29 September 1927

10th Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Eon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m and read prayers.

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– I have to inform the Senate that in connexion with the resolution agreed to by the Senate, at its first meeting in the Parliament House at Canberra, expressing thanks to His Majesty the King for his message on the occasion, I have received the following communication from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral : -

Governor-General’s Office, Canberra, 28th Sept., 1927.

The Honorable the President of the Senate. With reference to the letter from the President of the Senate, in which was embodied the text of the resolution unanimously agreed to by the Senate at its first meeting in the Parliament House at Canberra, expressing thanks to His Majesty the King for His mensage on the occasion of the establishment of the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth at Canberra, the Governor-General desires tn inform the President that he has received advice that the resolution has been laid before His Majesty, who was pleased to receive it very graciously. (Signed)

Stonehaven, Governor-General.

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– Honorable senators will have noticed that this chamber differs in many respects from that which we, until recently, occupied in Melbourne. Especially is this so in the matter of entrance doors and passage-ways, which here are far more numerous. To avoid any confusion, I desire to inform honorable senators that I propose, with their concurrence, to adopt the following practice with regard to. divisions and the application of Standing Order 171: -

When the bells are rung, only the front door and the two main side doors will be kept open until the order to close the doors is given, and honorable senators are. requested to enter by these as the corner doors and one of the back doors will be locked.

Further, with regard to the passageways around the chamber, the rule will be that when the Senate is in division, the names will be taken of only those senators who are inside the line of the partition which is immediately behind the back row of seats’. I feel sure that these arrangements will commend themselves to honorable senators, and I ask their assistance in carrying them out.

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Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that in accordance with the Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, Mr. Malcolm Cameron, a member of the House of Representatives, had been appointed a member of the Standing Committee on Public Works in place of Mr. Gregory, resigned.

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Message received from the House of Repesentatives intimating that in accordance with the provisions of the Committee of Public Accounts Act 1913-20. Mr. Grosvenor Francis, a member of the House of Representatives, had been ap- pointed a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in place of Sir Granville Ryrie, discharged from attendance.

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Senator NEEDHAM:
Western Australia

– I ask leave to make a statement in regard to the Opposition.

Leave granted.

Senator Givens:

– I rise to a point of order.When we met here for the first time on the 9th of May last we were twitted by the President with not having taken a certain objection at the proper time.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - The Leader of the Opposition has been given leave to make a statement.

Senator Givens:

– But no honorable senator has the right to transact any business until the business of the Senate is called on in the proper way. The proper way is for Mr. President to ask if any honorable senator has a petition to present and then call on questions without notice and notices of motion.


– I have already done so.

Senator Givens:

– Then I ask your pardon, sir, I did not hear you do so.

Senator NEEDHAM:

– I wish to announce that yesterday Senator Graham was appointed Whip to the Opposition in the Senate.

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Commonwealth Offices, Brisbane

Senator BARNES presented the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with * minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed erection of Commonwealth offices at Brisbane.

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The following papers were presented : -

Commonwealth Bank Act. - Aggregate Bal ance-sheet of Commonwealth Bank of Australia at 30th June, 1927, together with Statement of Liabilities and Assets of the Note Issue Department; and AuditorGeneral’s Reports thereon.

Federal Capital. - Reports of the Federal Capital Commission to the Minister ‘ for Home and Territories for the quarters ended 31st March and 30th June, 1927, respectively.

Air Navigation Act. - Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 47.

Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -

Nos. 12 and 13 of 1927. - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.

No. 14 of 1927. - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.

No. 15 of 1927. - Australian Workers’ Union and Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.

No. 16 of 1927. - Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.

No. 17 of 1927. - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.

No. 18 of 1927. - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.

No. 19 of 1927. - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.

No. 20 of 1927. - Commonwealth Telephone Officers’ Association.

Nos. 21 and 22 of 1927. - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.

No. 23 of 1927. - Commonwealth Telegraph Traffic and Supervisory Officers’ Association.

No. 24 of 1927. - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.

No. 25 of 1927. - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.

No. 26 of 1927. - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.

No. 27 of 1927. - Meat Inspectors’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.

No. 28 of 1927. - Arms, Explosives, and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.

No. 29 of 1927.- Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.

No. 30 of 1927. - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.

No. 31 of 1927. - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.

No. 32 of 1927. - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.

No. 33 of 1927. - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.

Nos. 34 and 35 of 1927. - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union of Australia.

No. 36 of 1927. - Arms, Explosivees, and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.

No. 37 of 1927. - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union of Australia.

No. 38 of 1927. - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union of Australia.

No. 39 of 1927. - Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’ Association.

No. 40 of 1927. - Arms, Explosives, and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.

No. 41 of 1927. - Postal Overseers’ Union of Australia.

No. 42 of 1927. - Federated Public ServiceAssistants’ Association of Australia.

No. 43 of 1027. - Commonwealth Postmasters’ Association.

No. 44 of 1927.- Third Division Telegraphists’ and Postal Clerks’ Union.

No. 45 of 1927. - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.

No. 46 of 1927. - Commonwealth Telephone Officers’ Association.

No. 47 of 1927. - Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department.

No. 48 of 1927. - Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department.

No. 49 of 1927. - Third Division Telegraphists’ and Postal Clerks’ Union.

No. 50 of 1927.- Third Division Telegraphists’ and Postal Clerks’ Union.

No. 51 of 1927. - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.

No. 52 of 1927. - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.

No. 53 of 1927. - The Common wealth Public Service Clerical Association.

Nos. 54, 55, 56 and 57 of 1927. - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia and Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.

Audit Act. -

Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 41- No. 74.

Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council. - Financial Year 1926-27. - Dated 1st June, 1927.

Commonwealth Bank Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 99.

Defence Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1927, Nos. 42. 58, 90, 105,106.

Income Tax Assessment Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1927, No.64.

Land Tax Assessment Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 49.

National Insurance Royal Commission - Fourth and Final Report - Membership, Finance, and Administration.

Nauru- Report to the Council of the League of Nations on Administration of Nauru during the year 1926.

Naval Defence Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1927, Nos. 23, 35, 59, 79, 80, 81, 82, 97, 102, 103, 104.

New Guinea. - Report to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of the Territory of New Guinea, from 1st July, 1925. to 30th June, 1920.

New Guinea Act. - Ordinances of 1.927. No. 16. - Criminal Code Amendment.

No. 17. - Laws Repeal and Adopting (No. 2).

No. 18. - Advisory Council.

No. 19. - Interpretation and Amendments Incorporation.

No. 20. - Cinematograph (Censorship) Ordinance Repeal.

No. 21. - Native Labour.

No. 22. - Native Labour (No. 2).

No. 23. - Appropriation (No. 3) 1926-27.

No. 24- Supply (No. 1) 1927-28.

No. 25. - Natives’ Contracts Protection.

No. 26. - Transfer of Land Control.

