12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) tools the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Honorable senaters will recollect that on Friday, the 5th instant,I called attention to the publication in the Canberra Times of a certain report concerning an incident in the Senate. I have now received by letter, from the editor of that paper, an explanation and an expression of regret which was also published in yesterday’s issue of the Canberra Times. The letter which was addressed to me personally is as follows: -
Dear Sir. - In connexion with the report which appeared in the Canberra Times of Friday, December 5th, 1930, relative to the disturbance in the Senate chamber, and following the statement by yourself in that connexion, I desire to express regret that, though in good faith, publication was given to statements which were in error as to fact regarding both your presence in the Senate chamber at the time and as to your powers as President.
The following was published in yesterday’s issue of the Canberra Times -
The Canberra Times on Friday, December, 5th, published a report of a scene which had occurred in the Senate after the tea adjournment on Thursday evening, December 4th.
Although the report was published in good faith in the belief that it was wholly correct, certain statements relative to the President of the Senate were found to be incorrect. These statements were that the President had actually not left the Senate chamber at the time, and also that he was powerless to act.
It is desired publicly to correct both these statements, and to express regret that any incorrect statements should have appeared, however unintentionally.
Sofar as I am concerned the incident is now closed.
– by leave - For the information of honorable senators, I have to announce that the Government has asked General Sir John Monash to represent the Commonwealth of Australia at the inauguration of New Delhi in February next, and that he has consented to do so. During the inauguration ceremonies he will unveil, on behalf of the Commonwealth, the column we have presented to the new Capital of India.
When, early in the year, the Commonwealth Government accepted the very generous invitation of the Indian Government that a representative of the Commonwealth should proceed to India, as the guest of that country, to attend this ceremony, it was anticipated that a Commonwealth Minister would be able to undertake the duty. Circumstances having rendering this impracticable, the Government thinks that, in view of the close association of the Australian and Indian Forces during the campaigns in Gallipoli and Palestine, no representative would be so welcome in India as one of the most senior and distinguished officers of the Australian Military Forces.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– On the 5th December, 1930, Senator Chapman asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information: -
On the 9th December, 1930, Senator Lynch asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : -
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Ishe yet in a position to make available to the Senate Dr. Rivett’s report on his inquiries and investigations into the subject of extraction of petrol from coal?
– Dr. Rivett is due to arrive in Australia on the 6th January next, and it is expected that soon after his arrival he will be in a position to furnish a report on the subject of the extraction of petrol from coal.
Validity of State Legislation
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
The following papers were presented : -
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 142.
Bankruptcy Act - Second Annual Report by the Attorney-General. 1st August, 1929, to 31st July. 1930.
Service and Execution of Process Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 147.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930,
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it bad agreed to the amendment made by the Senate in this bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator Barnes) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The history of this railway movement goes back a long way. From the time that the proposal for building the transAustralian railway first came under consideration, there was also the suggestion that when the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie was completed there should be available a broad gauge railway connexion between Port Augusta and Adelaide.
As far back as 1912 the State royal commission on a narrow gauge extension and break of gauge recommended to the Government of South Australia that, in order to connect with and purely to handle the traffic to and from the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, a line of railway should be constructed from Salisbury to Port Augusta, via Balaklava. Crystal Brook, Warnertown and Port Germein. Unfortunately, owing, it is said, to lack of funds to complete the work, the railway was constructed by the South Australian Government only as far as Red Hill, to which centre it was opened on the 5th September, 1925. Although five years have elapsed, the terminus of the railway is still at Red Hill, some 82 miles short of where it was intended to be. Had the State of South Australia gone on with its proposal there would have been no need for this measure to-day.
So seriously did the Commonwealth Government regard the need for a broad gauge connexion with the transAustralian railway that, on the 18 th September, 1925, it entered into an agreement with the State of South Australia, which provided, among other matters, for the construction of the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill. The details of this agreement will be found in the Railways (South Australia) Agreement Act 1926, a Federal measure, and in the NorthSouth Railway Agreement Act 1926, a
State measure. Both the Federal and the State acts ratified the agreement of the 18th September, 1925.
It has been claimed that the right to build the railway was subject to a formal notice being given by the State of South Australia within a stated period, and that, as the State did not give the said notice, the Commonwealth is not now authorized to’ build the railway without further legislation by the State. This contention,however, does not accord with the opinion of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor who, after fully reveiwing the case, declared - in my opinion the Commonwealth has now afull and unqualified consent of the State to the- construction of the railway at any time, and further legislation by the State is unnecessary.
The opinion still prevails in some quarters, that there is room for doubt as to the legal powers of the Commonwealth Governmentto construct the railway without a further formal notice of consent by the State of South Australia, and, in order that there may be no doubt on a matter so important, the bill has been drafted in such a way as to remove any possibility of misunderstanding.
The agreement of the 18th September, 1925, between the Commonwealth and the State provided, among other matters, for-
These three works were to be at the cost of the Commonwealth. The agreement also provided for the laying of a third rail between Red Hill and a point near to Port Pirie, at the cost of the State. The railway to Alice Springs was authorized by the Senate in February, 1926, under the provisions of the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs Railway Act, 1926. That work has now been completed and the railway is an accomplished fact.
The measure now before the Senate provides for the building of the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill. This railway will be of4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge, the standard gauge adopted by the Commonwealth and the States for eventual unification, and will link, as I have explained, with the present Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway as far as Red Hill. When the third rail is provided from Red Hill to Adelaide, the transAustralian trains will be run from Kalgoorlie to the Adelaide central railway station. So far as the railway connexions between Port Augustaand Adelaide are concerned, the details shown in the agreement of the 18th September, 1925, are as follows : - 5. (a) The Commonwealth will, at its own expense, construct a railway on a 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge from Port Augusta to Red Hill. 6. (a) The State will, at the expense of the Commonwealth, during the construction of the railwayfrom Port Augusta to Red Hill. lay a third rail on the 5-ft. 3-in. railwayfrom Red Hill to the Central Railway Station in Adelaide, so that there will he a continuos railway on a 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge from Port Augusta to Adelaide.
After the agreement was ratified by the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments, the matter of the railway from Port Augusta to Adelaide was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, the reference being made by a motion moved in the House of Representatives on the 29th January, 1926. The report of that committee was submitted in due course, its finding being -
After considering the matter in all its aspects, the Committee agreed to recommend that the proposal for the extension of the trans-Australian railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill, and the laying of a third rail to provide a railway of 4-ft. 81/2in. gauge on the South Australian 5-ft. 3-in. gauge railway between Red Hill and the central railway station, Adelaide, be approved.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works went to great pains to examine the matter, and made an exhaustive investigation on the question of the third rail between Red Hill and Adelaide. Its findings was definitely in favour of the railway provided for in the agreement of the 18 th September, 1925, providing for a standard gauge connexion between the trans-Australian railway and the central railway station in Adelaide.
The railway will afford many advantages, in that it will remove the breaks of gauge at Terowie and Port Augusta and will increase the traffic on the transAust.rulian railway to a very considerable extent. It will reduce by about 72 miles the length of the journey between Adelaide and Port Augusta and the time occupied by five hours. So circuitous is the route of the present railway to Adelaide, which lies almost due south of Port Augusta, that three and a half hours after leaving Port Augusta the train is further north than at the commencement of the journey. The railway will also permit of passengers and loading being conveyed direct from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie, a distance of 1,240 miles, thus obviating the delay and expense at present incurred in transhipment at Terowie and Port Augusta. It will make possible a very considerable curtailment of the time at present occupied in the train journey from Adelaide to Perth, and will enable live-stock from the trans-Australian railway to be conveyed from the point of loading to the market at Adelaide in the same vehicle, thus enabling the stock to arrive in better condition. Under existing conditions live-stock from the 4-ft. 8^-in. trans-Australian railway for Adelaide has to be transhipped at Port Augusta into 3-ft. 6-in. trains and again at Terowie to 5-ft. 3-in. trains. The new line will permit of live-stock being conveyed from Port Augusta to Dry Creek, where the Adelaide live-stock market and abattoirs are located, in from ten to twelve hours. At present 25 hours elapse between the departure of live-stock from Port Augusta and its arrival at Dry Creek. The construction of the line will materially assist settlers along both the trans-Australian and the Central Australia railways, in that it will considerably reduce fares and freights on account of the reduced distance and the application of through, instead of local, rating. The proposal set out in the bill provides for a railway on which very much more loading can be carried on each train to and from Port Augusta than by the existing railway via Terowie. That railway rises to 2,000 feet, whereas on the proposed railway via Red Hill the highest point would be 455 feet. The load for a standard locomotive out of
Port Augusta by the present route is lM)-2 tons, and into Port Augusta 270 tons. As against this, by the new route, and with the engines already in use, the load from Port Augusta would be at least 1,000 tons. The ruling gradient on the new line will be .1 in 100, as against grades of 1 in 40 on the present route. A fullyloaded live-stock train brought into Port Augusta along the trans- Australian railway with one engine requires five narrowgauge engines to take the loading over the range as far as Quorn.
The building of the railway will be of great economic advantage as it will enable the Commonwealth railways to obtain the considerable motor traffic now prevailing between Port Augusta and. Adelaide. Many passengers prefer to leave the trans- Australian railway trains at Port Augusta and take the journey by motor rather than continue by train over the slow and circuitous route to Adelaide. It would also assist the Commonwealth railways in competing with the airways service.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of the proposed railway will be the greater facilities for the transport of live-stock. Cattle from the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs railway for the Dry Creek market now have to travel such long distances that it is necessary to spell them for periods of from 24 to 36 hours at some place en route. This is clone by one consignor at Marree and by others at Quorn. The present arrangement has the disadvantage that the cattle have to be loaded and unloaded twice en route - once at the spelling point and again at Terowie, the transhipping station. The construction of the proposed railway will enable the great bulk of the cattle to be spelled tit Stirling, where they would be transferred to trucks for Adelaide. The spelling point and the transfer point will coincide, and one untrucking and retrucking be avoided. It will also greatly aid the transport of live stock to and from the trans- Australian railway.
The provisions of the bill before honorable members are similar to those of the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs Railway Act 1926, and will enable the Commonwealth Railways .Commissioner to do all things necessary .to construct the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill. The railway will be of the standard gauge of 4-ft. 8^-in., with SO-lb. rails and fastenings, well ballasted, and capable of expeditiously carrying heavy overland and other traffic.
The length of the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill, as shown on the plans and statement submitted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, was S3 miles 16 chains; but, as the result of further surveys, the location of ‘ the line has been slightly varied, the length of the railway being now 82 miles 54 chains. The deviation does not mean a reduction in the original cost, because the country iti the new location is heavy; the shorter length of railway will, however, mean lower maintenance costs. The plans now submitted to the Senate show the railway in its new location. The necessary surveys have been completed, and on the bill being passed, steps can be taken to have the works put in hand.
The cost of the railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill is estimated at £735,000, excluding rolling-stock. The rolling-stock to serve the section from Port Augusta to Adelaide is estimated to cost £104.250; laying the third rail between Red Hill and the central railway station is estimated to cost £380,000, making a total of £1,219,250. It is also estimated that additional rolling-stock to the value of approximately £35,750 will lie needed on the Central Australia railway.
