14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J, Bell) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers: -
Motion (by Mr. Lyon’s) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until
Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has yet decided upon the personnel of, and the terms of reference to, the proposed royal commission on the monetary and banking system ?
– I am unable to make a statement at the present juncture, hut hope to be able to do so before the House adjourns to-day.
The following papers were presented -
War Service Homes Act - Report of the
War Service Homes Commission for year 1934-35, . together with Statements and Balance-sheet.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1935 -
No. 16 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers Federation of Australia.
No. 17 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union; Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists Union; and Federated Public Service Assistants Association of Australia.
Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1935, Nos. 88. 89.
Science and Industry Endowment Act - Report by the Auditor -General on the Science and Industry Endowment Fund for year 1934-35.
Bass Strait Service
– In view of the disaster which yesterday overtook the third of the D.H. 86 type of aeroplaneswithin a period of a little over a year, will the Minister for Defence, in addition to the searching inquiry he has promised, into the reasons for the loss of this machine, also have explored the desirability of making provision for - (1) The use in the Tasmanian service of planes capable of alighting upon either land or sea; (2) complete ground control of such planes; (3) an emergency aerodrome at or near the Tasmanian coast, at Georgetown or Birdfort, and the completion of the aerodrome at Cape Barren Island, in the Furneaux Group? Is there any supervision or policing of air service regulations as to height of flying or safeworking conditions?
– I assure the honorable member and the House that the widest and most complete investigation will be made into the question of the use of seaplanes in the Melbourne to Tasmania air mail service with a view to preventing, if possible, similar occurrences in the future. I cannot say from Memory the exact course that is being followed for the regulation of the height of flying, but shall make inquiries into that matter also. Several of the matters mentioned by the honorable member, notably that of the Georgetown aerodrome, are already being considered by the department.
– Honorable members will recollect that last night considerable noise accompanied the consideration of the Financial Relief Bill in committee. So great was it, that even the Minister in charge of the measure (Mr. Casey) was apparently unaware of what had happened at one stage. It was quite impossible for honorable members who sit in this corner to follow the proceedings. It was my intention to oppose clause 2, which provides for a percentage restoration of the allowance of honorable members, but for the reason I have given, I omitted to do so. The bill, as passed by this House, embodies that provision. I propose to decline to accept the increase.
– In common with other honorable members who sit in this corner, I did not realize what position had been reached. My attitude towards the provision embodied in clause 2 is that which I adopted on a former occasion when a similar proposal was placed before the House.
– I identify myself with the statement made by the honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Fisken). It was quite impossible to follow what was happening. I understood that an amendment had been forecast, which would have provided an opportunity for the discussion of clause 2. Because of certain election pledges, it is impossible for me to accept the proposed restoration of allowance, and I do not intend to do so.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the grave increase of serious crimes in recent years, as a result of the drinking of unmatured fortified wine, commonly described as “ pinkie “ and “ plonk “, as well as to the remarks of coroners, magistrates and others regarding the deleterious effects which follow its consumption? Will the Government, look into the matter to see whether action may be taken under any law of the Commonwealth, or in any other way to at least minimize the resultant evil?
– I shall gladly make inquiries to see whether anything can be done by the Commonwealth. My concern is as great as that of the honorable member. I understand, however, that control of this particular matter is vested in the State governments.
– Last week, the Minister for the Interior promised that he would make inquiries into the dismissal of men engaged on work at the Liverpool Camp, in consequence of which they were robbed of Easter holiday pay. Has the honorable gentleman made those inquiries. If so, with what result?
– I have made inquiries and have a letter in draft for despatch to the honorable member.
National Station at Kalgoorlie - Hob abt Studio.
– Some- ten months ago, I asked the Postmaster-General what progress had been made in regard to the selection of a site for the construction of the promised national broadcasting station at Kalgoorlie. Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General advise the House as to whether the initial difficulties associated with the selection of the site have been overcome, and when the residents of that district may expect this service to be put into operation?
– I shall obtain the information from the Postmaster-General, and immediately advise the honorable member.
– Is it the intention of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to proceed with the construction of a studio in Macquarie-street, Hobart, and, if so, can the Minister say when the work will be commenced?
– I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to furnish the House with any information in relation to the Italo-Abyssinian dispute, in view of the indication conveyed by wireless messages received this morning of important movements in Abyssinia and in the Mediterranean ?
– I have no official information concerning the position in the Mediterranean, but have had handed to me within the last few minutes the following message despatched from London : -
This afternoon Abyssinia officially advised League of Nations that Italian troops had crossed the Abyssinian frontier advancing from Assab. This communication will be considered by Council Committee on Thursday.
-Will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of appealing to the sense of responsibility of the Leaders of the two Opposition parties, by offering to confer with them confidentially upon matters appertaining to the very delicate international situation which confronts Australia to-day, so that we may be spared the dangers and em- barrassments arising out of an acrimonious public debate?
– The matter is of such seriousness and importance to the people of Australia, that the Government has refrained from issuing statements that might make the position worse. I shall be very glad to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member to confer, as far as possible, with the leaders of the two parties opposite, in the belief that they also are concerned with the welfare of this country and the maintenance of peace. I can do that, whereas I could not make public all the matters that come to the knowledge of the Government. I shall approach the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the matter.
– Does not the Prime Minister think that the Government should make known to the people of Australia generally, as early as possible, the attitude likely to be adopted by it.
– The foreign situation is receiving the close and continuous attention of the Government. At the right time I shall make known the Government’s attitude.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether the Government intends to make any provision this year for financial assistance to wheat-growers?
– To-morrow at Canberra a conference will be held with representatives of the State governments and of the wheat industry to see whether a policy may be devised and put into operation this year which would make unnecessary further resort to governmental assistance.
Mr.LAZZARINI- Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General take steps to have an engineer or another representative of the Postal Department sent to Cabramatta to inspect the hopeless, out-of-date existing post office, with a view to the provision of proper postal facilities for that district?
– I shall certainly have the matter brought to the notice of the postal authorities.
– Have the members of the Tariff Board who proceeded to Broome, Western Australia, to inquire into the position of the pearling industry, yet presented their report ; and, if so, has the Government decided what assistance it proposes to give to the industry in order to tide it over its present difficulties ?
– The inquiry has been concluded, but the report has not yet been received by me. When it is received, it will be taken into consideration by the Government.
Mechanical Devices in Coal-mining.
– In view of the alarming condition of the coal-mining industry, the large numbers of coal-miners unemployed, and also the proposal of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to install machinery by which twenty men will do the work now done by 400 men, will the Government take immediate steps to carry out its intention to institute an inquiry into a shorter working week?
– I have already stated that the Government has not decided upon any such inquiry, as has been mentioned by the honorable member. It will give consideration to the matter, and at the proper time will make known its decision.
– Will the right honorable gentleman cause an inquiry to be made first into tie coal mining industry?
– Yesterday we had a fairly, full discussion of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
– The right honorable gentleman was not in the chamber during the whole of the discussion.
– There was no need for me to remain in the chamber in order to become acquainted with the points raised. There is no evidence that the installation of machinery, which might displace some men, would not ultimately lead to the employment of more men in other directions.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Repatriation been drawn to the fact that hundreds of cases are awaiting consideration by the Entitlements Tribunal? If so, will the right honorable gentleman take action to overcome that congestion?
– The Government is aware of the congestion referred to by the honorable member and is so disturbed by it that steps to overcome the difficulty have already been taken. Next week, I hope to be able to make an announcement regarding the Government’s intentions in this matter.
– Oan the Minister for the Interior inform the House whether delivery has yet been taken of the patrol vessel ordered for work in Northern Australian waters? Further, can he say whether or not it is true that the vessel will be required to stand in Darwin harbour on the days that the Royal air mail will be crossing the Timor Sea? If that is intended, does he not think that the patrol work for which the vessel was obtained will be unduly interfered with?
– Delivery has not yet been taken of the vessel. The Government has taken into consideration the point mentioned by the honorable member, and if the vessel will be required to stand by for a great part of each week to safeguard the air mail services, it may be necessary to provide a second vessel for patrol work.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked me a question, without notice, regarding entrance examinations to the Commonwealth Public Service. The Public Service Board of Commissioners has supplied the following information in regard to examinations which will be held before the end of the present year : Clerk - all States and the Federal Capital Territory - in November and December; typist - all States and the Federal Capital Territory - 14th December; junior mechanic - all States except South Australia - 30th November; telegraph messenger - ‘New South Wales and Tasmania, at, a number of centres - 16th November. Examinations for the other States were held earlier in the year; telephonist. - Queensland (Bundaberg and Beaudesert) - 2nd November; New South Wales, ten centres, 2nd November. Examinations for appointment as telephonist are held from month to month throughout the Commonwealth, as required.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring.in a bill for an act relating to exemptions from sales tax.
Consideration resumed from the 23rd September (vide page 58), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £7,379 “, be agreed to.
That the consideration of the General Estimates bc postponed until after the consideration of “ Estimates for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c”.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, etc.
Proposed vote, £950.
.- It may assist the committee if I explain briefly the general position with regard to these Works Estimates. The budget speech which I delivered last week contained a conspectus of all the public works proposed to be undertaken this year, from revenue and loan, as well as from trust funds. The value of the works actually carried out last financial year was compared with the value of those proposed for the current financial year. The following table shows the position clearly: -
Whereas during the financial year 1934-35 an amount of £1,052,133 was expended from revenue on public works, this year it is proposed to appropriate £3,352,230 for that purpose. That represents an increased estimated expenditure of about £2,300,000. Included in this amount is an additional’ £667,000 for defence works. This year the Government proposes to finance post office works mainly from revenue, instead of from loan, as hitherto. The total estimated expenditure on public works from both revenue and loan is £4,379,000- an increase of £1,804,000 over the expenditure for the previous financial year. During the worst years of the depression Commonwealth public works were confined to those of an urgent nature and to maintenance. Fortunately, it is now possible to overtake some of .the arrears which have accumulated. The estimates of all the departments have been carefully reviewed by the respective Ministers, as well as by Cabinet, and I now submit with confidence estimates for works which the Government believes are fully justified.
– The Assistant Treasurer, in speaking to the first item of these Estimates, has made a general statement, and it will be competent for honorable members, during the debate on the first item, to follow his example; but on subsequent items they will need to confine their remarks to the specific proposal before the Chair.
.- I move -
That the amount be reduced by fi.
If this is carried, it will be an instruction to the Government to take the necessary steps to expedite the standardization of the railway gauges of Australia between the capitals of the various States. The proposal for the standardization of our railway gauges has been prominent on the political platforms of the Nationalist party, the United Australia party and the Labour party for many years. If this work were put in hand, it would create a large amount of employment which would absorb many of the 325,000 people in this country who are now without work. It is estimated that about 100,000 people could be engaged, given continuous employment for a number of years on the work of standardizing our railway gauges. As a matter of fact, the bulk of our able-bodied workless men could be so engaged. If the policy of standardizing the gauges were put in hand in a comprehensive way, employment would be provided at a number of strategic points throughout the country. The platform of the Australian Labour party in this connexion reads as follows : -
In the policy speech which the Prime Minister delivered before the last election he outlined the attitude of the Government in general terms in regard to major works of the kind I am suggesting. He said -
My Government believes that it would be wiser in the general interest to engage in a limited number of sound major employment works than to dissipate money upon a multiplicity of small local jobs of doubtful character. These major works would draw off the able-bodied section of the unemployed and divide and simplify the whole question.
The right honorable member also said -
The Government has also in mind works of some magnitude such as the unification of railway gauges between the capital cities.
Because this project would absorb a great number of unemployed we think that the promise that has been made to undertake it should be honoured. It is true that £150,000 is being provided on the Estimates towards the cost of the Port Augusta to Bed Hill railway, but that is only one section of the undertaking. In a report which the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner made to the Commonwealth Government in 1932, it was stated that -
The lack of a uniform railway gauge has been a contributary cause of the railway deficits. Whilst the present financial position precludes anything being done at present to unify the gauges, the question is one which should be kept continually in mind as a desirable ultimate objective.
This statement appeared in the report of a conference of Australian railways and transport authorities held in Sydney from the 15th to the 23rd February, 1932. It will be generally agreed that the financial position has improved considerably since that time. Presumably money is more plentiful, and I can see no reason why the Government should not undertake this comprehensive national work forthwith. The royal commission which in 1921 inquired into the standardization of our railway gauges, estimated that the cost of linking the capital cities of Australia with the standard 4-ft. 8-J-in. gauge and converting the broad gauge systems of Victoria and South Australia from a 5-ft. ‘3-in. gauge to the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, without touching the Queensland or “Western Australian systems, excelling the link between -Kalgoorlie and Perth, would be approximately £21,600,000. Since that time the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway has been built on the standard gauge. The latest estimate of the various Commonwealth and State railway authorities of the cost of completing the construction of a standard gauge, which would link all the capitals of Australia, is £90,800.000. It is thought that the work would occupy from eight to ten years, and it is suggested that if a programme covering the construction within a period of ten years were agreed to, the sum of £2,000,000 should be expended annually, whereas if the programme covering the eight-year period were preferred, an expenditure of £2,500,000 a year would be involved. Honorable members will at once realise the remarkable effect that a comprehensive programme of that kind would have on the unemployed. Not only would work be provided, on the undertaking itself, at award rates and under decent conditions, for many thousands of people, but additional employment would also be made possible for many thousands of other people in our secondary and primaryproducing industries to meet the needs of the people concerned in the major undertaking. No doubt I shall be told that the exigencies of the financial position would not permit such a huge enterprise to be put in hand at present; but I submit for the consideration of the Government that a vast natural undertaking of this character could be financed by the method adopted to construct the East- West railway some years ago. The Commonwealth Bank could be used to provide the necessary credit of £2,000,000 a year for ten years to make this work possible. I feel quite satisfied that if the Labour party’s proposal were adopted and the Commonwealth Bank were liberated from the embarrassments that at present beset it and allowed to enter into competition with the private banking institutions of this country, Avith the proviso that a central reserve bank be established to cover the interregnum necessary to mobilise the financial resources of this country, the standardization of the railway gauges could easily be put in hand. This policy could be pursued if either the ten-year or the eight-year programme was pursued, without incurring the danger of wild inflation such as is sometimes suggested must follow any departure from strictly orthodox methods of finance. If the Government is not willing to finance the work in this way, I suggest that it call a conference immediately of representatives of the Commonwealth and State Governments to consider other ways of providing finance. If certain States are not prepared to participate in the undertaking because of their impecuniosity, the Commonwealth Government should undertake the work in ac’cordance with the provisions of the platform of the Australian Labour party. I submit this amendment with great earnestness, because I believe that the huge army of unemployed people throughout this country should have provision made for their welfare. If this work were put in hand the door would be opened for the absorption of many of our people in secondary and primary industries. It is deplorable that so many of our fellow citizens are to-day living on a mere pittance. My proposal, if adopted, would make possible for these people a degree of comfort and financial security which is very greatly to be preferred to a bare existence which they now have. Our workless people do not want the dole; they want full-time work at award rates, under decent conditions. I therefore exhort the Government to give earnest consideration to this proposal.
