4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Owing to a departmental error, the full text of a paper regarding the trans-Australian railway was not laid on the table on Friday. I produce the complete paper, and ask that it be substituted for the other paper.
– What is the subject of the paper?
– It is the letter of Mr. J. A. Smith, referred to by Senator McColl, and the reply of Mr.Deane thereto. I beg to lay upon the table -
Paper (in substitution for Paper laid on the table, and ordered to bc printed, on 24th November, 191 1), viz, : -
Gauge of Australian Railways - Memorandum by Mr. James Alexander Smith, C.E., President of the Victorian Institute of Engineers; and Comments thereon by Mr. H. Deane, M. Inst. C.E., Consulting Railway Engineer.
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway - Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure and to move -
That the papers be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Will the Minister of Defence take steps to expedite the printing of the document which he has just laid upon the table, and which refers to a matter on which the Senate is asked to arrive at a decision. I may have been wrong, but on Friday I understood the Minister to say that the paper would be available for distribution to-day.
– I understand that the document which is being circulated is the correct paper.
– That is not the paper I am referring to, sir. The impression I drew from the Minister’s reply on Friday was that the estimates of receipts and expenditure would be available for distribution to-day.
– I may have made a mistake there, but it is obvious that the tabling of a paper at the present moment cannot be attended with that full benefit which . I am sure the Senate would have liked to derive from it. Therefore, I ask the Minister if he will expedite the printing of the paper.
– Yes, that will be done.
Senator PEARCE laid upon the table the following papers -
Naval College - Reports by Captain B. M. Chambers, Second Naval Member, on proposed sites in New South Wales, &c.
Defence Act 1903-1910 -
Regulations (Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth -
Cancellation of Regulations 513 to 555 inclusive, and substitution of new Regulations in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 191 1, No. 186.
Amendment of Regulation 1. - Statutory Rules 191 1, No. 187.
Amendment of Regulation 558; cancellation of Regulation 560, and substitution of new Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules1911, No. 189.
Cancellation of Regulation 60, and substitution of new Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 191 1, No. 190.
Regulations (Provisional) for Universal Training - New Regulation 58A. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 188.
Financial and Allowance Regulations ( Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth - Amendment of Regulation 46. - Statutory Rules1911, No. 191.
Papua - Ordinances of 191 1 -
No. 13, Currency; No. 16, Survey Marks; No. 21, Customs Duties Amending.
-laid upon the table-
Further Return to Order of the Senate of5th October,1911 - Press Cable Subsidy: Amount paid to date, &c.
– Is the Minister of Defence now in a position to make a statement regarding the evidence on which the report relating to defective telegraph poles and arms was based?
– Yes, the evidence is now available on the table of the Library.
– I wish to ask the
Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral the following questions : -
– I have been furnished with the following reply to the questions -
A scheme of wireless telegraphy for the Com monwealth, including the sites for stations, is now under consideration, and the PosmasteiGeneral hopes to be able to make a definite statement on the subject within a week.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
With regard to King Island postal requirements -
What has been decided on in reference to an extra box and slot asked for at the post-office at Currie?
Has the Department attempted to minimize the practice of letters being handed to members of the crew of the mail steamer for postage?
Has the inspector improved the working of the Currie Post-office in minor details?
Have any steps been taken to connect the wireless telegraph station by telephone with the post-office ?
Did the inspector, in his report, recommend the establishment of a receiving office at Elephant River, 10 miles from Currie?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Has the Government received from Mr. James Alexander Smith, C.E., President of the Victorian Institute of Engineers, a memorandum on the “ Problem of the Gauge of Australian Railways”? If received, will the Government have it printed and circulated for the information of members?
– The answer to the question is “Yes.”
asked the Vice-
President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
Motion (by Senator Lynch) agreed to -
That there be laid on the table of the Senate a return showing - 1. (a) The number of official post-offices throughout the Commonwealth.
The number in which moneys are received on behalf of Savings Banks.
The amount received from this source during last year. 2. (a) The number of non-official post-offices throughout the Commonwealth.
The number in which moneys are received on behalf of Savings Banks.
The amount received from this source last year.
The number and nature of other sources through which moneys were collected on behalf of Savings Banks last year.
The amount of commission or other form of compensation received in respect of the collection of such moneys from all sources.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) pro posed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I should like to say at once that in objecting, as I did, to this motion going as formal, it was not my intention to unduly occupy the time of the Senate, nor do I think that it is the intention of any honorable senator on this side to do so. But as the Opposition view the proposals in this Bill, and other matters connected with it, as of grave moment, it was thought desirable that we should, as briefly as the importance of the matter warrants, summarize the objections which we have endeavoured ineffectually to press upon the notice of honorable senators during the Committee stage. In doing this it necessarily follows that I shall be recapitulating to some extent the objections already voiced in this Chamber rather than breaking any fresh ground. Still, it is thought well to put in a precise and concise form the objections which have animated honorable senators on this side in the hostile course they have taken with regard to this measure. The first point I wish to present is that there has been no justification shown by argument advanced or evidence furnished for the very drastic changes proposed. We have heard vague unsupported statements of fraud and corruption under the existing law. There has been no serious attempt to substantiate them or to produce the facts which ought to exist before such statements are publicly made. The absence of this justification is one of the reasons why the Opposition, at what might have appeared to supporters of the Bill an undue length, considered it right to voice their ineffective protest. As no attempt has been made to justify the charges of fraud and corruption, the Opposition feel entitled, in view of the provisions of this Bill and theattitude of its supporters, to affirm that it has been drafted rather with a regard tothe interests of party than with any particular desire to afford equal facilities to the great body of the electors.
– That is a very mild way of putting it.
– I am endeavouring, to make my statement without any heat at all, and to deal with the matter as one that: is entirely serious. With these preliminary remarks, I propose to summarize more in. detail the objections taken to this Bill. First of all, the Opposition strongly object to the measure because it withdraws from those who are distant from a polling placethe opportunity hitherto afforded them to exercise their citizen rights.
– It gives them moreample opportunity by extending the places at which they can record their votes.
– Then, according to Senator’s Gardiner’s logic, a man who is more than 5 miles from the nearest polling; booth is advantaged by being told that he may vote at a polling booth 50 miles away.
– He can vote at any polling booth in the State in which he lives.
– Of what use is it to tell a man who is unable to attend a polling booth within 5 miles of him that he is at liberty to vote at any other pollingbooth in the Commonwealth? If Senator Gardiner means to say that some other electors are given additional facilities, I am prepared to agree with him. Whilst the Bill withdraws a facility enjoyed by electors under the existing Act, it offers no substitute for it. In addition, this Bill withdraws the facilities hitherto afforded to women in maternity cases to. record their votes. They are unable at such a time to attend a polling booth, no matter how near it may be to them. It cannot be pretended for a moment that a woman who is unable to leave her room is compensated for the withdrawal of the postal vote by being permitted to roam all over Australia, and to cast her vote where she pleases. The third objection is that under this Bill it is deliberately proposed to withdraw similar facilities from the infirm, lt is idle to pretend that one whose infirmity prevents him from going 100 yards to recordhis vote is provided with a better system in being given the liberty to vote at any polling-booth he happens to be near on the day of election. His difficulty is to get to the nearest polling-booth, and it is no compensation to him to be told that he may, if he pleases, record his vote at the booth furthest from him. These are briefly the objections of the Opposition to the withdrawal of the postal voting facilities. In addition to this, the Bill, while providing for the holding of elections on Saturdays - in respect to which every one admits that a strong case can lie made out - makes no provision at all for those who, by reason of ^conscientious motives, are unable to vote on that day. The Government affirmed that by extending the hours of polling to 8 p.m. they have met that difficulty. I appeal to honorable senators to say whether the official clergy of the Hebrew faith, the particular denomination in question, are not better guides in this matter than is any member of the Senate, or any person outside their faith ? They have told us in a petition to the Senate that the extension of the hours of polling to 8 p.m. will not meet their difficulty. I am not going into their difficulty. I do not know enough about it, but I say that I am entitled to accept the assurance of the official heads of this church that the extension proposed will not meet the difficulty which arises from the forms of their religion. I contrast the denial of the .privileges asked for these people with the extraordinary provisions made in this Bill for the benefit of another class of voters. In Committee on the Bill, I proposed that, to meet the conscientious scruples of people of the Hebrew faith, a provision should be made to enable them to vote on the day previous to the day of election before the Electoral Registrar. The Government declined to accept that proposal, and, with the solid support of their party, turned it down. I wish the Senate to recollect what the Opposition then offered. There is in this Bill a clause which provides that a seaman or other person, who may be leaving Australia some weeks before polling day - before even the names of all the candidates are known - shall be entitled to go before the Electoral Registrar and record his vote. Yet, when we asked that a similar privilege should be extended to those who have conscientious objections to voting on Saturday, that privilege was denied them. In view of this circumstance, one cannot resist the conclusion that in the shaping of this Bill party interests have been allowed to exercise considerable and undue sway.
– That is a most unfair thing to say.
– What else can I say? I have pointed out that seamen and others - whose votes my honorable friends opposite have a reasonable right to assume will be cast in their favour - are entitled to record their votes weeks before polling day, before even the names of the candidates who will seek their suffrages are announced.
– What about the passengers ?
– More votes are represented by the seamen than by the passengers of a vessel.
– Upon some vessels there are a hundred passengers to twenty seamen.
– Only on the big boats. The Bill contains this extraordinary provision - a provision which is not to be found in any other electoral law in the world - that before nomination day a certain class of electors may cast their votes, and cast therm under conditions as to which we are in absolute ignorance to-day. If the Government can safely put forward a proposition to enable one section of the electors to vote weeks before polling day, surely it is only reasonable to say that those electors who, from conscientious reasons, decline to vote on Saturday, shall be entitled, under the same regulations, to vote one day before polling day. The latter proposal, however, was solidly voted down by the supporters of the Ministry. That is one of the objections which impelled the Opposition to adopt a hostile attitude towards this Bill. Having dealt with the things which the measure does not do, I now wish to say a few words in regard to two radical alterations of the existing law which it proposes. I refer to compulsory enrolment, and to what, for want of a better term, I may describe as the ultra-divisional voting. Both these provisions may or may not be good. It will depend entirely upon how effect is given to them. Unless the new set of regulations which has to be framed has regard to all the circumstances, it must be obvious that the doorway to fraud will be opened wide. Whilst there is some merit in one of these proposals, it is obvious that that merit will be entirely destroyed unless it be hedged round with some safeguards which will wholly eliminate the liability of fraud. But concerning this, the Minister gave us no information whatever. He declined to explain how this compulsory enrolment is to be carried out. We were simply told that the card system is to be adopted. We were not vouchsafed any information as to what the regulations will contain, although the Minister was frequently asked to enlighten us upon that point. In regard to ultra-divisional voting, the Bill provides that an elector entitled to vote in one division, shall, if absent, be allowed to record his vote in any other division in the Commonwealth. No doubt the end i» view is a laudable one. Certainly the objective of the provision received the cordial approval of all sections of the Senate. But it must be obvious that the degree of safety with which that proposal can be adopted, will depend entirely upon the safeguards which surround it. Yet the Minister declined not only to say how it should be worked, but to set out in the Bill the nature of the safeguards to be adopted. They are to be left entirely to the Department, or to the Minister in office for the time being. I will now point out the particular danger which arises from the introduction of these new proposals, minus the safeguards which ought to have accompanied them. Under our enrolment and voting system, we have hitherto had the great safeguard of local knowledge. Our electoral law has proceeded upon the assumption that we should localize both the enrolment and the voting. Each elector was gathered round his own centre, and, consequently, the local policeman had a reasonable opportunity of knowing the local elector. Local knowledge thus constituted a great safeguard against corrupt practice. Even scrutineers were of some value under that system. But now we are to have a system under which an elector of Balmain, Sydney, will be entitled to vote in Brisbane, or anywhere else . in the Commonwealth. The safeguard of local knowledge will, therefore, be entirely eliminated. The Department has power to make regulations, as to which the Minister will not utter a single word. It has been said, “ Surely we can trust the Government.” As an abstract proposition, I would not dispute that contention. But when radical alterations in our electoral system are pro- posed - alterations which suggest the possibility of considerable fraudulent practice - it is an obligation upon the Government to’ fully explain the proposals, which, if the Bill passes, they will be called upon to launch. I have already admitted, as an abstract proposition, that one may fairly trust the Government of the day. But there arespecial reasons why one may feel more than anxiety and doubt as to the wisdom of excluding from an Act of Parliament general directions as to the conduct of elec,toral matters. It will be within the knowledge of honorable senators that quite recently in two of the States there has been a considerable amount of corrupt practice,, which suggests the possibility of Governments, for their own purposes, condoning, offences against electoral administration. The first case to which I will refer is one which happened in my own State. There it was shown conclusively that an elector had been a party to an absolute forgery of an electoral claim - that he had induced a young girl to forge a claim for enrolment - and that he had wrongly witnessed that claim. He was proceeded against on twocharges, both of which were proved. The Attorney-General of the State then stepped in, and, referring to the offence as “ the act of a well-meaning enthusiast,” reduced the fine, which was a substantial one, to a paltry 2s.
– Is it not a fact thai the young lady merely signed her mother’s name in the presence of her mother ?
– No; if it were a fact, Mr. Holman, who was somewhat on> his defence in this matter, would have mentioned it.
– He may have mentioned it; but the press which supports the honorable senator’s party would not publish it.
– The less Senator Gardiner says about the press the better.
– I happen to knowall about the case.
– The facts are as I have stated, and the secretary of the Political Labour League was fined on two serious charges before the Police Court, the fines amounting in each case to £5 or £6. But although the crime of forgery was involved, the Attorney-General of the State referred to the act of the accused as that “of a well-meaning enthusiast,” and reduced the fine to a nominal amount. In a second case, Mr. Holman refused to proceed against a man named
Bridge, who had been committed for trial on another offence against our electoral law. He had been committed for trial, but the Attorney-General declined to proceed against him. In that case also I am justified in saying that the offending persons were attached to the party represented by the Government of the day. While I make no personal charges against my honorable friends opposite - I should be sorry to do that - I say nevertheless that when we see a tendency on the part of a Government in this country, to abuse a power that is given to them at the call of party interests, and always to take a more or less warped view of things when those party interests are involved, this Senate will be proved to have been entirely wrong in allowing a. Bill of this kind to pass from it without insisting on necessary safeguards and precautions with regard to compulsory enrolment and absent voting being inserted in it rather than being left to regulation. As showing to what an extent these possibilities of corruption may take place, even under our democratic system of Government, let me refer to what has occurred in another State than my own. In this case absolute proof has been put forward of gross irregularities amounting to forgery and the stuffing of rolls. A Committee was appointed in South Australia, to investigate the circumstances. A minority of that Committee consisting of members of the” Labour party, whilst in no sense denying the facts set forth, attempted to palliate them.
– There was nothing in the facts.
– The mere fact that certain electors had done wrong I should not have regarded as being in itself worthy of comment, because in any considerable number of people you will always find some who will tamper -with the law, but the seriousness of the matter lies in the fact that when this wrong-doing occurs in the interests of a particular party, prominent members of that party openly state that they do not see anything serious in what is done, and even defend the law-breakers whose practices were to their party’s advantage.
– I would break that kind of law myself.
– When, I find a man occupying the position that Senator McGregor does, prepared to stand up, and say that because a law does not suit his particular party he is justified in breaking it, I am entitled to believe that Sena- tor McGregor or any Government of which” he is a member would believe that it would be a right and proper thing to break a law of any kind when it did not suit them. The honorable senator and those who sit behind him, therefore, ought not to object to my statement, that in this instance they are shaping a law purely in their own party’s interests. As the statement has been challenged as to whether there was anything in the facts of the case to which I have referred, may I make a quotation, not from the report, of the majority of the Committee, but from the report of the minority, signed by two members of the Labour party of South Australia. They do not deny a single fact alleged in the majority report, though those facts were flagrant enough. In order to show what they were, let me first quote a few words from the majority report -
The evidence taken so far has been of a startling nature, and has disclosed the fact that gross irregularities have taken place -with regard to claims lodged in respect of the electoral roll for the Legislative Council Central District, and that in some instances the signatures of alleged claimants for insertion on the roll have been forged. The claims of some electors, which would otherwise be in order, are invalid by reason of the fact that their signatures were not attested by the Justice of the Peace purporting so to do.
What do the minority say in answer? They do not deny the allegations. They simply say -
We are of opinion that the report, as agreed” to by the majority of the Committee, fails in some respects to convey an accurate impression of the facts brought out in the evidence, and that a modification in the language employed would have rendered it more in keeping with the mode of expression usually adopted in the drawing up of a document of its nature.
– Hear, hear !
– There is no denial of the facts, which are indeed set down in the report signed by the political friends of the men who had been convicted. The minority also say -
Of the claims for registration on the Legislative Council roll for the Central District received bv the Electoral Department on 8th July, there were twenty-seven regarding which .the Deputy Returning Officer was not satisfied that they were properly signed and attested. These claims were put into the hands of the police for investigation with the following result in respect to them : - In eleven cases the persons whose names were attached to the claims stated that they did not give any one authority to sign their names.
Those statements were witnessed by members of the Labour party and by a member of the Legislative Council in his capacity of justice of the peace. There is no denial of the fact. There is an admission of it. There is an admission with regard to those eleven cases that the claims were not signed by the persons whose names were attached to them, and that they had not given any one else authority to sign them. That is the kind of thing which Senator McGregor says he himself would do.
– There was no evidence that the persons were notentitled to be on the roll.
– That is not the point.
– It is the point with me.
– Senator McGregor says that the law is nothing to him. He himself is the authority to say who should be entitled to be on the roll. But surely it is the Parliament of South Australia which has the determination of that matter, not any individual in South Australia. Let us go further -
In two of these cases the persons concerned did not possess the necessary qualification.
That meets Senator McGregor’s statement. The persons were not entitled to be on the roll at all. Yet his friends and political associates by fraud put them on the roll.
In five cases the claimant admitted having attached their signatures to blank forms.
Those blank forms were subsequently witnessed by a member of the Labour party.
– After they had been filled in?
– Exactly. The applicants signed blank forms, which were taken away and witnessed by a justice of the peace, who ought never to have witnessed them, because they were not signed in his presence.
In three cases the signatures were not those of the claimants.
That is absolute forgery. Yet that is the kind of case that the Vice-President of the Executive Council is now defending.
But Mr. F. F. Ward had been asked by the claimants to put their names on the Legislative Council roll; in two cases Mr. Ward had been directly authorized by the claimants to sign for them ; in two cases the signatures were not the claimants’, but they had been told by Mr. Ward that he was going to put them on the Legislative Council roll ; in one case the applicant stated that the claim was signed by her husband for her ; in one case the applicant stated that he did not give any one authority to sign his name, but he admitted that the claim was filled up in his presence by Mr. P. E. Bibby, who said that he was going to put his name on the roll (in evidence this claimant stated that he gave his consent to his name being placed on the roll. -
Q.758). In two cases the Returning Officer for the State was not satisfied as to the signatures, and refused the registration - in one of these the police were unable to ascertain “ whether the ‘ claimant was existent or non-existent.”
Let honorable senators pay attention to what follows -
None of the applicants had appeared before the justices of the peace whose signature were attached to the claims as attesting witnesses, namely, the Honorable E. L. W. Klauer, M.L.C. (i); Messrs. W. D. Clough (9); F. C. Hahn (9); and T. B. Merry (8).