The bill provides for the railway from Port. Augusta to Red Hill only; but the Commonwealth will make provision, as may be necessary, for the expenditure on rolling-stock, and for laying the third rail from Red Hill to Adelaide. The sums necessary for these works will be provided for in the Estimates of expenditure submitted to Parliament in the usual way. There is no need for a bill to authorize the work of laying the third rail. Under the agreement of the 18th September, 1925, this work will be curried out by the South Australian Railway Commissioner, by arrangement with the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and at the expense of the Commonwealth.
The estimated annual revenue to the Commonwealth railways from the railway between .Port’ August.a and Adelaide. via Red Hill, is £100,755; the annual working expenses, including the Commonwealth’s proportion of expenditure in working and maintaining the Red Hill to Adelaide railway, and allowing for the South Australian proportion of Commonwealth expenditure in working and maintaining the railway between Red Hill and the point near Port Pirie, are estimated at £63,879; the annual interest charges on the same basis are estimated at £77,999. These expenses leave an estimated annual loss of £41,123 on the working of the Commonwealth trains and traffic between Port Augusta and Adelaide. On the other hand, it is estimated that by the building of this line the financial results on the transAustralian railway will be improved to the extent of £35,000, while it is estimated the extra traffic from the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs railway extension over the Port Augusta to Red Hill and Adelaide section will show a net profit of £13.023, It is, therefore, anticipated that. the line will show a profit, after paying working expenses, and interest, of about £6,900 per annum.
The estimate of the earnings and the expenditure on the railway was prepared prior to the bill being previously introduced to Parliament. The earnings for the calendar year, 1924, formed the basis of the estimated annual revenue. Dur;ng that year the earnings were considerably lower than for the years that followed. They were even lower on the transAustralian railway than for the year just passed, so that the earnings may be assumed to have been calculated on a conservative basis. The estimates of expenditure may be regarded as reasonably approaching present-day conditions. The interest charges are calculated on the basis of 5$ per cent.
The trans-Australian railway, constructed and equipped at a cost approaching eight millions sterling, and set as it is between two narrow gauge railway systems, can never fully serve the purposes for which it was constructed nor give to the people what it was intended to give until railway connexions on either side enable the Commonwealth transAustralian trains to run from Perth- to Adelaide without break of gauge. The growth of motor and aerial traffic is seriously prejudicing the Commonwealth’s railway on which so much of the people’s money has been expended. The transAustralian railway has been open for public traffic for thirteen years, and right from the inception the traffic has been greatly restricted by the breaks of gauge. For this great national railway to be of real value in linking the east with the west, and for defence purposes, its extension to Adelaide is essential. Only by extending the railway to Adelaide and afterwards giving a standard gauge railway from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle can the trans-Australian railway serve the purpose for which it was constructed, give a service to the people of Australia, and a return in keeping with the outlay.
During a recent session of the Western Australian Parliament both Houses in that State agreed to a resolution, reading -
That in the opinion of this House, the time has arrived when the federal policy of extending the standard railway gauge should be consummated in Western Australia.
The extension referred to was on the section from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle. This extension, however, is a matter for the future. It might be stated that the Uniform Railway Gauge Royal Commissioners in 1921 advised the Governments that the section between Adelaide and Port Augusta was the most undesirable of any of the sections of overland travel, and was the section that should be the first to be taken in hand. The Royal Commissioners recommended the connexion between Port Augusta and Adelaide to be via Red Hill, and this bill is in accordance with the recommendations of the Uniform Gauge Commission. The work will prove of great advantage to travellers crossing the continent and will give a service vastly superior to what we have under the present arrangements.
I was a member of the Public Works Committee which conducted a very, exhaustive inquiry into the desirableness of constructing the railway in question, and which furnished a very valuable report that contained all the information available at that time. It was thought that the construction of the railway would be proceeded with shortly after the presentation of the report; but, owing to financial stringency, the work was not proceeded with. The Government is at its wits end to absorb some of the tens of thousands of men who are out of work and in dire distress, and if this measure is passed by the Senate it is hoped that a large number of them will be provided with employment on a very useful and reproductive work. Breaks of gauge cause considerable inconvenience, expense, and delay in the transhipment not only of stock, but also of passengers and luggage. These will he avoided if this line is constructed. When this line is completed the time occupied in journeying from Adelaide to Perth will be reduced by from five to six hours. If the measure is passed, it will take some time to call for tenders ; but that and other necessary preliminary work will be proceeded with as expeditiously as possible. As the measure provides for a muchneeded improvement in our interstate railway system, and will absorb a large number of men who are now badly in need of work, I commend it to the favorable consideration of the Senate. Plans are available to those honorable senators who may wish to inspect them.
– By whom were the estimates prepared?
– I understand that they were prepared by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioners.
– Were they the officers who prepared the estimates in connexion with the Kyogle-South Brisbane railway? ‘
– No. I understand that those estimates were prepared by the railways commissioners of New South Wales and Queensland.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.38]. - I support the second reading of this hill. The previous Government introduced a measure for the construction of a line from Port Augusta to Red Hill, which, I think, passed another place; but when it was found necessary to reduce loan expenditure, this proposed line was one of .the victims, and, consequently, had to be removed from the schedule.
– It cannot be said that there has been any improvement in the financial position since then.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Unfortunately, the position is worse. Many of the railway proposals sub- mi t ted from time to time are not in any way justified; but this is one which I think is absolutely justified and should be proceeded with if the money can be provided to meet its cost. There is something to be said in favour of undertaking the construction of public works in bad times; but, unfortunately, our policy has been to go ahead with a “vigorous public works programme when everything is prosperous, with the result that works are undertaken at an unnecessarily high cost. Wages are higher because there is active competition for labour, and costs of material are also greater. It has always seemed to me that, if it were possible, it would be wise to reverse the policy which lias been in operation for some time by reducing expenditure on public works during periods of prosperity and, if practicable, increasing it during periods of financial stringency. In prosperous times private enterprise is able to find employment for most of our people; but in periods of depression public works should be proceeded with in order to take up the slack caused by the falling off in private employment. Such a policy would be to the advantage of the people. Ft would result in a distribution of the work, which would also be carried out more economically. It is not easy to adopt such a course ; but I may take this proposal as a case in point. This work can be carried out much, more cheaply to-day than a few years ago because, since the proposal ‘ was introduced by the previous Government, there has been a considerable reduction in costs. Unfortunately, the financial difficulty is the lion in the path of those who advocate this policy of public works construction during times of depression. It appears to me, however, that it would be wise to proceed with this work at the earliest possible moment in order to improve the working of the existing railway system. The construction of this line will shorten the journey between Kalgoorlie and Adelaide by 72 miles, and it will reduce the number of breaks of gauge from four to two. This is a strong argument in its favour. The time occupied in railway journeys is an important consideration. If, by the construction of this line, the time of the journey between Perth and Adelaide can be cut down by five hours - I believe it will be possible to make a still greater saving in time - it will mean a considerable economy in railway working costs.
– Does it take five hours to cover the extra 72 miles?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Not in actual travelling time. The delay is due to the transfer of goods and passengers at the break of gauge stations. If the honorable senator has travelled over the trans-Australian railway, he will know that, at the stations where breaks of gauge occur, all goods and passengers’ luggage have to be transferred from one train to another. This involves much loss of time and greatly adds to the running costs of the railway. Furthermore, the construction of this section will facilitate the transport of stock from Central Australia to the Adelaide, market. Under existing conditions stock have to he handled twice, with consequent delay and loss to the owners.
The financial position of the transAustralian railway has been improving for several years. Last year, I understand, the revenue was sufficient to meet working expenses and show a surplus of £12,000. The construction of the proposed section from Red Hill to Port Augusta will help further to improve the finances of the overland system, because it will increase the popularity of the trip with railway travellers. I regret that the proposals do not include the laying of a third rail into the Adelaide railway station, but that will come later. It is absolutely essential to the successful working of the through railway between Kalgoorlie and Adelaide.
Few people realize the difficulties under which the Commonwealth Railways Department has been working for so many years. Because of the climatic conditions over the greater portion of the route covered by the line between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, the water supply hai always been a serious problem. Arrangements have to be made to carry it tremendous distances and, as water in some of the reservoirs is unsuitable for boiler purposes, the maintenance charges in respect of locomotives is substantially higher than elsewhere in the Commonwealth. The line traverses country where dust storms are prevalent. Honorable senators will know what that means to all moving machinery parts. The coal supply also has to be transported by sea from Newcastle to Port Augusta. This adds greatly to the cost of railway working. In view of all these difficulties I think tha management deserves to be highly commended for the excellent results achieved. All who travel over the trans-Australian railway agree that it is one of the most, comfortable in the world. Passengers appreciate the service given by the attendants. They get civility without servility. Everything in connexion with the system is a credit to the Commonwealth’ railway officials. Overseas visitors are high in their praise of the service. ‘ .’
Whilst I heartily support the bill, I must confess that there is a great deal of unreality about it. We all know that the money for its construction is not available. It is almost impossible for the Government to finance the ordinary services of the country. The Minister, in moving the second reading of the bill this afternoon, gave 113 no indication of how the Government proposed to finance the work; but I understand that, when the measure was being discussed in another place, the Minister in charge of the bill stated that the expenditure during this financial year would not exceed £20,000. If that is the limit of the proposed expenditure this year, the scheme will not do much to relieve unemployment, because the greater part of the sum mentioned will be expended on surveys and preparations for commencement of” construction work. As a proposal for the relief of unemployment, therefore, the bill is an empty gesture. It cannot accomplish anything worth while in this financial year.
Another feature to which I direct attention is the provision that the act shall commence to operate on a date to be fixed by proclamation. This is rather unusual in a measure, of this kind; but the Minister explained, in his opening remarks, that there was a doubt whether the assent of the State of South Australia to the proposal had been given. It was given, but attached to the assent was a certain condition as to time. That time condition having lapsed, there is now a doubt, in some quarters, apparently, that the necessary constitutional assent of the State still holds good.
– I suppose it is certain that the State Government will offer no objection to the proposal.
– 1 do not know, but when the first proposals were made for the construction of the trans-Australia railway, the Government of South Australia offered definite objections, and it took some years to obtain the consent of that State to. the construction of the railway. The objections, I understand, were confined mainly to Adelaide interests. The- Minister this afternoon quoted the Crown Solicitor as saying-
In my opinion, the Commonwealth has now a full ami unqualified consent of the Statu to the construction of the railway at any time, and further legislation by the State is unnecessary. ;
The Minister added -
There is in some quarters, however, still the opinion that there is room for doubt as to the legal power of the Commonwealth Government to construct the railway without 11 formal notice of consent by the State of South Australia, and, so that there may be no doubt on a matter so important, the bill has been drafted in such a way as to remove any possibility of misunderstanding.
