2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 3.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Is the Treasurer (the Right Honorable Sir John Forest) of the same opinion as when out of office - that the enactment in question is “wrong, foolish, and dishonest”?
Do the Government agree with the Treasurer that the enactment is “ wrong, foolish, and dishonest “ ?
Does the Minister intend the Senate to understand that the Government are prepared to ask Parliament to repeal clause 16, stigmatized by Sir John Forrest as “dishonest” but for Mr. Reid’s statement in 1901, quoted by the Minister?
Will the Government ask Parliament to repeal the clause which the Treasurer said was “ dishonest “ if Mr. Reid will support them in doing so?
– Surely the honorable and learned senator does not expect me to answer off-hand this series of questions ?
-I thought that my honorable friend might know all about it. I give notice of the question for Thursday next.
– On a point of order, sir, I submit that no honorable senator has a right to reflect upon an Act of Parliament, except in moving for its repeal.
– I shall see that the question is in order before it is printed on the notice-paper.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether the Government consider themselves liable to. answer for all the inconsistencies on the part of Federal politicians who take portfolios, or who may be supporters of the Government?
– We do not intend to take so serious a task as that upon our shoulders.
– I desire to ask the
Minister representing the Attorney-General, without notice.whether he will lay upon the table of the Senate a copy of all correspondence which has passed between the late Attorney-General and his predecessor, and the High Court relating to the question of expenses and the places where it shall hold sessions?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is “Yes.”
– Arising out of that answer, I desire to ask the Minister if he will see that the correspondence includes everything.
– What is meant by “ everything “ ?
– I am not suggesting that it would not include everything within the scope of the terms of the question, but there are a great many other things of which I shall give the Minister private information before I give notice of a question on the subject.
-I shall be very happy to get the private information.
asked the Min ister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
– I think the honorable gentleman said that.
– Certainly not. I have got my answer here if the honorable senator wishes to see it.
– But the honorable senator said a good deal more than he read.
– However, that is the formal answer. I expressed no opinion on the subject. I could not have said it was; it would not have been true if I had- but from confidential information received, the Government is satisfied that all reasonable steps are being taken to make the Australian Squadron of greater fighting strength than the present agreement requires.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
An agreement was arrived at between the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales providing Government House, Sydney, as a residence for the Governor-General until the end of the present year. An intimation has been received from the Government of New South Wales that they are willing to continue such arrangement, and this Government will negotiate accordingly. Opportunity for discussion of the subject will arise on the authorization of the expenditure.
Is it a fact that there are two claims now being litigated in the High Court against the Commonwealth under the Public Purposes Acquisition Act1901 for compensation in respect of land acquired adjacent to Largs Fort, in the State of South Australia. If so, what is the amount of each claim, and what is the difference in dispute between the amounts claimed and the amounts considered fair by the Government in each case?
Is the Bill to amend the Public Purposes Acquisition Act 1901 mentioned in the Ministerial Statement of Policy the Bill of which a first draft was left in print by the late Government or a Bill with similar objects?
If so, will the Government give it expedition?
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to reduce the price of Hansard to the sum originally charged, viz., 4s., including postage, so as to enable those electors who do not come within the sphere of the daily newspapers to get a full and reliable report of parliamentary proceedings?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The increase in cost since the date mentioned was due to the passage of the Postal Act, and the price cannot be reduced until that Act is amended.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
When is it the intention of the Government to lay before Parliament the contract recently concluded between the Commonwealth and the Orient Company, and all the papers and correspondence in connexion therewith ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
Copies are being prepared, and will be laid before Parliament as soon as they are completed.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister ‘ representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Senator Sir Josiah Symon) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the JudiciaryAct1903, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Senator Staniforth Smith) agreed to -
That there be laid on the table of the Senate a copy of the communication addressed to the Minister of External Affairs - and signed by twenty-three miners working on the Yodda Valley gold-field, British New Guinea - having reference to the imprisonment, escape, and instructions regarding the capture of Mr. O’Brien; also copies of all other documents and papers in connexion therewith.
Motion (by Senator Staniforth Smith) agreed to -
That a return be prepared and laid on the table of this Senate, showing the numberof indentured coloured labourers engaged for the various Australian pearling fleets, who were returned to their homes during the year1904, giving each nationality separately.
Senator PLAYFORD laid upon the table the following papers: -
Transfers approved by the Governor-General under the Audit Act, dated nth August, 1905.
Pursuant to the Customs Act, 1901 - Regulations relating to the drawback on sugar used in making jam and similar goods, Statutory Rules, 1905, No. 49.
Pursuant to the Defence Acts 19034Amendment of the regulations fox the Military Forces, Statutory Rules, 1905, No. 50..
– I have to lay on the table, pursuant to a resolution of the Standing Orders Committee, a report of the President of the Committee, formulating and tabulating decisions arrived at during part of the session of 1903, and during the session of 1904.
– I move -
Perhaps I may disarm criticism to some extent if I inform the Senate that I am not a candidate for the position of High Commissioner. Nor is this motion intended as a reflection upon any Government. I have entertained the idea expressed in the motion for some time. I mentioned to several honorable senators some eighteen months ago that I thought it would be a good plan if the High Commissioner were appointed by an exhaustive ballot of both Houses.
– Why limit the motion to the appointment of High Commissioner ?
– Why assume that the High Commissioner is going to be appointed ? I hope he is not.
– The High Commissioner Bill has found a place in the programmes of all the Governments that have held office up to the present time, and from all I can hear I believe that it is the intention of the present Government to endeavour to pass the Bill.
SenatorDobson. -TheHobartConfer- ence disapproved of the appointment of a High Commissioner at present.
– I think that honorable senators have every reason to believe that the High Commissioner Bill will be put forward as a matter of practical politics by the Government this session, and as one of the representatives of the large and important State of Queensland I wish to have a voice in the selection if Parliament will allow me to have that voice. The brains of the Government may be able to make a good selection, but I think that the brains of the Government plus the brains of the whole of the members of the Federal Parliament would be able to make a better choice. Theoretically, the High Commissioner would be appointed by the Governor-General. The Bill of1904 contained the provision that the GovernorGeneral “ may appoint “ some person to be the High Commissioner of the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom. But although the appointment is virtually in the hands of the Prime Minister, acting through the Governor-General, and although the Prime Minister may enforce his will or wreck his Government, I can well believe - though I have had no conversation with him on the subject- that he would be very glad to be rid of the responsibility of choosing the High Commissioner. If the High Commissioner Bill passes without a clause providing for such a system of selection, then I suppose that persons with influence and without influence will try to approach the Prime Minister either directly or indirectly. All kinds of pressure will be exerted. Those who have assisted Ministers to obtain office will, no doubt, approach them with a view to secure the appointment for a particular friend.
– So will members of Parliament, too.
– Perhaps members of Parliament may be asked to give a vote in a certain direction. But when there is an exhaustive ballot there is always a means of protection for them. They are not supposed to carry their hearts on their sleeves, if they are approached and asked to vote for a particular candidate.
– Why can they not stand by their actions publicly like men? Why have a ballot?
– For the same reason that the Cabinet holds its meetings in secret. No minutes of Cabinet meetings are kept, and the members of the Government take an oath not to divulge what takes place. Why does not the Government throw open the meetings of the Cabinet to the press?
– The Government makes appointments and states openly what its policy is.
-When members of Parliament vote on a question of this kind they ought not to be expected by any sensible person to show their minds to parties who wish to know the man for whom they vote.
-Are the Government going to name the High Commissioner before they bring in their Bill ?
– The Minister of Defence practically says that they are. The opponentsof my motion will say no doubt that this is an endeavour to take away Executive responsibility. The Executivehas not got the responsibility yet, because the Bill has not been passed.
– Then what the honorable senator is doing is premature.
– I am anxious to give the Government a direction. Parliament may desire to shoulder the responsibility on to the Government, but it has a right to take the ‘responsibility on itself under the Constitution. Senator Playford may say : “ This appointment ought to be an act of the Executive Government, and if we give way to pressure, consciously or unconsciously, Parliament can remove us.” What possibility would there be of the Government being turned out, assuming that they were so unwise as to make an injudicious appointment? I direct attention to the fact that we have already had four different Governments within two years. Is it likely, now that the country is positively sick of these changes of Government, that the present Government would be turned out of office even though they should make an unwise appointment?
– Suppose the Houses made an unwise appointment?
– I should like honorable senators to observe that the Barton Ministry left office on the 24th September, 1903. The first Deakin Ministry was defeated on the 29th April, 1904, after having held office for about seven months. The Watson Ministry was sworn in on the 27th April, 1904, and was defeated on the 1 2th August, 1904, having held office for about four months.
– Why these painful recollections ?
– The Reid Ministry came into power on the 18th August, 1904, and was defeated on the 30th June, 1905, having held office for about ten months.
– And having done nothing.
– And the second Deakin Administration was sworn in on the 6th July last. I mention these harrowing details to show how improbable it is that there will be a further change, no matter what selection Senator Playford and his colleagues may make for the position of High Commissioner. We must take a reasonable view of the prospects. If we all agree that there is to be no dissolution the Government can appoint whom they please.
– It does not rest with us. Probably the honorable senator’s next motion will be to intrust that to a joint sitting of the two Houses.
-A very good idea.
-The High Commissioner should be a man of marked ability all round, impartial by temperament, and capable of dealing fairly with all the States. He should be a representative Australian, thoroughly in sym pathy with the national aspirations of the people of the Commonwealth. While we do not expect that the High Commissioner will “ scorn delights, and live laborious days,” we hope that he will be a man who will be able to withstand the languorous influences of the social atmosphere which he is bound to encounter at times.
– That would put Senator Dobson out of court.
– I am not prepared to say that about any member of the Senate. We want a High Commissioner who will not be likely to forget his duty to Australia. He will have much serious work to do, and the social obligations of his position should be subordinated to it.
– We have nothing to do with his social duties.
– One of his chief duties will be to make Australia thoroughly known in the United Kingdom.
– Cannot the six States’ Agents-General do that?
– I shall deal with that in a moment. To make Australia thoroughly known, the High Commissioner must have what may be called a literary department connected with his establishment to circulate leaflets and pamphlets, and I think there should also be included in his staff a man qualified to reply to any articles appearing in the press, or any reports of speeches in which Australia is maligned or slandered.
– All the arrangements necessary to have that done are complete at the present time.
– Combined with the literary -department, there might be an immigration department whose duty it would be to afford persons desiring to emigrate to Australia information as to available land, facilities for settlement, and cognate subjects, and so endeavour to attract some of those who are now finding their way to Canada and elsewhere.
– And the legislative inducements which are offered here.
– We might tell them that it is possible now in Australia for any adult to secure any legislative position to which he may aspire, and which he is capable of filling. The High Commissioner will probably have a trade and commerce department to keep Australia in touch with what foreign countries are doing ; for example with what the Argentine and the United States are doing in connexion with the beef industry, and what Russia and Denmark are doing in the butter industry. Senator Dobson has interjected that this work is largely done now by the States Agents-General, but it will depend on the capacity and industry of the High Commissioner appointed how soon the various States will give up keeping separate Agents-General in the old country, and maintaining expensive departments which runs into thousands of pounds of expenditure every year, and overlap each other in some instances.
– Until they do give them up I shall not vote for the appointment of a High Commissioner.
– Thev are not likely to give up their Agents-General until we appoint a High Commissioner, and they are not likely to give them up then,» if we do not appoint a capable man. They will not give them up if the High Commissioner appointed is a State partisan, a man who will be likely, when in the old country, to favour the particular State from whence he comes.
– Does the honorable senator expect that the States will in any circumstances refrain from having special representatives at home?
– Thev must have them in connexion with their debts.
– I am not prepared to say, but I think it would be reasonable to expect the States to give up the maintenance of expensive departments in the old country if we had a capable High Commissioner who would carry out the duties of the position impartially in the interests of Australia.
– They have already been asked to do so, and have refused, according to the proceedings of the Premiers’ Conference.
– The High Commissioner will be the representative of Australia on the Pacific Cable Board, keeping a watchful eye, we hope, on the powerful Eastern Extension Company.
– Cannot six AgentsGeneral keep an eye on that company?
– In accordance with the arrangement made by the Canadian High Commissioner some time ago, the Australian High Commissioner might use his position to take advantage of the Pacific Cable to keep the public of Australia supplied, without extra cost, with 500 words of news daily.
– Cricket news?
– We know that Pre. mier Seddon, of New Zealand, instructed Mr. Reeves to send out information concerning the doings of the New Zealand footballers, and if we took the same view we might ask our High Commissioner to cater for that section of the Australian public. But I do not suggest that. He will probably be charged with the responsibility of getting the best financial information that can be obtained for the States of the Commonwealth, and later on no doubt he will be asked to negotiate with regard to the consolidation of the States debts.
– Then we ought to appoint him when Ave have taken over the States debts, and not before.
– He will probably receive a salary or allowance of .£3,500 per annum.
– Never !
– And he will probably be appointed for a period of five years, and will be eligible for re-appointment. I mention these matters because they found place in a Bill brought forward by a Government which Senator Dobson supported. However, the position of High Commissioner will be a very much prized and honorable one. He will be Australia personified. He will have it in his power to do important and lasting work for the people of the Commonwealth. He can aid or retard the advancement of this coming nation. We should, therefore, exercise the greatest care in his selection, and to my mind the method I propose will secure that result. It would be useless afterwards to complain of the appointment if it was allowed to be made by the Government. It would be a most unpleasant thing, for every one concerned to complain. It would be unpleasant to members of Parliament, to the Government, and especially to the gentleman who is appointed - indeed, so unpleasant that it is very improbable that any honorable gentleman’ would get up and adversely criticise the High Commissioner, who would be sure to be a man pretty well known to the public of the Commonwealth.
– Is the honorable senator afraid that he would resign?
– No ; there is a certain personal element which enters into all these matters, as the honorable senator knows. I think that if an unwise appointment were made, the majority of honorable senators would say nothing. Perhaps some honorable senators might get up and offer a few observations, but the majority would content themselves with some private grumbling and smothered protest, I see no objection to this proposal for an exhaustive ballot. The President, or Speaker, as the case might be, could ask for nominations. If there was only one nomination, there would be no occasion for a ballot; but if there were two nomniations, a ballot would take place. The proceedings would not occupy more than an hour, I suppose, and the candidate who received a majority of the votes of members of Parliament sitting together, would certainly be accepted by the people of the Commonwealth1 as a judicious choice. There would be no talk of Government patronage.
– There would be no responsibility.
– What is the use of the Minister making that remark, when members of Parliament are responsible to their constituents?
– In this case, members of Parliament would vote by ballot, and the public would never know whom they voted for.
– I imagine that any member of Parliament who voted for a particular person would be prepared to accept his share of responsibility.
– Is the honorable senator willing to amend his motion so as to provide for an open ballot? That would take away the objection.
– I think there is a great deal of virtue in the secrecy of the ballot.
– The public would want to know what we did.
– We have already adopted the ballot system in connexion with similar elections. If we were to pass this motion, there would be no talk of Government patronage being used to placate some opponent, or console some injured friend. The man who was selected would certainly feel that a very high honour had been conferred upon him, and he would be the more anxious, I think, to do his duty by the general public because he had been selected by a majority of the members of Parliament.
– Necessarily the Government must oppose a motion of this sort. Certain duties are cast upon the Executive. The duty of exercising patronage is not a very pleasant one, and it is one from which I have frequently desired to of relieved. Of all the duties which Ministers have to perform, it is the most troublesome. They are liable to be met with adverse criticism, although they do the best they can. I have never looked upon the right of patronage as a desirable possession. But some one must take the responsibility for these appointments.
– For whom do the Government want the billet? That is the main point.
– I am sure I do not know who wants the billet, or whom mv honorable friend wants it for.
– Sir John Forrest could tell the honorable gentleman.
– I do not think that is altogether fair. The Government will take the responsibility for the appointment when it is made. But we do not know that we are going to have a High Commissioner. We might appoint a gentleman to perform functions which are supposed to be performed by a High Commissioner, and he might bear another title.
– But the Government hope to have one?
– I do not know that we do. I do not think that a name has been finally selected by the Cabinet. Parliament has not agreed to appoint a High Commissioner, but it will have to consider the subject by-and-by. If Senator Higgs wishes to take any step in regard to this matter there is a very simple process open to him, and that is to propose the insertion of a name in the Bill when it is submitted. That would be more straightforward ; he would then take the responsibility of his action on his own shoulders, and the public would know how members of Parliament had voted. Of course, we should oppose the proposal.
– Will the honorable senator tell us the names of the various candidates submitted to the Cabinet, and the votes which they receive ?
– We do not wish to do that. Why should we give the information? We are willing to take the responsibility of making an appointment. If we donot do our duty to the satisfaction of Parliament it can very easily show its displeasure. It is impossible to make the Parliament responsible in this matter. Senator Higgs has not argued or attempted to show that Parliament would make a better choice than the Ministry of the day.
– I have.
– I do not think so.
– By using the brains of the Ministry plus the brains of the members of Parliament.
– Why not vote openly ?
– Will the honorable senator accept that method?
– Decidedly not. I shall accept no motion on the subject, because we believe in taking the responsibility for the appointment. If members of Parliament were to vote on a question of this sort by ballot they would take no responsibility, even to their constituents.
– Ministers vole in secrecy.
– We make a choice. My honorable friends wish to vote by ballot, and all that the public would know would be that a majority had voted for a certain gentleman to be High Commissioner, but they would not know the candidate for whom each member voted. The speech of Senator Higgs was not devoted so much to showing the advantages which would accrue to the public from Parliament making this choice by ballot as to showing how necessary it was to have a very superior person in this position. All that goes without saying, and it will be a proper argument to use when the Bill is submitted. I do not see any necessity for discussing whether the gentleman who will fill the position should dip his hands into the immigration question, or should have something to do with trade and commerce, or should be a great financier. I can imagine that any one of the best men for the position would not submit to have his name bandied about in Parliament ; that he would never agree to allow his election to be a matter for discussion in Parliament and the press.
– Is he to be above Parliament ?
– No ; he would not allow every matter connected with his public or private life to be raked up, as is very often done. He would not be guilty of employing friends to do a lot of lobbying with honorable senators, and using all sorts of backstairs influence.
– -That will be done with the Government.
– I do not say that it will not be done, but the Government will take full responsibility for mak ing the appointment. If any lobbying is done in the case of a Government comprising eight members, tenfold as much lobbying will be done’ in the case of Parliament, comprising in members. How are these appointments made in other parts of the world? They are made by the Executive, as, for instance, in the case of Canada and New Zealand. There could only be one excuse’ for taking this appointment out of the hands of the Government, and that would be a want of confidence in them. This motion practically amounts to a vote of no confidence. If it is passed it will mean that the Senate does not believe that the Government would make a wise choice, and therefore, as it is a most exceptional case, the right of appointment is taken out of their hands. No Government with any sense of self-respect could possibly submit to that being done.
– Does the Minister intend to resign -if the motion is passed?