The whole twenty-seven, in fact, were fraudulent. These are not the statements of the enemies of the dominant party in South Australia. They are the admissions of its friends. When we find not only that these things can be done, but that when done they are defended and sought to be justified by gentlemen holding such a responsible position as the Vice-President of the Executive Council does, I say that we may reasonably look for a repetition of this sort of thing if we allow the present Bill to pass from us as we are doing, without insisting on the insertion of safeguards in it, instead of leaving them to the Electoral Office or to the Ministry of the day. It is for that reason rather than any hostility to the provision for widening the facilities for voting, or for compulsory enrolment - it is because of the absence of necessary precautions, and because it is evident that there is a tendency on the part of certain individuals in the ranks of the Labour party to view with such tolerance any fraud against the Electoral Act which may help their party - that honorable senators on this side of the Chamber have felt justified in persisting in their opposition to these proposals. I have endeavoured as far as I could to deal with cold facts, because I have sought to make my few remarks a summary of the reasons which have justified the attitude of the Opposition. I recognise that it is too much to hope that any alteration of the Bill will take place here. It is, perhaps, too much to expect that even in another place better counsels will prevail, but I have still sufficient faith in the honesty of public opinion as a whole to believe that the average elector desires to see equal facilities afforded, irrespective of political views. And because I am firmly convinced that all electors want honesty in legislation and administration, I have ventured again to utter a protest in the hope that if nothing can be done in Parliament, the time will arrive when they will assist us to put right that which is wrong.
– - I regret very much that the Leader of the Opposition should have based his opposition to the measure on, and tried to put before the public, the biased view that it is brought forward in the interests of one party. Let me take his first claim - that the abolition of postal voting wil b debar the sick, the infirm, and the aged from voting. Can he contend that more members of these classes favour his party than favour our party?
– The return of postal votes showed that.
– The results may have depended largely on the corrupt means which the Opposition party used to secure these votes.
– But you have no proof of corrupt practices being used by this side.
– The number of those who voted by post is no indication of the number who were entitled to vote under the system. The fact that such a large number voted for the candidates of the Opposition proves to my mind that the system has - as those who have had experience of elections know - always been used by the Opposition party in a most unjust and unfair way.
– Give us the proof.
– What are the proofs which the honorable senator brought forward of his allegations? He quoted three cases. ‘ One of them was the awful fraud of a husband signing for the wife. When a document of that kind has to be filled in, how often does it happen that the husband is able to write better than the wife, and does not think that he is committing a fraud? I regret that not only in this case, but in many others, the Opposition impute wrong motives. Let us take the other persons who, it is said, will be debarred from voting, and that is the prospective mothers. Will Senator Millen claim that the friends of his party will have more cases of that kind than will the friends of the Labour party ?
– That is not the point.
– I wish to show that the system of postal voting is” not being abolished to injure one particular party. We are absolutely fair, and are prepared to take our chance. The law will apply just as harshly to our side as to the other side, and when both parties suffer equally, it is most unreasonable to impute unfairness. I do not think that there is one honorable senator who would take the right to vote from any person unless he was satisfied that sufficient cases of abuse had occurred to make it clear that a great injury was done to the community by placing a weapon in the hands of certain persons. The fact should not be lost sight of that while the Bill takes from certain persons the right to vote by post, it extends the facilities for voting to an unheard of degree. We are extending to these persons the right to vote at any polling booth, not merely in the State, but in the Commonwealth.
– Not to them, but to others.
– Let us see what this great privilege of voting by post means to the toilers. Suppose that a man was unable to go to a polling booth a few hundred yards away, and desired to vote. In the first place, he had to get a responsible person to come to his bedside, and sign an application for a postal ballotpaper.
– How was it that 29,000 odd persons took advantage of the system ?
– The majority of these persons used the system, because the party which the honorable senator represents paid canvassers to take the forms to the bedside of the sick and the infirm, and, in many places, outside the 5-mile radius, the employers took very good care to get possession of ballot-papers, and to mislay them if their employes would not vote as they desired.
– You have no proof of that.
– When a person wished to vote under this system, he had, I repeat, to get a justice of the peace, or a school teacher, or a postmaster, to come to his bedside. If he happened to live in a country district, it was very difficult to get a person to come to witness a signature. A worker who .was fencing on a selection had no chance of getting a magistrate to come.
– It is for party reasons that you are doing away with, the system.
– After the application form was signed, and witnessed, it had to be sent to the Returning Officer. In due course, a voting-paper was received, andagain recourse had to be made to a responsible . person. Owing to the immense amount of trouble to which the workers were put,ninety-nine out of a hundred would not use the system.
– That is the reason why you are doing away with the system - that it did not suit your party.
– Your point is that your opponents made better use of the system than you were able to do.
– Not at all. I am showing up the hollowness of Senator Millen’s statement that facilities were given to persons to vote by post. Difficulties were placed in the way of workers making use of the system, and this Bill substitutes a system under which a toiler can go to the nearest polling booth and record his vote.
– And the woman stops at home without casting a vote.
– As that will apply equally to both sides, no unfairness can be imputed to our side. Will riot women on each side be debarred from voting ?
– Is not that wrong?
– I would be the last person to take the opportunity of voting from any one; but we cannot ignore the unfair use which was made of the postal voting system by the Opposition.
– Why do you not prove that ?
– Nothing can prove that to the satisfaction of the honorable senator. If he is not already aware of the fact, the public are. I could cite the case of a canvasser who took a form to a patient in a hospital, and when the Litter expressed an intention to vote for the Labour candidate the paper was taken away.
– Why did not the honorable senator proceed if he knew all about the case ? It is easy to make statements, but difficult to prove them.
– These facts are well known from one end of Australia to the other.
– First of all, are they facts ?
– While the honorable senator is in this frame of mind, nothing will be accepted by him as a fact except that which he states himself.
– I want reasonable proof.
– Exactly. I have quite sufficient proof that a wrong use has been made of postal voting, and regretfully I am driven to the fact that we must do away with the system, because it is clearly a weapon in the hands of unscrupulous persons. The difficulty which confronts those who wish to make an honest use of the system is so great that it is not worth while to retain it. It should be remembered that, although postal voting is being abolished, it is to be replaced by something better.
– By something worse.
– I venture to say that, if in the past 29,000 persons have been able to record their votes by post who otherwise would have been debarred from voting under the new system, which entitles a person to vote at any polling booth in the Commonwealth, twice, if not four times, as many persons will, under this new system, have an opportunity to record their votes.
– It will open the door to great corruption.
– The ease with which honorable senators speak of the roads to corruption convinces me that they know the tracks very well. We are told of certain convictions in New South Wales when, as a fact, the cases were most trivial ; so trivial, indeed, that the AttorneyGeneral rescinded the fine, or failed to collect it, or refused to proceed. Yet these are called cases of corruption. The new system of witnessing signatures was introduced in New South Wales-
– The cases I referred to occurred under the old Act; and one of the first things which Mr. Holman did when he came into office was to deal with them.
– I think that since 1891the Electoral Act of New South Wales has been altered at least five times.
– There has been no alteration which justified a man putting his name down as a witness to a signature which was never made before him.
– The Act has been altered at least five times during the last twenty years.
– There has been no alteration on that point.
– What proof did the honorable senator bring forward in support of his accusation? The case of forgery was a case where a wife signed her husband’s name; while the other two cases were disallowed by the Returning Officer.
– Is that how you dispose of the twenty-seven cases?
– These are the most serious cases. Then there is the statement that names were signed to blank papers. What led up to this system of getting persons on the roll? It was the difficulties which the Government placed in the way of bond fide persons desiring to get enrolled. There is always some one on the look-out to drive a coach and four through an Act of Parliament. We shall do a great deal more for the community if we recognise the fact that elections have been carried on with a surprising degree of honesty, especially when we remember, not only the facilities, but the inducements, which have been offered for corruption.
– In this Bill you are giving more inducements.
– I have given one or two instances of the unfair use which has been made of postal voting.
– And you open the door still wider.
– I say that when the Labour party are unable to .hold the predominant position by an honest vote of the persons entitled to vote they will not desire to retain that position any longer.
– No, they will stuff the roll.
– The least thing which the honorable senator can do is to bring forward one case in support of his statement.
– I have given it to you.
– Twenty-seven cases have been mentioned.
– In the case of almost every Bill with which we are asked to deal unfair motives are imputed to the governing party. If ever there was a party which won its present position by the straightforward, honest votes of unpurchaseable electors it is the Labour party. I would not have risen to speak but for the unfair statements of the Leader of the Opposition, unfair when he knows that this Bill will enable a person to vote at any polling booth in the Commonwealth.
– - I think that every reasonable man in the community will share Senator Gardiner’s regret at the repeal of certain faci lities for voting. He can scarcely defend the repeal of postal voting by directing his remarks to the scathing criticism of the Leader of the Opposition. He seeks to defend the action of the Government on a plea which is ever put forward when certain persons have to defend an iniquity > and that is that it is for the good of the State, for the good of the people. Unable to specify charges of fraudulent practice at elections, which have been proved against the party to which he belongs, he palliates them, he excuses them; indeed* he almost goes to the length of saying that in all cases they are perfectly justifiable. That supports our statement that this measure is framed in such a way that it will strike heavily against our side. When we give sufficient proof of fraud on the other side, it is somewhat ominous that such a defence is made and that such excuses are put forward. What have honorable senators on the other side to say with regard to the abolition of postal voting? They have practically admitted that it is proposed because it has been found comparatively useless to a certain section of the community. That is not the argument that Senator Gardiner used previously. The reason he gave previously for the proposed abolition of postal voting was that it had been used as an . engine of fraud, presumably against his own party. The two arguments are utterly inconsistent. May we ask that before the Bill leaves the Senate, honorable senators opposite will, at least, endeavour to understand enough about it to enable them to be consistent in their defence of it. Does not every member of the Senate know that postal voting must of necessity have been a great convenience to very many of the electors, male and female? Senator Gardined mentioned the instance of a fencer in a remote district, who might be unable to go to the poll on the day of an election. But it was exactly for that class of men that postal voting was intended.
– lt was exactly that class of man who never had the use of it.
– A cursory analysis of the figures with regard to postal voting will show that the system was used by fencers,, boundary riders, shepherds, and others who were miles away from a polling booth. It was a great convenience to such people to be able to apply for a postal ballot-paper, it might be six weeks before the day of the election, in order to enable them to exercise the franchise. It must be obvious that postal voting was a tremendous advantage to all classes of electors in scattered districts. When the franchise has been given to women it is surely an inherent right that they should be allowed to anticipate their approaching motherhood, and that it should not be a bar to their exercise of the franchise. I do not care on which side the majority of the postal votes were cast, I speak now in the highest interests of woman, and especially to guard her privileges when she is approaching motherhood.
– Does the honorable senator think that this measure will lead to a further decline in the birth-rate?
- Senator Lynch may be as flippant as he pleases on this matter, but the fact remains that the Government propose to deprive a woman of the franchise at a time when, because of her approaching motherhood, every man respects her most. Honorable senators opposite cannot regard that provision of the Bill without a blush of self-reproach or of regret. If they are not sorry for what is being done they must be beyond all sense of shame in this matter.
– The State, with the lowest birth-rate, showed the highest number of postal votes recorded by women.
– It displays a warped intellect, or the absence of any sense of relevancy to drag the question of the birth-rate into this matter at all. Honorable senators opposite have, in spite of warnings inside and outside this Chamber, decided to deprive women in a certain condition of the right to record their votes. They know that they have done that* and their inconsistent arguments show that they are aware that the position they have taken up is indefensible, and that they regret it, or are more or less ashamed of it. Let us look now at the contrast which the Government have presented to the world so far as the franchise to women is concerned. It is a fact that, under this Bill, a woman is disfranchised at a time when she is about to become a mother, whilst the prostitute of the streets is enabled to walk triumphantly to the polling booth and vote.
– No, that is one of the troubles. They have to. go. They voted in advance in Melbourne.
– An honorable senator on the opposite side points out that, so far as certain more or less infamous women are concerned, additional facilities are to be given to them to vote, whilst the woman who, because of her condition of maternity, rightly claims the greatest respect of the nation, is to be deliberately disfranchised.
– The honorable senator is twisting the interjection as he twists everything.
– I understand the interjection in that sense, and whether I have twisted it or not, the fact remains that, in this Bill, there is a remarkable contrast between the treatment meted out to the most deserving of women, who are disfranchised by reason of their condition of maternity, and the infamous women, who are not touched, and may take the place of the others at the polls.
– The honorable senator’s class created them, and yet are always holding them up to ridicule.
– That is a characteristic interjection, and a characteristic defence of the Government position. I have stated the case as it stands, and honorable senators opposite cannot . rub it out. Senator Gardiner referred to what he called trivial offences against the electoral law, and objected to our saying that they were cases of fraud. I point out that, under this Bill, the most trivial offences, even against regulations of which we know nothing, are punishable by remarkably heavy fines. In one case the Government propose the heaviest penalties for a purely artificial offence. If the proprietor of a newspaper .does not print in a certain kind of type a statement to the effect that certain matter is an advertisement, he is to be liable to a penalty of £500. In answer to some criticism by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator McGregor interjected that there are some laws which he would break. If ever there was a law which, by reason of its oppression, would excuse its breach by the community, it is a law of this kind. The Bill creates a purely artificial crime in order to strike at the proprietors of newspapers who are supposed to be powerful assistants of a certain political party. Does Senator McGregor suggest that the proprietors of these newspapers should break this artificial law, or does he justify the heavy penaltyproposed for what may be merely an act of negligence on the part of a newspaper proprietor? The Labour party, because certain guides of public opinion- have made their influence felt with the electors of this country, entertain a desire to strike at them.
– Moses said, “ Thou shalt not bear false witness.”
– I am bearing true witness, and the facts which I am stating are irrefutable. Honorable senators opposite have admitted, time and again, that one reason why this provision was inserted in the Bill is that the press of Australia is opposed to them.
– It was inserted because the newspapers are unfair.
– Everybody who is opposed to the party opposite is charged with being unfair. In face of such strong corroborative evidence, is it wrong to say that this Bill has been deliberately framed, not for the purpose of doing justice to the electors of Australia, or to extending to them facilities in every proper direction, but for the purpose of enabling the Labour party to avenge itself upon a political foe? I believe that it was conceived in a. spirit of political vengeance, that it was born in political iniquity, and that, sooner or later, it will meet with the fate which it deserves.
– I have no desire to delay the third reading of this Bill, but a great part of the discussion which has taken place upon it has ranged around two features. One portion of the measure which has aroused a great deal of opposition provides for the abolition of postal voting. Senator St. Ledger, in a very impassioned speech, has accused honorable senators upon this side of the Chamber who supported the abolition of postal voting of disfranchising that class of elector in Australia who, more than _ any other class, is entitled to our sympathy. When the honorable senator and others hurl such charges across the Chamber, 1 throw them back at them.
– .But are they true?
– The honorable senator will be well advised if he refrains from interjecting, seeing that he knows nothing of the discussion which has taken place. He only arrived here to-day. This is his first appearance in the Senate during the present session, and, therefore, he will exhibit better taste if he does not interpose in the debate at this stage. From the beginning to the end of the discussion upon this Bill, Senator St. Ledger, and others!, have repeatedly affirmed, You are going to disfranchise that class of voters which, more than any other, is deserving of our sympathy.” They have endeavoured to make it appear that we wish to disfranchise the women electors who will be unable to attend the polling booth.
– That is what the honorable member’s party is doing.
– In order that we may see how far that statement is true, let us look at a few figures which were published in the Melbourne press yesterday. I confess that I have not had time to verify them, but I assume that they are correct. If so, they show that there is a very small difference between the number of men and women who used the postal vote at the last election:..
– Do they not prove that some women used it?
– Yes. But the difference between the number of nien and women who voted by post is so small that the strength of my honorable friend’s argument disappears.
– Suppose that only one woman would be disfranchised?
– The honorable senator’s arguments have not been based on the assumption that only one woman will be disfranchised by the abolition of postal voting, but that thousands of women will be disfranchised. The truth is that members of the Opposition recognise that this is a good fighting placard for them, and, in their opinion, it is a great misfortune that we are not a little closer to the next general elections, so that their high falutin might exercise a better effect. But when they charge us with having no sympathy fori the female voters who will be disfranchised as the result of the abolition of postal voting, they know perfectly well they are absolutely unfair. It is only because we desire to minimize the opportunities that exist for corrupt practices that we favour the abolition of the postal-voting system. The Leader of the Opposition has asked why we have not supplied proof that such practices exist. But he has been answered time and again that it is’ impossible to bring forward proof of corrupt practices even when one knows that they exist. I find from the figures to which I have alluded that at the last general elections 2,894 male and 3,325 female electors voted by post in New South Wales. In Victoria, 7,700 female and 6,300 male electors availed themselves of that system. In Queensland, 2,-300 females and 1,600 males voted by post. In South Australia, 791 females and 960 males used the postal vote, whilst in Western Australia, 850 females and 1,100 males exercised their franchise in the same way. In Tasmania, 703 females and 530 males voted by post. So that throughout the Commonwealth the postal voters numbered 15,759 females and 13,490 males - a very small difference indeed. While recognising that it is a misfortune that a certain number of electors will be deprived of their franchise by the abolition of postal voting, I say that when we consider the many opportunities which that system affords for corrupt practices, the weight of argument is in our favour. There is just one other phase of postal voting which is worthy of consideration. At the last elections, although 36,780 postal ballot-papers were issued, only 22,940 were returned, thus showing a discrepancy of several thousand. Does not that fact appear significant?
– As the honorable senator does not like the postal vote he ought to be gratified.
– The discrepancy gives colour to the idea that it is the practice of a number of professional electioneering agents to get as many postal ballot-papers as possible for the use of the political party whichemploys them. I am quite satisfied that the postal provisions of our electoral law have been used for corrupt practices by both political parties. If my honorable friends opposite are anxious that those laws should be purified, they ought to be satisfied to abolish the system of postal voting.
– Why not legislate to do away with improprieties, and to prevent abuses ?
– During the course of this debate it has been made abundantly clear that it is almost impossible to do that. Postal voting opens the door to corruption. There is only one other feature of this Bill in regard to which I would like to offer a few observations. A great deal of political vituperation has been hurled at Ministerial supporters, particularly by the Leader of the Opposition, because it is proposed to set apart Saturday as the polling-day at elections. Senator Millen. - My objection was that the Bill does not make provision for the Hebrews.
– The honorable senator is wrong in saying that no provision is made for them, because there is a certain amount of time between sundown and the close of the poll within which Hebrews can vote.
– The official representatives of the Hebrews say that that does not meet their case.
– I happen to know intimately quite a number of people of the Jewish persuasion in this city, and I am satisfied that the provision made for them does meet their case. The answer of the Opposition will doubtless be that these persons reside close to polling booths, because they live in the city. But these may be taken as fairly typical of Jewish people all over Australia. I refer to this portion of the Bill because I resent very strongly indeed the allusions made, especially by Senator Millen, to those who support the Saturday polling day. The honorable senator asked : “ Why should you interfere with anybody’s religious convictions? “
– I never objected to the Saturday polling. My objection was that the Bill does not make provision for Hebrews voting on some other day.
– My answer is that sufficient provision is made in the Bill. When honorable senators opposite protest so loudly that they believe in freedom for every one’s religious convictions, I reply that I am as tolerant as any one in the Senate. I fully agree that we should not interfere with the religious convictions of any person. But this Bill does not interfere with them.
– Then the Jewish clergymen who have petitioned the Senate do not know what they are talking about.
– The honorable senator continually drags in that petition. But how many signed it ? Only two ! If this Bill commits such a flagrant disregard of the religious convictions of the Hebrews, it is a remarkable thing that we did not receive petitions from every part of Australia. Personally, I am prepared to take the views expressed by quite a number of Jews.
– The honorable senator may meet those who are not very particular in the observance of their religious obligations.
– I am speaking of those who, to my own knowledge, are veryparticular about the observance of their religious rites.
– Did the honorable senator ever hear any Jew who repudiated the petition sent by the two Rabbis?
– Are we not justified, then, in regarding their petition?
– I should resent any interference with my own religious convictions or with those of any other member of the community, but I maintain that by far the larger proportion of the members of the Jewish persuasion in Australia do not consider that it is an interference with their faith to vote on Saturday.
– Then the two Rabbis do not know?
– The honorable senator is quoting the opinion of two. I am saying that a large number - it may be the majority - amongst the laity of the Jewish persuasion do not feel that they are transgressing their law in any way by voting between sunrise and sunset on Saturday.
– In certain matters, I may inform the honorable senator, the opinion of one ecclesiastical authority is binding on me.
