10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. JACKSON presented a petition, containing 10,429 signatures, from electors of Tasmania, praying that owing to the disabilities suffered by Tasmania since Federation the Commonwealth Parliament should grant to that State further financial assistance, amend the Industrial Arbitration Act, maintain a continuous ferry service across Bass Strait, and amend the Navigation Act to exclude Tasmania from the operations of the sections relating to interstate passengers.
Petition received and read.
Mr. SPEAKER laid on the table his warrant nominating Mr. R. Cook, Mr. Makin, Mr. Mann. Mr. Manning, Sir Granville Ryrie, and Mr. Watkins to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
Motion (by Mr.Bruce), by leave, agreed to -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21 the following members be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing. Committee on Public Works:- Mr.R. Cook, Mr. Gregory, Mr. Lacey, Mr. Mackay, Mr. McGrath, and Mr. Seabrook.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce), by leave, agreed to -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Committee of Public Accounts Act 1913- 1920, the following members be appointed (members of the Joint Committee of Public
The following committees were appointed (or. motion, by leave, by Mr. Bruce) -
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House next week of the tonnage of wire and wire netting manufactured in Australia, and the amounts of bounty paid in respect of each up to the 31st December, 1925?
– Last session particulars were supplied to the honorable member, and next week I shall have the information brought up to date.
Appointment of Mr. Percy Hunter
– The press published recently the statement that Mr. Percy Hunter had been appointed chairman of the Pacific Cable Board. Does the Prime Minister know whether applications were invited for the position, and, if not, whether the Commonwealth representative on the board acquiesced in the appointment of Mr. Hunter ?
– The various governments that own the Pacific cable are represented on the board, but an appointment such as that to which the honorable member has referred comes within the administrative powers of the board, in regard to which the Governments concerned are not consulted, and have no power to veto the decision of the majority of the board.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House what action the Government has taken, or proposes to take, in regard to the representation of Australia at the Dunedin exhibition and at future exhibitions abroad? The Melbourne Herald stated yesterday that, though Canada had made a fine exhibit, that made by Australia was shown in a bare shed, and was quite unworthy of the Commonwealth, which desires to establish a trade with New Zealand.
– Certain representations have been made regarding the Australian display at the Dunedin exhibition. According to information obtained by the Government from New Zealand press reports and other sources, the Australian exhibit is one of which we might well be proud. But in order to determine definitely whether the exhibit is such as we desire it to be, we have asked Mr. McPherson, of the Dairy Control Board, who is visiting the Dominion, to inspect the Australian display, and report to the Government upon it. Pending the receipt of his report, I ask honorable members not to give currency to stories that Australia is inadequately represented at the exhibition, for the official information is to the contrary.
– Will the Prime Minister make a public announcement that the Labour party is in no way responsible for the damage done to the good name of Australia abroad by the export of inferior fruit ?
– I strongly deprecate matters affecting the good name of Australia being used for political propaganda. It is beyond question that 5,000 cases of fruit in one shipment were below sample, and the most careful inquiries are being made to ascertain why that fruit was allowed to leave Australia. The system of inspection is being investigated in special relation to this case, but I ask honorable members not to be too ready to condemn Australia’s exports merely upon the basis of statements that are being made by interested persons.
– As the fair name of Australia has been defamed in connexion with the export of certain Australian products, will the Prime Minister see that instructions are given to those who supervize the export of our fruit and other commodities not to give information to the press concerning the condition of any shipments which may effect the sale of our products? It would appear that recently some persons have been only too pleased to rush to the press with information concerning the conditions of certain of our produce.
– The Government is only too anxious to do everything possible to prevent the good name and reputation of Australia being defamed in any way. As I have, however, not quite got the point of the honorable member’s question, I ask him to place it upon the notice-paper so that the matter may be given further consideration.
– Negotiations have been proceeding between the Federal Government and the Government of Victoria with respect to certain land at North Geelong required for naval purposes, and I should like to know if the Minister for Defence can state if any decision has yet been reached in regard to the matter?
– Negotiations are still proceeding.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether during his recent visit to New Zealand representations were made to him concerning a reciprocal arrangement between the Commonwealth and the Dominion of New Zealand in the matter of invalid and old-age pensions which was suggested by the New Zealand Government some time ago. If so, is any action contemplated by the Commonwealth Government with a view to giving effect to the suggestion ?
– The matter was not discussed between myself and the New Zealand Government during my recent visit to New Zealand.
– Arising out of the honour recently conferred upon the Minister for Markets and Migration (Sir Victor Wilson), will the Prime Minister state if a form of application for those desiring such honours is available, and will he explain by what means unworthy persons get these distinctions, which, in the opinion of a large number of people, are becoming altogether too cheap ?
– Any honours conferred by His Majesty the King are in recognition of services rendered to the Commonwealth or to the Empire, and I strongly deprecate such questions as the honorable member has addressed to me, which tend to ridicule recognitions of service which an overwhelming majority of the people entirely approve.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information is not yet available.
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable member is being obtained, and he will be fully informed at an early date.
asked the Post master-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Saleof Building Sites
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Of the 110 blocks unsold of the first subdivision at Canberra -
How many are business sites?
How many are residential sites?
How many were withdrawn from sale?
How many residential sites are available for purchase at the present time ?
– The information is being obtained, and will be made available as soon as it is to hand.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Information is being obtained .
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that rice is being successfully grown on the Murrumbidgee irrigation area, and that no protection or encouragement is being afforded to the growers, and will he make inquiry into the matter with a view to taking such action as is necessary to foster and establish this new Australian industry?
– The department is aware of this matter. Information so far obtained shows that the planting of rice is being extended in the Murrumbidgee area. I understand arrangements have been made for the sale of the whole crop at satisfactory prices. The development.of this industry will be carefully watched, and, if later any action by the Government is found to be essential, the matter will be attended to.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he make available for the information of honorable members a list of the members of the Commonwealth Peace Force, setting out the respective capacities and remuneration?
– A list of members of the Commonwealth Peace Force, setting out the information desired by the honorable members, has been prepared, and a copy has been placed on the table of the Library.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether ex-New South Wales police officer. Heckenburg is now a Commonwealth peace officer, and, if so, in what capacity and at what remuneration?
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the question in regard to the meeting of Parliament at Canberra, asked by the honorable member for East Sydney on the 21st instant, will he consider a suggestion made by public men in Australia, that Anniversary Day, 26th January, 1927, is a suitable day for such an event in our history?
– The suggestion of the honorable member will receive consideration.
Work of Telephonists
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The following papers were presented : -
Superannuation Act - Third Report of the Superannuation Fund Management Board, 1924-25.
Ordered to be printed.
Air Force Act and Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 1.
Canberra - Report of Operations of Federal Capital Commission for Quarter ended 31st December, 1925.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Applications for relief from Taxation during the year 1924-25.
– I move-
That, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall, on each day of sitting, have precedence of all other business, except on that Thursday on which, under the provisions of Standing Order No. 241, the question is put “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.” On such Thursday General Business shall have precedence of Government Business until 9 o’clock p.m.
It is customary at the beginning of each session to determine the order of business. and to allow a certain period for the consideration of matters brought forward by private members. Under the Standing Orders it is provided that on every third Thursday after Supply has been granted, the first order of the day after Government business shall be, “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair,” which gives honorable members an opportunity to bring forward what are generally termed grievances. During the last session private members’ business was provided for on every Thursday afternoon, and on every third Thursday the first business was, “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.” Towards the end of every session it has been found necessary to make some alteration, and the time available for the discussion of private business has been curtailed. , The proposal of the Government for the present session is that, instead of private members’ motions and general business coming on every Thursday afternoon, one day - every third Thursday - shall be devoted entirely to private members’ business. If the motion is agreed to. on the notice-paper general, that is, private members’ business will take precedence of Government business on every third Thursday, until 9 o’clock in the evening, when Government business will be called on. The first Government business will be “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair,” which will give honorable members an opportunity to bring forward grievances. The proposal is, as I have said, that, instead of every Thursday afternoon being devoted to private members’ business, which I believe the House will agree tends to interfere with Government business, the whole of every third Thursday shall be substituted, which will allow Government business to proceed without interruption. I think that the proposal of the Government will commend itself to honorable members. It will not curtail to any appreciable extent the amount of time available to private members, but it will, undoubtedly, give more continuity to the consideration of both government and private business.