– A Government does not resign in consequence of a vote of the Senate. This is not a House in which to make or unmake Ministries. If this motion were passed by Parliament undoubtedly it would1 be an expression of want of confidence in the “Ministry ; it would withdraw a power which has been possessed by the Executive as long as I can remember. In the circumstances, the Government must undoubtedly oppose the motion.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).The Minister of Defence affirmed that the passage of this motion would be tantamount to an expression of want of confidence in the Government. That almost induces me to vote for the motion. If it simply commenced and. ended with this Government I should take an opportunity of expressing my want of confidence in them. But I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that the motion would not be limited in its effect to the present Administration. It is not merely an attempt to curtail the powers of this Government, but a direct attack on our system of responsible Government. If ft is an attack which ought to succeed, why is it limited to one officer? If Senator Higgs believes that the time has arrived when, the power of appointment ought to be removed from the Executive and made the sport and toy of contending factions in the Senate, why does he not submit a comprehensive motion to the effect that all appointments, from the Justices of the High Court down to the humblest official, should rest in the gift of Parliament, and not in the gift of the Executive ?
– The honorable senator knows that the tendency of Governments is to take away from Parliament certain of its powers.
– That is a marvellous instance of the ability which the honorable senator shows for arguing all round a question. This proposal to encroach on the power of the Executive comes from the honorable senator, and not from the Government. He is asking Parliament to do that which has hitherto been regarded as the proper work of the Executive. Let me point out a very serious evil which would result from requiring Parliament to make any appointment of this character. We all know what happens where parliamentary bodies are called upon to elect men to fill certain positions. We all know, from our reading, what happens when the State Legislatures of America are called on to elect senators. Log-rolling is no term with which to describe what goes on there. Turning to the Parliament of my own State, which, as everybody knows, is not held up as a model for similar institutions
– Especially in the Lands Department.
– Yes, and Parliament is showing that it is determined to cleanse that Department. At the beginning of every Parliament a Public Works Committee is elected, and the amount of canvassing and lobbying which goes on on that occasion is as degrading to each House as to the men who are elected.
– What would happen if the Government appointed these men?
– To show the desirability of giving the Executive a hand in the matter, the Legislature has allowed the Government to nominate the members of the Public Works Committee. That has been found very much better than nomination by private members. It is within the knowledge of every one that when a position of this kind has to be voted for the voters will be interviewed on the subject. It would be degrading to Parliament, and absolutely demoralizing to the Public Service, if we once adopted the system of making appointments in the way proposed.
– I do not think that the Minister of Defence made a very convincing speech in opposition to the motion. Practically, he endeavoured to turn the motion into one of want of confidence, but he distinctly expressed his intention of staying in office even if it were passed, showing that he does not attach much importance to it, in that aspect. In addition to that, he showed very forcibly that what he was distrustful about was the loss of patronage.
– That was most evident from the honorable senator’s speech. The only logical conclusion which any one could draw from the speech was that a billet was in danger.
– The Government may have promised the billet to one of their friends.
– I do not wish to go into any personal aspect of the matter. But I do wish to point out one salient fact in connexion with an appointment of this sort. Senator Millen said that it was an extraordinary thing that we should single out this one office for attack, I can give the Senate a very excellent reason why we should select this office’ in the first place for this particular sort of attack. It will be fresh in the memory of all honorable senators that when the delegates to the Federal Convention were appointed, in every State, except Western Australia, they were chosen by the votes of the people. In Western Australia alone they were appointed by Parliament, on a list prepared by the Government, which had a majority in Parliament. The list was handed round, and it was all arranged beforehand. The Government supporters voted for the members specified by the Government.
– Does that not seem to be an argument why Parliament should not select?
– The honorable senator’s ready brain anticipates an argument that I was not about to use. I was proceeding to say that this system of selection proved most unsatisfactory compared with the system of selection by the whole of the electors of each State. There VOL get as nearly as possible a representation of the feelings of Australia. I reduce the position from that, and I go on to say that the next best thing to securing the voice of Australia in reference to the appointment of the High Commissioner is to secure the voice of Parliament ; and, as the voice of Parliament is less satisfactory than the voice of the whole State, so I sa,y that the voice of the Ministry would be less satisfactory than the voice of Parliament. You reduce it by slow degrees.
– Has not the honorable senator affirmed that it was really the Western Australian Ministry that elected the Convention delegates?
– I admit that. I say that the Western Australian delegation to the Convention was practically a Ministerial appointment, and as a Ministerial appointment it was far more objectionable than would have been the case if Parliament had been left free to select those members who were most representative. I go on to say in this case that, if we have an election by Parliament, where the Ministry cannot circulate a nomination arid insist upon the election of - that person, we shall very likely secure a better representative of Australian feeling ‘ than by means of selection by a Ministry, which would be solely actuated by motives of policy. Another point was raised by Senator Playford. He actually said “ Put the name in the Bill.”
– I did not; I said that that was another way in which the appointment might be made.
– The honorable senator said that the straightforward way of doing it would be to put the name in the Bill. Senator Playford appears to have overlooked the fact that this Bill, when it comes forward, will be entirely a machinery measure. It will provide for an office to be filled at certain intervals; what they may be I do not know and cannot know until the Bill is before us. It would obviously be impossible to insert any name whatever in a machinery Bill.
– We could say “ and the first Commissioner shall be So-and-so.”
– It will be a Bill to provide for an office to be filled for such time as Parliament deems fit ; and it seems to me ‘ that it would be absolutely ridiculous to put in the name of the first Commissioner. It would be like putting the name of the first Prime Minister in the Constitution of a State or of the Commonwealth. Senator Playford says that he objects to lobbying. He himself admits - he cannot but admit - that lobbying would be just as inconvenient, and probably would be pushed just as far in the case of a Ministerial appointment as it would be in the case of an appointment made by Parliament. The honorable senator shakes his head, but he knows perfectly well what has been done when this Bill has been talked about on previous occasions. He knows perfectly well the amount of lobbying that has gone on when other Governments have proposed to bring in a High Commissioner Bill. He knows the amount of talking that there has been.
– Talking, of course. I have heard a whole host of names mentioned.
– He also knows the pressure that has been brought to bear on certain Ministers, by all accounts.
– I am sure I do not know that.
– I fail to see why there should be such strong objections to this system of election. ‘ Do we not elect our own officers in exactly the same way? If it is good enough for us to elect our President and our Chairman of Committees in the way suggested by Senator Higgs, surely that system of election could not be derogatory when applied to the High Commissioner. The honorable senator states that if the election were in the hands of Parliament the best men would decline to be candidates. Are we, then, to assume that bur President was not the best man for his office? The Senate would surely treat such a suggestion absolutely with derision.
– The officers of the Senate are always here, and are under our direct control.
– Trie honorable senator suggests a very poor opinion of the officers of the Senate - that they always have to be kept in sight. He also suggests that, because the High Commissioner is going to be out of our sight, and beyond our control in Europe, he, therefore, is not to be trusted. I spurn such a suggestion.
– I did not suggest anything of the kind.
– I understood the honorable senator clearly to suggest that, and I appeal to the Senate as to whether that is not the only construction to be put upon his suggestion. I spurn it, and I say that if we find that the best men in the Senate and the best men in the House of Representatives are perfectly willing to submit themselves to the choice of members as officers of either House, I fail to see what earthly justification the honorable senator can have for suggesting that the best men in Australia would not submit their names for election by the two Houses of Parliament sitting together. I think that at any rate I have dealt with that objection in a manner that no one can controvert. I see that Senator Keating is taking voluminous notes, and I presume that he will attempt to demolish my argument. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say on that point. What I feel is this, that the gentleman who is sent home to represent the Commonwealth should be sent to represent Australian feeling; and I again say that Australian feeling can be better represented by a man selected by the representatives of the whole of the States of Australia than by a Ministry which, from time to time, is fortuitously in office. Why is this Ministry in office? That is what we come down to. Are they the best men ? I have no desire to be personal, and I do not answer my own question. I shall leave it to the Senate.
– Is the High Commissioner to be changed every time there is a change of Ministry ?
– I have not had an opportunity to see the Bill ; but it- would be very unusual if that were proposed. While a High Commissioner sent home by Parliament might fairly be expected to represent the views of Parliament for the term of his office, a High Commissioner- selected by the Ministry would be much more likely to represent the views of that Ministry while it was in office, and he would constantly, find’ himself in ‘his personal opinions in vital conflict with the opinions of the succeeding Ministry.
– We do not find that to be the case with the present AgentsGeneral.
– The honorable senator is mistaken. That is exactly what we do find. Only the other day the Government of Queensland had to administer a most scathing castigation to its representative in London. Senator Playford raises a most excellent argument in my favour. Here we have a gentleman sent home from Queensland to represent that State. It was a Ministerial appointment, and he now finds himself in direct conflict with the sentiment of the whole of Australia, including his own State.
– He outraged the feelings of his State immediately he arrived in London.
– I think, therefore, that I am justified in saying that the honorable senator could not have raised a more striking point in favour of my argument than he has done. Now, who are these Agents-General as a rule? They consist of two classes. Sometimes they are old gentlemen who are sent to London to be shelved, because they have claims which the Ministry in power has no way of satisfying. There is another class of Agents-General, who are sent home occasionally. A Ministry finds itself, on coming into office, face to face with an extremely strong opponent. And what does that Ministry do? It goes to its opponent and says, “ Here is a billet ; remove yourself to London.” What is the result? That gentleman is transported to England; the Ministry remains in office, probably, for the five years of his term on the other side of the hemisphere, and, as a rule, retires gracefully from office the moment he comes back.
– Would not Mr. Reid make a good Agent-General ?
– Do not let us bring in any personal questions. I think I have dealt with the matter on fairly general terms without introducing any personal references, except the one which was forced on me, with regard te the AgentGeneral for Queensland. I could not help availing myself of that case, because it afforded a splendid and striking illustration of the disadvantages of Ministerialappointment.
– I regret that in this discussion there appears to be a disposition to mix up the merits of the present Government and some possible other Government, with this question. I do not think that they are at all connected. The question is - if an appointment of this character were made by Parliament, would it be more in the interests of Australia than if it were made by the Government of the day? I have no hesitation in saying for myself that it would be extremely inexpedient for Parliament to be called upon to make such an appointment. For one reason, it would take up too much of the time of Parliament.
– What are we here for?
– To do business that is not capable of being done as well by any other body. But Parliaments are finding all over the world that the functions of government are increasing with such rapidity that there is not time under the present parliamentary system to do all that is required in the interests of the people.
– Yet we sit one day a week, and then adjourn for a fortnight !
– I am dealing with the practical question as it is presenting itself to the Parliaments of the world. If the appointment of High Commissioner had to be made by Parliament, some names would have to be submitted. Of course, if only one person’s name was submitted, Parliament would have to discuss his fitness or otherwise. But if there were several names, as probably there would be, there would be a long and, possibly, acrimonious discussion as to the merits of the respective candidates.
– Discussion in the press as well.
– There would be in Parliament, at any rate ; discussion in the press is not so important to us. Then when we had selected the High Commissioner, we should have made him, not a servant, but a representative. That is just exactly what the High Commissioner ought not to be. The High Commissioner ought to be a servant of the Commonwealth, subject to control from day to day, and, if possible, from hour to hour. What possible control could Parliament, as a whole, exercise over the daily actions of the High Commissioner ?
– Just as much as the Government could.
– There are six months in the year when Parliament is not sitting. There is not a day when an Executive is not in power.
– There is nothing to prevent Parliament sitting more than six months.
– There is nothing to prevent its sitting all the year round, except that it would not do so, and if it did, it would be extremely unwise and against the interests of the people. The High Commissioner, when appointed, if he is to Be an effective servant of the Commonwealth, must be under the control of the Executive, and if he were chosen by Parliament, we should be putting under the control of the Executive a man whom we had placed above the Executive. These are practical objections. We ought to consider this question purely on its merits, quite apart from this Government or the other. I am sure that that is what Senator Higgs intends. He wishes to deal with it on its merits, having in view the best interests of the Commonwealth. Tt is extremely important that when this appointment is made, the best man available shall be chosen. In addition to that, it is important that Parliament shall have the freest possible hand in discussing his fitness or otherwise, and in criticising his actions from time to time.
– It would not lessen the responsibility of the Executive, if the appointment were made by Parliament.
– I think it would lessen the responsibility of the Executive very materially. The Executive could say with justice, “ True, this man is a very poor official ; true, he does not possess many of the qualifications which he ought to have ; true, we object to nine out of ten of his acts. But we did not appoint him. Parliament appointed him.”
– Then the Executive would not be doing its duty.
– It would be placed in that position by Parliament, which would have relieved the Executive from the responsibility. It is impossible to find means by which, except through the Executive, Parliament could continue to control the appointee.
– Would not the same state of affairs happen in the case of a change of Executive?
– No, because the Government has a continuous existence, although particular Governments change. Each Government is responsible for the daily work of the Executive. The High Commissioner might be appointed by a Government which held views with regard to his duties that were altogether at variance from the views held by the succeeding Government. The succeeding Government would take the responsibility of controlling according to its views the actions of the High Commissioner. But if he were appointed by Parliament, he would be in a position to say, “I am High Commissioner, appointed by Parliament, because I hold views on Australian questions in accord with the views, not of the Executive, but of Parliament.”
– Could he not resign ?
– Certainly he could; and could he not refrain from resigning, and practically flout the Executive? This is a very serious consideration.
– Is it not better that a man should represent Parliament than that he should represent the Executive?
– In a position of this kind, I do not think it is. The question Is, what do we want this officer for? If we want him to represent, and not to obey, not to follow daily, weekly, or monthly instructions, but to have an absolutely free hand to represent the Parliament of Australia, then I say that his election by Parliament would be the very best thing. But that is not what we desire.
– I believe that Ministers should be elected by Parliament.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator. Senator Matheson endeavoured to set up an analogy between the election of the officers of this House and the election of a person to fill the position of High Commissioner. The honorable senator unfairly misconstrued the purport of an interjection by Senator Styles, who referred to the fact that the officers of the House are always with us. What I think Senator Styles meant, and what is the fact, is that the officers of the House, being always with us, we acquire a most complete and intimate knowledge of their qualifications from daily experience. In selecting them, therefore, we do not make the selection under conditions the same as those under which we would have to select a person outside of Parliament. We select a man from amongst ourselves, of whose capacity we have had in some instances years of experience, not that we require to watch him after his appointment, but because we have had an opportunity of watching him before. We are enabled readily in such a case to make the best selection. There is no analogy whatever between such an appointment and a selection from candidates for the position of High Commissioner.
– The question was whether the best men would submit themselves.
– There is still no analogy. Many men would have some hesitation in submitting themselves to be discussed day after day, and perhaps week after week, in comparison with other persons, by members of Parliament holding perhaps extremely partisan views. Do we not know that in every discussion strong disputants naturally rake up every possible objection to the views of those opposed to them, and that when those objections become, as they must become under the con ditions here indicated, extremely personal, they are often extremely offensive.
– -That is only the case with some people.
– I know that all people, if they are honest, present their case from the very strongest possible point of view. I believe that in the same way all people, if they are honest, present all the weaknesses in their opponent’s case as strongly as they possibly can.
– All are not necessarily personal.
– Ora a personal question, such as this selection would be, it is impossible to be otherwise than personal in its discussion.
– The same thing would apply in the case of the selection by a State Parliament of a person to fill a vacancy in the Senate.
- Senator Matheson, in arguing in favour of Parliament making such an appointment, showed how extremely unsatisfactory the only precedent he had in his mind had turned out’ to be. When the Commonwealth Convention was elected, the bulk of the members of the Convention were elected bv the votes of the people to represent the people, to speak for the people, not what they thought from day to day, but what, as representatives of the people, they themselves thought would be best in the interests of the people. That was a very different appointment to that of .a person who is, to be a servant from day to day, subject to daily direction, if the exigencies of the time require it.
– Who will the High Commissioner represent - the people or the Executive ?
– He will not represent anybody. He will serve the Commonwealth under the direction of the Commonwealth Government.
– He will be the representative of Australia in London.
– If we were talking, about the appointment of a representative, I should agree with my honorable friend, that the wider the area of selection, the more reasonable would be the prospect of the selection of a suitable representative. But we are not talking about the election of a representative, but about the appointment of a person who is to act for us under instructions from day to-day, if that be possible. It is therefore of no use to try to discover how we can make the position- more representative. That is not what we are seeking. We are seeking to secure the most able and efficient servant . for the performance of important services for the whole of the Commonwealth.
– Who should be intrusted with that selection - the Executive or Parliament?
– I am presenting my case as it occurs to me.
– I should like to know where the honorable senator is.
– Senator Dawson will have his opportunity to show how far I am wrong. If the honorable senator desires to know from me now who I think should have control, I have no hesitation in saying that the Executive, and not Parliament, should have this control. Parliament controls the Executive, and the Executive immediately controls the servants of the Commonwealth. I do not see how we are to alter that system. Under whatever system we have we must have an Executive to do the daily work of administration. We might continue, as we do now, to have Governments appointed by the Crown, holding office, subject to the approval of Parliament, or we might decide to elect the Executive by Parliament, as is done in Switzerland; but, in either case, we must permit the daily control of the administration of government to be in the hands of the Executive. It would be quite impossible to retain it in the hands of Parliament. If it were so retained, Parliament could >do no legislative work at all, and could not keep up with the administrative work. It is, therefore, obvious that the Executive must be responsible, and must have control. Hence the Executive must make this appointment. The matter is worthy of full discussion as an extremely important issue, but I suggest to honorable members opposite that they would do well, in its discussion, to forget the Government altogether. Whether the present Government is the best, the worst, or only a moderate Government is altogether apart from this issue. The question of importance to us is : Can we make this appointment, if it is to be made, better corporately - the whole Parliament acting together - or acting through our Executive? If we decide that Parliament is the best body to make the selection I certainly hope that we shall not decide to do it by ballot. I am a very strong advocate of the ballot. The ballot has rendered reasonably untrammelled selection of the people’s representatives in Parliament possible. Without the ballot the selection of members of Parliament by the constituents without pressure would be impossible. But this is an altogether different case. Who can control the actions of Parliament? If there are any honorable senators here who are afraid of any influence that will be brought to bear upon them, because of the vote they might give, I have no hesitation in saying that, in my opinion, they ought not to be here. I should regret exceedingly that any of the proceedings of Parliament, and any of the determinations of Parliament, should be in secret. There is no parallel betwen a sitting of Parliament and the secret meeting of a Cabinet, or a caucus of the Labour Party.
– Or of any other party.
– Just so; but the labour caucus was hinted at.
– Still, it is just as well to let it be known that it is not the only party caucus.
– There is no comparison between the meeting of Parliament and any meeting of a caucus. Persons meet in caucus to deliberate, and not to perform legislative functions, to decide by untrammelled discussion - which it is perhaps just as well should1 sometimes be secret - what is the wisest thing to do when the time comes for actual determination by Parliament. I have no hesitation in expressing the opinion that the electors have the fullest right to know every vote that a Member of Parliament gives upon every question.
– There is no doubt about that.
– If it should be decided - and I hope it will not - that this appointment shall be .made by Parliament, I do not see how we are to limit it to this appointment. There are other appointments possibly of greater importance. I certainly think that the officers ‘ of the High Court perform functions of greater importance.
– Not representative functions.
– Nor will the High Commissioner, I hope.
– Oh, ves, he will.
– I hope he will never be permitted to do so. I hope he will not be appointed as a representative, but as a capable man to obey instructions. If he is to be anything else I shall not support the Bill to provide for his appointment. If we do appoint him in the manner suggested, there is no reason why we should stop there, and the officers of the High Court will have the same right to be elected by Parliament. If they should be so appointed, why should not the Public Service Commissioner and other public officers be similarly appointed? The motion suggests endless extensions of the power of appointment by Parliament, and as I said earlier in my address, the time of Parliament .would be entirely taken up in discussing matters of administration, and no time would be left for the performance of legislative work.
