6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– When is it the intention of the Government to restore the duties which were remitted in consequence of the drought?
– A Minister does not give notice of his intention to reimpose duties, the first intimation of it being a proposal in Committee.
Report of the Public Works Committee regarding additions, alterations, and extensions to the Customs House, Sydney, presented by Mr. Riley, and ordered to be printed.
– As it is rumoured that new regulations are to be made to deal with a reported outbreak of smallpox, will the Minister of. Trade and Customs state what the position is?
– During the last two or three months there has been small-pox at Newcastle, New South Wales, and recently a person came to Melbourne by the Wodonga who, on admission to the Melbourne Hospital, was found to be suffering from small-pox. Of the 160 contacts with this case, 105 have reported to the authorities in compliance with a request published in the press, and the Government is doing all it can do to trace the others. The Victorian Government has asked our Quarantine Department to institute a medical examination for every vessel entering Victorian ports from other States as well as from oversea, it not being’ usual in normal times to subject Inter-State vessels to a rigid medical inspection. Any extra expenditure that may be entailed by compliance with this request will he borne by Victoria; The Queensland Government has asked that similar measures he taken in regard to vessels coming to Brisbane, and I suppose to other ports. The Brisbane examination will take place at the Pile Light instead of at Pinkenbah as hitherto.
– If the New South Wales Government has been given by the Legislature of the State power to deal more effectually with epidemics, will the Minister say what action it has taken to stamp out the present outbreak of smallpox?
– I understand that amending legislation was passed in New South Wales during my previous tenure of office, or while the honorable member was in power.
– Not in my time; though it was promised.
– The Queensland Government telegraphed to the Prime Minister, a fortnight or ten days’ ago, asking that steps be taken to get the New South Wales Government to put its Health Act into operation for the suppression of this outbreak. Of course, we. cannot compel a State Government to take action.
– I understand that it is intended to remove the men in the Newcastle Camp to Sydney, although during the time recruiting was carried on in the Newcastle district from twenty to forty per day were secured. Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence get that honorable gentleman, in the interests of recruiting, to telegraph to New South Wales an instruction stopping the idiotic proceeding now proposed?
– The honorable member must not go beyond a question.
– All I can do is to promise to faring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister
– Is it a fact that the so-called Miners Battalion is being made up of men taken from the Liverpool and other Camps, to the exclusion of Newcastle men well fitted to join it?
– I shall endeavour to reply to the question to-morrow morning.
Report (No. 4) presented by Mr. Bamford, read by the Clerk, and adopted.
The following paper was presented : -
Inter-State Commission Act - Second Annual Report of the Inter-State Commission.
Ordered to be printed.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy if the Minister of Defence has definitely decided to pay to mothers who were absolutely dependent on sons killed in the war pensions at the full rate?
– So far as I know, the War Pensions Act makes provision for that being done.
– Will the honorable gentleman ask the Minister of Defence, where the dependence of the mother has been thoroughly established, to see that a pension is paid at the full rate within a reasonable time? Cases have come under my notice in which there has been a delay of weeks.
– The administration of the War Pensions Act is under the Treasurer.
– Will the Minister for the Navy see that Port Adelaide gets a fair share of the business of supplying the transports which call there 1 I am credibly informed that perishable products are thrown overboard before the vessels arrive at that port.
– I shall endeavour to get a reply to the first part of the honorable member’s question.
– What I desire is that the Minister should see that Port
Adelaide gets a fair share of the trade in perishable products. If these are in such a state as to have to be thrown overboard, it is only fair that Port Adelaide should have a fair share of the trade,
– I see no objection to complying with the honorable gentleman’s request.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral, in filling some of the important positions open in the Postal Department to electrical engineers, take care, as a true Australian, that Australian engineers are given a fair opportunity, so as to do away with the necessity of importing men ?
– Wherever it does not affect the efficiency of the Department, I shall endeavour to do what the honorable member suggests.
– The other day I asked the Minister for the Navy a question regarding the outbreak of measles at the camp at Armidale. Has the honorable gentleman any information to give us t
– I have the information here, and will give it to the House later on.
– When in a tram car this morning, I noticed no less than four advertisements informing the public that voting on the referenda will take place on the 11th December, . and that voting is compulsory under a penalty of £1. In the same car there was one advertisement relating to recruiting, published by the Parliamentary Committee which has that matter in hand. Is it the intention of the Minister of Defence to advertise recruiting as widely as, apparently, the referenda is being advertised in public vehicles 1
– So far as I know, recruiting has been advertised practically in every newspaper in Australia. Recruiting has been given great prominence.
– Is the Commonwealth Government co-operating with the Governments of the wheat States in regard to shipping facilities for the harvest, and to financing the unshipped “wheat for which space cannot be obtained, pending the completion of some reasonable arrangement ?
– The Commonwealth and the States are conferring this afternoon in relation to this matter. Until the labours of the Conference are concluded I am unable to give the honorable gentleman the information desired.
– Is it the intention of the Defence Department to give contracts to Kidman and Company after the recent scandals in the Courts of New South Wales?
– I think the House can rely on the Minister of Defence doing the correct thing at the opportune time.
– Is it the intention of the Defence Department to strike Messrs. Kidman and Company off the contractors’ list?
– So far as I know, the Navy Office has had no transactions with Messrs. Kidman and Company.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral taken advantage of the presence in Melbourne of Ministers of the Crown from Western Australia, to endeavour to make some arangement by which the mails may be carried over the railways in the country districts of that State?
– The whole question will be gone into by the Western Australian Minister of Works and myself in the early part of next week, when we hope to arrive at some solution.
– Is it a fact that the railway authorities in the various States are charging the Commonwealth £7 10s. per ton per mile for mail matter ?
– I am sorry to say that the agreement which was entered into nearly eight years ago for a term of four years, and which was renewed for a similar term that has not yet expired, does contain a provision of that kind. The Department has already given twelve months’ notice, as it has power to do under a clause of the agreement, to terminate the present arrangement, with a view to arriving at one more fair and equitable.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mr. Ozanne’s Offer of Services
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Did the Minister for Defence receive a letter from me on 27th September, 1915, offering my services to the Defence Department -
Did he receive a letter from me about 22nd October, 1915, marked “Urgent and Private,” strongly complaining of delay in payments to soldiers and dependants, and offering my services to help re-organize the Department responsible -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
No; but a letter dated 27th August, 1915, was received -
In this great struggle for our existence I feel the call to do my share. It appears to me a peculiar thing to ask others to do what I fail to do myself.
For your consideration I beg to state that for fourteen years I was in charge of one of the largest stores in Australia, that of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works at Werribee. Therein could be found a needle to an anchor. This sewerage farm also carried up to 75,000 sheep, 2,000 head of cattle, and several hundred horses. The accountancy and supervisory work fell to my lot. I also leased from the Board 32 acres of orchard, 44 acres lucerne and prairie grass, 80 acres of grass land, keeping 40 cows in full milk. I simply quote this to show I have some experience of control, both public and private.
In 1908 the Board’s stocktaker specially complimented my Department on its excellent work.
As you know, I gave up this position to enter Parliament.
In 1895 I matriculated at the Melbourne University.
I was a sergeant in the Harbor Trust Garrison Artillery, being complimented by Colonel Hanby, O.C., for high percentages won in battery examinations.
My health is improving, and I feel strong enough to assist where my services might be of value.
The letter concluded with a statement that “If your officers cannot introduce a scheme to make such a muddle impossible, I will be pleased to show them.
Ambulance Driver’s Nationality: Sheepskin Waistcoats : Langwarrin Deserters
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
As provision has already been made for supply by the Department of all warm clothing considered essential for the welfare of the troops, it is not proposed to incur expenditure in the provision of sheepskin waistcoats. It is the intention to leave the supply of such comforts in the hands of Patriotic Committees, who have so willingly contributed same in the past.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether all the soldiers who escaped from Langwarrin have been arrested; if not, how many are still at large, and what steps are being taken to recover them?
– An advertisement was inserted in the metropolitan and provincial press, notifying all concerned that the deserters of Langwarrin Camp must return to Guard Room, Victoria Barracks, not later than 26th October, otherwise full names, addresses, &c, would be published in the press. Seventy men are still at large, and warrants for their arrest have been issued. A few are reporting themselves daily for return to Langwarrin, and all others will be court-martialled. The necessary information for publication is now being prepared, and will be published in a few days.
Expenditure : Gilchrist Charges: Mr. Chinn
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
What has been the expenditure for freight, water charges, sleepers, manufacture of material, and all other charges in connexion with the construction and maintenance of the transcontinental railway (a) in Western Australia; (b) in South Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The total expenditure of the construction of the line to 25th September, 1915, was -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will he give me a copy of the statement of the clerk in the Railway Department in reference to the Gilchrist charges?
– The document is a confidential one, and I do not propose to table it, but any honorable member may see it by calling at the office. I do not know what University teaches that such a document may be placed on a public file.
Trade and Customs during the last twelve months from persons or companies to have their works in Australia appointed places for export under the Commerce Act?
– The following return gives the information desired by the honorable member: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the arrangements made between the Commonwealth and shipping companies for the transport of wheat refer to full cargoes only, and, if so, whether the shippers of part cargoes will be allowed to make their trade arrangements with the companies quite apart from the Commonwealth agreement?
– The freight arrangement covers the whole export of wheat and flour, but facilities are provided for shippers of berth parcels to make arrangements direct with the regular shipping agents.
Breakwaters : Resumption of Land
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether detailed plans for the proposed breakwaters at the Henderson Naval Base have yet been prepared?
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether any settlements have yet been effected in connexion with the land resumption at Cockburn Sound, Western Australia; if not, when it is anticipated a commencement will be made in settling these claims?
– There are a very large number of claims which must be dealt with upon similar lines. Valuations of so many holdings have taken time, but they have now been received, and it is expected that offers will be made to the claimants very shortly.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Government as to the holding of an Imperial Conference early next year t
– No communication has been received recently from the Imperial Government relating to this matter. Some time ago the British Government advised us that the other Dominions agreed in thinking it difficult and undesirable to call the normal meeting of the Conference during the progress of hostilities, but that it was the intention of His Majesty’s Government to consult the Australian Government most fully, and, if possible, personally, when the time arrived, to discuss possible terms of peace.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to grant old-age pensioners resident in State institutions the balance’ of the pension due after making allowance for the amount paid to the State for the support of the pensioner concerned?
– The Government are prepared to give this matter favorable consideration at an early date.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
.- I move-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purpose of a Bill for an Act to authorize the raising and expending of the sum of £18,000,000 for war purposes.
In introducing a further War Loan Bill, I wish to supplement the information given by the Right Honorable Andrew Fisher when, as Treasurer, he made an interim Budget statement on the 12th of August last.
I have followed the example of my predecessor by including in the statement which I am about to read the whole ex penditure on war services, although a certain portion will finally be charged to Loan. The amount of £24,500,000 borrowed from the Imperial Government is, by Act of Parliament, credited to Revenue, but the amounts raised for war purposes in Australia are credited to Loan Funds.
For the sake of clearness I have included all funds raised for war purposes, and all expenditure therefrom in this Statement.
No provision is made in the above for ordinary loan expenditure during the financial year on account of Kalgoorlie railway, conduits, &c, estimated at £3,300,730.
As regards the Customs and Excise revenue, the total receipts for the four months ended 31st October were £5,311,851, as compared with £5,433,114 received in a similar period of last year. The decrease in revenue was £121,263, but this amount is comparatively small, and it is expected that the full estimate for the year will be realized.
The amount to be received during the financial year from income tax has previously been estimated at £4,000,000. After consultation with the Treasury officers, and after careful consideration, 1 have come to the conclusion that it would he unwise to expect to receive more than £3,000,000 from this source.
Two hundred thousand pounds is expected to be received as the profit on silver ( coinage. The demand for silver has been abnormal during the war. Usually the circulation of silver rises when trade is brisk, and falls at other times. Since the war started the demand has been very large. In order to meet the unforeseen requirement, we have arranged with the Imperial Government to mint silver in the Melbourne Mint, the bullion to be purchased locally. The necessary dies will be forwarded here as soon as possible. In order to cope with the Christmas requirements, we have also asked the Imperial Mint to forward £100,000 worth of British silver coin. This was necessary because it has been found impossible for the British Mint to carry out their orders for Australian coin, even with the assistance of the Birmingham Mint, which is probably being used in connexion with the manufacture of munitions.
The principal items of increase in the Estimates for the current year, as compared with the expenditure for 1914-15, are : -
I may mention that the item of £500,000 given as the estimated cost of war pensions is very largely a guess, because of the impossibility of our being able to decide with any certainty what the” war pensions are likely to amount to. It is believed, however, that they will not be far short of half-a-million.
The estimated military expenditure in connexion with the Expeditionary Forces for the year 1915-16 is £38,460,000. Of this sum, approximately £5,000,000 only has been expended during the period July to September, 1915.
The principal reasons why the expenditure for the first quarter is not proportionate to the amount provided for the whole year are: -
Notwithstanding the present comparatively low expenditure, it would not be advisable to reduce the estimated expenditure for the year at this juncture.
The estimate of expenditure for the Expeditionary Forces has been arrived at by taking the strength at the beginning of the year as 80,000, and assuming that it will be increased by 20,000 during the first month and 12.500 per month thereafter, reaching a total of 225,000 in June, 1916.
The principal items of expenditure will be -
Loan Works. Honorable members will notice a footnote in the statement which I have read that no provision is made for ordinary loan expenditure.
The estimated loan expenditure for works during the twelve months ending 30th June, 1916, is: -
With regard to some of the above items, Parliament has not yet been asked to appropriate loan moneys. No expenditure under such heads will be made until an appropriation has been passed. In the case of other items there is a sufficient balance of appropriation to enable payments to be made until Parliament meets in the new year.
Australian Note Fund. The total note circulation on the 25th October was £39,317,000, the amount of gold held being £14,071,000, or 35.79 per cent, of the circulation.
The circulation will be increased in the present financial year by the balance yet to be paid to the various States on account of the loan of £18,000,000, by exchanging notes for gold with the banks in connexion with the arrangement with the banks to take up £10,000,000 in Australian notes for gold, also by advances made in connexion with various public works financed by investing the Notes Account in loan funds, such as the Port Augusta-Kalgoorlie railway, undergrounding telephone lines, &c.
It is expected that the total circulation on the 30th June,. 1916, will be as follows: -
It is therefore probable that on the 30th June, 1916, the total note circulation will be £45,783,000, against which we shall hold gold amounting to £16,837,000, or 36.78 per cent. The legal minimum percentage of gold to notes is, as honorable members are aware, 25 per cent.
In view of the fact that some prominence has been given to the idea of an inconvertible issue, it may be the public require from me a statement as to my views respecting the use of paper money. I desire to say that, as long a9 I hold the office of Treasurer, I will comply with the law by keeping the gold reserve at 25 per cent., and during the term of the war will endeavour to keep a working margin above that amount.
I think the Commonwealth Note Issue has proved of the very greatest possible value to the community during this great crisis. It has freed Government and private finance from a great strain; but the experience of nations has shown that its sphere of usefulness is limited. I am not in favour of an unrestricted issue of paper money. The general public can only absorb .a certain amount, and the notes the public do not require in the way of pocket money, till money, &c, will find their way into the banks. This is shown in connexion with our present note issue.
On the 3rd of August, 1914, before the outbreak of the war, the total Australian note circulation was £9,854,923, of which £4,822,774 was held by the public, and £5,032,149, or 51 per cent., by the banks. The following table shows the increase of circulation since, and the relative amounts held by the public and the banks: -
It is evident from the above figures that the total amount of notes required for circulation amongst the general public is also that any further increase in the note now in the neighborhood of ten millions, issue will be mostly held by the banks. .
State Finance. The late Treasurer entered into an agreement with the State Treasurers to lend them during theyear ending on the 30th of the current month the sum of £18,000,000, viz., to-
The total amount agreed to be loaned to the State Treasurers coincided with the amount of the first loan made to the Commonwealth for war purposes by the Imperial Government, namely, £18,000,000. The position was that the loan by the Imperial Government to the Commonwealth of £18.000,000 for war purposes enabled the Commonwealth to use its own resources in financing the
States. This was done by making use of the Australian Note Issue.
The following advances to the States have already been made from the Australian Notes Fund: -
These amounts were advanced in monthly instalments. The last instalment of £1,375,000 will be paid to the States on the 15th of the present month.
Besides the loan of £18,000,000 made to the States in pursuance of the agreement with the Commonwealth Treasurer, dated 5th November, 1914, the following States received loans prior to that date, depositing one-fourth of a certain amount in gold and receiving notes for such amount. The loans were for twelve months, the rat© of interest being 4 per cent.’ The actual loans made were: -
The State of Victoria hat, repaid the amount of £243,000, with interest. The State of Western Australia has repaid £240,000, amount of loans due to date, with interest thereon, the odd amount of £3,750 not being due till 14th November.
As I expect the public borrowings of the States of the Commonwealth will be discussed during the debate on this Bill, and as some anxiety has been expressed as to the ever-increasing public debt of the States, I wish to show the aggregate of State loan expenditure to the 30th June, 1914, and to ask honorable members what particular item of State loan expenditure they would have curtailed if they had had the power.
The sum of £192,188,206 has been spent on railways and tramways, but according to Mr. G. H. Knibbs, our Commonwealth Statistician, “the State Government railways have, on the whole, made a substantial profit during each year since the inception of the Commonwealth.” (See page 630, Y ear-Book No. 8.)
Take the item water supply, &c, £42,000,000. The necessity for water con- servation and irrigation will, with each succeeding drought, be the more strongly impressed on all public men who wish to see Australia developed.
Harbors and rivers, roads and bridges, £29,000,000. Roads are nearly as necessary as railways, and though I remember twenty years ago hundreds of thousands of pounds were wasted in dredging the Brisbane River, for example, I believe today care is exercised in this expenditure.
A sum of £13.299.339 has been expended on public buildings, and this item might suggest itself to some minds as a fine field for economy; but it is the duty of Governments to set in normal times a good example to private citizens. I do not, of course, speak of this crisis when economy is a primary duty in private as well as public spheres. If public buildings have no claims to architectural grandeur, private citizens cannot be expected to build beautiful homes, and the nation will be the loser by the erection of the unworthy and commonplace, however economical.
Would honorable members opposite curtail the State loan expenditure on the development of mines, advances to settlers, loans to local bodies, &c. ? I have not the time to elaborate the argument.
I would, however, if I may presume to do so, say further with regard to public borrowing for other than war purposes at the present time. that, as Treasurer, I shall be pleased if both State and Federal members are able to withstand the pressure by certain of their constituents, who desire the construction of public works without regard to the question whether such works will ever pay for themselves. A member of Parliament is tempted to try to secure local expenditure of public money in the hope that his seat in Parliament may thus be made secure. I have never known a seat made secure by this means. Indeed, those constituents who promise to vote for a man on such grounds generally transfer their allegiance to the opposing candidates as soon as the construction of the said public works is well under way.
Electors can help Australia in this connexion by discouraging attempts to force their parliamentary representatives to worry the Governments into spending money on new public works.
Public Debt of the Commonwealth. The following is a statement showing the public debt of the Commonwealth on the 30th September, 1915:-
In estimating our total public indebtedness we shall require to remember that, as soon as possible after the termination of the war, the Commonwealth must be prepared to redeem all notes not required by the banks and the public. This may necessitate further borrowing by the Commonwealth. It must, however, be borne in mind that the States will have to repay at least £18,000,000 borrowed from the Commonwealth.
States and Commonwealth. May I say this as regards the States and the Commonwealth? Father Time has the affairs of Australia in the melting-pot. In what particular mould those affairs will be cast as the result of the appalling world’s crisis no one can foretell. It would appear to me that Australia’s relations with the Mother Country must be on a different footing after the war. The more united we are as a people, the greater power will be given us to shape our own destinies, and the greater the voice in the government of the Empire. A united Australia should, therefore, be our watchword.
