it. If I am prepared to support it, it is in the hope that by the time the railway is constructed there will be another Government in office in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator should not prophesy unless he knows.
– I do not know, but I hope. I am very optimistic in such matters. I believe that before this railway can be constructed we shall be in a position to put forward a much better scheme for the development of the Northern Territory, under which this railway may be a much more successful financial venture than it is likely to be under the conditions in which it is now proposed.
– My opposition to this item is not new. When I was engaged in my political campaign I made it quite clear that, at the present juncture of the Commonwealth’s history, I would oppose the construction of another transcontinental railway. But I must say that I was never confronted with such topsy-turvy logic as honorable senators opposite have indulged in in their assumed opposition to this item. They agree that the Northern Territory is a great possession of the Commonwealth, that it ought to be developed, and that railways must be constructed there. But they say that this railway should only be constructed if freezing works are established at Port Darwin. Could any one conceive an argument more puerile?
– The honorable senator has lost his balance.
– On the contrary, I preserve a very even keel in all circumstances. Senator de Largie has mentioned the fact that the Western Australian Government put on a service of steam-ships to assist the small squatters in the northwest of that State; but he did not tell us that they established freezing works before they put on this service of steamers. We know that they did not do anything of the sort. They put on the service because they wished to assist the squatters of the north-west.
– They carried live cattle on the steamers.
– But is it not possible for live cattle to be carried from ports of shipment in the Northern Territory? We are told that the expenditure of £400,000 will enable a railway 46 miles in length to be constructed to supplement a railway over 100 miles in length already in existence. That shows that the rough estimate I indulged in about a section of the projected transcontinental railway costing £10,000 a mile was not very far out. The sum of £400,000 will be absorbed in the construction of about’ 46 miles of railway, approximating very closely to £10,000 a mile.
– Where did you find the 46 miles?
– I took the Minister’s assertion.
– He said that 146 miles of railway had already been constructed.
– The length of the new line will be 54 miles.
– I thank the honorable senator for the correction, and give him the benefit of any argument he can press out of the little matter. I have lived in a small State, and assisted, in my humble capacity, in the development of a mining field. During the twenty odd years of my residence there I was not within 100 miles of a railway line, and am at the present time not within 26 miles of one. Yet quite a large number of people who are important factors in the industrial and the commercial life of my State have to live in the district, which is, as I say, 26 miles away from the nearest railway station. We are told by /the Honorary Minister that an area of pastoral country in the Northern Territory will be tapped, and that at the present’ time there is an intervening barrier which prevents cattle reared on that very satisfactory area of pastoral country from being taken along the railway line. Fiftyfour miles is not by any means a great distance for fat cattle to be travelled byeasy stages.
– The country will notcarry them, because it is poor, and that, is the reason for the construction of arailway.
– The country wilt not carry fat cattle 54 miles?
– I thank the honorable senator for having furnished mo= with an additional argument for my intended vote against the construction of: the line.
– You are on th» wrong side of the chamber now.
– I want the honorable senator to understand that my attitude is not one that I took up only yesterday. I have taken it up for someyears past, and I am not afraid to maintain my opinions here with my vote, for- I would be a very unworthy member of the Chamber of Review if I were afraid to vote against an item simply because it., was contained in a Bill proposed by a*. Liberal Administration. Liberalism, in. those circumstances, would be just as~ hateful to me as Labour politics and theLabour system of government, and the? Lord knows they are hateful enough !
– We do not wantyour vote.
– Whether theHonorary Minister wants my vote or not,. I frankly tell him that he is not going; to get it.
– They do not require your vote; they have enough without it.
– They are praying to> God that this item may be knocked out..
– It does no£ matter to me what the consideration of the Government is. My attitude, as welt as my duty, is plain. I am going to voteagainst the item, not for the absurd reason adduced by honorable senators opposite, but for the reason that I do not feel’ justified, in the present state of the Commonwealth’s history, in voting for anotherdesert railway while one is in course of construction. The Commonwealth cannot: stand the outlay. We have seen in the* press this morning what the construction, of 146 mile3 of railway in the Northern Territory has done for white settlement - there. We have a pitiful total of ,117” white children being educated in the> -schools. That is what the construction of 146 miles of railway has done already.
– And at an expenditure of £1,200,000.
– Yes. With our population practically concentrated in the south-east of Australia, we, who are as distant from Darwin as Lisbon is from Warsaw, and with a population less than that of the Republic of Portugal, are going to construct another unprofitable transcontinental railway, which will contain an additional element of danger as .regards a practically defenceless part of the continent. I am not going to say that there will not be a period in our history when, if I retain a seat in the Legislature, I will vote for a proposition such as this is. But my present attitude is, “ A Fleet before we have another transcontinental railway.” We want ali the money we can spare for a :satisfactory and complete policy of naval defence. We have aspirations at the present time which are beyond our strength. We have commitments which we are justified, according to our financial strength, in entering upon. Whether the item is in a measure introduced by a Liberal Administration, or in a measure introduced by a Labour Administration, I will not vote for something which is in absolute contravention of what I conceive to be common sense. The Northern Territory would be developed to-morrow if the prospectors, who are never absent from the country, could make a satisfactory mineral discovery. Had a railway to be constructed to Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie before those fields were discovered ? We know that adventurous Australians were in there long before a railway was built. What is a good deal of this country which is alleged to be suitable for white settlement? Every explorer who has traversed it has come out with his tongue clinging to the roof of his mouth. Many of them have escaped from their daring expeditions only with their lives.
– Did not that happen in Kalgoorlie,’ too?
– It happened in Tasmania when Gabbett ate his mate.
– In Tasmania we do not ask for the construction of railways until we have a pretty satisfactory population established in the districts that they are to traverse, and we have done some exploratory work which confirms us in our opinions of the resources of those territories.
– What do you want the Commonwealth advance for unless it is for something like that?
– We want the Commonwealth advance.
– Order! That has nothing to do with the item before the Committee
– I must plead guilty of irrelevance, but I was provoked by the interjections of honorable senators opposite. The developmental policy pursued by the South Australian Government in the Northern Territory has not produced satisfactory results from the standpoint of Australian settlement, nor can I see at the present time anything that promises the establishment of a satisfactory population there. If the Commonwealth Government expended even £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 there, the situation would still be hazardous in the extreme. Before we have established a system of naval defence we are, as I said yesterday, furnishing opportunities, by the construction of another transcontinental railway, to the possible enemies of the Commonwealth to attack the Australian communities in the rear, and the Lord knows we will have a sufficiently troublesome time in defending ourselves from any attacks made from oversea. I do not intend to address myself at any length to this item, but I ask honorable senators to reflect on the little point which I am about to state. One of the representatives of South Australia in the National Parliament - a man who is a member of the party to which I am opposed, but who is evidently a very reflective man, and observes things as he goes through life - has made a speech which should give every person who is desirous of seeing Australia developed along sound and safe lines a great deal of thought. Mr. Dankel, who is a representative of South Australia, under whose jurisdiction the Northern Territory was till quite recently, is very pessimistic regarding the prospects of any large expenditure of money producing results commensurate to the amount which we propose to disburse. His remarks have fortified me in the attitude I am taking, and whatever the result may be,’ I am going to record my vote against this item. Even if there were not proposals before the Chamber which may result in a constitutional crisis I would maintain my attitude. Even if it caused the Loan Bill to be rejected, and provoked a crisis such as is contemplated by the Constitution, I would vote in accord with my conviction.
– I. listened with a good deal of attention to the remarks of Senator Bakhap.
– They were largely fireworks. The honorable senator started off by characterizing the statements made from this side as being of a very topsy-turvy character. I must congratulate him upon having made the most topsy-turvy speech, if it may be called such, that I, at any rate, have heard upon this question in the Senate. Neither he ner any other honorable senator can possibly think of applying to the Northern Territory any method, so far as development is concerned, that would apply to any other part of Australia at the present time. The Northern Territory is entirely a new country - a country that has been shamefully neglected for many years. I mean that it is a new country as regards developmental works to provide employment for the people. The only method whereby that employment can be given, and the country can be developed, is by the construction of a railway. We are told by our opponents here, and elsewhere that the present Government have been tied down by the commitments of their predecessors. I want to know, in the name of all that is reasonable, why honorable gentlemen were sent on to the Ministerial benches if it was not to cancel the commitments of the Labour party? What is the use of our opponents fooling the people in this way ? They knew perfectly well that they were returned by a majority of the people to cancel the alleged extraordinarily extravagant expenditure of the previous Government. And as an excuse for their own expenditure they tell the people to-day that they do not intend - they have not the pluck - to carry out the promises they made on the hustings. As regards this Bill no question of commitments is involved at all. I want to refer to the deplorable lack of information regarding the items in the Bill. If I may be permitted in passing to refer to its introduction in another place,
I would point out that about 6 or 8 inches of Hansard were occupied by the Treasurer in introducing the measure. I am only making a passing reference, sir; I do not intend to debate the matter.
