9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have received a telegram from Sydney to say that the unemployed there have noted what the Prime Minister has been good enough to do for the unemployed in Melbourne, and I wish to ask whether the right honorable gentleman can see his way to extend the same consideration to the unemployed in Sydney. I am sure it would be greatly appreciated.
– I was seen yesterday by certain gentlemen who have been active in connexion with unemployment relief in Victoria. They pointed out to me that they had ample funds to provide shelter for those who need it, but unfortunately the necessary accommodation is not available, and men who have money in their pockets to pay for beds are walking about the streets unable to secure accommodation. I told those who waited on me that the Victorian Government had made representations to the Commonwealth Government pointing out the position, and asking whether the Commonwealth Government could make any place available for these men. Last night we found accommodation in drill halls for 150 men, who were provided with palliases and blankets. If similar representations are received from the Government of any other State this Government will be prepared to take similar action. In Sydney, such action was taken a fortnight ago, at the request of Mr. Oakes, the Acting Premier of New South Wales, accommodation being made available for the unemployed there.
– I should like, with the permission of the House, to say that a meeting of the unemployed in Melbourne was held at half-past7 o’clock this morning, at which appreciation was expressed of the prompt action of the
Prime Minister, who, with about two hours’ notice, found accommodation for 150 men in certain drill halls. The meeting passed a resolution thanking the right honorable gentleman and this House for enabling them to get the best night’s rest they have had for a long time.
– I would remind the Prime Minister that drill halls are available in Sydney, and the right honorable gentleman might provide for the accommodation of unemployed in that city in such halls in the way he has done here.
-The Government has quite clearly indicated the attitude it is taking up in this matter. Provided that representations are made by the State Governments, who are responsible in this connexion, the Commonwealth Government will do everything in its power to assist.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to deal with the New States movement in piece-meal fashion, or to submit a comprehensive all- Australian scheme to give effect to the objects of the movement?
– I saw a deputation yesterday, which made certain representations with regard to the creation of new States. I undertook to consider the views advanced by the members of the deputation. To the honorable member’s question whether the Commonwealth Government will view this matter from an all-Australian point of view, I have no hesitation in answering that, of course, they will. It is the function of the Commonwealth Government to view all questions from an all-Australian point of view.
Establishment of Naval Base
– Will the Prime Minister place before the Imperial Conference the claim of the north-west coast of Australia to the establishment of a Naval Base in preference to Singapore? Will he point out that there are several harbors on the north and north-west coast capable of carrying the navies of the world? Will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to the advantage which would accrue to the Northern Territory from the establishment of a Naval Base on the north-west coast?
– I shall place the agenda-paper of the Imperial and Economic Conferences before the House in the very near future, and the honorable member will then have an opportunity of raising all the points referred to in his questions.
The following paper was presented: -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Carnarvon, Western Australia, for defence purposes.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked ‘ the Prime Minister, upon notice -
As France has now ratified the Washington Treaty -
Will H.M.A.8. Australia be scrapped?
If so, when, and in what manner?
Will consideration be given to the suggestion that, instead of handing over this ship to be broken up, she be sunk ofl* the coast of Australia which she so adequately helped to defend ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am advised that Lieutenant Miller has expressed his intention of establishing a service of this character, and the matter will receive consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– There has been no modification, as such, of these instructions; and no occasion has so far arisen for any action in connexion therewith.
– On the 5th July, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to give the following information : - 1.. f2.037.B53.
– Yesterday I promised the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) that I would supply the names of the members of the Note Issue Board. They are - Mr. James Kell, Acting Governor, Commonwealth Bank (Chairman) ; Mr. James R. Collins, Secretary to the Treasury; Mr. J. J. Garvan ; Sir Henry Yule Braddon.
Railway Extension from Mataranka to Daly Waters.
– I have just received notice that, unhappily because of ill-health, the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) is unable to be present, and therefore, on his behalf, I move-
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work : - Northern Territory Railway - Extension from Mataranka to Daly Waters, which said work was referred to the Public Works Committee and upon which the Committee has duly reported to this House tha result of its inquiries.
In accordance with the provisions of the Railway Act, sections 59 and 60. I lay on the table all necessary plans, books of reference, estimates, and other information required by the Act. This motion is submitted following upon a reference which was made by this House on the 25th November, 1920, when the construction of a line in the Northern Territory was referred to the Public Works Committee for their investigation and report. Honorable members who know the Territory will be aware that the existing railway extends to 198 miles 54 chains south of Darwin. The House on theprevious occasion to which I refer made a reference to the Public Works Committee of the section extending from the Katherine River southwards to Mataranka, or Bitter Springs as it was then known.
– Is the bridge over the Katherine River built yet?
– The bridge is included in that section. The House on the 25th November, 1920, approved of that section being proceeded with, and a Bill was introduced for the purpose of giving effect to that resolution. It was, however, deemed inadvisable at that time to go on with that particular section until a report on a further extension south from Mataranka to Daly Waters was received. That report has been received, and is in the possession of honorable members. The position is that the House, in accordance with the Public Works Committee Act, has approved of the first section of a line which will be included in a Railway Bill to be subsequently introduced. The Government now asks the House to approve of the second section of the line. After that has been done, the Government will bring down a Bill authorizing the construction of the railway.
– Why does the Minister select only a portion of the recommendation of the Committee?
– Because this is the portion with which we propose to proceed.
– The Minister is not treating the House fairly.
– I am treating it quite fairly.
– The Minister is reversing the order of the Committee’s recommendation.
– I am asking the House to approve of part of the recommendation, and we must do that in order to get on with the work. The length of line constructed to date is 198 miles 54 chains. The section already approved by the House measures 65 miles 35 chains, including a line from the present terminus over the Katherine River, and the length of line referredto in the motion is 95 miles; making a total, roughly speaking, of 160 miles. A Bill will be introduced to. authorize the construction of 160 miles. There are good reasons for not constructing the line in short sections. When along railway has to be built it is better to proceed with the job straight out than to do it in sections at different times. The material and plant have to bo brought together, aud this is a matter of considerable expense. The total cost of the two sections will be £1,545,000. That estimate is based on the construction of a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line, with bridges to permit of subsequent conversion to 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge. It would not be advisable to build a 4-ft. 81/2-in. line connecting with a 3-ft. 6-in. line. The method proposed will be, in the end, the most economical. The first big work to be undertaken will be the large bridge over the Katherine River.
– Yes, and that cannot be done inside twelve months.
– Exactly, and the Government is anxious to proceed with it as soon as possible. The estimated cost of it is £95,000. The revenue which will be earned by the 160 miles of line is estimated at £24,000, and the working expenses at £26,700. The interest charge on capital will amount to about £77,250. The immediate effect of opening the line will be that the 198 miles of line already operating will produce more revenue. The traffic over the whole line will be increased. Apart from that, we have to consider the value of the line for developmental purposes.
Mr.Whitsitt. - Does the estimate include rolling-stock?
– It includes the additional rolling-stock which will be required.
– The line will pass one station - the Government’s.
– That is not the point. The advantage of the line will be that it will bring the Northern Territory railway farther south and nearer to the main sources of live-stock traffic. Also, it will come nearer to the great Barkly Tablelands.
– Why has the Minister not adopted the whole of the Committee’s recommendation ?
– It is necessary to open up the country as soon as possible. The Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) is formulating a general policy for developing the Territory.
– And he is pledged to the construction of the other section of the line.
– The honorable member can deal with that aspect of the ques tion later. The Minister’s policy is to open up the Territory and increase pastoral settlement. All those who have had any experience in the Territory say that the greatest drawback to development is the absence of transport facilities, and that the remedy for this consists in providing railways and roads. Reduced transport charges would increase settlement. The first essential is to extend the railway facilities. The section of railway proposed will be a considerable extension of the existing railway southwards.
– It will not.
– I say the line will go south.
– It will not.
– That all depends on the way the honorable member looks at it. The intention is to extend the line farther south.
– It is not, and the Minister knows it is not.
– Perhaps the honorable member will be able to show that the line will go east or west. The extension to the point proposed is quite consistent with its ultimate extension to South Australia. There is nothing in the motion to raise the issue of the direction of the route. If a north-south connexion across the continent is to be constructed, the portion proposed must be built. I believe there is a general desire on the part of honorable members to give the Territory an impulse by developing it along the lines of natural progress, so that it may become an important producing part of this continent.
– I move -
That thefollowing words be added to the motion: - “ and also the extension from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, upon which the Committee also duly reported to this House the results of its inquiries.”
I move this amendment, not from parochial motives, although I know, and every other honorable member must realize, that a debt is due to the central State of the Commonwealth. The Territory has been too long tied to the fringes of the Commonwealth, and no proper endeavour has been made to develop it. Lord Kitchener, when he was in Australia, recommended the construction of a line from Adelaide to Darwin. All the calamity howlers in this country say that the danger to Australia lies to the north of it, and yet the Government will not formulate a sound, policy for providing railway communication to that most vulnerable spot. I doubt whether even the Prime Minister will say that it is goo,d statesmanship to build a few inches, comparatively speaking, of railway line to a dead-end, where it must remain for all time. This House has too long toyed with the development of the central portion of Australia. As I pointed out a few days ago, I raised the question in my first address in this House. I did not do so on my personal knowledge, but on the report of a Commission appointed by this House. The desire of the statesmen of that day was to develop Australia along the lines recommended by that Commission, which consisted of Mr. Combos, Mr. David Lindsay, and Mr. Frank Clarke. They investigated the subject extensively, and travelled the areas covered by the Public Works Committee. The majority of that Commission said that the line, to he effective, should be constructed from the south to the north, direct to Port Darwin. Since then we have done nothing, and now thu Government has come forward with an emasculated proposal which will not improve the position. The sinister feature of it is - and this has been pointed out by those newspapers which adopt a neutral attitude towards proceedings in this House - that the trip of the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) followed a route through Queensland to determine how the Northern Territory railway could be connected with the Queensland railways at Camooweal. That is where the line will end for many years, until a true spirit of patriotism prompts the members of this House to do justice to South Australia. I alleged a few moments ago that the Minister was saying what he knew to be incorrect. In saying that I assumed that he had read the report of which he was asking the House to adopt a , portion. The Committee sets out what it calls an “ Abstract,” which contains what is really at the back of its mind. If this motion be carried, the House will affirm a principle set out in page 25 of the report. The paragraph reads -
To extend the existing railway to Daly Waters on the understanding that it is to form portion of an eventual Une through Newcastle Waters to Camooweal.
In no sense whatever, apparently, is it the intention of the Public Works Committee to bisect Australia by a railway line. They give the reason for their recommendation on page 19. Senator Foll is reported on that page to have moved -
That the Committee place on record its opinion that the construction of the section Mataranka to Daly Waters will of itself contribute very little towards the early development of .the Northern Territory, and that the recommendation for its construction is only agreed to as being a section of an eventual line to cross the Barkly Tableland to Camooweal, cif?. Newcastle Waters.
The Committee itself, therefore, says the line will do very little to develop the Northern Territory. There was a division on that motion, and I was surprised to know that an honorable senator from South Australia voted for a railway which it was agreed would do very little to develop the Northern Territory.
