4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that, an outbreak of small-pox having occurred on the steamer Eastern, the vessel has been ordered to proceed to Sydney to be quarantined, instead of being detained at some northern port?
– Yes. The vessel is being brought to Sydney because suitable quarantine arrangements are not available further north.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Defence - Progress Report on the Navy.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Nos. 149, 151 - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 157.
No. 228 (Provisional) - Statutory Rules1911, No. 158.
Nos. 114-116A (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 159.
– Yesterday I asked the Minister of Home Affairs the following question in reference to the Pennant Hills wireless telegraph station -
Is it correct, as suggested by the PostmasterGeneral in the House on the 15th September, that the Department of Home Affairs is responsible for the extraordinary delay which has occurred in providing for the housing of the contractor’s plant, as agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the contractor?
The Minister said in his reply -
I know of no such statement by the PostmasterGeneral. and the Postmaster-General interjected - :
I made no such statement.
But, in the Hansard report of the speech I delivered on the 15th September, the following passage occurs -
– The honorable member was saying something about the incompetency of my Department, but I point out that that Department has nothing whatever to do with this work.
– I know the Postmaster-General is not now stating the fact, and I hope it is because he has not watched the matter closely.
– What fact have I not stated correctly ?
– The whole matter of the plans and specifications for these buildings is arranged in the honorable gentleman’s own office, by, I believe, his Chief Electrical Engineer, Mr. Hes- keth.
– Who clears the land and erects the buildings?
It was those repeated statements of the Postmaster-General which led me to believe that he was attempting to throw the responsibility for the delay on the Minister of Home Affairs..
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The above amount has been paid for Coun sel’s fees, witnesses’ expenses, shorthand reports, and miscellaneous expenses.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether any steps have been taken to purchase a site for a new post-office in Prahran?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
No. It was reported by the Director-General of Works that, by expending £500 and dispensing with postmaster’s quarters within the building, the existing premises at the Prahran Town Hall could be altered to afford 1,680 square feet of floor space for the official work and public, as compared with 737 square feet of floor space at present in use for those purposes, and, in addition thereto, 837 square feet of floor space on the first floor for officers’ accommodation. Whereas, if the present Postal premises, of which the Commonwealth has a 967 years’ lease at a peppercorn rental, the present value of which is about£12,000, be returned to the Municipal Council for £5,000, as decided by the late Postmaster-General (Sir John Quick), the Commonwealth will make a loss of about £7,000, which, added to the cost of purchasing a new site and erecting a new building commensurate with the importance of the city of Prahran, say,£8,000, would mean a present from the Commonwealth of about£15,000.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is - 1, 2, and 3. Only so far as is desirable to conserve the policy of preference to unionists.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is - 1 and 2. The estimated average cost of excavation, carting (up to 600 yards), running to bank, trimming, soiling, &c, was approximately 1s. 8d. per cubic yard. The actual cost has been about 2s. 5d. per cubic yard. The increased cost has been partly owing to the wet season, which made the excavation and handling more costly.
Debate resumed from 3rd October(vide page 1005), on motion by Mr. King O’malley: -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs if Mr. Hales’ report on the railway gauge question has been printed. If not, will the honorable gentleman cause it, and any other information on the subject that may be available, to be printed?
– Yes, if that is the desire of the House.
.- I shall not occupy more than a few minutes, but I do not wish this important and national work to be agreed to until I have briefly stated my views in regard to it. I have not the advantage of having heard the proposal discussed on the other occasions when it has been before the Chamber but when addressing my constituents prior to the last general election, I promised to support the construction of the line, if it was to be undertaken in a reasonable way. I did not pledge myself to support any wild-cat scheme that the Ministry of the day might put forward, and I think now that the line should be constructed only on what may. be regarded as reasonable terms, from the Commonwealth stand-point, as well as from that of the States immediately concerned. The honorable members for Adelaide, Gwydir, and Indi complained yesterday of what one of them termed the “oyster-like” attitude of the Minister of Home Affairs regarding this matter.
– Did he not make a full explanation when he introduced the Bill ?
– Does the honorable member consider that the few remarks with which the Minister honoured us on that occasion constituted a full explanation?
– He took about threequarters of an hour.
– That may be so, but we can hardly suppose that the greater part of what he talked about had anything to do with the Bill. Although it may have illustrated to some extent what he wanted to say, it did not throw any light upon many matters wilh which this House should have been made fully acquainted before being asked to commit itself to the proposal. It is quite refreshing to hear honorable members opposite complaining that the Government have not taken them fully into their confidence, but that is only what we on this side of the House have experienced during the whole of last week and on many previous occasions. Another characteristic of the present Government, which is exemplified in a remarkable manner in connexion with this proposal, is the sort of spasmodic action that they are prone to take without considering all those cognate matters without which it is almost impossible to do justice to a project. Before we are committed to the building of the line it is absolutely necessary that the House should be put in possession of a great deal more information than it now has. I do not wish to enter into the question of which gauge is the best at this stage for Australia to adopt. No doubt when the Bill reaches Committee we shall have a full opportunity of considering the different gauges and discussing to our hearts’ content which is best for Australia. Whatever gauge we determine upon for this line will, however, undoubtedly fix the gauge for the whole Commonwealth, in regard, at all events, to those lines where uniformity is necessary for defence purposes. We ought to have been given the fullest possible information in regard to the cost of altering the gauges of the whole of the lines in each State to the 3 ft. 6 in., or the 4 ft.8½ in., or the 5 ft. 3 in., standard, respectively. We should also havehad a full statement from the Defence Department as to what lines should be made uniform as to gauge throughout the Commonwealth for their purposes, seeing that the chief reason for the alteration of the gauges arises from the defence stand-point. Prior to the Commonwealth Parliament being asked to commit itself to the construction of the line, a conference should have been held with the whole of the States, and some friendly agreement should have been come to as to the apportionment of the cost of alteration m the States in which it becomes necessary. The objection of the honorable member for Adelaide is, in the circumstances, quite justifiable - that by our passing the Bill and absolutely committing the Commonwealth to any particular gauge we are practically compelling the States whose gauges are not the same as that which we adopt to convert their lines to that gauge without having first come to a reasonable and just arrangement as to the apportionment of the ultimate cost. All this information should have been preliminary to the introduction of the Bill. Had the Minister of Home Affairs conducted the matter with that business acumen that he claims to have, all this information would have been in our hands, and all this preliminary work would have been done before the Bill was introduced. We are now being asked to commit ourselves to this particular Une, and to some particular gauge, I care not what, without having sufficient information to enable us to really know what we are doing.
– New South Wales has settled the gauge !
– I do not know whether Victoria or New South Wales has settled it, but I had an idea that it was the duty of this Parliament to settle it.
– Does the honorable member think, after yesterday’s elections in Western Australia, that those two States have any right to settle the question?
– That is difficult to say, though, no doubt, under the circumstances, honorable members opposite will be only too pleased to give Western Australia this railway. However, that does not affect my contention that all this information should have been in our hands, and much preliminary work done, before the Bill was brought down. Last night the honorable member for Grey told us that the country through which this line will pass is not altogether a land flowing with milk and honey, but that, nevertheless, it is a tract of country capable of settlement and development, and that we may look for an adequate return in a short time. In my opinion the Commonwealth should not have been saddled with the whole of the expenditure. The line will undoubtedly develop considerable areas in Western Australia and South Australia, and those States will derive much benefit from it. As a preliminary to the construction of the line, it should have been the aim of the Government to see how far those States were willing to meet them in regard to the total expenditure. Surely if Western Australia and South Australia are to have large areas developed, thus adding materially to their population, resources, and revenues, it is only just to the rest of the Commonwealth that we should ask for some compensation - some quid pro quo. I do not say that this should be a very large amount; but there should have been a business arrangement on a business basis. If the Minister of Home Affairs is going to carry on his Department, as he says, on business lines, surely we may look for an ordinary business arrangement between those two States and the Commonwealth, taking into consideration the advantages which both are going to gain, and arriving at a reasonable compromise as to the initial cost. It might have been necessary in the first instance for the Commonwealth to finance the line ; but it would appear that the Commonwealth Government, having managed to ex: tract from the people’s pockets large sums of money by direct taxation and by an indirect loan, are prepared to say, “ By all means let us spend it on this line, irrespective altogether of the responsibility of the two States immediately concerned to, eventually, if not at the present time, bear a certain amount of the cost.”
– That is about the policy of every Government that has held office !
– [ do not know that it is. In some form or other there were proposals from the previous Government in regard to compensation of a certain character. Whether that be so or not, however, does not affect my contention that there should have been a reasonable business arrangement between the States and the Commonwealth. If it is found in time to come that the States of Western Australia and South Australia have benefited largely by this expenditure, we, while not begrudging their prosperity, must nevertheless remember that the other States have had to build long trunk lines largely of .1 non-productive character in order to develop their territories, and that it is hardly fair that the whole of the cost of this line should for all time be borne by the Commonwealth Government. This Bill will not pass with my consent until we have a full statement from the Government as to how it is to be financed. We have had no intimation whatever as to how the money. is to be found, although it is proposed to give to the Minister of Home Affairs the power to spend £4, 000,000. I am prepared to vote for the second reading, but I shall not vote for the final passage of the measure until we are in possession of information showing how it is proposed to finance it, and to what extent it will be an immediate charge on the Consolidated Revenue of the country. I am, and always have been, in favour of linking up the more remote parts of the Commonwealth with the more thickly-populated centres. When there is reasonable prospect of a line paying in anything like a reasonable time, the Commonwealth Government should not hesitate to undertake works of this character. At the same time, the Government ought to give the House every possible information, and take the whole thing into consideration from a business stand-point. That has not been done; and the Minister of Home Affairs has left out of consideration every business view; there has been no method or acumen shown at any stage. The Bill has been practically thrown at us without any information, good, bad, or indifferent, or any of those preliminary investigations which are necessary. If investigations have been made they have been of a spasmodic character, without any general idea of the financial scheme to be adopted.
– The honorable member has told us that nine times already !
– If I had told the House 999 times it would not be one too many in the circumstances. I hope that before the Government press this measure through the House they will endeavour, at all events, to supply a great deal of the information at present lacking, and so enable us to come to something like a reasonable determination as to the best possible way of carrying out this great national undertaking.
– I join in the expressions of regret that have fallen from honorable members on all sides regarding the scanty information placed before us by the Minister in charge of this measure. There are many questions that we are fairly entitled to put to him. In the first place, we are entitled to have from him some information as to the way in which this great undertaking is to be financed. Then, again, I think that he ought to have told us what area of land the States concerned are to be asked to hand over to the Commonwealth. That is a very material point. It has been urged that a fair width of country on both sidles of the line should be handed over, so that the Commonwealth might benefit by the enhancement in value which the construction of the railway would give to that land. One of the provisions of the Bill is that the construction of the line shall not be commenced until Western Australia and South Australia have granted or agreed to grant such portions of the Crown lands of the State as are, in the opinion of the Minister, necessary for the purposes of the construction, maintenance, and working of the railway, and we should have had from the Minister at least a hint as to what he considers necessary for these purposes. In the report of the consulting engineer it is stated that the width of land necessary for the purposes of the line varies from three chains at one point to half-a-mile at another, and to ten miles at yet another.
– Is that the area which Mr. Deane thinks should be reserved?
– No; no land has been reserved, and we do not know what area the Government expect the States to reserve. But in referring to land resumptions, Mr. Deane reports that -
For the mere construction of the line through the country generally, a width of 3 chains would be sufficient. …. Outside the sandhills, which will be referred to presently, and excluding stations and other places where special works are required, a width of half-a-mile on each side should be arranged for.
Dealing with the sandhills of South Aus tralia, he roports -
For that part of the line in South Australia which runs through the sandhills, I recommend for consideration that a width of, say, 10 miles be acquired and reserved from occupation. It would seem desirable, even where the country generally becomes taken up for pastoral pursuits, that the sandhills should be excluded from use for that purpose until something more is known as to the proper treatment of this class of land. The sandhills at the present time are not all loose sand, blown about by every wind, but consist mostly of a light loamy soil, in some cases, of course, fairly sandy, but in all cases covered with vegetation bushes, small trees, or spinifex. as the case may be. with an abundant growth of grass and herbage in the cooler time of the year, and after rains. It is to be borne in mind, however, that if by any chance the vegetation gets burnt off, or the ground becomes trodden on and worked up by stock, the surface of the soil is loosened and liable to be blown about by the strong winds of summer, and excessive drifting may then take place, which might be detrimental to the welfare of the railway.
– That is the trouble.
– Certainly, and we ought to have had some information on that phase of the question. The question of gauge has been a prominent feature of this diebate, and it cannot be passed over without full discussion. I concur with the view that we should have had more information on the subject. We are told that the report of the consulting engineer on this aspect of the question has been presented to us, and it has been thrown at us that, not only did the Chief Railway Commissioners of the States favour the adoption of a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge, but that the railway engineers subsequently confirmed that recommendation. It is worth noting, however, that this decision on the part of the Chief Railway Commissioners was arrived at as far back as 1897. The world has moved very considerably, particularly in engineering matters, since then. The Chief Commissioners at that time pointed out that it would cost less to convert a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge into a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge than it would to convert a 4-ft. 8j-in gauge into a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, and for that reason they considered that a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge was the best one to adopt. The mere cost of altering the railways of the States, so as to secure uniformity, was the sole consideration with them in making this recommendation. That, however, is not, to my mind, a sufficient ground for the adoption of a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. The loss involved in altering the several gauges of the States at the present time will be as nothing compared with the loss, extending over manyyears, that must arise from the fact that we shall not be able to secure the same measure of usefulness from a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge that we should get from a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. We are told that the engineers in 1903 also recommended the adoption of a 4-ft. i-m. gauge. I would draw special attention to the reasons why they made that recommendation. If honorable members examine a report on the subject which was presented to this -House in 1903, they will find that the engineers made this recommendation in recognition of the decision of the Railway Commissioners in 1897 that 4 ft. 8J in. should be the standard gauge. No justification, from an engineering point of view, was offered for that recommendation. The engineers made it simply because their masters, the Railway Commissioners, in 1897 had said that it would be cheaper to adopt a 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge as the standard for Australia. Later on, the War Council - I do not know how it was constituted - together with the Chief Commissioners of the States, who were present, decided in favour of a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. I have not the least idea whether or not the members of that Railway War Council had any scientific or other knowledge to guide them in making such a recommendation -
At a meeting of the Railway War Council in February last, the Chief Commissioners of the States being present -
– They were part of the War Council.
– Perhaps they were ; but this report only shows that they were backing up what was done by the Chief Railway Commissioners in 1897.
– But the same men were not Chief Commissioners in 1897.
– And they were Chief Commissioners of States having different gauges. That is rather important.
– It is. But we find ourselves back again to the point that we have no reasons offered by them for the adoption of a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge as the standardfor Australia. The question does not seem te me to specially affect any one State,’ because there can be no doubt that the Commonwealth will have to foot the bill iri regard to the bringing about of a uniform gauge. Each State has for many years been building its railways according to a certain gauge, and if it is necessary for defence reasons - or, in other words, for Commonwealth purposes - to alter those gauges in order to secure uniformity, we should not throw upon the States the borden of the cost of making the alteration. It is urged that 4 ft. 8J in. is the standard’ gauge. I would point out, however, that Mr. J. A. Smith, in a pamphlet, as well as in a letter published in the Argus yesterday, shows that there is no standard gauge, and that “ there are good and sufficient reasons why there should not be.” He writes to the Argus -
Outside the United States (which account for about one-half the world’s mileage) gauges other than the 4 ft. 8£ in. preponderate. As a generalization, countries of great area and long ‘haul (the Australian condition), such as European and Asiatic Russia, India, Brazil, the Argentine, &c, ha-ve, when choice has been deliberate, of recent, chosen gauges of from 5 ft. to 5’ft. 6in. for their trunk lines…..
When India selected 5 ft. 6 in., the choice was trenchantly criticised. When, .twenty years ago, the question was re-opened, it was stated that the 7,000 miles of that gauge were an error of judgment, and that future extensions would ‘be on narrow gauges. India “has now more than 19,000 miles of j-.ft. 6-in. trunk lines.
In any case, the matter should be settled only after a full discussion, based on all the information available. We have not yet had sufficient information, and a great deal of time would be saved if the clause fixing the gauge were amended to read, “ The gauge shall be such as this Parliament shall hereafter determine.” Specifications could then be prepared, and, if necessary, alternative tenders called, and the Government could obtain expert opinion from all parts of the world On which to invite Parliament to make its decision. It is a mistake to talk of the matter as one of rival gauges. Our concern is to get the best gauge for all’ time, and, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Flinders and others, whatever gauge is adopted for this line is likely to become the standard for Australia. In view of the vast extent of our territory, in which long and heavy haulage must be provided for, we should hesitate a long time before declaring for a small gauge. As to the proposal in the main, I have always strongly supported the construction of both the western and northern transcontinental lines. Federation was brought about largely to enable those works to be undertaken by the whole of Australia, it being seen that the States immediately concerned could not afford to undertake them. We should regard the enterprise as a Commonwealth one, and not expect it to pay at an early stage. We shall all be happy if it does pay from the first, but it is not likely to do so for many years. I hope that the Government will not force the Bill through Committee until we have had an opportunity to deal properly with the gauge question.
.- I am not physically able to offer more than a few sentences in regard to this motion. We have before us one of the most important and gigantic propositions that has been submitted to the Commonwealth Parliament, and I am in thorough accord with what has been said regarding the need for full information respecting the cost, gauge, and other matters. There are three chief aspects of the proposal to which I shall direct attention. First, as to the route. In spite of its northern trend, which would lie unnecessary were our aim merely to obtain direct communication with Western Australia, the route promises considerable development. Below what is shown on the map as large sheets of water is a more fertile district, through which a slightly shorter route could be found, but as the northern “ route goes nearer to that central district which it will rest with this Commonwealth to develop, from a Commonwealth point of view, and in relation to internal development, possibly the line preferred seemed the better.
To deal at this stage with the question of finance would occupy time fruitlessly, because the Government has made no definite statement regarding it. Nor shall I pause to consider the land endowment from the States.
The gauge which should be adopted is the subject which has attracted most attention during the debate. This is of great moment, not merely so far as the immediate project in hand is concerned, but also as it must affect the railways of the whole of Australia. Whatever gauge may be chosen is sure to become the uniform gauge of the continent.
The conspicuous value of the proposal as a whole is the assurance it gives of the connexion of the eastern and western parts of Australia for their mutual defence. From that point of view it is our highest interest to expedite its completion. Australia is now divided, the east from the west, and also, I am sorry to say, the north from the south. The two overwhelming engineering tasks before us are the completion of railways, with their necessary branches and extensions, to give direct communication in both directions. Until this is done, Australia will be a continent only in the geographical sense. The completion of these connexions is of the greatest consequence to a country possessing the richest area of undeveloped country known to the world, and yet having only a small and insufficient population to garrison it.
The question of gauge must be considered, first, from the defence stand-point. Although our population is small, a uniform gauge would enable the mobile forces of Australia to be concentrated, if necessary, in any one State, and in any part of a State thought open to attack. Only when that is possible will our effective defence begin to be. But the gauge for this line ought to be decided when determining the future uniform gauge of Australia, that is, for the next generation or two. No problem which this Parliament is likely to consider, having regard to the encouragement of settlement and the facilitation of commerce and intercourse, could be more important than this. It is stated in today’s newspapers that an Inter-State
Conference is to be held in the early part of next year at which this question will be discussed, and I understand that the Commonwealth Government have been invited to attend.
