9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator theHon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11a.m., and read prayers.
– Is it a fact, as reported in the newspapers, that the ceremony of turning the first sod in connexion with the building of the provisional House of Parliament at Canberra will be performed at a date which has been fixed? Why has the Government decided to build a provisional House before the matter has been dealt with by the Senate?
– It is a fact that it is proposed to hold a ceremony in connexion with the turning of the first sod for a provisional Parliament House at Canberra, but I would point out to Senator Gardiner that a Bill with which we shall deal to-day will supply the justification for the Government’s action.
– (By leave)- By way of personal explanation, I desire to state that, in connexion with the division taken last night, on a motion by Senator Elliott, for the appointment of a Select Committee, I had promised to give a pair to SenatorKingsmill. I regret very much that I overlooked the promise and recorded my vote. I wish to make that explanation, and to apologize to Senator Kingsmill, who I hope, in the circumstances, will forgive me.I very much regret the incident.
– I welcome Senator Duncan’s explanation, because the matter under discussion was one upon which’ I felt keenly, and wished to record a vote. I accept his explanation, and thank htm for making it
The following paper was presented: - Report of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the loss of the s.s. Sumatra.
Appointment of Royal Commission
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The matter will receive consideration.
Supply to Tasmania
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia -
Minister for Home and Territories) [11.5]. - I move -
That, for the remainder of the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all private business on the notice-paper, except questions and formal motions.
The Senate is now approaching that stage in the session when it is necessary for this motion to be submitted. Honorable senators are aware that, notwithstanding the carrying of the motion, they will still be able to deal with matters of urgency. The Standing Orders provide for that. The alteration asked for is a reasonable concession to the Government to enable it to close the session at an early date.
– There cannot, at the present stage, be much objection to the motion, in view of the amount of private members’ business on the notice-paper. I do not think that the discussion of that business is very anxiously wanted, even by those who placed it there, nor is it of much importance. I may be “ over the mark” in saying that, but I nevertheless think that the principle of allowing individual members a few hours each week to discuss private business should not be thrown overboard at the present time. This Senate has met, is meeting, and will meet the Government in every possible way with a view to making the business of this Chamber run smoothly. The Opposition will do it as far as possible, having regard to its duty as an Opposition. That, however, is no reason why we should give the Government more than a fair deal. I shall cite an instance to show how the Government itself, by its methods, has delayed business. I have recently placed two questions on the business-paper with a view to obtaining information which is necessary for me in my position as Leader of the Opposition. The questions related to the way in which the private banks obtain notes from the Government. Both questions have failed to obtain answers. If I cannot get the information by asking questions, I shall have to resort to the method of putting a motion on the business-paper and having a full discussion of the subject. I do not want to do that. I supposethe Government intends to terminate the session this day three weeks, but I suggest that it would be well for the Minister not to attempt to cross the bridge relating to private members’ business before he comes to it. By next Thursday the amount of business on the business-paper may be so small that the Government will be glad for private members to fill in the evening. I believe in expediting necessary and delaying unnecessary business. Between now and next Thursday private members may think of something to discuss, of more importance to the people of Australia, or to individual States, than the whole of the Government programme. I raise my protest against closing the door upon private members’ business. This is peculiarly a matter in which the small States have a great interest. Senator Ogden had a motion before the Senate last night, and he se- cured first, the indorsement of the Minister, and then a favorable vote of the Senate. From the Tasmanian point of view, that was a great achievement, as the matter was of vast importance to the people of that State. I do not like to view these things in a party light - the Senate is free from party, as our division lists show - but Senator Ogden, a Tasmanian Labour senator, has done more for Tasmania in about six weeks than six anti-Labour senators did in six years. These things are worthy of passing notice.
I instance them-
– Not in a party spirit.
– Perish the thought!
– The second motion by Senator Ogden could in no sense be termed a Labour party move. Senator Ogden seized his opportunity, and I have no doubt that other senators from that State will now look round to see how they can benefit their portion of the Commonwealth. Having slept behind big majorities for so long, they will perhaps now wake up to the importance of this matter. I want to assist them. I do not want to close the door on private members’ business and restrict to one honorable senator the privilege of advancing the interests of his State. The Minister will recollect that when the session opened Ipointed out to him that the Government would not be permitted to rush Bills through in the last few days of the session. That is not a threat or a warning.
– The Government has provided ample opportunity for discussion by introducing measures early.
– I accept the Minister’s statement. Probably the precautionary announcement made by me has induced the Minister to bring business forward early. The Minister would be unfair if he took undue credit to himself for it. . I recognise the reasonable way in which the Government has allowed the Senate to discuss its measures, but that is balanced by the reasonable way in which the Opposition has allowed Government measures to go through. Therefore, there is no obligation on either side. I think that even now the Minister might withdraw the motion and leave the matter to the good judgment and the good temper of the Senate. Senator Grant, on a motion last night, in which I think only he in Australia was interested, was considerate enough not to reply to the discussion. That is an instance in which a private member did not unnecessarily occupy the time of the Senate. We dealt last night with three private members’ motions, and finished up the evening with an important and debatable railway proposal in which a number of vital principles were determined. That rate of speed should be thoroughly satisfactory to the Government, which should not seek to bind honorable senators, at this stage, to say that for the next three weeks they will forego the opportunity of discussing private members’ grievances. What I wish to avoid in this Senate is the infliction of petty defeats upon the Government, and it is not my desire to place them in that position when, for instance, they protest against the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry.
– The honorable senator is not in order in discussing that matter.
– I should like you, sir, to explain why my remarks are out of order. I am endeavouring to show that if I called for a division on this motion the Government would most likely be defeated, and I do not wish that to’ occur. When a person, who has not been listening to the whole of this discussion, imagines that I am out of order in proposing to assist the Government, I am forced to discontinue my remarks.
– The motion by Senator Pearce is inconsiderate and unwarranted, and any such attempt to rob honorable senators of their privileges in this Chamber should be prevented. I wish to enter my protest against the motion. Private members have a limited time of only three hours during the whole week in which to bring forwardmatters which, in their opinion, should have been included in the Government programme, and which they consider are worthy of consideration and even of the approval of the Senate. It has been stated - and the statement is capable of complete verification - that up to date the opposition from this side of the chamber to Government proposals has been of the most moderate character, and that they have attained practically all that they desired in record time. I urge upon the Minister the desirability of withdrawing > this motion.
– I shall meet the honorable senator’s wishes in another way.
– The best way to do that is to leave private members’ business as it stands. The measure which I introduced in this Chamber, although defeated, was a matter of importance to the people of Australia, as also was the motion by another honorable senator relating to Tasmania, which met with the Senate’s approval. The time allotted to private members should not be disturbed. The privilege has existed from time immemorial, and is a part of our system of representation. Any Government business which it is necessary to put before this Chamber can be dealt with after the completion of private members’ business, and we should not object to continue the sittings of this Chamber until early morning, provided private members’ business were not curtailed. Under those circumstances the Minister would be well advised to withdraw the motion until the last week of the session.
– I recognise the force of the statement of the Leader of the Opposition, and I am prepared to meet him as far as I can. I invite honorable senators to place on the business-paper any notices of motion they wish to put before this Chamber. It will probably happen that, before we reach the period just prior to the adjournment, there will be intervals when this Senate will be waiting for another place. These would give an opportunity for the discussion of such motions. The motions can be left on the noticepaper from day to day, so as to take advantage of any intervals that occur.
– For discussion on any day?
– On any day, and not necessarily on Thursday. This will apply to notices of motion which are not postponed to a future date. The arrangement will probably allow of more time for private members’ business than would be the case if private members’ business were simply confined to Thursday evening. I ask the Senate to pass the motion on that understanding.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report adopted ; Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Crawford) proposed -
That the Bill he now read a third time.
.- I wish to protest against the action of this Government in omitting from the Bill provision for the future conversion of the proposed railway to a gauge of 4-ft. 81/2-in. The more I ponder over this Bill, the more I believe that it is a deliberate attempt to prevent, for many years to come, the commencement of the railway from the southern end of the Northern Territory. The proposal to construct this extension on a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge is a deliberate attempt to benefit Queensland, the apparent intention of the Government being that it shall connect with the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway system of that State. To make provision for the alteration of this gauge, the Minister stated, would cost £160,000, but I do not believe it would cost anything like that amount. The Government are attempting to render nugatory the action of the wise Labour Government of 1914 which made provision on a section of this line for an alteration to the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge.
– We are making provision for the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge in respect of bridges and culverts, but not in respect of the sleepers.
– The Bill does not contain any such provision in regard to sleepers. Longer sleepers should have been provided for, just as provision has been made, according to the Minister, for the bridges and culverts, to carry a wider gauge. When the Labour Government provided for an alteration to the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge on a section of this railway it was never thought that a later Government would make a further extension of the line southwards, without a similar provision. Senator Guthrie has referred to the Labour party’s provision for the alteration of the gauge as a wild cat scheme, but the only “wild cat” visible is this scheme which is now proposed by the Government. It is a suicidal policy, because it will seriously hamper the development of the Northern Territory. The Government have no intention to carry this line down to the southern boundary of the Territory. Their only desire is to render ineffective the action of a previous Labour Government. Such a thing was never heard of in railway construction, and there must be some ulterior motive behind the refusal of the Government to make provision for an alteration of gauge.