– I entirely agree with Senator Trenwith that we have no business to consider in any shape or form the personnel of the present or of any possible Ministry in connexion with this matter.
– Did Senator Trenwith say that?
– Undoubtedly, the honorable senator said that this matter should be considered quite apart from any Ministry, and I indorse that view most thoroughly. I should like to say that the whole of the experience I have gained in political life warns me very strongly against the adoption by Parliament of any such proposal as that now before us. It is calculated to bring into the atmosphere of Parliament elements of a very undesirable character, which could not help but bring about very considerable deterioration. There is a matter which specially concerns honorable senators, and to which attention has not yet been drawn. I ask honorable senators if they are prepared, in a matter of this kind, to put the Senate in a position of inferiority as compared with another place, as they would necessarily do by agreeing to this motion. We are only a body of thirty-six, whilst the House’ of Representatives is a body of seventy-five. If we reduce the question to a matter of percentages we shall find that the Senate, a body equal in legislative power with the House of Representatives, would go to the vote with a voting percentage of 32 and a fraction, against another place with a voting power of 67 and a fraction. That is not a position in which I think honorable senators would desire to place the Senate. On that ground alone there is rel v strong reason why we should hesitate to adopt such a motion as this. Looking at the matter from every point of view, I must express my most earnest hope that the motion will be decisively rejected.
– The idea contained in the motion submitted by Senator Higgs is a new one. It proposes a departure from ancient custom, and for that reason probably, if for no other, it meets with the opposition of a considerable number of honorable senators.
– And with the support of some others.
– Unfortunately, we do not appear to be able to approach such questions with a perfectly unbiased mind.
– I can, and I have done so.
– I am not in favour necessarily of any proposal, as some honorable senator has suggested, simply because it is new, but I do believe that in government as in every other relation of life it is possible to do better in the future than we have done in the past. The Minister of Defence said that some one must take the responsibility in connexion with this appointment, and I say that the responsibility should lie with Parliament which represents the people. The Government, a body which some honorable senators appear to be desirous of glorifying, is merely a committee of Parliament.
– That is what some honorable senators are trying to make it.
– That is what it ought to be.
– I direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that under the present system what we have is not government by Parliament, but government bv a. committee of Parliament. I, for one wish to alter, if I possibly can. this condition of affairs. We are here, nominally, as the representatives of the people, sent here to do the business of the people, and yet we hand over all our powers to a certain number of persons whom we call a Government. When this is analyzed we often find that the government of a country is not in the hands of a body of men, but of one man, and if he is a strong man he rules the country, and Parliament is merely a puppet to be worked as he likes.
– He must have the support of Parliament, or he can do nothing.
– If we go a little” deeper we shall probably discover that this one man is in turn very often the puppet of some one else. Senator Mulcahy says that he must be responsible to Parliament, but Parliament will suffer a great many things very often before it will turn a Government out of office. Suppose I were asked to vote to turn the present Government out of office in order that they might be succeeded by some other Government, it is very probable that I should say that the satanic majesty I know is a great deal better than the other fellow I know better. I might be placed in such a position that I would rather bear the ills I was experiencing than fly to others possibly a great deal worse. Parliament ought to take the responsibility of making an appointment of this importance. Senator Trenwith laid very great stress upon the alleged fact that our High Commissioner would not be a representative of Australia in England, but the servant of the Government. I take a very much higher view of the position to be occupied by the High Commissioner than he evidently does. I think that the occupant of the office should represent Australia in the very fullest and strongest fashion. He should be a typical Australian. He ought to be in sympathy with every Australian ideal. He ought to know Australia thoroughly, and what the people want. He ought to be in a position to show the Government and the people of Great Britain what are the Australian ideals with regard to government, trade and commerce, and the relations between the different parts of the Empire. Senator Trenwith claimed that the High Commissioner ought to be the servant of the Government from day to day. We might have in power to-day a Government which favoured a particular policy, and we might have in power next week a Government which had quite a different policy. But I maintain that in the policy of the High Commissioner, so far as the trade relations, the political relations, and so forth between Great Britain and Australia are concerned, there ought to be continuity. And taking that view of the question, I think he ought to be a representative of Australia, rather than the servant of the Government of the day. Senator Playford said that, if this appointment were left in the hands of
Parliament, it would lead to a great deal of lobbying ; that every member would be consulted by the friends of the candidates.
– How much lobbying has been done in the matter already ?
– That is just exactly what I want to know. Instead of the lobbyists being able to concentrate their attention on the few members of a Government and their particular friends, they would have to spread their attentions over all the members of Parliament, and, I think, every one knows that the more attentions of that -kind are dissipated the less effective they are. It is much more easy to “ get at “ seven men than to “get at” in men. If there is any objection to lobbying, this proposal of Senator Higgs ought to be accepted, as it would go a very long way to destroy it. Political exigencies would not weigh very much with Parliament, but we all know what a big influence the exigencies of political life have had in the making of these appointments in the past. Take the appointment of the AgentGeneral for Queensland. He was sent out of the country because he was a thorn in the side of the Government of the day. In each. State exactly the same thing has been done.
– Mention one other instance.
– If I liked to descend to particulars, I could mention, not one, but three or four, probably five, because my own experience is that these appointments have invariably been made the sport and plaything of the political situation of the hour. If a man had to be got rid of somehow, the cry was,” Oh, send him Home to London as Agent-General.” That has been the case in every State. Had we not a scandal in Victoria only recently in connexion with an appointment? The whole thing bristles with corruption. This motion proposes to throw the responsibility of these appointments where it ought to lie - on the shoulders of the representatives of the people. The Minister of Defence complained very bitterly that this was an attack on the power of the Executive. I do not know whether Senator Higgs intended his motion to be ah attack on the power of that body, but, if he did, I shall support him. In the past there has been far too much government by Executive. The time has arrived when we ought to have government, not “by a committee of Parliament, but by
Parliament. In nine cases out of ten, the Government is the master of Parliament, instead of its servant. If Senator Playfords only complaint against this proposal is that it would destroy the power of the Executive, it is a very poor objection, indeed. Senator Trenwith said it would take up too much time if Parliament had to make these appointments. But I do not see any reason why the election of the High Commissioner by Parliament should take up very .much time. If there is to be any discussion at all, it is much better that it should take place before the man is chosen than afterwards. Senator Trenwith objected that if Parliament made the appointment, the Executive would not feel entitled to interfere with the High Commissioner if his actions were not what they ought to be. I do not see very much in that objection, because the Executive would still be responsible to Parliament for his conduct in London, and if it did not act rightly it could be punished. There is no reason why there should be any acrimonious discussion with regard to an appointment df this kind. If the motion were carried, and an appointment had to be made in the manner proposed, it would be a very good thing, not to discuss the merits or demerits of the candidates at all, but to take a vote without debate. I do not favour the proposal for a ballot, because I think that the voting should be open. I believe that Parliament could approach the discharge of this duty with a much freer mind than the Government. Collectively, Parliament is under no obligation to any one, whereas the members of the Government may be. In some instances, the members of States Governments have had no alternative but to appoint a particular person, and solely for political reasons. I trust that the motion, with a slight amendment, will be carried.
– I think that the position taken up by the leader of the Senate is the right one. Assuming that the motion were passed, what would be the position when it was transmitted to the other House, for its concurrence? The members of that House would be asked to declare that the Government for .whose existence they are responsible, and who receive ^12,000 per year for administering the affairs of the Commonwealth, are not fit to be intrusted with the making of an important appointment.
– It will only say that Parliament, as a whole, is more fit than the Government.
– That introduces a very interesting question with which Senator Stewart has dealt somewhat fully; I believe in the system of responsible Government. I hold that a great deal of the mischief which has happened under our legislation has been due to the failure of Governments to accept their full share of responsibility. My great grievance against the late Government was that they accepted office with a miserable majority of one. Rightly or wrongly, we adopted the principle of responsible Government for the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister has the selection of ,his colleagues, and the Government thus formed depends on the support of a majority of Parliament for its existence. What has been the history of the Commonwealth? Time after time, Ave have deputed the functions of responsible Ministers to Select Committees and Royal Commissions. If we intend to abdicate that principle, let us be honest and announce our intention to elect Ministries. But while we put men in a position of power and trust, the least they can expect from us is to be allowed to carry out what we appointed them to do.
– I wish to give the reason for the vote I intend to cast. I am not responsible in any way for the Government holding office. Under ordinary circumstances, I do not know that I should vote for the motion ; but I have not sufficient confidence in the present Government to intrust them with the appointment of the High Commissioner, and, as a Bill is likely to be brought forward this session, I feel constrained to vote with Senator Higgs.
– Senator Macfarlane has . given about the most peculiar reason which has ever been given by an honorable senator for the vote he intends to give.
– It is honest.
– It is honest; but its peculiarity must be apparent to every one. Because the present Government does not possess the confidence of Senator Macfarlane, he intends, to vote for this motion, although he does not believe that the principle involved therein is a good one. That fs the true inwardness of his speech. I should like to support the principle if it could be given’ a general application. So far we have not decided that Ministries shall be elected or that Parliament shall elect responsible officials. I find very great difficulty in treating this particular appointment differently from other appointments.
– Let us make a beginning here.
– It is not a question of making a beginning here, unless we intend to lay down the principle for all time, and I believe that it would work out better in the interest of the people than does the present system. If the proposal had been to establish the principle that all appointments should be made by the two Houses of Parliament sitting together, or separately, it would have commended1 itself to me more than does the present one. For six months in the year members of Parliament are scattered to the remotest corners in Australia. The High Commissioner, like all other officials, must be responsible to somebody during the whole of the year. While Parliament was in recess, virtually he would not be responsible to any body ; practically he would be a free agent until Parliament re-assembled. I think the difficulties in the way of adopting this principle are insuperable. I cannot bring myself to vote for the motion in its present form. It raises a very big issue, which is worthy of being debated for a longer time than is now at our disposal. I cannot separate the appointment of the High Commissioner from the appointment of the Justices of the High Court or of the Public Service Commissioner. I also lean very strongly to the idea that the High Commissioner should be not so much a representative of his own views or those of any Government, but the servant of the people of Australia. The Parliament will instruct its committee, the Ministry, to convey to that officer its views as to his particular work, and the way in which it shall be performed, and if in the recess he has done anything which it considers not to be in the true interests of Australia, then, on re-assembling, it can deal with the Ministry, should thev have failed to db their duty. It is not because the present Government is in power that I take this view. I am unlike Senator Macfarlane in that respect. If the late Government - whose policv I could never discover - had been in power, and had been called upon to make the appointment, if not satisfied I should have shown my dissatisfaction when I had the opportunity. Amongst several names that have been mentioned as those of persons likely to be appointed to this position one or two may rise to the minds of honorable senators in not too favorable a light. There are one or two persons, whom the Government probably know, whose appointment would not meet with the approval of the large majority of the people of Australia. If Ministers like to appoint to this high and responsible position a gentleman who they know would not be favorably regarded by the people of Australia they would have to take the consequences.
– What are they?
– The consequences would probably be the downfall of the Ministry when Parliament met. The r.,lestion is one upon which I have exercised my mind as to how I should vote; but. looking at it in all its lights, and considering the difficulties which present themselves in the event of the appointment being made by Parliament, -and the High Commissioner not being responsible to the Executive, as he certainly ought to be, I come to the conclusion that there are great 1 i s - advantages in the way of carrying out’ the policy advocated by Senator Higgs. For these reasons I cannot support his motion.
– I am not prepared to support the motion, because I do not wish to remove responsibility from the Executive. It appears to me that we are getting away from the principles of responsible government to too great an extent already. Ministries sl-ow too great a disposition to evade their responsibilities. Some honorable senators opposite have spoken as though the High Commissioner, when appointed, would ie-. present Parliament. It is the Executive that represents Parliament, and if they make a bad appointment, and one of which Parliament does not approve, it is very easy for Parliament to tell them so. But I should like it to be understood , that in taking a small part in this debate I am by no means looking forward to the appointment of a High Commissioner. I should regard the appointment of such an officer at the present time as a wicked piece of extravagance, and should oppose it in every way I could. Senator Higgs has mentioned a few of the subjects with which the High
Commissioner would have to deal. Every one of the subjects which he mentioned is at present being dealt with efficiently, I believe, by no less than six Agents-General, representing the six States. We have had a Conference of Premiers in Hobart, which decided most emphatically not to appoint a High Commissioner at the present time, and I have to express my great dissatisfaction that the Government have included such a measure in their programme. The point which I have risen to make in particular is in opposition to an argument that emanated from Senator Matheson. He said that the High Commissioner had to represent Australian sentiment in London, and he instanced the case of the Agent-General for Queensland, who, he said, had misrepresent most gravely the views of the people of that State. Now, I understand that -.he Agent-General in question was purporting to represent views entertained in Great Britain; and .whatever Agent-General or High Commissioner we have. I take it that it is his duty to represent to us, as truthfully as he can, the opinions held in England about finance and other matters with which we have to deal in relation with Great Britain.
– He misrepresented the legislation of Australia.
– I can quite understand that my honorable friend may think so, but, at the same time, the AgentGeneral in question may have been truthfully representing opinions entertained in the old country. I desire to point out that it is we who are representing Australian feeling by our legislation, and we are being judged by our legislation. We are being judged by the black labour section of our Post and Telegraph Act; by our law forbidding immigrants to come to Australia even if they have contracts to work; by the way in which we treat our kanakas, and by other legislation of a similar kind I take it that whenever a High Commissioner goes to London he will not have to represent Australian sentiment in England, which is founded upon our actions at this end. He will have to be a clever man of business. He will have to represent to us the state of English feeling. He will have to do the best he can to consolidate and convert our debts, and, as Senator Trenwith says, not being our representative but our executive officer - our servant - he will have to carry out the wishes, for the time being, of the Executive, which are the wishes, for the time being, of Parliament. For these reasons 1 cannot support the motion, but I hope sincerely that we shall not be called upon to appoint a High Commissioner at all until the States have made up their minds as to what they are going to do with their Agents-General.
Debate interrupted; Orders of the Day called on.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill originated in the House of Representatives, where it was introduced by Mr. Groom, now Minister of Home Affairs. It is, I think, a non-contentious measure. It is a Bill for the purpose of giving a legal Status to contracts entered into between life assurance societies and .the parents of children. This particular class of business is designated industrial assurance, and it can fairly be claimed for it that it has not been generated by the assurance societies. It has grown from the demands and requirements of the people. I am sure that the State will agree that assurance of all kinds is in the nature of thrift ; that provident habits should be encouraged as far as they can be by the Legislature; and that as far as any action, co-operative or otherwise, is taken by the. people for such objects, the Legislature should give legislative effect to it, and provide all the legal safeguards which are necessary for insuring that contracts, entered into are not voided. Practically, the industrial assurance provided for in this Bill is largely in the nature of family burial assurance. It has been the custom of parents, particularly of working people, to assure their children against death for the purpose of providing the unusual expenses required on the decease of a child - that is to say, to provide it with decent burial. This class of assurance has not’ been dealt with in the States of Australia by any Act of Parliament, except so far as it is dealt with by legislation affecting friendly societies. This Bill does not propose to interfere in the slightest degree with friendly society legislation, and the friendly societies, so far as they touch this class of business - and I believe that very few of them do touch it - will not have their rights in any way interfered with. The Act which regulates their doings in the States Will not be affected. Child life assurance is not by any means a new thing. For upwards of fifty years it has been in existence in the United Kingdom, and for over twenty years in Australia. There are, I think, some three societies that undertake the business of child life assurance, and another large society, the Australian Mutual Provident, contemplates entering the field. I am informed on pretty good authority that so far as existing contracts are concerned, in the absence of such a Bill as this, they practically have no legal status, and that the contracts entered into so far could not be successfully contested in a court of law. It will be agreed that that is a serious state of affairs. Of course, I exclude those contracts which have been entered into under the friendly societies’ legislation.
– At what age do assurance contracts become legal ? ‘
– I am given to understand that they become legal over the age of ten, but that in the absence of the provisions contained in this Bill there is no legal contract in Australia in respect of children assured under that age. To show the extent to which child life assurance has taken hold of the people of the United Kingdom, I may mention that there are there 4.000,000 children assured. In Australia there are 70,000 whose lives are assured with the societies now doing business, so that a very large business is being done in these States.
– Does the honorable senator think that it is an advisable thing to have the lives of young children assured ?
– That is a question upon which every honorable senator can form his own opinion. But the fact is, that the lives of children are assured, and if they are to be assured it is far better that there should be legal restrictions.
– Increase the evils if evils there be.
– I do not admit that child life assurance is evil. I think too highly of the Australian people to believe that they would make use of child life assurance for the purposes of infanticide. While in some cases infanti cide may follow, there is also this to be said - that in the absence of any legal provision, and of any power to prevent the assurance of a child’s life for any amount, there lies a possible danger. This Bill lays down the amount, practically fixing it at a sum sufficient for funeral expenses. Consequently, the temptation is removed. As .showing that child life assurance has not led to infanticide since it has been recognised by law, I may state that the tables show that the mortality of children who are assured is less than the average mortality of unassured children. That is an indication that there is not a higher death-rate amongst assured children, and therefore would lead one to assume that children have not been made away with for the purpose of getting the assurance money. I will quote a few figures. I have here a table showing the annual rate of mortality per thousand for children of various ages. It is as follows : -
The American experience is practically the same. The annual rate of mortality per 1,000, as shown by the United States census of 1900, is as follows : - Ages, one to two years, 466 non-assured; 316 assured; two to three, 20-5 non-assured; 146 assured; three to four, 13-2 non-assured; io”2 assured ; four to five, 94 nonassured; 8 assured; five to nine, 52 non-assured ; 44 assured. I find I have not the Australian figures with me. The experience of the Citizens’ Life Assurance Company before the eighteen months ending 30th June, 1904, shows that on the lives of children under ten years of age the average amount paid was ,£3 13s. 3d. From their experience they base the average funeral expenses at £4. 10s. for infants and very young children, but that expense, of course, increases with the age of a child, and the funeral expenses of a child of ten years is comparatively much higher. I may say that the Parliament of the United Kingdom has dealt with this matter, and this
Bill follows largely the legislation of that
Parliament. It varies in some respects which I shall indicate at a later stage, but it is generally framed on similar lines. In 1889 a Select Committee of the British House of Commons was appointed to inquire into this question, and in their report there is the following significant allusion to the subject: -
It must be admitted that insurance for burial expenses is highly valued by the working classes forpurely legitimate reasons, and that an unnecessary hardship would be inflicted on them if it were prohibited. Industrial insurance must be regarded as a means for which at present there is no effective substitute of inducing very large numbers of the working classes to make some provision for burial, or for benefit of survivors, who would otherwise make none.
The Commissioner of the New York Insurance Department said in 1894 - “ Carefully collated statistics prove that the mortality among insured miners is less than the mortality on the general infantile population. The best argument in favour of child insurance is that the system exists. You cannot imagine a system recognised by forty years of legislative consideration, and showing this steady and immense growth, unless it is a benefit. A system which was damaging to the community would have run into the ground years ago.”
As regards previous legislation, also, I may say that I have here a document showing the comparative legislation of the United Kingdom, which reads as follows: -
The law relating to the assurance of the lives of children by friendly societies for the purpose of providing funeral fees, &c, has been in force for many years. But for all practical purposes the Imperial Consolidating Act of 1875 maybe taken as the starting point. The governing principles have been again consolidated in the Friendly Societies Act of 1896 of the Imperial Legislature, and have been adopted by the various States of the Commonwealth, except South Australia, almost in their entirety.