– Of course, honorable senators opposite aTe making as much political capital as they can out of this incident, as also out of the abolition of postal voting. They say, “ Here is a party which is absolutely trampling on the religious convictions of a section of the community.” But they know that their statements are absolutely incorrect. Having had little opportunity of expressing my views on the subject while the Bill was in Committee, I am glad to have been able to take advantage of this occasion to place them on record.
– - Standing order 209 provides that a Bill may be re-committed on its third reading. I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether he will consent to the re-committal of the measure for the purpose of rectifying certain omissions of a consequential character ? Clause 32 provides, in proposed new section 172A, sub-clause 1, that “ every organization, association, league, or body of persons “ shall do certain things. On the motion of the Leader of the Opposition, in Committee, the words “ trade union, registered or unregistered,” were inserted. The same words ought to appear in sub-clauses 2, 4, and 5. I understood from the Chairman of Committees that the alterations were consequential, and would be made in the Bill. But they have not been made. Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council consent to the re-committal of the measure for the purpose of rectifying the omissions ?
– No; it can be done in another place. We have spent enough time on this Bill already.
– I shall not move for the re-committal, because I know that the motion would not be carried, and I do not desire to waste time. I have no doubt that the Bill will leave the Senate with the benediction of the Government and the party supporting them. But it will certainly not leave with the benediction, nor do. I think that it has the approval, of any other ‘ considerable section in the Commonwealth.
– The Bill will get a parting kick from the Opposition.
– Yes, with both feet ! The Labour party have always claimed to be anxious to extend the franchise, and to give people opportunities for registering their votes. But they have not maintained that attitude in regard to this Bill. The principal Act provided that any person who was more than 5 miles from a polling booth might have the privilege of recording his vote by post. When it was proposed to repeal that provision, certain honorable senators said that the farmers had horses and traps, and could easily record their votes although living 5 miles or more from a polling booth. I quite admit that; but what about the farmer’s man, who cannot afford to lose a day to go to record his vote ; and what about the wife of the farmer’s man, who ought not to be compelled to walk 10 miles for the purpose? These people are to be deprived of their votes. A woman in ill-health, or in a certain condition, who ought to receive the utmost respect and veneration from every man, is also told that she cannot vote. Then, again, the man who is old and feeble and unable to walk, is denied his vote. If a man or a woman is in a hospital or suffering from illness at home, the exercise of the franchise will be impossible. I desire it to be known throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth that the party opposite are depriving these persons of their right to vote. Senator O’Keefe has quoted figures to show that the difference between the number of males and of females voting by post was comparatively small. That is quite correct. But is that a reason for taking the opportunity of exercising the franchise away from 15,759 women ?
– I never gave it as a reason.
– Let it be supposed that a number of those men and women were lazy, and voted by post because of that. Supposing that one half of them were affected that way, is that a reason why 19,600 people, who are honestly unable to go to the polling booth, should be deprived of their votes? Yet that is what this Bill proposes to do. Why? The reason given is that there has been some abuse of postal voting. I do not say that there has not been abuse. I never knew of any system, however good, that was not abused to some extent. But Senator Rae mentioned that, in one or two instances, when postal votes were counted, it was found that they turned an election against the Labour party; and Senator Lynch also said that it was found that three out of five postal votes were against that party. Those were the only reasons which I heard given for the abolition of this system. As a matter of justice, these people have no right to be deprived of their votes.
– Nor have the people who are disfranchised for the Legislative Council in South Australia.
– I understand that the State Government in South Australia intends to introduce a Franchise Bill ; and, indeed, means to stake its life as a Ministry upon the measure. When that Bill is brought in, I shall be glad to go on any platform and state my views with regard to it.
– Will the honorable senator support it?
– I shall express my views ; but I do not intend to say now what I mean to do, because this is not the proper time.
– The honorable senator intends to support adult suffrage for the Legislative Council of South Australia, does he not?
– Under certain conditions, yes. It has been said by the Minister that although the Bill abolishes postal voting, it introduces a more comprehensive system of absent voting. It is a splendid system of absent voting so far as sailors and passengers at sea are concerned, because they will be able to record their votes even before the writs are issued. They are the only persons who will be able to vote in that way. Persons who are not within their own division on polling day may vote at any polling place in the Commonwealth. I do not intend to Object to that provision. The Electoral Act contains about four pages of provisions to safeguard the use of the postal vote. But what precaution is taken in this measure? There is not a provision of any sort to safeguard absent voting. When the time came to hold a scrutiny of postal votes, the duty of the Returning Officer was to open the votes before the scrutineers, compare the signatures on the applications with the signatures on the ballot-papers, and so see that no fraud was perpetrated. What is to be done with absent votes? Will the Minister tell me if they are to be compared in a similar way.
– If I reply now the debate will close.
– We must wait until the Minister does reply, but I venture to think that it is not intended even to open the absent votes and compare the signatures before the scrutineers. In that case, what is the use of them? A man who is enrolled for the Melbourne division may go to the Returning Officer and say, “ My name is John Thompson, No. hi on the roll,” and get a voting-paper. If a man in North Queensland goes into a polling booth and says, “ My name is John Thompson, No. 111, on the Melbourne roll,” and makes a declaration, or signs a form, he will receive a votingpaper. If the votes are not to be compared before the scrutiny takes place, who will say whether a fraud has been committed or not?
– We shall see.
– We have heard quite enough of that kind of thing. The fact is that the Ministry have brought in a measure at the dictation of the Electoral Department. It knows something of the details, but the Ministry know very little of it.
– We know everything about it.
– I would have been very glad if we had been told everything about it.
– You have been told everything.
– We have not been told what regulations will be put in force to safeguard absent voting. It is not fair to the Senate or the people for the Ministry to decline to put in such safeguards as are to be found in the present Act. These are conspicuous by their absence. With regard to Saturday polling, I do not believe that even the Department or anybody else had a thought of the Jews when the polling time was extended by one hour. I think that the extension was made for another purpose. We have received from the leading Rabbis in the Commonwealth a petition in which they, speaking for the whole of the Jewish community, asked for some consideration. We on this side proposed to meet them by giving them an opportunity of recording their votes on the day previous to the day of election, but the Ministry and their supporters refused to grant the privilege. That is doing a distinct injustice to persons who have a conscientious objection to voting on a Saturday. I believe that under the new system of absent voting the door for fraud will be opened in many cases. I look upon this as a party measure pure and simple. The Labour party have the power to alter the Act as they please. They say, “ We can amend the Act so that it will suit us better than it has done,” and therefore it H.s to be altered. I believe that that, and that only, is the reason for the alteration, except the one fact that the Department wants to institute a card system which they know will be imperfect and this they have admitted, by introducing certain provisions to meet every expected breakdown.
– It is not often?-‘ that one likes to take exception to a measure at this stage. When one realizes the steps which have to be taken before a Bill reaches its third reading, it is generally to be assumed that it commends itself in the main to favorable consideration. I do not intend to recapitulate any of the particular features of this Bill to which attention has been drawn to-day, as I wish to be as brief as possible. From the debates which have taken place, one cannot but think that the Bill occupies a unique position in connexion with any legislation which has ever been introduced here. -Whether it is a question of omission or commission, I think that the Bill stands absolutely condemned. That the electoral law is in need of amendment is, I think, undeniable. That it is in need of radical amendment will, I think, be apparent to anybody who knows anything of it. When we had submitted to us for consideration a Bill which purports to amend the law, and which is guilty of so many omissions as this is guilty of, amendments which should have been made or dealt with, but which are absolutely ignored, no matter what the merits of the Bill may have been, one might have been almost justified in voting against the second reading, or, indeed, against the third reading. But when, added to these glaring omissions, We have what might be called the sins of commission - the introduction of totally new principles, and the absence of any legislation governing or guiding in connexion with some of these most novel features - in that respect also the Bill would stand condemned, even if it made provision for remedying the electoral law in many of those important particulars in which it is altogether defective. . Judged from every point of view, it is one which, I submit, can only meet with general condemnation on the part of any fair-minded person. It omits nearly everything which it should have provided for. It introduces nothing in the way of novelty which does not stand self-condemned on its face, and for that reason I intend to vote against the third reading. It has been noticeable throughout these proceedings that there has been very little said in support of the Bill by those who have been supporting it by their votes. It cannot be said that the reason for any lack of vocal support from its voting supporters has been that the Bill speaks for itself, as to its merits and as to why it should be accepted. It ‘does nothing of the kind. This Bill has been in the hands, in turn, of every one of the Ministers representing the Government in the Senate. The Minister of Defence moved the second reading; in Committee it was in charge of the Honorary Minister, who should have introduced it, and its third reading is taken in hand to-day by the VicePresident of the Executive Council. What other measure introduced in this Chamber has had, in turn, to be submitted by the full strength of the Government.
– Is the honorable senator aware that the Honorary Minister is ill?
– I am not taking any exception to the fact that the Honorary Minister is not in charge of the Bill to-day. I am pointing out that it has been taken up at different stages by each of the Ministers. The reason I say this will be apparent to Senator Needham when I draw attention to the fact that, notwithstanding this exceptional treatment - and within my recollection no measure ever submitted to this Chamber has been dealt with in a similar way - we have been treated to a pitiful lack of information from the Ministerial bench. This Bill has stood condemned through all its stages from the time it was introduced. I believe that when the people realize in what respects it amends the electoral law they will commend those who have voted against it at every stage.
– I think that a few words in reply to the debate may not be out of place. I do not object to the Leader of the Opposition, and any number of his followers, repeating the tactics which have been indulged in from the moment that this measure was introduced. But I consider Senator Keating’s last remarks very ungenerous, as coming from an honorable gentleman who, I believe, has some little human sympathy. Owing to certain circumstances the Bill has been in the hands of every member of the Government in this Chamber. That is to say, merely, that every member of the Government in the Senate has accepted his responsibility. There is nothing wrong or irregular about it. It has been the result of accident throughout. Consequently, any reference to the matter can only be made as a reflection on the individual member of the Government who should have had charge of the Bill all the time.
– No. I was pointing out that we have been given the least possible Ministerial information in spite of the fact that three Ministers have had charge of the Bill.
– It was due to the illness of the Honorary Minister on a previous occasion that the second reading was moved by the Minister of Defence, and it is again due to his illness that I have charge of the measure to-day. I had a wire from him this morning to say that, unfortunately, through illness, he would not be able to be here to-day, but would be here to-morrow. It is beneath the dignity of Parliament altogether for the Opposition to descend so low as to refer to incidents of this description. With respect to the summary of the Leader of the Opposition of the objections that have been expressed by honorable senators opposite, we have not been surprised by it. They have made these complaints all along. The complaint that sufficient information was not given from this side should not have any weight, in view of the fact that so much nonsense was talked by the other side, not for days, but for weeks, that it prevented all possibility of proper explanations being given. Honorable senators opposite may laugh, but they only throw ridicule on their ridiculous conduct. The supporters of the measure are quite satisfied. ‘They understand it. They have everything in the Bill that they want and if honorable senators opposite had been able to suggest provisions which would have conferred advantages on the electors of Australia, we, on this side, would have been only too happy to accept them. Let us see what this brief summary, supplemented by a few cursory remarks from honorable senators on the other side, really amounts to. Does the Leader of the Opposition object to compulsory enrolment? If he does, for what reason does he object to it? It ought to be the object of every member of the community, and of every parliamentary representative, to make it quite clear that every citizen of Australia should be on an electoral roll, and should have an opportunity to record his vote.
– But the Government will not give every citizen that opportunity.
– I may refer to what Senator Sayers is talking about byandby. If he will restrain his youthful impetuosity for a few’ minutes I shall come to that old woman’s point of view from which he regards everything.
-i do not believe that we should compel anybody to be enrolled.
– I am not, for a moment, concerned about what the honorable senator believes. I am not of his opinion. Honorable senators on this side do not agree with him, and it is the opinion of honorable senators on this side, and of the majority of the people of Australia, that we desire to pass into legislation, and not the opinion of Senator Chataway. His opinion, so far as I am concerned, is not worth a snap of the fingers.
– I would compel the electors to enroll, and also to vote.
– When Senator Fraser is a member of a Government, and the question of compulsory voting comes on, he can express his opinion on the subject. The time for suggesting, so far as this Bill is concerned, has gone by. It will pass its third reading now. It is not going to be recommitted, and it is, therefore, useless to make suggestions at this stage. It has, for a long time, been apparent that something should be done to secure as complete and as accurate a roll of the citizens of Australia as can be compiled. The Government came to the conclusion that this is the only way in which to secure it. Honorable senators opposite ask how we are going to carry this proposal out. To my knowledge, the Honorary Minister in charge of theBill explained on three occasions how it is going to be done.
– He explained nothing.
– If honorable senators opposite did not hear him, it was their own fault. They were either out of the chamber or asleep.
– Will the honorable senator show me from Hansard where any explanation was given as to the system ?
– I shall not trouble to show the honorable senator anything from Hansard. He will find explanations reported in Hansard. He will find that the following explanation was given: - That so far as the first enrolment is concerned, cards and copies of the regulations are to be suppled to every elector. Does Senator Millen remember any statement of that kind being made ?
– Very well. The regulations will explainwhat is to be done with the card. They will explain that it is the duty of the elector to fill in the card according to the regulations.
– That is just what we want to know. What are the Government going to make the elector do? That is where the opening is left for fraud.
– The honorable senator knows that the elector will have to fill in the necessary particulars on the card, to sign it, and if he makes a cross to have his mark attested. Is that plain enough ?
– Why make the electors do things ? Why not leave them to be free agents?
– The honorable senator has been a free agent to his own detriment hundreds of times. I have been the same. We are always better off, and occupy a stronger position in the community, if we are under some regulations. That is one reason why honorable senators on this side approve of this Bill - it puts the general public under regulations. I was pointing out that when the card is filled in it is returned to the Electoral Office and bears evidence on its face of the signature of the elector. Is not that something to have attained? Then so far as the future is concerned, there will be no further delivery of cards. Every elector will be required to look after his own interests, to get a card when it is required, and to send it in.
– After the card has been received, what check is to be made to see that there is no duplication of names from one end of Australia to the other?
– I have not come to that yet. The honorable senator cannot expect me to answer the five or six points of his summary at the same time. If he will wait, I shall come in due time to the matter to which he now refers.
– I have waited in vain for three weeks.
– If the honorable senator will wait for fiveminutes now, he may be satisfied to a greater extent than he has been during thelast three weeks.
– I have been here all the time.
– All the time, sometimes.
– I have been here more often than has the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– We are here now, at any rate, and we will proceed. So far as the future is concerned, after the first enrolment, the responsibility for continuing his enrolment will rest upon the elector, just as it does with respect to every other function of government in connexion with which registration is required. There is nothing outrageous or unreasonable in that. I am sure that the electors of Australia are prepared to rise to this responsibility.
– Or get six months, under the Bill.
– If Senator Chataway does not fill in his electoral form I hope he will get six months; butI hope it will be reducedto four months for good conduct.
– I know that the honorable senator is aiming in this Bill at his political opponents.
– I have given all the explanation that is really necessary with respect to the card system ; and later on we shall see the value of the card system in connexion with the future conduct of elections in Australia.
– The honorable senator has not yet answered my question as to what steps are to be taken to prevent duplicate enrolment from one end of Australia to the other.
– How can there be duplicate enrolment from one end of Australia to the other when there will be only one card issued to each elector?
– One elector may send in a dozen cards under the Government system.
– The signature will have to be the same, and the elector will not get a dozen cards.
– I wish the honorable senator to say what steps are to be taken to check the cards after they are received to see that no two are sent in under the one name.
– What are the electoral officers for? The cards will be forwarded to the Electoral Office, and if it is seen that half-a-dozen cards are sent in with the same name, and with the same signature, they will know that there is something wrong.
– Will all the cards be sent to, and compared in, the one office? If not, the opening for fraud is there?
– If the honorable senator means that an elector in New South Wales, after being enrolled there, is going to Tasmania, to Victoria, to South Australia, and to Western Australia, to be enrolled in those States also, his argument is ridiculous. No one would go to the expense of travelling from one State to another in order to duplicate his enrolment. It could not be done in any case, because the signature on each card would have to be the same. I do not think it does justice to the intelligence of the Leader of the Opposition to suggest impossible conditions, which he knows could never arise. The honorable senator must know that there will be no duplication of enrolment under the card system.
– We will see.
– I hope the honorable senator will not make a bet on it, and then try it on himself, and get into gaol for endeavouring to evade the law. That finishes the explanation of the card system of enrolment. The next great grievance of the Leader of the Opposition and his ardent supporters is the proposed abolition of postal voting. Some members of this party, including the Honorary Minister and the Minister of Defence, have given explanations showing the necessity for the abolition of postal voting. In our opinion there has not only been a great possibility of corruption, but there has actually been corruption in connexion with postal voting in the different States, and particularly in the State of Victoria.
– Then why not prove it?
– Does the honorable senator want any further proof than the fact that, while there is nearly 250,000 more people in the State of New South Whales than in Victoria, nearly double the number of postal votes were recorded in the latter State, which is only one-fifth of the area of New South Wales? Is not that proof enough?
– No, that is not proof.
– Then it is impossible to prove anything to the honorable senator. Honorable senators opposite have declared that the abolition of postal voting will affect the motherhood of Australia. They have made a great point of that. We cannot help that. From a party point of view that makes very little difference. I believe that the greatest difference will be experienced by supporters of this side, because there are nearly double the number of legitimate mothers amongst the working classes who support this side. When honorable senators opposite raise an argument of that description, they only make their case far worse. In electorates such as Melbourne, East Melbourne, and Toorak we had a greater proportion of woman voters using the postal vote than in country electorates, where they might have been more than 5 miles from a polling booth. That evidence is conclusive enough for me.- It is sufficiently conclusive to satisfy my colleagues and Ministerial supporters. Honorable senators opposite may remain dissatisfied just so long as they please. The next complaint of the Leader of the Opposition was that the substitute which we offer for postal voting will lead to even greater corruption in the future. We propose that every elector shall be at liberty to vote anywhere in Australia that he may happen to be at the time of an election. In the first place, I think that that is a legitimate provision to make. Every elector who is near a polling place ought to be afforded the privilege of recording his vote. That is the primary principle which is at issue. But the Leader of the Opposition, asks, “ Why do not the Government frame regulations to govern this system of voting, and to prevent corruption?” That was the honorable senator’s question, was it not?
– I said that the Government ought to embody safeguards in the Act.
– Cannot the honorable senator see the utter nonsense of putting forward a claim of that description? Did he ever hear of regulations being formulated before a Bill was passed?
– I did not ask for the regulations. I asked that provision to prevent abuse should be inserted in the Bill.
– I say that circumstances may arise in connexion with the administration of this Bill which will render it necessary to frame regulations more than once.
– Surely it is not wrong to put a safeguard in a Statute.
– The honorable senator himself assisted a previous Government to do exactly what we propose to do now. He ought to listen and learn what his own party did, instead of interjecting furiously before he knows what he is talking about. I say that the Government are acting on the advice of their officers, and upon their own common-sense; and they conceive this to be the most effective way of accomplishing the end which they have in view. As soon as the regulations are framed they will be laid upon the table of the Senate, if it be sitting, and if it be not sitting, they will be laid on the table as soon after as possible - long before there is any necessity to put them into operation. So that every honorable senator will see them and have an opportunity to object to them. If he does not choose to avail himself of that opportunity, those regulations will become law. Senator Millen’s own judgment ought to suggest to him the character of the regulations which it will be necessary to frame to safeguard the whole Commonwealth against impersonation. One honorable senator op- posite has put before us a supposititious case to illustrate the alleged danger of the system which we propose to introduce. He said that John Thompson, an elector for a division in Victoria, might go to the polling booth for which he is enrolled in this State and record his vote, and that away out in the back-blocks of Queensland another man might enter a polling booth and say to the presiding officer, “ My name is John Thompson. I am on the roll for an electoral division in Victoria, and I claim the right to vote here.” Need I point out that the regulations will provide for such a case as that ? Honorable senators opposite have repeatedly asked why any mark other than that of the Returning Officer of an electoral division should appear upon a ballot-paper. Here is a case in which it may be found necessary to provide that some additional mark shall be placed upon the ballot-paper which is issued to an elector in the back-blocks who claims the right to vote for an electoral division in Victoria. Such a mark will be a general one throughout Australia. Every care will be taken to prevent the identification of the elector so long as the vote is honestly recorded. But if fraud be committed, the additional mark will identify the elector, and when the counterfoil is sent down- -
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has never before told us that there is to be a counterfoil.