.- I join with Senator McDougall in his protest against the neglect of the Government to make provision in this Bill for the conversion of the proposed railway from a 3-ft. 6-in. to a 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge at some future date. With the Minister, I agree that the building of the line to a 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge would certainly entail additional expense, but it would be nothing like that to he incurred in the future when it is decided that there shall be a uniform gauge throughout Australia. The Government’s refusal to accept Senator McDougall’s amendment for longer sleepers can be taken as a definite decision that they are opposed to a uniform railway gauge throughout Australia. Actions speak louder than words. The Government may say what they like; I judge them by their actions. I believe that the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge is infinitely the best, and it is supported by the volume of expert evidence which has been taken on the question. The 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge has been adopted by New South Wales. It has been shown definitely that New South Wales’ chief function in the Federation is to pay for the conveniences of other States. The States have equal representation in this Senate, and those which have a different gauge from that of New South Wales seem to be determined that there shall not be a uniform gauge of 4-ft. 81/2-in. throughout Australia. The New South Wales senators oppo site are generous enough to get in behind the Government and keepback this question of a uniform gauge. New South Wales has just as much to gain from uniformity as any of the other mainland States. If the Commonwealth had decided in favour of the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge the immediate result would have been the expenditure of millions of pounds upon the alteration of bridges, culverts, and permanent way in New South Wales to make them suitable for the wider gauge. All this extra work would have been of substantial benefit to the people in my State. But the Commonwealth, some years ago, decided to confer that benefit upon States like Victoria and South Australia. The alteration of railway lines in those States, when the change takes place, will involve a heavy expenditure of public money.
– And they pointblank refuse to receive the blessing.
– They do. And, apparently, they have converted the Minister (Senator Crawford) to their way of thinking. Likewise they have converted Senator Cox. I should support any proposal that would insure the consummation of this idea of a uniform gauge, even if the decision were in favour of -the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, because I realize that the loss, the cost, and danger of broken gauges cannot be computed. Believing this, I join with Senator McDougall in expressing regret that the Government, by their legislation - I care not what they may say - have departed from this important principle of a uniform railway gauge. Experts on many occasions have been called together to deal with this question, and they have always decided in favour of uniformity, and preferably the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge. Since this is the considered judgment of the best engineering brains in’ the community, why not build all our Northern Territory railways to that gauge. I have no doubt that quite a number of honoroble senators who are supporting this Bill would, in theory, go as far as I do on this question of a uniform railway gauge ; but they are either indolent or they fail to realize that in a measure like this the responsibility is upon them to determine the issue. They have now the opportunity to compel the Government to pay due regard to the view - generally held throughout Australia - that our railway gauges should be unified. Senator McDougall discussed this matter with me when the Bill got through the Committee stages last night, and said that he would feel obliged on this motion for the third reading to direct attention to this departure by the Government from the policy that had been laid down by a previous Government. I am in thorough accord, and join with him now in registering my protest against this definite declaration of the Nationalist party against a uniform railway gauge for Australia. I realize, of course, that this proposed extension of the Northern Territory railways must be constructed from the Darwin end. I presume the steel sleepers will be manufactured at the Newcastle Steel Works. At all events, I hope so, because the works are in the State I represent, and give employment to a large number of men. This railway material, I have no doubt, will be placed on steamers at Newcastle and taken to Darwin, and thence along the existing line at no cost to the Government, becauseour own railway will be earning the carriage, to the point of commencement. If the railway were commenced from the southern end, the steel sleepers and other material would still be obtained from the Newcastle works, but they would have to be taken by sea to South Australia, and transported over South Australian railways to the terminus of the existing line.
– They would probably be taken to Port Augusta.
– And conveyed over the Commonwealth railway.
– Does the Commonwealth railway go through Port Augusta ?
– Almost. There is a gap of only 20 miles, owned by the South Australian Government.
– Yes, and that word “ almost “ is just the difference between whether I am right or wrong. If I may judge the business capacity of the South Australian people from the manner in which they handed that concession over to the Commonwealth Government, we shall have to pay pretty handsomely for the transport of the material over their section of the line.
– I think that we have the right to run our trains over that section.
– I am very glad to hear that we have that privilege, but I undertake to say that the South Australian Government have the right to fix the freights. I have not made myself actually acquainted with the terms of the contract, but I understand that when the Commonwealth took over the QuornOodnadatta railway the South Australian Government, with remarkably longsighted business vision, fixed the freights that could be charged on that section. The third reading of this measure is a reminder that apparently the Government have thrown overboard the principle of a uniform gauge for the Commonwealth; and whenI see our military representatives solidly behind them in this departure from what was avowedly the Government policy, I fear that militarism in Australia is going to take the same course that it took in Great Britain, and that all the “too-lates “ of the war will be also the “ too-lates “ in Australia. No doubt their intentions are quite good. Their judgment that the railway gauges of the Commonwealth should be unified is quite sound, but somehow they seem to lack the necessary will to exert themselves at the right moment. Perhaps this is because of their military training. Their leader in this Chamber (Senator Pearce) only needs to look at them and these military generals obediently fall in behind him. I again protest emphatically against the failure of the Government, in this proposed extension, to provide for the widening of the line to the standard gauge.
– There is a good , deal in what Senator Gardiner has said about the necessity for the unification of our railways on a 4-ft. -81/2-in. gauge basis, but I realize that the existing line in the Northern Territory is on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, that all the rolling-stock is suited to that gauge, and that if, in the future, the line should link up with the Queensland system, there will be one gauge right through the Northern Territory and Queensland.
– The line will never get into Queensland.
– Senator Gardiner suggests that it will. It would be a great mistake to build this section on the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge, seeing that the existing line for considerably over 100 miles is a narrow-gauge railway.
– It would be absurd, from a military point of view, to have yet another break of gauge in the Northern Territory.
– In South Australia there is a proposal now to convert certain of the narrow-gauge lines to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge.
– My view is that the line should be built to the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, and that some day it should link lip with the Queensland system. The New South Wales Government are making arrangements for the 4-ft. 8J-in. railway to go through to Brisbane, and I expect that eventually the Queensland Government will extend the standard gauge out as far as Camooweal. There will then be hundreds of miles of 3-ft. 6-in. railways acting as feeders for the main railway arteries.
– Would the honorable senator disregard the report of the Parliamentary Committee on the subject?
– I would disregard any report if I thought that there was not good, sound sense behind it. I think the Government are adopting the right course in this matter.
– I desire also to protest against the action of the Government in submitting this proposal to continue the Northern Territories railway on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge thus making the unification of Australian railways more difficult. The people are in favour of one standard gauge for the Commonwealth. The 4-ft. 8-J-in. gauge was adopted for the transAustralian line when a Labour Government,, which invariably does the right thing, was in office; but Conservative Governments are influenced by other considerations, and usually do what is wrong. After hearing the expressions of opinion on this proposal, it appears that Queensland is able to exert considerable influence, and that that State will Secure the whole of the benefit of railway construction in the Northern Territory. I was astounded to hear Senator Cox, who represents a State where the railways are built on a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, inviting the Government to construct the proposed line on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, so that it could eventually connect up with the Queensland railway system. I am sure the honorable senator’s constituents will express considerable surprise at his utterances, because New South Wales has for a number of years strongly advocated the adoption of a uniform gauge. Senator Cox also said that he would pay little regard to the recommendations of a Committee appointed to inquire into this project. I cannot understand whence this influence is coming.
– Geographical considerations influence the Committee.
– Nothing of the kind. Queensland has six Nationalist representatives in this Chamber - South Australia has only three - and their influence is apparently being used in a certain direction. The other day we passed a Meat Exports Bounty Bill which will benefit Queensland to a greater extent than any other State. ,
– A simple way out of the difficulty would be for South Australia to elect a larger number of Nationalist candidates.
– At the last election South Australia defeated three Nationalists, and when- an appeal is next made to the people, Labour representation will be stronger than it is to-day. I am sure that Senator Cox is not expressing the opinions of the people of New South Wales, but I am voicing the views of a. majority of the people in South Australia. An attempt is being made to interfere with South Australia’s natural rights, and the line from Oodnadatta northwards should have been extended before this proposal was considered.
– Neither Queensland nor South Australian railways are under consideration. I have allowed considerable latitude, but the honorable senator must now confine his remarks to the Bill, which provides for the construction of a line between two definite points.
– I trust that the Government will give further careful consideration to the suggestion made, and consider .the proposal from a purely Australian standpoint.
– I rather regret the trend of the debate in this and another Chamber, as proposals of this nature should be considered more on their merits than from the standpoint of the interests of individual States. Senator McDougall has raised the question of using sleepers of sufficient length to carry a 4-ft. 81/2-in. line, and this contention has been strongly supported by Senator Gardiner. The Public Works Committee, when dealing with the proposed line, went very fully into the question of the gauge. The members of the Committee visited the country proposed to be served, and made themselves acquainted with the eastern and western States, which will eventually be connected by rail with the Northern Territory. Having considered all these points, the Committee recommended that the proposed line should be constructed on the 3-ft. 6-in, gauge. This decision’ was influenced to some extent by the fact that all the Queensland and Western Australian railways are constructed on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, and are not likely to be converted for many years.