.- I am just as anxious as any other honorable member of this committee to open up channels of employment for our people who are to-day without work; but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has apparently given no consideration to the difficulty that has arisen in regard to the project for the standardization of our railway gauges owing to the unwillingness of certain States to allow the Commonwealth Government to enter their territory to pursue this national undertaking. Unfortunately, there is no great enthusiasm in some of the States for this project. The Government is particularly anxious that work shall be put in hand to absorb the unemployed. I believe that it has honestly given effect to its policy to the extent that the resources of the country have permitted it to do so. But in view of the limited facilities available, and the disinclination of some State governments to co-operate, it must be apparent to the mover of the amendment that it is quite impossible to do as he desires. Consequently, I shall be obliged to vote against his proposal.
At the same time, every feasible suggestion put forward in this Parliament for the provision of employment for our people will have my support. Although I cannot concede the practicability of the proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I direct the attention of the Government to another work which could easily be put in hand. It is the policy of the Government to improve the postal facilities in both metropolitan and rural districts. I therefore invite consideration of the urgent need for a new post office at Cleveland, one of the oldest, most progressive, and finest fruit-growing districts of Queensland. Cleveland has made rapid progress in recent years, but its post office is one of the oldest in Queensland. I have frequently urged upon the Government the necessity to build a new post office in the town, but although it has been agreed on several occasions that the work is urgently needed, I have been told that money is not available for the purpose. I cannot understand this contention, for last year the department showed a surplus of £565,000, and also left unexpended £160,000 of the amount provided on thu Estimates for its use. The proposed vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department this year is over £500,000 greater than that of last year. In these circumstances, I cannot understand how it can reasonably be contended that insufficient money is available for the important and urgent work of building a new post office at Cleveland. Whenever I have called the attention of responsible officers of the department to the need for this post office, I have found them in agreement with me, but they have invariably said that money cannot be found for the purpose.
The need for a new post office at Cleveland has been accentuated by the building recently by the Queensland Government of a new police barracks and residence, which contrasts greatly with the existing post office adjoining. I am, of course, pleased that the State Government has been able to do this work. We all know that the Commonwealth Government has, in the last year or two, made substantial funds available to the State governments for the relief of unemployment, and apparently some of the money is being used to construct new public buildings. Before the Commonwealth Government should make such large sums available to the States for this purpose, it should put in hand the construction of Commonwealth buildings that are badly needed in various locali- ties. We have been told frequently - and I agree with the statement - that no industry has been so badly hit by the depression as the building industry. We should do everything possible to revive building activities throughout the Commonwealth. The Government realizes this, for it has sacrificed revenue to the amount of £600,000 by removing the sales tax on building materials. The building industry is gradually reviving in various parts of Australia, and the Government cannot do anything better to encourage this revival than to put in hand the construction of important and urgently needed Commonwealth buildings. The figures that I have disclosed show clearly that money is available for this purpose. The Commonwealth should assist the States financially, but it should keep its own property in proper condition and erect new buildings when necessary, particularly when some of the money which it makes available to the States is being expended on providing new buildings for State purposes.
When the Honorable W. G. Gibson was Postmaster-General an automatic telephone exchange was provided at Sherwood, one of the most progressive and rapidly expanding suburbs in Brisbane. About 1931 an additional telephone cable was installed, but as it is defective telephone conversations cannot be conducted properly. When the original cable is in use conversations can be carried on without interference, but when the new cable is employed numerous interruptions occur which seriously affect the transaction of business. Medical men often complain that it is a serious handicap in. the carrying out of their professional duties. At times the conversation is so unsatisfactory they are compelled to motor to distant places rather than use the telephone. As the department has admitted that the cable is defective, subscribers who pay an annual rental in. addition to a charge for each call made should be provided with an efficient service. Representations have been made to the department from time to time, but I have been informed that sufficient funds are not available to provide another cable to replace the defective one. During the depression the people in that locality in common with others, although protesting, carried on, but now that revenue is buoyant the department should provide a reliable service. I have been advised that the request for an improved service which would cost only £3,000 has always been refused by Central Administration owing to the shortage of funds. I should also like to press for the provision of a post office in keeping with the importance of the district. I understand a site was granted many years ago. Those conducting the receiving offices which have to serve the district are doing their work well, but such a thriving district should be provided with an official post office. I have made strong representations to the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Brisbane, but he has always said that it is a matter of finance. Now that money is available I trust that provision will be made in the Works Estimates or in the Supplementary Estimates for the erection of a new post office to serve the Sherwood, Corinda, Graceville, Chelmer district. We read in the press from time to time that the revenue of the Postal Department is buoyant, and only this morning I read that the revenue for September constituted a record. In these circumstances there is no reason why necessary works should not be proceeded with at once. I urge the Minister to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General the necessity to give this matter early and favorable consideration, so that the improved facilities which are so urgently needed will be provided at an early date.
– 1 take’ this opportunity to amplify a question I asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General this morning concerning certain postal matters in my electorate. Under the redistribution scheme Liverpool is included in the Werriwa electorate. I was astounded to find that an unofficial post office at Cabramatta has to serve a large and important district, and that residents in that locality have to be content with a service which such a post office provides. Immediately after the election I brought the matter before the Postmaster-General, and I received a reply that sufficient money was not available to provide an official post office. I have received the following letter from the secretary of the United Australia party at Cabramatta: -
We wish to draw your attention to correspondence which passed between this branch and the previous federal member re the erection of an official post office building at Cabramatta. We were promised that consideration would be given the .proposal when funds were available. It lias been published in the daily press on many occasions in the past few months that money has been available for such purposes, and we appeal to you to assist us in this matter. Land for a new building was purchased in 1922, and has stood idle since that time.
We invite you to meet a deputation to inspect the great improvement in all the other buildings in the town. Yet we are served by the same unofficial post office building as wo had in 1S90. It is only an agency, and no proper postal facilities are given. We have received answers from the authorities stating that the business does not warrant a new building. We wish to suggest that until an official office is built business will never improve because business people go out of the town to ensure privacy in many business matters. 1 should be pleased to arrange a deputation to point out deficiencies, &c, if you could arrange to meet us and assist the branch in its efforts.
During recent years the development and building activity in this locality has been remarkable, particularly in the main street of Cabramatta; but the building in which postal work is carried out is in a dingy and dilapidated condition. Those conducting postal work are seriously hampered by being compelled to work in an unsuitable building. As there has been marked development in the district, and money is being invested by private interests, the Postal Department should not continue to use a dilapidated building in the centre of the town. Instead of spending large sums of money in districts where the facilities are adequate, the Government should give greater attention to small centres. At Green Valley, some distance from Liverpool, a number of settlers are endeavouring to make a living on small holdings by rearing poultry and in other ways. At the last election 98 persons voted there, and it would therefore be safe to assume that the total population is at least double that number. Recently when a serious accident occurred at Green Valley, two miles had to be covered in order to reach the nearest telephone. There is an unofficial post office at Green Valley, but the department contends that it cannot erect a telephone line unless the residents contribute towards the cost. It should adopt a policy similar to that of the Railways Department, and provide facilities for the convenience of the people even though the revenue at the outset may not be sufficient to cover interest costs. When I brought this matter under the notice of the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in New South Wales, who has visited the locality, he said that the residents must provide a certain sum of money, and also the telephone poles. As many of them are engaged on relief work, and cannot get sufficient to provide the necessaries of life for themselves and their families, it is impossible for them to defray a portion of the cost. If a representative of the Postal Department visited Cabramatta he would be compelled to admit that the building in which postal work is conducted is in a disgraceful condition. I urge the Minister to ask the Postmaster-General to reconsider his decision, and to provide better facilities which are urgently needed. The owners of the property used at present as a post office could not reasonably be asked to put up a new building to accommodate the department, because they cannot be certain whether, after they had done so, the department would not decide to build its own post office on land purchased for the purpose in 1922. The Government has held that land for fifteen years, but has not yet made any attempt to build on it. I ask the Minister to press this matter with the Postmaster-General.
– Reviewing the items of works and buildings it is now proposed to undertake in the Federal Capital Territory, I find no item which would indicate any intention* on the part of the Government to proceed immediately with the establishment of a national university at Canberra. A university college now exists at Canberra, and it is doing exceedingly good work. Not long after Parliament had been established in this centre many residents sought to qualify for university degrees, and, realizing the position of these persons, the government of the day sanctioned the establishment of the present university college in Canberra, which, through the courtesy of the Melbourne University, is affiliated with that institution. The last report of this college, presented to this House only a few days ago, reveals the excellent work it is doing and upon which it is to be congratulated. Notwithstanding the necessarily limited number of classes, it has 51 students registered. Last year a very representative deputation waited on the Prime Minister and presented a report emphasizing the distinctive nature of the work that could be undertaken by a university at the Federal Capital, particularly in connexion with subjects directly affecting international affairs. It showed that its subjects were chosen and treated, not only to bear directly on the most important matter of national life, but also to cover Australia’s relations with other countries. On the basis of that report it is possible now to devise a practicable scheme to enable a large number of students to receive a training of the nature I have outlined. I realize the difficulties which prevent provision from being made on the present Estimates for the establishment ‘of a university at Canberra, but I urge the Ministers concerned in this matter to keep this necessity in mind with a view to taking early action. I am pleased to note that it is the policy of this Government to have the remainder of the federal departments transferred to Canberra as expeditiously as possible. Due to inactivity on the part of past governments in this respect, this city has not had a chance to develop as it should. However, the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) is doing his best in this direction, despite the difficulties which confront him. It is impossible to contemplate the existence of a national capital without a national university as part of its equipment. The Government should give every consideration to this subject. No one suggests that a large, expensive institution should be established at once - that would be a wrong step - but the immediate duty of a government is to study seriously what practical service it can render to the national capital, the Public Service, and the nation in this respect by immediately commencing the gradual establishement of a national university. I understand that this Government is still considering this question; but I hope that, when it does anything in this matter, it will proceed along the practical lines indicated by the deputation.
I hope the Postmaster-General will be able to provide additional money this year for the installation of automatic telephones in country districts. These constitute an essential service, and, I feel sure, the Minister is fully aware of the practical value of affording extended telephonic services in country districts. Already several such proposals, which appear to me to be very necessary, have been brought under his notice. I was informed that funds were not available, but I urge the Minister to treat such requests generously and to see that funds are provided, because similar services already established have proved their value and utility.
I urge the Minister for Defence to consider - the granting of assistance to local government bodies which desire to establish emergency aerodromes in their areas. This matter is of growing importance. I draw the attention of the Minister particularly to the need for emergency aerodromes in States like Queensland and Western Australia, where great distances have to be covered. Some local government bodies are anxious to co-operate in the work of providing emergency aerodromes, and their requests to the Minister to make available grounds for such purposes are reasonable. Dealing with, the aerodrome which has been established by the Government at Toowoomba, the local city council, the Chamber of Commerce, and other public bodies desire that the area of that aerodrome be extended. I support this request at this juncture, because the City of Toowoomba is growing rapidly, and buildings are going up in the vicinity of the aerodrome. The Government should take the earliest opportunity to acquire additional land in order to extend the aerodrome while it is still possible to secure such land merely for the cost of the land itself.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) [“12.7 (.- I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), because I feel it advances a proposal which should commend itself to all honorable members of this House as one of the most important undertakings any government could be asked to carry out. If there are honorable members opposite who are not prepared to support it, they will mainly be influenced by a desire to avoid inconveniencing the
Government rather than by the merits of the case. The proposal contained in the amendment was put forward on behalf of the Government ‘ at the last election, but so far not more than a feeble attempt has been made to implement it. When the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) brought forward a proposal last session, which was later passed by both Houses, to make provision for the construction of railways which would increase the standard-gauge proportion of Australian lines, I felt that we were at last on the road towards completing the standardization of railway gauges, a policy which leaders of all parties endorsed.- So far, however, nothing has been achieved. in this direction. T recognize that there has been talk of’ legal complications with the Government of South Australia, but it cannot be denied that in this matter the Commonwealth Government has shown more patience with the fractious opposition of a combination of political forces similar to its own than determination to carry out the policy with which it tickled the ears of the electors.
All who heard the pronouncements put forward both by leaders and by candidates of all parties at the last election must have felt that, whatever party was returned to power, they could look forward to action being taken in this matter - action, which it was generally recognized, would decrease unemployment. In his policy speech the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), after dealing with unemployment as the most important problem any government could be called upon to face, indicated measures through which he intended to afford relief. However, his Government has not yet afforded that relief notwithstanding the fact that it now possesses both complete power and a mandate to do so. I stress the point that it now has the power to effectuate such proposals. On the 13th August of last year the Prime Minister stated -
The Government lias also in mind works of some magnitude such as the unification of gauges between capital cities, country water storage, sewer construction for large country towns and other works to meet public needs. Such works, if wisely chosen, could not fail to prove a sound investment in the further development of Australia . . . There is no limit to the faith which the present Go- vernment has in Australia. The Government believes that it would be wiser in the general interest to engage in a limited number of sound major employment works than to dissipate money upon a multiplicity of small local jobs of doubtful value. These major works would draw off the able-bodied section of the unemployed and divide and simplify the whole problem.
The Prime Minister went on to refer to the need for co-operation between this Government and the States in such work, and then said -
Public works expenditure requirements in material and increased distribution of wages would stimulate all secondary industries and business and create stronger local markets for every kind of primary produce … It would increase manual and clerical employment in private enterprise and hope and wages would come again into the homes of a great many citizens who are now on bare existence.
This sort of thing appealed to the electors, all of whom believed that the Government would go on with such proposals. Obviously no federal government can simply tell the States that these works must be done, but it can compel the States to give them consideration and place the onus on the States for refusal to do so. I remind responsible members of this Government that they are not persisting in any effort to have such work undertaken. Since this Government came into power, the political friends of honorable members opposite have raised all sorts of impediments to prevent this work from being carried out, with the result that twelve months have passed and nothing has been done. The Prime Minister, in his policy speech at the last election, said further -
The Government will enter upon this plan in a spirit of generosity.
The then Leader of the Country party, ‘ the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), in his policy speech, advocated the revival of the Australian Transport Council and the standardization of railway gauges. At that time the Nationalist party and the Country party were not united.