– I am only talking of a counterfoil because it obtained in respect of postal voting. But when an elector in the back-blocks of Queensland claims to vote for a division in Victoria, will he not be required to make a declaration ?
– I do not know.
– Then I am telling the honorable senator. He knows that an elector will have to make a declaration, and to sign it.
– I do not.
– The honorable senator ought to know a great deal more than he pretends to know. I know him too well to imagine that he is so dense, so stupid, so unreasonably idiotic, as not to be aware of these things. The signature of the elector will be forwarded to the central polling place.
– When ?
– The election cannot be completed until this has been done. Upon its arrival here, it will be compared with the card of the elector, and if the signatures are not found to be identical, an attempt will be made to discover the individual who impersonated John Thompson, of Victoria. But whether he is discovered or not, when the particular paper has been identified, it will be rejected. What more do honorable senators want, unless it be the punishment of the impersonator? Senator Millen knew all this, or ought to have known it, because, at one time or another, it has all been explained piece by piece by the Minister who had charge of the Bill. I come now to the next great difficulty which Senator Millen has summarized, and I may be pardoned for occupying a little time on this occasion, seeing that I have not previously spoken on the Bill. The Leader of the Opposition has said that he does not object to Saturday being set apart as the polling day for elections. He is merely anxious about the conscientious scruples of a few poor Hebrews. I sympathise with them very greatly, because I am a bit of a Hebrew myself, but I have no sympathy with Senator Vardon, who professes great anxiety upon this score. He comes from a State where Saturday has always been set apart as polling day, and where the poll has closed at 7 p.m. He was a member of a Government which had the power to alter the polling day from Saturday to any other day, and to extend the hour for closing the poll to 8 p.m. But he never attempted reforms of that description. His very hint - like all the hints which emanate from him - contained a nasty Christian insinuation
– Un-Christian insinuation.
– Then I will say that it contained the nasty un-Christian insinuation that we are not extending the hour for closing the poll to 8 o’clock on Saturday for the purpose of accommodating the poor Hebrews, but for some other ‘sinister purpose. Why is the honorable senator not honest enough to state what is that sinister purpose? He has had opportunities for doing all these things. Any other points to which I refer have already been dealt with so thoroughly that they require no further elucidation. Honorable senators opposite might just as well have allowed the third reading of the Bill to pass without debate, for all the good they will accomplish, because the public of Australia are too wideawake to be caught by their chaff. When Senator Millen takes his little handful of salt to cast on the tails of the electors for the purpose of catching them, he must remember that he has now to deal with an educated people, who are quite different from what the people of Australia were twenty or thirty years ago.
As time goes on, and the political intelligence of the people increases, it will be more and more realized that there is nothing to fear from this Government, and that the insinuations of honorable senators opposite may be disregarded. It will be realized that the policy of this party has been devised for the benefit of the people of Australia as a whole. This policy is ultimately bound to supersede every rotten policy that may be advanced by any Fusion that may come into existence. What is the policy of the Opposition? They have no policy at all in respect to electoral matters, and worse than no policy with respect to everything else.
Question - That the Bill be read a third time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 8
Debate resumed from 24th November (vide page 3165), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– When the Senate adjourned on Friday afternoon I was dealing with the report of the Engineer-in-Chief for Western Australia, and commenting upon his statement that the country to be traversed by the proposed railway for about 1,100 miles is uninhabited, uncultivated, and waterless. Referring again to the speech made by the Minister of Defence in moving the second reading, I find that I was wrong in one particular. He distinctly stated that the line is to go by Tarcoola, and he also spoke of the soil, the water possibilities, and so forth. At page 167 1 of Hansard, Senator Pearce is reported to have said -
While I think that we should consider in the light of these reports the character of the country to be served by the railway, I shall show that there is sufficient to justify the construction of the line even if there were no country worthy of development at all in the space intervening between the two terminal points. A railway can be justified in crossing a desert provided you have at each end sufficient reasons why two populated centres should be linked up. It is an undoubted fact that one of the great American overland lines crosses 400 miles of absolutely sterile desert which is of no use, and apparently will never be of any use to anybody.
Since I spoke on Friday I have received a typewritten letter from Mr. G. W. Murray, of Yalata, West Coast, who seems to have personal knowledge of .the country lying between Port Augusta and the Western Australian boundary. This gentleman says -
Having some considerable personal knowledge of the country lying between Port Augusta and the Western Australian boundary, I would like to point out how the conditions of that country affect the consideration of the route selected for the preliminary survey, and generally understood to be the route which it is proposed eventually to follow. Fifty miles beyond Tarcoola the desert commences, and extends right up to and beyond the border. There is no feed, and a rainfall of about 4 inches only. Therefore, no one will take up the country for stock, and there arc no mineral indications of any value. It hil* been urged in favour of the route that it would help to develop the mineralized district of Tarcoola itself. But if that object is of a substantial character it would be better t» attain it by a special line to Tarcoola i run- Port Augusta or from Murat Bay - 130 miles distant. The water difficulty by the proposed route will be enormous. Out of six bores put down by the Government on Nullarbor Plains, not one has yielded water suitable for human consumption, or for locomotive purposes, and only two produce a supply which is passable for stock. On the other hand, a line which bore more southerly from Port Augusta through the Gawler Ranges would traverse a lot of good farming and pastoral country around Chandada. It could then take the place of the Port Lincoln Une from Chandada to west of Fowler’s Bay, say, 250 miles. A great and permanent advantage of the route I propose is that it would be sixty miles shorter than the surveyed line. That is an important matter when we consider the initial cost of construction of sixty miles of railway. Not only has the interest on that cost to be borne for ever, but every passenger and ton of goods for all time has to pay for sixty miles of unnecessary haulage. When conveying troops the time thereby lost, quite apart from the mere cost, might be serious. By the official route sixty miles of loose drifting sandhills have to be crossed, involving permanent cost in keeping the line clear for traffic. I have been over the coastal country from Chandada to Belladonna. Of this, 250 miles is good farming country, and the rest good grazing land. Again, I have several times travelled inland over the country which the official route traverses, and I have seen nothing worth occupying. It was stated before a Commission which inquired into the matter that within South Australian Territory the official route would serve country that would carry three million sheep. From my personal knowledge of it, I am convinced, as a practical man, that within the next half century it will never carry 30,000. Sir John Forrest, recognised as an expert on such matters, has never hesitated in his place in Parliament or on public platforms to advocate the claims of the coastal as against those of what for convenience I call the official route. Before the Commonwealth is finally committed to such a vast undertaking I would urge that a survey of the coastal and shorter route from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie should be made, and should be accompanied by a detailed report of the value and prospects of that country as compared with those of the official line. Apart from the saving of distance, Eucla would furnish a permanent base from which coal and construction materials could be supplied to the coastal line. Every ton of coal for the official line must be hauled over the railway either from the Kalgoorlie or the Port Augusta end. There is a considerable extent of the country west of Fowler’s Bay fit for farming, but if it is_ to be profitably occupied for agriculture, a railway to serve it must eventually be provided. The whole of the Commonwealth is undoubtedly interested in getting absolutely the best route.
He winds up with what I take to be a sporting offer which the Government ought not to refuse. He says -
To support my statements, I will drive any official deputed by the Federal Government to inspect the route and report, free of cost, from Tarcoola to the Western Australian border.
Here is a gentleman who seems to know what he is talking about.
– Where does he hang out?
– He seems to have an intimate acquaintance with the country.
– He may be a myth.
– No. I am referring to Mr. George W. Murray, of Yalata, on the west coast. He gives his name and address in full, so that it will be easy for Senator de Largie to ascertain whether he is a myth or not. At any rate, he is prepared to take any official appointed by the Federal Government, at his own expense, from Tarcoola to the border of Western Australia.
– Do you not think that that in itself is rather suspicious?
– I do not.
– If he has not an axe to grind, why should he be willing to go to such expense?
– Surely every person in the” community who has to contribute to the cost of this work is interested, more or less. When this gentleman says that he is prepared, at his own cost, to take any official whom the Government may nominate, and drive him over the track to judge his statement, I should say that he is speaking with knowledge.
– The answer to the statement is that officials have already been over the route, and made reports, which are to be found amongst the parliamentary papers.
– I have perused the reports. I notice that in speaking of the country, an officer writes, “It is mostly uninhabited, uncultivated and waterless.” That thoroughly bears out Mr. Murray’s statement.
– The water is all right.
– Mr. Murray says that the water is not all right, and the engineer in charge for Western Australia says the same thing. We are met with statements from the Government side that the water is all right, and that everything in the garden is lovely ; but no proof is furnished. This official document distinctly states that the country is not what the Government say it is, and the gentleman whose letter I received by post to-day makes a sporting offer. Surely the Minister in charge of the Bill does not think that because an official has been over the ground and condemned it, or otherwise, we should not have further information before we are asked to approve of an expenditure of between ,£4,000,000 and £5,000.000. We are virtually asked to authorize the construction of a railway without being furnished with any proper information. Senator Givens properly interjected the other night that the estimate of cost is based on gress-work, and that interjection came from an honorable senator who sits on the Government side.
– This is not a Government measure, though.
– According to an estimate which was given by Mr. O’Connor, the railway is to cost ^4,400, 000.
– You must admit that that is a very old estimate.
– The honorable senator will remember that in the beginning of my speech I said that I intended to point out the discrepancies which have cropped up.
– The estimate was made at a time, too, when very little was known about the country to be traversed.
– To my mind, there seems to be little known about the country even now.
– The sandy soils of Western Australia have shown how wheat can be produced.
-Mr. O’Connor states that the revenue would be derived from the carriage of 400 passengers each way per week, or 800 in all. I am quite aware that at that time there were fully as many passengers going to and fro by water as there are to-day. But on the. point of cost, the comparison which he instituted would hardly apply to-day, because I understand that the fare by water is more than it was ten years ago. How many of the passengers who travel by the deep-sea boats are likely to get off at Fremantle and not only pay the railway fare, but also pay for their meals while travelling by train to Adelaide or Melbourne, when they have already paid for their carriage by water to that place? Who, I ask the Minister, would care to pay, according to this estimate, an additional sum of £8 in order to complete the journey by train?
– Many of the passengers do now.
– Many do, and many do not. I admit that, if a man had to be in Melbourne by a certain date, he would leave the boat at Fremantle, but otherwise he would not take that course, especially in the summer months, to cross the desert in a train. Even the Minister in charge of the Bill has admitted that for a certain distance the railway is likely to be covered up at any time with sand. On our visit of inspection from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, we saw a strip of country similar to that which he recently described to the Senate. There were stone houses which the Government had erected, and which were buried in sand. Our attention was called to the places by the Engineer-in-Chief for South Australia, and also by the Minister of Railways.
– Did you see the houses ?
– In one place we saw the top of a chimney, and naturally we concluded that below there was a house. We were told that if we were to come later we might see most of the houses which were then buried in sand. It was stated that, in the course of a month or so, the wind would sweep away the sand, but that it would accumulate again. The houses were in such a state that no person would think of living in them, unless he wished to be buried alive. That was conclusive evidence that it was not the kind of country through which to take a railway at the expense of the Commonwealth. Although troops in transit to the west would be liable to be blocked at any time by the shifting of the sand, yet we are asked by the Minister to build a railway across such country.
– Would not the same argument apply to the snows of America?
– Yes, but unfortunately they cannot get out of the snows. In this case we can avoid the sand hills by taking the line by another route. We are told that it can be constructed at a certain cost. I propose to quote the views of all the engineers who have had anything to do with the proposal. On the 27th July, 1903, the following report was addressed to Sir William Lyne, Minister of Home Affairs -
Having been requested to furnish our final report on the above subject, upon the basis of such data as are now available, we have the honour to do so, but we wish respectfully to point out that it must necessarily be less complete than we could wish, through our not having received all the information asked for in our first report, dated 12th March last.
The particulars still lacking are those referring to (1) the Gawler Range route; (2) results of bores and test wells which we recommended should be deepened or started on the Nullabor Plain, and in the sand-hills country.
With regard to (1) we understand that the Gawler Range route is regarded unfavorably by the South Australian Government ; while the Tarcoola route is preferred, owing to the prospect of probable future development of the district, and as best serving the traffic which will result. For these reasons we have put on one side the further consideration of the Gawler Range route, although it might prove to be sixty miles shorter, and presumably proportionately less costly.
The report was signed by five Government engineers, namely, by Henry Deane, Chairman, New South Wales; W. Pagan, Queensland ; A. B. Moncrieff, South Australia; M. E. Kernot, Victoria; and C. S. R. Palmer, Western Australia. They complained that they had not sufficient information on which to base an estimate.
Yet they drew up a report which was presented to Parliament. There are other reports connected with the matter which I was unable to obtain. I was informed by the officer in charge of papers that they are not now in print, and we have to deal with such facts as are placed at our disposal.
– All the reports connected with the matter have been printed.
– The honorable senator can go upstairs, and he will find that my statement is correct.
– The honorable senator should keep to recent history.
– I do not start to build a house from the roof downwards, but from the foundation upwards.
– I am afraid the honorable senator is building on sand now.
– There will be plenty of sand on the route of this railway.
– The honorable senator does not build a house at all. He lives in a cave.
– I make the following quotation from this report -
In order that this report may be as lucid, complete and reliable as possible on the questions submitted to us by the letter of instruction -
I should like to see that letter, but I suppose it will not be available - we think it is necessary for us to review the whole subject in the light of additional information received from various sources and experience derived from our visit to Western Australia.
They do not say that they traversed the route, but they paid a visit to Western Australia, and got outside information -
The points submitted for consideration and report are as follows : -
As answers to the questions submitted to us depend primarily upon the route to be adopted this is the first point for decision. In view of the circumstances explained above, we select the route vid Tarcoola -
The next question is the gauge, and here we find that they recommend the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. The question of the gauge to be adopted for this line is one of the burning questions of the day, especially in Victoria and South Australia. I see by to-day’s newspaper that the Premier of South Aus tralia is taking no action whatever.
– It is incorrect to say that that came from a Minister.
– I saw a wire to this effect in one of to-day’s newspapers.
– No such wire has been received.
– I cannot be responsible for what appears in a newspaper. Honorable senators opposite have often been very anxious to bring the Age or Argus into this chamber, and to ask questions on the strength of what has appeared in them, when it has suited their case to do so. I have never adopted that course.
– They were going to put me into a dungeon on the strength of a statement that appeared in the Age.
– Yes, I believe that Senator St. Ledger was very near being imprisoned because of a statement which appeared in a newspaper. I accept the statement of the Minister of Defence that no such telegram has been sent by the Premier of South Australia, and I shall not dilate upon that matter any further. I must say, however, that there does not appear to be any very great amount of enthusiasm in regard to this line in Western Australia or South Australia. Looking to the press again, I see no evidence of any excitement on the subject. We have no public meetings being called in those States to ask the Commonwealth Government to push on withthis railway. I am given to understand that the South Australian Government say that if this line is built on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, they will look to the Commonwealth Government to meet the cost of altering the existing gauge of their lines. I should like to ask the Minister of Defence whether that statement is correct? I saw that in a newspaper also.
– I have never heard of it.
– The newspapers are romancing.
– Perhaps the honorable senator, believing that the newspapers romance, never reads them. I have to do so because I must get my information from some source.
– I read the newspapers. I am very fond of fiction.
– When this railway was first mooted, there was a great’ deal of enthusiasm displayed, in both Western Australia and South Australia. The State Governments of the day were willing to grant large areas of land along the route if they could only get the railway built. A promise to that effect was made by the Government of Western Australia.
– There never was any such promise made.
– Then some of the documents placed before us are not reliable. I believe that the records of the State Parliament will prove what I say. We had a Minister admitting that such a promise was made, but stating that it was of no effect now.
– I did not admit it.
– I do not say that the honorable senator did. Will the honorable senator say that it was not proposed by the State Governments of Western Australia and South Australia to hand over to the Commonwealth a certain area of land along the route in the event of the railway being made?
– I have no official knowledge of it, though I have seen a statement to that effect.
– I think that a record of the matter must be obtainable from a Commonwealth Department. And before the Bill goes through Committee I shall see whether I cannot get positive proof of such a promise. The EngineersinChief further reported -
We carefully revised our estimate of cost, making use for the purpose of information and experience gained during our visit to Western Australia and data furnished to us by officers of that State and of South Australia.
All this data was received from officers of the two States that are vitally interested in the construction of the railway. It is wonderful what information the Government’ will accept when it suits their purpose, and what information they will refuse if it does not suit their purpose. The information on which this report is based was all accepted in Sir William Lyne’s time. The Engineers-in-Chief also gave an estimate of the revenue to be derived from the railway, which they estimate to cost£159,000 more than a previous engineering estimate. On this information, the whole of the people of the Commonwealth are to be asked to construct a line that we know nothing whatever about, since no plans and specifications have been laid before us. They estimate that the railway will cost ^4,559,028 ros. 3d. They went so close as to include the 3d., the previous estimate of the cost was .£4,400,000. We are told that the revenue on the opening of the line will be £205,860. No pence are mentioned this time. The working expenses are estimated at ,£1 14,400, interest at 3 J per cent. £[159,566, leaving a deficiency of £68,106 on the working for the year. Then they looked to the future which, if the railway had been constructed when the report was made would be about this time, and they say that ten years after the opening of the line the revenue will be £[411,720. By some legerdemain or sleight-of-hand which is not explained, they reckon upon the revenue more than doubling itself in the ten years. They cannot give us any data upon which to arrive at this estimate. We cannot ask them to do so, because they know no more about it than does the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and that is nothing. They estimate that in ten years from the opening of the line the working expenses will be £210,000. Interest on original capital, plus 15 per cent, for improvements at si per cent., is put down at £[183,501, and these figures give a net profit at the close of ten years’ working of £18,219. This is offered as a reason for the construction of the railway. Would any man in his senses put his own money into a speculation of that kind? We are asked to make the people of the Commonwealth pay, roughly speaking, £[5,000,000 for this railway. That is asking them to do too much, when, at the same time, they have to bear the expense of developing their respective States. If honorable members will consult the map of Australia they will find that we have nearly 2,000 miles of coastline without any means of defence. Yet we are asked to build this railway to protect Western Australia. If I believed that it would protect Western Australia I should not hesitate to vote for it, but before they ask the people of the whole of the Commonwealth to tax themselves to build this railway, the people of South Australia and Western Australia ought to try what they can do in the matter themselves. At the present time Queensland is spending £10,000,000 on the extension of railways. She is not coming to the Commonwealth Government, cap-in-hand, to suggest that these railways are being constructed for military purposes and for the defence of Australia. The people of that State are putting their hands into their own pockets, and financing their own railway proposals. They do not come to this Parliament and say, “ These are works of national importance.” I quote the following figures showing the indebtedness of the various States in respect of moneys borrowed for the construction of railways : - New South Wales, £[48,925,348; Victoria, £43>i42>329; Queensland, £[24,336.372 ; South Australia, £[13,879,523 ; Western Australia, £11,377,262; and Tasmania, £[4,048,416. There is also £[1,000,000 for railways in the Northern Territory which the Commonwealth have taken over. I ask honorable senators to say whether it is fair or reasonable to ask a State that, at the expense of its own people, has built a greater mileage of railways per head of population than any other country in the world, to permit her people to be taxed for the construction of a railway, no part of which will be within many hundreds of miles of her borders?
– Yes, it is reasonable.