Norfolk Island Act -

Ordinances of 1927 - No. 1. - Dangerous Drugs. No. 2.- Public and Patriotic Funds.

Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement ) Ordinance. - Regulations.

Northern Australia Act -

Central Australia. - Ordinances of 1927 - No. 1. - Slaughtering. No. 2. - Registration. No. 3. - Bills of Sale. No. 4. - Supreme Court. No. 5. - Aboriginals.

North Australia. - Ordinances of 1927 - No. 1. - Slaughtering. No. 2. - Registration. No. 3. - Bills of Sale. No. 4. - Supreme Court. No. 5. - Aboriginals.

Public Service Ordinance. - Regulations amended.

Crown Lands Ordinance. - Reasons for resumptionof reserve at Katherine, together with plan showing area resumed.

Papua Act. -

Ordinances of 1927 -

No. 7. - Supplementary Appropriation (No. 1) 1920-1927; together with Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure (No. 1) for the Year ending 30th June, 1927.

No. 8. - Appropriation 1927-1928; together with Estimates ofRevenue and Expenditure for the Year ending 30th June, 1928.

Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 73.

Public Service Act -

Appoi ntments. - Department of -

Health- E. Allen, S. W. M. King and C. W. Adey; S. C. Lyon, P. T. Redmond and H. M . Green.

Home and Territories. - C. E. LanePoole, G. W. Mackay and A. W. O’Hara.

Markets and Migration. - K. M. Lucas, E. J. Reid, and H. L. Lucas.

Postmaster-General. - G. K. Elliott, V. G. Acton and W. L. Price; T. N. Mil-field, A. J. McKenzie, D. O’Donnelland L. Hanly; C. J. Griffiths and V. F. Reeves; E. J. T. Symonds and N. H. Stewart; J. C. Tinning.

Works and Railways. - T. W. Holmes, J. W. Grinham, J. H. Jorgensen, J. C. Mackenzie, F.

Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 40.

Quarantine Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1927, No.44.

River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Report for the year 1926-27.

Royal Commissions Act. - Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 75.

Science and Industry Research Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 57.

Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1027.

No. 5. - Leases (Special Purposes).

No.6.. - Provisional Government (No. 3).

No. 7.- Meat.

No. 8. - Bank Holidays.

No. 9. - Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement).

No. 10. - Leases.

No. 11. - Districts.

No. 12.- Bank Holidays (No. 2).

No. 13. - Church Lands Leases.

No. 14. - Tobacco.

No. 15. - Real Property.

No.16.- Motor Traffic.

No. 17. - Timber Protection.

No. 18. - Trespass on Commonwealth Lands.

Seat of Government (Administration) Act -

Accommodation By-laws.

Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 37- No. 54- No. 77.

Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 40- No. 53.

Customs Act -

Proclamation dated 2nd June, 1927, prohibiting exportation (except under certain conditions) of Wine.

Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 95.

Distillation Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 91.

Export Guarantee Act - Returns showing Assistance granted -

To 31st March, 1927.

To 30th June, 1927.

Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act. - Statements (two) setting out reasons for allowing the use of certain imported materials in manufactures (Traction Engines) on which bounty is payable.

Lands Acquisition Act. - Land acquired at -

Balgowlah. New South Wales- for postal purposes.

Ceduna, South Australia - for postal purposes.

Congwarra,Federal Territory - for Federal Capital purposes.

Hurstville, New South Wales - for postal purposes.

Jericho, Queensland - for postal purposes.

Maitland, South Australia - for postal purposes.

Queanbeyan, Federal Territory - for Federal Capital purposes (two notifications).

Sandy Bay, Tasmania - for defence purposes.

Seymour, Victoria - for defence purposes.

Tuggeranong, Federal Territory - for Federal Capital purposes (two notifications).

West Maitland, New South Wales - for Defence purposes.

Woden, Federal Territory - for Federal Capital purposes.

Navigation Act. - Regulations amended,&c. - Statutory Rules 1927, Nos. 39, 48, 55, 89, 90, 93.

Post and Telegraph Act. - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1927, Nos. 32, 66, 76, 84, 85, 86, 98, 101.

Power Alcohol Bounty Act. - Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 52.

Railways Act. - By-laws, Nos. 45, 46.

Spirits Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 51.

Wireless - Report, dated 14th July, 1927, of the Royal Commission on Wireless, together with Appendices.

Wireless Telegraphy Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1927, No.63. Wine Export Bounty Act. - Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 92.

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Liquor Licence Referendum

Senator DUNCAN:

– I ask you, Mr. President, if, in view of the fact that it is physically impossible for the present clerical staff - I refer to the typists - to handle the many hundreds of letters which honorable senators are receiving in connexion with the proposed liquor licence referendum for the Federal Capital Territory, you will consider the advisability of providing further clerical assistance on the Senate side.

Senator Givens:

-Why not let the wastepaper basket do the work?

The PRESIDENT (Senator The Hon. Sir John Newlands). - The honorable senator’s question is one which, properly speaking, I should not answer. But I ask the honorable gentleman, as well as other honorable senators, to consider the advisability of dealing with such correspondence as I do, by putting it into the wastepaper basket.

Senator DUNCAN:

– I submit, Mr. President, that that is not a courteous way to answer correspondence.

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Senator OGDEN:

– I should like to know, Mr. President, by whose authority the parliamentary refreshment bar is closed, especially in view of the fact that the House Committee recommended that it be opened.


– The bar is not closed, but the law of the country with regard to the sale of intoxicating liquors within the Federal Capital Territoryis being observed. Consequently intoxicants are not on sale there.

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Minister for Defence · Queensland · NAT

[3.28]. - I lay upon the table of the Senate, by command, Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending 30th June, 1928, and Estimates of Expenditure from Loan Fund, together with the Budget Papers 1927-28, presented by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) on the occasion of opening the budget of 1927-28. I move -

That the papers be printed.

Owing to the transfer of the seat of Government to Canberra, it has not been possible for the Treasurer to bring down the budget as early as has been the case in recent years.

Results foe the Year 1926-27.

The results for the year just closed exceeded the budget estimate. At the beginning of the year it was estimatedthat there would be a surplus of £149,381. The actual surplus proved to be £2,635,597. This improvement was mainly due to the following increases in revenue compared with the estimate -

On the expenditure side there was an increase of £390,790 in statutory payments, chiefly on account of invalid and old-age pensions, war pensions and wine export bounty. There was also an increase of £204,151 under miscellaneous services. This was chiefly due to the expenses in connexion with the recent visit of the Duke of York, provision for temporary assistance to the apple-growers of Tasmania, and an additional amount required to pay the guaranteed price to cotton-growers. There were sundry other variations in revenue and expenditure which contributed the balance of the increased surplus.