– We achieved unity before the parties to which the honorable members opposite belong.
– At all events members of this Government seem to have been dis-united so far as this par- ticular matter is concerned, because it has made no serious attempt to go on with the work. However, I hope the Government has only temporarily set aside the matter. The leaders of every party in this House have stated that the proposal to standardize railway gauges is one which should be undertaken with the object of relieving unemployment. Thus all parties support the proposal.No honorable member can advance any sound argument as to why this work should not be proceeded with, and I feel sure all will agree that it should now be fully debated. No honorable member representing a Victorian electorate can be satisfied if this proposal is not proceeded with, particularly in view of the advocacy by certain interests of other proposals, such as that to construct a line from Broken Hill to Port Augusta, which was referred to in this House this week. Representatives of Victorian electorates in this House, no matter to which party they belong, should see to it that the Government proceeds with the work of standardization of gauges from Brisbane to Fremantle. To’ this the mainland States and the Commonwealth are definitely committed. It has been investigated, examined and analysed in microscopic fashion and declared upon favorably by railway experts, commissioners, and political parties of all shades of thought. Any further delay will make it evident that it has been used merely as a window-dressing or vote-catching proposal, in order to delude the electors to be subsequently returned to cool storage until the next election is at hand.
– The honorable member surely does not mean that.
– I hope I am wrong, but it looks as if this proposal is to be dangled in front of the electors as a vote-catching bait. If the Government were serious, more substantial progress should have been made. Let me review the history of this proposal. In 1888, standardization of railway gauges was urged upon the then Premier of New South “Wales (Sir Henry Parkes). Many conferences of railway experts and State Premiers have been held on the subject since that time At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Melbourne in July, 1920, it was resolved -
That this conference is of opinion that two experts from outside this country should be appointed, along with one Australian outside the railway services of the Commonwealth and the States, to consider and report upon the unification of the gauges, the question as to what gauge it is desirable to adopt, and the question of the cost of conversion.
The Commonwealth and the Premiers of the States agree to appoint a railway commission, and affirm that the Ministers for Railways of New South Wales, Victoria, and the Commonwealth shall select the two members of the commission who are to be appointed from outside.
The Commonwealth and the States agree to abide by the decision of this tribunal.
The Commonwealth to bear one-fifth of the total cost, and four-fifths to be borne by the five States concerned, on a per capita basis.
A commission was appointed, consisting of Mr. Rustat Blake, of England, Mr. Frederick Methven Whyte, of the United States of America, and the late Mr. John J. Garvan, of Sydney, as chairman.
– That is ancient history!
– Some honorable members require reminding of what took place so that they may not ignore their responsibilities. The commission recommended 4-ft.8½-in. as the standard gauge for the Australian railways.
The scheme submitted made provision for : (a) a 4-ft.8½-in. gauge railway from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie linking withthe existing railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta; (b) a 4-ft.8½-in. gauge railway from Port Augusta to Adelaide via Red Hill ; (c) conversion of the whole of the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge lines of South Australia and Victoria (including the conversion of the 3-ft. 6-.in. line between Terowie and Peterborough in South Australia ; (d) a 4-ft.8½-in. gauge railway linking Sydney and South Brisbane via Macksville, Kyogle and Richmond Gap. This scheme was estimated to cost £21,600,000. The royal commissioners reported against the provision of standard gauge main trunk lines in the States of Victoria and South Australia -without at the same time converting all the broad gauge lines in those States to the standard, urging that such a provision would - (a) produce a very unsatisfactory state of affairs; (b) mean complications in the general working of the railways; (c) from a service and cost point of view be very unsatisfactory; and should not be considered commercially. An extract from that report reads -
Providing a main trunk line of 4-ft. 8i-ins. gauge through South Australia and Victoria, without at the same time converting all remaining 5-ft. 3-in. lines in those States, will increase the difficulty in working, and add greatly to the cost of operating the railways of each of those States.
The report of the royal commission was considered at a conference of Premiers with the Prime Minister in Melbourne in November, 1921, when it was resolved -
That ,the adoption of a uniform gauge is, in the opinion of this conference, essential to the development and safety of the Commonwealth.
That .the Commission’s recommendation of a 4-ft. S-i-fin. gauge is accepted.
I emphasize the use of the word “ safety “ because it was believed that the value of the line from a defence point of view should not be ignored. It was further resolved that the Commonwealth should circulate to the States a draft agreement to give effect to the recommendation of the commission. In due course that draft was circulated. Further conferences with the Premiers were held in Melbourne in January, 1922, and in May and June, 1923, but agreement could not be arrived at between the parties. Victoria and South Australia were unfavorable to the work being put in hand at the time; their contention being that the time was not opportune, having regard to the high cost of money, wages and materials. By agreement, however, between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Queensland, dated the 16th September, 1924, one section of the work recommended by the royal commission, namely the 4-ft. in. gauge railway linking Sydney and South Brisbane via Macksville, Kyogle and Richmond Gap, was proceeded with. This work was completed and the railway was opened for public traffic on the 27th September, 1930. Pending complete agreement between all the parties, the Commonwealth is bearing the amounts which would be deb table against Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia in connexion with the expenditure on the Sydney-South Brisbane section.
In regard to the 4-ft. 8-J-in. railway from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie to link with the existing railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, I remind the committee that during the 1926 session of the Western Australian Parliament both Houses resolved -
That in the opinion of this House the time has arrived when the federal policy of extending the standard gauge railway be consummated in Western Australia.
No steps have yet been taken to put this work in hand. I make reference to that because so far as Western Australia is concerned, the way is clear for the whole project to be proceeded with; and piecemeal construction, as the Government proposes in proceding with the Red Hill to Port Augusta section only, is wrong. The whole scheme should be treated as one great national project. I know that difficulties have occurred in Victoria, and that the Argyle Government did noi respond to the requests made by this Government for a conference to be held. But since then a change has taken place, and I urge the Government to approach the new government of Victoria with a view to convening a conference at an early date, so that the problem may be tackled in a statesmanlike way.
Whilst the provision of the 4-ft. Si-iu. gauge railway from Port Augusta, to Adelaide forms part of the standard railway gauge scheme submitted by the royal commission, and is included in the estimate, the portion between Port Augusta and Red Hill is ‘provided for by an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia, dated the 18th September, 1925. This agreement was ratified by legislation in both the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments, the Commonwealth act being the Railways (South Australia) Agreement Act 1926, and the State act the NorthSouth Railway Agreement Act 1926. The work of constructing the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill at the cost of the Commonwealth was authorized by the Commonwealth Parliament by the passing of the Port Augusta to Red Hill Railway Act 1930, which was assented to on the 23rd December, 1930. Under the agreement of 1925, provision was made for a third rail from Red Hill to Adelaide so as to ensure a uniform 4-ft. Si-in gauge railway through from Port Augusta to Adelaide, which would not be necessary in the event of general conversion being carried out. I appreciate the fact that there has been a modification of that proposal, and I suggest that we should seriously consider whether or not the third rail proposal should be proceeded with. There is no valid reason why we should not put in hand the scheme as a whole, particularly as that section affecting New South Wales and Queensland has already been constructed. While this project would not mean the expenditure of much money in those States, an obligation rests upon them to support the other States which desire the complete work to be undertaken.
– Why not work up more enthusiasm in Victoria?
– There does not seem to be much enthusiasm on the part of Victorian members, but I hope that (hey will do what the people in all the States expect.
– Do the Victorian people expect it?
– They do; and they are looking to their members on both sides of the House to voice their opinions on this very important matter. If they fail to do so, the people will want, to know why their represenatives neglected their duty.
At a conference of Premiers with the Prime Minister, held in Canberra in January, 1929, the following motion was adopted : -
Railways Commissioners of Commonwealth and States to confer and bring up to date the estimate of the cost of carrying out the proposalsfor unifying railway gauges made by the Royal Commission on the Uniform Railway Gauge, 22nd September, 1921.
The estimate was revised by the railways commissioners, and submitted to the Commonwealth Government on the 21st October, 1929. This estimate was reviewed by the Federal Government, and on the 14th January, 1930, Cabinet decided as follows : -
This decision was conveyed to the State governments by the Commonwealth Government, and the matter was listed for discussion at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in February, 1930. It was subsequently adjourned for consideration at the next conference, but has not since been discussed in conference between Commonwealth and State Ministers. The position is that, unless we get a conference to deal with this master promptly, no progress will be made. This should not be regarded as a party matter, but should be supported by members of all parties, in order that the work may be put in hand. I regard it as a national undertaking, to which members of all parties should subscribe. Leaders of all parties say that it is an essential work, and I fail to see why the complete scheme should not be put in hand. The estimate submitted by the royal commission for alterations to track and structures, construction of new lines and adjustment of rolling-stock, amounted to a total of £21,600,000. Later, in 1929, a revised estimate, made necessary by the increase of wages and costs of material, was submitted by the railways commissioners, showing a total cost of £25,201,000. This estimate included a sum of £4,350,000 for a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge connexion between Sydney and South Brisbane, via Macksville, Kyogle and Richmond Gap, and as this work has now been completed, the estimate is reduced to £20,851,000. The revised estimate submitted by the railways commissioners on the 21st October, 1929, provided for the following works : -
An independent 4-ft 8½-in. gauge railway from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie - running parallel with the existing 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway for a considerable distance, but deviating extensively through the Darling Ranges between Midland Junction- and Northam, to secure a satisfactory gradient.
Standard gauge rolling stock as necessary.
No provision for the railway between Port Augusta and Red Hill, the Commonwealth Government having as before mentioned by agreement with the State of South Australia, dated 18th September, 1925, undertaken to build this section of railway estimated to cost £735,000 (authorized under the provisions of the Port Augusta-Bed Hill Railway Act 1930).
The estimate provides for the conversion of considerable track miles in addition to the mileage allowed for in 1921. It also provides for the conversion of additional rolling stock now in service.
The estimate provides for the conversion of considerable track miles in addition to the mileage allowed for in 1921. It also provides for the conversion of additional rolling stock now in service.
Note. - So far as the conversion of rolling stock in Victoria and South Australia is concerned, a considerable quantity of rolling stock would be required to be constructed specially for the uniform railway gauge works and the estimate includes a sum which represents depreciation, &c, on the value of this stock during such time as it is actually required in connexion with the conversion. After the conversion is completed, this rolling stock will form part of the services by replacing discarded unsuitable equipment. The conversion will also, in some instances, require the provision of new locomotives and other rolling stock at a period earlier than would be required to meet the needs of the services, and the estimate includes a sum to cover depreciation, &c, on this rolling stock for such period as the gauge would necessitate the provision earlier than otherwise would have been necessary.
No alterations are required on the TransAustralian Railway, and the SydneyKyogleSouth Brisbane connexion having been completed, there is no work to be done in New South Wales or Queensland.
The estimate includes provision for increased operating costs, and cost of transfer of passengers, live stock, goods and other commodities during the conversion period. It does not include interest on moneys required for the work.
The estimate was based on the then current rates of wages and prices of materials, and on the assumption that the work would be commenced not later than 1st March, 1931.
In submitting the estimate it was advised that it was the unanimous opinion of the Commissioners that the cost of the work should be so debited that no charges would arise against railway capital or revenue accounts.
Since that estimate was made there has been a considerable reduction of interest rates on borrowed money, as well as of wages and the cost of materials. It is therefore probable that if a fresh estimate were made it would be considerably lower than that which I have just set before honorable members. This subject has already been sufficiently investigated; what is needed now is action by the Government. The only part of the work so far completed is that between Kyogle and Brisbane, which was carried out at a cost of £4,450,000. The total estimated cost of the work is lower than the annual cost of unemployment relief throughout Australia, so that it would be a good investment to spend £21,000,000 on the conversion of our railways to a standard gauge, because we should thereby be providing, not only employment for those out of work, but also a permanent revenueproducing asset for ourselves. Victoria has contributed largely to the cost of the East-West line and the North-South line, and the people of that State now feel that they are entitled to some benefit for themselves. So far, Victoria’s claims have not been given sufficient attention.
Of the total expenditure of £21,000,000, the amount to be contributed by the five mainland States on a per capita basis is as follows: -
In addition, the Commonwealth is to provide £4,200,000, representing one-fifth of the total amount required. If the scheme be agreed to, this money will be expended as follows : -
As for the estimated expenditure on the provision of automatic couplings, locomotive sheds, &c, much of the work relating to automatic couplings has already been done and that required for locomotive sheds should not be debited against the scheme.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I support the contention of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that if the Federal Government can make available to the States money for public works, it might well consider doing its own essential public works in those States. I refer particularly to public works required by the Postmaster-General’s Department. It appears that the district which I represent has been singularly unfortunate in regard to the provision of postal facilities, and particularly post office buildings. I do not suggest that any bias or favoritism has been displayed by the department, but I have noticed that thriving, populous towns in my district, such as Blackburn and Mitcham, are much worse off in the way of post office buildings than some small villages in the western district of Victoria with less than one-fifth of the population of those towns.
I wish also to bring under the notice of the Minister the desirability of providing an adequate airport for the City of Melbourne. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) will remember that, last year I suggested to him that a most suitable work for the relief of unemployment, and one which was essential to the development of aviation, was the improvement of the Fishermen’s Bend site to make it available as an airport for Melbourne. The Minister showed his appreciation of the fact by going thoroughly into the possibilities of developing this site; but unfortunately he met with immovable opposition from the Premier and Government of Victoria, in spite of the fact that the great majority of the people of Victoria are very much in favour of this scheme, and urgently demand that it be carried out. An inquiry was recently made by a select committee of the Legislative Council of Victoria, which recommended that Fishermen’s Bend wa3 the most suitable site in Victoria for an airport, and that it was a matter which should be most urgently attended to. The report of the select committee showed that the development of an airport on the site recommended would not interfere with certain industrial development there, nor with the possible building of a residential suburb on portion of the very large area available. I therefore urge the Minister for Defence to continue his very commendable efforts to persuade the Government of Victoria to make available a site which is demanded by the people of Victoria as a right.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) a request by the local council at Whitemark in Flinders
Island, one of the Furneaux group in Bass Strait, that the telephone cable between the mainland and Tasmania should be tapped at that point in order to provide communication for the residents of Flinders Island. I do not know whether the proposal is practicable, but if it is, I should like the department to give it favorable consideration. There are several islands in the Furneaux group, and people living on them are severely handicapped because of their isolation.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Cape Barren Island is served by a mail steamer. When the weather is favorable, the mail service is fairly frequent, but in rough weather mails are often delayed for considerable periods. I have received communications on this subject from interested parties, and have suggested in the past that a small wireless transmitter should be installed on the island of the type used by the Australian Inland Mission. 1 understand that these instruments can be procured for £100 each, and that the cost of maintenance is very low. Recently, a resident of the island received an urgent communication, but as it was sent first to Flinders Island, seven days elapsed before it was placed in her hands. I again urge the Minister to consider tho. provision of a wireless transmitter.