– I hope so. , We are in Committee on the items of the schedule.
– Six or seven inches of Hansard were devoted to this item by the Treasurer in his speech, and the rest of the Bill was dragooned through without any information being given by the Government to the people. I have no fault to find with the speech of the Honorary Minister. I think that he is to be commended for the manner in which he introduced the Bill, and referred to the various items, but I do complain, incommon with Senator Mullan, that no adequate information concerning the items has been given to the Senate. The Honorary Minister told us that he .was somewhat pessimistic as to the Northern Territory. Let me remind him and other honorable senators that an agreement was made with the Government of South Australia, that the Northern Territory was to be taken over and developed by the Commonwealth. Was Senator Bakhap aware of that fact when he was on the hustings, as he said to-day, and was agitating that this Territory should be left undeveloped ?
– I never object to answer a frank question as frankly as it is put to me. I tell the honorable senator that I was aware of the agreement, and I said that even at the risk of incurring the imputation of showing Punic faith towards the people of South Australia, I would vote against the railway at the present time.
– The honorable senator knew that an agreement had been made with the South Australian Government by the Commonwealth Government.
– That agreement did not bind this Parliament.
– I think it did. I should be sorry to hear any honorable senator suggest that we should go bac; on that agreement to-day.
– I hope that we will.
– While I was a member of the South Australian Parliament I opposed on all occasions the proposal to hand over the Northern Territory to the Federal Government. I waa afraid that there might be in the Parliament of Australia some gentlemen like Senator Bakhap, who is endeavouring to go back on the agreement. The agreement having been made with the South Australian Government to open up that Territory, it seems to me that there is no other course to adopt than to go on with the construction of railways. The Territory is a vast area, and will in the very near future, if it is properly developed, give a handsome return to the Commonwealth for any money expended upon it. I have one fault to find with the policy proposed for developing the Territory. I am quite persuaded that the railway is being commenced from the wrong end. It is foolish for any Government to commence construction from the Darwin end. It is foolish to go to the expense of shipping every ounce of material and every man from one end of the continent to the other, and then carrying them over the existing railway to the scene of operations, whereas the Government have a port of their own at Port Augusta, and a railway constructed as far as Oodnadatta. There is no difficulty in taking material, goods, and men to Oodnadatta and pushing the railway on from that end. Those who know the Territory are perfectly well aware that the country beyond Oodna- datta is only awaiting a railway for its resources - mineral, pastoral, and agricultural - to be developed. There is good country on the tableland in the centre of Australia. I am not concerned with what my honorable friend, Mr. Dankel, one of the South Australian representatives, has said about it. I am not concerned with what Senator Bakhap has said. I say that the country is good, and that the Federal Government ought to carry out its promise to develop it in a reasonable way. Even allowing that they commence building the railway from the northern end, it seems to me to be a foolish plan to commence construction on a gauge that the Government have already declared is not to be the gauge for the Commonwealth.
– The line is to be built under conditions which will make it easy to change the gauge.
– If the Minister wanted a new coat he would not buy the principal part of the garment to-day and the sleeves next week.
– What is the honorable senator’s suggestion?
– If we .are going to start building the railway from the northern end, it should be built on the standard gauge of the Commonwealth, which is 4 ft. 8-J in. Personally, I should have liked to see the line started from the Oodnadatta end, and the gauge of the existing railway there altered straight away. Then the Federal Government would have had a railway constructed from both sides that would have enabled the work to be carried on more economically than at the present time. The various Railways Commissioners have met in conference, and decided that the cost of converting our wide and narrow gauges to the standard gauge of the Commonwealth will be between £20,000,000 and £30,000,000. The Government are adding to that cost by constructing a portion of this line in the way proposed. In addition, the South Australian Government are at present contemplating the construction of a line from Adelaide to Port Augusta on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. It will involve additional cost to the taxpayer when that new line comes to be converted, as it will have to be, because it will undoubtedly be a trunk line from north to south. It seems to me to be the duty of the Commonwealth Government to place its own house in order, and commence building its own railways on the standard gauge on which it has determined. As they have selected the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge, it is foolish for them to adopt another one. I admit that the 3-f t. 6-in. gauge would be good enough for Northern Australia for the next 200 years. What is more, in the northern part of South Australia, in Western Australia, in New Zealand, and in the whole of South Africa - where there are, I believe, the best constructed and most convenient railways in the whole world - the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge is sufficient. I know something of that gauge. I am acquainted with its capabilities foi the development of Australia. However, the Commonwealth having decided on the wider gauge, the least we can ask is that it shall commence constructing its own railways upon the gauge that it has forced upon the people of Australia. I hope that when the construction Bill comes forward a provision will be inserted in it that will insure the widening of the present gauge from Darwin to Pine Creek.
A good deal of my objection to this measure would be removed if the Government were to adopt that course, and commence to relay their own line from Darwin to Pine Creek, continuing the new work on the new gauge. They would then be commencing the first section of their transcontinental railway in a successful and reasonable manner. Regarding the freezing works, Senator Bakhap has expressed much objection to the Government commencing such an enterprise. Surely there can be no harm in the Federal authorities encouraging settlement in that country.
– The honorable senator is not justified in saying that I made any statement antagonistic to the establishment of freezing works.
– The honorable senator will not say that he is in favour of establishing freezing works at Darwin.
– I want to know more about the subject. In these matters I am largely an expedientist. I am not opposed to State enterprise per se.
– I am glad to hear that. If we can succeed in tying the Commonwealth Government to the establishment of freezing works at Darwin, they will, apparently, lose his vote on that question, as they will lose it in regard to the construction of this railway. It seems to me that the honorable senator has a difficulty in seeing beyond the coast of Tasmania. If it were a question of establishing a telephone in that island his attitude would be quite different. He will not find any man on this side in politics who is unable to look at national questions fairly and squarely. We should like him to take a similarly wide outlook. Unless the Government take steps to establish freezing works in the Territory it will be of very little use indeed to construct this railway. We know what is happening in the north-west of Western Australia and in Queensland. We know what is happening all over the world in relation to the Beef Trust. We know that no inducement is afforded to pastoralists to take up country and stock it if their prices are to be regulated by this great trust. On the other hand, we have absolute proof of the immense benefits that accrue to the farmer and the squatter from the establishment of State freezing works. We know the tremen dous success that has attended the establishment of such works in South Australia. Before they were established the farmer and the squatter had to take the prices which the buyer chose to pay him. To-day the Government of South Australia will take from the farmer or the squatter anything that he wants to have frozen and exported, from an ox to a fowl. We are trying to induce people to settle in the Northern Territory. If the Federal Government would give settlers the same guarantee as the Government of South Australia has given to its settlers, they would realize the possibility of getting fair prices for their produce, and I have no doubt that they would be willing to take up land in the Northern Territory, whose development we should see greatly accelerated within a few years. I think that those who are opposing the construction of the railway and the development of the country will soon regret very much the stand they have taken. Hereafter we shall see them claiming that they were really the pioneers in promoting the development of the country. I emphasize my regret that the railway to the Territory is being “commenced at the wrong end. I regret that the Government are not constructing on the gauge which they themselves have approved. I regret that there is no promise to provide freezing works or other facilities for people in the Territory to export the stock they produce. I hope that when the Government bring in their Bill provision will be made in those directions. I can assure the Minister that if such should be the case the measure will have the whole-hearted support of practically every man on this side of the chamber. But, unless he is going to adopt that policy, the Territory will simply be handed over to that great octopus, the American Beef Trust, which is already operating in Australia. Any policy which favours that trust will meet with strenuous opposition from this side. If, however, the other line is taken, I can promise that the Government, will get from us very cordial support for the construction of this railway.
– I feel a certain amount of hesitation in voting against any proposal that may lead to- a railway being constructed from the Northern.
Territory to the southern end of Australia. But I feel that we may be making a mistake in authorizing this loan before wo have sufficient information to guide us as to the best route for the railway to take. A Commission has been inquiring into the subject. Its members are in Melbourne at the present moment preparing their report.