The Minister did not explain how the bill removes any possibility of misunderstanding. All that I can see in it is the provision that it shall riot come into effect until a proclamation has been issued. Apparently, what the Minister meant was that the bill would not take effect until the South Australian Government has testified, in some way or other, its agreement with the view of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, that no further consent is necessary. But if the legal authorities of South Australia hold that further consent is necessary, this bill may have no effect until a measure is passed by both Houses of the South Australian Parliament, and if that should be necessary, I am not too hopeful of the result. I know that there is still a .strong opinion in South Australia that this railway is not justified. As a matter of fact, without being unfair to the State, I think there is a certain amount of hostility among its people towards the idea of any connexion between Adelaide and Perth on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. At any rate, although some years ago various governments in conference came to an understanding that one day all the capital cities should be linked up by the 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge, South Australia took action to push out a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge railway from Adelaide in the direction of Red Hill, with the ultimate intention of carrying it right through to Port Augusta.
– Was that not done under the agreement referred to?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.No; it was not done under any agreement. A subsequent agreement was come to between the Commonwealth and South Australia when the Gunn Government was in power in the State. Believing that a bill to ratify this present proposal would not have too easy a passage through the State Parliament, 1 hope that there will be no need for it. The passing of the bill before us may not be the last word; there is still a possibility of some trouble with South Australia. I very much regret that, before the State commenced to build its line from Adelaide towards Red Hill, it did not consult with the Commonwealth authorities, because that would have been the time to build a 4-ft. 81/2-in. line right through from Adelaide to Port Augusta. Now there is a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge line to Red Hill and a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line running parallel to it, not more than fifteen miles away, while further east there is another 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line which certainly swings away to the north-east by Terowie. Thus, to serve the same country, there are three parallel railways, two of which are, in some places, within ten or twelve miles of each other. In my judgment, the Adelaide to Red Hill railway was deliberately built to block the possibility of running a 4-ft. 81/2-in. gauge railway into Adelaide. It could not have been required for State purposes, seeing that an existing narrow gauge line met all requirements. I hope, however, that South Australia has since had a change of mind, and that it will not prevent this Commonwealth proposal from being carried out. There are two difficulties confronting this proposal: first, that there is no money - at any rate the Government has brought forward no proposal to raise money - so that the bill, if passed, could not be put into immediate operation, and could not be of advantage in the direction of giving employment; and, secondly, that the consent of South Australia is, apparently, in the air.
. - The Assistant Minister, in moving the second reading of this bill, spoke of the railways of Australia. Such disastrous results have followed the careless construction of railways in this country, that, necessarily, we must exercise care in regard to future construction.. The total expenditure on our. railways has been £331,000,000, and they have failed to provide interest on their cost of construction, the shortage being from £8,000,000 to £9,000,000. Nearly all the financial troubles of the States are due to the deficits sustained on the working of their railways. A glance at the map of the country through which the Port Augusta to Red Hill railway would pass shows that Senator Pearce was correct when he said that, with the construction of this line, there would, practically, be three railways running parallel between Adelaide and Port Augusta. Having had considerable experience with the control of railways, and with a . full knowledge of the disastrous results that have followed upon Australia’s railway policy, I have definitely made up my mind that I shall not vote for the building of another railway until I have seen the country through which it will pass. One of the main reasons actuating the Government in proposing to build this line is that the work of construction will afford a great deal of employment at the present time. I have every sympathy with the unemployed, and I know that Parliament cannot divest itself of its responsibility to provide for men who are unemployed ; but the £735,000, which this railway is estimated to cost, could be spent all over Australia in giving employment that would be more reproductive than it would be in the building of this line. Personally, I do not think that the building of a railway which is, practically, in the centre of Australia, and in one of the hottest parts of it, would do much to alleviate the unemployed difficulty to-day. The best way to. deal with that problem is to get people back to work again under conditions which will enable the product of their labour to pay for the cost of it.
– Would not this railway help in the defence system of Australia ?
– It cannot be very badly needed for that purpose, seeing that there are already other railways covering the ground. I do not propose, however, to go into the question of the need for the line. If times were prosperous, it would be quite a different matter, but to build a railway in almost the centre of Australia is not the best means of dealing with the unemployed question. The best means is to- take away some of the restrictions . that prevent people from giving employment. Let this Parliament undo some of the damage it has already done. If, for instance, such restrictive legislation as the Navigation Act and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act were repealed, there would not be so much unemployment. There is any amount of work that needs to be done, ami there is plenty of money available with which to do it, but the work is not done. Houses need remodelling or renovating, land-needs to be scrubbed. But if you ask people why this work is not done, they say that it docs not pay to have it done. Every one knows that the employer has not a chance of getting his money back at the present time if he employs labour. Every one is saying that the cost of production must be reduced, but every step we take seems to make the position worse. Instead of lowering costs, we have deliberately increased them. There will be no soundness in this country until we get people back to work in such a way that the employers will be- able to secure a return for what they spend on labour. I would rather see this £735,000 distributed among the farmers, who are so badly off at the present time, either at low rates of interest- or at no interest at all, to enable them to give employment on reasonable work. That is a scheme which has been adopted with success in Tasmania. The Government has lent small sums of money to the farmers, and it has made a tremendous difference to the unemployment problem.
I repeat, however, that to build a railway in Central Australia to help the unemployed is the most outlandish proposal I have ever heard of. In this time of poignant financial stress, it is not justified. There are better means of providing employment. For that reason I cannot support, the bill, although I would willingly support any proposal to give reasonable employment of a productive nature.
– I had some doubt about the wisdom of this bill, in view, of Australia’s present financial position, but I was inclined to give the measure favorable consideration because of the arguments advanced in another place, and in other quarters, to the effect that it would, to some extent, alleviate unemployment. Those arguments, however, have been completely shattered by the speech of Senator Pearce. The right honorable senator found himself in a serious quandary. In support of the measure he advanced all the arguments that could be cited in its favour, particularly the argument that the trans-Australian railway is one of the best in the world, and that attention given to travellers by it is not equalled elsewhere. But in the latter part of his speech the right honorable senator advanced arguments which completely confirmed me in my opposition to the bill. Even the Minister, in introducing the measure, put the case for the bill just as some bogus gold-mining company promoter would put his case. He enumerated a long list of advantages that would accrue from the building of the railway. He went through the alphabet from A to H, and .then, evidently fearing that the number of letters in the alphabet would not be sufficient to cover the whole of the advantages he wished to mention, he ceased to itemize them. He would have needed the. Chinese alphabet, which, I understand, comprises some hundreds of characters, to give to each argument against the measure its own alphabetical sign.
There are, of course,- advantages in building this railway. I believe that it would be an advantage from a defence point of view. I appreciate the point that it would save a considerable amount of time on the east-west journey, and that it would give to the east-west passengers a great deal more comfort than they now enjoy because of the vexatious changes that have to be made. In normal times, and in normal circumstances, it would certainly be of advantage to Australia to have. this railway built. But we are not living in normal times. As was indicated by the Leader of the Opposition’ (Senator
Pearce), we are living in very troublous times, and on many occasions the Minister representing the Government has intimated that the Government is at its wits end to know what to do. At this juncture a bill such as this, involving an expenditure of £1,250,000, and an annual loss of £50,000, is inopportune.
Seaator Daly. - It will not mean a loss of £50,000 per annum. Unless this section is constructed, there will be a loss of that amount.
– I understood the Assistant Minister to say that it would mean a loss of nearly £50,000 per annum. We know that governments make their case as rosy as possible when submitting measures to Parliament ; that, frequently, after the suggested legislation is approved, it is found that the estimated expenditure was unreliable and that the Government is involved in heavy additional expenditure over the project. I instance the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway. When that was agreed upon the expenditure was to be comparatively reasonable; but, as the line progressed, cost was piled” upon cost, until the estimates were very considerably exceeded, to the detriment of the Commonwealth finances. I admit that there was far more justification for that line than there is for the one that we are now discussing. The disadvantages attaching to this proposal far outweigh its advantages, so much so, indeed, that I do not think the Government is warranted in proceeding with it. The people in that section of Australia already have three railway services, and experience no difficulty in getting their produce to market. The means of transit available to them are easy, although they may not be quite as comfortable as those concerned would like. We must consider the lack of communication in other parts of Australia, and the works of national importance that need our attention. We must remember, too, that almost every week both the Commonwealth and the State Governments are increasing taxation in order to meet public expenditure, and in an endeavour to. balance their budgets. In the circumstances the huge expenditure necessary to construct this line is. for the time being at all events, quite unjustified.
– I presume that the honorable senator is aware of the competition of fast-moving motor vessels which compete with existing rail communications in that section of Australia.
– I do; but similar competition exists in other sections of the Commonwealth. Does the Minister contend that the suggested railway would be able to compete with fast-moving motor vessels? If so, his opinion is. contrary to the experience of every other part of the world. Motor ship transportis considerably cheaper than is railway transit.
I do not like this measure. Financially, the Commonwealth is in a much -worse position than it was when the Public Accounts Committee reported in 1926 that the state of the Commonwealth finances did not permit of the work being proceeded with. If the proposal was not justified in 1926 it is even less justified now. When I consider the many disadvantages and the relatively few advantages connected with the construction . of this line, I feel that I should be recreant to my trust if I voted, forthe measure.
.This bill, aswas pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), presents some features that must be considered as unrealities. The right honorable senator indicated one, that it is putting the cart before the horse to proceed with the measure before first obtaining the consent of the South Australian Government. We are entirely in the dark as to whether thereis any likelihood of that consent being obtained. While I shall vote for the bill, for reasons that I shall advance, I should like the Minister to understand that there is apparently some opposition to the measure in the State of South Australia. I have a telegraphic communication indicating that the Transport Commission, a body with which I am not familiar, states that the “Red Hill railway will cost the State £90,000 annual loss. Probably publish to -morrow”. What that means. I do not know, but we may assume that a loss is anticipated in the revenue of the South Australian Government from lines which run almost parallel with the proposed one.
This is no new proposal tome. It was my opinion, originally, that when South
Australia built the railway from Salisbury toRed Hill it embarked on a duplication of already existing railway facilities. However, that was done at a time when money was more plentiful than it is now, in the belief that the section would be linked up with the broad gauge system at Port Augusta. It is necessary to regard our railway systems as a national problem. The greatest difficulty experienced by the States at present is to cope with the financial losses incurred in their various railway systems, due, perhaps, to improvident building. It would appear to me to be a wise move on the part of the Commonwealth to take over from South Australia the railway from Red Hill to Adelaide, and, in lieu of the proposal submitted by the Assistant Minister this afternoon, to convert the broad gauge into a standard line of 4-ft. 8-1/2-in.
– Why not take over South Australia altogether?
– I know that the honorable senator is ambitious, but, I do not think he would succeed too well in South Australia. I believe that he is better housed in Sydney. The State of South Australia has spent something like £960,000 on the railway. It would not involve an outlay of very much more than the third rail proposal, and there certainly would not be the danger that attaches to a third line. The matter was the subject of negotiation between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments some years ago, and the difficulty arose that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner would be cutting into the profits of the Commissioner for Railways for South Australia, derived from the carriage of stock from Port Augusta, Peterborough and Terowie. I admit that is a rather narrow view to take. If this line from Salisbury to Red Hill were cut out, the relief to the general taxpayer would outweigh any disadvantage in the form of lost traffic.
– It was estimated some years ago that the relief would represent about £60,000 a year.