The public telephone-boxes used extensively throughout the Commonwealth leave much to be desired. A few months ago I had occasion to bring under tho notice of the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Tasmania the very unsatisfactory condition of these boxes.. Some are placed in most unsuitable positions, and they are so small that it is impossible to enjoy privacy in using them. Boxes of larger dimensions and of a uniform type should be provided u» permit of a reasonable amount of privacy.
Suitable premises should be provided’ for the post office at Invermay, a suburb of Launceston. When the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) visited Tasmania some time ago he saw this post office, and he was convinced, I think that the building is most unsuitable for the transaction of postal business. It is conducted in a room of a private house, which has been used for this purpose ever since the suburb was granted postal facilities about 30 years ago. For many years, the residents of Invermay have been asking that a suitable post office be erected. A block of . land has already been purchased by the department, but it is used only as a stacking ground for telegraph poles and other material. It appears that the department declines to erect a new building, contending that the amount of business done does not warrant it. The residents do not use the existing office so freely as they should do, because of the lack of privacy in transacting busness there. Those collecting pensions have no privacy, and the contents of telegrams being transmitted can be heard from the door. The public telephone is housed in a half -size box outside the door, and passers-by overhear telephone conversations. A person entering the public telephone-box blocks the entrance to the post office. The business of the office is not likely to improve if the present conditions are not altered. I suggest that the department should either erect a new and larger building, or induce the landlord of the present premises to make suitable structural alterations.
The Launceston post office has outlived its usefulness. It has been altered structurally from time to time, but it does not provide suitable accommodation. I suggest that consideration be given by the Government to the erection of a new building in the centre of the city for the purpose of bringing the Customs House and the post office under one roof. The present Customs House is most inconveniently located, and is unsuitable for its purpose. It would be a step in the right direction to bring all the Commonwealth offices in Launceston under one roof in the centre of the city.
A complaint has reached me from residents of Launceston regarding the recent alteration of wave lengths, which has adversely affected wireless reception in that city. I am informed that confusion arises between stations 7NT and 3LO, 7NT and 2BL, and 5CK and 3AR. Those who pay for listeners’ licences have a. right to expect the wave lengths to be so arranged that they will have satisfactory reception, particularly from national stations. This matter should be brought under the notice of the Australian Broad casting Commission. Another ground for complaint by listeners is the interference with radio reception that arises from various causes. In New Zealand, regulations have been enacted to minimize this interference, and a pamphlet has been issued showing that the trouble can be considerably reduced by the fitting of proper equipment. This problem should be dealt with on a national basis. Even if there be constitutional difficulties, the Government should consult with the State authorities with a view to overcoming them. A substantial revenue is derived from the licence-fees collected from listeners, and they are entitled to every possible consideration. If certain appliances in New Zealand are not provided with equipment designed to minimize interference, a fine of £50 may be imposed. I understand that similar regulations operate in other parts of the world. “While the proposal for standardization of railway gauges has no direct bearing on my constituents, I support it because I feel that an attack on the problem is overdue. A uniform gauge should exist throughout Australia, and the longer the present condition operates the greater will the problem become. The motion moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) accordingly has my wholehearted support.
.- The amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) is designed to instruct the Government to do something which I think the honorable gentleman knows very well it has no power to do. It can take the necessary steps to implement his proposals only in cooperation with the States. The honorable member’s amendment is based on a resolution carried by the Australian Labour party to the effect that the Commonwealth Government should provide the money to carry out the standardization of railway gauges if the States will not agree to do so. The Labour Conference might be excused ignorance of the limitations imposed by the Commonwealth Constitution, but I am sure that that does not apply to a member so well informed and experienced as is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The Commonwealth has no more right to build a railway or alter the gauge of any State railway system than it has to build a school or a gaol in any State without the consent of that State.
– The Commonwealth Government can take steps to obtain that consent.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) recalled the recommendations of the Uniform Gauge Commission, which eat in 1921, and he also referred to the apportionment of the financial responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the various States tentatively agreed to at that time. It was proposed then that the Commonwealth should provide onefifth of the total expenditure in connexion with the gauge standardization, if carried out in conformity with the recommendations of the commission. The mainland States were to provide the balance. Tasmania was excluded for obvious reasons. The honorable member expressed the opinion that no valid reason existed for the Commonwealth not going on with that arrangement. One reason why the Commonwealth has not implemented the recommendation is because it has no power to do so, without the consent of the States being first obtained. This Government has already shown its bona fides regarding the lessening of the tremendous disability under which Australia suffers by reason of the diversity of railway gauges. For some time, it has been in negotiation with the Government of South Australia with the object of eliminating one break of gauge, and of making it possible to make the journey between Melbourne and Kalgoorlie in two trains instead of four as at present. A previous Government of which I had the honour to be a member, and which was similar in composition to the present Government, also showed how earnestly it desired to surmount the difficulty of the break of gauges, and its anxiety to carry out the recommendations of the Uniform Gauge Commission was demonstrated about ten years ago when, at its instance, the Parliament authorized the construction of the Kyogle to South Brisbane line. Several honorable members of this House will recall that on that occasion the Commonwealth not merely provided one-fifth of the expenditure, which was regarded by the
Commission as being the Commonwealth’s obligation, but it also contributed the shares of Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria. New South Wales and Queensland were the only States to make contributions towards the capital cost. That goes to show that the Commonwealth Government was most anxious to do more than its part in carrying out one of the major recommendations of that commission. The result of the Commonwealth Government’s action is the existence of a standard gauge line from South Brisbane to Albury.
In connexion with the Red Hill line in South Australia, the 3-ft. 6-in. section between Terowie and Port Augusta was described by the commission as the least desirable section of the trunk line between the east and the west, and the commission recommended that it should be replaced by a standard gauge line on a shorter route. For some months this Government has been endeavouring to reach an agreement with the South Australian Government, and it has gone to considerable lengths to arrive at an understanding. The 1925 agreement contained provisions to which South Australia is now taking objection, and the Commonwealth Government, in order to meet these objections, has put forward the alternative proposal that the State should extend the present 5-ft. 3-in. line from Adelaide to Red Hill, a further 26 miles to Port Pirie. The Commonwealth Government would continue the line south-west from Port Augusta to Port Pirie. The Government recently made a further offer to assist the South Australian Government in respect of the interest on the additional expenditure it will incur if we agree to carry out the alternative plan, as compared with the expenditure that would be involved in giving effect to the 1925 agreement. In that agreement it was proposed that the Commonwealth should build a standard gauge line from Port Augusta to Red Hill and should lay down a third rail inside the 5-ft. 3-in. track from Red Hill to Adelaide. It was also provided that the South Australian Government should build a third rail outside the southern portion of the new track from Red Hill northward to a point opposite Port Pirie, so that there should be an unbroken 5-ft. 3-in. connexion from
Adelaide to Port Pirie. It was estimated by die South Australian Government that that third rail to a point outside. Port Pirie, the connexion into Port Pirie, and the necessary railway station, would cost £100,000. It is also estimated that the alternative proposal that the Commonwealth has put forward to avoid the necessity for the South Australian Government to lay a third rail would involve that State in an expenditure of £350,000. It can be seen, therefore, that the difference between the cost of the proposals made in the 1925 agreement and those now put forward on behalf of the Commonwealth is £250,000. The Commonwealth has offered to pay to South Australia 20 annual payments of £10,000, which represents 4 per cent, interest on the extra capital required. The Government hopes that its offer will be accepted and that it will be able to put the work in hand very soon. Not only is the work desirable in order to save time, but it will also be a material factor in lessening the number of unemployed. Because of the time that would be saved by the elimination of the circuitous and slow track over which passengers have to travel to-day, and the substitution of a shorter line on the standard gauge, and because of the employment that will be provided the Commonwealth Government will welcome an opportunity to commence construction of the new line at the earliest possible date. The Melbourne-Sydney express to-day covers the distance from Albury to Melbourne in exactly four hours, leaving Albury at 7.30 a.m. and arriving at Melbourne at 11.30 a.m. The distance between those two cities is slightly greater than the distance between Port Augusta and Adelaide, yet because of the circuitous nature of the route, the very small radius of the curves, and the steep grades, the journey between Port Augusta and Adelaide occupies almost twelve hours. When the ballasting of the East-West railway is completed - about threequarters of it has already been donts - a saving of eight or nine hours can be made between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie. But it would be futile under the present circumstances to effect that saving, because there would be no purpose in the train reaching Port Augusta before 6 a.m. If the train arrived eight or nine hours earlier the passengers would have to sit up all night and change trains in the middle of the night at Terowie. If the Government’s proposal is agreed to, however, and the new line is constructed, with a break of gauge at Port Pirie, the journey between the eastern States and the west will be reduced by about 24 hours. Passengers will then leave Perth a few hours earlier and reach Kalgoorlie at breakfast time instead of at lunch time. The Transcontinental train will leave four hours earlier and a saving of nine hours will be made on the run to Port Augusta, which will be reached at 5 p.m., instead of at 6 a.m. next day. It would then be possible to reach Adelaide at 10 or 10.30 at night, and if time-table adjustments were made between Adelaide and Victoria to agree with the new time table between Perth and Adelaide, Melbourne could be reached at lunch time instead of at 9 a.m. on the next day. The trip from Perth to Canberra, Sydney, and places north of Sydney would be reduced by a minimum of 24 hours. That saving is well worth making, and I hope that tha Commonwealth’s offer will be accepted by the South Australian Government. I concede that this proposed arrangement does not implement in its entirety the recommendation of the commission referred to by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), in that portion of the line will still be on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. Nevertheless, only the same number of trains will be used as would be used if a third rail were laid right through to Adelaide. It will merely mean that transfer of passengers from the Commonwealth transcontinental train to the Victorian and South Australian joint rolling stock will take place at Port Pirie instead of Port Augusta. In the correspondence exchanged with the South Australian Government, the Commonwealth clearly stated that it will be necessary to use the Victorian and South Australian rolling stock to Port Pirie or, at any rate, sufficient of it to accommodate passengers coming to or from Western Australia. If the Commonwealth’s proposals are adopted passengers entering the transcontinental train at Kalgoorlie will change at Port Pirie into the Melbourne train. Thus, they will travel by only two trains between Kalgoorlie and Melbourne instead of four, as under the existing system. I merely remind honorable members of the action taken by a previous government and of the efforts now being made by this Government to implement two of the more important recommendations of the commission which reported on the uniform railway gauge problem to show that this Government has very much at heart the desire to minimize the disabilities that Australian travellers suffer through the constant changing of the gauges. I would also impress on honorable members the fact that, owing to the constitutional limitations, it is impossible for the Commonwealth Government to accomplish what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is censuring it for having failed to do.
– No ; I am urging the Government to consult the States in ah endeavour to arrive at an agreement for the standardization of the gauges.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) quoted portion of the Prime Minister’s policy speech, into which he read that the Prime Minister had undertaken to carry out the standardization of the gauges. The Prime Minister’s utterance and the policy speech made by the leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) both asserted that the two leaders would bear in mind this problem and would take up the matter with the States in an endeavour to secure some form of agreement. However, honorable members should clearly understand that those policy speeches set out definitely that the Commonwealth could not perform the work of standardization without the consent of the States. An effort has been made to summon the State governments to a conference to discuss this proposal, but, unfortunately, the Commonwealth has received very little encouragement for its pains, and that, is putting it very mildly. The Prime Minister, however, proposes to raise this question again with the States at the earliest opportunity. It is somewhat foolish on the part of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to condemn the Government for having failed to do something which, obviously, it has not the power to carry out, and more particularly when the Government has been doing, and is continuing to do, everything that lies in its power to bring about the desired standardization. I submit that, in the circumstances, the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is both illogical and irrational.
– I said “ to expedite the standardization of the gauges and to take the necessary steps towards this end”.
– The Government has done everything, and more, that could reasonably be expected of it in this connexion, and the matter will again be brought up with the State governments at a most convenient opportunity.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) expressed the hope that the Government would, a3 soon as possible, establish a university in Canberra. The Government has that project under consideration. The decision to establish the school for training staff officers at Duntroon may possibly be the means of bringing the ideal of a university nearer to realization, because lecturers will be required to give instruction at Duntroon, and it may be possible to arrange for tuitional co-operation between Duntroon and the university. I merely mention that in passing. The Government has certainly not lost sight of the university project, and recognizes that it is desirable as soon as practicable to establish this seat of learning in the National Capital.
.-After hearing the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) disclose that the Government has made no material effort to attain the standardization of railway gauges in Australia, I support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde).
I have several matters to bring before the notice of the Postmaster-General. In the thickly populated area of Earlwood, in my electorate, only a temporary post office has been provided.
– It is a standing disgrace.
– The building itself is a little shop, which does not hold more than four or five people at one time. Oldage pensioners are paid at this temporary post office, and in winter they are forced to remain in the street until one or two persons inside the little building have been attended to and leave. According to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), the vote passed for the Postal Department last year was not used up. Money, therefore, should now be made available to provide Earlwood with a modern post office. The department has already acquired a site, but the people in the locality are still waiting for proper postal facilities to be provided.
On a number of occasions, when I have made representations for the provision of public telephone cabinets, the PostmasterGeneral has replied that no cabinets are available. That seems strange to me. The department has timber at its disposal, and there are many unemployed artisans, who could construct the cabinets, waiting for an opportunity to get work. The department will admit that, in many instances, the facilities are necessary, and the telephones would be producers of revenue. The excuse that no cabinets are available is quite untenable. The work should be expedited, because people in thicklypopulated districts need the facility of public telephones.
From time to time the Commonwealth Government has granted considerable sums of money to the State governments for unemployed relief works. In view of the fact that there is a Commonwealth Department of Works, I am altogether opposed to the system of the Commonwealth making grants to the States. For instance, in New South Wales the money has been used to carry on slave conditions on relief works. When this Parliament granted a large sum to New South Wales last year, it was never intended that the money should be used on the extension of a relief scheme operating there. Various revenue-producing works, such as water supplies and sewerage systems, have been carried out in my electorate from money provided by the Commonwealth. But, in my opinion, any grant allocated to alleviate unemployment should be administered by the Commonwealth through its own Works Department.
.- I oppose the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). The question of the standardization of gauges is one that the Federal Government should reconsider completely, seeing that, since the royal commission made its report in 1921, transport in Australia has been almost revolutionized by aviation. As an argument for standardization, the question of defence was always raised, but, with the development of aviation, is there the same necessity for the removal of the various breaks? [Quorum formed.]