The relations between the Commonwealth and the States of Australia must become more harmonious or more hostile. The State Parliaments have been jealous of the growing power of the Commonwealth, and resentful when invitations have been made to subject their borrowing powers to the will of the Commonwealth. If wise counsels prevail amongst the members of all the Parliaments of Australia, the attitude of Commonwealth to States and States to Commonwealth will be more cordial and friendly, making for the strength and prosperity of the nation, and for the welfare of all good citizens. If unworthy ambitions dictate the conduct of either State or Commonwealth leaders of public opinion, our progress as a nation must be slow and painfully unsatisfactory.
The New War Loan. It will be seen in the tabulated comparative statement of receipts and expenditure that we have raised £13,389,440 in Australia for war purposes, but have still to meet a deficiency for the financial year ending 30th June, 1916, of £23,779,524.
Parliamentary authority has already been given for borrowing £20,000,000, and as only £13,389,440 was actually raised we still have power to borrow the balance, viz., £6,610,560. In addition to this sum, we require £17,168,964 to meet the deficiency before-mentioned, and, as it is desirable to provide a margin, the Government is now asking Parliament for authority to raise £18,000,000.
It is intended early next year to issue a new loan of £10,000,000, the dates on which the instalments will be paid to be so arranged that the return to the investor shall be as nearly as possible that accruing from the previous loan.
Honorable members will no doubt wonder how Australia is going to pay for the moneys she will undoubtedly have to borrow while the war lasts. Some light may be obtained from the history of the British National Debt.
In the year 1816 the national debt of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was at its highest point prior to the present war, viz., £900,000,000, and the population numbered about 20,000,000. The £900,000,000 referred to was made up almost wholly of war loans, as follows : -
These loans cost a great deal more to float than loans of the present day. It is stated in Mulhall’s Statistics that the war loans negotiated by George II. and George III. amounted to £794,000,000; but produced in reality only £585,000,000, or 73 per cent, of the written value. We in Australia are floating our loans at par.
If 20,000,000 of a population could carry a national debt of £900,000,000 in 1816, our Australian population of about 5,000,000 should be able to raise and carry a national war debt of a fourth of that amount. In saying this, I hope it will
not be thought that I regard with unconcern the prospect of such a large war indebtedness in a. young country, or that I do not deplore the agonizing destruction of life and property now taking place in Europe. If the war lasts as long as Lord Kitchener is reported to have said, we must look forward to a huge war debt, and prepare to meet our obligations. By such preparation we shall avoid financial panic and its distressing consequences. Of Australia’s ability to pay her way I have no doubt, for we have immense natural resources, and we are an industrious people. There is no large leisured class in Australia. Nearly everybody works who can get work to do. The capacity of civilized , nations to produce wealth is many times greater than it was 100 years ago.
Our capacity to produce wealth is the measure of our ability to pay our debts.
According to Mr. G. H. Knibbs, the Commonwealth Statistician, the increase in the efficiency of Australians as wealth producers is shown as follows : -
In 1871, the estimated value of Australian production was £46,700,000, or £27 17s. 2d. per head; in 1881, £71,116,000, or £31 ls. 3d. per head; in 1891, £96,087,000, or £29 19s. 9d. per head ; in 1901, £114,585,000, or £30 2s. 6d. per head - see Commonwealth Year-Booh, No. 5. page 1217- in 1913, £218,199,000, or £45 8s. 6d. per inhabitant - see Commonwealth 1 ‘ear-Book, No. 8, page 1079.
I submit these reflections to investors who may be anxious as to the future, and who, perhaps, have been influenced by articles in the reviews, which suggest that after the war the public of Europe may repudiate the colossal public war debts now being incurred in European countries.
As I have previously said, the total amount so far raised by Australia’s first war loan is £13,389,440. We asked for £5,000,000, and 18,710 applications were lodged, offering to lend £13,389,440- a magnificent response which, according to reports which have been received from abroad, has greatly impressed people in
Great Britain and in other lands, as showing the determination of the Australian public to do their utmost in finding money to successfully prosecute the war.
I desire here to mention the valuable assistance given by the financial institutions, the stock exchanges, and the press throughout Australia. I believe we are to have the same assistance in regard to the next loan, and that the loan is sure to be as great a success as the last.
In conclusion, I wish to say that I fully realize and appreciate the high honour the Prime Minister has paid me in intrusting me with the responsible office of Treasurer. Whether my occupancy of that important office be long or short, I shall not spare myself in an honest endeavour to carry out the trust he has reposed in me. I shall try to bring about harmony between the States and the Commonwealth”; to conserve the public credit; to avoid financial waste aa far as is humanly possible; and to see that full value is obtained for those public moneys so freely subscribed by a law-abiding and generous people.
– After the delivery of a Budget of such great importance as that on which I congratulate my honorable friend, it is fitting that we should have an opportunity to examine the statements that have been made to us, and I suggest, therefore, that the further consideration of the matter be adjourned until tomorrow at least. I offer to my honorable friend my heartiest congratulations on the complete orthodoxy of his speech.
– The Government is willing to fall in with the suggestion df the Leader of the Opposition, and will proceed now with the River Murray Waters Bill, a strictly nonparty measure which, I think, will not invite criticism unless perhaps from the honorable member for Angas. The Income Tax Bill merely embodies a number of suggestions from the Commissioner of Taxes. They involve no departures from policy, and do not call for special mention, except this, that the distinction now made between the exemption of income derived from property and that of income derived from personal exertion has been found to throw on the Department more labour than it is worth, and an effort has been made to simplify matters.
– Has the honorable gentleman tested the formulae of the Act ?
– I have done so. I was seriously disturbed by the suggestion that something was wrong with those formula?, the beauty of whose curves appears not to appeal to. so straight-laced a gentleman a& the Leader of the Opposition; but the Government Statistician, who moves through the mysterious regions of the higher mathematics with the majesty and dignity of the moon in her first quarter, gathering brilliance and majesty with every passing hour, assures me of their absolute correctness.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a measure dealing with the use of the waters of the River Murray for purposes of irrigation and navigation, and not coming under the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs, although, as the honorable member for Darling Downs reminds me, that Department has control of navigation. But on Friday last, the Prime Minister asked me to take control of the measure. No doubt honorable members like tie honorable members for Angas, Wimmera, and Wakefield are more familiar with the questions involved than I am. At the Federal Convention there was great discussion on the clause of the Constitution Bill which dealt with the Murray waters. The first important investigation made by the three States most vitally interested - namely, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia - was by means of a Royal Commission, which was appointed on 7th May, 1902, by the Governments of the .States named, and which consisted of a representative from each. The Royal Commission proposed certain apportionments of the water of the main river, and suggested the construction of storages and of a system of locks and weirs. The Commission also referred to the rights of diversion which they suggested were intended to secure the navigability of the river equivalent to that of its natural capacity in typical years of low discharge. This finding was dissented from by the representatives of
South Australia, and an agreement based on a modification of the Commission’s recommendations was signed in 19Q3 by the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. That agreement, however, was not ratified, and did not lead to a settlement of the question. Investigations were subsequently made by Commissions, both in Victoria and South Australia. There were numerous conferences between Ministers and officials, held from time to time, and tentative agreements were made, but no final arrangement was found possible until the one made on the 9th September, 1914, which forms the schedule of the Bill. I am not quite sure by whom these conferences were called - whether they were called by our predecessors or were the outcome of the several Premiers’ Conferences. However, the decision I have mentioned was arrived at, and, as I say, it forms the schedule of the Bill. Honorable members know that the main controversy has centred around . two questions - navigation and irrigation. South Australia, being primarily interested in maintaining navigation, has always contended that that consideration was paramount; whilst New South Wales and Victoria have regarded irrigation as the most important consideration. It is now well known to honorable members, more, perhaps, than at any previous time, how Victoria and New South Wales have provided more largely than the other States for irrigation; and in this regard I have some figures that I shall quote later. The maintenance of navigation with a river devoid of locks and weirs would sacrifice a large part of the river’s flow. It would be impossible to maintain a navigable river all the year round unless there were locks and weirs, and places for storages, to enable the water to be dammed back and used as required for navigation or irrigation. The need of additional storages, with a view to regulating the flow of the river, was apparent from the commencement, and such storages are possible only within New South Wales and Victoria. South Australia, as a State, is incapable of contributing anything to the flow of the river. This may be because South Australia lies so low that if the waters were dammed back they would probably take up more land than it would be advisable to use. There is to be a series of locks; and I think it would be very advisable to have a good map prepared showing what it is intended to do in this regard. I may say that the administration of this measure will not come within my Department, and if it had been introduced two or three months ago it would, in all probability, have been in charge of the ex-Prime Minister. It is only because the present Prime Minister has been so busy that I have the task of introducing the Bill to honorable members. Further, I think it would be very advisable if honorable members could have a trip down the Murray, so as to obtain first-hand knowledge of the greatest river in Australia. I know that those honorable members who were at the inauguration of the lock at Blanchetown, some time ago, were very much struck by what they saw.
– The fruit season would be the best time for such a visit.
– A trip of the kind would, at any rate, give honorable members more knowledge of Australia than they have to-day. I understand that the area which may ultimately be irrigated was estimated by a conference of engineers in 1911-12 at 1,400,000 acres; but Mr. Elwood Mead, in a report in April, 1915, considers that this estimate will be ultimately increased, as some additional storages may he constructed upon the upper waters of the Victorian tributaries of the Murray. I understand that this 1,400,000 acres is the minimum area likely to be irrigated, and that it includes the area irrigated in the three States at the present time. The figures I have on this subject are those of Mr. Elwood Mead, who is a recognised authority. In New South Wales, in 1914, there were 50,000 acres under irrigation, 315,000 acres under irrigation in Victoria, and 25,000 acres in South Australia. The additional areas to be irrigated from the works under construction in 1911 are - 225,000 acres in New South Wales, 70,000 acres in Victoria, and 22,000 acres in South Australia. This will make a total acreage, in New South Wales, of 275,000 acres; in Victoria, of 385,000 acres; and, in South Australia, of 47,000 acres.
– Not by the project before us.
– No; these 700,000 acres must be deducted from the 1,400,000 acres which it is expected will ultimately be irrigated.
– The existing scheme provides for some 600,000 acres, and the new scheme will provide for about 800,000 acres more.
– Accepting, however, 1,400,000 acres as the area capable of irrigation if the scheme formulated under the present agreement be carried out in its entirety, it may be stated, using round figures, that New South Wales and Victoria will have 600,000 acres each, and South Australia 200,000 acres. There are, at present, about 300,000 acres of land for which irrigation facilities are provided in Victoria, and slightly more than that area in New South “Wales. The position of the Commonwealth is defined in the Constitution Act. Section 98 provides -
The power of the Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping, and to railways the property of any State.
Section 100 provides -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of a State, or of the residents therein, to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation.
Very many years of discussion led the interested States to the conclusion that the only proper solution of their difficulty was to be found in an agreement embodied in Acts of Parliament, to which the Commonwealth should be a party. That is the stage at which we have arrived to-day. The interest of the Commonwealth in navigation, and also in such control as would be likely to prevent any questions arising of the abridgement of the right of a State to the reasonable use of the waters of the rivers, combined with the immense importance to Australia of having this question determined upon an equitable basis, seems to amply justify the expenditure of £1,000,000 to which the Commonwealth is committing itself. The difference between the Bill before us and the Bill that was prepared by the exPrime Minister is that in th© present measure clause 5 limits the liability of the Commonwealth to £1,000,000. I take it that it would be impossible for the Commonwealth to be called upon to pay more unless a fresh Bill was introduced to extend the liability.
– There is nothing in the clause at all,* and I think it would be better left out.
– I understand that the opinion, not only of the present Prime
Minister, but of his predecessor, is that it would be better to have this clause inserted in order to distinctly limit our liability. The present agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia has already been ratified by Acts of the Parliament of the States named, and the passage of this Bill through the Commonwealth Parliament will represent the final step in the settlement of this great and complicated question.
– This is not the final step.
– It is not the final step, but it renders it, comparatively speaking, easy to build up the rest. The States have already agreed upon this matter, and if the Commonwealth become a party to the agreement, it will be the most important step ever taken in the history of Australia so far as irrigation and the navigation of our rivers are concerned.
– It is the first time that there has been a practicable agreement among all the parties.
– That is so. A practicable agreement among the States has been very difficult to arrive at. The Bill provides for a Commission of four members. One is to be nominated by the Governor-General, and is to act as President; the other three are to be appointed by the contracting Governments. The members of the Commission are to hold office for five years, and are to be remunerated as the respective Parliaments determine. I .do not know whether it would be proper for us to discuss the wisdom of this arrangement, because difficulty would arise in working the Commission if one Parliament paid its Commissioner more than was paid to the others.
– It is inconceivable that such a state of things should occur.
– It is possible that the President of the Commission representing the Commonwealth will receive a higher salary than the other Commissioners, but I do not think that it is conceivable that there will be any variation in the salaries paid to the others. At the Premiers’ Conference, held in Sydney in May last, Mr. Griffith, the Minister of Public Works in New South Wales, suggested the desirability of Ministers’ being appointed to act as Commissioners for the first few months of administration on the ground that they alone should determine the main policy to be followed by the Commission, they afterwards resigning to allow an official Commission to be appointed to carry on the works. However, this question was left open for discussion by the Governments concerned when the legislation appointing the Commission should have been passed by the three States and the Commonwealth. The details of the agreement are contained in the schedule attached to the Bill before honorable members. Clause 20 of the schedule deals with the works to. be constructed, and provides for the construction of storage works at Cumberoona, or other suitable sites on the Upper Murray, storage at Lake Victoria, weirs and locks from the river mouth to Echuca, and weirs and locks on the Murrumbidgee River from Murray Junction to Hay, or, alternatively, at the discretion of New South Wales, weirs and locks on the Darling River upstream from the Murray, involving equivalent expenditure. Clause 21 of the schedule deals with the responsibilities of the respective States for these works. All works between the river mouth and Wentworth are to be constructed by South Australia; all works on the Murrumbidgee River, or on the Darling River above Wentworth, are to be constructed by New South Wales, and all works on the Murray River above the Darling Junction are to be constructed by New South Wales and Victoria. Clause 22 provides for the depth of water. The weirs and locks are to provide at all times of the year for vessels drawing 5 feet of water Honorable members who have seen a booklet issued bv the Murray River Waters Committee have seen photographs of the wharf at Echuca at flood time, and when the river is practically dry. As a matter of fact, many of us have walked across the Murray at different places. I remember that I was able to walk almost across it just below Mildura, and no doubt it would have been an easy matter last year to do so. Apart from the question of irrigation, if we can provide at least 5 feet of navigable water it will be a great advantage. I do not think that we should lose sight of the question of the navigation of the Murray. It is quite possible that some honorable members may think that with the extension of our railways tapping the river at different points the navigation of the Murray should be un- necessary, but, in my opinion, it will b» a distinct advantage to have navigable water for the carriage .of goods to the railway termini on the river. I really, should not call them termini, because at present there is a joint Commission sitting for the purpose of considering the extension of these railway lines beyond the State borders into Victoria and New South Wales respectively, and the prospect is that the lines will not stop at the river. In that case the river craft will bring goods to the nearest railway crossing. Clause 24 of the agreement provides that construction is to be commenced as soon as practicable after the agreement comes into effect and continued, subject only to unavoidable delay, until the whole of the storage works, weirs, and locks are completed. The intention is that the Lake .Victoria works shall be completed within four years, the Upper Murray storage works within seven years, and all other works within twelve years after the agreement comes into effect. A period of twelve years may seem a long way ahead, but had the works been commenced when this matter was first raised in the Federal Parliament by the then honorable members for Bendigo and Echuca, or, perhaps, by the honorable member for
– I moved in the matter in 1904.
– Had effect been given to the agreement in 1904, these works would have practically been finished. Therefore, although a period of twelve years may seem a long time ahead, it is a very small period to look back upon. Clause 25 of the schedule provides that the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia shall each maintain the works constructed by them respectively. Any question arising as to the maintaining, operating, and controlling of any works by any two contracting Governments jointly, shall be determined by the Commission. _ Clause 32 states that the estimated cost of the works ia £4,663,000, proportioned as follows: Commonwealth, £1,000,000; New South Wales, £1,221,000; Victoria, £1,221,000; and South Australia, £1,221,000. The contracting Governments are to provide the Commission with the funds necessary to carry out the works estimated for any one year in accordance with these proportions, and all expenses of the Commission, except the salary and expenses of each Commissioner - which are to be paid by the contracting Government he represents - are to be borne by the contracting Governments in equal shares. Provision is made in Clause 42 of the schedule for the collection of tolls for the use of weirs and locks. Such tolls are to be collected and retained by the Government which constructs the particular work. Clauses 44 to 51 deal with the distribution of waters. The flow of the Murray at Albury is to be shared equally by New South Wales and Victoria, subject to deductions from each State’s share in proportion to its diversions above Albury. If Victoria has irrigation works on the Murray, or on the streams that flow into it above Albury, the- water so diverted will be deducted from Victoria’s share. In the same way, if New South Wales has an irrigation scheme above Albury, there will be a deduction from that State’s share. New South Wales and Victoria are to have the full use of all tributaries of the Murray within their respective territories below Albury. The minimum quantity to be allowed to pass for supply to South Australia is to be sufficient to fill the Lake Victoria storage once; and in addition, to maintain, with the aid of the water returned from Lake Victoria, a ‘ supply varying according to the months of the year, as set out in clause 49 of the schedule. In time of drought, the Commission may reduce the amounts of water to be used by the respective States, but the reduction shall be in proportion to the amounts to which the States would otherwise be entitled. The States of New South Wales and Victoria, by clauses 54 to 57 of the schedule, agree to authorize and facilitate the construction, maintenance, and use by South Australia of the Lake Victoria works. There are other incidental provisions enabling South Australia to carry out the intentions of the agreement. Provision is made in clause 58 of the schedule for reference to an arbitrator, to be appointed by the Chief Justice of Tasmania, of differences of opinion between the Commissioners on matters which are not questions of law, and the decision of the arbitrator is to be binding on the Commission and the contracting Governments. I regret that owing to limited time, it was not possible to have a suitable map prepared for the information of honorable members showing the location of the projected works; but
I have communicated with the State Rivers and Water Supply Department of Victoria, and it may be possible to obtain a map which will enable honorable members to gain a better idea of what is to be done. I am pleased that I have had the privilege of moving the second reading of this Bill.. It is a strictly non-party question, and I believe that it will be agreed to. It is the final step in the matter - the three States concerned having already done their share.