– I do not think they are reporting on this particular line.
– I am aware of that; but I wish to mention that a witness giving evidence before that Commission has stated that it is possible to construct a railway southward at a very much lower cost, and by a more direct route, than the line contemplated by the Government will take. The cost of the proposed line, I believe, includes very expensive bridges, as it crosses a river or rivers more than once. I think that we ought to be in possession of the report of the Northern Territory Railways Commission before we sanction a loan for the building of this line. The Honorary Minister has told us this morning that in voting for the item we are not authorizing the construction of the projected railway. It seems to me, however, that if we sanction the borrowing of money for the purpose, we authorize the Government to do something that possibly we may” not desire them to do. I certainly agree with Senator Newland that the rational method of developing the Northern Territory is by building the transcontinental line from the southern end. Upon a previous occasion I produced a lot of evidence to show that Central Australia- possesses the best climate to be found in this continent, enormous tracts of very fertile soil, and hundreds of square miles of the richest mineral country in the Commonwealth. Senator Newland has pointed out that, by constructing the line from the north, we are obliged to send men from the south who are entirely unaccustomed to a tropical climate. Should they fall sick, they have to be sent round to Sydney. On the other hand, if we pushed on with the construction of this line from the south many of these men would take their families with them. At the Macdonnell Ranges there is a magnificent sanatorium where those afflicted with illness could recuperate. If the line were constructed from the southern end the inducements for settlement would be very much greater than would otherwise be the case. I move -
That the item be amended by inserting after the word “southwards” the words “and for the construction of a railway from Oodnadatta northwards towards the Northern Territory.”
The adoption of the amendment will enable the Government to have the necessary money available, so that should it be decided early next session to construct the line from the south the work could be proceeded with immediately.
– How far is it from Oodnadatta to this desirable country on the other side of the Macdonnell Ranges ?
– Roughly, about 300 miles. I would point out that the survey of this route has already been made. It was made some years ago, and an estimate of the cost of the work was prepared by the Engineer-in-Chief for South Australia. A more recent survey was made by surveyors employed by the late Government - the same men who surveyed the route from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. They have practically indorsed the survey made by Mr. Graham Stewart some years ago, although they state that in some instances the grades can be improved and the cost reduced, I am strongly in favour of the completion of the transcontinental line from the south to the north at the earliest possible moment. Defence and other considerations render its construction absolutely imperative. To my mind, the late Government devoted too much attention to agriculture in the Northern Territory, and insufficient attention to mineral development. I believe that the present Government are following their bad example. If the proposal which I have submitted is acceptable to both branches of the Legislature we shall be afforded an opportunity of weighing the evidence presented by the Northern Territory Railways Commission, and we shall then be in a better position to decide this matter. If the item were agreed to today no work could be done upon the line until probably the end of May next. In my judgment, it will be of great advantage to Parliament to be empowered to utilize this money in building the transcontinental line either from the southern or the northern end, whichever COUrSE may be deemed more advisable.
.- I find myself in a bit of a difficulty on this occasion. I am one of those who think that unless we do something with the Northern Territory before many years have passed we may find ourselves struggling to hold the rest of Australia. I regard the Territory as the Achilles’ heel of Australia. It is the weak spot, and some sacrifice by the rest of Australia is necessary if we are to hold, not merely the Territory, but the whole of the Commonwealth. The only criticism I have to offer on the Bill is that it does not go far enough. I agree with’ Senator Story - and I have always held the opinion - that we ought to push on with the construction of the proposed transcontinental line from the south to the Macdonnell Ranges at the earliest possible opportunity. I have visited Oodnadatta, and there I met old prospectors who were originally on the ‘Western Australian gold-fields, and who have spent several years in the Macdonnell Ranges. Without exception, they were full of enthusiasm regarding the climate and the mineral resources of that country, its water supply, and its possibilities for a timber supply. I met a sub-inspector of police there, who had been 400 miles out towards the Western Australian border in the pursuit of a murderer, and he assured me that there was sufficient redgum in the Macdonnell Ranges to supply the whole of the sleepers, in addition to magnificent feed and water. The Port Augusta-Oodnadatta railway is at present not only an unpayable proposition, but a ghastly one. It leads nowhere, and it was never intended that it should stop at Oodnadatta. It was intended as a section of a line which would be constructed to the Macdonnell Ranges. What is needed is that that line should be pushed on to those ranges, so that we may settle in the centre of Australia a population of white men who will move out from there gradually to conquer the more stubborn north.
– It should be a sort of base?
– Yes. We have to recognise that the settlement of the Northern Territory is an entirely different proposition from the settlement of the other States of Australia. In all the other States the good land and mineral resources are to be found in the coastal areas, whereas the possibilities of the Northern Territory lie in the interior of the country, and its poor land is to be found in the coastal regions. In the eastern, western, and southern States, settlement has proceeded from the coast. It was merely a question of the railways following settlement. We did not require railways to be constructed to promote early settlement. The position will be entirely the reverse in the Northern Territory.
– The nature of our interior has not induced any great population to follow the railways.
– It has. Population has followed the railways right into the Mallee country. That country would not be settled to-day but for the railways. The central districts of New South Wales are its wheat-producing districts, and they would not be settled to-day but for the fact that population has followed the railways. But in the Northern Territory the position is quite different. There it is very difficult to induce settlement even along the coast. Indeed, it is problematical whether that portion of it will ever be settled satisfactorily. But it is certain that we can settle the interior of the Territory if we provide settlers with facilities to transport their produce to the coast. Everything produced there must have cheap transit, otherwise it will not prove payable. Given cheap and quick transit, it will be payable. This railway to the Katherine River is a step in that direction. It will bridge over one of the bad portions of the stock route from the interior to the coast. For that reason I am in favour of it, but I consider it only a very small step towards the development of the Northern Territory. I believe that the adoption of Senator Story’s proposal would do infinitely more for its development. I have always thought so, and have urged that view on other occasions. It would not be a very costly proposal, because the country is fairly level; there are no engineering difficulties, and we have an existing railway on which supplies could be carried forward. The survey of the extension of that line has been completed, and it is now merely a question of pushing on with construction. Once the line is extended to the Macdonnell Ranges the effect would be to make the existing railway payable, and to open up a new province for Australia. It is extraordinary how little we really know of the centre of Australia. I have before me the relief map of Australia, published in Mr-.
Knibbs’ T ear-Book, and it shows that, with the exception of the Northern Gippsland district, the Macdonnell Ranges plateau is one of the highest portions of Australia. The general impression about the centre of Australia is that it is flat, if not depressed, but it is shown on the map to which I have referred that a vast area, as big as the State of Tasmania, forming the plateau of the Macdonnell Ranges, has an elevation of over 3,000 feet above the level of the sea.
– We know enough of the geography of Australia to know that the Macdonnell Ranges are in the centre of Australia, but there is also a considerable area of low country there.
– Senator de Largie may know the facts, but I am not- including him amongst those who do not know. I say that ‘’ the man in the street “ speaks as if the country in the centre of Australia were flat or depressed, and he is not aware that its physical features are such as to indicate & good climate.
– The honorable senator must know that many maps of Australia exhibited on the walls of public buildings show the centre of the continent to be a spinifex desert.
– That is so, and something like that is taught in many schools. People travelling west in New South Wales or east in Western Australia see a great deal of flat country, and are under the impression that it extends to the centre of the continent. The fact is that in the centre of Australia there is a vast area of elevated land with a mountain range, which gives it a temperate climate, a fair rainfall, and an ample water supply. We have a railway running from Port Augusta to within 300 miles of this country. It ends in comparatively poor country, and although we know there are mineral possibilities in the Macdonnell Range country, which, if made payable by means of access, would lead to settlement, instead of continuing the line from Oodnadatta, we propose to put another patch on the railway at the other end, and to repeat in the north what has already been done in the south. The railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River will be but a repetition of the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. - If we have only a limited amount of money to spend, and are given a choice, I should prefer that the £400,000 included in this Bill should be spent on extending the” Line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges rather than in adding another little patch at the other end.
– It would be a long time before there would be any return.
– If a railway were extended to the Macdonnell Range country I believe that population would soon follow, because mining would be developed there, and pastoral country would be made available.
– The line suggested would involve an expenditure of over £1,000,000. The £400,000 included in this Bill would not take the railway from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges.
– I do not know. Three hundred miles of the narrow-gauge line might be constructed for, perhaps, £1,000 per mile.
– I think that £2,500 per mile is the estimate.