– I have not yet had an invitation.
– The suggestion that the Commonwealth should bear a large part of any expenditure necessary to establish a uniform gauge should encourage the State authorities to take a national view of this question. This should elevate it above local interests, and cause the whole project to be regarded in its essential relation to our national development, and to our retention of this continent. If that happens, we shall have cleared the ground enormously. Hitherto the question of gauge has been a fight of State against State, or district against district. When we get rid of embarrassing and irrelevant issues, and face the question from a national stand-point, we must realize that the unification of railway gauges is of immense importance to a country like Australia, which has few rivers, and is not likely to materially increase, her means of internal communication by water. The railway question today standing in the forefront of all Australia’s problems resolves itself, above all, into a question of gauges.
The fixing of the gauge for this line is practically certain to determine the gauge for Australia. That is generally admitted. I am announcing no new proposition, but am deliberately repeating it with a view to emphasize what many honorable members have already said, in order that we may reach the mind of the public. On this question there is, happily, no party. The whole question of the construction of the line has been a national one from the first, and has been on the whole so dealt with. It is now being faced entirely from that stand-point. Nor are there any political parties on the issue as to the gauges ; there should not be. Consequently wa approach under singularly favorable circumstances this great and culminating question which will govern the future railway development of Australia.
I do not intend to repeat points that a number of members have already emphasized, merely wishing to add a word of cordial assent. The construction of this line need not be practically delayed at all. But the question of the gauge cannot be settled until th» question of the uniform gauge for Australia is settled also. That should take place in the next recess before this House meets again.
– Delay, delay !
– We can quite understand the honorable member’s anxiety to prevent a moment’s delay.
– That question will take years to settle.
– We should require a decision to be arrived at, at all events, by the time this Parliament meets in its next session next year. By then we must make up our minds.
– Do it now. We have all the information available.
– I would do it now if it can be done. I have been too long associated with the honorable member in the support of this line to wish for any unnecessary delay. I congratulate him most heartily upon the happy attainment of his object, because we are within arms’ length of it now.
– The honorable member ought to thank this side, too.
– I thank both sides. We need not spend any great amount of time in deciding this question. What is wanted is a decision which can be acted on at once - whether that is for 3 ft. 6 in., 4 ft. & in., or 5 ft. 3 in. is quite a secondary consideration.
– Until the gauge is decided tenders cannot be called for or plans prepared.
– That is why we should have the matter finally decided not later than the time when this House is in session again next year. Then, this Parliament having heard what the several States have to say, and having made its financial proposal as to the manner in which the cost of the change of gauge is to be met, we could in a few short months settle this vital question once and for all. The first great point is to arrive at a determination impartially on the best evidence, and then to commence to act upon it. If I thought this meant any undue delay, or any delay worth mentioning, having regard to the issues involved, I should not be found calling attention to it.
– Are we to call in experts, or settle it ourselves?
– We could obtain, by telegraph if necessary, the opinion of leading engineers in different parts of the world. We could ask them, as a jury of experts to give us briefly the grounds of their preference for particular gauges, and then this Parliament, having heard the representations of the States, could settle the question at once on its merits early next session without fail.
– Anything to delay the business !
– The question of delay or no delay will arise in Committee. Personally, I am opposed to delay, but I do not call it delay on such a matter to take the course I suggest.
– Plans could not be made until the gauge was settled.
– I am aware that the work cannot proceed until the question is settled; but if it takes not more than two or three months to enable us to arrive at a final decision on the question of uniformity of gauge throughout Australia, that cannot be called delay. We are authorizing this railway, but, at the same time, we are settling the future gauge of all the railways of Australia. No man would propose to do that off-hand, without a certain amount of time for deliberation. Under present circumstances, not a long time is necessary.
– A year is a long time.
– I think we can do it in much less.
However, the construction of the line is distinctly a part of the national policy, and has been so for the last ten years or more. It must continue to be so. But the establishment of a uniform gauge is another and permanent factor in the national policy. The defence of Australia largely depends upon our decision on those two questions. That decision should be given at the earliest date possible, and without a single day’s unnecessary delay. That must be after the Parliament has had the opportunity of hearing the views of the States. We will be prepared to deal with it immediately afterwards, on the best information then in our possession, possibly before this session closes.
Mr. West. We could not alter the Victorian gauge. The Victorian people regard it as the best in the world.
– Whatever is the best gauge in the world, in the opinion of particular States, will not settle this question. The question for us is which is the best gauge for Australia. Fortunately the natural and physical circumstances of Australia are such that, as a whole, its conditions from a railway point of view are remark- ably similar everywhere. It has none of the extraordinary difficulties that have to be encountered in other countries. Where there are difficult mountain ranges they are far apart, and not unsurmountable, so that we have, in some respects, a comparatively easy problem to solve. I cordially support the Bill. I trust to see it fully buttressed by the information which has been pressed for from all parts of the House, in order that it may be considered with the proper means of arriving at a final judgment. I am happy to support the measure from this side of the House as I have previously had the privilege of introducing and supporting it from the other. I support it this time with confidence that it will very soon pass into law, I hope in such a shape as, not only to affect enormously the future of the west, and thus of the east, but also in a consummate degree to affect beneficially the future, and the future railway policy, of the whole of Australia.
– I was in doubt as to the attitude of the honorable member for Ballarat upon the Bill until towards the close of his speech, because, speaking generally, when dealing with a matter of this magnitude and importance delay means the destruction of the measure. It is only fair to say that the honorable member for Ballarat does not wish its destruction. He wishes for more information upon a point which has been considered more than anything else in connexion with the construction of a railway from the east to the west.. Two Conferences have been called of the best men we have, and they have in each instance recommended the 4 ft. 8 *</inline> in. gauge, both from an economic and a defence point of view. Having the evidence before us within Australia, the Government had reasonable grounds for proceeding on that gauge. The honorable member for Ballarat stated that the contour and physical features of Australia were somewhat different from those of other countries, but I do not know that they differ greatly from those of parts of the United States and Canada. If we have to go outside the Commonwealth for evidence as to the desirableness of the 4 ft. 8^ in. gauge, could we get a better proof of its economic soundness than the fact that when the first transcontinental railway was built in Canada, from east to west, the gauge adopted was 4 ft. 8
– Why cannot we have a look at the evidence?
– The honorable member will find that information in any Canadian Y ear-Book, or any book of statistics.
– Can we not be told of our own engineers’ experiences and reports?
– The experience of our own engineers is to the same effect. Their statements point practically in the same direction. If the honorable member turns to the United States, he will find that of the total length of line of 238,356 miles nearly all is on a 4 ft.8½ in. gauge.
– Having once started on that gauge, they must perpetuate it.
– Does the honorable member ask for evidence of the fact ? No honorable member who has discussed the question here has attacked the 4 ft.8½ in. gauge. The best that I have heard said for the wider gauge is that it gives greater opportunities for future development, and no onecould make a greater appeal to me than by using arguments about the possibilities of development in Australia. North of Brisbane, all the development has taken place in fifty years, and every one of the railways running into that country was denounced, when proposed, as unnecessary, and likely to be economically unsound. In every instance, the pessimists were proved to be wrong.
– They are doing all the work in Queensland on a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge.
– The 3 ft. 6 in. gauge is the best for speedy development, but it is not a gauge for main trunk lines. It is a comparatively speedy and economic gauge, but I am not advocating its use on main trunk lines such as that from east to west. I hold that the intermediate gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in. is really the standard engineers’ gauge of the world, because of its enormous mileage compared with that of all other gauges. We ought, therefore, not to hesitate to adopt it, especially when we remember that it is easier and much cheaper to convert inwards than outwards.
– What about the rollingstock?
– That is quite simple.
– Is it not a fact that the rolling-stock recently constructed in Vic toria has been with a view to conversion to the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge?
– Even if the whole of the rolling-stock had to be sacrified - and it will not need to be sacrificed - it would be a mere item in the cost of conversion. The Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members have it in their minds that there ought to be an agreement amongst all the States before we begin to construct the line. I do not think so.
– I do not put that as an essential, though I think it is very desirable.
– I agree as to the desirability. But this Parliament is now called upon to construct an international, or, if you will, an inter- Australian line, that has been too long delayed.
– My proposal was that we should hear what the States have to say.
– With all respect, I submit that the States have been heard through their officials, who spoke in conference and made recommendations. Those recommendations are on record; and as they have not been challenged, we may assume that they meet with no serious opposition. It is a singular fact that only when we begin to do things are we told that we are doing them the wrong way, and that there ought to be further delay. A Government, speaking generally, is desirous ofnot doing anything, and especially of not entering into big financial obligations.
– Is the Minister speaking of his own Governmentnow?
– I am speaking of all Governments; but I may say that such a statement is less true of the present than of any other Administration. It may be said of this Government that they never promise anything that they do not make the very utmost effort to carry out. We promised that we should introduce this Bill - that there should be an iron track as soon as possible between east and west - for good and sufficient reasons, even if the task were more difficult than it really is. At present there are 300,000 people in the western State, whereas twenty-five years ago there were less than 50,000. Is a State like that, growing both in population and production, for ever to remain out of touch with the rest of the Commonwealth, because of some difference of opinion as to the gauge of the line to be constructed? The question before us does not at all involve an agreement with the States as to uniform gauge. That the construction of the line will lead to a uniform gauge, I have no doubt; but, if we wait until, by means of conference or otherwise, all are in agreement, there will be delay without any satisfactory result. The construction of this line does not involve the Commonwealth in assisting other States to reconstruct their lines in conformity with the gauge we propose. The Premiers of the States know that the Commonwealth Government have, and will continue to have, a perfectly open mind in discussing with the States immediately affected by an alteration, the question of financial embarrassment or responsibility thereby incurred. And no State Government should desire more, or wish for any further statement. That the gauge will have to be altered sooner or later every one admits; and the difference in the cost of extending outwards and extending inwards has been placed, at the lowest calculation, at not less than £3,000,000.
– I thought it was £2,000,000.
– I have read estimates as high as ,£4,000,000; but I have taken that of £3,000,000. In extending outwards all the tunnels and all the bridges would probably have to be altered, and there is the additional expense of providing larger sleepers. However, I do not desire to go into engineering details. There is no doubt that the conversion of the gauge means a great expense; but I fancy that some honorable members have the idea that the whole of the railways of a State will have to be converted. That is not my idea ; and I do not think that it need be assumed to be a fact.
– lt will make carriage very expensive if there has to be a change of goods at every junction of the two gauges.
– That does not apply. There are many lines from the main centres which do not run in conjunction at all with the trunk line. There may be, say, a trunk coastal line right up even to Townsville on the uniform gauge, and lines on the narrower gauge running westerly. A line on the narrower gauge may run 400 or 500 miles inland, carrying the local traffic, while the main trunk line will carry passengers from Fremantle to Townsville on the fastest and best gauge that can be devised. Though I do not speak as an engineer, I think 1 may say that there will be no need to waste any of the rolling-stock in consequence of the conversion, because the vehicles retired from the main lines will be used on the lines remaining on the old gauge. Further, the conversion, instead of taking place at one time will be gradual, and carried out in an economical and sensible way. The Leader of the Opposition also dealt with the question of route, and ventured the opinion that the proposed line would pay better if it were to take a route nearer to the coast when it starts from Fort Augusta.
– Keeping south of the lakes instead of going between them.
– I think the honorable member also has an idea that he would keep the coast much nearer as the line proceeded west.
– The honorable member would have the line run more to the north.
– I think I understood the honorable member to say, however, that he was rather inclined to the present route.
– I entirely agree with the honorable member. It would be exceedingly unwise, I think, even in order to pass through agricultural and pastoral country, to leave untouched the auriferous country with all its possibilities; and there is. another reason. While it may be a sound policy for the States to build railways along the coast line, which is settled and provides enough traffic to keep the railways working, fully from the time of their building, it ismost unwise to construct a railway that can be settled only on one side. Why run a railway along a sea-board when productscan be brought to it only from the one side? A railway ought to be at least 100 miles inland. Those nearer to the seaboard can send their goods away by ship much cheaper than by rail.
– There are no ports for the greater part of the distance traversed by the proposed line.
– It does not matter; ports will be made. Let a gold-field break out anywhere in the region of the Australian Bight, and we shall see that nothing can stop enterprise in the way of building ports, if the occasion is worth the investment. In the meantime we have the pastoral country, and also the auriferous country, .where mining may, and, we hope, will, develop and prosper. I was very _ much interested in the remarks of the right honorable member for Swan as to conveying water by natural gradients, without the aid of mechanical means; and I hope that when the railway is being constructed, this aspect will receive the fullest attention, and, indeed, will be part of the scheme. There is one other question - that of finance. This Bill has been drafted deliberately to provide for the payment for this work partly out of surplus revenue, or revenue that can be provided from year to year, and partly out of any other moneys that may be appropriated for this purpose - loan moneys or other. The Government intend to go on with the construction of this work, and money will have to be found. I have no doubt that the Commonwealth will have of its own trust moneys more than sufficient for the completion of this railway. The usual charges will be made in regard to this money that would be made in regard to money borowed outside, but with a difference. This is money that has been given by the people themselves, some of it in connexion with the note issue, and there is a surplus not required at the present time. The Australian Notes Act provides that we can invest this money in the securities of the Commonwealth, or of the States, or in British consols. By this means we can see that there will be ample funds available to enable this long-delayed connexion between east and west to be completed.
– The Government will issue a sort of Commonwealth debenture?
– Of course, we shall require, an Act creating Commonwealth stock. Any loan moneys raised by the Commonwealth will have to be raised in the usual way by statutory authority.
– If the money is taken out of the Trust Fund will a corresponding amount be invested?
– As the law stands - and no one knows this better than the honorable member - a Commonwealth stock created at the present time would be taken up by the Treasurer in the usual way ; and if a Loan Bill were passed by the Commonwealth Parliament for the construction of this railway-
– Out of trust funds.
– Yes, there would be a Commonwealth security, and it will stand in the same category as the State securities or British consols. No one in this House will say that the Commonwealth security is less desirable than any other, so far as these funds are concerned.
– Will the right honorable member say what proportion of the cost is to come out of revenue, and what proportion from loan moneys ?
– I am happy to inform the honorable member that there will be no loan moneys this year, and that as large a proportion of the cost as possible will be paid out of revenue. But I am not going to commit the Government to construct this line solely out of revenue. It will be a great national asset. lt will bring the people of the east and west of the Commonwealth closer together than they have ever been, and will, I venture to predict, open up avenues of industry and of development which generally are little dreamt of. One honorable member on this side of the House spoke of the impossibility of much of the land to be traversed by this line growing this or that. It is not so many years ago that the late honored and respected father of the honorable member for Darling Downs sat in the Queensland Parliament and heard it said there that the Darling Downs country would not grow a cabbage. We have heard a similar denunciation of various lands in Australia, and it has remained for the opening up of those areas to disprove such assertions. Without wishing to cast a reflection upon those who live in one part of Australia, and never see the rest of it, I do express the wish that they could be induced to travel throughout the length and breadth of this continent. I wish that they could see for themselves some parts of Australia that are denounced by travellers quite incompetent to express an opinion upon them, for I am sure that if they did they would recognise at once the vast possibilities of this great country in directions at present little thought of by them. I hope that there will be no delay in this matter. I trust that a demand will not be made for a conference to be held to bring about an agreement as to gauge before we begin the construction of this line. Let us begin the work nearest to our hands, and absolutely necessary. I pledge the Government to meet the States with not only an open but a generous mind in regard to any difficulty that may arise in so adjusting the railway gauges of the States that as soon as the line between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, or right on to Fremantle, is opened, we shall be able to run carriages, waggons, and engines on the same gauge from Brisbane to Perth. I do not think I could make a more generous offer than that, and I hope that this question will be faced apart from any consideration as to conferences that may take place in the future. We are as well able now to deliberate on the question of gauge as we should be after hearing further argument. The cost is known to us, and we recognise that the expense of making the change must be greater later on if the work is delayed. If Canada’s ex.perience of a transcontinental line 3,000 miles in length has been such as to induce her to build another, and yet another on the same gauge: - if the people of the United States, with country similar to our own, have decided to hold practically to this gauge, even in respect of lines between large centres of population - surely it is not too much to ask that the Commonwealth shall affirm its desirableness. I make no reflection on the States where other gauges have been adopted, but since we have said that we shall meet the States in the most generous manner, and will be glad to. meet them, I think we have done all that can reasonably be expected of us as a Government.
– The House approaches the question of the construction of this railway with a very much clearer idea of the way in which it is to be financed than it had before the Prime Minister spoke. Before dealing with the project generally, however, I should like to ascertain from the Prime Minister exactly what he proposes to dp in regard to the use of the Trust Funds. We all understand that he proposes to lend, or rather to pay out, the money which he receives from the Commonwealth note issue to. provide for the construction of this railway, but we need some further explanation of the intentions of the Government in this regard. I understand that the money he receives from these notes is now, or will be, vested in trust funds, and I should like to know from him whether it is proposed to issue any certificate which will represent that money, and which will be in the hands of the trustees, so that it may be readily converted into gold if there is ever a run on the National Bank.
– The honorable member is slightly off the track. At present there is no trustee other than the Treasurer.
– I am talking now of the individuals, irrespective of the title given to them, who are responsible for the control of these funds, and who ‘ guarantee to the public that they will be properly dealt with. The Prime Minister proposes to pay for this railway out of the funds derived from the bank note issue.
– I did not .say so. I said we could lend the Commonwealth money in just the same way as we are lending the States money.
– And there must, therefore, be a certificate issued to represent the money so lent.
– Sensible men would have an acknowledgment of some sort.
-] should think so. So long as that certificate is set against the money lent or paid out-
– And the certificate will be interest-bearing.
– I take it that the Government will follow precisely the action taken now in the case of the States-
– We shall proceed just as if there were another party outside the Commonwea1th .
– I do not think we could invest those funds, if they must find investment, in a more practical way so long as they are secured and made fluidThe Prime Minister claimed just now that all Governments, as a rule, desire to do as little as possible, b.ut that this Government, more than any other, “ did things.” It is quite true that they do “do things,”’ but very often they do them in a topsyturvyfashion. The Minister of Home Affairs told us yesterday, in answer to a question, that the methods of his Department were those of an up-to-date banking corporation. I should like to know whether a banking corporation would proceed witta undertakings of this character in the manner in which the Government are dealing with them. We have, for instance, taken over the Northern Territory, yet no honorable member has any idea of what we are going to do with it. When the Budget is submitted we shall see that we have topay this year, at least, £300,000 or £400,000 out of the exchequer in respect of the Northern Territory, and I am afraid that there will not be a solitary hint as to what we are to get for that money, or what process of development is to be followed.
– That has nothing to do with this project.
– It has much todo with it, since it reveals to us the mind of the Government on these large enterprises. The process followed by the Government is to “ do the thing “ first, and to make arrangements about it afterwards.
That is a very popular and easy course to follow; the difficulties have to be faced later on.
– The honorable member need not be afraid ; he will not have a chance of facing them.
– I hope that my honorable friend will not trouble about me. I have been in Parliament for twenty years, and plenty of people have predicted my downfall, but it has not yet come. I am sure my honorable friend will have to look after his own seat, as we all shall, when the next struggle comes round.