– I welcome the. Bill with the greatest cordiality. I confess to a deep interest in its fortunes, not only on account of my personal relations to it, but also on account of the great country of Australia. It is the greatest scheme of territorial development that has yet appeared on the horizon of Australian politics, and I am proud to have had any association with it. I venture to say that there are other ‘ honorable members on this side of the House who feel particularly pleased with their association with a scheme of this kind. They are fully entitled to be proud of it. Indeed, Australia should be proud of this triumph of the Federal spirit. This is the first time on record that we have had so complete a manifestation of it. Up to now my experience has led me to believe that the principle of Federation has not been given fair play in Australia. We have played “ pull baker, pull devil “ between the States and the Commonwealth for so long; we have differed so frequently on points as to whether this power or that power was our function or the function of the States, that we seem to have missed entirely the real Federal principle of harmonious co-operation, supplementing the various powers of the- States and aggregating the totality of that power for all beneficial purposes. Here is the most complete manifestation we have had in our Federal history of that principle. As honorable members know, this is a very old project. It has been on the stocks for many years. In my opinion, no scheme would have matured as this has done but for the very strenuous labours of the honorable member for Balaclava when he was Premier of the State of Victoria. He, along with the other Premiers, laboured hard to reach agreement in the many matters of detail concerned in this scheme. The pull of the various States was so tremendous, and their interests seemed to be mixed at so many points, that it was only by sheer effort of will, and a strenuous attention to the purpose then in contemplation, that agreement was arrived at in the form we see it to-day. And I should not be doing my duty if I failed to make mention of the Herculean labours in connexion with this subject of the honorable member for Angas, who devoted many long and wearying months to the perfection of this scheme, whilst the debate would be lacking in completeness if the honorable member for Wimmera did not contribute a speech. During the whole of his time in this Parliament he has nersistently pegged away at this great territorial question. And here it is, the greatest proposal for Australian development that has ever yet come to light in Australia. Our part in it is a very modest one - so modest that I marvel that the Government preceding my own did not get hold of the proposition and cut the Gordian knot long ago. We are nroposing to pay £1,000,000 to a scheme that, when fully developed, is estimated to support at least 700,000 people. Honorable members may consider just one aspect of this proposal. I know that the Treasurer - particularly so conservative a Treasurer as the honorable member has already proved himself to be - will be interested. A population of 700,000 people, whose expenditure may be estimated at £3 per head, will give an annual income of over £2.000,000 sterling from Customs alone. Clearly, therefore, our obligation to spend at the most £50,000 a year to secure a return of £2,000,000 is an excellent arrangement from the purely monetary stand-point.
– The honorable member is in a different frame of mind from what he was last night when discussing the subject of public works.
– For a very good reason. This is an excellent investment. Any investment like this, which provides a return of £2,000,000 per annum for an outlay of £50,000 should be made even in war time, though I should add that none of this money will be due until the war is over. So that this is not war expenditure. It is a peace proposal put before us in these dark days of war. If ever it was desirable to devote the mind of the nation to proposals of this kind, it is desirable in days like these, because, after all. the Bill deals with the staying power of the nation - the people settled comfortably upon the soil. That staying power is the basis of all the other industrial enterprises that must be reared upon it. It is the basis of the whole national pyramid. It is appropriate, then, in these dark days of war, when finance presses so heavily upon the clouded brow of the Treasurer, that we should look upon a scheme like this with a kindly attitude, as I have no doubt the honorable gentleman does. A wonderful story might be told of Mildura. Did I know the facts aright I should repeat it, but I leave the history of what has happened at that settlement to those who may follow me. Applying the Mildura figures to this proposition, just one other aspect is disclosed that -perhaps I may stress before I sit down. A population of 700,000 at’ Mildura would represent an agricultural production of the value of £50,000,000 sterling per annum; that is to say, the development of this scheme as Mildura has been developed will result in a larger total return to the State annually than the value of all the presentday agricultural products of Australia.
– Does the honorable member think that it is possible to nave irrigated 700,000 acres of land like that at Mildura in Australia?
– lt may be a big dairying district.
– But dairying does not pay as Mildura produce pays.
– There will be both.
– The march of events, and the triumphs of science that are yet to be, will all tend to further increase the production of Australia, referred to by the Minister in his glowing periods just now. I congratulate him on the completion of this project. Simple as it may be, the task we are asked to perform .is that of enacting the greatest stroke of legislative enterprise that has so far characterized the existence of this Parliament. I doubt, indeed, if it will ever be possible to effect a greater stroke or one likely to so greatly influence the producing enterprises of Australia, and I hope, with honorable members, to see growing upon the basis’ so laid down, thriving upon the primary industries that are the source of all the country’s wonderful prosperity, a happy and contented population, influencing all our secondary industries, and making Australia what we all hope to see it, a great, happy, and prosperous nation.
.- I think the House might congratulate itself upon being in a position to ratify an agreement of this sort, and to reconcile, as we can, some of the diverging points of view of the States, owing to the broader outlook which honorable members closely in touch with all parts of Australia possess. We all recognise that the Federal Parliament was established to deal, from the broader and more general aspect, with some of the contentious Inter-State or continental questions that agitated the States during the establishment of parliamentary Governments. It was possible that this proposal might have been put through without discussion. About six weeks ago the then Prime Minister was almost in the mood to have the Bill submitted to the House, andto ask leave of the Opposition for its passage without debate, subject to whatever explanations the House might desire to have. I do not intend, in my observations upon the Bill now before us, to go into all the details that are perhaps necessary for a full understanding of the adjustment come to, but honorable members will perhaps excuse me if I refer to one or two notes that I made in 1914 on matters that I think really influenced the States and the Commonwealth in coming to the agreement we are now asked to ratify. For some years past there has been an attempt made in America to settle by agreements similar to this many points of Inter-State and International policy arising out of the Inter-State and International rivers. The United States of America and Canada, for instance, went into this question very elaborately ten years ago. The United States and Canada International Waterways Commission was appointed on the 10th May, 1905. and held its first meeting at Washington. I may, perhaps, be excused for giving a quotation from the report of that Commission, which was subsequently ratified by the Governments concerned, inasmuch as it lays down the principles that ought to actuate States or nations in dealing with these river questions. The report of the Canadian section of the Commission says that -
There were three prominent features which constituted the underlying principles upon which the jurisdiction of’ Federal authority was based.
First. - The Niagara is a navigable river for the greater part of its length. It was recognised that, although the waters in some por tions are not navigable by reason of falls and rapids, yet the control of such portions is essential to the navigability of other portions of the river, and of Lakes Erie and Ontario.
Second. - The Niagara River is a boundary stream. It is the duty of the Government of a country to maintain the proper regimen of such a river, so as to insure its integrity and proper volume.
The report of the Joint Commission, which was presented on the 3rd May, 1906, declares the limits of diversions not injurious to the Niagara Falls, and that such diversions, exclusive of water required for domestic uses, or the service of locks in navigation channels, be permitted. The recommendations of that Joint International Commission broadly laid down the principles upon which the States of the Commonwealth of Australia have now come to a solution of the Murray River question. Let me give one quotation from the joint report-
It is not profitable, in the absence of essential data, to speculate as to how power obtained from these stores waters might be distributed throughout low-water periods, nor as to what the resulting minimum power might be. However, if the low-water flow without storage should drop, say, for three months, to 50 cubic feet per second, storage might be utilized to increase this several-fold. It should be remembered that, where the storage sites are scattered, several dams will be required. The cost of construction and operation of such may, in some instances, more than offset any advantages to be derived from the use of stored waters. Each case must be decided upon its own merits.
A treaty, based upon this joint report, was entered into on the 5th May, 1910, between the United Kingdom and the United States. The preamble recited that the countries concerned were equally desirous of preventing disputes regarding boundary waters, and of settling all questions that were then pending between the United States and the Dominion of Canada in relation to frontier matters. The articles regulate jurisdiction and control, and are an expression of a high level of international relations. To quote -
It is agreed that any interference with the diversion from their natural channels of such waters on either side of the boundary resulting in injury on the other side of the boundary shall give rise to the same rights, and entitle the injured parties to the same legal remedies as if such injury took place in the country where such diversion or interference occurs. The right to object to any interference with diversion of the waters on the other side of the boundary, the effect of which would be productive of material injury to the navigation interests on its own side of the boundary is declared. The construction of dams is placed under the International Joint Commission, and the agreed apportionment of waters is declared. General principles for the guidance of the International Joint Commission in administration are declared, the precedence of uses, approval of diversion works, reports to the Government, &c.
Many other instances of international comity in this matter could be given, but I think I am justified in instancing the great principles laid down by the United States in this treaty, which was entered into with the Imperial Government. The Federal jurisdiction, of course, depends upon our power to maintain or improve navigation - upon the trade and commerce and the navigation power. The relations of the States to one another, according to high authorities, speaking generally, are affected by the ordinary law of riparian use. Such, at all events, has been the decision in America. I should like to mention to honorable members that, while an action in a Court of justice - an application, for instance, for an injunction by one State to restrain what it considered to be undue diversions, or the unreasonable use of waters by another - would really settle nothing more than the principles of law applicable as between the States. Nothing is more difficult, a decision having been given in an ordinary riparian case as between individuals, than to express, in terms of discharge along the length of the stream of diversion between riparian owners, the particular quantity of water they are to receive for each particular day or week of a season. So difficult is it, indeed, that, in almost all the riparian cases as between individuals with which I have, been connected an understanding has been arrived at, or, as the result generally of a declaration of principles by the Court, an arrangement has been amicably come to, to express in terms of discharge by agreement the proportion to which each should be entitled. The expenses also of the case before the Court would be exceedingly great. On this point, a writer on State and International water laws in America, in a paper delivered before the American Society of Civil Engineers, in November, 1912, said -
We cannot expect the United States Supreme Court to work out and adopt some administrative system adequate to the needs in this respect. This is a problem for the legislative branch of the Government.
We have here a statement of the very fact to which I have just drawn attention, expressed in a judgment by competent engineers - the men who ought to know most about carrying into discharges the terms of the law as laid down by the Courts. The case of Kansas v. Colorado declared that the law of riparian use did generally apply between States in America where it had not been abolished by the specific legislation of the States, or by the amendment of the Constitution as between States. Kansas and Colorado had eight years of litigation as to whether the first-named State was entitled to a reasonable share of water being largely diverted by Colorado. The Court examined 347 witnesses, and took about 8,560 pages of typewritten evidence, while costs amounting to over $200,000 were incurred before the principles upon which an injunction would be granted, when the occasion arose, had been laid down. Then, again, the question of applying these principles to the facts remained for agreement as between the States. Coming to our own efforts, I shall mention, without elaborating the subject, what has been done since 1902. In that year the Inter-State Royal Commission reported on the rivers question, but, for reasons into which I need not go, no Bill was drafted - at all events, no Bill was introduced and debated in the Parliaments - to carry out the recommendations of that Commission. In 1906 the Premiers of the three States directly concerned, in conference, drew up a series of resolutions which were submitted to the representatives of the States for the purpose of being thrown into the form of an agreement, ‘and a Bill for adoption by the Parliaments of the States. That Bill, to adopt the agreement when signed, was introduced on the 14th July, 1908, in the South Australian and Victorian Parliaments. In October, 1908, however, certain modifications were suggested at a conference held in Melbourne, and a new agreement was drawn up, and subsequently signed, which, speaking broadly, provided for a settlement upon this basis : Before locking the rivers, the discharges of the waters of the river were to be apportioned in specific quantities betweenthe States. For this purpose, the year was divided into two parts - one of high and the other of low discharge - extending from July to January inclusive, in the case of the high discharge, and, in the ease of the low discharge, from February to June. The apportionment between the States was expressed in terms of discharge of cubic feet per minute. When these prescribed quantities, which were set out in clause 33 of the agreement, had been allotted to the States - in other words, when the down-stream State, South Australia, had got its quantity - it was provided that the upper States could then, having had their quantities, also take the whole of the balance of the river discharges that remained. There was a provision that when locking was completed the final discharge to South Australia was to be the annual quantity of 75,000,000,000 cubic feet. There was also a further provision that that volume might be increased to whatever discharge was found by the Commission to be necessary to maintain the navigability of the locked river. That agreement was not ratified - that is to say, was not pressed to a decision in the three Parliaments. Just as it is said that hope deferred makes the heart grow sick, so it may be said that it sometimes leads to action in other directions; and as waiting was considered by South Australia to be rather painful, the Government of that State decided to construct a work that might ease the situation. Lake Victoria, about 37 miles from the border of South Australia, is about the best reservoir on the river system. It is the most economical, and, in proportion to the discharge, it offers about the best means of making effective storage of the highest capacity, and the cost of construction and management is the lowest of the lot. By impounding the waters which reached the inlet of that basin, when they were not required either for navigation or irrigation, it would not only help by controlling the South Australian down-stream State, but ease by diminishing any difference as regards quantities as between it and the up-stream States. These matters are well known to the engineers, and to those who conferred at the various Conferences.
– Would the evaporation and loss from seepage be very great ?. “
– The seepage would be comparatively slight, though evaporation, except in very deep basins, is greater. That, however, is a very minor point. It is the evaporation and seepage in the channels, especially in . Victoria, where it sometimes reaches 50 per cent., that is serious. The seepage and evaporation of the river itself are well known. If, for instance, we were to take the Murchison Weir and try to express at Morgan, in South Australia, the quantity discharged from the Murchison, we should have to allow at least 30 per cent, for percolation, evaporation, and so forth. But if we took the discharge of certain channels which were not made of concrete, we should find that the actual distribution from the source of offtake- - that is, the discharge from the river or reservoir - was a more serious matter. I do not wish, however, to be diverted from the main point by a consideration of these comparatively minor questions. In 1910, South Australia thought it might be well to proceed with the Lake Victoria scheme, and I will deal with’ the provision on that point in a few minutes. I may say that when the agreement was last amended, the final annual quantities to be discharged to South Australia, for instance, when the locks were built and the flow of the river was regulated by locking and storage, was reduced from 75,000,000,000 cubic feet to 60,000,000,000 cubic feet, and there was also provision that all the States in the drought years should have a prorata reduction of the quantities allotted to them. That reduction was to take place at a higher level of the river, so as to provide for every possible contingency that the most extraordinary anxiety of any of the States could present to those who had to deal with the question. Under the first agreement, locking was to commence when diversions affected navigability; under the amended one, at once. I do not intend to deal with the old agreements, beyond the references I have made. A Victorian Royal Commission was appointed in May, 1910, to deal with the agreement, and it also presented a report, upon which nothing was done, although each of those reports, on some points, contributed largely to the education of the public, as well as of members of Parliament. In January, 1911, a Conference of the Premiers of the three States interested took place in Melbourne, and, after they had gone thoroughly into this matter, it was decided that South Australia should proceed with the construction of the Lake Victoria locks. That decision did not really touch in any respect the question at issue between the States, but it, as I said, eased the position by enabling South Australia to impound waters which otherwise would run to waste. In order to settle the other differences between the States, it was suggested - and I threw the suggestion into a report- which formed an appendix dealing with the whole question up to that period, and I think Mr. Elwood Mead orally made a similar proposal - that certain ‘unascertained data regarding storage should be collected by the engineers. I pointed out-
At present there seems to be no clear or reliable information as to the possibility of providing by storage for the permanent requirements of both irrigation and navigation.
The difficulty is to reconcile the interests of navigation and irrigation. I always held the opinion that they were absolutely reconcilable, and that contention has now been proved . The three engineers have said that not one drop of the water taken to maintain the efficiency of the locks will be at the expense of irrigation; that, to quote their words, “ the construction of movable weirs . . . could be carried out without affecting the volume of water capable of being used for other purposes.” What has militated against the settlement of this question has always been the lack of apprehension of the material facts.
– Do you believe in navigation as much as in irrigation ?
– That question does not arise ; but the interests of navigation and irrigation can be reconciled. No doubt, Victoria would prefer irrigation, and to some extent favours navigation. New South Wales is interested in both; whilst South Australia is perhaps more materially, though not exclusively, interested in navigation.
– I understood that South Australia was particularly keen on the interests of navigation.
– That statement has always been made, but it is not quite true. As a matter of fact, South Australia, through her transport trade, commands, in a sense, a greater length of the navigable stream, which, taking the whole of the system into account, represents a stretch of 3,200 miles. This agreement is dealing only with 1,400 miles of that extent. Of course, South Australia in getting deliveries from, say. Bourke or Hay, would be more interested than the other States in preventing a block in the navigation at the mouth of the Darling or the Murrumbidgee. However, I do not wish to touch on points of what I consider dead controversy, because we never can convince one another in regard to them.
– I think South Australia has modified its claim in regard to navigation.
– In recent years, all the statesmen have done their best to modify the peculiarities of local views, even to the extent of making compromises which perhaps some honorable members might condemn, in order to lead to what is now a Federal and State solution. In those recommendations to which I have referred, I pointed out that it would be well to have definitely determined by the engineers of the three States the extent to which the interests of navigation and irrigation could be reconciled without injury to either. At the Conference of Premiers, resolutions were arrived at for the construction of the Lake Victoria works by South Australia, and the question as to whether such works should be part of the larger scheme was deferred, because it was recognised that the undertaking of the Lake Victoria works would not prejudice the larger scheme into which the States are now entering. The South Australian Parliament passed the ratifying Act, but action by the other States was delayed. In the meantime, South Australia obtained from America one of the chief river-locking experts in the United States, Captain Johnston, of the American Army Corps of Engineers, who has drawn up very comprehensive (reports, running into hundreds of pages, upon the rivers, and every aspect of locking. On page 8 of the first report he said that the figures indicate that there was boundless room for development in Australia in connexion with the rivers. He said that the same area exists in Australia capable of treatment as in the United States of America ; he pointed out that the density of population here affected is 1$ per square mile, as against 29.32 in America, and he provided a comparison which shows that the navigable length of our river system is 3,212 miles; that of the St. Lawrence, 2,200 miles; the Rio Grande, 1,800 miles; the Missouri, 2,551 miles; and the Mississippi, 1,302 miles. Captain Johnston stated in effect that the difficulties in Australia are not greater than in America. He said that we have many comparative advantages; for instance, “ that the Murray River is not wider is particularly fortunate as regards its improvement by locks and weirs,” and he added that the absence of ice is a matter of great importance. He gave an account of the fleet barges in the United States of America. Dealing only with South Australian requirements and the river below the Darling, he recommended that nine low weirs should be constructed from Swanreach to Wentworth at an estimated cost of £1,050,000. He estimated the annual cost of maintenance and operation with Lake Victoria at £9,500. As a matter of fact, the South Australian Parliament passed an Act adopting mainly the principles of Captain Johnston’s report for the locking of the river in South Australia and as far as Wentworth. The estimated cost given by the Minister was £1,070,000. Turning now to the report of the engineers, which is a vital matter, those experts asked the States to help them with estimates of the areas capable of being irrigated from the river system. New South Wales gave its total irrigable area at 4,950,000 acres, Victoria 1,450,000 acres, and South Australia 1,000,000 acres, a total of 7.400,000 acres.
– That estimate includes the country along the Darling River.
– Yes; it includes all the country capable of being irrigated by the river system. It reduces considerably the estimates of 1902, which, in my opinion, were absurd. You might as well expect the man in the moon to irrigate as to expect some of the areas included in the 1902 estimates to be irrigated. The amount of water required for the irrigation of the 7,400,000 acres was estimated to be 20,050,500 acre-feet. One acre-foot per month is equivalent to 43,560 cubic feet per minute. The Minister has mentioned that we can irrigate 1,400,000 acres, which, in the opinion of the engineers, is the limit of economic storage. Of course, there are other reservoirs to be dealt with which may or may not be regarded as providing economic storage. The limits of economic storage depend on the conservation of the flood discharge to supplement the low discharge of the same year. We cannot impound economically the flood discharge of one year to supplement the low discharges of other years.
– Is the honorable gentleman taking into consideration the number of acres which the Cumberoona dam will submerge and practically place out of cultivation, and is he deducting that area from the acreage that will be irrigated by this scheme 1
– I do not think the engineers went into those figures for that purpose. The superficial area covered by the water in the Burrinjuck system, when the reservoir i3 full, will be 19 square miles. That reservoir is capable of irrigating 204,000 acres. The expenditure will provide first for the irrigation of 107,000 acres of first class land. The Cumberoona Dam represents only a very small proportion of the good land that is capable of producing well under water.
– Did any of the engineers take into calculation the practicability of mountain storage prior to the water entering the streams?