– Connexion could also be made in the south with a 3-ft. 6-in. line.
– Yes, connexion could be made on three sides. The whole of the railways in South Australia north of Quorn will remain on the narrow gauge for many years, and as all the country north of a line from Brisbane to Perth will be served bynarrow gauge railways, it would be a mistake to increase the number of breaks of gauge. I have seen the invention for overcoming the break of gauge difficulty, mentioned by Senator Gardiner, and that particular contrivance appears to present more favorable features than others I have inspected. Railway engineers, however, are strongly opposed to such devices, as by their adoption the risks involved in railway travelling would be increased.
– Should not the Government have submitted the device to a practical test?
– I was very favorably impressed, but I am still of the opinion that its adoption would add to existing risks. If the gauge of the proposed line were broadened, all the rolling-stock now in use in the Northern Territory would have to be scrapped, and that, too, influenced the Committee in recommending the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. The suitability or otherwise of concrete sleepers was also carefully considered by the Committee.’ Some railway engineers favour concrete sleepers, while others are strongly opposed to their use Steel sleepers were not recommended by the Committee. Timber sleepers have a life of ten to fifteen years, and if during that period the gauge was widened, new sleepers would be required. I believe it is the intention to use steel sleepers, but there is nothing to prevent a longer sleeper being utilized.
– The cost of the upkeep of the permanent-way would be greater.
– Yes ; but not a great deal. If steel sleepers last fifty years, they should be of sufficient width to carry the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge. According to the evidence tendered by the railway engineers in Queensland, the extra cost of steel sleepers is not excessive, and it would be largely a matter of incurring the cost of a longer sleeper.
– The road would have to be wider in proportion.
– Not in proportion.
– Some engineers said that it would cost very little more to use a longer sleeper, but when trains travel at a fair speed strong and wide embankments are essential. As a great portion of the proposed line will traverse level country, the Government should seriously consider the question of utilizing longer sleepers. Inquiries were also made by the Committee concerning the use of ant-resisting timber, of which there is an abundant supply in Java, Timor, and Western Australia. It has been said that trains on the proposed railway will not be able to travel at a speed, sufficiently great to provide the necessary facilities for travelling stock, but this is quite a mistake. Many railways throughout the world, including those in South Africa, are of a narrow gauge, and fast and comfortable transit is provided. Although the railway gauge in Java is less than 3 ft. 6 in., and a speed of forty miles an hour is attained, train travelling in that country is as comfortable as in any part of the world .
– That speed is only attained occasionally in Java.
– Of course, the speed varies according to the grade. A few weeks agothe Premier of South Australia, Sir Henry Barwell, and an official party, travelled from Oodnadatta to Adelaide, a distance of 688 miles, in 26 hours 20 minutes. The usual time for that journey is seventy-two hours. The 26 hours 20 minutes included all stops, including the delay at a break-of-gauge station. Between Adelaide and Terowie, 140 miles, the gauge is 5 ft. 3 in., but the whole of the remainder of the journey was made on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge.
– Was it a very light train ?
– It was a passenger train, with the usual staff, and I think it was a fairly heavy train. The Railway Commissioner in South Australia has stated that his intention is to have the 688 miles covered in future in thirtysix hours, thus reducing the present timetable by one-half. This, of course, will be a great advantage to stock-owners.
– It is gratifying to know that South Australia is waking up at last.
– The Federal authorities are not altogether blameless with respect to that line. High speeds are being attained nowadays on the narrowgauge lines in Tasmania and New Zealand. What is required is a type of locomotive suitable for fast travelling. It has been said that the Commonwealth Government will be departing from the principle of a uniform gauge by building the proposed section in the Northern Territory on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. I claim to be as keen as anybody in my desire to have uniformity brought about as early as possible, but I cannot agree to the expenditure of tremendous sums of money in ornamental railway construction, which is quite unnecessary in the country to be developed. That is why I favour the present proposal. The Bill does not tie down the Government to the use of sleepers of any particular size, and if, after going into this aspect with their officers, they consider it desirable to lay longer sleepers, that no doubt will be done. I do not think that the extra cost would be asgreat as theMinister (Senator Crawford) has suggested.
Senator KINGSMILL (Western Australia [12.6]. - I have not spoken on the previous stages of the Bill, and I rise now only to explain that my reason for not having previously discussed the measure is that I have been in a great state of uncertainty as to whether or not the Bill should be passed. I intend to leave the gauge problem out of consideration, because the Government have satisfied me on that point. What I am concerned about is the future destination of this railway. My support of the construction of the proposed section depends altogether on an assurance being given by the Government that the next section is to be laid straight in the direction of Oodnadatta.
– The honorable senator will not receive any such assurance.
– I regard the construction of this line as the carrying out of a pledge. I do not share the disregard that Senator Cox evinced for “ scraps of paper.” I realize that the “ scraps “ to which the honorable and gallant gentleman was accustomed overseas were not paper “scraps,” and it would ill become one who hails from the State from which I come to support anything which would mean failure to carry out the pledge given to South Australia. The obligation to Western Australia with respect to the construction of the EastWest line was much less definite than the obligation of the Commonwealth to South Australia. It is on that ground only that I support the construction of this section, realizing that it represents a partial discharge of that obligation. If the Minister (Senator Crawford), acting on behalf of the Government, cannot give me an assurance that it is the Government’s present intention to build the next section directly towards Oodnadatta, I shall be reluctantly compelled to vote against the” third reading of the Bill.
– As one who has taken great interest in the securing of a uniform railway gauge for the Commonwealth, I very much regret that the Government seem determined to build the proposed section on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. It would be false economy to build a narrow-gauge line, because the saving in expense would be comparatively small. The 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge has been adopted as the standard for the Commonwealth, and it is recognised the world over as the most suitable for railway traffic. It is quite true that Western Australia and Queensland have many miles of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge lines, but that should not carry any weight whatever with the Commonwealth Government, which is now engaged in connecting up Darwin with some portion of South Australia. I do not favour the contention that there should be a determined effort to make a direct connexion with Oodnadatta. The compact between the Commonwealth Government and South Australia would be fully observed if the present line in the Northern Territory was eventually connected with Adelaide, even if it did make a slight detour through Queensland.
– Oodnadatta is not mentioned in the agreement.
– Does the honorable senator wish the line to wander all over Australia ?
– No; but I see no reason why it should not serve the fertile country in the neighbourhood of Camooweal, and I believe that is the route that it will eventually follow.
– Does the honorable senator wish to make a circular railway of it?
– Why not link up Sydney?,
– I see no reason why there should not be connexions between the North-South line and the existing termini in the south-western portion of Queensland and in New South Wales. The cost of converting a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to the Commonwealth gauge would be costly, but the work will have to be done eventually. Many people voted for Federation because they were tired of the obnoxious duties imposed at fictitious boundaries; and the present breaks of gauge between the different States are equally undesirable. They are not only a very great inconvenience, but are also most costly. I presume that the Government do not intend to reconvert the East-West line to the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, and, therefore, the right course to pursue is to build the proposed section on a 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge, no matter what the cost. Foresight was shown by a previous Government that made provision for the line from Pine Creek to theKatherine River to be converted to the standard gauge of the Commonwealth. I believe that the bridges and embankments were made sufficiently wide and strong for a line of that gauge. The proposal to use steel-sleepers long enough only to carry a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line would be fatal, because such sleepers have a life of, probably, fifty or sixty years, and they would be valueless for a 4-ft. 81/2-in. line if it was decided later to widen the gauge. I favour the construction of a railway on the Commonwealth gauge from Port Darwin to Port Augusta or Adelaide, and I shall not support the construction of any more 3-ft. 6-in. lines. We have been told that devices have been conceived and put into practice whereby rolling-stock can be used on lines of varying gauges. I took a great interest in the trial held at Tocumwal some years ago, but, from what I have read and seen, these devices are unsatisfactory and risky from a railway point of view. I have not heard of one engineer approving of rolling-stock that can be quickly moved from one gauge to another. Engineers, generally, adopt the slogan, “ Safety first,” and their idea of safety first is to have a uniform gauge, preferably of 4 ft.81/2 in. The correct thing for the Government to do would be to construct the line to a 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge.