This Bill is framed on the English Act of 1896.
The English Act of 1896 relates merely to friendly societies, but the next succeeding Act of the English Legislature, namely, the Collecting Societies and Industrial Insurance Act of 1896, opens the way as well to friendly societies as to all bodies corporate and incorporate, granting assurances on any one life for a less sum than £20.
This Bill excepts friendly societies from its operation, leaving those bodies to rely on the Acts of the various States in which they are registered. Dealing with the Bill in detail, I may say that clause1 is merely a defining clause, and differs only in verbiage from the Imperial Act. Clause 2 is connected with the schedule, and limits the amount to be paid on the death of a child from £5 to£45.
– How will that clause affect an endowment policy payable on a child attaining the age of twenty-one years ?
– That matter is dealt with by clause 5, under which the Bill will not be applicable to cases in which a person has an insurable interest in the life of a child.
– Is the interest of a father or a mother an insurable interest under this Bill ?
– If it is an insurable interest in the life of a child it will not be interfered with by this Bill, which deals merely with cases in which the insurable interest is in the death of a child. If a child is insured for an amount payable at its death that will come within the scope of the Bill.
– Will it prevent my having an endowment policy payable on a child reaching the age of twenty-one?
– The honorable and learned senator will see that that would be an insurable interest in the life, and not in the death, of a child.
– In that case, the honorable and learned senator would get all the premiums he had paid returned, and nothing more.
– In case of death before the age of ten any one having an insurable interest in the life of a child would get the premiums he had paid plus 4 per cent. returned to him, but no more. The difference between this Bill and the Imperial Act, so far as clause 2 is concerned, is that under the Imperial Act the amount payable is £6 on the death of a child under five years, and £10 on the death of a child over five and under ten years. It will be admitted, I think, that expenses generally in Australia are on a higher scale than in the United Kingdom, and funeral expenses are no exception to the rule. Clause 3 is identical with the provisions of the Imperial Act. Clause 4 and part of clause 5 are also identical with provisions of the Imperial Act, but paragraph b of clause 5 is not contained in that Act. It provides that, where insurance is effected for the benefit of a child, the insurer can, on the death of the child, only receive back premiums and interest, and thus aims at preventing the insurer from profiting by the child’s death. That meets the case referred to by Senator Dobson. The remaining clauses are similar to provisions of the Imperial
Act. As regards the experience of temperance societies that have dealt with this matter, I have here a very interesting letter from the Temperance and General Mutual Life Assurance Society, in which the writer says -
Referring to criticisms made in the House of Representatives last Thursday night upon the motives actuating parents who insured their children’s lives, I ask leave to draw your attention to the following facts : -
This society has in force to-day over 15,000 insurance policies on the lives of children under ten years of age, and pays over 200 claims on them yearly. The average amount of these claims last year was £4 irs., a sum which is devoted in almost every case to paying funeral expenses. In all our experience we have never had a claim made upon us which presented even a suspicion of foul play in order to obtain the insurance money, and it is abundantly clear that the searching inquiries made by insurance companies into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of insured persons would necessarily act as an additional deterrent upon any one contemplating such an action.
If any member of the House will take the trouble to inquire as to the cost of a funeral to any person who has no ready cash, and must pay for it on the credit or time payment plan, and see how much expense and humiliation is saved to the person who pays cash out of the .proceeds* of an industrial policy, he will learn that this is a boon which should not be taken away, even if there were some authentic instances of abuse of the system. In the absence, however, of any genuine case of evil practices in this country, so far as we know, who are in daily contact with the business, the unjustifiable charges that have been made should not be allowed to affect the question at issue.
I may mention that assurance societies conducting this particular class of business adopt a somewhat different method of collecting premiums from that adopted1 by the ordinary life assurance societies. Honorable senators are aware that in the ordinary course a man gets a notice yearly or halfyearly, as the case may be, that his premium is due, and some people have considerable difficulty in raising the necessary money to pay those’ premiums, with the consequence that a policy is very often allowed to lapse. These industrial assurance societies adopt the method of collecting weekly or fortnightly from persons doing business with them a very small sum, which is not felt by those who have to pay it. The collector calls at the houses of assurers for these small premiums, and this method has the effect of preventing the lapse of policies. That is undoubtedly an incentive to people to make provision for the exigencies of a time which unfortunately comes to all, and which where such provision is not made is attended with greater sorrow and discomfort. I ask honorable senators to notice that in clause 2 there is a limitation of the amount payable on the death of children. They will find that the amounts range from ^5 to £45. Objection may be taken to the higher amount allowed in the case of children of greater age, but it will be seen that if the higher amount were permitted in the case of children who were very young there would be some danger of giving the persons effecting the insurance an interest in the death of the child, and there might be in that way a premium given to infanticide. It will be generally accepted that as the age of a child increases the danger of a parent doing away with it decreases. A child, who has reached the age of seven or eight years is to some extent able to look after himself, and persons would take a very great risk in attempting to do away with a child1 of that a.ge in . order to secure the insurance money. There seems to me to be a justification for an increased amount as the age of the child increases, in view also of the increased expense which the funeral of a child of eight or ten years of age would entail. Under clause 4 provision is made for safeguarding the premium, to guard against people making away with children in order to secure the sum assured. Any one reading the clause will come to the conclusion that it ‘ would be a dangerous thing for any one to attempt to obtain the money under such circumstances. They have to pass the registrar, the medical certificate has to be presented, and the registrar and managers of assurance societies are so compelled to work together that detection would be almost certain. I may explain again that under clause 5 this Bill would not interfere with an endowment policy or a policy representing ‘an insurable interest in the life of a child.
– What is an insurable interest in the life of a child?
– It is where some person is interested in keeping a child alive. In the case of an endowment policy payable at a certain age, the parent is interested in keeping the child alive in order to get the sum assured for himself or for the child.
– Some endowment policies are for .£100, payable at twentyone, or sooner if the child dies.
– In those cases the. Bill provides that if the child dies before reaching the age of ten years the only sum payable shall be an amountrepresenting the actual premiums paid to date, with 4 per cent. added.
– Then all the tables of endowment policies will have to be altered.
– Not necessarily. It will be for the insurance company to decide whether they will alter them. This measure has the approval of the insurance companies. The provision to which I have just referred was not in the Bill originally, but was suggested in the House of Representatives.
– It is in the favour of the insurance companies.
– I do not think it is, because it would not have the effect of voiding existing contracts.
– It ought not to do that, but otherwise it is in their favour.
– People entering into these contracts in the future will do so in the full knowledge that in the event of the child dying before the age of ten years they can only get back the premiums paid, with 4 per cent. added. There is no injustice in that. If we were to permit anything else the whole intention of the Bill would be defeated, because persons could, by taking out an endowment policy, evade the essential provisions of the measure.
– Unless the companies alter their tables and make some reductions we shall be paying for benefit of which this Bill.I will deprive us.
-As I have said, any person entering into an agreement of this kind after the passing of this Bill will do so with a knowledge of its provisions, and the insurance companies will no doubt frame their policies in accordance with the law.
– They should reduce their premiums a little.
– It is probable that the competition between them would bring about that result. The point to which Senator Dobson has referred does not seem to be an argument against this provision, but rather proves that such a provision is necessary if the Bill is to be of any use whatever. Clause 6 deals with penalties for offences against the Bill, and these are necessary if it is to have any effect. I take it that the Bill will be considered a non-contentious measure. I put the issue to the Senate in this way. This Parliament should do one of two things. It should either entirely prohibit industrial insurance, or, if it is to be allowed, pass a measure similar to this to provide that it shall be carried on on safe and proper lines. If the Senate believes that such insurance should be allowed, I feel sure that it will recognise the necessity of passing the Bill. In the other House, Mr. Groom met with a very friendly reception when he moved its second reading. In Committee some slight amendments were made, but practically the Bill passed on the voices after some discussion. I ask the Senate to pass the Bill as early as possible, in order that industrial insurance in the Commonwealth may, be placed on a legal basis.
-I believe that a large number of persons in the Commonwealth think it is desirable to have a system of insurance for children, but I agree with Senator Pearce that sometimes it is subject to abuse. I am not in favour of the system of insuring children at all, because it lends itself to abuse. But as we are likely to have’ a continuation of the system, it is very necessary that we should have some legislation to minimize any evils which may be incidental thereto. For that reason I intend to vote for the second reading of the Bill, but I believe it would be better to prohibit the insurance of children at all.
– I think we are embarking very lightheartedly upon serious legislation. This is a subject with which hitherto the States have dealt exclusively. We are now asked to legislate, not to the full extent of our legislative power in this regard, but solely, in relation to infants up to ten years of age. A Bill of this sort, overriding as it does States legislation, ought to have been brought in by the Government, and the views of the Attorney-General ought to have been made known. It deals with a subject which a lay member cannot be expected to understand. I have taken the trouble to ask several honorable senators about the effect of various clauses, but I have not met one who is really grounded on the subject of the Bill, or knows what effect it will have on State legislation. I am still far from understanding the class of insurance which is exempted from its operation by paragraph a of clause 5. I thoroughly understand the operation of an endowment policy, and that is apparently, dealt with in paragraph b, but I .cannot understand what is meant by paragraph a -
Nothing in this Act shall apply-
to any insurance on the life of a child of any age when the person insuring has an interest in the life of the person insured.
When a parent insures the life of a child, even for the sum of £5, he becomes interested in its life.
– So far as the policy is concerned, Ke has an interest in the death of the child, but paragraph a applies to an event which is contingent upon the life, not the death of the child.
– That does away with one of the apparent objections I had to the Bill. I think that the amount insured for the first three years ought not to exceed the sum of ^5. I discussed the matter with Senator Pearce, and the difference seemed so trifling that I do not plopose to move an amendment in that direction.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Nothing in this Act shall apply -
to any insurance on the life of a child of any age when the person insuring has an interest in the life of the person insured.
– I should like Senator Pearce to explain what is the meaning of the words “ has an interest in the life of the person insured.” Do they simply mean a parent who by virtue of that fact has an interest in the life of the person insured?
– He may be interested as a guardian.
– Supposing that an unnatural father insured the life of his child for £I 00, and that by neglect he brought about its death, would he be regarded as a person having “ an interest in the life of the person insured?”
– No ; he has an interest in the death of the child.
– I would ask the honorable senator to mention a case in which a person would have an interest in the life of a child.
– When the Bill was introduced into the other House, clause 5 did not contain para.graph b, and it was inserted ‘in order to meet an objection which Mr. Glynn had raised. Mr. Crouch cited a case where a person had an interest amounting to £2,000 in a child, not as a parent, but as a guardian, and that interest was that the child should live to the age of twentyone years. Until paragraph b was inserted in clause 5, . that case was not met. It provides that if a child should die before it reaches the age of ten years the amount to be paid back to the guardian, or parent, or person having an insurable interest in its life, shall be the premiums paid, plus interest thereon, at a rate not exceeding 4 per cent. For instance, in a case similar to that cited by Mr. Crouch, the guardian could not demand the whole sum of ,£2,000, but he would receive the premiums which he had paid, together with the interest thereon.
– I can illustrate very simply how a person may have an insurable interest in the life of a child, even although he is not a parent. A week after I was born a lease of valuable lands was taken out for the lives of three persons then living, of whom I was one. The person who took out the lease had undoubtedly an insurable interest in my living, and absolutely no interest in my death. At the present time I am the only one living who stands between him and the lease of the land, and he still has an. insurable interest in my living. There are hundreds of similar cases which could be cited. There can be no danger from the lives of children being insured where the insurer has an interest in their living. The whole design of this Bill is to limit the evils which may accrue from a system of insuring children by persons having an interest in their death. In view of the good progress which has been made with the Bill, I would suggest to Senator Pearce that he should consent to report progress now, in order that honorable senators may have an opportunity to consider this matter a little more.
– I do not think there is any occasion to report progress. Senator Pearce is quite entitled to pass the Bill through Committee to-day, and if any points should afterwards suggest themselves to anyone before it is read a third time, they can be considered. I am deeply interested in these policies of endowment. I know scores of parents who, on my advice, have insured the lives of their children for £100, payable at the age of twenty-one years, in order that, in the case of a son, they would have money to apprentice him to a trade or pay a premium to a lawyer, or start him in business, or, in the case of a daughter, to provide her with a trousseau, or start her in business. This clause might, to some little extent, cut down an endowment policy, which is also an insurance policy now, because if the child should die under that age, the representative would get the whole of the money. Under this clause, I understand that a parent could only get the premiums paid, together with interest at a rate not exceeding, 4 per cent. Is it wise to cut down a parent’s insurance in that way ? If the insurance companies approve of the Bill, do they mean to insure lives on the same terms as previously, without reducing the premium? We can only frame a Bill on principles which we think are sound, and leave the insurance companies to do what is a fair thing. I should like Senator Pearce to give further consideration to this clause in its application to endowment policies.
: - It seems to me that the explanation given by Senator Pearce does not properly elucidate the matter raised by Senator Matheson any more than does the illustration given by Senator Givens. Both those honorable senators pointed out that the distinction is between an interest in the life of a child and an interest in its death. I cannot conceive how a person can have a monetary interest in the death of a child without at the same time having an interest in its life. It is not a question of an interest in. the life or death of a child if the word “interest” is being used other than in the sense of advantage. So long as Senator Givens lives, the person he referred to enjoys an advantage, consequently he has an interest in the continuation of the life. He has also an interest, but perhaps not an advantage in the shortening of the life. Is the word “interest” in this paragraph to be taken to mean an advantage or a gain, or is it used in its wider sense, as an interest one way or other?
– An insurable interest means an advantage.
– If it is an interest in the life, it must also be an interest in the death. The word does not always mean an interest to advantage. It is used here without any definition. The words “gain “ or “ advantage “ are not used, and the word “interest” must be taken in the fullest sense. It is often restricted to mean gain or advantage. A person may be interested in a . circumstance which may happen very disastrously to him, but he is none the less interested in it because the possibilities are disastrous. It does not necessarily mean that a person can only be interested in a thing when he is likely to gain an advantage. Senator Pearce said that in the other House Mr. Glynn drew attention to the absence of paragraph b, and that Mr. Crouch cited a case where a guardian had an interest in the life of a child. That seems at once to show that it means something different from the explanation given here to-day, because paragraph b goes on to provide that nothing in the Bill shall apply- to any insurance effected by a person in loco parentis as an advancement of the child in any case in which the amount payable to such person on the death of the child under twenty-one years of age does not exceed the total amount actually paid by such person in respect of premiums on such insurance.
That refers to a person in the position of the father of the child. It seems, reading that paragraph in conjunction with paragraph a, that the interest referred to there is not the insurable interest that is referred to by Senator Mulcahy, and it is not an interest of a character referred to by Senator Pearce and Senator Givens.
– Does the honorable and learned senator mean that “ interest “ means both a gain and a loss?
– It may have reference to a possible gain or a possible loss.
– Suppose one has an interest in a bank or a company ; does that mean that one has shares or no shares?
– It may mean that one has shares, which, however, may not be of advantage to the possessor. Is is impossible for a person to have an interest in the life of another person, as apart from the death of that person ; because the life is absolutely terminated by the death and the interest must be in both. It is impossible to distinguish between interest in the life of a person and in his death.
– Ought we not in paragraph b to include the parents, and then at the end to say what the “ interest “ is ?
– I think so. But I am not responsible for this Bill.
– A colleague of the honorable and learned senator is responsible for it.
– He was not a colleague of mine when the Bill was introduced, and the measure has never been before the Government. I think that the explanation that Senator Pearce gave was the correct one, and after hearing his explanation it struck me that paragraph a was intended to mean something similar to paragraph b, because of the use of the words “ effected by a person in loco parentis.”
– It seems to me that paragraph b limits the word “interest” in paragraph a.
– That appears to me to be so, because, in the next clause, provision is made that the measure shall not apply to any insurance made by a person in the position of a parent. The original idea, perhaps, was to make the question of interest in the life a question of parental interest, and not a question of insurable interest, or monetary interest. If that be the intention, we should make it clearer.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I think the difficulty could be got over by inserting the word “insurable” before the word “interest.”
Debate resumed from 16th August(vide page 991), on motion by Senator Sir Josiah Symon -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Givens had moved, by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “be” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ not further considered until evidence that the Parliament of South Australia has formally consented to the Commonwealth constructing that portion of the proposed railway which would be in South Australian territory has been laid on the table of the Senate.”
– In supporting this Bill, I think I am justified in pointing out that the opposition to it has been of quite a remarkable nature. First, we have had those who are opposed to it on parochial grounds, and for political reasons only. Then we have had those who have posed as experts, and who at one time may have possessed some knowledge of railway construction in this State ; but who, while they may have kept pace with the Age newspaper, have not kept pace with the age in keeping abreast of modern methods of railway construction. The opposition has been remarkable in many respects. I heard one honorable senator say that he intended to oppose the Bill because Sir John Forrest had opposed Mr. Reid! That is truly a remarkable state of affairs ! While I do not take up the ground that has been taken up by Senator Smith in appearing to apologize for the measure, I think I am justified in mentioning these points, in order that the people of Australia may be able to see what kind of. men they send to legislate for them, and the great efforts they put forward to grasp the details of proposals that are brought before Parliament. Senator Dobson commenced a speech in opposition to the proposal last year, and finished it this year. In the course of his utterance he brought out a number of what, I suppose, he would call “ points “ ; but I would suggest that there is very little in them indeed. One of his “points “ is that we have not got the consent of South Australia to the construction of the line. But, so far as I am concerned, if any great question comes before this House, and the consent of a State has to be obtained, if such a consent is given as is implied in the words that we had from the South Australian Government. I shall regard it as sufficient. In addition to at one time occupying a position of a public nature in Western Australia, I was a member of the Executive of the Federal League of that State, and therefore speak with some amount of authority in. regard to what the people of that State understood in reference to the construction of the transcontinental line. At the time the campaign started, there was keen opposition to joining the Federation on the part of a large number of people, led by the late Mr. F. C. B.. Vosper, a member of the State Legislature, whose opinions carried a considerable amount of weight. He maintained that before Western Australia entered Federation we should have a definite promise that the railway would be constructed.
– Nothing parochial about that !
– No, it was national. Any one who knew the late Mr. Vosper is. aware that in all his acts and throughout his career he was essentially national. He was a man who commanded a considerable amount of influence, and whose views affected many votes. At one time, Mr. “Vosper belonged to the executive of the Federal League, but failing to get a definite promise in reference to the construction of the railway, he went over to the anti-billites, -and started a campaign against Federation. At about the time when it was very doubtful whether the people of Western Australia would join the Federation or not letters were written to prominent men in Australia in reference to this question. Amongst the replies received was one from Mr., now Sir Frederick, Holder, who was then Premier of South Australia. The letter has been read to the Senate, and honorable senators are aware of its contents. That letter convinced the people of Western Australia that South Australia, at all events, would he a consenting party to the construction of this line. Other eminent statesmen - grand Federalists - in Australia also expressed the opinion that the line should be constructed, and probably would be constructed at an early date. As one who spoke frequently on the subject of Federation, I always made use of this promise to the people, and they, believing that the railway would be constructed, joined the Federation. There can be no doubt that many thousands of votes were changed because of the letter written hy Sir Frederick Holder; and that was only one amongst many important letters that were received. If some honorable senators are not going to vote for this line because of political changes, or because their pet politicians are not in office, all I can say is, that that is a very peculiar ground for opposing it. Much of the opposition on the part of some of my friends of the Labour Party has been aimed at Sir John Forrest. Let me say, first of all, that Sir John Forrest is not Western Australia. This line is not being advocated for the convenience of Sir John Forrest. I give to that gentleman the very greatest credit - which is due to him - as one who has taken a great part in the public life of Western Australia. But he is not . the State, and the line is not desired in his interests. Every public body In Western Australia has declared in favour of the line. It has been said that the workers of Western Australia do not desire the railway. Some of the Queenslanders have said that.