– I think so. A big storage is possible on the Tumut, but I think the engineers have disregarded that scheme for the present, although it may eventually be of great help to the Burrinjuck scheme. The Burrinjuck Reservoir is one of the finest in existence, having regard to the small loss by evaporation which will take place there. In the Waranga Basin when full you have the same superficial area, but the loss through evaporation and soakage amounts to about 7 feet a year, because the average depth of the reservoir when full is not more, than 17 feet - I think it is less - and the lapping of the water against the sides under a strong sun means a tremendous loss through evaporation. The two reservoirs are not comparable from the point of view of economic storage. The Burrinjuck Reservoir has a depth of 160 feet. The height of the dam is, I think, 240 feet, with the same superficial area as the Waranga Basin when full ; but the water from it has to be sent 200 miles before it can be discharged at Narrandera. It is, however, sent through the channel of the Mumimbidgee for the greater part of the way, and the percolation and loss is consequently much less than would take place if the water had to be sent through new channels. In determining the limit of storage, the engineers were guided bv the records for the years of low flow between 1896 and 1899.
With the Cumberoona Reservoir, a large storage area which is not yet completed because of some difficulty in ascertaining whether the foundation is reliable; with the Mitta, the Kiewa, -and the storage on the Goulburn at Murchison, where further reservoirs were contemplated in some of the reports of Mr. Elwood Mead; with the Burrinjuck Reservoir, Lake Victoria, and the flow of the Ovens, the Broken, and the Campaspe Rivers, you will have for a season of eight or nine months of the year over 626,000 acre-feet per month for irrigation. The total area that can be served from the existing reservoirs is between 600,000 and 700,000 acres, and the reservoirs to be constructed under this scheme will give a discharge for 800,000 acres more, though additional storage will involve a much higher cost per unit of volume. Ridiculous ideas have been current for many years past as to the capacity of the Murray for irrigation. The storage for the extension of irrigation, which includes more than the agreement provides for, will cost about £2,517,800, and the cost of distribution, which will fall on the States, will come to about £3,600,000, making £6,117,800 altogether. I have already mentioned that our power to deal with this matter is thought to be conferred by the paragraphs in the Constitution dealing with navigation and trade and commerce. We have not yet exercised that power; but during the last fourteen years, I have at times asked whether the Commonwealth should not pass an Act declaring its relation to the Murray. Similar legislation has been passed in the United States of America. There is an Act of 1899 preventing the making of bridges and dams affecting navigable rivers without the consent of the authorities at Washington, and the obstruction of such streams is prohibited by legislation. At the time that the agreement upon which the Bill is founded was come to, about 20,000 acres were being irrigated in New South Wales, about 214,000 acres in Victoria, and from 25,000 to 30,000 acres in South Australia, in all about 259,000 acres. The existing works could supply water for 341,000 acres more, making a total irrigable area of 600,000 acres. But those figures cannot be relied on for all purposes, because in Victoria the area irrigated under intense cultivation is comparatively small ; whereas in South Australia practically the whole of the irrigated area is under intense cultivation. The navigation works to be constructed are : 9 locks from the Murray mouth to Wentworth, a distance of 520 miles; 17 locks from Wentworth to Echuca, a distance of 550 miles; and 9 locks from the junction of the Murrumbidgee to Hay, a distance of 240 miles - the total length of river dealt with being 1,310 miles. I understand that New South Wales may ask the Commission to sanction the construction of locks in the Darling instead of in the Murrumbidgee over an equal length to that proposed for the Mumimbidgee, and at an equal expenditure, namely, about £500,000. I do not think that there are any official estimates of the cost of maintenance. According to the Bill, the total cost of the storage works and the locks will be £4,663,000. I believe that the estimates allow a margin of £750,000. For the sake of caution a very large addition was made to the estimates of the engineers of at least two of the States, so that it is extremely probable that the total estimate will not. be exceeded. That leads me to mention a provision in the Bill which, I think, had better be struck out, though its inclusion should not prevent the immediate passing of the measure. Some of my colleagues may differ from me on the point. Clause 5 says that, subject to the Act, the agreement is hereby ratified and approved, and shall take effect on the commencement of the Act, but that nothing in the ratification or approval shall be taken to render the Commonwealth liable for the payment of any greater sum than £1,000,000 in respect of the cost of carrying out the works to be provided under the agreement. I have here all the estimates, and they show that there is no reasonable danger of the proposed expenditure being exceeded. As part of a compromise arrived at at the end of a very elaborate discussion of the whole matter, it was thought that it would be a trifling concession for the Commonwealth to make, if the cost of the particular work ran to a few thousands more than the sum estimated, to share it pro rata with the contributions of the contracting parties, instead of leaving the States to bear the whole of it. At every stage of the consideration of the agreement I paid careful regard to its effect on the Commonwealth. One of the first drafts provided that the Commonwealth should pay its proportion to the cost of maintenance; but we could not consent to that, because it did not form part of the original resolution, under which we agreed to contribute only to thecapital cost. In my marginal notes on the various drafts, I queried, on behalf of the Commonwealth, a number of points, and, in regard to this matter, I submitted a memorandum to the AttorneyGeneral’s office. I sent a copy of it six weeks ago, and another last week, and the Department was quite aware of the position when the agreement was signed. However, the inclusion of the clause is not of much consequence, so long as the arrangement is regarded as final, because we do not want further delay. I have offered to go through all the data on the point, but my offer has not been accepted. There has been a lack of time to. look at all these matters. I shall not deal now with the details of the Bill, which have been fairly well explained by the Minister of Trade and Customs. We may take it that the cost of maintaining and operating the locks between Swanreach and Wentworth will be about £9,000 a year, an estimate being made by Captain Johnston and the engineers of South Australia. From Wentworth to Echuca, where there will be seventeen weirs and locks, the annual cost will be about £17,000, and from the junction of the Murrumbidgee to Hay, where there will be about nine weirs and locks, the annual cost will be about £9,000, making the total cost £35,000. The cost per mile of improved river will be comparatively low, namely, about £2,300. The members of the Commission number four, the Chairman being the Commissioner appointed by the Commonwealth. The estimates may not be exceeded without the sanction of the Commission, which must decide that any excess sanctioned is necessary for the carrying out of the work. Unless this decision is unanimous, the estimates may not be exceeded. Where there is not unanimity on a vital matter, reference to arbitration is provided for. But, as a matter of fact, no excess can be substantial, because the arrangement is one of more or less. However, I shall not go further into the question now. I have only to add that the agreement gives effect to the last effort of many years on the part of the States, and the first in conjunction with the Commonwealth, for the settlement of a vexed question. It is the result of a great deal of consideration on the part of every State affected, of the interests and views presented by the representatives of those States. As the Commonwealth is interested from the point of view of navigation, it is only fair that it should contribute to the expenditure of £4,663,000 which is to be made by the people for the settlement of the most vexed question that has arisen in the course of our Australian history. The measure may be further explained, if necessary, in Committee; but I ask honorable members to approach it in the generous spirit which a Federal Parliament always possesses, but, perhaps, doesnot always manifest, and complete the successful efforts of the States to finally settle this important and long-discussed problem.
– I desire to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition, who has made it possible to come to this agreement, and also to congratulate the present Government on their proposal to ratify the contribution to which the Commonwealth is pledged in order that the necessary works may be carried out as early as possible. The honorable member for Angas has also given us some very valuable information respecting the principles that govern the agreement; and we should also acknowledge the part played in this work by the honorable member for Balaclava when he was Premier of Victoria.
The proper utilization of the Murray waters is one of most vital importance, not only to the present generation, but to future generations; and for the last forty years there have been efforts made to come to some agreement. It is, therefore, greatly to the credit of this and previous Governments that an agreement has been found possible. Our bitter experiences of the drought during the last two years has made an agreement of the kind more imperative than ever. In April, 1914, the disastrous effects of the drought were becoming manifest throughout Australia, and the following paragraph appeared about that time in the daily press -
The River Murray at present is at about the lowest level on record at Nyah. The pump could take all the stream at present reaching it. At one point below the pumping station the water is a stream 4 feet wide, with a depth of from 1 to 4 inches. It has been the intention of the Water Commission to duplicate the pump. This would be useless, unless means are taken to conserve the water.
About the same time there was further reference made in the press to the state of the river at Mildura, in the following words : -
At Mildura the Murray River is now 2 ft. 6 in. below summer level. This is the lowest record for twenty-six years past. At several points near Mildura vehicles can be driven across the river.
From subsequent inquiries, during a visit to Mildura and the Murray, I found that these newspaper reports were, unfortunately, only too true. The position was a very parlous one, and the irrigation settlements along the Murray were in serious danger of ruin. The state of affairs in April, 1914, was intensified during the following seven or eight months, and it will always be a mystery how the settlements were saved from the disastrous effects of the prolonged drought. I have always regarded the. question of the Murray waters as a Federal one - as a question belonging particularly to the National Parliament. Honorable members are aware that on two or three occasions I have introduced a motion into this House to the effect that the Federal Constitution should be amended in order to place the Murray and its tributaries under Federal control. This, I know, is a controversial question. The fact that the States own the land, have charge of the irrigation settlements, with power to grant land tenures and disseminate the information necessary to make them a success, and also the power to grant financial assistance to the settlers, raises some difficulty in the way of placing the distribution of the waters entirely under Commonwealth authority. My object in submitting the motion was to give the control of the river aud its tributaries to the InterState Commission, who, having no State prejudices, would be more likely to effect an equitable distribution, and render the utilization of the waters most advantageous and profitable to all the States concerned. The history of this question has been touched on by the honorable member for Angas, and is well known to those who have studied the matter; but I think that, on the present occasion, it might be again briefly referred to. The report of the Royal Commission of 1902 is a most valuable one, giving more comprehensive information as to the Murray and its possibilities in the way of irrigation and navigation than any previously issued. In that report it is stated -
Prior to the Corowa Conference in March, 1002, all inquiries into the utilization of the waters of the Murray- and its tributaries were the work of individual State Commissions, or of State Departments, which looked at the question almost solely from the point of view of the particular State to which they were responsible. A New South Wales Commission and a Victorian Commission had two conferences in 1S86, and adopted certain resolutions for the guidance of the two States; but no action was taken by either State. A similar attitude characterized the policies and work on the rivers carried out by certain State Governments. The Corowa Conference, however, marked the new departure. It was attended by representatives - including the Premiers - from Victoria, Now South Wales, and South Australia, and the Federal Prime Minister, and was called together by those interested in the water supply of the Riverina. The Conference was a result of the long succession of drought years, which culminated in the extremely dry year of 1902, when it appeared that all that could save the northern part of Victoria and southern Riverina from decimation was the institution of large irrigation works. The resolutions carried at the Conference were principally with this object- that the one tangible result was a determination on the part of the Governments of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia to appoint an Inter-State Royal Commission for the investigation of the apportionment of waters between the riparian States, and the public works necessary to fully use the water to the best advantage of all concerned.
From 1902 to 1910 several Royal Commissions were appointed by the three States concerned, and Bills were introduced into the various State Parliaments to carry out the recommendations made, but none of these measures were passed. In 1910 the Royal Commission known as the Mackinnon Commission presented a stronglyworded report, in which, probably for the first time, the question of navigation versus irrigation was practically discussed. The recommendation of that Commission was that irrigation should be paramount - that whenever irrigation rights came into conflict with navigation rights the former should be paramount - and that a responsible body should be appointed, with sufficient discretionary power, to see that policy carried out.
The question of riparian rights, which bears very closely and seriously on this agreement, is as old as history itself. In the old Roman Empire, where the lives of the people and their stock so much depended on an artificial supply of water, the doctrine known as the doctrine of prior appropriations was the one generally applied. That doctrine rests on the reasonable use of the water, and the whole controversy as to riparian rights has centred on the meaning of “ reasonable use.” I speak with some diffidence on a question of this kind in the presence of the honorable -member for Angas; but I think it will be found that the “ reasonable. use “ of water has been interpreted as meaning the best use to which it can be put. It is easy to understand that the meaning of “ reasonable use ‘ ‘ must vary with the climatic conditions. In the southern parts of Europe, where irrigation is necessary for the sustentation of the people and their stock, the “ reasonable use “ of water is the best use to which it can be put in the irrigation of the soil. In the northern part of Europe, as in Germany, where we find the Danube and the Rhine, irrigation issubordinated to navigation, and the best use of the water is held to be its use for navigation. In England the common law was interpreted in the same way, because this is a matter, as I say, that is conditioned by climate. When the question of riparian rights was first raised in the United States, the people naturally drew their inspiration from the common law principles of Great Britain ; but they soon found that the climaticconditions were such as to require large variation - that new principles had to be applied to the utilization of their waters. The result is a division of opinion as to the interpretation of the common law in this regard in the United Sca tes. In the western States, where irrigation is necessary, the “ reasonable use “ of the water is its use for irrigation, and where there is a conflict of interests navigation is subordinated. It is unassailable that the “reasonable use” of water is the best use to which that water can be put; and if we find that variations have had to be made in the United States of America and in Europe, according to the climatic conditions, how much more necessary is it in Australia, where we have so great an extent of land with a most limited water supply ? I suppose that, in proportion to our total area, we have as much land which is particularly suitable for the application of irrigation as any country has. But if for the cultivation of that area we had to depend on the rainfall unconserved, it would probably be found that two-thirds of our total extent of land would certainly not be put to its best use.
The question of the interpretation of the Federal Constitution is involved in this matter. Prior to the passing of the Constitution Act, in 1900, no definition of the law of riparian rights had been made in Australia. At that time the State of New South Wales claimed full proprietary rights over the River Murray ; it claimed the river as its own property. That attitude is probably liable to variation through the passing of the Federal Constitution Act.
– I think that it will be found that the river belongs to New South Wales.
– In the absence of any High Court decision, no one can speak dogmatically on that question. Section 98 of the Constitution provides that the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping, and to railways, the property of any State; and as the Murray River is an Inter-State stream, the Commonwealth can make laws with respect to its navigation. This power of the Commonwealth, however, is limited by section 100 of the Constitution, which provides -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of a State, or of the residents therein, to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation.
Thus the waters in the Murray River belong to the Commonwealth for navigation purposes, subject to the all-important rights of a State, or of the residents therein, to the reasonable use of the water for irrigation. While the river bed may be claimed by New South Wales as its territorial property, the waters contained in the bed of the stream are con: trolled by the Commonwealth for navigation purposes; but they are only Commonwealth property subject to the right of the State to draw upon the waters for the purpose of irrigation. The question of what is reasonable use of the water is one upon which, sooner or later, the High Court may be called upon to pronounce a decision. At any time it may be claimed’ that the stream allowed to flow from the storages in the upper reaches is insufficient to permit of navigation. At any time there may be such a serious stoppage of navigation, occasioning great loss to those who ply their trade along the river, that the matter may be brought to a head by the High Court being. asked to give a pronouncement upon the true meaning of reasonable use” as between these interests and the residents of a State who are constructing irrigation settlements and the Commonwealth itself. If the High Court bases its decision on the American experience, it will interpret “ reasonable use “ as being the best and most profitable use to which the water in the river can be put ; and as irrigation is the most reasonable use to which the waters of Australian streams can be put, the pronouncement of the High Court will probably be that “ reasonable use” will be “using the waters for irrigation purposes, even at the expense of navigation.” The introductory paragraphs to the agreement in the schedule contained in the Bill contain these words -
With a view to the economical use of the waters of the River Murray and its tributaries for irrigation and navigation, and to the reconciling of the interests of the Commonwealth and the riparian States . . . it is deemed desirable to enter into this agreement.
There, theoretically, irrigation and navigation are placed on terms of equality; but, in my opinion, on a serious conflict between the interests of navigation and irrigation arising, the matter will probably be left for the High Court to give a pronouncement upon. I wish to glance for a few moments at the experience of the United States of America in respect to navigation. My view is that in the course of time, with railway lines tapping the Murray River every 20 or 30 miles, the stream will cease to be used for navigation to any considerable extent. It will be found to be non-paying, and will, I believe, in time, disappear. The railways will supply all the requirements of the people on the Murray banks, and in the Murray valley, and will transport all their produce.
However, in order to show how impossible it is for navigation to compete with railway transportation, even on canals and rivers most favorable for it, I refer honorable members to the report of the National Waterways Commission, which was appointed in the United States of America by Congress in 1909. The duty of that Commission was to report on water transportation and the improvement of waterways, and to make recommendations. It held sittings in Europe and the United States, and
Admiral Sperry, who had command of the American Fleet which Visited Australia some years ago, and others assisted it. The most exhaustive examination was made of the waters of the United States, and the Commission formulated a series of distinct topics, into which it set itself chiefly to inquire. It inquired chiefly into the reasons for the decline in inland waterway transportation, and it suggested remedies therefor. It also inquired into the relation between navigation and railway transportation, and such subjects as canals, irrigation, wharfs, docks, waterpower, locks, and dams. The Commission reported, amongst other matters -
In 1880, the Erie Canal carried, between Buffalo and New York, 4,600,000 tons of goods, or 18 per cent, of the total traffic. In 1906, the amount had fallen to 1,400,000 tons, or 3 per cent, of the total traffic, as against 79,000,000 tons carried by the railways. Other decreases may be briefly summarized as follows : -
Taking the competing traffic in the United States, the proportions are -
The Commission reported that the advantages of railways were - wider command of markets, speed, easier loading and unloading, easier transfer, and many lines, as against one. It reported that these things accounted for the decline in waterways traffic.
– The Commission recommended that improvements should be effected to the rivers.
– They recommended generally, that certain improvements should be made upon rivers upon which low-grade ores were carried ; but in regard to ordinary goods traffic, they considered that navigation had generally failed. In Europe the position is much more favorable for navigation. In some cases where the navigation of rivers has continued for centuries, where there are experienced boatmen, and there is a greater fixity of population, and where freights are exceedingly cheap, navigation has been maintained, especially where there has been no conflict between it and irrigation. Yet, the railways in Central and Northern Europe, although chiefly designed to carry passengers and mails, have a tonnage of about 800,000,000, as against less than 200,000,000 carried on canals and rivers. The United States Commission reported that the rivers most successful in regard to navigation were those on which coal, timber, and ores of low grade requiring cheap carriage, in order to render mining profitable, were carried. There will be very little similar freight carried on the Murray River. We are at a disadvantage in this respect. The only goods that will compare with the low-grade ores of America will be wheat and wool. Wheat may be grown in the Riverina, and may in certain instances be conveyed along the river for 20 or 30 miles in order to reach a railway; but that is the only possible freight we can have. I quite appreciate the statement made this afternoon by the honorable member for Angas, that the River Murray is suitable for navigation, but at the same time it is very circuitous.
– I was speaking with the indorsement of the greatest engineer in the world on these matters.
– We know that the Murray is one of the most winding streams in the world, and we know that there has been a great decline in the amount of navigation upon it. According to a report issued in 1902, the amount of traffic on the river from 1882 to 1891, when there was no railway competition, was of the value of £544,000. According to the 1910 report, the total trade is of the value of ‘about £45,000, representing about 40,000 tons, which may be regarded as the present revenue, though that may be increased by the establishment of locks.
The works contemplated in this report will, it is estimated by the engineers, actively irrigate 1,450,000 acres, and this agreement, if it is carried out, will add some millions of pounds per annum to the value of Australian production. As the honorable member for Angas indicated, we have passed ‘the point when we can indulge in fanciful pictures of the enormous possi bilities of irrigation on the Murray River, but it has remained for the engineers, in their 1913 report, to give accurate data regarding the possibilities of actively irrigating a certain proportion of the land available along the valleys of the Murray and its tributaries. For the first time, we have this data before us, and I think it should be brought out in this debate, because it will tend to help engineers in providing for water storage, not only for the present, but for the future. Whilst this agreement will provide water for the active irrigation of 1,400,000 acres, it only deals with one-third of the total volume of the Murray. If all the Murray waters could be utilized, and water stored in the same way that it is proposed to store it under this agreement, it would be possible to irrigate 4,500,000 acres.