– It would be a very doubtful disaster to some of us if we were out of Parliament.
– The honorable member is quite right, but we shall all stay here as long as we can. Whether we are here or not these difficulties will have to be faced, and they cannot be brushed aside in the light and airy way suggested by my honorable friend. We cannot separate the development of the Northern Territory from the construction of this railway. This is part of one great project for linking up the north and the south of Australia in a way that will enable us to defend the country, and to develop it commercially. We have to build this railway whether we like it or not, for expert after expert has laid it down very clearly that it is necessary for defence purposes. I refer to this question of the Northern Territory for the reason that the building of this railway in itself will not help us after all so much in the matter of defence. It will be good so far as it goes, but it will not help us materially until a great deal more has been done. The point laid down very clearly by Lord Kitchener is that we cannot have, in Australia, any satisfactory scheme of defence until the different gauges have been unified, and until we have a systematic interior connexion made round Australia. That is to say, we are to have a system of railways within the interior of Australia. The railways now projected - the one immediately under our consideration, and the others connected with the proposals for the development of the Northern Territory - will be isolated systems. There is no project for linking them up, and that is why I think the Government should have given us a complete railway sketch before asking us to enter finally upon the discussion of this question. For instance, if we are going to get our troops round Australia safely we shall need to connect this line with’ the New South Wales systems without coming down to the coast. The very idea of a military railway is that it shall keep the troops away from the coast.
– Let us run a railway from Sydney to Cobar, and from Cobar right across South Australia.
– A connexion must be made somewhere there. Even then we shall not have a railway .that will give us the best military results until we go round and up again to the joining point at the top of Australia. Both naval and military experts lay stress on that point. But we cannot defend the top half of Australia until we connect up our railway systems.
– We must do that in sections.
– Yes, but we should proceed on a plan, and no plan has been submitted.
– The honorable member does not advocate further delay?
– I merely ask for further information.
– That means delay.
– The longest way round is often the shortest way home. I merely advocate such delay as will cause us to be furnished with a complete plan. We should think the whole matter through thoroughly before committing ourselves to any sectional project. No doubt the work under consideration would fit into any complete scheme. The route followed goes, perhaps, dangerously near the coast at Eucla, but I do not think that of much’ consequence. An enemy’s attempt to land there would be a desperate undertaking, and an easy matter to deal with. Admiral Henderson says that, in constructing our railways, we must keep always in mind the tropical half of Australia, which is at present undefended, and, which I do not think it would be difficult to interfere with in a way that might prove- disastrous. The north-western part of the continent is very vulnerable. If an eastern population got settled there, it could grow its own rice, and live comfortably, and we might find it very difficult to get rid of it. The Admiral points out the urgent need, from the naval point of view, of establishing railway communication between Port Darwin and the centres of population and resources required for the maintenance of the fleet. He refers to the matter two or three times, and makes the significant remark that il is useless to establish works at Port Darwin - the importance of which place he emphasizes again and again - until the transcontinental railway is completed. On the completion of that line, he says, Port Darwin could be developed into a second fleet base. Lord Kitchener says, practically, the same thing. However, I shall not belabour the question. I shall support the Bill. Possibly the line will not be long in paying. All railways soon develop the country through which they pass, and thus become paying concerns. In any case, we must construct this line for our own defence. About the larger question, the conversion of the railways of Australia to a uniform gauge, a great deal has been said. No doubt, in adopting any one gauge for the proposed line, we shall set the standard for Australia, and, although it may not be necessary to at once convert all the existing lines, it will be found awkward to have two gauges in any State, and directly the trunk lines connecting the capitals have been converted, the conversion of the feeders or subsidary lines must be undertaken. This, then, is a gigantic matter, requiring the fullest and most careful consideration. If I thought that any- thing was to be gained by delay, I should advocate the postponement of a decision, but none of those who ask for further inquiry make a practical suggestion. The Leader of the Opposition says that we might communicate by cable or letter with experts in various parts of the world, but their advice would not be of much assistance, unless they came here to study the question on the spot, which would take a great deal of time, and might bring us no nearer to. finality. There is great divergence of view on the gauge question everywhere. In America they are aiming at a train load of 3,000 tons, of grain, and talk of the adoption of a very wide gauge.
– Grade plays a great part in the load capacity of a train.
– With a wide gauge and big loads very strong axles are necessary.
– It is said that a wider gauge than that now in use would enable bigger fire boxes to be made, and more power developed ; but there are other experts who say that the standard gauge is wide enough for all practical purposes. Mr. Deane has pointed out that they have in America, on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, engines three times as large as any in Australia.
– But even with those large engines they are stuck up.
– On the single, not on the double, tracks. The duplication of a track does not merely double the hauling capacity of the line, it trebles or quadruples it. We are not likely to be stuck up in Australia, because we can always duplicate our tracks. It seems to me that the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge would suit us for the next one hundred years. At any rate, the onus is laid on those who ask for delay of showing what practical use is to be made of it. All the railway commissioners of Australia, past and present, have investigated the subject, and they, as well as the railway engineers, have recommended the adoption of the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, Mr. Eddy being the first to do so. It is said that the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge has been recommended only in preference to the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, but that does not appear in the reports. There can be no set of persons- better able to give us advice on this subject than the railway commissioners, who have either technical knowledge themselves, or can command it, and possess also business experience, and knowledge of how to get the best financial results. The railway commissioners have twice recommended the adoption of the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, and the railway engineers have done the same, and last year these experts, meeting as part of a council of war, repeated the recommendation. What more testimony could we get in Australia? The only dissentient opinion is that of Mr. Hales, of Tasmania.
– And of Mr. Smith, the President of the Institute of Engineers here.
– Has he had railway experience? Ts he a railway expert?
– He has had great railway experience.
– If the honorable member is going to settle this matter fairly, he will have to settle it by expert railway opinion ; because, behind that expert, opinion, there is the railway experience which is all valuable in arriving at a. satisfactory result. What are we to gain by this delay? If any one can show me a valid reason for delaying the work, I shall vote for delay. It is too important a matter tobe tossed off in a light and airy way. Itwill have untold consequences so far as the future possibilities of development in Australia are concerned, and we ought to welcome light from whatever source it may- come. We are not told where we are to get more light. I have read both papers very carefully, and should very much like them to make a practical suggestion as to where greater light is to come from, and where we are to get experts who will tell us more about our Australian conditions, and ‘the question of gauge, than our own men who are studying it on the spot. Let it be distinctly understood, also, that these men have had experience on railways in other parts of the world. It is not as if they were only Australian in sentiment, in view, or in experience. Most of them have been brought here from the other systems of the world, and wherever they come from, they all argue that the 4 ft. 8 J in. is the proper standard gauge.
– Practically all. There is a strange consensus of opinion on that point. lt is therefore incumbent on those who want delay, and who want further light, to show us whence they can get it. If they can show us a practical scheme for getting further light that would justify the delay, I should not be at all averse to it. As to linking up the various railway systems, and the financial obligations involved in the unification of the gauge, these are all momentous questions which will require careful treatment. We should have had some idea, at least, as to the lines on which these problems are to proceed, before this matter was launched upon the House. For instance, if we are to have the transcontinental railway running across the continent, it will become a necessity for both South Australia and Victoria to link up their systems to it. That, of course, is a question’ which concerns the Commonwealth as well as the States, individually and separately. All those questions should have been at least sketched for us in outline before we were asked to take a final vote upon this matter.
– The States should inform the Commonwealth if they want to link up.
– In carrying out these big projects of railway development, we have no right to injure States any more than we can help. If we tread upon the interests of a State, it is our duty to consider how far we are injuring . it, and to what extent we should make amends.
– The States would make representations to the Commonwealth about any probable injury,
– We cannot tell how the proposal is going to ‘affect them until an inquiry has been held, and the States have been heard upon it. They ought to have been heard on this matter long ago, and a complete plan should have been submitted to us with regard to these railways round Australia, both . for defence and commercial purposes, showing how they bear upon the individual interests of the various States.
– The States are not slow to bring forward their grievances if they have any.
– I take it that they are bringing their grievances forward now through their representatives and through the press. No one can complain of them for doing so.
– The only point raised now is as to the gauge.
– The one point on which the matter is focussing is the question of the gauge. But, behind that, there are other very serious questions which will require to be considered when we come to unify the gauge and to inaugurate our system of Federal railways. We are beginning it now ; but we have no Railway Department, and no experts of our own. We have to rely upon one man, .and when I say that I wish it to be understood that I am casting no reflection on Mr. Deane. On the contrary, I regard him as one of the ablest, sanest, and wisest minds in Australia.
– I had the honour of appointing him as Engineer-in-Chief in. New South Wales.
– The honorable member never did a better work in his life. Henry Deane is a man of high integrity, great ability, and vast experience in all these railway matters; and the Government are to be commended for securing his services. If they can retain them, they will be very wise to do so; but Mr. Deane’s view is really all we have to go upon in this matter. There is no Department.
– Why do we not get the information from all quarters? That is the complaint.
– I do not object. We should have all available information. The Government have had eighteen months in which to get it, and I am afraid the Minister has not been quite as vigorous in his pursuit of this question as he claims to have been in connexion with some other matters. I suppose, however, that the “ King “ can do no wrong, and we must not criticise him overmuch ; but I urge him to go at the earliest moment into the whole question of putting these railways round Australia, showing us how they will affect the interests of the States, and what their financial aspect is likely to be with regard to the States individually and separately. The States have a right to be considered, and in carrying out our projects we should injure them as little as possible.
. -I should like to make my attitude clear to my constituents, and to the public generally. I am going to vote for the construction of the railway because I realize that it is a national concern. We cannot develop any portion of the Commonwealth without every other .part’ deriving great benefit therefrom. I am mindful of the fact that the biggest market for the apple product of Tasmania is to be found in Sydney. If we develop another great portion of Australia we must provide a still greater market for our produce, and by the interchange of our goods we shall develop the country, and bring more wealth to the Commonwealth. With regard to finance, my idea of railway construction in Australia may seem somewhat far advanced; but I think that at any rate the Northern Territory railway might be constructed without costing the Commonwealth a shilling. It will be more difficult to do that in regard to the railway in Western Australia, because we do not own the land along the route ; but if I had had my way I should have hung up its construction until the States concerned had given the Commonwealth . all the land it required.. When they had given us that land, I would have said to our railway managers, “ Here is so much land. As you run the railway along, and develop that land, and enhance the value of it, we will give you the credit, .and you can mortgage that land to construct an additional length of railway.” So we could have constructed the railway right across the Commonwealth without landing ourselves in the cost of a shilling, either by borrowing or any other way. I understand that the railway to the Northern Territory will open up very rich country, and in that case we could easily adopt the scheme I have indicated, into the details of which I have not time to go now. I got the hint regarding it from the value given to the land in Canada by railway construction. The Canadian- Pacific Railway Company ran their railway right into the undeveloped bush country, and the moment they did so up went the value of the land twentyfold. If the State owned that land it would participate in the unearned incre-ment, and have ample means to pay for the construction of the railway. It is the system which I hope the Government will adopt. I have not mentioned .it to them, but I have had it in my mind for many years. It has the indorsement of greater and much cleverer men than I can ever hope to be, and, in this connexion, we owe a great deal to one journal in the Commonwealth, which many years ago went deeply into the question. It is no trouble to find the money, provided the State does not sell the land before it starts the construction of the railway. The trouble with the development of Australia has been that previously the States have sold every acre of the land, and then put in the railway, and so enhanced the value of the land of. private individuals. The States then borrowed money, handing down to posterity the task of paying for railways for which the land should have paid.
– Are not the Government taxing the private individuals who own the land?
– It is not directly taxing those in the vicinity of the railway who have profited by it. Land on the north-west coast of Tasmania was doubled in value immediately the railway was constructed, and land within 20 miles of the line was almost doubled in value. This line could be easily constructed in the way I have indicated. The system which the Prime Minister has laid down is, at any rate, far superior to the old system of borrowing, because it saves the underwriters’ and brokers’ expenses. Aus-, tralia has already borrowed about £250,000,000, every million of which has cost us about £15,000 in underwriters’ and brokerage fees. We are going to save that ito Australia, and will be able to show some economy in this respect to the electors when we go before them to give an account of our stewardship. One of the most important questions is that of the gauge, but I think the Prime Minister and the Deputy.
Leader of the Opposition have put before the House sufficient argument to convince it that the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge is good enough for Australia. I hope the day is not far distant when we shall begin to think nationally. It was deplorable when I visited London recently to find that the different States were known separately, the Agent-General of each doing all he could to bring it prominently before the public, Australia as a whole being altogether forgotten. Canadians were not announced at any function as coming from particular provinces. They were Canadians every time, and if we are going to develop Australia into a nation, we want to think more of Australia as a whole, and less of the States as States. I hope the day is not far distant when there will be great ports other than Melbourne and Sydney from which to ship our staple products. What is crippling the continent at the present time is the concentration of the outlets for the products of the country. There are many ports awaiting development; and when these are opened up, a gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in. will, in my opinion, meet all our requirements for the next hundred years. Who can say, in this scientific age, what may be the developments in means of transit during the next half century? I have recently been in Great Britain, where the gauge is 4 ft. 8
– And in the recent elections !
– I am not per- mitted to refer to the elections, but I know that the people of Western Australia are up-to-date and progressive.
– The most progressive Western Australians are Victorians !
– I am mindful of the fact - there have been left in Victoria only-
– The narrow-minded coves !
– 1 shall not say that, but there have been left those who are most parochial in their views. I withdrew all opposition to the construction of this line when I crossed the Bight in the Omrah not long ago. Numerous passengers from the Old Country frequently expressed on the voyage out their surprise that there was no means of travelling overland from Fremantle, and thus avoiding the Bight, which is regarded as frequently involving a most unpleasant trip.
– How does the honorable member connect this line with the apple industry of Tasmania?
– In Tasmania, we cannot consume all the apples we grow, and have to depend on other parts of Australia for a market. Immediately Australia is developed, an extended market will be provided ; and Tasmania is the greatest apple-growing country in the world- The State I represent is not afraid of the progress of any other State, and, consequently, the people there will support a railway or any other project that means the development of Australia, feeling, as they do, that one part of the continent cannot be developed without the whole of the remainder benefiting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Definitions)
– I see that, according to this clause, “ the Minister” means the Minister of Home Affairs, and that “ the railway “ means the railway authorized by the Bill. There is, however, a third necessity, and that is a Railway Department, which, in a sense, will be built up at the outset for the construction and working of the line. During the second-reading debate we heard of the distinguished engineer who has been the adviser of the Government ; but, supposing the Bill becomes law, the Minister of Home Affairs will be required, I presume, to establish a Federal Railway Department of some kind, and should like to. know something of the procedure to be adopted. Will such a Railway Department form part of the permanent Public Service of the Commonwealth? This railway is not only to be constructed by the Commonwealth, but to be worked by the Commonwealth.
– I suppose that, as general railway construction is carried on by the Public Works Departments of the States, this line will be under the control of the Department of Home Affairs?
– The Minister is already responsible for the working of the line which has been taken over in South Australia.
– That is under the Department of External Affairs.
– It is rather extraordinary that the Department of External Affairs should control a railway in the interior of Australia. The Minister of Home Affairs is very bashful, or, shall I say, timid, in his acceptance of responsibility.
– We should have two Railway Departments, then.
– I rule that idea out as unthinkable. Then there is the Northern Territory line. What steps does the Minister propose to take to establish a permanent Department? There must be temporary employes, as in other Departments, but the backbone and brain will be supplied by permanent officers. I do not pretend to understand the existing anomalies, and the Minister may explain them. In any case, we are faced by the necessity of establishing a Department which will be worthy of the Commonwealth, and worthy of its work; and that implies a permanent Department, the important members, and the ordinary staff, of which will be under the Public Service Act.
– Will not a railways branch of the Home Affairs Department meet the case?
– If Ministers think that a proper course; but that is a matter of form. The question is as to the nature of this new and important Department, that ought to be established at the earliest possible date on permanent lines, so as to avoid the embarrassment which would otherwise result from the employment of men in responsible positions who are here to-day and may be scattered to-morrow.
– It will be a little embarrassing if we confuse the broad questions which are dealt with under the Bill with the question of how we are going to administer our railways in the future. There is no contradiction between the proposal to construct this railway under the Department of Home Affairs, and to conduct the railways we have acquired in the Northern Territory under the Department of External Affairs. We have not constructed any railways yet ; and, if we act on precedent, I may say that, in the senior State, where I had the honour to be Minister of Public Works for three years, and, subsequently, as Treasurer, the Minister of Railways, this course was adopted. The construction of railways such as we are now about to enter upon comes under the Minister of Public Works, and the management of existing railways under the Colonial Treasurer, who is the Minister supervising the work of the Commissioners. In the senior State, and also, I think, in others, the management of existing lines is undertaken by an entirely different staff from that controlling the construction of lines, and each work is under a different Minister. It seems to me that it would be far better to leave the question of the creation of a Commonwealth Railway Department until we have dealt with the construction of this line. We shall then know exactly what we want, and it will be a very easy matter to deal with. The Northern Territory line, I understand, is already leased, and, even if we were managing it, it would come more under the control of the Railway Department that we should have to establish by-and-by than under the Construction Branch. In any case, it would form fit subject-matter for another Bill, in which the Government could commit themselves to a system of administration in regard to railway construction and railway management. Therefore, while I recognise the desirableness of the Committee being informed of what the Government intend to do, if they have yet made up their minds’ on the subject, I can understand that, for the present, they have not directed their attention very closely to this question of a Department for construction and a Department for management.
.- It appears to me that our railway and other public works are increasing at such a rapid rate that it will be absolutely necessary at a very early date to create a Public Works and Railway Department for the Commonwealth, controlled by a separate Minister. At present all public works are controlled by the Department of Home Affairs, which is also charged with such matters as meteorology, the administration of the electoral law, and the collection of statistics. The work of the Department is growing too large to permit it to give proper attention to great projects such as we have now in hand, and I hope that even if the Ministry are not prepared at present to announce what they are going to do in this respect, we shall have from them an intimation at an early date.
– When the honorable member for Maribyrnong rose, I was about to speak on very much the same lines as those followed by him. It will be necessary at a very early date to have some Department that will be responsible for the construction of Commonwealth public works. I quite see that, in the carrying out of large railway undertakings more particularly, it will be necessary to employ a great deal of temporary labour, but, on the other hand, it will also be essential to have a large and highly qualified railway construction staff of permanent officials, as well as a considerable number of permanent officials of lower degree. Difficult technical questions will arise from time to time in connexion with the construction of this line, and it would add very much to the confidence of the country if we had from the Government an intimation as to what responsible permanent official will be charged with the duty of determining those questions, the powers that will be vested in him, and what assistance he will have in his own Department. All these are matters on which we ought to have from the Government a statement as soon as possible. I do not propose to say anything regarding the extraordinary position that has arisen from our having two different Departments administering two different lines.
– The Northern Territory lines are controlled by the Minister of External Affairs, because the Northern Territory Agreement itself is administered by that Department.
– I do not know that it matters very much.
– That is a position which has been- bequeathed to us.
– I am not complaining about the position, but I think it will be understood that whenever there is anything in the shape of a Department charged with the control of the railways
– Still it would be absurd to create a Department to control the little Pine Creek line.
– I am not suggesting anything of the kind.
– The honorable member has in mind all the railways to come.