.-I am surprised that in the second week of the first session of this Parliament the Government has the temerity to introduce a motion which, if carried, must have the effect of depriving private members of their privileges.What is the object of the Government?
– Exactly; expedition so that Parliament may go into recess. It is quite apparent that the affairs of this country are controlled by the editors of the Melbourne metropolitan daily press, and. not by the Government. The Prime Minister has been reading the special articles that have appeared in (he Age newspaper, particularly, during the past few weeks, and has resolved to take his instructions from them. It has been decided, apparently, that it will be conducive to the comfort and tranquillity of the Government, not to proceed far with this summer session. Although Ministers profess that the mandate received from the electors was to save constitutional government and to preserve law and order, they really have determined to let constitutional government and law and order look after themselves while Parliament is rushed into recess. I should like to know how the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) regards this proposal. Does he realize that its adoption may prevent him from moving his important motion in regard to elective ministries ? Possibly, the Prime Minister realizes that it will not be in the interests of constitutional government to permit that motion to come before honorable members. He may consider that its adoption would lead to mob rule, and to the toppling over of the whole structure of parliamentary government. But he is too clever and to suave to peremptorily forbid the honorable member for Wimrnera to introduce it. He would not deliberately bludgeon the honorable member; but he is taking this polite way of saying to him, “You know that constitutional government is in danger, and that the Government must proceed with its programme to preserve law and order and save us from red revolution.” The honorable member now has an opportunity to demonstrate his bona fides. If he is sincere in his desire to improve our system of government he will not support this proposal. He will realize that it may prevent him from moving the motion of which he has given notice. And what has the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), a most painstaking and sincere young man, to say about the Government proposal? He is of the opinion that amendments are needed in the Commonwealth Electoral Act to remove certain anomalies. He has, therefore, given notice of his intention to move that a select committee of this House be formed to inquire into and report upon the matter. Is he prepared to deprive himself of the opportunity to move that motion? I have not the slightest doubt that the motive of the Government in making this proposal is to hurry on its business so that Parliament may go into recess. It has started to speed up early, so that it may go slow for the greater part of the year. The Prime Minister amused me when he said that the carrying of this motion would not really deprive honorable members of their privileges. He suggested that he was giving us something by providing that the whole of every third Thursday should be devoted to private members’ business, but as a matter of fact, Standing Order No. 241 confers that right on private members. The proposal of the Government will deprive us of five hours of our time for discussing grievances on grievance day, for the motion, “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair,” will not be called on until 9 o’clock at night. If the House should rise at 11 o’clock only two hours would have been available to us. So many honorable members on both sides of the House have grievances to ventilate that two hours would be quite insufficient for the purpose. Nothing so seriously undermines the confidence of the people in the parliamentary institution as long parliamentary recesses. The Government appears already to have tired of its programme; but I should like to know what it proposes to do in regard to tariff matters. Does it intend to stifle discussion on this important subject ? Many of ‘ our Australian industries, among them the iron and steel industry, are languishing simply because of the lack of adequate tariff protection.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the motion.
– My point is, sir, that the moving of this motion undoubtedly indicates that the Government intends to seek an early recess, and that this necessarily means that the time of Parliament for discussing the Government business must be seriously curtailed. Do honorable members opposite intend to “ £*§ “ themselves? Are we not to con- cern ourselves about the welfare of our primary and secondary industries? Honorable members in the Country party corner continually complain that the primary producers of Australia are being ground down by their heavy burden of taxation, and by the crushing duties imposed on the imported agricultural machinery which they have to buy. Does the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who’ claims to be interested in the welfare of the farmers, intend to do nothing to rescue them from their predicament? I can see, however, that several honorable members can hardly restrain their desire to burst into eloquence, so I content myself by hoping that they will show their objection to the proposal in an unmistakable manner.
.- I should fail in my duty as a representative of the people if I did not protest against this attempt to rob honorable members of their privileges. During the many years that I have been a member of this House I have seen much legislation of a beneficial nature enacted as a result of motions tabled by private members. I remember the time .when the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) would speak for an hour or an hour and a half on the subject of land taxation, and when other members at considerable length advocated the claims of the fruit-growing industry. This motion is an attempt to further curtail the privileges of private members, which have already been greatly curtailed under the Standing Orders. During recent years our Standing Orders have been butchered. This is- a new Parliament, containing a number of new members, some of whom might have helpful views on important matters which they desire to place before the House, views which, if considered, might assist . in the progress and development of this country. We should give them the opportunity to state those views. Apparently, the Government is anxious to prevent honorable members from bringing forward any matters which may lead to useful legislation. Had I known that this motion would be introduced, I might have prepared a list showing the useful legislation which has been ‘ placed upon the statute-book as a result of the motions of private members. I am certain that had I done so the list would have been illuminating. Actions of the kind contemplated by the Government are to be deplored. Instead of causing people to respect our parliamentary institutions such actions cause them to be held in contempt. I understand that this matter was brought before the members of the Nationalist party yesterday at their caucus meeting. We hear from time to time that these meetings are somewhat lively. It is probable that when this proposal was mentioned some honorable members objected to it; but whether that be so or not, I know that the electors expect their representatives in this House to attend to the business of the country, and not be so anxious to get into recess. If this motion is carried, what opportunity will Opposition members have to criticize the proposals of the Government ? Opportunity should be given to the members of His Majesty’s Opposition to express their views on any matter affecting the welfare of the country. This motion will reveal to the public the desire of the Government to evade its parliamentary responsibilities, and to prevent useful legislation from being enacted. On Friday mornings honorable members on this side of the House usually cast a few pearls of wisdom before honorable members opposite, and, naturally, we do not view with favour any proposal to curtail our privileges in that respect. While at all times observing proper decorum, honorable members are justified in taking action to preserve their rights and privileges. I do not desire to shirk my responsibility as a member of this House; on the contrary, I have an overwhelming desire to serve my country to the best of my ability, and I resent the attempt to filch from me the opportunity to do so. If the motion is carried, and Parliament goes into recess, or adjourns for a lengthy period, the responsibility will not rest on me; the Government will be to blame. In his anxiety to get to the other side of the world and see Pall Mall, Leicester-square, and other places where I roamed as a boy, the Prime Minister is neglecting his duty to Australia. If my honoured leader (Mr. Charlton) were Prime Minister he would on all occasions put Australia first. The statesmen of Great Britain are already confronted with problems sufficiently great without their being worried by the Prime Minister. They should be left unhampered to deal with those problems. If I could prevent the Prime Minister from visiting Great Britain I should be happy to do so, as he will only be a stumbling-block in the way of men who already have their hands full in dealing with unemployment and its consequent misery. When I think of the suffering which thousands of those in the land of my birth are undergoing I can scarcely sleep at night. While this Parliament cannot dictate to the statesmen of Great Britain, we may be able to make some suggestion which would help in settling the difficulties with which they’ are confronted. Some of our new members may have a scheme for the alleviation of the distress in Great Britain and other countries, and they should be given the opportunity to bring it forward in this House. Rather than take a prolonged holiday, honorable members should endeavour to find a solution of some of the problems which confront the world to-day. They would find ample scope for their powers if they were to tackle the housing problem. Was this matter referred to in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech only to deceive the people ? Nothing so affects the health and prosperity of a people as the conditions under which they live. The housing problem should be tackled by the Government?
– The Government will deal with it.