– I would like you to hear his explanation on that.
– His vote is there, and that is what counts.
– My name is in that division list also. .
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) will, no doubt, be able to tell the House what was in the minds of himself and Senator Newland. He will probably try to justify the attempt to construct this line. He will also Have an opportunity to show, the sincerity of the Public Works Committee in its desire to do justice to the Commonwealth. He will find it hard to do so in the face of the following resolution which he moved, and which appears on the same page of the report: -
T,hat the Committee place on record its opinion that, with the construction of a light line to ‘Alice Springs, and the extension of the existing northern section to Newcastle Waters and thence to Camooweal, the whole of the railway requirements of the Northern Territory will be met for many years.
The line is to go to Alice Springs, and there stop for many years. How many years, Heaven alone knows. This Parliament has promised for long years to do something to give effect to its undertaking to South Australia; but, as I understand the motion now before us, it will actually be inconsistent with an attempt to develop the Territory. If theline goes across to Camooweal, it will satisfy honorable members Who represent the eastern portion of this continent, but there appearsto benot one scintilla of evidence to showus that honorable members who support this motion possessthe broad Australian sentiment which should influence them to develop ourcountry.
– The honorable member should realize that we were only asked to reporton the two sections.
– I am glad to have the admission from the honorable member that the construction of this work will simply run a railway line to a dead-end. It would have been far better had the Public Works Committee reported that it was not inclined to make any report on a railway proposal for the Northern Territory which would not make for true development.
– Why not allow future development to decide where any continuation of the line shall go?
– Ihopewe shall not leave it for future development. The time is longpast when this Parliament should have decided to bisect thecontinent from north to south. This railway was recommended by Lord Kitchener. The honorable member for Bass has the following notice of motion on the business-paper of this House : -
That, in the opinion of this House,the Government should immediately commence the construction of that sectionof railwayline Oodnadatta-Alice Springs, as part of the North-South railway, and as recommended by the Public Works Committee.
He will lead a discussion on this matter. It will be very interesting to hear where he wants the line to go. In my opinion the Northern Territory would become a valuable asset if we developed it. We are not doing justice either to the Commonwealth or to South Australia unless we carry the railway right through. On behalf of the pioneers of South Australia I plead for the construction of the through line. Theprevailing thought in the minds of the early-day settlers of South Australia was to build the NorthSouth line. They revealed their intention by building the through telegraph line and the railway down to Pine Creek and up to Oodnadatta. At the time the Territory was handed over to the Com monwealth the Leader of the Government of theday was examining ways and means of connecting Oodnadatta with Pine Creek.
– Will this line not be most unprofitable?
– I was waiting for an interjection of that description. Iknew some honorable members would object to the construction of anon-paying line. I ask them how many developmental railwaylines in Australia , pay for axlegrease even. The taxpayers in South Australia are losing considerable sums everyyear on non-paying lines. In that Statewe have more lines that do not pay than we have lines that dopay. That istrue of other States also. I read an article in the Bulletin recently whichdealt with the development of the Northern Territory. That paper gave alist of the railway lines in New South Waleswhich did not pay.
-We cannot long carry on under those conditions.
– We can and do carry on. We can always goto “ Uncle.” We went to him and got money at 41/2per cent. for war purposes. To-day we are paying 51/2 per cent. for it. It willbe a burden even to my little grandchildren.
– The honorable member’s discussion is not relevant either to the motion or the amendment.
– I admit I have been drawn off the track of the North-South line. I shall return to it. That there are losses on developmental railway lines is no sufficient reason for refusing to build them. So far we have received nothing from the Oodnadatta to Port Augusta line. It does not follow, however, that with the expenditure of more capital, and the extension of the area from which traffic may be drained, we shall not eventually recover all we have lost, and make a profit. We do not know the potentialities of the country through which the North-South line should go. Until we have facilities for transporting to that country the developmental material necessary, we shall never receive any return from it. A business man may lose money by his trading, but the investment of new capital and the consequent extension of his operations very often recoups his losses. That is what I believe to be possible with our railway works. It is our bounden duty to construct the NorthSouth railway, and thus recoup Australia for her losses. If there is- anything in the Eastern war scare, a railway line through the continent from north to south will be & most, effective means to protect the country. I sincerely trust that we shall not on the score of expense neglect to build the line. I have no desire to traverse the arguments for and against this proposal that we have heard so many times, but I know South Aus-‘ tralia is very much interested in it.
– And has been very much wronged over it.
– That is so. The fair thing has not been done. Sir John Forrest had sufficient power by virtue of his inclusion in so many Administrations to secure the construction of the EastWest railway. It certainly was not the quality of the land through which the railway goes that influenced Parliament in pushing on with that work. One has only to go to Ooldea to discover that. Cook and Hughes were well-named after barren individuals, for they are barren spots. The East-West line was built without any promise, such as was made about the North-South line. A condition of the construction of the East-West line, however, was that the Western Australian Government should reconstruct the railway from Kalgoorlie to Perth on the gauge of the overland line. That was a condition absolute, but nothing has been done to fulfil the undertaking. For some reason, the Commonwealth Government have not pressed for the fulfilment of that promise. The East- West line is not paying. I am positive that the North-South line will be a more profitable concern than is the railway to Perth. I do not say that the East-West line should not have been constructed, because I agree that our policy should be to develop Australia. Mr. Bruce, when he became Prime Minister, made a suggestion of what the policy of our Parliament should be. He has suggested the building of a line from Hay to Port Augusta, which I regard as another attempt to side-step the obligation that rests’ on the Commonwealth to build the North-South railway. I trust that in the debate to-day the opponents of the North-South line will state clearly why they are opposed to honouring the compact made with South Australia, namely, that the Commonwealth should undertake the development of the Northern Territory and build a railway from the south to the north. I have with me to-day a letter which appeared in the Adelaide Register just after the reception accorded to Sir Henry Barwell’s proposal at the recent Conference between Commonwealth and State Ministers became known in South Australia. I am referring to the occasion when that Conference fell foul of our “strong mau” of South Australia. I hope that I am not misjudging the Prime Minister when I assume that his decision to build this little stretch of railway in the Northern Territory, which even the Public Works Committee cannot thoroughly recommend, is’ a bit of spite on his part because of the attitude adopted by Sir Henry Barwell towards the proposal to build a line from Hay to Port Augusta. I should think that, in the interests of Australia, the right honorable gentleman would rise above that sort of thing, and not let the little flies on the wheel worry him. The letter which appeared in the Register was written by Alfred Giles. The name of Giles stands very high in the esteem of those people who have watched the development of the Commonwealth. The Giles family have played a most prominent part in the development of the Territory, and in his letter Mr. Giles states the South Australian point of view as it can only be put by one who knows his book. The letter appeared in the Rp.nixf.er on the 19th May last, and is as follows: -
As one who attended that splendid deputation to the Premier on Tuesday last, and which was described by one speaker as “the most representative deputation in the history of South Australia,” I feel that the patience of my fellow Territorians is really going to be rewarded by practical results so soon as Sir Henry Barwell places the full case before the Federal Ministry. The facts should so appeal to that Ministry as really to convince it that twelve or fourteen years of a promise is a reasonable time to begin with the pick and shovel in earnest. If talking could have assisted the railway, it should have been built twice over. I remember ‘»’hen T first crossed this continent, in 1870, on the first exploring trip after McDouall Stuart. We used to talk around the camp fire, and wonder if it were possible for a railway to follow us in the dire future. 1 was a very young nian then, with a black beard, and afterwards recrossed the continent Ave times, and then remained in the Territory, forming the first cattle stations, until I was grey-headed; and we were still talking of the railway. Then I remained another fifteen or twenty years, until I became baldheaded; and we were still talking about it, and after a forty years’ absence from Adelaide I find the talk is still going on. But we are getting more hopeful, if, perhaps, more insistent. The people more interested have expressed their opinions as to the real value of the Northern Territory through the medium of the leading dailies, which have evoked leading articles and many paragraphs to the subject. Nor have the country papers concealed their views, but have been most favorably inclined towards the early fulfilment of the Federal promise. Lecturers, too, like Captain White, have done much to eliminate the ignorance as to the value of the Northern Territory.
It is, however, only natural that South Australia, should show a greater interest than the people of any other State, seeing that this State owned it since the early “ sixties,” sending out the great Stuart, and later many other explorers, to spy out the land. < And ten years later, with a population of only 250,000, she constructed, with the people’s money, that great work, the overland telegraph, through 2,000 miles of practically unknown country. No sooner was this work completed than she practically threw open her great pastoral area at 6d. per mile - “ select your own blocks “ - and the result to-day is that the largest herds of cattle in the world are roaming .over those areas. Ambitious little colony, she later commenced to follow her telegraph line with a transcontinental railway, and constructed nearly 500 miles from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. Not only this, but she built 140 miles of railway from Darwin southwards to Pine Creek. In the “ seventies “ and “ eighties “ the Northern Territory, under her administration, was flourishing, both in pastoral, mining, and agriculture. Jit one time there were nearly 2,000 white men on Sandy Creek diggings, and there were miles of gardens along the Margaret and other sites. Our GovernmentResidents were all sound practical men, and the Botanical Gardens, under that able agriculturist, Mr. Maurice Holtz, and, later, by his son, the late Mr. Nicholas Holtz, were demonstrating that the soil was, and is, capable of producing any tropical produce grown in tropical countries, such as sugar, rice, tobacco, coffee, peanuts, coconuts, sago, sisal hemp, maize, and numerous other crops, and especially cotton; also all tropical fruits and vegetables- Instead of paying a heavy and exorbitant duty on tobacco, we should be growing, not acres, but square miles of it, and the same with rice and maize. The Territory is the home of cotton, which does not need a Tich black soil, but a red loam, and even stony ridges suits it. There are miles of cotton land along the proposed railway. It is growing wild along the Flora River, where the writer planted it on Delamere Downs in 1882. Along the Roper, below Elsey Station, there is about 5 miles of cotton growing wild. Particulars of the tropical products grown in the experimental garden at Palmerston in the “ seventies “ and “ eighties “ can be seen in the official records and reports of those days, but they are poked away in Federal, pigeonholes.