– It is easy to calculate. By taking 51/2 per cent. interest on £1,000,000, the sum would be £55,000. I do not know whether the Department of Works has any information to the contrary, but. I doubt whether this railway line to Red Hill, stopping as it does at a dead end, can possibly pay working expenses. I know that my suggestion on that matter is not acceptable to the department.
The proposal presents a second view of unreality. The Honorary Minister has indicated that it is unnecessary for the Government to obtain the consent of the South Australian Government to put in a third rail from Red Hill to Adelaide. I am not too clear on that, and I hope that, when replying, the Minister will satisfy our minds on the point. 1 venture to suggest that it is a clumsy project. If we are to set about it, let us do it properly. Let us make ita 4-ft.81/2-in. line right from Adelaide to Port Augusta. Unless that is done, we shall, until the third rail has been laid, have a. break of gauge at Red Hill, at which place it will be necessary to provide facilities for transferring goods and stock from one gauge to another. That is not a sound business proposition. If we undertake this work in a piece-meal fashion, there is bound to be considerable waste. In my opinion, this scheme has not been fully considered by the Government. The Government appears not to have ascertained the attitude of the Government of South Australia towards its proposal, or the effect of the construction of this new line on the finances of therailways of that State. Nor does it appear to have considered the advisability of taking over from the State the railway from Red Hill to Adelaide.
– The present Premier of South Australia led a deputation to the late Prime Minister urging that that be done.
– Premiers and Prime Ministers have an unhappy knack of changing their point of view according to circumstances. The laying of a third rail is estimated to cost £380,000, an expenditure entirely unjustified if the South Australian Railways Commissioner is prepared to discuss with the Commonwealth authorities a proposal that the Commonwealth should take over the whole line. In this matter there is no question of intrusion by the Commonwealth into the sphere of the State; that intrusion has already taken place. We must consider this matter from the point of view of its effect on the nation as a whole: On many occasions I have said that I would agree to the hanging of any politician who urged the construction of a railway in Australia of other than the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. Since I first expressed myself in that manner the finances of our Australian railways have not improved, but have rather grown worse: Nevertheless, I feel that the proposal in this bill is along right lines, provided that it is followed by the taking over by the Commonwealth of the whole of the line from Red Hill to Adelaide, so that it may become, in fact, a 4-ft. St-in gauge railway.
In some quarters this proposal is objected to on the ground that the portion of South Australia through which the line vouB3 pass is already well served with railways. I regard the proposal as being in the nature of the clearing up of a muddle. If in the removal of that muddle the State railways will suffer, it surely should not be impossible for any losses which the State might incur to be the subject’ of adjustment between the Railways Commissioners of the Commonwealth and the State. The estimates provide for n sum of £20,000 being expended on this work out of an amount standing to the credit of the loan fund. The Minister, in his reply, may be able to inform us how much stands to the credit of that fund. Probably there is very little money there.
Although the bill makes no provision for the erection of buildings at Red Hill which will be rendered necessary by the break of gauge there, the Minister said that such buildings would have to be erected if this bill were agreed, to. If only for that reason, I deplore the proposal to have a break of gauge at Red Hill. I prefer that we should make a complete job of the undertaking, and dispense with any break of gauge. There is no need for a railway of 5-ft. 3-in. gauge in the area which will be served by this line. The direct route from Adelaide to Port Augusta branches off the Great Northern line at Salisbury, crosses over the North Western System at Bowmans, and intersects the line from Brinkworth to Wallaroo at Snowtown. It may be that, in the event of there being no third rail between Salisbury and Red
Hill, farmers in the district would have to cart their wheat a little further in some instance to reach the broad gauge; but we must consider this matter from a national standpoint. Moreover, despite the opinions of experts, I am still unconvinced that there is no danger in providing a third rail. I shall support the second reading.
, - The Government has done the right thing in bringing forward this proposal. Although there might be some delay in commencing the work, that is no reason why we should withhold our approval to its being undertaken. If we approve of the scheme now, the line can be commenced as soon as funds are available. There is no question that the construction of the railway proposed in this bill will materially improve the railway system connecting- Western Australia with the Eastern States. Anything that will bring the States .closer together must benefit the Commonwealth as a whole. Although the main condition under which the people of .Wester,n Australia voted for federation, Ras. that that State should be connected by* railway with the Eastern States,.- .it -.took many years of fighting on the par.t of Western Australian members of this. Parliament, led by the late Lord Forrest in the House of Representatives, and the present Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator Pearce), before the promise to construct a trans- Australian railway was given effect. Indeed, it was not until after Lord Kitchener had visited Australia and recommended the construction of a trans-continental railway to assist in the defence of the country that the line was constructed.
– The Fisher Labour Government did not hesitate to construct the line.
– The building of the trans-Australian railway stands to the credit of that Government. Although the line was built mainly for purposes of defence between Fremantle’ and Melbourne, four breaks of gauge were provided. Thirty years after the consummation of federation, those breaks of gauge still remain at Kalgoorlie, Port Augusta, Terowie, and Adelaide. This measure proposes to eliminate two of those four breaks of gauge. The expenditure of £735,000 to improve the railway communication between Western Australia and the other States is, after all, a small sum compared with the advantages which’ it will confer 0” the Commonwealth.
-r-Did not Western Australia promise to convert to the standard gauge the railway between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle ?
– The Parliament of that State passed a measure”, authorizing that conversion. Since then, it has passed resolutions urging, the ^Federal Government to carry out the work, so that there should be no break o’f gauge between Port Augusta and Fremantle.
– The State Government undertook to do the work.
– It passed a measure authorizing the work; but in view of the serious effect of federation on- Western Australia, the people of that State fed that the financing of the conversion of the gauges is entirely a federal responsibility. I trust that we may regard this bill as an earnest of the (government’s intention to undertake that work.
I am surprised that there should be so much opposition to this bill when for a small sum, compared with the cost of other works undertaken by the Commonwealth, so beneficial a result can be achieved. The bill authorizes the construction of a railway 82 miles 54 chains long from Port Augusta to Red Hill. The existing line from Adelaide to Red Hill is 106 miles 52 chains in length. Therefore, by the direct route, which the construction of this line would make possible, Port Augusta would be 1S9 miles 26 chains from Adelaide, as against 260 miles by the present route via Terowie. That means a saving in distance of about 7 1 miles in what is certainly the most tiring portion of the railway journey from Sydney to Fremantle. In my opinion, the chief advantage which would accrue from the construction of this line would bc the elimination of two breaks of gauge between Fremantle and Melbourne. Instead of having to change from one gauge to another at Kalgoorlie, Port Augusta, Terowie and Adelaide, it would be necessary to change only at Kalgoorlie and Red Hill, while the roundabout route, via Quorn and Terowie, would be avoided and five and a half hours saved on the journey between Port Augusta and Adelaide. We were assured by the Assistant Minister that when the line is completed to Adelaide it will, by a re-arrangement and re-adjustment of the transcontinental service, be possible to reduce the journey between Adelaide and Fremantle by at least five hours. That will be a great advantage, and the saving in time will undoubtedly popularize the service. The elimination of these two breaks of gauge will be greatly appreciated by interstate travellers, particularly women and children, but they will be of much greater value from a defence view-point. The oast-west railway, which was con- structe.1 mainly to assist in the protection of the Commonwealth, was strongly recommended by the late Lord Kitchener from a defence stand-point. If the transport of troops across the continent should, unfortunately, ever be necessary, there is no doubt that the elimination of these two breaks of gauge would be of great service to the Commonwealth. Tins is not a new proposal. It is not some scheme which this Government has suddenly conceived. It is very properly carrying out the promise embodied in the first instance in a written agreement entered into between the previous Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia on the 18th September, 1925. That agreement was entered into between Mr. Bruce and Mr. Gunn, who was then Premier of South Australia, and provided, amongst other things, for the construction of a line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, for a railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill, and for the laying of a third rail on the existing railway line between Red Hill and Adelaide. These three undertakings, which were proposed more than five years ago, were to be constructed at the cost of the Commonwealth. To-day the Government is submitting a more modest proposal, which provides merely for the construction of a railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill on the 4-ft 8^-in gauge, which will, in addition to the other advantages I have mentioned, eliminate two breaks of gauge between Melbourne and
Fremantle. The necessity of this work is an exact parallel to that of the KyogleSouth Brisbane railway, which cost nearly £5,000,000, and which was carried out by the previous Government. I do not think that there was much opposition to the construction of that line by the Federal Government to connect two big centres of population on the eastern side of the continent, and to reduce the travelling time between Brisbane and Sydney. But when it is a matter of conferring similar advantages upon an isolated State, such as Western Australia, certain quibbles are raised. The Kyogle to South Brisbane line, which took so long to construct, was opened only on the 21st October last.
– Is it paying expenses ?
– There has not yet been time to determine what interest it will return on the capital expenditure. I am glad that the Government is authorizing the construction of this line, and I congratulate the Assistant Minister upon the fact that the Government has decided to call for tenders instead of undertaking the work on the day labour system. I trust that tins legislation will be the fore-runner of another measure under which the Commonwealth will consent to undertake the conversion to the standard gauge of the existing railway from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, and thus provide a line without any break of gauge from Red Hill to Fremantle. This is a national responsibility. Both Houses of the Western Australian Parliament have passed a resolution asking the Federal Parliament to do its duty in this respect, and I sincerely trust that this important work will be proceeded with in the near future.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [4.41]. - For personal reasons I regret very much that I cannot join with my colleagues from Western Australia in supporting the second reading of this bill. I know as well as they do the great discomforts experienced in travelling over that section of the eastwest line between Adelaide and Port Augusta, and, having travelled over the railway nearly twenty times within the last three years, can appreciate the necessity to dispense with some of the disadvantages which now exist. But there are other considerations which, rightly or wrongly, appear to me to be deserving of more attention. In the first place, I should like to remind the Senate that this is a drastic and complete departure from the agreement arrived at at the Melbourne conference, where it was generally agreed that our troubles to-day are largely due to the very heavy programme of loan works for which no financial provision has been made. This proposal embodies launching out again on a programme of loan works for which no financial provision has been made, and for which, I venture to say, no satisfactory provision can be made for a considerable time. The resolution which was unanimously reached at the Melbourne conference reads -
I have not yet heard it suggested that the proposed railway will pay working expenses, and return . to the Treasury sufficient revenue to meet interest and sinking fund payments, except by taking revenue from lines already constructed. As no attempt has been made to demonstrate to the Senate that this line will pay working expenses and return interest and sinking fund payments, the Government is departing from a resolution carried at the Melbourne conference, which was attended by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), the present Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton), the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons), and the representatives of the States. Because no definite provision has been made, nor is likely to be made, with regard to finance, and because it is a. direct departure from the agreement, I shall oppose the second reading’ of the bill.