– Senator de Largie can make his speech afterwards, and when he is speaking I shall not interrupt him. The different States have altogether spent £147,000,000 in the construction of railways. The population of Western Australia and South Australia combined is about the same as the population of Queensland. Yet Queensland has already constructed a greater mileage of railways than the two States mentioned, and is now spending a further £10,000,000 on railway extension. Western Australia has spent only £[11,000,000 on railway construction, whilst Queensland has spent £[24,000,000.
– No; £[29,000,000.
– I have taken the latest figures I could get.
– After all the talk, does Queensland really object to this railway ?
– Queensland does not object to Western Australia and South Australia building as many railways as they please, but Queensland does object to pay those States for making a railway within their own territory.
– The representatives of Queensland in another place did not cast a single vote against this railway. The honorable senator is misrepresenting Queensland.
– If I am, the people of Queensland will say so. It is not for Senator de Largie to tell me that I am misrepresenting them.
– The honorable senator will not represent them after the next election.
– I do not think that Senator de Largie can keep me out; . I challenge him to do his best. The honorable senator may sneer, but he does not need to go any further than the election for the division of Boothby, in South Australia, which took place a few weeks ago, to discover how the tide has turned. According to Knibbs, volume 4, page 712, South Australia and Western Australia combined possess about the same population as Queensland, and have spent about the same amount of money in railway construction. Queensland is developing her resources at the expense of her own people. Upon the hustings I pledged myself to oppose the construction of the proposed line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, and if I did not respect my pledge, I should be a renegade to the trust which has been reposed in me.
– Did the honorable senator sign the pledge?
– No. The people did not ask me to do that. They are content to accept my word. In an appendix to the report of the Engineers-in-Chief of the States is to be found an estimate of the cost of the labour and material that will be required in the construction of the proposed line. The clearing of the 1,100 miles of country which the line will traverse is set down at£6 per mile. From what I have heard, that is a very fair estimate. Fencing is set down at£1,100. I do not think a fence can be constructed for that sum. The cost of the earthworks is estimated at £280 per mile, which, in my opinion, is a very low estimate. Bridges and culverts are set down at . £150 per mile, and rails at . £7 per ton. Since this estimate was framed the cost of rails has increased a very great deal. I do not suppose that the Minister in charge of the Bill will ask us to believe for one moment that they can be purchased at the same price to-day.
– The estimates have been revised.
– How many times are they revised, and by whom?
– The route had not been surveyed when the estimate which the honorable senator has quoted was made.
– Then what was the good of the Government incurring the expense of securing the services of five EngineersinChief.
– To show the necessity for a survey.
– Only a flying survey has been made. The Minister does not suggest that the cost of surveying 1,100 miles of railway is only £20,000. The thing is ridiculous, as the Minister knows. In the very nature of things the survey which has been made could be only a flying one.
– I can assure the honorable senator that there will be no further survey.
– If a proper survey has been made, I would like the Minister to tell us where the books of reference are to be found to-day.
– There was a vote of £5,000 upon last year’s Estimates for the preparation of plans, and those plans are now ready.
– Surely we ought to see them.
– The honorable senator may see them any day if he chooses to visit the Department of Home Affairs.
– I have no time to do that. The plans should be laid before Parliament. I come now to the report submitted by the Engineers-in-Chief upon, the trial surveys, which were presented to Parliament and ordered to be printed on the 13th October, 1909. The Memorandum of Instructions to these officers would occupy too much time if I were to read it.
– The honorable senator will not get the full effects of it if he does read it.
– Very well. The honorable senator may have the benefit of those instructions -
Memorandum of Instructions to the State EngineersinChief for Railways, assembled at Melbourne this tenth day of February, 1908, at the request of the Commonwealth Government, in connexion with the trial surveys for the purpose of the transcontinental railway line from Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, to Port Augusta, South Australia.
Since your report of the 27th July,1903, on the proposed transcontinental railway from Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, to Port Augusta,
South Australia, the authority of the Commonwealth for an expenditure of £20,000 on the survey in connexion with the railway above referred to has been given by Act No. 4 of 1907, which provides that- “ Upon the formal consent of the South Australian Parliament to the survey being received, the Minister may cause a survey to be made of a route for a railway to connect Kalgoorlie, in the State of Western Australia, with Port Augusta, in the State of South Australia.”
I ask the Minister if any land has been transferred by Western Australia or South Australia to the Commonwealth for the purpose of enabling it to build the proposed line? My information is that no land has been so transferred. Consequently, we are being asked to sanction the construction of a line when the Commonwealth has not an inch of land upon which to build it. I take it that the Minister’s silence means that neither Western Australia nor South Australia has transferred any land to the Commonwealth. There are two more reports from Mr. Deane to which I might refer, but I have no desire to “ stone- wall “ this measure. I find that New South Wales has 3,643 miles of railways, Victoria 3,480, South Australia 1,912, Northern Territory 145, Queensland 3,661, Western Australia 2,144, and Tasmania, 469, so that 3,661 miles of railway have been built in Queensland at the expense of the people of that State. Consequently, they are justified in saying that if the proposed transcontinental line is of as much importance to Western Australia and South Australia as the Minister would make it appear to be, the people of those States should construct it at their own expense. The citizens of Queensland are prepared to pay their fair share of legitimate taxation. But the construction of this line, and of the other proposed transcontinental railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek will mulct her people in an expenditure of anything from .£1,000,000 to £1,500,000. We are informed that this railway is to be built over a vast tract of country where there is no timber. Queensland has had to build railways into timber country for the purposes of railway construction. But from what source is timber to be obtained for the building of the line between South Australia and Western Australia? It will have to be bought at high prices. All the sleepers and every foot of the rest of the timber will have to be railed from some port on the coast to the route of the railway. I trust that the Senate will see its way, before sanctioning the construction of the line, to obtain guarantees from the South Australian and Western Australian Governments as to how the .taxpayers of the Commonwealth may be recouped in future years. I believe that the Western Australian Government at one time offered to build its share of the line. But South Australia is doing nothing. She is sitting back, expecting to benefit from the expenditure of the other States. I remember the time when every South Australian representative was up in arms in support of the railway. But, for some reason or other which I do not understand, they say nothing now. They know that their State is going to get the best of it. They make no offer, and the Federal Government professes that it in-, tends to carry the work through, no matter at what cost to the Commonwealth. I hope that the representatives of other States will do their best to see that their interests are protected, and that money is not squandered on the line.
– It is not my intention to follow the example of others who have spoken in this debate by reading from what I may call antediluvian reports connected either with the survey or the route of the railway.
– The railway is to be built on the strength of antediluvian reports.
– The earlier reports were prepared merely to enable members of Parliament to give a vote as to whether a survey would be justified or not. Since that time there has been a great change. Not only has the survey been undertaken, and not only has sufficient data been produced to impel the Commonwealth Government to bring in a Bill for the construction of the line, but public opinion has changed. To-day those who supported the survey are prepared to support the construction of the line. I welcome the introduction of this measure, and am very glad indeed to have an opportunity of supporting its second reading. I do so for two reasons - first because it is a matter of national moment and national policy; and secondly, because the Act of this Parliament in giving its imprimatur to the Bill will be a measure of tardy justice to the people of Western Australia, who have long looked for a proposal of the kind.
– I fully realize the heavy expenditure that will be entailed on the Commonwealth until the line is completed, and for some time after. Nevertheless, I believe that expenditure to be amply justified. Our national safety is one of the most important factors.
– Does the honorable senator think that the building of a line through a desert is going to make Australia safe?
- Senator Stewart, who has just returned from his holidays, seems to be full of enthusiasm. In answer to him I have to .say that if there were no other motive than national safety, I should ask the opponents of this Bill to pause before casting a vote with the object of defeating the measure or delaying its progress. As far as the debate has gone discussion has ranged round the question of gauge.
– Largely, but not entirely.
– Well, chiefly. Even Senator Sayers in his closing remarks stated that the gauge question was a burning one, particularly with South Australia and Victoria. I recognise the importance of that aspect of the question. But I do not wish it to be understood that in determining the gauge of the transcontinental railway any State has been ignored, or that any State has been given an undue advantage over another. As a matter of fact, when the Commonwealth Government was endeavouring to arrive at a determination as to what gauge should be chosen, every State was consulted. Every State sent a representative to a conference. I refer to the War Railway Council.
– There was a previous gathering which arrived at a similar decision, and every State was represented there also.
– That may be so. At the meeting of the War Railway Council on 14th February, 191 1, there were present : Mr. T. R. Johnson, Chief Commissioner for Railways and Tramways in New South Wales ; Mr. W. Fitzpatrick, Chairman of the Victorian Railways Commissioners; Lieut. -Colonel J. F. Thallon, Commissioner for Railways, Queensland; Mr. A. B. Moncrieff, South Australian Railways Commissioner; Mr. J. T. Short, Commissioner for Railways, Western Australia; and Mr. J. M. McCormick, General Manager, Tasmanian Government Railways.
This Council carried a resolution in favour of the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. Resolution 20 reads -
The War Railway Council recommends (a) a uniform 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge of railway linking up the capitals between Brisbane and Fremantle ;. () a gauge of 4 ft. 8£ inches on the transcontinental line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta; *(c) that the cost of conversion be shared upon a basis to be determined between the Commonwealth and the States.
In face of that Council’s resolution, I am justified in saying that there was no attempt on the part of the Federal Government to ignore or to take undue advantage of any State. Another War Railway Council meeting was held in May. Again we find the same officers present. Each and every one of them was an expert. On the top of their advice we have that of the Commonwealth consulting engineer. I wish to contrast the advice of those practical men, whose life’s work it is to consider these particular matters, with the advice tendered to us by a section of the Australian press - particularly of Victoria - and the advice of certain honorable senators. Let me refer for a moment to a leading article in the Age of the 24th of this month. It commences by saying that the question of the building of this line is one of national policy and moment; that it is also a question for the States, and that it looked to the Senate as the States’ House to conserve the rights of the States. I have always looked upon that newspaper as the guardian of national rights, rather than as the guardian of State rights. But that article struck me as somewhat contradictory in its advocacy of National and State rights at the same time, for I fail to see how it can be considered as a national policy and at the same time conserving State rights. What I think our aim in this discussion should be is to conserve the Commonwealth rights, and to secure the most direct railway service that is possible for man and beast, and the quick despatch of troops between the eastern and western portions of the continent.
– How many people will be settled along the line when it is constructed ?
– I am not in a position just now to tell my honorable friend.
– You are not a prophet.
– No; nor do I attempt to be a prophet.
– I think that you will be on the safe side if you do not prophesy. There will be about one person to every 20 miles.
– I come now to the question of whether the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge will be better than the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge for carrying the greater load. I venture to say that any honorable senator who uses the argument that the broader the gauge the greater is the capacity for carrying loads is somewhat falsifying the position.
– Engineers say so, anyhow.
– Engineers may have said so. I am not posing as an engineer, as my honorable friend is aware, but I know that the hauling power of locomotives is being increased almost daily. On the railways of Western Australia I have seen an engine capable of carrying a certain load on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, and another engine capable of hauling a greater load on that gauge. I shall quote in reply to Senator Stewart a statement which appears in one of the reports of Mr. Deane, and which, I think, will verify my statement -
Wilh regard to the hauling power of locomotives, it is probably not known, except to a few, what development is taking place. Here our heaviest locomotives and tenders weigh together in working order, say, 105 tons. In the United States the builders have succeeded in producing locomotives 500,000, 600,000, and 700,000 lbs. in weight successively. The most recent design is for a locomotive and tender weighing combined 850,000 lbs., or 425 tons American, equal to 378 British tons. Seeing that this result can be achieved with the 4-ft. gauge, is it worth while going to increased expense to adopt a gauge 6£ inches wider?
– Would not a 1,000- ton engine pull a heavier load than a 378- ton engine?
– In the western State I have seen cases where the hauling power of the locomotive has been increased without interfering with the gauge. I understand that it is the intention of the Government, if this Bill is passed, to construct the line on the day labour principle. I am very glad that that is their intention. I suggest that they should endeavour to get all the necessary material on a somewhat similar system. It is well known that several thousands of sleepers will be required.
– Let them get ironbark sleepers from Queensland.
– Why should they not get better sleepers from Western Australia and South Australia, where there are no white ants, and it is not necessary to lay down the timber of which my honorable friend speaks ?
– We will have to appeal to uncle, though, before we can build the railway.
– I know that representations have been made to the Government that they should enter into negotiations with the two States concerned to procure timber reserves from which they could get the sleepers they require, and thus save the contractor’s price. If it is intended to build the line on the day labour principle, why should we not endeavour to get all the material we possibly can on the same principle? If we can obtain from the State Governments reserves in which men will be employed in felling trees, and hewing and shaping sleepers, and sending them direct to the men engaged on the construction of the line, I think it will be found that we shall save a considerable sum. I hold in my hand an estimate as to what may be saved by adopting such a method as that. I will not give the figures as accurate, but they have been supplied to me by a gentleman who is recognised as a very capable engineer. Speaking of a jarrah reserve for bridge timbers, &c, he says -
If the Federal Government secure their own forest and get their own timber there can be easily a saving of ad. per sleeper, equal to at least £80 per mile for sleepers, as well as a big saving on bridge and other timber, and then make a profit out of the scantling and smaller sizes.
– Do you suggest that sleepers should be cut by day labour, or at so much each ?
– I suggest that the Commonwealth Government should endeavour to secure from the two States reserves, in which trees can be felled and sleepers hewn and shaped, just as the Timber Combine of Western Australia is doing to-day.
– You said that it might be done by day labour.
– I was trying to extend the principle.
– They would not do it by day labour.
– If the Government build the railway on the day-labour principle, they will save the contractor’s price; and if they can supply the sleepers they will save the charge of the Timber Combine of Western Australia. At the present time two Departments in Western
Australia - the Railway Department and the Works Department - are cutting their own sleepers, and supplying themselves. Why should not the Commonwealth Government try to get reserves and cut their own sleepers, and so save the charge of the Timber Combine? I throw out the suggestion, which may, or may not, be accepted. I think it would be wise if the Government would consider it. The next question I desire to discuss is the cost of conversion to the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge as against the.5-ft. 3-in. gauge. Whether we like it or not, we shall shortly be faced with the question of adopting a uniform gauge for Australia, and, therefore, we must consider what the cost will be to convert the present gauges - 5 ft. 3 in., 3 ft. 6 in., or whatever they may be - into a uniform gauge. Once this Bill is passed, I presume it will be necessary that the States shall fall into line.
– Suppose that they refuse to do so?
– If they refuse to fall into line they will be foolish, but I am picturing to myself the day when the necessity of a uniform gauge for Australia will have to be faced, and I realize the vast difference in the cost of converting the gauges to 4 ft. 8^ in. rather than to 5 ft. 3 in. Honorable senators know perfectly well what that vast difference is, and I need not recapitulate arguments which have been used in that regard. The difference in favour of the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge will be from £2,000,000 to £2,500,000. Honorable senators ought to pause before they commit themselves to a vote which might mean an unnecessary expenditure of money so far as conversion to a uniform gauge is concerned. Following up that question, I desire to refer to a paper by Mr. Deane, which was presented to Parliament in October last, and which is entitled The Gauges of Australia and their Unification.’ Despite the fact that every State in the Union has been consulted as to the gauge, that the expert representative of each ‘State has indorsed the proposal to build this line on the 4-ft. 8j-in, gauge, and that the Government have gone abroad in order to buttress them in their position, if such buttressing is necessary, we are asked to halt and, as it were, to mark time in order that further inquiry may be made. If we are to travel further afield for fresh information on this subject, I do not know where we are to get it. I might, if I were so disposed, engage the Senate by a reference to the various gauges upon which railways have been constructed in different countries ; but it is sufficient for my purpose to give some totals. I find that there have been 4°7 1 S°S miles of railway constructed on the 4-ft. 8-in. gauge, as against 47,659 miles on the 5-ft. 6-in. gauge. The percentage of mileage under the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge is 65.58, as against a percentage of 7.57 represented by the mileage of the 5-ft. 6-in. gauge.
– What is the mileage of the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge?
– It is so small as to be scarcely worth mentioning. Only 7,887 miles of railway have been constructed on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, and this represents but 1.27 per cent, of the total railway construction of the world. It is, therefore, quite beyond what is reasonable to ask that we should wait for further inquiries before deciding what shall be the gauge of this railway. I realize that the opposition, if any, to the Bill will centre round the question of gauge. From what I have read and heard on the subejct, I believe the Government have adopted the wisest policy in proposing that it shall be constructed on the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge, in the hope that that will become the uniform gauge throughout Australia. I have nothing to add, except to appeal to the Senate to pass this Bill in its entirety, and, by so doing, hasten the day when we shall be able to say of this Commonwealth, that really and truly we are one people, with one flag and one destiny.
– I should regret to prolong the debate, but that it appears to me that some points in connexion with this matter have not been as fully developed as they might have been. I do not propose to discuss details of the weight of engines or the weight of rails, but I do think that the Senate should consider whether, as a matter of policy, this is a line which ought to be built. We know that the South Australian Parliament have passed a measure which restricts the Commonwealth Parliament to follow South Australian lines to a certain extent. So far Western Australia has not passed any such law, and I honestly believe that the people of that State are more anxious for the construction of this line than are the people of South Australia. To suggest that, as a matter of policy, the Commonwealth should build this line to develop Australia in the ordinary sense of the term, is to suggest that we should go beyond our duties under the Constitution. It is true that the Constitution lays it down that, with the consent of a State the Commonwealth’ can build railways; but that undoubtedly means that we can build railways for the purpose of defence. If it could be shown that this railway is necessary for the. defence of Australia, it should be built, whatever sacrifices might have to be made to accomplish its construction. Let us consider the proposal from the point of view of defence. Lord Kitchener’s report has several times been referred to as the best possible text from which the necessity for the construction of this line can be proved. I venture to say that nineteen out of every twenty Australians who read Lord Kitchener’s report, particularly in relation to railway construction, have misunderstood it. He said in his report -
Railway construction, while developing the country, has resulted in lines of little use for defence, owing to different gauges and the lack of systematic interior connexion.
What does he mean by “ interior connexion “ ? He undoubtedly referred to the fact that we have been building lines all round Australia, where they might be easily seized by an enemy who could secure a landing, whilst the interior termini of our lines have not been connected. At the present time it is proposed to connect the interior railway termini in Queensland, and this applies also to some extent . to New South Wales and South Australia. We have built the circumference, so to speak, and the spokes inwards, but have never connected the spokes in the interior. That was what Lord Kitchener referred to in his report. We have the exterior connexion now from Adelaide to Rockhampton, in Queensland ; but it is the interior connexion of our railway termini that Lord Kitchener clearly referred to.
– This is the commencement of the interior connexions.
– If the VicePresident of the Executive Council will consult the map which the Government have caused to be exhibited in this chamber, he will find that 250 miles of this railway will be within 72 miles of the coast, where it may be broken up by any force that is able to effect a landing and remain in the country for a day or two. Does the honorable senator call that interior connexion? If he had argued that Lord Kitchener’s recommendation would cover a railway from
Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, I should say that that was reasonable; but this railway runs for a great part of the distance alongside the coast. It will be, to use Lord Kitchener’s expression, for the benefit of the enemy, quite as much as the line from Melbourne to Sydney, or Sydney to Brisbane and Rockhampton.
– How is an enemy to live in the country if it is the desert which it has been described?
– If Senator Lynch claims that this railway will run through a desert, I do not blame him.
– I used no such foolish argument.
– Then why mention the desert at all? I am trying to discuss the matter from a perfectly serious stand-point. When the honorable senator makes an interjection, and I accept it, and apply it to the argument, he says that he did not mean what he said.
– I was trying to reconcile the honorable senator’s argument with’ those of his colleagues, but I find that that is impossible.
