10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented: -
Northern Territory - Ordinance No. 4 of 1926 - Lunacy.
Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1926, Nos. 15 and 16.
Territory for the Seat of Government - Ordinance No. 1 of 1926 - Dog Registration.
Beam Wireless Stations
asked the Minis ter representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The right honorable the Prime Minister supplies the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : - 1 and 2. The British Government is responsible for the erection of the beam station in England, but the anticipated date of completion has not yet been notified.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The right honorable the Prime Minister supplies, the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1 and 2. The question of separate diplomatic representation was not discussed at the Imperial Conference which the present Prime Minister attended in 1923. The Prime Minister did not, therefore, express any views on this question at the conference.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are: -
asked the Min ister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The honorable the Minister for Trade and
Customs supplies the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906-1019.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Question - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Sir Victor Wilson) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
.- Before the motion is carried I trust the Minister (Senator Pearce) will make a more definite statement regarding the powers with which the commission and the advisory council - referred to in clauses 17 and 44 of the bill - are to be clothed. The measure, which consists of 61 clauses, is of great importance to the Commonwealth and to the people of Australia, but if the two clauses I have mentioned were eliminated it would be a mere skeleton. In these circumstances any further consideration devoted to these two provisions would ‘ be time well spent, particularly if wo could get a more definite pronouncement from the Minister than we have been able to obtain up to the present. In clause 17 there is no ambiguity in regard to certain matters that may be dealt with by the commission, but paragraph / of subclause 1 gives it power also to deal with -
Such other matters in relation to the development of the Territory as are specified in any regulation made under this act.
If I read that paragraph aright it means that under regulations any question affect, ing the Northern Territory or the people of the Northern Territory may. be dealt with by the commission.
– Does the honorable senator propose to move that the bill be recommitted? There was ample opportunity in committee to discuss the clauses in detail. It is quite unusual to debate a bill in detail at the report stage.
– I do not wish to discuss the clauses in detail, but I hope I shall be permitted to make a few observations.
– The honorable senator will be quite in order in making a general reference to the provisions of the bill, but he is not entitled at this stage to deal in detail with its various clauses.
– I intend to deal with only two. Under regulations all matters other than those specifically mentioned in clause 17 may be dealt with by the commission. The Minister in introducing the bill said that other matters such as education and the treatment and care of aborigines, which are very important, would not be dealt with by the commission. I wish to be assured that the advisory council will be clothed with sufficient powers to deal with questions such as those to which the Minister referred, but there is nothing in the bill to that effect. I know of no question of greater importance to the people than that of health. It is more important than wealth. In tropical Australia conditions are not what they are in the more temperate zones. To whom is the question of health to be referred, and by whom is it to be considered ? Will it be handled by the commissioner or by the advisory council ? Sub-clause 1 of clause 44 reads: -
There shall be an Advisory Council for North Australia to advise the Government Resident in relation to any matter affecting North Australia, including advice as to the making of new Ordinances or the repeal or amendment of existing Ordinances (other than Ordinances relating to the administration of Crown lands), but not including any matter relating to the powers of the commission or any matter under the control of the commission.
Apparently the advisory council will have the opportunity to advise the Government resident upon any question. Is the council to be a body to advise and recommend, but without power to do any. thing ? The questions to be dealt with by the commission and the advisory council should be clearly specified in the bill. Perhaps I imagine something that is not likely to happen, but if all matters including those that come under the jurisdiction of the commission itself, can be considered by the advisory council there may be a division of opinion and possibly conflict between the two bodies.
– But only one body has executive power.
– That is true.
– The council cannot advise on matters under the control of the commission.
– I trust the honorable senator will follow me in this matter.
– As soon as any addition is made by regulation to the powers of the commission the advisory council will cease to advise on such matter.
– I do not think that that’ is a business-like way in which to proceed. The advisory council may be seriously considering a question of - great importance to the Northern Territory when it discovers that under regulations just passed the matter cannot be further dealt with by it. Before the bill is finally disposed of I trust the Minister will consider the suggestion I have made - that matters to be dealt with by the commission and by the advisory council should be clearly specified in the bill. The right honorable gentleman has given us an idea of the matters that may be dealt with by the advisory council.
– To accomplish what is apparently his purpose, Senator Findley will need to move for the recommittal of the bill.
– I do not desire at this stage to take that step, sir, nor do I wish to delay the passage of the bill. I hope that my doubts on this matter will be removed by a statement from the Minister.
– I thought the position was clear iy defined. There can be no conflict between the commission and the advisory councils. The powers of the commission, which are specifically stated in clause 17, may be added to by regulation. Some question of development may arise which should be referred to the commission. To do that, in the absence of the general provision that I have mentioned it would be necessary to introduce into Parliament an amending bill. That is avoided by this provision. At the same time, Parliament will have full control, and the Minister will not have an altogether free hand, for all such regulations must, in the ordinary course, be laid upon the table of the Senate. If any honorable senator so desired he could move then that they be disallowed. As motions for the disallowance of regulations take precedence over all other business, honorable senators would have ample opportunity to take steps to counteract any extraordinary action that a Minister might take.
– There is no provision by which power may be taken away by regulation, as suggested.
– That is so. The position of the advisory council is also quite clearly defined. At present matters relating to health, mines, justice, police, fisheries, aborigines, and so on are administered directly by the Minister through the Administrator. The only change that it is proposed to make is to provide that, instead of an Administrator for the whole of the Northern Territory, a Government Resident shall be appointed in North Australia and in Central Australia, who will administer these matters under the authority of the Minister. Associated with the Government Residents, in an advisory capacity only, will be advisory councils. The advisory councils will have power to advise the Government Resident in respect of all matters affected by new ordinances, and also in respect to matters affected by existing ordinances. This power will apply only to matters that are not- controlled by the commission. The advisory councils will have no executive powers whatsoever, and will be authorized only to advise the Government Resident. The Government Resident may, if he deems it wise, accept the recommendations of the advisory council, or he may refer them to the Minister for consideration.
– I suppose there is no possibility of the advisory councils overriding the Government Residents?
– None whatever. The Government Residents are not obliged to accept the advice that is offered. The object of the councils is to give the people of the Northern Territory a voice, through their elected representatives, in all matters affected by the ordinances. The advisory councils may suggest alterations, but they will have no power themselves to effect any alteration. The difference between the authority of the commission and that of the advisory councils is that the former will be concerned only with matters of development, while the latter, and, of course, the Government Residents, will be concerned only with purely administrative matters. The administration of the ordinances in regard to health, for instance, vitally affects the people, and they, through the advisory councils, will be able to express their views upon the matter. The functions of government in all the States of the Commonwealth were carried on in the first place by means of advisory councils. After development occurred, these advisory councils were given legislative authority. The Government hopes that, at no distant date, the advisory councils in the Northern Territory will also be given legislative functions. That, however, will depend upon the development that occurs.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 27 th January (vide page 371), on motion by Senator Peakce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Properly speaking, this measure ought to have been finally disposed of by the Senate before any consideration was given to the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs Railway Bill, for this is really the parent measure. If this bill be rejected, which I think is not likely, nothing can be done towards building the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs railway. I sincerely trust that we shall complete our discussion of this measure before the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs Railway Bill is further proceeded with. This measure has been introduced to ratify an agreement that was made between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth (Mr. Bruce) and the Premier of South Australia (Mr. Gunn), partly to carry out an agreement made many years ago by the Commonwealth Government, when Mr. Deakin was Prime Minister, and the Government of South Australia, when Mr. Price was Premier of that State. That agreement is a comprehensive document which provides, among other things, that “ the Commonwealth shall construct or cause to be constructed, as part of the transcontinental railway, a railway from a point on the Port Augusta railway, to connect with the other part of the transcontinental railway at a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper.” Fifteen years have elapsed since that agreement was entered into.
– It was entered into really in 1907 and ratified in 1910.
– I was a member of this Chamber in 1907, when the preliminary negotiations were in- progress. If the line had been constructed when the agreement was first entered into, the cost would have been much less than it is to-day. The necessity for . this railway is obvious. It is essential not only for the development of the country that is contiguous . to the proposed route, but also because of the value that it possesses from the point of view of defence. Railways . are always essential to both the development and the defence of a nation. One of the most important features of the agreement is in clause 4, which provides -
The said railway may be either -
Another measure which the Senate has partially considered makes it evident that the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge has been determined upon and the 4-ft. 8-in. gauge discarded in connexion with this line. Clause 5 of the agreement provides : -
That introduces the question of the utilization of the third rail. Before dealing with the matter, however, I desire to draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that no time limit has been put upon the construction of that line, whereas the construction of the line to Alice Springs must be begun some time this year and completed in 1929. Sub-clause d of clause 5 of the agreement provides -
In approving and consenting to the said railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill the State’ may, if it thinks fit, provide that such approval and consent shall lapse and be of no effect if the construction of that railway is not commenced by the Commonwealth within a period to be specified by the Premier of the State not being less than three years from the date of such approval and consent.
– The obligation of the State of South Australia is to lay the third rail when so requested by the Commonwealth.
– The agreement also provides that while the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill is being constructed the Commonwealth shall lay a» third rail from Red Hill to Adelaide, which will widen . that line to the 4-ft. 8½in. gauge. But if it is found impracticable or dangerous to adopt the thirdrail principle, the State may construct at the expense, of the Commonwealth, a 4-ft. 8½-in. line from Red Hill to Adelaide, over a route to be determined by agreement between the Railways Commissioners of the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia. Let me at this point quote this very important clause of the agreement - 6. (c) If in the opinion of the Railways Commissioners of the Commonwealth and of the State it would be impracticable or dangerous on any portion of the said railway from Red Hill to Adelaide to use a railway with a third rail, then in lieu of laying a third rail on such portion a new railway on a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge shall be constructed by the State at. the expense of the Commonwealth over a route to be determined by agreement between the said Commissioners to take the place of the said portion of railway, but so always that there will be a continuous railway on a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge from Port Augusta to the Central Railway Station in Adelaide.
Before the third rail is laid I understand that the Commonwealth Public Works Committee will inquire into the matter. I am glad of that. I marvel at the readiness of the ‘ Commonwealth to even consider the adoption of the third rail. I am not a railway expert, but I have in my hand the report of a commission which was appointed by the Common- wealth Government to inquire into . this very matter. The commission reported that the third rail proposal was both impracticable and dangerous. Every member of it was a railway expert, and it unanimously condemned the proposition. When the Government decided to construct the Brisbane-Kyogle line on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, ministers told us that that was to be the beginning of the unification of the railway gauges throughout. Australia - that the advice of the commission hadbeen accepted. But why, in the present bill, has the commission’s recommendation been discarded and the third rail device introduced ?
– Because the third rail has come into more’ general use, particularly in America, since the commission submitted its report.
– Is the honorable senator a railway expert?
– No, but I am pinning my faith to the report of expert men.
– We live in a progressive age.
– The policy of the Government is not progressive, so far as the third rail device is concerned. In my opinion, the whole proposal is endangered by it. Parliament should make up its mind, once and for all, whether or not it intends to adopt a uniform gauge throughout Australia, and, if so, what that gauge shall be. The introduction of a third rail will perpetuate the inconvenience of breaks of gauge and different classes of railways.
– Did not the commission reject the third rail project largely on the ground of expense?
– No. If the honorable senator refers to page 10 of the report, he will see the following definite statement by the commission : -
A third rail or any mechanical device should not be utilized.
We know of no third rail and of no mechanical device which is suitable for the conditions.
The use of any one of the many devices suggested to us, or to other commissions, is not recommended. Some experimental work has been done with several of these devices, but in no case has the device been experimented with to the extent required by all conditions of installation and operation.
The saving in expense and in time resulting from intensive concentration on the actual change of gauges instead of on third rail or mechanical devices will be so great that attention should be centred upon devices and methods of doing the actual work of changing track and rolling-stock to the standard gauge.
In other words, the commission pointed out that, instead of spending money on such devices as a third rail, lines should be constructed on the standard gauge. On page 42 of its report, the commission dealt with the question, “ Whether a third rail or any mechanical device should be utilized; if so, what device, upon what section, and estimated cost.” The report states -
This commission have read the report addressed to the right honorable the Prime Minister, dated Melbourne, 16th August, 1918, by the board of experts, railway engineers, on break-of-gauge devices, and. approve of the conditions prescribed by that board, and, with one exception, accept their decisions with respect to devices examined by them. The one exception relates to a device which has also been examined by this commission, and the decision against it is based solely upon our own investigation.
This commission has examined a number of devices which were not presented to the board of experts in 1918, and in each instance has decided adversely to the device. In some cases a few questions addressed to the person presenting the device have been sufficient to impress him that the device was not suitable for the conditions.
In very few cases had the inventor, or designer, any extended knowledge of railway conditions; none had looked at the problem in its broadest aspect, and very few had more than a most hazy idea of what the ultimate cost in time and money might be if his particular device were to be used.
At some break-of-gauge stations at the present time there are in use short sections cif third-rail installations to permit waggons of two different gauges being placed at the same cattle race, or similar location: and, no doubt, similarshort sections may be found necessary, or desirable, in the future, until unification of gauges is completed. Such installations are approved. They are very simple affairs compared, with the use of third-rail construction over a material mileage of railway.
That is a vital point. Senator Barwell remarked that the third rail was in use, but the commission referred to its employment only over cattle races and such places.
– A third rail has been in use in South Australia between Wolseley and Bordertown for 30 years.
– Even if the device is safe, I prefer the adoption of the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge throughout Australia. The commission’s report continues -
Persons suggesting these third-rail and mechanical devices usually refer to them as “ intermediate steps to the final unification of gauges,” and have not estimated whether the intermediate step will cost more, or cost less, than the immediate step to unification. Even were some device workable, it would not matter much whether its cost were greater or less than that of unifying the gauges, because whatever it might cost would be just that much more expense in money, and cause an unreasonable time delay for unification. Any time or money spent on third-rail or mechanical devices will be wasted.
It is recommended that none of these devices be used, and that attention be centred directly upon the unification of gauges.
It is not to be inferred from my reading of these extracts from the report that I am opposed’ to the bill. I simply wish to emphasize the folly of perpetuating the break of gauge difficulty. Having determined on a standard gauge for Australia, we should build all Commonwealth lines to that gauge. We confirmed this decision in the agreement for the construction of the Kyogle-South Brisbane railway, and we should incorporate a similar provision in this measure. i anticipate that before, work is commenced on the Red Hill to Port Augusta line, we shall have the report of the Public Works Committee before us. Possibly it will help us. i understand that the construction of that line will shorten the journey between Adelaide and Port Augusta by 70 miles, and reduce the travelling time by about four hours. Travelling on the railway between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta, if we except the climatic conditions during certain months of the year, is, on the whole, comfortable. The same cannot be said of the section between Port Augusta and Terowie. i am not opposed to the ratification of the agreement, but i object to the third rail proposal, and i hope that the Public Works Committee will emphasize the necessity for adopting the 4-ft. 8§-in. gauge as another step in the direction of the complete unification of railway gauges in Australia
– In supporting the second reading of the bill, I should like to say that I am keenly interested in the unification of railway gauges in Australia. I have referred to this problem on more than one occasion in this chamber. i understand that under this agreement South Australia is prepared to allow the Commonwealth to link up Port Augusta with Adelaide by means of a third rail between Port Pirie and Adelaide. If the Public Works Committee rejects the proposal for a third rail, the Commonwealth will be obliged to build a 4-ft. 8^-in railway. Experts, who have inquired into the third rail principle, have rejected it, but I understand that Mr. Webb, the South Australian Railways Commissioner, favours its adoption on the line to Port Augusta.
– He says it is extensively used in some portions of the United States of America.
– If Mr. Webb is opposed to a third rail, it would be waste of time on the part of the Public Works Committee to inquire into the proposal, and attention should be directed immedi ately to the construction of a 4-ft. 8^-in. railway.
– This is a bill to ratify an agreement, not with Mr. Webb, but with the Government of South Australia.
– Unless the Minister is in a position to say that experts who, a f ew years ago, were opposed to the adoption of a third rail have changed their minds, it would be useless to refer this matter to the Public Works Committee.
– We are not asking that anything be referred to the Public Works Committee at the moment; we shall have that proposal before us later.
– Then I understand that this is a measure to obtain the consent of the South Australian Government to proceed with the construction of the line?
– That is so.
– If that is the position, I am satisfied. I am strongly in favour of unification of the gauges, and will do all I can to help the Government in that direction.
[4.2]. - I thought that in my second-reading speech I had made it clear that the matters referred to in the agreement would come before the Senate later in the form of separate bills - one for the North-South line, another for the adoption of the third rail between Adelaide and Port Pirie, and for the construction of a 4-ft. 8J-in. railway between Port Augusta and Red Hill. For the information of Senator Thomas, I may explain that the railway between Adelaide and Red Hill is on the 5 -ft. 3-in. gauge, and that the South Australian Government desires, if there is to be an extension to Port Augusta from Red Hill, on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, to have a third rail as far as Port Pirie. There will then be a uniform gauge right from Kalgoorlie to Adelaide.