There are two or three other considerations that I should like to submit to the Senate. We are just beginning to realize the disadvantages associated with our system of public ownership of railways. There may be great advantages in such ownership, but we are now realizing’ that there are also disadvantages. Let us compare our position with that of the Argentine, where there is almost the same mileage of railways as there is in Australia. The Argentine railways depend, as ours do, on certain industries such as wheat, wool and livestock. Their railways too have been built by British capital; but there the comparison ends. Our railways have been constructed by British capital borrowed by governments ; while the Argentine railways have been constructed by British capital subscribed by shareholders of private companies. In consequence of the depression, the present position of the railways in the Argentine is similar to our own,and, in some respects, it is quite as intense. Their railways are not paying. There is, however, this great difference : In times of depression and financial stringency Australian taxpayers have to continue to pay full interest and sinking fund payments, while the Argentine taxpayers do not care a straw whether the railways are paying or are not paying. It is the shareholders who invested capital, and who, during the periods of prosperity received dividends, who there have to make good any loss that may occur. Railways controlled by private enterprise are completed and conducted at a cheaper rate than those constructed and conducted by governments. In periods of prosperity, when revenue is abundant, privately-owned railway companies not only pay good dividends, but build up substantial reserves, so that in periods of depression they can make good any losses out of their reserves, and the shareholders, whether they like it or not, must go without their dividends. Shareholders in Argentine railway companies cannot make any complaints against the companies because they cannot get money out of their investments when times are bad. They have no right to complain, becausethey have received their return in periods of prosperity. On the other hand, investors in Australian securities demand, and are entitled to, the payment of full interest on their investments. We have experienced good times, but. are now confronted with depression. When our railway returns were satisfactory we should have made some provision by way of reserves, or by keeping our railways up to the highest possible state of efficiency. As we did not make such provision, we are introublee.
Another interesting comparison can be made between our railways and those in Canada, some of which are under government control and others conducted by private companies, and government and private railways are in competition with each other. Although the Canadian railways, because of the larger population in Canada, handle a much larger volume of traffic than Australian railways, the railway employees in Australia considerably outnumber those in Canada.
– In Canada there are over 1,500 more miles of railways.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The traffic is handled by a smaller staff. I do not intend to labour this question, because it has no direct application to the bill; but it cannot be denied that there is scarcely a railway service in Australia that is not over-manned. Those are some of the disadvantages associated with the public ownership of railways. We have to consider this proposal very carefully, because in making our railways pay we are destroying other forms of competition. What have we done in this instance? Is the east-west railway a convenience to the people of Western Australia? They would be much better off if there were no such line, and they were able to travel on all the vessels touching at Western Australian ports and the other ports of the Commonwealth.
– But the people could not travel so rapidly.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The question of speed is now raised. Is speed to be sacrificed in order to make railways pay? A little while ago mails leaving Sydney on a Friday were placed on the mail steamer at Fremantle on the following Monday, thus saving practically a week in transport between Sydney and London. Senator Johnston emphasized a few minutes ago that everything should be done to save time in the transport of mails. But is that being done? The railways authorities in the States, without consulting the Postal Department, have so curtailed the train services onsome of our main lines that the value of the air mail is almost completely destroyed. The train leaving Melbourne for Adelaide on Sunday has been cut out.
– With postage rates at 3s. an ounce the air mail is of little value to the Commonwealth.
– Because of recent alterations in the railways time-tables it is not now possible to save time by using the air mail from Adelaide to Perth; so it is nonsense to urge, as an argument for the construction of this proposed railway, that it will mean a saving of five hours in the railway journey between Adelaideand Perth. Under existing conditions business people in Sydney or Melbourne cannot use the air mail to Perth, because it closes the day before letters arrive from London. It seems a futile policy that to “ boost “ the transcontinental railway revenue, the value of the air mail service to the community should be destroyed.
– And done deliberately too.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCHThat is so. I am not concerned about the position of the shareholders in the transcontinental air mail service, because I presume that the company gets its subsidy from the Government in any case; but I am concerned about the value of the. mail and transport services rendered to the general public. The building of additional railways does not appeal very strongly to me if, to make them pay, the Government adopts a policy of eliminating the cheaper facilities of sea travel, the more convenient transport provided by motor vehicles, and the speedier services provided by aerial transport. But these objections are more or less by the way. My principal reason for opposing the bill is that no provision has been made for financing the work, and that it is in direct opposition to the resolutions unanimously arrived at by the Commonwealth and State Ministers at the Melbourne conference.
– I listened with the greatest interest to those honorable senators who preceded me, and I must confess that I was not impressed with the arguments or the enthusiasm of those who supported the bill. TheLeader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) summed up the posi tion very aptly when he said that the bill had about it an atmosphere of unreality. That is true. The Government has submitted this proposal without even bothering to revise the estimates of cost. The Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes) who moved the second reading, in reply to an interjection by me, said that the estimates were prepared in 1926 for the measure introduced by the Bruce-Page Government; but he was unable to say who was responsible for them.
– I said that they had been prepared jointly by the Railways Commissioners for the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia.
– Our experience of official estimates of public undertakings such asthis shows that they are not to be relied upon. For example, the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway was estimated to cost a certain sum - I do not remember the exact figure - but on no fewer than three occasions the Government brought down proposals for increased expenditure on that work. Departmental estimates appear to be prepared in such an atmosphere of irresponsibility that I am not inclined to place much reliance upon them. I have in mind the great increase in the cost of the Murray River works. Speaking from memory, I believe those works were estimated to cost £4,660,000, but up to date we have spent nearly £15,000,000 on them, and they are not yet finished.
I agree with the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that the construction of important public works should not be carried out during times of prosperity when there is strong competition for labour, because the labour return then is less efficient, and Ave have to pay more for all commodities required. But this is not the time to make suggestions of that kind. I believe that, in times of prosperity, we should prepare for times of depression by setting aside, and definitely ear-marking definite sums for expenditure on public works during periods of financial depression. In this way it should be possible to spread employment evenly over a series of years. The Leader of the Opposition also expressed a doubt concerning the consent of the State Government to this proposed work.I should have thought that it would bethe first duty of the Government, in submitting this bill, to see that the consent of the State Government had been obtained.
– Who has said that there is a- doubt about the attitude of the Government “of South Australia?
– This possibility was mentioned by more than one honorable senator who has taken part in the debate, including Senator McLachlan, who is a supporter of the bill. If I had been in doubt as to my’ attitude, his arguments would have induced me to vote against it. The honorable senator indicated that, as this was a matter of cleaning up,’ and as it would be no detriment to the people in the neighbourhood -I do not know’ what he meant by that -he would support the bill.
Senator Barnes told us that the bill was brought forward as part of the Government’s1 scheme to relieve the unemployment problem. He added that it had. been– passed through one House by the Bruce-Page Administration some years ago ; but that it ‘ had been abandoned because of the then unsatisfactory state of the finances. Senator Duncan, referring to this aspect of the proposal, has pertinently reminded the Senate that the financial position of the Commonwealth is- very much worse to-day than it was a few year’s ago, so on that ground there is no justification whatever for the proposal. Senator Johnston who, as we might expect,- favours it, expressed surprise that any opposition ‘ should be offered to a proposal involving the expenditure of what he described as a comparatively small sum. I fail to understand how any honorable senator can treat, in such a casual manner, a bill covering an expenditure of over £1,000,000.
– The honorable senator’s figures are wrong. The estimated expenditure is £735,000.
– I understand that before Western Australia can reap the full benefit of the proposal, it will mean ah expenditure of £1,219,000, which sum cannot by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as of no moment. But, if we consider the project as involving an expenditure of £735, 000,
I still regard it with disfavour because, as Senator Colebatch has pointed out, it is in direct opposition to the agreement entered into at the Melbourne conference. So much for that. .
Senator Barnes emphasized that the passage of the bill would do much to relieve unemployment. ‘ On that point it is pertinent to ask what has been done by this Government, during the present session, to deal with our unemployment difficulty. No one can urge that it has done anything of a practical nature. On the’ contrary, this Government, instead of doing anything to relieve the industrial depression, must be charged with having accentuated it. By its administrative acts and legislative enactments, it has done’ more than- any “o’ther government to discourage men of affairs from taking on added responsibilities. It is taxing industry and enterprise out of existence; it has discouraged the development of this country, and it has taken away from the working man the right to work.
– Is the honorable senator attacking the Melbourne agreement?
– Other honorable senators who preceded me have shown that this bill is in direct opposition to the agreement entered into at the Melbourne conference some time ago.
– The Government’s policy, which the honorable senator is now condemning, is perfectly consistent with the terms of the Melbourne agreement.
– I do not agree with the Leader of the Senate. This Government has done nothing to inspire confidence in ourselves, or confidence in our country, by other people. It has been responsible for an astounding increase in the’ volume of unemployment throughout Australia.
– Order!’ I must ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the subject-matter of the bill.
– I respectfully submit that my references to the unemployed situation in the Commonwealth are relevant to the bill. Tor the information of Government supporters. I should like to emphasize that, for some considerable time now, the Ministry’ and the Labour party behind it have been concentrating on the maintenance of the cost of living, instead of concentrating on the maintenance of the standard of living. This Government has interfered seriously with that delicate financial structure known as credit, and honorable senators must know what that means to every individual in the community. Let me illustrate my point. In 1928, the total debts of Australia amounted to £1,094,000,000, of which amount £570,000,000 was owing overseas and £524,000,000 in Australia. Of the total debt £313,000,000 has been expended on railways undertakings. I agree with Senator Colebatch that, in connexion with our railway policy, a grave defect is the absence of provision for depreciation of plant and lines. In Victoria alone, out of a total railway debt of £73,000,000, an amount of £20,000,000 should be written off for depreciation. Other national undertakings upon which loan money has been expended are - Tramways, £13,000,000; telegraphs, &c, £4,000,000; water supply, £105,000,000; harbours, £69,000,000; public buildings, £24,500,000; advances to settlers, £85,000,000; advances to public bodies, £10,500,000; . electrical undertakings, £18,250,000; other public works, £49,500,000; sundry items, £12,250,000. These represent a total of £704,000.000. That £704,000,000 is backed by private assets, which in 1928 exceeded £3,000,000,000.
– I ask the honorable senator not to embark upon, or attempt to initiate, a discussion upon the general financial position of Australia.
– Such is not my intention.
– But I am afraid that it is going to be the effect.
– My object was to point out that if the Government, in its desire to create opportunities for employment, would care to give some encouragement to men of affairs, or men with ability to create employment, it would do something substantial; but the course it is following, that of bringing in bills such as this without careful consideration, even without carefully prepared estimates, indicates that.it is not sincere in its desire, to relieve the great unemployment that exists to-day. As suggested by the Leader of the Opposi tion, this measure is surrounded by an atmosphere of unreality, and it is my intention to vote against it.
.- We are told that the estimated cost of building this line from Port Augusta to Red Hill is £735,000, and that the country proposed to be served isalready very well . provided with railways. One authority says that there are already four lines serving it within a radius of 50 miles as the crow flies. It must result in a further loss to the South Australian railway system, which is already having a hard enough time to make ends meet. As a matter of fact, we have been informed to-day that it would mean a loss of £90,000 to the South Australian railways.
– How much does it cost the South Australian railways to earn that £90,000?