South Australia has been frequently taunted by Federal politicians with having done nothing for, or with, the Northern Territory during the forty years of her occupation. We, who have lived there a lifetime, know better, and can, and do, confidently assert that since the Commonwealth took it over it has never, progressed, but has gone backwards more and more every year, and now it is at a standstill. Not one scheme has succeeded in spite of unlimited expenditure. Only one exception is a railway of 54 miles from Pine Creek to Katherine, but they pulled up within a mile and a half of the river, causing no end of worry and expense in carting goods across the river, which is generally not fordable from Christmas to May or June, except by boat. The river is about 400 yards wide, and occasionally rises 50 feet in one night. It has never been known to stop running. The construction of a bridge over it for’ the railway would probably occupy twelve or eighteen months, and might well be. commenced at once now the wet season is over. It would give employment to many scores of men and teams. Some foresight was shown in the building of this short line, as although it now runs on the narrow gauge, the sleepers are 4 ft. Si in., and when the time comes- the rails will have merely to be spread apart to meet the full gauge. The line from Darwin to Pine Creek is on the harrow gauge, and the alterations to the broad gauge should be started simultaneously with the Katherine Bridge. In face of the fact that there is an agitation afoot for a universal broad gauge, it seems remarkable that the Railway Committee suggested, or rather, recommended, in its report, that the line to Alice Springs should Be constructed - on the narrow gauge, and, moreover, one would imagine that a railway built with a view to strategical purposes should be built upon the broadest gauge, insuring greater safety as well as higher speed. Another matter that is likely to cause much uneasiness is a belief that when the railway does reach Alice Springs it will stay there for another decade or two. This, if true, would be most unfair, and should be strenuously opposed. While such a course would be a boon to the Central Australians, we of the tropical regions of the Territory would .not share in it. Not only should the railway go straight through, but the work should be continued from both ‘the present termini at the same time.
Any deviation into Queensland would be disastrous, and we would be worse off than we arc now, and it would cut out the big mineral belt extending from Arltunga to the Wauchope Creek, some 250 miles in length, which has been proved to contain gold, silver, lead, tin, copper, mica, and precious stones in payable quantities when carriage is reasonable’ and available. Such a deviation would not assist those pastoralists on the McArthur portion of the splendid Barkly Tablelands. They would be better assisted by the opening of a port at or near the entrance to the McArthur River. A safe and deep-water anchorage is known to exist there, and was reported favorably upon by Captain Barclay, and must be also well known to my old friend, Mr. Alfred Searcy, who chased Malay pirates and other duty dodgers for some years when head of the Customs in Palmerston. Senator Pearce and Admiral Clarkson are now in Darwin, and it is to be hoped that their visit will enable them to formulate a policy suitable to the needs of the people and country.
I do not wish to add much to what Mr. Giles has put forward. I am prepared to rely on what is set out by a practical man who has a knowledge of what should be done for the development of the Northern Territory; but I should be lacking in my duty as a representative of South Australia if I did not place on record to-day my protest against the proposal put forward by the Government this morning. The Public Works Committee, in presenting a report upon this project, asserted that this section of railway would not prove to be efficient or effective for the purpose for which it was intended. How, then, can this House approve of the construction of the work? I hope that honorable members will agree with me that the work of constructing a railway whose purpose is to develop the Northern Territory should commence at both ends, and that the rails should meet half way, as they did on the EastWest railway. When the first sod was turned in the construction of the EastWest railway, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) was optimistic enough to say that the wheelbarrow which was used on that occasion should be set aside for use when the first sod was turned in the construction of the North-South railway. Where is that wheelbarrow boused? Where is the plant that was used in building the East- West railway ?
– Yes, where is it?
– That is the question I am asking. This Parliament has to answer to the electors for the spasmodic way in which Commonwealth works are undertaken. It is no wonder that the accusation is made that public money is frittered away when we find that upon the completion of the East-West railway the construction plant was not immediately shifted to the point at which the NorthSouth railway would start, and work commenced upon that project. It is true that this work has been long delayed, but that is no reason why there should be any further delay, or why we should set about doing it in the piece-meal fashion proposed by the Attorney-General this morning. I ask honorable members to support my amendment. I am not, as a matter of fact, opposed to building the stretch of railway covered by the motion submitted by the Attorney-General; but I want the House to lay it down that the Government should also commence to build the southern portion of this big national work, which it is our duty to undertake. I am not asking for any favour for the people of South Australia. I am simply asking honorable members to carry out a duty they owe to the citizens of the Commonwealth. I have not had an. opportunity of visiting the Macdonnell Ranges, but I rely on the statement made by Mr. Giles, that the Northern Territory can grow almost everything; certainly coffee, tobacco, rice, and almost everything that can be grown in. tropical countries could be cultivated in the Northern Territory if we would only proceed with the development of that portion of Australia in a business-like way.’
.- I desire to second the amendment. I regret that the Government feel it necessary to submit this motion at the present juncture. The Prime Minister, one day next week, is to receive a deputation of representatives of South Australia on the very subject that is now engaging our attention.
– That deputation is not adverse to the work contemplated in the motion.
– What we wish to impress on the Ministry is the urgent need for the construction of the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs section, as well as the section from Mataranka to Daly Waters. Before submitting the motion, the Govern-‘ ment might have been courteous enough to hear the views of those who more directly represent the interests of South Australia. It is quite evident, however, that, irrespective of any argument to the contrary, the Government intends to proceed with its projects. That is most unwise, because the section from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs must bo a much more profitable undertaking. It is true. that the extension from Mataranka to Daly Waters is part of the direct north-south line, but it is not the extension that will tap and develop the most rich and fertile lands. I trust honorable members realize that the supporters of the amendment have as their immediate desire the speedy progress of the areas surrounding the McDonnell Ranges. It would seem, howover, that other interests are prompting the Government to first proceed with the line from Mataranka to Daly Waters ; and there is every justification for the fears of the people of South Australia that there is no intention to honour the compact made ‘between South Australia and the Commonwealth. There is ground for supposing that there will ultimately be a deviation made in the interests of a certain northern State.
– Have you read the evidence of the report of the Public Works Committee ?
– Yes; but much of that report is not in keeping with actual facts as set forth by men of experience and authority on this question. Recently, a special commissioner was employed by one of the leading newspapers of Australia to investigate and report on conditions in the Northern Territory, with special reference to the north-south line, and that commissioner, in his articles, expresses very definite opinions concerning the claims of South Australia. He writes -
In almost every instance I have met with surprise that any doubt should exist in the minds of southerners as to the proper and most remunerative route. In every instance I have been faced with the inquiry as to what political influence was being used to divert the Commonwealth Government from its pledged word to construct the railway from Darwin to Adelaide via Katherine and Oodnadatta.
The writer of that article declares that certain of the evidence accepted by the Public Works Committee was unreliable, and he asked permission to appear Before that Committee and refute the misleading statements.
– Surely the honorable member is not opposing the construction of the section mentioned in the motion?
– No; but I submit that the section between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs should receive prior consideration. The extension from Mataranka to
Daly Waters will not prove nearly so remunerative or beneficial from a developmental point of view. The writer of the newspaper article declares that if a referendum were taken of the residents of the Northern Territory and Central Australia, a large majority would be found in favour of the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs section being first constructed. It will be very interesting to hear the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), because he, with his first-hand knowledge, is in a position to afford the House considerable assistance in arriving at a decision. Quite apart from the moral obligation that the Commonwealth is under to South Australia, the section advocated by the amendment is the most advantageous from a financial point of view. When the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) was speaking, the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) asked whether the line between Port Augusta and Oodnadatta was a paying proposition. To the best of my knowledge, it is not, and the Commonwealth has to bear the loss. The Oodnadatta to Alice Springs section, besides opening up fertile country and areas rich in mineral resources, will afford quick transit for cattle to South Australian markets, and materially help to make the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line a paying concern. But the Government prefer to further tinker with the situation by proposing an extension that will not cause any feeling of uneasiness in Queensland, and may, perhaps, temporarily satisfy South Australian interests. We are npt going to allow ourselves to be fooled i:> this way, . or allow the Commonwealth to be involved in expenditure that can only add to the loss on the existing line. All the amendment does is to ask Parliament to proceed with that portion of the north-south line that will prove of the most benefit in the immediate future. It does not mean that the section proposed by the Government will not be constructed, but merely that the two sections shall be considered together. I have reason to question the sincerity of the Government in the matter of keeping the compact with South Australia. It is known that some members of the Government do not view with favour the construction nf the direct North-South railway. The Minister for Home and Terri- tories (Senator Pearce), has. made, a very pointed reference, which would seem to suggest that there is some strong influence at work to induce the Government to divert the railway to the eastern side of the Territory. The Minister has recently visited the Northern Territory, and we do not forget the route which he followed on his return. He has emphasized the great advantages, in his opinion, of the suggested connexion with Camooweal. He stated that over the Camooweal route there were Government wells that could be utilized. Honorable members from South Australia would be false to their trust if, Lu view of this statement, they did not express grave fears for the direct NorthSouth railway. The section of the line which the motion covers would not materially assist in the development, of the Northern Territory. If the Government sincerely desire the development of the. Territory, it will accept the route suggested in the amendment, as’ well as. the section included in the motion. The Government will give proof of its sincerity regarding the obligation of the Commonwealth to South Australia by accepting the amendment.. The conclusion arrived at by the Public Works Committee that the sections from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs; and: from Mataranka to Daly Waters would provide sufficient railway construction for the development of, the Northern Territory for years is a misstatement.. The gentleman to whom I have already referred has said -
I challenge the Public Works Committee on the North-South railway to, review the arguments I have stated above and publish a fresh report embodying their conclusions and my arguments for the direct route, and then to recommend a referendum of the people of the Northern Territory as to the route which should be adopted.
According to the evidence this gentleman was able to secure from people- he met ici the Territory, there can be no doubt as to what they desire in this matter. I n urge the Government to accept the amendment,, which proposes the construction of a section of the North-South railway which I think will assist Materially, i tithe development, of the- Northern Territory and Central Australia.
– I make an appeal to honorable members, not to- proceed with theamendment.
– I certainly shall do so.
– The amendment is,” in. effect, inviting the House to reject the motion.
– The honorable gentleman must take the responsibility for that.
– I am quite prepared to accept responsibility for- my action. My anxiety now is to let the honorable member know where he. stands. I want to remind him of the procedure that is followed in these cases. When a report is presented f row the Public Works Committee on a proposed” work, a motion is submitted that it is expedient that the work be proceeded with, or the House may by resolution declare that it. is not expedient to carry oat the proposed work. The amendment is really inviting, the House to come to a decision and possibly to reject the. construction of the line that the honorable, member desires, to see carried out. I really rose to- raise the question whether the amendment is in order. On the 25th November,. 1920, two distinct motions were moved in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act. One was for a reference to the Committee for investigation and report of the NorthernTerritory railway extension from Mataranka to .Daly Waters. Another reference made on the same date, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, was. the extension of the Port Augusta railway from Oodnadatta to AliceSprings. The procedure is that whenreports, are received from the Public Works Committee each reference must ba dealt with separately, and a motion that it is. expedient to proceed with the proposed work may be approved or rejected. But the proposed work must be- connected with the reference made to- the Public Works Committee. Another point which must be borne im mind is, that where the proposed wark is a railway the Minister who submits, the motion that .it is expedient to proceed with the work is obliged, under section 59, of the Railways Act, to supply a plan of the railway,, books of reference, estimated costs, additional rolling-stock required, working expenses, and so on. If- the Minister moves ‘-hai it, is expedient to carry put the. proposed work,, the information supplied to him, in pursuance of this section must,, at the same. time, be laid before the House of Representatives. The” procedure. which the House is to follow in a matter of this kind is clear. When a proposed railway work is referred to the Public Works Committee, then when the report of the Committee is received, before the House can consider a motion that it is expedient to proceed with the work, the Minister must lay all this information before it.
