5th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– On behalf of the
Chairman I lay, on the table the report of the Joint Library Committee for the year.
– I beg to bring up the report of the Select Committee on General Elections, 1913, together with Minutes of Proceedings and Minutes of Evidence, and Appendices, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral institute an inquiry into a matter which, to my mind, at the present time, appears to be an outrage ? I posted a letter at Pyrmont to the ActingManager of the Fitzroy Dock, 3 miles from where it was posted. When my letter was received by the ActingManager it was under a covering letter, and had been opened in the post-office, although it was marked “ Confidential.” I want an inquiry made into the matter.
– I shall request that a very vigorous inquiry be made.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that notice of dismissal has been given to a considerable number of employes in connexion with postal works, to take effect, I understand, next Saturday? In view of the approaching Christmas season, will he take into consideration whether it is not possible to suspend that notice, say, for a fortnight, to allow the Christmas holidays to go over? I cannot express an opinion on the matter, but I think that it will appeal to all honorable senators that it is rather rough for men to be dismissed on practically Christmas Eve.
– I shall make inquiries into the matter, and put the honorable senator’s representations before the Postmaster-General. I shall be glad if he will see me directly, and explain the matter to me. I did not hear the first part of his question, owing to the fact that I was speaking to some one here.
– Shall I repeat the question ?
– No, I will see the honorable senator directly.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.Last week I asked the Minister of Defence a question regarding the drainage from the military depot at Keswick,in South Australia, in reference to a claim by the Unley Corporation, and the reply was that the Department was not responsible, and that the drain was sufficient. I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, in whose Department, I understand, the matter comes, whether, in the event of it being proved that the drain is insufficient, and that water has been artificially diverted on to the Bay-road from its natural flow towards the creek, he will give instructions to immediately remedy the defect as to the size of the drain, and also construct a channel for the diverted water, if it has been proved that it is defective?
– All that I can say, in the circumstances, is that I would like an opportunity to make a further inquiry. In that inquiry I will include a request to the municipal council to elaborate the objection which is taken.
– Is the Leader of the Government here disposed to give the Senate an opportunity, either to-day or to-morrow, to discuss my motion in favour of the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the organization and administration of the Naval Board ?
– The honorable senator, I think, will see that he can hardly expect the Government, of their own volition, to disturb the regular course of business to permit a motion of that kind to be discussed. I need not remind him that the matter is entirely in the hands of the Senate, but he can scarcely expect me to go out of my way to pave the way for the discussion of a motion of that kind.
– Has the Minister of Defence any information to convey to the Senate regarding the Naval Board? It will be remembered that we have discussed this matter considerably, that there has been a great deal of outside comment, and that last week I asked a question in regard to the abolition of the Naval Board. As we are drawing towards the close of the session, perhaps a statement from the Minister would be very valuable to the country, as an indication of the Government’s attitude?
– With regard to the question submitted last week, and which, to some extent, was revived by the remarks of Senator de Largie, I have not the slightest intention to abolish the Naval Board. At the same time, it does appear to me, as I informed the Senate some time ago, that the question of the duties of the Board and the apportionment of those duties between the various members, is a matter which requires consideration. I frankly admit that I have not been able to give to it, during the last month or two, close attention, nor have I had an opportunity, owing to the pressure of other work, to consult with the Cabinet, but I propose, the moment the opportunity is provided by the recess, to, bring the matter before my colleagues, with a view of discussing it in its entirety.
– The Minister of Defence has stated that he has not had time to consult the other members of the Cabinet. Is there any intention on the part of himself, or Other members of the Ministry, so far as he knows, of putting the control of the Australian Navy more directly under the British Admiralty than it is at the present time?
– Thank you.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General institute inquiries to expedite the construction of the proposed telephone line from Port Victor to Inman Valley, or, as an alternative, from Yankalilla to Inman Valley?
– I shall bring this matter before the Department, and ask that the honorable senator’s request that thework be expedited be attended to.
– In view of the announced intention of the Government to bring the labours of this session to a close on Wednesday, will they take Thursday, Friday, and, if need be, Saturday, to introduce into this Parliament, and pass, legislation to benefit the fanners of this country? I might say in elaboration of my question that the Government were returned to office by the farmers, but in six months they have done nothing to benefit them.
– The honorable senator must not argue the matter.
– Will the Government redeem their promise by taking a couple of days, when the Opposition will help them, to pass some legislation for the benefit of the farming community ?
– I remind the honorable senator that the Government is already making an effort in the other branch of Parliament to bring forward and pass into law a measure which, I believe, will be of very great benefit to the farmers, namely, the Bureau of Agriculture Bill. Assuming that there is that strong desire on the part of my honorable friends opposite to assist the Government in that direction, I am hopeful that the Bill will become law this session.
– In view of the fact that the Government have a large and docile majority in the Senate, will the Minister give time, before the session closes, for consideration to be devoted to the numerous items of private business standing upon the paper?
– There is some force in the request submitted by Senator Rae. If the Senate desires to discuss all the matters of private business on the paper, it will be within their power to do so. If, however, the Senate is determined to discuss those matters, the effort to close the session this week, or even next week, will prove futile. But it does appear to me that there is one matter which the Senate might desire an opportunity to have discussed briefly. I allude to the matter of which Senator de Largie is in charge. I submit that for the convenience of everybody the Senate should rest content with the discussion of that subject, leaving the other numerous and important matters to be dealt with next session.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer is -
Prosecutions for Non-Enrolment
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Minister of Defence, uponnotice -
What attitude does the Government intend to take up on the report of the Select Committee on the partial closing down of Fitzroy Dock, adopted by the Senate on nth December?
– The answer is -
The report in question was only adopted by the Senate on the11th inst., and owing to the pressure of work the Government have not had an opportunity of considering it.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message resumed from 15th December, vide page 4335) :
Item5 - “ For the purchase of land for Defence purposes,£300,000.”
Senate’s Amendment. - Omit the item.
House of Representatives’ Message. - Amendment disagreed to.
Motion (by Senator Clemons) again proposed -
That the amendment be not insisted on.
Upon which Senator Millen had moved -
That the following words be added : - “ Provided the following words be added to clause 2 - ‘ and that an amount of stock equal to the amount which is issued and applied in respect of the item numbered five in the schedule to this Act shall be redeemed by annual payments of not less than Thirty thousand pounds on the thirty-first day of December in the year One thousand nine hundred and fourteen and each succeeding year until the whole amount so issued and applied has been redeemed.’ “
– Last night I submitted an amendment upon the motion moved by Senator Clemons. But I had overlooked the fact that cer tain limitations are prescribed by the Constitution affecting the free action of the Senate. Under those limitations the amendment which I submitted would be unconstitutional. Therefore, I can only say, with some regret, that I feel called upon to withdraw it.
– Is it in order to raise the question of constitutionality? I do not like to see the rights of the Senate surrendered without an effort.
– The question now is that Senator Millen have leave to withdrawhis amendment.
– I have a right to object to that, I presume?
– It is not in order to debate the question of giving leave to withdraw an amendment.
– Senator Rae seems to be under a misapprehension in thinking that the Senate is surrendering any rights which it pbssesses in regard to this matter. Another place has no more rights than we have. In the amendment submitted by the Minister of Defence last night, an appropriation is provided for. The amendment provides for an appropriation of £30,000 each year for a specific purpose. That appropriation could not be made by the Senate, nor could an amendment to the same effect be received in another place without a distinct message from the Governor-General, asking that such an appropriation should be made. As no such message has been received, neither the Senate nor another place could consider or deal with the matter.
– I hope that honorable senators at this late stage of the session will not debate the question at any length.
– Senator Millen has asked leave to withdraw his amendment.
– He has not been allowed to do so, because Senator Rae has objected. That is fatal to the withdrawal of the amendment, and consequently the best thing we can do is to take a vote upon it without taking up any more time in discussion.
– I think that the suggestion of the leader of this side a very wise one. I do not know, but I gather from what has occurred that the honorable senator and Senator Millen are prepared to do all the work of the Senate for us. In the circumstances, I do not see why we should waste any more time. We should let them do what they want to do.
– I withdraw my objection.
Amendment (SenatorMillen’s), by leave, withdrawn.
Question - That the Senate’s amendment be not insisted on - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment insisted on.
Amendments of Title, and clause 2, consequentially amended.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill to which I may safely say some reference has. been made during the past few days. When we were discussing another matter, I intimated that in moving the second reading of this measureI would give honorable senators all the information in my possession regarding the proposed railway, including that relating to the question of survey and the estimated cost of the line. After the Senate had adjourned last night, I had an opportunity of securing a map, which, with your consent, sir, has been hung in the chamber, with a view to assisting honorable senators to understand this proposal. Before I supply the information that I promised in connexion with this undertaking, honorable senators will observe that none of the clauses in the Bill are of a debatable character. They are just typical standard clauses dealing with railway construction, and enabling us to undertake railway construction.
– There are a few omissions.
– That interjection does not throw any doubt upon what is contained in the Bill. I come now to the information which I promised to furnish regarding this railway, and if I may say so, without offence, especially to Senator Mullan. On the 30th August last year, a Bill authorizing the survey of this line was introduced into Parliament and carried. That survey was to cover a distance of 54 miles. It has recently been completed, and it practically follows a survey which is known to many honorable senators who come from South Australia as that which was made by Mr. Graham Stewart, the then Engineer-in-Chief, in 1889. Practically speaking, the survey of this line adopts his survey. In the year I have mentioned, Mr. Graham Stewart estimated the cost of the line at £510,000. The present estimate is £482,000, of which £370,000 will be required for the construction of the first 40 miles, and £112,000 for the remainder of the line to the Katherine River, where it will stop.
– Does the Honorary Ministerthink that the line can be built cheaper now than the original line was built with Chow labour ?
SenatorPearce. - White labour is always cheaper than Chow labour.
– We have not the slightest intention of building the line with what Senator Mullan calls “ Chow “ labour, and if we did so, I very much doubt whether we could do it more economically.
– But in that case the contractor would get the pull.
– We are not here to advocate the employment of “ Chow “ labour for any reason, and certainly not for economic reasons. Later on this Chamber will be invited to consider a further extension of the proposed line, because it will form a part of the system by which we intend ultimately to connect Port Darwin with South Australia. The first 140 miles from Port Darwin to Pine Creek represent the start of that work, and the proposed 54 miles will represent a continuation of “it. The Government have already taken steps to consider a further extension to Bitter Springs, a distance of 70 miles further south. Let me remind honorable senators that the 54 miles of country, which the railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River will traverse, are admittedly poor country. But there is a very great object in getting over that poor country, seeing that when we get to the Katherine River we shall reach the beginning of country which it is sincerely hoped and believed will have a considerable effect in making the line which has already been constructed more profitable than it has been.
– The same argument would apply to the extension from the southern end.
– Perhaps it would, but, unfortunately, I can deal only with one argument at a time. I wish now to anticipate another question which may be raised. It is possible that when the late Government were considering the question of survey, and of the route to be adopted to connect Pine Creek with the Katherine River, alternative proposals were put before them. At any rate, they have been suggested to us. For instance, it was suggested that we should adopt another route further to the west. We went into the matter, and obtained a report upon it from the Administrator. As a result, we found that the distance which would be traversed by that route would be 72 miles instead of 54 miles. The adoption of that route would have taken this line farther from the eastern side of Australia - that is to say, from Queensland and New South Wales - in addition to adding considerably to the expense of construction. Although I may be treading on somewhat doubtful ground, I wish openly to say that it is the policy of the Government to build this line with a view to considering the practical proposition of linking up the eastern States with it. That is our object. Consequently, we had to consider the alternative proposition for’ the construction of a line which would have been considerably longer and more expensive, and which would have borne away to the west. After giving the matter serious consideration, we decided that we could not adopt that proposal, and determined to adopt the route proposed in this survey. I do not intend to read the topographical details of the survey which has been carried out. If I did so I should be merely using names and describing directions in terms of latitude which would confuse honorable senators. At the same time, if they desire the information in Committee, I shall be only too glad to supply it.
– Cannot we get it put into Hansard?
– If Senator Maughan desires it, I will read it.
– Cannot we get it into Hansard without the Honorary Minister reading it?
– Not under our Standing Orders.
– I do not press the matter at all.
-Then I shall not read it, because I can assure honorable senators that it is quite of a technical character. It mentions a lot of names that would be merely names to most of us. As regards the estimates; it was on that point, I think, that more questions were directed to me than on anything else. These are the estimates that we have for the first 40 miles of the railway, which .the amount that was approved of in the Loan Bill will cover, and slightly exceed -
Regarding the expenditure of the money, which, translated into other terms, means the rate of construction, it is anticipated that during the present financial year £100,000 can be economically expended. With reference to the remaining 14 miles to Katherine bridge the expense per mile will be considerably less than in connexion with the first 14 miles, because the earthworks will be much lighter and the waterways of smaller dimensions. The estimate of cost made for the 14 miles is about £8,000 per mile, which brings the total up to what I have already indicated.
– That is very costly.
– I feel certain that the Government are quite justified in putting this estimate before the Senate, because of the survey which has been made, and the reports which have been supplied to us. I think it can be taken as a fact that, although estimates are slippery matters to deal with, the last 14 miles of the line, which, of course, we are not proposing to immediately construct out of the £400,000, will cost less permile than will the previous 40 miles. As honorable senators know, the existing railway from Darwin to Pine Creek was constructed on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. It is the very strong desire and the intention of the Government, if they have the opportunity, to do something - they hope to do it in their time - towards securing uniformity of gauge. But for the present we are confronted with this fact, that if we were to start off now in the Territory to change the gauge of the existing 140 miles of railway, we should probably delay for a very considerable time the extension which, I think, is immediately desirable.
– Are you going to construct the extension so that it can carry a 4-ft.8½-in. gauge?
– All the surveys have been made with that object in view, and so, too, will the specifications be drawn out. For the construction of the 54 miles we will adopt such a method as will facilitate, as far as one can possibly do so beforehand, the conversion later from the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to the 4-ft.8½-in.
– There is no difficulty in making the line so that it will be just ready for laying down the broader gauge.
– I assure the honorable senator that the Government have that consideration specially before them. They intend to have the line constructed to the best of their ability, so that it can most easily, in point of time, and most cheaply, in point of expenditure, be converted to the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge,. Steel rails, of course, will have to be used, and all the cuttings, bridges, and sleepers will be designed: for the broader gauge.
– Do you know where you are to get the sleepers from ?
– I can say now that, in anticipationof getting on with this work, tenders have already been called for the supply of rails, sleepers, and fish-plates, &c., and they, of course, will be subject to the Engineer-in-Chief’s recommendation. The Government have taken that course in order to get on with the work if it is authorized by Parliament.
– I thought you might know whether the sleepers can be obtained locally or not ?
– I cannot answerthat question at the present time. I can. only say that we have called for tenders in order to get ahead with the work. An estimate has been made that, in the event of the construction of the line being carried out by the Government, the work can be started almost immediately. I believe that there are in the NorthernTerritory men who are prepared at once to go on with the work. The estimate we have obtained - of course, from the officials in the Territory - is that locally probably seventy men can be obtained directly the plant is on the ground, and that until then we can find employment probably for thirty men.
– Can you give us information about the ruling gradients, or curves, or anything of that kind ?
– No, I have not the details here; but the information, so far as it goes, is that with regard to grades and curves there are no very great difficulties to be met with on the line. I admit that the cost of construction does seem heavy. I also admit that when I was sitting on the other side of the chamber, and a Survey Bill was introduced in the last Parliament, I practically offered no criticism of the proposal, except that it seemed to me then - as I can understand that it seems to Senator Rae now. - a very expensive line to construct. £9,000 per mile seemed to me a very heavy sum. I still think it is, but in the interval I have come to the conclusion that it is not very high for the Northern Territory. I was then making a comparison, which I expect most of us would insensibly make, between railwayconstruction in the Territory and in some of the States with which we are familiar.
– Some of the States have got the cost of construction down to £1,000 per mile.
– I admit that, in some of the States, we should regard as most appalling expenditure anything like £9,000 per mile for railway construction.
– In Queensland, under almost similar conditions, the cost per mile is a little over £2,000.
– All these examples were in my mind when I discussed the proposed survey of a route; but since I have had an opportunity of looking into this matter, I have come to tbe conclusion that in the Northern Territory, whether we like it or not, we cannot expect to get railway construction carried out at a much lower rate.
– Will you kindly say who prepared the estimates for this proposal ?
– I dislike giving an answer about which I am not absolutely certain; but I should say that the estimates have been prepared either by tbe Engineer -in-Chief for Railways, or by some one in the Territory. For the moment, I admit that I cannot answer the question; but I will try to find out if I can.
– It is very important to know that.
– Possibly ; but these estimates have been supplied by some one who, the Government think, is to be followed and trusted in such matters.
– It is not with the view of either occupying any great length of time or opposing the Bill that I have risen to make a few remarks in reference to the railway development of the Northern Territory. Eyery honorable senator knows that no new country can be developed without means of communication, whether they be roads, or railways, or waterways. Seeing that waterways in the right direction are not available, and that in a new country like the Northern Territory railways are much preferable to anything else, the last Government agreed practically to the construction of this line by carrying through Parliament a Bill for the purpose of surveying a route. No doubt, to many honorable senators the cost per mile given by the Minister to-day may seem a very large amount to pay for railway construction ; but the estimate of the previous Government was very little less. I know, from the geographical features of the country, that this section of the line will go from the coast up towards the head of the tableland, and consequently through broken country, and therefore the cost must naturally be much greater than if it was constructed in level country. When an honorable senator talks about constructing railway lines for £1,000 or £2,000, or even £3,000 a mile, he is talking of country where the ground is practically level, and where there are very few waterways, and very few cuttings to be made, and practically no bridges to be built; but in country rising as this country is bound to rise, we shall have waterways to cross, gullies to span, and everything else of that kind to deal with. Those who are acquainted with the construction of railways, even in the different States, know of portions of lines existing now that cost over £10,000 a mile. The line from Adelaide to Murray Bridge, for instance, was a very expensive line ; so, too, was the line from Brisbane to Toowoomba. You can pick out other State railways that cost even more than will the proposed railway to Katherine River. I am very glad that the Government are still adhering to the idea that the line should be so constructed that it can easily be converted to the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. Of course, a little indication has been given by the Minister as to the system of railway construction that will be adopted. He does not say definitely whether the work will be done by contract or by day labour. But the statement of the Minister that seventy men are available in the Territory, and that when the Bill is passed, and the plant is provided, the Government will be able to set those men to work immediately, is a slight indication that they intend to adopt the daylabour system.
– Pro tem.
– Just so. Whether they intend to carry out that system ultimately can only be known to themselves; but I am sure that before the Bill leaves the chamber honorable senators will be making inquiries on that point, and also in the direction of protecting those who will be engaged on the work from any extraordinary fluctuations in wages on account of changes of Government or of Administration. That, I believe, is part of cur duty. Seeing that in a previous Bill we provided a very large proportion of the money to carry out this work, I think it is our duty to pass this Bill as speedily as possible. I believe that the most suitable route has been chosen, and that it will also provide for an ultimate connexion with the Queensland system, and go direct south also, so far as South Australia is concerned. I know that honorable senators must be alive to the fact that no country - especially a country like the Northern Territory - can be developed without works of this kind being proceeded with immediately, and carried out effectively. Because it does not do to stop, as has been done in the past, nowhere. It does not do to leave inferior country untraversed if you want to get to the good country beyond.With respect to Senator Rae’s question about sleepers, it appears from a report that we have already had that redgum sleepers can be obtained in the Macdonnell Ranges. But that is at a considerable distance from the scene of operations, and the price of conveying them would be almost prohibitive. I am sure that the Government and their officers will do their best to carry out their work as economically as possible. I hope that the motion for the second reading of the Bill will be carried.
SenatorPEARCE(Western Australia) [11.56]. - I am heartily in accord with the main principle of this Bill. But there are certain omissions from it to which I wish to direct attention.First, the Government have not said whether they propose to carry out the work by day labour or contract. If it is to be done by contract, absolutely no provision has been made in the Bill for a minimum rate of wage and for proper labour conditions. I have drafted a clause which I propose to submit to the Committee later, to provide that -
In any contract under this Act such contracts shall provide for the payment by the contractor of minimum rates of wages and the observance of labour conditions, which shall be attached as a schedule to the contract, due penalties for breaches of such schedules shall be provided. The rates of wages and labour conditions shall be such as are approved by the Minister. For the purpose of dealing with any dispute arising as to rates of wages and labour conditions in relation to such contracts, the Chief Judicial officer of the Northern Territory shall be deemed to be, and have the powers of a President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-11.
It is useless to shut our eyes and to drift into trouble. There is no part of Australia where there is more likelihood of trouble arising of an industrial character than where this particular job will be undertaken. We have nothing to guide us as to what would be a fair rate of wages. A rate might be laid down which might seem to many of us to be fair, but the men who had to work on the railway might find that it was not a fair rate at all. It would be impossible to put in this Bill a minimum rate. Any such rate might be grossly unfair.
– Why not provide for the work to be done with day labour, pure and simple?
– The Government have frankly told us that they are opposed to day labour. We have to recognise that they have a majority in another place. If we insisted on a day-labour condition it would simply mean hanging up the Bill. I am not going to take the responsibility for doing that. It is not to be expected that the Government will back down on what they regard as an important principle and remain in office.
– They would remain in office all right.
– In all probability they would drop the Bill, and throw the responsibility on us.
– We are not going to drop our principles, Bill or no Bill.
– The Government will drop anything before they drop their portfolios.
– If we adopted a. clause prescribing the day-labour principle, the result might be that we should get neither that principle nor the Bill. I want to see the railway built, and if it is to be built by contract we must provide for the work being done under proper industrial conditions. In the Northern Territory Administration Act 1910 Parliament provided in section 6 that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act should apply to industrial disputes in the Northern Territory - as if from , the definition of “ industrial disputes” in section 4 of that Act the words “extending beyond the limits of any one State “ were omitted.
But the Judge of the Arbitration Court sits in the southern States, and it would be inconvenient that disputes referring to the Northern Territory should have to be referred to him. We have a Chief Judicial Officer in that Territory. I, therefore, propose that in this Bill we should provide that industrial disputes shall be referred to him.
– The honorable senator is aware that rates of wages and hours of labour in the Northern Territory were fixed recently at the instance of the exMinister of External Affairs by Mr. Skewes, who was sent up by the Public Service Commissioner.
– I have had some experience, as a member of the late Administration, of fixing wages for the Northern Territory, and I do not want to go through it again. I prefer that some one who knows all about the local conditions should have the fixing of wages there. If the amount fixed in the schedule which the Minister would lay before Parliament was not found to be fair, the men would be able to bring their case before the Judge in the Territory, who could hear evidence and fix a rate.
– The Government would be advised by the officers of the Northern Territory on the very question.
– I am not prepared to leave the officers in the Northern Territory to act as arbitrators in a matter of this kind.
– But the honorable senator proposes to leave the matter to one of the officers - the Judge.
– He would act after judicial inquiry, and on evidence -submitted by those engaged upon the work. At the time when the Minister draws up his schedule no man will be employed on the railway, and there will be nobody to guide him in determining what rate should be attached to the schedule. In the event of a dispute arising we should have machinery for settling it. Subject to that, I am prepared to waive the question of day labour. There is another omission from this Bill which deserves attention. We learnt from our, experience in Western Australia what may happen in the course of the construction of a line in country such, as this. An important mining field may be discovered whilst the line is still in the hands of the contractor. -In Western Australia, while the railway between Southern Cross and Kalgoorlie was being constructed, that was the experience. It was the cheapest railway ever constructed in Western Australia, and yet the contractor made a fortune out of it. He made that fortune by reason of the fact that he was left with power to work the railway until he handed it over to the Government completed. He was, therefore, able to charge whatever fares and freights he liked, while the line was in his own hands. We need to provide in this Bill that the Minister shall have power to regulate the freights and fares charged by the contractor before the line is handed over. In Western Australia it was found that the Minister was absolutely powerless to interfere with the fares and freights charged by the contractor. We do not want that to occur in the Northern Territory. I shall, therefore, propose an amendment retaining for the Minister power to regulate fares and freights. It may be that nothing of the kind would eventuate, but in passing a measure of this kind we need to provide for all eventualities. In Committee, therefore, I shall move upon clause 13 an amendment giving the Minister power to see that the fares and freights are reasonable.
– Has the honorable senator read clause 12 ?
– Yes; that clause provides that the Minister may permit the railway to be used for the carriage pf passengers and goods before it has been declared open for traffic, but that in that case all passengers are to be carried at their own risk, and all goods at the risk of the owners. There is nothing in the clause about fixing fares and freights. The Minister is well aware as a lawyer that the very fact that nothing is said in the clause about fixing fares and freights would leave it to be inferred that the contractor had power to do as he pleased in that respect. Another point arises in regard to the construction of the line. It is provided that the gauge shall be 3 ft. 6 in. But there is nothing to indicate that the permanent work shall be constructed with a wider gauge. In the southern States whenever narrowgauge railways were constructed it was always stated that it was intended ultimately to alter them to a wider” gauge, but the mileage of narrow-gauge lines waa extended, and nothing was done m this direction. We are .here building a section of a transcontinental line. At some time or other the gauge will have to be altered, either to 5 ft. 3 in. or 4 ft. 8£ in.
– I do nob think we ought to put a provision on that subject in the Bill.
– I think we ought to provide that all the permanent works shall be built with a view of providing a wider gauge, no matter whether it be 5 ft. 3 in. or 4 ft. 8$ in. We ought so to provide that we shall not have to pull down our work later on, and incur needless expense.
– I am much disappointed that we have “not had more information regarding the proposed railway. We have a right to complain that the Minister knows so little about the railway which he is asking us to consent to. It is true that he gave us some useful information, but he did not give us what is most material. Apart from the questions raised by Senator Pearce, as to which I am one with him, except in regard to the width of the railway, we ought to have had information on other points. As to the question of gauge, an engineer of considerable eminence, who has constructed railroads in foreign countries, as well ‘as in various parts of the Commonwealth, informed me in conversation some years ago that the question of whether you are going, to construct a line on a gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in. or 5. ft. 3 in.» makes all the difference in’ regard to the curves required. The narrower the gauge of a line the easier it is to negotiate’ sharp curves.
– I - It will make a difference also in the cost of cuttings and embankments.