– I am not my brother’s keeper. I do not know what my colleagues may have said, and I do not particularly care. I take it that we are not supposed to follow each other in the discussion of a matter of this kind like sheep going through a gate. Are we to understand that this .Bill is to be made a party measure, pure and simple? I remind the Senate that it is not easy to reconcile some of the remarks which have been made by members of the party opposite. It seems to me that, by adopting the route proposed for this line, we shall not be complying with Lord Kitchener’s recommendation to link up our interior con: nexions. It will not be admitted that I am right at any time, but the Minister of Defence, if he looks into the matter, and studies the secret information imparted to him by the higher Imperial officials, will recognise that Lord Kitchener objected to the construction of railways close to the coast where they might be cut by an enemy.
– Lord Kitchener recommended this particular line. I read his recommendation.
– Then, curiously enough, it has been suppressed. It has not been made public.
– I read it to the Senate. . ‘
– If he made that recommendation why does it not appear in his report?
– It was in an after-dinner speech; it was not official.
– He was perfectly sober. The honorable senator does not mean to infer that he was not sober?
– That is a most unpleasant thing to have said of an eminent Imperial official.
– I was answering Senator St. Ledger’s remark that it was made in an after-dinner speech.
– I say that it is not in Lord Kitchener’s official report, and, if I understood the Minister of Defence rightly, he said that it was in the official report.
– No, I did not.
– It appears to have been left out of the expurgated and bowdlerized publication of Lord Kitchener’s report. I believe the line should be taken very much further inland. It is an absolute source of danger to run our lines close to the coastline. So far as the defence of Western Australia is concerned the construction of this railway might be postponed for the next twenty years, or until Australia has a navy capable of defending her shores. We shall only need to put troops into Western Australia from the east, or bring troops from the west to to the east, when we have lost command of the sea.
– Would the honorable senator wait until we have lost command of the sea?
– The honorable senator should know that it is impossible to construct railway lines in such a way as to meet an enemy attempting a landing at any possible place. I refer the honorable senator to a report on this matter made by Admiral Creswell in 1905 or 1906 to the Commonwealth Government. He points out how utterly impossible it is to imagine that we can handle troops on land in such a way that they will be able to meet an invading party wherever they may attempt to land. The question of gauge has been raised, and a good deal has been made of it. I notice that the fight has been in a most cheerful manner between Victoria and South Australia combined and New South Wales. Stephenson, the original inventor of railways, said that if he had not been making engines of a gauge of 4 ft.8¾ in., I think itwas, he would have liked to have had a line of a few inches wider gauge. That may be some consolation to our Victorian friends who have adopted the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge.
– Did he not favour a 7 -ft. gauge?
– No, he favoured a few inches wider than 4 ft. in. But Stephenson has been very dead now for a long time, and conditions have altered since his time. I ask ‘honorable senators to recollect that we are now being invited to pay for a gauge which will probably be out of all proportion to our requirements for many years to come. I have heard the mileage quoted of the railways which have been constructed in India, upon various gauges, and I hold in my hand a copy of the report of the Secretary of the Railway Department of Queensland, who has just returned from a visit to that country. As a matter of fact, he was called back rather hurriedly owing to the death of the Railways Commissioner of that State. His report is dated11th August of the present year. Whilst he was in India he made inquiries in all directions, and upon page 2 of his report he gives the mileage of the different gauges which have been laid down in that country up to 31st December, 1909. He says that on that date there were31,490 miles of railway open to traffic, and that the mileage of the different gauges was as follows: - 5 ft. 6 in., 16,309 miles; 3 ft.3¾ in., 13,323 miles; 2 ft. 6 in., 14,445 miles; 2 feet, 415 miles. It will be seen, therefore, that practically 48 per cent. of the whole mileage of railways in India has been constructed upon a gauge of less than 5 ft. 6 in. Further, there is not a single railway in that country built upon the gauge that it is proposed to adopt upon the line which forms the subject of this Bill. These figures relate to a country which possesses an enormous area, and in which the railways, although they did not pay a few years ago, are paying handsomely now. If honorable members wish to know something more about the railways of India, I would refer them to a volume of Lord Curzon’s speeches. I have no desire to quote these at any length, but I wish to show how Lord Curzon, in his view of transcontinental lines, entertained the same view as Lord Kitchener. Amongst other things, he said -
We have to rivet tighter the bonds of steel that constitute our land defences, so that none may rashly force an entrance, and threaten the security or dissipate the slowly garnered prosperity of the people. We are in train to do this by the great scheme of military reorganization to which the present Commander-in-Chief in India is devoting his unique experience and authority, by a policy of friendly alliance and understanding with our neighbours on all our frontiers from Lhasa to Kabul, and by a better co-ordination of our military resources within our borders, both those which are under the Imperial Government and those which are supplied by our loyal coadjutors the Native States.
That speech was made on 28th July, 1904. Here is another quotation from the same authority, in which he puts the other side of the picture by pointing out that although railways may be built primarily for defence purposes they must also be constructed with a view to make them profitable to the people who use them.
I regard railways as a blessing to this country as a whole, and as the most unifying agency that exists in India. Indeed, I would like to go farther, and to free railway policy and finance. from many of the shackles by which it is now hampered. Almost ever since I came here I have been examining this question, and we have been trying, by discussion amongst ourselves and with the Secretary of State, whether we cannot do what the Hon. Mr. Ashton has urged us to do, namely, find some means of separating railway finance from general finance, or for putting productive railways which pay more than the interest charges on their capital into a category apart from precarious or unremunerative concerns.
With a view to giving effect to that policy, in his seventh Budget speech he said -
It eventually converted annual deficits into an assured surplus that has reached this year the magnificent figure of ii millions sterling, and it .has handed over to the Railway Board a splendid property which it will rest with the latter to develop on commercial principles in the future. I have sometimes seen the present administration accused of centralizing tendencies. I have not time to argue that contention this afternoon.
In one of his final speeches before the Bombay Chamber of Commerce, Lord Curzon remarked-1 -
The highest total mileage hitherto recorded in any vice-royalty has been 3,0,28; in mine ive have laid 6,no miles, bringing up the total mileage in India to 28,150, and I believe and hope that these figures will be exceeded by my successors.
The figures supplied by the Secretary of the Railway Department of Queensland, which I have already quoted, show that they have been exceeded. Let me also remind honorable senators of what Foster Fraser said in reference to the Siberian railway. He declared that, while the Russian Government had found it necessary to duplicate that line, they did not propose to widen the gauge. For military purposes they evidently consider that the gauge is all right. The only trouble with which they have to contend is that which we might experience if we endeavoured to convey troops for long distances over a single line. Otherwise there appears to be no ground for supposing that a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge would not meet all requirements. I ask honorable senators to divest their minds of the idea that a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge is the standard gauge, and to recollect that in Australia there is a greater mileage of lines on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge than there is upon any other. A similar remark is applicable to South. Africa. That gauge is recognised as the cheapest and best for pioneering purposes. Yet we are asked in this Bill to determine the gauge of the proposed transcontinental line. Assuming that we do so, what will happen? In the first place, Western Australia will have to widen the gauge of her line from Perth to Kalgoorlie, and also to widen the existing tunnels and culverts. South Australia, too, will have to convert her 5- ft. 3-in. gauge between Adelaide and the border to 4 ft. 8J in., whilst Victoria will be obliged to convert her line from the South Australian border to Melbourne, and from Melbourne to Albury. Then, unless New- South Wales will complete the north-west coast line within a reasonable time, Queensland will have to widen her line via the Little and Big Liverpool Ranges to Toowoomba, thence to Warwick, through the rough country to Wallangarra. That is to say, the whole of that length of railway will have to be converted from a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge. The tunnels and culverts will have to be enlarged before a train can reach Brisbane without a break of gauge.
– The same objection will apply to any gauge.
– Not at all. It is far cheaper to convert broad lines to a narrower gauge than it is to convert them to a wider one. No honorable senator will deny that.
– Does the honorable senator advocate the adoption of a 3-ft. 6- in. gauge upon the main trunk lines to all the capitals?
– The Minister has not given any reason for building the proposed railway, except that it is necescary for the purposes of defence. No estimates have been made of the probable earnings of the line. It is said that the engineers have supplied an estimate. But what do they know of its probable earnings ? We want the opinion of some persons in authority. Before we finally decide upon a particular gauge this question should be carefully inquired into. Although the Commonwealth may construct the proposed line on a 4-ft.8½-in. gauge, it has no power to compel Victoria, South Australia, or Queensland to convert their exising main trunk lines to that gauge. As a matter of fact, Westtern Australia has promised to convert her line, but only in this morning’s newspapers I read that the Premier of South Australia has said that though the Commonwealth may build this railway upon the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge, he has made up his mind to adhere to the old gauge.
– He did not say that at all ; it is quite a mistake.
– Have the South Australian Government intimated that they will convert their main line if we construct the proposed railway upon the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge? Senator Henderson knows perfectly well that they have declared their intention of adhering to the existing gauge. Sub-clause 2 of clause 3 provides that - the construction of the line shall not be commenced until Western Australia and South Australia respectively have granted or agreed to grant to the satisfaction of the Minister such portion of Crown lands - and so forth. The preamble to the Bill says -
Whereas by an Act called the Northern Territory Surrender Act 1907 the State of South Australia has consented to authorize the construction - and so forth. In my humble opinion that is bad drafting. It looks as if the Act was passed by this Parliament instead of by the Parliament of South Australia. The passage should read, “ Whereas by an Act passed by the South Australian Parliament called the Northern Territory Surrender Act 1907.” Let us turn to the South Australian Act of 1907, and see what it provides. The Act, I may remark, was reserved for the signification of the Royal assent, and therefore it appears in the volume of Statutes for 1908. Amongst the provisions of this Act about which we hear nothing is one in Division II., under the heading “ Incorporation.” It is section11 -
With this part are incorporated the following Acts and the Acts amending same.
Then we have the following : - (iii.) The Railway Clauses Act 1876 (except sectionsxii., xiv., xv., and xvii.), but so that the said Act shall be read as applying to the railways to the construction of which the State hereby consents, and as if “ the Commonwealth “ were substitued for “ the Commissioner of Railways “ in the said Act.
I wonder whether any honorable senator has taken the trouble to look up the Railway Clauses Act of 1876? I doubt whether with the exception of myself, any one has done so. But what do we find in that Act? It appears from what I have read that sectionsxii., xiv., xv. and xvii. are left out, and that the rest of the Act is incorporated in this measure; which constitutes practically the terms upon which South Australia will allow us to build the railway. Now what does sectionxiii. - which, if we pass this Bill, becomes part of the Commonwealth law - say in reference to compensation to be paid for lands? It says -
The compensation to be paid by the said Commissioner - and for “ Commissioner “ read “ Commonwealth.” in respect of any land entered upon taken or injuriously affected, for the purposes or in the execution of any Act authorizing the construction of any line of railway shall, unless otherwise fixed by agreement, be computed in the following manner : -
With respect to land alienated from the Crown in fee simple, and granted before the passing of the Act authorizing the construction of the line of railway, in respect of which such lands shall be entered upon, taken, or injuriously affected, the compensation payable under “ the Land Clauses Consolidation Act “ and “ the Railways Clauses Consolidation Act,” but not exceeding what would have been payable if the value of such land had been assessed six months before the entering upon and the taking of the said land for the construction of the said last-mentioned line of railway.
The moment we pass this Bill that section will be embodied in the Commonwealth law. But what does this Bill say in clause 19? -
Any private lands may be acquired by the Commonwealth for the purposes of the railway under the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act 1906 -
– That is “ private lands.”
– So it is under the. South Australian Act which I have quoted. Land held in fee simple is private land. Clearly a blunder has been made in the Bill which will have to be corrected. Clause 19 goes on - and the value of any lands acquired by compulsory process under that Act shall be assessed according to the value of the lands on the 19th day of September,1911.
Six months after that date gives 19th March, 1912. I do not suppose that the most enthusiastic of Ministers believes that this railway will be commenced, and that the Commonwealth will enter into possession of lands before 19th of next March.
– We shall acquire the land before we enter into possession.
– But the moment the Commonwealth gets over that point, what is it to do? Under this Bill, the Commonwealth will have to pay landowners the price of their land as at six months before entering into possession.
– That is only if we are buying land.
– I have been reading this clause backwards and forwards for hours, and if I can make anything of it at all-
– The honorable senator is a little mixed.
– It is the Government who are mixed, not I.
– If it is only meant that the South Australian Government is to pay compensation on that basis, why is the South Australian Act of 1907 incorporated in this Bill?
– It is not in the Commonwealth Bill ; it is only in the State Act.
– The State Act gives the only power which the Commonwealth Government has to move at all in the matter.
– The only power the Commonwealth Government has Ls expressed in the preamble, “ whereas by an Act called the Northern Territory Surrender Act 1907.”
– The honorable senator is mixing up two Acts.
– Did not South Australia mix up the two?
– That was done at the instance of the Deakin Government, and it was a shameful piece of bargaining.
– Was it at the instance of the Deakin Government that the South Australian Government put into their Act that the Act of 1876 was to be incorporated ?
– The Deakin Government made the agreement under which that was done.
– There is nothing in the Act of 1907 which has anything to do with the Deakin agreement.
– It was all a matter of negotiation.
– Does not the agreement govern the whole situation?
– This Bill says one thing, and yet the Government are acting under the authority of an Act of South Australia, which says something entirely different. The Vice-President of the Executive Council may laugh as much as he likes, but I am anxious that the Commonwealth should not be robbed for the benefit of the few people, whose lands will be enhanced in value because the Commonwealth is going to build a railway. It behoves the Government to look into this matter, and see that a blunder is not made ; or, if a blunder has been made, the sooner it is rectified the better. I also think that the Government should have brought before us some definite policy, or some statement as to what the railway is going to cost. We should have known something about the Department that is to control the construction of this, and other railways. I say frankly that if £[4,500,000, or whatever the sum may be, is to be handed over to the present Minister of Home Affairs, who usually manages the kite-flying business of the Government, it will be a matter of very great regret. We do not know what the expenditure will be, or anything else that is definite.
– The Minister of Defence deals with aeroplanes !
– I was speaking not of aeroplanes, but of kite-flying ; and the kite-flying of this Government is the monopoly of the Minister of Home Affairs. I should be perfectly satisfied if I could be assured that the management of the building of this railway was to be in the hands of a common-sense man like the Minister of Defence. But it is certainly a matter for regret that a business matter of this kind, in which millions of pounds are involved, should be undertaken without Parliament being given so much as an indication as to what authority is to have the spending of the money. Parliament is entitled to have that information before it authorizes the expenditure. This is one of those slipshod pieces of business that has become common ever since 13th April, 1910.
– The honorable senator has not forgotten that event.
– No ; I cannot forget it, because ever since the Government have been plundering Trust Funds, and doing all sorts of things that they should not have done. I am not asking anything unreasonable when I request that we shall be furnished with information of a detailed character. We, as representatives of the people, have to go back to our constituents, and. justify the taxation that will be laid upon them to carry out this work. We should be able to tell the people what the work will cost, and how it is to be carried out. As far as we can learn, the Commonwealth is to be pledged to something like £4,500,000 on building a railway close to the coast, where an enemy could smash it at any time, and through a desert where we shall probably have to keep a large staff of men employed to prevent the sand from hiding the railway after it is built.
– I have read in a book with which I presume most honorable senators are, or ought to be, more or less conversant, something about a deathbed repentance. Even at this late hour of the day, even after Parliament has authorized the construction of this railway, the members of the Senate ought to reconsider the situation, which is attempted to be created by the present Bill. I am not going to deal with the defence aspect of the question.
– There is nothing in it.
– My opinion is that, no matter if we had 50,000 miles of railway, our position, from the defence point of view, would not be one whit better than it is now. What we want for the purpose of defence is more population. When we have more people in Australia, then we shall be in a better position to defend ourselves against foreign aggression. Having come to that conclusion, I ask myself how many persons this precious railway of 1,000 miles in length, and estimated to cost £5,000,000, is going to settle on the soil of the Commonwealth? Will it settle one person per mile of its length?
– Will it settle 1,000 persons?
– Will it settle 100,000 people?
-The honorable senator says “ Yes,” but he knows just as much about the matter as the man in the moon, and that is nothing. If we are going to estimate the settlement along the line by the territory through which it will pass, I think I am very safe in saying that, at the very most, it will not settle more than 10,000 persons. What is the nature of this country ? Everybody knows that it is practically country at which even a squatter will not look. It is, to all intents and purposes, a desert; no one can say anything else. It is within a reasonable distance of the coast, and if it had been anything like useful country I am sure that it would have been settled a long time ago. In the 1,000 miles of its length, I do not believe that there are a dozen settlers. Yet the Commonwealth is asked to spend a huge sum - a sum which, I think, might be very profitably expended in other directions, and in other portions of the Commonwealth - in building a line which is not going to be of the slightest use, either to the Commonwealth as a whole or to the people of Western Australia. I have np doubt that we shall be told that Western Australia wants this railway. Of course every State, every municipality, every shire council, every tin-pot place in the Commonwealth wants public money expended in its particular locality. Western Australia is just like other portions of the Commonwealth. What the Western Australians, and the South Australians, too - for they are both in the one boat - say, I have no doubt, is this : “ This railway will cost £5,000,000. The money will be spent within our boundaries, some of it is bound to stick to our fists, and, therefore, of course, we are in favour of the expenditure. The Commonwealth will bear the burden; we will reap the benefit, and all will be well.” Again, if the line is ever built, it will have to be kept in good running condition, whether there is any traffic or not, and I believe that that expense will be very large. The country to be traversed is more or less a desert, with, I believe, a large amount of drifting sand. That being the case, the sand plough will, I suppose, have to be kept going constantly, whether passenger or other trains are run or not. I think it is something approaching a national crime to waste public money in this fashion - money which, as I have said, might be very much more profitably utilized in other directions. If we ‘want to strengthen Australia for defence purposes, our policy is obvious. Let us get more people settled on the soil and create industries. That, it appears to me, would be a much more serviceable policy with regard to the defence of Australia than the mere building of a railway through a desert. That is one reason why I oppose this proposal, and ask the members of the Senate, notwithstanding what has been done hitherto, to, even at this late hour, throw it out, and show its capability of rising to the height of useful patriotism. We have reports here, and, of course, we know’ that they are more or less coloured by the wishes of the Government of the day. When you are dealing with public servants, you get, in nine cases out of ten, the kind of report which they think you want. It is just the same as when you consult a lawyer ; he tries to find out, first, the kind of opinion which you are anxious to get, and then he gives it to you.
– Is that your experience ?
– I have had very little experience, I am thankful to say; but I have profited by that of other persons. I do not think that this railway will settle many persons on the soil, for the simple reason that the country is not suitable for settlement. Therefore, I am of opinion that it will be exceedingly unprofitable for the Commonwealth to build it. We have an estimate of revenue and expenditure. I do not know the principle on which the engineers or the writers of this report proceeded in framing their estimate.
– Mr. Deane says he does not know what the revenue will be.
– No ; the engineers do not know anything about the revenue. They have calculated it at about £200 per mile, but I do not know where they are going to get it. I think I am very safe in saying that very few of the people of Western Australia will patronize the line in any shape or form. They certainly will not get their goods from the eastern portion of Australia by that means, because they can get them carried very much more cheaply by steamer to Fremantle, and distributed from there by the existing railways in Western Australia. The passenger traffic across the proposed line will be very small indeed. In fact, I believe that the bulk of the traffic will be composed of the carriage of members of Parliament, who will go across on their free passes, simply because the Government will not pay their fares by steamer. If they could get a steamboat passage to Fremantle, I am sure that they would very much prefer to travel by water to being hurled 1,000 or 1,500 miles across a trackless desert.
– Have you ever crossed the Australian Bight in rough weather ?
– Yes, and I have never been sick there yet.
– I envy you.
– No man who is qualified to be a member of Parliament ought to be frightened of that Bight.
– It is a very small Bight. I have been trying to discover in Queensland a railway that will bear comparison with the proposed line, even in the faintest way. I have not been able to get one which I could fairly say is on similar lines. But I have found one which I may cite, and that is a line from a place called Julia Creek in North Queensland to Cloncurry. That part of the country is known to Senators Givens, Sayers, and St. Ledger.
– I have been over it two or three times.