– I did not think that the motion for the third reading of the Bill would get so much treatment at the hands of the Senate, and I would not have spoken but for the fact that the discussion which has centred round two widths of gauges may have a mischievous effect, and jeopardize the passage of the Bill. I would not like to see that happen, because it is generally agreed that the first essential for the development of the Territory at the present time is a railway of any description. I hope that the discussion will not have the effect of preventing the construction of the railway. Some jocular remarks have been indulged in at the expense of the military element supporting the Government. I would not rush in to defend that element, because I am sure they can do it themselves, although I know it is not their accepted or acknowledged rule to indulge in rhetorical display. Their particular forte is a quite different form of activity. I would re- mind Senator Gardiner that last eveninghe had- the support, in a division of this Senate, of a General, some soldiers, some military critics, and perhaps a few camp followers. He won on that occasion, and he did not complain. It would seem that he needs to win every time to prevent him complaining. The proposal to construct the line to a gauge of 4 ft. 8$ in. is full of shortcomings, one of which, as mentioned by Senator Newland, is that probably before many years have passed we shall discover a type of sleeper that will suit that part of the country. Steel sleepers may serve the purpose, but concrete sleepers are being developed, although they are still in the embryonic stage. We do not know how near we shall get to perfection. To lay the road on steel sleepers, which are of doubtful utility, or on wood, which is unthinkable, may involve the Commonwealth in a lot of unnecessary expense. The proposal for a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge has the further fatal defect that it would entail converting the whole length of the line from Port Darwin to the Katherine. The rolling-stock would also need to be changed. It would be no child’s play to, rip up that line and convert it and the rolling-stock. That would have to. be clone if the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) to make the link from the Katherine River to Daly Waters to the standard gauge were accepted. A further defect is that we do not know what change in methods of traction will take place in the near future’. Scientific research is marching very fast, and no one knows what the womb of time has in store for us in the way of better locomotion. The internal combustion engine is being rapidly developed. It has displaced steam nearly everywhere, but it has not yet done so upon the railways of the world. A railway from PortDarwin,, passing through the interior of Australia, and connecting with the ocean on the south of the continent, would pass through country which is subject to long, dry seasons, when the supply of water for traction purposes would have to he transported over the line. This would be a costly and never-ending drain upon the resources of any railway project. To lay down a 4-ft. 8^-in gauge line, designed to be worked by steam power, would be an act of folly in face ,of the probable further improvement in internal combustion engines. Party politics should not enter into a question regarding the rival merits of two railwaygauges. I cannot trace any party politics in the origin or use of either gauge. The Northern Territory railway system must remain an island system for some time. That being so, the gauge of the east-west transcontinental railway does not enter into consideration. The Labour party has claimed credit for the transcontinental railway. Its members might as well boast that they unified the gauges iu Great Britain - that it was a Labour Government that undertook the work in that country. On the Continent of Europe, when the gauges were changed to 4 ft. 8£ in.,* I suppose it was the Labour Governments of the different countries that did it. In Canada and in the United States of America, Labour Governments, of course, were responsible for these things. History, incidentally, contradicts these statements. When I listened to the claims of members of the Opposition, I thought that the Labour party had actually invented the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. When the necessity arises for changing the gauge of the Northern Territory line, it will not be a humanly impossible task. The railway from London to Bristol .was converted in a night, and I am sure that Australians are as resourceful as the people of Great Britain. When the time comes for making the change, I believe this country will be equal to the occasion. I hope the Bill will -not be jeopardized by the discussion, and I feel sure that Senator Gardiner did not intend to impede .its passage.
– I am in favour of the railway being constructed to a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. Common sense and experience indicate the foolishness of doing otherwise. Those who are in earnest in their desire to develop the Northern Territory must know, if they consider the experience of the -States, that it would be impossible to develop it with railways built to a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge.
– Who is asking for that?
– It has been implied all through the discussion. In Queensland we have more railways per head of the population than exist in any other State. If those railways had not been designed to a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, not more than half of them would exist to-day. I believe a 3- ft. 6-in. gauge railway would be best for the development of the Northern Territory. I trust that the Government will eventually extend the line to NewCastle Waters. That was where Sir Boss Smith landed on his flight to Australia. The Imperial Government, the Australian Government, and the Indian Government are trying to organize a chain of aeroplane stations between Australia and the Old Country. If such a scheme is evolved Newcastle Waters, in preference to anywhere else in the Territory, will probably be required as a fuel depot. It would be wise to build the railway to Newcastle Waters at almost any cost. The Minister (Senator Crawford) stated that oil fuel would greatly assist transport in the Northern Territory. If’ the aerial service with the Old Country we’re established, it would be a splendid addition to the defence equipment of Australia. The railway could be used to take oil fuel to Newcastle Waters. When Mr. O’Sullivan was Minister for Railways in New South Wales, Queensland agreed to make the tunnels, culverts, and bridges on the line between Brisbane and Tweed Heads suitable for a gauge of 4 ft. 81/2 in. That provision is now useless, and all the money spent on making it has been wasted, because to-day a line from Kyogle to Beaudesert is favoured. Queensland has always been in favour of the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge for its main lines, but it is recognised that the interior of the State can be developed only by 3-ft. 6-in. lines. It will be many generations before the people will be able to afford to convert all the lines in Queensland to a 4- ft. 81/2-in. gauge. Every one is agreed that, apart from the contract with South Australia, a railway connexion between the Northern Territory and Queensland would benefit the Northern Territory in many ways. Even the provision of longer sleepers would cost a considerably increased amount of money. The gauge will not be altered for probably fifty years. It was a Queensland engineer who invented steel sleepers, because of the ravages of white ants in the Gulf country. They have been fairly successful, but reinforced concrete sleepers are now being investigated. If they prove satis factory they will be of great benefit to Australia. There is an unlimited quantity of material in this country from which to make them. They are better than steel in wet weather. It is still an open question with railway experts whether steel or reinforced concrete sleepers, are the best. The Government is wise in deciding to adopt for this line the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, which will link it with existing railways better than any other gauge.
– I have travelled from Western Australia to the east on the Transcontinental Railway, on which there are no less than three changes of gauge before reaching Adelaide.
– There are nine between Western Australia and Brisbane.
– The changes of gauge are a great barrier to sending produce by rail from the eastern States to the Western Australian gold-fields. Sea carriage is cheaper, and that is one reason why the train service does not pay. It is apparent that the provision of a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge for this proposed railway plays into the hands of Queensland, which has the same gauge. As the transcontinental railway was constructed for the dual purpose of defence and transport facilities, the Government should continue that gauge throughout the Commonwealth territory. If they are not prepared to establish the broad gauge in the Northern Territory they should at least provide longer sleepers to facilitate any future conversion. By adopting the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge the National Parliament will be playing into the hands of those States which oppose the unification of the gauges. Western Australia favours a uniform gauge, because it would have the effect of improving transport facilities and cheapening rates and fares. It has been stated that steel sleepers should be utilized for the proposed railway, since owing to the prevalence of white ants, Wooden sleepers would not last for any length of time. I favour that proposal, providing the steel sleepers are of sufficient length to facilitate later conversion.
– The discussion that has taken place on the motion for the third reading of this Bill is practically a repetition of the debate on the second reading and in Committee. As the interests of Queensland have been frequently mentioned, I wish to point out that for every mile that this section of railway will run towards Queensland, it will travel at least 3 miles towards South Australia. Although the direction of the line is said to be south-easterly, the greater portion of it will be south rather than easterly. I was surprised to hear from South Australian senators that that State was strongly in favour of the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge. We were assured that that State was busily engaged in converting lines from the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge.
– I told the Minister that the Premier of South Australia stated that he was tired of waiting for the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge conversion.
– The Commonwealth Government made very comprehensive proposals in respect of the unification of gauges to the State Premiers. When in conference, and received practically no support. The opposition of the South Australian representatives was particularly noticeable.
– That is so, but public opinion in South Australia is so strongly in favour of the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge that the Premier will be compelled to alter his attitude.
– The proposed line cannot be regarded as a rival to the section of railway between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs. Concerning the North-, South line, the Government are not unmindful of their obligations under the agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia. They intend to give early consideration to the qustion of extending the line from Oodnadatta northwards to Alice Springs. I cannot give honorable senators any assurance as to the direction which the next section of this railway will take. That matter will firstneed to be referred to the Public Works Committee, and after receipt of their, report, Parliament will determine what course the line shall take. The Bill relates to a section of the North-South railway, which will follow very closely the route of the overland telegraph line. As two divisions in Committee were taken on the question of the length of sleepers, no further remarks from me on that subject are necessary.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
.- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time. This Bill provides for a total expenditure of £681,521, the major portion of which is for defence works. Of the balance, £220,000 is set apart for the construction and extension of telegraph and telephone lines, that sum being approximately the amount which was expended out of revenue during the last financial year. The total expenditure for which the Bill provides is £39,406 less than the new works expenditure charged to revenue last financial year, and generally speaking, the items are for services of a similar character. In addition to the sum of £371,108 provided for defence, an amount of £351,415 is provided in the Loan Fund Estimates. Similarly, in addition to the provision of £220,000 for new telegraph and telephone works, -the sum of £2,980,000 is also provided in the Loan Estimates for those purposes. Those two main items are really supplementaryto the much larger amounts being provided out of Loan. Honorable senators will agree that it is impossible to provide out of revenue for these large commitments, especially for works which, as in the case of the Postal Department, are of a reproductive nature and are, therefore, a legitimate charge upon Loan Funds.
– How does the total expenditure on works compare with that of previous years?
– It is £39,000 less than that provided forlast year.
– That is from revenue ?