– That is not of so much consequence as the sweep of the curves, which must bo much wider on a broad gauge than is necessary on a narrowgauge line. It is essential that we should see that money is not wasted through any lack of provision of this kind, and it would be wiser to provide for the works being constructed in such a way as to carry the widest gauge railway in the Commonwealth, unless all parties are agreed to accept the 4-ft. 8*-in. gauge.
– W - We have accepted that gauge for the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta.
– If all parties were agreed to stand by that, and make it the recognised gauge of Australia, it would end controversy on that point. Can the Minister inform the Senate what is the elevation above sea-level reached by the highest point on the line? I asked just now what the ruling grades were, and the
Minister was unable to tell me. I do not cavil at the estimate given of the cost of construction so far as it is based upon considerations due to the remote districtin which it is intended to build the line I can quite understand that there can be no fair comparison between the cost of a railway down here and of a railway in the Northern Territory, in similar country. The cost of labour and material must be very much higher there than it is here. Rut we should know how the estimate of the cost of this line is made up. We have been told that the average cost per mile is estimated at £9,000, and we should know whether that relatively high cost is due to the additional difficulty of getting labour and material which must be experienced in the Northern Territory, or to unusually heavy cuttings, hard rock, or anything in the nature of the country itself.
– The money will be expended economically.
– I am surprised at Senator McGregor’s faith in the Government. I do not know whether he is talking with his tongue in his cheek, or has suddenly become a docile follower, as i have, of the Government. We have not been told why this railway is estimated to cost three or four times as much per mile as a railway would cost in tha southern States.
– I gave the honorable senator estimates. For instance, I informed him as to the cost of bridges and culverts, the necessity for which, of course, means that the line- will cross rivers and creeks. I stated that £65,000. would be required on that account. I read out all those particulars.
– I think that the Minister is labouring under a delusion. He may be a first class lawyer, but I do not think he knows much about railways.
– I am not going to> assume that I do, whatever I may knowabout them.
– We know that there are many ways in which the cost of theconstruction of a railway may be increased. The Minister has told us that bridges and culverts on this line are estimated to cost £65,000, but he gives us nodetails to enable us to say whether that Ls a reasonable estimate or not. If, for- instance, we know the number of waterways to be crossed, and the length of the bridge work to be constructed, we should have some guide in the matter, but we are merely told that in the lump bridges and culverts are to cost £65,000. I wish to know whether the construction of this line is to be regarded as a big engineering work; whether it will go through chiefly level country, requiring only surface construction,” or whether there will be heavy cuttings through rocky country? We shall not be carrying out our duty as members of the Senate if we do not demand from the Government information as to the particulars upon which the estimate of cost is based. We know that under normal conditions in the southern and eastern States a lino may be constructed over a plain or over comparatively level country for a fraction of the cost of constructing the line through hilly and broken country. We require to know whether the relatively high cost of construction of this line, indicated by the estimate given, is due to engineering difficulties arising from the nature of the country through which the line will pass, or to the extra cost of labour and material in that remote district. We shall be adopting the most slovenly methods if we consent to the construction of this line upon the very meagre information given us in the Honorary Minister’s statement. We can easily imagine the cost of conveying drays, scoops, ploughs, horses, cranes, and all the necessary plant required for railway construction, as well as the labour to be employed, to the Northern Territory. All this must cost necessarily very much more than we should have to pay if the railway were being extended from the south. The statement is made that there is redgum available for sleepers and bridge work in the Macdonnell Ranges, but the cost of taking the timber from there to the Katherine River would be prohibitive.
– It would be of no use, because of the ravages of the white ants.
– How is that to be prevented?
– By using steel or iron sleepers.
– The cost of steel sleepers would be something enormous.
The Senate has a right to know whether it- is intended to use steel or iron sleepers, or wood treated by some process to prevent the ravages of white ants.
– There are no wooden sleepers on the line between Port Darwin and Pine Creek. Steel sleepers are used on that line.
– Has the honorable senator any idea of the cost of using steel sleepers ?
– I told the honorable senator that it was intended to use steel sleepers, and I told him that the estimate for sleepers and ballast was £67,000.
– That is for 40 miles 1
– Yes; but even I could do a simple arithmetic sum. If i knew the cost for 40 miles, I believe I could tell how much would be required for 14 miles.
– Probably the honorable senate could. I think my own education reached that level at one time. That is not a sufficient indication of what this line will cost. It is possible to build 100 miles of railway at a reasonable cost, and find that the next 10 miles will cost as much as the first 100 miles.
– The honorable senator has been given the estimate for bridges and culverts, and for sleepers and ballast, and he knows the kind of country the railway will pass through.
– We have no information as to the character of the country. I asked the Minister what the ruling grade would be, and he could not inform us.
– I told the honorable senator. The ruling grade is 1 in 75. That is a good working grade.
– I do not find fault with it. Can the Minister inform us as to the depth of cuttings and the nature of the country - whether there will be heavy rock cuttings, or swampy country to be crossed, and big embankments to be built? We have a right to know whether the big cost of the line is going to be due to the extra cost of conveying men and material to the Northern Territory, or to the nature of . the country through which the line will go. We are dealing with an idiotic proposal for the construction of this line from the north southward, for the benefit of the
Japanese, our friends and allies, instead of starting from the south and working northwards.
– There should be no railway built in the Northern Territory, from the honorable senator’s point of view.
– That is not so.
– Because when it is completed, the Japanese can come right down.
– We could go right up, too. We require an expensive Naval and Military Department, or we do not. If we do, I say that by this proposal we are providing a railroad for the enemy, instead of for ourselves. The line should be started from the south, and not from the north.
– Does not the honorable senator believe that material may be landed as cheaply at Darwin and taken to the Katherine River, as it may be landed at Adelaide and taken to the Katherine River?
– I do not propose that it should be landed at Adelaide and taken to the Katherine River. I propose that we should start extending the line from Oodnadatta. I say that that is the policy of safety. If that course be adopted, and we are menaced by a hostile invasion in the north, we can send our Citizen Forces up by that line to meet the enemy. The proposal now before the Senate is to provide the enemy with a railway by which, having once effected a landing, they may convey their troops inland.
– When they got as far as the Katherine River, what would they do?
– The Government proposal is to start building this railway from the north southwards, and it is not proposed that the line should be left at the Katherine River. A matter of importance which was not mentioned by Senator Pearce, although I referred to it myself in criticising the Loan Bill, is that we cannot expect in this kind of country that those employed in the construction of the line will be free from all kinds of tropical fevers and complaints, which must render the work of construction infinitely more expensive than is railway construction in the temperate regions further south. All the testimony we have had as to the health of people living in the Northern Territory is based upon conditions which are not applicable to railway construction camps. In the State of New South Wales recently, since a Labour Government has been in power, a system has been instituted of constructing camps in a sanitary and civilized manner. Thus they have obviated a great deal of the sickness which has been common amongst large bodies of men who have been engaged on works of this de- scription even in most temperate districts, where there has been an absence of proper sanitation. I wish to know whether the Government propose to apply the same system of organization to this railway as the United States Government have applied to the construction of the Panama Canal ? Do they intend to organize their railway camps and construction works in such a way as to prevent a tremendous lot of sickness which otherwise is sure to prevail ?
– But this work is to be done by contract.
– Whether it be done by contract or day labour, it is clear that hundreds of men will be employed upon it, that they will have to live on tinned meat, and that they will have no facilities for purchasing fresh, vegetables and fruit.
– The honorable senator assisted to pass the vote for building a railway in Papua, where malarial conditions are much more prevalent, without a protest.
– The honorable senator is in error. I was not here when that proposal was debated. I was doing good work in helping to return solid Labour men in New South Wales. I am sorry that Senator Blakey and others neglected to apply salutary provisions to the line which is projected in Papua. We know perfectly well from historical records that a great many difficulties were experienced in building the railway from PortDarwin to Pine Creek, even though Chinese and coolie labour were employed in its construction. Similar difficulties will be experienced in the construction of this line. We cannot expect the same high standard of health to obtain on such a work as obtains in the southern parts of this continent. Yet we have no indication that the Government are alive to these considerations. I cannot expect the Honorary Minister, who comes from the delightful little Eden of Tasmania, to realize, even dimly, the nature of the conditions which will exist there. But surely his confreres ought to have provided for them. I protest against undertaking in this frivolous and lighthearted way the work of railway construction in the tropical north, without giving any consideration to the vastly different problems which are involved, as compared with the problems that are involved in railway construction in the more temperate zone. We do not even know upon what the estimated cost of this line is based. For these reasons, if I sit alone, I shall oppose the Bill, although I am quite as anxious as is any honorable senator to see money expended upon the development of the Territory. I say that the money which has been appropriated for this work will not be expended upon the development of the Territory. It will be spent in an abortive attempt, which must end in disaster, and which must lead to the people becoming utterly disgusted with the want of method that is indicated in this Bill.
– I listened very attentively to the reasons advanced by Senator Rae in opposition to this Bill, and although I recognise that there is a certain amount of truth in a great deal of what he said, I am nevertheless prepared to support the measure. I think the white race is quite capable of overcoming the various difficulties that have been so vividly pictured by him. I have always advocated the building of the transcontinental railway from north to south. This is the first link in the chain of that railway. Whatever direction the line may take after it reaches the Katherine River - whether it deviates towards the east or towards the west - this is undoubtedly the first link in the great north to south railway.. I am strengthened in this belief by a statement which has been made bv the Superintendent of Railways in the Territory, who says, after having made a preliminary survey, that it is incontrovertible that the transcontinental line must first go to the Katherine River. I have had the privilege of travelling over the country in the vicinity of the projected line, and I say without hesitation that that country is practically valueless, except at certain seasons of the year, when it may be utilized for the grazing of a few head of cattle. In my opinion it is worthless for sheep. I do not profess to be a prophet or the son of a prophet, but I think we shall find - if this 54 miles of railway be constructed - that we shall pass from the desert to the fringe of the good country. Irrespective of whether operations were commenced from the north or from the south, there is no doubt that some honorable senators would cavil at the action of the Government. “In the Loan Bill we have provided £400,000 for the part construction of this railway. With Senator Rae, I regret that we have not before us as complete information from the Minister and from the surveyors as we might have had in regard to the detailed cost of the undertaking. I gather, however, that the approximate cost of construction and equipment of the line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek, a distance of 145 miles, up to 31st December, 1912, was £1,180,263, or an average of £8,116 per mile.
– That is the accumulated deficit.
– No, it is the approximate cost of construction and equipment. Now, a simple arithmetical calculation will show honorable senators that the cost of the proposed line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River works out at £7,400 per mile.
– That is in opposition to what the Honorary Minister said. He stated that the construction of the first 40 miles of this railway will cost £9.000 per mile, and that the balance will cost £8,000 per mile.
– I recognise that the cost of the undertaking is going to be excessive. But, notwithstanding all these difficulties, I intend to vote for the Bill, because I recognise that the proposed line will form the first link in the transcontinental railway from north to south. As a young Australian I am optimistic enough to think that it is a line which is necessary for the development of the Northern Territory. I regret that the Government did not see their way to place on the Estimates a sum of money for the establishment of freezing works at Port Darwin. I come now to another question, namely, the conditions of employment upon the proposed line. As one who has visited the Territory, I say that no matter how virile a man may be, if he is engaged in hard manual labour, as the men will be who are employed on this line, he cannot work the same number of hours as can a man in the southern portions of Australia. The late Minister of External Affairs recognised that, as did also the Administrator. For that reason an edict was issued, requesting the Government employes there not to work in the middle of the day. It was thought chat they should work for three or four hours in the early morning, that they should enjoy a siesta in the middle of the day, and resume work in the cool of the afternoon. The result of this arrangement was that trouble arose, not so much with the men as with the boardinghousekeepers at Port Darwin. Their employes objected to rising in the early hours in the morning to prepare breakfast for the men who desired to commence work at, perhaps, 5 or 6 o’clock. With a view to overcoming this difficulty, the late Minister of External Affairs deputed Public Service Inspector Skewes to visit the Territory, and report upon the matter. In his report to the Minister of External Affairs, the Administrator says -
Your decision to reduce the hours weekly to forty-four, and to grant an increase in wages to 25 per cent, over the Southern rates, pins a further allowance to be recommended uy Public Service Inspector Skewes, was generally appreciated, though it was hoped Mr. Skewes’ rates would be greater than they were. You, yourself, drew attention to the advisability Lt working men in the cooler hours. Mr. Skewes emphasized the point. But the men did nothing. There was some little difficulty in securing an earlier start, but this was overcome, though owing to an impasse regarding meals at hotels and boarding-houses, work does not yet commence so early as it should.
I feel sure that if Senator Pearce’s idea is carried into effect it will go a long way towards obviating this difficulty, which, in my opinion, is sure to arise, because the men will be dissatisfied with tropical conditions. Indeed, it is only human nature for anybody like Senator Rae, and, may I say, sometimes Senator Gardiner and Senator Stewart,- to be dissatisfied with any conditions.
– I take exception to that remark, sir, and ask that it be withdrawn.
Tha PRESIDENT.- As Senator Gardiner has taken exception to the remark I ask Senator Blakey to withdraw it.
– I always thought that Senator Gardiner was a fighter for bettering the conditions of everybody, but as he objects to my remark. I withdraw it unreservedly. There is no doubt that the Government will not be able to build this railway at anything -like the rates which have prevailed in the southern parts of the Commonwealth. Therefore, in my opinion, it will cost a good deal more than the £400,000 which is included in the Loan Bill towards its construction. Seeing that, according to the reports of the Commissioner of Railways, the cost of building the existing railway from Port Darwin with 3,000 Chinamen averaged £8,816 a mile, the cost of the extension must exceed by a good deal the amount provided in the Loan Bill. However, as regards the development of the Territory, and the ultimate results which will accrue from the building of this line, I am optimistic enough to bring myself to vote for this ‘Bill, though, I repeat, I would have preferred very much if the Government had also submitted a proposal to establish freezing works at Darwin, where the cattle that will come over the railway could be frozen and properly treated.
– - The two or three questions raised by Senator Pearce seem to me to be of considerable importance, and I do not wish to give a silent vote in Committee if any amendments are proposed. The honorable senator wants to provide that the line shall be constructed so that it will carry a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, or a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, although it is first to be constructed on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. When I asked, by interjection, “ Why not name the gauge definitely?” he said he did not think that it mattered very much so long as the line was constructed, to enable the gauge to be converted to 5 ft. 3 in. or 4 ft. 8£ in. I think that if any proviso is to be made in the Bill in that regard, we ought definitely to fix the gauge at 4 ft. 8J in., because it must not be forgotten that the Commonwealth is already committed to a policy of railway construction from west to east on a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge. In other words, on the advice of a gathering of eminent engineers, we have definitely committed ourselves to the principle that 4 ft. 8J in. shall be the national gauge for Australia. Therefore, it should be provided in this Bill, I take it, that the extension from Pine Creek shall be so constructed as regards cuttings and embankments as to admit of a conversion of the gauge hereafter to 4 ft. 8i in. Between the gauges of 4 ft. 8£.in. and 5 ft. 3 in. the difference of constructing a line must he fairly large, especially if there are a number of rocky cuttings or tunnels to be made, or even in regard to the width of bridges and culverts.
– No; for a line on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge they construct all bridges big enough to carry a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge.
– M - My argument is that there is no occasion to provide for the proposed extension to- be converted in the Future to a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, seeing that we have already adopted 4 ft. in. as the standard gauge. Surely we are not going to alter the standard gauge every few years.
– The States have not accepted that.
– T - The Commonwealth has accepted it.
– It is a matter of coming to an agreement.
– It It is not a State question as regards any Commonwealth railway. I quite admit that in the several States there are wide differences of opinion as to what ought to be the standard gauge of Australia, but it has been laid down that the gauge of the Co m in on wealth railways shall be 4 ft. 8-J in. I do not anticipate that that standard, gauge will be altered in the very near future to 5 ft. 3 in., because it would be silly and absurd to do so. Another »point raised by Senator Pearce was in regard to freights and fares. He wants - very wisely, I think - a provision made in the Bill that, if the contractors are to use the line before it is taken over by the Commonwealth for the carriage of goods and passengers, the Government shall have some kind of control over the freights and fares. My experience in several instances teaches me that such a provision in the Bill is absolutely necessary. In the early nineties a railway was being constructed in Tasmania, and before it was handed over to the Government the contractors allowed the public to use the completed portions, and thereby reaped a fairly rich harvest by charging freights and fares which were out of proportion to those fixed after it was taken over. A good deal has been said by Senator Rae regarding the estimated cost of the proposed railway. He has complained that there is not sufficient evidence before the Senate as to what the cost is to be.
– “What it is based on.
– The The ‘ , honorable senator complains that we have not had enough information, and, also, I think, that the estimate is very high.
– No ; I complain that we do not know why it is so high.
– Wel Well, that comes to the same thing. I do not think that the estimate of £9,000 a mile for the first 40 miles is high, if there are any number of culverts to be made and bridges to be constructed. Many years ago I remember a line 28 miles long being constructed on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge at a cost of about £11,000 per mile, when the standard wage for the navvies was not more than 8s. per day.
– I am not complaining as to the cost. I say that, whether the cost is high or low, we are not given sufficient data as to how it is made up.
– I - I do not agree with the honorable senator there, because the Honorary Minister read out the. estimated cost of the earthworks, bridges, culverts, and steel rails. Several honorable senators have, by way of interjection, questioned the possibility of the line costing £9,000 a mile for the first .40 miles. We shall not, I take it, get men to work in the Territory for anything like the same wages that men worked on railways for some years ago. I could mention a number of instances, but I will only instance a railway which was constructed on a 3-ft. 6-in gauge at a cost of about £11,000 per mile. I think that an average length of that line was probably over more difficult country than will be an average length of this proposed line. Having regard to the higher wages which will have to be paid to men in the Territory, I do not think that £9,000 per mile is a high estimate. Of course, if the line can be constructed more cheaply we shall all rejoice. But I think that it will cost at least £9,000 per mile. With one statement made by Senator Rae I entirely agree. I think that the Government should, as far as possible, see to the sanitation and the health of the railway camps, because we have had many bitter experiences where, through the want, of Government control, a large amount of sickness has been engendered in camps which otherwise might have been prevented.
– I voted against the item in the Loan Bill for the construction of this railway, because I saw what I thought was one fatal objection, and that was the construction of the line from the north rather than from the south. Furthermore, I pointed out that I desired to see the line constructed from the north and from the south simultaneously. If the Minister could have assured the Committee at that time that such an arrangement would be made I would have voted for the item.
– You do not believe, then, in developing the northern portions first.
– If the honorable senator would refrain from interjecting until I develop my argument, perhaps there might be a little more force in an interjection by him. Such information not being forthcoming, I voted against the item. I still hold the view that if we are going to develop the Territory - and this is now a reply to my honorable friend’s interjection - and develop it properly, the railway should be constructed from the north and from the south simultaneously, as we are constructing the other transcontinental railway from either end.
– I question whether the Government are developing that line from either end.
– At least we have started to construct the line from both ends. My desire has beento see constructional work carried but.
– All the Government have done with that line has been to appoint a staff.
– That is not my fault; but the principle which has been applied to the transcontinental line from the west to the east I would like to see applied to the transcontinental line from the north to the south.
– God forbid! We have had enough of that.
– I mean the principle of beginning the construction of the. line from either end. Will that satisfy my honorable friend?
– That is better if you mean construction.
– I am very glad that my honorable friend is at last satisfied.
– Would you refer this Bill to the Public Works Committee?
– It is not yet appointed.
– Well, to a Public Works Committee.
– I would not go that far. I was trying to point out the reason why I voted against the item in the Loan Bill to authorize the construction of the line depicted on the map opposite, and why I shall vote against this Bill unless certain replies to my proposals are given by the Minister.
– What are they?
– Not altogether my own proposals or queries, but something embodied in the speech delivered by Senator Pearce this morning, and which I think might be amplified to a slight extent.If we are to construct this railway at all, we must have a purpose in view. That purpose is to link the north of Australia with the south, just as we are endeavouring at present to link the east with the west by another line.
– We have population in the west, but we have not in the north.
– That strengthens the position I am taking up. We have heard a great deal about the possible invasion of Australia by a foreign foe. It would not be politic to mention the nation, but at all events we must recognise that Darwin is the port which such a foe might desire to enter. If the proposal of the Government is carried out in its entirety, it might help that foe to get south. That is a reason why I wish this line to be constructed from both ends simultaneously. It should be made complete as soon as possible, so that if a foe landed on our shores at Darwin, our Defence Forces might easily be transported from the southto meet them in the north.
– That is an argument for not building the railway at all.
– The Government recognise the need for the railway for defence purposes, but I hold that that purpose would be better carried out by constructing from the two ends simultaneously.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– In the construction of this railway, we need to safeguard not only the interests of the Commonwealth, but also the interests of the nien employed. It is proposed to build the line on the contract system. The. Government are committed to that principle.
– They are not so strong upon it now as they used to be.
– Representatives of the Government have said in recent debates that in regard to works started by their predecessors on the day-labour principle they will abide by that method, but that in all new works the contract system will be adopted. I am, therefore, assuming that this railway will be built on the contract system. Senator Pearce has indicated an amendment to provide that proper wages shall be paid to all employes.
– Is that essential?
– With all due respect to the Minister, I think it wise that proper provision should be made in the Bill to safeguard the interests of the employes in this direction. It is admitted that rates of wages must be determined from time to time. The line will traverse country that has been described as uninhabitable by white men. I am concerned for the reputation of Australia. I have been in that part of the country, and contend that white min oau work there at- any occupation, provided their conditions are made comfortable. Inasmuch as, under clause 11, the Minister may make regulations with regard to certain matters, I think we ought to insure that other things affecting the well-being of the men should be provided for. There is, for instance, the question of the price and conveyance of stores. In some of the States of Australia, men who have been employed on public works have been at the mercy of contractors, having to pay exactly what those contractors demanded for their stores. Otherwise, they would go hungry. The late Government, when making arrangements for the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, provided that the men engaged upon the work should obtain their stores at the prices obtaining in the nearest town - Kalgoorlie, for instance. The supply of stores was to have been managed by the Government. The men employed on the railway now under consideration will be working under abnormal conditions. Sometimes it will be difficult to obtain employes for the work. It will be easier to get th’em if the best conditions prevail. I do not suggest, for a moment, that we should wet-nurse the men, but we ought to recognise that the climatic conditions under which they will labour will be entirely different from those prevailing in any other part of Australia. Every care ought to be taken in regard to sanitation, the supply of food, and accommodation for the men, and when they are having their meals. One fact brought under the notice of the Fisher Government was the need for’ shelter when the men were having their midday meal. They will be working all day under the rays of a pitiless sun, and it would not be humane to expect them to sit down and take their meals unsheltered. At least, that temporary protection should be provided for them. If the Government will assure the Senate that the provisions I have indicated will be embodied in the Bill, or provided for by regulation, and that from time to time the wages will be regulated in accordance with the distance from civilization that the men are working, I shall be inclined to reverse the vote I gave upon the Loan Bill.
– Another pervert.
– The honorable senator is jocular in using that word. I am neither a pervert nor a convert. But it will depend on the trend of this discussion whether or not I cast my vote for the Bill.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that he is open to conviction ?
– I am in reference to the points I have mentioned. Parliament has allocated the money to enable the line to be built. I am now desirous of seeing that the men engaged upon the work, obtain the very best conditions, and that they are not victimized in any sense of the term. I should not be worthy of my seat in the Senate as a Labour member if I did not do my utmost to see that the best conditions possible prevail during the construction of the line. If the Government cannot give me the assurance I desire, I shall feel inclined to vote against the second reading of the Bill. But if the assurances are given, I shall vote for it. Whether we like this Bill or not, it is before us now, and is at our disposal. We can do with it exactly as we please. It ought not to be allowed to leave the Senate until it is moulded to a form conformable to our wishes. I am anxious to see the Territory developed, and to have this transcontinental line started at the southern as well as at the northern end. If Parliament determines that it shall be started at the northern end only, as proposed in this Bill, I want some assurance that the interests of the men who will be engaged in the work. will be properly safeguarded.
.- I shall not delay the passing or rejection of the Bill by more than a minute or two. We know the declaration of the Government in respect to the system to be adopted in the carrying out of works by the public Departments. We know that where practicable they intend to abolish the day-labour and introduce the contract system. I feel sure that the Cabinet have had under consideration the system to be adopted in the construction of this line, and the Honorary Minister should be able, to tell the Senate definitely whether it is to be constructed under the contract or under the day-labour system. I can understand the answers which have been given to queries submitted on the subject, showing that the Government are not in a position at present to say whether all public works shall be carried out on the contract system, but we know that they are hopeful that they will be able gradually to abolish the day-labour system altogether. This is a new and a comparatively big work, and we should know from the Minister in charge of the Bill whether the Government intend to call tenders for its construction by contractors- or intend to carry out the work themselves. If it is their intention to have the line constructed on the day-labour system, we should have some assurance that the men engaged in the work will be given proper industrial conditions as to hours and rates of wages. If this is to be a Government work, every opportunity will be afforded to consider the comfort and convenience of the men- labouring in that tropical part of Australia. If, on the other hand, the Government say that the line is to be constructed under the contract system, then Senator Needham and other honorable senators who have addressed themselves to the subject are right when they say that we should be very careful before passing this Bill to see that provision is made to safeguard the interests of the men who will be employed by the contractor intrusted with the carrying out of the work.
– Should we not safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth also, by seeing that we are not taking a leap in the dark in respect to the whole matter ?
– If the work is to be carried out under the contract system we can provide that the men shall be paid the ruling tropical wage, and shall be given fair industrial conditions of labour. But it must not be forgotten that the contractor will, in a measure, have the men at his mercy in the prices to be charged for the necessaries of life.
– When he gets them there they will not be able to get away.
– It will be much more difficult for workmen to get away from that part of Australia than it would from other parts where there are fairly large centres of population and uptodate means of communication. From my recollection of Pine Creek, there are one or two stores there, but I think that when I was in the Northern Territory they were kept by Chinese. Between Pine Creek and the Katherine River there are no stores.
– Yes; there is a Chinese store at Horseshoe Creek, midway on the route we travelled.
– I do not recollect seeing any store between Pine Creek and the Katherine River, but I know there is a hotel and general store at the Katherine River, and that the price of provisions and of liquid refreshments there is pretty high. Though it is possible to’ make provision that the men employed in the construction of the line shall be given fair wages and conditions by a contractor, this would .be insignificant if, at the same time, the contractor were in a position to charge them almost any price he pleased for the commodities they would require.