If the need did arise to transport troops hurriedly from one coast of Australia to the other, I venture to say that aeroplanes would play a bigger part than the railways. The development of aviation and the latest proposals of the Government to spend millions of pounds on aerial defences have, to a large extent, overcome the problem of the gauges. I fail to understand why this Government must go cap in hand to the Government of South Australia in regard to the linking up of the two railway systems in that State. Every one recognizes the necessity for the forging of this link; but seeing that South Australia will benefit most from it–
– South Australia will lose by it.
– South Australia has had large sums from the Commonwealth, and it is time that the Commonwealth received some return from that State. New South Wales and the Commonwealth between them will contribute half the cost of this line. The revenues of the Commonwealth must be exceedingly buoyant. There are many other avenues that would offer a better return in the development of this country.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) suggests that the standardization of the Victorian railway system should be carried out at the expense of the nation. From a defence point of view such a work was rendered unnecessary by the construction of a standard gauge line from Sydney to Broken Hill. The Main Roads Boards of Victoria and ‘New South Wales have provided such excellent highways that the governments of these States have had to invoke the aid of penal legislation to meet the serious competition of motor transport with their railway systems. I do not consider that this Par- liament is justified in agreeing to the expenditure of millions of pounds upon the standardization of the different gauges. I was interested in the historical facts related by the honorable member for Maribyrnong. They showed that New South Wales has always acted generously towards Victoria. I was ,a member of the New South Wales Parliament which brought forward the agreement giving Victoria the right to construct three railways into the Riverina. That was a just and a right thing to do.
– New South Wales filched the Riverina from Victoria.
– Before Victoria seeks additional Commonwealth aid for the relief of unemployment, it should liquidate its arrears under the 1929 agreement. The Commonwealth, New South Wales, and, I believe, Queensland, have discharged their obligations, but the other three States are still in default.
I regret that the postal administration is not giving the people a fair deal in regard to the provision of telephone services. There are manual telephone exchanges all over New South Wales. The busiest areas in my electorate are suffering largely as the result of obsolete and worn-out plant, yet the only result of representations upon the subject is the departmental rejoinder that these plants still have a certain capacity to serve the people. I have made use of the manual system in many parts of my electorate, and have frequently found that as long as ten minutes is occupied in effecting a call. I have lodged complaints upon data supplied to me by the Chambers of Commerce, and have later been advised that an inspector who had been sent to the area had received no complaints from the subscribers whom he had interviewed. The department entirely disregards the convenience of the community. The improvement of the postal services should be the first charge on any surplus on postal operations. Why is it not possible to institute a lower postal rate? That of New Zealand and Great Britain has been lowered. The main purpose of the Postal Department should be to give efficient service, not to make large profits. I am strongly of the opinion that there is need for a stringent overhaul of the department. Only this morning I was obliged to pay 4d. in respect of an unstamped letter that I had received. The charges made by government departments generally are excessive. The provision of automatic exchanges at Rockdale, Arncliffe, Banksia, and other centres in the lower end of my electorate, would amply repay the department.
.- I support the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), although Tasmania i3 not concerned in the standardization of railway gauges. I, however, realize the necessity for this standardization for the defence of the Commonwealth. It would be impossible to transport the troops and materials required by either air or road. When the work of standardization is completed, I presume that the Commonwealth will see that the Tasmanian system is made efficient. Such work would relieve distress among the unemployed. The expenditure on the dole and other forms of assistance totals £13,000,000 annually, and is unproductive. The standardization of railway gauges at a cost of £21,000,000 would give some return.
The New Town post office in Hobart is a scandal and a disgrace. Being obsolete it cannot meet the requirements of tint expanding suburb. I have made rel) lesentations to the Postmaster-Gener.il (Senator A. J. McLachlan) on this subject, but although he promised to furnish me with a reply, he has failed to do so. I consider, therefore, that he has also failed to do his duty to a member of this Parliament, and that he has lowered the dignity of his position. Ministers of the Crown might reasonably be expected to adhere to their undertakings. If the honorable gentleman had attended fewer functions in Tasmania, he would have had more time to devote to the needs df the people. I am asking not that a new post office should be erected, but that certain essential renovations and improvements should be made to the existing building.
The Hobart Post Office is also in need of considerable renovation. The Government has not, in recent years, done the necessary repair work to the building, ner has it provided sufficient equipment to enable its officers to carry out their duties satisfactorily.
I complain also of the long delay in the construction of the new wireless studio on the vacant land purchased for the purpose in Macquarie-street, Hobart, by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I do not know whether this delay is typical of the manner in which Mr. Conder discharged hi3 duties as manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If so, it is not surprising that he lost his position. In my opinion, the money paid by broadcast listeners in licence-fees should be expended in the improvement of the service, but that has not been the case. In 1927-28 the revenue of the Postmaster-General’s Department from broadcast listeners fees was £48,000, but expenditure was only £25,000. In 1931-32 revenue was £168,000 and the expenditure £72,000. For 1932-33 revenue was £210,000, but expenditure was not shown .. separately, being combined in a sum of £7,936,901, representing costs of the chief post office, ordinary post office department costs, and wireless. Revenue and expenditure figures of the Postmaster-General’s Department for 1933-34 are not yet available, but the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s statement of accounts for that period shows receipts amounting to £314,000. Consequently a similar sum must have been received by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The Commonwealth Year-Book shows total receipts from wireless broadcasting for the period 1927-28 to 1932-33 of £766,000, and from 1927 to 1931-32 a total expenditure of only £277,000. The expenditure for 1932-33 was concealed beneath a mass of other costs. It appears, then, that out of listeners’ licence-fees the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has received between £300,000 and £500,000 since 1927 which has not been expended on stations and technical equipment.
I make a strong appeal to the Government to put in hand immediately the construction of the promised new studio in Macquarie-street, Hobart. There can be no doubt that the suitability of this block of land for the proposed purpose was carefully considered before it was purchased. I can see no justification whatever for the delay that has occurred in providing Hobart with its new broadcasting station. The equipment at pro- sent in use there was obsolete when it was sent to Hobart years ago from Melbourne. It appears to me that Hobart is regarded as a kind of dumping ground for wornout and obsolete equipment discarded by its users on the mainland. This has caused an objectionable inferiority complex to develop in Tasmania. Hobart is entitled to the same consideration as is accorded to the capital cities of the mainland States, and so also is Tasmania, as a whole, entitled to treatment equal to that accorded to the mainland States. The Government should not use any portion of the wireless broadcast listeners’ licence-fees to swell Consolidated Revenue. Tasmania, at any rate, will not accept that situation. It is entitled to adequate services, and it will be satisfied with nothing less. If the new broadcasting station were built in Macquarie-street, the people of Hobart would be given reasonable broadcasting services, our musicians would be able to do their work under reasonable conditions, and an orchestra could be organized.
I see that the Minister for the ‘Interior (Mr. Paterson) and the Minister in charge of War Service Homes (Mr. Thorby) are both engaged in a private conversation with other honorable members at the table. This shows a lack of consideration to the honorable member who may be addressing the committee on subjects relating to their departments. The Minister for the Interior is, in my opinion, very biased against Tasmania. He will not listen to our grievances, and I do not think that he is upholding the dignity of Parliament by acting as he is doing.
– I was listening to the honorable member’s speech.
– The honorable member was engaged in conversation with the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes).
– That is not so. The Minister for Health was reading from a paper on the table. We were not conversing.
– The honorable member was not listening to the representations I was making nor was his colleague at the table doing so. The Minister for the Interior is naturally prejudiced against Tasmania. I have had one or two interviews with him and he has shown conclusively that he is prejudiced against me personally, though I do not know what I have done to cause him to regard me as he does. The honorable member either does not know his duty to Tasmania, or he is neglecting it. lie is one of the few Ministers-
– The honorable member must address his remarks to the Chair.
– I consider that when I am stating a case for my constituency and State, the Minister in charge of the business before the committee should at least be decent enough to listen to me. I never engage in conversation while the honorable member is delivering an address here, and I do not think that he is conducting himself on proper business lines, or that-
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) is reflecting on the Minister for the Interior in a disgraceful manner. He has insinuated that the Minister is personally prejudiced and biased against him. I ask that he withdraw his statement and apologise for having made it.
– Cannot the Minister for the Interior speak for himself?
– I also rise to order. I submit that before an honorable member is asked to withdraw a statement on the ground that it is personally offensive, the honorable member who feels himself aggrieved should be required to take exception to it. The Minister for the Interior has not seen fit to object to the remarks of the honorable member for Denison.
– I certainly am aggrieved at the honorable member’s remarks; but, with the courtesy that I endeavour to extend to all honorable members, I was waiting until he had finished what he was saying and then call attention to his remarks and request that they be withdrawn.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Denison has exceeded reasonable limits in his observations, and I ask him to withdraw the statement that has been complained of.
– I withdraw it. On the few occasions on which I have inter viewed the Minister for the Interior, I have found his replies to my questions quite unsatisfactory.
– I have no recollection of the interviews referred to by the honorable member
– I leave the matter there. I never put forward a false case against any one; and I always keep my powder dry.
The people of Mount Nelson, a residential area of Hobart, have made repeated representations to the PostmasterGeneral for the provision of a public telephone, but so far without success. I contend that these citizens, and also the people of Port Nelson, Lower Sandy Bay, should be provided with adequate telephonic facilities, and should not be required to depend upon the good offices of private telephone subscribers. I hope that my appeal on behalf of residents of Hobart will not fall on deaf ears, and that in matters of expenditure of this nature the Government will give the same consideration to the claims of Tasmania as it gives to those of other States. I am not asking the Government to favour Tasmania, but simply point out that that State is entitled to a share of such expenditure along with other States. Cut off as it is from the mainland by water, Tasmania may not appear to be part of the Commonwealth, but it is populated by people who claim to be big Australians. If the Government allocates sums to carry out in Hobart the works I have suggested - the construction of a new town post office, renovations at the public hospital, and the construction of a modern radio broadcasting studio at Macquarie-street - I will cease to believe that Tasmania cannot expect fair treatment from this Government.
.- Inasmuch as the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) informed the Opposition that the building of the Port Augusta to Red Hill railway could not be proceeded with without the agreement of the South Australian Government, his statement was satisfactory. I hope I do not misunderstand the Minister’s statement in that respect. If the railway is built, as has been indicated in connexion with this preliminary vote, it can only be considered as an economic proposition, because it will improve through traffic from Western Australia to the eastern States. From the point of view of defence, there is little doubt that at least three alternative propositions would be of greater value. Yesterday the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill), replying to a question, indicated that the Defence Department preferred the linking of the 4-ft. 8-j-in. railway gauge between Port Augusta and Broken Hill, and there are at least two other propositions which have much more to recommend them from
A defence point of view than the proposal which is now before the House. The most effective would be to reduce the 4- ft. 8-^-in. gauge between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie to 3 ft. 6 in., as this would provide a link between the system of the Central Australian railways and the northern part of the South Australian system and the whole of the Western Australian railway system. If this were done, and an emergency of defence arose, a large quantity of rolling-stock would be available for immediate use at both ends of the Commonwealth railway system. A third proposition is to continue the 5- ft. 3-in. gauge from the Victorian and South Australian systems right through to Kalgoorlie, or right through to Perth. This would also provide a through link between the eastern and western railw’ay systems which, in a case of defence emergency, would also make available a large quantity of rolling-stock for immediate use. The present proposal to build a railway within a mile or two of the coast where it could be shelled by an enemy submarine is not a very valuable adjunct to defence, particularly as the new railway would form only an isolated section of the standard gauge system.
– That section would not be isolated if Port Pirie were joined up with Broken Hill.
– But it would still be less valuable from a defence point of view than a line constructed inland to Broken Hill along the route of the existing railway. Therefore, I suggest that this proposition can be considered only on its economic merits. Undoubtedly there is a general desire that the through traffic facilities should be improved. The existing service, because of breaks of gauge, difficult grades and inadequate provision for turns, renders through traffic uncomfortable and inconvenient. Whilst I welcome the assurance of the Minister that this proposal, the main advantage of which is that it will improve the through traffic from an economic point of view, is not being thrust upon the Government of South Australia, some misgivings arise from what appears to me to be a failure on the part of the Minister to apprehend its effect fully. In the old estimates which were submitted to Parliament for this proposal, a considerable sum is shown as anticipated income from traffic which the new railway will attract, in addition to that now carried by the State systems. I point out that, when more comfortable through traffic is provided by this railway, a large proportion of the revenue which it will earn will be nothing more than revenue merely diverted from the existing State system. This, I suggest, will happen in much the same way as a new office building draws tenants out of an older office building in the same area. If honorable members have any regard for the public finances of this country as a whole, that is, the revenue of both the Commonwealth and the State governments, they must recognize that further expenditure on railways at the present time is a doubtful proposition. Particularly must this be so in the case of the construction of a new railway in an area like the northern part of South Australia, which is already over-built with railways, and where the existing railways are practically insolvent. Honorable members of this House have an obligation to the taxpayers of this country as a whole when considering such proposals to review them from the point of view, not of one budget out of seven, but from the point of view of the combined finance of all the States and the Commonwealth. In addition to that obligation, the position of men who are now employed on the State railways has to be considered. No doubt some additional employment will be given on the construction of a new railway, but when the line is completed I have no doubt that a considerable number of men who are at present permanently employed on the State railway system will be deprived of their jobs in favour of men employed by the Commonwealth Govern- ment. Such a disturbance would be most undesirable, and some provision should be made to overcome such a possibility to confer a net benefit on the people of Australia as a whole. I hope that the Government will not go ahead with this proposal on the estimates founded on conditions as they existed in 1921, or even on the estimates founded on conditions existing in 1929. Transport conditions in Australia, and the technique of transport, have varied enormously during recent years.
I welcome the proposal of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), that the Australian Transport Council should be re-established. Long-distance first-class passenger traffic, which is the class of traffic most likely to be attracted by improved facilities on the transcontinental railway, is tending more and more to favour aerial travel. That development is taking place in many parts of the world. Over shorter distances the competition of road services, which offer better facilities than the old rolling-stock, is severely hitting the railways in the case of certain classes of traffic. An Australian transport council could weigh all such matters from the point of view of the Commonwealth as a whole. At the present time the Commonwealth Government is taxing transport in a shocking manner through the petrol tax, the revenue from which is spent as general revenue, and the States are finding it exceedingly difficult to keep their railways solvent at all. The matter of revenue which- is raised by the Commonwealth Government from motor transport services, and the losses on State railways systems, should not be treated separately, but should be considered as phases of the one problem. Of course, I realize that it is almost impossible to expect any government to forego any revenue which it receives to-day. However, if a transport council existed, these problems could be considered from an Australian point of view, and whenever it became a matter of considering the improvement of a Commonwealth asset at the expense of a State asset, such a body could treat the problem on its merits.