– I am certain that the country there is very much better than anything between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie. During last year the revenue derived from the line was only £220 per mile, or £20 per mile more than the estimated revenue from this 1,000-mile line across a desert.
– How many people are there at Cloncurry?
– There is a very considerable number of people in that district.
– How many - a thousand?
– I really do not know the population.
– Are there 10,000?
– I am certain that there are more people in Julia Creek itself - and it is a very small township - than there are along the route of the proposed line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie.
– That does not affect the question. It is the number of people at the terminal points that affects the traffic.
– How many people are there at Kalgoorlie?
– Seventy thousand.
– How many people will there be at Kalgoorlie twenty years from now, when the mines will be exhausted? Will they travel by rail across to Port Augusta, or will they go down to the coast and take a steamer from Fremantle ? Is any honorable senator here silly enough to imagine that the Western Australian Government is going to play into the hands ot the Commonwealth Government in connexion with this railway? Is it not more than likely that, in order to attract the traffic from Kalgoorlie and all the points west of that” place to Perth and Fremantle special fares will be charged by the State Government for fear-
– Where will the InterState Commission be then?
– We have not an Inter-State Commission yet. I do not know whether we are going to have one or not. But I know that the Western Australian Government, which is dominated largely by the people who live in Perth and Fremantle, will do everything in its power to attract the traffic westward, and will not assist the Commonwealth railway in any way.
– That statement is absolutely incorrect. The majority of the members of the present Government of Western Australia do not represent coastal districts.
– I know that the people in Perth and Fremantle wield a very great influence in the affairs of Western Australia.
– Australia has moved ahead since you left. Do you not know that there is a Labour Government in Western Australia now?
– I believe there is, but it has not been there very long, and we do not know how long it may remain. Even a Labour Government cannot always do-
– That is the very word that I wanted. A Labour Government cannot always do right. Any Government in Western Australia will be compelled by the wishes of the electors to give facilities for people to travel westward to Perth and Fremantle, so that as much of their money as they can get out of them will be spent there, rather than that they should travel eastward along the Commonwealth line. From whatever point of view one examines this matter, the only conclusion which can be arrived at is that the line will not pay its way for at any rate fifty years. At least, that is the opinion at which I have deliberately arrived, although I may be wrong. There may be some remarkable discovery of gold and minerals.
I hope there will be. But we have no guarantee that anything of the kind will happen. That is the only hope.
– The information we have is that there is no mineral country along the greater part of the route of this railway.
– No, it is just drifting sand. It is not fit for agricultural, pastoral, or mineral development. What in the name of goodness is it fit for ? It is country that, if Western Australia were left to herself, she would never seek to develop, because she would know perfectly well that it could not be profitably done. But the Commonwealth has a broad back and a long purse. If the Commonwealth has not the money in its purse, it knows where to find it, and the people of Australia will be able, if they are not very willing, to bear the burden.
– They help to bear the burden of the sugar industry.
– The honorable senator is always talking about the sugar industry, as if it were a great incubus on Australia. I intend to mention one fact for the information of the honorable senator. I hope that you, sir, will permit me to do so. I did not drag in the sugar industry, but as it has been dragged into the discussion I may be permitted to say that we are paying just a trifle more per pound for our sugar in Australia than the people are paying in Free Trade Great Britain. That is a nut for Senator Lynch to crack.
– A trifle of £6 per ton.
– That argument comes well from Protectionists, but what about the other protected industries ? Would honorable senators sacrifice them also? However, I do not intend to go into that matter.
– This is just as much a national question as is the protection to the sugar industry.
– This is not a national question, when every other State in the Commonwealth has - built its own railways.
– Queensland was glad to get help to build up her sugar industry.
– This is a question of sand, not sugar.
– I do not want to see the money of the Commonwealth engulfed in this sandy, windy desert. I want to see the Commonwealth protected against such a mad scheme as this. It is one of the maddest ideas that ever entered the brain of man to propose the construction of a railway through this waste. Hitherto, in Australia, railways have been associated with the development of the country. Where is the country to be developed by this line? Even the people who made the trial survey did not attempt to say that the country was fit for settlement.
– That is exactly what used to be said of Queensland a few years ago.
– No; people who knew Queensland never said anything of the kind. If Senator Gardiner wishes to see country worth looking at let him go up to Queensland.
– I have been there, and have seen the best country in the world.
– The proof is not in what people said, but in what they did ; and they have settled Queensland.
– Yes, in Queensland we built our railways ourselves. We borrowed the money for the purpose, and it has not yet been paid back, but we did build our own railways, and gradually settled the country. That is an example which I think Western Australia, might very well be asked to follow. We have heard a great deal about the wealth of Western Australia. We are told that she is the richest State in the Commonwealth, and yet she comes begging at the gate of the Commonwealth, beseeching the people of the rest of Australia to build a railway for her.
– If the country is a sandy desert, does the honorable senator not think that Western Australia needs some assistance?
– Though I should object, in any case, to the Commonwealth building railways purely for State purposes I could see some reason, some sense, and some profit in this proposal if it could be shown that the railway would develop country and settle people upon the soil. But to build a railway through country of this character seems to me to be the height of madness. What is more, it will, if constructed, be a highway for some enemy to enable them to cross this desert waste in comfort, whereas, if this country were left without railway communication the march of the enemy across this desert would be like the march of Napoleon from Moscow. I am not going to say anything about the gauge.
– Does the honorable senator not think that the mortgage will be of some importance?
– Yes, I suppose it will be the only gauge of any consequence in connexion with this railway if it is ever built. I hope the Senate will throw the Bill out.
– I do not think it will.
– Probably not. People do the most foolish things imaginable. Even wise men very often do extremely foolish things, especially when they are dealing with other people’s money. If it was their own they were dealing with, I do not suppose they would put sixpence into such a proposal. I do not suppose that there is an honorable senator in this chamber to-night who would put sixpence of his own money into this railway. But we are dealing with the money of the Commonwealth, and some honoraBle senators are prepared to throw £5,000,000 away on a scheme like this.
– lt will be nearer £6,000,000, I think.
– I am taking the estimate of the supporters of this proposal. I believe, with Senator Vardon, that it will cost very much nearer £6,000,000. Goodness knows, the Commonwealth bill of costs is mounting up with alarming rapidity, and, so far as I can discover, this railway will only result in an annual charge upon the Commonwealth of at least £100,000, and that for a period of anything from twenty to fifty years. Honorable senators should consider seriously before they embark upon an undertaking of this character. They ought to view every aspect of the question, and .try to find out for themselves whether this proposal is likely to be for the benefit of the people of Australia. I think the statement cannot be made too often that if the defence argument is of any value at all, what we want for the defence of Australia is more people. How many people will the spending of this £[5,000,000 settle upon the soil. There are parts of Australia where, if we spend £500,000,000 on the settlement of the land, we should be able to settle probably 200,000 persons. We cannot settle 10,000 people in this country. So far as I can see, from the point of view of defence, this line will be of very little value at all.
– It will be covered up with sand.
– Yes, the sand will be continually drifting over it, and we shall require to have gangs of men always going east and west to keep it clear. I believe it will cost a great deal of money per annum to keep this line clear of sand. Whether there is any traffic, little traffic or no traffic on it, the expense of maintenance will always continue. The cost of maintaining the line from Julia Creek to Cloncurry was about £170 a mile, whilst the income was £220 per mile. A very low estimate of the cost of maintaining this line will be £170 per mile. Whichever way one looks at it, the only apparent conclusion is that it will result in a very large annual deficit. The report of the Engineers-in-Chief estimates the deficit for one year at £68,000. That is a very large deficiency per annum for the people of the Commonwealth to have to meet in addition to the other obligations upon the Treasury. But when we double that, and say that the annual deficit will be from £100,000 to £120,000 or £130,000, the matter becomes serious, and honorable senators should pause before committing the people to such an alarming annual payment. I intend to vote against the second reading of this Bill. I have been against this proposal from the beginning. I have never yet heard an argument or read of a fact which would induce me to alter my mind on the subject. I do not believe in these wild-cat schemes. I think that nations as well as individuals should be particularly careful as to how they spend their money. I think the money spent on this railway will be wasted. Five millions sterling of Commonwealth money will be engulfed and swallowed up in the sands of this desert. Some day we may have to send an expedition out to look for the railway. It will be covered up with sand, and no one will know where it is. I trust that the majority of the members of the Senate will vote with me against the second reading of this Bill, and thus show that they are capable of looking after the interests of the Commonwealth sometimes.
– Before entering upon the discussion of the merits, or rather the demerits of this Bill, I wish to refer to something which took place whilst Senator Chataway was speaking. The honorable senator pointed out that in his opinion the Go vernment had misunderstood Lord Kitchener’s advice with regard to the railway systems of Australia as part of a defence system, and he made out his case. But the Minister of Defence suggested by interjection that Lord Kitchener had advised the construction of this railway presumably from a defence point of view. I, by interjection in reply to the Minister, pointed out that that utterance of Lord Kitchener was an after-dinner utterance.
– Does the honorable member mean that he was irresponsible then ?
– Honorable senators are welcome to put any construction they please upon that remark of mine. I made it plain at the time that I used the term “ after-dinner speech,” in order that it might be clearly understood that Lord Kitchener’s remarks on that occasion were certainly not official. With every respect for Lord Kitchener I do not propose to qualify that statement in any way. Whilst entirely disclaiming any sinister construction which may be placed upon my remark, I say, without hesitation, that on the occasion in question, Lord Kitchener was like the Greek shoemaker, in that he went somewhat beyond his last. In other words, he was good enough to make certain observations on the railway policy of this country entirely apart from defence matters. I repeat that his utterance was not an official one ; but I do think that, when he mentioned matters relating to the railway policy of the States and of the Commonwealth, he went somewhat outside his province. That policy exclusively concerns the States and the Commonwealth. In matters of defence, we invite the opinions of such experts as Lord Kitchener, and give them the weightiest consideration. Except for the strongest reasons, there is scarcely a tittle of any policy connected with naval or military defence which they may promulgate that we would not thankfully receive and adopt. But railway matters, apart from defence, concern us alone. There are two or three outstanding features connected with this Bill which must arrest the attention of everybody. The first is that neither the Minister himself, nor a single supporter of the Government, has given the slightest reason why the proposed railway should be undertaken. It is true that its construction has been urged upon what have been described as “ national “ grounds. Now, the word “ national “ reminds me of the blessed word “ Mesopotamia.” It is a glorious word when used in the right place at the right time. But I would remind honorable senators that that which is national must be supported by business. We know, from the varying opinions of experts, that the cost of constructing this socalled “ national “ undertaking will be from £4,000,000 to £5,000,000. Allowing for the difference between official estimates and the actual cost based upon past experience, it is not unreasonable to assume that the cost of the proposed line will be anything from £5,000,000 to £6,000,000. This project has been in the melting-pot of Federal politics for the past ten years, and yet the Government have not given the slightest indication of where the money for its construction is to be obtained, how it is to be raised, and when it is to be paid.
– Base is the slave who pays.
– But it will not do the Vice-President of the Executive Council any good to urge that claim when the bailiff enters his house armed with a writ. If he did urge it, probably that officer would tell him to get his head read, or to put an iced towel round it. Is there a single instance connected with railway construction in the world where a similar procedure has been adopted.
– What procedure?
– Is there a single instance on record in which a deliberative assembly has been asked to sanction the construction of 1,100 miles of railway without being told how the money is to be raised, and who is going to pay for the undertaking? What is the reason for this departure? Again only the one reason - the use of the blessed word “ national.”
– The Treasurer has answered the honorable senator’s question.
– 1 defy the Minister, except with the most powerful microscope, to discover anything in the Treasurer’s Budget which discloses where the money is to come from. It is a pity that the Minister, in submitting this measure, did not enlighten us upon the subject. It may be that the position is as clear as crystal from the Treasurer’s statement, but, if so, it is singular that the Minister of Defence did not point out the reference to us.
– Will the honorable senator vote for the Bill if I repeat the statement?
– It is too late for the Minister to begin to bargain with me now?- Up till ten minutes ago I was open to consider my position.
– Nobody is listening to the honorable senator.
– I am not speaking to the Grand Panjandrum of the present Ministry, but to a somewhat larger, and I hope, a more intelligent audience.
– I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that the VicePresident of the Executive -Council is at last beginning to think that he is the only man in this Parliament, or, possibly, in the universe, for whose benefit a question is discussed. May I remind him that I am debating this Bill for the benefit of a much wider and more appreciative audience?
– The honorable senator means the Women’s National League.
– That is a very sore point with the honorable senator, and I can quite understand why he is so perturbed about it. If he were acquainted with the politics of the various States, he would know that every honorable senator representing Queensland is, more or less, pledged to use all the forms of Parliament, without abusing them, in his opposition to this Bill. We are bound to give effect to our pledges. We are bound - even though we may do so by a silent vote - to justify to the Commonwealth of Australia the attitude of the citizens of Queensland. Otherwise Parliament would cease to be a deliberative assembly. More than that, every honorable senator has a right to speak at some length upon this question, seeing that it is out of the pockets of the people of the various States that the money to pay for the construction of this line must come. Any representative of Queensland would be faithless to his duty if he did not seek to give full effect to his pledge. It has been the custom, ever since railways were constructed by the States of Australia - from the turning of the first sod of the first line - for fairly minute particulars as to route, probable cost, revenue, expenditure, and difficulties of construction to be laid before Parliament. In New South Wales and Victoria no line 10 miles in length could be constructed without a report from a Committee, called in one case a Public Works Committee, and in the other a Standing Committee on Railways. That is done in order that when Parliament authorizes the construction of a line, a body of information shall be brought together, founded upon evidence by the best experts obtainable, so that the representatives of the people may know all the particulars that can be furnished to them on the subject. Parliament, under that system, has the benefit of full criticism and of all available facts before it authorizes the expenditure of a penny. Similar safeguards prevail, to a greater or a lesser extent, in every State. Further than that, there are members of the State Parliaments who are more or less personally acquainted with the districts through which proposed railways have to pass. But no such safeguards have been provided for this Parliament in reference to the railway under consideration. I am at a loss to know why the Government should, towards the end of a hard session, desire to force this Bill through Parliament. Do Ministers mean to say that if we were to take proper time for the discussion of every detail any material injury would be done to the Commonwealth ? As- Senator Stewart remarked, the railway certainly will not benefit Australia during the next six or eight months. I am glad that a voyage to the Antipodes has brought Senator Stewart round to an appreciation of my point of view with regard to immigration. It is certain that 20,000 or 30,000 extra people settled in Western Australia would do more to safeguard this country from invasion than this railway would do, even though it were built in a month or two, with the aid of the magical lamp of Aladdin. What great interest in Australia would suffer if this proposition were hung up until the next session of Parliament. If, during the recess, Ministers devoted themselves to obtaining full information in regard to the route itself, the cost of construction, the probable revenue to be derived, and the estimated working expenses, nothing but good would flow from their efforts. Parliament, indeed, ought to insist upon that being done. I appeal to the supporters of the Ministry, who feel as I do with regard to this Bill, to refuse to assist them in forcing the measure through upon such meagre information on two or three of the most essential points. What interest, national or material, is going to be served by authorizing the construction of this railway upon imperfect information?
– The question has been before Parliament for ten years.
– It is unjust to bs, as guardians of the public purse, that the
Government should use their powerful ma’jority to put through a Railway Bill involving the expenditure of between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000 of money on such meagreinformation as they have given us. I assume that Ministers have dealt fairly with us in this respect, and that the reason why they have given us so little information is that they have no more. If they had it, and did not give it to Parliament, they would be unworthy to hold their positions.
– The fact is that thehonorable senator does not want information.
– That is an unfair inference.
– The information is there if the honorable senator wants it.
– There are thirty-five other senators besides myself who should require this information. At all events, it should be forthcoming, because we are responsible to our constituents for the taxation which this proposition will involve.
– The Government have supplied information, but they cannot supply the honorable senator with the understanding to appreciate it.
– I may be allowed to have sufficient intelligence to turn to the engineers’ reports, and find out by simple addition what the expenditure would amount to if full details were supplied. I do not believe that Senator Gardiner would buy a horse upon information which did not supply him with more valuable particulars than have been supplied to us with regard to this railway. I indorse Senator Stewart’s remark that if our own money were concerned, not one of us would vote for the line upon the meagre information before us. The Minister, in one passage of his speech, expressed exactly what 1 have been attempting to say. He said -
I venture to say that few railways have been so much discussed, so much inquired into, so much thought over as this particular line. All the advantages and disadvantages, all the benefit, all the evil that can flow from its construction, are thoroughly well known and investigated.
Mark the words, “ all the advantages and disadvantages.” That is a somewhat remarkable expression. If there is one attribute which distinguishes the Minister of Defence, especially when he is charged withthe responsibility of introducing a Bill, it is that he weighs his words pretty carefully. When he used the word “ disadvantages,” I thought it peculiarly appropriate. I took it that he referred to the disadvantage that the Senate should be asked to vote for a project involving millions of money on indefinite and insufficient information. It certainly is a disadvantage to have to deal with a matter of this magnitude under the circumstances in which it is presented to us. If it does not mean that, it must have this construction - and possibly it is the only alternative construction which can be put upon it - that the information which we do possess, with regard to the character of the country, is such as to make us certain that this line will be a permanent loss to the country, so far as it is a developmental railway. I was loath to think that, notwithstanding the reports I have read, until the Minister put it in that way. But having read since the beginning of this debate the reports on the territory I can quite understand that, possibly that interpretation of the word “ disadvantages “ may be the one which the Minister meant. How singular then if either interpretation is correct, and especially the latter one, does this proposal stand out as against proposals which are brought down by a State Government for approval. I have never heard of a State Government, and seldom of a State party, saying that a proposed railway would be a disadvantage to the State. The Government are prepared to prove that most of the railways included in their works policy will be a decided advantage to the country, and not a. disadvantage or an evil. When the Minister asked us, in the light of the discussion and the information we possess, to consider the advantages and the disadvantages, and further, when he spoke of the benefits and the evils which would follow, he practically admitted to the Senate that this railway will be more or less a permanent incubus upon the taxpayers. Reading the whole of his speech it is evident that he has almost come to this conclusion - he almost expressed it in direct words - that, if it were not for its relation to the defence policy he could not recommend this proposal to the Senate. And, first and last, its construction depends on the fact that it may, possibly will, be part of the defence policy. In no other way can his remarks be interpreted. Let us consider the hazy estimates of revenue and expenditure which have been given by competent authorities from time to time in order to see what a leap in the dark, from the defence point of view, we are asked to take. In 1901 Mr. R. E. O’Connor, who was then Chief
Engineer of Western Australia, estimated the cost at about £[4,400,000. He was a very competent authority, and I believe the author of a daring and most useful scheme for bringing water down to Kalgoorlie. Judged in the light of that achievement I should say that, from the engineering point of view, his opinion was equal to that of any man in Australia. In a subsequent report I think he modified his estimate by admitting that he had not allowed £[200,000 a year for the interest on the cost of construction. An Engineers’ Conference, which sat some time afterwards, made an estimate of £[4,559,000, and Mr. Deane estimated the cost at £[4,045,000. According to his last report, if internal combustion engines are used, the cost will be brought down to £[3,839,000. Nobody seems to know what internal combustion engines are. With all respect! to Mr. Deane, not even he himself seems to know. It is said that very learned men at times become very childish, and when the consulting engineer of the Commonwealth solemnly reduces an estimate of £4,°45>000 to £3,839,000 on the supposition of the possibility of internal combustion engines being used-
– His was the only estimate based on a survey.
– I understand that. His original estimate was £[4,045,000. He practically admits that nobody can tell whether internal combustion engines can be economically used, or, indeed, will be used. Yet, in his last report he reduces that estimate in all simplicity or solemnity by about £[230,000 or £[240,000.
– The use of these engines is being discussed in the engineering world to-day.