– Commodities should be supplied by Government stores.
– We should certainly see that the men employed in the construction of this line are protected in this regard. I have already said that if the work were being carried out by the day-labour system by the Government, I should have no apprehension as to the treatment which would be meted out to the workmen, but I have very grave fears that if the work is carried out by a contractor, he will take advantage of every opportunity to exploit the workmen, not only in regard to the wages paid them, but also in connexion with supplies of the necessaries of life.
– The Truck Act.
– Yes; unless prevented, he will certainly adopt the old “truck” system. I ask the Honorary Minister again to say whether the Government have definitely decided to build this line under the contract system or by day labour, which was the policy adopted by the Fisher Administration.
– It would be very disorderly for me to interject.
– I do not intend to delay the passing of the Bill. I said what I had to say on the subject last night, but I have to-day received a letter from a friend in the Northern Territory, the concluding paragraph of which I should like to quote, since, in my opinion, it puts the whole question involved in this Bill in a nutshell. The letter is dated 3rd December, and my friend writes -
If you want to see this . Territory go ahead, push on railways and foster the mining industry for all it is worth. Population must follow.
My correspondent also informs me that he is interested in a mine, and advises me to get into it quick and lively, as it is going to be a good thing. If I can put any of my fellow-senators on to it, I shall be glad to do so. This is the opinion of a man who went to the Territory from Sydney ten months ago, and is quite satisfied with the country. It is only by the construction of such railways as that proposed in this Bill that we can hope to develop the Territory. It should not be forgotten that this is not a new railway, but an extension of an existing railway from the place where the South Australian Government left off construction. It is clear that it was the intention of the State Government to carry the line -further than the present terminus, because earthworks and some cuttings are to be found beyond that point. I regard the estimated cost of the line as very fair, considering the country it is to go through. The Northern Territory is the best watered part of Australia. On the journey between Pine Creek and the Katherine, we had to cross the Edith River four times; and honorable senators can see from the map exhibited in the chamber the rivers which have to be crossed by this line. It is true that in the dry season the mail-men can drive their buggies across these rivers; but in the wet season they become very considerable streams, and the mail-men have to take their buggies to pieces and carry them across the river in iron punts provided for the purpose. It is not long since an unfortunate mail-man was drowned in his attempt to convey the mails to their destination. I do not think that we should impose disabilities of this description upon the people we are asking to settle in the Northern Territory. I am satisfied that the only way in which to develop it is by building these railways. If the Government ask me to vote a sum of money for building a railway to the Daly River, or to build other branch railways from this line, they will have my vote for the purpose. I have said that the country through which this extension will pass is not the best in the world, but when it reaches the Katherine River it will have tapped the fringe of the good country. I have also said that if the South Australian Government had continued the line to the Katherine River in the first instance, it would by this time be a paying proposition. Senator Findley has stated that there are two stores at Pine Creek kept by Chinese, but there are also two stores kept there by white men. One is kept by an old school mate of my own, named Weedon, who has been in the Territory for thirty years, and has reared a family there. He has also a hotel and a butchering business, and had a large number of cattle runring on land near Pine Creek. There is also a store at Horseshoe Creek. My old school mate told me that he had practically made a fortune. He said that he intends shortly to take a trip round the world with his family, and that is sufficient proof that he has not done too badly. Senator Rae has complained that this is a proposal to begin at the wrong end. But he forgets that this railway was commenced before the Territory was taken over by the Commonwealth, and that it is now the duty of the Federal Government to do their best to develop the country by constructing railways to enable the settlers to reach a market with their produce. There were two young men who went over from Sydney and established a farm on the Daly River. They had over 100 tons of maize lying on the bank of the river, which was useless, because they had no communication with a market.
– How far is that from the terminus of the proposed railway?
– It is in quite a different direction, and would not be affected by this railway. The Government have provided communication by water from the Daly River, and in future people taking up lands in that district will be able to get their produce to market by steamer. Those who would vote against this proposal, because of small considerations which they think ought to be provided for, cannot have the interests of the country at heart. Senator Rae, I understand, desires to know something about the physical features of the country. I would point out to him that a map is hanging in this chamber, a glance at which will show him that only one hill will require to be crossed by the proposed line. The railway will pass between two ranges of mountains, and the only difficulty in the way of its construction lies in the fact that rivers will have to be bridged.
– I gather from this debate that there is very little use in discussing the development of the Northern Territory on ordinary rational business lines. The Territory may be one of the richest portions of the Commonwealth, but, unfortunately for it and the people of Australia, the nightmare of South Australian influence hangs over it. The trail of that influence is over everything that has been done, or is likely to be done, in connexion with the Northern Territory. I think it would be proper on this occasion to glance at the history of the policy with which we are dealing. Adelaide-I will not say South Australia, because I would be libelling the honest people who live in the country districts of that State - the beautiful city of the south, which possesses a larger population proportionate to the people who live in the country portions of South Australia than does any other capital in the Commonwealth, was ambitious to become the highway between Europe and this continent. Her idea, after she had got hold of the Northern Territory, was to open a magnificent port at Port Darwin, and connect it by rail with Adelaide. No other portion of Australia entered into the calculations of her people.
The inhabitants of Adelaide were not concerned about whether the route which the railway would follow was the best or the worst possible. It was a route which would lead to Adelaide, which would enhance its importance, and increase the population of that city. The people of Adelaide did not care two straws for the prosperity of the Commonwealth. That is the policy which is being thrust down the throats of the people of the Commonwealth to-day, and for which they will have to pay. Adelaide has called the tune, but the people of Australia will have to pay the piper. It seems useless to say a word in opposition to the proposed railway, or to ask for information regarding it, because honorable senators appear to have arrived at the conclusion that the line must come straight down from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - That is the agreement.
– My honorable friend says that that is the agreement. That is what Shylock said. He wanted his bond. I hope that honorable senators who have any common sense will not insist upon getting their bond, if it can be shown that in the interests of the Commonwealth this is not the best method of developing the Northern Territory. I quite agree with Senator McDougall that we must railroad the Territory if it is to be developed. 1 admit that we must also develop it, seeing that we have taken it over. But surely we are not going to develop it in a haphazard fashion.
– Yes, we are.
– We have taken over the obligations of the Territory; we have relieved South Australia of an incubus of debt, which was rapidly driving her into the Bankruptcy Court; and, in addition, we have taken over her policy which was prompted by her own insane and selfish ambition. I ask honorable senators in all seriousness whether we, as the representatives of the people who will have to pay for this tomfoolery, are compelled to abide by the bond, if it can be shown that it is a wicked one, a dangerous one, and one whose conditions ought not to be honoured.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - Does the honorable senator advocate repudiation?
– I advocate nothing. I want information, and I have not got it. With the exception of Senator
Rae, no honorable senator who has spoken has asked for information. Did Senator O’Loghlin.ask for it? Why, it is the very last thing that any representative from South Australia wants.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - There is ample information to justify the construction of this line.
– Honorable senators from South Australia want the railway - not information. It does not matter to them whether the line will follow the best route to the Northern Territory, or whether it will be in the interests of the people of Australia. They are determined that the bond between South Australia and the Commonwealth shall be honoured in the spirit as well as in the letter.
– Did not the honorable senator hear Senator Newland speak last night ?
– I heard him talk for three-quarters of an hour in the most admirable fashion without saying a word about the merits or demerits of this proposal. He talked about the climate of the Northern Territory, about the handsomeness of the children reared there, about the report of Professor Gilruth, but he did not tackle the real question. He did not ask for information regarding the country through which the line will pass.
– I knew all about it.
– Then the honorable senator might have given us the information. When this Bill was introduced in another place, the Minister of External Affairs stated that the survey of the line had been completed. If that be so, the surveyors have probably lodged their report. Why is that report not available?
– The honorable senator would not have the Minister read that report?
– I want it published. I desire to know what the surveyors have to say, not only about the route of the proposed, line, but about the country to be served by it. I believe in railway construction just as much as does any honorable senator, but I believe also in ascertaining that we are putting our railways in the proper place, and that they will serve country which is of a sufficiently fertile quality to make them become ultimately payable. The Government have not done any of these things.
If they know anything about the country which the line will traverse they have steadfastly refrained from communicating that knowledge to Parliament.
– Most of the country near the proposed railway is poor speargrass country.
– Yet the surrounding country may be of a very excellent character. I know of a railway in Queensland which a passenger by train would at once conclude was unpayable, if he judged it by the quality of the land in its immediate neighbourhood. But that line is surrounded by land of the most valuable description - land which is not visible from the railway carriage.
– Cannot the honorable senator apply that line of reasoning to this proposal?
– But the Parliament which authorized the construction of that line was well aware of the quality of the surrounding land. Senator Lynch stated last night that even if the railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River had to pass through a howling desert, that was the route which it ought to follow, because it was that which was agreed upon between South Australia and the Commonwealth.
– It was part of the bond.
– For that reason the honorable senator does not want any information in regard to it. Apparently the minds of a large number of honorable senators are obsessed by the bond. I have pointed out the origin of the bond, and the motive which inspired it.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - There is an old-fashioned idea that contracts ought to be respected.
– That is quite true. But there is something which is of more importance to a community than even the observance of contracts. If a contract has been foolishly entered into by the Commonwealth every citizen will suffer.
– The honorable senator has failed to prove that that has been done.
– I have not attempted to prove it. But honorable senators have not attempted to prove the opposite. The construction of this line, and its continuation southwards depends solely upon the agreement which wass entered into between the Commonwealth and South Australia. Do honorable senators think that that is a sufficient reason why we should proceed with this work without first endeavouring to discover a better route? Have they ever asked themselves whether the proposed route is the best in the interests of defence? If they have, and if they have ever cast even a casual glance at the map of Australia, they will see that instead of it being the best route in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth it is absolutely the worst. I invite honorable senators to consider the position for a moment. Supposing that we had the north-south transcontinental railway built, and that rumours reached Australia that an approaching force of Japanese was expected to land at Port Darwin. Each of the States would immediately proceed to send a contingent of men up to Port Darwin to assist in the defence of Australia.
– It is the Federation that would do that, and not each of the States separately.
– The Federation would do it. From Rockhampton, from Brisbane, from Sydney, from’ Melbourne, from Adelaide, from every portion of the Continent, men would be sent up to Port Darwin to defend Australia against the invader. The men from Brisbane and Sydney, I presume, would be the largest contingent, because the bulk of the population of Australia lies on the eastern seaboard. Instead of being able to go direct by the shortest route right up to Port Darwin, the men from Brisbane would have to come first to Sydney, then to Melbourne, ‘then to Adelaide, and then to Port Augusta, before they could start on their way to the Northern Territory.
– There is nothing to eventually prevent us from linking up with Camooweal.
– This is not a thing for eventualities. If you apply that principle, you might do the most foolish things imaginable to-day, hoping that you would have the opportunity tomorrow of guarding against certain exigencies. If we have the defence of Australia at heart; if we are not moved by a selfishness and a wickedness which seem to very largely impregnate a number of the people of the Commonwealth, we ought to do the right thing first, and that is to build the Northern Territory railway, so that the defenders of Australia may be able to reach Port Darwin by the easiest and quickest route. That is a proposition which no man can successfully question.
– It is a questionof whether it would be wisdom or strategy.
– It is a question, the honorable senator says, whether that would be wisdom or strategy. In effect, he says, “ Do not bring this railway away from Adelaide. Perish the Commonwealth, but save Adelaide!” A more wicked idea of government never entered into the minds of men. It is absolutely hateful to any man who loves his country and wishes to see justice done. “ Perish Australia; save this wretched port of Adelaide on the southern seaboard.” There is the whole thing. Honorable gentlemen may see themselves in a kind of reflected glory, so to speak, but to rae they appear almost like men who, we have read in history, sold their country for a mess of pottage.
– Your Scripture is wrong. It was not their country that they sold.
– The honorable senator is an authority on Scripture, I have no doubt. I have read Scripture in thedays that have gone, and I have imbibed, I hope, some of its principles, even if I do not practise them very largely. I think that unselfishness is one of the virtues which we are taught there. I ask honorable senators seriously whether they think that this route, which would compel the soldiers of Queensland and New South Wales to go right round to Port Augusta before they could even start on their way to the Northern Territory, is the proper route?
-. Colonel O’loghlin. - They would not go to Port Augusta at all, but would go. straight on from Quorn- the junction.
– If the soldiers did not go to Port Augusta, that would only mean a difference of a few miles. But the difference between soldiers from Brisbane and Sydney going round to Quorn, and proceeding straight up from Bourke, as ought to be thecase, would be nearly 2,000 miles, and in a case of invasion time is everything.
– Do you not think that in such a case the soldiers in Queensland would be. required to remain in that State and defend it, instead of going to Quorn ?
– I think that some of the soldiers of Australia would have to go to Port Darwin. I do not say that all of them should go there, because, if our authorities were so foolish as to send all our soldiers up north - and if they were like some honorable senators I have in my mind’s eye at present, that is exactly what they would do - and leave the southern portion of Australia unprotected, the enemy would come down here and capture it while our defenders were galivanting up north. I admit that a railway to the northern portion of Australia is desirable from a defence point of view, but I contend that it ought to be built so that our defenders should be able to get to the point of attack in the shortest possible time. This is the longest possible route.
– Where would you take the line from - Camooweal or Bourke ?
– It is as plain as the nose on the honorable senator’s face, and that is plain enough. A railway from Bourke, going through the western portion of Queensland and right on to Port Darwin, would be the quickest means of communication from the south to the north, and would be the means of enabling our soldiers to get to where they were wanted in the shortest possible time.
– Will the building of this proposed railway prevent that from being done in the future?
– No; but the principal reason which has been given for the building of the proposed line is that it is necessary from a defence point? of view. Taking that aspect of the question, I say that the proposed line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, and from Pino Creek to Port Darwin, follows the worst possible route that could be adopted by the people of the Commonwealth if they are concerned only with regard to defence.
-Colonel O’Loghlin- The proposed line to the Katherine River would be part of the other route.
– It might be.-
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - Why oppose this line?
– But it is the evident intention, as far as I could gather, of every honorable senator who has spoken that the line is to be con tinued from the Katherine River right down to Oodnadatta. The principal objection of even Senator Rae, almost the only speaker who has shown a gleam of common sense in connexion with the Bill, was that the line is not to begin at Oodnadatta.
– A very good objection, too.
– Yes, a most excellent objection from the Adelaide point of view.
– I am not an Adelaide man.
– I am trying to point out that, from a defence point of view, this is the worst possible route which the Commonwealth could adopt, simply for this reason, that it will take longer to send soldiers’ up to Port Darwin by this route than by any other route which could be adopted. Surely that i3 a reason which ought to weigh in the minds of honorable senators. But our South Australian friends will say, “What about the bond?” I submit to them and others, in all- sincerity, that if it can be shown that Australia is likely to suffer by the carrying out of this bond, surely the people of Adelaide will be patriotic enough to allow the bond to be departed from. If they are not, then they are lineal decendents of Shylock, and worthy in every sense of their progenitor. I pre3S this ma’tter on the attention of honorable senators. It is a matter of very great consequence, not only to us who are here, but to the people of Australia as a whole. The day may come when we will be attacked, and surely when- that day does come, it is in our interests that our provision for defence should be of the most effective and the most efficient character; and one of our means of defence, as has been pointed out by military experts, is our railway lines. Let these railways be as direct as possible. Let them be built by such routes as will enable our soldiers to be carried to the point where they are required in the shortest possible time, and in war time is the essence of everything. If you can get to a particular point before your enemy arrives there, you may possibly be able to defeat him; but if he get3 there before you arrive, then the probability is that he will have you. Have honorable senators looked at the position? Will they face it now, or do they abandon consideration of the whole thing, and subside into agreement with the’ Adelaide bond ? Unfortunately, the present Government appears to be of that mind, as the last Government was. i think that the last Government was in error in regard to this matter. If honorable senators have any opinions at all on this question, if they have examined it from an Australian point of view, and if they care at all for an effective defence of the continent, they can come to only one conclusion, and that is that this railway ought not to be built now, that is if it is to be of any value whatever in the defence of the country. I do not wish to labour that point. It is, I think, an extremely important point, but I have said all that I feel obliged to say. Let honorable senators look at the map I hold in my hand, and they will very soon discover the folly of the present proposal. I wish we had a large map of Australia hanging on the wall, so that it would be possible to show the. ridiculousness of this proposal. Here is Brisbane, which, I am sure, will be asked to send a very fair contingent of troops to the Northern Territory if we were attacked there. If a railway were built from Bourke, right up this way, our lines from Charleville, from Longreach, and from Hughenden would join with that trunk railway.
– Yes, and all would go to the Katherine River.
– Why object to this section ?
– -I am not objecting to it for that reason. I am dealing now, as far as the defence of Australia is concerned, with a proposal to connect Oodnadatta with Pine Creek.
– It is intended to link up New South Wales direct, via Condoblin and Broken Hill, and that can join the new line at Oodnadatta.
– Here is a route by which our troops could be poured into Darwin in probably half the time it would take to send them round by Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. If honorable senators look at the map for themselves, they will come to the same conclusion as I have done, that if the railway is to be of any value at all for defence purposes, some other route must be adopted. We have heard a great deal about the building of railways for the development of the Territory. But if we plank down a railway there, it does not necessarily follow that prosperity will be the result. Railways are like every other improvement. You must make them at the proper time, and in the proper place, and use them properly. I do not know whether this is the best route from a developmental point of view. I do not believe that the Government know.
– Yes, they do; they are quite sure -of it.
– Why does not the Government come out of its cave, and give the Senate more information ?
– I have been pouring out information all day.
– I have not heard it. When honorable senators get on to the Treasury bench, they mutter and mumble so that those who sit at the far end of the chamber, as I do, cannot hear them. Some of those who get on the front Opposition bench are troubled in exactly the same way. They appear to think that their utterances are of so much value that it is a pity to waste them on the desert air. Surely the Senate is entitled to be placed in possession of all the information that the Government have. What would an ordinary railway company do ? It would not only survey the proposed route, but would have the adjacent country examined by its officers. It would obtain a definite idea of the amount of traffic which would be likely to pass over the line. It would know exactly how much money the construction would cost, and the probability of a profitable return. That is what would be done by a company wishing to: make a profit out of the venture. But here we are dealing with the country’s money. We are not personally responsible. We shall lose nothing individually. If the whole £400,000 is engulfed, and if £1,200,000 more is spent, it will mean little to us as private persons. Already the line from Darwin to Pine Creek has cost over £2,000,000. If we calculate the loss every year at nearly £50,000, and remember that the line has been built for twenty years, and that it cost £1,200,000 to begin with, it will be seen that the figure I have mentioned is correct. What reason have we to believe that the extension will be profitable? We have been told that the country through which the railway will run is of the poorest description. But they say that when we arrive at the Katherine River we shall get into good country. That may be so, but we have no evidence of it. We have onlythe unsupported statements of. honorable senators. Senator Pearce, who may be presumed to have some information, said that the country is practically unknown. We ought not to lay down a railway in practically unknown country without first making the most exhaustive inquiries and obtaining surveys? Is this a business proposition, or what is it ? Honorable senators who have given the Government authority to raise £400,000 for this purpose apparently do not care how the money is spent, where it is spent, or when it is spent. They merely want it spent speedily.
– That is not correct.
– They want a railway, and do not care where it is built, or whether it will promote prosperous development or not. They are very optimistic. Senator Blakey has told us that he is a young Australian who believes that a great future lies before his country. I am not an Australian. I am not a young man. But I am as optimistic as he is. Still, however, I am not a fool. I wouldnotplank down railways here, there, and everywhere for the mere sake of building them. I want to build railways where they will serve good country, and be most useful, and therefore most profitable. I want to build them where people can be settled, and not where they will be merely vehicles for spending money, money, money, continually. But the Government do not seem to be troubled about these things. They say that the railway has to go from Pine Creek to the Katherine, right or wrong, and from the Katherine to Oodnadatta, right or wrong. It is fate. Well, it may be fate, but it is not business. The taxpayers of Australia will have to find the £400,000, and are responsible for the £2,000,000 already poured out and lost. That money has absolutely been engulfed in this desert country. I hope that there are some decent pieces of land in the Northern Territory; I believe there are. But the first thing that ought to be done by the Government is to make an extensive survey.
– How long will it take?
– I do not say that every inch of the ground should be surveyed, but we should have a general idea as to the capacity of the Territory for settlement. We have no idea at present. EvenProfessorGilruth, in his report, tells us that the country is prac tically unknown. The portions that are of any value are held in leasehold by men, the majority of whose leases do not expire for thirty years.
– But Professor Gilruth advocates this line,and speaks well of it.
– He says that if the railway is built, the country will blossom. We have heard that kind of thing before. Some of us may believe it to be true. I have heard it so often that I never hear it now without thinking that it is false. We want evidence. The whole proposal is a splendid leap in the dark. We ought to proceed with the development of the Territory in a business fashion. Let us have an examination of it. If it takes five years, the time will be well spent. The first thing that a mining company does with a property is to put money into development and exploration to find out what the mine contains. The policy of the management is governed by the result of that investigation. We ought to do exactly the same thing here. We ought to ascertain what the Northern Territory is capable of. Having discovered that, we can proceed to build railways, make roads and bridges, and do all the other developmental work which is necessary. But at present we are absolutely in the dark. If we come out of it on the right side, we shall be fortunate. Apparently, however, honorable senators have made up their minds. Some of them are like Shylock. They are determined to have their “pound of flesh.” Unfortunately, there is no Portia here, or, perhaps, the weapon might be turned against our Adelaide friends. I am determined to vote against this Bill. I do not say that I am opposed to building railways in the Territory. There must be railways there. Australia must be much more thickly interlaced with a network of railways than she is now.
– Why does not the honorable senator start on a necessary one, such as this is.
– I want information . The only excuse for building a railway is that it will pay its way. I do not know whether this line will pay its way. The portion already built has not paid its way. On the contrary, it has piled up a deficit probably in excess of its first cost. The advocates of this line say that it will pay, but they confess that the land between Pine Creek and the Katherine is valueless.
One honorable senator said it was the poorest stuff he had ever looked at. I think that it is Senator Blakey, the optimistic young man from Victoria, who has such great faith in the future of this continent. Even this would not be sufficient to induce me to vote against the Bill, if I were informed that beyond the Katherine there are huge areas of country capable of maintaining large numbers of cattle and sheep, or of being used for agriculture. I would then say, “ By all means; never mind the streak of bad country; build your railway through it into the good country.” That is exactly where the Government failed, and it is where the last Government failed, if honorable senators on the front Opposition bench will pardon me for even suggesting such a thing. They did not get the necessary information. They were obsessed by the idea of getting right down to Oodnadatta at the earliest possible moment, never thinking of the probable consequences to the people of Australia, and, apparently, not even caring for the consequences. I trust that ‘a majority of the members of the Senate will vote with me against the second reading of this Bill, and that they will be able to defeat the proposal until the Government are in a position to give us more information on the subject.
– I listened carefully to Senator Stewart, and the only regret I have is that his wonderful enthusiasm and eloquence are not enlisted in a better cause. 1” remind the honorable senator of the remarkable progress of our country, notwithstanding the presence in it of so many people who have been always ready to disparage it. At all stages of the history of Australia we have had men in our midst ready to cry stinking fish, and to say something nasty of the prospects for the future. We have always had these men of stunted minds and a narrow outlook. No matter what ha? been proposed, they have been ready to say, “ We cannot stand it at all ; what you propose is wrong; there is no bright future at all in our prospect.” T remind Senator Stewart of the history of the State from which he comes, and of what was said about the Darling Downs, probably by a progenitor of the honorable senator. It was said that it would not grow cabbages, yet the Darling Downs has turned out to be one of the most fertile areas in Aus tralia. What was said about the plains beyond Bathurst in New South Wales? The wiseacres described all the country beyond the Blue Mountains as a desolate waste, yet to-day we find that that district is going to be the granary of New South Wales.
– The same thing was said about the lands at Mildura.
– The same thing was said about the Mallee country of Victoria. The Stewarts of those days said that the Mallee country was a dead asset, and it would be better if it could be wiped off the map of Victoria. We know what has been said of Western Australia, a land which has been described as a land of sin, sweat, sorrow, and some other alliteration. Western Australia was described in that way by the Stewarts of the day. They said that it was a part of Australia that held out no hope whatever of a living for a human being. What is the existing condition of things there ? We know that that country of sin, sweat, sorrow, and something else is to-day producing satisfactory yields of wheat. But everything is wrong with Senator Stewart. The bond is wrong, the project is wrong, the route is wrong, the calculations are wrong, and the Government are wrong. I believe that the last is the only point on which I can agree with the honorable senator. We know that everything was wrong with the lamb because the wolf was hungry. The fact was, not that the lamb disturbed the stream, but that he continued to exist whilst the wolf had his appetite to satisfy. Senator Stewart was against the bond in the first instance, and because he was he intends to be a stumbling block to the fulfilment of the bond to the bitter end. He is against this railway root and branch. He says, “ We want to develop the Northern Territory,” but, according to the honorable senator, the best way to do so is to see that there shall be no railway constructed in it. The honorable senator reminds me very much of a story I heard in Western Australia of a man who, I suppose, must have been another member of the Stewart family. He was an old kangaroo shooter. A proposal was made to build a railway into the wilderness where this man earned his living as a kind of hermit by shooting kangaroos. A meeting -in support of the railway was held, and this old fellow turned up at the meeting, and said, “ Look here, Mr. Chairman, about this here railway. I do not know much about railways, but I am a kangaroo shooter. I earn my living by shooting kangaroos, and taking the skins in 90 miles to Bunbury. Well, if this railway is made, and the engine comes along, and whistles when I have my rifle levelled at a boomer, I shall lose a kangaroo, and therefore I object to the railway.” Senator Stewart has adopted the attitude of this smallminded man, who objected to the construction of a railway in Western Australia. I want this railway. I would suggestto Senator Stewart, in connexion with what he had to say about South Australia, that it should be rememberedto the credit of that State, that she shouldered the burden of the Northern Territory at a time when no other State of the Commonwealth would undertake the business. The fact that she took over the management of the Territory with her limited resources prevented it passing under the British Crown, and we were saved the possibility, perhaps the risk, and perhaps the certainty, of the British Government running it as a Crown colony, and introducing a horde of alien races to work and develop the country under the rule of the capitalist.
– The South Australians themselves proposed to do that, and hand it over to a syndicate.