– Yes. The heavy expenditure for the Post Office forms part of the sum of £9,750,000 which it is proposed to spend over a period of three years to overtake the arrears of new works for telegraphs and telephones.. This is the second instalment towards that end. It will be found, on examination of the items of the Bill, that they are all for necessary works, and that there is nothing of an extravagant character in connexion with them. It is desirable that We should vote the money as soon as possible in order that we ‘ may commence these works, many of them, such as the postal works, being urgently required. When completed, they will add greatly to the convenience of the people scattered throughout the Commonwealth. For that reason, I ask the Senate to proceed at once with the Bill.
– Does the Bill contain an item concerning the building of the provisional Parliament House at Canberra, in connexion with which the turning of the first sod is shortly to take place ?
– I do not think there is such an item in this Bill; there is one in the Loan Estimates.
– When will the Loan Estimates be brought down?
– At a very early date.
– Will any of the items in this Bill lead to an increase in employment?
– Certainly. The new buildings to be erected will not be confined to one or two big centres, but will be scattered all over the Commonwealth.
– Will an increase of the staff be involved?
– No ; but it will certainly involve an increase of labour.
– Other than what is being employed to-day?
– Yes. These new works cannot proceed until the Bill is passed. It provides for only absolutely necessary expenditure.
– I do not wish to’ delay this measure, although I cannot see in it very much scope for new work. I looked in vain through its provisions for anything concerning the Federal Capital. I do not think the Government have any serious intention of establishing the Capital. I thought that before the turning of the first sod in connexion with the erection of the provisional Houses of Parliament at Canberra the Senate would begiven an opportunity to vote on the question.
– We shall probably have the Loan Estimates before us shortly, and there will be an opportunity then to discuss the matter mentioned.
– I understand that the arrangements have been made for the turning of the first sod in anticipation of parliamentary approval. This practice is to be deprecated. No doubt the Minister and the officers of the Department are quite satisfied with the Government proposals, but I point out that the work’ will involve the expenditure of considerably over £100,000, and that it will be commenced before the formal approval of Parliament is given. The measure before the Senate is one that may be dealt with more advantageously in Committee, where we shall have an opportunity to debate the schedule item by item. Still, I feel that I should direct attention to one or two important matters. The first has relation to the proposed extension of telephone facilities in country districts. The present position is, I think, very unsatisfactory. I speak particularly of the experience of a number of enthusiastic country residents at Vittoria, in New South Wales. They wanted telephonic communication with Blayney, 10 miles distant, and submitted the usual request to the Department. In due course an officer of the Department visited the district, and after making the necessary inquiries advised them that telephone facilities would he made available if they undertook to find the poles, which I understand are worth about £1 each, and delivered them where they were wanted along the proposed route. I cannot imagine the Department adopting the same attitude towards business men in, for instance, a city like Sydney. We all deplore the drift of population from the country to our cities, but apparently the Government are not alive to the necessity of making the conditions in the country more attractive. The policy should be to make it possible for telephones to be installed in as many country homes as possible, and as cheaply as possible.
– The departmental conditions were liberalized last year.
– They may have been liberalized, but I am speaking of what actually happened. These farmers were expected to pay practically one-half the cost of the construction of the line.
– They are entitled to telephone facilities without a special contribution if the proposed line does not cost more than £1,500.
– Well, I am telling the Senate what actually occurred. The applicants were advised that there would be no objection on the part of the Department if they were prepared to find and deliver the necessary telephone poles. And they were so keen about the development of their own district that they agreed to do so.
– It is becoming the practice of the Department to call upon local residents to help in that way.
– Apparently- it is the policy of the Department in New South Wales, at all events.
– And it has been in Tasmania also, but I understand that telephone communication for country districts will now be provided by the. Department if the cost of a line does not exceed £1,500.
– It is highly important that our . primary producers should be able by means of the telephone to follow the trend of markets. The telephone is essential to every progressive farmer, and he should not be called ‘upon to make additional sacrifices in order to enjoy its advantages. I obtained the .facts concerning the case to which I refer from one of the men who made the application. He was not . complaining. He simply told me what the arrangement was, and where he was going to get the poles. One man, I understand, had agreed to use his team to cart the poles, and others obtained them. I suppose that the carting of the poles would represent about three days’ work for one man and his team, and perhaps two or three men would be required to load and unload them. In my view this is an imposition upon the people. The service ought to be pro- .vided by the Department, because the people pay for it._ Of course, I can understand the departmental view. Probably certain officials realize that their positions would be much easier if many of these requests for country telephones were discouraged or delayed in execution.’ Perhaps they argue that if one little centre of 100 farmers succeeded’ in getting telephonic communication, other centres in New South Wales would make similar requests, and finally the Department would be flooded with applications. Our primary producers should not be further handicapped in this way. The Government should be prepared to establish telephones wherever they may be needed.
– The departmental regulations provide that if the cost of a new telephone service does not exceed £1,500, it shall be provided by the Government.
– I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance, and I place it side by side with the experience of the residents of Vittoria who wanted to telephone to Blayney. It so happened that it was not necessary for them to provide telephone poles for the full distance, because at a point- 4 or 5 miles from Vittoria they junctioned with a trunk telephone line to Blayney. I am quite sure that in New South Wales, at all events, the present practice of the Department is not in keeping with the Minister’s assurance. If I am wrong, I shall be glad to be set right.’
– All I can say is that if the position is as stated by the honorable senator, the policy laid down by the Government is not being observed, and it is as well that we should know it.
– That is the point. I say definitely that, according to my information, the only hope that the people of Vittoria had of getting telephonic communication with Blayney was on the condition that they supplied and delivered the poles for the line. I am rather keen about the extension of telephonic facilities to the country districts, because1 1 realize what an important part the telephone plays in the development of our rural areas, and I regret that, from this point of view, we are not in a better position. To give point to what I am saying, I should state that for a distance of 30 miles along the Western-road from Bathurst to Orange, there is no public telephone, notwithstanding that the road traffic has developed enormously in recent years.- I believe there is a telephone at Lucknow, but then for a distance of fully 30 miles there is no public telephone. The time has come when the Government should launch a definite policy for the establishment of trunk telephone lines along all main roads, with facilities for branch services to different country districts. Telephonic communication is very nearly as important as railway communication. I should like to see the Government put in hand a telephone survey of all the States. This survey, or map, should show all existing telephone lines and the routes which, in the opinion of experts, main trunk lines should follow, with branch lines to farming centres. In this way it would be possible to link up every country district with the nearest trading centre. Sydney is the great trading centre for practically the whole of the western portion of New South Wales. I understand that where poles are already in position, the Department allows some concessions in the shape of reduced rates to applicants, but my point is that the Government should have a definite policy to provide telephonic communicationtoall personsengaged . in primary production in order that they may keep in touch with the trend of markets. I feel sure that the Minister will see the reasonableness of this suggestion, and I hope the Government will give it serious consideration.
Sittingsuspended from 1 p.m. to 2.30 p.m.
– This is a measure which can be more effectively dealt with in Committee, and, in view of my desire to assist the Government in passing the Bill without delay, I do not wish to set a bad example by delivering a lengthy speech. I shall, therefore, reserve my complaints, which are numerous, until a later stage.
– I invite the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to a number of monstrosities which, for many years, have disfigured the footpath in front of the Sydney General Post Office. I do not know whether these obstructions were erected on the suggestion of a Postmaster-General. They are composed of Victorian bluestone and marble held together with putty or cement, upon which are mounted pieces of bronze. Ostensibly they are used as lamp supports.
– There is nothing in this Bill relating to old structures. It is a measure dealing solely with additions, new works and buildings.
– A new post-office is urgently required at the top of Williamstreet, Sydney. In consequence of the enormous improvements taking place in Sydney it has been found necessary to demolish one side of Williamstreet for a considerable distance, and to replace the old buildings with modern structures. The only offender in this respect is the Commonwealth Government, which is in possession of a post-office which effectively blocks the completion of the reconstruction work. I believe it is intended to erect a new building, and I should like the Minister to take the necessary steps to demolish the old structure and erect a new one on the proposed new alignment.
I am surprised that there is no definite information in regard to the proposed new buildings at Canberra. The Bill seems to be placed before us in a most slovenly fashion. So many items are marked by an asterisk that it is difficult to ascertain the actual expenditure from revenue and loan account. The measure can be more effectively dealt with in Committee, but in the meantime the Minister may have the opportunity of obtaining information on the points I have raised.