– Then I point out that in the present instance the honorable gentleman has supplied that information with respect only ‘to half the reference to the Public Works Committee.
– If the amendment were carried, the Attorney-General could ask for the postponement of the matter to comply with the procedure he has mentioned.
– I remind the .honorable member for Wakefield that we have carried out the procedure with respect to only one .of the references to which I have referred. As regards the second reference, we are not in a position to do so because the information is not available. I, at first, made a personal appeal to the honorable member for Wakefield not to ask the House, at this stage, to express an opinion for or against the construction he desires. In his own interests I think it would be a mistake for him to do so. I raise a point of order on the ground that when -there is a specific reference of a work to the Public Works Committee, and a report from the Committee is presented - although I admit that in this case the Committee’s report covers both references - the procedure is for the House, by resolution, to declare that it is expedient or is inexpedient to proceed with the proposed work. This must be the work included in the particular reference to the Committee.
– I have listened to the statement of the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) ; but as soon as the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) was handed to me I commenced an examination of the Acts which seem to bear upon this matter. As honorable members are aware, we have no standing order defining the procedure to be followed in these cases. We’ have no practice that applies. On the point that has been raised, our only guide , is the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act of 1913 and the Commonwealth Railways Act of 1917. I am, therefore, placed in a somewhat difficult position. Under subsection 2 of section 15 of the Public Works Committee Act the submission and explanation of a proposed work to the House must, in the first place, be by a Minister of the Crown, and he must produce certain data to guide the House in its decision. After the Public Works Committee has dealt with the proposed work referred to it, in the manner prescribed by the Act, its report must be presented to the House. The House has then to declare whether it is expedient or not to carry out the proposed work. A proviso contained in sub-section 6 of section 15 empowers the House to refer a matter back to the Public Works Committee, if it is not satisfied with the report. Section 59 of the Commonwealth Railways .Act requires the Commissioner, after a railway work has been referred to the Committee, to submit to his Minister elaborate data, and section 60 requires the Minister, when moving that it is expedient to construct a given railway, to lay all such data before the House.. On that point the Minister’s arguments, I think, have weight. It appears to me to be clear that, in ordinary circumstances, the Chair would not be justified in accepting any amendment to the motion that the carrying out of a proposed work is expedient, except such an amendment as is contemplated in the proviso to subsection 6 of section 15 of the Public Works Committee Act 1913. The amendment there contemplated is an amendment to refer the matter back to the Committee.
– Could we move such an amendment ?
– It would be competent for any honorable member in accordance with that proviso to move to refer the report back to the Committee. . In the present case the matter is complicated, and doubtless, honorable members interested in this railway line are prejudiced by the fact that two separate references of lines were made to the Committee and the reports upon them have been made to the House in one document. Without pronouncing on the merits of the question it is clear that the two works concerned are intimately related geographically, but the House referred them separately to the Committee, and I say emphatically, .as the voice of the House for the time being, that it would have been better if the two matters, having been referred separately to the Committee, had been reported on separately. I am asked to rule whether the amendment is in order. If the House desires a ruling now, I must rule against the admissibility of the amendment, which is, for three reasons, against the spirit of the Acts. In the first place, as an original submission under the Act is required to be by a Minister, the motion for the adoption of the report authorizing construction - a much more important step - should by implication be made by a Minister also.
By submitting this amendment, a private member is seeking to take action which should be taken only by a Minister. In the second place, Parliament has enacted clearly in the Railways Act that it desires plans, estimates, and data of various kinds to be placed before “the House wh’en a motion of this kind is made. That information has not been presented “in relation to the amendment. In the third place, perhaps, the most important phase is that the Public Works Committee Act clearly lays it down that. when a reference is returned to the House, the House should have one clear issue in front of it. The issue should be whether a particular project is expedient or inexpedient, and the issue should not be confused by rival propositions. Honorable members realize that in electing a lay Speaker, and asking him to interpret Acts of Parliament, both in their spirit and letter, in the absence of Standing Orders, they must abide by the consequences. Believing that I have so interpreted the law, and mindful of my duty to preserve the rights of honorable members, I rule that the amendment is not in order.
– Is it competent for this House to send the report back with a request that the Government should bring forward complete information in respect of. the whole finding of the Committee? The other portions of the report are :closely related to that brought forward by the Government, and it is unfair that the House should be unable to discuss the whole report, because of the absence of necessary data.
– I appreciate the difficulty and embarrassment which honorable members feel in view of the attitude of the Minister and the Chair to wards the amendment. The solution of their problem is not within the control of the Chair. The Minister has informed the House that he has not the required data relating to the second portion of the report, and as I am asked for a suggestion, I would say that if the matter is not so urgent as to necessitate further proceedings to-day, it might form the subject of conference between the Government and those interested on both sides, with a view to some arrangement.
– I desire to congratulate the Government upon its efforts to give effect to the developmental policy suggested in the Governor-General’s Speech. The impression has gained ground with people in the outposts of Australia that the pioneering and colonizing instincts of Federal politicians have long since disappeared. Fortunately that allegation has been refuted to some extent in this House to-day. The question is a very serious one, and it affects not only the Northern Territory but the future development of the whole of Australia. It is impossible to isolate any portion of the Commonwealth and say that it is not inter-dependent with other portions. With a view to impressing upon this House the extent and possibilities of the Northern Territory, I remind honor.able members that, quite recently, the Premier of South Australia, with the Governor and a railway expert, penetrated the southern portion of it as far as Central Mount Stuart. The result of that visit was . that Sir Henry Barwell would gladly take back that portion of the Territory to-morrow if the Federal Government would give it to him. That fact argues strongly for the possibilities of that end of the Territory. I do not say that it would be wise for the Commonwealth Government to hand it back to South Australia, but I do say that the Northern Territory has too long been neglected. In view of the fact that South Australia, Western Australia, and Queensland already have far too much territory to control effectively, it would be unwise to give any of them more. Our policy should be to divide the _ States into smaller areas, so that government may be more efficient. I mention these > facts to show that the Territory is not a barren desert. If given reasonable facilities for development, it could take its place among the States of the Commonwealth. I favour the amendment that has been ruled out of order. Much could certainly be said in favour of the construction of the proposed railway, but the battle of the routes should not affect the building of the bridge over the Katherine River, and the extension of the line to Mataranka. The bridge will have to be built at the place contemplated, whether the line subsequently-swings to the east or the west. It is obviously the duty of the Government to proceed immediately with the building of the bridge. Apart from the need for developing the Territory, the unemployed should be considered. The building of the bridge would give them some immediate relief. There are not many people in the Northern Territory, and it is obvious that if the bridge were started numbers of men could be employed from the southern capitals. The land through which the railway will pass on its way to Mataranka is eminently suitable for closer settlement, and at Mataranka there are many thousands of square miles held by the State as a cattle ranch. In passing through that district I saw a fine demonstration of the suitability of the country for cotton production. The direction of the route should not be taken into consideration in connexion with the building of the bridge over the Katherine River or the extension of the line to Mataranka. I ask the Government not to proceed too hurriedly with the further section of the line. The line has been sanctioned from the Katherine River to Mataranka, including the construction of the bridge. Ample scope should be given to members of this House to consider the matter fully before definitely deciding what length of line should be constructed. In building a railway there should be some definite object in view. No doubt thesection authorized will form part of the proposed northsouth railway. An honorable member has said that the line does not go south. All I know is that if one turns to the right of the route at Daly Waters, one faces clue east. If that is not an indication of the direction of the line, I do not know what is. If the line ends at Daly Waters it will not benefit the pastoral arras to any great extent. The vast tablelands and plains are practically treeless, and provision for fencing is essential before the country can be developed. There is no fencing at present on the Barkly Tablelands. If this railway is constructed only to Daly Waters there will still be 100 miles of transportation to be done before the best of the Tablelands country will be reached. Lack of transport facilities now constitute an insuperable difficulty to closer settlement. If the line were taken as far as Newcastle Waters settlers would be able to obtain supplies. They could get their timber to theTablelands and do the necessary fencing. Permanent settlement will not be accomplished until fencing is done. The lack of transportation facilities is retarding the progress of the Territory more than anything else.
– Can you not get material from Darwin?
– Yes, but when it is brought from Darwin to Daly Waters it is still 100 miles away from the best of the Tablelands country. Newcastle Waters is at the foot of that country. I urge the Government not to contemplate leaving the railhead so far away from the tablelands as Daly Waters. To do so will not help development. Our object in constructing the railway is to encourage closer settlement. If this line goes only to Daly Waters, and it is found after a Dumber of years that progress has been slow, people will say, “ The Territory has railway facilities, and yet it does not go ahead. “ But a railway with the terminus at Daly Waters will do little towards settling our finest country. Honorable members should look at this matter from a national view-point. It is because I am regarding it in that way that I trust we shall not rush forward the construction ofthe line from Matarairaka to Daly Waters. The building of the line from Katherine River to Mataranka is still in progress, and there is no necessity to hurry the section we are now considering.
– How often does the train run on the Katherine River to Matarawka track?
– Once a fortnight. I suggest that we should make the railway communications of the Territory as com- prehensive as possible, so that the mining industry may be developed. There is a most promising mining proposition at the Marranboy tin-fields. If the railway is taken to Newcastle Waters, it will be within11 miles of these fields, I trust that honorable members will accept my suggestion and visit the Territory to see for themselves that things are as Ihave described them. They will realize then how impossible closer settlement is until fencing facilities have been provided at a reasonablecost. It will pay the Government to consider the advisability of granting concessions on all materials going forward on the Territory railways for constructional purposes. With railway facilities a comparatively dense population could do well on the tablelands. I agree withhonorable members that the southern end of the Northern Territory isgood country, but I certainly will not agree to the suggestion that ‘it is infinitely superior to other parts of the Territory. There is good land throughout the Territory. The lower end has been proved, and an inspection by honorable memberswill compel them to realize how good other parts are. With the provision of railway transportation a man could live well on from 100 to 300 square miles. At present 1,000 square miles is insufficient to providea good living becausethe difficulties of transportationmake it impossible to market one’s produce. The settlers are unable to handle wool because it cannot be placed on the market. Cattle are theonly possible source of income.Cattle can be driven to the markets.
– Is there any agricultural land within 20 miles of the proposed railway line?
– The Katherine River country is regarded as excellent land. When the Minister was in the Territory I took him to a homestead where lucerne was grown. Sewn crops had been cut from the patch and the year was only half over. With irrigation, anything can be grown within reasonable distance of the Katherine River. Out as far as Mataranka there is permanent water and natural springs, which give a supply sufficient to grow almost anything. Honorable members should take the first opportunity to judge for themselves the accuracy of my statements.
– When do you propose that we should go on this trip?