– I have. No doubt we shall have in connexion with the Government’s declaration of policy with regard to the railways that are now being undertaken, a definite statement as to the character of the Department that will control them. There is nothing hostile to the Government in the suggestion I am making. I am merely pointing out a business necessity. We cannot throw on the Minister of Home Affairs the personal decision of all the very important technical and difficult matters which will, from time to time, arise in connexion with the construction of this great work. There must be a properly qualified staff, having a certain definite position in the Public Service, and as the Leader of the Opposition has said, it is desirable that we should have, as soon as possible, a statement on the subject from the Government.
– The honorable member for Flinders has practically raised two questions. He says, in the first place, that sooner or later the Government will require a Railway Department and a railway policy.
– A Public Works Department.
– That Department might also cover works that are not now, in a sense, under the Minister of Home Affairs. There are certain naval works which, perhaps, do not come under the control of the public works branch of his Depart.ment, and since in this Parliament we have to deal with large national works of a varied character, we must be careful not to dogmatize on the old State lines. Undoubtedly there ought to be, when our railways are constructed, a -Railway Department to manage them, and that will be the policy of this Government.
– It might be a subdepartment of the Department of Home Affairs.
– The most economical way of carrying on such a business is to have a body of experts to deal with it, and the Department best equipped at the present time to supervise the construction of this railway is the Department of Home Affairs: That being so, it will have the control of this work, subject to the declaration of policy which is common’ to all Governments being determined! by the Go,vernment itself. That is the best that can be done.
– My difficulty is not so much in regard to which Department the work will come under as to what will be the general character and position of the staff” that will control the work.
– We must put our trust somewhere. Some Minister must be responsible for the carrying out of the work. The Government behind that Minister must take the full responsibility for the faithful and proper carrying out of the work on economical lines, and fairly as between the parties themselves and the States. The method and manner in which the work will be carried out will be subject to the criticism of Parliament, and I can assure honorable members that the Ministry will give careful thought and attention to the question of what is the best and most economical way of constructing this line.
.- There is involved a question that has not yet been dealt with by the Prime Minister, and that is as to who is to be responsible for the appointment of the constructors, and those under the constructors of this line.
– Mr. Deane is at present.
– He is only the consulting engineer. It would be possible for those appointments to be of either a permanent or a temporary character. If they were temporary, they would come within the preference specifically inaugurated secretly nearly a year ago, and recently publicly by the Minister of Home Affairs. We. are entitled to know, in this connexion, what new bomb is to be exploded under the feet of his colleagues by the honorable gentleman. There is another point to which I wish to draw attention. A number of honorable members are, no doubt, influenced by defence considerations in supporting the construction of this line.. If they are they cannot fail to realize that, by bringing it up to the sea-coast at an unprotected point like Port Augusta, we shall practically jeopardize its defence usefulness.
– The honorable member cannot discuss that question on this clause.
– Then I shall do so later on. The question ought to be tested either in Committee or in the House at the report stage, so that honorable members may know what they are doing from a defence point of view.
.- This clause provides that “ Minister “ means the Minister of State for Home Affairs, and under clause 14 the Minister is empowered to charge such fares and rates for the carriage of passengers and goods as he may think reasonable. Sub-clause 2 of that clause enacts further that all schedules of fares and rates made by the Minister shall be laid before Parliament, but Parliament has no power to reject them. In most other cases these schedules are fixed by regulations which are laid before Parliament, and Parliament has the power to reject them.. I think that it is consistent with good government that all schedules of fares and rates should be fixed, not by the Minister, but by a regulation of the Executive Council, Parliament having a supervisory power.
– I do not think that that is the modern practice.
– The Bill provides for the framing of schedules of fares and rates only pending the completion of the line.
– ls it the intention of the Government to proceed with the construction of the line immediately the Act becomes law ?
– The Government must wait until Western Australia has passed an Act sanctioning the project.
– I ask the Minister if he will state what staff he proposes to appoint for the carrying out of the work, and what permanent staff will be required.
.- The Minister who has charge of the construction of the line must necessarily have power to fix the charges for the conveyance of goods and passengers, because it often happens that while a line is under construction passengers and goods are carried over part of it.
– - This is a very simple matter. The: boss that has charge of an. institution must have some power to manage- it. If. we build 50 or 100 miles of road,, should not the Minister be in the position of being able to charge for the conveyance of passengers and goods ?
– The question- is : Should not the rates that are framed’ be submitted to Parliament?
– I have not the slightest objection to doing that when occasion arises*.
– Are the officers to be temporary or permanent?
– I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong, that the Department of Home Affairs is .being overloaded. Apparently it is regarded as a sort of yard into which can be thrown everything that other Departments do not want. In future the work put on the Minister of Home Affairs will be more than any one man can do. Under the Bill, the control of this railway is vested for all time in the Minister of Home Affairs, and its- control could not be given to another Minister without an alteration of the law. Twelve months from now it will be impossible for the Minister of Home Affairs to properly supervise the construction of this line in addition to his other work. Further, we must remember that the construction of other lines is in contemplation. It is all very well to say lightheartedly that this line shall be under the control of the Minister, and later to sanction the construction of another line and put it under his control too, but the work involved will be of such magnitude that it will be necessary to create a Minister of Railways, otherwise our railway construction and management will be in a chaotic state.
.- There is something in the contention of the honorable members for Maribyrnong and Adelaide.
– Would the honorable member advocate the creation of a newDepartment now?
– Yes, with a Minister of its own. The work of constructing, maintaining, and working the Commonwealth railways will be enormous. Not only has the permanent way to be laid down and rolling-stock provided, but shops have to be erected, and machinery installed for the making of repairs at different points. The honorable member for Darling Downs, when Minister of Home Affairs, tried to get everything into- his own hands, and to make himself the controlling influence, and his successors have followed his example. We can get good1 value from our expenditure of £4,000,000 only by having a Railways Department. I admit that the present Minister is a whale for work. Not only does he keep his own Department up to the high standard of private banking institutions,, as he told us yesterday, but he finds out where the leakages are in the other Departments.
– I ask the honorable member not to proceed on those lines.
– The clause defines. “ Minister “ as the Minister of State for Home Affairs. No one knows better than you do, sir, that from its inception the Home Affairs Department has not been satisfactory. I have heard you say some awful things about it. I look upon the Department as the fifth wheel of the coach, and would get rid of it. If it is going to muddle our railway concerns as it has muddled other concerns, the sooner it is disbanded the better. Every honorable member, with the exception of the honorable member for Darling Downs, has had something ugly to say about it.
– It has as fine a staff of officers as there is in Australia.
– I have nothing to say about the officers of the Home Affairs Department, but I do not think they can be beaten for muddles in any other Department in any State in the Commonwealth.
– Will the honorable member give one or two specific instances to show .that that is so?
– I can give the honorable member dozens, and shall be only too pleased to do so when the Estimates are considered.
– Is that lately?
– I am talking of what has happened since the inception of Federation. I shall bring down against the Home Affairs Department a list of things that have happened since I have been in this Parliament which will make the honorable member for Darling Downs sorry that he asked me that question. We know from past experience that the States have had to establish separate Departments for the construction of railways, even from their infancy. We should have a Railway Department altogether separate from the Home Affairs Department. I should like to hear the Minister on that phase of the question, and to learn whether the Prime Minister is favorable to it. . Otherwise I should not be averse to moving an amendment in that direction.
.- This measure does not cover the creation of a Railway Department, which honorable members apparently desire, nor was such a Department created in any of the acts of the States authorizing the construction of railways. The South Australian Railways Commissioners Act passed in 1887, and the Victorian Railways Commissioners Act passed in 1885 or 1886, contained provisions for the constitution of Railways Commissioners, their freedom from so-called political influence, immunity from claims for certain actions, limit of liability for other actions, fares tq., be charged by them, the supervision of Parliament, and other matters. But these are all separate from the first Railway Bill.
– Still there is some other Act in existence creating the Department.
– I am pointing out that that is so, but I assume that, in the case of the Commonwealth, that will be done afterwards. I thought it would be helpful to the Government to have the views of honorable members, and, perhaps, reciprocally, it would help the Committee if Ministers would state what they intend to do afterwards in regard to the creation of a Railway Department. That question may be premature now, and I do not think it is necessary to introduce it in this Bill.
– After hearing the excellent explanation given by the honorable member for Parkes, I do not understand the attitude that some honorable members have taken up. The honorable member for Parkes clearly stated that the management of railways by Commissioners had nothing to do. with the construction of railways. In Tasmania, the work of railway construction is done under the Minister of Land and Works. As soon as the railway is completed, it is handed over to the management, who then run it. That was done in the case of the ScotsdaleBranxholm railway. I was a clerk in the Department at the time, and we had nothing to do with the construction even of the telegraph line connected with that railway.
– They have a permanent construction staff in another branch.
– Yes ; but I take it that the Minister of Home Affairs is really similar to a Minister of Land and1 Works. He has to carry out work for various Departments. He has to do military construction work, and why should he not do railway construction work?
– Where is the Act which is to govern the railway when it is made?
– Where is it set out in the Bill what work the Minister of Home Affairs shall perform? Honorable members want the Commonwealth to rush at once into further expense by creating another Department, which can at present do hardly any work. The Minister of Home Affairs, or this House, or the Government, will simply appoint an engineer, who will construct the railway under the direction of the Home Affairs Department. Where does all the work come in ? What does the Minister do? He is simply advised by the head of his Department.
– Which head?
– The Minister knows nothing about the construction of the railway. The material will be bought by the storekeeper, and I hope the whole work will remain under the Minister of Home Affairs until there is sufficient to warrant a creation of another Department. Members are always talking about great and wasteful expenditure in the Commonwealth, yet they would immediately create another Minister with all the paraphernalia of anoffice and staff.
– There is no proposition for the creation of another Minister.
– The suggestion has been thrown out from both sides of the House, and, therefore, may influence Ministers. I am surely justified in opposing such a suggestion. I hope things will be left as they are. I have always received the utmost courtesy at the hands of the Home Affairs Department. Anything I have brought under the notice of the Minister has received immediate attention, and has evidently been carried out by an excellent staff, who thoroughly understand their duties.
– That is not in question.
– It has been referred to, and I am speaking of the Home Affairs Department as I have found it. It would be altogether wrong for me to sit silent when the Minister was being slated, seeing that I have received such excellent treatment from his Department.
.- It was certainly most interesting to hear the honorable member for Denison say that we ought to be satisfied, because the information that we asked for from the Minister was given to us by the honorable member for Parkes. That is a peculiar line of reasoning. It is quite true, as the honorable member for Angas said, that many of these matters are provided for in another Act, but I think in all the States that other Act has preceded the construction of railways. In Victoria the construction of railways was provided for by the Board of Land and Works, which had charge of the railways in the days preceding the appointment of commissioners. Even then we had a separate Department, and a separate Minister of Railways, but since the days of the Railways Commissioners, the whole of the construction, as well as the management of railways, has been controlled by them.
– And it is very much more satisfactory than the old principle.
– Exactly. We were told by the honorable member for Denison that the Minister would be guided by the head of his Department. The Leader of the Opposition very properly asked, “ Which head?” The head of the Home Affairs Department is Colonel Miller, who is its secretary.
– I am my own guide.
– I am very glad that we shall get that interjection into Hansard.
– I obtained my business training in New York.
– I thought it was in the Rocky Mountains.
– I do not have an official run me - let the honorable member’ thoroughly understand that.
– I am very glad we have obtained that information from the Minister, because I think it will make the Committee all the more insistent upon receiving definite information from the Government before anything further is done. We have always understood that in these professional and technical matters the Minister did as advised by the best expert that could be obtained in a particular subject. Now we are told that not even. Colonel Miller, who may or may not know anything about railways, is to give the” Minister advice, as the honorable member for Denison suggested. We learn that the
Minister is going to take his own advice and run the affair himself.
– The honorable member is trying to put words into my mouth.
– The honorable member distinctly said tha.ll the Minister would take the advice of the head of his Department.
– I said the engineer would advise him.
– The honorable member said distinctly that the Minister would take advice from the head of his Department. The Leader of the Opposition then interjected, “Which head?” The honorable member for Denison did. not say a word about an engineer or anybody else. I tried to get in the same point, by interjecting “ Which head ?” because that query sums up the whole position. Are we to have a qualified engineer-in-chief appointed for the Commonwealth, to be responsible for all these engineering matter’s? If not, are we to be satisfied with the statement made at the table by the Minister of Home Affairs, in his capacity as Minister in charge of the Bill, that he is going torun the affair himself, and take his advice from no one, because he got his Businesstraining in New York, or, as another honorable member suggested, from the Rocky Mountains? If that is to be the state of affairs, I am thoroughly dissatisfied with it.
.- It appears to me that the Home AffairsDepartment, either in a public works or railway sense, is going to grow to great dimensions, and we should make provision accordingly in this Bill. If we specify in? clause 2 that “Minister” means the “Minister of State for Home Affairs,”” then if at any future date we create a railway department, and have it presided over by another Minister, an amendment of this Act will become necessary. Would it meet the difficulty to provide in this clause that “ Minister “ means the “ Minister of State for Home Affairs, or .such’ other Minister as may be appointed “?
– “ Or other Minister administering the Act.”
– Such an amendment should not militate against the effectiveness of the Bill.
– I do not think that will do.
– I simply throw out the suggestion, leaving it to legal members to settle the phraseology. We should make provision for the future, so that if we do create a railway department with a separate Minister this Act will not clash with it.
– I do not object to honorable members attacking my office, as much as they like, but I would like them to state whether or not they mean that since I have been Minister of Home Affairs the Department has been a failure. I have introduced there a business system that the world knows not of outside of great banking departments.
– Poor world !
– That is very fine, but let me tell the Leader of the Opposition that it would have paid the Government of Australia to have given me a million pounds ten years ago to organize Australian Departments on a business basis properly. Instead of that, you found everything on the same old disorganized and disgruntled method which prevailed in the States. Now the Home Affairs Department is organized and systematized. Every honorable member receives from the Department every two months a schedule containing every work that is going on in any part of Australia. Was that ever possible before ? Why, then, this attack on the Home Affairs Department? Is it because I am Minister of it? The fact is that the whole attack is a personal matter. I do not object to that, but where has the present Minister of Home Affairs ever been a failure in life? He came to Australia a stranger ; he had no help from the great people of Australia, and he sits at this table to-day administering the Home Affairs Department. I want to know, then, why these attacks upon him ? I have introduced into the Department reforms regarding which I am getting letters from all parts of the world. Leading financial men of the world are coming to examine the system that I have introduced, and they all praise it. Why are not honorable members honest and straight about these matters ? It seems to me that the whole thing is a direct attack on me as Minister of Home Affairs. If I am incompetent, I do not desire to be here. The honorable member for Gippsland said that I ought to take the advice of my officials. I am not a rubber stamp, to take the advice of officials. If my officials’ advice suits me, I shall take it. I have saved Australia thousands of pounds by using my head as a business man.
– Surely the Minister will take advice on technical subjects ?
– I am not objecting to take the advice of the engineer.
– That is the advice I was referring to.
– The honorable member did not speak of the engineer.
– I did.
– Is Colonel Miller an engineer ?
– I spoke of the EngineerinChief. . *
– Colonel Miller is no more an engineer than I am. I know what it is to conduct gigantic propositions. I have had charge of gigantic propositions all my life; and honorable members ought to have no doubt that not only can I build this line, but that there is no work on earth I cannot carry out if it is necessary.
– I think that the Minister is, wittingly or unwittingly, taking us off the trail of the argument. This discussion commenced, if I remember rightly, by my calling attention to the fact that we have no Railway, Department at present, and,, so far as I know, no single permanent officer with railway experience to advise the Minister.
– We have Mr. Deane.
– But I understand thai Mr. Deane is not a permanent officer.
– Not at present.
– The Government already have one railway indirectly in their hands, worked by the South Australian Railway Department under agreement with the Commonwealth. At any rate, in regard to that line, the Government have the responsibility, and are already owners. Then there is the Northern Territory line. We are now about to authorize the construction of a very important main line, which may not ‘have any exceptional difficulties mi construction, but which -will certainly need supervision, not only of a highly, qualified man like Mr. Deane, but of officers under him of less experience, but of technical knowledge and judgment. These officers will not only have to supervise the construction, but, some” of them at least, will be required afterwards to supervise the management. We have had no satisfactory assurances on these points. The Minister of Home Affairs may be the greatest railway genius the world ever saw, but he does not occupy his present position on that account. The facthas not been demonstrated, and we do not ask that it should be tested. We ask to be satisfied that the Minister has expert advice. How the Minister deals with that advice is his own affair; he may accept it or reject it at his pleasure, and he and his Government must take the responsibility. No one has raised any issue of that kind.
– As the honorable member for Flinders knows, I made a statement on that point prior to this discussion arising.
– I was called out of the Chamber when the Prime Minister was speaking, but I have consulted honorable members as to what he said. I understand that the Prime Minister has not made any specific statement that this Bill, which is properly confined to construction, is or is not to be accompanied by another providing for a proper railway establishment under the law. This will be required both for construction and maintenance afterwards, whatever the terms and conditions of any such measure which Ministers may have in their minds. I understand that no specific statement was made by the Prime Minister.
– I dealt with the material point, and said that we would take the best advice possible, and follow that which tended most to economic construction and maintenance.
– That is a proper and legitimate intention ; but, at the same time, the Committee realize that such advice must come from a Department, which, however small in numbers, ought, as to character and personnel, to be approved by the House We have the right to be satisfied, by seeing placed on the statute-book an Act embodying the Ministerial view of the office and functions of a Department of capable officers which must largely expand in the future.
– That is for the carrying on of the railway ? I agree with the honorable member.
– Every State has, and must have, such a Railway Act. The Minister of Home Affairs, however, appears to be under some impression that the creation of such a body is some reflection on him.
– Not in the slightest !
– Then why did we have the Minister’s reply to - I do not know what ?
– To an attack that was not made !
– The honorable member for Maranoa attacked the Minister.
– The one honorable member who criticised the Home Affairs Department frankly stated that he was going to do so from the first year of its formation, when certainly the present Minister was not responsible. That honorable member referred to the Department as having been carried on for ten years without the unexampled assistance afforded by the present Minister ; and his attack was of a general nature.
– The Minister of Home Affairs was unfair to the Department in his own defence.
– I do not wish to enter into that, but rather to bring the Committee back to” the real and only point now at issue. Every honorable member agrees that this Bill should be accompanied by another providing for the present and future control of our Federal railways.
– Why not wait until it is necessary ?
– It is necessary now ; it becomes more so as soon as we authorize this line. The Commonwealth has taken over one railway, the working of which ought to be more or less supervised from time to time, in order to see that the agreement is fulfilled, and to settle disputed questions. It has, I think, leased a second. We have now before us a great project of construction, and there must be officers authorized to supervise and prepare proper plans, to test contracts, and so forth. What is the objection to our passing the ordinary measure, which every State in Australia arid elsewhere has found necessary for railway construction and management?
– Does the honorable member mean that both the Bills should be passed at one time ?
– Practically. As a mat- ^ter of fact, the measure to which I am referring ought to come first in strict order of priority ; but no one is standing on that point.
– I do not agree with the honorable member in that.
– Ask the Prime Minister how he is going to construct a railway without an engineering staff.