.- The schedule of the Bill indicates that it is not intended to expend, out of revenue, a very large sum upon Federal Public Works. I do not know how the proposed expenditure compares with previous years, but the amount is not large when one considers the extent of the Commonwealth and its resources. This would be a convenient time for the Government to declare their policy, and to state definitely whether work will be done by contract or by labour under the direct supervision of Government officials. At present there must be a large skeleton organization - if it has not been disbanded - under the control of the Government, the members of which are not fully occupied, and could be utilized to supervise works carried out by day labour. Public policy has changed very much upon this question, but the Government, in certain particulars, have stated that it is their intention to carry out work wherever possible under the contract system. The Labour party, which has pinned its faith to the day-labour system, has recognised its outstanding virtues; but it has had, in some instances, to abandon its adhesion to the principle. Whilst both parties seem to have had their faith shaken as to the wisdom of carrying out works by day labour, I still think there is virtue iti it. Up to date that system has not been given the chance it might have been given by the very men in whose interests it was largely introduced. Whatever may be said against the day-labour system, I do not think we should go right over and leave ourselves at the mercy of certain firms who undertake contracting work. In to-day’s newspapers particulars are given of certain contract work carried out by the Victorian Government at Warrnambool. The Treasurer of this State, Sir William McPherson, used very strong language concerning it. He said that the work was scandalous, and that the taxpayers’ money had virtually been thrown into the sea. Some contractors, instead of rendering faithful service, when they obtain a good price, do the very reverse. In days gone by the direct use and employment of labour was in the best interests of the taxpayers, and that is what we have to consider. Whether we are attached to the day labour or to the contract system we should keep in our minds which, in the attendant circumstances, is the better one to adopt. We can recall the time when the system of direct labour under Government supervision was the means of saving the taxpayers in some of the States, and in the Commonwealth as a whole, thousands of pounds. In Western Australia it was once the’ proud boast of the Government that certain important railway work was carried out by day labour under the supervision of the departmental officers to the undoubted advantage of the taxpayers. Mr. Bell has also told us of railway construction in Queensland, where, by close adherence to that policy, the taxpayers of that State were saved over a period of years tens of thousands of pounds. In veiw of the fact that it was once a good policy for work to be carried out in this way, there does not appear to be any justification - I do not know what is the intention of the present Government - to go over holus-bolus to the contract system.
– The Government have not said that all work will be done by contract.
– I believe the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) stated in another place that that was the intention. I am not condemning the Government for it, but am simply urging that the contract system should not be embraced and set down as the irrevocable policy of the Government. Tenders should be invited, and the Tender Board, the Minister, or whoever has to give a decision between the relative values, could say whether a departmental tender was within the margin of acceptance. If the price at which the Department was prepared to do the work were at all reasonable, the contractor’s tender could be rejected, provided, of course, the Government were satisfied that in that way the taxpayers’ interests would be conserved. I am pleased, however, to learn from the Minister that the Government are not irrevocably wedded to the eontract system.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Home and Territories Department.
Proposed vote, £39,270.
– Will the Minister (Senator Pearce) explain where the amount of £30,000 is to be expended in connexion with water boring?
– The money will be expended in connexion with a line of bores along the recognised stock routes. Work is at present being undertaken on the Murranjai track, which comes in from the Victoria River country to the overland telegraph line at Newcastle Waters. In addition, various sites for other bores are being investigated. The work on the Murranjai track is being undertaken by a man named Peacock. There is £15,000 required to complete that contract. Other amounts provided for water boring in the Northern Territory are: - Additional bores, £6,787; Charlotte Waters, £4,550; Alice Well, £283; Attack Creek, £1,300; Club Hotel, £180; Woodford Well, £400; Depot, Daly Waters, £1,500. With the exception of the bore at the Club Hotel, the whole of the money is required for the purpose of facilitating the travelling of stock over the stock routes.
– Why is there no mention of the proposed works at Canberra? Are they to be constructed exclusively out of loan ?
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £371,108.
.- Would the item of £200,000 for “ Reserves of stores, including ammunition, ordnance, torpedo stores, and coal and oil fuel “ cover a modest sum of £200 or £300 to enable a further test to be made of the semi-anthracite coal of the Mammoth Seam, central Queensland? Some years ago this coal was tested at Garden Island, and reported to be the best so far discovered in the Southern Hemisphere. It was declared to be second only to Welsh coal. In the first place, a test was made of 55 tons a good many years ago, when the Imperial Government had control of Garden Island. The result was very satisfactory, but the Admiralty asked for a larger quantity of this coal to be supplied for the purpose of a trial on a sea-going vessel. Great difficulty was experienced in obtaining the necessary supply, because the seam of coal is situated 20 miles from a railway. Some 200 tons were then supplied to the Navy, but the war intervened, and details were never obtained as to the result of the trial. There is, in fact, grave doubt whether on the second occasion a proper test was ever made. A brief telegram was received stating that a trial had been carried out, and that it had proved unsatisfactory. In the first instance, full particulars were obtained, and the analyses, &c, showed that the test was a perfectly satisfactory one. Respecting the second trial, however, the only reply received was that the test had not proved satisfactory, and that it was contrary to the practice of the Department to give detailed information with regard to trials. A company was formed to finance the mining of the 200 tons. One of the miners was interested in the company, and be had a brother who was a petty officer on board the very ship on which the trial was supposed to have taken place. He communicated with this petty officer, and the only information he could obtain was that the brother has been unable to discover that a trial had ever been conducted. That was the position when the Commonwealth Government took control of the Naval Force. I, with some others, waited upon Sir William Irvine, when he was on a visit to Queensland, representing the then Government, and we explained the position to him. We stated that, inasmuch as two tests had been made at private expense, and one report was a negation of the other, it was a fair proposition that the country should pay for a third test in order to settle finally whether this very valuable coal existed in central Queensland. Sir William approved of the suggestion, and gave an order for 500 tons at a price which would cover the cost of getting it out. Unfortunately, however, the war broke out, and the order was cancelled. We received a letter from the Department that, wheneveran opportune time arrived after the war, the matter would again be investigated. Since then we have made various applications without receiving any definite reply. The successful development of this coal seam would be of very great advantage to the people of central Queensland, and of even greater importance to the Navy and the nation as a whole. There is considered to be no coal in Aus- . tralia quite suitable for naval purposes. The article that most nearly approaches naval coal is that from Westport, in New Zealand. An Admiral in Sydney informed me that the Westport coal was of excellent quality, but was so smoky that if the principal ships of the Fleet left Port Jackson four hours before him, he could “ pick them up “ by their smoke. Sometimes a smoke screen is very necessary, but what the Navy must have is smokeless coal, and the coal that we have in central Queensland is absolutely smokeless. This seam of which I am speaking is 22 feet thick, without a solitary band in it, and extends for miles. If it is practicable, I hope that the sum of £300 will be provided to enable a test to be made, and to settle what must be a very important matter to Australia and the Empire.
– Coal, of course, means a great deal to the Navy.
Some consideration lias been given to the matter raised by the honorable senator, and there is no necessity for - an increase in the proposed- vote. If considered necessary, funds for the purpose can and will be taken from the ordinary vote for the Navy.
– On page 6 of the schedule there is, under the heading “ Royal Australian Air Force,” an item of £179,410 “towards cost of construction of buildings, hangars, workshops, barracks, and earthworks, and preparation of aerial routes and landing grounds.” On the next page there is an item of £9,700 for “ The Civil Aviation Branch.” There is also the sum of £27,000 towards the cost of construction of buildings, &c, for this” branch. Will the Minister (Senator Wilson) state whether the works are to be gone on with, what progress has so far been made, if any, and what is the policy of the Government with respect to these services ?
– The information I have from the Department is that the re-vote of £31,752 represents the unexpended’ balance of authorizations at 20th June, 1923. The actual liabilities as at 27th July are as follow: - ,
The amount of £61,000 for additional buildings and . accessory engineering services is explained in the appended state ment. A contract for the erection of the buildings has been entered into. > The amount involved is £49,894. The remaining £14,821 15s. 3d. is towards the cost of the following new works : - -
– I wish to direct the Minister’s attention to a report, presented to Parliament on 4th July last, by the Public Accounts Committee. The Government should get to work as soon as possible to carry out the recommendations of that Committee. Regarding the personnel of the Air Force, the Committee says -
Officers and airmen not provided with quarters receive lodging, fuel, and light allowances, and married men draw a separation allowance of ls. 6d. per day. These allowances at present involve an annual expenditure, of nearly £6,000. It was stated in evidence that many more highly skilled men would avail themselves of the opportunity of employment in the Air Force if more housing accommodation were available.
If we must have an Air Force, we ought to have in it the very best men obtainable, and they deserve the very best treatment. Apart from remuneration, the question of housing accommodation is of paramount importance. Another question to which I would direct the Minister’s attention relates to the sheds at Spotswood, which are used by the Air Force for the storage of aeroplane equip- merit. On this point the Committee says -
The wheat-sheds at Spotswood, which involve an expenditure of ?800 per annum, are merely temporary structures of timber and iron with malthoid roofing. The sum of ?150 is now being spent on each shed to make the roofs rainproof. These sheds are stated to have been the only suitable storage place around Melbourne available for the purpose. There are no mechanical facilities, all cases having to be man-handled into position.
There is danger that the material stored in these sheds is unduly exposed to the weather, and is deteriorating in value and efficiency. There are in the report other paragraphs which also relate to housing conditions. The housing of ‘ members of our Air Force is an important factor in obtaining the type of men that the work calls for.
– Has the honorable senator any evidence that the materials are deteriorating through the buildings not being suitable?
– The Committee has reported that there is danger of deterioration. The plant is very expensive and delicate. The recommendations of the Committee should be investigated and put into effect.
– Some of the housing accommodation of which Senator Needham has spoken is provided for in the Estimates, and it is the intention of the Department to act in the direction he has indicated. The provision of adequate storage for equipment is also included in the Estimates, and it is intended to proceed with the work without undue delay.