I welcome the assurance given by the Minister that, so far as this particular proposal is concerned, negotiations will be continued with the Government of South Australia, and I hope that steps will be taken to see that this matter will not be dealt with in piece-meal fashion as a section of what might develop into an archaic transport system. Despite the argument advanced in favour of this proposal, that it will give work at a time when employment is scarce and the cost of materials is low, I hope that it will not be considered hastily. If this is done there is a danger that the Commonwealth Government and the State governments will be loaded with a dead horse in the future. Although we should do what we can at a time like this to spend money wisely in order to make work, we should do so only after the most careful consideration. This Government has a fine record for sound finance, and it should not endanger that record by embarking upon illconsidered expenditure.
– I appreciate the efforts of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) to have a beginning made with the work of railway standardization. I know that during the last year or two he has done his best to have work begun on the link between South Australia and Western Australia, and we only regret that he has not met with greater success. The subject of a standard railway gauge has been before the public for many years, and it should not be necessary at this stage to hold any more conferences, or to conduct any further inquiries. There is probably no other country in the world with a railway system so disunited, and so completely at variance with all sound national ideas. There are several reasons why this is an opportune time to undertake the work of standardization. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) generally puts forward a very cautious and even fearful point of view when national problems are under discussion. He first gave us some very sound reasons why the work should be done, but then threw cold water on the whole scheme by discovering and putting forward all sorts of difficulties. This tendency deliberately to seek for difficulties has delayed the work too long already. Probably not less than £30,000,000 has been spent in Australia upon unemployment relief works during the period the Lyons Government has been in power, and a large part of that has been subscribed by the Commonwealth Government. Before any of that money was spent we were just as far advanced towards the ideal of a standard railway gauge as we are now, except for the effort made last year to straighten out the “Western Australian and (South Australian tangle. If we had started four years ago on the work of standardization, and continued along a settled plan, a good deal of that £30,000,000 would have been spent on the railways scheme, and considerable progress would have already been achieved. This work is particularly suitable for unemployment relief purposes, and would have provided a better return in the long run than will much of the work upon which money has been spent.
The standardization of railway gauges is a most necessary undertaking from the point of view of defence. Every military expert who has addressed himself to this subject since the war has stressed the. importance of the work. The economic point of view is also worthy of consideration. The Minister has pointed out the advantages which would accrue in the way of saving time if breaks in railway gauge were eliminated, but it would also result in materially lessening costs of production, a fact which should appeal to the honorable member for Wakefield. Nothing increases transport charges so much as double handling. This is fully appreciated by business men, and it accounts for the establishment of Holden’s motor-body building works at Fishermen’s Bend in Melbourne, rather than at Newcastle, where raw material, in the shape of steel, &c, could have been obtained on the spot. But for transport considerations the Fishermen’s Bend site is probably the last that would have been chosen, because the erection of a factory there involved the building of false foundations. I have heard military experts say that we, in Australia, considered from the point of view of defence, would be like “ babes in the wood “ if we were faced with the problem of transporting soldiers, munitions, and supplies from one part of Australia to another in anything like a reasonable time. We have not a great many men in Australia, and, in the event of invasion, we should have to concentrate our forces at one spot as quickly as possible in order to meet the enemy. It would, however, be impossible to do this quickly and effectively with our present discordant railway systems.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) referred to the development of motor transport, but the fact remains that this form of transport has become effective only in those areas which are served by billiard-table roads of which Australia has proportionately more than any other country in the world. The railways to be constructed as part of the standardization scheme would, for the most. part, pass through areas which are not served by any roads at all, so that it cannot be suggested that existing roads could be called upon to perform the service that these railways would perform in time of national need.
The people of Western Australia are always complaining about the high COS of transport to their State, and are asking that the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act should be repealed in order that those costs may be reduced. Transport costs to the west would be materially reduced if there were a standard railway gauge, and this should encourage the people there to support the proposal. In Germany, railway standardization has been carried to the point where every mile of railway line is identical with every other mile throughout the system, and the same applies to rollingstock and all necessary equipment. Surely that is the ideal which we should set before ourselves. Considerable progress in that direction could already have been achieved with the money which has been largely wasted on unemployment relief works during the last few years. Th? longer the problem is shelved the more difficulties will be raised by those whose personal interests are involved. A few years ago, nothing was heard of the proposal to send the standard railway line through Broken Hill, and if the work be delayed for another two or three years, I have no doubt that other powerful interests will discover that it would be to their benefit to vary the proposed scheme in some other direction. The unemployment problem has not yet been solved, and even in my own electorate large numbers of men are under threat of dismissal from the Postmaster-General’s Department in the near future, because certain temporary works are nearing completion. What better employment could these and other men be engaged upon than the standardization of our railways? There have been few occasions in the history of Australia when the cost of materials and labour has been less than at the present time, and we cannot hope - indeed we should not hope - that costs will continue for long at their present level. It is absolutely certain that they will go up and up from now on, and by beginning the work immediately it would probably be possible to save £1,000,000 or even more. The people of Victoria are asking that some comprehensive scheme be put in hand for the relief of unemployment, and they would naturally prefer that the scheme embrace the work of railway gauge standardization. It has been suggested that the scheme as finally approved might not touch Victoria at all. If a better route can be found than the proposed route through Victoria, I am sure the people of that State will not complain, but no better route has so far been suggested. The money spent on unemployment relief in Australia has left very little permanent benefit behind it, but that would not be true of money spent upon the conversion of railway gauges. Every penny of the money would be spent in Australia ; Australian workmen would be employed, and Australian material used. The nature of the work is such that every penny paid in wages would be spent as fast as it was earned, so that an immediate fillip would be given to trade and commerce generally. I realize that for the last year or more the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) has endeavoured to overcome the objections of South Australia, and have the work put in hand. I trust that the Government will persevere in the attitude adopted by it twelve months ago, when it declared that if the States would not assist it in carrying out the scheme, it would proceed without their help. I urge the Government to convene a further conference with the States.
The financial obstacles could be largely overcome by the Government arranging for the Commonwealth Bank to provide the funds needed for all federal undertakings. In five or six years half the cost of the job would be saved by paying to the Commonwealth Bank interest which in other circumstances would go to private financiers. Railway conversion operations, estimated to cost £21,000,000, could be carried out at a saving of over £10,000,000, if the Government borrowed the necessary money through the Commonwealth Bank. This result could be obtained without any alteration of the monetary system. Surely it is not asking too much to urge the Government to be loyal to the Commonwealth Bank. This work is essential in the interestsof national defence, and the longer we postpone it, the more difficult and expensive it will be to carry it out.
– I was surprised to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) concerning the Port Augusta to Red Hill railway. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) paid a tribute to the honorable member for Wakefield for his wide vision and usually sound views, and with this I concur, but when honorable members are discussing matters that particularly affect their own States their views may be somewhat prejudiced. I was astonished to hear the honorable member raise the defence argument in opposition to the construction of the proposed railway. The scheme for the standardization of railway gauges is the direct outcome of reports received from military experts and is designed with particular regard to defence measures. It has also been considered by all the States in conference, and every States recognizes the need for this standardization of railway gauges. The honorable member for Wakefield commended the Minister for pointing out that the extension from Port Augusta to Red Hill could not be made without the consent of South Australia. I challenge that statement, and refer the Minister and the honorable member for Wakefield to an agreement arrived at between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government in 1925. It provided for the building of a railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs at the cost of the Commonwealth Government. That part of the agreement was carried out by the Commonwealth
Government, but South Australia refused to do its part and honour its signature.
Another portion of the agreement provided for the building of a railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill, and the laying of a third rail, at the cost of the Commonwealth, on the existing line between Red Hill and Adelaide, so as to permit of 4-ft. 8?-in. gauge trains running from Port Augusta to the Adelaide railway station. A third clause made provision for the laying of a third rail, at the cost of South Australia, between Red Hill and a point near Port Pirie, so as to permit of 5-ft. 3-in. gauge trains running from Adelaide to Port Pirie. The object was to bring the junction of the two gauges to a point near Port Pirie, to enable South Australia to operate its 5-ft. 3-in. gauge trains, and to permit of the running of the EastWest trains from Kalgoorlie to Salisbury, about thirteen miles out of Adelaide.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Commonwealth Government should not do anything to develop its own territory, unless it receives compensation from the States?
– No, but I submit that South Australia is not prepared to allow the Commonwealth Government to honour its obligation under the agreement. It takes every opportunity to prevent the Commonwealth Government from completing a railway which must ultimately prove of benefit to South Australia. I also propose to show that the State is not willing to allow the Commonwealth Government to do this work unless it receives certain remuneration for giving its permission. That, I contend, is a very parochial view.
APPOINTMENTOF ROYAL COMMISSION.
– by leave - I have to announce on behalf of the Government that it has been decided to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the monetary and banking systems in Aus tralia. The personnel of the Royal Commission will be -
Hon. Mr. Justice John Mellis Napier, a judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia.
Mr. Edwin Van der Vord Nixon, chartered accountant, Melbourne, and late member of the Royal Commission on Taxation.
Professor Richard Charles Mills, Professor of Economics in the University of Sydney, and Dean of the Faculty of Economics, and Chairman of the Professorial Board.
Hon. Joseph Benedict Chifley, formerly Minister for Defence of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Mr. Joseph Palmer Abbott, President of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, grazier, Murulla, Wingen, New South Wales.
The terms of reference of the Royal Commission will be as follows : -
To inquire into the monetary and banking systems at present in operation in Australia, and to report whether any, and if so what, alterations are desirable ‘in the interests of the people of Australia as a whole, and the manner in which any such alterations should be effected.
The Government has given very careful consideration to the selection of the personnel of the commission, and has been fortunate in securing the services of men of high standing and wide experience, who will, I have no doubt, command the confidence of the public, and ensure an impartial inquiry. The terms of reference have been made as wide as possible in order that the commission shall not be in any way restricted in its important task.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed.
– With regard to the agreement made in September, 1925, which has been supported by eminent Australian legal opinion, including lawyers drawn from the State concerned and the Commonwealth’s own advisers, the legal view-point is unequivocally that the State is bound by the agreement of 1925.Where the Government can overcome useless litigation by negotiation, I agree that it may be necessary to indulge in rapprochements. But a certain danger attaches to such negotiations between South Australia and the Commonwealth, especially when they contravene decisions arrived at by all States on the standardization of gauges. The States agreed that standardization should be the national policy, but the Commonwealth Government has now become a party to a definite breach of this agreement by agreeing to the construction of a railway of national importance on other than the standard gauge. I do not suggest for one moment that the State has not the right to extend its feeder lines, but by condoning this breach of the agreement the Commonwealth will be placed in a most invidious position. If the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge South Australian system is extended to a point near Port Pirie, we need not be astonished if other States take advantage of this precedent and resolve to extend their systems in the multifarious gauges that exist at the moment, although in so doing they may come into conflict with defence requirements, for honorable, members must realize that this proposed line from Red Hill to Port Pirie or a point near Port Pirie will be one of the major sections of thetrans-Australian route, and, therefore, one of great strategical value. The arguments of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) hinged mainly upon the fact that South Australia will lose revenue by permitting an addition parallel line to be constructed. With a great wealth of detail, he dilated upon the effect it. would have on the State’s finances. The State authorities were aware that a deficit wouldbe incurred ‘by the building of that line and the South Australian Railway Commissioners are not now justified in claiming that they would suffer financially by the construction of the proposed Red Hill railway. In view of the agreement of 1925, the Commissioners have no cause for complaint against the
Commonwealth in its endeavour to compel the State to honour its obligations. In this regard, however, the Commonwealth’s treatment of South Australia has been most generous. By entering into negotiations with the other party, the Commonwealth Government has endeavoured to overcome any possibility of litigation. In its generosity it has even gone to the extent of offering to buy from South Australia the present line ranging down to Salisbury, a proposition which the State has refused to consider. I remind honorable members that South Australia succeeded in obtaining from the Commonwealth a considerable advantage by the agreement which entailed the building of the Alice Springs railway. The Commonwealth honoured that agreement and the loss it has incurred, I believe, amounted to £575,000 up to June of last year.
Now, however, when the Commonwealth expects South Australia to honour its part of the agreement, the State threatens litigation and obstructs progress. It advances the argument that it will lose revenue, wholly disregarding the national aspect and the necessity to cater primarily for Australia rather than for its own interests. Instead it is prepared to maintain this ridiculous break of gauge and haul goods and passengers an unncessary number of extra miles on the existing line. Rather than permit the Commonwealth Government to exercise its rights to build a line from Port Augusta to Red Hill, it advanced counter-suggestions; it referred to the increased costs of extending the line, and the loss of revenue to it, and then asked that a 5-ft. 3-in. line should be built into Port Pirie, a proposal which was never thought of at the time of the 1925 agreement. By threats it is now endeavouring to coerce the Commonwealth to assist it in this endeavour and as a consequence the Commonwealth Government has agreed to find £10,000 over the next 20 years for this work. [Quorum formed.]
Such a decision moves one to ask why the South Australian. Government should have changed its mind so considerably in the past ten years. Of course the State Government will not admit that, having received its portion from the Commonwealth Government by the construction of the Alice Springs railway, it is not prepared to honour its side of the agreement. Its claim is that the laying of a third rail from Red Hill to Adelaide would affect the safety of the State’s permanent way, and it, therefore, prefers to have a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge line directly into Port Pirie. Coming at this late hour, it is amazing that such an objection should be raised by the very men who subscribed to the idea to put down a third rail under the agreement of 1925. It makes one wonder whether the South Australian representatives consented to that agreement with the object of committing the Commonwealth to the expenditure on the Alice Springs track, and whether they were sincere in their belief in the efficacy of the third rail. If South Australia regarded the third rail proposal as satisfactory in 1925, I submit that it should fill all requirements to-day, and that I am justified in asking whether the South Australian representatives deliberately misled the Commonwealth Government when they agreed to that condition in 1925. The Commonwealth has now made the State a definite offer, which comes from a very sympathetic Minister who possibly is desirous of avoiding litigation or ruffling a State which claims to be suffering from disabilities due to federation. South Australia should be well content with the Commonwealth’s generosity and consider itself lucky indeed. I advise it to accept the Commonwealth’s offer without reservations. At the same time I warn the Commonwealth Government of the danger of condoning the breaking of an agreement reached by the States in 1925 on the standardization of gauges. The Commonwealth should not be a party to any departure from that agreement. Even at this late stage I hope that the Commonwealth Government will immediately proceed with the construction of the line from Port Augusta to Red Hill, which it has full authority to do under the terms of the agreement of 1925.