– There should be no further delay in this matter, especially as it is proposed to bring large numbers of immigrants to this country. Those who migrate to this country should be assured of. a home, and we should legislate to this effect. If Parliament sat all the year round, and two days a week were set aside for the consideration of private members’ business, much benefit would result to the country. The Prime Minister’s attempt to shorten the session by curtailing private members’ business shows that he is afraid of dissension arising among his supporters. I oppose the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 21st January (vide page 298), on motion by Mr. Hill -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is one of the most important measures likely to be dealt with by this
Parliament. Its effect will be far reaching. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) pointed out that the construction of the North-South railway was referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech addressed to the first Parliament of the Commonwealth. It is to the credit of this Government that it is now prepared to deal with a matter which, unfortunately, has been postponed too long. The gauge of the proposed line is a matter deserving serious attention. When I was first informed that the Government proposed to continue the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, and so perpetuate a serious source of trouble in Australia, I was prepared to take a similar attitude to that taken by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) last night. But after carefully listening to the instructive second-reading speech of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), I have reluctantly concluded that under the circumstances we must continue the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. A uniform gauge is absolutely necessary throughout Australia, and the Government in deciding to continue the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to Alice Springs accepted a grave responsibility. However, the die is cast, and any further construction on this North-South line must inevitably be carried out on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge.
-Why does the honorable member say that?
– I say so advisedly, because any one who has carefully studied this matter must know that if we now continue the North-South lineon the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, the remaining 600 miles of railway when constructed must also be of that gauge. It would be taxing the credulity of honorable members too much to ask them to believe that the remaining portion of the line will be made on a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. We know that the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge could carry the traffic. Other railway systems of that gauge carry traffic enormously heavier than that likely to go over the North-South line. But are we to continue having different gauges throughout the Commonwealth? This line, being purely developmental, is not likely to carry any great traffic for some considerable time. It is to cost £1,700,000, while a line from Kingoonya would cost £4,500,000. There are various public works that should be and must be carried out in Australia unless we are to fail in our duty as legislators, and let the work of the pioneers of this country go for nothing. The sum of £2,500,000 to be saved by constructing a line of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge will be available for other works, and I am, therefore, reluctantly compelled to agree to . the continuation of this line on that gauge. I cannot subscribe to the statement of the Works Committee that probably there will be no further extension of this line needed for the next 50 or 100 years. No man can prophesy what will happen in this country 50 years hence. The greatest block to the progress of this country in the past has been the lack of vision in our public men. I was present at a function in Albury only a few years ago. It was a large gathering, attended by many former residents. Several persons spoke, and recalled the days when they had travelled with pack horses through Albury. Some had even swam the River Murray when there was no settlement at all in the vicinity of that town. That district- has been brought to its present stage during the life of men who still take an active part in the community. This shows that those who prophesy what will have taken place 50 years hence make a bold forecast that time will probably prove to be wrong. The honorable member for Bass pointed out last night, as I have pointed out for several years, that the settlement of Australia comes from the south. Any settlement in the Northern Territory will, therefore, inevitably come from that direction. It was interesting to know that the Minister had taken the trouble to travel through the country to be served by the proposed railway, and was therefore able to give us authentic information about it. The difference of opinion between the present Minister and the late Minister is regrettable. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, said that some of the country north of the opal fields which would be served by a direct line from Kingoonya, was the worst that he had seen in Australia, while the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) said that it was average country.
– The reason is that I have seen the country, and the honorable member for Wimmera has not.
– In that case I accept the opinion of the man who has seen the country.
– The Minister’s statement is not strictly correct.
– Honorable members who have not seen that country are under a great disability when discussing the bill, and those who are interested in the proposal should be given an opportunity to see it. Unfortunately, this will not be possible if it is intended to continue the session until July or August, because, owing to monsoonal rains, it is not safe to undertake the trip from the south after the end of May. It would take three months to see that vast tract of country. To get an idea of its possibilities it would be necessary to travel a considerable distance north, then across to the Victoria River, back to Darwin, and return across the Barkly Tablelands, and through central Queensland. I suggest to the Minister that he bring this matter before Cabinet. The newspapers have reported that the House is likely to adjourn for two months at Easter. I suggest that the House adjourn at Easter for a fortnight, and that when we meet again we should endeavour to reach a stage that will permit of a long adjournment until August. Supply could be granted to carry on for the first three monthsin the new financial year. This would give honorable members an opportunity to see for themselves the country for which they are asked to legislate. A great deal of ridicule has been cast upon the reports concerning the carrying capacity of this country. Under the “ A “ basis the carrying capacity is estimated at 40 sheep to the square mile, and under the “B” basis the estimate is less. From my small knowledge of the subject, 1 believe the Minister is justified in accepting the “B” basis in preference to the “A.” We have several instances in Australia of the valuable productiveness of country with a low carrying capacity. To men who are used to the eastern portion of Australia, where large areas of land have a carrying capacity of a sheep to 1, 2, or 3 acres, land carrying only one sheep to 25 or 40 acres does not seem an attractive proposition. From information which I think I am justified in accepting, I understand that the Murchison country, in Western Australia, which is the best wool-growing country in the northern part of that State, has a carrying capacity of from 20 to 25 and 30 sheep to the square mile. The Gascoyne country, which is not so good a wool-growing country, but has the best carrying capacity of any country in those parts, carries from 45 to 50 sheep to the square mile. This proves that on any country capable of carrying from 30 to 40 sheep to the square mile very valuable production can be brought about, but it can only be done by providing railway communication. I think that the Minister adopted a conservative basis when he said that in the greater portion of the country to be served by the proposed line the minimum block should be from 500 to 1,000 square miles. We have to bear in mind that the greatest bar that has existed to the development of this northern country is the wonderfully productive avenue for investment afforded by the southern and more safe districts of the Commonwealth. At the present time there are opportunities for the investment of capital in New South Wales, Queensland, and other parts of Australia which make men hesitate before they put their money into ventures in districts like those to be served by the proposed line. Unless we can induce men to believe that by taking up this country they will not merely make a living out of it, but may increase their capital much more rapidly than they can expect to do in the safe districts of Australia, they will not go there for their investments. To suggest, as the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) did, the division of the country into comparatively small holdings to carry 2,500 sheep, is absolutely ridiculous. If this country is to be developed it must be in large areas, and provision must be made to attract men with large capital. The history of settlement in Australia has been that the large holders came first, and were followed, where the country was suitable, by the smaller men. From the experience I have had. I should not be guilty of asking men with limited capital to go into this country. The proposed line will go through country the possibilities of which are not really known. Even those who have been through it can scarcely realize what it is capable of. The honorable member for Bass referred to evidence given by settlers who appeared before the sectional committee of the Public Works Committee. Those who have had experience of settlers asking for a railway know that they always put the most optimistic view possible before any committee of inquiry in order to secure a favorable report. It is very often found that subsequently, when they appear in court to ask for a re-appraisement of their holdings, the evidence they give is not nearly so optimistic as that which they gave in support of an application for railway communication. We should, therefore, not lay too much stress upon the evidence of men who say that they can make a success of small areas in the country to be served by this line. They may be able to do so, and it will be very satisfactory if they can; but we should go into this proposition with our eyes open to the fact that this country is likely to be developed only by men with large capital. It has been contended that the breaks of gauge will be very detrimental to the carriage of stock from Alice Springs to the southern markets. It was very refreshing to hear the Minister, in his second-reading speech, refer to the fat cattle he saw up there. I have made a note of a few instances of the carriage of large numbers of stock, over great distances along which there have been breaks of gauge and other disabilities. In 1920 when there was a shortage of fat cattle in the southern districts of Australia thousands of cattle were trucked from Quilpie down to the Sydney market. These cattle had not only to be untrucked and re-trucked on the border at Wallangarra, but they had to be dipped at least once, and in some instances twice. The distance from Quilpie to Wallangarra is 640 miles, and from Wallangarra to Sydney 492 miles, or a total distance of 1,130 miles. As I have said, they had to be untrucked and re-trucked at Wallangarra, and were dipped and knocked about.