– The Queenslanders say nothing of the kind.
– They do, with the exception of Senator Dawson. By-and-by some of those honorable senators will ask us to grant an extension of the sugar bounties to the Queensland growers. Let me point out the difference between the attitude of the Labour Party in Queensland and that adopted by the Labour Party of Western Australia.
– That will not help the case.
– I think it will. In Queensland recently, as also in Western Australia, labour congresses have been held. I do not remmeber that at the Labour Congress in Queensland a resolution was passed dealing with the question of sugar bounties. I think I shall be safe in saying that no such resolution was passed. In Western Australia last month, however, a Labour Congress was held representing 25,000 trade unionists, and attended by 11 1 delegates. That congress unanimously passed a resolution, which can be found in the West Australian or the Morning Herald, two newspapers published in the capital of the State, on nth July. The following was the resolution : -
That this Congress affirms that the true sentiment of Federation of the Australasian States will never be consummated until the TransAustralian railway line be constructed, and urges upon the Federal Government to authorize the survey of the route at the earliest possible date.
Labour congresses, as a rule, do not go outside matters of a political nature, or those dealing with work and wages. But this congress saw fit to pass, the resolution which I have read. I know of no public body in Western Australia, whether trade union, chamber of commerce, or chamber of manufactures, which has ever passed any resolution requesting the representatives of that State in this Parliament to raise a voice against Western Australia paying her share of the sugar bounties. I have never been asked to do that. I have looked over the Queensland files containing the political speeches made by candidates contesting the last Federal elections in that State, and I do not find that this railway was a burning question during the elections. I can find no mention of it.
– There was absolutely no mention of it.
– Yet we find representatives of Queensland in the Federal Parliament amongst the strongest opponents of the line.
– Surely if they have no particular mandate from the electors they are entitled to exercise their own judgment in the matter.
– Certainly; but I do not think they ought to belittle the effort of Western Australian representatives, and set aside fair arguments supporting the proposed survey.
– I can assure the honorable senator that the question was mentioned during the Federal elections in Queensland.
– I went round with the honorable senator, and I never heard it mentioned.
– Then the honorable senator must have been deaf.
– I went round once with the honorable senator, and once with Senator Turley.
– I went to many places to which Senator Dawson did not go.
– At all events, those conducting the Queensland newspapers do not appear to have thought it worth while to record any of the utterances of Queensland candidates for the Federal Parliament on this question.
– Senator Stewart talked protection all the time.
– I do not know that Queensland would be rendered bankrupt if called upon to pay her share of the expenditure proposed. Her share of the ex.pense of this survey would amount to about £2,500, spread over from two to five years. I do not know that that would hurt that great State very much. If this expenditure would disclose the vast resources of Western Australia, and’ ultimately benefit the Commonwealth, Queensland representatives might well <agree on behalf of their State to it.
– Will the honorable senator tell us what Western Australia will pay towards it?
– Would it matter very much to the honorable senator?
– No; it would be too small.
– If Western Australia adopted the same parochial attitude as Queensland in this matter, some objection would be raised from that State to the payment of the sugar bounties. I am not grumbling because Western Australia has to pay its share of the sugar bounties, but I refer to that as something which that
State does for Queensland without complaint.
– She does that in support of a big policy of White Australia, and not for Queensland alone.
– We ask honorable senators to build this railway in furtherance of a defence policy.
– I can also refer to the question of defence. We have a garrison established at Thursday Island, towards the upkeep of which Western Australia pays ,£1,000 per annum. Queenslanders will no doubt be prepared to urge that there is also a garrison at Albany, but Queensland’s share of the cost of the garrison at Albany is only £600 If the figures were the other way, “it is probable that we should find some Queensland representatives growling that Queensland should have to pay ,£1,000 for the upkeep of a garrison in Western Australia, whereas they only receive from Western Australia .£600 for the upkeep of a garrison in Queensland).
– We do not take so parochial a view.
– The answer is that defence is a Federal matter, and the construction of this railway is essentially a State matter.
– We say that it is a Federal matter, and, further, that it is essential for the defence of the Commonwealth. Senator Smith quoted some figures bearing on the sugar bounties, and I find that Western Australia contributed to the sugar bounties for the years 1902-3-4 about £13,000. It is estimated that her contribution to the same fund for 1905 will be something over ,£7,000, and’ if the payment of these bounties is extended for, say, four years longer, Western Australia wilt probably have paid for this purpose £70,000, or a little more.
– Does Western Australia pay that money solely to benefit Queensland, or because she believes in a certain policy?
– Because she believes that a certain national policy is involved, and we urge that a national policy is involved when we ask that there should be some inquiry concerning the construction of this railway. We are merely asking for a survey, with a view to a proper inquiry. I at once concede that if, after the survey is carried out, it is found inadvisable to build the railway, we should leave it alone.
– That is a good concession.
– I am pleased to hear Senator Styles make, some admission, because the honorable senator is not allowed to make many admissions in support of this line. Other methods adopted to prevent a vote on this question have been somewhat remarkable. Honorable senators will recollect the way in which it was talked out last session, and they know that when the attempt was made to bring it on for consideration this session a point of order was raised that it was unconstitutional.
– Honorable senators cannot read the Constitution without noting that point. It stares them in the face.
– Let me recall the manner in which the point of order was brought forward. When the motion to restore the Bill to the paper was called on, Senator Symon, who had charge of this Bill last session, called on another honorable senator to get up quickly, and waved his hand towards him. The action must have been noticed by every honorable senator present, and, at all events, Senator Symon’s voice was heard all over this chamber calling upon an honorable senator to get up. The enthusiasm with which honorable senators from Queensland have attacked this Bill is peculiar.
– Is the honorable senator referring to honorable senators who are so anxious to have the question settled on its merits ?
– Yes. I do not suppose that what I have to say will alter any vote to be taken on this measure, but I express the hope that while I am a member of the Senate, working with a party, honorable senators who have opposed this measure will exhibit similar enthusiasm in support of measures which that party may desire to have passed by-and-by. Sir John Forrest received a letter, portion of which was published in the newspapers, and an honorable senator from Tasmania called the attention of the Senate and of the Government to it by a question. The honorable senator must have known that this was a private communication. I pronose to read the letter, and it will at once be seen that it is a private communication.
– Why, then, is it made use of if it is not intended te influence honorable senators?
– If I receive information which I consider useful. I am justified in handing it over to the press for publi cation. Every honorable senator will do that in connexion with any question with which he is’ interested. 1 have not consulted Sir John Forrest on the subject, but that right honorable gentleman evidently had some conversation with Mr. Gwynneth about the construction of this line, and following that conversation Mr. Gwynneth sent him the following letter : -
Referring to our last conversation as to the cost of constructing the western union railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, I have gone into the matter, and find it can be done for ^’3,700,000, provided -
First, that my route going south of the Gawler Ranges, via Fowler’s Bay and Eucla, is adopted.
Second, that the number of sleepers will be reduced to 2,000, and the quantity of ballast to 1,800 cubic yards per mile.
Third, that the Western Australian Government will carry rails and sleepers required at the Kalgoorlie end at a price not exceeding 20 per cent, above the actual cost of the hauling.
I am aware, of course, no offer can be obtained, but, as showing my confidence of the above estimate being sufficient, I would be prepared, if called upon, to provide ample security for the satisfactory completion of the work -for the sum stated.
Believe me, your sincerely,
– What nonsense that is.
– Mr. Gwynneth is more up to date in his knowledge of railway construction than is my honorable friend Senator Styles.
– As the honorable senator brings this gentleman forward as a witness, I suppose we are entitled to form our estimate of him from his past career?
– Certainly, and it will be found to do him considerable honour.
– Is he a capitalist that he can talk in this airy way ?
– Notwithstanding the statements of honorable senators, I can say that there are firms of contractors at the present time who are willing to undertake the construction of the line at the price suggested by Mr. Gwynneth.
– I advise the honorable senator to ask some man with capital toagree to do so.
– I can inform the honorable senator that there are three or four contracting firms possessing perfectly organized plants who are prepared to put as much capital into the construction of the railway as my honorable friend did at any time during his career.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that they would do so on the information now to hand?
– No; they would require a survey.
– Then how can this gentleman say what the line is going to cost?
– The contractors to whom I refer believe it can be done for the price he names. Senator Millen has said that honorable senators should be allowed to form their estimate of Mr. Gwynneth’s conclusions by a reference to his past career. That is so, but I do not -forget that exception was taken to the capacity of the commission consisting of five engineersinchief, from different States, who reported upon this question. Honorable senators who had some experience of railway construction twenty-five years ago, question the knowledge of those men. Senator Dobson ventured to say that he believed that in every particular the estimates which those officials put before the Senate were grossly understated.
– ‘Hear, hear.
– Why does the honorable and learned senator say that five gentlemen, occupying most important positions in the various States, would submit grossly understated estimates?
– Not intentionally.
– Would the honorable and learned senator use that kind of language if he thought it had not been intentionally done?
– Did the honorable member ever hear of an estimate for a big public work that was not exceeded when the work was carried out?
– Where public works have been- carried out by contract, I believe that many items have been added to the original estimate.
– Can the honorable senator mention one carried out by day labour within the estimated cost?
– ‘Yes, the Coolgardie water scheme.
– Our engineerinchief in South Australia never had his estimates exceeded.
– I propose to consider a few figures which have been submitted, not in order to adversely criticise them, but in order to support the statement that in their estimates the members of the commission were careful to allow a fairly large margin. They said that the probable cost of the line would be £4,SS9>000- Socalled experts who have given -the Senate the .benefit of their experience, and Senator Styles for one, say that the line will, cost somewhere between £[7,000,000 and’ £8,000,000. The honorable senator probably based his estimate on the cost of lineshe knew something about. Perhaps hisestimate was based on the cost of the line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek.
– No; they cannot becompared at all.
– Because the country isaltogether different. The Port Darwin line: was constructed at an expensive time and: in an expensive way. It cost £[7,000 a. mile.
– I find that it cost £7,402 per mile.
– And it was constructed1 by Chinamen at that.
– It is true that Chinamen were employed in its construction. I. suggest that if Senator Styles knows anything about the country on the Port Darwin* line, he will know that it is worse country for railway construction than we expect to> find on this proposed survey.
– This line, at the samerate, would cost about ,£8,000,000. Thehonorable senator will find that £[7,400 per” mile for 1,100 miles of railway is, roughly,. £[8,000,000.
- Senator Styles willi admit that at the time the Port Darwin line, to which I have referred, was constructed, engineering was not- nearly so> far advanced as it is to-day, and the facilities for railway construction were not sogreat as they are to-day. It is thereforereasonable to suppose that the proposed! line can be constructed at a very much, cheaper rate than the line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek. There is another line,, that from Hergot Springs to Odnadatta, which was constructed for £[4,752 per mile. Does Senator Styles contend that that was. an expensive line?
– It was, and that linedoes not compare with the line now proposed.
– I can inform the honorable senator that on the route of that linewhite ants were found to be so numerous that steel sleepers, costing 12 s. each, had” to be used, and concrete had to be used toa very large extent instead of timber. Again, owing to tropical floods, extra waterways had to be provided for, and all these- things largely added to the cost of the line.
– One of the cheapest lines in Queensland - the Croydon line - is built on steel sleepers.
– I admit that these lines are not comparable at all, and the line now proposed would not cost so much.
– I suggest that the honorable senator based his estimate of the cost of the proposed line on the cost of these lines.
– I said that the proposed line would cost£5,000,000.
– The honorable senator said that it would cost between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000.
– I said it would cost over £5,000,000. When the line was first mooted I suggested that.
– But since then he has declared that the cost would be from seven to eight million pounds, perhaps more. I can quote the cost of lines with which he has been connected, or which he had in his mind when he made his first estimate of the cost of this trans-continental line per mile. Until I mentioned the fact here, he intended to stand by that estimate.
– If the estimate of the honorable senator is not based on this experience, on what is it based ? It cannot be based on any other experience, because he has not had any.
– On the cost of the Port Darwin line per mile.
– Another reason why the cost of these particular lines was raised by such a large amount was because horses were unable to work there, and mules had to be imported from California by the contractors at a cost of from £70 to £90 each. Similar difficulties were experienced on the line from Hergott Springs to Oodnadatta. Will the honorable senator give an idea as to why the proposed line should cost as much as he estimated? Senator Fraser, whose opinion on most questions we value highly, also submitted an estimate of the cost of the transcontinental line, because he had had large experience as a railway contractor. How long is it since he had anything to do with railway construction ? Twenty-three years !
-The line from Port Augusta to Farina was the cheapest line ever made in Australia twenty-three years ago.
-I have some figures relating to the construction of that line which, with the honorable senator’s permission, I should like to use.
– The last experience of the honorable senator with railway construction dates back about twenty-three years. Need a man be an engineer to realize the enormous strides which have been made since then in railway construction and engineering possibilities?
– Since then wages have gone up, and hours have shortened.
– Surely the honorable senator does not suggest that that is the secret of it.
– Twenty-five years ago they were working ten hours, but now they work only eight hours.
– The method of sidecutting, tunnelling, and doing almost everything, has become much cheaper than it was in those days.
SenatorMillen. - Is there any tunnelling to be done on the transcontinental line?
– No, but I am pointing out that certain lines were constructed when engineering skill in that respect was hot nearly so good as it is now. The cost of railway construction in those days was greater than it is in these days, because they had to import mules, and use steel rails and cement, where wood would have done but for the presence of white ants. Those difficulties will not be met with in the construction of the transcontinental line.
– Can the honorable senator give us any idea as to what the wages will be in this waterless country?
– I do not admit that it is waterless in the sense in which the honorable and learned senator means.
– I am judging by the cost of the two bores put down by Mr. Castella.
– In his report, Mr. Castella says -
Boring for water at site No. 2, sixty miles from the coast and thirty north of Madura, 7th September, 1902, and water was struck at a depth of 411 feet on 19th September, 1902. The total depth bored being 430 feet. The water here was excellent stock water, and even fit for human consumption.
This bore has since been equiped with a pump, boiler and engine, and a large Metter’s storage tank.
Boring operations were commenced January, 1903, and completed in January, 1904. Water suitable for stock being struck at a depth of 2,101 feet, the flow being 70,000 gallons.
– Will the honorable senator kindly tell us what that expedition cost?
– That is £550 a bore.
– That is very cheap.
– They never put a bore down there for that price.
– I wish to remind Senator Fraser of the prices which he had to pay when his firm constructed certain lines, and the prices which he would have to pay to-day. When the firm of Barry, Brooks, and Fraser constructed the Port Augusta to Farina railway the cuttings cost from 2s. 6d. to 5s. 3d. per cubic yard, but now the work could be done for 2s. 3d. per cubic yard. For side-cuttings the firm paid1s. 8d. per cubic yard, but the work could be done to-day at from10d. to1s.
– In Queensland it was done for 8d. per cubic yard forty years ago.
– That only goes to show that the honorable senator should not estimate the cost of the transcontinental railway by the inflated cost which was incurred in the construction of the Gums line. I would suggest that certain honorable senators have based their estimate of cost on the very high prices which were paid twenty or thirty years ago. Although a bridge may not be wanted on the transcontinental line, still provision is made by the five engineers in their estimate of £4,000,000. In the construction of the Port Augusta to Farina railway the firm of Barry, Brooks, and Fraser had to pay from £30 to £33 per ton for the ironwork. In these days it could be obtained and worked under better conditions at from £18 to £22 per ton.
– We had hardly any iron-work to do.
– In their estimate of the cost of constructing the transcontinental line the five engineers have provided for such a contingency, and if that item is deducted, the cost of the line will be still further reduced. These items go to make up the heavy cost of £7,500 per mile. If Senator Fraser based his calculation on the cost per mile of other lines, why does he repudiate it now?
– Because it was a schedule contract.
– I suppose that some plate-laying had to be done.
– Certainly, and plenty of it.
– The plate-laying on that line cost 2s. 6d. per yard, but todayit could be done for1s. 3d. Ballasting, which then cost 5s., is now done for 2s. 6d. per cubic yard. In the estimate of the five engineers there is provision made for earthworks. Take the case of a recent railway, namely, the one from Tailem Bend to Pinaroo. An unsuccessful tenderer’s price for the earth-work on that line was £160 per mile. I think it will be generally agreed that the earthworks on the transcontinental line will not be so heavy as on thatline.
– It is as level as a table.
– Although in that case £160 per mile was not the lowest tender for the earthworks, yet in the case of the transcontinental line the engineers estimate the cost at £280 per mile.
– In one place for about fifty miles they have a number of sand-hills to go through.
– Taking the good with the bad, I think it will be found that £280 per mile is a very liberal estimate, and compared with the Tailem Bend to Pinaroo line it is exceptionally liberal. Supposing that the cost of the earthworks, instead of £280, or so low as £160, was £220 per mile, that would mean a total saving of £66, 000 on the estimate of the five engineers. Again, take their estimate of £150 a mile for bridges and culverts. On the Tailem Bend to Pinaroo line £14 a mile was not the lowest tender. If we estimate the cost at £80 a mile, that will reduce the estimate of the engineers by £77,000 on that item alone. The engineers estimate that 2,600,000 sleepers, or 2,300 sleepers per mile, will be used on the line. The average number of sleepers per mile in New South Wales is 1,900, while in Victoria it varies from 1,850 to 2,050.
– Is the honorable senator criticising the suggestion of the five engineers now?
– No, I am pointing out that the engineers have been liberal in framing their estimate, and that the statement of their critics that the line would cost , £8,000,000 or thereabouts is not correct. Knowing that there were some difficulties to be encountered, and not possessing; all the information which they needed, the engineers made provision in their estimate for any contingency which might arise.
– If the sleepers are very few in number the rails must be very heavy, so that nothing will be gained.
– Would the honorable senator as an expert advocate the use of very heavy rails ?
– Certainly; they are used everywhere now.
– Then the honorable senator is opposed to the best engineers.
– They are taking up light rails now and putting down heavy ones.
– Not more than 80 lb. in weight.
– They are putting down 100-lb. rails.
– It is distinctly laid down that too heavy or rigid a rail is wrong, and should not be used.
– The honorable senator is going back seventy years.
– I am quoting the experience of England to-day, as it is set out by engineers.
– Even a medium rail would not be sufficient to carry the enormous body of traffic that the honorable senator predicts.
– If the rail was too heavy and rigid it would not serve the purpose as well as would a rail of a lighter character. Too rigid a rail is not wanted on this line.
– The heavier the better.
– Does the honorable senator lay it down as a theory that the heavier the rail the better?
– Not the heavier the better, surely.
– See how these doctors disagree ! I say that the engineer who maintains in these days that the heavier the rail the better, either does not understand the question of railway construction, or else he is a little behind the times.
– Fifty years ago they commenced with so-lb. rails, and now they go up to 100-lb. rails.
– And they will go higher yet.