Allocation of Surplus

On 30th June, 1927, there was available an accumulated surplus of £2,921,494 made up as follows : -

After careful consideration, the Government has decided to allocate this amount in the following manner: -

Budget Estimates for New Year 1927-8

I shall now deal with the budget proposals for the financial year 1927-8. These proposals are based on the assumption that the financial agreement which was arrived at by the Commonwealth and State Governments at the recent conferences in June and July last will be ratified by the respective Parliaments. Honorable senators are aware that previous conferences had been held since 1919, but that no agreement could be arrived at in connexion with the vexed question of financial relationship. In the meantime capitation payments were paid to the States under the provisions of the Surplus Revenue Act 1910, although Parliament had the right to discontinue or vary the payments at any time since 1920. That system of payments has been recognized as unsatisfactory in many respects, and it has been evident that it could not be left in its existing uncertain condition. After carefully considering the whole matter, the Government came to the conclusion that the existing arrangement should be replaced by some system which would grant adequate compensation to the States from a definite source for a definite period.

As a first step towards a final settlement of the question, Parliament, at the instance of the Government, repealed the capitation payments as from the 30th June, 1927. Parliament also provided for financial assistance to the States for 1927-8, subject to the terms of any agree ment that mightbe arrived at between the Commonwealth and the States.

As a next step the Government invited the States to an open conference to find the best substitute for the capitation system. At this conference the Commonwealth Government submitted for the consideration of the States a scheme based on the following proposals : -

  1. The whole of the debts of the States at the 30th June, 1929, to be taken over by the Commonwealth.
  2. Properlysafeguarded sinking funds to be established in respect of existing State debts and new borrowings.
  3. The management of debt and future borrowing to be vested in an Australian loan council.
  4. The Commonwealth to make substantial contributions towards interest and sinking funds on State debts.
  5. A filial settlement to be made in respect of “transferred properties.”

These proposals were thoroughly discussed and subsequently embodied in a draft agreement which was approved by the Sydney conference, subject to final drafting alterations by the law officers. It will be necessary to secure an amendment of the Constitution to give full effect to the agreement, but, in the meantime, the provisions of the permanent agreement are to be applied as far as practicable for a temporary period of two years, commencing from the 1st July, 1927.

In accordance with the agreement arrived at, provision has been made in the budget for 1927-28 for the following payments by the Commonwealth to or for the States: -

Under the States Grants Act 1927 provision was made for payments to the States during 1927-28 of £7,734,990, subject to any agreement made between the Commonwealth and the States and adopted by Parliament. Payments under the agreement will therefore in 1927-28 be £900,455 more than the payments provided for under the States Grants Act.

Estimated Expenditure from Revenue 1927-28.

Having thus outlined the effect of the financial agreement with the States, 1 now propose to deal with other phases of the budget for 1927-28. If honorable senators will turn to pages 6 to 9 of the printed budget papers they will see a summary of the budget, together with corresponding figures for previous years.

Under Part 1. - Departments and services other than business undertakings and territories of the Commonwealth - the estimated expenditure for 1927-28 is £50,855,434, an increase of £809,485 over the actual expenditure 1926-27. This increase is made up as follows : -

The net increase of £326,293, under war repatriation and defence expenditure is mainly due to war pensions and increased interest, which will result from the conversion of war loans bearing 4½ per cent. and 5 per cent. interest that will mature in December next.

The increase of £260,760 in interest and sinking fund on loans for works is mainly due to migration loans to the States and the Grafton-South Brisbane railway. A substantial portion of this increase will be recovered from the British Government and the States.

The increase of £255,411 under invalid and old-age pensions is due to the increase in the number of pensioners.

The increase of £142,541 under ordinary votes of departments is mainly due to the activities of the Development and Migration Commission, and to the increased health programme as recommended by the Royal Commission on Health.

Part II. - Business Undertakings.

The estimated expenditure of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department from revenue for 1927-28 is £12,223,353, and the estimated revenue of the Post Office is £12,391,000. The estimated surplus is, therefore, £167,647. The expansion of business, increased rates of pay due to Arbitration Court awards, additional payments to railways departments for the carriage of mails, a higher scale of payment to nonofficial postmasters, and the increased cost of operating large additions to the telephone, telegraph, and postal services, interest and sinking fund, make it necessary to provide £937,454 more than was expended in 1926-27.

Reference to the figures in the budget statement relative to ‘Commonwealth railways will show that there has been a steady improvement in the finances of all lines controlled by the Commonwealth.

Part III. - Territories of the Commonwealth.

The estimated expenditure on the territories under the control of the Commonwealth for 1927-28 is £615,405, and the estimated revenue is £169,190, the result being an estimated deficit of £446,215 for the year. In 1926-27 there was a deficit of £364,045. The increased deficit is mainly due to the expenses of the transfer of staffs to Canberra, and the provision of £70,000 for the purchase of Melbourne homes of officers transferred. This amount of £70,000, however, will be subsequently recovered.

Part IV. - Payments to or for the States.

Under Part IV. - Payments to or for the States, provision is made for the following : -

These sums represent an increase of £885,000 over the corresponding payments for 1926-27. This is due to the provisions of the financial agreement with the States. Under that agreement there is to be, as already stated, a further payment of £165,533 representing the increased interest on transferred properties. This amount is shown under the estimates of the departments concerned. All the States have now signed the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. Last year a special duty which was levied on petrol was estimated to produce £1,000,000 towards the road grant. The Government now proposes to levy other duties which it is estimated will realize a further sum of £500,000 a year.

Estimated Revenue for 1927-28

Excluding business undertakings and territories, the estimated revenue for 1927-28, as shown under Part I., is £62,725,000, compared with £63,368,214 collected in 1926-27 - a decrease of £643,214. This decrease is mainly accounted for by concessions which the Government proposes to make to taxpayers.

Income Tax

The budget estimate for income tax is £9,800,000 being £1,326,278 less than the collections last year. The Government proposes to amend the income tax law to provide for the following concessions: -

  1. Reduction of 10 per cent. in taxes on individuals.
  2. Trading or business losses actually incurred to be allowed as deductions for income tax purposes until such losses are recouped by subsequent profits within a limit of five years. This will specially benefit primary producers.
  3. Donations to universities, and gifts in kind as well as in cash to public charitable institutions to be allowed as deductions, and the scope of the words “ Public Charitable Institution “ to be widened.
  4. To encourage closer settlement, certain expenditure incurred by a primary producer in making his land fully productive, or in maintaining the productivity of the land, is to be allowed as a deduction.