– Of course, it could be done, but would it not be better if it were not necessary to do it?
– I quite agree with the honorable member, and if it were practical no one would be more strongly in favour of having railways on the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge throughout Australia than I would ; but I realize the difficulties we are up against. The question is not whether it would be better, but whether what the honorable member suggests is a practical proposition at the present time. I saw in the Sydney market upwards of 20,000 sheep that had been sent down in instalments from a station situated between Hughenden and Winton, in the north of Queensland. They were travelled by road to Aramac, and trucked from there to Fernlees, where they were given a fortnight’s rest. They were then trucked straight to Sydney without a break, and without being fed even when they were untrucked and retrucked at Wallangarra; and, while they did not top the market in Sydney, they we’re landed there in very fine condition. There can be no question that cattle could be trucked from Alice Springs, or even further north, to the Adelaide market, and landed there in prime condition, if they were prime when they started. I remind honorable members that the 3-ft. 6-in. line does not .stop at Quorn, but comes down to within 140 miles of Adelaide, at Terowie. Whilst no doubt fat stock will be brought down from the northern country to the southern markets, this line should be of great advantage in making it possible to breed stock in the northern country which will be brought south to be fattened in the better country there. If this line is constructed they can be brought without a break of gauge from Alice Springs right down to Terowie - a distance of 945 miles. Again, there is a 3-ft. 6-in. line to Broken Hill, and a big avenue will be opened up for the breeding of store stock to be purchased in the northern areas and brought to’ the south. On one occasion I saw cattle that had come straight through from Quilpie sold in the Sydney market on a Thursday, and on the following Tuesday I saw the same bullocks sold in the Albury market - a distance of 401 miles from Sydney; and, honestly, if one had not known the facts, he might have assumed from their condition that they had come straight in to the Albury market from the Murray flats. That shows what can be done in the carriage of stock over long distances. As the Minister has pointed out, there is a possibility of revenue for the proposed line from the development of the mineral resources qf the Northern Territory.’ One point which I should like to emphasize is that this is a proposal which cannot be judged, on the ordinary basis of profit and loss. If we develop the country to be served by the line we shall create a national asset for the Commonwealth. It will probably not be many years after the line is built before the country is advanced in development, and the traffic for the railway considerably increased. But even though it should involve for the first few years a loss of some tens of thousands of pounds we shall, by bringing this country under production, turn what is a liability, at the present time, into a national asset, the value of which will far more than compensate us for the loss sustained. It is said that the Commonwealth has to “ carry the baby,” but it is in the best position to do so. We certainly could not expect individual States to carry out works like this, which are for the benefit of the whole Commonwealth. Again, I have on the businesspaper a notice of motion for the construction of a railway from Bourke through Central Queensland and across the Barkly Tablelands. Such a line would traverse some of the finest grazing country we have in Australia, and. some people say that that is the line which should first be built.
Mr.R. Green. - On what gauge would the honorable member have that line built?
– I can deal with that when we are considering the construction of that line; but, as I have already said, if such a thing were practicable, I should like to see all the lines in the Commonwealth built on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. Some persons have endeavoured to make it appear that these two lines would be in competition with each other, and they have contended ‘ that the line through Central Queensland should be built in preference to that we have now under consideration. My opinion is that the two lines stand absolutely on their own merits. From the map which has been supplied to honorable members I think it will be seen that Charlotte Waters is about 200 miles from the south-west corner of Queensland, and that corner of Queensland would be considerably more than 200 miles from the route of the line referred to in my notice of motion. The two lines would, therefore, not come into competition in any way. They would not serve the same country, and both should be constructed if these areas are to be developed as they should be.
– The areas are so vast that one line could not serve them.
– The honorable member is absolutely correct in saying that we cannot serve the whole of this vast area of country with one line. A matter referred to by the Minister was the difficulty of obtaining suitable water. He pointed out that tests have been made, and, in many cases, wells sunk to a depth of 100 feet. He told us that geologists have reported against the possibility of getting water in those areas. Although we should pay the greatest respect to the opinions of scientists in these matters, I can say from experience that it is not wise to attach too much importance to their opinions. If we had been actuated by the advice of one of the leading geologists in Australia we should never have known that the artesian basin of New South Wales covered anything like the area which it does cover. I was living in the north-west of New South Wales when the late Sir William Lyne, who, at the time, was Minister for Works for the State, in direct opposition to the geologists, sent a boring plant up to Moree to test the area for artesian water. Although the geologist had declared the place to be outside the artesian basin, yet at about 2,300 feet a flow of 2,500,000 gallons a day was struck, and the geologist had to draw his map over again, and bring within the artesian basin thousands of square miles of country which he had previously said were outside it.
– In fairness the honorable member should admit that it was due to geologists that artesian water was first found in Australia.
– Undoubtedly. I do not belittle scientific advice, but we should not be governed wholly by it. I have knowledge of one property on which the drill was supposed to have bottomed on granite rock beyond which it was impossible to go. The property owner could not get a contractor to sink through that rock; but he obtained a plant for himself, and against all advice bored through the granite and struck splendid supplies of sub-artesian water. At one bore the water actually flowed over the casing. Any man who has had practical experience in that class of country knows that it is unwise to regard the obtaining of water there as hopeless. It is always possible that if the country is properly tested to a reasonably depth, large supplies of water will be found where at present there seems no prospect of obtaining any. After careful consideration I have reluctantly decided to support the proposal to build the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. I am a firm believer in the unification of gauges, but the facts placed before the House by the Minister for Works and Railways are so convincing that they leave us no option but to accept the narrow gauge.
.- I agree with the honorable member for
Macquarie that this proposal is one of the most important with which the House could deal. The building of this section of the North-South line will be a partial honouring of the agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia, and the railway itself will develop a large extent of fair to good grazing country which can be made capableof carrying a considerablygreater population than it does at the present time. Unfortunately, the information at our disposal does not enable us to decide with any degree of certainty whether Parliament should approve the route recommended by the Minister for Works and Railways or adopt the more expensive route from Kingoonya. Until I have an opportunity to inspect the country I am not prepared to say which route should be chosen. It is unfortunate that Parliament is always in session at that period of the year when those honorable members who desire to visit the Northern Territory and acquaint themselves with its resources and possibilities could do so without detriment to the interests of their constituents. I strongly support the contention of the honorable member for Macquarie that the Government should make it possible for honorable members to visit the Territory before we commit ourselves to the support of legislation affecting it.
– This Parliament has been sending honorable members to the Territory for the last twelve years.
– Since I entered this Parliament there has been no opportunity for honorable members to visit the Territory without neglecting their parliamentary duties. I have no desire to delay the passage of this bill; but, having regard to the. importance of the proposal it contains, I think it would be worth while to postpone its consideration for three or four months, so that we might have an opportunity to inspect the country through which the railway will pass. I urge the Government to agree to that course. Either this session could be continued until May or June, to be followed by an adjournment of three or four months, or the Easter adjournment could be extended sufficiently long to enable honorable members who desire to do so, to visit the Territory. In regard to the character of the country to be served by the railway, I have listened carefully to the opinions expressed by honorable members who have visited that part, and I am inclined to think that the Minister of Works was over pessimistic in his estimate of the potentialities of the Territory generally, and particularly in his statement of the difficulty of obtaining water. I have had a good deal of experience in the development of the back country. As a young man I was sent by my father to the north-west of New South Wales to develop a tract of 500 square miles of virgin and waterless country similar to what I understand a good deal of the Northern Territory to be. That holding was 250 miles from the nearest railway, and people told us that we would never obtain water and that our enterprise must fail ; but we sank wells and struck water, which we carried for some distance to make dams. Owing to the porous nature of the country - a condition modified later by stocking - it was some time before the dams were filled, but after seven years I leftthat land with 70,000 sheep on it. The rainfall there was from 10 to 11 inches a year. Later I took up a tract of dry and unstocked country in the north-west of Queensland where the annual rainfall averaged about 16 inches. At considerable cost we bored and struck a flow which watered 60,000 acres. We found it too expensive to put down many bores of that character, so we sank shallower holes and obtained sub-artesian supplies, which enabled us to stock the country. Later we sold out and reinvested in New South Wales. But to-day that Queensland country is worth two or three times as much as we obtained for it, and is heavily stocked. I have in mind country in the Riverina, which a few years ago people said was fitted only for grazing and would never carry much population. The water supply was poor, and the opinion was expressed that boring would be futile. Water, however, was obtained by sinking, and that country is now subdivided into prosperous wheat farms. These instances prove that pessimistic prognostications concerning the capacity of untried country are not always to be relied upon.