– I do not know, but. I think it will be admitted, taking into account the productivity of the country between Adelaide and Port, Augusta, that that portion of South Australia is already well served by railways. I ask the Government where it proposes to obtain £735,000 for the building of this unnecessary line. In years to come, when our population has increased, and our finances are on a sounder basis, it will probably be built, and will undoubtedly remove the inconvenience occasioned by the existing breaks of gauge. It will also save time on the journey between the east and the west of Australia. In 1926 when the Public Works Committee reported against the immediate building of this very line the Commonwealth could very much better afford expenditure upon what might be regarded as more or less a luxury. All State railways are losing propositions, and all Governments would be well advised to be chary about incurring further expenditure upon railway construction. Victoria, the most densely peopled of all the States, whose railways it is generally admitted are managed far more efficiently than those of any other State, is losing over £1,000,000 a year upon its railways.
It is a very difficult matter to make railways’ pay at the present time. Senator Duncan has told us that the
Graf ton to South Brisbane railway cost £5,000,000. No wonder the line cannot pay working expenses, let alone interest on cost of construction. I doubt whether it will ever do so. Who cares to travel by rail from Sydney to Brisbane when it is possible to travel more speedily and just as cheaply by that magnificent and well-conducted air service run by the Australian National Airways between Sydney and Brisbane? A day is saved on the journey, and surely time is worth something.
– The honorable senator knows that airways are subsidized.
– They should be subsidized, butI do not know that the service between Brisbane and Sydney is not subsidized.
– It is not.
– Reference has been made to the possibility of the eastwest railway competing against the eastwest airway. Why should we not encourage by every means in our power the development of civil aviation for the transport of mails and passengers, and the development and defence of Australia ?
– I suggest that the honorable senator should return to the matter of the bill.
– I contend that it is unnecessary to spend £735,000 to improve the rail transport between the cast and the west, so that it may compete against an air service which we should be encouraging rather than retarding. Aviation is the transport of the future, particularly in Australia, and we should do everything possible to encourage its development. Westralian Airways Limited has rendered magnificent service to Australia.
– I again remind the honorable senator that he must return to the subject of the bill.
– I am trying to show that this line, to be built at a cost of £735,000, will compete with transport by air which we should encourage rather than oppose. To oppose the development of aviation is a retrograde step. It is absurd to expect the people of Australia to provide £735,000 at a time when some people say we cannot afford to help the wheat-growers who are the backbone of the country, and are in dire straits. To raise and spend such a sum of money on. a more or less superfluous railway is a preposterous suggestion, and I intend to vote against the second reading of the bill.
Senator DALY (South Australia -Vice-
President of the Executive Council) [5.15]. - Some honorable senators do not appreciate the position in which the Government has found itself. Although, it is proposed that this railway should be built as one means of alleviating unemployment, the necessity for the work does not rest solely on the unemployed position. What the Senate has to decide is whether in the best interests of the maintenance of the east-west railway it is desirable that this particular extension should be built. We talk of balancing budgets. Are we to compel the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways to attempt to balance his budget against the competition of fast-moving motor vessels, or subsidized aeroplane services, while the rail service between Adelaide and Perth remains below efficiency point? Any one who knows anything of the journey between Adelaide and Perth knows that Perth can be reached by motor vessels as quickly as by train, and that the passenger steps off a boat at Fremantle quite fresh and prepared to proceed immediately to work. Every one also knows that the long journey between Kalgoorlie and Adelaide is extended by the compulsory slowing down of thetrain before it reaches Port Augusta. Under existing conditions the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways has nohope of competing against these other modern forms of transport. Realizing this the Government had either to scrap the east-west railway, or make it possible for the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways to provide a rail service annroximating to efficiency point. From the defence stand-point, and in the best interests of Australia and of the country served by the east- west railway, obviously, that line could not be scrapped. Our only alternative, therefore, was to attempt to make it possible for the Commissioner of Railways to run it at something near the point at which he can balance his expenditure with his revenue. If it is necessary to build a line between Port Augusta and Red Hill so that it may be possible for the east-west service to be run at a point where the revenue can balance the expenditure, the present is certainly the best time to build it; because’ if 1,000 men are employed in its construction they are 1,000 whom the community recognizes have the right to live. The community may deny the men the right to work, but it recognizes their right to live; and, as the cost of supporting a married man in South Australia to-day is something like 28s. per family, is it not better from the taxpayers’ standpoint to use that 28s. - the dole which is being paid as a subsidy from one taxpayer to another - in the building of this railway? The only question for the Senate to consider is whether it is necessary for Port Augusta and Red Hill to be linked up by a railway. In deciding that necessity, the Senate takes the full responsibility of determining whether the Commonwealth can run efficiently the railway between Adelaide and Kalgoorlie, with its present long, winding, dreary stretch between Adelaide and Port Augusta. The proposal makes it possible to lessen the journey considerably, and for the railway commissioner to compete with these fast moving motor vessels. While I have the greatest respect for the suggestion that every support should be given to the development of aviation, I contend that it is absolutely essential, from a defence point of view, that we should not scrap the cast-west line.
If the Senate decides to turn the proposal down, it may force the Government, either in this or another session, into the position that it will be unable to continue to carry on a line which is steadily losing ground because of the competition of swift motor vessels between Adelaide and Perth. We know that a person can leave. Adelaide by motor ship at mid-day on Saturday, and bo in Fremantle on Tuesday morning. We know that, in order to adhere to schedule, these ships slow down during calm weather. How can the Commonwealth Railway Commissioner hope to -compete with those vessels if the people who patronize the railway are compelled to leave Adelaide early in the morning, and arrive &t midnight at Port Augusta, or on the return journey when they have to remain in their bunks for three or four hours, and then change trains, because of the break of gauge.
– Because of the break of gauge, scores travel between Port Augusta and Adelaide by motor car.
– Exactly. The railway service between Adelaide and Port Augusta has fallen to an appreciable extent because of that competition.
I agree that we should examine carefully every proposal that comes before us, particularly in times such as these, but the Government puts it seriously to the Senate that the east-west railway^ which has been constructed by the .nation for defence purposes, among other reasons, cannot under present conditions be brought -to efficiency point, and therefore cannot be made to pay. I hope that honorable senators will view this project in the spirit in which it is put forward by the Government. It is not a new proposal, nor did it originate with this Government. It has been on the statutebook for some years, and was brought down by the Government’s predecessor in office. If not because of this line, it was ancillary to it, that the Government constructed the north-south railway. Coupled with those facts we have the report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner outlining the difficulties under which he is labouring in the matter. I ask the Senate to give the Government this legislation in order thai it may, with the consent of the State, concerning which I have no fears, construct the line and render it possible for the taxpayers of Australia to use the amount that would otherwise be expended in paying 1,000 men a dole, as portion of the cost of constructing the line which would make the real expenditure considerably lower than would be the ease if the project were postponed.
– Is there no chance of converting the broad gauge from Red Hill to Adelaide into the standard 4-ft. 8½-in. track, instead of putting down the third line?
– There is no doubt that eventually that will have to be done. In the meantime, if we go. as far as is contemplated by this proposal we shall have progressed a good deal towards removing the difficulties which now prevent the Railway Commissioner from making the line pay.
– This proposal involves the country in the expenditure of a considerable sum of money. If we were to believe those who have constituted themselves prophets as to the causes of the existing depression in Australia, we should reject this bill. We have been told that one of the causes leading to the present awkward position of the Commonwealth is that we have borrowed too much money in the past, and that now, with a falling market, industry is overloaded with interest, charges. ‘ I do not believe that we have borrowed in excess of our ability to work in that loan money with our natural resources. An investigation reveals that our sister dominion, Canada, is similarly situated to Australia. The Commonwealth Y ear-Book informs us that the expenditure on our railways constitutes about 50 per cent, of our total indebtedness. The position in Canada is much the same, except that that dominion is very much better served with railways than is Australia. Whether we take a ‘ population or any other standard of comparison, we must admit that the position of Canada in this respect is incomparably better than is ours. If the prophets to whom I have referred are correct in their diagnosis, why have we not, as good results as Canada, in this respect, has to-day 1
One to answer. It may he because our railway systems are practically totally owned by the Government, whereas those of Canada are owned half by private enterprise and half by the Government. And why should that bring about poorer results in Australia than those obtained in Canada? The only answer is that the capital introduced and expended in this country by governments has not produced the same reward as that expended by private enterprise and governments in Canada. We must then ask ourselves, “ Why, if the Canadian system is better than ours, should we not sell our railways?” As one who has supported the system of State-owned transport ever since I knew anything about the subject, I confess that unless a change is made to improve existing conditions, those who supported that method in the past will grow cold in their enthusiasm about a system which has produced such poor results in Australia. Freight and passenger rates on the Canadian railway systems are only one-third of those charged in Australia. Just imagine the enormous advantage enjoyed by the people of that country oh that account alone.
– What is the difference in population?
– Comparatively, very little. There Avas a time, some 30 years ago, when the population of Australia was about the same as that of Canada, and when the area under wheat in this country was greater than that under wheat in Canada. Why should there be such a differentiation between the. two countries to-day] Australia is as good as, or better, than Canada.
– It is much better.
– I agree with Senator Colebatch. A comparison makes ii plain that Australia offers far better opportunities to a young man than doescither Canada or the United States of America. If noi too egotistical, I IiI e 11 tion the experience of my brother, lately a visitor to this country, who has been 48 years in the United States of America. When I asked him plainly, to tell me truly whether, after his experience in the new world, from Montreal to Mexico City; ii whs better than Australia, he said, “ Do not leave this country”.
– Is the honorable senator leading up to the subject-matter of the bill?
– I am, sir. by pointing out that by building this railway we should be doing nothing wrong if it would only teach us the lesson of how to manage and control the money invested in this country to the best advantage, as has been done in the United States of, America and in Canada. There is no doubt that, if we accept the example of Canada, it will do that, and more. Comparatively, railway facilities in the United States of America are 800 times better than those offered in Australia.
– Australia has more miles of railway per head of population than has any other country in the world.
– The honorable senator is under a misapprehension as he will see if he studies the information on page 295 of the Commonwealth YearBook. Australia is not so well served by railways as is Canada. The sister dominion can obtain money from Wallstreet at 4 per cent., but Australia cannot get within hundreds of miles of Wallstreet. Unless the money expended by the Government on railways in the future gives better results than in the past, the people will tire of such poor results from the expenditure of their money. Wheatgrowers in Canada can get their wheat to the seaboard for one-third of the cost to Australian wheat-growers. That is not because wages are lower or working conditions less favorable in Canada than in Australia. Why cannot the workers of Australia do as their fellow workers in Canada have done?
– I ask the honorable senator to discuss the bill.
– The passing of this measure will assist the Commonwealth railways revenue to the extent of £6,000 per annum. On that ground alone the Senate should agree to it.
Every argument that was advanced both for and against the construction of the east-west railway could be advanced in the case of this further link in the chain that connects Western Australia with the eastern States. As the east-west railway has justified its construction, so will this railway prove of benefit to the country. The construction of the line proposed in this bill would remove two of the existing breaks of gauge, with a consequent reduction in expenditure.