We know it would be impossible to impound the whole of the flood waters of the Murray, or to use its total volume for the purposes of irrigation, and whilst the engineers provide for the irrigation now of 1,450,000 acres, that area will require the provision of a larger volume of water than it is practicable to use. If it were possible to use all the water available for irrigation purposes from the Murray and its tributaries, it would be possible to irrigate nearly 8,000,000 acres, though, according to the estimates of engineers, that is quite beyond the range of possibility.
This agreement guarantees to South Australia 1,254,000 acre-feet of -water per annum, which will irrigate 627,000 acres with two waterings each of 1 acre-foot. It is estimated by engineers that that amount is required to. satisfactorily irrigate land. The amounts to the other two States are: Victoria, 2,219,000 acre-feet, or sufficient to irrigate 1,100,000 acres of land, and New South Wales 1,957,000 acre-feet, or sufficient to irrigate 975,000 acres. The irrigation allocations, therefore, are - Victoria, 1,100,000 acres; New South Wales, 975,000 acres; South Australia, 627,000 acres; a total of 2,702,000 acres. The flow and storage under this agreement, if it can be utilized, will irrigate 2,702,000 acres, but we can only expect to actively irrigate 1,450,000 acres, making allowance for flood, seepage, and evaporation. The larger figure I have quoted is the potential allocation if all the water were used. It will be realized that under this agreement all three States have huge present and prospective possibilities in connexion with irrigation, and it is on this point that the real effect of the agreement may be considered.
On the basis of area available for irrigation, the distribution of water seems to be a fair one. We find that the engineers, in addition to the irrigation areas already in progress or contemplated in the three States, gave figures which were quoted by the Minister of Trade and Customs in introducing the Bill. The allotments as set down will give South Australia 1,000,000 acres of possible irrigation land; Victoria, 1,500,000 acres, probably 2,000,000; and New South Wales, 2,500,000, possibly with the Darling Valley - a very uncertain water supply - 4,000,000 acres. So that, regardless of contributions, the proportional allocation does not appear to be unfair. But, whilst I do not desire to deal with this agreement in any parochial senses - for the subject is a Federal one, and should be dealt with in a Federal spirit - the probability ,is that on the basis of contribution Victoria has more to lose than any of the other States. We know that the River Murray does not belong to any one particular State. It belongs to the States through which it flows, and the distribution of water for irrigation purposes seems to me to be chiefly the basis upon which any agreement should be made. That aspect, apparently, was taken into consideration by the engineers when they were framing the basis of this agreement. I regret, however, that the agreement does not invest the Board of Control about to be appointed with greater discretionary power. I believe that the powers of the Board should be made so elastic that in times of drought, such as 1902 or 1914, the Board would have more authority than seems to b© provided to vary the agreement in accordance with the interests of the position. I regret that such a clause as that which appeared in the Mackinnon report of 1910 has not been incorporated in this agreement. That clause reads -
That in order to maintain transportation facilities for localities which now have them only by river, and which do not hereafter obtain them by railway construction, the Board be empowered to regulate the How of rivers so that the period of navigation hitherto customary be preserved for vessels of a reasonable draught, and so long as this is not inconsistent with irrigation development.
– Is not that provided for by clause 51 of the agreement?
– That clause does not give any elasticity ; it only gives power to the Commission to vary the agreement in times like those of 1902 and 1914, but it does not lay down the principle that irrigation must be subordinated to navigation. That question is not entered into.
– How could it when the engineers say that it is not required ?
– The water has to be sent down - I am speaking now of the allotments of the different States - and a certain proportion of that water must go into the sea. Moreover, the reduction is a pro rata one on the allocation, instead of the area irrigated in the respective States.
The outstanding advantage of this agreement, however, is that it will provide storages to impound 1,000,000 acre-feet of water that now flows into the sea, and 500,000 acre-feet of water at Lake Victoria. The real test of the value of the agreement will be in a dry year such as was experienced in 1902 and 1914. In such years it would be necessary to utilize the whole of the contributions of the rivers above Albury, the most reliable sources, in order to supply the amount of water that has to be sent past Lake Victoria. To meet the circumstances that might be expected to arise on such an occasion wide discretionary powers ought to be invested in the Commission appointed, in order that the interests of the irrigation settlements along the river, up to and beyond the South Australian border should be preserved.
– I think the honorable member will find that clause 51 covers the point in his mind.
– There should be discretionary power.
– lt is given.
– In my view, the agreement would have been more complete if it had given the Commission full power” to deal with any situation in accordance with the requirements for the irrigation settlements of the various States, apart from the question of rigid allocation and of navigation altogether. It has been stated that the £3,000,000- of which £1,000,000 will be contributed by the Commonwealth - set apart for expenditure on the locks is money that will be thrown away, in that this large sum of money is to be expended in order to encourage a trade that amounts to only £45,000 per annum. I do not think that argument outs the case quite-f airly. The engineers themselves tell us that the locks are capable of storing 300,000 acrefeet of water, and, in my opinion, it is only a question of waiting until the locks now constructed for navigation cease altogether to ply on the river, When that time comes we shall have in the locks valuable barrages along the river capable of irrigating a further 150,000 acres. In the sense that the cost of constructing the locks will not be anything like proportionate to their storage capacity, they are a costly concession to navigation, but we have to remember that with the diminution of navigation on the river these locks will, in themselves, prove very valuable storages, having a capacity greater than that of the Waranga Basin. This agreement, it should be here pointed out, provides that the whole of the water north of Albury will be very largely required to satisfy the wants of the Commission, and that New South Wales and Victoria will have to construct locks on the rivers below Albury and the Murrumbidgee inlet to provide for their irrigation requirements along the banks of the Murray in a very dry year.
I have endeavoured to place before the House the true position of this agreement in relation to the States. I have sought to deal with the subject from an Australian stand-point. We have reached the dawn of the possibility of enormously increased storages, and this will be welcomed by the House and the country. On the ratification of this agreement, these works should not only be started as soon as possible, but one of the first efforts of the Commission should be to ascertain through their engineers where it is possible in the upper reaches of the Murray to construct even more extensive storages than those for which provision has been made. Engineers should be set to work at once to find out how far it is possible to store some of the remaining two-thirds of the flow of the Murray that will not be utilized under this agreement. The value of irrigation has been touched upon by the Leader of the Opposition, and I have dealt with that phase of the question on many occasions in this House. I have quoted figures to prove that some of the finest results obtained from irrigation in any part of the world have been secured along the Murray valley. No other part of the world probably can show greater results per acre than we have obtained from some of our irrigation settlements. The production of Mildura on the present basis is about £50 per acre. It is impos sible to expect along all parts of .the Murray banks the high value of production that has been secured at Mildura and Renmark. We could not hope to establish along the whole river front irrigation settlements such as would give us the production per acre that we have at Mildura. If it were possible to utilize our 1,500,000 acres of irrigable Murray lands provided for by this agreement, so as to produce the same money value per acre as is gained at Mildura itself, we should have, under this present scheme alone, an agricultural production of something like £70,000,000 per annum. But this expenditure will pay over and over again, even if, as the result of it, we can secure only one-fourth or the production per acre obtained at Renmark and Mildura. Having regard to the production that will result from these storages, and the cheap cost of storage per acre-foot, it seems to me that the time has arrived when we should ascertain, without further delay, whether other storages cannot be made, and that we should set to work as soon as possible to largely extend the storage capacity even beyond that provided for in this agreement. I believe that the last word has not been said in connexion with this Murray Waters Agreement. I regard it as being, after all, only a tentative one. The time may come when it will be necessary to make a wider investment of authority. It may be found desirable to vest the control of the Murray water and its tributaries in the Inter-State Commission, giving it an authority which will place for all time on a proper basis the question of navigation and irrigation. I am convinced that the experience we shall gain in the value of water for irrigation as compared with its use for navigation purposes, will very quickly demonstrate that irrigation should be the first consideration. Meantime, we should accept this agreement. Tt is worthy of support, but I think that the final control of the Murray and its tributaries will have to be vested in the Federal power, so that this magnificent possession may be removed beyond the State and internecine jealousies which have existed for forty years, but which we hope have been happily ended by this agreement.
Mr. YATES (Adelaide) [6.71.- I wish to join with others who have contributed tn this debate in expressing my appreciation of the efforts of those who have been connected with the movement to bring about this agreement. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, we have in this Bill one of the largest developmental enterprises upon which the Commonwealth has ever embarked, and it is satisfactory to know that the whole question has been dealt with in a truly Federal spirit. The people of South Australia will be more than pleased that the agreement has been finalized. The battle has been waged most keenly in that State.
– South Australia wants the world
– Not at all. The honorable member’s interjection illustrates the spirit with which representatives of Victoria have approached the representatives of South Australia in regard to this question. Victoria seemed to think that it was “ the world,” and that we in South Australia were out to grab ft.
– South Australia wanted all the waters of the Murray and the Murrumbidgee.
– No. but we did not desire to have merely a big, dirty gutter running through our territory to suit the convenience of Victoria and New South Wales. The Murray opens into the sea from South Australia, and therefore that State has some claim to be considered with respect to its navigation. I do not think that it has ever asked for ‘more than Victoria or New South Wales would have claimed had either of them occupied the same geographical position. I sincerely hope that the very best results will flow from this agreement. There is room for magnificent development in the valley of the Murray. No better development could take place than is to be secured by means of irrigation and settlement along the banks of the river.
– South Australia cries for more, and more, and more.
– That speaks volumes for our tenacity of purpose, and I trust that as the result of” that tenacity South Australia will so outstrip Victoria that it will be nothing more than the back door of the State which I have the honour to represent. I know, however, that my honorable friend is not serious in these interjections, and I may say at once that my earnest hope is that, as the result of this agreement, “the waters of the Murray will “be so utilized as to do great service to South Australia and the other States interested. I would add my meed of praise to that which has already been given to the men responsible for the completion of the agreement. I should be wanting in my duty if I failed to refer to the splendid work done by an honorable gentleman who, in the days gone by, was perhaps more prominent than any other in the effort to bring about the present situation. I refer to the first Labour Premier of South Australia - the late Mr. Tom Price - who lifted this question out of the realms of mere academic discussion. I have often claimed that if, in the early days of South Australia, we had had more practical men in the State Legislature, Victoria would not have got so far ahead of that State as she has done by the use of the Murray waters. Instead of having to go cap in hand to the other State in order to obtain recognition of her riparian rights, South Australia would have made her irrigation development so great that neither Victoria nor New South Wales could have withstood her demands. We have had illuminating addresses from the honorable member for Angas and the honorable member for Wimmera ; and I believe that the carrying into effect of this agreement will mark a new epoch in the history of Australia.
– As the representative of Renmark, and of a good deal of the country on the river which will be developed by the carrying out of this scheme, I desire to express my satisfaction that this long, and often wearisome, effort has come so near to consummation. I cannot refrain from referring to two gentlemen who have for many years taken a deep interest in this subject. One of these is a citizen of South Australia, who is now eighty-two years of age, but is one of the most active men at his time of life that I have ever known. I refer to Mr. Simpson Newland, who, during a long and honorable life, has devoted his energies unceasingly to this great question. The other is my esteemed friend the honorable member for Angas, who, for more than thirty years, has laboriously kept this subject to the front. I congratulate them on the fruition of their efforts. The Minister of Trade and Customs, in introducing the Bill, said that, speaking generally, honorable members knew very little and had seen very little of the river. As the representative of Renmark, I hope to be associated with the honorable member for Wimmera, who represents Mil- dura, in securing en invitation to the members of this Parliament to visit those magnificent irrigation settlements at an early date, so that, as the fruit season is nearing, they may see the river at its very best, and observe the wonderful transformation that has been made. If honorable members are not satisfied now they will be then, that the part being played by the Federal Government in this magnificent enterprise is full of promise. If the works now proposed had been carried out years ago, a very large proportion of the stock lost in South Australia during the last disastrous season would have been saved.
.- The locking of the River Murray will represent to me the consummation of a dream of over thirty years. For a number of years I lived on the banks of the River Murray; I know what are its possibilities, and of what great value the locking of the stream will be. I think that- in my first public utterance I said that the development of the southern portion of Australia, contiguous to the Murray River, was dependent on the unlocking of the land and the locking of the streams. Today, I am delighted to know that, despite all the difficulties of our parliamentary and governmental systems, it has been found possible to bring all the States interested into line in regard to this important matter. It was a delicate and difficult task, and I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on his work during the time he was Prime Minister in bringing the negotiations to a successful issue. No less earnest am I in congratulating the present Ministry on giving effect to the agreement then arrived at. It shows that even though there be party differences in regard to the best method to adopt- for the proper development of the Commonwealth, the governmental system does make it possible for us to come into agreement in doing that which is for the good of the people. The handling of the Murray River waters is a big national question, and the consummation of this scheme will be hailed with” delight. Although there may be some critics who do not yet fully apprehend the advantages likely to accrue from the scheme, the time will surely come when all men will realize that the passage of this Bill is really the first important step towards the consummation of the greatest develop- mental work ever undertaken in regard to increasing the production of the soil in the southern portion of Australia. I am delighted that this Bill is being passed during the time I have the honour to occupy a seat in Parliament, because, to my mind, it marks an historic incident in our development. In the matter of irrigation, we in Victoria have been feeling our way slowly for the last twenty-five years. We have at last overcome the initial difficulties, and in whatever expenditure is incurred in future in regard to the locking of the River Murray and the irrigation of the adjacent areas, we shall start from the point of view of knowledge rather than of experiment. If we have derived advantages from irrigation - and we have had great advantages at Mildura, Renmark, and at Ardmona - those advantages have come about as a result of numerous experiments and many failures. In future, we shall be able to continue that work on a larger scale, with all the advantages derived from past experiments, and we shall accomplish a result that will be a blessing to the whole community, and go far to make the occupation of the land more pleasurable than it has been in the past. The last consideration is one of great importance, because I view with alarm the rate at which the cities are building up compared with the emptiness of the country, and if by the conservation of water and its utilization in irrigation we can make country life more attractive, we shall have taken an appreciable step in the direction of overcoming that evil. I congratulate the Ministry on the introduction of the Bill, and I am indeed pleased that the Federal Government and the three States concerned have entered into a proper deed of partnership, which, I am sure, will be a credit to them and an advantage to the Commonwealth.
– As one of the representatives of Queensland, which is not particularly affected by this agreement, I have followed the negotiations which have led up to the introduction of this Bill with great interest from the time I first entered- this Parliament. When we are dealing with this measure it is only just that we should pay a tribute to the honorable member for Angas for his labours in connexion with it. I do not suppose there is any man in Australia who is more entitled to such credit than he is. I am not desirous of minimizing the credit due to other men who have taken an interest in the matter, but any honorable member who has followed closely the circumstances leading up to this agreement must know that no man in Australia has given more careful and more thoughtful consideration to it than the honorable member for Angas. Honorable members need only refer to the many memoranda which he has prepared on this subject, and particularly to the appendix printed in the Victorian Parliamentary Papers in 1911, to discover what a wonderful grasp he has of the whole subject. More than that, he did’ a great deal of good in clearing the atmosphere as regards the legal position in relation to the rights of the Commonwealth and the States. And, throughout all his efforts, whilst always having a natural inclination to conserve the rights of his own State, he did try to hold the scales justly between all the States concerned, so that he might help to bring to fruition a truly national scheme. I believe that the solution of this problem was made possible the moment the Commonwealth decided to step forward and to give assistance to the States. It is right that the Commonwealth should give some aid in a matter of this kind, because the whole of Australia is definitely interested in it. It is not only the States that are concerned in settling and populating Australia and increasing its production. In our scheme of Federation there is a distribution of powers between the Commonwealth and the States, but those powers were intended to be used conjointly for the benefit of Australia as a whole. The agreement which the House is asked to ratify to-day will, in my opinion, prove one of the biggest accomplishments since Federation. It seems strange that a measure of such great importance should be allowed to pass through the House so quietly, when we remember the strenuous debates that take place on minor differences between parties. By this measure we are laying the foundation of a big scheme that is likely to play an important part in increasing the population and material wealth of Australia. I was pleased to hear the Treasurer refer today to the necessity for increasing production. If we desire to retain and increase our present high standards of living, we shall require to do more than devise schemes for regulating the distribution of wealth. We must do all we can to increase the output of wealth. Nobody desires to see our standards of living reduced. On the contrary, we desire them to be raised; but only by this Parliament devoting itself to great schemes for increasing production, and by the Commonwealth co-operating with the States to that end, shall we be able to do anything to permanently enhance the comfort of the Australian people. In conclusion, I desire to assure the House that, although Queensland will not directly benefit under this Bill, yet, in accordance with the national feeling which prevails throughout Australia, the northern State will most heartily congratulate New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia on the bringing of this project into being. I hope that when the. Commissioners are appointed they will be able to devise a scheme that will realize the ideals of those who are promoting this Bill.
.- I wish to congratulate the Government on the steps they have taken in harmony with the States to give effect to the agreement which has been arrived at. Of all the enterprises upon which the Commonwealth has embarked, this is certainly one of the greatest. The success of Mildura and other irrigation centres in Australia provides every encouragement to the Governments concerned to proceed vigorously with the project that is before us. Some months ago I had the pleasure of visiting Mildura with the honorable member for Lilley, and we were delighted to find that country, which previously had been utilized as sheep-walks - maintaining one sheep to ten or thirteen acres - converted into a veritable oasis. Instead of one sheep to thirteen acres, we found that area carrying one human being to about one and threequarter acres. It was very gratifying to learn also that, in regard to the amount earned per acre, the carrying capacity of the soil and the production of foodstuffs, the Mildura scheme is in advance of any other in the world. We found that the land has been subdivided into ten-acre blocks, and that each of the land-holders is earning about £400 per annum. In other words, every acre is returning about £40 a year to the occupant. If this result is compared with that for any other form of primary production, it will be found that Mildura easily takes the palm, and is a splendid monument to the efforts of the Chaffey Brothers and the pioneers associated with them.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 745 p.m.
– Although Mildura has proved such a success, it was at one time regarded as a white elephant, and when persons talked of irrigation they would hear the warning, “Look at Mildura”; but the construction of the railway from Melbourne to the district, and the provision of insulated trucks, together with the imposition of an import duty of 3d. per lb. on raisins, prunes, and other preserved fruits, have given such facilities and encouragement to enterprise that now the Mildura district can more than supply the demand of Australia for such pro-, ducts. Nowadays the practice of the people there is to ascertain the requirements of the Commonwealth for the year, and to distribute between the farmers of the district the task of supplying them, any surplus being sent to distilleries, of which there are two or three, to be converted into white spirit for the fortification of wine. A little lower down the Murray, in South’ Australia, is Renmark, where equally good results have been obtained.
– Has the honorable member ever heard of a country called Egypt?
– I am coming to that. A gentleman now high in the opinion of the British public is Lord Cromer, who earned great distinction by his association with the construction of the Assouan Dam, on the Nile, which holds back a body of water as great as that contained in Port Jackson. But, whereas at Mildura poor land has been so improved by irrigation that less than two acres will support a white man, at Assouan five acres are needed to support a coloured man. About two years ago I visited the Burrinjuck Dam, and the Yanco settlement, which has been greatly criticised, but that was to be expected, remembering what occurred in the case of Mildura. At Yanco the land has been subdivided into blocks of from 100 to 150 acres, and is being used for the growing of fruit and lucerne, the raising of ostriches and poultry, and for dairying. The State Government have supplied the farmers with dairy cattle, and the returns which the latter get from the cream they send to up-to-date butter factories in the district have enabled them to pay off their liabilities. The Burrinjuck scheme has even better prospects than the Mildura scheme, because, as it supplies water by gravitation instead of by pumping, it is less costly, Yanco settlers paying about 7s. 6d. for what costs the Mildura settlers about 30s. The fruit industry has a great future in Australia. Recently, during a visit to the Forbes district, in my electorate, I saw freezing chambers fitted up for the reception of grapes and other fruit, which can be kept there in good condition until it becomes out of season, when it can be sent in insulated cars to centres of population. The Government is abundantly justified in asking Parliament to ratify the agreement now under discussion. Under it New South’ Wales, Victoria, and South’ Australia are to provide £3,663,000, and the Commonwealth £1,000,000. The expenditure will be controlled by a Board of Commissioners, on which each of the parties to the agreement will have a representative. They will, I trust, work harmoniously, and the working of the scheme will be watched with the keenest interest by the people of Australia.