– What is the rainfall in that Riverina area?
– About 15 inches a year. In western New South Wales and Queensland country is successfully stocked, which has- no more than from 7 to 9 inches of rain a year. A very large area of the Northern Territory has at least that rainfall, and some of it has much more.
– A good deal of it has very much less.
– I admit that the Territory includes much poor country with a very low rainfall, but I doubt if there is a great extent of that land which is not capable of carrying some stock. Even country having only 6 inches of rainfall is worth occupying and improving, if it is available in large areas on good terms. It cannot be successfully pioneered unless the holdings are large, and exceptionally easy terms must be ottered to induce men to select it. Moreover, the country must be developed by means of railways, roads, telegraphs and telephones, in order to attract population. A lot of money will be required to develop the Northern Territory. The proposal that is now before us is only the commencement of an essential policy of railways and public works. Two or three other railways must be constructed. These will cost a lot of money, but they must be carried out at whatever cost. Like the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) I would much prefer the adoption of the standard gauge for the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs in accordance with the Government’s policy for the unification of gauges; but it is probably a wise policy to build the less expensive line at the present time. I do not care to offer a definite opinion upon that subject until I have had an opportunity by personal inspection to judge of the character of the country. No honorable member is qualified to say what should be done in regard to the building of railways or other developmental works until he has acquired a first-hand knowledge of the area to be served.
As the Northern Territory comprises approximately one-fifth of the continent, its development by railways and other means is one of the most important subjects with which this Parliament can deal. There are only about 2,000 persons at present in the whole of the Northern Territory; it is, therefore, apparent that there has been something radically wrong with its administration in the past. I trust that the commission to be appointed to control the Northern Territory will materially assist its progress. It is impossible for any Minister, irrespective of his ability and his desire to promote the development of the Territory, to control it effectively from Melbourne or Canberra. To efficiently administer the affairs of the Territory men with a knowledge of local conditions must be operating on the spot, and it is to be hoped that, after the commission commences its duties, a marked difference will be noticeable. The population at present may be too small to justify the establishment of a new State in the north, but I trust that when the Territory is further developed by means of railway communication, and the provision of adequate water supplies, the population will be sufficient to justify some such action being taken. In the absence of local government there is very little prospect of any material progress. If the Government will not consider the postponement of the consideration of the bill until honorable members have had an opportunity ‘to visit the Territory, I can only say that, with the information at present at my disposal, I intend to support the bill. I intend to do so, principally, because the cost of the proposed line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs is estimated to cost approximately £2,800,000 less than a line from Kingoonya to Alice Springs. The postponement of the discussion on this measure, until an inspection had been made, would necessitate a delay of only three or four months in the commencement of the construction of the line, and would enable many honorable members to record a more intelligent vote than they are able to in the present circumstances.
Mr.FOSTER (Wakefield) [12.49].- I am reluctant to occupy the time of the House in discussing this measure, as I hope that, after all the years that have been devoted to debating various phases of this proposal, we have come to a point when no one will ask for further delay. I have the greatest respect for the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), but I wish to tell him, and other honorable members who consider that they should be in possession of further information, that there is an ample supply of literature on this question, much of which was available for a long time before the Northern Territory was transferred to the Commonwealth. Investigations have been conducted by different authorities, and the evidence of explorers, geologists, and pastoralists who have made a name for themselves in Australia, is available for perusal. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons), in an excellent maiden speech in this House, referred to the work of the late Mr. Simpson Newland, who, during his long life, devoted much of his time to the settlement of this problem, and also to the Murray River question. During the last few months of his life he expressed the desire to live to see his life’s work consummated.
– He was certainly a man who deserved some recognition for service to his country.
– Yes. If ever a man deserved special recognition it was the late Mr. Simpson Newland. He has, however, obtained something better; his life’s work, recorded as it is in the pages of our Australian history, is his monument. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) referred to the question of intersecting the Northern Territory with a line from the east to the west. That is a proposal which I have always favoured, but it has no relation whatever to the Territory’s immediate essential requirement, which is a direct line of railway from the north to the south. If ever a country has been wretchedly administered, andhas had money wickedly squandered upon it owing to incompetence, it is the Northern Territoryunder Commonwealth control. We have a Territorials Association in South Australia,’ many of the members of which are men who have lived for many years in. the Northern Territory, and who, in their declining years, have settled in Adelaide. It is the passion of many of these men to see the consummation of their life’s work - the honoring by the Commonwealth Government of the definite agrement madewith South Australia when it assumed control of the Northern Territory, a transfer which I vigorously opposed. During the 40 years I have resided in the north of South Australia, I have come in contact with men closely interested in pastoral pursuits in the north. For sixteen years I was a member of the South Australian Parliament, and in that capacity I became fully acquainted with the conditions prevailing in the Northern Territory, as its finances were dealt with apart from those of the State proper. Year after year when the estimates were under consideration the Northern Territory vote was keenly debated by members, many of whom were Scotsmen, and, naturally, did not wish to waste money. At that time an administrator was conducting the affairs of the Territory, and that officer, who had fairly extensive powers, could in most instances act without reference to- the Government.
– The Territory has been under the control of an administrator for some time with very poor results.
– The honorable member has not a knowledge of the subject.
– Stagnation prevailed when South Australia was in control.
– Money was not wasted.
– The population did not increase.
– The honorable member for Riverina, who is acquainted with pastoral pursuits, should, with the information available, be better acquainted with the conditions in the Territory. It is his business to search the records.
– We should have an opportunity to make an inspection.
– The honorable member may be able to estimate the potentialities of country with which he is acquainted, but his opinion on the country in the Northern Territory would not be worth two-pence.
– I lived in similar country in the west of New South Wales for seven years.
– Yes; that may be so, and the conditions were vastly different, but the honorable member knows nothing of the conditions in the Territory. The members of the Pastoralists Association of South Australia realize the possibilities of the country. Persons conversant with the value of land in one division of a State know little of the land values in another division. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) as a land valuer knows that conditions vary. Some time ago the Government despatched three men supposed to be experts to examine the country, who reported that when water was available, and when other improvements were made, some of the land which has not been occupied because it is not worth occupying for the last 30 years would carry 40 sheep to the- square mile. In some parts rain does not fall for four or five years. I am referring to the country on the western route, which the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) said is preferable to that on the .route proposed to be adopted.
Sitting suspended from J to 2.15 p.m.
– A Government official made a most stupid newspaper statement that was published in London about the conditions in central Australia. It indicated to every one who knew anything of the earliest history of the country that he knew nothing whatever about his subject. He very inaccurately described the Kingoonya route. That country, however, whatever may be said for or against it, is already being served by the East-West line. From Kingoonya or Tarcoola northwards to McDouall’s Peak the country is good. I have said that all along in my defence of the original agreement. Something has been said in English newspapers about the camel. In the years gone by it was an excellent aid to settlement ; but the time has come when it ought to be allowed to pass out, for motor transportation has superseded it. The country on the Kingoonya route, north of McDouall’s, gets worse, and out westerly from that route is entirely outside the artesian basin, and the most hopelessly dry area in the interior, running as it does into the great Victoria Desert, which the late Mr. A. B. Murray, father of the present Chief Justice of South Australia, and others discovered to their sorrow. . This was the country inspected by the Minister for Works and Railways at the invitation of the Gunn Government, and was pretty abruptly turned down. No effort has been made to effect a permanent settlement there.