– It should be remembered in all fairness to South Australia that by her action in taking the Northern Territory under her protecting wing we were saved the possibility, if not the certainty, of having there to-day the alien curse with which the United States of America are confronted through a weak Government planting in the country an alien race for the purpose of advancing the interests of the capitalist class. South Australia has preserved this large part of Australia white, and that should stand to her credit for all time in the mind of any impartial man. Senator Stewart wants information and he wants figures to show that this line will pay from the jump. The honorable senator has only to remember his experience of railways in Queensland. He must know that the Townsville line, and the line from the Gulf, of which I know something, were for years a source of expense to the Queensland Government, and that they only began to pay after they had been established for years. We do not want to wait until railway construction from the Northern Territory will pay from the jump. What we want to do is to keep faith with the intention of this Parliament in taking over the Territory, and that was to develop it more vigorously than it was possible for South Australia to do. We took over the Territory on the understanding that South Australia, with her limited resources and the problem she had to face in the development of her own territory, could not do justice to the Northern Territory. We took over the Territory with the intention of pushing forward the development of that hitherto unoccupied land. We have to consider how to make it attractive to settlers. We cannot do that without spending money, and the Northern Territory must for many years be a moneyeating concern for the Commonwealth, but it will be for our safety and interest in the end that we have taken it over. We cannot expect people to go from other parts of Australia to this uninviting land unless we make it attractive to them. I spent years in North Queensland when I was younger, and though, of course, a person can stand a good deal of knocking about and hardship when he is young, ifhe is given the choice he will naturally prefer a temperate to a tropical clime. The fact that population in Australia is concentrated largely in the southern and more temperate parts is a proof that they have more charms for the white settler than have the tropics. To overcome that natural disadvantage, we must spend money in this tropical country, and demonstrate to the world that it is capable of carrying and maintaining a white race. The first step in this direction is to build a railway to enable settlers to get their produce to the seaboard, to cheapen production, and to make the country a place where settlers will be able to make a fortune, because they will deserve to do so more easily, and in a shorter time, than they could in any other part of Australia. I say that this is the first step in that direction, and I am surprised that there should be stunted-minded Australians, even of my own party, in this Chamber who regard this proposal as one that should not be supported. On the question of building the line under the contract system, I am hoping that the Government will open their eyes to the experience of every State in Australia. Apart from New South
Wales and Queensland, we have demonstrated in Western Australia beyond question that the Government can build stretches of railway by the day-labour system, and save the taxpayers £-0,000. That has been demonstrated even to the satisfaction of the most exacting critic of the day-labour system. Senator Mullan has pointed out that in Queensland, in the construction of 1,000 miles of railway by the day-labour system, as compared with the construction of a similar length of line by the contract system, there was a saving of over £2,000,000 to the taxpayers of the State. Furthermore, it has to be remembered that the men who take upon their shoulders the actual work of constructing these lines receive a much better wage under the day-labour system than they receive under the contract system. Upon this point I can speak from my own personal experience. I have worked for a railway contractor in Queensland, where I was employed in the ballast-pit, in the plate-laying gang, and in carting rails, and the highest wage I ever received was from 7s. 6d. to 8s. per day. The line upon which I was engaged was that from Roma to Charleville. When the contract was “finished the contractor purchased a sheep station, while I humped my “bluey” looking for work. I helped him to buy that sheep station, for the reason that, while I was in his employ, I, along with scores of others, received, a lower wage than that to which I was entitled. A Liberal Minister in Queensland, Mr. Paget, has dealt with this very subject of day labour versus the contract system. He says -
The average rate under the regime of the contractor was 7s. 6d. per day, whereas the average rate under the day-labour system so profitable to Queensland was not 7s. 6d., but 9s. 6d. and 10s. per day.
It will thus be seen that in the first place there was a saving to the Queensland taxpayers of the enormo’us sum of over £2,000,000 on these lines, and in the second, that the men engaged upon them received something more approaching a living wage than they would have received from contractors. I know of contractors who, when they had finished their contracts, took trips to Europe. The men who helped them to build these lines assisted them to take those trips. The policy of the Labour party is to enable the men who work upon these big undertakings to obtain better wages, instead of giving contractors an ‘opportunity to take trips to Europe, or to purchase motor cars. Our policy is to enable the workmen to purchase a bit of land on their own account. That is all I have to say on this matter. I am supporting the Bill, and I am surprised that there should be any opposition to it. We have taken on the development of the Territory from patriotic motives. We want to people it, and we cannot hope to do so unless we put money into the venture and make the place an attractive one to ‘people who go there. If the Northern Territory had been an inviting place, there would have been thousands of persons there to-day. But, unless we make a special effort, we cannot hope to induce people to go there. Through all the years it has remained practically unoccupied, it has been one of the vulnerable points of Australia, and it has provided every country in the world which may have designs upon it with an opportunity to point to it and say, “If you do not occupy that area, what claim have you to it?” This Bill represents an attempt to destroy that argument, and therefore it has my hearty support.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [4.0]. - The proposal which is now before us is one to construct 54 miles of railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River. Senator Stewart, who’ has spoken so energetically upon it, and who has announced his intention of voting against the Bill, also intimated his desire to open up the Northern Territory by means of railways, and to connect the more populous States on the eastern side of the continent with the Northern Territory. As I interjected when he was speaking, if he is in favour of such a line, this proposal will form a part of it.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of it?
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.I am supporting the proposal which is now before us. If I entertained the honorable senator’s view that the proper route to be followed by our transcontinental line from north to south is one through Queensland and New South Wales, I should still be in favour of the proposed line as a part of that railway. I wish now to say a few words upon the question of “defence, of which Senator
Stewart made a great deal. He told us that if the Northern Territory were invaded by the Japanese or some other enemy, the majority of our troops would have to be transported from New South Wales and Queensland. Now, the position is that six States constitute the Commonwealth, and the direct line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek would, in case of invasion from the north, be more convenient to four of those States for the transport of troops than would any other. It would be more convenient to Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, and also to the bulk of Victoria. I would further point out that a railway from Condobolin to Broken Hill has already been authorized by the New South Wales Parliament, and that in all probability it will be constructed before the transcontinental line from north to south has been completed.
– There will then be a chance for the State which the honorable senator represents to show its patriotism.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLINAs a matter of fact, the direct line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek would then be most convenient for the transport of troops to the north in the case of five of the States of the Commonwealth. Only a few days ago, I heard an honorable ‘senator argue that the transcontinental line, if constructed from the northern end, might be a convenience to’ invaders rather than to our defenders.
– I argued that way.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.Those who entertain that view, if they come from Queensland or New South Wales, might rest in perfect security if the transcontinental line were extended from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, because the Japanese would not then have an opportunity to get at them. I am not averse to the idea of connecting the Northern Territory with New South Wales and Queensland by means of a branch line after the main line has been completed. Over twenty years ago I was a member of a Royal Commission which recommended that a line should be constructed from Her gott to Innamincka or Birdsville to tap the north-western portion of New South Wales, and the south-western portion of Queensland, and I was a member of a Government which embodied that proposal in its policy. Had it not been for the imminence of Federation, and the general idea which obtained that the Northern Territory was too large a proposition for one State to develop unaided, that line would have been constructed. South Australia has always been ambitious to run a line from Adelaide to Port Darwin. But for Federation having intervened, I venture to say that that railway ere this would have been extended as far as the Macdonnell Ranges. South Australia does not fear the running of a trunk line into Queensland and New South Wales, because, from her geographical position, she would secure a good deal of the traffic which would pass over it. With the exception of Brisbane and Sydney, there are no ports on the eastern coast of Australia which can compare with Port Augusta. I recollect taking a trip along the Queensland coast some years ago in the Peregrine, and I know that we had to lie outside Mackay for some’ time until a lighter craft came along and took us off the steamer. We were then conveyed further into the port, where we had to be transferred to a boat, and finally we had to be carried to the shore.
– That is one of our worst ports.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.I ako remember lying outside Rockhampton for six hours, waiting for the tide. With the exception of Brisbane and Gladstone, I am credibly infor-med that there is not a decent port along the Queensland coast. South Australia has no reason, because of her geographical position and her splendid port at Port Augusta, to fear any ‘ connexion by rail between the Northern Territory and the eastern States. That is all I have to say upon that aspect of the question. I quite , agree that we ought to consider the conditions under which workmen shall be employed upon this proposed undertaking, and I shall support the amendment of Senator Pearce in that direction, I trust that Senator Stewart, having relieved himself by his wild outburst, will not press for a division upon the second reading of the Bill. If he has any more to say upon this matter, I hope that he will say it when the proposal for the construction of the main portion of the line is before us. I regret that so far a measure has not been submitted to this Parliament to authorize the permanent survey of that line. I recollect that in the case of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, five or six years elapsed between the period when the survey was authorized and the commencement of the work. It is certainly time, therefore, that we had a Bill before us to authorize the permanent survey of the line from Oodnadatta to the Katherine River.
– Surveyors are at work now south of the Katherine River.
– I - I have pleasure in supporting the Bill.
– I am rather surprised at the line which this debate is taking. It appears to me as almost a tug-df-war between Queensland and South Australia ; the rest of the Commonwealth not being taken into consideration. As I listened rather attentively to Senator Stewart, I was longing for the three months to go by when we are to have a double dissolution, and living quite in hopes that the result would be to put at the head of the Commonwealth’s affairs a big-minded man of his stamp. I think that, apart from using strong and abusive language, any one who carefully followed his remarks would see that his chief objection was to dealing with these matters in a petty way, to making one little attempt at a time, instead of adopting a broad and comprehensive system of linking up the whole of the railway systems in the Commonwealth. That is how his arguments impressed themselves upon me. I was certainly astonished at Senator Lynch and Senator O’Loghlin feeling disposed to condemn the wise policy of railway development foreshadowed by Senator Stewart. Those who do live any great length of time here will, I prophesy, see carried out some system very similar to that outlined by the honorable senator in a speech which, to my mind, has not been received as it should have been by those who allow their bias to warp their judgment. 1 approach this Railway Construction Bill with a perfectly unbiased mind. i have such confidence in my country that almost any railway proposal to open up any part of the Commonwealth claims my support. But there is one objection that I have to the present proposal. When Senator Stewart was speaking, there seemed to be an attempt to make out that this piece of line can be fitted on to a system ‘ for linking up southern Queensland and western New South
Wales. At the same time, when South Australians are taking a hand in the discussion, there seems to be an attempt to make out that this piece of line will leave the way open to carrying out the original contract with their State, because I think we can safely say that the construction of the transcontinental railway to link up with the Western Australian railways has been promised by the people of Australia, and must be carried out. But there is another principle involved in this Bill to which I was surprised to see my honorable friends taking so ‘ kindly. When a Loan Bill is before the Senate, my honorable friends are so anxious to stand to fixed and set principles that we cannot even borrow money to buy land for defence purposes; but when a Railway Construction Bill is under consideration, they can forget altogether the principle of day labour, and vote to give the present Government an opportunity of constructing the line under the contract system. What does that really mean? It means the enriching of a few contractors. That is a principle which the Senate, with its great majority of Labour men, should not tolerate in any Bill. It is a principle which - in the Bill itself we can prevent from being carried out. If it is our duty to prevent the purchase of land for defence purposes under a Loan Bill, it is still more our duty to prevent the Government from having an opportunity to enrich a few of their contracting friends by letting a contract for the construction of 54 miles of railway. Now, what is a railway of 54 miles for the development of the Northern Territory ? What will it lead to if the Government call for tenders? The contractor will make up an estimate for a plant sufficiently large to carry out a railway of 500 or 1,000 miles, so that this little extension of 54 miles will be saddled with the initial expenses of a plant almost as large as would be employed in constructing 500 or 1,000 miles ; and the taxpayers will have to bear that cost. That will all be put down to the glorification of the system of private enterprise, of carrying out public works by contract instead of through the Government. If the Senate is so timid that it will give the Government what they want, I do appeal to the Government that, when the Bill is passed, they should not involve the community in the costly construction of the railway by contract? What is the system of contracting for a short line of this kind ? The contractor will take out his quantities, and, when he has added to his estimate every conceivable expenditure, he will put down 10 or 20 per cent. to cover unforeseen expenses, although he has already calculated the cost on a liberal scale. Instead of the 10 or 20 per cent. to cover unforeseen expenditure, which, of course, will go into the pocket of the contractor, could not the Government have so prepared their estimate that, even if day labour should cost a little more, it might be employed, though I maintain that the experience of all the States proves the very reverse ? At any rate, the taxpayers would be saved the additional profit handed as a present; to the contractor for taking no risk. Not only that, but the invitation for tenders will not evoke anything like fair competition between contractors, because too much money would have to be expended in preparing a plant, and too much risk undertaken in getting the workmen to carry out the railway, for the work to be done at anything like a reasonable cost under the contract system.
– The plans will be prepared by the Government beforehand.
– Everything that will be costly, but necessary, will be done at the expense of the Government. Here is another reason for the Government to build the railway. We are opening up a new country. What has kept back the development of the Northern Territory is the far-reaching belief that it is not a very suitable place for white folk to reside in. A contractor anxious for profit will rush in as many hundreds of men as he can get to work there, and subject them to conditions that will leave no room or scope for the men to make themselves reasonably comfortable; he will hurry, harass, and work the men. Why? The object will be to make a little more profit out of the men’s hard toil. A contract carried out under such conditions may result in the spread of diseases such as fever through a camp. That is quite within the bounds, not only of possibility but of probability, if a contractor is allowed to carry out the work unrestrained and uninfluenced by the Government. I am anxious to insert in the Bill an amendment which will, to some extent, provide for the safety of the men who, after all, will have to do the work whether it is carried out by a contractor or by the Government. I intend to move the insertion of the following clause - 14b. Where the railway is being constructed by contract, the contractor shall provide to the satisfaction of the Minister or some person appointed by him at all camps formed by the employes engaged in the construction of the railway, proper sanitary arrangements, and a full supply of water, and a regular supply of pure food.
I understand that Senator Needham has also drafted an amendment which will deal with the question of the prices at which food is to be supplied; I do not wish to trespass on his preserves. I merely mention my intention of moving an amendment as, perhaps, some honorable senator might think that it should go a little further when it is moved. If the Government intend to let a contract; it will be their bounden duty to protect the workmen. In the case of the Panama Canal the most elaborate precautions were taken to insure the health of the men while at work. This great Commonwealth in carrying out any of its works must adopt the most up-to-date methods to protect the men. I know that these ideas are rather far advanced for a Government who will have the expenditure of this money. I know that their splendid idea of leaving everything to the tender mercies of the private enterprising contractor is the ideal of the party. Their ideal is to get the work done cheaply, to get a little more sweat and toil out of the men so that the contractor may make huge profits and, perhaps, have a big surplus to help the funds of the Liberal party when elections are coming on. I have a strong objection to giving a Government whose principles are so well known to us the opportunity of using money and patronage to bolster up a system of railway construction by private contractors, because it has proved itself costly in every State where it has been tried. However, I realize that, with the close of the session to-morrow, as has been arranged by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Government, it would be inflicting too much annoyance on honorable senators to continue this debate at unusual length. I rose to protest against the Bill being permitted bo pass with the open proposal of the Government to go right up against what I consider one of the principles on which they should carry out this work, and that is not to get the last possible ounce of work out of a man, but to grant reasonable conditions, and, in return for a fair day’s work, to give a fair day’s wage. On some of the railway works carried out in New South Wales under a Labour Government, the improved sanitary arrangements at the camps and a little attention given to the supply of things which are necessary for the men, not only made their lives more bearable in performing arduous work, but contributed to their health, and also to the efficiency and rapidity of construction. I hope that the Government, even at the last moment, will recognise that, should they call for tenders they will be up against the business proposition - of very few tenderers competing to take a railway plant to the north-west of the Commonwealth. Not only will very few contractors compete, but those who do compete must charge an extraordinarily large amount to safeguard themselves against possible failure. That is one of the risks which should reasonably be taken by the Commonwealth Government. I join with Senator Stewart in complaining that the Government are rushing in here to spend £400,000 without sufficient knowledge of the scheme which it is intended to carry out. We could well afford to wait for six months while a full inquiry was made if necessary by the proposed Public Works Committee as to the best route to adopt, and also as to where the line should end, instead of giving the Government permission to call for tenders for the construction of a railway for 54 miles, which will undoubtedly be saddled with the total cost of the contractor’s plant. After we have paid for the plant, if we want to construct another length of 54 miles the Government will have to purchase that plant or a new contractor will get a plant, and again the Commonwealth will have to pay for a plant for constructing 54 miles of line. I would like to see a big scheme mapped out, not a scheme on hard and fast lines, which cannot be altered in the light of additional information and the growing demands of the Commonwealth, but a scheme which will provide for the railway development of Australia in this direction for the next ten years. That could be done at no great cost, and if done now would save the Commonwealth hundreds of thousands of pounds. I feel sure that the Senate is making a mistake in responding to the wish of the Government to rush this measure through. Its effect will be to give Ministers the power to have this railway constructed by a private contractor, probably one of their own friends, who will make a good, stiff profit out of it. Surely the Commonwealth Government, with all the engineers and officials it has in its employment, could prepare the plans, and appoint supervisors, who would be able to undertake the construction of this piece of work as efficiently as any private contractor could do. Why do the Government shirk the responsibility? Why should the Senate give them an opportunity of shirking it? Why should we reverse the policy of the party which, during the past three years, so successfully managed the affairs of this Commonwealth, and which is still the policy of the majority of the Senate? However, I do not wish to delay the consideration of the Bill in Committee. In respect to a desire to bring the session to a determination, I am a loyal supporter of both the head of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition; but I object to this Bill in principle, and I strongly object to giving this Government, which is clinging on to office with a majority of one in another place, the power to reverse our policy. If the Government had any decency, they would not consent to hold office with a party of twenty-nine against their seven in the Senate.” But they are naturally anxious to secure this Bill, which will afford them an opportunity of giving a few of their friends a chance of making an enormous profit. It will be of no use for any of us to squeak after the money has been spent about one or two having reaped all the benefit from it. As I am aware that the Senate intends to pass the Bill, I must submit. I simply enter my protest against it. As I am unable to give effect to that protest by voting out the Bill, I shall have to accept it. I recognise the force of the promise that has been made to South Australia. It must be carried out. The people of Australia are anxious that a promise made by one Parliament shall be honoured by the next. I shall welcome the time when we shall get a comprehensive scheme of railway construction introduced, to commence to work on the line traversing the continent from north to south, as our own Government commenced the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta line, at both ends, and a Government that will carry out the policy with earnestness and vigour. Another reason that strikes me for not intrusting the Government with this work is that they are showing no sincerity in regard to the construction of the West Australian railway. What are they doing with that work now?
– Absolutely nothing.
– The work upon the line has been diminished since the Government took office. The excuse has been made that they cannot get sleepers.
– The earthworks have not been advanced 5 miles since Mr. Chinn left.
– Why should we give this Government an opportunity of letting their friends construct these 54 miles of railway, and extract a big profit out of the work when they are failing completely to carry out the undertaking that is in progress.
– That is not correct.
– We have just been informed that not 5 miles of earthworks have been carried through during the six months since the Government came into power. Answers given by Ministers themselves have shown that there has been a great weakening in the progress of the work. I believe it is their deliberate policy not to proceed expeditiously with the task on the daylabour principle with the object of handing it over to their contractor friends. What can we expect from a Government whose principal anxiety is to hang on to office by their slippery majority of one? How can we expect them to undertake works of this kind when their main concern is how to get over the next obstacle that will confront them? Having uttered these words of warning about the Bill, I have to say that, as I know we shall not be able to vote it out, I intend to submit to its passage. Generally, I am in favour of the construction of railways, because I am in favour of any policy that will afford opportunities for opening up country and for settling people on wider areas of our rich Australian territory.
– I listened very carefully to what Senator Stewart said about this proposal. I could not discover that his conclusion followed from his premises. He argued that because South Australia transferred the Northern Territory to the CommonWealth, and thereby relieved herself of liabilities, she was actuated by pure selfishness. As a South Australian, I take strong exception to that argument, which is very wide of the actual truth. Those who know the circumstances are- aware that brave attempts were made by South Australia to develop the Northern Territory with the scanty capital she had at her disposal. The reason why the railway for the development of the Territory ought to run to Port Augusta is not because it will benefit Adelaide, but simply because it is the. best route through the centre of this great land. Senator Stewart lost sight of the very elements which must be taken into consideration regarding the construction of the line. * One has only to look at the map of Australia to see that the projected railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek will almost of necessity take in the Katherine River; and if Senator Stewart, before launching out into such diatribes, had made himself acquainted with the character of the country, he would know that the proposed route is absolutely the best from the developmental point of view. One of the reasons for constructing the line is that it is required for defence purposes. If we build from the northern end only we shall have no means of reaching an enemy that may enter Australia from Darwin. The purpose of such an enemy would not be to assail Queensland, lt would be to send here a sufficient force to occupy Darwin, and penetrate south. Senator Stewart said that the bond entered into with South Australia is a wicked one. Surely that is a; sweeping statement. There was a period in the history of New South Wales when she governed Queensland. Will Senator Stewart say that it was wicked of Queensland to claim to be independent territory? He will admit that it was wise. Suppose that South Australia had developed the Northern Territory from the northern end. It would then have been possible, immediately sufficient population had gathered, to start a separate State. If that occurred, South Australia would have had all the care and anxiety of development for a State that could have separated when it chose. South Australia, however, kept the Northern Territory intact, and when the proper time came, handed it over to the Commonwealth, which ia better able to develop it. I claim that the sanest proposal is that the development should take place from the southern end. Once the tract of country between Oodnadatta and the high tableland beyond the Macdonnell Ranges is bridged by a railway, there is no doubt in the minds of those who, by reading or by actually traversing the country, have made themselves acquainted with it, that it can be developed by white people. If for defence purposes this transcontinental railway is to be built, it should be from Oodnadatta northwards. If it should be built “for developmental purposes, it should be from the southern end also. I remind honorable senators who have taken such a strong objection to this proposal that when it was suggested that the line should divert somewhat towards Queensland from the original route chosen, representatives of South Australia raised no objection, but we do contend that South Australia offers in Port Augusta the best terminus for the railway and the best facilities for the development of the central portion of Australia. We raisedno objection to the Commonwealth taking over the Territory, because wo felt that the Commonwealth could develop it better than could South Australia. I regret very much that Senator Stewart should suggest that we are dealing with this matter merely as South Australians. We look upon this proposal as a railway for the development, not of South Australia, Western Australia, or Victoria, but of the Commonwealth. The Northern Territory is Commonwealth territory to-day, and I regret that my friends from Queensland should so firmly object to this proposal. Coming to the question of the bond, I grant that it was part of the bond that, on talcing over the Territory, the Commonwealth should construct this line. There was nothing selfish in that on the part of South Australia, in view of the fact that the route suggested had been, to a certain extent, surveyed, and the country examined by several expeditions carried out by the South Australian Government. The Honorary Minister told us, in introducing this measure and also in speaking on the Loan Bill, that the line now proposed follows very closely the route surveyed by Mr. Graham Stewart, Engineer - in-Chief for South Australia. Senator
Stewart speaks of the wickedness of the bond, and suggests that it rests upon us as a sort of nightmare, but I think that in making that statement he was influenced by a desire to say something that was strong rather than something that was truthful. I think the honorable senator was led away by his imagination to overlook the facts of the case. I do not imply for a moment that if he had been acquainted with the facts, he would have made such statements. The honorable senator probably regarded this as a question on which Queensland would desire that he should say something strong. Conditions were made with the Commonwealth when the Territory was taken over, and it is but an act of justice that they should be complied with. As an act of justice, the Fisher Government complied with those conditions in connexion with the construction of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, and Senator Stewart, if he be consistent, must apply his view as to the wickedness of the bond to the construction of that railway also. I think that the honorable senator is like the good old Scotchman who said -
They are a’ wrang, a’together wrang,
There’s no’a man about the town, but’s a’together wrang.
Senator Stewart has taken a very narrow outlook, and his conception has been that of a man representing a particular State rather than that of a member of a council of the nation. He has overlooked the evidence gathered by South Australia as to the best means of developing this huge Territory. He has overlooked the fact that South Australia has transferred all the knowledge she gained of the Territory to the Commonwealth.
– Oh, let us go to a division.
– My honorable friend had his say uninterruptedly. He said all the bitter things he could on the matter. He charged us with being selfish and one-eyed, and he took a good while to do so. When we are forcing the truth upon him, he says, “ Let us go to a division.” The honorable senator wishes to run away when his own arguments are being driven against him. The only fault I have to find with the Government in this connexion is that they have not supplied a considerable amount of information, which they should have been in a position to put before the Senate, for the benefit of honorable senators who have not heard the condition of affairs in the Northern Territory as frequently discussed as have honorable senators coming from South Australia. The Senate should have been informed as to the character of the country through which the line will pass, the difficulties to be overcome, the length of the bridges required, the conditions existing when there are heavy summer floods, and so on. This information should have been put before the Senate that honorable senators might be in a position to decide whether an overestimate of the cost has been submitted. I agree with honorable senators who have expressed the opinion that the conditions of labour to be observed in the construction of the line should be incorporated in the Bill. If the Government intend to substitute the contract system for the day-labour system, we should know whether they propose to safeguard the men engaged in the construction of this line, as we should certainly safeguard the men who take their lives in their hands, go into this strange land, face many difficulties, and who may possibly become the victims of malaria or fevers arising from the nature of the climate. There must be some human spot in the breasts of members of the Government, which should induce them to safeguard men called upon to work under such conditions. We ask them in this measure, which is to authorize the construction of only the first of many railways in tropical parts of the Commonwealth, to establish such a precedent that, in connexion with all railway construction’ in tropical regions, care will be taken of the men engaged in the work. We should not lose sight of the fact that this line should not be built only 50 miles at a time. We should adopt in connexion with its construction the principle adopted in connexion with the construction of some of the South Australian lines. As soon as one line is tendered for, an extension of it is surveyed. A definite plan of railway construction should be put forward, and there should be something like consecutiveness in the work. The object is that contractors, when sending in tenders for an extension, may know that when they have gone to the expense of transporting a plant to an out-of-the-way district, there will be some reasonable possibility of having work for the men they will have gathered around them when their contract is finished, and for the plant they will have collected. In this way it is possible to secure a second contract at a cheaperrate. This is a matter which should certainly be taken into consideration. I have no wish to delay the passing of the Bill, but I desire to answer some of the strictures by Senator Stewart, which were unjust in their character, were clearly not carefully thought cut. and gave evidence of but little knowledge. Following upon the lines adopted by Senator Lynch, may I quote an example to show that development is to be expected by carrying this line forward? I may refer honorable senators to the railways which have been constructed in the Pinnaroo district of South Australia. There was some delay in the construction of the first of the railways, because it was made a condition by one of the Chambers of the State Legislature that 200,000 acres of land in the district should be taken up before the Bill authorizing the construction of the railway could be signed by the Governor. That condition was fulfilled, and what has been the consequence of that first experimental line? Other lines have since been constructed, and the district is to-day a new province for South Australia, because of the facilities of communication afforded by railway construction. Some of the richest agricultural land is to be found in that district to-day. If we have the courage and foresight to anticipate thefuture, we need not fear that railways in Australia will not do for us what railways have done for America. Australia will, with railway construction, become, not a land of empty spaces, but a land thickly peopled by successful settlers.