– I did not hear the speeches made this afternoon during this debate, but, like other honorable members, I am pleased that an amicable settlement of a vexed question has at length been arrived at. The future of this country, especially in regard to agricultural and pastoral pursuits, depends largely on the proper conservation of one of our great national assets - the waters of our rivers. Representing a constituency which is deeply interested, I have followed closely the negotiations which have resulted in the agreement we are now asked to ratify. It has been said by some that the interests of Victoria will suffer by the agreement, and similar criticism has come from New South Wales. Until recently I myself feared that in a year of serious drought, like last year, water would have to be taken from the storage reservoirs in New South Wales and Victoria to make up to South Australia the quantity to which that State is entitled under the agreement, because it was stated by certain engineers that the “ locked “ water could not be used for irrigation. I had not the good fortune to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Angas, who has all the details of this scheme at his finger-tips, but the opinion I now hold, based on statements made by engineering experts, is that the “ locked “ water can be used for irrigation, and that removes any objection that I might have had to the agreement. I do not, however, view this matter merely from the stand-point of the interests of Victoria. Did the representatives of New South Wales and Victoria view the agreement merely from the stand-point of State interest, they would find grounds for objecting to it; but for national reasons we must rejoice at the settlement that has been arrived at. It is proposed to spend £3,105,000 on navigation works, and £1,558,000 on irrigation works, nearly ‘three-fourths of the total expenditure being for the purposes of navigation. It might appear from these figures that irrigation is to be made to suffer for the sake of navigation, but, in view of the almost irrefutable evidence of engineers that the “ locked “ water will be available for irrigation, we have little to fear, and have reason for thinking that in entering into this agreement we are doing the right thing. No doubt, were the Opposition in power, they would be doing in this matter exactly what the Government are doing. I suppose that most honorable members have visited Mildura, and I am certain that we are all agreed that if there were a score of Milduras throughout Australia, or in the areas affected by the agreement, this would be a better country in every way. There is no doubt that the future of this country depends on the manner in which ‘the waters are conserved ; and I regard this Bill as really a milestone on the road - as the beginning of a great future for land settlement. I only desire to say further that there are settlers along the Murray and its tributaries who view with some apprehension their future under this agreement in operation; but I trust that under the agreement it will not be possible to do an injustice to any settler. The amount of water contributed by Victoria to the Murray is very great, and there is therefore some room for the apprehension I have mentioned. The Goulburn has a mean annual flow of 2,232,000 acre-feet; the Mitta, 1,116,000; the Ovens, 1,056,000; the Kiewa, 480,000; the Loddon, 228,000;’ the Broken, 216,000; and the Campaspe, 180,000. These are all rivers which flow from Victoria into the Murray; and on the Goulburn immense irrigation works - perhaps the finest in the country - have been started at Sugarloaf. Under all the circumstances, it is not surprising that people, with such splendid streams running by their homesteads, should view this agreement with some concern. However, as one who has endeavoured to study the agreement, I do not think there is much ground for this apprehension. One point that concerned them was as to the locked waters being available for storing for irrigation purposes; but we are told by the leading engineers that these waters can be so used, and this should remove any fear on that score. I have no hesitation in giving my unqualified support to the Bill, and I am delighted that at length there has been an amicable settlement. The Commonwealth has done the only thing it could under the circumstances, because it is not our place to offer any hindrance to an arrangement of this kind. My hope is that this is the beginning of a new era in land settlement. We have no necessity to go to countries like Egypt to learn about irrigation, although I have heard some very fine speeches from Mr. Alfred Deakin, who has visited most of the irrigation countries, and is regarded as an authority on the subject. We have within our own borders striking illustrations of what irrigation means, and how all-important is an effective system of water conservation, such as I hope will result from the passing of this measure. As one who represents an interested constituency, I have pleasure in saying that, in my opinion, there is no ground for any apprehension on the part of the settlers, and that this measure will be good, not only for the States immediately interested, but for the Commonwealth as a whole.
.- As a South Australian, I have to congratulate the Government on the introduction and completion of this great scheme. It realizes my idea of what ought to be done by a great National Parliament, when we find honorable members discussing a scheme of the kind without any party feeling. It is really a pleasure to see the Leader of the Opposition smiling at finding his scheme being .passed into law. It was, indeed, a treat to hear the honorable member for Angas deliver his well- thought-out speech to-day, because I suppose there is no man in Australia more fitted to deal with this question. Then the honorable member for Wimmera has carefully studied the problem, and we are much indebted to him for the facts and figures he has placed before us. It is impossible for any one to estimate the value of the great work we are undertaking, especially when we find irrigation so successful elsewhere on land of a quality of which we have not thousands, but millions, of acres. We require land for our returned soldiers, of whom I hope we shall have many, and no better areas could be found than those of the Murray River flats. Mildura and Renmark have been referred to as examples of successful irrigation settlements, and I know that at the latter place there are now 3,000 or 4,000 inhabitants, where formerly there were only six or seven. I do not think that one could find a happier or more contented community; and, further along the river, there are Berry, Waikerie, Loxton, and other settlements. I am sure we all congratulate the honorable member for Corangamite on his grand offer of 3,000 acres of first-class country, with a splendid rainfall, for the settlement of our returned soldiers; and I only hope that the men who have fought for the Empire will in no case be called upon to pay for land. South Australia especially will benefit from this great work of water conservation; and, of course, we know that this is one of the best managed States in Australia. FOI the sake of not only South Australia, but of the whole of the Commonwealth, I hope it will not be long before this Bill becomes law, and for all time settle this Murray River question.
.- I must say that I have some misgiving in regard to the Bill. I should like to know whether the banks along the Murray are held by the Government or by private owners.
– The great bulk is held by private owners.
– Then is it proposed to spend £3,500,000 for the benefit of these private owners? If so, I can easily understand the gratitude of some people to the Government for helping on this scheme. As all the available land in Australia which can be cultivated without irrigation has not yet been settled, we have no need to establish irrigation works along the Murray River. I wish to know whether the Commonwealth Parliament will have the right to review the regulations framed by the Commission. Are we to vote this £1,000,000 without knowing our position?
– In South Australia most of the land along the Murray River is owned by the Crown.
– In such a case I would have no serious objection to providing irrigation, but I know that there is one frontage of 40 miles on the Murray which” is owned by one individual. I wish to know whether we are to vote this money, and have no control over the Commission, and whether we can resume land at its present valuation, or whether we shall have to buy when the price has been in- “ creased by this expenditure. Are we to have the power of taxation to recoup ourselves for our expenditure? I know that the people in South Australia are very enthusiastic because this money is to be spent for the benefit of private owners. The Bill seems to have been introduced simply on the old parrot cry of “ Let us have irrigation,” though there are millions of acres still available for selection which can be cultivated without irrigation.
– South Australia will have only one-third of the area of land that will be benefited in either New South Wales or Victoria.
– Parliament should give more serious consideration to this matter. A Committee should be appointed to inquire into it, and bring up a report. Are we to spend £1,000,000 without investigation and without information ?
– If the honorable member had been in the chamber he would have heard all the information he required.
– I regret that I did not hear the honorable member. If the works projected will be of national benefit, I can have no objection to the Bill, but it seems to me that we are to spend this money for the benefit of private landholders.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is to give effect to amendments which have been found necessary since the passage of the last Bill, three years ago. The principal factor which has come into operation is the opening of the Panama Canal and the inauguration of a new trade route from America and other countries passing through an area which is known to be infested by yellow fever. The danger to be considered is not only the introduction of the disease, but also its spread from place to place within Australia. In March, 1914, when the honorable member for Darling Downs was Minister of Trade and Customs, he sanctioned the expenditure necessary to conduct a survey of the coastal towns of Queensland, with the object of determining the occurrence and distribution of Stegomyia fasciata, the intermediary host of yellow fever, which is a domestic mosquito. The survey was conducted by Mr. Prank H. Taylor, the entomologist attached to the Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine, and the results of his investigation are embraced in a book which has been distributed to honorable members. As to the value of the work, the honorable members for Grampians and Melbourne can speak, and any honorable member who has perused the book can see that the work has been done very well. Maps indicate the number of places where yellow fever has been reported since 1909, including the Panama Canal zone, but the American authorities have done such excellent work in that area that they have practically eradicated the disease, and the nine cases which have occurred there since 1906 have all been imported. The Bill before us has been introduced for the purpose of enabling our quarantine authorities to take the necessary steps to eradicate it in Australia. On page 17 of the book issued to honorable members will be found a comparison between the two South American towns of Para and Manaos. No steps have been taken in Manaos to eradicate the stegomyia mosquito, with the result that the number of yellow fever cases remains very high; but since action was taken in Para to get rid of the disease the cases have fallen from 358 in 1910 to forty-nine in the fol lowing year, and three in 1912. The places where yellow fever is now endemic are practically on the direct route to Australia. During the two years ending 30th September, 1914, vessels arrived at Sydney or Newcastle from Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru, and the duration of the voyage from those places permits the larvae of the mosquito to breed out in Australia. As a matter of fact, there is no necessity for the mosquito to be imported and bred here, because it is here already. Honorable members will see by a map on page 94 of the book distributed to them that the inquiries instituted by my predecessor showed that the existence of Stegomyia fasciata has been determined at all coastal towns from Newcastle ‘ to Port Darwin, and even at such inland places as Ravenswood, Proserpine, Edisvold, and Cunnamulla. The difficulties of dealing with the yellow fever are twofold - -firstly, the insidious nature of the small species of mosquito which is the carrier of the disease, and, secondly, . the fact that many cases of yellow fever are mild in type and difficult to diagnose. Investigation having revealed the presence of this mosquito in every port in Queensland, if a case should occur ashore there is grave danger of its spreading, and it is therefore necessary to extend the power already contained in the Quarantine Act so that steps may be taken to prevent these mosquitoes from breeding, and they may be kept under control not only on vessels from abroad, but also, if necessary, on vessels trading between Australian ports. The amendment to section 13 is necessary to enable the Government to act quickly should the disease menace any portion of Australia, and also to enable vessels to be kept under control on their arrival at other ports, and to permit of adequate measures being taken. This accounts, also, for most of the extension that is sought to the provisions of section 87, giving additional powers of control over mosquito-borne diseases. Difficulties have arisen in connexion with the proper isolation of patients or contacts of diphtheria cases on vessels arriving from overseas, and has been found necessary to extend the powers given by the Act in order to give control over contacts and prevent infected persons from leaving steamers, as has happened in the case of some immigrant steamers which have arrived with infectious diseases on board. The Bill will provide for proper isolation and disinfection. The recent epidemic of small-pox showed the necessity for providing more satisfactory powers of isolation, and releasing , vaccinated persons under surveillance. Cases occurred in which the provisions of the Act were ignored, and owing to the incompleteness of the Act it was impossible to punish the offenders. Though the cases were mild, and few deaths occurred, this epidemic offered a warning to us to be amply prepared against, not only small-pox, but also cholera, plague, and yellow fever. There will otherwise be a menace .in regard to our troops who have gone away to fight the battles of the Empire. Our soldiers now in Turkey are in one of the worst countries in the world from the point of view of disease infection, and it is quite possible that they may become infected with some of the diseases referred to in this Bill, so that it may be necessary to take additional precautions on that account. Necessarily, therefore, the Commonwealth should be equipped with very adequate powers not only to deal with incoming vessels, but also to take immediate action should any case get ashore unrecognised, or develop after arrival. Such an instance occurred recently in the case of the Runic - and it may occur again. Very prompt action is essentia] to success, and it is this that accounts for the extension of the powers within any quarantined area referred to in section 87, sub-section c. The principle of the Commonwealth and States acting together in case of an emergency has already been established. I stated to-day in reply to a question, that the Governments of Victoria and Queensland have asked this Government to assist them in preventing the spread of small-pox from other States by insisting upon a more rigid inspection of cases arriving in their States. The additional power provided for in this Bill is needed, not only to quarantine persona, or to have them vaccinated, after we have discovered that they are contacts, but also to practically hold them wherever they may happen to be. There are in Victoria now, for instance, some fifty-six or fiftyseven contacts from the Wodonga, which arrived last week. If one of these contacts were found in the gallery of this House to-night, it would be impossible, under the present law, for us to detain him there until we could arrange for his removal to a quarantine station.
– You could get authority.
– It would take time to do that - the man would probably have gone before it was secured - and this Bill therefore provides for the detention of any suspected person in any particular place until power is secured to ‘effect his removal. Another most important provision has reference to the manufacture of serums. In clause 9, we take power to regulate the preparation of serums. When the outbreak .of small-pox in Sydney was at its height, many persons there commenced to manufacture vaccine on their own account, and for their own private benefit. That manufacture was entirely uncontrolled. The Government had no power to deal with it. Governmental supervision over such manufacture is necessary, just as it is necessary that the conditions of manufacture should be proscribed. It is not intended under the Bill to prevent manufacture, but it is intended to take such steps as have been taken in the United States of America, in order’ that we may insist upon such preparations being manufactured under proper conditions. I do not intend to labour the question, for experience has shown the necessity for these amendments to the original Act.
– The action of the Minister of Trade and Customs in asking for these amendments to the Quarantine Act has my support. 1 have only had time to go through the Bill hurriedly, but it seems to me that the powers he is proposing to take are necessary for the strengthening of the parent Act. What the honorable member said about the mosquito is thoroughly justified, and it is a matter of serious importance that the State Governments likely to be affected by it should take, active steps to combat the menace. This has already been done in Queensland, particularly in Brisbane, where active steps have been taken to minimize the danger. Areas are being drained, tanks are being protected, and the residents are being taught the use of oil and other substances against the insect. The late Governor of Queensland, Sir William McGregor, who had much tropical experience, preached in season and out of season the absolute necessity of fighting the mosquito with all the power that the State possessed. Wherever he visited he emphasized the importance of this. I am glad to notice that his preaching has had some results, though the great difficulty is to get the local governing bodies who possess powers, to exercise them in the manner desired. The mosquito danger was brought under my notice by the Director of Quarantine when an investigation was being made to* discover the extent to which Australia was likely to be affected by the opening of the Panama Canal. Inquiries were made, and Mr. Taylor, the entomologist at the Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine, has produced a very complete report. If the Minister could see his way to send copies of this report to the various States, asking them to get into touch with their local governing bodies on this point, and emphasizing the importance of fighting the mosquito, much good would result. As the Minister has pointed out, the whole subject of quarantine is based upon mutual cooperation between the States and the Commonwealth. On this point I particularly ask the Minister to give the House more information regarding the attitude of New South Wales. I understand the Government of New South Wales have passed legislation taking increased powers of administration, so as to more effectively cope with diseases in its own State; but no one can contemplate the large number of cases of small-pox that have arisen in Newcastle without feeling considerable anxiety. I cannot help the thought that if this problem had been tackled more vigorously by the New South Wales Government, or if that Government had had adequate power to cope with the difficulty, smallpox would not have got the hold of New South Wales that it has. I hope that the State authorities and the Minister are acting in complete harmony with a view to stamping out the disease. The situation is causing unrest both in Queensland and Victoria, both of which States are free. I know that Queensland has gone to considerable trouble to preserve its record, and it seems a pity that the parent State should have lagged somewhat behind the other States in allowing the disease to get the hold it has. I hope the Minister will tell us that he is in touch with the State of New South Wales on this point.
– Representations have been made.
– I hope these representations will be continued until the disease is effectively checked. The specific powers given under this Bill are more or less technical in their nature, but I think they are quite necessary. The Minister is widening his powers very considerably, as, for instance, in clause 9, sub-clause a, which will give him power to regulate in regard to any particular area if he finds disease there. He can proclaim that area, and when the proclamation has been made he will have full power to step in and take whatever quarantine steps may be considered necessary. The powers proposed in regard to contacts seem to me to be essential, and I think the Minister is acting wisely in bringing forward this Bill with a view to the effective administration of our quarantine law. The necessity for certain of the powers could only have been ascertained through practical experience. The outbreak in New South Wales was the occasion when this Act was first brought into operation. Experience was then gained, and I am glad to see the Minister taking the precaution of stiffening the Act so that in case of any future outbreak the Commonwealth will have all the power necessary to deal with it.
.- I hope that the Minister will see that the value of this investigation regarding the yellow fever mosquito will not be lost.
– The investigation was made by my predecessor.
– I know he inaugurated it, but the honorable member brought it to a conclusion. Three or four years ago I was asked to write something as to how the Panama Canal would affect Australia for a publication circulated by the Department of External Affairs, and the possibility of the introduction of yellow fever into Australia then engaged my attention. I have now forgotten the exact details of the cycle required for the propagation of the organism that creates yellow fever, but, as far as I can recollect, that organism finds its being alternate as between mosquito and human being. It had at that time been established that the Stegomyia fasciata mosquito required to drink of human blood before it could lay its eggs and continue its species; arid for that reason one of the principal methods adopted in the Panama Canal zone to eradicate yellow fever was to place any person suffering from yellow fever beyond all possibility of mosquitobite.
– I think that fifty-seven days is the life of this mosquito.
– At any rate, the mosquito can come tq Australia. My authority seemed to suggest a life of sixty-one days, but the period is longer than that occupied in the actual voyage. It is not possible, however, to search a ship for a mosquito, though it should be possible to take safeguards locally against this mosquito infecting human beings, who in their turn would infect the mosquitoes prevalent through the northern and central portions of our eastern continent. Consequently one of the most important steps to take against the occurrence of yellow fever in Australia is to control this mosquito in the immediate neighbourhood of our coastal cities. As long as you keep this mosquito away from the coastal cities, the cycle to which I have referred as being necessary for the continuation of the organism cannot be . carried out. It does not matter so much if the mosquito is present in places where human beings are not closely aggregated, but if it is allowed to continue to exist around our ports, especially in Queensland and New South Wales, we shall be subject to the danger of yellow fever from the opening of the Panama Canal. Panama in itself will not be the source of danger, but the opening of the Canal brings appreciably nearer to Australia ports on the other side of South America, more particularly, which have not yet eradicated this plague. For that reason, I strongly urge upon the Minister that, instead of pinning our faith to a Quarantine Act, we should eradicate this particular species of mosquito in all our eastern ports. In that way we shall get rid of the risk.
– How does the honorable member propose to find out the arrival of the mosquito?
– We shall know after it arrives. It is obviously impossible to handle such a question with a Quarantine or Immigration Restriction Act. We must eradicate this particular species of mosquito at the places where it is likely to be affected by the larvae arriving. The matter should not be allowed to rest here. We should act where action is required, namely, at the ports I have mentioned, and not attempt the impossible with a mere formal measure of this kind.
– I realize the necessity for . taking restrictive measures to curtail the spread of disease, and that the danger of infection must increase the more we become linked up with countries where diseases prevail that are not yet known in Australia. We shall be taking a step in the right direction by giving the Commonwealth Government any power that may be necessary to enable it to quarantine more effectively any infected area. To-day, however, we are face to face with a great evil, not in the diseases themselves, but in the proposed antidotes. Impartial authorities all the world over have no two opinions as to the action and uses of vaccine. In some cases, our soldiers have had to submit to eight different inoculations before leaving for the front. They have been inoculated against typhoid, and a number of other diseases. Even those who favour this means of combating disease admit that these inoculations tend to lower the vitality of the individual operated on, and so lessen the power to resist other forms of disease. The authorities are now inoculating against meningitis. Two kinds of vaccine are being used, but neither has been proved, so far, to be of primary value. Despite this, they are practising on the boys who are going to the front.