– Immediately thesession ends. The Minister forHome and Territories saw only a portion of the country andcould not, from the inspection he made, obtaina true idea of the general conditions. It would be unwise for a visiting party to make a hurried trip. I prefer that two months should be given to it, so that the country to the north, south and east could be inspected. The mining possibilities in the Macdonnell Ranges should not be overlooked. It is not generally known that we have one of the largest mica fieldsin the World there, nor is the value of mica generally realized. It is worth £700 a ton at present. These fields could be exploited without trouble if railway facilities Were available. TheGovernment should give some attention to the harbor facilities of the Territory. Development is being retarded to-day on account ofthe high cost of handling commodities. Evidence was given before the Committee that the cost of handling goods was increasedby at least 40 per cent. because of thedeficient harbor arrangements.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15p.m.
– The facilities at Darwin for the handling of cargo in loading and unloading vessels have long since fallen into decay. The corrosion of the iron work of the jetty is such that repairs cannot be effected with any certainty that the jetty will continue to serve auseful purpose. The captain of the s.s. Marella has given evidence that the efficiency of the wharf has already been lessened by 40 per cent. Therefore, in view of the fact that considerable expenditure would have to be incurred in connexion with the existing wharf, theGovernment are justified in proposing to carry out the scheme submitted by Admiral Clarkson, who has arrived at the only right solution of the problem how to place shipping facilities at Darwin on a proper and economical basis. Admiral Clarkson has submitted an alternative scheme of which honorable members should be chary. As wharfage improvement is absolutely essential for the economichandling of material for railway and bridge construction, these schemes are inseparable from any proposal to extend the railway in the
Northern Territory. Admiral Clarkson’s alternative scheme is to run out an aerial line for two miles from the shore at the point where Vesteys Meat Works are situated. But as this line would not be capable of carrying a / weight exceeding two tons, it could not possibly meet the requirements of the port, and certainly not those of bridge engineers. In any case, the aerial line would only serve the interests of one enterprise. Admiral Clarkson has reported in favour of a scheme for obtaining a supply of water from Freer Springs, about eighteen miles from Darwin. There is a sufficient volume of water at these springs to provide for the requirements of the port, the town, and the railway for a considerable time to come, but Dr. Jensen, who is an eminent geologist, has assured me that if a bore or well Were sunk between the railway line and Freer Springs the supply from the springs would immediately be cut off. In deciding upon a permanent scheme for the supply of water to Darwin, we should not gamble on the likelihood of such a thing not happening, when forty miles from Darwin ‘a permanent supply of splendid water can be obtained from the -Darwin River, which flows all the year round.
– Would it be a gravitation scheme?
– I think that water could be gravitated from the Darwin River to Darwin, but both schemes would most likely be pumping schemes. It is thought by honorable members who represent South Australian constituencies that if the proposed railway were extended to Daly Waters or Newcastle Waters it would inevitably swing across to Queensland. I do not entertain that thought. Advocates of the North-South railway need not worry about what is likely to happen beyond Newcastle Waters. The direct North-South route must pass through that place. Admiral Clarkson, has reported upon the possibilities of developing a port at Borroloola, and if anything is done to provide a port there for the Barkly Tablelands a short railway, about 300 miles in length, running out from Borroloola, should cater, not only for the Tablelands, but also for Western Queensland. Producers would rather take their produce over 300 miles of railway to a seaport than convey it by team and rail a distance of 800 miles. Those honorable members who regard themselves as big Australians, and who agree with me that centralization has been the curse of Australia, will also agree that if Borroloola is the natural port for Western Queensland as well as for the Barkly Tablelands, it should be made use of. At present most of the produce from Western Queensland t which would be served by a line running out from Borroloola, goes down to Townsville. Some of the produce from the Barkly Tablelands is taken hundreds of miles across country to the Queensland railways, and thence down to the coast. Honorable members will agree with me that we should provide facilities in the best localities, irrespective of State boundaries. Borroloola should cater nob only for the Tablelands, but also for Western Queensland. But honorable members who represent South Australian constituencies can rest assured that even if the Government do extend the line down to Newcastle Waters it will not affect the connexion with the Queensland railway system. The NorthSouth line must pass through Newcastle Waters. The construction of the railway proposed by the Government will give a big impetus to settlement. There is room for the settlement of thousands of people in the immediate vicinity of the line, and the Government should not wait until it is built, but should immediately make a start with the subdivision of areas for immigrants or would-be settlers who are now unemployed in the southern States. The work of building a bridge over the1 Katherine River could absorb the whole of the labour available at present in the Territory, and a great proportion of the unemployed in the southern capitals, but with a view to the ultimate settlement of the Territory, priority on the works about to be undertaken should be given to persons who are desirous of becoming permanent settlers. In other words, these undertakings should be utilized as an inducement to settlement, and as a means of helping settlers over the pioneering stage of development. I am in hearty agreement with those who advocate the immediate commencement of a railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. The ruling given this morning does not permit us to deal with that project to-day, but I contend that it is the obvious duty of the Commonwealth Government to proceed with the construction of that line at once. The financing of the work should not be of much concern. We should be perfectly justified in borrowing whatever money was necessary to carry it out, in view of what the completion of the line would mean to Australia. In conjunction with the building of the Katherine River bridge and the completion of the railway, immediate steps should be taken to subdivide the area held in reserve at Mataranka. The Commonwealth undertaking there has proved a complete failure, as, unfortunately, other Government enterprises in the Northern Territory have proved to be. As a matter of fact, one would think that the only result achieved by these enterprises in the Northern Territory has been to demonstrate to the world the unsuitability of the Territory for settlement, whereas we all know that the failures have been brought about by the inefficiency of the persons who were intrusted with the task of managing the different activities, and have not been due to the fact that the country was incapable of producing those things which the administration wanted to demonstrate could be grown. I trustthat the Government will not spoil the ship for a “ ha’porth of tar.” An extension to Newcastle Waters is absolutely essential. The extra 100 miles of railway would bring immediate progressive settlement, whereas the stopping of the line at Daly Waters will make it impossible for men to settle in country where they could do so with success. I trust that the Ministry will give immediate consideration to the proposal to extend the line to Newcastle Waters, and then proceed with their scheme of immigration and settlement. But it is almost impossible for men of limited capital to undertake the work of’ pioneering settlement on the tableland or elsewhere if they have to cart all the necessary material for hundreds of miles.
– What is the distance from Daly Waters to Newcastle Waters?
– Approximately 100 miles, but as there are no engineering difficulties, railway construction would be cheap. It is mostly tableland, or the fringe of the tableland, and the banks could all be made with scoops. The construction of this railway will mean all the difference between failure and success, and if the gap be bridged I am satisfied that the future of the Territory is assured.
.- I am much pained by the way in which the Government has treated the House, and particularly by the way it has treated the State of South Australia and its representatives. The course the Government has adopted prevents this House from considering these two proposed lines on their merits. A very definite agreement was made between the Commonwealth and South Australia. . The very purpose of a visit to the Territory by a section of the Public Works Committee was to consider the merits of an extension from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, as against the other proposal. A deputation of South Australian members waited on the ex-Prime Minister(Mr. W. M. Hughes), who promised that there should be an examination of the country between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs, and that promise was subsequently indorsed by the Government. The original idea of the sectional Committee was to go as far as the Macdonnell Ranges, but the necessity for further investigation was seen, and the trip was extended to the other half of the route. The construction of this railway was made an item of Government policy, to which every member of the then Government subscribed; and we know how many of those honorable gentlemen are members of the present Government, which is responsible for the present reversal. Furthermore, the report of the Public Works Committee on the two sectional proposals recommended that the section that is now being ignored should have priority. I wish honorable members, especially those who are new to the House, to appreciate the position in which the South Australian representatives are placed. There was an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia for the transfer of the Territory, the only condition being the construction of a railway by the Commonwealth on a route indicated within the Territory. There was no suggestion or thought of the Commonwealth Government undertaking to build railways for other States until it hadfulfilled the agreement made with South Australia, which was that a railway should be built “ within the Territory,” and “ within a reasonable time.”
– Where do you find the words “ within the Territory “ and “ within a reasonable time “ ?
– I remind the honorable member that Sir Edward Mitchell, K.C., some time ago gave a definite opinion which was completely in accord with the contention made on behalf of South Australia. Sir Josiah Symon gave a like opinion and, moreover, promised that “ when it came to the last tussle “ his services could be commanded on behalf of the State.
– The honorable member said that the agreement, in express terms, provided that the fine was to be “ within the Territory “ and was to be constructed “ within a reasonable time.”
– I refer the honorable member to the agreement, and shall be glad’ to confer with him on the matter, because I think that, on consideration, he will find himself in the company of the other legal luminaries I have mentioned. The late Mr. Deakin explicitly stated that the words “ within a reasonable time “ were placed in the agreement because he could not bind the Commonwealth Parliament to any particular date.
– What is the honorable member’s interpretation of “within a reasonable time “ ?
– Well, a period less than twelve years. As a matter of fact, the agreement has been broken by default.
– What is a “reasonable time “ in which to have the Federal Capital built?
– I should say that a reasonable time would be as soon as we can get the Capital.
– Then why are the Australian people and press against our going, to the Capital?
-They are not against our going to the Capital, but against a madcap motion which really meant fooling the House and everybody else. However,I have no time to deal with the Federal Capital; I am now directing attention to the Northern Territory, which I remind the honorable member will some day be a much bigger proposition than is the Capital. South Australiacould have had the railway built years ago. Applications were invited for the construction of a Territory railway on the land-grant of alternate blocks principle, and it was the best land-grant proposal ever conceived. The rights of the future settlers in the Territory were preserved as effectively as if the railway to be built had been a Government railway. South Australian legislation assured for all time railway facilities: with freights and fares on the basis of those charged on the State railways. Negotiations were entered into with a company, which agreed to construct a line and to find £6,000,000, over and above the cost of railway construction, for the development of the Territory and the encouragement of business on the line. That company submitted an offer, and paid a large deposit into the Rank of Adelaide. If these negotiations had been brought to a successful issue, we should not have been here to-day troubling about the Northern Territory.
– Unfortunately, when the Price-Peake Government came into power the first official act of Tom Price was to withdraw the deposit from the Bank of Adelaide and. return it to the company. That was a. most unfortunate job for the Northern Territory and for Australia. I wish honorable members to realize the position of South Australia in this matter; and to determine whether a reasonable time has not elapsed for the carrying out of the agreement.
– The words “ reasonable time “ are not in the contract.
– They are in the agreement. Honorable members have heard the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) say that, every old Territorian considers the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs line the most vital and effective instrument for peopling the Territory. I would ask honorable members, and especially representatives from Queensland who continually remind us of the deficit on the working of the Port Augusta to. Oodnadatta railway, whether they can point to any outside pastoral district in Australia possessing a. railway that does not. show a deficit? A few weeks ago the Sydney Bulletin published a list of railways in pastoral districts, and a statement of the losses entailed by their operation, which shows that the balance on the wrong side in the case of the Port AugustaOodnadatta railway is not nearly so great as the balance on the wrong side of some of the Queensland railways.
Mr.C. McDonald. - Can the honorable member tell me one pastoral line in Queensland that does not pay?