– Does the honorable member advocate the building of this railway by day labour, or the contract system ?
– Not by day labour. There must be no “ Weary Willies “ upon this business. The owner of a station adjacent to what is known as The Peak, very many years ago took up 2,000 miles of this western country, although he knew that it rarely rained there. His object was to relieve his other station of stock on the rare occasions when rain should fall. He sent cattle there soon after he secured the lease, left them there for about six months, and then had to bring them away again. I believe that he has never sent any stock there since. I obtained my facts from the pastoralists themselves. Going further west .still, what is known as the Great Victorian Desert, to which I have previously referred, is encountered. The early explorers and pioneers can tell some tales about it. The conditional eastern diversion referred to by Mr. Green, I only need to add, was totally condemned very many years ago by Mr. Graham Stewart, who was engineer-in-chief in South Australia, and recognized by the Australian Institute of Surveyors as one of its most eminent members.
– Why condemn any part of South Australia?
– I am dealing with the people’s money, and a responsibility rests upon me to state the ‘ facts. I have known the history of the country for 40 years. In my long political career I have never once taken any part in the building of a political railway; I trust that I never shall do so. MV advice to other honorable members is to have nothing to do with anything of that description. I should like to congratulate the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) on his unceasing championship of tha original agreement made with the South Australian Government. I urge, apart altogether from considerations of honour and law, that the direct route provided for in the original agreement, and not the Kingoonya or western route, should be approved. The country through which it will pass has been in occupation for 40 years, and is in occupation to-day. If evidence of its successful occupation is needed, it is provided by the fact that it is in the artesian basin, and much of it has already been subdivided. I do not wish to mislead honorable members into thinking that there is no dry country there, but I consider that it has a better rainfall than the westerly route, or some of that which would be traversed, if the Queensland route were adopted. Some of the Queensland country is dry for two or three years together at times. It has been urged against this proposed line that it will not pay. That, in itself, is not a conclusive argument against it. It must be admitted that in every State in Australia there are railway lines which do not pay. Some of them should never have been built. For years they have been heaping up heavy deficits. They are the political railways.
– Let the ‘ honorable member name some of them.
– Any one who reads The Bulletin newspaper will know the lines to which I refer. The Bulletin has been a strong advocate for many years of the direct North-South railway. It has, as a matter of fact, been as consistent and persistent as any newspaper in Australia, not even excepting those of Adelaide. Both of the proposed routes are dry in parts, but I ask honorable members to bear in mind that, whereas, some of the country that would be served by the Kingoonya route has never been occupied, or has been occupied for only’ very brief periods, much of that that would be served on the Oodnadatta route has been settled successfully for the last 40 years. The country surrounding Oodnadatta is not the worst that would be encountered on that route. For every mile northwards from there it improves. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) referred to an interview a Mr. Pearce gave in The News, the Adelaide afternoon newspaper. I should like him to read the evidence that Mr. Pearce gave before the Public Works Committee in favour of the Oodnadatta route. He will find that it is very solid.
– Which route does Mr. Pearce really favour ?
– That in the original agreement. Even the opponents of this railway admit that soon after leaving Oodnadatta the country improves every mile.
– Is it not a fact that the rainfall at Charlotte Waters is less than that at Oodnadatta?
– The rainfall at Oodnadatta is under 5 inches per annum, but I point out that, in that country, a fall of 2 inches at the right time, and another inch a fortnight or three weeks later, will provide in six or seven weeks, feed of such quality and in such, quantities that is not equalled by land which costs £20 an acre in other parts of the Commonwealth. During the great drought of 1896 - and it was a drought, - I went to Oodnadatta at the request of the Government, and for a fortnight I inspected the surrounding country in company with the police officer who was also the officer responsible for the control of Crown lands. The result of that visit was to arrange for the transfer to that country of ‘between 7,000 and 8,000 horses belonging to farmers in the south, where, owing to lack of feed, the animals would certainly have died. Those horses were thus depastured in feed 2 or 3 feet high; and the following year nearly all of them were returned, rolling fat, to the farms whence they came, to put in the crops after the drought had broken.
– The same thing was done in 1914, at Charlotte Waters.
– The whole of Australia was in the grip of that drought. I ask- honorable members whether they stand for assisting the brave pioneers who have spent, in some instances, up to 40 years in an attempt to develop the country, or whether they think that these men should be deserted. The Labour party is as sound as a bell on this matter, as it was three years ago. At that time this House contained a majority of members favorable to the construction of this railway, which to-day should be more than half built. It has, however, taken the Government all these years to make an attempt to discharge its obligations to the people of the Northern Territory. In the development of the Northern Territory, South Australia intended to proceed from south to north.
– ‘ Does the honorable member prefer a railway of 4-ft. 8J-in. or one of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge?
– I prefer the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge ; but a railway of that gauge ii not justified in this instance, as its capital cost would be so great that satisfactory freights could not be charged to make it a paying proposition. Lord Kintore, father of Lady Stonehaven, the wife of the present Governor-General of the Commonwealth, was the first Governor to travel through the Territory from north to south. Since that time Lord and Lady Stradbroke have been through the Territory from Oodnadatta to Darwin. I do not know whether honorable members read the speech which Lord Stradbroke delivered in Melbourne on his return. It was reported fully in the Melbourne press, and was one of the finest contributions to the literature in connexion with the Northern Territory that has yet been made. Stefannson went through the Northern Territory about the same time. The directors of the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited have also inspected the country, which they said abounds in minerals. They expressed the view that the wealth of the Northern Territory was in the centre and the south. Those men, and every other man of experience and intelligence who has visited the Territory, have returned with the same opinion, namely, that the only way to develop it is to work from the south - from the temperate to the semi-tropical or tropical, from the easy to the difficult. The climate of the Macdonnell Ranges is ideal, and in time this portion of the continent will become its sanatorium. Had ‘ the energies expended in the development of the Territory been directed from the south, there would to-day be a large population there. People in thousands would have poured into the Macdonnell Ranges, and it would not have been long before the tablelands beyond those ranges were peopled also. Let us consider for a moment the geological contributions made by the Northern Territory. From Mr. Tennyson Wood, in the early days, to Mr. H. Y. L. Brown, better known as “ Geology “ Brown - a man held in the highest esteem amongst Australian geologists, and one who has contributed valuable literature on the subject - the opinion has been unanimous regarding the existence of valuable minerals in the Northern Territory. Some honorable members speak as if there was no traffic available for the line, if constructed, but that is not so. At Marree, the railway receives large consignments of cattle from Queensland, and at Oodnadatta live-stock from the surrounding country and from the tablelands to the north is entrained. In good seasons large numbers of cattle from Alice
Springs and the country south are railed at Oodnadatta for various destinations. Many times the capital cities of Australia would have experienced a beef famine had it not been for the cattle from the country referred to. For six months of every year there are 3, 4 or 5 big cattle trains every week on the existing railway. To cope with that traffic the Quorn to Oodnadatta railway system has to call upon the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge systems of other portions of South Australia for as many as from 15 to 20 sets of men and engines, and rollingstock in proportion. Were it not that at peak periods it is possible to draw upon the other 3-ft. 6-in. gauge systems, many more locomotives and much more rollingstock would be necessary for six months of each year. During the remainder of the twelve months, probably half of it would not turn a wheel. The railway from Quorn northwards should be worked by the- South Australian Government for the Commonwealth, as was done until recently. South Australia has all the resources of its other 3-ft. 6-in. gauge systems to draw upon, and when little traffic is offering on the Oodnadatta line, both men and rollingstock are transferred to the Port Pirie to Broken Hill line. A 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway is capable of dealing with the heaviest traffic, if those in control know how to use it. In South Africa there are thousands of miles of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railways, and they are the most profitably operated railways in the world.
– Is there any break of gauge in South Africa?