– They are not inoculating our soldiers, against meningitis, are they ?
– Yes. I regret that we cannot deal with these matters in the ordinary common-sense way. Cleanliness and sanitation are the two main remedies now adopted by Japan. That country has abandoned the idea of vaccination, and has resorted to sanitation and cleanliness, which are the enemies of disease. Cleanliness and sanitation are fundamentals in connexion with quarantine.
– And isolation.
– That, probably, is the first essential; but unless the Commonwealth Government has power to enforce sanitation and cleanliness, isolation will not prove efficacious. I hope the day is not far distant when Australia will set an example to the rest of the world by refusing to allow a set of interested men who are for ever developing antidote after antidote for various forms of disease to practise on humanity, undermining the health of the community and bringing about devastation.
– Are those the views of the Government?
– They are my own thoughts.
– But the honorable member cannot have any views other than those of the Cabinet.
– I can. I am not discussing the Bill.
– Then I will rise to order.
– I should have liked to see in the Bill provisions to achieve the objects I have mentioned. I hope the day is not far distant when a Bill will be brought in to secure the community against those ills with which humanity is afflicted at the present moment.
– This is the most extraordinary display of Ministerial responsibility that I have ever witnessed in this House. The Postmaster-General, who has lately joined the Cabinet - a Cabinet which in itself is a corporate entity, and is supposed to be one, on the floor of the House, at all events - has berated one of his colleagues
– He has not.
– He has complained of the absence of certain provisions from this Bill, saying that he would like to see it amended.
– I did not.
– I could not believe my own ears when I heard the Postmaster-General fulminating against the principles of vaccination. He said that he was not speaking to the Bill, and, that being so, I should like to know why he spoke at all. May I address some general observations to the House regarding the honorable gentleman’s relation to the propaganda against the Quarantine Department, and all that concerned it, which was raised some time ago when he was sitting in Opposition? Let me say that I support this Bill cordially and without reservation. If it needs to be strengthened in the direction of giving the Minister full and complete power to deal with dire and dread infectious diseases, then such amendments should be allowed without question. But just what the Postmaster-General rose to say I do not know. I should advise him, when he wants in future to deliver a dissertation on any of these diseases, either to address himself personally to Dr. Cumpston, or, better still, to talk to the Cabinet, and settle his troubles there, instead of wasting the time of Parliament in giving utterance to dissentient views concerning great principles of public health and public control. I should be sorry to think that we are to have many repetitions of this kind of thing. If we are, then responsible government has already gone. The Postmaster-General will have to learn, I am afraid, that he has taken upon himself all the disabilities, as well as the advantages, of being a Cabinet Minister. The Minister of Home Affairs frankly confessed last night that he was hobbled. I enter my protest against the statement made by the PostmasterGeneral. He must remember that his words, now that he is a member of the Cabinet, are infinitely more weighty than they were when he was a free lance on this side of the chamber. It is necessary that the Minister of Trade and Customs should make quite clear his policy regarding the treatment of infectious diseases. We ought to know from him whether the views just uttered by his colleague the Postmaster-General are the views of the Cabinet. If they are, then a very serious situation has arisen in Australia.
– The views of the Cabinet are those expressed in the Bill.
– Then may I ask why the Postmaster-General spoke as he did?
– I have indicated the next Bill.
– Is there another Bill in contemplation ?
– Some day.
– Then that, too, becomes a very serious and important matter. There ought to be no tampering with these proposals by the Government.
– There is no tampering.
– The honorable gentleman will forgive us for having our doubts when we hear a responsible Minister delivering a diatribe such as that just uttered by the PostmasterGeneral - promising another Bill, speaking in advance, and preparing the public mind for it.
– These remarks in print will look as if they were meant.
– Honorable members opposite are so constantly playing a part that they imagine every one else is in the same case. I am trying to address myself to the most serious question that could occupy the attention of the National Parliament - the question of the public health of Australia.
– And this Bill is to protect the health of the people.
– Are we to understand that the references made by the Postmaster-General to infectious diseases, including small-pox and the use of vaccine, were so much hot air, meaning nothing, and not intended to represent the views of the Cabinet? If that is the case, I have nothing to say, but I desire to understand clearly that the Minister in charge of the Bill is giving no countenance whatever to the views enunciated by his fellow Minister. If he does not concur in those views, he is under an obligation to repudiate them at the earliest possible moment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 4 of the principal Act is amended by inserting therein, after the word “protection,” the word “treatment.”
Section proposed to be amended -
.- Will the Minister explain what is meant by the proposal to insert the word “ treatment “ in section 4?
– This clause proposes a technical amendment to cover an expression used in section 48, which says that “ all goods ordered into quarantine shall be treated and disinfected as prescribed,” and to provide the necessary measures to be applied to presumably infected persons, vessels, &c.
– Is it the desire of the Minister to take power to treat persons?
– If treatment is to be applied to presumably infected persons, this may be a necessary power to have. I may draw the attention of the Committee to the experience of the barque Alcyon, which arrived at Fremantle on 24th May, 1915, from Cape Town, and reported that cases of sickness had occurred on board which had been diagnosed by the quarantine office at Cape Town as being cases of yellow fever. This vessel sailed from Frederikstad, Norway, on 21st February, 1914, and called at Pernambuco, Barbados, and Boco Grande. She arrived at Bahia on 23rd December, 1914, and departed on 21st January for Cape Town, where she arrived on the 14th March. On 31st January, ten days after leaving Bahia, four of the crew fell ill, and in the days following there were, in all, seventeen cases of illness, three of which were fatal. On arrival at Cape Town, the barque was fumigated with Clayton gas, and no further trouble was experienced. It is necessary to have power of treatment in order to cover the case of an infected vessel of that character arriving at an Australian port.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 9 and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
.- I should like the Minister to give the House some information in regard to his intentions in connexion with the power granted by clause 9 to make regulations “ for prescribing conditions under which any prophylactic or curative vaccine or serum may be prepared and offered for sale.” Is the Minister taking power to regulate the manufacture and sale of serum even within the States of Australia, because, if so, the question arises as to whether the Minister can legally take that step.
– I consider this measure very necessary. One of its most valuable provisions is that to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Darling Downs. In regard to the preparation and sale of any prophylactic serum or vaccine, the Commonwealth Government should be supreme. There is a golden rule in our Constitution that where the law of a State and the law of the Commonwealth are inconsistent, the latter shall prevail, and I hope that, in this regard, the law of the Commonwealth will prevail in order that we may properly protect the health of the public. It is necessary that we should have uniform legislation to deal with the subject of vaccines or serums.
– I quite realize that if we take power by regulation to fix the conditions under which vaccines should be prepared, unless we have the co-operation of the States, it may be possible for a legal question as to the powers of the Commonwealth to be raised. During the outbreak of small-pox in Sydney some months ago, persons were preparing vaccines that were useless, and, in some cases, harmful. If the power had resided in the honorable member for Darling Downs, who was then Minister for Trade and Customs, he could have stipulated by way of regulation the conditions under which vaccines or serums should be prepared and sold, and I do not think that any State Government would have objected to the Commonwealth exercising that power.
– It may be advisable to ask the States to co-operate with the Commonwealth.
– I admit that. There is no intention on the part of the Government to ride rough-shod over” the States in this matter. There should be proper control of the preparation of serum, and we should see that all such preparations bear the date of their manufacture, because I understand that their efficacy diminishes after a certain time. If the power conferred by clause 9 is found to be vitrei vires, we shall ask for the cooperation of the States with a view to safeguarding as far as possible the health of the people.
Question resolved in the affirmative. “
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
.- I move -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report, namely: -
Extension of the Pine Creek-Katherine River railway southwards so far as Bitter Springs.
The proposal is to extend the line for a distance of 65 miles from Katherine River, making the total distance from Darwin 265 miles. Whilst I am asking the House to refer this project to the Public Works Committee, I am desirous that approval of it should be given by Parliament, subject to the report of the Committee. There are at present engaged on that railway 600 men, many of whom have their families with them. The land at the pre sent terminus is poor, but when the line reaches Bitter Springs, it will tap good land, upon which many of the workers will settle. Yesterday the EngineerinChief urged me to see if it were not possible to arrange for the prosecution of this work subject’ to the approval of the Public Works Committee, otherwise, as it is proposed that the House shall adjourn from to-morrow until some date in March, these men and their families will leave for other parts of Australia.
– When is the extension to the Katherine to be completed ?
– It must be virtually finished now. The EngineerinChief has informed me that in a few days they will have to get rid of the men they are employing there. At first it was thought that an extension to Bitter Springs should be provided for without reference of the proposal to the Works Committee, but after talking the matter over with members of the Committee and others, I do not think that we should act in defiance of the law.
– Law-makers should! not be law-breakers.
– What is MrBell’s estimate of the cost of the proposal ?
– About £100,000 is to be spent on a bridge over the Katherine.
– The estimate makes provision for station accommodation, telegraph lines, and water supply. There are to be 60-lb. rails and fastenings, and although temporarily the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge is to be- adopted, the earthworks, bridges, waterways, and sleepers are to be such that the line may at any time be widened to the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge. There are at present between 500 and 600 men at Pine Creek.
– When will the Public Works Committee undertake an inquiry into the proposal ?
– We hope that they will hustle, and commence their inquiry to-morrow.
– Is it proposed that they shall visit the Territory to take evidence there ?
– I do not see how they could get there.
– Then what will be the value of their investigation?
– The law requires that proposed works of this kind shall b© explained by the Minister, and referred to the Committee for inquiry.
– Can any work be done during the rainy season, which is just setting in ?
– I draw attention to the fact that a large number of persons have recently been taken to the Territory.
– How many? Does the honorable member refer to immigrants from Patagonia?
– My Ministerial digest not having been brought uptodate, I cannot give exact information, but I hope to have it ready next week. The engineer says that the men that he has are a splendid lot - good, healthy, sober men who avoid “ stagger- juice.”
– .-Has the extension to the Katherine been constructed for a sum that is within the estimate?
– All the information is in the papers that have been laid on the table. I remind the honorable member that the proposed railway will be of strategic value. At a distance of 230 miles from Darwin it will pass within 13 miles of the Maranboy tin-fields, where the Government has expended a considerable sum in erecting a crushing battery. The field gives prospect of maintaining a fair population. Bitter Springs is a recognised centre of civic life. It has a splendid water supply available for travelling stock and for locomotives. I hope that honorable members, will see their way to let the Bill fly through to-night.
.- The law which the Minister makes some show of observing requires the production of plans and estimates, and a general statement of the proposal submitted j but my honorable friend has given us no information - that was made plain by the chorus of anxious inquiries which arose on his resumption of his seat - and he has been content to ask us merely to- refer this work to the Public Works Committee. His immediate predecessor, we were given to understand, was ready to disregard the obligation to refer the proposal to the Committee, but he himself asks the House to be a party to a breach of the. law by sanctioning the construction of the line before the Committee has reported upon it.
– He wants the Committee to report to-night or tomorrow morning.
– The Minister has a profound, and, I believe, justified faith in the readiness of the Committee to handle all the work that we can put on them, and for as long a period as we choose. I see the smiling countenance of the Chairman of the Committee waiting hungrily for this job. But the law requires the reference of the Minister’s proposal to the Committee. Sub-section 5 of section 15 of the Public Works Committee Act says that the Committee shall, with all convenient despatch, deal with any matter referred to it. and as soon as conveniently practicable, regard being had to its nature and importance, report to the House the result of its inquiries. After the report has been received it is for the House to declare, by resolution, that it is, or is not, expedient to carry out the proposed work. Thus we cannot give the Minister the liberty of action for which he asks. I regret the difficulty in which he is placed, and that this proposal was not referred to the Committee sufficiently early to avoid imperilling the employment of the men to whom he has referred. But he must be responsible for any breach of the law. Of course, the law could be observed, and the position in the Northern Territory safeguarded, by calling Parliament together to deal with the Committee’s report, or by amending the Public Works Committee Act.
– Why should not the Committee report to-morrow ?
– I hope that the Chairman of the Committee will assure us that he can give the matter his earnest consideration and the benefit of his expert knowledge, and report on the proposal within twenty-four hours ! Such a statement would be in keeping with his general assurance; but I am afraid that such a thing would not be possible without the public becoming aware of the farce that was being played.
– I understand that the Committee is not to visit the Territory.
– The Committee will tak© the evidence of the EngineerinChief and other officers in Melbourne, and defer to the judgment of these men, who, being experts, know more of the subject than it can ever expect to learn. Having done so, it will report to the House. The whole thing is a farce, but we must have a report from the
Committee before we can pass a resolution authorizing the work.
– I ask the Minister whether he is able to inform us of the character of the country through which the railway will pass? Is there better country at Bitter Springs than at theKatherine?
– I think there is.
– Has the Minister anything in his mind as to the object of this extension - how far it is going, and in what direction? The honorable gentleman may not be prepared to give us the information to-night; but, of course, we know that the object is an extension of the line into South Australia. Has the Administrator of the Territory reported as to the best route for a railway? When the late Government were in office, the matter was being investigated; and we have been informed that the surveys are almost completed, though we have not had any reports as to the nature of the country. This is a matter in which I am interested, and on which I should like to be enlightened. We desired the main trunk line to go from the Katherine down the telegraph line to Newcastle Waters, and then to Anthony’s Lagoon, and on to Alroy Station, and from this point to divide into two lines, one southerly to Alice Springs and on to Oodnadatta, and the other to Camooweal, on the Queensland border, joining the Queensland railway system. Our idea was that the main line, common to both, should be as long as possible, so that there should not be two lines running parallel. It is evident that the Minister of Home Affairs has not the information we require; but perhaps the Minister of External Affairs may be able to tell us something about the matter.
.- The position is, I think, very well known to honorable members who have studied the reports of the Administrator; and the right honorable member for Swan is more familiar than others with the general details of the route it is proposed to follow. There is nothing inconsistent between the extension of the line to Bitter Springs and the extension of the line suggested some time ago by that honorable member. I regret that the details submitted to-night are not fuller; and had I known that the question would arise I should have armed myself with the necessary documents and information. At the same time, this is merely a motion to refer a matter to the Public Works Committee, the members of which will have every opportunity to study the reports, maps, and surveys ; so that I do not think we shall lose anything in consequence of the absence of detailed information on the present occasion. It must be presumed that the Public Works Committee will go very fully into the matter in every detail before making any recommendation; and, that being the case, I think the House might very well pass the motion. Before honorable members are called upon to finally approve of the extension of the line, the fullest information will be available, and expert evidence will be submitted. In the meantime I impress on honorable members that the position in the Territory of the men engaged on construction is rather precarious. The other portion of the line is already approaching completion; and if there is any delay, a large number of men will be thrown out of employment, while an expensive plant, already on the ground, will deteriorate in value through being unused. Altogether, it would be unfortunate if this proposal should be in any way delayed. I am not saying this because I wish to make any departure from the Act of Parliament, but it would be extremely regrettable if we allowed any technicality to prevent the early completion of the work. .
– What you want to do is to repeal the Public Works Committee Act.
– The honorable member, whose address I listened to with a good deal of interest, no doubt explained the law very correctly ; but he must know that to amend or repeal the Public Works Committee Act in the time at our disposal is quite impracticable. It might be possible to read the Act in such a way that the extension could be regarded as an extension of the line already sanctioned. However, I am not a lawyer, and I do not intend to offer an opinion on the point.
– It is an extension, but it is covered by the Act, all the same.
– If it were an extension of the original work, it would not be necessary to refer it to the Public Works Committee.
– Oh, yes; the word “extension “ is in the ‘Act.
– Then might we not regard this as part of the original scheme ?
– The original scheme has never been before the Public Works Committee.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs must see that if this railway were undertaken before the Committee came into existence, it follows that the creation of the Committee could offer no impediment to the continuance of the work.
– The previous Act did not authorize the construction of ‘the work that we are proposing to go on with just now.
– I apprehend that the previous Act authorized the construction of a transcontinentalrailway.
-From Pine Creek to Katherine River.
– Granting all thatfor the Katherine River may be regarded as a geographical expression - are we to allow legal technicalities to impede the carrying out of this great work - to result in the unemployment and migration of a large body of men, involving the hanging up of a very valuable plant ? That is the position ; and in the meantime I hope that honorable members will see the desirability of passing the motion.
– One must sympathize with the Minister of Home Affairs, though I am afraid that that sympathy does not include the Minister of External Affairs.
– I never got any sympathy from you.
– I fancy that the honorable gentleman has always received as much sympathy from me as he deserved.
– And you from me.
– Quite so. After that little interlude, may I say that the reason for the differentiation between the two Ministers is that one is new to his position, in a sense, while the other has been a member of the Government for the whole of the time, and has had the control of the Territory? If things are so serious up there, who is responsible ? It is a scandalous condition of things if there are 600 men up there who have finished one job, and there is no more work for them, although there are thousands of miles of railway to construct. This is a very serious reflection on some official, or on the Minister. It was known that there was a Public Works Committee Act, and a Public Works Committee, and it was also known that this other line was finishing; and yet no steps were taken to provide some new work until it was too late to comply with the law. Whichever officer is responsible, he ought to be held to strict account - there ought to be some explanation of the negligence on the part of the officer or Minister, as the case may be. I invite the Minister of External Affairs to tell the House the whole circumstances. If the honorable gentleman wishes the House to treat him unusually - to treat him generously and according to Christian principles - I suggest that he should take us into his confidence and tell us where the trouble is. At any rate, I suggest that the position of affairs is very serious when, in the case of a public work of the value of £320,000, we are asked to set aside the law in order that it may be undertaken at once. Are we not entitled to some explanation - to know why no provision was made for carrying on the work in the usual way ? Has the Minister of Home Affairs, who claims to be a business man, called for a report on this matter ? It is serious that there should be 600 men threatened with being turned adrift and with starvation while the Government are proceeding leisurely with this proposal, getting all behindhand, and creating such a situation that it is necessary either to set the law of the land aside or to deprive 600 men of employment. Does not the Minister think that he should “ run through her “ again, as he so frequently expresses himself ?
– I was at the mercy of the officers; there was nothing in the digest to guide me.
– Why were not the officers acquainted with the position ? Why was not the work projected long ago? They ought to have known that they could not get over the river without a bridge. Is the item £13,000 for bridges and culverts to cover the cost of bridging the river ?
– I know as much about this matter as does Paul the Apostle.
– National money is to be spent to the tune of £320,000, and a Minister in the National Parliament comes forward and frankly admits that he knows as much about it as the Apostle Paul does. I have never seen such a spectacle in my long experience of Parliament. I should not mind so much if this were a matter of moderate dimensions, but when it involves £320,000 of public money and the setting aside of the law to cover up and condone official ineptitude somewhere and somehow it is time to make a protest.
– If the Minister of Home Affairs had kept up the digest system he could have put his finger on the matter, and kept the gentleman concerned up to his business.
– What gentleman ? The Minister has not said who this gentleman is. His better course would be to secure an explanation and submit it to the House, showing honorable members how the bungle has occurred. I am sure that if he tried very hard he could find some work which these 600 men could do until this matter has gone through the usual lawful channels. We passed the Public Works Act in order to prevent this kind of thing, and as an insuranceagainst it, yet here this ‘ ‘ Minister of progress ‘ ‘ and this Government, which was to pioneer the way in so many directions, apparently consider that an Act of Parliament is nothing to them, and that they may tear it up. I would not care so much had there been some sudden emergency necessitating this situation, but there cannot be any emergency in connexion with this railway, because the departmental officers have known for years that they were building it to a certain point, and that they were then to build it beyond into more fertile country, yet they deliberately allowed matters to drift along for some reason or other until there is now no time for submitting the work to inquiry or investigation.
– It is the result of the want of organization.