.- A sum of ?45,000 is included for machinery and plant for the manufacture of munitions not now produced in Australia. If ?45,000 is the most we can spend during the present fiscal year, and if the estimated total cost is ?452,350, it will be ten years before the plant is complete. I should like to know whether the sum of over ?70,000 expended last year is all that has already been spent. If so, I should say that it is a mistaken policy to adopt such a leisurely gait in obtaining this all-important and vital part of munition supplies. If we have the country full of raw materials for the manufacture of munitions, and have not the necessary machinery, we are quite helpless, whereas, if we have the machinery in position, it is easy to convert the raw , material to be found in this country.
– We have obtained the machinery at about one-fourth of its actual cost, thanks to the generosity of the British Government.
– That is very satisfactory. I am very pleased to have the assurance that this important and vital part of the equipment of the defence of the country is kept well in mind by the Government.
– The Government fully realizes the importance of the business of manufacturing munitions. In addition to the amount referred to by SenatorLynch, a sum of ?178,000 will be spent from loan moneys. The carrying out of the programme is expected to cover a period of five or six years.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs.
Proposed vote, ?21,022.
– I desire to refer to the extraordinary taxation imposed upon fitments designed to make typewriters operate more silently. The tax amounts to 45 per cent.
– I submit as a point of order that Senator Grant is not in order in discussing Customs duties.
– (Senator Newland). - The honorable senator is not in order in discussing the general principle of Customs duties. Will the honorable senator indicate the item with which he is dealing?
– I wish to refer to a matter under the heading of “ Institute of Science and Industry - Establishment and Equipment.” The officials of this institution desire to carry out their duties in silence and peace, and they are no doubt disturbed by the rattle of typewriters, which are badly in need of adjustment.
– The honorable senator must connect his remarks with the Bill, which relates to the appropriation of money for works.
– I am referring to typewriters under the heading of “Institute of Science and Industry.” No doubt that institution has in use a considerable number of ineffective typewriters. It is a well-known fact that, in large establishments, where many of these fitments are installed, their perpetual noise is a source of great inconvenience. These silencers cannot be manufactured in the Commonwealth. I urge upon the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs the necessity for making representations to the Tariff Board to the effect that the foolish impost on these machines and fitments should be removed.
– I wish to know the extent and nature of the contingent expenditure under the heading of “ The Institute of Science and Industry - Establishment and Equipment.”
– That item includes: - Equipment of laboratories at Brunswick Technical School, £3,000; nucleus of equipment of Bureau of Standards, £4,200; nucleus of equipment for Fuel Research Station, £3,600; nucleus of equipment of Forests Products Laboratory; £2,500; fittings for Technological Museum of Australian Raw Materials, and Intermediate and Finished Products, £700; equipment and apparatus for development of investigations now in progress, and for new investigations, mainly in cooperation with State Departments.
– Has the Minister any information as to the locality, or proposed locality, of the Forests Products Laboratory?
– I shall inquire, and let the honorable senator know before the Budget is presented.
– Information obtained later than the passage of this Bill will be of very little use. I might possibly wish to move for a reduction in this item by the amount proposed to be spent on the Forests Products Laboratory. If this Laboratory is to be erected at any other place but Perth, then I have a decided and rooted objection to it. As a matter of fact, this institution was inaugurated in Perth, and was kept going by the driving force of Western Australian public opinion. This Western Australian enterprise has been, so to speak, stolen from that State by the authorities here. At this stage, I wish todo no more than enter my protest. I shall have a great deal to say on the subject when the Budget is before the Senate, but concerning this particular item it will then be too late for my purpose.
– I desire to refer to the item, “ Construction of Launch, Newcastle,” providing for the expenditure of £1,400. I am in some doubt as to that item. I wish to prevent a recurrence of the disastrous purchase by the C ustoms of a launch in Brisbane which cost the taxpayers £5,000. It is now being used as a resting place for barnacles, and is absolutely valueless.
– The launch shown in this item is required for boarding purposes. It will be equipped with electric light, ‘and will have a speed of 10 knots. I presume it will he an uptodate vessel.
– Will it be of wood, iron, or steel?
– A little of each.
– Some ten years ago the Customs Department purchased a launch for use in the Sydney Harbor. It was condemned, but has since been placed in commission. It is now used for the transference of men from Balmain to Cockatoo Island. If the expenditure proposed relates to this launch, will the Minister ascertain whether that craft is now seaworthy?
– I shall certainly do so.
– I wish to refer to the item, Customs House, Port Adelaide - Alterations and Additions.” The total estimate is £7,000, and there is an item of £1,000 now being re-voted. It appears to me that this item was passed by Parliament last year, and as no expenditure was incurred by alterations or additions, that sum is now re-voted. Next year, the same thing may occur. I wish to know why the £1,000, or at least part of it, was not expended.
– It may be that the amount of £1,000 was voted last year for preparation purposes.
Only to-day I received a wire from South Australia referring to a certain amount being placed on the Estimates for expenditure on Post Offices during the current year. I presume the same principle will be adopted in regard to the Port Adelaide Customs House alterations.
– Is the same £1,000 being re-voted?
– No ; it is included in the £7,000. The proposal is to remodel the existing Customs House to provide accommodation for the staff attached to the quarantine, lighthouse, and navigation branches, as well as to provide quarters for the Collector of Customs, and caretaker at Port Adelaide.
, - I should like some information with regard to the Institute of Science and Industry before I agree to the item relating to it. I want to be satisfied that the Institute has justified its existence, and to be sure that there is any necessity for it at all. It has been said, and I believe with some truth, that it is merely duplicating work that has been done hitherto by the various States. If that be so, why should the Commonwealth establish and equip further laboratories? This matter concerns the taxpayers of Australia very closely. No business man would duplicate special activities connected with any of his enterprises.
– The Institute is not doing the same kind of work as the State science bureaux.
– It has been said, at all events, that there is duplication, and I want the Minster to inform me as to the nature of the work that is being carried on?
– To quote one instance, the Institute is investigating the blowfly pest. State scientists are not doing that.
– Does the Minister suggest that the States have not investigated that problem?
– I do not say that, but they are not doing it now.
– From what T have read of the work of the Institute in that connexion I think the only achievement to date is that it has established the fact that the big blowfly travels at a higher rate of speed than the smaller fly. The Institute is expensive. It is costing the Government many thousands of pounds, and I do not know that,’ up to the present, wo have really benefited from its existence.
– Yes, we have.
– Perhaps the Institute has not received sufficient financial support.
– If it has not, then the Government ought to providewhat is necessary. No good purpose can be served by creating a department and wasting public money by starving it. I want to be satisfied that the Institute ‘ is justifying its existence, an.d that money voted for it is being expended judiciously.
– I think it would be better if, instead of attempting to reply in detail to the honorable senator, I furnished him with the last annual report issued by the Institute. Appar.ently he is not acquainted with the nature of its activities, and a perusal of the report will fully inform his mind. I may state, however, that for some time the Institute has been directing its attention to the eradication of the prickly pear, which, I should say, is the principal pest in Queensland.
– And does the Minister say that the . State scientists have not considered that problem?
– No, but they have asked the Government to allow the Institute of Science and Industry to carry on the investigation. I assure the honorable senator that there is no duplication of effort whatever.
.- I should like to know if the services of the experts attached to the Institute are available to outside concerns to assist them in solving problems with which they may be confronted. I am thinking especially of the difficulties in connexion with the production of shale oil. I know of one company that is up against this problem, and it is probable that the expert knowledge of scientists attached to this Institute would prove most helpful. That industry is of vital importance to Australia, and I suggest to the Minister that, wherever possible, the services of the experts should be made readily available.
– The matter mentioned by Senator Payne was brought under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman) by a deputation recently, and I am confident that the suggestion he has made will be adopted. I shall direct the attention of the Minister to the honorable senator’s remarks.
.- The Institute of Science and Industry is capable of performing a most important function in linking science to industry, and preventing wasteful expenditure by private citizens in attempting to solve problems that properly should come within the scope of scientists attached to the Institute. Speaking as the first chairman of the institute I can say confidently that it was started on right lines, with a distinguished professor from Western Australia, and Professors Masson and Lyle, of the Melbourne University, associated with it. Its special advantage is that, being a Commonwealth Institute, it knows no State boundaries. Its services will be readily available in connexion with problems concerning the extraction of gold at deep levels at, say, Bendigo, in Victoria, or with the growing and picking of cotton in Queensland. If an inventor has an idea worth testing, the services of the Institute are at his disposal. It would be well if honorable senators were kept well informed by the Institute as to the work it is doing, so that there may be no misapprehension that an adequate return is not being obtained for the money expended. I am confident that as a people we shall get an ample return, even if we have not got it already.
– I should like to make it quite clear that I do not object to the existence of the Insitiute. As, a matter of fact, I believe it is serving a most useful purpose, and instead of too much money being spent on it, I think that too little is being set aside for this purpose. But I have a very serious objection to certain aspects of its administration. I realize, however; that this is not the place to deal with that matter. A more fitting opportunity will be when we are discussing the General Estimates.