– The question of the priority of the Bills is not so essential that we need debate it. The proper order is, first of all, a measure authorizing the appointment of permanent officers who shall be experts in construction and management ; but whether that comes first or second in this case, at all events, is immaterial. There must, however, be the two Bills ; and all we ask, in the first instance, is some assurance that the ordinary Bill will be passed so that Parliament, in authorizing the construction of the line by this Bill, shall also authorize the appointment of the officers necessary to supervise and control existing lines by the other measure.
– The question of management will arise long before the line is completed - it will take years to complete the construction.
– Quite so; there will be an interim service of some kind.
– A great staff is not required for that.
– No one is urging the appointment of a great staff. The Minister should only appoint the staff that is absolutely necessary. It is a very simple matter; and I cannot see why it involves all these gyrations, or what in the old stage phrase are called “ alarums and excursions.”
– When a man is sat upon, he is bound to kick !
– I certainly did not attempt to sit on the Minister in any way ; and am sure he will not say that I unduly criticised the performance of his Ministerial duties. I happened to initiate the discussion, and, of course, there has been comment since. I am now only endeavouring to make it clear how much the Minister is at cross purposes with the Committee.
– Three distinct questions have been raised in the discussion, which has given rise to diversions rather than “alarums.” It would be out of order for me to read clause 15 of the Bill.
– Attention has been called to it.
– Honorable members, if they refer to that clause, will see that it provides all the machinery necessary to carry out this work up to the time when we shall have a railway system. No man with any wisdom would dogmatize as to the method which should be adopted in carrying on the administrative work of this railway. Construction and the administration of a going concern are two different things, and ought to be kept apart.
– Hear, hear !
– I pointed out previously that the railways, now belonging to the Commonwealth, are under the Department of External Affairs, because the Minister of that Department has the control of the Northern Territory through which these railways run. The Department of Home Affairs is the best equipped to carry on the construction of a line; but whether its equipment, in engineering and other skilled advice, is sufficient is a question that will have to be determined, in the first instance, by the Minister himself, and then by the Ministry, as a whole. Any act pf the Minister will be in his official capacity, and, therefore, an act of the Government; and, of course, the Government will suffer any disability or reap any advantage that arises through the Minister’s capacity or failure. I cannot, therefore, see, with the Leader of the Opposition, and others who are raising this storm, that another Bin should be passed with the one now before us. In my opinion, until the construction of the railway is well ahead, it may not be necessary to pass this other Bill except to deal with the railways we already have in the Northern Territory. The principal one of these railways has been leased for twelve months by the Minister of External Affairs, under agreement with the South Australian Government, and is managed by the Commissioner of Railways of that State. An important question was raised by the honorable member for Adelaide, and, I think, also by the honorable member for Maranoa, and the honorable member for Gippsland. That is the question of appointing a Minister to deal with the railways and kindred matters. But before that could be done we should have to alter section 65 of the Constitution, which lays it down definitely that there shall be only sevenMinisters.
– Surely it is not necessary to alter the Constitution.
– The proviso in the Constitution would have to be altered.
– It could be done by Executive act or by Act of Parliament.
– I think the honorable member for Angas is wrong. Such a Minister would have to be salaried.
– We do not require to alter the Constitution before passing a Bill.
– We should have to alter the provision in the Constitution by an Act of this Parliament.
– That is right.
– That is to create a Minister ?
– Quite so.
– We may have more Ministers, but not more money to divide amongst them.
– Exactly. Now that the question has been raised it is important enough to talk over. The smallest of our States has, I think, as many paid Ministers as the Commonwealth with all its gigantic administration; and I think that the question of creating a larger number of salaried Ministers will have to be taken into consideration in the near future.
– The salaries can be altered by Parliament.
– Yes; by an Act, and a sub-department may be created by Executive act. I merely mention the matter now so that honorable members may have in their minds the question whether it is advisable to add to the number of Ministers.
– I would not be in too great a hurry about that.
– One honorable member has said that there ought to be a Minister of Railways; and there is something in the argument. Clause 15, however, gives ample power to the Minister of Home Affairs to appoint any officer he thinks necessary to assist him in carrying out the work.
– Of construction and management ?
– Quite so. I do not think it will be necessary to follow this measure with a Bill to provide the means of managing the railway in the Northern Territory, but if it is, the Government will not hesitate at any time to introduce an administrative measure of that kind providing for the manner in which these railways shall be managed. I should like also to touch upon another point made by the honorable member for Darling Downs, who conveyed to me the impression that he thought it advisable that the schedule of rates should be Submitted to the Parliament, and that this Parliament should have the power to raise or lower the rates therein set forth. I do not agree with that view. A Ministry must stand or fall by its acts in that connexion.
– The honorable member must not discuss that question at this stage.
– Then I shall only say that the Parliament could make suggestions in another way which would be more likely to be effective than would an attack upon the administrator of the Act. Such an attack would probably be resisted by Min isters. Some better method could be provided for getting at the wish of the majority of the Parliament.
.- The Prime Minister directed attention in anticipation to clause 15, which allows the Minister to appoint such officers as he thinks necessary for the construction or working of the railway, and to authorize the employment of any person for those purposes. That places an absolutely despotic power in the hands of the Minister. The Public Service Act, which has been in operation almost from the inception of the Commonwealth, provides that “ Department” shall mean not only those Departments specified in the schedule to that Act, but any Department at any time established by the GovernorGeneral.
– The honorable member cannot discuss that question on the clause now before us.
– I wish only to point out that we were justified in urging that it is necessary to pass another measure which will fit in with the Act for the regulation of the Public Service, and the general policy which has hitherto governed all our administration. The Department now coming into being must come under the Public Service Act, except in so far as the provisions of that Act are modified by a later Bill. Under this Bill, the Government are deliberately taking out of the control of the Public Service Commissioner the appointment of all persons whose services may be required for the construction or working of this railway. That does not appear to be right, unless this measure be accompanied by another relating to the appointment of officers to the new Department, discriminating between those who are to be appointed under the provisions of the Public Service Act, and those whose employment is only intermittent, or of such a character as to make it impossible to appoint them permanent members of the Service. We need a further measure making all necessary provisions as to the promotion and retirement of the officers to be appointed to the new Department, it is a very simple mechanical matter. The Prime Minister “says he has no objection to it, but does not see why we should urge it at present. He relies on clause 15. My reply is that we are practically required by the emergencies of the situation to pass a Bill which will fit in with the Public Service Act so far as to provide for the gradual creation, as necessity may require, of the new Department, or sub- Department, to be charged with the construction and management of Commonwealth railways. When I was speaking a few moments ago, I had also in mind a third railway - the Northern Territory line, which is now temporarily leased. Sooner or later that fine, and the line to the south, now managed for us by the South Australian Government, together with that which we are proposing to construct, will all be under our own control. It is necessary that we should take at once when creating this new Department the same steps as we have taken in regard to all our other Departments.
.- I am not surprised at the voracious anxiety displayed by some honorable members opposite for the creation of a new portfolio, since, I suppose, at least a dozen of them, in common with the honorable member for Maranoa, would be aspirants for the office. I sympathized with the Minister of Home Affairs when I heard him attacked by members of his own party, for I consider that if any Department is administered in a satisfactory manner it is his. An attack was also made upon the officers of the Department of Home Affairs, and I think it only fair to say that I believe that its official head, Colonel Miller, is one of the most competent officers in the service of the Commonwealth, or, indeed, of any of the States. I was sorry to hear the attack made upon him and other officers of the Department. The Minister of Home Affairs is quite able to carry out the duties of his office in connexion, with the construction of this line. He will have a staff of experts to assist him. Contracts, no doubt, will be let. The contractors will be under the control of the engineer in charge, and the Minister will simply have to deal with matters of policy.
– Will the honorable member repeat now what he said while I was outside a minute or two ago?
– I said that the honorable member was very much like a bullfrog on a log.
– That is second hand. Say something original.
– The only difference between us is that the honorable member was present when I so described him, whereas I was 500 miles away when he thought fit to speak of me in the same terms. If I thought, for one moment, that, under this Bill, too much work was being placed upon the shoulders of the Minister of Home
Affairs, I should be the first to advocate the creation of a new office, because I do not wish to see his attention diverted from the work of establishing the Federal Capital. I feel, however, that he is quite capable of supervising the construction of this great enterprise. The practical work will be done by the engineers of his Department, and no good purpose will be served by creating another Ministerial office.
.- I am sure the Minister of Home Affairs, now that he has returned to his calmer moments, will regret the aspersions that he cast upon his predecessor in office. In the heat of debate he said that, on taking office, he found the Department in a state of muddle.
– All that I meant was that it was not systematized as it is now.
– The Minister means that there was no card system of indexing in existence.
– I put in, not a card system, but a digest system.
– I am glad that the Minister has withdrawn the remark to which I took exception. We ought to have some sense of justice in respect of our public officers, who are not in a position to defend themselves, and who have undoubtedly done excellent work for Australia. Those, who above all others, should defend them are the Ministers at the head of their Departments, and those who have been at the head of them, and who are therefore competent to speak of their ability. I am sure that if the Minister spoke his mind he would say, as his predecessors are prepared to do, that there is no Department whose officers are more loyal, zealous, and capable than are the officers of the Department of Home Affairs.
– Hear, hear! They are good officers.
.- One redeeming feature of the remarks made by the member for North Sydney is that they furnish conclusive proof that he knows, in his own mind, that it would be useless for him ever to aspire to Ministerial office, and that, therefore, he can afford to indulge in these cheap gibes.
– Order !
– I think we are justified in offering some rejoinder to the regrettable outburst on the part of the Minister of Home Affairs. I hope that we shall never be subjected to another outburst of die kind. If we are, it may be that some of us will have to overlook the fact that, unfortunately, he is not enjoying the best of health, and will feel it necessary to make a reply. I made no attack on the honorable gentleman. When I wish to make one I shall do so in no uncertain terms.
– And I shall reply to it. I shall not take it lying down.
– At all events, neither the Minister’s New York experience nor his own belief that there is no work on God’s earth that he could not satisfactorily perform, will interfere with the proper criticism of his office or himself, whenever I think such criticism necessary. I hope that the Minister in the future - and I say this with all possible kindness - will not take as personal any criticism of the office that he occupies. I made no personal attack upon him. Indeed, I suggested that we should not overload him.
– If the Committee wish to take this railway work out of my Department I shall not object.
– There has been no attack on the office or the man, and we ought not to be subjected to outbursts of such a puerile character as that in which the Minister indulged.
– Ministers, like other honorable members, are only human.
– 1 understand that, and it is because I know the honorable gentleman to be human that I am somewhat sceptical of his boasted ability to encompass any work on God’s earth. My remarks were in the direction of suggesting that we should relieve the Department of Home Affairs of anything that is beyond its fair share of work. I fear that there is a tendency on the part of all parties in this House to overload that Department. At present I see no need for the creation of a new Minister, but I suggest that the control of our railways might be given to one of the honorary Ministers.
– The Commonwealth has fewer . salaried Ministers than any other Australian Government.
– No doubt, and an honorary Minister might do this work until it became necessary to create another salaried office. It is possible that the illness of the Minister of Home Affairs, which I regret, may be due to overwork. If he has brought about reforms, we commend him for them, but he .should not take our criticism of the Department as personal, and must admit our right to criticise without being subjected to reproof which, after all, was almost comical. We have taken on our shoulders the construction and control of 1,000 miles of railway, having already 500 miles to manage. This will mean a good deal of work for some Ministerial head, and the unification of gauge will be a matter of deep concern to whoever is controlling our railways. In justice to the country and to ourselves we should not pile up work in any Department to such an extent that the strongest and best must be broken down by it, and it must become difficult to get suitable men to administer it.
.- As to the creation of a new Minister and Department, I urge the Government not to be too precipitate.
– I have ruled that that matter may not now be discussed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 - (1.) Upon an Act of the Parliament of the State of Western Australia being passed consenting to legislation by the Parliament of the Commonwealth with respect to the construction of the portion of the railway included in the State of Western Australia or .consenting to the construction of that portion of the railway by the Commonwealth, the Minister may, subject to this Act, construct a railway from Kalgoorlie in the State of Western Australia to Port Augusta in the State of South Australia. (2.) The construction of the railway shall notbe commenced until the States of Western Australia and South Australia respectively have’ granted or agreed to grant to the satisfaction of the Minister such portions of the Crown lands of the State as are in the opinion of the Minister necessary for the purposes of the construction, maintenance, and working of the railway.
– The intention of the second sub-clause seems to be fairly clear, but I should like an explanation from the Minister regarding it. Apparently the Minister is empowered to prevent anything being done until he is satisfied that the States of Western Australia and South Australia have granted to him:, or agreed to grant, whatever land may be necessary for the construction of the line, including, I take it, quarries - if there be any - with access, as well as what may be necessary for the working of the line, namely, station yards, approaches, and so on. Is it the intention to ask only for so much as may be considered necessary for those purposes?
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin- part of its distance the route traverses sandy country, and we intend to ask for a certain area on each side of the track to prevent the herbage on it from being eaten off, so that the sand may not blow on to the line.
– The Minister also needs power to take stone from adjoining land, if he can get it.
– We take power to acquire all the land necessary for the construction of the road, and for deviations, as well as for stores and other purposes.
.- Has the Government had correspondence with the Government of Western Australia in reference to the passing of legislation to sanction this work, or has that correspondence yet to be begun ?
– We have started all that.
– Has the Government been informed when the Western Australian Parliament will pass an Act sanctioning the work?
– It has passed one.
– I understand that that Act has expired. Within what time is it expected that another Act will be passed, and what arrangements have been come to between this Government and the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia as to the granting of the land required for the railway? Has any grant been made, or have the Governments concerned agreed to grant what we require?
– I asked for a considerable area of land on both sides of the route, but my request was refused. Both Governments, however, have agreed to give us all the land we require tor the railway. Of course, we may need a little more here and there for deviations. That has been agreed to.
– How much was asked for? A big slice of country, or the width of the track?
– I wanted a little more than they would give.
– I move -
That the following words be added : - “ (3) In order to partially recoup the Commonwealth for the capital expenditure involved in the construction of the railway, it shall be a further condition precedent to the work being entered upon that the States of Western Australia and South Australia respectively shall reserve from sale and vest in trustees to the use of the Commonwealth, with power of sale or lease, all the Crown lands extending for twenty-five miles on both sides of the line as ultimately adopted (inclusive of the reservations required under the previous sub-section) along its whole length throughout the Territories of the respective States.”
Some years ago, when a former Bill was before the House, I suggested, that, inasmuch as the other States had made their sections of transcontinental railways unassisted, whereas Western Australia and South Australia were having the work done for them by the Commonwealth, we should be recouped for our expenditure out of the lands improved by it. In other parts of the world companies building railways have been granted alternate blocks along the routes traversed, as compensation for their enterprise, and the Commonwealth should not be put into a position inferior to that of a railway company. We are going to open up Western Australia.
– No; to give easy access to it.
– And we are about to open up a large part of South Australia. Of the 1,050 miles of line, 600 will be in South Australia. The Commonwealth will have to foot a bill of at least £5,000,000.
– The honorable member is exaggerating.
– In view of the sandy and comparatively waterless character of much of the country, as described in the reports of those who have traversed it, the line is likely to cost more than £5,000,000. As it is proposed that the Commonwealth shall foot the Bill, it should not be in any worse position than any commercial corporation undertaking a great work of this kind. I am sure that no corporation that could be formed could be induced to undertake this railway with the present poor prospect of profit.
– Offers have been made.
– All the Western Australians see through green spectacles in this matter. According to them, the country is a verdant plain, with magnificent grazing lands ; but, whether it is or not, my argument holds.
– Why not propose to take alternate blocks ?
– In that case, I should propose to take 100 miles, and give the States the alternate blocks. I have contended for this principle for years, and the Western Australian Government recognised the justice of it. When the railway was proposed years ago by the right honorable member for Swan, he informed me that the Western Australian Government had already reserved the land with a view to recouping the Commonwealth. He told me at a subsequent stage that the Government of Western Australia
– Quote Hansard. Never mind what I told you.
– I propose to say in two lines what the right honorable member took about twenty to say in Hansard. I am therefore justified in paraphrasing him, on the ground of a desire for brevity. I can see no objection to my proposal. If the land is worthless, then the States are giving nothing away. If it is valuable, they ought to have constructed the line themselves.
– They offered to do so.
– I never heard of such an offer, and I should like to know if any other honorable member heard of an offer on the part of Western Australia and South Australia to construct the line themselves. They have waited steadily and faithfully to let the Commonwealth do it. Jt is but a fair quid pro quo for the people of the other States, who have to contribute, that they should have something in hand out of which to recoup the Commonwealth Treasury for this expenditure. The principle is a very sound one.
– Yesterday I thought the honorable member said the land was no good.
– I know that this is a very sore point with the right honorable member, but he has his tongue in his cheek. He could not be so happy over it as he is if he thought what he says. The right honorable member has never seen this country. I have examined the chart of his explorations near the Bight, and it shows a series of semi-circles running from the coast northwards, and returning to the coast. I understand that the schooner or brig followed the coast so as to meet the party from time to time as they came down, because of the shortness of water - and other things.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I have some recollection, whichhas been recalled to me, of Western Australia having at one time made a land grant to a syndicate in consideration of their carrying out this trans continental line. It may have never had effect given to it, but if the Western Australian people, through their State Government, were prepared to subsidize a private or public company to construct the line, there can he no reason for differentiating in the case of the Commonwealth.
– The Western Australian Government refused to do it.
– I have a very clear recollection of the arrangement having actually been made, and of the syndicate refusing to carry it out.
– Was it not done in regard to the Midland railway?
– I think it was actually done in that case by the Western Australian Government.
– That is right, and also in regard to the Great Southern line.
– Apparently, therefore, Western Australia is quite inured to this practice of granting alternate blocks in consideration of its railways being constructed for it.
– That was over twenty years ago.
– If Western Australia thought it worth while to adopt this course, even though it was twenty years ago, with regard to the Midland and Great Southern railways, there ought to be a greater reason for adopting it in regard to a railway which is much more questionable than those railways were at the time. The honorable member for Denison said he thought I had adopted a suggestion made by him in the course of the debate; but if the honorable member will look up Hansard he will find that at least seven years ago I made this suggestion, and obtained a promise from the right honorable member for Swan, who was then Treasurer, and who, I think, introduced the Bill-
– I do not believe I ever introduced the Bill.
– The right honorable member spoke with such fervour that I thought he had even introduced it. He then assured me that the Western Australian Government were going to grant the land, and I understood him to say that they had done so. I also understood him to say afterwards that they were not going to hold to the bargain. I understand him now to doubt whether he ever told me that.
– I can deny absolutely that I ever said anything of the sort.
– I therefore withdraw and apologise for that part of my statement ; but it is sufficient for me that I had the right honorable member’s assurance that the Western Australian Government had agreed to that course. If they agreed to it, then there is no reason why they .should not agree to it now. My argument is not affected by the question of whether the .land is poor, or rich. If it is poor, or mere desert, they are giving us a present of nothing of great value. If it. is good land, there is all the more reason for our taking it, because the Western Australian and South Australian people ought to have done the work themselves. The South Australian people have done very well out of the Northern Territory Agreement, and I have no doubt some less patriotic residents would be perfectly willing to stand by and let us construct this line through 600 miles of their territory.
– Does not the honorable member think the Commonwealth has enough obligation in the Northern Territory, without looking for another area?