– If we put the cost at £3,000 per mile, £900,000 would carry the line into the Macdonnell Ranges. We are only, voting the first instalment. I suppose that the £400,000 will not complete the railway to the Katherine River.
– It is assumed that that amount will complete the line to the Katherine River.
– That is not according to the original estimate we had.
– I feel so strongly in favour of the proposal Senator Story has put forward that, even if it were only as an indication to the Government that we desire that something should be done at the southern end, I am inclined to vote with the honorable senator.
, - I agree with nearly everything that has been said by Senators Newland, Story, and Pearce with respect to the advisableness of proceeding as soon as possible with the construction of a railway from Oodnadatta towards the Macdonnell Ranges. But I do not think that it would be wise to amend this Loan Bill to give effect to that proposal. We should certainly have that object in view.
– Would that not be better than striking the vote out altogether? It is the only alternative.
– I remind the honorable senator that both Houses of this Parliament, the late Government, the present Government, and every one else connected with the Parliament have already committed themselves to the extension of the line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River.
– At any particular time ?
– Before the Day of Judgment. That should give the honorable senator margin enough. We have been committed to the extension of that line as soon as possible. If we are in earnest in desiring the development of the Northern Territory, we should not miss this opportunity to carry out that work. The present Government are in this matter doing in a limited degree what they consider necessary for the development of the Northern Territory. We have already passed a Bill for the survey of the line. It was clearly indicated at the time that when the survey was made the construction of the line would be carried out. Although £400,000 may be sufficient to complete the section between Pine Creek and the Katherine River, if spent on the line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges it would very likely land us in no better country than the Port AugustaOodnadatta line reaches at the present time.
– We should get to better country in 50 miles from Oodnadatta.
– When we are undertaking the extension of a line northwards into the Northern Territory many things will have to be taken into consideration, and we must be prepared to spend a very much larger amount than £400,000.
– The expenditure would be warranted, would it nott
– Of course, it would. I have always advocated it. I know that there are a great many budding engineers in the Senate who have been making inquiries with respect to the character of the country, and what has already been done for the development of the Northern Territory by railway construction. But I should like them to consider what ought to be done from an economical point of view in the extension of a railway to the Northern Territory from the south. Senators Newland and Story know what has been already done. A railway has been con- structed from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. It crosses the ranges to the eastern side, and then before it goes in the direction of the Northern Territoryit crosses the ranges again, thus involvinga perpetual expense for haulage which, in my opinion, is out of the questionwhen we are considering the developmentof the Northern Territory. A sum of £400,000 would be only as a drop iu the bucket for the purpose of . doingwhat requires to be done. I think: that if the engineers of the Commonwealth carefully examined the proposition they would find that it would ultimately pay to construct a line from a point on the line going to Kalgoorliefrom Port Augusta, a few miles out of Port Augusta, and running on the east side of the ranges all the way until it could be connected witH the present line to Oodnadatta. 1 have said that the present line crosses the ranges twice, the second time at Hergott, whence it goes almost directly west for about 150 miles. This line would be most expensive in the matter of haulage ; it follows a circuitousroute, and it is very unadvisable that it should be retained in perpetuity as the line giving access to the Northern Territory from the south. If a line on the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge were constructed from the point to which I have referred on the Western Australian line directly north, and coming in west of Coward, it would have easy grade; there would be no ranges to cross, and it would go almost straight in the direction of the Northern Territory. It would be possible to carry the 3-ft. 6-in. line from Hergott Springs away towards the east to the borders of Queensland. All this should be taken into consideration before we finally determine the right course to follow in connecting the Northern Territory with Port Augusta. Something has been said about the economy of extending the line from Port Darwin much further south. We have been told that we should require to carry our material almost around the continent to Port Darwin, and then south into the interior, whilst with construction from the south we could make use of the line from Port Augusta to carry material in a northerly direction. When carefully examined this will befound to be, to some extent, a fallacy.. It is just as easy to bring steel rails fromAmerica, Great Britain, Russia, Newcastle, or Lithgow to Port Darwin as to take them from any of those places to Fort Augusta. Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.S0 p.m.
– Before I call upon Senator McGregor to resume his speech on Item No. 2, to which Senator Story has moved an amendment to insert after the word “ southwards “ the words “ and for the construction of a railway from Oodnadatta northwards towards the Northern Territory,” I think it is only proper and fair to make a statement for the information of new senators who do not quite know what occurred here last session. In connexion with an item for the establishment of a quarantine station at Triffett’s Point, Hobart, it was moved and carried that the words “ Triffett’s Point “ be omitted from the item, leaving it to the Ministry elsewhere to insert some other place instead of Triffett’s Point. The House of Representatives acting, I understand, in accordance with a pretty strict procedure, disagreed with our amendment, and gave as a reason for such disagreement that the amendment altered the destination of a proposed vote, and therefore it could not be accepted. The Senate insisted upon its amendment, and by a vote of seventeen to thirteen sent back a message stating that it adhered to the amendment. The House of Representatives then took the course of striking out the item, and saying that, as the Senate had insisted on its amendment, it could do nothing under its procedure but strike out the item. I thought it was only fair that these circumstances should be placed before the Senate, and particularly before Senator Story, who has moved an amendment to Item No. 2 of the schedule, because I felt that, perhaps, they had escaped his recollection. I intend to accept the amendment, knowing full well that if another place takes the course which it did on a similar occasion, it will mean the striking out of the item.
– I am rather pleased that you, sir, have given an indication of what the usual procedure is in cases of this kind. When we adjourned for lunch, I was dealing with the desirableness of constructing the railway from both ends. I was endeavouring to show that, as regards the conveyance of material and goods required in the construction of a railway, Port Darwin and Port Augusta were equally available. Consequently, the next consideration is to what extent each port could be used. Everybody knows that railway haulage, whether it is for private enterprise or for a Government project, is much more expensive than water carriage. In this Bill, the Government are only asking liberty, in the event of the Railway Construction Bill being carried, to borrow the money for that purpose. It appears to me that we have a right to consider the interests of the taxpayers, and we must carry out the expenditure of even £400,000 to their advantage. When there is a port like Port Darwin available, we should work from that end as long as it is economical, and that would be for a distance of probably 800 or 900 miles from that place. Then from Port Augusta we should work economically for a distance of 800 or 900 miles. I think that we should agree to this item of £400,000. To tack little conditions on to the item, I think would be rather a violation of what should be an honorable understanding as to the legislation of the past, and the duty devolving upon us at the present time. I would rather reject the item altogether than see it side-tracked by an amendment that would be of no advantage, and would not hurry the matter on a moment sooner.
– I think that we ought to be particularly careful before we authorize the borrowing of a huge sum such as is proposed now, more especially at the present time, when we know that there is a condition of financial stringency, all over the world perhaps. It has been put forward on behalf of the present Government that they are only carrying out with regard to this matter the ideas which were formulated by a previous Government. We know that the members of the present Government, when they were in Opposition, went up and down the country accusing the then Government and their supporters of engaging in a financial debauch, an orgy of expenditure, a carnival of corruption, and so on, of which they considered the proposal we are now dealing with a part. But no sooner do they themselves get into the seat of power than they continue the carnival; they carry on the orgy; and they will finally land themselves, if they are not careful, in a condition of financial delirium, tremens: There is not the slightest doubt that we have obligations now to the Northern Territory. Unfortunately, circumstances conspired to impose that very “ white elephant “ upon us, and whether for good or for evil, we now have the animal in the stable, and must keep feeding him. I am afraid to contemplate the serious expense it will be to the Commonwealth before any decent return can be obtained. With regard- to this particular railway, I have always imagined it to be the duty of a Government, if they proposed to borrow money to build a railway, to let Parliament know exactly what the route was to be. They ought to submit surveys, plans, specifications, and every information obtainable before they ask Parliament to give authority for the borrowing of money. The Minister in charge of this Bill said they were following the usual procedure - “ First we borrow the money, and then we proceed to survey the line.”
– No; the survey is nearly complete.
– “ First we borrow the money, and then we get authority from Parliament to spend it.” It appears to me that that is putting the cart before the horse with a vengeance. No person in private finance would do anything of the kind. Any person who desires to build a house for which he wants to borrow money decides, first, whether he will build the house.
– No. He decides first whether he can afford to build it.
– Of course, he decides whether he can afford to build the house. We know that we can afford to build this line.
– Then, after he has found the money, he gets his plan, and that is what we are doing.
– After he gets a promise.