I had hoped as the result of the Minister’s reply this afternoon to be armed with certain information which I was seeking, but I have no doubt that he will furnish it before I have occasion to speak again on this subject.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £220,000.
– Provision is made in the schedule for an expenditure of £220,000 on the construction and extension of telegraphs and telephones, and on the construction of conduits. I should like the Minister to explain whether any research work has been undertaken concerning the desirability of installing wireless telephones in the Commonwealth. Last year I remember reading reports concerning the installation of thesystem in South Africa, and it is anomalous ‘that a comparatively small country such as South Africa, with its limited resources, should be ahead of the Commonwealth in this respect. It is useless adding to a system which may ultimately become obsolete. The material used in the construction of telegraph and telephonic lines cannot be economically used afterwards for other purposes. The copper wire, which is expensive, could not be utilized for fencing or other similar purposes, and the posts would, I suppose, be of use only for displaying electioneering pamphlets. Will the Minister (Senator Crawford) explain if anything has been done in the direction of installing wireless telephony?
– I am informed that a special Committee has been appointed to thoroughly investigate the question of wireless telephony.
.- Reference has been made by Senator Gardiner to the difficulty experienced by residents in the back-blocks in securing telephonic communication. I wish to compliment the Government upon the way in which they have carried out the policy submitted by the ex-Postmaster-General (Mr. Poynton) of supplying telephonic communication to settlers in the backblocks free of cost, when the expenditure involved did not exceed £1,500. Senator Gardiner said that the residents of Vittoria, in New South Wales, who were 10 miles from telephonic communication were compelled to supply telephone poles on which to carry the line. I think Senator Gardiner will find, on inquiry that such a request was made before the new policy was approved by Parliament. The work done under the new policy has been of incalculable advantage to the people, and I am sure that the Government are anxious to serve those in the back country. I express my gratitude at the promptness displayed by the Department on one occasion, when I brought under its notice the position of the residents of Mawbanna, formerly known as “ Brickmakers,” 12 or 14 miles from Stanley, in Tasmania. These people are 8 miles from the nearest telephone, and when I submitted a request on their behalf, I was informed that “nothing could be done until the next financial year. To my delight, however, I found that, before the close of the year, the line was erected and the telephone connected. That is sufficient to prove that the Government areanxious to carry out the policy submitted last year.
– The line I, instanced has not yet been built.
– In reply to the point raised by Senator Gardiner,I am informed that the Blayney-Vittoria line is to be erected by the Department without the residents being asked to contribute. The work will be commenced within a few days.
.- There is an item of £1,000 in connexion with the Port Adelaide Postoffice. Is that amount to he spent on the construction of a new post-office, and, if so, where is the building to be situated?
– That was the amount voted last year. There is nothing in this year’s Estimates.
– If £1,000 has been expended on the old post-office in Fort Adelaide, which is in a back street, it has been wasted. From time to time the necessity of constructing a new building has been brought before the Postmaster-General, and if this sum has been spent on the obsolete structure, it can be regarded as only a waste of money.
Senator GRANT (New South Wales) unsightly lamp-posts now in position in front of the Sydney General Post Office? I should also like to know whether it is the intention of the Department to demolish the existing post-office in Williamstreet, Sydney, where the street is being widened, and erect a new structure on the new alignment?
– No money is being voted in this Bill for that purpose.
– That matter can be discussed when the Loan Estimates are under consideration. I -shall draw the attention of the Postmaster-General to the honorable senator’s protest.
– Seeing that the Port Adelaide Post Office is to be constructed out of loan, when is the work likely to be started ?
– There will be no unnecessary delay. The sum of £1,000 is on the Loan Estimates this year, and that is part of the estimated cost of £7,000.
.- On page 12, under the sub-division relating to Tasmania, one finds that, in three instances at least, namely, Branxholm, Dover, and Lilydale, which are three country centres, the sum of money provided out of revenue last year for postoffice buildings was not expended. I hope that the delay that occurred last year will not be repeated. The money has been voted for seven or eight months, and no work has so far been done.
– That work will be proceeded with.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote (Department of Health), ?30,121, agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title and preamble agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
.- I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I desire to inform the Senate that the news has been received, and has been officially confirmed, that the President of the United States of America, Mr. Harding, is dead, lt is the desire of the Government that when we re-assemble on Tuesday next, both branches of the Legislature shall associate themselves with a motion, which will be conveyed through the proper channels to the Government and people of the United States of America, expressing the deep sympathy of the people of Australia with that great republic in the heavy loss it has sustained by the death of its President. I had the distinguished honour of meeting Mr. Harding when I attended the Washington Conference on the Limitation of Armament. I recall the wonderful impression that he made on everybody there by his sincerity of purpose, his simplicity of character, his earnestness, and the deep religious strain in his nature. It seemed to me that he was a man of the Lincoln type, and that he had devoted himself to the service of humanity. Two of the speeches to which I had the honour of listening - his oration at the burial ‘of the unknown American soldier and his. address at the opening of the Conference on the Limitation of Armament - T venture to say, are not unworthy of a place in history with the orations of his great compatriot Abra- ham Lincoln. He was essentially a warm-hearted man, and that warmheartedness led him to abhor war: He seemed to have made it his life’s purpose, not only to seek peace, but. also to endeavour to induce the people of the United States of America to take part in the work of bringing the nations together, so that they might take counsel with a view to securing the peace of the world. I feel sure that the history of the United States of America will show that Mr. Harding was not a mere figurehead at the Washington Conference, and that he played a great personal part in bringing it about. It was a remarkable testimony, I thought, -to the love and esteem in which he was held by his people that he was able to gather to himself, as it were, the many-sided opinions of that vast republic on such a contentious question as he there raised. Few people in Aus- tralia realize the atmosphere in which the preliminary steps for calling that Conference were taken. When President Harding launched his proposal, there was an atmosphere of war in the United States of America. The people and the press of that country were openly talking of war in the Pacific. It is a striking testimony to this great man that in such an atmosphere as that he was able to launch his startling proposal for peace and disarmament. Members of the foreign delegations assembled at Washington who heard his speech were deeply impressed by the sincerity and earnestness of the man, and it was those qualities which did much to insure the successful reception of the American proposal. We cannot forget that President Harding spoke the same language as we speak. He was a great believer in the ‘union - not the political union, but that strongerunion of hearts and purpose - of the English-speaking races of the world. It is appropriate that I should mention here a personal interview that I had with the late distinguished gentleman. The occasion was when I attended at the White Bouse to present to the President a resolution that had been passed by this Senate’ wishing success to the deliberations of the Conference. When the formal presentation of the resolution was over, the ‘President invited me to remain and chat with him, and he then made some remarks which, when we now look back at them, are pathetic. He told me that from the time when he was a young man he had always had an intense- desire to visit Australia, because, as a youth, his favorite literature had consisted of the stories of the lives of Australian explorers. He said to me, “ Just as I dare say you as a youth read stories of our backwoodsmen among the Red Indians, and they were your heroes, so I read stories of the Australian explorers, who were the heroes of my youth. I could describe the lives of all of them, because, having read them in my youthful days, they remain indelibly impressed upon my memory. I have always desired to visit the country associated with the dreams of my youth, and I always intended, if ever I became successful in business and was able to take a holiday, to go to Australia. Then I became immersed in politics, was elected a senator, and said to myself, ‘When I cease to be a senator I shall go to Australia.’ Then I became President, and now I say to myself,
When I cease to be President I shall go to Australia.’ “ It is pathetic that death should have intervened, and that we in this country will not have the pleasure of welcoming this greatman to our shores. Throughout Australia a genuine throb of sympathy will be felt for the people of the United States of America, because we realize that, not only that country, but humanity at large has lost a great statesman and a great leader - a man who in such times as these can ill be spared.
– I associate myself with the remarks of Senator Pearce. Although he has informed us that appropriate morions will be placed before both Houses next week to properly convey the feelings of Parliament to the great republic of the United States of America, I still think that at this stage I can express, on behalf of the party I represent, the deepest sorrow and sympathy for the American people in the loss of their great constitutional bead. The name of President Harding is associated with the limitation of armaments and the calling together of the nations of the world in the atmosphere of war to which Senator Pearce has referred. - He did it at a time when a spark would have set the magazine of international war ablaze, and would have put the nations at each other’s throats. He called the representatives of the nations together, and accomplished in the atmosphere of the Conference room - an atmosphere of peace - a forward step towards securing a permanent peace among the nations. It was truly a first step towards that Parliament of Nations which will deal with war problems in the future, just as the delegates to that Conference dealt with the question of the limitation of armaments. As one who believes that President Harding was not only a worthy occupant of the Presidential Chair of the United States of America, who maintained the highest traditions of that great nation, but also a great man whose presence on earth would have tended strongly towards the peace and harmony of the nations, I, as the Leader of the Labour party in the Senate, join with the Leader of the Government in the expression of our most sincere sorrow. When death comes, there are no party lines, and I express our sympathy, sorrow, and regret at the loss of America’s most foremost citizen.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 August 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1923/19230803_senate_9_104/>.