– If I were to shut my eyes, I could always tell what part of Australia was represented by those who interrupt rae. They come invariably from one quarter of the Commonwealth, and I make great excuses for them, because I have no doubt their constituents look to them to get as much as possible from the Commonwealth Parliament for their particular State. I do not think the Committee is likely to be affected by their objections or interjections. They are what would be called in the Courts, “ interested witnesses.” I put the proposal before the Committee on its merits. Even if only half-a-dozen should vote for it I should be perfectly satisfied that, in asking the Committee to make it a condition precedent to our carrying out the work, I am asking only for something that it is reasonable to expect from those two great States, in view of the fact that we are doing for them what every other State has had to do for itself.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime Minister and Treasurer) [7.52”!. - I think it only fair that I should intervene at this point and say, on behalf of the Government, that we do not propose to accept the amendment. It is a proposal which I have no doubt would hang up the railway.
– Why ?
– We have been in communication with the two States concerned, and they seem very unwilling to agree to a proposition of this kind.
– Have you tried to get a proposition of this kind agreed to?
– Yes. The Government expect the States concerned to give every reasonable facility for land, not only for the construction and maintenance of the line, but also sufficient for all persons who will be engaged in the maintenance of the line, enabling them to keep cows, horses, &c. Sufficient land ought to be ‘made a free grant to the Commonwealth to enable those persons to keep themselves in a reasonable state of comfort.
– We owe no thanks to the States for that, seeing that they are getting all the advantage.
– That is quite true.; but the argument comes with uncommon unfairness from gentlemen who have recently been upholding State rights with so much vigour.
– The States have no right to have railways constructed through their territories at Commonwealth expense.
– The States have objected to be longer cut off ; but they have engaged to grant to the Commonweal.h any reasonable amount of land that will enable the Commonwealth to make the railway a success.
– Is any definite area promised ?
– No, except that it will be ample for all the purposes I have named ; but they have not agreed to allow themselves to be cut off by a grant of land on both sides of the railway.
– Did not they offer to do so once?
– Not in our time, and not on any records to which we can hold any Government.
– Does the Prime Minister know the Western Australian Government actually granted alternate blocks to two railway companies for carrying out their railways?
– Yes, I know they gave a large area of land for a railway constructed on that principle; but I would submit to honorable members the difficulties that the Government would have in taking up such an attitude. In addition to think- ing of the States, we must think of Australia. In the construction of these transcontinental lines we must think of Australia, and in my opinion it is only a matter of time - perhaps none of us will be in Parliament then - when the whole of the people of Australia will be dealing with these railways and getting all the advantages that arise from their construction.
– I am much surprised to hear the amendment of the honorable member for Parkes, especially backed up as it is by the most extraordinary statement ever heard in this House. In the first place, he said he had never heard that the Western Australian people offered to construct this line. I may tell him that they did so years ago, and, further, offered to pay interest on the cost of the construction of the South Australian portion. Within the last twelve months the Western Australian Government have offered to construct their part up to the border - an offer that the Minister of Home Affairs tells me was repeated within the last few months. If such statements as were made by the honorable member for Parkes are needed to support his amendment, then that amendment must fail. There is no use in urging that the Commonwealth should be allowed to deal with the land on either side of the line. The Commonwealth will have the benefit of all the traffic; and we may take it that the States will not allow the land to lie idle. There is no doubt that people will settle there, as they have never done before - of course, owing to lack of facilities. As soon, however, as the railway is made practically a new State will be added to Australia. The honorable member for Parkes said that he would withdraw some statements he has made; and I hope he will have the good grace to acknowledge that it was quite unnecessary to make the other statement to which I have referred.
– I do not withdraw that at all ; because I do not believe that Western Australia has ever been prepared to build the line. Western Australia offered to give the land, but backed out of the promise.
– As to the clause itself, I should like to know whether it is quite clear that we have the right to connect with the State railways - with the Western Australian system. Is the Minister of Home Affairs satisfied that he has that power under the clause?
– Under another clause I have all the powers of a State Minister of Railways.
– But will the State Minister consent to that?
.- I had not intended to speak on this clause, but as my name has been so freely used by the honorable member for Parkes, honorable members may think I ought to say a word. The honorable member conjured up conversations which he remembers, but of which I have no recollection.
– Not conversations - statements in the House.
– I should like the honorable member to produce those statements, because Hansard is very accurate. There was a great deal of objection raised by the honorable member and others to the granting of money for a survey. I was not in charge of that measure, but was a member of the Government at the time; and I interested myself with the Western Australian Government in order to get them to reserve land along the line, because it was said in this House that otherwise that land would be taken up by speculators before the line was built. The Western Australian Government agreed to reserve the land until the line was constructed, or for so many years, and did so; and so far as I know that reservation has never been rescinded. The South Australian Government, on the other hand, either refused to, or did not make any reservation; and there the matter rested. There was much more trouble in passing the Survey Bill than there is in passing the Construction’ Bill now before us; and I am quite surprised by the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Parkes. First of all, he says that the land is no good.
– I did not say so; I said it did not matter whether it was good or bad.
– The honorable member went back forty years with a view, so it seemed to me, to make some disparaging remarks in regard to my exploring work at that time. What I did then, in 1869, is a matter in history; and the opinion of the honorable member one way or the other will not alter the facts. As I told him yesterday, I think his observations are pessimistic and unprogressive. I have no personal objection to reservations for any purpose along the line. That part of the country is not occupied now, and can only be occupied by means of a railway. I ask honorable members, however, whether it is worth while raising difficulties or controversies with the States in regard to such a question. It dees not really matter whether the State or the Commonwealth owns the land, which is utilized for exactly the same people. The States utilize their lands for the people of Australia, just as the Commonwealth would do. For myself, I am more concerned with what comes out of the land than its ownership. Most of the lands of any country, and especially of Australia, do not produce much until labour, enterprise, and skill are applied to them. Some of the best lands in Australia were unproductive until they were cleared and improved ; and, therefore, I am quite indifferent as to which authority of the Crown - State or Commonwealth - is the owner. I do not think it is worth while mixing up land legislation with this measure, seeing that land tenure and similar matters are reserved to the States. While having no personal objection to the reservation, I can see only one result of this amendment, namely, delay.
– Will it kill the ‘Bill ?
– I am not in charge of the Bill ; and that question would be more fittingly asked of the Minister.
– I mean so far as the States are concerned.
– I have had no communication with the States on the matter since 1 left office. Surely there has been enough delay over this question ? Years were taken up in efforts to obtain ^20.000 for a survey; and several honorable members who opposed that measure now desire further delay. It must be remembered that Western Australia has to construct 387 miles of railway on a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge, or whatever other gauge may be approved, from Kalgoorlie to the seaboard at Fremantle, involving, probably, a new line the whole way. Is this railway for Western Australia or for the people of the Commonwealth? Can the railway not just as well be described as one designed to give facilities for going to the west, as one for giving facilities to the people now there? This railway is for the advantage of all - if it is not for the advantage of Australia, we should not be dealing with it now. I hope that we shall proceed with the measure; and 1 cannot congratulate my honorable friend the honorable member for Parkes - and he is my honorable friend - on his speeches on this measure.
.- This is a question which deserves more consideration than it is, apparently, going to get. It is not often that the honorable member for Parkes and myself are in agreement, and we are not wholly in agreement now. I agree fully with the principle of the amendment - that is with a sufficient reservation on each side of the line - but the honorable member proposes a reservation which, in my opinion, is too great. A belt of 10 or 12 miles would, I think, be sufficient ; and that is a reservation which the States ought to grant. The honorable member for Swan laid down the. principle that the construction of the railway is not for the advantage of the States, but for the advantage of Australia. If that be so, then the Commonwealth Parliament can be called on in the future to construct every line of railway in any State or any part of a State. After this line has been constructed, the question will arise of linking up the States lines to the trunk line, and it will further arise in connexion with the railway in the Northern Territory. This reservation of land is no new phase in railway construction. In Western Australia railways have been constructed by private individuals, not for the benefit of Australia, or of the citizens of Australia, but for the profit of those individuals themselves ; and the Western Australian Government have not hesitated in such cases to make free grants of land. If that has been done for private syndicates, why cannot the State meet the Commonwealth in the same way in regard to this line? It has been said that it is immaterial who holds the land on either side of the line; but, to my mind, it is very material. The policy of honorable members generally is, I think, that all lands under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth should be permanently settled. It is necessary to feed our railway lines.
– Under the perpetual lease system, I hope.
– That is what I have in mind. If this Bill be passed without any condition as to the transfer of land to the Commonwealth Government, the Western Australian Administration will take an early opportunity to offer for sale the land along the route.
– Not now. There will be a Labour Government in power there.
– All Governments, when short of money, are liable to be tempted to take advantage of an opportunity to secure revenue by a quick and ready means; and in the circumstances I have stated this land would be acquired most likely, not by the class of individuals whom we wish to settle along the route, but by speculators “ who would hold it for a rise. This is not a new principle. Railways have been constructed on what is known as the betterment principle in both Victoria and New South Wales. Holders of land in different parts of New South Wales have expressed their willingness to allow their properties to be “ loaded “ in order to indemnify the Government against any loss in constructing a line in their neighbourhood. The same principle has been tried, I am sure, in one form or another in all the States. I ask the Prime Minister to tell us what guarantee he has that the State Governments concerned will grant us all the land necessary for our requirements. The necessary enabling Bill has not yet been passed by the State Parliament of Western Australia, so that there can be nothing in the complaint that the making of this condition would lead to delay in constructing the line. I am sure that the State Government would be so anxious to have the line constructed that it would not be long in determining that it would be in its own interests to meet the Commonwealth by granting a reasonable area to it.
– And also South Australia ?
– The same remark will apply to the Government of South Australia, although I believe that the people of that State are not as anxious for this railway as are the people of Western Australia.
– What is the reason for that opinion ?
– Travelling through South Australia, I have found that many business people there are opposed to an extension of the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie.
– Such an opinion exists only in and about Adelaide.
– That is so. I am speaking of residents of the city which practically controls legislation in South Australia. I agree with the right honorable member for Swan that the construction of this line will be beneficial, to a certain extent, both to the Commonwealth and the States immediately concerned. That, however, may be truly said of any line of railway .proposed to be constructed. If it were proposed to build this line merely to link up the railway systems of South Australia and Western Australia, I think we should be slow in passing this Bill. It is because we know that the railway is absolutely necessary for defence purposes that we are supporting it. I suggest to the honorable member for Parkes that he alter his amendment by providing that the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia shall consent to a reservation, not of 25 miles of country on each side of the line, but of 10 or 12 miles on each side.
– I am not wedded to the reservation mentioned in my amendment.
– A reservation of 10 or 12 miles on each side of the line would be reasonable, and we should be justified in asking for it in the interests of the people of Australia as a whole, who will have to finance this project. The Prime Minister told us that there would be granted to the Commonwealth an area sufficient to meet the requirements of those who will have to live along the line to maintain it - that sufficient land would be given to enable them to graze their live stock - but the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia might regard as altogether unreasonable what the Prime Minister considered necessary for that purpose. I ask the Committee to consider this matter very seriously. If the Prime Minister will give us an assurance that he has already received from the Governments concerned a guarantee that such a reservation as I have suggested will be made the position will be simplified, and the taxpayers of the Commonwealth will be satisfied that we are not taking upon ourselves an enormous expenditure merely to benefit two States at the expense of the remaining States of the Union. Such a feeling would give rise to the cry of ‘ ‘ State rights “ more than would anything else of which I have heard. I hope that before we proceed to a division we shall have a statement in this regard either by the Prime Minister or one of his colleagues.
– The statement made by the honorable member for Fremantle that the Government of Western Australia had made an offer to the South Australian Government to construct that portion of the line between Kalgoorlie and the South Australian border certainly came as a surprise to me. The honorable member said that the offer had been repeatedly made, and had been renewed only a few months ago.
– That being so, I do not know why we are to construct the line.
– Why is it necessary for the Commonwealth to step in and undertake the whole of this costly work when the Western Australian Government is willing to construct some hundreds of miles of the line? The honorable member for Fremantle is not given to the making of statements without foundation, and I should like to ask the Minister oT Home Affairs if this offer has come under his notice?
– It is quite true that the offer has been made.
– Then, why should the Commonwealth be saddled with the whole cost of this undertaking?
– The Government that made the offer is now out of office.
– But it was in office when this Bill was introduced, so that the honorable gentleman’s reply is simply an evasion of a very pertinent question.
– Tine Western Australian Government knew that it was a perfectly safe challenge.
– It was not a challenge, but an offer to undertake its share of a mutually beneficial work. ‘ At all events, if it was prepared to construct the line from Kalgoorlie to the South Australian border there is no reason why it should not be allowed to do so, even if the South Australian Government is unwilling to construct that portion extending from Port Augusta to the Western Australian border.
– We could then limit our expenditure to the cost of making a line from Port Augusta to the Western Australian border.
– Does the honorable member think that that would be a good business proposition? We wish to obtain traffic for the railway, and Kalgoorlie is a great city.
– The traffic will be the same, whether the line is constructed by the States or by the Commonwealth.
– If the Commonwealth constructed only that portion between Port Augusta and the Western
Australian border, the terminus of its” line would be in a wilderness, instead of in a great city.
–If the Government, of Western Australia is willing to extend its railway to the South Australian border, and the Government of South Australia will not make the necessary connexion between that point arid Port Augusta, the Commonwealth might well take advantage of the Western Australian offer, and construct the South Australian portion itself. In this way it could save millions.
– The saving would be enough to cover the cost of the conversion to a uniform gauge.
– Undoubtedly. It is a better business proposition to do what I suggest than to needlessly spend ,£5,000,000 or £6,000,000 on a line which Western Australia is prepared to construct. The information regarding the willingness of Western Australia to do this has been sprung on the Committee by the honorable member for Fremantle. During all the months that negotiations have been proceeding no inkling of it has leaked out.
– It was in the Western Australian newspapers.
– Those newspapers are not generally read by any one but the representatives of the State, and do not circulate beyond its boundaries, although copies may be found on obscure files in our library and elsewhere.
– The Premier of Western Australia said that if the Premier of South Australia would agree, he would be perfectly willing to build his portion of the line, that is, to the border between the two States.
– Then why not let him do so, and confine our expenditure to the construction of the South Australian portion, if the Government of South Australia is unwilling to undertake the work? I am sorry that the Prime Minister was not present when the honorable member for Riverina was addressing the Committee, because he asked questions which need to be answered. I am in thorough agreement with him on this matter. I shall support the amendment of the honorable member for Parkes, .subject to certain modifications. It is, perhaps, too much to ask for a reservation of 25 miles on each side of the route, although the Western Australian Government, according to nay recollection, agreed to such a reservation when the Survey Bill was before the Federal Parliament, but it would be wise to stipulate for at least 5 miles. We know what evils have sprung from the failure of State Governments to make reservations along their railway lines, and we should avoid them in regard to Commonwealth construction. The right honorable member for Swan, when first proposing a survey of the. route - I think in 1904 - told us that the Western Australian Government would undertake to make a reservation of 25 miles on each side, and I believe we were also told that the’ South Australian Government was prepared to make a similar offer.
– Who made that statement? No one from South Australia!
– Speaking from memory, it was made by the honorable member for Grey. I will look it up later. In any case,, the Western Australian offer should hold good. The survey was agreed to on the strength of that offer. Many honorable members would have voted against it had not the undertaking referred to been made. Now, however, the right honorable member seems to want to wriggle out of the bargain, which is neither a proper nor a dignified course. The construction and maintenance of the line will involve the Commonwealth in a very heavy expenditure, and we should be able to recoup ourselves as much as possible by using as much of the land along the : route as may be suitable for purposes of settlement to. provide traffic for the line.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the construction of the line?
Mr.- W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.- I have said that I regard it as necessary for defence. .In the light of .Lord Kitchener’s report, no one can come to any other conclusion.. But the fact that the work is urgent is not a reason why we should not endeavour to save unnecessary expense and to obtain as good a return as possible. Unless steps are taken immediately to prevent it, the . land speculator, as soon as this Bill becomes an Act, will get ahead of the settlement, “ and buy up the land along the route of the proposed railway, thereby reaping all the advantages of the increment of value, due entirely to public expenditure, while yielding to the Commonwealth nothing in’ return. This will be against the public interest. The land may not . be fit for settlement ; it may be a. barren waste, . assome honorable members say. If so, the
Western Australian Government will be giving up nothing of any value, and can have no valid reason for objecting to give the Commonwealth a reservation. If, on the other hand, the land is valuable, suitable for settlement, and not the barren waste which it has been described to be, nothing is more certain than that land speculation will be promoted immediately the line is constructed. The land will be brought; into the market, and the Western Australian and South Australian Governments will then reap the immediate revenue, and the land speculator the subsequent profit,; from the accruing value given to the land by Commonwealth expenditure. If it is fair to use the money of the taxpayers of all the States to construct, through South Australian . and Western Australian territory, a line which admittedly will benefit both those States far more than any other part of Australia, then it is fair and reasonable that the Commonwealth should get a quid pro quo, and be allowed to reap some benefit that may be derived from the increment of value attaching to the land as the result of the expenditure upon the railway, and to relieve, to some extent, the. heavy burden of cost imposed on the general, taxpayer. I hope the Prime Minister and the other members of the Government Have hot come to a fixed determinaHon not to seriously consider the proposal of the honorable member for Parkes, or at least some modification of it. I trust they will give it further consideration beforedeciding. We should profit by the experience we have had of the evil effects of land monopoly, through the negligence ‘ of State Governments in the construction of their railways, particularly the main trunk lines, and see that the Commonwealth does not suffer in a similar- way by- the expenditure of public money to enrich private in.dividuals .through land speculation and land .monopoly. This expenditure, sooner or later, is going to result in an increment pf land values that belong naturally .’ and properly to the whole people.
– The Committee should look very carefully at the amendment, because it is liable to be’ led away by- an enthusiasm engendered by trie very’ forcible advocacy of -what I call State rights by honorable members on the other side of the House. _ The doctrine that railways should be built by syndicates to be recouped by land grants is not new. It is not a new proposition that railways should be built- by the State, and that land should be reserved to recoup the State the cost of construction. In fact, South Australia did it with regard to the Pinnaroo railway. The Upper House in South Australia had its doubts - I give them credit for what I believe was their honest intention in the matter-as to whether the rainfall would be sufficient to allow of that country being opened up successfully. The novelty of the amendment, and of the arguments put forward in support qf it, is that honorable members who are responsible for it are acting very kindly and generously with a lot of land that does not belong to them. This is the Commonwealth Parliament, and we ought to look at the matter from an Australian point of view.
– Then the Australian people as a whole ought to reap the benefit of the increment of land values.
– I do not object to their doing that, if it is brought about in a straightforward and honest way ; but this proposal does it in a very dishonest manner. The land does not belong to the Commonwealth at present.
An Honorable Member. - It ought to.
– I might say that all the railways in Australia ought to belong to the Commonwealth, but they do not. If honorable members are so anxious to apply this principle they will have an ample opportunity to reserve as much land as they like when dealing with the railway in the Northern Territory, because there the land does belong to the Commonwealth. I believe that equity and justice will guide the Committee in coming to a decision on this matter. My chief objection is not to the proposal in the abstract. I am thoroughly in favour of a line being constructed on this principle, and always have been; but unless much stronger arguments than I have heard to-night are put forward, I am not going to do an injustice to Western Australia or to my own State. The lands do not belong to the Commonwealth, and I do not think we have a right to interfere in this manner with them.