Land Tax

The budget estimate for land tax is £2,170,000 being £445,900 less than the collections last year. The Government proposes to amend the law to provide for the following concessions: -

  1. Reduction of tax by 10 per cent.
  2. Individual shareholding interests in land which do not aggregate £500 to be exempted from the land tax.
  3. Where returns from land used for primary production have been impaired seriously by drought or other adverse conditions, provision will be made for a relief board to release the taxpayer wholly or in part from liability for land tax in respect of that land.
  4. At present a taxpayer after paying his land tax, may be called upon to pay an additional tax as the result of a check valuation of the land owned by the taxpayer, such valuation to be made by the department within two years. It is proposed to abolish the practice of issuing such retrospective assessments.
  5. It is also proposed that assessments of land tax shall be divided into triennial periods, and that the value at which any land or interest in land shall have been included in the assessment of the year which is the first year of a triennial period shall, subject to certain necessary provisionsto meet special circumstances, not be increased during the currency of that triennial period.

Export Inspection Fees

The Government has also decided to abolish the inspection fees charged under the commerce regulations on certain exports. This concession, which will amount to £37,000 annually, will re- present a substantial relief to the dairy produce, meat, and fruit exporting industries. Fees will, however, be charged where inspections are required to be made after official hours. There will be no relaxation of the present rigid system of inspection of the goods exported.

Customs and Excise Revenue

The revenue to be derived from customs and excise is estimated at £44,800,000, or £1,247,522 more than the amount collected last year. This estimate includes £500,000, to be raised from new duties, towards providing a portion of the grants to the States under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement.

Loan Expenditure

For 1926-27 it was estimated that the loan expenditure would amount to £10,000,000; the actual expenditure was £7,748,417, a decrease of £2,251,583. The loan programme for 1927-28 is estimated to require£9,000,000. The following table gives the principal items included in that estimate as well as a comparison with the actual expenditure for 1926-27 : -

Provision is also made in the loan budget for £3,750,000 for migration loans to the States, and for the raising of loans to the amount of £2,000,000 on behalf of the Federal Capital Commission.

In conclusion, I desire to emphasize that the outstanding features of this budget are the reduction of direct taxation and the proposed new financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States as agreed upon by the respective Governments at the recent conference. The proposed reduction of taxation is particularly gratifying, in view of the additional obligations towards the States that the Government will assume. In 1921-22 the collections from direct taxation amounted to £22,048,000, equal to £4 per head of the population. The estimated collections in 1927-28 are £13,750,000, or £2 4s.1d. per head. The reductions now proposed should act as an incentive to industry, and thus benefit the wholecommunity. The financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States represents a land-mark in Commonwealth finance. Henceforth there should be the closest cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States on this most important phase of governmental administration. The additional burden which the Commonwealth will assume will be repaid to Australia many times by the enhanced credit we shall obtain abroad, and the saving in interest that will result. Finally, I remind honorable senators that should they desire to debate the general principles underlying the budget, they should do so when the motion for the printing of the budget papers is before the chamber, as that will be their only effective opportunity to do so. The Appropriation Bill usually comes before this chamber rather late in the session, when there is only sufficient time to discuss the items in the estimates.

Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.

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Adoption of Report

Debate resumed from 15th March, 1927(vide page 405, Vol. 115) on motion by Senator Thompson: -

That the report from the Joint Committee on Electoral Law and Procedure, presented to the Senate on 3rd March, 1927, be adopted.

Minister for Defence · Queensland · NAT

[3.52]. - As honorable senators are aware, I have given notice that to-morrow I shall ask leave tobring in a bill to amend the Electoral Act, and I should like the debate on Senator Thompson’s motion to be adjourned until that bill is passed. When it is before the Senate, Senator Thompson may then, if he so desires, draw attention to any matters that do not happen to be covered by it. I ask leave to continue my remarks on some future occasion.

Leave granted ; debate adjourned.


– I have no objection to the postponement of the consideration of my motion, because I understand from the Minister for Defence that the recommendations qf the Joint Committee are covered by the bill which he will introduce. I move -

That the resumption of the debate be an order of the day for this day four weeks.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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Proposed Railway to Barkly Tableland

Debate resumed from 23rd March, 1927 (vide page 916, Vol. 115), on motion by Senator Foll : -

  1. That the Senate is of opinion that it is essential for the proper development of Northern Australia that a railway should be constructed from north to south, which would connect the western portions of New South Wales and Queensland with the Barkly Tableland and other portions of Northern Australia.
  2. That the Senate is further of opinion that the Commonwealth Government should immediately call a conference of representatives of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Queensland Governments, the Northern Australia Commission, and the Development and Migration Commission, with a view to apportioning the expense of constructing such a line.
  3. That, in view of the fact that the recent teriffic losses in sheep owing to drought conditions would have been greatly minimized had such a line been in existence, the Senate is also of opinion that the Commonwealth Government should treat the matter as an urgent one.
Senator DUNCAN:
New South Wales

– Quite a long time has elapsed since this subject was first brought before the Senate by Senator Foll, and I am afraid that much of the valuable information he then gave us has been lost sight of because of the rush of events in the meantime. But the great value if the proposal made by Senator Foll has not been overlooked by representative bodies and individuals outside this parliament. A great deal of interest has been taken in the question by very representative organizations since he raised it, during the last sittings of the Senate in Melbourne. A deputation representing the United Graziers’ Associations, the Queensland Cattle Growers, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce was introduced by the honorable senator to the Prime Minister when he was recently iti Brisbane. The deputation placed the whole position before the right honorable gentleman, and urged on him and on the Federal Government the construction of the railway as proposed by Senator Foll, It stated its case in a full and very fair way, and placed before the Prime Minister and his government sound and solid reasons why the proposed railway should and could be built by the government without prejudicing any other line already in course of construction or under consideration by it.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– Does the honorable senator mean that the deputation proposed that the line should be built by the Commonwealth Government ?

Senator DUNCAN:

– Yes, in cooperation with the State Governments concerned. The desire is to construct a railway to connect Western New South Wales and indeed the whole of the State and Western .Queensland with the Northern Territory. Three very important reasons were put forward why this new northsouth line should be built to link up the Northern Territory with the more thickly populated areas of Australia.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– Is the honorable senator suggesting that this is a new idea?

Senator DUNCAN:

– It is not a new idea; it is an old idea. In certain States, it has already been referred to public works committees, and the project has been constantly before the people of Australia, but unfortunately nothing has been done. Had the railway been built at the time when it was under serious consideration, and when there seemed to be a possibility of its construction, Australia would have been saved millions of pounds that have since been lost because of drought conditions.

Senator Thompson:

– If Lord Forrest had continued in office it would have been built many years ago.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– But on the other hand it would have lost a lot of money.

Senator DUNCAN:

– The chances are that it would have made a good deal of money. Sir Henry. Barwell evidently confuses this proposed line with that unfortunate line that runs north from Oodnadatta, and which is certainly bound to lose a great deal of money and may perhaps cost this government a great deal more than it can very well afford. Senator Foil’s proposal is to build a separate line that will run through good country and give to the people of Australia some return for the capital expenditure upon it. It will have some reasonable hope of meeting the interest bill on the cost of construction, and it will afford an almost unlimited opportunity for the future development of the Northern Territory and the western areas of Queensland and New South Wales.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– Who has declared that it will return interest on cost of construction ?