– Yes, but it presents no serious difficulty. Nor does the break of gauge present any real difficulty in this instance. In South Australia, north of Port Augusta, as well as in the Northern Territory, and in both Queensland and Western Australia, adjoining the Northern Territory, the railway systems are all of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. The railway from Broken Hill to Port Pirie, which carries the heaviest traffic over one set of rails, and is the most profitable railway in the Commonwealth, is also df that gauge, During the last three years secret negotiations have been proceeding between the Governments of the Commonwealth’ and of South Australia. In this connexion I take exception to the way in which the representatives of South Australia in this
Parliament have been ignored. They have not been treated fairly in a matter of such importance to that State, as well as to the Commonwealth. The agreement to make this line was entered into in 1907 between Mr. Deakin, on behalf of the Commonwealth, and Mr. T. Price and Mr. A. H. Peake, at that time the Premier and the Treasurer of South Australia. Mr. W. J. Denny, the present Attorney-General of that State, and Mr. L. O’Loughlin, also had a hand in its preparation. It was understood by the people of South Australia, and also by this Parliament, which accepted it, that the agreement involved one route only - a continuation of the railway which had already been constructed to Oodnadatta. Until of late years South Australia never dreamed of any deviation from the original agreement. To show the fallacy of the contention that the Kingoonya proposal is within the agreement, iti is only necessary for me to say that Mr. Deakin would not agree to the transfer of the Northern Territory unless the railway extended from sea to sea. The railway was to run from the wharfs of Darwin to the wharfs of Port Augusta, and for that reason the Commonwealth took over the wharfs of Port Augusta. South Australia would never have consented to any other proposal. There have been differences of opinion about the interpretation of the agreement. Sir Edward Mitchell, K.C., . of Victoria, many years ago gave a written and definite opinion that the original agreement meant from south to north, entirely within South Australia and the Northern Territory. Sir Josiah Symon, like the late Mr. Simpson Newland, studied for almost a lifetime the development of the Northern Territory, and every one knows his great reputation as a lawyer. For many years he advocated in the Senate the construction of this line, - and he agreed entirely with the opinion of Sir Edward Mitchell. During the last Parliament, the present Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) was not favorably disposed to this proposal, but after examining the agreement he supported the construction of the railway, and said that this Parliament’ was in honour bound to execute the agreement. I frequently discussed this matter with Mr. Deakin - one of the most lovable and true friends that I ever knew - and he never wavered in his intention to construct the railway on the route indicated in the agreement.
– The most direct route ?
– Yes. When the present Attorney-General’s attention was called to the intention of the agreement that the railway should be constructed “ within a reasonable time,” he asked how long ago the agreement had. been made. He was told sixteen or seventeen years. He then said, “Why, a reasonable time had elapsed long ago; the South Australian Government had only to apply to the High Court and request it to instruct the Commonwealth Government to carry out the agreement.” I am delighted that every honorable member seems .to be in favour of the bill. There is no need to go to Alice Springs, or beyond it, to the twentieth parallel of latitude to ascertain whether there is warrant for the construction of the railway through the Northern Territory according to the agreement. Millions of pounds have been wasted in that Territory, and further expenditure there will be useless until the transcontinental railway is completed. Those who originally conceived the north-south scheme had in their minds the idea of bisecting the Northern Territory, but that is something quite apart from the agreement. I ask honorable members to pass the bill without further delay, so that the work of construction can be put in hand.
.- This is the most important proposal that has been before this Parliament for some time, and in it several important principles are involved. The first of these is the honour of Australia. It is just as vital for a nation to honour its obligations as for an individual to do so. Other principles are that of the White Australia policy and the defence of Australia. The proposal affects, too,, the development of the Northern Territory. If the proposed transcontinental railway were carried into Queensland, it would pass through my constituency; but in the short time at my disposal I have read as much of the reports and other literature published on this subject as there has been time to read, and I have also studied the agreement, and I am not in favour of that. The discussion has related chiefly to one clause of the agreement ;. but there are two sub-clauses that should be considered in its interpretation. One is subclause 6 of clause 1, which reads -
Construct or cause to be constructed a railway line from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper (which railway, with the railway from a point on the Port Augusta railway to connect therewith, is hereafter referred to as the transcontinental railway).
Sub-clause d reads -
Construct or cause to be constructed as part of the transcontinental railway, a railway from a point on the Port Augusta railway to connect with the other part of the transcontinental railway at a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper.
It does not seem possible to place any other construction upon those two subclauses than that the intention of the framers of the agreement was to have constructed a direct, or nearly direct, North-South line, not a line which would wander into the other States, but one running along an approved surveyed route iu the Northern Territory, and through South Australia to connect up with the Oodnadatta line. That being so, and the agreement having been entered into so long ago as 1907, it appears to me that the honour of this Parliament and of Australia as a nation is involved in the construction of such, a line, and no other. I congratulate the Government upon its courage in bringing forward the bill. The construction of a line on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge involves a deviation from, the policy of establishing the 4-ft. 8-J-in. gauge as the standard throughout Australia, but the reasons for this are sound, and are contained in the statement of the Minister. There was a recommendation in the report of the Committee, upon which were representatives of the Commonwealth and South Australia, printed on the 2nd October, 1924, to the effect that the Kingoonya route should be constructed. Although, as I have said, I have read a great deal upon this subject, I have not traversed the country which will be served by the proposed railway. Still for many years I jived in pastoral and mulga country, and I know something of the Barkly Tableland, and, under the circumstances, I consider that there is ample justification for continuing the present 3-ft. 6-in. gauge northwards from. Oodnadatta. If the adoption of a uniform gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in. were not the settled policy of Australia, it might be well worth considering whether it would not be better to construct doubleline railways of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge than single-line railways of 4-ft. 8-^in. gauge. Such lines would be more effective than wider single lines, although a little more expensive. But the gauge of the proposed railway is not my chief concern. Other speakers have admitted that the use of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge will not cause any serious disability. On the contrary, it will give many advantages, and if connexions with it are made to the Queensland railway system, which is a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge system, there will be a mutual increase of traffic, and the interchange of rolling-stock in case of emergency would be possible. It is very necessary for the defence of Australia that the Northern Territory should be occupied. There is a large harbour at Port Darwin, but it could be entered by enemy snipping, which could land troops there and establish a base for attacking us. .But with a transcontinental railway we could, in case of emergency, dispatch troops to the north to repel an attack, though I hope the necessity to do so may never arise. The development of the Northern Territory involves the White Australia policy, and the construction of the railway will assist that development, because it will provide a great deal of work in the Territory. A large number of men are unemployed in Australia to-day, and much work would be provided if the line were constructed in opening up the country, and in providing water and other improvements. Australia’s two great problems are, on the one hand, how best to establish communications and transport, and, on the other, how to conserve water. The best way to establish satisfactory communication and transport is to construct railways, and to make main roads leading to them. This line would do a great deal in that direction. It will not merely stimulate the industries of South ‘Australia, and the settlement of the Northern Territory, but will benefit the Commonwealth as a whole. As the representative of a Queensland constituency, I see no reason why the money proposed to be devoted to’ the construction of this line should be spent on the construction of a railway leading into western Queensland. A railway from Bourke to Camooweal is vitally necessary for the defence of Australia and the development of the Northern Territory, but that is a proposal which will be dealt with at another time. I wish to say, further, that a large number of miners, first class men of wide experience and sound knowledge, have gone out from Charters Towers into the Northern Territory and returned with reports of tremendously rich deposits of minerals there. No doubt, if this line is carried through as rapidly as possible from south to north, it will tremendously stimulate the Northern Territory, will unlock great riches for Australia, give a great deal of employment, and afford a great opportunity for largely increasing our population by the introduction of Britishborn people from overseas. Dealing with the estimates of revenue likely to be received from the line, it will be admitted that commissions and committees reporting upon potential developments likely to follow railway construction have quite naturally been cautious and conservative. The history of development is that settlement follows railway construction, and the settlement, progress and development which will follow, the construction of this line has been underestimated, I venture to suggest, quite as much as has been the case in the estimates of development following the construction of railways which have been proved to be successful, and are a source of tremendous wealth to Australia. I hope the bill will pass, and I have the greatest pleasure in supporting it.