– What is the distance between Port Pirie- and Port Augusta?
– About 60 miles. I should like to assure Senator Needham that in not replying more fully to his remarks, I was not intentionally discourteous. There will be an opportunity later to deal more in detail with the various proposals.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
– I should like the Minister (Senator Wilson) to explain if in the event of one portion of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the South Australian Government being given effect to, say the construction of a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, railway being undertaken, the Commonwealth would be compelled to construct a line from Port Augusta to Red Hill and also to lay a third rail from Red Hill to Adelaide. What would be the position between the contracting parties if the Commonwealth Government declined to proceed with the last two mentioned undertakings? Would it be considered a breach of agreement, or of honour on the part of the Commonwealth Government? I do not know whether the agreement can be adopted in part or whether we have to accept it in globo. That is a question to which I suppose the Government has given consideration. If, by passing this bill, we shall commit ourselves to the three proposals, it will place Parliament in an awkward position, and bind us in a way of which I cannot approve until, at least, I am further enlightened. If one portion of the work under this agreement can be proceeded with independently, and the others dealt with later, as I think they should be, Parliament will be in a much better position. If only one undertaking were proceeded with, would it be said that a breach, of the agreement had been committed ?
Senator Sir VICTOR WILSON (South Australia, Minister for Markets and Migration) [4.11]. - I have previously stated that the three proposals embodied in the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government have to be submitted to this Parliament for its concurrence. Whilst the Government is very anxious that the whole of the work mentioned in the agreement’ shall be undertaken, Parliament can, if it so desires, direct an investigation to be made by the Public Works Committee into either of the two subsidiary proposals. That would not prejudice the construction of the Alice Springs railway.
– By agreeing to the schedule we are not committing ourselves in any way to the construction of the north-south railway?
– I think the question raised by Senator Lynch is covered by paragraph c of clause 6 of the agreement, which reads -
– That refers to only one particular work.
– That has been referred to the Public Works Committee.
– No, the construction of a line from Port Augusta to Red Hill.
– I do not care if both proposals are referred to the committee. The paragraph to which I have referred provides that if the third rail proposal is impracticable or dangerous, the line shall be constructed by the State at the expense of the Commonwealth.
– At any cost?
– That is not mentioned. The question of laying a third rail is covered by paragraph c of clause 6, irrespective of whether the question is or is not inquired into by the Public Works Committee. I quite agree with the Minister that, even if the agreement is ratified, honorable senators are not committed to any particular line or to any route.
– Then what is the use of the bill?
-Iconsider that, although we agree to this bill, we shall still be free to support or oppose the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs Railway Bill.
[4.15]. - I direct honorable senators’ attention to paragraph a of clause 2 of the schedule, which reads - 2. (a) The Commonwealth undertakes that as soon as the necessary surveys and estimates are complete it will introduce into and take all reasonable steps to have enacted by the Parliament of the Commonwealth legislation authorizing this agreement to be performed by the Commonwealth.
That provides a preliminary working basis as between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) [4.16].- The legal position, as I see it, is that, first of all, an agreement has been entered into between the Prime Minister on behalf of the Commonwealth, and the Premier of South Australia on behalf of the South Australian Government. That agreement, which is embodied in the schedule to this bill, is a variation of the original agreement entered into in 1907, and ratified by the Commonwealth in 1910. It is subject to ratification by the Commonwealth Parliament and the South Australian Parliament. That is why it is before us. If it is ratified by this Parliament, a special session of the South Australian Parliament will immediately be held to ratify or reject, the agreement; but, once the agreement is ratified by the Commonwealth Parliament and the South Australian Parliament, there is under it a distinct obligation upon the Commonwealth and upon the State of South Australia which will be binding , in every way.
– In keeping with the provisions of clause 2.
– Clause 2 provides that the agreement entered into shall be subject to ratification by the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia, and when that is done the agreement is binding upon the Commonwealth. I do not know whether I understood the Minister aright, but I believe he inferred that, even if this measure is passed, there will be no binding legal obligation upon the Commonwealth. If that is the Minister’s contention, I do not agree with him. Once the agreement is ratified by both Parliaments, it is complete and binding in every way.
– The acceptance of this agreement will compel Parliament to construct the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs railway.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Yes. The obligation is then upon the Commonwealth Clause 4 of the agreement provides -
Clause 5 reads -
Clause 6 provides -
When once the agreement is ratified the provisions I have quoted become distinct obligations. As a matter of form this agreement has to come before the Parliament of the Commonwealth and of the State of South Australia.
– And when this bill is passed we commit ourselves.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Yes. If Parliament ratifies this agreement it commits itself. Although it is necessary to again bring the matter before Parliament, as is done in the bill which we are. subsequently to consider to authorize the construction of a line from. Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, that measure will be considered merely a- matter of form, because of the definite obligations entered into’ under this bill. We cannot get away from that position.
– By passing this bill we shall definitely commit ourselves to the three projects.
– By passing this bill we shall commit ourselves to the agreement which commits the Commonwealth to the obligations imposed under it, of which the building of a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs is one. If this bill is agreed to, and the other bill rejected, there will be a distinct breach of agreement. It cannot be questioned that if this bill is passed, certain obligations will be definitely imposed upon the Commonwealth Government.
– Senator Barwell’s contention seems to be quite logical. If we agree to this measure now, we shall undoubtedly be putting the cart before the horse. We ought first to find out whether the Senate is prepared to authorize the construction of a railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs; whether it favours the 3-ft. 6-in.- gauge or the 4-ft.8½-in gauge; whether it is prepared to build a line from Port Augusta to Red Hill, and also to lay a third rail from Red Hill to Adelaide on the existing 5-ft. 3 -in. gauge line.
SenatorFoll. - If we agree to this measure we shall be committed to the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs line.
– That is quite clear. In view of that, the last thing that we ought to do at this stage is to pass this bill. We ought first to answer the three questions that I have stated. I am strongly in favour of one proposal in the agreement, and strongly opposed to another. - We should be in a position to discuss each proposal entirely on its merits. I well remember reading a press report to the effect that Senator Barwell, when Premier of South Australia, stated that he would not permit the Commonwealth Government to do anything in- the way of unifying the railway gauges in South Australia unless it connected Port Augusta with Adelaide by the 4-ft. 8½in. gauge line. It would be manifestly unfair to ask the Senate to agree to this measure before it had had an opportunity to consider fully all the implications in the agreement. Senator Barwell has stated, the case quite clearly. If the bill is agreed to the Commonwealth Government will be definitely committed to build the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs railway. I prefer to consider the three bills which the Minister has said will follow this one, before I vote for the ratification of this agreement. ‘ If, as Senator Wilson has said, the passing of this bill will mean nothing at all, I can ‘ see no objection to submitting the other bills first.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Aus committee should lash itself into a fury because of the legal advice given gratis by Senator Barwell. Although the honorable senator is making no charge for his opinion, I do not propose to accept it.
– Senator Barwell ought to know something about this subject.
– I am speaking of his interpretation of the agreement. The honorable senator stated quite definitely, that, if we pass this bill, we shall be committed to the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs railway.
– I said to an Oodnadatta to Alice Springs railway.
– It is of no use for the honorable senator to attempt to qualify his freely-given advice. He said that we would commit ourselves definitely to the Oodnadatta railway. There is an alternative. The line may be of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, or of the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge.
– But the Government must build the line.
– That is so. If we agree to this measure we may choose the gauge afterwards.
SenatorFoll. - But we shall definitely shut out the Birdsville route.
– Yes. We must go to Alice Springs.
– In my opinion, the gauge of the line is just as important as the route, but that is a detail that can be dealt with when the matter is submitted to the Public Works Committee.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) [4.28]. - If we ratify this agreement, the . Commonwealth Government will be committed to all its provisions. One of these is -
The Commonwealth will at its own expense construct as a portion of the transcontinental railway to be constructed pursuant to the agreement in the schedule to the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910 of the Commonwealth a railway whose northerly terminus shall be at Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
The line may be of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, or of the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, but the Commonwealth is committed to the Alice Springs route. It is also committed to build, at its own expense, a railway of the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge from Port Augusta to Red Hill. That becomes an obligation immediately the agreement is ratified. The Commonwealth is also obliged to lay a third rail fromRed Hill to Adelaide. If, however, in the opinion of the Railways Commissioners of the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia it would be impracticable or dangerous to use the third rail, that need not be done. My point is that the agreement undoubtedly places definite obligations upon the Commonwealth. Unless these are complied with, the Commonwealth Government will be guilty of a breach of contract.
– If this agreement is ratified, there can be no questiou that the terminus of this proposed railway must be Alice Springs. But there is another provision in the agreement that needs consideration. It reads -
The Commonwealth will commence to construct the said railway within six months after the approval and consent mentioned in clause 3 hereof are obtained.
I question whether it will be possible to comply with . that . provision. Does six months allow sufficient time to complete surveys and to do the other necessary preliminary work to permit the actual building of the railway to be undertaken?
– I think both routes have been surveyed.
– The point is that if we ratify the agreement we are bound to undertake the work within six months, or else there is going to be further humbugging.
– I am not at all sorry for having introduced this discussion. It is quite clear that there is a conflict of opinion. On the one hand the Minister in charge of the bill has told us that we shall not be bound by it to build these railways, and on the other hand Senator Barwell has given us a legal interpretation to the effect that we shall be definitely bound.
– The bill binds us to construct a railway.
– We are certainly in a curious position. The Minister has said that we shall be free, even after this measure is agreed to, to vote as we please on the bills that it will cause to be introduced to give effect to the agreement: whereas Senator Barwell has told us that we shall be obliged to vote for a railway, the terminus of which must be at Alice Springs.
– That is so.
– Now we are in the extraordinary position that Senator Wilson is in agreement with Senator Barwell. We ought to be asked to dispose of the bills which deal with the matters mentioned in the agreement before we are asked to ratify the agreement. Apart altogether from the question of the building of the Alice Springs railway, the doubtful expedient of a third rail is proposed. If we ratify the agreement, the whole matter will be signed, sealed and delivered.
-It must be remembered that the introduction of a third rail is subject to agreement between the Railways Commissioners of the Commonwealth and South Australia.
– The provision in connexion with the laying of a third rail is undoubtedly an integral part of the agreement covered by this bill. If the third rail is not practicable, Port Augusta must be connected with Adelaide by a 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge line. If the committee agrees to this provision, it will tie its hands, and the bill that is to be submitted subsequently will have to be treated merely as a. formal measure. I suggest that we make sure of our ground before we so tie our hands.
Senator Sir VICTOR WILSON (South Australia - Minister for Markets and Migration) [4.36]. - If the agreement is ratified it will still be within the option, of the Commonwealth to lay the third rail from Port Augusta southwards; there can be no compulsion upon the Commonwealth to undertake that work.
– That is not the most important aspect of the matter.
– The most important consideration is that this obligation has existed for seventeen years. The acceptance of the agreement will merely mean the re-affirming of that obligation. If the bill is carried to the report stage, we can proceed with the consideration of the other measure.
– Oh, no!
– If there is an impression in the minds of honorable senators that I am actuated by any ulterior motive in making that suggestion, I shall move “ That progress be reported.”
Debate resumed from 29th January (vide page 526), on motion by Senator Sir Victor Wilson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When the debate was adjourned on Friday, I was referring to the efficiency of the South African railway system. Nobody is more favorable than I am to the unification of the railway gauges of Australia. I am, therefore, unable to account for the indecent haste that has been displayed in the endeavour to make honorable senators swallow, holus bolus, an agreement providing for the construction of a long line of railway through comparatively desert country, from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. The Commonwealth’s obligation would not cease with the construction of that line ; it would have to continue the line on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge from Alice Springs to Daly Waters, and thence on to Darwin. The problem of the unification of the railway gauges would thus be made more acute. I believe that any new line of railway should be built to the standard gauge. This is not a party matter, and I shall endeavour to state my views quite impartially. I am not, either directly or indirectly, interested in land that is along or is likely to ba served by any of the suggested routes. I. am, therefore, merely performing what I conceive to be my public duty. Honorable senators, and other persons outside this chamber, have said a great deal regarding the necessity for opening up this country and developing it for the raising of sheep. I am afraid that they have had very little practical experience of the class of country through which the proposed line will be constructed, or the lack of water and the scarcity of feed. Even more important than those, however, is the tremendous cost of developing outback country so as to make it suitable to carry sheep.’
– What does the honorable senator mean by “ practical experience “ ?
– I refer to men whounderstand and have had experience in the development of country.
– How much of this country is developed?
– Very little. During the last 50 years attempts have been made to develop it, but the results have been more or less disastrous.
– Is the honorable * senator opposing the bill?
– I am; but not because I do not want to see money spent on railway development in Australia. I hope to see enormous sums spent in that direction, and I am fully aware that a north-south railway must be built; but what I am opposed to is having a particular route forced upon us. Taking Australia as a whole the average price that is being realized for wool at the present time is very little greater than the actual cost of production, even though the returns now are 50 to 60 per cent, higher than they were prior to the war.
– In what way does the honorable senator arrive at the cost of production?
– I give it as my calm and deliberate opinion - and I am supposed to be an expert in the matter - that the present day price of wool is very little higher than the present day cost of production. Australia is the greatest wool-producing country in the world, and this year’s clip of 2,250,000 bales is the greatest that she has ever produced.
– What was the price of wool in 1911 : was it not11d. a lb. ?
– The average price of the Australian clip for the five years before the war was about 9¾d.
– What is it now?
– The honorable senator can work that out for himself. I have already referred to the poor quality of the country in the vicinity of Marree and from Marree to Oodnadatta. The huge expenditure that was incurred in constructing the line from Marree to Oodnadatta did not have the effect of increasing the number of stock of any kind along or adjacent to the route.
– What is the honorable senator’s deduction?
– I argue that it was a waste of money to build a line through country that was so poor that neither the stock nor the population was increased.
– It has to go through that country if we are to have a transcontinental line.
– I entirely disagree with the honorable senator. Instead of going north-westerly the line could have branched off at Marree and gone slightly in a north-easterly direction, passing through the northern boundary of South Australia about Birdsville.
– Did the honorable senator oppose the construction of the east-west line ?
– No. That was a totally different proposition.
– Is the country good all along the route of that line?
– That line connects with the eastern portion of Australia a vast state that contains millions of acres of good country and it joins up comparatively big cities.That was a totally different proposition. I have already endeavored to explain to honorable senators that I am not opposed to the construction of a north-south railway, but that I .am opposed to the bill, because it definitely lays down the route that the railway shall traverse and the gauge upon which it shall be built. Some honorable senators doubtless think that, as I have not been over the country which this line will traverse-^ -
– That the honorable senator ‘knows nothing about it; that is quite apparent.
– I am sorry to hear the honorable senator say that, because I thought he had more brains.
– The honorable senator is now merely being rude.
– The honorable senator first hit me below the belt. I have no desire to raise any heat in this matter. I apologize for daring to express an opinion regarding the route of the proposed railway or the possibilities of developing the country. I remind Senator Barwell, however, that my experience in regard to the development of outback country is greater than his.
– But the honorable senator has not been in this country, and apparently he knows nothing about it.
– I have had to assist to find the cash to develop country, and I have handled many accounts that have been sent in by practical pioneers. I have noted the sad experience of a great many of the men who went into the back country and lost all they possessed. They were good practical men who struggled on for years. I desire to see an increase in population in the northern portion of Australia, and money spent on railway development, but I want, it done in the right way, and without any undue haste or heat. It seems that honorable senators from South Australia are obsessed with a craze, almost, to construct a railway through the worst part of Australia, without any consideration as to what is best in the interests of not only their own State, but the Commonwealth as a whole.
– Our only objection is to the misstatements of fact.
– The honorable senator knows nothing of the country of which he is talking.
– Yet I have had recent experience as part owner and liquidator of 1,000 square miles of it.
– -Country the honorable senator never saw !
– For many years I was managing director of a holding of . 2,000 square miles in the Territory.
– Was that proposition also a failure ?
-Eventually it was a great success. The station was located on the famous Barkly Tablelands, which I think should be developed by a railway. It may be thought from my criticism of the country in the neighbourhood of Marree and Oodnadatta, and the district proposed to de served by the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, that I have exaggerated its unsuitability for stock, but I hope that honorable senators will not accuse me of making deprecatory remarks concerning Australia. ‘
– Surely. What else has the honorable senator been doing?
– I love Australia.
– The honorable senator’s bit of it.
– Not at all. I have great faith in Australia, and I want to see vast sums of money spent in its development.
– The honorable senator is giving Australia a bad name.
– I have no desire to do that. My remarks are prompted by the attitude of the honorable senators from South Australia, who are anxious to have this railway built in a hurry at all costs.
– In a hurry? We have waited many years for it.