Senator DUNCAN:

– I shall give reasons for my assertion. The first point put forward by the deputation that waited upon the Prime Minister, was that Northern Queensland and the Northern Territory are to-day the great cattle producing areas of A.ustralia. I shall enlarge upon that point later. The second point advanced was that the construction of the railway would provide an insurance against the effects of drought in the areas traversed by it, in a way that perhaps could not be provided for by any other scheme the Government or any one else could put forward. The third point was that it would lead to the opening up of large areas for the development of the sheep industry. A line built from Bourke to Berrigan and thence on to Cunnamulla and Camooweal, would open up sufficient new country to carry 10,000,000 sheep, the annual value of which would be £5,000,000. A railway running through country providing for such intense development would certainly offer every reasonable prospect of returning interest upon cost of production, and perhaps also an adequate sinking fund to repay the capital cost in the course of years.

Senator McLachlan:

– Are there any accurate figures regarding the number of sheep the country would carry?

Senator DUNCAN:

– There are figures available that can be very largely relied on. A great deal of the country through which the line would run has already been settled, but because of the almost insurmountable difficulties of transport has never been developed to the extent it should have been, in view of its value for sheep production.

Senator J B Hayes:

– Has the cost of the proposed line been approximately ascertained %

Senator DUNCAN:

– -Yes, I have the figures. There are no engineering dif ficulties to be encountered. The line would’ pass through easy country.

Senator J B Hayes:

– The cost would run into millions.

Senator DUNCAN:

– It would certainly do so, but country that will provide for the agistment of anything up to 10,000,000 sheep is worthy of the expenditure of millions upon it.

Senator Verran:

– That is merely supposition. .

Senator DUNCAN:

– We have spent millions in other directions. We propose to spend millions on another railway although the greater part of’ the area through which it runs, would provide only for the agistment of camels.

Senator Verran:

– The honorable senator has not seen that country.

Senator DUNCAN:

– I have. The New South Wales Graziers’ Association which was represented through the United Graziers’ Association at the deputation to the Prime Minister, has been advocating the construction of this railway for at least ten years. In the opinion of this association the building of the line would develop country notonly in New South Wales and Queensland, but also on the Barkly Tableland in Commonwealth territory. It was said by gentlemen who know the country which the suggested line would serve that the markets for the products ®f the Barkly Tableland do not lie in the south. The difficulties of transport in thenorth are great, because of the fact that the principal markets for beef and mutton, particularly beef, are in the eastern States. To give theproducers in that area direct communication with Melbourne and Sydney and other large centres of population, theconstruction of a line over the route suggested is essential.

Senator Ogden:

– Is the Senate theright body to decide upon railway routes ?

Senator DUNCAN:

– We are discussing only general principles. We. are not suggesting any particular route; that i* not the- work of the Senate or any legislative body.

Senator Ogden:

– The honorable senator is suggesting that a line be constructed through the Barkly Tableland?

Senator DUNCAN:

– I am advocating the construction of a line in that direction, as that is the only way in which it would be generally advantageous.

Senator Thompson:

– The route suggested was recommended by experts long ago.

Senator DUNCAN:

– Yes, by several competent authorities.

Senator Ogden:

– Some are of the opinion that a direct route should be taken.

Senator DUNCAN:

– Yes, I know that there are some who hold that opinion, particularly in South Australia, but they are in favour of the traffic going over another line.

Senator Sampson:

– The north-south railway should first be completed before serious consideration is given to this proposal.

Senator DUNCAN:

– I do not wish to confuse this proposal with any other scheme already determined. The Senate has agreed to the expenditure of large sums of money on the construction of a. direct north-south railway in order to honour a promise given by the Commonwealth to the people of South Australia. Senator Barwell and other honorable senators know that I supported the northsouth railway when the bill was before the Senate, because of thar promise.


– But the honorable senator does .ot know how close the north-south railway will go to Barkly Tableland.

Senator DUNCAN:

– I am pointing out that although the north-south line may run close to the Barkly Tableland products from that part of the Commonwealth will have to be taken over an enormous distance by rail to reach the principal markets. If the products of the Barkly Tableland were taken to Adelaide they would then have to be transported to Melbourne and Sydney, thus making the cost so prohibitive that business would be unprofitable. Surely we ought to give the people settled on the Barkly Tableland direct communication with the large centres of population on the east coast instead of compelling them to send their produce to Adelaide. South Australia will benefit by the northsouth railway, which will provide direct communication between the north and the south, and give great assistance to settlement. This suggested railway is more in the nature of a developmental line to tap country and undeveloped resources that the north-south railway cannot in any circumstances assist. I submit that there is ample justification for the construction of the two lines. If the construction of the north-south line is necessary we are even more justified in supporting the building of a railway over the route I suggest.

Senator Foll:

– They would not be competitive lines.

Senator DUNCAN:

– No. According to statements made by members of the deputation which waited upon the Prime Minister the trend of development in Australia is in the direction of slowly squeezing out large landholders, who, in the past, have undertaken the scientific breeding of stock. The smaller landholders have not the same resources at their command, and Australia’s prominent position to-day in the matter of wool production is due to the fact that large landholders have been able to carry out their experimental work on an extensive scale.

Senator Hebert Hays:

– The country under consideration could not be profitably worked by small landholders.

Senator DUNCAN:

– I know that. I am pointing out that the large pastoralists are gradually being forced further back owing to the compulsory acquisition of land for closer settlement. If, as a result of the imposition’ of unimproved land values taxation, and the compulsory acquistion of lands for closer settlement, these men are being forced further out, it is the duty of the Commonwealth and States to provide them with adequate railway facilities instead of making it practically impossible for them to obtain a return for their industry. Here is a way in which we can assist them. As SenatorThompson interjected a little while ago this proposal has been made on several previous occasions. Some years ago the New South Wales Parliament discussed the construction of the New South Wales section, and referred the scheme to the Public Works Committee of that State. The subject was fully considered, but. owing to financial problems then confronting the Commonwealth nothing was done. In 1914 the Commonwealth Government of the day asked the Queensland Government to be represented at a conference to consider the construction of such a line, but as at that time it was fully occupied in building a north coast railway to Cairns and was involved in other big financial obligations it had regretfully to decline the invitation of the Commonwealth to confer. Shortly after, the war supervened and all railway construction projects of any magnitude were temporarily abandoned. It was, I think, in 1918 that the Queensland Government approached the Commonwealth authorities and said that it was then in a position to favorably consider the construction of its portion of the work, but the Commonwealth Government was not prepared to go on and nothing further was done. Discussions have taken place and reports have been submitted from time to time; but up to date nothing effective has been accomplished. In the interest of the Commonwealth and of Australia generally this line should be built. If this motion is carried by the Senate and agreed to in another place the whole matter will be re-opened and negotiations between the Commonwealth and the governments of Queensland and New South Wales will then be proceeded with. As a result of such a conference an agreement may be reached under which it will be practicable - taking into consideration the financial positions of the States - to proceed with the construction of the line. If the suggested line was in existence to-day it would be possible for millions of sheep which, owing to drought conditions, are now, unfortunately, being lost in western Queensland and western New South Wales, to reach good pasture lands. The present drought is one of the most severe that has been experienced in recent years; it has resulted in the loss of about seven million sheep. In the Barkly Tableland and other similar good country there are almost unlimited supplies of feed. Had this line been in operation many thousands ‘ of those sheep would have been saved.