Question- That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Route of the railway).
– While I do not expect the Honorary Minister to be in a position to state definitely how all public works are to be undertaken during the present Government’s tenure of office, I think that he ought to be able to inform us what are the intentions of the Ministry in respect of the construction of this line. Is it intended that the work shall be done under the contract system or by means of day labour ?
– Although that question has been answered seventy times seven, I am prepared to answer it again. The Government do not intend either on this or any other projected railway to depart from their declared principle. But, in addition to believing in the system for which they have already declared, they desire to be practical, and it may be that for reasons either of compulsion or of necessity they may have to deviate from that system in connexion with this undertaking. That is where we differ from honorable senators opposite. While we are just as strong as they are in the affirmation of a principle in which we believe, we recognise that circumstances may sometimes arise which demand the setting aside of that principle. I would remind my honorable friends that even lunatics have sane intervals. I can assure Senator Findley that if it is practicable this railway will be constructed in accordance with the system which we advocate. But, nevertheless, we are practical men, and it may be that circumstances may dictate the wisdom of departing from that principle.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 -
The gauge of the railway shall be 3 ft. 6 in.
SenatorPEARCE (Western Australia) [5.6]. - I move -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ but provision shall be made in the construction of the permanent way and works for subsequent alteration to a gauge of four feet eight and a half inches.”
We have the Minister’s assurance that the Government intend to make provision in the works for a subsequent conversion to the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, and in such circumstances I think there can be no objection to the insertion of the words I desire as a direction from Parliament that that shall be done.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [5.7]. - Whilst I agree with the general purpose of the amendment, I desire to amend it, and with that end in view I move -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ four feet eight and a half” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the standard gauge of the Commonwealth.”
I cannot see that we have yet reached finality upon the question of a uniform gauge for the Commonwealth. I am one of those who believe that the weight of evidence by experts is in favour of the adoption of a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. My point of view is that Australia, more than any other continent, must look forward to an enormous number of railways as practically her only means of transport, because we have no water carriage. Consequently, the haulage of big loads will become an essential factor in the economical and swift working of our railways. Whilst Great Britain is quoted as an example which we should follow on account of the rate at which her trains travel, owing to the different conditions which obtain here, it may be wise for us to adopt the widest gauge existing in the Commonwealth, instead of the medium one which obtains in New South Wales. I know that it is estimated that the conversion of our existing lines to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge would cost many millions of pounds more than would their conversion to the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge. I recognise, too, that the question of money is the main factor which prevents the balance of feeling being in favour of the adoption of the wider gauge. The State Engineers-in-Chief have met, and, with the protest of only one - the Engineerin Chief of Victoria-
– No, it was a unanimous report.
– No; in a published report the Victorian Engineer-in-Chief was opposed to it.
– You are both right; the first report was unanimous, but the second was not.
– Like a will, the second one is the more important.
-Subsequent to the report being issued, the Engineer-in-Chief for South Australia said he had dissented, bub his dissent was not recorded.
– The State EngineersinChief, after all, are not the experts who have the running of the railways. They do not know as much as the enginedrivers, in many cases, and those who have worked their way up from the footplates. They are very largely theoretical men. Practical men are more and more realizing that big dangers are involved in the use of long trains on a narrow gauge. However, a cost of a few millions would not weigh with me in a great national undertaking like establishing a uniform gauge for the railways of Australia. Leaving that point aside for the moment, there is a practical difficulty in the way. Between Melbourne and Adelaide, and also on the northern part of the line to Terowie, the gauge is 5 ft. 3 in. ; consequently, there will have to be a lot of negotiations with the State Governments before we can adopt a uniform gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in., if that is the gauge finally adopted.
– What is your suggested amendment?
– My suggestion is that in this Bill we should not mention the actual width, but merely refer to “the standard gauge of the Commonwealth.” I do not look upon the question of gauge as finally settled.
– That is no good.
– I am prepared, then, to say “5 ft. 3 in.,” because the greater will include the less. If we have the earthworks, bridges, and curves made suitable for a gauge of 5 ft. 3 in., the track will be no worse, but very much better, for a gauge of 4 ft.8½ in.
– If you do not state some gauge in the Bill, how can the Government proceed with the work?
– I ask leave to amend my amendment by substituting “5 ft. 3 in.” On a question of this kind I do not want to try to commit the Senate to the adoption of a particular gauge, but to provide for the use of the widest possible gauge that may be adopted. As the question of a standard gauge has never been finally settled, whatever opinions may have been offered, it is wiser to have the permanent way of this line made wide enough for the widest gauge that may be adopted.
– We are laying the transcontinental line from west to ease on a 4-ft.8½-in. gauge.
– I am not content to take the State Engineers-in-Chief as the final arbiters of this matter, because it is a question of politics and finance. I believe that if they were not trammelled by those considerations, they would recognise that a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge has an advantage over a 4-ft.8½-in. gauge. As the cost of securing a uniform gauge, will have to be pooled throughoutAustralia, it is immaterial to me what State has a particular gauge. It is only right that the cost should be pooled whenever an alteration is decided upon. The defence argument has been used here by myself and others. Surely, if there is one argument that should appeal to us in this connexion it is the fact that Japan has recently decided to adopt 4 ft. 8½ in. as its standard gauge. I think it will be a fine thing if our lines are of a different gauge, so that it will be impossible for the Japanese to import rolling-stock to work the lines, should they happen to make an effective landing here. By leave, I amend my amendment to read as follows : -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ four feet eight and a half “ with a view to add “five feet three” inlieu thereof.
Amendment amended accordingly.
– I do not think that I was more clear and emphatic in my second-reading speech on any point than I was on the point of stating that the arrangements which the Government had started to make for the construction of this railway most specifically embraced the object of this amendment. I ventured to hope that, even though we are such a minority here, regard would be paid by Senator Pearce to that statement. He knows the penalty which the Ministry would probably incur if they broke that promise given here. In my second-reading speech I touched on this question of making provision beforehand for the adoption of a uniform gauge throughout the Commonwealth’. I said that we would not dream of touching any part of the construction of this line unless that point were safeguarded. I ask the Committee to allow the Bill to pass unloaded with provisions of this kind. The distinct object of the Government is to anticipate practically what is in the mind of Senator Pearce. We have decided, for instance, and the decision will stand, to use 80-lb. rails. The honorable senator probably knows that those are not the rails which prudent men would use in constructing a light railway; but those rails have been chosen in view of the possible contingency that they may be used for a wider gauge.
– The important thing is, not the rails, but the bridges.
– There are no bridges.
– Yes; across two rivers.
– I pointed out that the cutting of the sleepers and the bridges will be designed for a wider gauge than that of 3 ft. 6 in.
– What is the objection to putting a provision in the Bill?
– My objection is that it has not been put in a Bill yet. Were our positions reversed, I, after receiving such an assurance as I gave in my second-reading speech, would not have suggested to honorable senators for a moment an amendment which practically says, in effect, “ The Government are not worth a snap of the fingers. We want to translate their assurance into the Bill; we cannot trust them.”
– There is nothing of that kind about the amendment. The Bill says that the gauge shall be 3 ft. 6 in. I. am against that gauge, because I believe in a gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in.
– Will the honorable senator say that the Government ought to provide that the gauge shall be 4 ft. 8£ in. or 5 ft. 3 in., knowing that the line is to connect with an existing railway built on a gauge of 3 ft. 6 in. J We cannot do that. The Government have to build this extension on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. Had the existing railway from Port Darwin been built on a 4-ft. 8$in. gauge, we could have extended the line on that gauge, and still made provision probably for the adoption of a uniform gauge. Surely my honorable friend cannot expect the Government, in a Bill of this sort, to say that the futureuniform gauge for the whole of the Australian railways shall be 4 ft. 8£ in. ? I do not say that it will not be, but I do say that this is not the time to force theGovernment to make that declaration; and that is the declaration which wewould make if we were to accept the amendment. I hope that the honorablesenator will not press it. He knows that that is the deliberate intention of theGovernment, and it will be carried out.
– I do not know why the Honorary Minister objects so strongly to the amendment of -Senator Pearce. I could understand him objecting to Senator Rae’s proposal, and I am rather surprised that it has emanated from that honorable senator, because if there is anything about, him it is that he is invariably logical and consistent. When the late Government? were in power he voted for a Railway Construction Bill to link up the east and the west, which laid down that the gauge of the railway should be 4 ft. 8^ in.
– I spoke against the proposal because I thought it would have been wiser to adopt a gauge of 5 ft. 3 in.,, but I had to accept the proposal as the best under the circumstances.
– I do not think it is a business-like proposition to say to> the builders of the proposed railway, whether they be the Government or contractors, ‘ ‘ You shall make provision for a wider gauge.” What wider gauge has the honorable senator in his mind ? He says that a standard gauge for Australia has not been definitely fixed by any recognised authorities. Supposing that he had charge of the construction of this railway, what would be his direction to the builder? He would say, “Make provision for a wider gauge.” The builder would ask at once, “What gauge shall I provide for?” and the honorable senator would say, “ I cannot tell you, because Australia has not decided ‘that matter.”
– The measure would tell me, because the provision for a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge would not prove unsuitable for a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge.
– Supposing that the honorable senator said to the contractor, “ I want you to make provision for a wider gauge,” and that the contractor said, “Very good, Senator Rae, how wide shall the provision be?” the honorable senator would say, “ I do not know, because Australia has not decided that yet. Go on with the work, but make provision for a broader gauge.”
– I am mentioning the width in my amendment.
– Why should the honorable senator mention the width ?
– Because the greater includes the less.
– I saw in the Scientific American lately that lines are being built in the United States with a gauge of 7 ft. 3 in. I cannot understand the meaning imparted to the discussion regarding Senator Pearce’s amendment. Knowing Senator Clemons pretty well, I am satisfied that whenever he gives an assurance it is binding on him, and that he will do his best to see it carried out. But in doing business in Parliament, we do not rest content with promises made by Ministers. We put what we desire into Acts of Parliament, the execution of which is intrusted to the Government of the day. I can see no real objection to Senator Pearce’s amendment being carried.
.- I support Senator Pearce’s amendment, and, at the same time, express the hope that Senator Rae will not press his amendment. In Victoria the people are reasonably proud of their 5-ft. 3-in. gauge railways, and believe that to be the best gauge for Australia. But, at the same time, the Victorian people are Australians in the breadth of their thought. They clearly recognise that it is desirable that there should be a uniform gauge for Australia, and if they cannot get the gauge which they like, are prepared to accept that which may be decided upon for the Commonwealth as a whole. Senator Pearce’s amendment simply means that the bed of the road will be built in such a way as will enable the Commonwealth at a future time to expand the railway to whatever gauge is determined upon for all Australia. The difficulty regarding a uniform gauge is not so much that of determining which is the best one to adopt, but the expense incurred in making the alteration. I believe that the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge has been favoured in this Parliament, not because of its superior merits, or because of the demerits of the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, but because it would cost a few millions more to adopt the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge than to transfer lines constructed on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge to 5 ft. 3 in. I trust that no obstacle in the form of a rigid provision in an Act of Parliament will be placed in the way of Australia determining upon and adopting a uniform gauge.
– If the matter is left out of the Bill altogether, we shall be freer in determining the uniform gauge question.
– Not at all. When you are constructing a railway, it is not a serious matter to add 8, 10, or even 15 inches to the width of the track.
– We are going to do that - we have said so half-a-dozen times.
– But it is not for us, as senators, to accept promises made by Ministers, however much confidence we may have in their individual word. Our experience in politics as the result of accepting the word of Ministers, has been too painful. We desire to see what we favour implanted within the four corners of an Act of Parliament. I do not desire that Australia should be hampered in any way in regard to the adoption of a uniform gauge, but, at the same time, when action is taken in that direction, I do not want to have it brought up against me that at any time I voted for the adoption of the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge.
– That is why I suggest leaving out of the Bill all reference to the gauge.
– But I am not here to accept suggestions made on the ground of expediency by a Minister in a Government which I was returned to oppose.
– The question of 4 ft.8½ in. or 5 ft. 3 in. is purely one of expediency.
SenatorRUSSELL. - I intend to support Senator Pearce’s amendment, not because it will secure all I desire, but because it adopts the soundest method of giving a free hand to the railway experts who will hereafter determine the question of a uniform gauge for Australia.
.- I think the Committee ought to adopt Senator Pearce’s amendment. The Honorary Minister argues that if we accept it we shall tie the Government down to the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge in the event of any alteration being made hereafter. If that is the attitude of the
Minister, lie ought to propose to excise from clause 5 the words “ shall be 3 ft. 6 in.”
– The reason of that is obvious - because we have to make this railway in conjunction with the existing line.
– It is still more obvious why the amendment moved by Senator Pearce should be inserted. Senator Hae expressed some doubt as to the opinion of experts concerning the best standard gauge for Australia.
– I know that some experts are adverse to the 4-ft. 8-in, gauge.
– Senator Rae indicated that he would move a further amendment to make the clause read, “The standard gauge of Australia,” and when I indicated that one conference had been unanimous for the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge, he raised an objection on that point. I have before me the report of the conference of railway engineers, which considered the uniform gauge question. Here is a paragraph from it -
As our estimates indicate that the cost of conversion would be very greatly in favour of the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, we recommend the adoption of that gauge as the standard for Australia.’
That report is signed by Mr. H. Deane, Engineer-in-Chief for Commonwealth Railways; Mr. James Fraser, Engineer of Existing Lines in New South Wales; Mr. J. H. Fraser, Chief Enginer of Ways and Works, Victoria; Mr. J. C. B. Moncrieff, Engineer-in-Chief, South Australia; Mr. E. C. Light, Chief Engineer of Existing Lines, Western Australia ; and Mr. Norris G. Bell, Chief Engineer, Queensland. There was only one State, Tasmania, that was not represented at that Conference, and I see in the report no opinion on the’ subject from the Engineer-in-Chief of that State.
– Tasmania, as an island State, is not interested in the matter.
– From the Chief Engineers of the five States of the mainland we have a recommendation that the standard gauge should be the 4-ft. 8^-ia. gauge. It is stated in the report that the cost of the conversion of existing lines to the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge would be £12,142,000. In another part of the report, dealing with the question as to which is the better gauge, the 4 ft. 8J in., or the 5 ft. 3 in., the statement is made -
In this connexion, Western Australia has agreed to construct a. standard gauge Une, a portion of which has already been authorized by an Act of Parliament, to connect Fremantle and Perth with the Commonwealth line at Kalgoorlie.
This Parliament has authorized the construction of a line from the east to the west, from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, oh the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, and the Western Australian Parliament - long before this Parliament decided to begin the construction of the line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta - agreed to adopt the 4-ft. 8-in. gauge for the line between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle, so that there should be no transhipment of passengers, mails, or forces between Port Augusta and Fremantle. The report further says -
In South Australia, while “ conversion “ to the broad gauge lines would, if supplemented by a direct standard gauge line between Port Augusta and Adelaide, provide for a uniform gauge between the capitals, there are isolated lines, the alteration of which will not be needed until their connexion with the main lines becomes necessary ; and there are also some spur lines which might, without difficulty, be left over for future consideration.
– There is great logic in that: “An alteration will not be needed until it becomes necessary.”
– The reference is to a connexion with the South Australian and Western Australian lines. The point I make is that these qualified practical engineers in charge of railway construction in the different States of the mainland have come to this decision, not hurriedly or without due deliberation, because there have been many’ conferences.
– And not without dissent. <
– There is no dissent expressed in this report, and, so far as I know, it is the latest.
– Oh, yes, there was. Victoria declined absolutely to accept it.
– This report is signed by the representative of Victoria. The report I am quoting from is the report of the Uniform Gauge Conference, held in Melbourne, December, 1912, and April, 1913, and is signed by the gentlemen whose names I have read - the Commonwealth Engineer-in-Chief , Mr. Deane ; Mr. Fraser, of New South Wales; Mr. Fraser, of Victoria; Mr. Moncrieff, of South Australia; Mr. Light, of Western Australia; and Mr. Bell, of Queensland.
– I know that Eraser, of Victoria, did not accept the decision.
– The honorable senator says that the Victorian Engineer.inChief did not sign the report, but I have his signature here on an official document presented to this Parliament.
– I know -what his instructions were.
– Does the honorable senator know Mr. J. H. Eraser, the Chief Engineer for “Ways and Works for Victoria ?
– Is that not only a printed signature?
– Does the honorable senator mean to tell me that Mr. Eraser would permit his signature to appear attached to this report if he had not signed the draft report? I say that the representatives of the five States of the mainland have signed this document, recommending the 4-ft. 8 1/2in. gauge as the standard gauge for Australia.
– Does the honorable senator know that that decision is challenged by the highest authorities in Great Britain?
– I know that many things have been, and will be, challenged till Doomsday. Even the statements made by Senator McColl have been challenged by higher and lower authorities than the honorable senator.
– Not the honorable senator’s veracity, surely?
– Sometimes the honorable senator’s veracity has been challenged. I cannot give an expert opinion upon these questions. I must accept the opinion of engineering experts on the question of the cost of conversion from one gauge to another, the utility of a particular gauge, and the absolute necessity of determining at once upon a uniform gauge. I accept the opinions of these experts, and I have referred to them before, and to similar opinions expressed at similar conferences. I am astonished at the proposal now made, in view of the step we took in authorizing the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. Parliament is now being asked to authorize the construction of another line on which we are to perpetuate the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, which I am safe in asserting is condemned by all the engineers in Australia. I think the Committee should support the amendment suggested by
Senator Pearce, and should decide that if this line is to be constructed at all, following the example set by the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, it shall be constructed on the 4-ft. 84-in. gauge.
– I ask Senator Rae to temporarily withdraw his amendment, because I think that by an alteration of mine it may be made to SUit his views also. If the honorable senator will temporarily withdraw his amendment I shall ask permission to amend mine by inserting the words “not less than 4 feet 8J inches.”
– I have no objection to withdraw my amendment temporarily to permit Senator Pearce to do what he proposes, but before doing so I should like to refer to a matter which has cropped up in the course of the debate. We have been informed by the Honorary Minister that we have a guarantee of his word that provision will be made in the construction of this railway for the adoption ultimately of a wider gauge than 3 ft. 6 in., in the fact that the Government propose to lay down 80-lb. rails in building the line. If Ministers have come to such a determination, I wish to say that I consider it a very foolish step to take. It will take a considerable time to build this 50 odd miles of railway, and it will be very many years before it will be part of a transcontinental line linking up with the railway systems of the States. It will, when that time arrives, be necessary to relay the existing 145 miles between Port Darwin and Pine Creek on a wider gauge. In my opinion, it would be ridiculous, in the meantime, for us to lay out our money upon 80-lb. rails in the construction of this railway, when 60-lb. rails would be sufficient for all the work of the line for many years to come. The proposal would involve an enormous additional cost for freight and construction, and the rails would possibly be worn out before rails of such strength would really be required. This seems again to indicate that proper business capacity is not being shown in connexion with this line. The making of earthworks, bridges, and that sort of thing, which may be regarded as permanent, should be carried out from the first with a view to the adoption of the wider gauge, if we are not to be involved later on in huge expenditure for alterations. Senator Russell argued that a road-bed sufficient for a 4*ft. 8^-in. gauge might easily =be altered to carry a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. But that really does not touch the matter. I have conversed with many men of practical engineering knowledge on the question, and I have been informed that what really makes the distinction between the 4-ft. S£-in. gauge and the 5-ffc. 34n. gauge is the width of the curve. “Very much wider curves are required for a wide gauge than for a narrow-gauge line, and to secure a sufficiently wide curve in converting a narrow gauge into a broad-gauge railway it may be necessary to deviate hundreds of yards from the original line. That is where the extra cost will be incurred. In New South Wales, in order to get up greater speed, a tremendous amount of deviation work has had to be done, and, looking out of a train, one may see the original line half or three-quarters of a mile away from the. existing, line. In order to get a wider curve, it is often necessary to deviate widely from the original route. Wisdom is therefore shown in choosing a route with widely sweeping curves sufficient for a line on any gauge. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment of the amendment, by leave withdrawn.
– By leave, I propose to amend my amendment by inserting before “ four “ the words “ not less than.”
Amendment amended accordingly.
– I intend to support Senator Pearce’s amendment, and I fail to see how the Min.is.ter. can object to it when he has given us his personal assurance th,at it is tfe. indention of himself and the Government to do what Senator Pearce desires.
– That is not the only reason.
– I do not wish the Minister to think that I am doubting h£s, word in the matter, but it is a dangerous practice for any Parliament to accept an unsatisfactory provision, because the Minister in charge of the Billgives his personal promise that he will’ do certain things. It has been said- that the people of Australia have not yet made up their minds as to what is to be the national gauge. If- that be the case, in structions should be issued to-morrow to* stop work’ on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway forthwith until the Commonwealth Government have made up their minds as to what is to be the national gauge for Australia. What a blunder it would be if we were to go on constructing 1,100 or 1,200 miles of railway on a gauge that is quite new in that part of Australia, with the possibility that by the time it is finished it will be decided that the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge line should be pulled up, and some other gauge adopted. I should like to have some assurance that so far as the present Government are concerned they are determined that the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge shall be the national gauge.. In South Australia we have a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge and a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, and we have also a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge on the line which the Commonwealth is constructing from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. It seems to methat we shall be confronted with still an.other gauge in the Northern Territory when the north-south transcontinental’ railway is constructed, unless the Government decide to adopt on that line thi? gauge which has been adopted on tha east to west transcontinental railway line. Senator Rae has said that the difference: between the cost of some railway undertakings is accounted for to a large extent by the sweep of the curves. May X tell him that the difference between the. cost of building a wide railway line and a narrow one is accounted for by the difference in the width of the cuttings, bridges, and culverts, and not by the sweep of the curves. In South Australia deviations have been made to reduce the mileage which has been run by trains because, instead of cutting through hills,, the railways have been taken round them, in order that they might be constructed, cheaply.
– But the honorable senator will not contradict my statement ?
– I” will contradicts it, and I have worked on hundred’s of railways. The engineer who gave the» honorable senator his information waspulling his leg.
– The difference between, the cost of constructing a curveon the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge and on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge is not worth talking; about.
– Then the difference between the cost of constructing embankments on those gauges is not worth talking about.
– Yes, it is. It is the. width of the embankments, of the cuttings, and of the bridges which makes all the difference. I have had nearly thirty years’ experience of railway working, and I know something about the matter.
– Will the honorable senator deny that a train on a narrow gauge can negotiate a sharper curve than can a train on a broad gauge ?
– A train on our railways could not negotiate the curves which are negotiated by the cable trams.
– I am asking only a simple question.
– In the interests of safe travelling, railways are laid down in a certain way. The curves are made to a certain radius and pitch in order to insure safety. In the cost of constructing a railway there is very little difference between the radius of a curve on a narrow line and the radius of a curve on a broad line. In regard to this Bill, I would point out that the Government - from the statements which have been presented to us - have based their estimate of cost on the adoption of a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge. I can assure the Committee that if it should be decided to build embankments to carry a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, the cost of the line will be increased by many thousands of pounds. There is practical unanimity among the railway engineers of Australia that the uniform gauge in the Commonwealth should be 4 ft. in.
– Victoria dissented from that view.
– Then are we always to be governed by people outside?
– I merely desire to remove the mist that seems to be obscuring the vision of some honorable senators.
– Is the honorable senator “ stone- walling “ ?
– No ; but my honorable friend did a lot of it this afternoon. I am now giving him some of the information which he complained he had not got. I am anxious that the Commonwealth shall continue the construction of its railways on the gauge that has been adopted so as to obviate confusion in the minds of the people upon this question. I hope that. Senator Pearce’s amendment will be carried.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
The Minister may provide all things necessary or convenient for the efficient construction and working of the railway.
– I move -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ and the railway shall be constructed by day labour.”
I do not think it will be possible for the Government to build this line under the contract system. The labour difficulty in that part of the Commonwealth willbe so great that a lot of trouble will be experienced in inducing men to gothere at all, and if they are to be subjectedto the profit-making exactions of contractors, I think the whole scheme will come to an end.
– Senator Stewart has briefly referred to the difficulty of obtaining labour in the Northern Territory. I am entirely in favour of constructing public works by day labour, but I should like to have some assurance from the Government that this undertaking will not be controlled from the Melbourne office. A Select Committee has recently taken evidence which goes to show that a railway, no farther distant than Western Australia, has been hampered to a very great extent by reason of the fact that it has been controlled from this city. If it were possible, and we had a Government with intelligence enough to appoint a man to take sole charge of the construction of this railway, then undoubtedly the daylabour system would be the proper one to adopt, but if the work is to be controlled from Melbourne, no matter how much a contractor may put down for incidental expenses, there is no doubt that there will be a large sum for contingencies. I believe that if this line was constructed by day labour, under the supervision of the present Engineer-in-Chief for Railways, the contingencies that would be allowed by a contractor would pall into insignificance compared with the waste that would be incurred through the delay and extravagance resulting from controlling the work from Melbourne. I do not care whether it is Mr. Saunders, or Mr. Chinn, or Mr. Hobler, or any one else. If the Government will take a comparatively young man, with plenty of energy and a certain amount of initiative, and give him entire control in constructing the line, there is no comparison between the two systems. But undoubtedly this is going to be a very expensive work. The climate along the route is bad; men can only work there in comfort for six months in the year. All these things will have to be allowed for. One great argument in favour of day labour was referred to today by Senator Gardiner, and that is that if this work is not carried out by day labour, the contractor will have to procure a very expensive plant which would be quite sufficient to construct the line south-west, probably, to the Macdonnell Ranges, and for which the Commonwealth will have to pay. If, however, the first section from Pine Creek is constructed by day labour, the Government will have already provided a plant and staff, and there is not the slightest doubt that, having started with that system, it will be continued, and the plant will be effective as far as is necessary. I am somewhat undecided how to record my vote on this question. If I could get an assurance that the Government will dissociate the work from the Melbourne office, I should say that there is no comparison between the two methods.