– I rise to say a few words in support of the bill, for the reason that South Australian representatives have for a long time said that Queenslanders are out to steal the North-South railway from them. I have always taken the view that a number of railways are necessary in the Northern Territory if it is to be properly served. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) reads this proposal as the first step towards the construction of the through North-South railway, and he expects that the Government will make it a 6 art of the line connecting with Port Darwin. I hope that the people of South Australia will be generous when the suggestion is made that the North-South line should be connected with Camooweal. It must be apparent to every one that a huge area like the Northern Territory cannot be properly served by one line, and it would be unreasonable to bring traffic from Port Darwin right down to Port Augusta when better outlets for it are much nearer at hand. I understand that £8,000,000 has been spent in the attempt to settle the Northern Territory, but the construction even of a network of railways will not accomplish all that is desired. It is idle to suppose that 6,000,000 of people can hope to settle the whole of Australia, and, therefore, the Government, as a part of its developmental scheme, must have its eyes fixed on the promotion of a migration policy which will largely increase our population. We cannot expect to induce many people to settle in the Northern Territory whilst they could settle in more favoured districts in the various States, where most of the comforts of civilization can be enjoyed. The people of South Australia have been somewhat nervous in this matter, and have suggested that this work should be proceeded with right away in view of the other proposals for railway construction which have been made. To my mind, the construction of this line at the present time is premature. The people of South Australia might reasonably have been expected to display a national spirit, and agree that the work should be deferred for a number of years. The Government, having publicly announced its recognition’ of the obligation on the Commonwealth to construct the North- South line, that should have been sufficient for the present. Very little attention has been paid to the huge loss which will necessarily be involved in the working of the proposed railway. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), in a very interesting statement which he has had prepared, estimates the loss at from £79,000 to £99,000 perannum. This is only an estimate and is liable to be exceeded. So far as the gauge to be adopted is concerned, I agree with other honorable members that in this case a departure from the standard gauge of” 4 ft. 8£ in. is justified. I realize that a - loss must be involved in the departure, because of the duplication of railway plant which, as a result of it, will be necessary. I have served my purpose in directing attention to the fact that Queensland never had any idea of preventing the construction of the NorthSouth line when suggesting the necessity for railway communication between Port
Darwin and Townsville. I hope that when the time comes for representatives of Queensland in this Parliament to propose a lino from Camooweal to connect with the North-South line they will receive the same support from members representing South Australia as Queensland representatives are giving them at the present time.
.- I do not intend to offer any opposition to the passing of this bill, but I wish to place on record my strong objection to the proposed departure from the principle of a uniform railway gauge for the Commonwealth, which was laid down by the Fisher Government. The people generally desire the adoption of a uniform railway gauge. It was contended that it was one of the advantages which would follow federation. When the proposal was first made to build the present Transcontinental Railway on a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, many objections to the adoption of that course were made, but when it was finally decided that the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie was to be built on that gauge, the Government of Western Australia agreed that,- on the completion of the line to “Kalgoorlie, it would convert the 3-ft. 6-in. line from Kalgoorlie to Perth to a line of the standard gauge. All the railway engineers of Australia have recommended the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, and even in connexion with the proposal now under consideration, it is suggested that all culverts and tunnels should be so constructed as to permit of the adoption of that gauge. The cost of sleepers is a considerable item in railway construction, and whilst sleepers are necessary for either gauge, the use of sleepers sufficiently long to carry the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge would not involve very considerable additional expense. The same rails would be used on either gauge. I am sorry that honorable members have not instructed the Government to construct the proposed railway on the gauge recommended by every railway engineer in Australia, and that the bill proposes a departure from the accepted policy of railway construction. The only reason given for the departure is the extra cost of a line on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, but the cost, of altering the gauge in the future will be double the cost of adopting the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge to-day. This national Parliament should not depart from prin ciple on the ground of cost. The expressed policy of the people should be given effect irrespective of cost. I wish to have recorded in Hansard my protest against the proposed departure from principle. I expect to be a member of this Parliament for a good many years to come, and I wish to be in the position to show that I had sufficient foresight and courage to advocate the adoption” of the right course even though honorable members generally did not follow it. The Labour Government which I supported in 1910-11 and 1912 laid down a policy which set us on the road to our present prosperity. Its ideals were national and not parochial. It did not support proposals because of their cheapness, but laid down principles which may well be followed for generations to come. Having said so much, I am satisfied that I have done my duty. The majority of honorable members may not agree with the views I have expressed, but when the great Roman philosophers were applauded they wondered what mistakes they could have made. I believe that in the not distant future this Parliament will discover that it made a mistake, if it now decides not to construct this proposed railway on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message received from the Senate, intimating that Senator Barnes, Senator Lynch, and Senator Reid had been appointed members of the Public Works Committee.
Message received from the Senate, intimating that Senator Foll, Senator Kingsmill, and Senator. Needham had been appointed members of the Public Accounts Committee.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 21st January (vide page 286), of motion by Mr. Pratten-
That notwithstanding anything contained in the Customs Tariff 1921-4, from and after a time and date to be proclaimed, the impor- tation into Australia, direct from the Territory of Papua or the Territory of New Guinea, of such of the goods specified in the schedule to this resolution as were produced in the Territory from which they are imported, shall be free of duty.
.- This proposal is a step in the right direction. We should do everything possible to develop the Territories of Papua and New Guinea, which will continue to be a drain upon the resources of the Commonwealth until their industries have been stimulated and their population increased. All honorable members are in favour of this legislation, and the Minister is to be commended for having introduced it. We hope that it will help to develop the Territories and in a few years relieve the Commonwealth of much of the financial responsibility it has now to bear in connexion with them. The wording of the motion suggests to me that it would be possible for commodities produced in some other island, and undergoing a manufacturing process in the Territories, to receive the benefit of this preferential tariff, thus opening the doors to the products of countries which are outside the jurisdiction of Australia. I ask the Minister to make the wording a little more explicit.
.- I am glad that the Minister has brought forward this proposal. Hitherto the Territories have been treated almost as foreign countries. The expropriated properties in New Guinea are now being made available for selection, and, as special inducements are being given to returned soldiers to take up land, Parliament should assist them by giving a preference to their products, thus opening “ up new sources of raw materials for our industries.. Item 7 of the schedule relates only to coco-nuts, whole and prepared, and unshelled nuts, and I ask the Minister to agree to the inclusion of the galup or nahli nut, which is exceptionally nutritious and pleasing to the palate. It is not produced on the mainland, but I am sure that if it were obtainable by the Australian people they would prefer it to the Brazil nut. My brother recently sent to me from New Guinea 84 lb. of galup nuts, and the Customs charges and freight, including delivery to my home in Manly, amounted to £3 0s. 8d., or 9d. a lb. Those charges are obviously ridiculous.
– What is the value of those nuts at the port of shipment?
– Practically nothing. In the season a considerable quantity of. them can be bought at Rabaul for a stick of tobacco.
.- If the honorable member for Richmond will move the amendment he has indicated, I shall accept it. To meet the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition, and to make it quite clear that this motion does not apply to goods produced outside the territories, I move -
That the words “ or manufactured “ be omitted.
– That will be satisfactory.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I understand that if the words “ shelled or “ are inserted before the word “unshelled” in item 7, galup nuts will be included?
– That is so.
– I move-
That in item 7 the words “ shelled or “ be inserted before “ unshelled.”
The schedule would then read: Nuts, viz., . . . (c) Shelled or unshelled.
Amendment agreed to.
Resolution, as amended, reported; and, by leave, adopted.
That Mr. Pratten and Mr. Gibson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution:
Bill presented, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
House adjourned at 3.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 January 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260122_reps_10_112/>.