– My desire is to prevent a great waste of public money. Honorable senators from South Australia may assume, if they choose, that I know nothing about the country in question, the cost of developing it, or the best route to be followed: but I propose to give the first-hand opinions of practical men who have been over the route, not once or twice, as some honorable senators have, in a comfortable motor-car, travelling at 30 or 40 miles an hour, but scores of times - men who have walked and ridden over it, and traded in stock, or, rather tried to keep stock alive there. Their opinion is surely of greater value to the taxpayers of Australia than that of any honorable senator.
– Dozens “ of them gave evidence before the Public Works Committee.
– The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) in moving the second reading of this bill in another place, stated that the country from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs was very poor, and almost waterless, and that the average rainfall at Alice Springs over the last 45 years had been about 11 inches. Although my information is that the rainfall is less than 11 inches, I shall take it that what the Minister said is correct.
– We arc growing a wheat in South Australia on country with a 9-inch rainfall.
-Good crops were produced in the Mallee districts of Victoria last season on a 4-inch rainfall, but we know that success depends entirely upon the period of the year in which the rain falls. There might be 20 or 30 inches of rain in a year, as in Africa, on land that looks suitable for wheat-growing, but in that country, not half the local requirements of wheat can be produced, because the rain, as in the northern part of Australia, falls at the wrong time of the year for cereal crops. Speaking of Alice Springs, which will probably be the terminus, in our lifetime, of the proposed line, the Minister for Works and Rail ways went on to explain that “ There is occasionally a period of two or three years during which no rain falls.” That, surely, condemns the country at Alice Springs, which the most enthusiastic advocates of the railway contend is the best portion to be served by the line.
– I think that the honorable senator is wrong there. Did the Minister not say that the average rainfall was 11 inches, and that there was an occasional drought ?
– I am quoting from Ilansard. In his second-reading speech the Minister proceeded -
It is obvious that if the country is to be developed to carry ‘ sheep, it will be necessary to not only sink wells at frequent intervals, but also to divide the holdings into small vermin-proof paddocks. In regard to the area to be held by lessees nothing less than 500 square miles is of any value.
I have discussed this problem during the last week with practical men’ who know the country well, and have had experience both in Central Australia and South-Western Queensland, and they inform me that nothing less than 1,000 square miles for each lessee would be of any use. I feel sure that the country could not be profitably developed to carry sheep, unless they were the super-sheep to which the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) has referred. There must have been some joke about the animals that the honorable member said he saw at Ryan’s Well. There must have been more than water at that place, because the honorable member stated that he saw, rearing lambs there a flock of merino ewes, that, in the previous year, had returned 8 lb. of scoured wool a head. If they did that, they are worth hundreds of pounds each, because they would be about the best stud ewes in Australia. Evidently Ryan’s Well and King George whisky must be a good combination. The visitors on that occasion,, when they saw these supersheep - these world-beaters - must have had a remarkably good time. I do not know who were in the party, or what they did. The honorable member for Grey, at any rate, either- had a good time, or had his “ leg pulled.”
– That is a dirty statement to make. The honorable member for Grey does not drink at all, but the honorable senator suggests that he does. The honorable senator should not make disparaging remarks about an honorable member of another place in his absence.
– i was not making disparaging remarks. The honorable senator has no sense of humour. I would sooner say this to the honorable member’s face than behind his back.
– Give us your speech. These notes of yours have been written out for you by somebody else.
– I wrote them myself.
– The honorable senator did not.
– I ask you to withdraw that remark, because I wrote every word of these notes. You accuse me of telling a lie.
-Order ! The honorable senator will kindly address the Chair. I ask Senator McHugh to withdraw the state: ment to which exception has been taken.
– It was merely a little interlude. I withdraw the remark. If the honorable senator wrote his speech, he ought to remember it.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator will remember to-morrow what he has said today, but if he does he will regret it.
– I never forget anything.
-Then the honorable senator is a super-man, just as the sheep at Ryan’s Well are apparently super-sheep. Honorable senators may be interested to learn that the average weight of- scoured wool for Australia .is a little less than 4 IB. a head. The fleeces from sheep at Ryan’s Well would lose at least 60 per cent, in scouring, and the owners would be lucky to secure 3 lb. a head.
– What is the average weight of wool “ in the grease’” for Australia ?
-From 1 to 8 lb., and the average loss in scouring is 50 per cent. I merely mention these figures because some exaggerated statements have been made as to the excellence of the country to be served, and the wonderful stock that is raised there. T now desire to read from notes of an interview that i had yesterday at my office with a gentleman who happened to arrive on that day from Central Aus tralia. These notes were taken down for me. I knew him well by repute as a man who had tackled large and difficult problems in country similar to that under consideration - a man who had owned over 1,000 square miles of land, and had spent years there. He had sunk thousands of pounds in boring and fencing. His holding was situated almost equidistant from Brisbane, Sydney, and Adelaide.
– Is he now an oldage pensioner?
– No, he is a comparatively young and very able man.
– Has he done well in that country?
– Not on the country proposed to be served by this railway, but on ja property elsewhere.
– Where is this country on which he sank thousands of pounds ?
– North of Marree, but in fairness to him it is not necessary to give his name.
– Suppose we say it is the worst country in Australia._
-This gentleman has travelled the -route from Alice Springs to Oodnadatta, not once, but several times.
– The honorable senator stated that the notes of the interview were recorded for him. If his informant furnished him with a statement for publication, should the honorable senator not be prepared to supply the name of his informant?
– It is all right. He was brought in for the job.
– I would be something of a magician if I could produce a man from Central Australia at such short notice to substantiate my case. I can assure honorable senators that I pay a great deal of attention to what my informant says about Central Australia, because he is a practical man.
– If he gave the honorable senator such definite information, in fairness to the country criticized, we ought to have his name.
– I shall be glad to supply his name privately to honorable senators.
– Personally, I do not want his name, but the Senate should have it.
– I am not prepared, at this juncture, to give it.
– Is the statement signed?
– No. I simply told him that I wanted what information he could supply. He said that his company held nearly 1,000,000 acres near Marree.
– What company is that?
– Perhaps, it is Dalgety and Company.
– No. It is a private company, and in no way connected with Dalgety ‘s.
– Order! The honorable senator, has exhausted his time. [Extension of time granted.]
– This gentleman states that he has had life-long experience in developing country in outback Australia. He describes, as practically useless, the country from Lyndhurst, which is about 50 miles south of Marree, to Oodnadatta, and on as far as Frances Well, in the Northern Territory, along the proposed route of this railway, to 220 miles north of Oodnadatta. There are, however, isolated habitable patches, though they have only a 5-in. rainfall. The few stations that do cany stock carry only cattle. A few of them tried sheep, but the best were able to carry only 20 sheep to the mile. The average country from Lyndhurst to Alice Springs, he says, is impossible for sheep.
– That is not so.
– Honorable senators who know the country will bear out what this gentleman says. It is to be regretted that honorable senators, who are supporting the measure, have stated that the country to be served by the proposed railway will, if developed, carry 40 sheep to the square mile.
– What did Mr. McBride say ?
– The gentleman who has given me this information knows far more about the country to be served by this railway than any member of this Chamber. This is no joking matter. It is a proposal to spend several millions of public money in the belief that it will lead to the development of a large area of country which, as I have shown, will not carry more than twenty sheep to the square mile. Have honorable senators any idea of the cost of developing country like that for sheep ? Do they know what it costs to erect rabbit and dog proof fences, to put down bores, and properly equip a place ? The cost for that class of country is prohibitive.
– The pioneers had the same difficulties in other parts of Australia.
– If a property out there is intended for sheep, it is necessary to put down bores at a distance of not more than 6 miles apart, and, as the average depth of bores is from 1,200 feet, to 1,800 feet, the cost of developing a sheep station on such country outback in Australia on 500 square miles of country that can carry only twenty sheep to the square mile will be £150,000 for 10,000 sheep. Even those enthusiasts from South Australia who are supporting this proposal admit that the best sheep country in the Northern Territory is to be found in the Barkly Tablelands, of which I have had a life-long experience. My father, who successfully pioneered the country in 1882, was one of its pioneers. He was the first man to take sheep to the Northern Territory. After 30 years experience, and after spending £112,000 on developmental work, the directors of the company with which he was associated came to the conclusion that it would be in the best interests of the shareholders to abandon sheep. The same thing happened at Carrandotta Station, another good property on the Queensland border of the Barkly Tablelands.
– There were 40,000 sheep on Carrandotta Station when I came down through the Northern Territory two years ago.
– The Minister is quite right. I was about to mention that. When Mr. Cumming had charge of that station many years ago, it was carrying sheep. He gave up sheep, but in recent years sheep have again been put on the run. I am sorry to speak in this way, because I hope that some day .sheep growing will be a profitable industry on the Barkly Tablelands. Practical men tried sheep and abandoned them, though Carrandotta is again carrying sheep. I have advised the present owners of Avon Downs to do likewise, but’ not to try to breed sheep there. The best policy appears to . be to stock up with young merino wethers from Queensland, and after growing wool for three or four years to get rid of them. It is not pleasant for me to decry the value of any. part of the Northern Territory, and I can assure honorable senators that I have no ulterior motive in saying all this. Up to the present it has been impossible to breed sheep in the Territory. I do not wish to condemn the Barkly Tablelands. I know the country is wonderful, and I believe it should be served by a railway.
– We have better country to the west.
– That is not so. There is very good country to the west, but the Barkly Tablelands is the pick of the Northern Territory, and I hope one day to see it carrying 10,000,000 sheep. I feel sure eventually the difficulties encountered by the pioneers will be overcome, and that by providing artificial shade and water at short distances it will be possible to get profitable lambings. When the company to which I refer decided to abandon sheep we sold 5,000 head off that leasehold property. Let me give honorable senators some details of the expenditure necessary to develop outback country for sheep. A vermin-proof fence, according to specifications insisted on by the. South Australian Government, on country within 150 miles of Port Augusta, costs from £120 to £130 a mile. In the outback country, such as that which will be served by this proposed railway, the cost will be from £170 to £180 a mile, or a total of £16,200, merely to ring-fence 500 square miles capable of carrying 10,000 sheep, on the basis of 20 sheep to the square mile. It is necessary to subdivide a property for sheep, and a station of that size should be divided into at least twelve paddocks. This subdivision fencing will cost £11,100, bringing the total for fencing alone up to £27,300. In addition there must be a wool-shed, drafting yards, and sheep-dipping equipment, to say nothing of bores, which must be put down at distances of not more than 6 miles. In the Northern Territory, an equipped bore will cost from £2 10s. to £3 a foot, so that every artesian bore, of a depth of 1,800 feet, will cost about £5,400. Practical men who have gone into the details estimate that it will cost £150,000 to develop and stock 500 square miles to carry 10,000 sheep. This works out at £15 a sheep on leasehold country. If, for the sake of argument, we agree that this estimate is grossly exaggerated and that the cost works out at only £7 10s. a head, what sort of .a fool would a man be to invest that amount of capital to develop a sheep station in Central Australia, where transport costs must necessarily be heavy, when he could buy a freehold property carrying a sheep to the acre in the heart of the Western District of Victoria, with magnificent improvements and a splendid homestead, for £8 to £9 an acre. Country in the western district of Victoria, which produces the best wool in the world can be obtained at £8 per acre, and fully developed sheep station properties in South Australia and New South Wales cau be purchased at much below that figure. As there are also large areas of undeveloped country in Western Australia suitable for sheepraising purposes which can be obtained at a reasonable figure, it is ridiculous to speak of profitably developing sheep country iu that part of the Northern Territory to be served by the proposed line. What inducement would there be, particularly in view of the ruling Australian Workers’ Union rates? They are - shearing flock sheep 38s - in Queensland it is 45s. - rams 76s., stud ewes and their lambs 47s 6d. per hundred, and special studs higher.
– What is the rate for shearing under the Federal award ?
– It is 3Ss. per hundred. I do not object to the Queensland rate of 45s.. because I believe in good wages. I. am giving this information to the Senate because many persons without practical experience think that all one has to do in order to make money as a sheep breeder is to select a good piece of country, fence it, stock it with sheep, and then come down to the Melbourne Cup once a year and spend some of the profits. They overlook the fact that a large amount of capital has to be employed, a lot of hard work done, and considerable risk incurred. In addition to the shearing costs as set out in the log, the following wages are paid: - Crutching 9s. 6d., and wigging or ringing 4s. 5½d. a hundred. The rate for pressing is 2s. 6½d. per bale undumped, and for dumped bales 3s. 0£d. If the total sum which pressers receive does not amount to 117s. per week, the employer must, under the award, pay the difference to the employee. Cooks’ wages are 7s.’ 7d. per man or a minimum of 88s. per week and keep. Station hands are paid 78s. without keep, or 52s. per week when found. I do not object to the high wages paid in the industry as awarded by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, but what a hopeless proposition it would be to develop the country for sheepcarrying purposes if the rates now being claimed by the Australian Workers’ Union were to be paid. They are: - shearing, 60s. a hundred for flock sheep, £9 a hundred for rams and ram stags, £3 10s. a hundred for stud ewes and lambs, and £1 6s. 8d. a day for special studs, with cook rations and shearing requisites found. If these rates amount to less than £9 10s. per week the employer has to make up the deficiency. Under the proposed log, crutching is to be paid for at 15s. a hundred, and wigging 7s. a hundred, and if these rates return less than £8 per week the employer is to make up the deficiency. Shed hands are asking from £6 a week, penners up £7 per week, wool pressers £8 per week and keep, arid cooks £8 per week as a minimum. As to wool classers, I have never thought their wages sufficient.
– What has this to do with the construction of the proposed line?
– A good deal, because the Minister (Senator Wilson) has argued that sheep raising can be profitably carried on the country which the proposed line will serve.
– The wages which the honorable senator is quoting are not being, paid to-day.
-They are being claimed. I have taken the trouble to obtain the opinion of experienced practical men on this question, men who know more about it than I do., and all of them are of the opinion that the country in any circumstances cannot be profitably developed for sheep raising. Under existing conditions it is difficult enough to make wool-growing pay, even on good established inside freehold stations, but it would be hopeless on back country unless a much greater number of sheep than that estimated could be carried to the square mile. As it is necessary to open up fresh country, attention should be given to the development of some of the good sheep country in Western Australia. A fine stretch of country north-east of Kalgoorlie, which was once considered unsuitable owing to the absence of water, is now being opened up by Mr. Hawker, who, I am informed, has spent £60,000 on it. That country is capable of carrying 100 sheep to the square mile - not 20, as is estimated in connexion with the country to be served by this line - and sub-artesian water can be obtained at a depth of from 25 to 30 feet, and there is good edible scrub. It has been argued that a certain amount of revenue will be derived from the railway, but, in my opinion, there will not be sufficient to pay for even axle grease. The railway which at present terminates at Oodnadatta has never returned any revenue worth mentioning. As honorable senators are aware, the country in the north-west of the Northern Territory held by Vestey Brothers and the Bovril Company of Australia is good cattle country. The stock go to .Darwin, but the handling costs are prohibitive. The freezing works of Vestey Brothers, on which £1,000,000 has been spent, have been closed for three years, and it is significant to note that the cost of shipping every live beast from Darwin to Singapore is five times greater than is the cost of shipping from Wyndham owing to the misbehaviour of the “ wharfies “ at Darwin, who, apparently, never work seriously. Every one who has had any dealings in the Northern Territory knows that cattle, which do not goi to Darwin, go east across the Barkly Tablelands into Queensland at Lake Nash, where, under the Government regulations, they have to be dipped three times. They then proceed down the Georgina and Diamantina, aud many of them are eventually trucked at Marree for the Adelaide market. Even if the proposed line were constructed it . would not be used by those who dispatch cattle from the country I have mentioned. The cattle from the Barkly Tablelands go to Gladstone, Townsville, or the Brisbane meatworks, or down to Adelaide via Brisbane. They do not traverse the route of the proposed railway, and those in the north would not be trucked even if a line were constructed to Alice Springs, as there is too large a gap between the good country in the northern part of the Territory and Alice Springs. They could possibly be rushed over the intervening poor country, but in doing so they would lose a good deal of their condition. As a result of reading a number of valuable reports, I have come to the conclusion that in order to honour the agreement a north-south railway should be built through the northern boundary of South Australia, but it should go in an easterly direction to serve the Barkly Tablelands and connect with the Queensland, and, eventually, the New South Wales railway systems. A glance at the map shows that there are railways in Queensland; running in a westerly direction which could link up with a line such as I suggest. That line should be built, not on a 3- ft. 6-in. gauge as proposed, but on the 4- ft. 8½-in. gauge, and should eventually connect with the line from Darwin to Daly Waters. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) estimated the cost of a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line of light rails, unballasted and unfenced, at £1,700,000. We know what estimates are. We can safely put down the cost at £3,000,000. He also said that the estimated cost of the rolling-stock was £250,000, and that the working expenses and interest had been set down at £173,499 per annum.