Mr.FOSTER. - If the honorable member will read the list published in the Bulletin, he will see a statement of the losses on those railways. As a matter of fact, very few lines through pastoral districts pay in any of the States. As the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway approaches Oodnadatta, it goes through a very dry piece of country. To leave the terminus of the line where it is now is like building a bridge half way across a big stream, and proceeding with it no further.Once the dry country near Oodnadatta is crossed, the line will reach country which will take a lot of beating when compared with any of the out-back districts of Australia. This country has a big rainfall, and we might say that a drought has never been known there. It possesses one of the finest climates to be found in any part of the worlds and would be a perfect sanatorium for all time for the people in the tropical portions of the Northern Territory. It would make it unnecessary for them to pay periodic visits to the south, which can only be made at very great expense, which is out of the question for people with limited means. When the North-South railway was first suggested, there was only one opinion as to the route it should take and the method of its construction. It was properly contended that it should start from the south towards the north, from the easy to the difficult, from the point where climate and other conditions imposed few obstacles, so that the more difficult parts of the line might be reached with the advantage of the experience gained along the way. I tell honorable members that the development of this country will in all probability make the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line pay. If this country is developed, it is the biggest certainty in the world that within a few years that line will pay. The Government profess to be anxious to get something done. They know as well as I do that the construction of a bridge across the Katherine River will take probably twelve months. A previous Government arranged for a new management of the Railway Department to undertake the big responsibilities in the Northern Territory. Honorable members know the tragic history of the construction of the East-West railway. For the information of new members of this House, I can say that there were miles of leading articles in the metropolitan press pf Australia on the waste of public money on the East- West railway due to inefficiency and incompetence. It is the top of the service that needs reforming, and it is time it was reformed. If such management as waa responsible for the East-West railway is to be given control of railway construction in the Northern Territory, then I say, “ God help the Territory,” because we cannot expect that it will be developed during this century. I regret exceedingly the treatment of the people of South Australia by the Commonwealth Government, and I regret that Government’s want of knowledge of what would be in the true interests of the people. I am sorry that they appear to be influenced by the log-rolling and wire-pulling which is so very evident and about which I shall larter havesomething more to say.
.-I join with the last speaker in regretting the attitude of the Government towards the people of South Australia. I regret also the attitude displayed by previous Governments in connexion with the NorthSouth railway. I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “all matters in connexion with the North-South railway be referred back to the Public Works Committee with a view to the construction of the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs taking place prior to the extension of the line from Mataranka to Daly Waters.”
I move that amendment because I think the time is quite ripe for this House to give a decision in favour of the construction of the North-South railway as originally agreed upon between the Commonwealth and South Australia. The amendment may appear to some honorable members to be a little drastic, but I have watched the proceedings in this House of members representing other States to forward pet schemes of their own. It would appear that success follows the efforts of honorable members who are prepared to put up a fight, to make a noise, and to be persistent in this House. The attitude of South Australian representatives in the past has been that of waiting patiently in the ‘ hope that their patience and the righteousness of their case would secure the end they desired. They are now tired of waiting. I hope that in future representatives of South Australia will be more aggressive in this matter than they have been in the past. I ‘can give at least five reasons why this work should be referred again to the Public “Works Committee, with a view to the prior construction of the southern portion of the- NorthSouth line. The “first reason is that I fear there is an attempt being made to trick South Australia, and I should like to use a much stronger term in connexion with the matter. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) said that he would not give the agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia as one of his reasons for the construction of the .North-South railway. I do submit it as one .of the reasons for the construction of that line. No matter how many legal arguments may be submitted to justify the non-observance of that agreement, there is no escape from the moral obligation which it entails. I take the stand that it is the duty of members of this National Parliament to set an example of honour and honesty to the citizens of the Commonwealth. Whilst legally there may be reasons advanced for deferring the carrying” out of the agreement, or for diverting the North-South railway into Queensland, there is morally no escape from the condition of the agreement that the line is to be carried to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia. We should interpret the agreement, not as residents of Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, or any other- State, but, as was originally intended, as a bargain between the people of one State and those of the rest of Australia. The agreement provides that -
The Commonwealth Government shall construct, or cause to be constructed, a railway line from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper.
That is quite plain. The Government have submitted a motion to approve of the construction of a line from Mataranka to Daly Waters on the recommendation of the Public Works Committee. Why does the Public Works Committee recommend that line? Is it because it considers that . it will be carrying out the agreement with South Australia to construct a line from Port Darwin to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia? We know that it will not. Honorable members will find that the Committee at page 18 of its report says -
In like manner, the section Mataranka to Daly Waters will not have the effect of tapping anything but light-carrying pastoral country, and as a railway proposition it is of itself not a business venture. But the Committee, however realizes that the extension of the railway to better country capable of more extensive development and likely to return a reasonable revenue to the railway is a matter of time. It can only be arrived ‘at piecemeal. It is therefore, of opinion that the construction of this section can only reasonably be o recommended if it is designed to form a part” of a line to Camooweal.
There it is in black and white. The Public Works Committee have recommended the construction of this link of railway with the intention that the line shall ultimately be carried, not to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia, but to a point on the western boundary of Queensland. If any honorable member contends that this would be carrying out the agreement with South Australia, I must disagree with him. I am giving my reasons for desiring to have the report referred back to the Committee. My object is to compel honorable members to face the question whether the bargain with South Australia shall be honoured. That is the whole thing in a nutshell. The second reason I advance1 for desiring to refer the report back is that the proposed extension is admittedly not a business proposition. The Committee distinctly says that it does not regard the line as a business proposition at present. In dealing with the other section from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, the Committee says -
The Oodnadatta railway at present involves the Commonwealth in an annual loss of between £60,000 and £70,000, but the terminus at Oodnadatta is in the midst of some of the poorest country in Australia, and it is possible that with the extension to the better, country in the region of the Macdonnell Ranges, the loss on the existing line may be somewhat diminished. All witnesses examined on the subject agreed that the Macdonnell Range country offered many possibilities for development, both pastoral and agricultural; that the mineral potentialities of the district had been only partially exploited, and had not been by any means exhausted, and would be benefited by a railway, and that the climate was quite equal to anything in Australia.
The Committee admits that the construction of the section from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs would help to lessen the loss. To that extent it would be profitable. The Committee goes on to say distinctly that the line to Daly “Waters is by itself not a business venture. My third reason has reference to immediate development. I contend that the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs would make for immediate development, whereas, on the admission of the Committee, the proposed line will not do so. On this point, the Committee’s report says -
Senator Foll moved
That the Committee place on record its opinion that the construction of the section Mataranka to Daly Waters will of itself contribute very little towards the early development of the Northern Territory, and that the recommendations for its construction is only agreed to as being a section of an eventual line to cross the Barkly Tableland to Camooweal, via Newcastle Waters.
From the point of view of “ early development “ - that is my point - the construction of the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs would have many advantages over the present proposal. The motion was seconded by Mr. Mackay, and the Committee divided. There were five “ Ayes,” comprising Senator Foll, Senator Newland, Senator Plain, Mr. Jackson, and Mr. Mackay. The only “No “ was Mr. Mathews. The fourth reason I wish to advance relates to the defence of this continent. A direct north-south line would be more efficient as an instrument of defence than a line through Camooweal. The proposed line from Mataranka to Daly Waters has been recommended only with the object of continuing it eventually to Camooweal. For defensive purposes, therefore, I submit that the construction of the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs’ would be a step in the right direction. A fifth reason is that I do not believe that the Works Committee has given a definite lead in regard to the honouring of the agreement with South Australia. I have read the portions of the report which deal with the matter and they do not seem to me to be decided enough. Why did not the Committee say which of the proposals it preferred? It has set out two proposals, but has not said which is the better or which should take priority .
– The Committee was not asked to do that.
– That is the question the Committee should have been asked, and should have decided. Its members had the opportunity of travelling over the Territory and considering the question in all its phases. Witnesses were called and the Committee obtained all the information available. If the Commonwealth believes that the agreement should not be honoured, it should say so. A majority of the members of the Committee have tried - may I say in an underhand way- a to beat South Australia on this agreement. If the Committee thinks that the agreement should be thrown into the waste-paper basket, it should say so. .1. hope my amendment will have the effect of causing a vote to be taken on the question whether the Commonwealth Parliament should honour the bargain made with the people of South Australia.
.- I second the amendment, because I realize that unless something is done in the direction suggested, the people of South Australia will not receive their rights. The ‘House should compel the Government to do something. The carrying of the motion submitted by the Minister would be a departure from the route agreed to. by the Government. Steps should be taken to expedite the construction of the line by the direct route. The ‘agreement, says that the Commonwealth shall -
Construct or cause to be constructed a railway line from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the northern boundary of South’ Australia proper (which railway with a railway from a point on the Port Augusta > Railway to connect therewith is hereinafter referred “to as the Transcontinental Railway).
When the agreement was entered into the question directly concerned the people of South Australia as well as of the Commonwealth, and it was agreed that what the South Australian representatives now advocate “should be done. Not only has the question been included in an agreement, but a railway has already been constructed to Oodnadatta, and has been taken over by the Commonwealth. I believe that with the extension of the railway beyond Oodnadatta the section at far as Oodnadatta would almost pay its way. The matter has been in abeyance for thirteen years, and now the Government proposes to construct a short line in the northern portion of the continent along aroute which would be a departure from that agreed to. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes), in his policy speech at Bendigo in 1919, referred to the construction of the north-south railway. He dealt with the same subject again at Chatswood in 1922, and also when speaking to the people of Adelaide.. On all those occasions he spoke of the route that South Australians are now advocating . The question was then of such importance that these references were an important part of his policy speech. The people of South Australia are tired of having the agreement ignored, and the subsequent promises unfulfilled. The question has resolved itself into a fight between States. The other States are striving for a variation of the agreement in the hope of deriving some benefit. They have said that the representatives of South Australian constituencies are parochial because they advocate something which is. in the interests of their State. The fact is, however, that the representatives of the other States are parochial. The South Australian representatives axe fighting, for their rights, but the others are trying to enter by a side door and obtain for themselves something to which South Australia is entitled.
– That is the honorable gentleman’s opinion.
– I am expressing only my own opinion. I am not competent to express the opinion of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay). It has been said that the South Australian representatives in this Parliament are against the construction of the Federal Capital;. That is incorrect. I voted last week in favour of that work being carried out. A promise has been made to the. people, and I consider it my duty to honour that promise.. I do not agree that the railway we desire to have- constructed will travel through a wilderness. I have read the report, and’ I think the line will go through good country. Honorable members could spend hours quoting from the report before us. I intend to place only two extracts from the evidence before the House. Mr. Alfred Searcy (Clerk of the
Parliament, in South Australia), who spent fourteen years in the Territory, and so is qualified to speak, gave the following evidence :-
At. no great distance from the spots mentioned by me - inland - I am satisfied that the white man can work, especially in the way of mixed farming, and where he can work for himself. In this particular, I would mention that pig-raising and bacon-curing will be one of the greatest industries of the Territory, but. - there is a “but” - a market must be found for the produce, and a means provided to get the. produce to market. This 1 brought under the notice of the Prime Minister and the. Minister far External Affairs long ago, pointing out that if these difficulties could be overcome, the question of development would virtually settle itself. We know what can be grown, but what is the use of producing stuff it it cannot be disposed of?