– I would advise the honorable senators who interrupt to read other engineers’ suggestions as to rails, plates, and sleepers. I suppose it is desirable that we should not lessen to any ‘ great extent the number of sleepers to be used in the construction of this line, but we can reduce it if need be, and, in view of the experience of New South Wales and Victoria, considerably. If sleepers on this proposed line were put down oh the Victorian basis, with the same number per mile, we should save about 400 sleepers per mile, or a saving of £110 per mile; a total saving on 1,133 miles of £124,000. In pointing out these particulars, I am not adversely criticising the figures of the engineers. I am simply trying to show that the honorable senators who have criticised these figures, and have tried to prove that the cost will be higher, are themselves very much at fault. Indeed; the estimate of £4,000,000 put forward for the construction of the line can, by careful consideration, be accepted by any person who looks into the facts with an unbiased mind. Then take the provision in the estimate for ballasting. We find that the quantity of ballast used in Victoria on a 5 ft. 3 in. gauge is from 1,500 to 1,800 cubic yards per mile.
– On what line is that ?
– This is an authoritative statement. Does the honorable senator doubt it?
– I do doubt it, indeed. Mention the railway.
– I am quoting from a letter from the Board of Land and Works, Railway Construction Branch, Victoria, signed by Mr.. Maurice E. Kernot. It is dated 26th June, 1905. He states, in answer to one question, that “ on new Victorian lines 1,500 to 1,800 yards of ballast per mile “ are sufficient.
– That is on the Mallee lines.
– There is a ballast of sand on the Mallee line.
– I am advised that this is about the average on Victorian railways.
– Not at all.
– The honorable senator is speaking in the hearing of expert contractors, and they ought to know.
– They are basing their statements on what occurred twenty-five years ago, and since then they have not kept in touch with such things.
– As a matter of fact, I was a member of the committee that recommended the lines to which the honorable senator is referring.
– Then the honorable senator must know that the statement is true.
– Yes, for Mallee lines.
– Yet the honorable senator wants to convey the idea that the quantity of ballast mentioned will not do for the proposed railway.
– On the Mallee lines the trains run twenty miles an hour, but on this proposed line they would run forty miles an hour in some parts.
– The honorable senator must take into account the fact that the gauge of the proposed line will be 4 feet inches.
– I thought the honorable senator was dealing with the survey only ?
– I am dealing with the statements that the cost of the line will be very much greater than has been estimated by the engineers. If we take 1,800 cubic yards of ballasting per mile as being sufficient for a 5 ft. 3 in. gauge railway, we may reasonably take off 200 cubic yards per mile from the estimate of the ballasting for the proposed railway, which, it must be remembered, will be more than six inches narrower than the Victorian lines.
– It is of no use for the honorable senator to tell me that.
– It seems to be of no use to tell the honorable senator anything about this line. We can take off 200 yards per mile, at 4s. per cubic yard.
– That won’t do it.
– That represents £40 per mile, or a total of £45,320 for the whole distance. The same may be said with regard to platforms and buildings.
– I admit that no platforms will be required, because there will be no traffic.
– Then the honorable senator will have no objection to cutting from the estimate the whole sum of £9,900 for platforms.
– That can safely be done.
– The honorable sentor’s estimate of £8,000,000 is being cut down considerable. The report of the engineers says, “ We have been careful not to over-estimate the revenue.” Of course, honorable senators who are opposed to the line say that therewill be no revenue, and that it will be extremely difficult to encourage traffic. Senator Dobson also fells us that, because the Sydney and Melbourne line only pays 4 per cent. or 4 per cent. on the cost of construction, the Western Australian line will not pay at all. But the cost of the Sydney and Melbourne line per mile was four times more than the estimate for this proposed line.
– Whose estimate is that ?
– The estimate of the engineers.
– The honorable senator is mistaken in saying that the Western Australian line will cost four times less than the Sydney to Melbourne line.
– I have here an official communication from Mr. Kernot, who gives the actual cost of the Sydney to Melbourne line as follows-: - Sydney to Wodonga, 390 miles, cost £7,009,860; cost per mile, about £18,000. Wodonga to Essendon, 182 miles, £2,211,347; cost per mile, about £12,151. Essendon to Melbourne, 5 miles, cost £50,000. Full length of line, 577 miles; total cost, £9,271,207; cost per mile, about £16,068.
– How many miles of that is double line, and what kind of bridges are there?
– This reply is not worked out on the basis of a double line at all. The figures are for the Original single line.
– While the figures may be correct, they include the price of land resumption, and it must also be remembered that that line was constructed many years ago.
– All that goes to provethat the estimate of £4,500,000 for the Western Australian line is a very high one.
– Has the honorable senator taken notice of the fact that the water may cost £1,500 per mile?
– I confess that I am not an engineer, but I have enough sense not to take any notice of statements of that kind. Senator Zeal - another expert, by the way - speaking of water conservation, said that in Riverina the evaporation was at the rate of an inch a day in hot weather. He stated that there was a rainfall of 15 or 16 inches per annum there. I would suggest to my engineering friends that any arrangement for the conservation of water which allows evaporation to the extent of one inch per day must be a very bad bit of engineering. It must be a failure from the very start. I am satisfied that, if on the track of the Western Australian railway we got a rainfall of 15 or 16 inches per annum, engineering skill would be quite able to prevent a loss by evaporation to that extent. Senator Fraser made an interjection about his own experience while living on the route of the Port Augusta railway. He said that at the time when that line was being constructed they used to instruct the workmen to put their barrows on end, in order that the sand might not cover them up. As a matter of fact, that is an old-standing joke amongst contractors and men who have worked on railway lines.
– Does the honorable senator deny it?
– I do deny it, and I am going to point out that the only spots on the railway where there is sand to any extent are two in number.
– Is it not a fact that on the Part Augusta line they had to have two gangs of workmen, the one to keep the sand off the other?
– It is not true; sand, as I have said, is bad only in two places.
– Is the honorable senator aware that on the Port Augusta line there are miles of fencing that was constructed to keep out the sand?
– There are only two parts of the line - at Port Augusta and Windy Creek - where sand is at all troublesome. Certainly sand exists, but no harm whatever is done by it to the railway line, that runs through that district to-day. No difficulties were met with during its construction except at the two places I have mentioned ; and even at Windy Creek the sand extends only for two or three miles. Senator Fraser also said - and these statements influence honorable senators - that he knows this country, and has been over a portion of it. I respectfully submit that the honorable senator has not been, near the country for twenty-three years.
– I lived there during part of the time when the railway was being constructed.
– During the construction of the line I believe that the honorable senator did not take an active interest in the work. Most of the time he was inMelbourne.
– I had to go there for six months ; I was compelled to go by my partners. I wanted to get out of it, but they would not let me. I paid one of my partners £1,000 to take my place for six months.
– I believe that the principal part that Senator Fraser took as a partner in the firm that built the line was of a financial character. He was concerned with the monetary part of the partnership, and not with the construction of either of the two lines to which reference has been made. Certainly he was not personally concerned in the construction of the Farina line. He is not an engineer, and could not take out costs or quantities. He has had no part in the actual construction of any line.
– I am a little bit too old now.
– The honorable senator could not have done it at any time. He was never so engaged as a partner, and never took any practical part in the work.
– If most of us had as much knowledge ‘as he has, we should be wiser men.
– If we had been so successful financially, we should perhaps be happier men. Another question upon which we have had the advice of experts is as to the cost of the survey. Senator Styles says that it will cost from £50,000 to £100,000. Senator Fraser says the cost will be £40,000. Senator Mulcahy, while not giving an exact estimate as to the cost, said that he knew of a line where the survey cost £7,000 per mile. Here we have the opinion of four honorable senators, all posing as experts, estimating that the cost of the survey will be somewhere between £40,000 and £100,000.
– We- do not know much more about it than did the engineers who made the estimate.
– Surely, then, we are justified in accepting, the advice of the engineers that the cost of the survey will be £20,000. In the case of an ordinary survey of a railway line, a large amount of the cost consists in preliminary expenses for preparing plans, making estimates of the. value of land to be resumed, designs for bridges, calculations of the cost of excavations, tunnellings, and so forth. But in this case a survey can be made without very much of that kind of interruption. It is admitted that there will be little or no tunnelling, and that the cuttings will not be of an extensive kind.
– There can be no bridges, as there is no water.
– There is no surface water; but if the honorable senator had been present earlier he would have heard that those who were sent to look for water found it where they tried to find it, and that in one case at least it was fit for human consumption, and in another case the water found was used for boiler purposes.
– Eleven hundred miles, and water found in one place !
– The honorable senator does not quote the report of the five engineers-in-chief about the water supply.
- Senator Smith mentioned, as did Senator Pearce last session, the fact that a man, with his wife and family, and driving before him cattle and sheep, travelled right across on the proposed route. Although he knew before he left what lands the Western “Australian Government had thrown open for selection he did not desire those lands, but asked for land in this supposed waterless, sandydesert. That is the country he selected on which to raise stock.
– He is not there now.
– He is, and the Western Australian Government are trying to suit him better, pointing out that they do not propose to alienate any of the land on the proposed route in order that a proper deal may be made with the Commonwealth Government for the construction of the line.
– How does the honorable senator explain the fact that £200,000 was lost by other people in trying to settle with sheep there?
– That may have been due to the same kind of bad management which caused the South Australian Government to pay so high a price for the construction of railways when they might have been built much more cheaply.
– Will thehonorable senator say that persons have not failed to settle on this country?
– Some efforts at settlement have been made too near the coast.
– There is settlement all along the coast.
– Not right through. The efforts at settlement have , been made too near thecoast.
– Does the honorable senator not think that he should give the representatives of South Australia a little more information about his own State before he goes on?
– I think that is entirely unnecessary. I know of no honorable senator who is better qualified than is Senator Playford to give information about South Australia. I should not put my limited experience of that State before his.
– The honorable senator was doing so.
– No, I am speaking of efforts at settlement in Western Australia. I do not know that there have been many cases of failure, but such failures as have occurred have been due to the fact that the settlers went too near the coast. I am not a bushman by any means, but during the last Federal elections I travelled through portions of Western Australia where very few men had previously gone, and I did not find it very difficult country. I do not, I think, look very much like a walking corpse as the result of my experience. I was not stuck up for want of water at any time, and I rode through the Peak Hills, across the Black Range and Mount Sir Samuel districts. I would urge, in common with other honorable senators from Western Australia, that the Senate should pass this Bill, in order that we may have a thorough inquiry into the prospects of the line. I promise, with other Western Australian representatives, that if the survey does not justify the construction of the line I shall deal with the question in a national spirit, and refuse to agree to its construction as strongly as I now urge that we should at least make the proposed survey.
– I presume that honorable senators, in common with myself, appreciate most highly the remarks addressed to the Senate last night by Senator Smith, when he implored us to think continentally upon this question . The honorable senator made a great appeal to the Federal spirit, an appeal to which, I venture to think, honorable senators will at all timesreasonably respond. We have hadsomething of an echo of that appealfrom the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, and who has asked us to pass from parochial to Federal considerations. I yield to no one in my desire to consider all questions in what I conceive to be a Federal spirit, but I must admit that to my mind the appeal which both those Western Australian senators, addressed- to us was largely discounted bv the fact that, having made the appeal to honorable senators from the other States, they immediately proceeded to show that the one State that has not considered the matter federally is Western Australia. We had Senator Smith telling us that Western Australia had nothing material to gain for some years to come from Federation, and he went on to say that the promise of this railway was the one thing which won the day and induced Western Australia to ‘join the Federation. Surely that is a strange admission from an honorable senator who asks us to think continental lv, and to view this matter federally. They have told us candidly that Western Australia entered this Union solely because of the material advantage it was to gain by the realization of the promise for the construction of this railway. The same thing has been repeated to-night bv Senator Croft, who assures us that hundreds of electors - I am not sure that he did not say thousands - were influenced by the promises made.
– New South Wales got her pound of flesh.
– She has not got it.
– Because of the dog-in-the-manger attitude she has adopted.
– I am not putting that forward as a plea at all. I admit that, so far as New South Wales is concerned, we stated just ‘what we wanted before we came into the Union. But I am pointing out the inconsistency of honorable senators who, in one’ breath, address to the representatives of other States an appeal to consider this matter from the Federal stand-point, and who at the same time admit that their own State was the only State which refrained from doing so. This proposal reminds me of some experience I had in local politics. Whenever some more than ordinarily iniquitous proposal was brought forward for the expenditure of money, it was invariably stated that if was for a national undertaking. I have known proposals to expend hundreds of thousands of pounds - as the President must also have known in an experience which has been more ample than mine - justified on the plea that they were for national undertakings, and it was always contended that it was only petty parochial ists who would look at such national questions from the pounds, shillings and pence stand-point. We do not use the word “ national “ now, but we use the word “ federal “ in its stead. We are invited by our enthusiastic Western Australian friends to regard this proposal from no sordid considerations as to what it will cost,) and whether we can afford it, but from the high and lofty Federal standpoint. I take no exception to honorable senators from Western Australia urging their case before the Senate; they have every right to do so. It must be admitted that in season and out of season, with reason and without it, they have urged the claims of their State to consideration. I take no exception to that, but I remind myself, I do not presume to remind other honorable senators, that I am here as one of the custodians of the interests of the people who have sent me here, and as one of the custodians of the money which sooner or later they will have to find if this proposal is. carried.
– - -I join issue with my honorable friend on that point. This is a very innocent suggestion “that the expenditure is to be only £20,000. I say at once that every vote given for this Bill to-night, or whenever the division may be taken, will be a vote in affirmation of the claim that the construction of this railway is a Federal obligation.
– Then the honorable senator anticipates that the result of the survey will be to recommend the construction of the railway?
– I will not say whether the survey will have that result or not, but I do say that every vote given for this Bill will be an affirmation of the claim that the construction of the railway is a Federal obligation.
– How does the honorable senator prove that?
– If the construction of the railway is not a Federal obligation, there can be no justification for inquiring whether it would be good, bad or indifferent.
– Is the honorable senator against the railway altogether?
– Absolutely. I say absolutely that its construction is not a
Federal obligation, either under the Constitution, or because of any implied understanding with Western Australia.
– The honorable senator does not believe that there should be communication between the east and the west ?
– I believe that there should, just as there is communication between Melbourne and Sydney.
– Then why is the honorable senator against the railway ?
– I am trying to show why, if the honorable senator will permit me.
– This is a kind of “ ves-no “ speech.
– There will be no “ yes-no “ about it. As the honorable senator must be aware,, when I have spoken before in the Senate I have never left any doubt in the minds of honorable senators who have listened to me as to how I was going to vote. I point out -with regard to this proposed survey that we are told that the object is to get information to enable us to determine whether we should construct the railway or not. I say that the construction of the railway is not our business, and it is therefore an idle waste of £[20,000 to inquire into what does -not concern us in any way. I say that its construction is not a Federal obligation. If it is not, then I contend that I should not be justified in voting for this Bill, even though the amount involved were only a’ single penny. I should like to point out that whilst we have had many protestations during the course of this debate, that a vote given for this Bill does, not bind honorable senators in any subsequent matter, that is not the story which has always been told concerning it. I have here’ a newspaper report of an interview with Sir John Forrest in Adelaide, which took place last December. The report appears in an Adelaide newspaper, and I quite agree with what Sir John Forrest said, if the right honorable gentleman has not altered his mind since. He is reported to have said -
He was quite satisfied that the proposal for the construction of the line would be received just as well as that for the survey, otherwise it would be improper for honorable members to have voted as they had for an expenditure of £20,000, as that would be so much waste money.
– The right honorable gentleman said that in the House of Representatives also.
– I say at once that that is the argument which was used; before, and which, is underlying even the protestations of honorable senators whodeny it to-day, in order to secure a votefor this Bill to advance to some extent thecause they have so much at heart.
– I may be told by the Minister of Defence that that warning by Sir John Forrest that we have no right to vote for the expenditure of this £[20,000- unless we intend to support the construction of the railway later on, cannot betaken seriously, because the right honorable gentleman was not a Minister at thetime.
– The same thing wassaid by Senator Symon when he was a Minister.
– I am very glad tohave heard that interjection. It only confirms what I am now stating. We haveSir John Forrest,- a member of the present Ministry, and Senator Symon, a member of the last Ministry, agreeing that it. is idle and improper to vote this money for the proposed survey unless we are prepared to vote for the railway later on.
– Senator Symon did not put it in that way. What he said was: that without the survey he would not vote for the construction of the line.
– That may be so; but I have quoted Sir John Forrest, the great champion of the line, and I point out that if this inquiry ever takes: place the result must be to show that theconstruction of the railway is unjustifiable, or is more or less justifiable. If it is unjustifiable, if the survey does not warrant its construction by the Federal or any other authority, this expenditure will clearly be an absolute waste of money. On the other hand, if it be proved that the line is justified, and we do not construct it, then thismoney will equally be wasted. Therefore, I say that those who give a vote for this Bill will, as common-sense men, be bound’ to vote for the construction of the line if later on the report of the surveyors is in favour of its construction.
– If you spend money in sinking a shaft, and do not strike the reef, is the money wasted?
– It is, as the honorable senator would know if it were his money
– Do you not prospect the ground?
– Two pleas are put forward in support of this line - one that its construction is necessary as a matter of defence, and the other that some understanding prevailed prior to the acceptance by Western Australia of the Commonwealth Bill. I propose to take the last plea first. I admit at once that if an understanding had been arrived at, not only the various States, but their representatives, should loyally abide by it, and seek to redeem the promise made. But in answer to that plea, I say I have a right to ask, where is the understanding? I have a right to ask for proof of it. If any one presents a claim to me I naturally look into it to see on what it is founded-, and I now ask, where is the proof of this understanding? Some Western Australian representatives, in language which I think I am entitled to describe as the exaggeration of zealous partisans, have said that all the prominent Federal leaders pledged themselves to it. “When I pressed one honorable senator for names, he replied that Sir Frederick Holder and Sir Josiah Symon had apparently expressed the opinion that the line would be constructed, and their letters might be construed as showing that they were certainly in favour of its construction. Mr. Deakin appears to have written a letter of similar effect. Then what happened? There was an absolute pause, and the gentlemen I have mentioned were put forward as being all the Federal leaders of Australia. There has not been a single word in any statement quoted in support of this imaginary claim to show that the people of the eastern States ever heard of the matter, or that they were in any way consulted or expressed approval of it.
– I never heard of it until after the referendum.
– In common with other honorable senators, I took a more or less active part in the movement which preceded the acceptance of the Constitution, and, going through the two campaigns as I did, I can. claim that I had as good an opportunity as any one could have had to hear a matter of this kind mentioned, if it were mentioned. I never heard it mentioned, and if I had it would merely have been the opinion of some one who could in no sense bind the State to which he belonged. Senator Pearce, who is amongst those who have affirmed that such an under standing did exist, has given the whole case away. In the admirable speech which he delivered just before the prorogation, the honorable senator admitted -
I am aware that the whole question is new, so far as many honorable senators are concerned.