– Estimates of expenses can usually be multiplied by two.
– Yes. The estimated revenue is shown as £94,125. Whence is the revenue coming? There is at present very little railway traffic offering on the existing line, and there, are fewer . people at Oodnadatta than there were before the railway was built. The proposed line will not to any extentserve sheep or cattle country. The Minister also stated that the trucks would each carry eighteen beasts. As I have, on behalf of owners, trucked thousands of cattle in different parts of Australia, I was surprised to learn thatsuch a large number could be carried in one truck. Believing that a mistake had been made, I sent an urgent wire to the Adelaide stock agents, asking the number of bullocks carried in each truck on the Oodnadatta line. I received a reply by urgent wire that nine was the average number. The Minister has doubled that number, not intentionally, I know.
– They are using larger trucks now.
– I asked the following simple question, “ What is the average number of bullocks that can be carried in a truck on the ‘ Oodnadatta line.” I was informed that the number was nine.
– In each truck?
– Yes. The position should be explained to possible investors.
– The honorable senator should be fair to the Minister for Works and Railways.
-I am quoting his figures. As I have stated, the meat works at Darwin have been closed for three years, and although Vestey’s have 150,000 head of cattle at Wave Hill and other stations, this establishment cannot be carried on because the employees will not work. In consequence of its closing down the workmen are losing £150,000 a year in wages, and the plant is now used only for boiling down bullocks and cows for which there is no other outlet. The Bovril Company of Australia, which owns the Victoria River Downs, had 70,000 head of cattle on that property, which were being used for the manuf acture of bovril, but owing to the closing down of the Darwin works, it has now little opportunity of disposing of the stock. The prospect of doing anything at Darwin seems apparently hopeless, but I trust that some day the people there will have sufficient common. sense to allow such undertakings to be profitably carried on. Industry at Darwin is not a payable proposition, owing to the behaviour of the men there, who will not work. We hope, some day, they will realize that an empty north is a danger to the Commonwealth. There are vast areas of splendid country in the Northern Territory, but not in the vicinity of the proposed line, that could be developed by the construction of a railway, and which, we hope, will be settled eventually. There will be no revenue at all from this supposed line. From a defence point of -view it will be more of a menace than anything else. The reports of Earl Kitchener, and of another high military authority who was in charge of the Australian forces, indicate that the only useful line would be one that would deviate to the western boundary of Queensland, and then go up through the Northern Territory. It stands to reason that if Australia had to move troops, horses, or any military equipment to meet a possible attack upon Darwin, she would require railway connexion with Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, where all her military requirements are centred. It would be a far better proposition to build a line from Bourke to connect with the railway systemor Queensland, and then to take it into the Northern Territory than to build this proposed line.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I am delighted to know that there is no binding agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia to build a railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. Honorable senators from South Australia have urged in this Chamber for years that there was such a document. It has been positively uncomfortable at times to sit here and listen to their whining and crying. Having discovered that no agreement had been ratified, they endeavoured this afternoon to sneak in the agreement contained in the Railways (South Australia) Agreement Bill. It was wicked to attempt to do such a thing. It was even more shameful to try to bind this Parliament in that way to the building of a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. The 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway that now runs to Oodnadatta is useless. Nothing can be carried over it, for there is practically no rolling-stock. Yet honorable senators from South Australia have been crying continually that we should extend it.
– The honorable senator has never heard me crying about it.
– Yes, I have. Honorable senators from South Australia have done scarcely anything else in this chamber for years than cry and whine about the so-called dishonoured agreement. Now that they are in a corner, they have devised this scheme to get a railway to Alice Springs.
– And the scheme will be consummated.
– It will not.
– It was set out in the policy speech.
– Never mind about that. Having discovered that all their talk about the repudiation of the agree ment was unavailing, the South Australian senators have endeavoured to-day to sneak in another agreement. I was very glad to hear Senator Barwell admit that there was no agreement.
– I admitted no such thing.
– The honorable senator distinctly said so.
– Do not be silly !
– The honorable senator “ blew the gaff,” and now he is sorry. It is ridiculous to talk about building a railway through the dead heart of Australia, where there is practically no water. Particularly is that so, seeing that the Oodnadatta railway has practically no rolling-stock. I believe one train a fortnight runs on that line.
– The honorable senator does not seem to realize that the Oodnadatta line belongs to the Commonwealth.
– It has only belonged to the Commonwealth for two or three hours, so to speak. Oodnadatta has, I understand a population of about 100, and Alice Springs about 40. These are the “ populous “ towns that we have heard so much about. Senator Barwell himself admitted that Alice Springs was only a pocket of good country.
– I have never1 used such an expression in my life.
– Anyhow there is no possibility, I am glad to say, of this Alice Springs line being built.
SenatorSir Henry Barwell. - We can afford to smile at that.
– Nevertheless I shall make my speech. If the honorable senator is of opinion that my statements are incorrect he can say so subsequently.
– I intend to do so.
– We have it on the verybest authority that there is very little water in the country through which this line would go. It would be far better, in my opinion, to build a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge from Bourke to Camooweal and then on through the Northern Territory.
– And so link up Sydney ?
– Never mind about Sydney.
– The honorable senator has been reading of Waddell’s scheme.
– It is sensible, at any rate. If the line went on from Bourke to Camooweal, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane would be connected, and the line would be within easy reach of the terminii of the railways that stretch out to the western districts of Queensland. That is the only sensible proposition.
– That route would be just about as bad as the other one.
– I do not know that the honorable senator knows anything about the matter. Any one with common sense must realize that from the defence point of view it would be wise to construct this railway in such a way as to connect it with the railway systems of the eastern states. The bulk of Australia’s population is in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. What is the use of building a railway that will tap nothing but half-starved country that can grow only crows and rabbits ?
– Does not the honorable senator believe in populating the country ?
– I believe in building railways in areas that have some reasonable prospects of development. A railway from Bourke to Camooweal and then on to the Northern Territory would go through what has been described by Senator Guthrie as Australia’s breedingground for cattle and sheep.
– I do not think that the honorable senator knows too much about it.
– I know a good deal more about it than does Senator Graham. I know ray own state from A to Z, but I doubt whether he knows much about his. If we must build a railway into the empty north, let us at least adopt the most promising route. The railway ought to be on the 4-ft. 8A-in gauge. If it went from Bourke to Camooweal it. could be carried on through the Northern Territory.
– Through one little corner of it.
– It would go through the best part of it.
– The honorable senator has Waddell’s map in his hand.
– Whether I have or not, I must say that I agree with Senator Guthrie’s proposal that the line should go north-east from Marree to Birdsville, and on to Boulia. I sincerely trust that the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs route will not be adopted. The building of a line through that country would be a deliberate waste of money.
– I had no intention of participating in this debate, but I feel that I must contradict one or two assertions made by Senator Cox. He says that his present attitude has been adopted for the reason that he has discovered, for the first time, that there is no agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government and people of South Australia. Of course, there is an agreement. I have a copy of it in my hand. The honorable senator may read its terms in the schedule to the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910.
– That undertaking will be fulfilled if a line is built from Marree to Birdsville and Boulia.
– BROCKMAN.There are conflicting views as to the meaning of the agreement. Some persons think that the Commonwealth is under an obligation to build a railway from Port Darwin to Port Augusta straight down through the Northern Territory and South Australia only. That opinion is not altogether fortified by the debates that took place in the South Australian and Commonwealth Parliaments when the agreement was made. There is, however, a clear and definite undertaking by the Commonwealth Government and Parliament to build a railway from Port Darwin to a point on the northern border of South Australia, and ultimately down to Port Augusta. I admit that the Commonwealth made a very bad bargain with South Australia when it agreed to take over the Northern Territory; but it entered into that contract, and it must now carry it Out. I am quite sure that Senator Cox would be the last person to repudiate a solemn contract, whether the Commonwealth made a good or a bad bargain.
– The agreement will be carried out if the line is constructed from Daly Waters to Camooweal and Boulia.
– My opinion, as a lawyer, is that the agreement would be carried out if a railway were started at Port Darwin, took four circles round Australia, finally hit the northern boundary of South Australia, and ultimately was carried to the southern point mentioned in the agreement. Contrary views are held by very distinguished lawyers in South Australia and Victoria, but there are other equally distinguished lawyers whose view coincides with mine. There is no means of ascertaining the exact meaning of the agreement by a reference to the High Court, or any other tribunal. The Commonwealth Government has rightly decided that it shall lean to the view to which the South Australian people incline, and honour the spirit of the agreement as the people of that State interpret it.
– Did not the present Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) take that view of the agreement ?
– T do not know; quite possibly he did. That, however, is beside the point. The real point is that the Commonwealth has to build a railway. Let me go a step further and remind honorable senators who sit on this side that at the recent elections there was a very definite statement in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) upon which those of them who stood for election were elected.
– The Prime Minister did not say that the line had to go through Alice Springs-
– For the benefit of the honorable senator I shall quote from the .policy speech of the Prime Minister -
The question of the extension of the railway to Alice Springs has been the subjectmatter of negotiations between the Commonwealth and the Government of the State of South Australia. The construction of this line is an obligation of the Commonwealth under the- Northern Territory Surrender Act, which was passed in 1910, the carrying out of which has been too long delayed. Agreement has now, however, been arrived at between the two Governments, and subject to the concurrence of the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of South Australia this work will be proceeded with in accordance with the agreement.
– The agreement does not say that the line must go from Alice Springs to Daly Waters.
Senator DRAKEBROCKMAN.What I have read is an extract from the policy speech upon which the honorable senator was re-elected to this Senate. If he, or any other honorable senator, who stood for election and was returned, did not definitely repudiate that statement from their own platforms they are now morally bound to stand by the Government, and support the bill. Before I was elected to this Chamber I expressed my view of the route which the proposed railway should take. Not having committed myself at the recent elections, I am per>fectly free to continue to hold the same view. But I do say that there is an obligation on this Parliament to carry out the agreement, which has been too long delayed. Honorable senators must try to find out the meaning of the agreement. If they are unable to do so they should accept the interpretation of the Government. In spite of the wrangling that has taken place over this matter, I feel sure that a majority of honorable senators will support the motion for the second reading of the bill.
– I listened carefully to the speeches of the Minister (Senator Wilson) and of honorable senators who spoke in favour of the ratification of the agreement, and they reminded me forcibly of the trial scene in the Merchant of Venice, in which Shylock pleaded to be allowed to take the pound of flesh that was provided for in his bond.
– The honorable senator admits that this line is provided for in the agreement.
– I do not, and I was a member of the Government that brought in the bill.
– As a responsible Parliament we have to interpret both the spirit and the letter of the agreement. When we discuss constitutional matters we are invariably told that we must endeavour to ascertain what was in the minds of the framers of the Constitution. I do not deny that there is an agreement, and that it lays down certain conditions regarding the construction of a railway. But, judging by the debates that took place in the South Australian Parliament at the time that the contract was entered into, it is perfectly clear that that Parliament never intended that the line should be built wholly within the Northern Territory and South Australia.
– The people of South Australia were greatly concerned when a different interpretation was placed upon the agreement.
– I shall quote the remarks of various members of the State Parliament at the time, including some that were made by Senator Newland. He, at any rate, had doubts as to whether the agreement, as drawn, would carry the legal interpretation that the whole of the line should be built within the Northern Territory proper.
– He was concerned because it might not.
– Senator Barwell’s intervention on behalf of Senator Newland reminds me of the biblical story of Balaam. Senator Newland is well able to interpret his own remarks. Having read the speeches that were made in the South Australian Parliament, and the various legal interpretations that have been placed upon the agreement. I have come to the conclusion that the Commonwealth Government is under no obligation to build the north-south railway in a straight line from north to south. I shall not at present refer in detail to the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. After an inspection of the country, I and my colleagues on the Public Works Committee recommended the construction of that line. There is no doubt that its terminus at the present time would be in the middle of a veritable wilderness. There is some excellent country in the MacdonnellRanges, but I do not think that it is sufficiently high-class to make a railway pay. There were two alternatives; either the line from Marree to Oodnadatta had to be pulled up, or it had to be extended to the Macdonnell Ranges. If there is any provision in the Railways (South Australia) Agreement Bill, that will bind the Commonwealth to continue the construction of theline from Alice Springs in a direct northerly route, I shall vote against it. Eminent legal gentlemen, including ex-Senator Sir Josiah Symon, have been quoted as. having said that the line must be built directly north and south. When the ratification of the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government was under discussion in this chamber, ex-Senator Sir Josiah Symon moved, on the 22nd September, 1910, “ That after the word ‘ constructed ‘ in paragraph b the words ‘ in the Northern Territory’ be inserted.” This showed that he was not satisfied that the agreement provided that the line should be built wholly in the Territory. There were four votes in favour of that amendment and 23 against it. It was a deliberate attempt by ex-Senator Symon to have a provision inserted in the Northern Territory Acceptance Act to safeguard the interests of South Australia.
– But those words are now in the agreement, and appear in the schedule to the. act.
– Not in the act itself.
– But the schedule embodies the agreement.
– The action taken by Sir Josiah Symon showed that he realized that there was a grave doubt as to whether or not the line could be constructed wholly in South Australia and the Northern Territory.
– Yes, but that was ultimately provided for in the schedule.
– The Senate clearly indicated by its vote that it was not in ‘ favour of committing the Commonwealth to any particular route.
– That does not necessarily follow.
– There must have been a doubt in view of the action of Sir Josiah Symon, who was one of the strongest advocates of the line. I propose to quote the opinions expressed by the late Mr. Deakin, ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Denny, now Attorney-General in South Australia, and various other members of the South Australian Parliament whohave taken a leading part in the negotiations between the Commonwealth and South Australia. Ex-Senator McGregor, who was himself a South Australian representative, introduced the bill into the Senate on the 10th August, 1910. He said-
There is no intimation made that it is tobe a straight or a crooked or a triangular line. There will bo every opportunity for the line to be taken in the direction which will be in the interests of the whole of the people of Australia.
When that deliberate statement was made the late Senator McGregor was Leader of the Senate.
– He was a broad-, minded man.’
– That was the advice that Parliament acted upon. I propose to give a brief history of the negotiations. In April, 1901, the Government of South Australia first approached the Commonwealth Government with an offer of the Northern Territory, including its railway and all other assets. The one stipulation then made was that the Federal Government should assume the liabilities of the Territory. In December, 1902, this offer was temporarily withdrawn by the South Australian Government. This withdrawal was actuated by the belief that private enterprise would be prepared to construct the railway from Oodnadatta to the then terminus, Pine Creek, for a grant of 75,000 acres of land for each mile of railway constructed, and other considerations, fully set forth in South Australia’s Transcontinental Railway Act, No. 803 of 1902. Although this act was extensively advertised throughout the world for four years, no entirely satisfactory offers were received. On the 3rd February, 1906, Mr. Price, then Premier of South Australia, wrote to Mr. Deakin, then Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, forwarding a copy of a resolution passed by the House of Assembly of South Australia on the 7th December, 1905, again offering the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth Government on the original basis, plus an obligation on the part of the Commonwealth Government to build the transcontinental railway linking Oodnadatta with Pine Creek, and restricting its route to within 100 miles east or west of the overland telegraph line. .This letter, it will be seen, permitted a further deviation easterly or westerly than was permitted by the Transcontinental . Railway Act, South. Australia, No. 803 of 1902, thus displaying some uncertainty as to the merits of the western route as originally delineated. In acknowledging the receipt of this letter, Mr. Deakin, on the 23rd February, 1906, stated, inter alia -
Judging by the experience of your State, the development of this immense area will involve a very large investment of public money which will not soon become remunerative. The obligation to utilize the resources of this portion of Australia is not confined to your State, but the expenditure which it will involve is so large, and the problems which it raises are so serious, that the project merits the most thorough examination on the part of any Government responsible for it. Any transactions in relation to it ought not to be entered upon in a narrow spirit of barter, but with due regard to the interests of the whole of our people.
In his reply of the 6th April, 1906, Mr. Price stated, inter alia -
We fully agree with you that the development of the northern part of Australia is more of .a Commonwealth than a State policy.
On 20th July, 1906, Mr. Deakin further communicated with Mr. Price, stating, amongst other things-
Your insistence that the Commonwealth should discharge the increased indebtedness of the Territory, and, at the same time, undertake at its own expense the construction of such a gigantic public work as the transcontinental railway, of which your State dictates the route and hopes to reap the greatest part, if not all, of the advantages, is, it appears to me, the chief obstacle to an early and satisfactory settlement.
Mr. Price replied on the 6 th August, 1906, repeating the arguments for the railway following as closely as possible the overland telegraph line, and stating, m regard to that route -
To grant this condition imposes on this State Be undertaking to construct a line from Oodnadatta to Charlotte Waters, a distance of about 130 miles, which work we would, if possible, carry out on the White Australia principle.