– In my opinion the prolonged debate on this subject is due to the Government’s desire to avoid a discussion upon the war that is looming. I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I urge upon the Government the necessity for the Commonwealth to do something more than has been done by it in the past towards the development of northern Australia, particularly in connexion with the pastoral industry. Two matters that are prominently before the people at the present time - the defence of Australia and the future of the meat industry - are very closely related to the development of the north, because Australia’s defence demands the peopling of that portion of the continent. We have pinned ourselves to the policy of a White Australia, and, if we are to maintain it, we cannot afford to leave the north practically neglected. It appears at the moment that the only industry which has the elements of success in northern Australia is the pastoral industry. The Commonwealth has recognized its responsibilities towards the eastern side of Australia., particularly Queensland. It has granted substantial assistance to the sugar industry, the cost to the taxpayers of Australia being variously estimated at from £3,000,000 to £5,000,000 a year. Other industries, also, in Queensland have been encouraged to expand, on the. ground that they are tropical industries, and that it is essential for the purposes of Australia’s defence that settlement should ! be induced in tropical areas. But the whole of the north and the northwestern part of Australia, extending from Cape York to Broome, has had very little assistance from the Commonwealth Government, despite the fact that it is the most vulnerable portion of the continent, being closest to Asiatic countries and liable to visitation by coloured peoples. Two years ago an invitation was extended to chartered companies to engage in the pastoral industry, particularly in the Northern Territory, but the proposal was not attractive, and there was no response. A rather disturbing feature was the publication of maps, which were afterwards republished in the newspapers of foreign countries, including those of Japan, picturing in the north-west and the west of Australia an area many times larger than that of Japan, containing country suitable for settlement. The teeming population of countries like Japan might well be excused for asking, “Why should the people of Australia be permitted to hold that empty country, when thousands of our number are seeking an outlet from the crowded conditions of our own land ? “ Two lines of railway have been laid in that part of Australia. The line from Darwin south debouches on to the good pastoral country about 250 miles below Darwin, but the land along the railway is very rough and poor. The meat works at Darwin had to be closed and stripped of their plant. The other line runs north from the South Australian border to Alice Springs, and the quality of the country does not justify its extension, with the result that it is of little value to the pastoral area. [Quorum formed.]
The good country extends from about 100 miles inland from the Gulf of Carpentaria, in North Queensland, to a point slightly across the border of Western Australia in the Kimberleys. It is thought that that country can he served by two ports, one at the head of the Macarthur River, and the other at Wyndham. Wyndham has a prior claim to consideration, because a meat works is already established there, and the expense of development would not be so great as in the case of the other proposed outlet. I ask the Government to investigate the advisability of constructing a light line of railway, or, alternatively, a road, from Wyndham for roughly 200 miles in a south-easterly direction into the Northern Territory. This is not a new proposal; it was made in 1920 by Mr. Hobler, an engineer, but upon examination was found to be not then practicable. It has not been practicable since, because in the past only frozen beef has been exported from Wyndham, and that realizes very poor prices. [Quorum formed.] It has been demonstrated that the export from tropical countries of chilled beef is quite practicable. Indeed, some chilled beef has already been exported from the Wyndham works. But only 40 per cent, of the’ beasts that pass through the Wyndham works are suitable for chilling. The reason is that although the animals are in a quite satisfactory condition when they leave their native place, they have to travel for such long distances that by the time they reach the works they are only fair quality stores. The majority of the cattle dealt with at Wyndham come down the Ord River Valley for a distance of about 100 miles, and the journey occupies about 25 days. The early droves each season trample the grass with the result that the subsequent droves reach Wyndham in an emaciated condition, and are not suitable for treatment for chilling purposes. A light railway would bring the stock to the works in two days, and it would be a comparatively easy matter to get all of it there in good condition. It is estimated that a bullock, which is now worth £2 15s. at Wyndham, would be worth £2 more if it could be got to the works in good condition. That difference in value spread over the 35,000 head of cattle treated at Wyndham last year, represents the difference between a profitable and an unprofitable pastoral industry. Wave Hill Station is about 300 miles distant, but great difficulty is experienced in getting the cattle down the gorges to Wyndham. Consequently they are taken overland 1,500 miles to Brisbane or Rockhampton for treatment. This is an entirely unsatisfactory state of affairs which could be remedied if suitable transport provisions were made. [Quorum formed.] The cost of building the 200 miles of railway that I have suggested should be built, is estimated, roughly, at £500,000; but no surveys have been made, and the country has not been closely examined. 1 ask the Government to undertake a survey of the proposed route. If the money for the building of the railway could be obtained for 3 per cent, it would represent only an extra 10s. a head on the stock treated at Wyndham. It must be remembered also that the droving cost of 7s. a head would be saved if a railway were available. The provision of these transport facilities would lead to a rapid increase of the number of stock available. I therefore request the Government to take steps to have this proposed route surveyed.
The Government of Western Australia is favorable to this project, but has not the money to undertake the work. In any case, it could hardly do so because the line would traverse for a long distance Commonwealth territory, and the greater part of the benefit would, therefore, accrue to the Commonwealth. As the Government of Western Australia has surveyors in the district at present, they could be asked to make a preliminary examination.
This proposal compares more than favorably with that of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), for the standardization of our railway gauges would not add anything to the total wealth of the country, while the railway that I propose would definitely develop new country, and expand the meat industry, with great advantage to the whole Commonwealth. If we built this railway we should be taking practical steps to discharge the duty we owe to the whole community to do more than is being done at present to settle population; in the empty spaces of the north.
– I wish to enlarge upon the views that I have already expressed this afternoon regarding the necessity for standardizing the railway gauges of Australia. It appeared to me that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) showed an entire lack of appreciation of the situation that faces us. He suggested that there was no need to undertake this important project because it might involve New South Wales in expenditure in respect of work done in Victoria, and that this would help the unemployed of Victoria, but not those of New South Wales. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), I am glad to say, had an entirely different outlook. He supported my contention that New South Wales should honour its undertaking to South Australia and the other States to proceed with the standardization of our railway gauges. The needs of the situation would, not be met by the mere provision of road motor transport and aviation services. Moreover, it is generally admitted that thestandardization of our railway gaugesis of supreme importance for defence purposes.
Before dealing with the problem from the viewpoint of defence, I should like to speak further on the financial and time aspects. Dealing for a moment with the time in which the undertaking should be completed, I point out that the railwayscommissioners estimated that preparatory work in Victoria would occupy approximately four years, and the actual conversion three years, making a total of seven years. In South Australia neither the preparatory nor the actual” work would occupy anything like thisperiod, but would be co-ordinated so as to ensure the conversion on the most advantageous basis for both South Australia and Victoria. In Western Australia the work was planned to occupy approximately five years. The commissioners stated -
Once the work is started it must be completed within the specified period of seven years, otherwise the railway transport services in two of the States, Victoria and South Australia, will be seriously disorganized, and’, the cost of the work materially increased.
T come now to a consideration of the financial provision necessary to carry out the work. Although it iS estimated the work would he completed in seven years, financial provision would need to be made during each of eight financial years. The railways commissioners estimated that the moneys required for each of those years would be as follows : - “This expenditure, while heavy, is not anything like the equal of the annual capital or loan expenditure on the railway systems of Australia. For the eight years ended the 30th June, 1933 - the latest year, so far as I know, for which figures are available - the expenditure on the railways of Australia was as follows : -
Note.- - This expenditure is quite apart from expenditure on the maintenance and operation of the railways.
It will thus be seen that, if only 28.09 per cent, of the amount actually spent on railway capital works during the eight years ended the 30th June, 1933, had been used to standardize our railway gauges, the conversion, as contemplated in the estimate of October, 1929, would have been accomplished.
It has been said during this debate, and it was also stated some months ago during the debate on the Port Augusta to Red Hill Railway Bill, that the standardization of our gauges would effect a saving of time of 24 hours. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) made some remarks on this point in his speech this afternoon which suggested that he accepted that estimate as being correct. But a very much greater saving of time could be effected if the breaks of gauge at Kalgoorlie and Albury were eliminated, the railway gauges were standardized and a properly ballasted track were provided over the whole distance from Brisbane to Fremantle.
The honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) seemed to think that the standardization of our railway gauges was not important for defence purposes; but in that respect he is quite out of step with the military experts who have furnished reports on the subject from time to time. The honorable member seemed to think that a line from Port Augusta to Broken Hill would meet the needs of the case; but he appeared to overlook that, if such a line were constructed, upwards of one quarter, and possibly one-third of our people, would be isolated from the main trunk railway lines of the standard gauge. That, in my opinion, would be a serious condition. Further, that proposal would definitely isolate two important State capitals from the other parts of Australia. We should not be justified in adopting a course which would, have that result.
The military authorities have recognized the disadvantages with which they would be faced in the event of quick mobilization being required, and more than ten years ago they recommended the standardization of railway gauges. There is no other way in which quick mobilization could be achieved, particularly in cases where it would be necessary to transport troops and their equipment and munitions over long distances. The suggestion that this could be achieved by road or air transport is entirely unfounded, and the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) could not quote a single authority to support such a statement. The honorable member, when speaking to this measure, appears to have just fired off a few remarks heedless of the grounds of his contentions. No one with ordinary powers of observation would deny the aid which could be given by road services, but such services would merely act as feeders to the railways at particular points. Unless a standard gauge is provided, the railways would be entirely inadequate to cope with such an emergency. For these reasons it is absolutely essential that this work be undertaken. Another auxiliary service would be afforded by aircraft, and this undoubtedly would be very useful for the purpose of rapidly transporting small bodies of men or arms and munitions from one point to another whenever a rapid manoeuvre became necessary. No one can ignore the value of aircraft in such a contingency, but for all movements requiring rapid mass transport the railways would be the backbone of our defence system. Faced with these possibilities honorable members should look at this proposal from the point of view I have indicated, and should realize the necessity for utilizing this proposal to strengthen our defences. There are limitations to other forms of available transport, and this should be obvious to any thinking person who cares to apply himself seriously to a consideration of this problem. I emphasize the point that for the haulage of heavy loads or large numbers of men our railways, except for the present breaks of gauge, cannot be challenged, and I do not think any one who understands this subject would attempt to challenge that contention.
If this matter is looked at from a cold, commercial point of view, and it i3 asked whether the standardization proposal will show a profit, or if the possibility of a loss is suggested as a reason why the work should not be undertaken, then I contend that the standardization of railway gauges in Australia will never be undertaken, with the result that the great mileage of railways which has already been constructed in Australia will remain for ever defective. When the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) speaks of the loss incurred on the north-south line he knows perfectly well that that line right from its inception was expected to show a loss. The original object of constructing the existing railways was to encourage the development of this country, and the railways have achieved that object to a degree which is not generally recognized. The railways have made possible the earning of revenue for various government departments for which, probably because they are State enterprises, they are not given credit. For instance, the States have earned timber royalties from lands which were rendered accessible by the construction of railways; land values have been increased and increasing land tax and probate duties have been collected by various Governments mainly because of the usefulness of railways. The railways have been the instrument through which governments have earned such revenue, and whenever their usefulness is questioned honorable members should bear these facts in mind.
I hope the time will never come when, it will be necessary for us to utilize our railways in the defence of the Commonwealth. But should such a contingency arise, the capacity of the railways to render efficient service for the defence of the nation should be developed and strengthened to the greatest possible degree by the standardization of the main trunk system. To leave our railways in their present state, making no attempt to remedy the breaks of gauge, is to allow a large amount of money already spent on these lines and about to be spent for defence purposes, to go to waste. If the proposal to standardize railway gauges cannot be justified by any other argument, it can certainly be justified from the point of view of national selfpreservation. It is reasonable to suggest that if travellers by sea had to change ships at the main ports in the same way as rail travellers have to change trains at Kalgoorlie, Port Augusta, Adelaide, Melbourne, Albury, and Brisbane, all of which changes, although not actually due to, have their origin in a break of gauge, sea-borne passenger traffic would be greatly diminished, if it did not cease altogether. To leave the position of the railways as at present is to leave governmentowned transport service at the mercy of unhampered and unrestricted privately conducted water and air-borne transport services. Such a condition would be permanently detrimental to the public interest. Probably those honorable members who do not believe in State enterprises, which they term socialistic enterprises, are anxious to leave the railways handicapped in this respect in the interests of private concerns.
The case for proceeding with a comprehensive standard railway gauge scheme to link up all the capitals is one with which no reasonable person can find fault.
With the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), I submit that the amendment has not been moved with any desire to censure the Government, but has been proposed merely with the object of drawing attention to a condition of affairs to which every honorable member, particularly those representing Victorian electorates- in this House, should be alive. I do not want to encourage the expression of parochial views in this Parliament but ask for consideration of these as they are of first class importance. In their policy speeches at the last election, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the leader of the Country party, the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), and the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) supported the proposal for the standardization of railway gauges. Since it came into power, however, .this Government has made only a feeble attempt to carry out the proposal. It has made at least a feeble attempt, because it called a conference to consider the matter, but on that occasion, I understand, the Nationalist Government in control in Victoria was apparently not anxious that the proposal should be proceeded with. I urge the Commonwealth to make a further effort in this matter - a large-scale effort in keeping with the statements made in the policy speech of the Prime Minister at the last election. Particularly do I urge this in view of the fact that it has not brought forward any large-scale scheme for the relief of unemployment. If this work were undertaken, it would give jobs to thousands of unemployed under award rates of pay and conditions of labour, and would bring about happier conditions for many at present in distressed circumstances. No honorable member should lose this opportunity to urge this Government to undertake this urgent work, and no honorable member who represents a Victorian electorate in this House can justify opposition to tho amendment, as it merely indicates to the Government the urgency of undertaking a much-needed and practical scheme. It was put forward by the Government as part of its plan for the relief of unemployment, but the Government has not yet seriously faced up to the job. I trust that as- the result of what has been said in this debate, the Government will make a fresh attempt to undertake this work, in order to relieve unemployment and at the same time accomplish something which is of national importance but which, at the moment, it seems to be content to allow to be sidetracked by its political friends in the States. [Quorum formed.’]