– Exactly so; but it stands out in the very face of his report that Mr. Deane knows little or nothing definite about the economic effect of using these engines on a railway. It is absolutely conjectural. I do not wish at this hour to traverse his report on that point. It is clear to the ordinary schoolboy - and Mr. Deane himself admits that he is somewhat indefinite as to the use of these engines. We must consider the country to be traversed by the line, notwithstanding that the Government may be able to force their proposal through. I propose to consider briefly some aspects of the country in order to show the possibility of the railway ever becoming . a paying proposition.
Speaking about the character of the country, Mr. Deane says in his last report -
About S02 miles from Kalgoorlie, Tarcoola is reached and gold mining is becoming fairly prosperous.
At one time, Tarcoola gave us some hope, but I think that, at the present time, it is little better than a place with a few fossickers, who, possibly, are eking out a bare existence. In mining circles, I know it is regarded as a lost and hopeless proposition at present.
– No one would take shares in a mine at Tarcoola.
– No; one could get a bucketful of shares for a drink. To set it down in an official report in all solemnity that Tarcoola is a place where gold mining is becoming fairly prosperous is simply to play on our credulity, and that is what I object to in these documents. Mr. Deane continues -
From a point west of Tarcoola to Port Augusta the country is unoccupied, having been taken up for sheep runs.
If the country was able to carry sheep, there must have been some population to look after them. This kind of report writing is more or less an insult to the Senate, and not creditable, as to accuracy at any rate, to the writer. According to this sentence, the country having been taken up for sheep runs, there are no sheep there and no population. What was the intention in penning that sentence? It was to convey the impression that sheep runs were taken up, that the sheep were there, and would provide a population just as wherever sheep have been settled in other parts of Australia settlement has followed the sheep, and a railway has followed in their wake. We know, as a matter of fact, that if sheep runs were taken up west of Tarcoola they were abandoned, and that the whole country between Tarcoola and Port Augusta is more or less a desert. In his report, Mr. Deane continues -
On the top and sides of these tablelands nutritious herbage, chiefly saltbush, grows. The tablelands consist of sandstone formations more or less denuded, the surface of the land being covered with very hard sandstone fragments.
According to this report, that is the character of the country which extends for many miles. There is no doubt that we are asked to buy a gold brick. I think that our official advisers and engineers are not playing fairly with Parliament when they pretend to give more or less conjectural estimates of revenue from a line of this kind. I shall deal with that point later. I wish to quote from another portion of Mr. Deane’s report, in order that we may, so to speak, actually traverse the line. He says -
Between Kalgoorlie and the edge of the Nullarbor Plain shallow bores have been put down, but in all cases the bedrock has been reached without sign of water.
– There are plenty of bores here.
– When I am reading one of the most luminous engineering reports on this magnificent country - reading it slowly and deliberately, but with a certain amount of effect-
– It is the shallow bores that tickle us.
– The senators from Western Australia become restive, and have no refuge left but some sort of silly personal gibe. However, 1 am going on -
Over this area catchment dams can be built or artificial catchments prepared. At Cor.donia, eighty-two miles, and the granite ridge at 107 miles east of Kalgoorlie, there are great rock catchments.
There are catchment areas, catchments, and dams, where, if rain should fall, it may be collected. The report goes on to say -
On the Nullabor Plains the State Government of Western Australia have carried out boring operations with success. At No. 3 bore on the railway route 344 miles from Kalgoorlie water was struck between 1,270 and 1,344 feet in beds of fine and coarse sand with hard bands and granite boulders, with hard granite at the bottom. The water stands in the bore about 420 feet from surface; there is a large supply, and it is of good quality, no salt, a little hard, but it is considered that it would be good for boiler purposes.
We need not go any further than that. According to this report by Mr. Deane, who is trying to put the best face possible on his pet project, there is no other part of Australia of which such damning observations could be made. I shall give one or two more quotations about this country through which we are asked to build a railway.
– Is this the country to which people from the Old Land are to be brought?
– I am very happy to be able to say that neither the Commonwealth Government nor the Government of Western Australia desire to bring any people from the Old Land to this particular country. There are millions of acres of good land in Western Australia on which it is possible to settle hundreds of thousands of people. These remarks bear upon an observation made by the Minister of Defence. If Western Australia does as the eastern States are doing, and fills up her available territory with people, I have no doubt that Australia will be able to consider the expenditure involved in the construction of a connecting line between the East and the West through this desert country. But the State Government of Western Australia are, no doubt, bringing pressure to bear upon the Commonwealth Government to commence the work of settlement at the wrong end. No more pertinent observation on this point could be made than that which was made by the Minister of Defence when he said that we need not regard the nature of the country between terminal points if, when they are connected, sufficient traffic can be developed between them to pay for the cost of the construction of the line over the unprofitable area. That is a sound, economic proposition which most Railways Commissioners would indorse, and it is justified by the past experience of Australia in railway construction. The Minister has pointed out how and when this railway might be considered from a business point of view, and might be submitted to this Parliament for serious consideration. When the Government of Western Australia have further proceeded with the work of settling the State as they. are settling the districts about Kalgoorlie, no one will be disposed to refuse to consider a business proposition for the construction of a railway bridging the continent. But the Government of Western Australia desire that the Commonwealth should take the whole risk in this matter, and the Minister of Defence is disregarding the economic proposition he submitted himself. I should like, by leave of the Senate, to be allowed to continue my remarks at the next sitting.
– No; we could listen to the honorable senator for hours yet.
– This is not the first time I have been met in this way. I must punish myself because I cannot finish what I have to say at a reasonable hour tonight. I submit that I have made what is only a reasonable request.
– Not after the time the honorable senator has wasted so far.
– I protest against the suggestion that a single word of the criticism I have offered upon this measure has involved a waste of the time of the Senate.
– I am not referring to this Bill at. all, but to the waste of time 011 the Electoral Bill.
– Because I did what I believed to be my duty in dealing with the Electoral Bill, I am to be punished when I desire to consider a proposition of this kind.
– The honorable senator can go on for another hour.
– No. Not according to the Minister of Defence.
– If I am to be compelled to conclude my speech to-night, I may as well do so as conveniently as I can. With all respect to the Minister in charge of the Bill, I think I am not’ being treated fairly, and that an unfair task is being imposed upon me. The subject with which we are dealing is a vast one. It involves the expenditure of £[5,000,000 in connexion with an utterly unbusiness-like proposition. If public business required it, I should be prepared to yield ; but there is no reason for any undue haste in this matter, and no national interests justify the Government in pushing this Bill through. If I have to punish myself, I may have to punish the Minister also; but I shall cut down, as far as possible, the extracts I intended to read. I quote now from a description of the country through which this line will pass given by the Minister of Defence himself. He said -
The Nullarbor Plains are of vast extent. They extend for about 200 miles in Western Australia right into South Australia for 100 miles, and from the coast to about eighty miles north of the railway. All the Nullarbor Plain country is splendidly grassed.
When the honorable senator tells us that the Nullarbor Plain country is well grassed, he is drawing upon his imagination. If that country were well, grassed, we should have abundant evidence of it in the number of sheep and cattle upon it. But, as a matter of fact, there are very few, if any, stock upon it. I quote another sentence from the report of the engineer, Mr. Deane, which is rather refreshing. He says -
Whether anything can be done in the way of agriculture remains to be seen.
It does not remain to be seen, because this territory has been known for 100 years, and it is clearly not fit for agriculture. Mr. Deane goes on to say -
It has not yet been shown how small a rainfall will suffice for the nourishment of wheat and other crops. More rainfall observations ave imperative, and it is of vital importance to determine at what time of the year the rainfall occurs.
Then, after describing the scanty nature of the rainfall, he winds up that section of his report with the statement -
The mineral-producing area is not extensive. From Kalgoorlie the gold-bearing area extends about 60 miles in an easterly direction.
I defy any honorable senator to consider all these reports and say that it has not been abundantly proved that this railway will be one of the most difficult financial propositions ever submitted to a Parliament. I shall say only a few words on a matter arising out of the engineering propositions for the conversion of the gauges of our railways. A great battle is raging around that point. The engineering problem is whether lines on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge should be converted to a gauge of 4- ft. 8J-in., or whether what might be called the standard gauge of the Commonwealth - 4-ft. 8j-in. - should be converted to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. In 1897 a conference met to determine the relative cost of the conversion of gauges. It is clear from this that before Federation the State Governments anticipated that a standard gauge would have to be adopted, and that one or two transcontinental lines would have to be constructed, and probably whether Federation was accomplished or not. As a matter of economic necessity, the State Governments were considering the construction of transcontinental lines, and were driven to consider at the same time the cost of the conversion of gauges. In 1897 there were 7,849 miles of railways constructed in Australia. Our railway mileage to-day extends to 15, 466
– If I am not asking the honorable senator to be toodefinite, perhaps he will say what gauge he intends to support?
– I have condemned the Bill - bell, book, and candle;, but I think that the Government will be well advised, if they cannot adopt a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge and can find the money with> which to pay for a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, toadopt the latter.
– Does the honorable senator really suggest that we should construct this line upon a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge?
– If the fight upon the Bill is to resolve itself into oneof the width of gauge, I am, to a large extent, with the Government.
– Surely the honorable senator would not vote with them.
– I shall not: vote for the Bill at any stage. The length of the proposed line is about 1,100 miles. Taking the lowest price at which a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge has been constructed, namely,, a little less than £3,000 per mile-
– Fifty-seven miles of railway have been constructed for about: £1,200 per mile.
– Where doesthe Minister get his information?
– From Knibbs’ last” Year-Book.
– The line towhich I refer, and which was constructedupon a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, cost nearly £3,000 per mile.
– Look at page 713 of the last edition of Knibbs’ Y ear-Book.
– I venture to say that this line will not be constructed for very much less than £3,000 per mile, so that the total expenditure to which the Bill will commit us will be more than £4,000,000.
– I would like to have all the money that it will cost in excess of £3,000 per mile.
– When we consider that the lowest cost at which a line upon the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge has been constructed is slightly less than £3,000 per mile, and when we recollect that that line traverses wellsettled, well-watered, and well-wooded country, whereas the proposed transcontinental railway will be constructed through country where there is practically no water and no wood, we must recognise that the cost of building it will considerably exceed £3,000 per mile. We have also to remember that the wages which will have to be paid will be 20 or 30 per cent, higher than those which were allowed for when the estimate was made, in addition to which the price of material has advanced 40 per cent.
– Where did the honorable senator get his increase of 40 per cent, in the cost of material?
– Upon timber alone.
– The newspapers says that the increase has been only 15 per cent.
– As a matter of fact, I doubt if the timber that will be required for sleepers can be obtained for less than 50 per cent. advance upon the price which prevailed four or five years ago. My authority for that statement is the constructing engineer of one of the biggest States in Australia.
– I would like to hear the honorable senator make that statement when the timber cutters want an additional 2d. or 3d. per day in their wages.
– We will deal with that matter when it arises. There is just one other point to which I desire to Tefer. Less than twelve months ago I saw a report from the Defence Department to the effect that one of the great objections to the adoption of a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge as the standard gauge was that it would prob ably take sixty days to transport 30,000 or 40,000 troops from Sydney or Melbourne to Rockhampton.
– That was owing to the break of gauge.
– The break of gauge does not affect the question very materially. The report was directed chiefly to the supposed demerits of the 3- ft. 6-in. gauge. I think that those figures were entirely misleading. In support of my statement I would point out that last year 13,259,000 passengers, or 1,100,000 per month, or 35,000 per day, were carried over the Queensland railways. The average length of the journey was 79 miles. That number of passengers was carried under the ordinary time-table and with the ordinary engines. Upon a 4- ft. 8½-in. gauge it is possible to carry more passengers daily, and only an expert of a certain character would suggest that in time of war, with the assistance of the whole of the engines of the States, we could not carry more than 30,000 troops daily over the two gauges. I do not altogether rely on the railway reports, but rather on the authority of one of the ablest railway transport agents in the Commonwealth. When I spoke to him he told me that if the officers of the Department did not know more about defence than they did about railway transport, they should be relegated to a position where they would be of less danger to the national safety. He went on to say that with a 3-ft. 6-in gauge he could, with the consent of the New South Wales railway authorities, shift 100,000 troops from Sydney to Longreach. A great deal of twaddle has been talked about gauges; but, apart altogether from that, I shall, for the reasons I have given, oppose this Bill at the second-reading and at every other stage.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.
Business of the Session.
– I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I desire to take this opportunity to make a statement to honorable senators regarding the business which we hope to conclude in reasonable time before Christmas.
– Who are “ we”?
– I do not include the Opposition, because they have done all they could to prevent the conclusion of business in that time. I think now, however, they are taking a different stand, and I am sure they will assist the Government in carrying out our intentions. The business yet to come before the Senate includes the Commonwealth Bank Bill, the further consideration of the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie Railway Bill, and a Bill to give the public servants of the Commonwealth the opportunity to bring any dispute or grievance they may have before the Arbitration Court. We are getting on very well with the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie Railway Bill, and I make no accusation whatever against honorable senators opposite of any “ stone wall “ in this connexion. Then we have the Seamen’s Compensation Bill which was passed by the House of Representatives in a few minutes, and should certainly not occupy us for more than an hour or two. Following that there are short measures dealing with private telephones, the creation of Commonwealth stock, the amending of the Act relating to the note issue, naval defence, and post and .telegraph rates. Then the Government have some announcement to make regarding their policy in the Northern Territory, the establishment of Commonwealth offices in London, and the Capital site, together with one or two other small matters. None of those measures, except the first three, should occupy any length of time; and we have three weeks before we need adjourn for Christmas. The progress of this week will be noted, and next week, if necessary, we shall meet in the forenoon, and on the following week on the Monday. I hope honorable senators opposite will give all the assistance they possibly can, for otherwise, it will be necessary to extend the session into next year. I am- not anxious to take a step of that kind; and I am sure that honorable senators opposite, if they expressed their minds honestly, would tell us that they have no desire to meet after Christmas, always providing, of course, that the work can be completed. T have only to say that if the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters find that the Minister of Defence or myself get a little irritable in our anxiety to make progress, they will excuse us, because I am sure that if they occupied our places they would exhibit the same desire for expedition.
– I am sure that honorable senators are obliged to the Vice-President of the Executive Council for his extremely interesting statement. Honorable senators on this side will, in the future, as in the past, be extremely anxious to assist the Government in the despatch of business, but it requires a larger swallow than I have to accept the statement that we are expected to pass this long list of measures at the rate of something like one per day. The announcement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council was combined with something which amounts to a threat. We have been told that it is the intention of the Government to practically force these measures through at such a rate that it will be impossible for honorable senators, individually or collectively, to subject them to the consideration they call for.
– Honorable senators have been considering them a long time.
– .How. long have we been considering the Northern Territory policy ?
– Honorable senators have been thinking of it.
– That matter alone is one on the consideration of which we could profitably spend a fortnight.
– Go on after Christmas.
– The fact that the question of going on after Christmas arises is no fault of those on this side of the Senate, nor, so far as I know, of the rank and file on the other side, but is due entirely to the fact that the Government, after the longest recess on record., had absolutely no work to place before this Chamber when it met. Because of the incompetent manner in which the Government have managed the business, it is proposed now to compel us to swallow these thirteen measures in as many days, working long hours, so that it will be impossible to consider them properly, under the threat that if we do not complete them in the time we are to go on sitting after the Christmas week.
– The Senate has adjourned less this year than in any other year.
– It has met less than in any other year. We did not meet for business until October. After we had disposed of the debate on the AddressinReply, the Government, after having had the longest recess on record, had to tell us frankly that they were not prepared to submit a. single measure for our consideration.
– The same as you did.
– We never had such a recess. It is one of the distinctive features of the Labour Government that the moment they took office they went into the longest recess that their followers would allow them to take.
– I have heard you from these benches justify the recess for which you asked the Senate.
– After our Government was formed, we asked for, and were entitled to, a week to develop our measures, and Senator Lynch was one of those who, if they had had their way, would have refused us even that time. This Government had twelve months, and even with the tremendous advantage of the support and assistance of Senator Needham, they were not prepared, when the session began, to bring down even a simple measure dealing with military decorations.
– Did you support the adjournment for the purpose of obliging the Government?
– I will support every adjournment of the Senate when the Government tell the Senate frankly that they have no business to put before it.
– Less than half-an-hour ago Senator St. Ledger described the session as a strenuous one.
– It is being made strenuous because of the incompetence that has marked the management of the business. If the Government had so prepared their measures as to have placed before us during the two or three weeks of that forced adjournment some of the proposals they now intend to bring in, there would have been no need for us to sit on Mondays, or for long hours every other day in the week. So far as the measures which are now before Parliament are concerned, the Government would appear to be justified in asking us to deal with them before there is any talk of a prorogation, because they could have been comfortably disposed of. But when they propose to bring in new measures which are highly controversial, although, according to the Vice-President of the Executive Council, they are short, either they intend by means of the Stand-, ing Orders and by. sitting unduly long hours to force them through without proper criticism or discussion, or else to put the Opposition in such a position that, by mere physical weariness, we shall be bound to let them go through. There is the proposal to allow the public servants to go before the Arbitration Court. The Minister says that is a little measure, but he knows as well as I do that it is highly controversial, and there is also a measure relating to Commonwealth stock.
– After last week’s experience the Opposition is apparently not capable of physical weariness.
– When inspired by a sense of duty the Opposition will not easily allow itself to be wearied.
– Perhaps it would be better to adopt the method of your Government, and. apply the “gag.”
– We did not apply it.
– We shall get those measures through without the “gag.”
– The honorable senator’s Government applied the “ gag “ in the other place.
– The “gag” was passed at the instance of the Labour party. The one great achievement for which that party can take credit was the framing of the “gag” resolutions, and then they had not the courage to apply them. Another matter is the note issue. We do not know what is covered up in that measure, but, bearing in mind the general financial policy of the Government, we may reasonably assume that it will call for examination, and probably for continuous criticism. Another matter relates to naval defence. That may involve a complete reversal of policy. The Minister went on to speak of one or two other measures. If he is going to pile up a list of this kind, he is not justified in appealing to the Senate to assist him to get the business through. Let the Ministry revise that list in the light of their own practical experience as to what is a fair thing to ask Parliament to pass in the time.
– There is the Budget as well.
– A week would not be too much to devote to the Budget papers.
– Why did you not think of that when your side were wasting the time over the Electoral Bill?
– The honorable senator should be the last to say that one moment longer than was justified was occupied over that measure. If he insinuates that we were talking tor the mere purpose of obstruction, he must be a perfect babe in the art of obstruction. Senator
Gardiner would scoff at the idea of what took place last week being regarded as a “ stone wall.” If there had been a “ stone wall” the Bill would not have been through yet. If the Government honestly wish to close the session in time to enable members of Parliament to get to their homes for Christmas, they are not justified in bringing’ in measure after measure with the intimation that there will be more to come. They should retain on the list what they regard as absolutely essential, and leave to next session the less important measures which are being brought in at the last moment. If they did that, they would have a claim on us, to which I think honorable senators would readily respond, to use every effort to bring the session to a close. Such an appeal, however, falls upon prejudiced ears when coupled with the intimation that not only is this long list to be completed; but that it will probably be added to. I trust the Government will see the advisability of shortly intimating to the Senate that it is intended to drop some of the less important measures. If that assurance is given, the Government will have no reason to complain of the assistance received from this side of the Chamber.
– The concluding sentence of the Leader of the Opposition is reassuring, but I do not agree with him that we had a long rest in the interval between this session and last. Between January and April, when the proposed referenda were being discussed vigorously by representatives of both parties - an occasion such as never before occurred during a recess - we were not enjoying a rest, and the Ministers who attended the Conference on the military and naval defence of the Empire did not do so. As for the acceptance of the invitation of the British Government to be present at the Coronation, that provided a pleasant time for those who went, but it will be acknowledged that Australia did well to send a representation.. I suggest now, that, as the Opposition may complain if business is pressed on, we should continue this session until ‘Parliament ends, by which time we shall be in a position to say that in one Parliament, the Labour party gaveeffect to every plank of its platform. I hopethat the Government will not hesitate to make use of itsopportunity to do this.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at11.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 November 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19111128_senate_4_62/>.