This undertaking on the part of South Australia became an important part of the conference held subsequently in Melbourne between the contracting parties to the agreement, and will be fully dealt with by me at a later stage. A new and interesting condition was then introduced into the negotiations by Mr. Deakin in his reply df the 30th August, 1906. In paragraph 3 of his letter, Mr. Deakin stated -
In the opinion of this Government, however, such a scheme (i.e., the construction of a North-South line) cannot be considered without also taking into regard the question of the other transcontinental railway to connect Western Australia with the eastern States.
And, in paragraph 4 of the same letter -
That the Territory be offered free of all past liabilities except those incurred in the construction of the line to Pine Creek, and subject only to the condition that the Commonwealth should undertake to make the railway between Pine Creek and the southern boundary of the Territory by a route to be chosen by the Commonwealth.
This shows that even at that time, before the east-west line was built, it was thought that it might be necessary to deviate largely from the Oodnadatta line and possibly link up with the eastwest line.’ All the correspondence and the discussions clearly indicate that no definite decision was ever arrived at as to the exact route. That was always regarded as a subject of doubt that would require to be thoroughly investigated.
– Any deviation was possible as long as the line was built through South Australia and the Northern Territory.
– We know that legal gentlemen have differed considerably on the meaning of the agreement. An eminent counsel has expressed the opinion that the agreement would be fully observed if the line were taken from Marree, through South-Western Queensland.
– Who expressed that opinion ?
– The ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– That was merely a political opinion.
– Mr. Hughes had nothing to gain. We might just as well say that the opinion expressed by Sir Josiah Symon, whom Senator Barwell will probably quote-
– No. I shall quote Sir Edward Mitchell, K.C., for instance; he was never a politician.
– The oft-quoted opinions of South Australians and others might equally be said to be political ones.
– Mr. Latham, who is now the Federal Attorney-General, is not a South Australian.
– Even if his opinion coincides with that of Sir Josiah Symon, there is no escape from the fact that grave doubt exists as to the route that should be adopted. If we were asked to-day to ratify the agreement involving the expenditure of millions of pounds, would we be prepared to commit the country in this way ? Parliament would demand the right to exercise its choice as to the direction in which public money should be spent. On 19th October, 1906, Mr. Deakin again laid down the basis of the Commonwealth acceptance, reiterating the condition that the route of the proposed north-south railway be chosen by the Commonwealth. On 29th November, 1906, Mr. Deakin wrote to Mr. Price suggesting that, as it did not appear that any substantial progress was likely to be made by continuing the negotiations by correspondence, he should meet him in conference in’ Melbourne. This conference was arranged for 12th February, 1907, at which Mr. Price, Premier of South Australia, Mr. O’Loughlin, Minister for the Northern Territory, and Mr. Deakin, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, were present, as well as the Hon. . L. E. Groom, Commonwealth Attorney-General . The proceedings of this conference are best revealed in Mr. Deakin’s speech during the passage of the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill 1910, through the Federal Parliament, in which he stated, inter alia -
The important thing now is to show from the mouths of South Australian representatives what the agreement arrived at between vis really was.
The history of this matter is somewhat lengthy.
– That is apart from the question. The agreement speaks for itself.
– If Senator Barwell proposes to take up the attitude of a Shylock and demand his pound of flesh - if he is going to hold a pistol at the heads of the Senate and say. “ This we demand, nothing less will we take” - I think that he will prejudice the chance of the bill passing through this chamber. Al) the States in Australia will be called upon to contribute to the cost of the proposed work. South Australia’s contribution will not bc more than one-twentieth of the total expenditure.
– We say that we will honour the agreement.
– Mr. Deakin, continuing, said -
When the bill was laid before the South Australian Parliament it was accompanied by the map which now hangs in this chamber. This, I am told, is the very map that was before the members of the South Australian Parliament when they were considering the subject. The one thing that “leaps to the eyes,” as the French say, on this map, is the fact that an alternative route of. railway is shown outside the Territory. . . . The map itself shows what was in the mind of the South Australian Parliament. There are references to it in the Hansard report. The present Attorney-General (Mr. Denny) on 6th July of this year (1910), was asked a question on the subject-
Mr. Denny, I may add, recently took a prominent part in the negotiations that led up to the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia. Mr. Deakin. quoting from the South Australian Hansard, said -
Mr. Young, referring to reported statements of the Federal Prime Minister and AttorneyGeneral, that the proposed Oodnadatta to Pino Creek railway agreement would permit of the line going through Queensland, asked, “Did the Minister regard such a position as satisfactory to South Australia?” The AttorneyGeneral said, in reply, that there could be no doubt that at the beginning it was recognized that it was possible that the line might go through Queensland. Anybody who knew about the agreement knew that. When the late. Mr. Price came back from entering into the agreement,he showed in the Adelaide Town Hall by a map that it was quite possible for the line to go that way under the agreement.
– That statement by Mr. Denny was made before the agreement was concluded. I have an entirely contrary statement by Mr. Denny.
SenatorFOLL. - Probably Mr. Denny has altered his opinion lately. At all events he said definitely that it was possible that the line might go through Queensland.
– All he says is that the alternative route was discussed prior to the agreement being made.
SenatorFOLL. - Mr. Laurence O’Loughlin, then a member of the South Australian Parliament, also took a prominent part in negotiations that led up to the transfer of the Northern Territory from South Australia to the Commonwealth, and when this matter was being debated in the South Australian Parliament on the 15th October, 1907, he said -
Numerous objections have been made to the agreement on the ground that there ought to be a stipulated time in which to connect the Territory with South Australia by a line of railway, and they held this opinion, but in discussing the question with Mr. Deakin, he pointed out, and properly so, that it would be unwise to. bind the Commonwealth Government to construct the line of railway within a stipulated time. Mr. Deakin, however, undertook to construct the line to Port Darwin through Central Australia to join the existing railway at Oodnadatta, or to go through what was considered to be very much better country from Pine Creek, via Camooweal, down the borders of Queensland and a territory west of Birdsville, and down to Port Augusta, via Hergott.
Mr. Deakin pointed out that this was the alternate route shown on the map, and continued to quote Mr. O’Loughlin as follows : -
The length of the proposed line from Port Darwin to Port Augusta would be 1,686 miles. The length of the other proposed line from Port Darwin, via the Queensland border and Birdsville, down to Port Augusta, would be 1,726 miles. No doubt the Commonwealth would keep the line in their own territory, if possible. There was very little difference between these routes so far as distance was concerned, and he ventured to say, from information carefully gathered, that the ‘ line via the Queensland borderand west of Birdsville would be the best line for South Australia, and probably the best for the Commonwealth to construct, because the land was much more fertile and had a better rainfall. ….. The Commonwealth undertook to relieveSouth Australia of their responsibility for the Oodnadatta line for all time, which was the best proof that could possibly be given that they are earnest in their desire to connect Port Darwin with Port Augusta with a line of railway. They would take the present line from Oodnadatta to Port Augusta over, and guarantee to run it as it was run at the present time, and to shoulder the loss on it instead of South Australia. That was a big concession, but one that was properly made, and a guarantee was given because the Government did not insist on a given time for the railway to be constructed. It must be evident to every one that one of the two proposed lines to which he had referred must be built, because the country could not be properly developed without it…… Mr. O’Loughlin stated what was a fact - that he and Mr. Price came over to Melbourne determined to press for a given route and a given date; and the factor that altered their calculations, and induced them to takeback an entirely different agreement, was the proposal that the Commonwealth Government should give a guarantee to take over the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line, thus making it the interest of the Commonwealth, as well as its obligation under the agreement, to make that line payable, which could only be done by its extension. When I first declined to give a time guarantee, Mr. O’Loughlin and Mr. Price refused to consider it. I had anticipated . that attitude, and before they came over was prepared with this counter proposal, which was to them the novel element . in the transaction. It was because we gave them this practical guarantee by taking over the line that they willingly consented, as they told the South Australian Parliament, to leave this Parliament to determine both the time of completing and the route of the transcontinental railway. . . . At page 614 of the same volume of the South Australian Hansard, from which I have already quoted, there are passages which go to show’ what South Australian members themselves understood the agreement to mean.
In the course of the debate in the South Australian Parliament, Mr. O’Loughlin said : -
It has been asserted by some people that if the line running close to the Queensland border were constructed, it would tend to develop the Queensland ports instead of those of South Australia. That idea was altogether erroneous because the Federal Government were bound to construct the line to Port Augusta, and not to take it to any Queensland port; and the line going te Port Augusta via Hergott would naturally bring much of the Queensland trade to South Australia, because it was nearer than any Queensland port. Port Augusta was a much ‘better port for all kinds of shipping than Rockhampton or any other of the North Queensland ports.
Only to-day, when I was discussing with Mr. Davidson, the Queensland Railways Commissioner, the desirability of building a line from Oodnadatta north along this suggested route, he said that it would divert a considerable proportion of the traffic from western Queensland to Port Augusta. In his opinion, the western Queensland country would be developed by such a line, but the Queensland railway revenue would suffer.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 o’clock.
– I have been endeavouring to show that a number of the delegates who took a prominent part in framing the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia clearly stated that the Commonwealth Government had a definite choice as to the route to be adopted, provided that it entered South Australia on its northern border. I was quoting a speech delivered by the late Mr. Alfred Deakin, a gentleman who not only took a very active part in the negotiations between the Commonwealth and the South Australian Government, but was also fully conversant with all- the details of the negotiations which led to the final acceptance of the contract in relation to the transfer of the Northern Territory, and the construction of a north-south railway. I also quoted the late Senator Gregor McGregor, who, in introducing the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill, clearly stated that’ there was no obligation upon the Commonwealth Parliament concerning the route of the railway; it was left to the Commonwealth Government, as the authority controlling the Territory, to construct a line in such a direction as it thought fit, subject, of course, to the proviso I have mentioned. Mr. Deakin, in continuing his speech, said - but what I am trying to bring before honorable members is his perfect candour and frankness as to the alternative railway routes.
I could also quote, if necessary, from his statement, made in the -present session of the South Australian Parliament. It is the same statement that he made originally, but I have preferred to quote the former statement only because it was made at a period nearer to tb time when the agreement was entered into, so that no possible question as to a lapse of memory can arise.
If any further evidence were required of the fact that this alternative line through Queensland was taken into full consideration by the South Australian Parliament, honorable members will find it in the speech of Mr. Butler, the Leader of the Opposition. That gentleman made a fierce attack on this agreement because he insisted that it necessarily involved constructing the line through Queensland, traversing hundreds of miles of the territory of that State, and never coming near to South Australia until it approached the northern boundary. At pages 019 and 020, Mr. Butler argued in this way: - “ If this agreement were ratified, we would see the line from Port Darwin connected with Queensland and New South Wales before it was connected With Port Augusta.”
– What is the honorable senator endeavouring to show?
– I am endeavouring to show that the late Sir Richard Butler was dissatisfied with the agreement, because he contended that it did not provide a definite route for the railway.
– Subsequently legal opinion showed that he was quite wrong.
– Mr. Deakin showed from speeches made in the South Australian Parliament that it was definitely understood by the South Australian Government and the members of the South Australian Parliament, that the Commonwealth Government had the right to select the route. We must not merely look at this proposal from a legal point of view, but endeavour to show what was in the minds of those responsible for drafting the agreement.
– I do not think the honorable senator has been very successful in that regard.
– The late Senator Gregor McGregor, who introduced the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill in this Chamber acquitted himself, I believe, more satisfactorily than the Minister (Senator Wilson), who, in introducing this measure, adopted a standanddeliver attitude. The late Senator Gregor McGregor was as great an authority upon South Australian questions as is the present Minister, and I am as much justified in accepting his assurance as I am in following the Minister, for whom I have the greatest personal respect.
– If the honorable senator wishes to support the desire of the late Senator Gregor McGregor he should not oppose the bill.
– It is not so much a question of supporting any one, as it is of considering what is the proper thing to do in the interests of the Commonwealth.
– Is the honorable senator opposed to the construction of a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs ?
– At the moment I am not discussing that phase of the question.
– Is that not the proposal embodied in the bill?
– I am not discussing anything with the honorable senator.
– The honorable senator is simply “ stone-walling.”
– As I object to that remark, Mr. Deputy President, I ask that it be withdrawn.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Newland). - As the remark has been objected to, I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the remark that the honorable senator is simply “ stone-walling “ and say that he is occupying time.
– Tes; and in quite as valuable a way as did the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Sir Richard Butler continued -
The clause providing that the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta should be handed over to the Federal Government should be struck out. Another flaw in the agreement was that, the railway would not benefit the Northern Territory to any extent. If it touched the Queensland border at Austral Downs or Camooweal, and then came south to 0111 northern boundary, the railway would pass almost entirely through Queensland.
Continuing, Mr. Deakin said -
There is only one other high authority to whom one need refer. Mr. Archibald, now the honorable member for Hindmarsh, speaking in the South Australian Parliament, on 27th October, 1007, made a most convincing statement : - “The Federal Government would naturally want a free hand-
– They are exercising a free hand now!
– They have certain freedom under the agreement.
– Yes; but it is very limited. Under the Railways (South Australia) Agreement Bill they are tied down to a line to Alice Springs, and when once that measure becomes law the question of a deviation to Birdsville or any other place will be settled for all time.
– It was settled long ago.
– That is the opinion of the honorable senator. Mr. Archibald’s statement as quoted by Mr. Deakin continued -
The Federal Government would naturally want a free hand as to the route of the railway, and South Australia had no right to dictate in the matter.
There was better land in the direction of the Queensland border, and trade would naturally gravitate to the nearest port. It would be no concern of South Australia’s if that route proved to be towards Queensland ports. When South Australia extended the line from Her.gott to Oodnadatta, the Government of the day deliberately ignored all the reliable information that was at hand as to the best route. At that time there was a strong feeling outside Parliament that the line should go in the direction of Birdsville, but Parliament decided that it should follow the telegraph line. He took part in the discussion on the question outside Parliament, and favoured the Birdsville route, but the advocates of that scheme were only roundly abused for their trouble.
Mr. Deakin, continuing, said ;
I have accumulated many more quotations. At pages 182 and 201 of the South Australian Hansard for the current session (1010), Mr. Denny, the State Attorney-General, is reported to have said that it was always understood that the agreement provided for a possible deviation of the railway outside the borders of the Northern Territory; that it had bean left an open question, and that the best route ought to bc taken . . . For the convenience of honorable members who wish to equip themselves for this debate, I refer them to pages 3355-6 of Jinnsard for the current session, where they will find the legal opinions given by Mr. Dashwood, Crown Solicitor for South Australia, and Mr. Mitchell, one of the leading barrister!* of this State. At page 3355, honorable members will also find the opinion expressed by the present Attorney-General (Mr. W. M. Hughes).
That is the opinion to which I referred this afternoon, and which Senator Barwell described as a political opinion. The same remark will probably apply do the authorities to which the honorable senator will refer when he speaks on this measure. Mr. Deakin, continuing, said -
The situation is that, in the opinion of Mr. Mitchell, of Mr. Dashwood, of Senator Sir Josiah Symon, of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. P. McM. Glynn), of the honorable member for Barling Downs, Queensland (Hon. L.E. Groom), who was Attorney-General in 1907, and of myself, the agreement . before us would be interpreted by a Court to mean that a railway from Pine Creek southwards must be within the borders of the Northern Territory. . . The contrary opinion expressed by the present Attorney-General (Mr. W. M. Hughes) is a reasonable interpretation of the agreement, but, to my mind, it is not legally sound. It would not hold in a court of law. He expressed exactly what was in the minds of Mr. Price, Mr. O’Loughlin, and myself when we discussed this question.
It will be seen, therefore, that in the minds of the delegates representing both parties the opinion prevailed that the Commonwealth Government would have a free hand to construct the line over a route which it considered best in the interests of the Commonwealth. The late Mr. Deakin was quite clear on that point. Afterwards he said that his legal opinion differed from what his belief was when he as one of the representatives of the Commonwealth Government assisted in drawing up the agreement between the parties. The representatives of South Australia in the Senate have taken up the attitude that the legal interpretation of the agreement must be carried out to the letter, and that the opinions of those who negotiated the contract are of no consequence. I do not wish to unduly take up the time of the Senate, but desire to place on record the opinions expressed by the representatives of the contracting parties, so that we may know what was in their minds when the agreement was under discussion. Both Mr. Price and Mr. O’Loughlin preferred the eastern route. A number of exhaustive examinations of the country have been made to determine the best route for this transcontinental railway, and the overwhelming opinion is that a line which traversed the west of Queensland would undoubtedly pay the Commonwealth better than a line direct from Oodnadatta to Darwin.
– Which route did the Public Works Committee favor ?
– It favoured the building of a light line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, and a line from Darwin to Camooweal. These railways, in its opinion, would be sufficient to provide for the needs of the Northern Territory for many years. As the present 3-ft. 6-in. line finished nowhere, so to speak, the committee considered that it ought to be taken into country which would be developed by it. Undoubtedly the Macdonnell ranges country is a far better proposition than that around Oodnadatta.