– Where is the injustice to Western Australia?
– We are asked to interfere with the lands of Western Australia without the permission of the Western Australian people. We might just as well legislate to take money out of other people’s pockets.
– The proposal is simply that if they do not grant us the land we will not build the railway. It is optional for them.
– We are not bound to build the railway, but what is the reason that we are proposing to build it? I take it that this is an intelligent Parliament, who would not be dealing with the Bill without good reason. It is because there has grown up an Australian sentiment which says that the west shall be linked with the east. Whether honorable members believe in it or not, there is such a thing as an Australian sentiment, and we are legislating partly, although not wholly, on this matter in consequence of it. There are other reasons, including those of defence. One of the ablest military men in the Empire advised us that certain1 military railways should be constructed. We have not the advantage of an exhaustive scheme on the subject before us, but that is no reason why we should not go on with this particular line. Whatever may be the views of ‘individual States in regard to the matter, ‘the guiding principle that must actuate this House is the consideration of Australian interests first. We must preserve those interests, and act with a sense of justice and equity ; but I challenge the honorable members promoting the amendment to show any principle of justice or equity in such a proposal imposing a condition affecting the lands of Western Australia and South Australia. If we were dealing with our own land, it would be a different matter, and I should then be prepared to go as far as any honorable member. I am certainly inclined to think that the work will not be reproductive for some years to .come; but there have been some advantages, such as Inter-State Free Trade, gained through the creation of the Commonwealth. We have a growing Australian sentiment, and we must expect to pay for these things somehow. Undoubtedly the connecting of the east and the west by a railway will have a great effect, and must be ascribed to the creation and growth of the Commonwealth. For my part, I feel that we are practically compelled to go on with the work. I admit that there is one proposal which I should like to make. The Government certainly ought to approach both the States concerned, and ask that the lands adjacent to the railway should not be made a happy hunting ground for speculators. I do not think the South Australian Government would object to a proposal of that character. It is a secondary consideration whether the money that will accrue if these lands are protected against seizure by speculators goes into the pockets of the Federal Government or of the State Governments.
– Are not these lands tied up already by lease for forty-two years ?
– Most of it is tied up in that way in South Australia.
– I believe that is so; but there is in South Australia a power of resumption for public purposes, and it is very likely that the opinion of the law officers would be that a railway o’f this character would be a public purpose. What we are primarily concerned about is that these lands should not fall into the hands of speculators, to their gain and to the detriment of the public, lt is the public interest that we are guarding in any case, and I do not think the two States concerned will refuse to do their part in that matter. It is one thing to approach a State in a friendly, way with a suggestion that it should do an act of justice and equity, in the interests of its own people, and of Australians as a whole, and quite another to put in an Act of Parliament a provision that we shall take possession of land belonging to the States, and dictate how it shall be dealt with. That would be a piece of impertinence.
– We do not propose to do anything of the kind. We simply . ask them to give the land to us, on condition that we build the line.
– If they do not agree, that means no line.
– I do not charge those who favour the amendment with seeking to hang the Bill up ; but if I were very anxious to delay it, I should certainly strongly support and vote for the amendment. The Western Australian Government - and I do not say this disparagingly - has, in season and out of season, been -very anxious for the construction of the line, and might even be prepared to go with the Minister in spite of the way in which we :should have loaded the measure. It is passible, on the other hand, that the South Australian Government would not be so prepared ; but I do not care so much about -.that. We have to build the railway, “because we are an Australian Government; and we ought to proceed on lines of equity. Seeing that we have not the land, we have no right to put a proviso of this character in the Bill, or to look at the matter so narrowly, and from merely a money point of view. Before many years, or, at all events, many generations, have passed, the whole of Australia will, I think, be under one Government ; and there will be no need for a lot of worry as to whether one State has got the better of another to the extent of a few thousand pounds. If the honorable member for Parkes would propose a similar amendment in connexion with the Northern Territory railway, where the land is our own, he will not find me opposing him. My objection to the amendment now is on the principle of equity and justice ; because the moment we depart from that principle we are liable to get into deep water.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh is to be congratulated on his effort to restore this debate to the plane it ought to occupy, and below which, to a very considerable extent, it has been brought by the amendment of the honorable member for Parkes. It is rather surprising to see the remarkable agility shown by some honorable members in discarding their coat of nationalism for one of provincialism; and we have seen many changes of the kind during this debate. I desire the Com,mittee to regard this as a national proposal ; to remember that Western Australia does not stand to gain everything from the construction of the line, and that the Western Australian people have regarded it all along as very largely a national question. There are provincialists in Western Australia as in the other States who do not want this line; and they are by no means few in number. It is due largely to the fact that Western Australia has been settled from the eastern States that there has been such a strong and insistent cry for the construction of the line as a national measure; and their feeling is based very largely on sentiment after all.
– Are they as keen on it as they were?
– There is no doubt they are not so keen as they used to be. The facilities for travelling by sea are very much improved ; and people from the eastern States have discovered that Western Australia is by no means such an objectionable country to live in. Even residents on the gold-fields find that there are spots in the State where holidays can be enjoyed, with a climate and scenery perhaps better than can be easily found in the eastern States. I am at a loss to- understand whether some honorable members who support this amendment are quite in earnest j certainly some of their arguments are of a rather humorous character. The principal contention of thehonorable member for Lang is very amusing.” He says that because South Australia has- refused to construct her portion of the line the Commonwealth ought to construct it. - Inferentially, he gives us to understand that all that it is necessary for Western Australia to “do in order to have the Commonwealth” construct her portion is to refuse to have anything further to do with the matter. The honorable member for Lang would then become as ardent a nationalist in–’ connexion with the Western Australian portion as he has already evinced himself with regard. to the South Australian portion. Then the honorable member for Riverina Uses as an argument the fact that Western Australia in the past constructed two of her principal lines on the land grant method. But those. lines were constructed solely and simply for the benefit of that State; they were” in no sense national, but were provincial lines. I have yet to learn that this Parliament has turned its back entirely on the national question involved in the construction of this railway, and regards it as purely for the benefit of Western Australia.. The lines -constructed on the land grant principle were of necessity built- by that means. At that time, over twenty years ago, it would have been a matter of extreme difficulty for, the State to- have raised the necessary money. Since then, and as soon, as the State found itself in a position to go on the. money market of the world, and borrow at a reasonable -rate, .Western Australia has constructed her lines without any reference to the land grant system, which, indeed, has been found anything but an- advantage to the State. It seems to me. that the honorable member for Parkes has launched his amendment “with less forethought and consideration than he usually gives to such subjects. I am doubtful whether he is not, for once, posing as a humorist, “ and does not intend the amendment quite- seriously. However, as he has put forward some alleged arguments in support of it, perhaps it would not be out of place if I spent a few minutes in “endeavouring to traverse them. He contends that this land will be given its entire value by reason of this railway. But any one who is at all conversant with the position of- the gold-field towns in Western Australia, and regards them in connexion with the proposed route’,, will understand that a very’ considerable proportion of the value of the lands along the line ‘will accrue by reason of the proximity of the gold-fields market - perhaps one of the best in the world for all kinds of produce. If that be so, would it not be fair to consider what proportion of the revenue derived from those lands ought’ to be returned to Western Australia?; Again, we are asked to secure 25 miles on either side of the railway, making a total area along the whole length of the line of 33,600,000 acres. Is that a reasonablerequest to make? If we value the land at 2s. 6d. an acre - a very low estimate, ‘indeed, of its value - it will represent no less than ,£4,200,000. If we take the value of the land at .5s. per acre, which I believe to be a fair estimate,: the proposal means that a sum of no less, than £8,400,000 is demanded from the States pf Western Australia ‘and South Aus+ tralia.. These figures should of themselves be sufficient to dispose of the amendment of the honorable member for Parkes. We are asked to demand 25 miles of land on” either side of the line for the Commonwealth, and the line is to start from Kalgoorlie and go inland. I wish to know whether the honorable member for Parkes proposes that we should ask for land 25: miles to the north and to the south of the line, in the immediate neighbourhood ofKalgoorlie, that great city, with its magnificent asset of gold mines? Is that land to be a portion of the plunder the honor-: able member proposes to secure for the Commonwealth ? The value of the pro-* posed concession is mounting up as we examine it, and the bargain proposed is shown to be a very remarkable one indeed. , The proposition has” only to” be considered in this light to disclose its utter absurdity. But there’ are other considerations of a. broader character which must not be lost sight of. .If we are. going to insist on the transfer to the Commonwealth of 25, ot even 10, miles of (and on either side of this railway, that must be taken as a prece-dent in connexion with the construction o£ other lines of a similar character in Australia. When we widen the gauge, for in-, stance, from Wallangarra to Brisbane te* the 4-ft. 8L-in., or 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, as the case may be, the Commonwealth will be entitled, on the same reasoning, to some of the territory on either side of that line.In this connexion also, we should remember that, in all probability, we shall build” a line in New South Wales from the Federal
Capital Territory to the coast, and on this precedent, were it adopted, it would be fair to demand 25 miles, more or less, as the case may be, of land on either side of that line. There is no doubt that the arguments in support of such a proposal that apply to this transcontinental line would apply with equal force to a line through New South Wales territory from the Federal Capital Territory to the coast. If this precedent is established in this case, I trust the Government will take action to see that it is applied all round; and if they do not, I shall be glad to give what assistance I can to make it apply in the cases I have mentioned. My last argument on the matter is the most important of all. If this amendment be carried, we shall practically create a. new Commonwealth Territory within Australia. I care not whether 25 or only 10 miles on either side of this line 5s secured in the way proposed, we must take over all the responsibility connected with its ownership. If we are going to settle jt, we must provide schools for the settlers’ children, and police to secure obedience 1o the. law within this territory. Are we going to. take over these lands, and then expect the Government of WesternAustralia and of South Australia to supply schools for our settlers and police to secure obedience to our laws?
– We are doing that in the Northern Territory and in the Capital site area.
– We are doing it in the Northern Territory of necessity; but I ask whether it is wise or prudent of this Parliament to acquire another territory of this kind, and, perhaps, several more, if this proposal is to be regarded as a precedent, involving the creation of a Lands Department of the Commonwealth, and of every other department of government necessary in connexion with the settlement and development of the appropriated territory? If the proposal is looked at in a common-sense way, its absurdity and impracticability become at once apparent ; and I hope the Committee will give it a very short shrift and will get on with the Bill.
– I concur in the remarks of the last speaker. I do not know whether it is the intention of the honorable member for Parkes to kill this Bill ; but I cannot think that the amendment, if carried, could have any other result.
– The idea is to establish a principle which may afterwards be extended to the Canberra district.
– One of the most enthusiastic opponents of the application of the principle to the Canberra district would certainly be the honorable member for Parkes. The honorable gentleman is a great believer in reserving for the Commonwealth a strip of country 25 miles on either side of a Federal railway, so long as it is not in New South Wales. I invite’ honorable members to consider the change which this proposal, if carried into effect, would make in the map of South Australia. The honorable member for Parkes is asking that the people of that State should give up to the Commonwealth a territory very much larger in area than the whole of Tasmania. They have already given up the ‘Northern Territory.
– Given it up?
– Well, we were under no obligation to take it. I suppose that when it is proposed later on to connect the south with the north, through the Northern Territory, a demand will be made for 25 miles of land on each side of that line. That will involve the acquisition by the Commonwealth of another territory larger than Tasmania ; and by that time there will not be very much of South Australia left.
– This proposal is in the direction of Unification.
– It is Unification; but it is very strange that such a proposal should come from the honorable member for Parkes. I suppose that the honorable member is regarded as the one man in this Chamber who can boast most loudly of his consistency. On social questions we know that his opinions have never changed.
– No ; I understand he is going to join Peter Bowling.
– Well, the honorable member might, perhaps, be induced to support Unification, but 1 cannot believe that he would be. connected with Socialism in the way that the honorable member for Nepean suggests. It is proposed that the Commonwealth shall secure from two States territory equal in area to more than twice the size of Tasmania, or to two-thirds the size of Victoria. By the adoption of this amendment, we should ask for the transfer of 53,000 square miles of country to the Commonwealth. That would be a very good way of . destroying the measure, but as . I am not. in favour of doing that, I shall vote against the amendment. The only reason I have heard suggested for this amendment is that it would give us an excellent opportunity to proceed with the principle of land nationalization. Again, I look at the honorable member for Parkes. Is he to be the founder of a system that will give us land nationalization in Australia ?
– I am afraid that the honorable member himself does not believe in land nationalization.
– Indeed, I do ; but I am disposed to think, particularly after yesterday’s vote, that the principle of land nationalization would probably be as safe in the Parliament of Western Australia as it would be in this Parliament if the honorable member and his friends succeeded, as they hope to succeed, at .the next general election. The suggestion is that we should take over this land in order to prevent the new Labour Government in Western Australia from joining with the Labour Government in South Australia in’ handing it over to speculators. In other words, the honorable member for Parkes wants to stop the Labour Government in each of those States from handing over public lands to speculators ! This is, indeed, one of the most . pathetic spectacles we have witnessed in this Parliament. If there were any chance of securing such a territory as that for which the honorable member asks, I have no doubt that we should not have a man of the stamp of the Minister of Home Affairs opposing this amendment. I believe, as a matter of fact, .that the proposal originated, not with the honorable member for Parkes, but with the Minister himself.
– No; we discussed it together in this House about nine years ago.
– So that we have a new Fusion. Every great reform was perhaps the single thought of some humble individual, and one wonders what humble individual was responsible for this great idea.
– They are both humble.
– I am satisfied with that which is actually to be done. The Bill, as it stands, gives the Minister ample power to secure such reservations as are necessary for the purposes of the construction, maintenance and working of the railway.
– That provision is not worth the paper it is printed on.
– It means exactly what it says, and that is that the construction of the railway shall not be commenced until the States concerned have granted, or agreed to grant, to the satisfaction of the Minister, such lands as are, in his opinion, necessary for the construction, maintenance and working of the line.
– I am surprised that the honorable member, as a lawyer, is satisfied with such indefinite language.
– There is nothing indefinite about the provision. There can be no doubt that the Minister will be inclined to ask for a large rather than a small area. No one has ever accused him of having small ideas in regard to the reservation or possession of land. I have never heard that the Minister has ever gone in for anything small, either for himself or the country. If his proposal in regard to the acquisition of land for additions to the General Post Office, Sydney, may be taken as an indication of what he thinks necessary in this case, honorable members who are supporting this amendment ought to be satisfied with the clause as it stands.
– Why not define the limitations of the land to be secured for the purposes mentioned in the Bill?
– If we knew the country we might do something in that direction ; but we cannot when we know so little of it. No doubt substantial areas will be required.
– Hear, hear !
– The difference between the amendment and the clause as it stands is that under the latter we do not propose to take any land to pay us for constructing this railway. We take upon ourselves the work of constructing the line. The question raised by the amendment is whether or not we are to demand that the States shall repay us the cost. Are we going to demand that they shall hand over to the Commonwealth an area so large that, if we sold it at 2s. 6d. per acre, we should make a profit out ‘of the transaction ?
– The amendment would insure development of the country.
– I do not know that it would.
– We have no proof that either South Australia or Western Australia will develop- the country through which the line is to pass.
– I am not sure that we have any proof that the Commonwealth will do so. If the pace at which we are developing the Northern Territory at the present time may be taken as a criterion, we have nothing to boast of. Honorable members must recognise that we have our hands pretty full at the present time of developmental work. I believe that the construction of this line is essentially a Commonwealth work ; and that we should undertake the responsibility of financing it ourselves, instead of demanding from the States immediately affected a very handsome payment for that which we propose to do.
.- I am inclined to view the proposal for the appropriation of a portion of the land on either side of the railway, as contemplated by the amendment, as being rather a retrograde movement. In the early stages of the development of Australia it was found necessary, in order to meet the needs of the country for the construction of railways, to make large grants of land to capitalists. But when the States became Strong enough the whole work of construction was undertaken as a national proposition, and the practice of making grants to capitalists was abandoned. The amendment appears to me to be in the nature of a reinstatement of the old land-grant system, which was long ago discarded. When a State or Commonwealth undertakes an important work of this kind, it should, in my opinion, consider solely the merits of the question, wholly apart from any advantage which might be derived by the appropriation of adjacent land. A number of changes have been made in the system of railway construction in Australia. In many instances States have insisted that land-owners through whose property a railway was to be carried, should contribute to the cost, or should make up any deficiency that might arise. Land-owners have also been called upon to provide the land necessary for the construction of a railway. That the land for such a purpose should be provided by owners who will benefit, seems to me to be fair, but I have always thought that the principle of compelling persons whose land abutted on railways, to provide for a deficiency was wrong. Exactly the same consideration applies to this Western Australian railway. If we believe that the railway should be built on national grounds, it is our duty to construct it, altogether irrespective of the settlement of the land on either side. Unless we think that the States concerned are incapable of settling those lands, there is no justification for asking them to surrender a portion to us. If there be any advantage in the construction of national railways, it is that the whole financial strength of the Government will be used for the purpose of pushing railway communication through sparsely-settled districts in order to encourage development, or to link up one portion of the country with another. Railways of this kind should be constructed on their merits as national highways, either for developmental purposes, or for the promotion of closer communication. For my own part, I wish that the States themselves had undertaken the construction of the line. I should have liked to see them exercise some of that self-sacrifice which has been exhibited by other States in pushing forward our railway communication. In that respect Western Australia and South Australia are about to secure a very much larger percentage of Commonwealth money than any other State in Australia has yet received. But we have now reached a stage in the history of Australia when, for defence purposes, it has become absolutely necessary that we should link up settlement, and thus assure the integrity of Australia.
– Which is the more urgent from a defence point of view - the construction of the railway in contemplation, or the line through the Northern Territory ?
– From a defence point of view it is the first duty of the Commonwealth Parliament to link up those settlements that have become wealthy, strong and populous. I think there can be no doubt that, if an enemy were to come to Australia, he would in the first instance endeavour to force his way into those centres where accumulated wealth is to be found. Therefore, it is the duty of the Commonwealth Parliament to link up those States which have already undertaken developmental works on their own account, and in which there is an accumulation of population’. The populous centres of Australia are entitled to inter-communication.
– The honorable member is speaking in entire opposition to the reports of Lord Kitchener and Admiral Henderson.
– This is only a beginning - a section of the larger scheme which has been advocated by Lord Kitchener in respect of the defence of the whole continent. Lord Kitchener views this question of defence from the point of view of the whole of Australia: But he is well aware that a country consisting of 3,000,000 square miles cannot be linked up by. railways at once. It is a matter of- time. It is true that defence, from the stand-point of the National Parliament, is the first consideration. But one of the greatest necessities from the defence point of view is to push our railways throughout the continent, and thereby assist in its development. Outside the cardinal motive for defence, however, there lies the fact that the Western Australian people by their own exertion, and by the expenditure of public and private money, have developed a considerable portion of their State, which entitles them to claim that they, shall have direct communication by railway with the populous eastern States. I think that this railway should be built on its merits, and that we should trust the State Parliaments concerned to carry on developmental work along the route in the same way as they have developed other portions of their territories during the short period of their history.. Therefore, I am reluctantly bound to state that I shall have to oppose the amendment ‘ of the honorable member for Parkes.