– That is all very fine, but a man must decide that he is going to build a house, and can complete it, where and how he is to build, and what plans he is to adopt, and so on. But in this case, dealing with public money, which is nobody’s money, apparently, the very opposite plan is adopted. I think that the Government ought to wait until they know exactly what the route of this railway is to be, and so on, until they are able to bring forward, I was going to say, much more complete information ; but, as a matter of fact, we have practically no information. We are asked to open our mouths, shut our eyes, and swallow what the Govern ment send us. I, for one, am not prepared to do anything of the kind.
– This is not the first time that we have done that in connexion with our railways.
– Perhaps not, but in matters of this kind it is never too late to adopt common-sense ideas. I think that the Government ought to give us some idea as to their . general policy with -regard to the Northern Territory. They propose to build this railway, but that of itself will do comparatively little.
– They only propose to raise the money.
– Yes, and then to build the railway.
– Not until then.
– If the money is raised, and the Construction Bill is passed, the. railway will undoubtedly be built. I want to know what the Government propose to do to provide traffic sufficient to make the line pay?
– The honorable senator says that the Government intend to do nothing. They have not disclosed their intention so far, and I would like to know what they do propose to do. Do they propose to deal with the 70,000,000 acres of land which are under lease for thirty years at a rental of onefiftieth of a penny per acre? Do they propose to deal with the 25,000,000 acres of land which are occupied under yearly licence at about the same rate ? I gather from the Administrator’s report that the resumption of those areas is absolutely necessary if the Northern Territory is to be settled. Those leaseholders - some of them thirty-year, men, and others oneyear men - hold the pick of the Territory. I will read what the Administrator says on page 6 of his last report -
For example, we find nearly seventy million acres held under leases which do not expire for nearly thirty years, in the majority of cases, at a rental of is. per mile, or 2d. per acre, the most that can ever be charged for the best of it being id. ner acre - while another twentyfive million acres are held on yearly permit at a rental of is. per mile. It is further safe to say that the whole of this vast area, comprising the picked lands of the country, does not contain a white population of more than one to the thousand square miles.
That is the present condition of the Northern Territory, on which we propose to spend £400,000 for a railway, in addition to £1,200,000 already spent. It seems to me that this is not the proper line of development. No other portion of Australia has ever plunged into reckless expenditure in this fashion, for the simple reason, I suppose, that no other portion was ever able to do anything of the kind. The first matter to which the Government ought to direct attention is the resumption of the 670,000,000 acres and the 25,000,000 acres, and the settlement of those lands upon as advantageous terms as can possibly be made with people who are willing to go to the Territory, and to live and work there.
– Does the honorable senator think that the lands would be taken up by people in small areas?
– I do not know that these lands will ever be taken up in small areas, but I think it is quite probable that areas of from 50,000 acres upwards may be taken up by small men.
– The honorable senator is showing up the Territory.
– I am not showing it up. The Administrator is showing it up. I have always contended that the place will be a wilderness; and, while it may be settled in the far-distant future, when population is compelled to go there by being crowded out of other parts, immediate settlement is neither probable nor possible. The Government ought to direct attention first to the settlement of these 100,000,000 acres. When they see their way to dispose of those lands in the most profitable fashion, and are able to bring information on the subject before the Senate, we may possibly be prepared to deal with the question of building a railway. But until there is some prospect of the country being developed, the idea of building a railway at such huge expense is nothing more nor less than madness. Some people seem to labour under the hallucination that if you build a railway population will immediately spring up alongside of it’. Any man who has travelled throughout Australia must be convinced of the error of that idea. I have travelled along railways for hundreds of miles where there was not one person to the mile.
– The land was taken up all the same.
– The land may have been taken up, but there was not settlement. Probably, because it was taken up, it could not be settled. But I am endeavouring to point out that the building of a railway does not necessarily bring population. Let me quote further from the Administrator’s report, page 7. He says -
With the extension of the railway and the provision of freezing works a brighter day will dawn for the pastoralists. But without improvements of an extensive nature, and particularly water conservation, the full benefit of these lands will never be realized.
Further on he says -
For this reason, and for the better reason, that it will be necessary for effective settlement, the resumption of certain leases will become imperative in the near future.
– Would the honorable senator resume those leases until some one else applied for them ?
– I am not in the seat of authority, but I tell the honorable senator that that is the very first thing that I would do. I would resume every lease, paying the lessees fair compensation; and, according to the Administrator, the lessees are so disgusted with their bargain that they are willing to quit on almost any condition -
Doubtless there are considerable tracts of that area suitable for pastoral purposes, but not for mixed farming, so far as can be ascertained. The unoccupied land bordering the large rivers may prove to be as fertile as the Adelaide lands (under lease) and the Daly lands; but though practically unexplored, what is known of them does not suggest this view.
I direct attention to the words, “ Though practically unexplored.” Here is a territory that has been taken over by the Commonwealth Government, and to all intents and purposes, according to the Administrator, nine-tenths of it is practically unexplored.
– Does the Administrator say nine-tenths?
– Practically ninetenths -
In any case, these can soon be settled, but it would leave unsettled the Adelaide River country, which, as I have already reported to ou from personal observation, I consider would e very suitable for closer settlement, and much of it for cane-growing - a country which can be reached by sea-going vessels for 50 miles from the mouth of the river, and within 30 miles of Darwin. It would leave unsettled that vast, rich, and probably the best-watered part of the Territory - the Victoria River country. It would also leave unsettled the greater part of the McArthur River country. All these are under long leases to a great extent, and all are approachable by natural water-ways.
The portion of the report that I have just quoted indicates very clearly the course which the Government ought to adopt if the settlement of the Northern Territory be their only object. The Administrator points out that there are natural water-ways to the best lands in the Territory. A railway is not required. The first attempt at settlement ought to be made in those localities. That, at least, would be the course followed if there were not behind the Northern Territory the bottomless purse of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– Would the honorable senator rather see Commonwealth steamers than Commonwealth railways 1
– I am not thinking of Commonwealth steamers at the present moment. We are talking about the development of the Northern Territory. We are told by the Government, and by a number of honorable senators who are opposed to them, that the building of this line is essential to the development of the Territory. Well, it may be. I do not know whether it is or not. We “have no evidence on that point. We ought to have evidence. The Government ought to know more of the Territory before asking us to commit ourselvesto such a huge expenditure. Let me turn to the report again. The area of the Territory is about 500,000 square miles. The Administrator says -
Of such land nearly half a million acres were sold for 7s. 6d. per acre about i868-g. So far as can be gathered, no attempt was ever made by the owners to improve or stock these holdings in the slightest degree. At all events, there is no evidence of such attempts to-day, and not a single section carries a hoof of the -owner’s stock. Recently some of the best sections near a railway line were sold for 2S. per sere. It is a curious circumstance that the only improvements made in the way of cultivation on land in Darwin or its vicinity is that made by the Chinese on annual leaseholds. As for the -remainder of the half million square miles comprising the Territory, considering the meagre; mess of its population, it says much for the hardiness and intrepidity of the stockmen and bushmen who explored it seeking cattle country in the early days, that little of it is, in a general sense, totally unknown. Comparatively little has been carefully inspected, however. Only one seventeenth part has been surveyed by the rough -trigonometrical method, and only one four hundred and twenty-first part accurately surveyed, and much of this will be required to be resurveyed, owing to the disappearance of marks, &c.
Here is a task which I believe the Commonwealth Government might very well set itself to accomplish. It might have the Northern Territory surveyed. It might send out expeditions for that purpose north, east, west, and south.
– That would cost a pretty penny.
– But that kind of thing is necessary to develop a country. You must know your country before you begin to spend money in this lavish fashion upon it. When full knowledge is obtained of the resources of the Territory we shall be able to decide whether railways are wanted, and, if so, where they are wanted. I know that something other than a legitimate desire to develop the Northern Territory is behind this proposal to borrow £400,000. The South” Australian Government, in getting the people of Australia to take over the Territory, drove a very hard bargain.
– I think we have heard that remark before.
– It is true, and is becoming more obviously true every day. I said some other things in connexion with the subject which were true, and which I need not repeat now. In any case, we know that the idea at the bottom of this proposal, although it has not been expressed in so many words, is that the railway must be built from Darwin to Adelaide.
– No; from Adelaide to Darwin.
– There is the whole thing put in a nutshell. The people of South Australia do not care two straws whether that is the best route or the worst. The object is to bring the trade right down into Adelaide, and that is the route which they are going to support, and to get if they can.
– It is hardly fair to say that they do not care two straws.
– I do not care whether it is fair; it is true.