– Then the Public Works Committee favored the route now proposed by the Government?
– Yes, but not as a portion of the grand trunk line. It treated this proposition more in the nature of a branch” line. When I spoke of a light line I had in mind railways similar to those that were constructed in the early days to develop Queensland. Many of these lines penetrated far into the interior. The rails, in many cases, were laid on the beds of the creeks to avoid building costly culverts and bridges. The Queensland Government felt that it was better to build lines of that nature than to wait until heavier lines like our main trunk lines could be built.
– Did the Public Works Committee consider that the extension of the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs would lead to development in the Northern Territory?
– A line from Oodnadatta. to- Alice Springs would’ penetrate the southern end of the Territory, whereas a line from Marree to Birdsville and through to Camooweal would not enter the southern end of the Territory, but would traverse its rich areas in the north. The route mentioned by Senator Guthrie this afternoon is part of a comprehensive railway scheme recommended by Earl Kitchener, in his report on the defence of Australia, to provide adequate strategic railways. He expressed the opinion that the ports round the Australian coast should be made to serve their own hinterland. His scheme was prepared in collaboration with officers of our Works and Railways Department. Senator Lynch, some time ago, advocated, in this Chamber, the construction of a railway through the Barkly Tablelands and the Kimberly Ranges to the northwest of Western Australia.
– Not through the Kimberly Ranges, I think?
– At any rate, his proposal was that the railway should tap some of the good country in the Kimberly district. That line also was part of the comprehensive scheme proposed by Earl Kitchener. If I were asked to choose between a railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs and one from Marree to Birdsville, having no further extensions in mind, I should not be enamoured of either. The chances are that, as the Birdsville route would tap some of the south-western areas of Queensland, it might be slightly the better proposition. I do not wish honorable senators to think that I ani comparing one route with the other. I favour the Marree to Birdsville proposition in preference to the other one, for the reason that it would be a section in the grand trunk line suggested by Earl Kitchener as advisable for defence purposes. The speech by Mr. Deakin from which I have already quoted proceeds as follows: -
To understand how the agreement came to be drafted as it was, honorable members must recollect that it was made in February, 1907, shortly before I left for the Imperial Conference in London. The negotiations with Mr. Price were conducted at high pressure, while making arrangements for a necessary absence’ of four or five months. Consequently, it was not until my return that I discovered that the terms of the agreement had been so drawn as to confine the line strictly within the boundaries of the Northern Territory. I communicated with Mr. O’Loughlin and Mr. Price, and both agreed with me that it did not fulfil the terms of the agreement we arrived at, which gave a choice of route. They had already told their Parliament that they agreed that the route should bc considered and decided by the Federal Parliament.
I did not raise this question when a similar bill was before this House on the last occa-sion, because to have done so then would certainly have been fatal to the measure. Hie view I held, and still hold, is that if we are to be bound by the strict legal interpretation of the agreement, as it was erroneously expressed, I am -for accepting it as it stands. I wish to make that perfectly plain; but let us deal with the matter justly. Let me remind honorable members that there was but one view held by all the parties concerned in the making of the agreement, which would have been kept by Mr. Price, had he lived, and which will be kept by Mr. O’Loughlin and Mr. Peake, who are aware of the whole of the circumstances. They have recently said so in the South Australian Parliament. All the parties intimately concerned concur that the intention of that agreement was not that which was embodied in the bill actually submitted. Consequently, we are placed in a position of some embarrassment to-day, though I do not think there need be any real embarrassment. . . This part of it (the agreement), in all good faith, but probably owing to verbal instructions being relied upon in the circum-
Stances in which they were given in 1907, is drawn with a strictness which was not intended. That would exclude from consideration the alternative route which Mr. Price, Mr. O’Loughlin, and Mr. Verran agree was submitted to the South Australian people and Legislature before they passed their bill.
I wish honorable members to realize that the bill which the South Australian Parliament passed - consenting to the transfer of tlie Territory - was passed, as the South Australian Mansard shows, on an interpretation of the agreement which allowed of the consideration of the alternative eastern route.
On pages 5416 to 5419 of Federal Hansard, Mr. Deakin is reported as follows : -
The Attorney-General in that Ministry, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Hon. L. E. Groom), who was absent on the occasion of the last debate when I addressed the House, and whom I had not consulted, confirmed an opinion which I already held, but which, in the circumstances, I did not feel entitled to rely upon absolutely. This was that, instead of passing through the Attorney-General’s Department, as’ it would in the ordinary course have done in order to be put in proper form, so great was the haste and pressure that the agreement went immediately into the Crown Solicitor’s office, and was there dealt with, being returned for immediate signature without undergoing the scrutiny of either the AttorneyGeneral or the officers of his department. But for that, the one clause which was introduced into a later part of the agreement - which, in my opinion, puts the interpretation beyond question - would never have been included, and the plain meaning would have been clearly set out on its face. I called the attention of both the State : Premier, Mr. Price, and Mr. O’Loughlin, the Minister for the Northern Territory, to the mistake in the agreement before it was submitted to the State Parliament.
In view of the questions that may arise when possibly few, if any, of us may be surviving, I have felt it my duty to tell the whole of the story regarding the agreement arrived at. . . . Its importance will arise only if it should prove that the dotted route to the east, or another route, going round by Tanami on the west, is absolutely the best in the Australian sense, and in this regard Australian interests include South Australian. I feel that I have discharged my conscience.
That most impressive speech indicates exactly what, in the opinion of Mr. Deakin, was in the minds of the parties who negotiated the original agreement. I trust that I have not wearied honorable senators by my lengthy quotations. I have made them for the reason that I consider it to be our duty to try to put ourselves as well as we can in the place of the gentlemen who were responsible for the agreement, so that we may be able to interpret the spirit as well as the pure letter of the undertaking. It must be apparent to honorable members, from the quotations I have made, that it was drafted in its present form by error. [Extension of time granted.] I thank honorable senators for their courtesy. The late Sir Richard Butler spoke on this matter in the South Australian Parliament on the 2nd July, 1907. He is reported on pages 21 and 23 of the State Hansard of that date as follows: - . . . Under the agreement, we had no guarantee that these lines would be connected within any reasonable time. The Federal Parliament was controlled overwhelmingly by the representatives of the bigger States, who would use all their inlluence to force the trade into Queensland and New South . Wales, and Port Augusta would get none of it. (The Commissioner for Crown Lands. - “ You know the trade cannot gc there if they build the railway right throughto Port Augusta.’-‘)
There was nothing in the agreement to showthat. We were doing rightly in not binding the Federal authorities as to route. We would get more benefit by the railway going via Birdsville than by the completion of it right through in the first place. It would pay us better if we agreed to meet the Federal Government at Birdsville, so that we might secure the extension from this end. (Mr. Vaughan. - “It would he better if South Australia was made to include the MacdonnellRanges.” “’ He feared the Federal Government would not agree to that.
On the 9th July of the same year, Mr. Burgoyne spoke on the subject. On pages 55 and 56 of the same volume of Hansard,he is reported to have said - . . . We had already constructed some 400 miles of the railway in the direction, not so ‘much of the Northern Territory as of the north-east corner of Western Australia. He agreed with the general principles of the agreement entered into by the Premier with the Commonwealth, They could not expect that in an agreement affecting all the States of the Commonwealth, South Australia should have her own way entirely….. It was quite natural that members should prefer the line to be taken from Oodnadatta, as already about 400 miles of the line had ibeen built in that direction. But it would be a great mistake if the Federal Government did this, as they should have a much shorter distance to reach good country in the Birdsville area. He had been over the country where the proposed line was to go, and he examined it carefully with a view to the construction of a railway. It would be the shortest and cheapest route, while it would promote the settlement of the country and find work for the railway all the way, as well as securing large traffic from west Queensland into this State.
Mr. Peake, continuing the debate on the same day, is reported on page 63 as follows -
Under the agreement, however, the Commonwealth Government were not bound down to the route directly across the continent. A glance at the map would show any one that the line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek would he a tolerably straight route, the gap to be bridged being about 1,100 miles. The official description of that country showed it to be not very good. It consisted “of “ patches of good country for pastoral purposes, chiefly along creeks or river frontages, with patches of spinifex scrub and sand-hills, uncertain rainfall, parts metal-bearing area.” On the other hand, the land along the suggested circuitous route, from Hergott by way of Birdsville and Camooweal to Pine Creek, would pass through what had been described as some of the finest pastoral land in the Commonwealth, and would open up that country, and bring the Northern Territory into direct communication with Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, and even Victoria. But if that route were adopted, and the railway constructed, South Australia would lose the trade, and Queensland and New South Wales get it.
I am making these quotations merely in order to show that in the minds of practically every member of the South Australian Parliament at tnat time there was no doubt that the Commonwealth Government, when it took over the responsibility of administering the Northern Territory, was given an absolutely free hand, with ohe modification, to build the line where it considered it would best serve the interests of Australia. Mr. Laurence O’Loughlin, who was Commissioner of Crown Lands and the Minister who controlled the Northern Territory in the South Australian Parliament, moved the following motion: -
That, in the opinion of this House, the State of South Australia should surrender to the Commonwealth of Australia the territory known as the Northern Territory of South Australia, on the terms and conditions agreed to (subject to the approval of the Parliaments of the said Commonwealth and the said State) by the Hon. Alfred Deakin, Prime Minister of the said Commonwealth, on behalf of the Government of the said Commonwealth, and the Hon. Thomas Price, Premier of the said State, on behalf of the Government of the said State, and set out in the memorandum thereof dated the 20th day of February, 1907, signed by the Premier of the said State, a copy of which was, on the 27th day of June, 1907, laid upon the table of this House.
I have previously shown that he was quite satisfied that the Commonwealth
Government had an absolutely free hand. On the 30th of October, 1907, he said-
It was stated that the proper route for the railway was through Central Australia, and not from Pine Creek through Queensland to Hergott. Why compel the Commonwealth to build a railway through country which would not pay? All the talk on that score was mere political flapdoodle. (Mr. Butler. - “Why did you advocate it? “) He never did. (Mr. Butler. - “You have always done so.”) The question for the Commonwealth to decide was, which of the two lines would pay? They chose the one that would traverse the richest country. If Mr. Butler had had the chance to get such a good agreement as this when he was on the Treasury benches, he would have snapped, at it. . . . Unless mineral developments justified it, the railway should not be taken through Central Australia, which would not carry enough stock to pay axle-grease.
Mr. Archibald, who later became a Minister in a Commonwealth Parliament, said on the 22nd October, 1907 -
The Federal Government would naturally want a free hand as to the route of the railway, and South Australia had no right to dictate in the matter. There was better land in the direction of the Queensland border, and trade would naturally gravitate to the nearest port. It would be no concern of South Australia’s if that route proved to be towards Queensland ports.
SenatorElliott. - That was three years before the agreement was actually made.
– The 1907 agreement was identical with the 1910 agreement.
– The negotiations extended over a very long period. The opinions that were expressed before the agreement was made were just as valuable as those which were expressed subsequently. Mr. Archibald also said -
When South Australia extended the line from Hergott to Oodnadatta, the Government of the day deliberately ignored all the reliable information that was at hand as to the best route. At that time there was a strong feeling outside Parliament that the line should go in the direction of Birdsville, but Parliament decided that it should follow the telegraph line.
The delegates who first approached Mr. Deakin made that stipulation, but he would not consider it. He said that he would not be bound down to building the line in any particular direction. The amended agreement was accepted by the South Australian Parliament. Mr. Dankel, another member of the South Australian Parliament, speaking on the 24th October, 1907, said-
When Adelaide was laid out by Colonel Light, he looked upon King William and Wakefieldstreets as being the future great arteries of traffic and commerce of the city. After 70 years, Wakefield-street had proved to be a residential, and not a business, quarter practically, while the trade had converged towards the other end of the city, notably HindleyBtreet. Colonel Light never meant that to be the case, and it only illustrated how the best laid plans of even far-seeing men sometimes were not realized. The trade through the
Northern Territory would flow through its natural channels. He did not see any great objection to the railway being diverted at Hergott and touching the Queensland border. The country to the east of the telegraph line was much superior to that in the west, or the Oodnadatta side. He disagreed with those who alleged that the route stated in the agreement would kill the line to the Macdonnell ranges.
He evidently foresaw the statesmanlike attitude that would be taken up many years later by the Commonwealth Public Works Committee. The committee was prepared to recommend the construction of a light line as far as the Macdonnell ranges, but it was not prepared to recommend the direct north-, south route. Mr. Travers, on the 29th October, 1907, said -
In the agreement it was merely provided that it should touch the northern boundary of South Australia. A question of routewas always difficult to decide, and he did not see why we should not leave it to the wisdom of the Australian Parliament. Even if the line caine through Queensland, we should at least gain so7nething in drawing the pastoral lands of that State towards Port Augusta, which would, he believed, be a greater gainer by the line than any of the Queensland ports.
The country around Birdsville and Boulia is much closer to Port Augusta than to a Queensland port, and that port would benefit very largely if the south-western portion of Queensland were tapped by the railway. Mr. McDonald, on the same date, said -
The agreement meant that South Australia would have to hand over a section of her railways to the Commonwealth control. It also meant that the transcontinental line to the Northern Territory would run, not to South Australia, but to Queensland and New South Wales.
Mr. (now senator) Newland, who has since so ably represented South Australia in this Senate, speaking on the 29th October, 1907, said -
Practically the only part of the agreement that was not clear enough was the question. of making the Federal Government connect the railway with the Oodnadatta terminus. He would not say that he would vote against the motion on that account, but, all the same, the point should be set out with greater definiteness, so that the line should be taken through the rich mineral fields which they were told existed in the Macdonnell ranges country.
He was not at all sure that the motion provided that the line should take a direct north-south route.The point that most impresses me is that many of those gentlemen who now refer to the great sacrifices which South Australia made when it handed over the Territory to the
Commonwealth were, in 1907 and 1910, willing to compromise in order that the Commonwealth should shoulder the burden. For years successive Governments and Parliaments in South Australia urged the Commonwealth Government to take over the Northern Territory. The honorable senator also said -
When referring to the agreement at the late Premiers’ Conference, the President (Mr. Kidston, Premier of Queensland) said - “ I should just like to say briefly that I am not sure that it is wise for this conference to discuss tins matter. At the same time, 1 have no objection to express my personal opinion on this proposal, lt is about the most extraordinary business proposal I ever knew the head of a government to make - not the head of the South Australian Government, but the head of the Commonwealth Government. I think the head of the South Australian Government (Mr. Price) is to be highly commended for getting Mr. Deakin to assent to this extraordinary bargain.
Perhaps because the agreement was not scrutinized carefully enough some of the provisions which the delegates from the two parties contended should be included in it were omitted. After the lapse of so many years I prefer to look to the spirit as well as the letter of the agreement. We must endeavour to regard it in the light in which it was regarded by those who conducted the negotiations, and carry out the wishes which they then expressed.
– Is that the ambition of the Public Works Committee 1
– the ambition of that committee is always to work in the interests of Australia, and see that the taxpayers’ money is not foolishly frittered away by extravagant governments. I think it deserves commendation for the work that it has done in this and other matters. Mr. Crawford Vaughan, who is recognized as a broadminded man,. possessing exceptional ability, on the 29th October, 1907, said -
The agreement was founded on a broad Australian basis. Of course it would have been better if South Australia could have everything that it wanted, but they were in the position of supplicants, because the whole difficulty had been created by themselves.
He also said -
Mr. Butler in his speech expressed the fear that the overland line, if built, would eventually be looped up with the Queensland and New South Wales system. He hoped it would be, because then much of that country would practically be annexed to South Australia, as
Port Augusta was much the nearest port for western Queensland. The distance between Pine Creek and Port Augusta was less than that between Pine Creek and Rockhampton or Brisbane. Trade could be expected from the western portions of Queensland, just as South Australia at present secured the trade from western New South Wales by the Broken Hill line and the Murray River. He did not expect the overland line to be built immediately, as the Federal Government would want to ascertain exactly the nature of the country, its mineral deposits, and other possibilities of production. Judging from present information, the most desirable route would be to touch the rich country of western Queensland, and then to come down to Hergott. Mr. Ewing, one of the Federal Ministers, described the country north of Goyder’s line, between Oodnadatta and Pine Creek; as “ a howling wilderness,” and said it would remain so for all time. He did not agree with Mr. Ewing, but he knew the country was not a paradise.
He really believed that a lot of nonsense had been talked about the Macdonnell range country. (Mr. Mitchell. - “ What about the horses that come down from there “ ? He knew all about that. The position was really precarious there till the rain came in June or July, but the horses picked up wonderfully, and were rushed away, with the result that there was hardly a horse left in the Macdonnell Ranges. A resident of the country also informed him that between Oodnadatta and Tennants Creek the country would hardly carry a bullock to the square mile. That man said he would benefit greatly by a Land Grant railway, but he did not think a line through the Macdonnell Ranges and across the centre of the continent would be justified, as it would carry little more than mails. Unless some mineral discovery were made in the Macdonnell Ranges, he did not think there was the faintest possibility of a railway being successfully extended across the continent.