– I hope that Senator Stewart will not press the amendment. If the question is left open, the Government will have the option of carrying out the work in the way that appears best to them. But they have already made a statement that their policy is in the direction of contract work. That is not to say that they will not carry out the construction of the railway by clay labour. If we amend the clause to that effect, we shall go in direct opposition to the policy they have declared.
– What are we here for?
– We are here under certain circumstances, where our protest will have an effect, to oppose the policy of the Government. Supposing that we adopt this amendment, it will not be accepted in another place, and the Bill will be returned. We cannot back down, and the Government cannot back down. Therefore, the Bill will have to be thrown out. I ask Senator Stewart and others who agree with him if that is what they really want.
– It can be easily seen if honorable senators only notice the direction in which the votes in different divisions have been given. Where amendments of this kind are sincerely offered in the interests of those who are anxious that this work should be commenced and carried out,. is it worth while for us to come into conflict with the Government’s declared policy, and then have to back down afterwards, or lose the Bill ? I am not one of those who believe that the present Government are goingto remain in power for ever. The probability is that, before the construction of this railway is commenced in earnest, there will be another condition of things in Australia, or, perhaps, even the Government may have changed their opinion with respect to the contract system” Therefore, I think it would be wise if honorable senators, instead of voting for the amendment, would leave the question open, and exercise their influence in a judicious manner in the time that is to come. If the amendment is moved in the interests of the people, well and good ; but if it is moved to defeat the Bill, I do not think it is an honest proceeding.
– I cannot help con trasting the extraordinary utterance of Senator McGregor with his attitude on a Government Bill this morning, when it was still a matter of Government policy. On the important question of borrowing or finding money out of the general revenue, he took the risk of losing the Bill and tying up a number of important public works, but the Government, who thoroughly approve of the contract system, must admit that the exceptional circumstances connected with the construction of this railway remove all doubt as to which is the preferable system. If we accept a tender, we undertake to pay the contractor the initial cost of a plant for constructing a few miles of railway. In the circumstances, the Government can well afford to accept the amendment. I object to be made a buffer between South Australia and Queensland. In my secondreading speech, I said that there appeared to be almost a tug-of-war going on between those States in regard to this railway. A principle is at stake here for which I stand before my constituents, and just as that principle has to be fought for on the floor of the Senate or elsewhere, so this is an opportune time for the majority here to use their power to prevent the Government spending hundreds of thousands of pounds in fattening a few fat contractors. We have the evidence of all the States and the municipal council of Sydney that day labour is more profitable than the contract system, and that the work is better done, too. Holding that belief, there is one plain course open to us.
– It has saved thousands of pounds in Victoria.
– In New South Wales and Queensland the saving on railway construction has amounted to thousands of pounds per mile. If the Commonwealth Government call for tenders for the construction of a small section, there will be little competition. The initial delay in preparing a plant to build bridges, and the difficulty of getting labour, will compel any contractor, in order to be safe, to load his estimate with an extraordinary amount for unforeseen expenses. That, of course, would be disastrous to the Commonwealth. This is not a fight between the Opposition and the Government on a question of principle, but on a mere question of expediency on their part, because, in the cir cumstances, the amendment is reasonable, even though it differs from their policy.
– The Government do not provide in the Bill that the work shall be done by contract.
– Still we must recognise that the Government fought and won the recent elections as regards the other House, on the principle of private enterprise making as much profit out of the people as it can. Our opponents believe in private enterprise making money out of the Commonwealth or the State Governments whenever it gets the opportunity. The people lent an ear to that principle, and gave our opponents a small majority in the other House. Representing a State which has to pay most for public works through having an undue share of taxation placed upon it, I think that the proposal of Senator Stewart at the present time is a most sane one. I understand that a representative of Tasmania denied a little while ago that I have lucid intervals. I ask questions in an abrupt manner because I have been accustomed to putting questions in such a way before people of intelligence that there is no occasion for me to go into every detail before they can understand me. I find that I shall have to adopt new methods if I remain here. The Government, I repeat, can well accept this amendment without any sacrifice of principle on their part because the circumstances are so exceptional that there is little hope of much competition amongst the contractors. Everything indicates that it is the duty of the Government to carry out the construction of this line by day labour.
– Should it be managed from the office in Melbourne?
– My honorable friend is quite right; not much good ever comes out of Melbourne, whether in management or anything else. Should the debacle come about a few months later, which is prophesied, I think that the honorable senator, with his broad knowledge of how work should be conducted, would be a most suitable man to send to the Northern Territory to supervise the construction of this line. There is only one course open to us, as a party, and that is to enforce in this Bill what we have tried to enforce in every other Bill. The Government are not in a like position. Here is an exceptional case, where even the contract system itself would not get a fair deal, and the price must be extortionately high if we stick slavishly to the contract system . I trust that the Government will accept the amendment.
– I hope the amendment will be carried. The party of which I am a member is now placed on its mettle, as to whether or not it will allow this railway to be constructed on the day labour or the contract system. The Honorary Minister has intimated that the line will, if the Government have their way, be constructed on the contract system, if practicable. We want a clear declaration of policy. I am emphatically of the opinion that the line can be constructed more advantageously by day labour than by contract.
– We shall not test the principle advantageously in a place like Pine Creek.
– I am surprised at my leader suggesting that any supporter of Senator Stewart’s amendment is actuated by opposition to the Bill. I do not think it is so. Nor do I think that ray leader should have said that another place would reject the amendment if it were carried, and that we must be bound by what another place does. With me this is a matter of principle. I care not whether the railway i3 one of 54 miles, or whether it is a little line like one from Parliament House to the Post Office. I am concerned with the method by which the work is to be carried out.
– I am afraid that if what the honorable senator desires is done we shall get no railway.
– If I have to choose between the doctrine and the railway I shall stick to the doctrine.
– The honorable senator would not have been here at all except for his adherence to the doctrine.
– Exactly ; and I io not think that I have yet reached a stage when I have to choose between adherence to a principle and the acceptance >f a Bill of this character. Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8.0 p.m.
– It is a well.known fact that the Labour party, both iu Federal and State politics, has always been in favour of the departmental construction of public works. Senator Story has raised the point that Darwin is so far . away from Melbourne that probably if the day-labour system be adopted on the railway the principle may be held up to ridicule. There is something in that. At the same time, I contend that the day-labour principle depends entirely on one factor, and that is efficient supervision. If the Government will see that there is proper and .efficient supervision, day labour can always show a better record than contract work. I realize that some trouble occurred on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, because the responsible officer in charge in Western Australia was handicapped by directions from Melbourne. Therein lies the whole secret of the trouble. If the Government had believed in the principle they should have shown implicit faith in the officers appointed to do the work, who should have had more freedom. It is ridiculous that a work in progress, 2,000 miles away from the centre of government, should be in charge of officers who have to ‘wait for orders from Melbourne. They must have at least some margin. Here is a challenge deliberately thrown down by the Government. We must affirm, or deny, or abandon, the principle of day labour.. My experience in the Federal Parliament, and in the State Parliament, convinces me that the departmental conduct of public works is satisfactory. In all cases it has been advantageous to the people of Australia. That being so, I feel all the more impelled to vote for Senator Stewart’s amendment. The Commonwealth can do the work just as well as it can be done by any contractor. I sincerely hope that the Committee will support the amendment, which I regard as a direct challenge upon a principle advocated by the Labour party, both in State and Federal politics.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [8.4]. - I want to know why this particular Bill should be selected for the enforcement of the principle of day labour in preference to contract work ?
– This is the only Bill we have had upon which we could affirm the principle.
– I - If we want, to” be consistent we should issue an ultimatum to the Government and tell them that in all public works they propose to carry out we insist that day labour shall be employed. Why did not our Western Australian friends insist on the insertion of this principle when we agreed to an expenditure of £1,400,000 for the continuance of the work on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta line t
– The Minister said that the Government would honour the obligations entered into by the previous Government in regard to the daylabour system.
– D - Does the honorable senator mean to say that the whole of that sum of money is to be expended under day-labour conditions? I think he is under a delusion if he takes what the Minister says as a pledge to that effect.
– I gave no pledge whatever that that money would be spent under day-labour conditions.
– F - Further, we have had no assurance that the conduits for which we have voted a large sum are to be constructed by day labour.
– We could not assert the principle in a Loan Bill.
– The honorable senator voted for the Loan Bill; we did not. He is going to vote for this Bill now, although he knows that the daylabour principle is one of the planks of Ms plat-form
– S - Some of those who voted for the Loan Bill will be voting’ against this measure. At this hour of the session, on an isolated matter such as this, a favorable opportunity is not presented for the enforcement of such a principle. Only recently we struck out of the Loan Bill an item appropriating money for defence purposes, and we also rejected a proposal to prohibit preference to unionists in the Government service. In those two cases a direct attack was made on our principles. ‘ If there were in this measure a provision to the effect that the railway was to be constructed by contract labour, X should regard it as an attack upon our principles. But the Bill contains nothing at all on the subject. The principle of <day labour is not infringed. I do not think that we ought to insist upon it hero. I am not a prophet, but I venture to say that every one of those who voted against the second reading of this -measure will vote for Senator Stewart’s amendment. It is an insidious attempt to do what the opponents of the Bill bailed to accomplish on the second reading. I remember a classical saying, “ Be ware of the Greeks when they bring gifts”; and I am suspicious of the opponents of this measure when they attempt, by means of an amendment, to embody in it a principle that is foreign to anything already contained in it.
– I am suspicious of you. I think the Labour platform is only a convenience, as far as you are concerned. It is a ladder to be thrown away when you get up. That is what I think.
-If -If the honorable senator is to be consistent - and surely he should be consistent in the affirmation of labour principles - he should move .a subsequent amendment embodying preference to unionists.
– We will jump one fence at a time.
– - I am prepared to vote for the assertion nf our principles when they are challenged at’ any time, and at all times, but I am not prepared to sacrifice this Bill at this time by means of an insidious amendment of this sort. It would not alarm Senator Stewart if the Bill were lost. His object is to defeat it. Considering the source from which the amendment comes, and the isolated way in which it is attempted to establish the principle, I shall not vote for the amendment.
– I do not think there is any necessity for any honorable senator on the Opposition side to go out of his way to profess his attachment to the policy we are all sent here to carry out. Nor is there any necessity for any honorable senator to cast a slur upon another with respect to his standing in the movement we are here to push forward. We all stand on the same plane, and perhaps, if we were all weighed up, it would be found that those who speak loudest of consistency in the advocacy of our policy cannot afford to throw the first stone. The proposal is that this railway should be constructed by day labour, and it is put forward on the ground that it is necessary that we should strictly adhere to the Labour platform. It is somewhat strange that honorable senators who have so far advocated that coincide exactly with those .who have said that they will not have this railway at any price.
– The honorable senator is prepared to have it at any price.
– If we wish to be consistent in our policy, we should be so from the beginning. It is of no use for an honorable senator to start being consistent in the middle or near the end, and then hold up his hands and call us to witness how consistent he is to our policy. I should like to ask where the honorable senators who are now engaged in the very laudable object of adhering to our policy were when the Works Estimates were under consideration in this Chamber ? They involved a total expenditure of £3,300,000 for public works throughout the Commonwealth, and the pages of the document on which they are printed are studded with items to which this principle is quite as applicable as it is to the construction of this railway. Where were these gentlemen then?
– Where is the honorable senator now?
– Iamat least consistent in my inconsistency, which is more than can be said for Senator Stewart. When Estimates involving an expenditure of over £2,000,000 for public works were passed in this Chamber, there was no demand for adherence to this policy.
– There was; and there was a promise from the Minister.
– There was no effort to exact a promise from Ministers that the Government would carry out these works on the day-labour principle. Whether such an effort was made or not, we have it on the word of the Honorary Minister that he gave no assurance that that principle would be adopted.
– So far as I am concerned, I am prepared that anything that I said on the subject should be openly repeated.
– Assuming the Minister’s statement to be correct, and we have no reason to doubt it - that the Government would not recognise the daylabour principle - it was surely the clear duty of Senator Stewart to get up in his place and hold up the Works Estimates until a declaration was exacted from the Minister in charge that the day-labour policy would be adopted in the carrying out of those works. There were honorable senators in sufficient number on this side to insist upon such a promise, or, failing to obtain it, to refuse to pass the Estimates. It is too late now for Senator Stewart, at the eleventh hour, like a repentant sinner, to come forward with a claim for consistency that has no solid foundation. Senator Pearce has mentioned his intention to move an amendment which will insure to the men engaged in the construction of this line fair and reasonable wages and conditions. That should be sufficient to allay the fears of Senator Stewart and those who are assisting him in this matter. When we compare the professions of certain honorable senators now with their practice in the past, it will be seen that none of us are entitled to say, “ I have been consistent right through. Look at me; I am the bold and brave exemplar of what oughtto be done.” We cannot dictate to the Government in matters of this kind.
– Perish the thought!
– While the Government have their slender majority of one, even though that one be the Speaker in another place, we can no more dictate to them than they could dictate to us when we were in power. Whilst there is almost a certainty, if Senator Stewart’s amendment be agreed to, that this railway will be knocked on the head, I say frankly that I am not going to take that risk, provided we can embody Senator Pearce’s amendment in the Bill. The purpose of the day-labour principle, in the first instance, was to insure to men employed on public works a fair and reasonable wage, and that purpose can be effected by the amendment which Senator Pearce has intimated his intention to move. That should satisfy even Senator Stewart. On the subject of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, I am prepared to make a declaration if one is needed. I should like to ask Senator Needham if, when the construction of that railway was proposed it had been proposed to carry it out by the contract system, and if that system were not approved, the construction of the line would have been endangered, how he would have voted ?
– The Government in power then were pledged to the daylabour system, and I knew they would carry it out.
– That is not an answer to my question. If the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway were being considered in this Chamber, and it was proposed to carry it out by contract, and to refuse to agree to that proposal involved the loss of the railway, I ask
Senator Needham to say how he would vote. Before the honorable senator replies, I am prepared to give him my reply, and say that I would vote for the contract system rather than lose the railway.
– My reply is that the question put by the honorable senator is not involved in my support of Senator Stewart’s amendment.
– I repeat that if a refusal to agree to the contract system would involve the loss of the Bill authorizing the construction of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, I should be prepared to vote for the contract system, provided the Bill embodied the safeguards which will be provided in this Bill if the amendment , of which Senator Pearce has given notice be carried.Under that condition I should besatisfied that themen engaged in the construction of the line would get a fair deal, and I ask honorable senators to say whether in this case there is any reason why we should concern ourselves very much more ? It is quite true that the taxpayers’ point of view should be considered, but the amendment suggested by Senator Pearce will secure a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work for the men engaged in the construction of this line, and conditions as ideal as possible in those latitudes. Certain honorable senators are going to uphold that policy while risking the loss of this railway, but, as I am not prepared to do that, I shall vote against the amendment.
– I am sorry that Senator Lynch should have attempted to put a monetary value on the principles of the Labour platform. Unless the party are prepared to stand by their principles, the members of it are not worthy of the positions they occupy here. If we are going to put a personal or a State advantage against adherence to our principles, we shall be met with all kinds of temptation so long as we are members of this or any other House of Parliament. If our principles are not to be above all other considerations, we are only playing ducks and drakes with them in order to deceive and delude the public. Senator Lynch has indulged in a good deal of talk about consistency, but I am not aware that any of us claim to be models of consistency. I remember that, when
I was a young fellow, I learned a hymn which went something like this -
But while the lamp holds out to burn,
The vilest sinner may return.
To say that we should not do right because we have not always done right is a doctrine that I do not for a moment subscribe to. I consider myself a poor, frail mortal, committing sins of all kinds, sometimes wilfully and sometimes through weakness; but I certainly like to be good now and again in spots. When a man is trying to do the correct thing, he should not be gibed at because he can make no pretension to being perfect. I do not think that any of us are yet enrolled amongst the saints, and I do not expect to be canonized myself for several generations after I am dead. Then I may be. There have been instances, I know, when Estimates involving expenditure of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 have been passed practically on the voices, although there may have been differences of opinion concerning many of the items. But I have not known honorable senators to be, on that account, charged with dereliction of duty, because they have criticised the next Estimates. An honorable senator is not absolved from doing the right thing when it is clearly presented to him, because there have been times when he did not do the right thing. No rule of life prescribes that, because, accidentally or wilfully, a man commits a sin once, he is therefore licensed to sin for all eternity. The question of a railway or no railway is nothing when we have to face the question of principle or no principle. Senator O’Loghlin has stated that, in this Bill, the Government have not declared against the principle of day labour. But the Honorary Minister has told us in unmistakable terms that upon this public undertaking, as upon all others, they will, if possible, adopt the contract system.
– I stand by those words exactly.
– If they can get a tender, they will probably let this work on the contract system. If the insertion of the amendment proposed will enable us to escape all the evils of that system, it will strike away our claim that the daylabour system is the better. I desire to put it to honorable senators that we have to consider the interests of the taxpayers as well as those of the workmen who will be employed upon the proposed railway, more especially as it will involve the expenditure of loan money, for which the present and future generations will be taxed. In my judgment, Senator Gardiner put the strongest argument in favour of this line being built by day labour when he urged that the cost of a plant to enable it to be undertaken by contract would be so out of all proportion to the length of the line as to render its purchase unjustifiable. He pointed out, too, that there would be no guarantee that the same contractor would get the contract for the next section of the railway. Further, I maintain that, in a tropical climate like that of the Northern Territory, it is not possible to secure the same good conditions and the same sanitary arrangements in the construction camps under the contract system that it is possible to obtain under the day-labour system, especially if the latter be administered sympathetically.Upon the question of whether the construction of the line should be deferred, I want to know whether a principle is not of more importance than is the expenditure of a few thousand pounds? A man who values principle does not put money into the scale at all.
– But the honorable senator has made this principle a rather belated one.
SenatorRAE. - It is better late than never. Senator O’Loghlin asked why we did not insist upon the insertion of a similar provision in regard to the expenditure of £175,000 at Cockatoo Island. My answer is that it was impossible to do so in a Loan Bill. This is the only apportunity that we have had of putting that principle into black and white.
SenatorRAE. - It is the only opportunity that I have had. It is true that I have been absent fighting the battles of Labour candidates in New South Wales, and if, during my absence, Bills have been passed in which this principle might have been inserted with advantage, that is no argument why we should not insert it now. What sort of reasoning is if which says that, because we may have omitted to do our duty on one occasion, we should never attempt to do it again?
– The honorable senator admits that we have failed to do it ?
SenatorRAE. - I do not know. But if it will strengthen the specious arguments of the honorable senator, he is welcome to the admission that we have allowed things to slip through whichwe should have prevented. This particular principle is good enough for me to argue upon from now till Christmas. Since the Government Preference Prohibition Bill was “ biffed “ out of this Chamber-
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - Does the honorable senator propose to insert in this Bill a condition that preference shall be extended to unionists ?
SenatorRAE. - I am quite agreeable to vote in that direction if the honorable senator will submit a proposal. In his amendment. Senator Pearce does not propose to fix a minimum wage, but he doespropose that, in the event of a dispute arising, an authority shall be created to deal with it. This is the only way in. which we can vindicate a principle which on every platform, from one end of the Commonwealth to the other, we have professed to uphold. If we are merely prepared to uphold our principles when they do not affect our State interests, all I have to say is that they are very easily shattered. Because our opponents have offered us this mess of pottage in the shape of borrowed money, some honorable senators are apparently prepared to throw over their principles and grab the railway.
– Apparently there is a heresy hunt in progress, with Senators Rae and Stewart as the chief inquisitors. If that be so, I confess that I am another victim brought to justice, and I suppose thatI must submit to all the pains and penalties that must follow my excommunication. Frankly, I regard this Bill as essential to the opening up of the Northern Territory, and I desire to see it passed. I am a believer in the day-labour principle. During the three years that I occupied the position of Minister of Defence, I think that, in the administration of that Department, I eliminated the contractor to a greater degree than did any of my predecessors. But I have always held the view, in regard to both day labour and contract, that a very great deal depends on the way in which those systems are administered. I believe that the day-labour principle can be so administered as to make that system more costly, more inefficient, and to give a poorer return to the workers employed under it, than is the contract system if faithfully administered. The Honorary Minister has told us that the Government believe in the contract system, and that, generally speaking, they will give a preference to it in the carrying out of Commonwealth works. Now we are asked to insert in this Bill a provision that the proposed line shall be constructed by day labour. My view is that’ we must recognise that we form only one branch of the Legislature. If the Bill be amended in the direction that is proposed, will the Government swallow it when it reaches another place? Of course, they will not. The measure will be returned to us with our amendment eliminated. Then we shall have to choose between voting for the day-labour principle whilst handing over its administration to a Government which does not believe in it, and losing this Bill together with the development of the Territory. I frankly admit that if the Bill were so returned, I would vote for the railway and accept the amendment made by another place. But I may not have that opportunity. The Bill may not be returned to us, and as I am in earnest in my desire to get this railway built, I do not intend to take that risk. I shall vote against the amendment. If I were a member of the Government, I would see that the work was undertaken by day labour. But, in this case, I do not think we need to accuse each other of insincerity. I am prepared to concede to Senator Stewart, and those who entertain his view, honesty of purpose, and they ought to concede the same thing to us.
– The honorable senator commenced his remarks by talking about a heresy hunt.
– But those who are going to vote against the amendment and those who are going to support it. have indicated that they have suspicions of each other. I make those who question my loyalty to the Labour party the present of this admission : I am so interested in getting the Northern Territory developed that I am not going to risk the loss of this Bill. I shall not vote for the amendment which the Government have intimated they will not accept, and thereby endanger the Bill. Even at the risk of honorable senators holding me up as one who has sold the principles of my party, I shall vote against the amendment.
– Perhaps .there is no question around which such a fierce controversy has waged in every Parliament in Australia, and on every platform, as that of day labour versus contract. Labour men both inside and outside of Parliament have unflinchingly advocated the advantages of the day labour over the contract system. The Labourites of Australia have sent men to Parliament, both State and Commonwealth, because they believe, like them,” in the principle of day labour. I am not concerned with what other men believe, but I claim that, in loyalty to the men who sent me here, and to a principle which i professed on the platform, I am bound to vote for day labour in preference to the contract system every time the question comes up.
– C - Can you get it?
– I have a good chance here of getting my own way, and so has the Labour party, and it ought to assert its rights. A previous speaker has told us that day labour is opposed to the Government policy. What do i care about that policy ? Was .1 sent here to advocate it] I was sent here to advocate the Labour policy. If the Government had come down the other day with a proposal in the Loan Bill to alienate 100,000 acres of land, would honorable senators, in order to secure that measure, have voted for the proposal ? Last night, and on previous nights, we flouted the Government policy. Why t Because it bumped up against some of our cherished principles, one of which was that we object to the borrowing of money for defence purposes. The other day we fought here for hours, and objected to the passage of a clause in the Norfolk Island Bill, because we wanted to enforce on the Government our principle of the nonalienation of Crown land. The other day the postal voting provisions were before the Chamber. The Labour party believe in an invalid vote, but the Government made a retrogressive proposal. There was a serious risk of losing the Bill, and it is lost. i would rather lose the Bill a thousand times than allow the Government system of postal voting to be reenacted.
– The loss of that Bill is a decided gain.
– Yes, and I think it will be a decided gain to lose this railway to Katherine River rather than that it should be built at the sacrifice of the principle of any man in our party.
– O - Of course, you think, so, and that is why you voted against the second reading.
– No. My position is that the majority of the Senate have decided that the railway shall be built, and our duty in Committee is to recognise that it has to be built, and to impose upon those who will build it such conditions as will make the measure less objectionable to us.
– So as to prevent the railway from being built.
– It is not a question of preventing the line from being built. The question is, Are we to hand over the workers of Australia to be fleeced and sweated by contractors, or are we to build the railway under such conditions as will conform to the comfort and happiness of our fellow-workers who have sent us here? There is a. principle before honorable senators.
– That is not the principle which you advanced against the second reading of the Bill.
– The principle of building the railway was affirmed when the Bill was read a second time. What we have to determine now is not whether we shall build the line, but the conditions under which it shall be built, and one of the conditions which I hope to see in force is that it shall be built by , day labour. I have witnessed the building of railways under the day-labour system on a very extensive scale. No contractor will lose an inch more to his workmen than he is bound to yield.
– He never gives them the conditions laid down.
– No; and honorable senators must know that from experience. I know it, at all events.
– I know a case quite different.
– Then it is one of the exceptions that prove the rule. What led up to the outcry against the contract system but two reasons? The workers were being sweated and flouted, and the taxpayers were saving nothing by it. The contractor was on the one hand exploting and sweating the worker, and on the other hand robbing the taxpayer.
Those were the two reasons which led up to the advocacy of day labour by our people. I need not go into the economic advantages of the day labour over the contract system. Again and again in the Senate, during the present session, I have shown conclusively that on any set of figures you like to take, the day-labour system is, economically speaking, far superior to the other. Hour after hour has been spent in showing that the day-labour system as practised by the Labour Government in the last Parliament, was the best, and why should we go back upon a principle simply for the sake of building a few miles of railway? If I had to choose between building this line by the contract system, and not building it at all, then I would not build at present. But there is no such alternative before the Committee. I have already shown that in Queensland we have’ been able to make a profit of over £1,814 per mile on the building of railways. In fact, on a little over 1,100 miles we have saved over £2,000,000, and got much better work. With that experience before the Senate, ought we to take a retrogressive step and go back to the nigger-driving system of the contractor ? If we start the contract system to-morrow, what will it mean? The contractor will have to put on his engineers to supervise the work, and we will have to employ somebody to watch him. A duplication of supervisors cannot lead to anything else but extravagance and uneconomical working. On the whole, I have no hesitation in giving my unswerving support to the principle of day labour as against the other system. I hope that when a division is taken a majority of honorable senators will be found voting in favour of the principle which they have always advocated, both in State Parliaments and on the platform throughout the Commonwealth.
– I wish to congratulate the new Minister on the Treasury bench. Senator McDougall, and I hope that he will pay more attention to the arguments which have come from this side than his predecessors have done.
– He will accept the amendment now.