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the speeches of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), both of whom voiced the opinion of residents in the southern portions of Australia, though from different points of view. I also listened attentively to the speech of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), and with much of it I found myself in agreement. I now rise in an endeavour to force the issue of northern Australian development, and to register my opposition to this proposed foolish and futile expenditure on the duplication of existing railway services. I ask that something be done to assist in the development of our northern and central areas, something that will enable this continent to carry a greater population. Australia is now at the cross roads. Are we to continue the policy by which we shall never progress far beyond our present state of development with our 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 population, or are we going to fill up the empty spaces in the continent so as to increase our national security and our economic well-being? There seems, unfortunately, to be a tendency to develop to an inordinate degree the areas already under occupation to the complete neglect of the sparsely-populated places which only require ordinary facilities of transport and communication to enable them to carry a greatly increased population. The people in the south of the continent are already over-supplied with the amenities of civilization, and it is a crime that Parliament should seriously discuss a proposal for building a railway line parallel to one already in existence, so that tourists may be impressed by a quick run from Perth to the eastern States. [Quorum formed.] Australians have been charged with possessing an inferiority .complex, but that can hardly bc true of people numbering fewer than 7,000,000, who propose to spend £21,000,000 on the construction of railway lines between points already adequately served. That money would be much better spent in providing some kind of communication in those areas which are at present without any at all.
I join with the honorable member for Perth in drawing attention to the vast inland areas of the north, which have been neglected since 1900. Australia as a nation has been asleep for the last 30 years, and should now be awakened to a realization of the fact that it has vast areas crying out for settlement and development. It occurred to me that a new port might be developed in the North-West, and a light railway line run from Wyndham into the cattlefattening areas in the interior. For the time being, cattle raising seems to be the only industry that can be carried on there. While that proposal was revolving in my mind, this Parliament has been almost flippantly discussing the spending of millions of pounds on duplicating existing railway service. When those persons who pioneered the Barkly tablelands asked for government assistance for further development in that area, they were told to find the money themselves. The pioneers have proved their ability to develop the interior up to a certain point, but from that point onwards outside assistance is needed. Edmund Burke said once that it devolved upon parliaments to devise, but upon others to administer. Let us now invoke the assistance of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in the making of a comprehensive economic survey of Australia, so that it may be divided into economic units instead of into the present arbitrary State divisions. The northern and tropical parts of Australia should be dealt with first, so that something may be done without delay to utilize those areas for the solution of Australia’s unemployment problem. * Quorum formed.’]*
.- I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) to the need’ for- serious consideration regarding the post office building at Shepparton. The existing building was erected by the Victorian Government and used as a post office and police court prior to federation, and at the inception of the Commonwealth the portion used as a post office was taken over by the Postmaster-General’s Department. It has since been so occupied. The Crown Law authorities of Victoria now propose to erect a new building for a police court in another part of the town, and I understand that representationshave been made that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department should purchase that portion of the building which hasbeen used by the Victorian Government as a court. The department has declined to do this, and it is now stated that theVictorian Government intends to sell itspart of the building. If it is alienated from the Crown in this way the Postal Department will own one portion of thebuilding, which is a single architectural entity, and the other portion may be demolished - surely acontingency not to be tolerated. Shepparton is one of the most progressive and rapidly-expanding towns in VictoriaAs honorable members know, it is the centre of a very large fruit-growing area and boasts the largest canning factory in the British Empire. Across the Goulburn River, approximately a mile distant, there is another large factory. TheCommon wealth Government has been expending a large sum of money in conjunction with the States of New South Wales and Victoria in the erection of a diversion weir at Yarrawonga. When that work is completed a considerablevolume of water will be diverted towards the Shepparton district and there will be a corresponding expansion of the fruitgrowing industry. If action is not taken now to acquire the remaining portion, of the post office building there will be no opportunity for the department, in. future years, to increase the accommodation in that town for postal purposes.. Yard storage space already is somewhat, limited, there is no land” available on« which, to build, and there can be no doubt that in a few years the needs of the department in Shepparton will be much greater than they are to-day. I hope that the Postmaster-General will give this matter his close attention.
I direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), in his capacity as president of the River Murray Commission, to the need for a stock bridge over the river at Yarrawonga, where the diversion weir is being built. The existing bridge is quite inadequate for present-day needs for stock and ordinary traffic and frequently there is serious congestion when stock aro being moved. With the greatly increased carrying capacity of the surrounding country following the completion of the weir, there will be a heavy increase of the numbers of stock crossing the river, and it is suggested that this weir could, with economy, be used as the foundation for & stock bridge that would meet the needs of the district. If a stock bridge is not provided now this work must be undertaken at some future date and the cost to the Governments concerned - New South Wales and Victoria will be joined in the expenditure - will be much greater than if the work is carried out now, using the weir as the foundation for the bridge. I hope that the Minister will give this matter his attention.
– Once more I urge the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to consider the claim for the erection of a new general post office in Brisbane. I have mentioned this matter in this House on several occasions during the last two or three years. I regret that there is no provision in the Estimates for this year for an improvement of the existing facilities. The present building is a disgrace to the Commonwealth Government and the city. As far back as 1924 the Government contemplated the erection of a new post office in Brisbane. Plans for the work were prepared, but they are still in the hands of the department.
Honorable members and officers of this Parliament visited Brisbane some time ago, and complained of the condition of the post office premises, particularly the federal members’ rooms. I do not take particular exception to these rooms, hecause they are infinitely more convenient than wa3 the accommodation provided a few years ago, and are much more serviceable than many of the rooms in which departmental officials are required to work. The Government should carry out the scheme drawn up in 1924, and have a new post office erected. Within recent months the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Brisbane has advocated the adoption of this course, because the civic authorities have under contemplation the resumption of an area of ground opposite the post office and running through to Elizabeth-street. The object is to provide a plaza, so that Anzac-square and Adelaide-street will be brought into line with Queen-street. This proposal is supported by the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs. Visitors to any city take particular notice of its post office and town hall. Brisbane has the best city hall in the Commonwealth, and its post office should be in keeping with the adjoining buildings. On one side of the post office is the Commonwealth Bank building, which is an adornment to the city, and the insurance company’s office situated on the other side is also a fine structure. The post office, which is obsolete, and the worst in the Commonwealth, is, as I have already indicated, a disgrace to all concerned. Shortly after the visit to Brisbane of the ex-Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) it was thought that definite action would be taken to remove this stigma, but the honorable member became Minister for Defence. Then we had a visit from the Director of Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Brown), who, as the result of my complaints, investigated the matter, and found that the statements made by me in this chamber were well founded. According to a report published in the daily press, he promised to recommend certain building improvements in Elizabeth-street.
In reply to my representations in December last, the Postmaster-General stated that consideration was being given to the re-building of a portion of the premises at the General Post Office, but it would be impracticable to commence the work prior to the Christmas holidays.
I pointed out that, if the Government were sincere in its statement that it desired to relieve unemployment, the re-building of the Brisbane General Post Office offered a favorable opportunity to put in hand a useful and reproductive public work. Another Christmas is approaching, and the work has not yet been commenced. Those who have inspected the parcels post premises at Brisbane know how difficult it is for the employees to discharge their duties during the summer months. This portion of the building was used many years ago to stable the ponies which messengers rode when delivering telegrams. Employees working in the building say that the stench from the animals still remains, making conditions unbearable in the summer months. Postal revenue has increased considerably during the last 12 months, and in this respect Queensland figures constitute almost a record. Some of that money could well be expended in providing Brisbane with a post office worthy of that fine city.
The post office at Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, was built about 50 years ago, when the district contained only one largo shop. The building is situated in a back street of Brisbane and is not capable of coping with the business of the district, with the result that business people in its vicinity have to take their parcels to the parcels post office in Brisbane. They claim that the business of the Valley post office would increase considerably if a new building were erected. One business man described the local post office as a “ glorified letterbox “. Addressing the annual meeting of shareholders of McWhirters Limited, Mr. O. J. Lansdowne said -
The cost to the company was nearly f 1,000 a year for handling postal matter from the store to the General Post Office when we have a glorified letter-box, or so-called post office, in the Valley which could not or would not, handle our business.
The decision of the Queensland Government to erect a bridge from Kangaroo Point to a point at Bowen Terrace, New Farm, will divert traffic from the Victoria Bridge. and bring more business to the Valley post office if a .building capable of dealing with it is erected. I hope that the Postmaster-General will do something to meet the needs of this im- portant district, because under existing conditions, business people there are greatly handicapped in the conduct of their operations.
– I support the request of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) for a new post office for Brisbane. Some years ago when it was my privilege to represent the Brisbane constituency in this House, I brought this matter forward, and at one stage matters had progressed so far that the government of the day had agreed to erect a new post office. Plans were prepared, but later the Deputy Postmaster-General of the day found that he could carry on for a while by making certain structural alterations to the existing building. One of the most essential public works that the Commonwealth should undertake in Brisbane is to improve the General Post Office building. To my knowledge every capital city, other than Brisbane, has been given a new general post office since federation.
– Not Hobart.
– I presume, then, that Hobart is looking forward to the day when it will have a new post office. But have the people of Hobart reached the stage when they have been led to believe that the plans were prepared and that the work would be proceeded with shortly? The same building serves Brisbane as a post office as when the population, of the whole State was less than the population of the city to-day. Honorable members who have visited the northern State will appreciate that Brisbane is developing in a most amazing fashion. I say unhesitatingly that some of the finest buildings in the Commonwealth have been erected there in recent years, and the General Post Office stands like a pigmy among giants. From the remarks made by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) I gather that he has received an assurance that certain alterations to the post office will be undertaken. What part of the building it is intended to make a start on I do not know. The original scheme provided first for the construction of a new central telephone exchange, which has been done, and next for the erection of a new parcels office, in the same street as the telephone exchange, namely, Elizabeth-street. These works having been completed, the department’s proposal was to proceed with the erection of a new General Post Office. If I remember correctly those plans were formulated as far back as 1925. At the time I was member for Brisbane, and I was then given to understand that the work was to be commenced at no distant date. I support the honorable member’s request, and I trust that the Government will appreciate the urgency for proceeding with this work. Brisbane citizens find the congestion in the present antiquated building most distressing, and not conducive to the facile transaction of business.
Honorable members have read lately that the Postal Department proposes to inaugurate a new system to expedite mail deliveries between the capital cities. I applaud that objective, which will be welcomed by the business community. Nevertheless, while I realize that the principal concern of this all-important department is to improve the transit of mails between the several States and particularly to accelerate them in the backblocks, a fact which has been brought home to me, especially during the last twelve months, since I have been privileged again to sit in the Parliament of the Commonwealth, is the appalling delay which occurs in the postal services between the various suburbs of Brisbane. A letter takes longer to travel from one suburb to another than it generally occupies in transit from Brisbane to Melbourne. Surely the department can remedy that! I understand that certain proposals have been made to the Government whereby this difficulty can be overcome. Doubtless many other honorable members have had the same extraordinary experience of the almost incredible delay -which occurs in the passage of postal matter between suburbs of cities.
Question - That the House will, at the next sitting, again resolve itself into the said committee - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Supply Bill (No. 2) 1935-30.
Ministers of State Bill 1935.
– by leave - I have to announce that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has to-day accepted my resignation of the office of Treasurer of the Commonwealth, and has appointed the Honorable R. G. Casey to be Treasurer in my stead.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Government the fact that it was generally understood that the debate on the Italo- Abyssinian dispute would be resumed some time to-day. This subject is of great importance to the people of Australia, who do not knowexactly where they stand.
I remind the honorable member that he cannot anticipate discussion on a motion appearing on the notice-paper.
– I realize that. I am endeavouring to advance one or two reasons why the subject should be debated without further delay. Towards the end of last week it was understood by most honorable members that certain financial measures, a bill to provide for the appointment of an additional Minister, and the “Works Estimates, would be dealt with this week, and that sufficient time would be made available to-day to debate the ItaloAbyssinian dispute. That opportunity has not been afforded. I am not in a position to anticipate the attitude which honorable members opposite will adopt in discussing the amendment which I have moved, but I do think that those associated with me should be given an opportunity to express their views. Two hours ago an earnest attempt was made by the members of the Opposition to dispose of the Works Estimates, which do not contain many debatable items, in order to allow the House to discuss my amendment, but Government supporters refused to vote for the adoption of their own Estimates. Had that been done, honorable members would have been able to express the views of their constituents, and I do not know why we should have been prevented from doing so. Apparently we have to depend upon the newspapers for information on this subject. Having regard to the important issues involved, and the fact that as Par- .liament is in session, and members of other Parliaments in all parts of the world are discussing the possibilities likely to arise, we should not be deprived of the right to hear the views of all honorable members. Cabinet consists of a number of men whose knowledge on different subjects varies, but one set of individuals cannot claim a monopoly of ideas on this question of war. Their opinions may be founded upon conditions as they know them; but we are in touch with persons whose views are not known to the Government, and who, in no circumstances, desire to be drawn into another war. A discussion would provide us with an opportunity to express the views of our constituents, and perhaps prevent this country from being embroiled in another international conflict, which, I am sure, we all wish to avoid.
– In view of what has occurred during the past week, the speech of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is remarkable. Last week the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) stated that he wished certain urgent measures to be disposed of before the debate on the ItaloAbyssinian dispute was resumed. What has occurred? From 70 per cent, to 80 per cent, of the speeches on the measures put forward have been delivered by members of the party led by the honorable member for West Sydney, who expressed a desire to discuss this subject. Only yesterday the honorable member for West Sydney moved the adjournment of the House, and in the discussion of measures before the House the members of his party moved for an extension of time for practically every speaker on that side of the chamber. Various amendments have been moved which have tended to delay the proceedings, dealing in the most general manner with matters that could just as readily have been discussed on the budget and Estimates. A tremendous amount of time has been wasted this afternoon by calls for quorums. I cannot understand, therefore, the attitude of the honorable member. The Government has been anxious to resume the debate on the Italo- Abyssinian dispute. For the last three days, I have been ready with a considered statement which I proposed to make upon the resumption of the debate had members of the Opposition permitted that stage to be reached.
– I am not at all anxious to discuss the international situation generally, nor do I desire to say anything in favour of either one side or the other in the dispute. I do not consider that either is worthy of serious consideration by the Australian community. But I am anxious that the Australian people shall be safeguarded against hasty action by the Government, at least without Parliament being given an opportunity to consider the matter. Is it possible for the Government to give to honorable members the assurance that it will not involve Australia
– The honorable member may not discuss a matter that is covered by the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley).
– From now until Wednesday next is a fairly long adjournment. Can we take it for granted that meanwhile the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) will not go further than he has already gone in the direction of embroiling Australia in any shape or form ?
.- Seldom do we hear- .
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– You are drunk.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney is out of order.
– I am speaking the truth, Mr. Speaker.
– Order ! I name the honorable member for East Sydney for refusing to obey the authority of the Chair.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) put -
That the honorable member for East Sydney be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 13
Mr. James continuing to interject,
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for East Sydney thereupon withdrew.
Question put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at6.32 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 October 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19351003_reps_14_147/>.