By those competent to judge, it is considered that, some 300 miles inland, there are millions of acres suitable for wheat-growing. Experiments have been made with certain Indian seed. In the Administrator’s report you will see reference to them,but, of course, no attempts on a large scale, can be. made until means of transit are provided. What is required are railways, railways everywhere.
That the country is. inchin minerals is well known. That fact, however, has, nob led to a spirited development of any, mines’,, in spite of which, however, enormous quantities of various descriptions of minerals have been, exported, especially gold.
Some honorable members may think that Sir Sidney Kidman would give biased evidence, but I suggest that few people are better able than he to give evidence on the pastoral industry. Sir Sydney Kidman says of the Territory -
There is the, best spinifex that is found in Australia, and that is the best drought, resist ing feed we have. This spinifex bag a large head, and the horses get as fat and sleek as race-horses. I saw one of the best, lots of cattle that have been in Adelaide for years, and I could not believe they could travel1 from the Macdonell Ranges to Oodnadatta, and arrive in the condition they were. I am interested in the Crown Point Station,, and I have had.bullocks in the last few years which came out remarkably well. I have known sheep at Mount Bunrell, just past the depot sandhills, which did remarkably well. From what I know of the country,, it is. very fair class. There are thousands of wells, and the country from Oodnadatta to Macdonnetl Ranges is far superior to the country from Marree to Birdsville. The country between Marree and Birdsville is. some of the worst I know, and there are only one or two stations on the route. There is one great thing - to the left of the line, once you get past Crown Point, towards the Musgrava ‘Range, the water is shallow, perhaps 12 feet.
I trust honorable members will not make this a State against State question, but will recognise the definite claims of South Australia. The agreement was. made that there should be a railway by a direct route. Hundreds of people couldbe settled in the Territory if railway facilities were provided. We contend that in the proposal the Government has laid down South Australia is not receiving tha consideration which is due to her. I suppose, next to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) is the greatest authority on the Northern Territory in this House. He has travelled through the country, and favours the construction of the line we are advocating. I trust honorable members will remember that an agreement has been made between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government for the construction of the North-South line. We honoured the agreement made to build the Federal Capital by voting for the motion before us last week, and I hope the House will honour the agreement made to construct the North-South railway.To be consistent, honorable members must vote in support of the agreement.
.- I regret that in this debate the representatives of South Australia have heaped abuse on the representatives of Queensland. I can assure them that Queensland has no intention of stealing the North-South railway. I think the remarks of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) in reference to the Public Works Committee are quite uncalled for. I remind the House that only two references were made to the Committee, and both were reported upon. One reference had to do with the construction of a railway from Mataranka to Daly Waters, and the other concerned the building of a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. The members of the Committee could not go outside the terms ofthe reference made to them by venturing an opinion on the route of a throughline. That has been suggested to-day. I remind the South Australian representatives that the Northern Territory contains 523,620 square miles with a population of less than 3,000 persons. It will be generations before any real necessity will arise to build a through railway. The Public Works Committee went into the matter very carefully. One hundred and thirty-six witnesses were examined, and a great deal of evidence was obtained for the guidance of this Parliament. Honorable members should read the evidence, and. form an opinion for themselves on the merits of the case. South Australia must not think that the question can be looked at purely from the point of view of her benefit. It is a matter of Commonwealth interest. All the States will be required to share the expense of building the railway. The interests of the Northern Territory alone must be considered. I do not object to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), though I think the House has complete information before it now. I congratulate the Government on adopting one of the recommendations by the Works Committee. It is abundantly clear from a study of the situation that the northern part of the Territory is all that wecan reasonably hope to developat present. Those districts contain good land, and a large percentage of the total population. It will be many years before any further railway lines will be required. This matter is of special interest to other States than South) Australia. Queensland, for instance, has a large frontageto,and gets a good deal of trade from the Territorry. Doubtless in the future there will be a line from Darwin to Oodnadatta, and I anticipate that spur lines will also be needed.I am glad that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) approves of the Works Committee’s suggestion that railway connexion should be made with Camooweal, on the Queensland border. The line will give improved access to the seaport from the Territory via Cloncurry, at Townsville, and will be farless expensive than the through line. The members who representSouth Australia should realize that Queensland is not jealous of their claim that the compact should be honoured. There aremany interpretations of the compact. No less an authority than Mr. Deakin said at one time that though an arrangement was made at a Conference, prior to the drawing up of the agreement, the agreement that resulted was altogether foreign to the decision of the Conference. We need not go into that matter just now. We admit that there is an agreement, and I am prepared to see the agreement carried out at the proper time, but I trust that South Australians will cease to be uncharitable in their criticism of Queensland.
.- This is a matter of national importance. We are all interested in the development ofthe Northern Territory irrespective of party, and if we cannot see eye to eye with the honorable members from South Australia, it is not because we are against the development of the Territory or antagonistic to the compact entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government. Any agreement or compact entered into should be honoured to the letter; but we have to decide what is advisable as a first instalment towards that end in the present circumstances. Building railway lines is a costly business, and before any large expenditure asincurred, railway proposals should be looked at from the utilitarian aspect. In the matter before us we must decide what is the most serviceable point at which to start, for the Northern Territory and the rest of Australia. We would do wrong to spend millions of the people’s money on an expensive work that cannot be justified under existing circumstances. I am glad this question is regarded as being purely non-party. Honorable members are free to express their own opinions upon it. I can quite understand the South Australian members fighting for the north-south railway to go direct into South Australia at once. Probably I would be forced to do the same thing if I represented a South Australian constituency.
– We are not forced to do it; we do it by conviction,
– In my opinion the weight of evidence is against the northsouth railway through the barren interior while there are much better routes. South Australia’s only claim is the agreement. The only thing that will compel this Parliament to build the line is the compact between theCommonwealth and South Australian Governments. Every one admits that a compact was entered into, hut authorities differ greatly on the interpretation. Some authorities hold that tho line could go to South Australia through Queensland.
Others consider that it could deviate through Camooweal, Boulia, Birdsville, to Marree, in South Australia. It is not definitely laid down that the route shall be direct from Darwin to Adelaide. Honorable members from South Australia should be more charitable towards those who cannot agree that the direct route must be constructed at once cutting out the rich Barkly Tablelands, and they must also take into consideration the claims of the people in the Northern Territory and other parts of Australia. I consider that the line could be built from Daly Waters to Newcastle Waters to Camooweal, thence through Birdsville into South Australia, and be a fulfilment of the agreement. The line under consideration will cost £1,455,000. It will extend for 160 miles south from the Katherine River, and give some measure of relief to the Barkly Tablelands, where there is some of the best pastoral country in tho world.. I agree with the honorable member for Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) that the line as proposed will not go far enough, and that it should be constructed as far south as Newcastle Waters, whence it could be extended across the Barkly Tablelands to Camooweal, affording very much needed means of communication to the pastoralists on those Tablelands, and possibly leading to closer settlement.
– Of course. Let it go through to Queensland !
– The honorable member and his friends can fight to have a line built from the northern boundary of South Australia to connect with the line running south from Port Darwin. My purpose is to get, at the cheapest possible cost, a railway that will confer the greatest possible advantage upon the Northern Territory and the rest of Australia; because the whole of Australia has to foot the bill. The Public Works Committee did not definitely decide on any route for a North-South railway, because they were asked to report only on proposed extensions from Mataranka to Daly Waters and from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, but it is clear that they did not favour taking the. direct North-South route, because they recognised the need for providing facilities for the Barkly Table lands, one of the richest portions of Australia, which would be excluded by. a direct North-South line. On page 13 of their report they speak of these Tablelands as follows: -
If the railway is extended to Newcastle Waters and thence across to Camooweal it will pass through some big cattle stations, such as Eva Downs, Brunette Downs, Alroy Downs, and Avon Downs. Two years ago the Queensland Government informed the Commonwealth Government that they were prepared to make an extension from the present terminus of their Great Northern Railway, Moonah Creek, to Camooweal if the Commonwealth would build that section of the North-South railway which would link up Mataranka withCamooweal. The State Government also promised to provide access to a Gulf port. It is necessary for the Camooweal district to have an outlet on the Gulf of Carpentaria. The trade of the Barkly Tablelands would naturally find its outlet at any port established on the Gulf by the Queensland Government. The promise made by the Queensland Government was repeated quite recently by the Premier ofthe State, and in pursuance of their policy of establishing a port on the Gulf as an outlet for the Barkly Tablelands and the Camooweal district the Queensland Government have made a grant of £20,000 towards the erection of meat works at Karumba, at the mouth of the Norman River. In fact, a great deal of money is being spent by the State Government in an attempt to develop the long-neglected Gulf district, and thus build up its population, and I hope that something will be done in this direction by the Commonwealth Government. I trust, also, that if it is found to be impossible to carry out the compact with South Australia that State will be compensated in some way. I do not stand for breaking promises or agreements without compensation. I am not opposed to the Commonwealth Government carrying out any compact it has entered into, but if the line running south from Port Darwin were extended to Newcastle Waters and thence on to Camooweal, it would traverse some of the finest country in Australia, and the connexion which would be made by the Queensland Government between Camooweal and the Gulf would help to make the Northern Territory line pay. The scheme I have outlined would open up most excellent pastoral country as well as a new port, and at the same time help to develop the Gulf district of Queensland, and build up its depleted population. A railway between Camooweal and Tobermory is bound to be built before many years pass, and it will run through thousands of acres of good sheep country in Western Queensland, and encourage closer settlement. If a line is built, as has been suggested, across to Camooweal, and thence through the western portion of Queensland, it will expedite the peopling of the north, and that being so, it is more urgent than a line through the spinifex and sand-hills country in the interior. Sooner or later we must have a railway running north and south through the western portions of Queensland and New South Wales, connecting possibly with Marree, in South Australia. That is what is known as the eastern route of the projected North-South railway. Why not allow the first step to be made now? No doubt, the agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia commits the Commonwealth to the construction of a line from Port Augusta to connect with Darwin, but there is a wealth of evidence to show that a direct north-south line would not serve the best interests of Australia at the present time. Mr. A. G. Bell, one of the finest railway engineers in Australia, said that he preferred the eastern route provided it was linked up with the railway systems of thevarious States.
– From what State did Commssioner Bell come? He came from Queensland.
– He has been away from Queenslandfor a number of years, but I look upon him as a railway expert of great ability. We should set aside all State jealousies, look upon this matter from a national aspect, and rely upon the opinions of experts. Mr. AlgernonCombes, who was a member of the RoyalCommission appointedby the Federal Government in 1912 to investigate matters relating to railways and ports in the Northern Territory, told the Commonwealth Public Works Committee that the directroute would involve an expenditure of from £15,000,000to £57,000,000, and would not pay expenses or anything like it.He said that, apart from interest, the annual loss would be about . £1,000,000, as practically t’he whole of the country through which the line would pass was poor.He also said -
The onlyargument infavour of the line was the agreement with South Australia, and the benefits to bederivedfrom thelinewouldnot compensate SouthAustralia for the contribution it would have to make towards the loss sustained.