– I am not very anxious about the amendment. The daylabour principle is one that I have long supported, but the recent work on the railway that the Commonwealth Government are carrying out has not assured me that we are proceeding on the best and most economical lines. “Whilst I do not like to see the contractor get the better of the taxpayers, or the better of his workmen, if it is only a matter between a contractor who gets a high profit and a bungling engineer who receives a salary out of proportion to what he is justly entitled to, it is very difficult to determine which course to take. We have an Engineer-in-Chief who is drawing an enormous salary, and I can assure the Committee that we have sufficient proof that if the salary were received by a contractor we would be inclined to say that he was getting the better of the taxpayers. That is the predicament in which those who know how things are being managed find themselves.
– If you had a contractor doing all your work, you would still have an engineer -in chief .
– God forbid that that should be so, because it would be double-banking the burden on the taxpayers. I hope that if our works have to be done by contract, we will be minus an engineer-in-chief at a salary such as we now pay. It will only be adding a, still greater burden if we have to pay a high salary to an engineer-in-chief, and, at the same time, we permit ourselves to be fleeced by contractors. In fact, the burden will become intolerable.
– How could you draw up the specifications for the contractor to work to unless you had an engineerinchief ?
– If the specifications for this railway are to be drawn up like some that we have seen recently, only an intelligent navvy or an apprentice to some poor draughtsman will be needed to do the work. It is pretty hard for us to make up our minds as to what we should do in this matter. As a member of the party whose principle is to stand for the day labour as against the contract system, I am pledged, when an amendment of this kind is moved, to vote for it. But, as I have said, the position before us is a difficult one, knowing as we do how things are carried on. Recently Parliament was furnished with particulars of the staff who are engaged in connexion with the construction of the transcontinental railway. It reveals that something like 800 men are engaged, and that out of that number there are over 100 bosses drawing anything from £300 or £400 up to £1,800 a year. In other words, for every eight men working with pick or shovel, there is a highly paid official. I venture to say that if a contractor had this work in hand, instead of finding one boss for every eight men, we would not find a fourth of the staff employed.
– That is a bad application of the principle.
– Yes; and that is the unfortunate position in which we stand. If we are anxious that this railway should be constructed, it will have to be carried out by these officials.
– That is not our fault.
– That is the unfortunate predicament into which wo have got ourselves, and that is the difficulty of the whole position.
– The Government can do the same thing as they are doing on the western line.
– Certainly: and it is very likely that they will; and if they do the day-labour principle, of which we, on this side, highly approve, will be discredited. That is one of the things that I do not want to see. Why should we force a principle of this kind on a Government which does not approve of it? That is how State enterprises in the past have been made apparently failures. Men who were not in accord with the principle have carried it out, and have done their best to discredit it by extravagance and mismanagement. Here we have most extravagant supervision - perhaps the most extravagant in the whole world, as far as railway construction is concerned. We are asked to rush this work upon the body of men of whom I have spoken. Honorable senators will appreciate the difficulty in which I find myself. Am I to vote to place the construction of the Pine Creek to Katherine River railway in charge of these men, or am I to violate my principle in regard to day labour?
– Stick to the principle.
– And hang the cost I I am inclined to follow the advice given me, but I frankly acknowledge that I am in’ a dilemma. One way of escape would be not to vote at all, but that would be cowardly. I should prefer to see the amendment withdrawn to allow honorable senators who are situated as I am to escape from the dilemma.
– I was challenged by Senator Lynch as to what I should have done had this question been raised in connexion with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway? My reply was that the construction of that line was undertaken during the regime of the Labour Government, which was pledged to the day-labour principle. He then asked me if, had I been faced with the question whether that line should be built by contract or abandoned, I would have stuck to the principle? My reply is that I am not faced with that question now. I am required to come to a determination as to whether the Pine Creek to Katherine River railway should be built by day labour or by contract.
– O - Or not at all.
– Senator O’Loghlin has already imputed motives to senators. I ask him not to impute them to me. I voted on this Bill for conscientious reasons, and I do not want Senator O’Loghlin to lecture me as to the vote I gave. Some time ago I made a statement about the policy of this Government in connexion with new works. Senator Lynch challenged me as to my attitude on the Loan Bill, and the Appropriation Works and Buildings Bill. I ask him to read Hansard for the 30th October, page 2702, where he will find that, on the second reading of the Appropriation Works and Buildings Bill, I put a question to Senator Millen as to whether it was the intention of the Government to carry out the works by day labour. A little while ago I made a mistake in saying that it was Senator Clemons who replied to my question. It was Senator Millen. He stated that he would not like to interfere with the existing arrangements on works which their predecessors had started on the day-labour system.
– Did he actually say that?
– The Standing Orders prohibit me from quoting Hansard of the current session, but I have refreshed my memory by looking up the report, and I have stated what the Min ister’s reply was - that he would not interfere with existing arrangements. He did not want to tear down plant erected by his predecessors for doing work on the day-labour system, nor did he want to throw men out of employment, but he said that, in all future undertakings, as far as possible, the contract system would be adopted by the present Government. During the last election I persistently advocated the day-labour principle. We were challenged upon it by the Ministerial party. Senator Stewart has, by his amendment, taken up that challenge. I do not impute motives to my colleagues who intend to vote against the amendment. They have always been loyal to their principles. I hope we can disagree on a point without imputing motives to each other, or alleging insincerity. I can see no other way out of the present position, when I am challenged, as to whether I will, stick to the principle I have advocated than to support it; and that I will do as long as I occupy a seat in the Senate. If my vote for the amendmenthas the effect of hanging up the railway, I cannot help it. A principle is involved, and I intend to maintain it.
– As the question at issue is a very important one I do not wish to give a silent vote upon it. It is a vital principle to the party to which I belong. We are told that if it is asserted now there will be a chance of our losing the railway altogether. My reply to that is, that the construction of the line must be undertaken within the very near future. I hope that before very long we shall have another Administration in power. When that occurs there will be no question as to the method by which the line shall be constructed. It has been abundantly proved that day labour is much more profitable to the country than the contract system. The history of railway construction in Australia amply bears that out. For that reason, and also because the. Labour party have for a long while laid it down that great undertakings shall be done by day labour, I intend to vote for the amendment. Of course, I can quite understand that it may be advantageous! to carry out some works by contract. Even, those who are strong advocates of the daylabour principle would not urge that where it was necessary to have a big plant to do a certain work, and where the plant would not be required for other work afterwards, it would not be common sense to adopt the day-labour system. But we are now dealing with a railway over 50 miles in length. The plant that will be required for its construction will also be required for the construction of other railways. There is no question in my mind that this is a work that ought to be constructed by day labour. If my vote is the means of hanging up the railway I am quite prepared to take the responsibility for that. Senator de Largie has argued that it would not be good business to force on the Government a principle in which they disbelieved, for the reason that if they are compelled to undertake the work by day labour they may so act as to discredit the principle. I think we can safely take that risk. After all, we have been sent here for a. very definite purpose. We are here to see that this class of work is carried out in a business-like fashion, and if any Government sets itself to discredit the day-labour principle, because they happen to be in power for the time being, they will have to bear in mind that, in the near future, they are bound to be succeeded by another Government which will look closely into their actions and criticise their administration. They will then have to bear the responsibility for all their shortcomings. I believe that our people in this Chamber, and in another place, are well ‘able to see that their principles are given effect to, and my vote will certainly be given to insert the amendment making provision for the adoption of the day-labour system in the construction of this line. I hope the amendment will be carried. I believe that this debate and the vote that will be taken on the amendment will be watched with some interest by quite a number of people in this country. They will want to know why it was not carried if that should be its fate, and I think it will take quite a lot of explanation to show why the principle was not insisted upon by the Labour party in the Senate.
– That should apply also to the £3,000,000 worth of public works which were allowed to go through without any insistence on the principle. It is rather curious that honorable senators should insist upon applying the principle to this bit of a railway for the people in the Northern Territory, when they did not apply it to the Estimates for public works involving an expenditure of over £3,000,000.
– It appeared to the Senate to be right to vote for the Works Estimates. The money to be expended on this railway is only a small part of the £3,000,000 voted for public works, and it appears to me that it is our duty to see that this £400,000 shall be spent in the construction of this railway on the day-labour system, so that the country may get the best return for the money. I believe that a much better return can be obtained for money expended on public works carried out by the day-labour system than if the contract system was adopted in their construction. The Governments in all the States have had considerable experience of what contractors and the contract system have cost them. It may be possible to show that in some cases the contract system has been cheaper from the point of view of the actual cost of the work done. Though I doubt even that, I say that when we take into consideration all the other expense involved in the construction of works of this class by the contract system, no one who has studied the question, and the evidence which can be produced in the matter, can have any doubt as to which system is the better and cheaper for the country. I shall vote for the amendment.
– I do not know that I should have spoken on this question but for the fact that I wish to give honorable senators some evidence on the subject which we have been able to obtain from the antiLabour Government at present controlling affairs in Queensland. It is over twenty years ago since we endeavoured in that State to induce the Government to carry out railways and other public works by day labour. They always refused on the ground that it would be a very costly system to adopt. We used to be gibed at by the Government and their supporters, and we were told that if the works were done by the day-labour system there would be the Government stroke, and we should not be able to get the best work out of the men employed. We were told, further, that we must have the contract system by which men would be driven to give the last ounce that was in them. We were a long time before we could secure any protection at all for men employed on Government works in Queensland. I have seen men in that State under the contract system doing pick and shovel work for 4s. 6d. per day within 2 or 3 miles of Brisbane.
– While the contractors were making fortunes.
– I would not say that, because the works I referred to were only small contracts. I refer especially to deviation work carried out within 2 miles of the place where I live in Brisbane. After a considerable agitation in the country, and after the Labour party, as they have done in connexion with other matters, advocated the principle from the public platform, throughout the country they were successful in convincing a great many people that the day-labour system should be given a trial. Some of those opposedto the Labour party said, “ All right, we will give the system a trial.” The system was tried, and the further it was adopted the more the people realized that it was not only in the interests of the men employed, but in the interests of the taxpayers as well, since it was found that public works were being constructed for less than they would have cost under the contract system. I quote from the Queensland Hansard for 1912, page 1290. The Secretary for Railways, in Queensland, Mr. Paget, put the case from the departmental point of view, and he certainly had a very good case to put. He said -
I have in my hand a statement prepared by Mr. Robert Armour, of the Engineers Department, in 1897 -
That was before Mr. Paget had anything to do with the Department at all - which shows the cost of 1144.94 miles of railway built by contract in Queensland between the years1881 and 1896. That return has been in the Department since 1897. I asked the Chief Engineer some months ago whether he would, for my information, prepare a return at his convenience, showing the cost and mileage of railway constructed by day labour since the inception of the day-labour system in Queensland in 1900. This statement was prepared, and I again say it is a most remarkable coincidence that during the eleven or twelve years the daylabour system has been in operation there were 1144-44 miles of railway constructed, so that we have a return of contract work made up in 1897, and a return of day-labour work made in 1912, and the difference in mileage construction is exactly one half-mile.
Mr. Kirwan asked, “ What about the cost?” and the Secretary for Bailways replied -
I am handing in for the information of honorable members a return prepared in 1897 for the then Chief Engineer of all railways built by him under contract between 1881 and 1893. The total expenditure was ?5,491,720; the mileage, 1,144.94; and the average cost per mile, ?4,795.
This return includes all railways built between 1881 and 1896 in the Southern Division, a few in the Central division, but none in the Northern division, as the Central division was only taken over by the then Chief Engineer in 1887, and the Northern division in 1892. A return has been prepared by me of all railways built by day labour since its inception, in 1900, up to 191 1. The total expenditure was ?3,413,249; the mileage, 1,144.59; and the average cost per mile, ?2,982.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear.
The SECRETARY FOR RAILWAYS.- The fact that the mileage in both returns is practically the same is meTely a coincidence. This return includes all the railways built throughout the State during these years. The total difference in expenditure is ?2,078,471 in favour of day labour.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear.
Mr. Kirwan. I hope the Liberals in the Federal Parliament will read this.
The SECRETARY FOR RAILWAYS.- The average cost per mile is ?1,814permilein favour of day labour.
He then made a comparison of the conditions and cost of material, and showed that the wonder was that the Government had been able to do the work as cheaply as the contractor. Again, quoting the return, he said -
The difference between the contract and day labour cost is increased when it is considered that-
between 1881 and 1896 a considerable mileage was laid with lighter rails than was the case in the day-labour period ;
the day-labour returns includes a large mileage in the North division, where labour and materials are more costly than in the Southern and Central divisions, and where the climate militates against the best work being got out of the men;
between 1881 and1896 timber for bridges and sleepers was more plentiful, and a more suitable class of labour for railway work was obtainable than between1900-1911 ;
bridges built in the contract period were for 8-ton axle loads only, whilst nearly all those built in the day-labour period are for 12-ton axle loads, to provide additional strength for heavy rollingstock.
the wages rates generally were higher in the day-labour period than in the contract, and the prices for explosives, cement, &c, has largely increased;
a greater number of sleepers per mile were used in the day-labour period than in the contract in the Southern division.
It was shown that, after allowing for the cost of plant, and a considerable increase in the cost of materials, the work cost very much less under the day-labour system than under the contract system. Later on in the same debate, Mr. Kirwan said -
If you could get a table showing the cost of maintenance on those two classes of lines it Would be interesting - and the Secretary for Railways replied -
In reply to the honorable member for Brisbane, who knows what he is talking about, I may say that maintenance is included in the day-labour figures to a certain extent. The engineering department have to maintain the line for four months until it is handed over to the traffic department, and even that is included. I have no hesitation at all in saying that the lines that are being built by our own staff cost less for maintenance than those built by contract.
– Every point is in favour of the day-labour system.
– The statement I have quoted is not that of a Labour man, but of one who is as strongly against the Labour party as is any man in Australia to-day. This statement goes to show that the day-labour system is not only in the interests of the taxpayer, but also in the interests of the men doing the work. We find that, under this system, everything is done by the Government to make the conditions of the workmen far better than they are in any contractor’s camp. The idea of the contractor is to get all the work possible out of the men he employs. We may put all the conditions we please in the Bill. Every individual who has had any experience of hard manual work knows that in every gang of workmen men are placed with the object of speeding up its members. These men, possibly, receive 3s. or 4s. a day more than do their comrades. I would further point out that the contractor has nothing whatever to do with his employes, except to pay them. He is not concerned with the sanitary conditions which obtain in the camps or with the prices that are charged for stores. As a matter of fact, he does not provide the stores. Instead, storekeepers establish themselves along each section of the line which is being built, and they are naturally imbued with a desire to make as much profit as possible. But what happens when the Government assume control? On the Queensland railways, I may tell honorable senators that under an anti-Labour Government, stores are provided for the men at practically the cost price of landing them on the ground. The Government always look after the water supply, and also the sani tary provisions of the camps. Besides all these advantages, upon every section of line which has been constructed in Queensland during the past three or four years, a large marquee has been erected for the purposes of a library. Has any contractor in Australia ever attempted to provide such facilities for his employes? The fact that an anti-Labour Government in Queensland was able to save more than £2,000,000 on the construction of a little over 1,100 miles of railway should be convincing proof of the superiority of day-labour over the contract system. I am not going to taunt any honorable senator with having gone back on his principles, but I am not going to ignore the promises which I made to the electors to secure the recognition of this principle upon our public works, even though it may mean the loss of this railway.
.- I. have no desire to prolong this debate. So much has been said upon the question that it would be idle for me to labour it further. I merely wish to affirm my sympathy with the amendment. During the last Parliament most of our Commonwealth works were carried out by day labour, and our boast was that it resulted in incalculable benefit to the workmen, as well as in economy. Consequently, I can scarcely understand the position taken up by some honorable senators who urge that because a certain course was adopted in respect of the Loan Bill we should turn down a principle in which we have declared our belief, lest we may sacrifice this measure. If it is to be a question of choice between dropping the Bill and abandoning the principle of day labour, I prefer that the former course should be adopted.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 12 agreed to.
The Minister may charge such fares and rates for the carriage of passengers and goods on the railway, and make such incidental charges in connexion with the railway as he thinks reasonable. . ..
.- I move-
That after the word “charge” the following words be inserted : - “ or in the case of a contractor operating any portion of the line before it has been declared open for traffic, may permit the charging of.”
Of course, it may be argued that the adoption of the amendment which has just been carried has rendered this proposal unnecessary. But I would point out that if that amendment be rejected in another place, and the Bill be returned to us, we shall then have no opportunity of amending this clause. Consequently, if we desire to make any change in it we should make it now.
– Inasmuch as I understand this amendment to mean that the Minister shall retain control of the rates and fares that may be charged by the contractor during the preliminary time when he, in accordance with the practice, will have the right to operate the line, I will accept it, and Ihope that we will get on with business.
– Although I was pleased to hear the Minister say that he would accept the amendment, yet I take it that its acceptance will in no way involve any surrender on the part of those who voted just now for the day-labour system, because, if I am here and the Bill should come back, I intend to fight if need he from then until the Christmas pudding is cooked before I will give in on the day-labour principle.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 14 (Appointment of Officers).
– I am not sure as to the best place in which to propose an amendment. But I wish to know if Senator Pearce has any other amendment to move?
– I am going to propose the insertion of a new clause after this one is agreed to.
– Will it deal with the question of stores?
– No; but I understand that, following my amendment, an amendment dealing with the stores is to be proposed.
– I had an amendment prepared in regard to stores which I think should he provided in the manner pointed out by Senator Turley, that an anti-Labour or non-Labour Government provides them in Queensland, but, of course, I will give way to any one who has prepared an amendment. We know how workers can be exploited. When I worked on railways in this State twentyfive years ago we used to be charged extortionate prices for our commodities. We ought to do something in this Bill to guard against the exploitation which takes place on railway works where men, being far removed from big centres of population, have to pay tremendous prices for what are very often most inferior commodities.
– Senator Gardiner has framed an amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 14A. - (1.) In any contract relating to the construction of the railway provision shall be made for the payment by the contractor of not less than the prescribed minimum rates of wages, and for the observance of the prescribed conditions of employment, and also for the recovery of penalties for non-payment of the prescribed rates of wages, or for non-compliance with the prescribed conditions of employment. (2.) The minimum rates of wages and the conditions of employment shall be prescribed by the Minister, and shall be set forth in a schedule to the contract. (3.) Where a dispute arises between the contractor and his employes as to the rates of wages to be paid to or the conditions of employment of any employe, the dispute shall be referred to the Judge of the Northern Territory, whose decision shall be final and binding on both parlies to the dispute. (4.) For the purposes of the settlement of
dispute referred to him, the Judge of the Northern Territory shall have all the powers which, under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1911, belong to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration with regard to the summoning and examination of witnesses, the production of books and documents, and the entry and inspection of any place, premises, materials, machinery, or appliances ns if the proceedings were proceedings before that Court.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [9.45]. - I think that this amendment is going too far. Any disputes arising as to rates of wages or conditions of labour should be dealt with in the manner suggested in the amendment, but we should not make elaborate provisions as to how this pi’ocedure is to be carried on under the contract system, even though it might be possible afterwards to amend the clause, or to amend it in another place, in order to bring it in conformity with the day-labour principle. Without in any way wishing to impute motives, the fact of having a number of clauses dealing with this work as though it was to be carried out under the contract system, will hold us up to the ridicule of honorable members in another place. They will say, “ In one clause you propose that the work shall he carried out on the daylabour principle only, and yet you provide an elaborate set of conditions to deal with the contract system.” It will he “an invitation to them to knock out the first amendment, and then to say that the Bill will read smoothly and in conformity with the other amendments. If we have any regard for the principle of day labour at all, and we are not simply putting forward a placard to the electors, our duty is to amend the proposal of Senator Pearce so that it will cover all that is required, without giving anything away to the contractor. It will be perfectly possible to do so by omitting all words relating to contract and contractor, and letting the other place put them in if they are not sufficiently democratic to accept our first amendment. Certainly I might have raised this point in regard to the first proposal of Senator Pearce. But I am not going to say that it is too late to do so, because over and over again the contract system is referred to as though it was an integral part of the machinery by which this Bill is to be carried out. I ask the Committee to omit all words in which contractor or contract are referred to, because, otherwise, it will involve us in a charge of absurdity and folly from the members of the other House, who will have to deal with our amendments, and it will be an open invitation to them to defeat the work which was done after a strong debate, in which all sides expressed their opinions fully. I protest against the proposal embodied in this amendment, and therefore I move -
That the words “contractor” or “contract,” wherever occurring, be left out.
If my proposal is adopted, it will lead to the drafting of the proposed new clause so that it will cover the employment of labour without mentioning the employer.
– I wish to point out that if these words were omitted the proposed new clause would not read. The first paragraph reads -
In any contract relating to the construction of the railway–
If the amendment of Senator Rae to omit “contract” were carried, the paragraph would read -
In any relating to the construction of the railway.
I have not gone right through the proposed new clause to see the effect of striking out the words “contract” and “ contractor.”
– I wish to point out, sir, that you cannot prevent an amendment from being moved simply because it will spoil the sense of a clause before the Committee. Time after time I have seen amendments carried which, if they had not been followed up, would have made nonsense of a clause. After an amendment to eliminate has been carried, the rvistom is to put in whatever is necessary to make sense of the provision.
– I wish to state the Government’s attitude in regard to this proposal, and T make the statement in the hope that it will enable us to get on with business. Senator Stewart interjected that he did not know what the proposed new clause of Senator Pearce is. I shall read it again, although he read it quite distinctly. The first paragraph reacts - (1.) In any contract relating to the construc tion of the railway provision shall be made for the payment by the contractor of not less than the prescribed minimum rates of wages, and for the observance of the prescribed conditions of employment, and also for the recovery of penalties for non-payment of the prescribed rates of wages, or for non-compliance with the prescribed conditions of employment.
Without that amendment, the Government would insist on these conditions in any contract which is let under the Bill. But the Government will accept that amendment if honorable senators want it incorporated in the measure. From my point of view, it comes in precisely the same category as an amendment which was inserted just now. I would have been perfectly ready to give the assurance of the Government that these conditions would be complied with. As a matter of fact, the conditions are in force, to the best of my knowledge, in every contract that the Government have let. Further, we- believe that they ought to be enforced. The second paragraph of the pro posed new clause reads -
The minimum rates of wages and the conditions of employment shall be prescribed by the Minister, and shall be set forth in a schedule to the contract.
That represents the practice which the Government are adopting, and, therefore, we will accept it. The Government, however, cannot accept the next two paragraphs I am sure that honorable senators will see many reasons, why they should not do so. They would introduce quite a novel procedure. They would give to a man certain functions and duties for the performance of which, however well qualified he may be, generally speaking, he is not necessarily and particularly qualified.
– To whom are you ref erri ng ?
– I do not know the man’s name; but he is not a Judge of the Arbitration Court. I hope that his name will not be mentioned.
– Do you mean the local Judge?
– I mean the person, whoever he may be, who is referred to bv Senator Pearce in his proposed new clause. In other words, he is not a Judge of the High Court, and, especially, he is not a Judge of the Arbitration Court. For that reason alone - and there are many others that I could instance - the Government . cannot accept the last two paragraphs of the proposed new clause. I venture to say that, inasmuch as we will accept its basic principle - what, for want of a better term, I may describe as its whole merits - I trust that Senator Pearce will not press the last two paragraphs, which propose to give to some man who has never exercised that kind of jurisdiction powers which he may or may not be able to exercise to the satisfaction of the people concerned. Incidentally, I may point out that there are many legal difficulties from my point of view. Would there be an appeal from this person ? We know the procednre in regard to the Arbitration Court. I very much doubt whether the proposed new clause could be made workable.
– We must have machinerv.
– Why 1 What are the merits of this proposal? Let us get to the root of it. What the honorable senator wants - and I am in accord with him - is to provide that, although the Government carry out this work by contract, they will take such steps as will insure that the contractor shall pay hia men fair rates of wages, and give them fair conditions of employment.
– Supposing that a dispute arises between the employe and the contractor as to what is a fair rate of wages after the work has been done, and after the matter has been considered by the Minister?
– What then?
– If you have a strike, how are you goingto settle it ?
– If the Minister indicates a rate of wages which he thinks the contractor ought to pay, and one, of course, which is fair to the men, and if he also says, “ I decide that these conditions must be given in this employment, too,” he has done all that is necessary. We do not want to provide in such a case for the contract in the ordinary sense of the word. We shall have the wages laid down by the Minister. The contract will be cancelled if those wages are not paid. I presume that it will also be cancelled if the prescribed conditions are not complied with. Under “these circumstances, I hope that the Committee will look at this in a practical and business-like way, and will recognise that all the merits demanded are included in the first para- graph of Senator Pearce’s amendment. The others do not meet a real need, nor is- it necessary for us to insert them.
– I now intend to move amendments on Senator Pearce’s amendment, with the object of making it read as follows: - Sub-clause 1 -
In the construction of the railway provision should be made for the payment of not less than the prescribed minimum rates of wages and for the observance of the prescribed conditions of employment.
Sub-clause 2 will be made to read -
The minimum rates of wages and conditions of employment shall be prescribed by the Minister, and shall be set forth in a schedule.
Sub-clause 3 will be made to read -
Where a dispute arises as to the rates of wages paid, or conditions of employment, it shall be referred to the Judge of the Northern Territory.
I propose to allow paragraph 4 to remain as it is. Dealing with sub-clause 1, I move -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out after the word “ In,” line i, the words “ any contract relating to.”
– The Committee ought to understand the real meaning of what is now proposed. I cannot help saying that I do not think that Senator Rae has realized what the effect’ will be. If we pass the amendment, the clause will practically be nonsense. We must remember that it is the Government who are to be the employer. We shall be saying that in the construction of the railway provision must be made for the payment of not less than the prescribed minimum rate of wages. That means that on a railway which the Government are constructing, the Government shall make provision for the payment of not less than the rates of wages which they themselves have prescribed. The thing is absolute nonsense. As long as the clause enabled the work to be done by contract, Senator Pearce’s amendment was all right. His object was to secure that the Government should not overlook the necessity of providing that fair wages should be paid and proper conditions of labour observed. Now, however, an amendment has been carried providing that the work shall be done by day labour, and if Senator Rae’s amendment upon Senator Pearce’s amendment be agreed to, it simply says that the Government shall prescribe rates of wages - nothing more, and nothing less.