If any understanding had1 been arrived at, surely honorable senators who took an active part in the campaign would have known about it, and the matter would not have come to them as one that was absolutely new. Yet Senator Pearce recognised at once that it was new to many honorable senators who have taken an active part- in political life in Australia for years. The opinions expressed by the honorable gentlemen who have been named in no sense constituted a compact except between themselves and those to whom they addressed their letters. It would be idle to assume that because some gentleman in his zeal to bring support to the acceptance of the Constitution Bill expressed certain opinions, he bound the electors of his State. I should like to hear any honorable senator stand before his constituents on the eve of an election and tell them that any promise he gave in his personal capacity could or ought to bind them in the slightest way. The construction of this railway is not referred to in the Constitution, and it was never mentioned in the Convention. When we take into consideration that circumstance, coupled with the fact I affirmed, that it was nev.er mentioned in the eastern States, it justifies my contention that there was nothing which approached an understanding, or to which that term could reasonably be applied. I can understand that the people of Western Australia may have thought something of the kind. But probably they formed that opinion from this fact : That on one day half the people of the State told the other half thev would get the railway, on the next day the half which had formed the audience told the same thing to the half which had talked, and on the third day everybody told everybody else, and everybody believed it. I can see nothing else to justify the contention that any compact existed. It is rather a curious thing, too, that the two States which are most concerned are not themselves in agreement. If any compact did exist, surely it must have been between Western Australia and South Australia, and the rest of Australia. But if that compact did exist, it remains inoperative until those two States can say that they are in agreement on the matter. That they are not in agreement is abundantly proved by the correspondence which has been laid upon the table. There has been a great deal of correspondence showing that there was no agreement. There was one statement made in which Mr. James commented on the extraordinary reluctance of South Australia to redeem a promise given by the previous Administration ; and it appears that the two States cannot themselves agree as to carrying out the terms of the supposed agreement.
– Both Mr. James and Mr. Jenkins are out of office.
– When in office Mr. Jenkins made a statement from’ which I quote this passage -
No promise could be considered binding unless it were incorporated in a Bill or resolution.
The honorable senator admits that, because he has pointed out that both Mr. James and Mr. Jenkins have gone out of office, and that we cannot therefore hold South Australia bound by what thev said or did.
– Did that refer to a survey of the line, or to its construction ?
– It ought to apply to everything. In the case of the honorable senator a promise he gave would apply whether it was as to fi survey or as to the construction of the line.
– I think the honorable senator will see that he was referring to construction.
– Surely the question as to what is to make a promise binding applies equally whether the consent is to a survey or to the construction of the line. I quoted that passage in answer to an interjection by Senator Dawson, who, said that these gentlemen were no longer in office, which shows the danger of what we are doing to-day. Assuming that we accepted this letter from the Premier of South Australia as a consent to carry out the survey, what would happen if his Government went out of office ‘to-morrow? The next Premier might stop the survey, and tell us. as Mr. Jenkins did, that no promise can be considered binding which is not embodied in an Act or resolution.
– That is for the construction of the line.
– If a State cannot be bound by the promise of its Premier to the construction of a railway, it cannot be bound by the promise of its Premier’ to the purchase of a penny bun.
– A Government might be . put out of office for making a promise.
– Exactly. If it should happen that in the running of this survey the surveyor should cut a stick, blaze a tree, or shift a yard of earth on property over which any one claimed ownership, he could be proceeded against for trespass, in spite of a promise of consent by the Premier of South Australia. There is no power in the Commonwealth to shift a shovel full of earth, cut a stick, or blaze a tree, and when it does so it will need to have the full consent of the State thereto. There is no sanction of the State given yet. Even if it has said that it is perfectly willing that a survey should be run, until that consent is embodied in an agreement there is nothing to prevent an individual property-owner from proceeding against a surveyor who trespassed on his land.
– There does not happen to be any land of a private owner to be trespassed upon.
– No leases ?
– There are any number of pastoral leases. .
– Is there no private land in Western Australia through which the line would pass?
– Yes ; that of the man with the sheep.
– Supposing that this promise, or whatever it may be called, from the Premier of South Australia is accepted as a consent to the running of the survey, it is an absolutely humiliating position to put the Federation in. South Australia says she will allow us to run a survey, but she will give us no idea as to what she intends to do after it has been run. She wants to have an absolute veto, and she has it both as to route and gauge, before she will say what she will do. Iti other words, by this magnanimous consent, she’ says - “ You are at liberty to spend £[20,000 in running a blazed line through our country. We, do not mind you spending the money, but we give you no undertaking as to allowing you to construct the railway.” I would ask the attention - of honorable senators to the further utterance of Mr. Jenkins -
There is no likelihood of South Australia at any time passing a Bill for the construction of the railway, except upon strict conditions as to both route and gauge.
As business men, we ought, at least, to make it perfectly clear, if we decide to go further into this project, that we require from South Australia an assurance that we shall be allowed that free hand if we are prepared to face the enormous financial responsibility which the construction of the line would involve. But unless we get that assurance, it is an idle and criminal waste of £20,000 to which we are asked to assent. I now come to the matter of defence, and I do not know that I can add very much to the statements made yesterday by Senator Givens or Senator Dobson. These defence arguments are suggestions to me that the advocates of the line are looking round for arguments to conceal their want of them. It has been pointed out that if the line were constructed the number of troops we could send over it would not be worth considering as our Defence Force is to-day. I indorse heartily the suggestion made yesterday that, instead of spending four, and a half or five million pounds in constructing a railway which would be of practically little use in a time of military emergency, it would be very much better to spend that money .in forming at least the nucleus of a local squadron which would be available for service on any part of our coast.
– The statement that it would be of no use is diametrically opposed to the opinion of the experts ; but that, of course, does not matter to the honorable senator.
– Honorable senators who appeal to the experts must be prepared to accept them on all occasions, not to accept a portion of a report to-day and reject a portion of it to-morrow. Has the honorable senator shown any great faith in military experts? He has been the greatest critic of them; he has torn them to shreds and tatters, and now he comes here and appeals to them to help him out of his dilemma.
– I am not aware of having made an attack on the experts. The statement of the honorable senator is absolutely without justification.
– I, in common with other honorable senators, have always been under the impression that the honorable senator had constituted himself an extremely lively critic of the experts, but, of course, if I am wrong, I at once withdraw my statement.
– I constituted’ myself a critic of the Government, because they would not act on the advice of the experts.
– The argument has been put forward, and I think with a great deal of force, that Western Australia and South Australia might reasonably have arranged between themselves to, at least, bear the cost of the preliminary inquiry. That seems to me an absolutely reasonable proposition. Western Australia comes torward with a scheme which it asks us to carry out. In all business undertakings the onus lies upon those who make a proposition to show that it is a good one. I do not use the words in any malign sense, but I think that Senator Neild summed up the position when he spoke about this sum of £20,000 as “ promoters’ fees.” Let the promoters of this scheme find the fees to launch it. The onus is upon them to bring the proof and show us that the undertaking is a good one. I am told at once that if the Government of the State undertook this work we should discount the report on that ground. Well, there is an easy way out of the difficulty. Let the State Government place the money at the disposal of the Federal Government, with the right to appoint the officers to carry out the survey. I should have a great deal more faith in the promises which are made as to what Western Australia will do by-and-by when we have spent our money, if she supplied the money now, and asked the Federation later on to favorably consider her claim. It is also said that Western Australia, even if she were powerful enough financially, would have no power to construct a yard of railway beyond her border. In that respect she has just, as much power as the Federation has.. It is quite within her power to arrive’ at an understanding with South Australia as to the route, and to provide the funds in order to get the information which we are told is necessary before we can further consider this project. I have not dealt very much with the merits of the railway for the primary reason that I decline to regard it -as a Federal obligation. We are told that the country through which the line will go is much maligned, because as a matter of fact it is rather favorably situated. It is a wonder that this magnificent pastoral country has not long since been rushed by the hungry land speculators and sharks who are supposed to be roaming through Australia. It is a marvellous thing that no settlement has taken place. I have heard some honorable senators speak about the land being well grassed and of its future development ; but to me, with a knowledge of South Australia and the drier portions of New South Wales, it is a marvellous thing that, although country with an average rainfall of from seven to nine inches has been occupied for over a generation^ this country, which we are told is so superior, has never yet been brought under settlement.
– Did not one pilgrim go across?
– I have not seen the pilgrim, and I do not know the route he took, or anything about his pilgrimage except the fact that a Perth’ correspondent sent a telegram to a Melbourne newspaper at a very critical time in the history of this Bill. If this rich, fattening, pastoral country, with its fortunes waiting to be picked up, is capable of doing anything it can carry cattle, and! if it can, how are 80,000 cattle going to pass over the railway ? Where would all the butter, eggs, fruit, vegetables, and flour, which are to make up the daily burden of the train, come from? If they are all to come from the eastern States it is a clear admission that the country through which the line will pass is a barren desert. On the other hand, if it is good country capable of producing these products, then to the extent they can be produced the freight receipts of the railway must be diminished. It is an extraordinary thing to hear that as regards bulk goods railway carriage can compete successfully with water carriage. Senator Smith has taken all the imports of cattle into Western Australia and assumed that every beast would go over this line. Surely he is aware that there are such things as refrigerating chambers on board vessels - a process of shipping meat which is daily growing in use? I am quite certain that apart from this question he would scout the idea that cattle would be sent at a cost of £[3 4s. 6d- per head bv railway when they could be sent round in a frozen condition for very much less. What happens when the
River Darling is navigable? Men do not send their wool 500 miles by rail from Bourke to Sydney, but it is sent four times that distance down the river to Port Adelaide, because in spite of the special rates offered the railways cannot compete with water carriage.
– At any time water carriage would cost only one-eighth of land carriage.
– Exactly. Again, take the familiar project to construct a railway along the north coast of New South Wales.’ Every time it has been inquired into by a Public Works Committee it has been proved that in competition with water carriage it would not earn enough to buy the grease for the wheels. Again, take the line between Sydney and Brisbane, passing as it does through some of our best and most thickly-populated country. On our section of the line there is an annual loss of £[80,000, or £[12,000 more than the estimated loss on a line 1,100 miles long.
– There is also a loss on the Queensland side.
– Owing to the way in which the Queensland figures are presented it is extremely difficult to institute a fair comparison, for they include the suburban traffic ; but as far as the junction there is a dead loss on the line. Take another line which runs through’ one of the richest districts in New South’ Wales. On the line from Sydney to Nowra, passing through a denselypopulated country occupied by dairy farms and coal mines for a distance of ninety-four miles, there is an annual loss of £[38,500.
– That was a frightfully expensive line to construct.
– That is true, but if. honorable senators’ do not care to accept my figures, let them instance a railway which is to-day competing successfully with water carriage. I now come to the last matter on which I wish to speak, and that is the miserable insufficiency of the amount named in this Bill. I wish to draw attention to that fact. We have a report presented by the five engineers as to the insufficiency of the information at their disposal regarding the water supply on the track and they strongly urge the Government to make inquiries as to the facilities which may or may not exist. As to the water supply no one knows any more about the subject than I do, and I confess that I know nothing.
There is no information available as to the existence of water on the track, except that two bores have been put clown, one at a depth of 2,100 feet, and another at a depth of 400 feet. I can appeal to any one who has any knowledge of this subject when I say that for an ordinary artesian well in the district of Queensland where artesian water is obtained, where the business of boring is well understood, where the results are fairly certain, and everything is in favour of the driller, a bore is never put down for less than from 15s, to£1 per foot.
– That is with casing.
– Yes, and in many instances the cost is higher than that. Is it meant to suggest that boring can be carried on in a district like that which will be traversed by the proposed railway - where water will have to be carried for the boring operations - for anything like the price at which boring can be undertaken in Queensland? But even if the work could be done for the same price as in Queensland, it is obvious that it would not be possible to put down a plant for boring purposes for less than £1,000 a bore. We have 1,100 miles of country, which, so far as we know, is waterless. No attempt to make a survey there could possibly succeed without water. A party would be unable to go through, unless, of course, it was a flying party on camels, zig-zaging about from point to point. This survey party would have to be provided with a water supply, either on the ground or by taking water to them for hundreds of miles. If a bore were put down every 100 miles, it will be seen that at £1,000 a bore - and a bore cannot be put down for that sum in such country - £10,000 would be required for water supply to enable the survey to be carried through.
– For 300 miles on the Port Augusta line there is water all the way.
– Then it would mean eight bores on the route of this line, and at what price?
– There is only a gap in the middle.
– These gaps, whether they are in the Constitution or on the route of this railway, or whatever they are, appear to be matters of no concern to the Government.
– The honorable senator’s Government introduced this Bill.
– I can only point out that if the Government which I supported committed this iniquity it has paid the penalty of it. Whether it was done by my Government or any one else’s Government, I shall be found voting against the line. Before concluding, I wish to draw attention especially to one remark in the last report of the engineers. I had not noticed it previously, but I have no doubt that the Western Australian representatives have frequently placed it before the miners and labourers of their own State. It is contained in the last paragraph on page 3, in which the engineers; say that one of the principal effects of the construction of the line will be a reduc-. tion of the cost of provisions on the goldfields, and a subsequent reduction of the wages of the men.
– Would the honorable senator mind reading the passage.
– The print is too small for me to read now, but the paragraph points out that the cost of living at’ present is extremely high, and that probably the railway will reduce it, but that thought there will possibly be a reduction of wages, the men will be better off.
– I think the purport is this - that if the line were constructed, living would be cheaper, and if there were a reduction ire wages it would not decrease the saving powers of the people. But it does not advocate a reduction in wages or say that there will be any reduction.
– My sympathies are with the legal profession, who have lost art admirable member in the honorable senator.. I interpret the paragraph in quite a different manner. I take it to mean that the effect of the railway will be what I have stated, and that it will bring about a reduction of wages. Honorable senatorscan construe it in their own way if they please. I have not the slightest doubt that the Western Australian representatives have carefully read the paragraph to their supporters in their own State.
– I think I will read the paragraph referred to by Senator Millen for the information of the Senate. It does not say that there will be a reduction of wages. But if there is a reduction if says that the reduced cost of living will make amends for it. The paragraph says -
It may be expected that the food supply of the gold-fields would be better and cheaper, as the result of the construction of the railway. The cost of living is now very high in that district, and, in consequence, miners and others do not reap that benefit from their high wages which might be expected. On the other hand, were the cost of living reduced, wages might come down without any hardship to the men, and enterprise would be stimulated.
The honorable senator put it that wages would come down.. But the point is that, even if they do come down, the men will not suffer from it. Now, I will take another statement of the honorable senator. He submitted that the con.struction of this line is not a Federal obligation. I contend that there is only one possible reason why the line should be constructed, and that is purely for defence purposes. It is an unmistakable Federal obligation that for defence purposes the line should be constructed, and sooner or later it must be constructed.
– I think there is hardly an honorable senator but will agree, if he looks into the facts, that the line will have to be built, not for purely State, but for Federal purposes. It is necessary for the defence of that great State in the West, which, as we know, is growing rapidly, and will, in a few years, contain a considerable population. Not only will the railway he required, so that we may send over troops for the defence of Western Australia in time of need, but that she may also assist us in the eastern States in case of an invasion of our shores. Some honorable members may recollect that when this matter has been mooted in private conversation, I have always said that, unless it could be proved that the line was required for defence purposes, I should not be in favour of it. The position with regard to this Bill for the expenditure of £[20,000 for the survey is rather a peculiar one. In the first instance, it was introduced by the Deakin Government. It was then taken up by the Watson Government, and Mr. Batchelor, the then Minister of Home Affairs, moved its second reading in another place. It was then taken up by the Reid Government, and Mr. Dugald Thomson was in charge of it. The second reading was passed in another place by a majority of twenty-two. It reached the Senate, and Senator Symon, on behalf of the Reid Government, moved its second reading here. He said, amongst other things in his introductory speech, that he would not vote for the construction of the transcontinental line until a survey was made, and he was in possession of all the necessary data upon which an estimate could be based as to the probable cost. I take up exactly the same position. If a Bill was brought in for the construction of a transcontinental line at the present moment, I should not be in favour of it until I had obtained full information as to what it would cost, and as to what its probable earnings would be.
– Who ought to fur- ,nish us with information as to the cost?
– I consider that the Federal Government should pay for the survey, because the defence of Australia is a Federal question, and this will be a defence .railway.
– Does the honorable senator want to have a survey in order to ascertain whether the (railway is needed for defence purposes?
– No, but to ascertain whether we can afford to construct the line just now for defence purposes. There are many things that may be desirable, but which we may not have the money to provide. I am going to consider that question of the survey, apart altogether from whether it is wise to construct the line at the present moment, or whether it will pay. I am going to deal with the position of South Australia in regard to it in relation to the attitude which Sir Frederick Holder took up before the adoption of the Constitution ; and I shall also say a few words upon the routes that have been proposed, and upon the important question of the gauge. The distance from Fremantle to Adelaide is 1,746 miles. From Fremantle to Kalgoorlie, where a railway exists, the distance is 387 miles, and the distance from Port Augusta to Adelaide, where a railway also exists, is 259 miles. That makes a total length of 646 miles of constructed line, leaving a gap of, roughly speaking, 1,100 miles to be built; namely, 475 miles from Kalgoorlie to the border, and 625 miles from the border to Port Augusta.
– The distance of 1,100 miles is as the crow flies.
– Yes, and possibly the railway will deviate to some extent; but, considering the nature of the country, and that it is all level, the course of the line will run pretty well as straight as the flight of a crow. Then comes the question of what information we have up to the present time as to the cost of construction. It will be recollected that we have had a report from five State engineers, a copy of which I hold in my hand. In this report the engineers said, in the first place, that the cost of the line would be a little over £5,000.000. In a subsequent report, they reduced that estimate and gave their reason for doing so. But it will be seen that these officers, although’ highly expert, complained, that they had not sufficient and proper information. In their first report they say, in paragraph 2 -
The information to hand is not sufficient to enable us to speak with certainty and accuracy on all points. For instance, the particulars as to possible sources of water supply, both for construction purposes and for locomotive use, are extremely meagre, and the best route cannot be determined without further data, the obtaining of which will effect both the length of the line and its cost.
So that, although they make an estimate, they do not pretend that it is a reliable one under the circumstances. Further on in their report they say -
From the information at our disposal, we form the opinion that the line can be constructed for the above amount.
That is, £5,090,183.
The estimate may appear large, but, as already pointed out, many of the data are uncertain - no survey has been made, the water-ways have not been fixed, and the cost of water supply is indeterminate.
They also say that a closer examination and partial survey will probably show that the line can be constructed for a lesser sum than that mentioned. Honorable senators will notice the term “partial survey.” An honorable senator just now made a great point of the fact that this survey could not be made for £20,000. No doubt he is quite correct, if a survey were intended upon which the line could afterwards be built - :a survey which meant taking out quantities, calculating depths of cuttings, with particulars of fillings, and everything in relation to the engineering problems. There is no doubt that a survey of that kind could not be made for £20,000, but a partial survey will be quite sufficient for the immediate purpose, and the sum of £20,000 is enough for that. So that the contention that this sum would not be sufficient for the purpose was put forward under the mistaken impression that the survey was to be absolutely detailed. It is to be nothing of the kind. The intention is to obtain a more reliable estimate of the cost of the line than we have at present.
– The Premier of Western Australia talks about a permanent survey.
– I am not answerable for that. People often express random sentiments which I am not called upon to father. The engineers say in their summary, dealing with additional information with which they had been supplied -
We estimate the probable expenditure in construction at ^4,559,000. The probable revenue which may be depended upon after constructionis, in our opinion, £205,860. If the past progress in Western Australia is maintained, so that the present population becomes doubled in ten years after completion, the revenue may also be taken as double, namely, .£411,720…..
The route selected, taking all circumstances into consideration, is that via Tarcoola.
Sir John Forrest has had an additional recommendation made in connexion with that.
– Does that mean that there are two alternative routes?
– Yes; I will give further information with regard to routes later on. The last report of an engineering character is from Mr. Gwynneth, in which he points out that, if the southern route be taken, the work can be done for considerably less money.