Mr. Solomon, on the 30th October, 1907, said -
The terms which he submitted in October, 1905, and which were agreed to by the House, were very different and distinct from the terms suggested under the present agreement.
They must either make reasonable terms with the Federal Government, or include the Northern Territory accounts in South Australian finances and face the situation.
We need not tumble over one another in our haste to give this great estate away to Mr. Deakin and his friends on their own terms.
South Australia would get little or no benefit out of the agreement, and the railway communication would be with Queensland. In return, what would they relieve us of? Of a magnificent dependency, and our magnificent geographical position. We had only to construct the 1,100 miles of railway between Oodnadatta and Pine Creek, and we would have at the end of it the finest harbour in North Australia, the meeting place of the overland telegraph and the two cables to England, within six days’ steam of Hong Kong, eight days from Singapore, and four days from Java.
He gave the Premier credit for having done the best he could in this agreement, according to his lights; but he thought the other people had got the better of him. The agreement made an absolute gift of the Northern Territory to the three eastern States, without even an undertaking to make the railway through South Australian territory. (The Commissioner of Public Works. - “ A lovely, gift when the mortgage goes with it.”)
The terms of the agreement were absolutely unfair to South Australia, whose rights were not in any way protected under it. There was no definite time stipulated for the beginning or the completion of the railway, or what the exact route wass to be. . . .
Finally, Mr. Warren, on the 30th October, 1907, said-
When before the electors he advocated the transfer of the territory to the Commonwealth, but said the agreement ought to be subject to certain amendments. The difficulty, however, was that the agreement could not be amended without running the risk of losing it altogether. For that reason he would support it as it stood. He would like to see it amended with respect to the route of the railway and the time within which the’ line must be constructed. They simply had to trust to the Common wealth doing the work. A powerful factor in influencing the Commonwealth Government to take action would be the desire to make the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line pay by proceeding with the rest of the line. He would have liked the line to go direct from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, but still he did not think it would make much difference, because South Australia would receive the trade to which she was legitimately entitled.
All the opinions I have quoted clearly indicate that the South Australian Parliament had an open mind as to the route to be decided upon. Now the South Australian representatives in this chamber Shylock-like demand that . the exact terms of the bond be observed ; nothing less will satisfy them. Unless the eloquence of honorable senators who may follow me can convince me that I am in the wrong, I intend to vote against the measure so far as it binds the Government to the direct route. My desire is to interpret the agreement in the spirit in which it was framed. Personally, I hope to see some of the larger developmental schemes outlined by Messrs. Bell and Hobler, and other experts in the Commonwealth Service, put into operation. I believe that the hearts of the South Australian senators have been softened, and that they will be ready to approach this subject in a reasonable spirit.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL ( South Australia) [8.50]. - I hasten to enter this debate because I am particularly anxious that no other honorable senators should commit themselves in regard to the bill without having a full knowledge of the facts of the case. I desire to say at the outset that Senators Guthrie and Cox made statements this afternoon that were not only misleading, but entirely contrary to fact, although I do not suggest for a moment that they deliberately tried to mislead honorable senators. No evidence was submitted by Senator Guthrie, except that some man, whose name he would not divulge, but who had been connected with some company, the name of which he preferred not . to mention, had told him that the country between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs was useless,’ a mere desert, and totally devoid of water and feed. I shall show that that is entirely contrary to fact, and I refuse to think that there will be any serious opposition to the bill when the exact position is known. There are many reasons why honorable senators should vote in favour of this bill, and why the line should be constructed. First of all, the measure represents a step by the Commonwealth in fulfilment’ of a very definite obligation which rests upon it, by reason of the agreement of 1907’, which was ratified by the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910. Under that agreement South Australia undertook to transfer the Territory to the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth agreed, amongst other things, to build a line connecting Darwin with ‘some point on the Port Augusta-Ocdnadatta railway. The agreement appears in a schedule to the act of 1910, and it will be seen to- be entirely unambiguous. Paragraph 1 provides that the Commonwealth shall “ construct, or cause to be constructed, a railway line from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper (which railway with the railway from a point on the Port Augusta railway to connect ‘ therewith is hereinafter referred to as the transcontinental railway).” That language is simple and explicit. Paragraph 2 provides that the State shall -
At the time nf such surrender authorizeby legislation the Commonwealth to do nil that is necessary to enable the Commonwealth to. make surveys, acquire the necessary lands, and to construct or cause to be constructed” a railway in South Australia proper, from any point on the Port Augusta railway to a point on the northern boundary line of South Australia proper to connect with that part of the.
Transcontinental Railway to be built in the Northern Territory from Port Darwin southwards to the northern boundary of South Australia proper, and to maintain and work such railway when constructed. . . .
Can there be any doubt with regard to the true meaning of those words ? A lawyer is not required to interpret such an agreement. Senator Foll said that exSenator Symon moved to have the words “in the Northern Territory” placed in the act of 1910. But there was no need for that. The bill was one to ratify the agreement, and those words are in the agreement itself. To see what the obligations upon the Commonwealth Government are one must read the agreement, which is the schedule to the bill. It states definitely that a line shall be constructed within the Northern Territory from Darwin to the northern border of South Australia, and the other portion shall be constructed northwards from a point on the Port Augusta-Oodnadatta line to connect with it. I do not know how the doubt arose. It is perfectly true, as Senator Foll said, that there was a doubt in the minds of quite a number of South Australian politicians, such as Senator Newland and Messrs. O’Loughlin and Butler, members of the South Australian Parliament at that time: Because of that doubt, steps were taken by the South Australian Government to obtain the best legal opinion available in Australia as to the proper interpretation of the agreement. Senator Foll tried to lead honorable senators to believe that South Australians were prepared to concede that the line might go eastward. It is true that they had a fear that because of the wording of the agreement there was a loophole, and possibly the Commonwealth might deviate the line eastward out of South Australia and into New South Wales or Queensland. I propose to quote from the opinions of no less than six K’s.C. upon this subject. Take first of all the view expressed by the South Australian Crown Solicitor at that time. It is not a political opinion. Had there been a doubt at all he would certainly have pointed it out to the South Australian Government. The tendency on his part would have been “to find out if a. doubt really existed . What did he say ? It is a lengthy opinion, but I shall mention the conclusion at which he arrived.
– What about the statement of the late Mr. Deakin that he had been practically tricked into making a wrong agreement.
– I do not know that, and I am not aware that Mr. Deakin ever said that he had been tricked into such a thing. One can only be guided by the agreement as it exists. It is not a matter of South Australia appearing in the role of a Shylock. I propose to show that this line, which, according to the agreement should be constructed from north to south within the Northern Territory and South Australia, would be in the best interests of Australia as a whole.
– If the honorable senator can prove that, I will vote for the bill.
– If the honorable senator has an open mind on the subject, I am sure I will be able to prove it. I quote now the opinion of the late Mr. C. J. Dashwood, K.C.-
In my opinion, the reference in the provision . . makes it clear that what was covenanted’ for by the earlier provision is a line to be built wholly within the Northern Territory. Moreover, the agreement is made between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of South Australia, and it cannot, it appears to me, have been the intention of the parties that the railway should go outside of the Northern Territory and. traverse land belonging to another State/ If the possibility of such a course had been contemplated, one would expect some reference to arrangements to be made with the other State or States through whose territory the line was to run. I am of opinion, therefore, that the transcontinental railway from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the Port Augusta railway must, under the agreement and the Surrender Act, be constructed entirety through the Northern Territory and South Australia proper.
Let us take one most significant point mentioned by Mr. Dashwood. If it were intended that the line should traverse other territory, if, for example, it were proposed to take it into Queensland or New South Wales, would not the Governments of those States have been parties to the agreement? The Commonwealth has no right to construct a mile of railway line within the territory of a State without the consent of the State Government, and therefore it could never have been the intention to construct any portion of the north-south line in New South Wales or Queensland territory, because the Governments of those States were not- parties to the agreement.
When Mr. Dashwood’s opinion was given there was still a doubt expressed by the politicians referred to by Senator Foll, and Mr. Dashwood was asked to go into the matter again. This is what he said -
Since giving the above opinion I have had the advantage of a conference. . . . On the whole, however, and with great deference, I adhere to the view, as expressed in my opinion, that the true construction of the act and the agreement is that the transcontinental railway line is to bc constructed wholly in South Australia and the Northern Territory, and, as above stated, I do not think that the bill before the Commonwealth Parliament conflicts with this construction.
In his considered opinion, given after the most careful study of the agreement, Mr. Dashwood confirmed his original opinion.
– But he was a South Australian lawyer.
– Does the honorable senator infer that because Mr. Dashwood was a South Australian lawyer he would give an opinion against his honest judgment ? The interjection is a serious reflection upon a former eminent King’s Counsel of South Australia.
– But the honorable senator made the same reflection upon Mr. Hughes.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.No. What I intended to convey was that Mr. Hughes was speaking as a politician, and was not giving a carefully considered legal opinion. In the course of a political speech he said he thought that the railway could go outside South Australian territory.
– Nevertheless, Mr. Hughes is a well-respected citizen of Australia.
– Well, if it will suit Senator Cox. we will regard Mr. Hughes’ statement as a legal opinion, and I intend to quote the opinion of six King’s Counsel against it. Sir Josiah Symon said -
It seems to me to be clear that the railway to bo constructed by the Commonwealth Government must be within the Territory.
Sir Josiah Symon says that the contrary view is not arguable. The line must be constructed wholly within South Australia and the Territory. T turn now to the opinion given by Mr. (now acting Judge) Richards, of South Australia, in his capacity as Crown Solicitor -
It is fairly clear that the agreement speaks of the railway as in two parts - one part in
South Australia proper, and the other ns “ built in the Northern Territory.” The former could hardly be said to connect with tha part “ built in the Northern Territory.” If there were a third part intervening between the former and the latter parts, it would then “ connect with “’ the intervening part and not. with the Northern Territory part. “ Connect with” means to “join on to,” “to connect.” to “ link together,” “ to join,” “ to unite.”’ . . If the route is not material, why does the agreement refer to direction at all? It would have said simply “ from Port Darwin to “ and not “ from Port Darwin southwards to “. It must of necessity get further south if to reach South Australia at all. “Southward “ is mentioned in order to emphasize the direction. “ Southward “ means “ towards the the south,” “ in the direction of the south,” “substantially in that direction “;’ not first southwards, then south-eastwards, and then southwards, and south-westwards, but as nearly as * practicable in the due southward direction.
Mr. Glynn, K.C., an eminent lawyer of South Australia, gave this as his opinion many years ago : -
When the matter was first brought up I had a great deal to do with the drawing up of the agreement, and it was on my suggestion that the words “ Northern Territory “ were included. The legal opinions of many eminent counsel have been obtained from time to time, and there is no question as to the facts as set out in the agreement. In my opinion it cannot be varied without the acquiescence of South Australia.
Mr. W. J. Denny, the present AttorneyGeneral for South Australia, has expressed the same view. He says -
There can be no doubt that - the legal as well as the moral aspect of the agreement then entered into requires that the line shall not deviate from South Australian territory until it arrives in the boundary of the Northern Territory.
I come now to the opinion of Sir Edward Mitchell, K.C., a Victorian lawyer, in 1910. When the agreement was before the Federal . Parliament he was asked for an opinion and stated -
In my opinion upon the true construction of the agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of South Australia, the transcontinental railway cannot be diverted out of the Northern Territory so as to be built partly in a State other than South Australia. There can be no reason why this agreement should not be construed according to the ordinary canons of interpretation, and, taking the natural meaning of the words used and reading the agreement as a whole, and having regard to the subject-matter with which it is dealing, I feel no doubt that the intention of the contracting parties was that the northern part of the railway should be made wholly within the Northern Territory to some point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper, arid the southern part should be made from some point on the Port Augusta railway to the same point on such northern railway.
It is clear from the several legal opinions quoted that the line must be constructed wholly within the Northern Territory and South Australia. Mr. Latham, K.C., the present AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, stated in the session before the last that he was against the construction of the line on the merits and the facts disclosed, but, having gone very carefully into the agreement, he found that there was a definite legal obligation upon the Commonwealth to construct the line. Therefore, he was bound to support the proposal. As regards the interpretation of the agreement, his view entirely coincided with the opinion of the King’s’ Counsel to whom I have referred. From all that I have said it would appear that there is a very definite obligation on the Commonwealth to construct the line in a north-south direction, wholly within the Northern Territory and South Australia, and that it must be . carried out ‘within a reasonable time. The agreement of 1907 gave right of priority to South Australia as regards construction ; that is to say, the line was to be constructed before any other big railway undertaking by the Commonwealth. But South Australia conceded to the Commonwealth Government the right to build the east-west line. It certainly would not have given up its right of priority as regards the transcontinental railway if it had thought there would be any attempt to evade the obligation imposed upon the Commonwealth by the 1907’ agreement. South Australia has always looked upon the construction of this line as a legally binding contract, and the honouring of it as a national obligation. If honorable senators will study the agreement they will find that its terms are clear and very definite. Let honorable senators regard the matter as though it were an agreement made between individuals instead of between Governments. If it were an agreement between individuals it would be a matter of personal honour to fulfil it without undue delay. Why should we set up a lower standard in morals for the Commonwealth and State Parliaments than are observed as between individuals ? Surely it is not too much to expect Governments to observe the code of honour that is recognized amongst gentle men in the ordinary everyday concerns of life. I submit, then, that the first reason why honorable senators should vote for the bill is that the 1907 agreement, ratified by the Act of 1910, imposes a legal obligation upon the Commonwealth to construct the line wholly within the State of South Australia and the Northern Territory. The proposal is justified also because of the very valuable . country which will be opened up. I intend, before I resume my seat, to dispose absolutely of the unsupported statements made by Senator Guthrie, who said that the country to be served by this railway was. a desert entirely devoid of water and feed .
– I did not say that.
– The honorable senator said that it was a desert, and that there was an entire absence of feed and water.
– Yes, in places, with pockets of good country. The bulk of the country is undoubtedly poor.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.I shall prove that the bulk of the country is not poor, and that the possibilities on the central route are greater and much more varied than on the eastern route advocated by .Senator Guthrie.
– As far as Birdsville, yes.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.There is more , good country to the west than there is to the east. I do not ask honorable senators to accept my unsupported word, I shall produce evidence.
– Does the honorable senator say that there is more good country to the west of the proposed line than to the east7
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Yes, country that would be served I y the proposed line.
– Taking into consideration all .the western part of Queensland that would be served 1
– That would not be served by such a line.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Western Queensland should only be served with branch lines. The position in regard to this matter was very clearly put by Mr. Francis Birtles, a gentleman who has travelled through the country under discussion perhaps more than any one else’ in Australia, and who was asked to advise the Commonwealth Government on. the matter.
– Does Mr. Birtles know anything about land?
– Yes, in his report to the Commonwealth Government he states that he knows a good deal about it.
– Has the honorable senator any proof that Mr. Birtles has any knowledge whatever of land values?
– He put the position very clearly when he said in evidence before the Public Works Committee that a north-south route would provide a backbone to Australia, and lines to the east and west would form the ribs. That is exactly the position. I am not suggesting for a moment that there is not good- country on the Barkly Tablelands, or that it should not, at some “time, be directly provided with railway communication: but looking at this matter in a national way we ought to have a dividing line through the centre, and then serve the country to the east and to the west by branch lines. That will undoubtedly come in time.
– Does the honorable senator think that a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line will carry heavy traffic?
– Does the honorable senator know what is being carried on lines of that gauge in South Africa^
– Yes, better than does the honorable senator.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Senator Cox should know that a line of such a gauge can carry very heavy traffic. With 80-lb. rails a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line will carry almost any traffic. Senator Guthrie admitted that.
– The South African railways which are ballasted do excellent service, but the proposal in this instance is to have an unballasted track.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.It will not always be unballasted.
– The South African railways have a standard gauge throughout the whole country.
– That is .quite true.
– In Australia we have several gauges.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Yea, but the position put by the honorable senator was that a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line would not carry the traffic.
A line of such a gauge will carry the traffic for a - long time, and later the line will . be properly ballasted. I wonder if honorable senators, who say there is no good country 10 the west- of the route of the proposed line, have read the report of the committee representing the Government and the Commonwealth and of the Government of South Australia. The country between Kingoonya and Alice Springs is, of course, a little to the west of the proposed route.
– How far to the west ?
– The distance varies.
– How far is Kingoonya west of Oodnadatta?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.They are not parallel.
– There is: a distance of about 30 miles.