– The last speaker has risen- to the occasion. I have heard sometimes of the national view in relation to this measure, and the honorable member has expressed it. Honorable members, since the introduction of this Bill, have repeatedly urged that the railway is necessary for the defence of the country. I take it that such is the case. But if the amendment of the honorable member for Parkes be carried, it simply means the wrecking of the measure. There can be no escape from that conclusion. Honorable members opposite have been talking about the betterment principle. We have been rather accustomed to hear a betterment tax advocated by honorable members on this side of the chamber. But what is a betterment tax? It means that if a railway is’ constructed, a special tax should be levied on those landowners who are immediately benefited by it; in order to’ make up the difference between ‘ revenue and expenditure. That’ is really what the betterment tax amounts to. In this case there is no private land’ on which ‘ to ‘ levy a betterment tax. South ‘Australia and Western Australia own the “whole of the territory which the railway will ; traverse-. Consequently, the question of the -private’ land speculator and the unearned increment which he is going to reap by the construction of -the line at the cost of the Commonwealth disappears at once. Whilst this land belongs to the two States, and whilst we have heard so much in the past in regard to State rights and the necessity for protecting them, we now find that an attempt is made to filch from the States, that which belongs to them. I have worked out the figures, and find that no less than 34,016,000 acres of land are covered by the amendment. That is considerably more than one-half of the area of Victoria. It is proposed to politely ask the Governments of the two States interested to hand over to the Commonwealth 25 miles of land on each side of the route. I think that honorable members must realize that that cannot be expected. They must know that to carry the amendment means to shelve the measure. They cannot play with a proposal of this; kind in that way.
– The honorablemember seems very confident about the matter.
– Yes ; and the honorable member is equally confident that no; State is likely to grant such an immense territory to the Commonwealth for the purpose of a railway. Suppose that we take the value mentioned by the honorable member for Perth, namely, 5s. per acre. It means that the land demanded is worth £6,803,000. It is proposed to ask the two States to build a railway which will cost us .£4,000,000, and then to. claim that we built it when practically we shall have got 50 per cent, above the cost from the States. There is another view to take; The land which the line will traverse is. claimed to be poor land, that is, not equal to the best agricultural land, and consequently the honorable member for Perth fixes its value at 5s. per acre.
– The honorablemember for Wimmera has said that it. takes 35 acres to feed a sheep.
– That makes myposition all the better. If we are to take- 25 miles of this class of land on each Si deof the route, where does the. argument comein that the Governments of the two Stateswill reap any benefit? If a man has tocart his produce for 20 or 30 miles to arailway station, and the Commonwealthholds 25 miles of country on each side of” the route, it stands to reason that the twoStates will get no benefit at all. Nosettler can take up this class of country at a distance of 25 miles from the railwayand make a living. The line will not get any produce ‘to- carry, and will have tei. depend upon the States building feeders in order to produce settlement.
– There will be settlement within25 miles of the route, surely.
– If we take the land for 25 miles on either side of the route, and settlement takes place within that area, the Commonwealth will get the whole of the benefit of constructing the line, and the two States will get no advantage. On the other hand, they will have to give up 25 miles of country on each side of the route. That is the position.
– It is a good bargain.
– If honorable members want to defeat the Bill, let them carry the amendment, and they will succeed. I am as strong a land nationalist as is any one, but I can see the difference between private persons holding land and the people themselves doing so. In this case, the land belongs to the people, and what is more, the Government which has just been returned in Western Australia to cope with land alienation is not likely to alienate land. Consequently, there can Joe no fear, as far as the people are concerned. Their rights will be amply protected by passing the Bill as it is. It can be safely left to the Minister to do what is right in the interests of the Commonwealth. I believe with the honorable member for Werriva that the Minister will drive the best bargain he can for the Common- wealth. I am one of those who believe that the day has arrived when we should make this provision for the defence of Australia. We can never tell the day when something may happen. Nobody thought a few weeks ago that a war would be in progress to-day ; it broke out quite suddenly, and that may happen again. We have to get our house in order. We ought to look at this question from a national point of view and not from a State point of view. Whilst honorable members are always crying out in regard to the interests of their particular States, every one seems to lose sight of the main question when it does not affect His own State. I hope that the Committee will rise to the occasion and realize that the carrying of this amendment will mean the shelving of the Bill. Therefore, in the interests of the Commonwealth, the proposal should be rejected so that we can make necessary provision for the defence of Australia.
– The amendment in the form in which it is brought before the Committee is defec tive, I think, in two respects. First it is defective because it demands a great deal too much land, and secondly, it has almost the greater defect . of demanding a continuous strip of land on each side of the route. AVith regard to the principle involved, I may say at once that I am entirely in accord with the honorable member for Parkes, and if his amendment could be moulded to agree with what seems to me the proper way of giving effect to that principle I for one would be prepared to support him. The area of land demanded ought to be very much less indeed than is proposed, at any rate not more than a strip 10 miles wide, though even that would be large. In regard to the other point which the honorable member for Hunter has just referred to as being equally important, it would be quite impracticable to ask the States to grant any land at all if the grant were to be continuous on each side of the route. AVe cannot expect them to cut themselves off entirely from the railway which they are asked to support, but I do not agree with the honorable member for Wimmera that this is a retrograde step. It is not by any means a retrograde step. It is a most important principle, and one which I hope to see carried into greater effect in building other railways which the Commonwealth will have to undertake. A good deal of ridicule has been thrown upon it by the honorable member for Perth and others by reference to the figures. I have already said that the area demanded is much too large. But suppose that we demand a strip of 10 miles wide on eachside of the route split up appropriately, we should only then be doing what has been done practically throughout the whole of. Canada. It is sometimes supposed that that is unique. It is quite true that the land was in many cases given for the purpose of enabling capitalists to undertake the risks of constructing a new railway. But it must be remembered that we are’ dealing with a business proposition. The construction of this line cannot from my point of view be supported on entirely sentimental grounds. Even on defence grounds I have the greatest doubt as to whether it should, be supported notwithstanding the very eminent authority we have. For tw.or three generations it seems to me that the defence of Australia will rest on the maintenance of the British flag on the ocean, and on that alone.If the Commonwealth provides the whole df the money for. the constructionofthisgreat -work the success of which isvery doubtful from a commercial point of view, it is not unreasonable to submit that it ought to be entitled to some share in the benefits which may arise, and some part in the development of the vast area through which the line will go. I think it is more likely to lead to a successful co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in developing this country than is the proposal that we should simply construct the line and have nothing further to do with it except to run it, and that we should be dependent entirely upon two States for the development and settlement of the land through which it will pass. In this connexion, I wish to point to the experience of Canada, because we cannot afford to disregard the lessons which are to be drawn from the experience of other new countries. Canada has been eminently successful in settling a vast, and what was until a few years’ ago an unknown, territory. Looking at the figures contained in the Canadian Hear-book for 1909, page 348, I find that the area of land with which the various railways of the Dominion have been subsidized is expressed in very large figures. The Canadian Pacific Railway Company has been endowed by the Government with approximately 18,000,000 acres. In addition, there are a large number of other railways throughout Canada of which honorable members, perhaps, have not heard. I confess that I had not heard of many of them. There are the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company, Calgary and ‘ Edmonton Railway Company, the Canadian Northern Railway Company, Canadian Pacific Railway Company, Great North West Central Railway Company, Manitoba and Northwestern Railway Company, Manitoba South-Western Colonization Railway Company, Manitoba and South-Eastern Railway Company, Qu’ Appelle Long Lake and Saskatchewan Railroad and Steamboat Company, and the Saskatchewan and Western Railway Company, all of which have been endowed with large grants of land for the purpose of aiding them in the development of the country through which their lines pass.
– Is that a good thing for Canada ?
– An excellent thing.
– For the present, but not for the future.
– Opinions may differ as to that. But, during the past ten or twenty years, it has made Canada go ahead by leaps and bounds.
– I must ask the honorable member not to debate the land grant system.
– I shall not be drawn by the interjection of the honorable member for South Sydney outside the scope of the amendment. But I would point out that these lines have received Crown grants fo the extent of 31,000,000 acres from the Dominion Government, and that the railways constructed in Canada have received land grants from the Dominion and Provincial Governments to the extent of 55,000,000 acres.
– This amendment asks for a grant of 33,000,000 acres.
– That is a great deal too much.
– The result is that in Canada the railways own the country and the Government.
– That argument will scarcely apply to this case, because here the railways are in the hands of the Government, a principle of which I heartily approve. I will go so far with the honorable member in the direction of Socialism. These figures show that probably one of the very efficient causes of the immense progress which has been made in Canada during the past ten or fifteen years has been the endowment of railway systems with large grants of land in immediate contiguity to them. The reason is obvious. The success of railways and the development of the areas close to them run together. For this reason, the principle underlying the amendment is an eminently sound one. I hold in my hand the Canadian and Pacific Railway Act of 1881, under which this system was inaugurated in the Dominion. The endowment there granted was 12,500 acres per mile, which is equivalent to a continuous strip 10 miles broad upon each side of that railway. I do not approve of that principle. In any case, there ought to be some division into alternate miles. Of course, honorable members are aware that the largest part of the Canadian Pacific Railway passes through Manitoba and Alberta, which contain rich wheat growing lands, and that further west it traverses cattle raising country. Section 11 of that Act provides -
The grant of land hereby agreed to be made to the company shall be so made in alternate sections of 640 acres each, extending back 24 miles deep on each side of the railway.
That section does not provide for alternate blocks of 640 acres. The stipulated division was effected by taking a strip of country 24 miles deep upon either side of the railway, and chess-boarding it into square blocks of 640 blocks each. The Government took the blocks indicated by odd numbers, and the railway the blocks indicated by even numbers, so that the area was divided just as is a black and white chessboard. I do not suggest the application nf that principle here, because, in most cases, the areas would be much too small.
– They would in the country through which this line will pass.
– I do not think it is possible for us, in the absence of fuller information, to lay down any scheme of division which would be applicable to the various classes of country which the proposed railway will traverse. There is no doubt that in portions of that country the areas would require to be very large indeed, whilst in others they would be comparatively small. What I would suggest is that the honorable member for Parkes should remodel his amendment so as to reduce considerably the area of land asked for - to reduce his proposal to one for 10 miles, or even 6 or 7 miles of country on either side of the projected railway, and to provide for the principle of alternate blocks in some form or another. We should then be in a position to express our opinion upon the principle that is involved in the amendment, and the Government might reasonably be asked to accept the vote of the Committee as either affirming or rejecting that principle. I cannot support the amendment as it stands, but if the honorable member for Parkes will give effect to my suggestions, it should receive the careful consideration of the Committee, and I, for one, should favour its adoption.
.- The two main arguments for the construction of the line are the furtherance of the national sentiment and the provision of defence. It has been understood since the inception of Federation that access by railway would be provided between the eastern and western portions of Australia, and Lord Kitchener and all other authorities have told us that the safety of the Commonwealth depends on the extension of our railways to the west and north. I have the temerity to differ from the honorable member for Flinders, being altogether opposed to the principle underlying the amendment. An attempt is being made to interfere with State rights. Although I am not a State rights’ advocate, as such, I say. that we have no reason for interfering with the powers reserved to the States by the Constitution in regard to public lands. There are many things which the State authorities can do better than the Commonwealth authorities, one being the development of the public lands. Although there was no hint of it in the referenda proposals, it was continually charged against the Labour party during the campaign, and urged as an argument against an affirmative vote, that land nationalization was meant. The proposal of the honorable member for Parkes is, however, the introduction of the thin edge of the wedge. The illustrations showing what has been done elsewhere, particularly in Canada, are beside the question. In this case the States of Western Australia and South Australia are being asked to hand a strip of country to an outside and independent authority. I believe in the betterment principle as applied by the States to developmental railways, but this line is not being built for the purposes of development. That has never been argued.
– The honorable member for Riverina and myself, among others, have said that it’ will develop the country through which it passes.
– That development will be incidental ; the reasons for constructing the line are the two which’ I have mentioned. The application of the betterment principle by a State benefits and protects the interests of the citizens of that State. But what is now proposed is the handing over of State territory to an outside and independent authority. If the Commonwealth is, going to enforce this policy in connexion with all its railways we shall be forced to create, not only a railway department, but a land department, and a land policy. To that I am utterly opposed. It is unnecessary and unreasonable for the Commonwealth to take over the lands of the States. If the acquirement of the lands of the States is contemplated, let it be proposed openly and honestly. Let us declare that we intend to lake from the States their lands and their railways. As to what is done iti Canada, it must be remembered that that country will FUller increasingly as the years go by from the wholesale alienation of her lands; but those lands are not being alienated to an independent authority. The State retains control of them, and of those living on them. Under the proposal of the honorable member for Parkes, however, the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia will have to part with their control over a strip of land running through their territory, and with their control over those living on it. Such an arrangement seems opposed to (he interests of development.
– The National Parliament is gradually assuming a greater control.
– Then let us do it openly, and not in this nibbling fashion. Those of us who are opposed to the amendment must derive considerable satisfaction from the fact that in building the line we are going to do something that is really in the interests of Australia. If Australia stands to gain nothing in pounds, shillings, and pence to recoup the expense of constructing the line, it will gain immensely in the development of Australian sentiment; in the added security of the integrity of the continent, and the increased assets that will be secured to the people as a whole. The suggested quid pro quo to the Commonwealth from the States, because we are building a line not so much for their advantage as for our own national protection, will be best secured, not by a grant of land, but by the advance that will be made in national affairs - the linking up of East and West, and the making of Australians a much more closely-knit people, and of Australia a much more easily defended continent.
– Does not the honorable member believe in the betterment principle?
– Entirely, where one authority is concerned ; but in this case there must almost inevitably be a conflict of authority, or, at any rate, a divided authority, within a State, and, therefore, the bettermen principle would have rather a dividing than a unifying effect. We could not expect the land of any State to develop when subjected to two kinds of authority.
– The Labour party have gone right back on their attitude of a year or two ago on this question”.
– The party who are now supporting the proposal to take land away from two States are the same party that previously charged us with attempting to interfere with the State control of lands and railways. That was their big cry during the referenda, and although we denied that there was any suggestion to that effect, they and their newspapers repeated the statement. A further objection to the amendment is that it would establish a most dangerous precedent. It may be said that it is not much for Western Australia or South Australia to give away cheap and poor land; but if the Commonwealth Government in the future projected a strategic railway, for defence purposes, through New South Wales, Victoria, or Queensland, would a similar proposal be made in regard to it; and, if it were made, would it be entertained for a moment, either by those States themselves, or by their representatives in this Parliament? If the principle is correct in this case, it must be equally correct in the others. But not one of the six States is prepared to part with its land upon any such principle. The provision already in the Bill quite sufficiently covers all that is necessary for the purpose of the railway. It by no means confines the Minister even to territory running exactly parallel to the line. Even that provision may lead to quite unreasonable and dangerous delay before the Minister of Home Affairs and the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia make up their minds as to how much land is necessary. -The Minister’s ideas will be large. There is no risk of his not asking enough, and my fear is that he will ask so much that the State Governments will object. He has already said that he holds similar ideas to those of the honorable member for Parkes.
– I suppose those lands have already been put aside in the survey.
– Probably. At any rate, the clause seems to open the door sufficiently wide to protect the Commonwealth. A demand for 25 miles on each side would jeopardize the Bill, if it did not delay the construction of .the line indefinitely. . In fact, it -would be fatal to the measure, because there would be no hope within the next twenty years of arriving at a settlement.
– The width could be modified materially.
– Even if the claim were reduced to 10 miles on each side,- I would be strongly opposed ‘to it, and I would as strongly oppose, a proposal to take alternate blocks. I do not believe that the Commonwealth- Government should build lines for defence purposes and for linking up the centres ‘of population of the Commonwealth, on the principle ‘ that it should be- paid by the. ‘States for doing it.” We must look at these matters as they concern the’ whole of the people, and not any one State. The adoption of any such amendment would not only indefinitely delay the construction of this line, but would absolutely prohibit the construction of similar lines anywhere in Australia.
Mr.W. ELLIOT JOHNSON (Lang) [10.15]. - The outcry about “killing the Bill “ is very refreshing and amusing, coming as it does from members who, not so long ago, entertained views entirely opposite from those to which they are now giving expression. When the Survey Bill was before us in 1904, a very different attitude was taken up by many honorable members on this side in regard to the proposal ; and there is a remarkable . change, particularly in the attitude of the honorable member for Swan. At that time Mr. Lonsdale represented New England, and in the course of his remarks on the Survey Bill said -
I am prepared to do my best to block this Bill unless one provision of the character I have indicated be inserted in it. It appears to me that the advocates of the measure are prepared to sacrificeevery principle simply to suit the needs of their own States.
To that the right honorable member for Swan replied -
I take no exception to the honorable member’s desire that the States through which the proposed railway will pass should reserve a reasonable area upon each side of it, but I fail to sec how they can do that until the route has been determined. I am sure that if the Ministry make representations upon the subject to the Western Australian Government no difficulty will be experienced in inducing them to give effect to their views.
– That bears out what the honorable member for Parkes has said.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.Exactly, and there was no suggestion then that such a proposal would kill the Bill; but what did the honorable member for Darwin, the present Minister of Home Affairs, say in regard to the amendment then moved by the honorable member for Parkes ? He said -
I think that the House owes a debt of gratitude to the honorable and learned member for Parkes for the splendid suggestion that steps should be taken to secure the reservation of the land along the projected route -
There was then no talk about “ killing the Bill.”
– I knew the honorable rnember for Darwin had said that !
– The honorable member for Darwin went on - because the taxpayers of the Commonwealth will have to pay for the construction of the railway.
The cost will fall, not upon any one member of the community, but upon the whole of the people of the States. Great corporations often secure millions of acres of land on both sides of lines of railways, and locking it up for centuries, prevent settlement along them. If a. private corporation were to obtain a grant of land on each side of this projected railway, the country would probably not be populated for a hundred years. The land would be locked up, just as is the case along some of the railways in the United States of America. I should oppose the selling of the land, but if the suggestion made by the honorable and learned member for Parkes were acted upon, the Commonwealth would be able, by selling the land, to recoup itself in respect of the cost of carrying out the survey, and constructing the line.
And very much more to the same effect. In another portion of his speech the honorable member said -
Those honorable members may disagree on other matters, but they are absolutely united as to the necessity for this line. Why should the Commonwealth not have grants of land in the same way as have private corporations?
Does the Minister of Home Affairs still hold those views, or, if not, what violent eruption has there been in his brain cells to cause him to assume such a different attitude? The honorable member for Perth, who just now was very strong in his denunciation of myself, also took part in that debate. On that occasion I expressed the same views that I have expressed to-day, and this is what I said -
It is only reasonable that the Government should enter into communication with those States, with a view to preserving to the public a certain proportion of the lands on each side of the route surveyed, and so prevent their passing into the hands of private individuals.
To that the honorable member for Perth interjected -
That is practically the policy of Western Australia.
If that is the policy of Western Australia, how does the honorable member reconcile with it the attitude henow takes up? What reason is there to-day that did not exist then for not adopting the policy? At that time Western Austraiian representatives were asking us to vote money for a survey, and they knew that, unless some assurance was given, not a penny would be voted. Now the money has been voted on the assurance that these lands would be reserved, we find an attempt to wriggle out of the compact and put honorable members who voted on the strength of Western Australia’s promises in a false position.
House adjourned at 10.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 October 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19111004_reps_4_60/>.