– How often has the Minister told us that when he left the Department of Home Affairs, “ she would run herself ? “
– But she has burst up since then.
– Is there nothing else to which these men can be put while this matter is being investigated?
– No. At least, that is what they tell me.
– I should like to know what they tell the Minister. It is proposed to construct the line at a cost of £320,000, and the estimated revenue is £12,000 with which to pay all the expenses of running the line and all the overhead charges, as well as interest and sinking fund on cost of construction. I do not wonder at the Minister seeking to get this matter through without referring it to the Public Works Committee, though one does not expect railways in the Territory to pay immediately. I venture to say that the Minister of External Affairs knows a great deal more about this matter than the Minister of Home Affairs, and I invite him to tell the House frankly how it has come about that we are asked to put the law of the land aside and agree to this proposal without thorough investigation. I understand that the proposal made by the Minister of Home Affairs cannot be carried out because the Public Works Committee must report to Parliament, and not to Ministers. The very purpose of the Public Works Act is to put a check upon Ministers.
– If we meet in the Christmas week in order to adopt the report of the Public Works Committee, will the right honorable gentleman attend?
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– I advise the Minister not to begin that little bluff. This proposal is a scandal to whatever Department has had to do with it, and if Parliament did its duty, and honorable members sitting behind the Government did their duty, a searching investigation into the circumstances connected with this bungle would be insisted on. I . have never seen such a bungle put before Parliament. However, I have made my protest. I think that there should be a vote on this proposal. I do not think that it should be accepted. There is plenty of other work that could be given to these men - useful work.
– In making roads.
– Where to?
– Does the Minister suggest that in this huge Territory there is no other work to which these men could be set properly?
– There is no other work for navvies. There , is roadmaking work available, but there is not enough room for 600 men.
– There is room for 1,600 men on work on which they could be usefully employed while this matter takes its ordinary course and is investigated; otherwise, there is no alter- native but to agree to the proposal, though in doing so’ the House will be condoning a great piece of bungling, and will be humiliated.
– The Public Works Committee Act could be repealed in five minutes.
– There should be no effort to repeal that Act. The Government should not ‘have landed us in such a bungle, and honorable members should know who the officers are who have occasioned it.
– We are not in any bungle as yet.
– I understand that if this matter is not passed through at once, the men employed on the railway will have to be turned off.
– The bungle has not yet arrived. The right honorable gentleman should not go too far to meet trouble.
– Does the Minister mean that there is no need to put this matter through in the manner proposed 1
– Certainly there is need to put it through, but there is no need to dwell on bungles that do not exist.
– I am glad to hear one Minister repudiating the statement of another.
– I am doing nothing of the kind.
– One Minister says there is no trouble, and another Minister says there is very serious trouble.
– I said that there was no bungle as yet.
– Then shall I say “ delay in submitting the proposal through the usual channel “ t
– It may be two or three months before the men finish the present line.
– Then, after all, it is a piece of bluff that has been attempted to be practised on the House, and this matter may proceed in the usual way without any trouble arising. J protest against such bluff.
.- Another matter presents itself in dealing with this question. Prom the time the Northern Territory has been discussed in this House, this question of the railway route has always existed. We have been told over and over again that there was plenty of time to deal with it, and that the House would not be committed to any particular line until it had had an opportunity of discussing a railway policy as affecting the Northern Territory. We know that the whole trouble has been the existence of discordant elements in South and East Australia. One party wanted the line to cross into Queensland and New South Wales; the other wanted it to be carried, in accordance with the spirit of the agreement with South Australia, to the south ; and further difficulty has arisen owing to the railway being carried on in the piecemeal fashion it has been. The last Ministry passed an Act sanctioning the railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. There was not much dispute about that Bill, because that line was common to both the southern and eastern routes; but that Government did what State Governments have done frequently - they stopped the railway on the north side of the Katherine River in order to lessen expenditure, with the result that this extension is now saddled with the heavy expenditure of from £80,000 to £100,000 for a bridge across the Katherine River that ought to have formed part of the earlier line. We know perfectly well that the railway was made in order to give access to the country on the other side of the Katherine from Darwin, not to stop on the Darwin side of the river. However, instead of the House having an opportunity of saying where the next section shall be made - whether it should be to the north or south - we are asked to refer this one particular section to the Public Works Committee, which has no option but to recommend or reject the proposal. The Committee has no power to recommend any other line. They must say either “Yes” or “No” to this proposal; and when their report comes forward, the’ House will have to say “ Yea “ or “ Nay “ to the suggestions in it, and will have no opportunity of substituting any other line. I think it is high time that the Government brought in a proposal to extend the line north as far as the Macdonnell Ranges. The whole of that vast territory can only be developed by the construction of a railway from the south. There is no other means of getting at it. We have been told by all the people who have been there that it is good pastoral and mineral territory; yet its development is hung up because of that 200 or 300 miles of desert between Oodnadatta and the Macdonnell Ranges that has now to be bridged by camel teams. Instead of this line being continued down to Bitter Springs, it would have been better had Parliament been asked to authorize the extension from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges. That is a matter the Government should look into, and when they come forward with the Committee’s report, they ought to be able to tell us that they are going to continue this line from the south to the north, and so develop the southern portion of the Northern Territory. So far as the present proposal is concerned, while the Minister and his officers may be blamed for not knowing that the work ought to have been referred to the Public Works Committee, there is some excuse for them in the fact that this is the first time a railway proposal has come within the scope of that Act. They probably thought that the line could be extended by the passage of a Railway Bill, in the same way that the last extension from Pine Creek to the Katherine was made; only for the Minister to find out at the last moment that he was blocked. It seems to me that we can do nothing but refer the proposal to the -Public Works Committee; but I do hope that when the Government ask the House to adopt the Committee’s report, they will be in a position to announce their decision to extend the line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges.
– Another matter that I would like to refer to is the fact that the Act requires an explanation to be made to the House of the work that is to be undertaken, together with the presentation of estimates of the cost of the work, plans, and specifications, and such other description as the Minister may deem proper, in addition to the prescribed report of the probable cost of construction and maintenance and estimates of probable revenue. In this proposal there are no plans and specifications. All we have is a map; and if honorable members will look at the map they will see that it is just an ordinary map of the Northern Territory setting out the leasehold areas there, with a line that appears to indicate a survey through the Territory. There is no detail of a railway survey or a railway plan, or specification of any kind, such as are required by tha Act.
– The Act does not require that. It refers to such plans as the Minister may deem proper.
– But there must be a plan. The honorable member cannot suggest that the map before us is a plan. In all the State Parliaments, when railway propositions are brought forward, most complete specifications and books of reference are submitted. Members know exactly what they are being asked to commit themselves to. Here we have no plan or specifications at all. I would like honorable members to look at the report the Minister laid upon the table. On the 16th August, 1915, Mr. Bell informed the Minister that it was anticipated that the earthworks would be completed “ about November next “ - that is this month. He also stated that if construction were stopped at the Katherine River, considerable expense would be incurred in breaking up the construction camps, and in laying up plants that would not be earning money, and so on. There were then between 500 and 60,0 men employed on the works, chiefly on earthworks, who were likely to be thrown out of employment when the rails and ballast reached the Katherine some months later.
– Who is that report to?
– It is a report to the Minister of Home Affairs. When a Government knew that railways are essential to the well-being of that country, and when they had men acclimatized and apparently satisfied with the conditions under which they are working, it is gross neglect not to be prepared with a system of steady, progressive works, to keep the men in the Territory employed. That is a question of policy for the Minister, not for the officers of the Department. Nothing of that sort has been done in this case. The report contains optimistic references to the nature of the country and to the probable future of the tin-field. But all this is not the information that the Act requires Parliament to be possessed of prior to the passage of a Bill like this. The matter was before Cabinet on 15th September - so that the Government knew that railway construction was going on, and they ought to have taken steps to bring the matter properly before the House by the provision of the neces- sary detailed information required by the Public Works Act. In June last I pointed out to the Minister that this railway line was being constructed to the Katherine River, and that it would be necessary for him at the earliest possible moment to give the House some idea of the Government’s railway policy. Instead of such a railway policy being developed, the whole thing has drifted on until we are now right up against the necessity of the men who were engaged there being found employment. As the result, this Bill is thrown before us in the way it has been. That is not a fair way of treating Parliament. What is likely to be the value of the Public Works Committee’s report? We are told that, to-morrow, a Bill will be introduced authorizing the construction of this line. What is the use of this proposal being sent to the Committee under such circumstances? If an Act of Parliament is passed to-morrow, the reference to the Public Works Committee will be unnecessary, and their report regarding a matter already authorized and commenced will be useless. Parliament, however, is in an awkward position, because it does not want to leave 600 men unemployed in the Northern Territory. It would be a great misfortune to the Territory if we did lose the services of these men, because a similar body could not be got together again easily. But that does not alter the position that when a measure is put before us in this way, the Government ought to supplement it with the necessary information as laid down by the Act. It cannot be that the Minister is not aware of what is required, because the Act has been brought before the notice of his Department on several occasions. We realize that without a railway policy the Northern Territory can never be developed. Such a policy is absolutely essential; but at the present time we have nothing but a patchwork system before us. The Minister should take seriously to heart the advisableness of propounding a complete railway policy for the Territory. I should like to see the Government follow the example set by the Queensland Parliament not long since, when it resolved upon a developmental railway policy extending over a period of ten years, and dealing with the whole ques tion of interior communications. Under that policy the coastal lines will be linked up with those of western Queensland, and each line constructed will be part of a definite concrete scheme approved by the Parliament. I repeat that there can be no proper development of the Northern Territory until the Ministry evolves and proceeds to carry out a broad, comprehensive policy of railway construction.
– A very serious question of responsibility affecting the Ministerial head of a Department, if not two Ministerial heads, and also the responsibility of Parliament, regarding the construction of public works, is involved in the proposition now before us. This piecemeal system of railway construction is most unsatisfactory. The point cannot be too strongly emphasized that it is time that the Parliament realized the necessity for a comprehensive, rather than a patchwork, railway policy. The Bill providing for the last section of this line to be constructed was quite definite in its terms. It provided, not for an overland railway, but for the construction of a line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. We are now told broadly that unless we agree at once to the construction of a further section of 65 miles, about 600 workmen now in the Territory will be almost immediately thrown out of work. Some of these, I take it, are immigrants of a special class, who were supposed to be specially suitable for the settlement of the Territory.
– And a lot . of them cannot speak English.
– That is immaterial, provided that they are likely to prove satisfactory settlers. We are placed in a difficult position. I intend to support the resolution for the reference of this question to the Public Works Committee; but I am not going to support, without very convincing evidence, the authorization of this additional 65 miles of railway. We have no definite information as to the character of the work so far carried out on the railway from Pine Creek to Katherine River. We have no more than the bald statement that the earthworks have been completed. In railway construction earthworks are very often but a relatively minor part of a complete line. Culverts and, possibly, small bridges may yet bare to be constructed, and we ought to know whether the ballasting and other works necessary to a complete railway, including the laying of the rails, have been carried out. There may yet be sufficient work on the line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River to occupy these 600 men for six months. If there is, then this seemingly insurmountable difficulty disappears. I desire leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
– I understand that the different parties in the House have agreed that I shall leave the Chair for a little while. I shall suspend the sitting of the House, and cause the bells to be rung as soon as it is desired that we should re-assemble.
Sitting suspended from 10.22 to 11.35 p.m.
– This Parliament has not that grip of public works expenditure that it ought to have, and it isidle for honorable members to surrender their rights and responsibilities, and then throw the blame upon any Minister.For my own part, I am determined, so far as I am able to exert any influence in connexion with public undertakings, to insist on having the most complete statements placed before the House before we approve of any public expenditure. I think it would be absolutely wrong to vote for the construction of this railway subject to its approval by the Public Works Committee. We cannot disregard our responsibilities to the taxpayers in such a way. It is unreasonable to suppose that the necessary investigations can be carried out by the Committee in a single day. There can be no efficient inquiry without a personal inspection by the Committee. It is not as if the Commonwealth had an efficient staff of engineers possessing an intimate knowledge of the conditions obtaining in the Northern Territory. Mr. Bell is the officer responsible for construction, and, so far as I know, he has never visited the Territory.
– But Mr. Hobler has.
– I do not place the responsibility for railway construction on any man other than Mr. Bell. I am anxious that the examina tion of this project by the Public Works Committee should be thorough, and that the statement submitted to this House should be complete in every particular. It is time that we demanded that, in connexion with the construction of railways, the specifications should be so complete that the responsible officer could furnish Parliament with a reliable estimate.
– We do not desire a repetition of our experience in connexion with the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway.
– We do not. Parliament approved of the construction of that line at a cost of £4,500,000, and we now know that the cost will be more than £6,000,000 - possibly £7,000,000. I am astounded that the press of this country does not strike out more effectively in regard to Government undertakings and expenditure. With the system of day labour in operation, I desire that we shall be able to pin the responsible officer down to his estimate, and if the cost is in excess of that estimate, Parliament ought to know the reason why. In regard to the position of the 600 men employed at the Katherine River, having regard to the fact that only the formation is completed, it is possible that at least onethird of the labour involved on that line is yet to be done. If that be so, there is work for two or three months ahead of those men, and that will allow ample time for the Works Committee to report thoroughly on the project. If there is not work ahead of those men, we must recognise that there is a moral responsibility on this House to keep them in employment, inasmuch as they were brought to the country under certain conditions. If necessary, I would prefer to come back in a few weeks’ time to deal with the report of the Committee rather than vote to authorize the project on insufficient data.
.- I desire to remind honorable members of the obligation of this Parliament to South Australia in regard to the OodnadattaAlice Springs railway. If we are to authorize the construction of a further 60 miles to Bitter Springs, and later a similar length of line is built, the Northern Territory will be linked with Queensland, without any consideration having been given to. the obligation of the Commonwealth to fulfil its compact with South Australia. I propose to move -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “and from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs in a northerly direction.”
I propose this amendment because of the agreement entered into by the Commonwealth with South Australia, and also because of my knowledge of the country which the line that I advocate would serve. Honorable members new to this House may not be aware that some years ago a survey, much more detailed than that of the route of the east-west transcontinental line, was made by Mr. Graham Stewart, who furnished particulars regarding water supply, timber, and materials for a distance of 327 miles, to Birt’s Creek or Alice Springs.
– Will he provide the money for the line?
– The ‘construction of this railway forms part of the agreement with South Australia, and this is a favorable opportunity for proving whether the House is prepared to keep that agreement.
– What was the agreement?
– The Northern Territory railway was to be linked up with the northern railway system of South Australia by a line which would not go outside the Territory and South Australia. If this were a matter affecting Western Australia, the right honorable member would insist upon getting his pound of flesh without any diminution. I am confident that, Parliament having solemnly ratified the agreement, honorable members will honour it. Some of those who were most opposed to the taking over of the Northern Territory from South Australia have been most insistent that the agreement which provided for it shall have full effect given to it. I do not take exception to the construction of the line proposed, but it is time that we had a definite statement from the Government as to whether railway construction is to take place from the south as well as from the north. But as the hour is late, I ask leave to continue my remarks on , a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 11 o’clock a.m.
Referenda Proposals : Agreement with State Premiers.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish to make an announcement of some importance. The Premiers assembled in Conference have sent to me a communication which offers to grant the powers asked for in the proposed laws to be submitted to the electors at the referendums on 11th December, with certain limitations, to the Commonwealth on the condition that the Commonwealth postpone the referendum. This offer has been considered by the Government and the party which I have the honour to lead. The Government have decided to accept the offer, and the party have indorsed that acceptance. That the people may know the exact terms of the offer, I shall read the communication from the Premiers. It comes in a covering letter -
Following upon . the discussion which arose at the Financial Conference of the Premiers on the occasion of the visit of the Prime Minister, this Conference of Premiers suggests that, in order to avoid the necessity of taking a poll of the electors in December, the Commonwealth authorities concur in the proposal to postpone the referendum during the currency of the war on the following conditions : -
The Premiers to bring forward in their respective State Parliaments legislation to provide for the reference during the war and one year after the declaration of peace to the Commonwealth Parliament, under section 51 (37) of the Constitution, of the powers sought by the proposed alteration of the Constitution, subject to the following limitations : -
Railways, the property of the State, to be exempt from the Commonwealth power so far as regards the control or management of such railways; and rates and fares on such railways.
In lieu of proposal No. 3, “Industrial matters,” substitute the following : -
Employment and unemployment.
Strikes and lock-outs.
Maintenance of industrial peace.
The settlement of industrial dis putes.
The Premiers at a later date to consider what powers they will invite their respective Parliaments to surrender permanently under section 51, sub-section 35, of the Constitution.
With a view to removing any doubt as to the power of the State Parliaments under section 51 (37) to refer any matter for a limited time only, an Act of the Imperial Parliament to be sought (if thought necessary) to make that power clear, and to ratify what has been done under it.
The proposed legislation vesting powers in the Commonwealth is to be introduced into the various State Parliaments before the end of the year. The undertaking that I have read has been signed by the four Premiers present at the Conference, and its text having been submitted to the Premier of Western Australia, he has telegraphed his approval of it, subject to the position in which he finds himself in consequence of a motion of want of confidence. The Premier of Tasmania, to whom the communication was also submitted, has approved of it; but as his approval does not fully commit him to submit the proposals before the end of the year and pass them into law, a further communication has been made to him. The Premiers who have signed the undertaking have no doubt as to what his attitude in regard to it will be. It only remains for me to add that we recognise clearly enough that, in the limitation of the period for which these enlarged powers are to be granted, the opportunity for enacting legislation such as we desire will be necessarily curtailed. But we recognise, too, that the present crisis is one in which we ought to do what the circumstances require rather than what we may desire. Therefore we have accepted the offer of the Premiers in the spirit in which it was tendered. We hope that our act will win approval. I am certain we have done what is right. We shall avoid a campaign in which necessarily much would have been said that were better left unsaid, and much time would have been lost which ought to be devoted to other things. And, since, by accepting this offer, we shall get the powers which will enable us, during the currency of the war. to enact such laws as will protect the people, and enable the community to put forth its maximum strength, we feel that the country is to be congratulated upon the result.
– Before the Prime Minister sits down, will he be good enough to say how the decision which has been arrived at will affect the course of public business ? Does he propose to wind up now?
– Does the right honorable gentleman refer particularly to the business which is now before the House?
– First, as to the immediate prospects, I think it would be well if we went home. As to to-morrow, there seems a likelihood of some action being necessary inorder to give legal effect to our agreement to postpone the referenda. I hardly think we shall be in a position to pass such legislation as is necessary to-morrow, and, therefore, I shall very reluctantly have to ask honorable members to re-assemble next week.
– Otherwise, I presume, the programme of business will remain the same. In other words, we shall wind up the business?
– It is not proposed to add to the business that we would otherwise have transacted, but merely to afford us an opportunity to make up the time which we have lost to-night in discussing this matter elsewhere. But we ask for the additional time that may be necessary to enable us to give effect, on. our part, to the terms of the agreement.
– I congratulate the Government and the House, and, above all, I congratulate this country, on the prospect, of a cessation of that warfare into which otherwise we should so soon have been plunged. I can only say that I have heard the declaration of the Prime Minister with the greatest possible satisfaction. As to the ultimate effect of the agreement upon the country, particularly in regard to the referenda campaign, as to the surrender of powers, and the nature and extent of those powers, I propose to say nothing at the present time. But I can say this to the Prime Minister : that whatever consideration honorable members upon this side of the House may give to these questions, they will be actuated by only one desire, namely, to place themselves as far as possible in agreement with what has been done on broad general lines. Above all things, we shall be imbued with the one motive of securing political peace at the present time in order that we may unitedly devote our whole energies to the successful conduct of the war.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.2 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 November 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19151104_reps_6_79/>.