– The route, of the suggested line from Kingoonya to Alice Springs is within a reasonable distance of Oodnadatta at that point, and the routes converge at Alice Springs. The members of the committee to which I have referred followed the route from Kingoonya to Alice Springs, and in reporting on the country, said -
The principal types of feed consist of mulga, saltbush, bluebush, cottonbush, and other’ acrcompanying shrubs, together with numerous valuable herbs, and good annual and perennial grasses. Mitchell grass is very plentiful in certain localities, generally growing in association with saltbush.
Senator Guthrie, cannot reasonably scoff at the opinions of ‘the gentlemen who comprised the committee. They were: - Mr. R. E aston, chairman of the Northern Territory Land Board; W. Wynne Williams, deputy chairman Northern Territory Land Board; A. J. McBride, pastoralist, Adelaide. Mr. McBride is a pastoralist who knows as much about land as any other man in Australia.
– He has just spent £60,000 in. developing Wilgena.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Yes. Another member of the committee was Mr.. Theo, E. Day, the SurveyorGeneral, and chairman of the Pastoral Board, Adelaide.
– Have any of them taken up country there ?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Yes, Mr. McBride has a lot of country.
– On that route?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.No, but he knows the country -well. He has frequently passed through it.
– They have not supported their opinions as to the value of the land by taking it up.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.If they are able to get in before the rush begins they will certainly take up some when the line is constructed. The report continues - lt can confidently be stated that the whole of the country passed over consists of good average pastoral country, which is preeminently suited for sheep-raising and woolgrowing.
How does that agree with the statement made by’ Senator Guthrie, who knows nothing whatever about the country from actual experience?
– The honorable senator should be fair.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Instead of quoting sworn evidence, the honorable senator has merely repeated the opinion of a man whose name he declined’ to give. Later I shall quote evidence given on oath before the Public Works Committee.
– The plan supplied by the Government indicates the position fairly clearly. The contention of the Minister for Works and Railways was that some country would carry 30, and at the most 40, sheep to the square mile. How can the honorable senator say that that is good average country?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.I shall quote the opinion of these experienced men concerning the carrying capacity of the country. They say -
Sheep are gradually superseding cattle and horses, but progress is very slow, although it is generally realized by all concerned that the country is naturally suited for sheep, and that only when they develop their holdings along those lines will they achieve their full measure of success.
At the time of inspection - September - the whole of the country was suffering from a very prolonged dry spell, and although large areas in the vicinity of the waters have been badly damaged by overstocking, all stock were in strong condition.
The whole of the country carries such an abundance of good top-feed (practically every shrub is edible for sheep), and has such excellent supplies- of water, that under capable management, with proper improvements, and judicious stocking, i.e., stocking the country ac cording to its carrying capacity and not according to the water supply, it would safely carry an average of 40 sheep per square mile under conditions that would render the district practically drought-proof.
The above figures are on the .conservative side, and with intensive improving, some of the country could be made to carry considerably more.
– Is that country within ‘the area to be served by the proposed line?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.It is to the westward within a few miles of it. There are some who favour the construction of a line to the east., such as Senator Guthrie and Senator Foll, thus leaving this good country unserved by railway communication, and, consequently, undeveloped. In their opinion, it is useless. It has ‘been said by Senator Guthrie that there is an entire absence of water and feed, but the report on this phase of the question discloses that -
The question of water supplies does not appear to present any insuperable difficulties, as from the evidence of existing wells and bores, together with natural indications, and information elicited, there would appear to be excellent prospects of obtaining very good supplies of potable water, in sufficient quantities to supply all pastoral requirements, at depths of from 30 feet to 200 feet. A few bores have been’ continued to 400 feet, in order to tap larger supplies for heavy stocking with cattle.
There does not appear to be any really per,manent surface water in the area ‘ inspected, although quite a number of waterholes last for several months after rain. It may be remarked, in passing, that the absence of surface waters and flowing bores is rather a blessing, helping as it does, to keep rabbits and other vermin in check.
The country generally is not suited for the holding of water in tanks, although water could be conserved in certain areas, but, without proper protection, evaporation, which amounts to approximately 8 feet per annum, would pay heavy toll upon the supply.
Attention is drawn to the fact that where large supplies of water have been obtained, a lamentable and amazing lack of foresight has been displayed by those responsible for stocking the waters, regardless of what the country will carry, and the ultimate result. In many places^ stock .have been crowded on to the waters, and the country so severely overstocked that it will take years to recover.
Reliable information indicates that water is more easily obtainable towards the west, and mentions the existence of -numerous soaks and waterholes.
We are told this country has a poor rainfall. The report states -
The rainfall records are far from being complete, and it is therefore difficult to speak with any degree of certainty upon this subject, but a few authentic records obtained along the route would appear to establish the fact that the rainfall is much higher than is generally supposed.
– The average annual rainfall at Oodnadatta has been given as 4.7 inches.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.We are not dealing with Oodnadatta. Senator Guthrie is speaking of Oodnadatta, and Senator Foll of Marree, both of which are on a railway. The line to Oodnadatta was not constructed to serve Marree and Oodnadatta, but with the intention of being continued.
– The honorable senator does not suggest that the country between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs has a good rainfall ‘?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Yes, for pastoral purposes.
– We have the records for 40 years.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Exactly ! There are some dry years.
– What is the average rainfall ?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Over a good deal of the country it is 9 inches.
– It is 11 inches.
– Yes, at Alice Springs.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.When I was there last year, it is true that there had been very little rain for two years, but there was an ample supply of feed.
– But no water.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Water is obtainable at shallow depths. The report describes the country in the following terms -
Through Wilgena, Bon Bon, and Mount Eba stations, the country consists principally of a light-red sandy soil, which is timbered with mulga, and clothed with saltbush, bluebushcotton-bush and numerous other accompanying shrubs, which are all edible. After the rains, good herbage and grasses appear. These grasses and herbs, which are very nourishing, last for several months, lending variety to the top feed.
The above country, when properly improved, will safely carry 60 (sixty) sheep per square mile.
After passing the north boundary of Mount Eba station, the mulga disappears, leaving the saltbush with its associated shrubs as the staple feed. This country, which continues to the opal field, and a few miles north, is rather stony; tout, when properly improved, should carry an average of 40 sheep to the square mile.
Regarding the Stuart Range country, the report states -
About 18 miles north-west of Stuart’s Range opal field, the country becomes heavily impregnated with gypsum, and, with the exception of small patches of saltbush on the tops of the ridges, is devoid of any permanent type of vegetation. After the rains, a fine growth of herbage appears, which lasts for several months, giving this country, if used in conjunction with the adjoining areas, a carrying capacity of about 25 sheep per square mile. The belt, which is probably of no very great extent, crosses the Algebullcullia, and reaches to within about 7 miles of the Lorna River, after which the saltbush reappears in association with Mitchell grass, and raises the capacity of the country to 40 sheep to. the square mile.
Practically the whole of the country north of the Lorna, across the Arckaringa, and up to the Alberga, consists of stony tablelands richly clothed with saltbush and other accompanying shrubs, together with Mitchell and other fine grasses.
This area, which extends for many miles on either side of the proposed route, contains some excellent sheep country, and would safely carry “40 Sheep per square mile.
North of the Alberga, the country changes to a light-red sandy soil, which is timbered with mulga and other shrubs. It contains a number of good grasses, and may be classed as useful pastoral country, capable of supporting 40 sheep to the mile.
After passing Mount Tieyon, the country becomes granitic, and carries a better class of vegetation, consisting of open mulga, saltbush, &c, and Mitchell and other fine grasses. This country, which extends north-easterly for a distance of about 60 miles, has been badly damaged by overstocking, and will take time to recover.
East of Horseshoe Bend, a belt of sandhills is entered, which extends northwards for about 40 miles. Throughout their extent, they are intersected with numerous flats and valleys, on which grows a better type of vegetation, thus lending variety to and increasing their feeding value. After the rains, a fine growth of herbage appears, which lasts for several months, and during which period it will carry quite a large number of stock.
This belt is of no very great extent, and is bounded on the east and west by good saltbush country.
– Country cannot be stocked for only three or four months in the year.
– But in addition to the grasses which grow after the rains there is good scrub country. The report goes on as follows -
After crossing the Hugh River, near Mount Charlotte, the country improves, and on to the Macdonnell ranges consists alternately of good open mulga and saltbush country, and low sandy ridges which carry a poorer type of vegetation; but when the two classes of country are averaged, they would safely support 30 sheep per square mile.
Here, as in other places along the route, additional evidence was again forthcoming that the country improves towards the west.
No reasonable comparison can be made between the country traversed by the existing Marree-Oodnadatta railway and the proposed Kingoonya-Alice Springs route.
The Oodnadatta line undoubtedly traverses some very fine pastoral areas; but it embraces such a large area of salt lake, clay pan, and wind-swept country, that its average carrying capacity is seriously reduced.
The proposed Kingoonya route, on the other hand, traverses good average pastoral country, right through to Alice Springs.
What has Senator Guthrie to say in the face of evidence of that description?
– The evidence condemns the line to a great extent. The honorable -senator has said himself that the grass only grows for three or four months after the rains, while the Minister who introduced this . measure in another place said that Alice Springs was, at one time, for two or three years without any rain at all.
– The honorable senator is totally misleading any one who may be putting confidence in his views. The report that I have read stated quite clearly that in addition to the grasses that grow after the rains there is good scrub growth, mulga, acacia, and so on.
– The gentlemen who were responsible for that report were careful not to say what it would cost to make the country capable of carrying sheep.
– Does the honorable senator mean to suggest that a man like Mr. McBride, who is one of the most practical sheep farmers in Australia, would advise the Government to build a railway into this country if there was no chance of it becoming profitable ?
– Does Senator Barwell know anything about the cost of fencing, boring, and general developmental operations?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.I do.
– Does the report say that this railway would pay?
– Nobody of any standing, much less gentlemen like those responsible for this report, would recommend the Government to build a railway unless they were confident that ultimately it would be a payable proposition’ and lead to desirable development. Nobody suggests that the railway will be profitable immediately after its construction.
– Does Senator Guthrie suggest that’ a railway into the Birdsville country would pay?
– I do not.
– I wish now to refer to the report of the Public Works Committee, dated the 6th of October,’ 1922, on the building of the north-south railway.
– Senator Guthrie should read the whole of it.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.The committee recommended the building of a light, low-level line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. Although Senator Foll signed the report, his remarks this evening would lead one to think that he was totally opposed to the whole proposition. As a matter of fact, in the face of the evidence submitted to the Committee, it could not do other than recommend the line, and Senator Foll knows that very well. In case Senator Guthrie may not be aware of it, I wish to inform him that the committee took evidence, not only from pastoralists in South Australia and the Northern Territory, but also from pastoralists along the route that the Marree-Birdsville line would take. Their evidence was to the effect that while a line into the Birdsville country would suit them, it would not be fair to the people of Australia to build it, for it would in no sense develop the Northern Territory or Central Australia. They were bigminded men. The report . of the committee stated, inter alia -
It is obviously impossible, ‘with the space available in a report of this nature, to more than but very briefly mention the class of country in the various districts. It might be - stated, at the outset, however, that no portion of the Territory seen was as bad asthat in the northern portion of South Australia.
I have seen this country, and I freely admit that it is poor. The country around Marree is the worst in the whole of Australia. The South Australian authorities had not the slightest intention of stopping their line at either Marree or Oodnadatta. They only ceased building operations because their money would go no further. The report proceeds -
It should also be emphasized that, as far as the observations and inquiries of the committee went, the presence of extensive sandydeserts in the centre of the Northern Territory, as shown in some of the early maps, is a myth. In fact, what is usually termed “ desert “ by the people living in -the locality comprises, country which, at certain seasons of the year, provides the best stock country on the stations. Practically the only sandy country encountered was the somewhat extensive area of the Depot Sand Hills, and the wide shallow beds of creeks, and even in the former case that country carries certain herbage and top feed valuable for cattle.
Generally speaking, from the South Australian border to the Macdonnell . Ranges, the soil is of a reddish sandy loam, fairly well grassed in good seasons, with some ‘ cotton bush, salt bush, and mulga. Generally, there is very little timber on this country, excepting along river and creek channels, but in the vicinity of Deep Well there is an amount of desert oak,, which would probably be good for sleepers if sufficient quantity could be obtained within a reasonable distance of the proposed route.
The description of the Macdonnell Ranges country is as follows : -
The lower portions of the hills in the Macdonnell Ranges are, in good’ seasons, fairly well grassed, principally with star grass, red grass, rye grass, and white grass, also a good, deal of spinifex. In many places the large creeks in the ranges break abruptly through the hills, forming great clear-cut gaps, many of them only a few hundred yards wide at the bottom, with rocky walls rising nearly perpendicular on each side for hundreds of feet. Immense storages of water could, no doubt, be made at many of these gaps, as the rainfall of this area over a period- of 28 years averages about 11 inches per annum.
The committee found that in the vicinity of the Macdonnells, grapes, figs, oranges, and lemons grow well, and that the soil in portions of the valleys between the hills is good and suitable for cultivation.
– Are there any settlers in those districts?
– The country is sparsely populated. Given a railway there would be a great many more settlers.. I have been ail through, this country, and have visited every station along the proposed line and all those within reasonable distance of it. Generally speaking, the settlers are men who had not much capital. They have spent their money in sinking a few wells and bores, but to properly stock their holdings they practically all need to augment their water supplies. I pro pose now to refer to the country on the Marree-Birdsville route.
– The honorable senator ought to remark that the committee saw one route just after good rains and the other during a drought period.
– The honorable senator knows the portions of the report which I propose to quote, but he need not apologize beforehand for his attitude. Senator Guthrie called particular attention to the poorness of the country between Marree and Oodnadatta. What did the committee say about it? Its report will prove interesting to honorable senators, because that country comprises a big’ portion of the route which the honorable senator said the railway should traverse.
– Everybody knows the country between Marree and Birdsville is very bad.
– The honorable senator did not mention that fact on Friday.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.The committee reported as follows: -
Over this country a considerable number of cattle had been driven to market immediatelyprior to the committee’s inspection, and there had been no rain for months. This area is -within the driest belt in Australia, and has an average rainfall of approximately5 inches. When seen by the committee the greater part of it was dreary desert and stony plains, interspersed by ridges of drift sand, and absolutely treeless and waterless.
– The honorable senator knows that it is a big stock route.
– I am aware of that.
– A greater number of stock travel over that route than between Alice Springs and Oodnadatta.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.The committee also reported as follows: -
However, most of the witnesses examined agreed that the Northern Territory was a country of immense and practically unknown possibilities, and there was very little chance of ever developing its resources without a railway of some description. Moreover, it should be borne in mind that the construction of a railway for developmental purposes, even if it involves a loss on the actual railway proposition, has the effect, of increasing the capital value of the country which it serves;’ permits of heavier stocking- of the pastoral areas through which it passes; and is an insurance against losses in drought times by enabling stock to be removed to better localities. Furthermore, railway communication would encourage settlement in more remote parts, and tend to the development of the Northern Territory, without which it will always be a source of anxiety and a serious drain on the resources of the Commonwealth.
Another paragraph in the report reads: -
In regard to the southern section, cognizance was taken of the fact that the existing line from Quorn to Oodnadatta is now laid with light rails -on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, and that between Marree and Oodnadatta the regular service is a fortnightly one, and is not likely to be anything more for at least some years. The Oodnadatta railway at present involves the Commonwealth in an annual loss of between £60,000 and £70,000, but the terminus at Oodnadatta is in the midst of some of the poorest country in Australia, and it is possible that with the extension to the better country in the region of the Macdonnell ranees, the loss on the existing line may be somewhat diminished. All witnesses examined on the subject agreed that the Macdonnell range country offered many possibilities for development, both pastoral and agricultural; that the mineral potentialities of the district had been only partially exploited, and had not been by any means exhausted, and would be benefited by n railway, and that the climate was quite equal to anything in Australia.
– Will the honorable senator read the motion that was moved by Mr. Jackson?
– Mr. Jackson moved -
That the committee place on record its opinion that, with the construction of a light line to Alice Springs, and the extension of the existing northern section to Newcastle Waters and thence to Camooweal, the whole of the railway requirements will be met for many years.
This bill does not deal with the agreement; it deals only with the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. It does nob contain’ any provision for the continuatiou of the line beyond Alice Spring’s.
– Even when this bill is passed, that matter will have to be decided by Parliament.
– The agreement will have to be interpreted later. (Extension of time granted.] It is but fair that I should mention that, although the committee recommended the construction nf a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, it at the same time reported that -
Even with the vast amount of data now at hand the committee does not feel justified in saying at this date which route should be taken by a Une so far in the future.
In view of the statements that have been made by Senator Guthrie in particular, and also by Senator Cox, and to a certain extent by Senator Foll, I shall quote some of the evidence that was taken by the committee, particularly - that of Queenslanders, and men who advocated the construction of the direct. north-south line because, in their opinion, it was the proper line from a national point of view. I ask leave to continue my remarks tomorrow.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned .
Bill received from House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
Senate adjourned at 9.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 February 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260203_senate_10_112/>.