When’ the late Lord Kitchener was asked his opinion of the railway systems of Australia, he said that if an enemy were asked to advise as to the best railway system for this country, he would advocate a continuance of the policy pursued in the past - a system which ended nowhere, and did not provide for joining the eastern and western seaboards.. If we have regard to the safety of Australia, we must provide effective means of transporting troops from one part of the country to another. We should seize every opportunity to improve our railway systems from a defence point of view. The passing of this measure will assist in that direction. In view of the opinion expressed by the late Lord Kitchener, I fail to see how any soldier in this chamber can vote against this bill.
The relief of our unemployed, which the construction of this line would give is another argument in favour of the bill. I ask honorable senators to picture for themselves the plight of a man, with a wife and family dependent onhim, who has been unemployed for months and now approaches the Christmas season. I received a letter a day or two ago from a friend in Sydney, in which he stated that three of his sons had been out of work for six, nine and twelve months respectively. Their plight must be the plight of thousands of others in this country. It would be safe to say that over 100,000 able-bodied men in this country who desire work cannot find it. Why should not some of those men be given employment in constructing this line? I refer not to unemployable men; but to men who are willing, indeed, anxious, to work, but cannot obtain it. What would be the effect on the minds of these men of the rejection of this proposal by the Senate? If the proposal were for something of an unproductive nature, such as the painting of rails the shifting of sand, or the digging of holes and filling of them in again, the position would be different. But here is a proposal to construct a further link in the transAustralian railway ; a proposal, moreover, which will strengthen our country’s defences, enable stock to be removed at a minimum of expense, and provide idle citizens with an opportunity to earn an honest shilling, and I see no reason why any honorable senator should vote against it. I shall vote for the bill on the grounds that I have mentioned, and also because I believe that in time the railway will pay for itself. Particularly in these times we should do everything possible to lighten the burden on the taxpayer. We should save every pound, indeed, every shilling that we can. Seeing that the Commonwealth railway revenue stands to benefit to the extent of £6,000 per annum from the construction of this line, I feel that the proposal before us should receive the unanimous approval of the Senate. I support the bill.
Senator H. E. ELLIOTT (Victoria) [5.46J. - I cannot see my way to vote for this proposal, for I fail to see how this railway can be a payable proposition. Senator Lynch has suggested that from the point of view of defence alone the construction of this line is justified; but, in my opinion, it would add to our difficulties from the defence point of view. The line would follow the sea shore for many miles, and would be an open invitation to an enemy to land and destroy it.
– How would an enemy got into Spencer’s Gulf to destroy it?
– Wheat vessels go to Port Augusta, at the head of the gulf, and there is nothing to prevent an enemy ship from going there. It is now well known that one enemy ship was in the vicinity of Gabo Island. in the early days of the late war. It is true that the late Lord Kitchener advocated the construction of strategic railways, but he also pointed out the great danger arising from the construction of railways near the seashore. He suggested that strategic railways should be built inland.
– This line will not be near the open sea.
– Is not a gulf a portion of the sea?
– The late Lord Kitchener urged the elimination of breaks of gauge in railways.
– Breaks of gauge are not so formidable an obstacle to the transport of troops as some people imagine. Horses have to be spelled on long journeys; that can be done as conveniently at a break of gauge station as elsewhere. Moreover, it would be most unwise to transport large bodies of men from one side of Australia to the other. If an enemy knew that such a transffer of troops was favoured by Australian military leaders, he could make a demonstration in, say, Western Australia or Queensland, knowing that troops would be rushed there, and he could then launch an attack at a place from which those troops had been withdrawn. The argument that, from a defence point of view, this line is justified, does not carry the weight that some honorable senators attach to it. Something might be said from that point of view in favour of a proposal to construct a railway from Port Augusta to Broken Hill.
– The honorable senator does not suggest that that would be a profitable line.
– There would be no advantage in transporting troops from two unimportant strategic points.
– Such a line would facilitate the transport of troops from Brisbane and Sydney to Broken Hill, and thence to Port Augusta, instead of sending them to Western Australia through Melbourne and Adelaide. A strategic railway should be able to transport troops to support any threatened point at the earliest possible moment.
– The Commonwealth cannot afford to construct many lines of that nature.
– No; but some honorable members have attempted to camouflage the position by suggesting that the proposed new line is of strategic value to the Commonwealth.
– Then why did the late Lord Kitchener recommend the building of the east-west line?
– I do not know that he actually recommended the construction of such a line as this. It is not in accordance with those of his recommendations with which I am familiar. For those reasons I oppose the bill.
– As there is a general desire on the part of all the Australian Parliaments, and of the people generally, to bring about the unification of our railway gauges, this proposal, which is a link in the chain of unification, should receive the support of the Senate. Enormous expense, inconvenience and delay are caused by the “ numerous breaks of gauge in our Australian railway system, and this Parliament should endeavour to removemany of the disabilities, in this respect, which now exist. Senator R. D. Elliott said that there was a grave danger of the South Australian Parliament opposing this undertaking; but those who have any knowledge of the. desire of the South Australian Government and people to support this proposal, should not have any doubt in the matter. . If a South Australian Government agreed some time ago to this proposal, which is embodied in an agreement, there is no reason why it should now wish to repudiate it. The South Australian Parliament will honour its obligations. If the north-south railway agreement is to be honored, why should not this proposal receive the approval of the South Australian Parliament ?
– The north-south railway should not be built.
– I suppose the honorable senator, who favored the construction of the Kyogle to South Brisbane line, as a part of a general scheme to convert our main lines into a 4-ft. 8-1/2-in. gauge, will oppose theconstructionofthis line. Senator H. E. Elliott said that this measure has been introduced only to relieve unemployment. It will, of course, provide employment for a large number of deserving men, but it is also giving effect to a policy brought into operation some time ago in the interests of the whole Commonwealth. For the information of Senator H. E. Elliott, who said that no valid reasons had been advanced in support of the construction of this line, I quote the following recommendation contained in the report of the PublicWorks Committee, which was issued in 1926: -
REASONS FOR THE PROPOSAL.
The special advantages which the Commonwealth is expected to gain from the proposal have been stated as follows: -
Would reduce by about 70 miles the length of the journey between Adelaide and Port Augusta, and the time occupied by five hours.
Would permit of passengers and loading beingconveyed direct from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie (1,240 miles), obviating the delay and expense at present incurred in transhipment at Terowie and Port Augusta.
Would curtail by eight and a half to nine and a half hours the time at present occupied in the train journey from Adelaide to Perth.
Would enable live stock from the trans-Australian railway to be conveyed from point of loading to market in the same vehicle, thus affording arrival of stock in better condition. Under existing conditions, live stock for Adelaide has to be transhipped at Port Augusta into 3-ft.6-in. trains, and again at Terowie to 5-ft. 3-in. trains.
Would permit of live stock being conveyed from Port Augustato Dry Creek in ten to twelve hours. At present 25 hours elapse between the arrival of live stock at Port Augusta and the time of arrival at Dry Creek.
Would provide a line on which on each train 85 per cent. more loading could be carried from Port Augusta, and 54 per cent. to Port Augusta. (The existing line via Terowie rises at a couple of points to 2,000 feet, while on the proposed line via Red Hill the highest point would be 435 feet).
Would accelerate the mail service to and from Western Australia; the outward English mail would leave Melbourne and Adelaide later, and the inward English mail would be delivered in Adelaide on Fridays instead of Saturdays, and would arrive in sufficient time in Melbourne to enable delivery to bo effected on the first round on Saturday morning instead of Monday.
Would be sufficiently revenueproducing to at once pay working expenses, andaconsiderable portion, if not the whole, of the interest.
Would permit of thequotation of a through rate to Adelaide for live stock from the trans-Australian and the railway to Alice Springs, instead of being compelled to adopt the South Australian rates for portion of the distance.
Would afford, for the reasons mentioned in (b), some measure or relief from the disabilities under which the trans-Australian railway is at present worked,
Would increase the revenue on the trans-Australian railway by approximately £35,000, due to the stimulation of through traffic which would obtain for the reasons mentioned in (b).
Would permit of stores and materials required for the trans-Australian and therailway to Alice Springs being conveyed by Commonwealth trains from Adelaide,thus minimizing the expense at present incurred in freight charges.
Surely that recommendation is sufficiently strong to convince Senator H. E. Elliott that there is every necessity to construct the line. Senator J. B. Hayes, who said that the bill embodied a proposal for the building of a line through Central Australia should know that the proposed railway will not serve any part of Central Australia.
– I said it would he built through portion of South Australia where the climate in the summer is very severe.
– If the honorable senator is referring to Port Augusta, he should remember that the existing ii ii touches Port Augusta, and, whether this line is constructed or not, that point will still be -served:
– I was referring to the conditions under which men engaged on construction work will be employed.
– The permanent-way nien on the .east-west line have to work under conditions more severe than those experienced between Red Hill and Port Augusta.
– If the line is built work ran be made available in the winter time.
– Yes. An honorable senator who said that the loss involved would be approximately £93,000 should Iia vn mentioned that at present a loss of £.1.20,000 is incurred in consequence of the necessity for the east- west traffic to travel via Terowie. Great disadvantages are also experienced by the east-west line in consequence of the competition of a fast motor vessel service between Fremantle r lid Adelaide. If the proposed line is constructed, and a third rail is provided between Red Hill and Adelaide, it will bc possible to travel from Kalgoorlie to Adelaide on the one gauge. It is unreasonable to suggest that .the thirdrail system is unworkable, because eminent railway engineers in Australia and in other countries have supported the system, which is now in operation in South Australia and in other countries, lt is, also, more economical to operate a 4-ft, 8-J-in. than a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. Senator Colebatch, who said that it would not matter if there were no railway connexion between South Australia and Western Australia, seemed to be more concerned with the interests of private enterprise than of State-controlled railways. A government which I believe the honorable senator supported paid a subsidy to an air service between Adelaide and Port Augusta, which robbed the east-west line of a good deal of its revenue. What right has any government to pay a subsidy of £39,500 to a service to operate in opposition to its own railways? The same government also, provided lights on the landing grounds under the control of the air service. For the information of honorable senators, I should like to read a statement showing the desirableness of transferring civil aviation .from the Department of Defence to the Department of Markets and Transport.
– Is the statement connected with the measure under discussion ‘i
– I contend that it is.
– It is for the honorable senator to show that that is so.
– I am endeavouring to show why’ the east-west railway is not paying.’ The statement reads -
Up to the 30th June., 1 929,- the total expenditure on railways owned and operated by thi? department was £14,134,213.. Of this amount. £5,730,355 was the cost of the trans-Australian railway Since the opening of “the transAustralian railway line in August, 1917, to the 30th June, 1929, the earnings increased from £175,039 per annum to £322,199, and during the same period there was an improvement from a loss of £57,429 over working expenses to an increase of revenue over working expenses of £31,929.
After that favorable position had been reached’ a ‘previous administration paid a subsidy to an air service which enabled it to carry passengers from Adelaide to Perth at the same .rate as the transcontinental railway. Where they arc not in competition with the railways, the air services charge more. For example, the charge from Brisbane to Camooweal, a distance of 1,710 miles, is £31. It should be the duty of this Parliament to protect the public purse. We should not stand idly by and see the Commonwealth or State railway systems fleeced by subsidized competitors. On the contrary, we should do all that is possible to enable the railway authorities to make up the leeway in their finances, and encourage people to use the railways. The construction of this section will eliminate two breaks of gauges, and should make the transcontinental train a more popular one with travellers who dread the changes that are necessary at the break of gauge stations. The Senate will be acting wisely if it passes the bill. Some honorable senators have criticized the proposal on the ground that the Minister didnot state what steps the Government intended to take to finance the undertaking. There need be no misgivings on that score. In all probability, the Government will not have to find the money. The Senate should pass the bill, and throw on the Government the onus of obtaining the money to carry out the work.