Senator Payne:

– What is “the rainfall there?

Senator DUNCAN:

– It is adequate. There is generally good feed there.

Senator Sampson:

– Who would operate the line?

Senator DUNCAN:

– The sections within State boundaries would be operated by the States concerned.

Senator Sampson:

– What would be the responsibility of the Commonwealth?

Senator DUNCAN:

– It would construct and operate the section in the territory under its control.

Senator Sir HENRY Barwell:

– What was the Prime Minister’s reply to the deputation which waited upon him?

Senator DUNCAN:

– The Prime Minister stated that the deputation wa3 asking the Commonwealth to do something which it had not previously done.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– In what way?

Senator DUNCAN:

– He said that the deputation was asking the Commonwealth to undertake what was really really a State activity; but he forgot to say that the Commonwealth had already established a precedent. The Commonwealth is assisting the States in the construction and maintenance of main roads, which is essentially a State activity. Surely if it is within its rights in doing that work it would be acting constitutionally in- entering into an agreement with the States for the construction of developmental railways.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– They may be realizing that the precedent is one which should not be followed.

Senator DUNCAN:

– That may be so ; nevertheless the precedent has been established. The construction of this line would assist the development of the Northern Territory, and incidentally portions of western New South Wales and western Queensland. From the Commonwealth viewpoint such a line would develop the Northern Territory in a way that no other line could.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– To put it briefly, the Prime Minister let the deputation down.

Senator DUNCAN:

– He was not very sympathetic. But I do not know that the Senate need heed the dictum of the Prime Minister, on such an important matter as that. We are here to determine for ourselves what should be done. The Prime Minister may change his mind if he realises that an important body of opinion in this Parliament favors at least an investigation of the proposal; he may acquiesce in the suggestion that a conference be held between the Commonwealth and the State Governments with regard to the matter. The importance of the north-south line from a defence standpoint has been stressed on many occasions. We have been told that the Northern Territory and other portions of Australia contiguous to it cannot be defended adequately without railway communication which would permit of the ready transportation of troops. I submit, therefore, that from a defence point of view, the proposal now under consideration is also of supreme importance, because if the line is constructed it will place the northern portion of Australia in direct touch with the larger centres of population. To transport troops to the north, it would be necessary, with the existing railway facilities, to send them from the eastern States through Melbourne to Adelaide, and thence on to Darwin. The railway which we are now advocating would give direct communication between the larger centres of population and Northern Australia. Thus, from a defence standpoint, quite apart from the other considerations I have named, the Government would be fully justified in giving it careful consideration.

Senator Ogden:

– An enemy might also use such a line for the transportation of its troops. v

Senator DUNCAN:

– It would be the business of the defence authorities to prevent that. Australians, I remind the honorable senator, are not in the habit of providing opportunities for other people in that way. I leave the matter there. I appeal to honorable senators to consider the proposal not in a parochial spirit, but from the broader viewpoint as to what would be best in the interests of the Commonwealth. This scheme should not be prejudiced by the suggestion that it might come into some competition with the direct north-south railway.

Senator Sampson:

– What is the proposed gauge?

Senator DUNCAN:

– The standard gauge, of course.

Senator Sampson:

– Is there a standard gauge in Australia ?

Senator DUNCAN:

– Certainly - 4 ft. 8-£ inches. That gauge was agreed upon . by the Commonwealth after consultation with representatives of the States. But it is not for the Senate at this stage to say what the gauge should be. That is a matter which we might very well leave to experts to determine. All we are asking now is that the Senate shall, by endorsing the motion, intimate to the Government that the proposal is well worthy of consideration. If we do that I feel sure that the Ministry will enter into negotiations with the States with a view to enquiring into the feasibility and probable cost of the proposal.

Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) [4.25].- I had not intended to speak to the motion thi.3 afternoon, but as no other honorable senator appears to be prepared to continue the debate I cannot allow it to pass without comment. I submit in the first place that it should not have been brought before the Senate, because this chamber is not the proper body to determine a proposal of this kind. I refer honorable senators to section 15 of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913, which reads : -

  1. No public work of any kind whatsoever (except such works as have already been authorized by Parliament or which are authorized during the present session, and except works for the naval or military defence of the Commonwealth exempted by Order in Council from the operation of the Act) the estimated cost of completing which exceeds twenty-five thousand pounds and whether such work is a continuation, completion, repair, reconstruction, extension, or a new work, shall be commenced unless sanctioned as in this section provided.
  2. Every such proposed work shall in the first place, be submitted and explained in the House of Representatives by a Minister of State, in this section referred to as “the Minister.”
Senator Sampson:

– All we are asked to do now is to express an opinion upon the proposal.


– Exactly. And I am endeavouring to explain to honorable, senators that before any such proposal can properly come before this chamber, there must be a preliminary inquiry by the Public Works Committee into the whole of the details, and that the committee must make its report to the House of Representatives.

Senator Foll:

– Very often public works are discussed in Parliament before they are submitted to the Public Works Committee.

Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.That’ may be so ; but the Senate should not be asked to commit itself to any public works proposal before the preliminary inquiry has been made by the Public Works Committee. That clearly is the intention of the act. The committee was specially appointed to gather information and data of all description for the purpose of making a recommendation to another place as to proposed works. The act distinctly lays it down that any work estimated to cost over £25,000 shall be referred to the Public Works Committee, and that before this is done it shall be explained in the House of Representatives by a Minister. The section of the act goes on to state : -

  1. The explanation shall comprise an estimate of the cost of the work when completed, together with such plans and specifications or other descriptions as the Minister deems proper, together with the prescribed reports on the probable cost of construction and maintenance and estimates of the probable revenue (if any) to be derived therefrom, such estimates, plans, specifications, descriptions, and reports to be authenticated or verified in the prescribed manner.

What is the object of that provision? Obviously the idea is that Parliament shall be fully informed as to a proposed work before it is asked to express «an opinion upon it.

Senator Duncan:

– This Parliament was committed to the north-south line before it met.