– The honorable senator is a very bold man to make that statement.
– Unfortunately, every scrap of evidence in connexion with, this matter points to that conclusion, and to no other. That was the policy which the people of South Australia had outlined for themselves; but they discovered that they. were unable to give effect to it. Like wise persons, therefore, they handed the burden over to the good father, the Commonwealth, and he accepted it, like a fool, on their own terms. They insisted upon their terms, and some of them even declared that, if the Commonwealth would not do this, that, and the other, they would do something else. I am quite sure, however, that they were very much better pleased to get rid of the Northern Territory than the Commonwealth was to accept it. South Australia knew that she could not successfully administer the Territory, but she was careful to assume such an air in conducting her negotiations that the Commonwealth - for reasons which T could give if I chose - was landed in this very one-sided arrangement. Not only did it take over the Territory with its debt, but it also took over the obligation to develop that Territory, not according to its own ideas, but according to those of South Australia, although that State had ignominiously failed in its attempt to settle this huge area.
– After spending millions of pounds.
– Of course, the Territory has practically cost South Australia nothing. During this debate, we have heard a good deal about the necessity for constructing the proposed transcontinental line from north to south from the Oodnadatta end. Now, I have travelled on the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, and a more Godforsaken country I never saw in my life, and hope never to see again. From the moment that we left Port Augusta until we landed at Oodnadatta, we saw nothing but drifting sand. The country was a howling desert. Formerly, I used to wonder how the epithet “ howling “ came to be applied to the desert, but, after my visit to Oodnadatta, I understood it quite well. When I heard the melancholy howl of the wind, and saw the drifting sand covering up everything, I understood the application of the term. We reached Oodnadatta in the evening, and all night long the wind blew like fury. Next morning, nearly everything was snowed-up with sand. Some honorable senators had to dig themselves out. Of course, the people told us, “ Oh, we have not experienced a night like this for forty years.” I believe that our experience is quite a common occurrence. In the morning, I saw an Afghan digging out his camel team, and he seemed to set about it as if it were part of the day’s work. The residents of Oodnadatta said, “ Of course, the land here is not very good, but a little ahead you will find splendid country.” The promised land is always ahead, and, of course, these simpleminded people knew that we were not going there. They added, “ When you get to the Barklay Tableland, and the Macdonnell Ranges, the country is a perfect, paradise. There is nothing in Australia like it.” I beg leave to doubt that statement. The country there may be everything that the poetic fancy .of these people paint it; but I desire, the evidence of men who have been sent there by the Commonwealth Government, anc? who are responsible to the people of Australia for their report. I do not wantthe tales of any De Rougemont. I want, a plain, unvarnished tale concerning the Barklay Tableland and the Macdonnell Ranges.
– The honorable senator does not believe that Johnson sat. on an alligator!
– Some personswould have been very much better pleased if the alligator had sat on Johnson or swallowed him, although I have no desire that any such fate should overtakehim. What I am pleading for is more light. The Government ought to furnish this Committee with more information before they make a demand for an appropriation of £400,000 in connexion with the proposed line. We have to recollectthat that expenditure represents merely; a beginning. The north and south transcontinental line will cost a great deal more. Senator de Largie has stated today that, if he thought the proposed line was going to stop at the Katherine River,, he would oppose this instalment of it.. Evidently, he. wishes it to run right down, through the continent to Oodnadatta. I have no policy whatever in connexion with* the matter. I want more light, more information. When we know where thegood land is, it will be time enough for us to build the railway. Some of our pastoral lines in Queensland pay better than do other lines. I am quite satisfied-, that, if good pastoral country can be discovered in the Northern Territory, railways will pay there. In Queensland, wehave run a railway out to Longreach, another to Charleville, another to Thargomindah, and another to Cloncurry.
– And is not a railway projected to Camooweal?
– I believe there is..
– All that country isoccupied by sheep ; otherwise, the railwayswould not pay.
– Precisely. I believe that a railway from the Northern Territory to the Queensland border, instead of one passing through the middle of the Territory, would pay, and pay immediately.
– But it would not develop the Northern Territory.
– If we bring settlement to the verge of the Territory, it will be only a question of time when it will overflow into the Territory. That is how settlement has been promoted in Australia. But I am not suggesting any policy of that kind to the Government. I am opposed to voting this money until I know whether the route to be followed is the best one, and until I get more information about the country and the best method of developing it.
.- 1 am prepared to support the amendment if Senator Story will give me his assurance that he will support an amendment which I propose to submit. Like the honorable senator, I am extremely anxious to see the Northern Territory developed as speedily as possible, and it cannot be developed in the absence of .proper means of communication. One of the first means of communication should be the construction of a railway running north and south, in accordance with the agreement with South Australia, which was approved by this Parliament a little while ago. I find fault with the Government over the decision at which they have apparently arrived to develop the Northern Territory on lines altogether dissimilar to those laid down by the Fisher Ministry. If we are going to depend upon private enterprise to people and develop that country, it will never be peopled and developed. The late Administration were not too anxious to erect dwellings at Port Darwin for all those who are employed on Government works there. I believe that tenders were called for the erection of those dwellings, and that no private individual was prepared to undertake the work. The Fisher Ministry, accordingly, had the buildings erected under Government supervision. With a view to developing the Territory, that Government decided upon the extension of the railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine Hiver, and, as a complement to that work, resolved to establish freezing works at Port Darwin. The present Govern ment, however, are not prepared to erect freezing works there. Of what earthly use will the proposed railway be in the absence of those works? Incidentally, I wish to point out that, as the Territory is a part of the Commonwealth, we have absolute constitutional powers in respect of its developmental policy. In the exercise of those powers the Fisher Government determined to erect a high-power wireless station at Port Darwin to link up with Singapore, thus completing an. Empire wireless system. In order that messages might be transmitted from Port Darwin to Singapore, a distance of 2,000 miles, it is necessary to have a maximum output of electrical energy. As this would not at all times be required, we should have surplus electrical energy, and as we have the constitutional power, we proposed to utilize that for the electric illumination of Port Darwin, for supplying the residents of that very hot place with electrical fans, supplying power to the railway authorities, and power for the proposed freezing works. We should have been in a position to supply this electric energy at a cheaper rate than it could be supplied by any private enterprise, company, or any municipality in the world.
– How did the Government propose to generate it ?
– In the same way as that in which it is generated in every part of the civilized world.
– Then what was going to make it so cheap ?
– I have just been telling the honorable senator that the establishment of a high-power wireless station at Port Darwin would have placed the Government in possession of surplus electrical energy which might have been devoted to the purposes I have described. That is a matter which should be considered in connexion with this Bill. The present Government have definitely announced that they do not intend to erect Government freezing works at Port Darwin. If this be so, the railway will have been completed for many years before such works will be established by private enterprise, and this railway, without the freezing works, will be an absolute white elephant, and the money expended on it will be money wasted. If the erection of the freezing works be left to private enterprise, they will not be erected for the good of the health of those concerned in them, the psychological moment will be chosen for their erection, and that will be when the people interested in the Meat Trust have got a grip of the pastoral industry in Australia. It will not take them long to get a grip of that industry in the Northern Territory. Rumour hath it that some of the cattle kings of the Northern Territory are anxious to cooperate with the advance agents, now in Australia, of the American Meat Trust. We shall then have a combination in the Northern Territory exercising an absolute control of the meat industry, and if they are disposed to erect freezing works, the result will be an increase in the price of frozen meat, which will make it more difficult than it is at present to find a market for our frozen meat in other parts of the world. I say, in all seriousness, as one who was a member of a Government who were committed to the extension of this line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River, and as one who is whole-heartedly in favour of that extension, and of the completion of a line from Port Darwin to Oodnadatta, that I am not disposed this’ afternoon to honour those commitments unless we can get some assurance from the Government that further consideration will be given to the proposal to establish Government freezing works at Port Darwin. If this work is to be left to private enterprise, we might as well throw the money into the sea as spend it on the proposed extension of this line. In order to test the opinion of the Committee on the matter, I give notice now of my intention to submit for the consideration of honorable senators an amendment to add to this item of the schedule after the word “ southwards “ the words “ and the erection of Government freezing works at Darwin.”
– There is already an amendment before the Committee, and although Senator Findley has only given notice of his proposed amendment, I think that, in order to save the time of the Committee, it would be well if I stated now that I am of opinion that an amendment proposing the establishment of freezing works would not Be in order, because it would not be relevant to the subject-matter of this Bill. I point out that clause 3 of the Bill provides that -
The amount borrowed shall be issued and applied only for the expenses of borrowing and for the purposes set forth in the schedule to this’ Act.