He was of opinion that it would be a “ white elephant,” and his view was strongly supported by ProfessorGriffiths Taylor, of the Sydney University, who said that economic and physical conditions condemned it. It is relevant to notethat a loss of £2,276,289 has been sustained on the Darwin and Oodnadatta lines since theCommonwealthtook them over from South Australia in 1911.
– Now quotesome of the losses on the Queensland lines.
Mr.FORDE. - On the Queensland lines there are the cheapest fares and freights in Australia. Those lines are run in the interests of the primary producers in the remote parts of the State. They could be made to pay if the freights and fares were increased irrespective of the effect on the producers,but thatis not the policy pursued by the Labour Government in Queensland. If the North-South line were constructed immediately, and a huge loss were made annually, the burden would fall proportionately on all the States, including South Australia. Therefore the matteraffects not only South Australians, but also Queenslanders and people in every other State. The people of Tasmania, with nodirect interest in the construction of the railway, would beobliged to pay a heavy annual tax in order to enable the merchants of Adelaide to send their goods over a line through the heart of Australia to the Northern Territory, whileat the same time there would be no compensating development in the northern portion of Australia. Dr. Gilruth, who was Administrator of the Northern Territory, holds the view that the direct line is not essential to the development of the Territory. I do not say that Dr. Gilruth’s word is beyond question, but he was Administrator of the Territory, and his opinion is well worth quoting, along with those of such engineering experts as Mr. Bell, Mr. Combes, and Mr. Hobler, who offer objections to thebuilding of the North-South railway immediately.
Mr.Yates. - Does the honorable member ever intend to have it built?
-Yes, within a reasonable time.
– If it does not pay now it will not pay in the dim and distant future.
– The building of the lime to Newcastle Watersand thence to Camooweal may bring about adevelop sment that will justify the buildingof lines alongthe two routes.Of course if it is better that there shouldbe two lines, letthere be two. But I want to see that the money isspent to greatest advantage. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), a member ofthe Public WorksCommittee, has said thatthe man who made the agreement with South Australia regarding the building of the North-South railway ought tobe kicked,and, certainly, after hearing the evidence, Ithinkhe musthave knownthat the agreement wasan immoral one which oughtneverto have been entertained.Senator Newland, amember of the Committeeand a South Australian, isreported as cheerfully remark ing that this was the only time South Australia had scored in its simplicity. Queensland is vitally interested in the eastern route of this railway, and might very well offer to bear some of its cost, asthe Premier (Mr. Theodore) has already done. That State has undertaken to connect her central and western system with the Territory line at Camooweal, and the CommonwealthGovernment should act upon the definite promise madeby the Queensland Premier to extend the Queensland system to Camooweal, provided the Commonwealth extends the line from Daly Waters to Newcastle Waters and thence to that point. In the report of the Public Works Committee we read -
Thatthe Committee approve of the extensionof the Port Augusta toOodnadatta line to Alice Springs by the construction of a light line of railway with 60-lb. rails andlow-level bridges. -
Further on, there is the following decision: -
That the Committeeplace on record its opinion that, with the construction of a light line to Alice Springs, and the extension of the existing northern section to Newcastle Waters and thence to Camooweal, thewhole of the railway requirements of the Northern Territory will be met for many years.
It is recorded that Senator Foll, a member of the Committee, submitted the following motion, which was carried: -
That the Committee place on record its opinion that the construction of the section Mataranka to Daly Waters will of itself contribute very little towards the early development of the Northern Territory, and that the recommendation for its construction is only agreed to as being a section of an eventual line to cross the Barkly Tableland to Camooweal, via Newcastle Waters.
That is most important, and should be acted upon by the Government. The Committee, touching on the speeches made in the Commonwealth and South Australian Parliaments on the subject of the agreement, show that whatever is expressed in the agreement, the intention in the minds of the framers of the agreement was that the Commonwealth should have freedom of action in laying down the route of the railway. They quote the opinion of the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes), then AttorneyGeneral, who said -
So long as the railway could be reasonably described as a line through the continent from
Port Darwin southwards to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia the terms of the agreement would not preclude portion of the line being in Queensland.
That was the opinion given by the right honorable gentleman when AttorneyGeneral.
– Would you always follow his advice?
– No; but the right honorable gentleman is a lawyer, and we frequently have to take the advice of lawyers. The following is a portion of the summary of the recommendations of the Public Works Committee : -
I have not the advantage of having visited the Northern Territory, and it would be in the interests of Parliament and Australia if honorable members were able to travel over both proposed routes. As it is, I am speaking somewhat in the dark. I am relying on what Ihave read of it. However, we have the opinion of Mr. Hobler, Commonwealth Engineer, who told the Committee that along the western or direct route a pastoralist, to make a living, would require 192,000 acres, whereas on the eastern route 20,000 to 30,000 acres would be sufficient. Mr. Hobler admitted that the cost of the western route, with a length of 1,018 miles, would be £11,013,785, while that of the eastern route, with a length of 1,320 miles, would be £12,974,082. But, in Mr. Hobler’s opinion, the western route would not pay, and the eastern route would eventually do so.
– Is Mr. Hobler not a Queenslander?
-Many years ago Mr. Hobler held an official position in Queensland ; but I have sufficient confidence in him as an engineering expert to rely on his giving an unbiased opinion. One reason why Mr. Hobler’s evidenceshould be taken notice of is that he is familiar with the western districts of Queensland, where there are some of the finest pastoral areas to be found in Australia, and will shortly revert to the Crown for closer settlement purposes, If such advice had come from an engineering expert who had merely been over the route of the North-South line, and had never visited Queensland, I should not place so much reliance on it; but I believe Mr. Hobler to be unbiased.
– Oh no; he is not!
– Well, we cannot all agree. I am quoting the opinions of experts, because this is not a matter for laymen to decide. An engineering expert, ( who is fully conversant with the engineering difficulties to be overcome, is better able to decide such questions from an engineering point of view than is a person with no engineering training at all. Apparently, efforts are being made to discount the evidence of certain men who favour the eastern route; but so far as I know, the experts quoted may be accepted as authorities, or otherwise they would scarcely hold the positions they do. It has been said that the NorthSouth railway from the Territory to Adelaide is absolutely necessary from a defence point of view, but with that I do not agree, and I quote as my authority Major-General Sir Brudenell White, who in giving evidence before the Public Works Committee expressed the opinion that, so far as could be predicted from a defence point of view, a railway to the north of Australia is not an essential military provision.
– Quote Lord Kitchener!
– The honorable member himself will have an opportunity to quote Lord Kitchener. We ought to gravely consider all these questions before Ve commit the Commonwealth of Australia to an immediate expenditure of millions on the building of a. direct railway from the Northern Territory to South Australia. Not only South Australia, but every State in the Commonwealth is interested in such a project. We ought to first construct the line that is- necessary in the best interests of the Territory and the whole of Australia. Queensland is committed to a railway connecting Camooweal with the Gulf, and the Government have already voted a grant of £20,000 towards the erection of meat “works there. These works will take thousands of cattle from the Barkly Tablelands over the railway which it is to be hoped will be built.
We ought not to regard a question of this kind from a South Australian or Northern Territory point of view only, because, as I have said, all the other States are interested, and Queensland vitally so. The lands in Western Queensland that will be tapped by the eastern route are infinitely .superior to those that would be served by the direct line through the spinifex interior. The national Parliament ought to take a national view, and insure that expenditure of this kind is in the best interests of the whole of Australia. Therefore, I hope that the construction of the railway now proposed by the Government will bring very much nearer the construction of a railway from Daly Waters to Newcastle Waters, and thence to Camooweal, to link up with the Queensland system. This latter extension means a great step in the development of the northern portion of Australia. It will mean additional population and a strengthening of our White Australia policy, and consequently should be supported by all honorable members.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) has stated that in my remarks I favoured the construction of a line to Camooweal. That is incorrect. What I did say was I favoured the building of a railway to Newcastle Waters; but that does not mean that I favour a swing to .Camooweal. I favour the North-South railway; but I said that when that was constructed the Government might construct another towards Camooweal if they wished.
Debate (on motion by Mr. A. Green) adjourned.
administration of OLD-AGE and invalid Pensions Aci? - Monday Sitting - Representation of the Commonwealth at the Conference of the League of Nations by Sib Neville Howse.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister a matter relating to the administration of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act by the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions at Brisbane. I have before me an extract from a letter exhibited under a glass case in that home for the old and weary known as the Dunwich Asylum in Moreton Bay. I regard the letter as quite unjustifiable. The following is an extract from it : -
I shallbe glad if you will kindly make it known to pensioners who apply for leave in order to seek the restoration of pensions, that pensions will not be restored in any case to a pensioner whilst on leave. He should apply by letter to this office from Dunwich, setting out the grounds on which be claims restoration, when his case will receive consideration, and he should not leave Dunwich until the result of his application has been received by him.
Deputy Commissioner of Pensions.
I express the hope that the Prime Minister will look into the matter, because tho lot of these old people is quite hard enough without having such unjustifiable letters addressed to them.
– I shall have the matter to which the honorable member has directed attention investigated. I think that, perhaps, I should to-day, without making any definite announcement, intimate that on the progress which we can make next week will depend the question whether it will be necessary to ask the House to meet on Monday in tha following week. I make this statement now so that honorable members may have the possibility of a sitting on Monday in mind.
Before the House adjourns there is a matter to which I think honorable members generally would like me to refer. The honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) will be leaving to-morrow on his mission to the League of Nations, and to undertake the work he has been asked to do for the Government with regard to the medical inspection of migrants in Great Britain. I think it would be the wish of tho House that I should express the desire of honorable members generally that the honorable member may have a pleasant trip, and may accomplish the work intrusted to him to his own satisfaction, when I am sure it will be to the satisfaction of this House and of the country. I know that honorable members feel that in the honorable member for Calare Australia will have a very distinguished representative, and will be very worthily represented at the Conference of the League of Nations. They will agree with me that the prestige of Australia and of the House will be maintained by the honorable member. I am sure that honorable members would desire that I should express their good wishes for the success of his mission.
.- (By leave.) - I wish to associate myself with the remarks that have fallen from the Prime Ministerwith respect to the honorable member for Calare. I feel sure that the honorable member will do his very best in the interests of Australia and the world generally, in carrying out his mission to the League of Nations. I am very glad indeed to know that we shall be represented at the Conference of the League by two members of this House and by the High Commissioner (Sir Joseph Cook), who I am sure will he able to give them valuable assistance. I hope that the honorable member for Calare will have an enjoyable trip, that he will continue to enjoy good health, and that on his return he will be able to report to this House that great strides have been made towards the consummation of international peace.
. - (By leave.) - I desire to thank the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition for their kindly remarks concerning myself. I trust that the House will grant me the leave of absence necessary to enable me to attend the Geneva Conference of the League of Nations. There are many members of this House better qualified than I am to fill the position for which 1 have been selected, but I can assure honorable members that I shall do my very best on behalf of the nation of which we are all so proud.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230720_reps_9_104/>.