– But other Parliaments had already dealt with that proposal. The section states further -

  1. Upon motion made in the usual manner by the Minister, or by any member of the House of Representatives, the proposed work shall be referred to the committee for their report thereon.

All this takes place before reference of any proposed public works to the committee at all. Then comes this provision -

  1. The committee shall, with all convenient despatch, deal with the matter and shall, as soon as conveniently practicable, regard being had to the nature and importance of the proposed work, report to the House of Representatives the result of their inquiries.
  2. After receipt of the report of the committee, the House of Representatives shall by resolution declare, either that it is expedient to carry out the proposed work, or that it is not expedient to carry it out:

Provided that the House of Representatives may, instead of declaring affirmatively or negatively as aforesaid, resolve that the report of the committee shall, for reasons or purposes stated in the resolution, be remitted for their further consideration and report to the committee; in which case the committee shall consider the matter of the new reference, and report thereon accordingly.

Since all action in connexion with any proposed public work must originate in the House of Representatives, I feel sure that Senator Foll, who introduced the motion, and Senator Duncan, who seconded it, will realize, on reflection, that the course adopted is not the proper one to take. The1 proposal outlined in the motion should have been introduced in the House of Representatives, and by a member of the Government, with the object of having it referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. That committee would make a report to the House of Representatives, which would then decide whether or not it should be adopted.

Senator Payne:

– Could not that action be preceded by a request from this chamber?

Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.This chamber might request that the question be considered; that is a totally different matter. I invite honorable senators to consider the terms of the motion.

Senator Sampson:

– It is all right as far as the word “ south “ in line 2.


– I do not agree that it is. To me it is objectionable throughout. It reads -

That the Senate is of opinion that it is essential for the proper development of North Australia that a railway should be constructed from north to south -

Senator Sampson:

– It should stop there.

Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Let us stop there for a moment. Is it right that this Senate should commit itself to even that extent before the scheme has been considered by the Government, introduced into the House of Representatives, and by that chamber referred to the Public Works Committee?

Senator Thompson:

– The motion merely brings to the notice of the Government a desirable work.

Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.It does more than that. It asks this Senate definitely to commit itself to the statement that it is essential that this work be proceeded with, and that the Government should treat the matter as urgent. Another reason for opposing the motion has just occurred to me. Last session the North Australia Commission was appointed to consider the development of the whole of the Northern Territory, and to ascertain the measures necessary for the expansion of its resources. That commission has been at work for twelve months, and it is expected that the Government will receive its first report shortly. It may recommend this particular work.

Senator Thompson:

– I think it surely will.

Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.That may be. But since this commission has been appointed to go into the matter, and has obtained data concerning the development of the whole of Northern Australia, would it not be unwise of the Senate to commit itself to the proposal embodied in the motion before the presentation of the commission’s report?

Senator Foll:

– Is the honorable senator prepared to leave in the hands of the North Australia Commission the question of what railways should be constructed in the future?


– Thai matter cannot be left entirely in the hands of the commission, because our laws provide, firstly, that it must report to the Government, and then that any railway proposal contemplated by the Government shall be introduced in the House of Representatives, which must refer the question to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report.

Senator Thompson:

– Is the honorable senator prepared to move an amendment to refer this proposal to the Public Works Committee?


– I am not ; it is not my baby. I realize how deplorable is the loss of stock occasioned by drought in this particular part of the Commonwealth. If anything can be done to obviate such losses in the future it ought to be clone. I admit that the whole question should be investigated very carefully. I believe in the construction of railways for the settlement and development of the country; but I am not prepared at this stage to commit myself to the proposal contained in the motion. Surely honorable senators would be acting wrongly if they did not await the report of the North Australia Commission, which will be furnished in a few months, and will outline the steps which it thinks ought to be taken. I do not for a moment consider that this line would pay interest on the cost of construction. I doubt if it would pay even working expenses. It certainly would prove helpful in times of drought. But the Barkly Tableland does not often experience a drought such as that through which we are passing at the present time.

Senator Foll:

– The Barkly Tableland would have a considerable area of agistment country at times when other portions of the Territory were droughtstricken.

Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.That is quite probable

Senator McLachlan:

– Sheep could not be taken there.

Senator Foll:

– Thousands of sheep have been taken there in the past.


– Sheep could not be taken there under existing conditions. When I was in the Territory in 1923, I met a man who was running 4,000 sheep north-west of Alice Springs. He sent them to the Adelaide market, where they fetched the top price. He informedme, however, that he had to give up sheepraising there because of the ravages of wild dogs. The blacks were totally unreliable as shepherds, and allowed the dogs to get into the holdings.

Senator Foll:

– The proposed railway would provide cheaper transport for wire netting for dog-proof fences.


– It certainly would be of assistance in that direction. Doubtless, that aspect of the matter has been considered by the North Australia Commission, and would be investigated by the Public Works Committee.

Senator Duncan:

– Why did not the honorable senator express these views when the North-South Railway was being considered by the Senate?


– If the honorable senator will peruse the speech that I then made on the matter he will find that I referred to the raising of sheep, and admitted that a line such as this would be of assistance in obtaining supplies of wire netting for dog-proof fences.

Senator Duncan:

– The honorable senator does not anticipate that the northsouth line will pay interest on the cost of construction?


– It will not for many years. If we were to construct another line running parallel to the north-south railway now in course of construction it would take from that line portion of the revenue that it would otherwise receive. I am perfectly certain that no honorable senator has in his possession sufficient information to enable him to say whether or not this line would pay interest on the cost of construction, or even working expenses. We are advised by financial experts, and by our creditors in the Old Country, that it is necessary to restrict our borrowing, and that public expenditure must be confined at present to reproductive works. In a young country there must be a certain amount of expenditure on public works that will not be immediately reproductive; but it is essential that we should exercise the greatest care in view of the serious financial position in whichwe find ourselves to-day. That is another reason why the Senate should not be asked to commit itself blindly to a proposal involving the expenditure of several millions of pounds. If the matter were brought before Parliament after’ reports had been obtained from the North Australia Commission, the Senate, having already agreed to this motion, would be in in the position of having bound itself in ignorance of the facts of the case. That would be entirely wrong, and it is a step that honorable senators should not be asked to take. I sincerely hope that the Senate will not agree to the motion.

Senator REID:

.- It is curious to find Senator Barwell taking up an academic stand on this matter. He has advanced excellent arguments, from the point of view of a lawyer, against the passing of the motion.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– The honorable senator is a member of the Public Works Committee, to which this matter would be referred by the House of Representatives.

Senator REID:

– I am out of agreement with the honorable senator’s conception of the duty of that committee in respect to this proposal. In the first place I am of the opinion that this Senate has a right to express itself in relation to any public matter.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– -Has it a right to commit itself before it possesses necessary information?