The purposes of the measure are set forth in the several items of the schedule, and the purpose indicated in the item which Senator Findley desires to amend is the construction of a railway in the Northern Territory from Pine Creek to the Katherine River and southwards. Senator Story’s amendment may be regarded as in consonance with that purpose, although, if carried, it might alter, to some extent, the destination of the proposed vote. Senator Findley’s proposed amendment is intended to cover an entirely different purpose, which I cannot regard as relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill. The standing order on the point is very clear. It reads -
Any amendment may be made to any part of the Bill, provided the same be relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, and be otherwise in conformity with the rules and orders of the Senate.
A decision has already been given in the Senate on a somewhat similar matter by a former President. The late Sir Richard! Baker, m No. 74 of his decisions, said -
Amendments in Committee must be relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill as read the second time.
I regard that as a still further reason why I must hold that the proposed amendment would not be in order. The Bill, as read the second time, definitely lays it down, as I have already said, that the amount to be borrowed shall be applied only for the expenses of borrowing and the purposes set forth in the schedule. There is in the Bill, as read the second time, no reference to freezing works, and I therefore must rule that the amendment given notice of by Senator Findley would not be in order, since it is not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill.
– That settles my vote. I must vote to strike the item out.
– I give the decision in advance, as I have said, to save time, and in order that honorable senators, in further discussing Senator Story.’ s amendment, might know what my decision would be were Senator Findley’s proposed amendment submitted.
– In moving my amendment, it was not my intention to side-track the proposal before the Committee, as suggested by Senator McGregor, but I thought it desirable that, if possible, the Government should have the power to spend the £400,000 referred to in the second item of the schedule at the southern instead of at the northern end of the transcontinental line, if it were found, as I believe it would be, more convenient and desirable to proceed northwards rather than southwards in the construction of that line. It has been suggested that this session will be brought to a close next week, and, if that be so, it is not reasonable to imagine that a Bill authorizing the construction of the line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River could be passed before Parliament rises. It would not matter, therefore, if we deferred this expenditure until we secured the fuller information that some honorable senators desire. A report is now being prepared by authorized surveyors and experienced explorers who have recently been through this country. They may possibly report that a more direct and cheaper route than the present route from Pine Creek to the Katherine River might be selected in the (best interests of the Commonwealth. If the Government can be given power under this Bill, as I propose, to use the money on the construction of the transcontinental line from the southern end, it will be completed earlier than it otherwise could be. With regard to what Senator Stewart has had to say about the country through which the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line passes, I may say that I was as far north on that line as Oodnadatta, with Senator Stewart. I have also seen a good deal of the Northern Territory. I have conversed with a number of men in the Territory, and with men in Melbourne and in Adelaide, who have been there, and have endeavoured to learn all I could about that country. I am, from all the information I have obtained, convinced that this great area of country which we have taken control of will never be developed until a railway connects it with the southern part of Australia. We may waste as much money as we please in building railways in the north, and we may, as Senator Ready has suggested, establish services of State-owned steamers in the north, but the country will never be developed until we have speedy and cheap communication between the Northern Territory and the southern part of Australia. That is why I should like the Government to accept my amendment. If they thought it advisable, they could spend £390,000 of the vote at the northern end of the line, and the balance at the southern end, or vice versa, if that seemed more desirable. I hope that the amendment will be carried.
– I should not interpose a second’s delay in the proceeding, but for the fact that T wish to tell Senator Story what the position will, be if his amendment be carried. It will mean that the item will be struck out. That’ will not depend upon the Government at all, but on the fact that if we send the Bill back to the House of Representatives amended in the way the honorable senator proposes, that House will have to strike the item out altogether. It will not have the power to accept it. That will be the practical result of carrying the honorable senator’s amendment.
– I wish to say that I think it would, perhaps, be a good thing if, by carrying my amendment, we gave the House of Representatives an opportunity to discuss this matter, which it was prevented from discussing when it had this Bill before ft.
– I would not have risen again to speak on this question but for the doleful tale which was related by Senator Stewart of the conditions in the northern territory of South Australia. I am sure that if a globe-trotter who made a flying trip to Australia, half of the time occupied on the trip being night and he being silent and asleep by day, gave a doleful account of Australia, the honorable senator would be the first to condemn him. I have been through the territory from Adelaide to Oodnadatta thirty or forty times during the last twenty years, or perhaps a little more. I have seen that country under all conditions, including conditions somewhat similar to those which the honorable senator has described. I have seen it, too, covered with herbage of all descriptions - a true garden of Eden as regards bloom, and feed for stock growing kneehigh in all directions. I have been in the middle north when the farmers round such places as Orroroo, Carrieton, and Quorn, even down as far as Petersburg and Terowie, had not a blade of grass to feed their stock with; indeed, when they had very little to feed themselves with. The stock were taken by the Government of the State, free of charge, transferred to Oodnadatta, or near that place, and fed there for many months during the time of drought.
– Steady, steady !
– I want to point out how unfair it is for Senator Stewart, or any one else, to get up here and give forth to the world such a statement as he has made this afternoon, condemning this country in the eyes of the whole Commonwealth in a most undeserved fashion, simply because he has gone through the country once in his life.
– I only said what I thought.
– Yes ; but I point out to the honorable senator how unfair it is, not only to the people of the State, but to the people of the Commonwealth, to condemn the Government for endeavouring to carry out a promise, made in all seriousness, merely from the knowledge which he acquired in making one solitary trip into that country. I know very well indeed the country to be traversed, so far as the railway is concerned. I have seen it in varying conditions.
– How many trains a, day do they run up to Oodnadatta?
– Very few trains a day.
– Only one or two a week.
– Not always ont or two a week.
– One a fortnight.
– One train a fortnight is the regular service; but when stock come down three, four, and five trains a day are run to Adelaide from Oodnadatta and other places. When a number of stock comes down from the interior - from Queensland, through South Australia, on account of the better watered track - they are trucked at or near Oodnadatta and sent down to the Adelaide market. I can see that the inclination of my honorable friend is that the proposed railway should go into Queensland.
– So it should.
– I do not suppose anything of the kind. I say that it would be much better.
– According to the honorable senator’s whole speech, his idea seems to be that it would be better for the railway to go into Queensland instead of into South Australia. But he knows nothing whatever of the condition of that country. He knows very little of the portion already opened up by rail way. I was a member of the Parliament of South Australia for a good many years, and heard the future prospects of the Northern Territory debated time and again.
– Oh, yes.
– That was before the Territory came under the control of this Parliament.
– You are very imaginative.
– My honorable friend has the most vivid imagination of any one in the Senate, and I congratulate him on the fact.
– Truth is very often stranger than fiction.
– In the report of the Administrator which the honorable senator quoted from, I have read much which is very favorable indeed to the northern end of the Territory. I do not blame my honorable friend for quoting the sentences which suited his purpose best, but if I had time to refresh my memory I could find in the report much, to rebut what he has said. I desire to refer to the existing leases. The honorable senator asks why we should not resume very large areas of land in the Territory. The wicked Conservative Governments of the State entered into agreements with certain pastoralists, and those agreements hold good to-day. There are several forms of leases. Whilst we would like to see the leases cancelled, if possible, the lessees will either stick to their leases or ask an exorbitant price for the cancellation of them. That is the difficulty facing any Government who undertake the settlement of the Territory. I merely point out these facts in order to be fair. I am anxious to give the Government every assistance I can, because I desire to see them start this, work in the right and proper way. To my mind, the amendment of Senator Story is as objectionable as is the item itself. It does not provide for widening the gauge of the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. I think that as big a mistake will be made in continuing the construction of a narrow gauge line from Oodnadatta.
– Can you do that in the Loan Bill?
– This morning I wished to move an amendment providing for widening the gauge at the same time, but I was advised not to do so.
– You can do that in the Railway Construction Bill.
– I think that the amendment should be made in the Railway Construction Bill.
– Let us get this item put through.
– I do not wish to delay the passage of this Bill, but I did not want any misapprehension or any clouding of the issues to go out to the public respecting a country which, in forty or fifty years, will undoubtedly be a splendid asset to the Commonwealth.
– Yesterday afternoon I asked for certain information, hoping that the Honorary Minister would be able to give some reasons why we should support the construction of a railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. I have listened very carefully to the discussion, and I find that he has not attempted to give any information, except in connexion with freezing works. I desired to get an idea of the probable route of the line.