– There is a reason why the amendment moved by Senator Rae should be accepted. I do not want to try to defeat by a subterfuge - the amendment which has been made by the Senate at the instance of Senator Stewart. But, when this Bill goes down to the other House, if that amendment is not agreed to when the Bill comes back to us, we shall be unable to put in a new clause. The amendment of Senator Rae may be, to a certain extent, surplusage if we are going to adopt day labour. But if, in consequence of the action of the other House, we do not adopt day labour, we should not be able to put in a new clause providing for the observance of the wages, conditions, and the payment of the wages we desire. If the clause goes into the Bill, we can always eliminate that which is surplusage at a later stage. Moreover, in the event of a dispute between the Government and its employes on the railway, it is necessary to have some method of determining it. Therefore, I do not think that any harm will be done by putting in paragraphs 1 and 2, as proposed to be amended by Senator Rae, in order that we shall have the matter before us if any alteration is made in consequence of messages passing between the two Houses.
.- The Committee has determined to demand that the work on the railway shall be constructed by day labour. I had prepared an amendment, which I shall read at a later stage, but do not intend to move, dealing with the conditions of employment. But, at the same time, I intend to vote against Senator Pearce’s amendment. If we have a combination of Senator Pearce and Senator McGregor with Senator Clemons and Senator Millen, I am satisfied they will get enough members of the Senate to reverse the decision we have just given. I am satisfied that such a combination will be too powerful for others to fight against. It will be an organization of the leaders of both parties, and will probably secure a reversal of the Committee’s decision. I am not going to make it easier for those honorable senators to induce the Committee, to eat the leek. They will have to take the responsibility on their own shoulders. They will have to take the responsibility in regard to the treatment of men who will do the work in this part of Australia, and who will probably be at the mercy of a contractor. Why should we deliberately carry an amendment to the effect that there shall be no contractor, and then deliberately prepare ourselves to back down a few hours hence? We are practically inviting the other House not to accept our amendment. It is a deliberate invitation, and is quite in accord .with the apparent desire of our leaders to say, “ Yes, Mr. Cook,’”‘ in regard to everything. We have been saying it for the last fortnight, and are continuing to say it. To-night we have taken our courage in both hands by asserting a Labour principle, and now we are asked to go down on our knees, and tell the other House that if they send a Bill back to us we shall be prepared to say, “Yes, Mr. Cook.” Practically, this amendment is designed to allow the Government to have their own way. A big principle is involved in what has been done, and no sooner do we win the victory than we are asked to start and pave the way to go back upon it.
– Did the honorable senator ever read the parable of the Pharisee ?
– If I have ever heard anything about Pharisees, I have had an illustration of how they act in the Senate during the last week or so; for if ever there was a Pharisee, who sat in a public position, and invited attention to his own righteousness, it is a man who, when a big principle is asserted, prepares the way to go back upon it. I am not inclined to give Ministers and ex-Ministers their own way in everything. Here we have a combination of Ministers and of ex-Ministers - who, I hope, will be Ministers again within a few months - to throw out an amendment which this Committee has deliberately adopted. We are asked to pass the amendment now before the Committee in the expectation that the other House will throw out the amendment containing the principle which we have already asserted. The only justification for Senator Pearce’s amendment is that it is expected that the other House will throw out the amendment dealing with day labour, and that this Chamber will accept the decision. Well, I was not sent here to accept decisions of the other branch of the Legislature in respect to Labour principles. I respect the other branch of the Legislature, ‘ but I do not see why a majority of one there should rule a majority of twenty-two here. That is really the position we are in to-night. It means that twenty-two members of the Senate who voted for the day-labour amendment are to be insulted. It is ohe of the many insults we have had from the leaders of our party. Immediately we assert a principle for which our party stands, they tell us that the other House will not accept it, and that the twentytwo members of our party here would be expected to comply.
– S - Senator Pearce’s amendment was drafted before the day-labour amendment was carried.
– I had also drafted an amendment, but when the daylabour amendment was carried, I saw that there was no occasion for moving it. To my mind, it is unthinkable that leading men on our side should take up that attitude towards this Government - that they should be prepared to do> exactly what the Government want and to allow them to run their business through. The Senate has not been fairly treated in regard to the time permitted for the discussion of these measures. 1 remind the Committee that the whole Senate was fairly well represented in’ the division on the day-labour amendment.. I do not say that an absolute majorityvoted in favour of it, but the- pair-book shows that three senators from our side paired in favour of it against three on the other side. That accounts for thirtyout of thirty-six members. In the face of that division, is there reasonable ground for anticipating that the Senate, in twenty-four hours, is going to reverse that decision ? Of course there is, if we. are to> follow the lead of Senator McGregor and Senator Pearce. Personally, I have not been following their lead for some time. My reason has been that I felt that they were treating the Government too generously.
– Form a new party.
– No; there is no» room for new parties within our party. I repeat that our leaders have been treating this Government too generously. My idea of an Opposition is that it will oppose, and will have the courage of its principles. If we do not oppose the Government on everything, at least where there comes a clash on Labour principles, we should insist on holding our own. This is one of those questions. Labour has triumphed as far as concerns the question of day labour as against the contract system. But immediately we gain the victory, our leaders are preparing the way for a surrender. We have to yield - to back down - to say to Mr. Cook, “ All that you have to do is to flout the Senate with your majority of one in the House of Representatives, and the Senate will eat the leek.” This amendment, I repeat, will make it easy for that to occur. If the Bill is sent back to us in twentyfour hours, or a little longer, it is hoped that, in the meantime, our leaders will be able to whip up a sufficient number to bring to heel those honorable senators who have dared to vote against their leaders to-night. I shall vote directly against this or any other amendment intended to secure a backdown upon the vote which has already been given in support of the day-labour system. The matter was thrashed out in a straightforward way, and during the debate I accused no one of taking up a wrong attitude. But I have personally been convinced for many years that the day-labour system is the most profitable for either State or Commonwealth in the carrying out of big public works. We have carried that principle in this Bill, and proposals are now being made which will simply invite another place to throw the Bill out. Let us have sufficient dignity to say that, after full and fair debate, we decided the question on its merits, and I venture to say that honorable senators who did not vote with us in the last division will see that it is right that the decision of the Committee should remain. That is the attitude honorable senators should take up rather than attempt to undermine the decision which the Committee has recorded, and expect to reduce the majority by which we have secured adherence to a principle of the Labour platform, so that the Government may have their way in this matter as we have allowed them to have their way in everything they have put before the Senate.
– In connexion with the defence item in the Loan Bill, for instance ?
– There is an exactly similar position. I refused to accept on that question the dictation of my party.
– Hear, hear; the honorable senator helped the Government then all right.
– The honorable senator did notthink much of principle then, did he?’
– Yes, I did, I was then up against the principle of nationalization. I had to decide as between two principles which I should support, and I voted for that which I believed to be the more important. I may have done wrong, and I freely admit on the floor of this chamber that, as a party man, I probably committed a mistake. But I point out that we ran the risk of losing the Loan Bill, which meant the employment of a great many people on public works.
– I remind the honorable senator that we are not now discussing the Loan Bill.
– I quite understand that, but, surely, as an illustration1 I may set one Bill against the other. The final decision with respect to these two Bills rests with another place, and I am surely in order in saying that if we risked the Loan Bill, and the works to be carried out under it, by inserting an amendment which would not meet with the approval of the Government - and we did risk it - there is no reason why we should not risk this Railway Bill in the same way. I voted for the second reading of this Bill, and have spoken in favour of the construction of the railway. I ask honorable senators to consider whether the rejection of this Bill will mean any real delay in the construction of the line. We know that in next June there is to be an appeal to the country. That is part, of the definitely decided programme to which the Government party are pledged. Our party, in their wisdom, have gone more than half way to meet the Government in order to bring about that result. Surely, this measure may be allowed to stand over until that time. We know that the construction of the line will be pushed on more rapidly by the Government that will then come into power, and that it will be carried on under the daylabour system. I warn honorable senators who are in favour of the construction of this line not to stand in the way of the intention of the Government in this respect.
– The honorable senator is posing as a humorist.
– No, I am giving the members of the Government credit for being in earnest in what they have said from the public platform. Here is a proposal put forward in cold blood by an ex-Minister, to ask honorable senators, after we have come to a certain decision as the result of a free and fair discussion, to march back to where we were when the discussion on the day-labour system started this afternoon. I shall not be placed in that position, nor shall I waste any further time in discussing it. I had intended to move an amendment to make the conditions better for workmen under the contract, system, as I felt that an arrangement had been made to let the Government have their way in the matter. The Committee has exercised its right by a definite vote to provide that the daylabour system shall be adopted in the construction of this line, and I do not anticipate that the majority of honorable senators who carried that vote will be so weak as to succumb to the influence of Senators McGregor and Pearce. I quite recognise the strength of that influence. I recognise also that those honorable senators deserve to exercise it, since they have won the right to do so by their ability and skill, and the manner in which they have managed not only affairs in this Chamber, but also the larger affairs of the Commonwealth as Ministers of the Crown. It is a fair influence, and the honorable senators referred to use it fairly, hut I warn them against too often using it in opposition to sound Labour principles.
– I fail to see the logic of the argument used by Senator Gardiner. I am one of the’ twelve who assisted in embodying in this Bill the principle of day labour. But I am not opposed to further amendments of the measure. The vote which I intend to give on the amendment, “now “before the Committee will not conflict in any way with the vote which I recorded in favour of the day-labour system. I said in my speech on the second reading of the Bill that I hoped the Committee would model the measure according to our own ideas. This is our only opportunity to so- model the Bill, and that is what Senator Pearce is endeavouring to do. I understood Senator Pearce to say he accepted” the amendment moved by Senator Rae, and, that being so, there can be no covert attempt on the part of the honorable senator to defeat the decision which the Committee has already arrived at.
– The honorable senator does not know the deep-dyed scoundrel that I am.
– I am not defending Senator Pearce, because I know that he is perfectly well able to defend himself. I understood that Senator Gardiner proposed to insert a new clause 14 6, and I desire to move a new clause 14 c. If we do not take advantage of this opportunity to make the Bill what we should like it to be, we shall not have the opportunity when it comes back to us from another place. If we send down the Bill to another place with an amendment which the members of that Chamber refuse to accept, when it comes back to us that will be the only amendment which we can discuss. I am not anticipating the decision of another place, but if they reject the amendment which has been made, I shall stand by the vote I have given to-night when the Bill is again before us. Still, I see no reason why, npw that we have the Bill here, we should not model it in accordance with our own desire. That is the intention of the amendment moved by Senator Pearce, the amendment forecasted by Senator Gardiner, and the amendment I intend to move myself. Senator Gardiner is usually logical, but on this occasion I do not think he is logical. I suggest to honorable senators that they should make such amendments in the Bill as they think desirable now, and when it is sent back to the Senate we can again consider the utility or otherwise of the amendments we have made.
– I recognise the danger of asking Senator Pearce to accept an amendment of his amendment. The continuous references to the contract system may appear very much like an invitation to another place to adopt the contract system which we have provided against. I think that Senator Gardiner was not doing Senator Pearce justice in attributing the amendment now before the Committee to a desire to get behind the previous decision of the Committee, because, as a matter of fact, this amendment was foreshadowed by Senator Pearce in speaking on the second reading of the Bill.
– Before ever the daylabour principle was. mentioned.
– Is it necessary, in view of the amendment which has been carried ?
– In answer to Senator Gardiner’s question, I contend that, even though the day-labour system be accepted by the Government, some provision will be necessary for the settlement of disputes which might arise as between the Government and the men working on this railway. The Honorary Minister raises the point that the first paragraph of the amendment is nonsensical, and I wish to challenge that. He says that it makes provision that the Government shall pay the rates of wages prescribed by the Government. That may be so if the first paragraph is read by itself, but in the second paragraph it is provided that there shall be a minimum rate of wages prescribed by the Minister, and set forth in the schedule to the contract. In view of the amendment which has been carried, it is perhaps necessary to omit the words “ to the contract.”
– The second part of the amendment is as superfluous as the first.
– I think not. A supervising engineer in charge of this work may put a number of men on to-day at a certain wage, and more men on next week at a different wage.
– He probably would not do so, but he might do so; and Senator Clemons will admit that if the daylabour system is adopted the Government must lay down the conditions of employment.
– If we employ day labour we shall have to do it, without putting anything in the Bill.
– Sub-clause 3 of the proposed new clause, as amended, will read-
Where a dispute arises as to rates of wages to be paid -
Now a dispute may arise between the Government as the direct employer and its workmen.
– I shall have some observations to offer upon that aspect of the question presently.
– Senator Pearce’s amendment is necessary, and even if we eliminate the contractor it will be none the less necessary. I ask Senator Pearce whether he is convinced of the necessity for retaining the first two sub-clauses ?
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by Senator Rae) agreed to-
That the words “ by the contractor,” in subclause1, be left out.
– Apart from any party considerations whatever, I wish to point out, in quite a friendly way, that this paragraph as it now reads is absolute nonsense.
– As Senator Pearce is responsible for this provision I would like him to give us an explanation of its meaning Personally, I think it is illogical, but £ am not going. to arrive at a hasty conclusion upon it. I prefer to await its explanation.
– I have already explained it twice, and do not desire to “ stone-wall “ the Bill.
– But we do not desire to do anything absurd.
– At the present time I am suspect, and, therefore, I had better say nothing.
– The honorable senator has submitted an amendment, portions of which would constitute an improvement of the Bill. But there is one portion of it, namely, sub-clause 1, which now reads nonsensically. I am sure that Senator Pearce, as a practical man, will
– I do not think that they should be dispensed with, for the reasons which I have already given, and which I do not wish to repeat.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Rae’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 20 realize the fairness of the position which I have put, and propose the elimination of paragraph 1 of this clause.
– The first sub-clause of Senator Pearce’s amendment was specially designed to apply to a contractor, and now that the contractor has been eliminated it is altogether unnecessary. The Committee have decided that this railway shall be constructed by day labour, and, therefore, no contractor canbuild even a portion of it. For that reason sub-clause 1 of the amendment of Senator Pearce is unnecessary. I suggest to Senator Rae that he should move the omission of subclause 1, because it is entirely unnecessary and makes the provision read stupidly.
– Move that while you are on your feet.
– There is no necessity, as I shall put the question that subclause . 1 of the proposed new clause be agreed to.
Question - That sub-clause 1 of the proposed new clause, as amended, be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sub-clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Rae) agreed to -
That sub-clause 2 be amended by leaving out the words “ to the contract.”
Sub-clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
– I move-
That subclause 3 be amended by leaving out the words “between the contractor and his employés.”
At present the provision reads -
Where a dispute arises between the contractor and his employés as to the rates of wages to be paid to, or to the conditions of employment of, any employe, the dispute shall be referred to the Judge.
If my proposal is carried the provision will read -
Where a dispute arises as to the rates of wages to be paid.
That would apply to the Government if they were the direct employers of the men. There would be nothing uncertain in it.
– It seems tome that Senator Rae is attempting to do something which he has no intention of accomplishing. I understand that in connexion with railway works there are more persons engaged than those who do the actual work of laying the line. Supposing, for instance, that a tender for steel rails is let to an Australian firm, and a dispute arises. This provision will certainly cover a case of that kind. Therefore, it is necessary to retain the word “ contractor.”
– No, because in the first part of the sub-clause the words “ the construction of the railway “ are used.
– Will not the supply of rails and. other material be part of the construction of the railway?
– Take the case of the culverts, the embankments, and other works which are let sometimes by a contractor. The present Government might take it into their head that they are to do this work by direct day labour. They might prefer, as I would like, to take the course of letting certain lengths of the line to parties of men. The butty-gang system, as it is called, would not be bad: for the men, and they would be able to make far better wages than they ever get from a contractor. If the Government did decide upon letting a mile, or half-a-mile, or a quarter of a mile of the line to a party of men, a dispute might arise between that party and the Government, and there would be no machinery in this provision to deal with that kind of case. So far as I can see, the attempt to amend this proposal bristles with difficulties, and the better course, I think, would be for the Minister to postpone its consideration until a provision can be drafted which will ex- press in plain terms and in a commonsense way the sense of this party or of the Senate on this question. At the present time this is anything but a creditable production, as hasty amendments made on the floor of . the Senate are always slipshod and slovenly, lacking consistency and order. I hope that the Minister will agree to postpone the consideration of this proposal until something approaching a decent amendment conveying the sense of the Senate can be framed. There seems to be little hope of our hitting upon any amendment which will satisfy this party, or the Government, or the Committee as a whole.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move-
That sub-clause 3 be further amended by leaving out the word “ both,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “all.”
At present it is proposed that the decision shall be binding on both parties to the dispute, and my object is to insure that it shall be binding on all parties.
– May I understand the idea of that proposal ?
– I want to put it beyond doubt as to what is meant, because in a complaint before the Judge there might be more than one section.
Amendment agreed to.
– The Government cannot accept the sub-clause for reasons which must be apparent. Suppose that the Government decides to do the work by day labour. If any dispute arises with their employes, the sub-clause declares that the Government are to have a master, whose decision is to be absolutely final, and he is to be, not a member of the High Court, but an official of the Northern Territory. We are going calmly to tell the Government that, no matter what wages they fix, if there is a dispute, it is to be settled by one of their own employes. I venture to say that if honorable senators opposite were supporting a Government they would not be expected to accept such a decision as that.
– The officer is a Judge.
– Surely honorable senators appreciate the difference between the Judge of the Arbitration Court, who is a member of the High Court, and this official, who has been appointed to exercise a limited jurisdiction in the Northern Territory.
– What about the chairman of a Wages Board, whose decision is final?
– There is no analogy. Here we are to adopt the procedure of the Arbitration Court, and a final decision is to be given by the judicial officer of the Northern Territory, who is to exercise powers which, under statute, we have vested in a Judge of the High Court. .
– There is nothing in the Minister’s contention. While the Judge of the Arbitration Court may be an excellent man for his position, it is impossible to ask him to go to Darwin to settle a dispute. If he did, it might hang up the whole work for weeks. Senator Clemons draws an imaginary distinction between a Judge of the High Court and the judicial officer of the Northern Territory. I remind the honorable senator that if he got into an altercation he might have to submit to the decision of a common justice of the peace. A lot of nonsense is talked about the assumed dignity, importance, and immensity of chaps who happen to get into high positions. It is all flam. There are as good men outside as are any of those who are appointed to dignified offices, and I never met one of them who was any better than an ordinary individual. Here is a practical proposal to get the man on the job to deal with an emergency if it should arise. We ought to accept it.
– I remind the Committee that when the Northern Territory was administered by South Australia, an Administrator was appointed who exercised in the Territory the full powers possessed by the Chief Justice in South Australia. He held the lives and deaths of accused men iii his hands.
– So does this judicial officer.
– Nothing serious is likely to arise in connexion with disputes. Surely if the judicial officer is fit to try a. man for his life he is fit to settle an industrial dispute.
Question- That sub-clause 3, as amended, be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sub-clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
Sub-clause 4 agreed to.
Proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be added :- 14b. In the supply and sale of stores to the men employed in the construction of the railway, the prices charged shall not be more than the prices for such stores obtaining in Port Darwin.
I do not want the men employed on this railway to be victimized, either by the Government or by storekeepers. They ought to receive their stores at the retail prices obtaining at Darwin:
– They ought to pay freight, surely?
– I do not see why they should be burdened with the cost of ‘freight. It was the intention of the late Government, in the construction of the east-and-west railway, to supply the men engaged upon the line with stores at prices obtaining in Kalgoorlie.
– Plus freight.
– I have no knowledge of that. I do not think that the storekeepers in Darwin will lose anything, and we ought to set an example by insuring that men working under arduous conditions shall receive their stores at fair prices.
.- I move-
That the amendment be amended by the addition of the words “ plus freight.”
I think it is only fair that freights should be added to the Darwin prices. I do not think that the men would have any right to expect that their stores should be carried free.
– W - Who is to supply the stores?
– I take it that it is intended that they shall be supplied by the Government. If they are not supplied by the Government, the amendment will not operate. We cannot, in a clause of this Bill, ask the keepers of private stores to supply the men at certain prices.
– We might as well insert another clause in the Bill to make the Government supply the stores.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [11.1.1].- It has not been made quite clear who is to supply the stores. We do not know whether they are to be supplied by storekeepers, the contractor, or the Government. Before we can deal intelligently with the proposal, we should know more definitely what it means. Perhaps Senator Needham will clear the matter up before honorable senators are asked to give a vote.
– I had in the original draft of my amendment the words “ Department or contractor,” but, in view of the fact that the Committee has recorded a vote against the contract system, I left the matter open.
– If no one is compelled to supply the goods on the terms stated, no one will do it, and the men will be left without any goods.
– Put in “by the Government.”
– I ask the leave of the Committee to amend my amendment by inserting after the word “ railway “ the words “by the Government.”
Amendment amended accordingly.
– Are the prices to be retail or wholesale i
– This railway will be only 54 miles in length, and it seems to me that there will not be many thousands of men employed in its construction. The Commonwealth Government have made no provision for storekeeping, and if a new department of officials is to be organized for the purpose, I am afraid that the men will have to pay more for their goods than if they were supplied by the storekeepers at Port Darwin in the usual way. I have no lack of sympathy for Senator Needham ‘s proposal, but I think it is necessary that we should be very careful about putting any Socialistic legislation into the hands of an anti-Socialistic Administration. What may be sound and practicable if carried out on a large scale may be impracticable on a small scale, and the Government might be in a position to make this proposal a hollow failure, and then say to the people all over Australia, “ See the result of Socialism.” I do not trust the present Government to give a proposal of this kind a fair chance, and I am afraid that by adopting the amendment we should only injure the cause we desire to support.
– I think this is an entirely feasible proposal, and that is proved by the Queensland experience, which has been quoted by Senator Turley. The honorable senator showed that a Government who have no sympathy with Labour ideals have found it possible to establish Government stores to supply the necessaries of life to men engaged on railway construction, and that the system has been found in practice to work successfully.
– C - Can the honorable senator vouch for that?
– It has been vouched for by honorable senators who come from Queensland.
– Senator Rae comes from New South Wales, where there is a Labour Government. Will he say what became of the store which the Government contemplated starting at Barrunjuck?
– I do not know.
– The Government abandoned it.
– I know that during the last two or three years the Labour Government in New South Wales have been able, on railway construction works carried out by day labour, to provide necessaries and conveniences for the men which were never dreamt of under any previous Administration. The result was not only to add to the comfort of the men, but to secure a regular and permanent supply of labour.
.- I should like to remind Senator Russell that last session we .dealt with a Navigation Bill, in which we compelled the owners of ships to provide a library for seamen. We not only compelled them to pay fair wages to their men, but actually to be at the expense of finding a library for them. If it was right that we should make such provision in dealing with private employers, there is surely nothing unreasonable in asking that the Government should supply their workmen with the goods they require at cost price. It is objected that we should not load up the Bill with socialistic ideas, but I think we cannot load the present Government with too many socialistic ideas. I recognise that I have a decidedly conservative turn of mind, and on mature consideration I am satisfied that the socialistic ideas we have introduced into legislation in this Chamber are right. If Senator Needham’s amendment be accepted the men employed in the construction of this line must be supplied by the Government with the gooch they require at the prices obtaining in Port Darwin. That is a reasonable and legitimate proposal. In speaking on the second reading of the Bill, I said that I was in favour of introducing provisions to secure proper sanitary arrangements and water supply for the construction camps. I have declined to go on with my amendment in view of the amendment which has been carried by the Committee, but I hope that Senator Needham’s amendment will be carried. The men working on this line will be working in unsettled country, and cannot hope to secure the goods they require, as they might do in any of the States where there are many private stores in competition with each other. It is not unreasonable that we should in an Act of Parliament impose upon the Government the responsibility of seeing that the men employed on this line shall not be given a reasonable wage, and then have it taken from them by an exorbitant charge for the necessaries they require. During the recent elections in New South Wales we heard it frequently said that all the legislative methods we have adopted by the establishment of Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts to secure an increase of wages for the workers have been set at nought by the power-holding classes increasing prices and rents, and so the workers have been robbed of the fruits of their years of agitation to secure better conditions for themselves.
– Does the Minister in charge of the Bill propose to accept the amendment 1
– No, I wish to have a division upon it as soon as possible.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the proposed new clause, as amended, be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 and 16 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Senator Clemons) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
.- On Friday last I asked the Government to consent to the adjournment of the Senate for two hours longer than was proposed, to enable me to return to my home in New South Wales, and to be back in Melbourne in time for the re-assembling of this Chamber. They refused to do so, but I am glad to say that more reasonable counsels prevailed in another place. To-day we met at 11 a.m., and it is now half-past 11 o’clock in the evening. We have sat continuously for twelve hours, and the Government now deliberately ask to suspend the Standing Orders to enable them to rush this measure through the Senate.
– Is it our own measure?
– I have treated the Government reasonably throughout the day. I voted with them on one occasion, in addition to acting as Whip for them. With the threat of a double dissolution hanging over our heads, we are asked to suspend our Standing Orders. I have protested against the adoption of that course, even when there was a Government in office which I supported. I would point out that nothing is to be gained by the proposed suspension of the
Standing Orders. If the Government treat this Bill in the ordinary way, it will not be returned to us before Thursday or Friday of this week, and until then we shall be fully occupied in considering the Appropriation Bill. I know that Senator Rae desires to criticise some of the items at length. Moreover, we have two hours of leeway to make up. Instead of suspending the Standing Orders, I ask the Government, with a view to expediting business, to consent to the adjournment of the Senate now, so that we may reassemble to-morrow at the usual hour. I should like the assurance of the Honorary Minister that this Bill represents the last business which will be considered to-night.
– There would be no necessity for these lengthy debates if the Government would consent to an innovation which, I am sure, would be appreciated by all honorable senators, from you, sir, downwards. My suggestion is that we should be permitted to have a quiet, comfortable smoke in the chamber. That, I am sure, would conduce to a more reasonable consideration of public questions, and to a more Christian feeling. So far we have nowomen senators, and I do not see why you, sir, and other honorable senators, should not be allowed to have a comfortable smoke while we are discussing the business of the country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and Standing and Sessional Orders suspended to enable it to be passed through all its stages without delay.
Bill returned from the House of Re presentatives, with a message intimating that that House had agreed to amendment No. 4 insisted on by the Senate, and to amendments Nos. 1 and 2 as consequentially altered by the Senate.
Bill returned from the House of Re presentatives, with a message intimating that that House had disagreed to the amendments made in the Bill by the Senate, for the reasons shown in an annexed schedule.
Senate adjourned at 11.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 December 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1913/19131216_SENATE_5_72/>.