Senator REID:

– It will not be committing itself definitely. I shall vote for the motion; because I believe that the right of the Senate in such matters is equal to that of the House of Representatives.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– A proposal involving such a large expenditure should be initiated in the House of Representatives.

Senator REID:

– I candidly admit that legislation involving expenditure cannot be initiated here. But Senator Barwell knows as well as I do that the Senate has both the right and the power to make suggestions in relation to financial questions.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– This .is not a suggestion. 0

Senator REID:

– I admit that it is practically a demand.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– The motion asks us to give a definite expression of opinion.

Senator REID:

– Yes, along certain lines. The honorable senator omitted to read one important part of the motion, which reads -

That the Senate is further of opinion that the Commonwealth Government should immediately call a conference of representatives of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Queensland Governments, the North Australia Commission, and the Development and Migration Commission, with a view to apportioning the expenses of constructing such a line.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– What right have they to apportion- the expenses ?

Senator REID:

– If they met, and decided that the line should be built, they would naturally apportion the expenses.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– That would not be their duty.

Senator REID:

– Such a body of men would be able to express an opinion which might influence this Chamber, or another place. It would be in a position similar to that now occupied by the Public Works Committee. The motion, if agreed to, would enable information which would be of considerable value to Parliament to be obtained. Despite the adverse reports of engineering and railway experts, South Australian senators have consistently advocated the construction of the northsouth railway, believing that its construction would benefit Australia as a whole, and South Australia in particular. The object of the motion now before us is to impress upon the Government the urgency of the construction of this railway.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– If we N agree to it, we shall commit ourselves.

Senator REID:

– No. All we should do would be to express the opinion that the construction of the railway is’ essential. Such an opinion would agree with the views of all the railway experts who have considered the matter.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– To agree to the motion would commit us to a definite scheme - the construction of a railway as proposed.

Senator REID:

– That is what all the engineers have recommended! In fact, a preliminary survey has already been made. Not only would the construction of this railway tend to develop

Northern Australia and bring relief to New South Wales and Queensland, but it would also facilitate the transfer of stock in times of drought.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– Before the Senate commits itself definitely it should have further information.

Senator REID:

– What information could be obtained that is not already available? Mr. Bell, the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways, Mr. Hobler, a member of. the North Australia Commission, as well as railway engineers from Queensland and New South Wales - all men of standing - have recommended this route. No insurmountable engineering difficulties would be encountered. The only, difficulty -would, be’ in crossing country liable to floods ; but that is not an uncommon experience in connexion with railways. During the last two years Queensland has lost between 7,000,000 and 30,000,000 sheep. The value of those sheep would be greater than the cost of this railway.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

- -I have not said that the line is unnecessary.

Senator REID:

– “Various chambers of commerce, and persons interested in our pastoral country, have advocated the construction of this railway, because of its usefulness in times of drought. All the main railway lines in Queensland which run through pastoral country have, from the beginning, paid interest on the cost of construction. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of many lines which serve agricultural districts. The railways to Longreach, Cunnamulla, Hughenden, and Cloncurry have always paid interest on the capital cost. I am convinced that this railway also would pay its way.

Senator Sir HENRY Barwell:

– Tha honorable senator would be able to speak more definitely on that aspect of the question if the Public Works Committee had first investigated the proposal and made its report.

Senator REID:

– That is true; but we already have, the opinions of a number of experts. In any case,- the Public Works Committee would base its recommendations on the evidence of those experts, and others.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– Should the Senate not have the committee’s recommendation before it commits itself definitely in the manner indicated by this motion?

Senator REID:

– I agree that the motion might well have been drafted differently. If Senator Barwell would move an amendment to make the motion more a request than a demand I feel certain that Queensland senators would vote for it.

Senator Foll:

– That is so.

Senator REID:

– I agree with Senator Barwell that one of the duties of the North Australia Commission will be to Consider the effect of railways on the development of North Australia. For my part, I am willing to wait for the report of that commission. When the Prime Minister was in Brisbane recently a deputation comprising pastoralists, financiers, and others, waited on him to urge the construction of this line of railway, but without success. On that occasion the Prime Minister might not accurately have interpreted public opinion. In any case, must this Senate dp nothing merely because the Prime Minister did not see eye to eye with the members of the deputation? I am very desirous that North Australia should be developed. Practical men who know the country are of the opinion that it should be stocked with cattle in the first instance.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– In good seasons cattle could travel without a railway.

Senator REID:

– In the early development of North-West Queensland cattle’ played an important part; in more recent years much of the country has been devoted to sheep. At this stage I shall not discuss whether the Barkly Tableland is more suitable for cattle or sheep ; at first, the country should be stocked with cattle. Wild dogs are so numerous in parts of Queensland and North Australia that the raising of sheep would be attended- with much difficulty. Not long ago a grazier in Western Queensland told me that in one paddock containing about five square^ miles, which was fenced with dog-proof wire netting, 45 wild dogs were found after the fencing was completed. The Senate should not. accept the Prime Minister’s attitude towards the deputation which waited upon him in Brisbane- as the final word on this subject. For thp development of Australia railways are necessary. A request coming from the Senate in the form of this motion would have some influence with the Government. I agree with Senator Barwell that, because of our unsatisfactory financial position, we should proceed carefully, and see that for all expenditure we get a satisfactory return ; but I do not think that North Australia need any longer be the “ white elephant “ it has been in the past. The construction of railways linking that portion of the continent with Queensland, New South Wales, and South Australia would make available large areas of pastoral country.

Senator McLachlan:

– Is the honorable senator of the opinion that the motion provides for the construction of a railway to connect the north-south line with the railways of Queensland and New South Wales?

Senator REID:

– The motion is to urge the Government to make a determined effort to deal with the important question of the proper development of North Australia. The main thing is to connect with the north-south railway at Newcastle Waters, or some other convenient point recommended by experts.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– Does the honorable senator suggest a deviation of the north-south railway towards the Queensland boundary?

Senator REID:

– Engineers and others entitled to express an opinion have recommended a certain route as the most payable for the development of the Northern Territory, and I leave it to them.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell:

– Does the honorable member suggest that the north-south railway should run straight on from Alice Springs, and that this proposed line should be an additional railway ?

Senator REID:

– Yes. A line should branch off the north-south railway at some point to pass through the Barkly Tableland and connect the Northern Territory with New SouthWales and Queensland. I leave it to the North Australian Commission or experts to determine the point where the proposed railway should branch off. If the Senate passes this motion, the Government will,

I am sure, regard it as the wish of the Senate that something should be done to connect the north-south railway with New South Wales and Queensland.

Debate (on motion by Senator Sir William Glasgow) adjourned.

page 84


Appointment of Select Committee

Order of the day for the resumption of the debate from 23rd March, 1927 (vide page 917, Vol. 115) read, and on motion by Senator Ogden, discharged.

Senate adjourned at 5.10 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 September 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.