– Must the coal go round by water?
– Would it not be cheaper to haul it over the line itself?
– But the line must be constructed, and-those engaged in its construction must get their coal supplies from the water-side somewhere. I expect that the coal will be brought from the honorable senator’s own State.
– Why should it not be got from Reid’s Creek?
– We have been trying for many years in South Australia to use the Reid’s Creek coal, but, although we have a railway running within a mile of it, we have been unable to use it for the locomotives on our lines. Senator Guthrie knows, or ought to know, that the Reid’s Creek coal is not fit for locomotive purposes. This gentleman points out that if we took the southern route the line could be constructed for probably £500,000 less.
This brings me to the question of the route -to be adopted, which is one of very great importance both for South Australia and Western Australia.
– What about the Commonwealth, that will have to find the money ?
– Bother the Com.monwealth ! Let the Commonwealth alone for a bit. Let us stick to the route, and allow the Commonwealth to stew in its own gravy for a time.
– That is a very apt quotation.
– The route proposed goes by Tarcoola. It goes a considerable distance inland, and for probably 300 miles from Port Augusta we should have a water supply. We have at Tarcoola dams for the conservation of water ; we are getting gold there, and have stampers at work. So far as that part of the country, is concerned, ‘there a(re catchment areas from which we can secure a water supply. But this route does not go within 50 miles of Eucla. I am not arguing now in favour of any particular route, but I am pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of the route proposed. It would then have to go through a large extent of sandy country, and we do not know what the cost of construction over such country would be likely to be. There are some very high sandhills there, rising in some instances to 200 feet, with considerable /flats ,in between them. I cannot say that the surveyors know exactly where they would cross the route - whether it would be necessary to go around them, or whether the line could be taken along the flats between them. Then it is a distinct disadvantage that the route shall pass fifty miles from Eucla, as all the coal required for working the line when it was constructed would have to come from Port Augusta on the one hand and from Eucla on the other. There would be very nearly 700 miles of ^railway between the Western Australian boundary and Port Augusta. A great deal of coal would be required for the engines in use when the line was being worked, and it would never do to have to go back over the 400 miles of railway to Kalgoorlie for that coal. It would have to be landed at Eucla, and taken up to the line by a fifty-mile railway from that place. “It will be seen that that would add very considerably to the cost of the line, and enormously to the expense of working it. Coming now to the other route, which is called the “ Southern
Route,” its advantages are that, first of all, it would be 60 miles shorter. In the second place, it would go within eight or ten miles of Eucla. It would start from Port Augusta, and go between the Gawler Ranges and Lake Gardiner. A disadvantage is that it would not open up any new country, but it would go straight away into farming country near the coast. Some honorable senators have contended that the further you go inland the better the rainfall ; but that is quite a mistake, as the rainfall is heaviest along the coast. We have good land along the coast to Fowler’s Bay, and until- we come to the Great Australian Bight. There is a farming population already settled along that route. It touches the coast at Streaky Bay, where coal could be landed for working the line. If the line were constructed by this route, the farming population settled along the coast would be enabled to send the small products of their farms - butter, eggs, and poultry - by this railway right into Kalgoorlie.
– That is worth nothing to a railway.
– I have always supposed that traffic is worth something to a railway. I remind the honorable senator that hay could be carried through to Kalgoorlie also. I understand that the haulage of hay on the Victorian lines is considered of great advantage in their working. A great many horses are used on the gold-fields, and it is an arid spot, at which hay is not likely to be grown. Hay can be taken to Kalgoorlie, as it is now taken in large quantities to Broken Hill. As against the northern route, this route, therefore, would be sure of some traffic in produce, and possibly also some passenger traffic.
– The settlers will grow their own hay at Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie.
– The honorable senator can never have been there, or -he would know that they cannot grow hay. Senator Styles. - I quote from the Western Australian Commissioner when I say that they do grow hay there.
– The rainfall at Coolgardie is not sufficient for the growth of hay, though in the wet season a little might be grown there.
– But surely all the hay used on the Western Australian goldfields will be grown in Western Australia in a very short time?
– Honorable senators might just as well say that the hay used at Broken Hill is grown in New South Wales, but we know that it is grown in South Australia, where the farmers have a considerable advantage, as against the New South Wales farmers, in the matter of the distance over which their produce has to be carried. These two routes will have to be examined very carefully.
– Two routes?
– Yes; there may be an intermediate route, but I do not think there is.
– Then this is to be a survey of two or three routes ?
– No; it is to be an examination of the country, to decide upon the best route to adopt.
– Will the £20,000 cover the survey of the two routes?
– It will be sufficient for the inquiries which it is necessary to make.
– What will the honorable senator do with the surplus?
– I do not know that there will be any surplus. But when we have reliable officers, who inform us that the work which it is necessary to accomplish can be accomplished for a certain sum, we are justified in asking Parliament to make the necessary provision; and if they cannot do the work for the money, Parliament will subsequently be justified in hauling them over the coals, and perhaps in dismissing them.
– It would be too late then.
– Is there any evidence, to show that the £20,000 is meant to cover the survey of two routes ?
– Undoubtedly. I have just read a statement from the report brought forward by the chief engineers of the various States, in which they refer to the necessity for an examination of the second route. We are therefore making provision for that examination. What is required is to find out the best route, and what it will cost to construct the line between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie. I can inform honorable senators that we have an engineer in South Australia named Stewart, who has been employed by the Government of that State for the last fifteen or twenty years. That officer, by going through a country on foot, and taking certain observations, is able to sketch in the route of a railway, and to give a reliable estimate of the cost of a line. I know that after he has made such estimates, trial surveys subsequently undertaken have confirmed his estimates almost to £1. A man who is thoroughly up tothis work can readily make a survey which will enable him to form a reliable estimate of the cost of a line.
– Will the honorable senator undertake, if this amount is not found to be sufficient, not to ask for any more ?
– I have been too long a member of a Government to give any undertaking of that sort. I am perfectly frank with honorable senators when I admit that I could not guarantee that. I firmly believe that £20,000 will be ample for the purpose, and 1 believe I couldget the work done for less by the employment of the man to whom I have referred. I believe we shall be able to carry out for less than £20,000, a trial survey, which will enable any competent person to estimate what the railway can be constructed for. I have a word or two to say now on the question of the gauge. Honorable senators will have noticed how strongly the commission of engineers-in-chief recommended the adoption of the 4 feet inch gauge. They appear to have been unanimous on the point, and have dealt with it more strongly in their second report than in their first. I do not like to differ from such experts, but I do differ from them, and I think they never made a greater mistake than they did when they recommended the 4 feet 81/2 inch gauge. We have 400 miles of the 3 feet 6 inch gauge to Kalgoorlie, and 120 miles of the same from Tarowie to Port Augusta. And yet the commission recommended the adoption of the 4 feet 81/2 inch gauge for the line between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie.
– Western Australia is prepared to change her line to a 4 feet 81/2 inch line.
– Western Australia is prepared to do a very great deal, but the Western Australian Government were very foolish to make any such promise. It would mean an expenditure of something like £1,000,000 to alter their gauge to 4 feet 81/2 inches ; and when they have done so they will not secure a single extra passenger or an extra ton of goods. They will have spent £1,000,000 for nothing,. The 3 feet 6 inch gauge makes a very good? line, on which trains can travel at from 40 to 45 miles an hour with the greatest safety. They can be as well equipped and comfortable on a 3 feet 6 inch line as on a 4 feet 81/2 inch line, as any one must know who has travelled between Brisbane and the New South Wales border. The comfort provided by the express train from Brisbane to Wallangarra on a 3 feet 6 inch line is quite equal to that provided on the 4 feet 81/2 inch line on the other side. The only disadvantage is that trains cannot be driven quite as fast on a 3ft. 6in. line. What is proposed is a break of gauge at Kalgoorlie, another at Port Augusta, and a third at Terowie; and we are to put the State of Western Australia to the expense of about £1,000,000, because that State will have to alter the gauge of some of its branch lines as well as of the main line of 400 miles. The proposal also will put South Australia to an expenditure of £400.000 to alter her line to the 4ft. 81/2in. gauge. Farmers living along 150 miles of the line will put their goods on a 4ft. 81/2in. railway for their great market at Broken Hill, andjust before they get to Terowie, they will have to change them again to a 3ft. 6in. line.
– I thought the honorable senator said that their great market would be the gold-fields of Western Australia, when the proposed line was built.
– The honorable senator is not following me. I was alluding to farmers living on the west coast when I made that statement. I am now speaking of farmers settled between Port Augusta and Petersburg in the opposite direction, and their market is at Broken Hill. I believe that the position taken up by the South Australian Premier is the correct one, and he says that he cannot consent to the line being constructed on a 4ft. 81/2in. gauge.
– That settles the matter absolutely.
– Because it would involve an additional expenditure of £400,000, unless we have a break of gauge at Port Augusta.
– Then what is the use of going on with this survey?
– I contend that we can build this line on a 3ft. 6in. gauge. All the railways in South Africa, where the Boer war was recently carried on, are built on the 3ft. 6in. gauge.
– Will the honorable senator tell us what gauge was recommended by the engineers’ commission?
– I have already said that they recommended a 4ft. 81/2in. gauge, but I do not agree with them.
– The honorable senator must acknowledge that the same quantity of goods or number of passengers cannot be carried on a. 3ft. 6in. gauge, as on a 4ft. 8in. gauge.
– They can, and they can be carried cheaper, as any one must know who has studied the question of gauges.
– Has the honorable senator given the engineers the benefit of his views on the question ?
– I do not trouble about the engineers, but I give honorable senators reasons for what I say.
– Is it proposed to build this line on the mort-gage principle?
– It is not now proposed to build the line at all, but to make a survey ; and I should be obliged to the honorable senator if he would not make such stupid interjections.
– I should like the Min-, ister to say whether he thinks that a 3ft. 6in. line from Port Augusta to Fremantle would enable the express to save any time at all, as compared with the ocean route ?
– Yes, it would save over two days ; but I do not propose to go into these details. The honorable senator, as a quasi-engineer, will want to know something next about the rates, about how many pounds of coal will be consumed by the engines, or the weight of the trucks to be used, but I do not propose to go into those matters. I am dealing with the question of gauge, and I say that this line should be built on the 3ft. 6in. gauge, though I am prepared to admit that it would probably have been better if all the States had followed a uniform practice, and had adopted the 4ft. 81/2in. gauge from the first in railway construction. It would not-pay to lay down 1,100 miles of line on a 4ft. 81/2in. gauge, with the consequent expense of alteration of gauge. The advantages would not be commensurate with the money which would have to be spent in order to make the gauges uniform. I do not pretend to say that the 3ft. 6in. gauge is better than the 4ft. 81/2in. gauge. If I had to decide upon a universal gauge for the Commonwealth I should prefer the latter, because I consider that the English is better than the Irish standard. In South Africa, the 3ft. 6in. gauge is used ; in Japan also it is used, and wherever they have captured Russian lines they have adopted that gauge. It is used in New Zealand, too. I do not propose to read the letter which Mr. Gwynneth sent to Sir John Forrest, and of which Senator Dobson complained so bitterly, as it has already been quoted. I now come to the question of what promise the Premier of South Australia made to lead the people of Western Australia to believe that his Parliament would consent by Act to the construction of this railway. Sir Frederick Holder has been criticised very severely for not giving effect to a promise he made. On the 1st February, he wrote in these terms to Sir John Forrest: -
Following our conversation as’ to the possible blocking of the construction of a railway line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta by the Federal authority, by South Australia refusing consent, rendered necessary by section 34 of clause 51 of the Commonwealth Bill, to the construction of the line through her territory, I regard the withholding of consent as a most improbable thing, in fact, quite out of the question.
To assure you of our attitude in the matter, I will undertake as soon as the Federation is established (West and South Australia both being States of the Commonwealth), to introduce a Bill formally giving the assent of this province to the construction of the line by the Federal authority, and to pass it stage by stage simultaneously with the passage of a similar Bill in your Parliament.
The Parliament of South Australia and the Parliament of Western Australia met before the middle of winter in that year. The Premier of Western Australia did not introduce a Bill dealing with the subject that -session, and of course the Premier of South Australia did not, and before the former was ready to go on with the Bill, the latter ceased to be a member of the Parliament of South Australia. Can he then be blamed in any sense for not introducing this legislation? The fault is unmistakably on the part of the Premier of Western Australia. If he had introduced a Bill Sir Frederick Holder would have done the same, and I have every reason to believe that it would have been passed without the slightest trouble at that particular time. The question is asked, how is it that the successor of Sir Frederick Holder did not consider himself bound to carry out this .promise. He did consider himself bound by that promise. When he was asked, in a letter, whether he was going to introduce this legislation he said he was; but when he began to inquire among the members of his Parliament he found that he had not the slightest chance of carrying the Bill. What was the reason for that change of feeling? In the meanwhile, there was an agitation for the construction of a railway down to Esperance Bay. In common with Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania, South Australia was supplying the gold-fields with a large quantity of their provisions through Fremantle and Perth. The construction of a line to Esperance Bay would have shortened the time for sending our more perishable products to Coolgardie bv at least two days. The passage of that Bill was blocked in the interest of Perth and Fremantle, and that roused the ire of some of our people. Then the Government of Western Australia began! to operate in another direction. Supposing that a ton of jam had to be. sent up to the gold-fields. The freight by rail was 100 per cent, more for Tasmanian jam than for locally-made jam. That is the highest case I know of, but the percentage ranged from 25 to 100 in favour of the local people. That was hardly exhibiting a Federal spirit. Then the Government of Western Australia suddenly got frightened about the introduction of certain pests such as vegetable and fruit pests. If a man sent from South Australia an apple which showed the slightest sign of having been affected by codlin-moth the whole consignment was destroyed -at once, although the codlin-moth was rampant throughout the, territory. These are reasons why a majority in the South Australian Parliament said “ No “ “to their request. In a letter to Mr. Jenkins, Sir Edmund Barron calls attention to the letter from Sir Frederick Holder, and considers that his successor should carry out his promise. The reply he received reads as follows : -
In reply to your letter of the 19th inst., I have the honour to inform you, as I have previously informed the honorable the Premier of Western Australia, that it would not only be unjustifiable, but useless to-submit to Parliament a Bill for the construction of this railway (of which this State’s share of the cost would amount to a very large sum) without being in a position to give Parliament information as to the cost of the scheme.
The position which South Australia has taken up all through the piece has been that she has expressed a desire to know what the scheme is to cost, what gauge is to be adopted, and what route is to be followed. I contend that she is perfectly justified in safeguarding the interests of her people by getting these questions settled before she gives her consent to the construction of the line. On the 7th May, 1904; the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth sent this telegram to the Premier of South Australia: -
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway under consideration. Shall be glad to be advised whether, in event Commonwealth Parliament favorably considering question, you will be prepared to pass Act authorizing Federal authority to proceed with work of construction. As you are aware, this has already been done by Legislature of Western Australia. Greatly obliged if you will favour with early reply.
Mr. Jenkins sent the following answer:
Replying your wire 7th instant, Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta railway, I advised your predecessor on 22nd February, that if it was considered necessary for the State to pass an Act to give the Federal Government power to make the proposed survey, we would be agreeable to ask Parliament, when next assembled, to pass a short measure with that object. I do not suppose you intend to ask your Parliament to pass legislation providing for the construction until survey is made, and some reliable estimate prepared of probable cost.
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth was not exactly satisfied. He wrote -
Your wire 10th inst., Kalgoorlie Port Augusta railway. Shall be glad if you will kindly advise me disposition of your Government towards question of authorizing construction. The possession of your views upon this specific point will be of considerable value to the Government in considering question of survey. Will you kindly favour me early reply?
To that letter he received this answer -
Replying your wire nth, Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta railway, when survey is made and reliable estimates of probable cost are prepared, we should be pleased to advise you as to what action we shall then ask the State Parliament to take. The question of making survey has already been decided by your predecessors in office. Unless you intend to repudiate their obligations you need no further information in order to justify you in asking your Parliament to provide necessary funds for that purpose.
There was another long telegram, in which the Prime Minister wished to know whether they would agree to construct the railway - he was always harping on that point - and the answer he got reads as follows : -
I have nothing to add to mine of 12th inst., further than to state that survey and reliable estimates are always prepared before we ask Parliament by Act to sanction the construction of any line of railway.
That position is taken up also by the present Premier of South Australia, Mr. Price. In answer to a telegram from the Prime
Minister of the Commonwealth as to whether South Australia would authorize us to carry out the survey, Mr. Price wired on the 1 st of August -
We have no objection to survey Western Australian railway, but desire to be consulted as to. route ; it must be understood that this in no way. binds us to ultimate approval of policy.
I think that South Australia is abundantly, justified, before consenting to the construction of the line, in seeing that her interests are protected by the adoption of a gauge which will suit her requirements, and will not subject her taxpayers to large additional expense. I contend that she ought to beconsulted as to the direction of the route. By-and-by she will indicate what route she thinks best in her interest, and no doubt Western Australia will adopt that course, and if there is any difference of opinionthere will have to be a compromise arrived at
– South Australia claims that she shall be consulted, but shewishes to dictate to the Commonwealth.
– I do not think: she wishes to dictate. In the circumstances, it would be foolish on her part to promise to consent to the construction of the railway.
– It is more foolish on our part to spend the money unless she is bound.
– I do not knowthat it is foolish, because sooner or later, as the honorable and learned senator has admitted, the railway will have tobe constructed. There are very few men who will say that its construction will not be required for defence purposes. The losswhich may be sustained in connexion with this examination of the country will* under no circumstances be more than the loss of interest on the money. I say that it is worth it, and this questionwill never be settled or be ripe for intelligent consideration until this examination of the country is made. Therefore, I think that we ought to pass this Bill, and’ thereby authorize the necessary expenditure.
Debate (on motion by Senator Matheson) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Playford) proposed -
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for Wednesday next.
– Will the debatebe carried to a conclusion on Wednesday?
– I cannot be sure of that. I cannot force the Senate, but it will be proceeded with.
– I think we ought to go on with this measure, and finish it. to-morrow. I understand that the Public Service classification is to be discussed to-morrow, but we have not had an opportunity of reading the speech of the Minister of Home Affairs in another place, as it has not vet been published in Hansard.
– A promise was made to me that the classification would be considered tomorrow, and I trust that the Government will “keep their promise.
– We ought to have an assurance as to when the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill will definitely be proceeded with, and as that assurance has not been given, I move, as an amendment -
That the words “ Wednesday next “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word to-morrow.”
– A fortnight ago Senator Pearce asked a question as to when the classification scheme would be discussed, and he was informed this week that it would be discussed on Wednesday next, if possible.” It is possible to discuss it to-morrow, and the Government think that it is convenient that the debate should be taken then. All. arrangements have been made for officers from the Public Service Commissioner’s office to be in attendance to advise the representatives of the Government, who desire to keep the promise which they made.
– I think it would be convenient. to adjourn the debate until Wednesday, for the reason that if it is proceeded with to-morrow, we shall probably be unable to finish it, not having a clear day before us, whereas if we proceed with it on Wednesday, we shall probably be able to bring the debate to a conclusion.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - If the Minister of Defence will give me his assurance that the Bill will definitely be taken on Wednesday, except perhaps for a little formal business that may precede it, I shall be willing to withdraw my amendment.
– It is my intention that the Bill shall be proceeded with on Wednesday, and that it shall be the first business taken.
Amendment, byleave, withdrawn.
Question resolvedin the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 August 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1905/19050817_senate_2_25/>.