– I will give you all the information that you want.
– After we have voted the money?
– No, before this item goes to a division.
– I want to know what route the railway is to take, and what interest it is likely to serve. Is it to go through the mining fields ? I have a rough estimate of the output of those fields for the last two years. If the Minister can give us a reasonable idea of how the line is going to develop the mining or pastoral industry, we shall have some reason to vote for the item. But up to the present time he has not given us one reason for voting in its favour.
– Yes; I gave you all that information.
– When the late Government introduced the Survey Bill they certainly did give some reasons why a survey of the route should be made, and why the railway should be built. They had an understanding with the pastoralists that the line would be used; but now we have no understanding that it will be used by anybody, or that it will serve any useful purpose. Unless the Minister can point out where it is going to serve any useful purpose, I shall be obliged to vote against the item. I am prepared to support the amendment. -I am in favour of a transcontinental railway from north to south, and from south to north ; but I am not in favour of running out into the wilderness a line which can serve no good whatever.
– I was somewhat astonished at hearing Senator Buzacott say that he is prepared to vote for the amendment of Senator Story.
– It is just as important as the Kalgoorlie railway.
– That is not the question before the Committee at the present moment. When I am asked to vote for a railway to connect South Australia with Port Darwin, with all the knowledge that is necessary to enable us to come to a complete judgment on the proposal, the honorable senator will find me voting for it.
– But we have the knowledge.
– No. The very fact that none of my honorable friends - not even the Ministers themselves - are able to supply that information is quite sufficient to make me hold off.
– I supplied it.
– If there is any virtue at all in the present proposition, it is that of attempting to develop a country from the nearest sea-port. Just imagine an attempt to develop the Katherine River country from Adelaide. Why, sir, the idea would be ridiculous. If there is any virtue in this proposal at all, it is that which centres in the fact that the line would be in fairly close proximity to the northern port, and that from that port would be exported whatever goods there might be in that portion of the Territory to be disposed of. But the Government have entirely abrogated the policy that was first laid down ‘ foi ‘ the purpose of this railway; they have left nothing, inasmuch as the line is going to be built for nothing. Senator Buzacott and others who have travelled there tell us plainly that the line will not do any good for the mining fields. They have wiped out the possibility of it doing any good.
– Another reason for rubbing it out.
– Exactly; and that is why I intend to vote for rubbing it out. Our honorable friends have also told us that there is a wiping out of the guarantee that the pastoralists were prepared to give on certain conditions. Those conditions will not be complied with by the present Government, and, therefore, it seems as though we were going to waste £400,000 without any possible hope of getting a recompense at any time. If we accept the proposition of Senator Story, and give the Government the right to expend £400,000 at either end of the transcontinental line, why not give them the right to expend the money in the middle of the line? We might just as well do that.
– That would be silly.
– It would be equally silly to spend £400,000 in building from the Oodnadatta end on the present narrow gauge. For that reason I intend to vote against the amendment, and also for the rejection of the item.
– It has not been mentioned that the great northern State of Queensland, in pursuing its policy of railway development, has constructed a line to a point distant not more than 120 miles from the Northern Territory, just west of Selwyn. So that if it is desirable to people the interior of Australia, where Senator Pearce informs us the best land in the Northern Territory is to be found, we can accomplish the task at very small cost by establishing connexion between the Northern Territory and that point in Queensland to which railway communication has been made. The bulk of the cost of giving communication between the Northern Territory and the principal cities of Australia would then have been borne by the States themselves.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the item stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Items 3 and 4 agreed to.
Item 5. - For the purchase of land for Defence purposes, £300,000.
Question - That item 5 stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item 6. - For the construction of conduits and for laying wires underground,£425,000.
– I think I indicated, on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, that I consider our telegraphic and telephonic systems ought to pay their way. If sufficient charges were imposed, and if care were exercised in the management of the business, that result could be achieved. Therefore, I feel inclined to vote against the proposal to borrow money for the construction of conduits and for undergrounding wires. When we consider modern developments in electricity, and when we reflect that wireless telegraphy is likely to supersede every other means of communication of which we have any knowledge, I do not think that we ought to borrow largely for so-called permanent telegraphic and telephonic works which may be obsolete in a few years, and which consequently ought to be constructed out of revenue. I intend to vote against the item.
Question - That the item stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Item agreed to.
Items 7 and 8 agreed to.
Postponed clause 2 and title consequentially amended and agreed to.
– During the proceedings in Committee a certain incident occurred, having reference to an honorable senator being allowed to remain in the chamber without voting. I did not take any action at the time, but I wish to place on record that if the ruling of the Chairman in that connexion is to be embodied in our procedure, I intend to look into the question, with a view to raising it at the first opportunity. To my mind it is a dangerous principle to lay down.
-i quite agree with the honorable senator.
Bill reported with amendments, including an amendment in the title.
Motion (by Senator Clemons) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at11 a.m.
In submitting this motion, I desire to recognise the effort made, if I may use such an expression, with “ such a rush at the finish” to get through the Bill we have just disposed of. For that effort I desire to thank the members of the Opposition. I wish, further, to say that in moving this motion I am actuated with the desire which has actuated me throughout, and that is to consult the convenience of the majority of the members of the Senate, no matter where they sit. It has been pointed out to me that if we were to decide to meet on Monday next, honorable senators from South Australia would be practically shut out from our proceedings unless they remained in Melbourne over the week end. I am bound to say that that is a circumstance which should receive consideration. Another thing that weighs with me as much is that I have been assured by the Leader of the Opposition that, with regard to getting through the business of the Sen- ate, nothing will bo lost by adjourning until Tuesday, instead of until Monday. I am glad to have that assurance, and I believe it will be carried out. May I openly say that, so far as I can ascertain the views of members of the Senate, it is the desire of the majority that we should end our business for the session on Friday next - this day week. By meeting on Tuesday at 11 o’clock, outside our ordinary sitting days, I recognise, and I hope members of the Senate generally also recognise, that desire to close the session this day week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask the leave of the Senate to introduce, without notice, a Bill for an Act to amend the Defence Act, and to move its first reading.
– I am afraid that that cannot be done under the Standing Orders. They provide that notice must be given. If there were a sufficient number of honorable senators present, the Honorary Minister might overcome the difficulty by moving the suspension of the Standing Orders, but I think that there is not a sufficient number present to carry such a motion.
– I do not desire to take that course, but I give notice now of my intention at the next sitting of the Senate to ask for leave to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Defence Act.
Questions - Pairs - Conduct of the Opposition.
Motion (by Senator Clemons) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Before putting the motion, I wish to make a statement concerning a matter which occurred in the Senate this morning. When the Senate met, Senator Findley asked a question without notice of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. That question was couched in such terms that if notice had beengiven of it it would have been contrary to the Standing Orders to allow it to appear on the notice-paper, and I should not have allowed it to appear.
That being so, I issued instructions that the question should not appear in the Hansard report. I ruled at the time that, for reasons that I then stated, it was out of order. It has been laid down over and over again by all parliamentary authorities that only questions relating to the business of the Senate, or some public matter with which the Senate may have to deal, are permissible. The question asked by Senator Findley did not come within that category. I therefore ruled it out of order, and, since it could not have appeared on the notice-paper if notice of it had been given,’ I think it ought not to appear in Hansard.
.- I rise for the purpose of making a personal explanation in connexion with two divisions which took place in the Senate last night. The Whip of our party, whose duty it is to look after and arrange pairs, inadvertently inserted Senator Lynch’s name in the pair-book opposite that of Senator Keating. As a matter of fact, I should have been paired with Senator Keating, because I have an undertaking with that honorable senator to pair with him on all divisions. I was present last night, of course, but, in consequence of the oversight of Senator de Largie, my name does not appear, either in the division list or amongst the pairs. I make the explanation so that it may be understood that I have not broken faith with Senator Keating, and have not neglected my duties in failing to record my vote, though I do not appear to have been paired. I- should like to say that we are thankful to the Honorary Minister for his congratulations to the Opposition this afternoon, and on other occasions, for the assistance they have given him in passing Government business through the Senate. I would ask the honorable senator as a special favour to try to induce his colleague, Senator McColl, when on public platforms in various parts of the country to extend ‘ equal consideration to the Opposition. We have received justice to the full from the Honorary Minister to-day and on previous occasions, but it is reasonable that we should ask for justice and fair play from the honorable senator’s colleagues when they are in the country on their electioneering trips.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 December 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1913/19131205_senate_5_72/>.