– What did the honorable senator mean when he said that, in all probability, the Government will not have to find the money?
– I am not going to say any more on that point. I have said as much as I wished to say, and I think I have conveyed my. meaning to honorable senators.
– The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) objected that the Government did not inform the Senate of its proposals to finance the undertaking. I submit that that is a responsibility resting solely upon the Ministry. If the Senate passes the bill, it will be the duty of the Government to find the money. Senator Duncan said that the figures relating to the proposal showed that there would be a loss of £150,000 a year. I do not know if the honorable gentleman heard what I said in moving the second reading of the bill.
– I did.
– I quoted figures to show that, after paying interest on cost of construction, and meeting all the necessary charges, the revenue derived from the line would show a profit of £6,900, a year. Senator Colebatch stated his objection to the proposal, and said that he intended to vote against the bill. 1 remind the honorable senator that one of the conditions insisted upon by Western Australia, prior to federation, was that it should be linked up with the Eastern States by a transcontinental railway line. I hope that the honorable senator has not forgotten that compact. Senator R. D. Elliott appeared to be concerned about the estimated cost of the undertaking. The estimates were prepared in 1926 jointly by the Railways Commissioners for the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia. The figures were revised recently by the same authorities who saw no reason to make any alteration. TheGovernment believes that the line should be constructed in the interests of the people of Western Australia and the Commonwealth generally, and for the comfort and convenience of all who travel over the transcontinental railway. Theconstruction of this link will further assist the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to increase the efficiency of the Commonwealth railway service.
Question- That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with a message intimating that it had disagreed to the amendments made by the Senate, and asking that they be reconsidered.
In committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message) :
Clause 4 -
Section three of the Principal Act is amended by inserting before the definition of “ the Territory”, the following definitions: - “ ‘ the Council ‘ means the Advisory Council constituted under this Act; “.
Senate’s amendment No. 1. - Leave out “ ‘ the Council ‘ means the Advisory Council constituted under this Act “.
- House ofRepresentatives’Message. -* Amendment disagreed to for the following reason : - “ Because it is the policy of the Government to give representation to the people of the Northern Territory and the amendments made by the Senate will prevent the carrying out of that policy.”
– I move -
That the amendment he not insisted on.
Honorable senators having by their previous vote expressed their feelings on the matter of the election ofanadvisory council for the Northern Territory, I hope that they will nolonger insist on their amendment in view of the fact that it would prevent the Government from carrying out its policy to give representation to the people of the Northern Territory.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Wes tern Australia) [8.4]. - I hope that the Senate will insist on this amendment. I am surprised at the reason given by the Government as to why the amendment should not be insisted on, namely, that, if it is, the Government’s policy of giving representation to the Northern Territory, will not prevail. I point out that if we do press this amendment, and the bill is dropped, the present act, which already gives representation to the people of the Northern Territory, will continue in force, and that under that act there is an advisory council for both North and Central Australia. There is, however, a difference between the Government’s policy and the system already in force. At present the Northern Territory is divided into North Australia and Central Australia, each having an advisory council of four members, and very little time is lost by pastoralists living close to Alice Springs or close to Darwin in attending meetings of the Advisory Council of Central Australia or the Advisory Council of North Australia, as the case may be; but this bill, as it came to us from another place, proposed to have only one advisory council for the whole of the territory, which would oblige a resident of the south to spend weeks in travelling to attend a meeting of the advisory council in the north. If Alice Springs were chosen as the meeting place, the same conditions would apply to a resident in the north. What is the object of the Government in seeking the change?
– Isit really the desire of the Government?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The provisions constituting an advisory council were not in the bill as originally introduced, but were inserted in another place. The Senate is willing to abolish the commission. It is not my view that the commission should be abolished, but if the Government really wished to achieve that object, I believe it would have the support of a majority of honorable senators in that matter. Its real object, however, in having an advisory council is that the Australian Workers Union organizers may have their travelling expenses paid by the Crown, instead of by members of their organization, and not over a circumscribed area, but over the whole of the territory from north to south. There are more rouseabouts and others employed on the cattle stations than there are owners, and there is not the slightest doubt as to who would be elected as members of the advisory council. The genuine pastoralist would have no representation. The Government is not trying to save the £8,000 which the commission costs. Inasmuch as the advisory council could meet as oftenas two members asked for a meeting, it would involve more in travelling expenses than the commission now costs. I again remind honorable senators of the tremendous cost of travelling about that country, especially in that vast area in the centre of the territory, which has no railway, or even air service. The journey must be made by motor car, a costly procedure because the petrol has to be sent up in advance, or a specially constructed type of car chartered. Local councils do not involve a very heavy cost, as the population is well centered around Darwin in the north, and Alice’ Springs in the south. I urge the committee to insist upon theSenate’s amendment.
– I trust that the Senate will not insist upon this amendment. The objections raised by the Leader of the Opposition of the Senate (Senator Pearce) can very easily be met by a later clause, if the Senate so desires. It is no use endeavouring to brush the matter aside with a. contention that station-owners will be disfranchized if the Senate’s amendment is not insisted upon.
– I said that they will not be able to get on the council.
– The bill subsequently provides how that council is to-be elected, and it is quite within our province to prescribe the terms and conditions of elections. I invite honorable senators to examine the very statute to which their attention has been directed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. Honorable senators will remember that Senator Pearce admitted that there already are councils in the territory, and that if the Senate’s amendments were insisted upon and this bill were dropped they would remain in existence.I invite honorable senators to read the principal act, see the manner in which those councils are elected, and ask themselves whether their personnel has been selected from station-owners or exclusively from the members of the AustralianWorkers Union.
– What is the difference in the two forms of council?
– At present, two members are appointed by the Government and two elected by the people, while under the bill all four would be elected. If this awful idea of allowing adult franchise to operate in the Northern Territory is going to result in the election of Australian Workers Union organizers, and the exclusion of station-owners, would that possibly not have been just as probable in the case when two were elected? It is no use the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate raising that cry against the clause; he has not been able to show that that has resulted from the form of’ administration which now prevails.
– Under the principal act, two members were nominated.
– And two were elected from all these rouseabouts, station-owners and Australian Workers Union secretaries. It was the same field from which the four would be elected, the same franchise, and thesame people. The Govern ment has put up to the Senate its policy that instead of there being two appointees and two elected members there shall be four members elected by the people of the territory. The discretionary powers of the Administrator as to the holding of meetings are contained in a subsequent clause of the bill. The Government feels that the Administrator with an elective council is the best and most democratic form of control. It is profiting by the experience of the territory, the manner in which it has exercised its powers to select representatives, and believes that it can safely leave it to the people of that territory to take the fullest advantage of the democratic system which is recognized in every other portion of Australia, the right of the people to elect their own representatives. There is not an Australian Workers Union organizer or secretary in the Northern Territory, so that there is not much possibility of that bogy proving to be other than a myth. I hope that the Senate will agree to the clause as introduced and recognize the right of the people to govern themselves so far as it is humanly possible for them to do.
– What power would these representatives have, except to make a nuisance of themselves ?
– I do not think that Senator Colebatch would suggest for a moment that an advisory board of agriculture had powers merely to make a nuisance of itself. It advises the Minister for Agriculture.
– How has the Advisory Council panned out in Canberra?
– The childhasnot yet begun to walk. An advisory board of agriculture is the best parallel that I can put. before the Senate. Such bodies operate in all the States, and consist of representatives elected by the farmers and the nominees of the Government. They have no powers except the right, of audience with the Minister and that of advising him on agricultural problems.
The Government feels that if it is to be advised by those in the Northern Territory the best plan is to have representatives of the people of the territory, who will act in collaboration with the
Administrator in putting forward proposals, on which the Government may either act, or refuse to act. I appeal to honorable senators to affirm the principle of an advisory council, which was introduced by the Government’s predecessors. If the Senate feels that the council should be limited in its powers, it would surely be better to have a council limited in operation, than to cut it out altogether. I hope that the Senate will not insist upon its amendment.
– I moved for the elimination of this provision in the bill to test the feeling of the Senate, and 1 take it that the present motion before honorable senators will be similarly treated as a test. It is said that this elective council is part of the Government’s policy. It is like many parts of the Government’s policy - of very recent growth indeed. When the measure was introduced in another place it contained not one word about an advisory council. The Government was slated by the representative of the Northern Territory, and, for some reason or other, it inserted this provision for an advisory council.
– Mr. Nelson used the policy of the Bruce-Page Government as an argument why the bill should contain provision for an advisory council.
– The Government urges economy as the reason for theappointment of the council. If we are going to economize let us go the whole hog. What possible service could an advisory council give in three years?
SenatorRae. - Why not abolish the Administrator also, and abandon the territory?
– The honorable senator is carrying the matter too far. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) has made it clear that there is no work in which an advisory council could engage. The whole thing is camouflage, and I am not going to deceive the people of the territory by giving them this council, the powers of which are to report upon - .
The report is transmitted to the Administrator, who forwards it to the Minister. There is also another provision for the making of ordinances, an activity in which I do not think this Senate would permit the council to engage. What do those two substantive powers amount to? Nothing. This is a body which would function in the air. I infinitely prefer the Minister’s administration of the territory to the suggested divided method of control, which could result only in expense to the country. I suggest that it is mere political eyewash to claim that these people are to be given an opportunity to govern themselves when the powers of the council are limited as I have indicated. I feel that it would be asking the Senate to go back on that solemn vote which it previously gave after a well-reasoned speech by Senator Greene on the point which was opened up by me. This council would have no substance at all. The Government is fighting for a shadow. What is influencing it, I do not know. I shall adhere to the vote I gave previously, believing that by doing so I shall be acting in the interests of the territory and complying with the wish of the Minister that there should be economy in its administration.
– Some honorable senators may unconsciously be misled by the opposition to the Government’s proposals. Senator McLachlan said that the Government is fighting for a shadow. I ask honorable senators to study the North Australia Act 1926, which was piloted through this chamber by the previous administration. Let us consider for a moment the proposed new section4k, to which exception has been taken on the ground that it contains no substance, and makes it possible for the members of the advisory council to gallivant around the territory, incurring heavy travelling expenses. That proposed new section is a replica of a section in the original act.
– The act of 1926 provides for two advisory councils, one for the north and one for the south.
– If it is a shadow with one advisory council, it is no less a shadow when there are two councils. The Leader of the Opposition said that station-owners would have no chance of becoming members of the advisory council. Section 42 of the North Australia Act of 1926 .provides that the GovernorGenera] may appoint a Government Resident for North Australia. The present proposal provides for the appointment of an Administrator. “With the exception that the word “ Administrator “ is substituted for the words, “ Government Resident “, the provision is the same as in the original act. The act of 1926 provides also that the Government Resident shall hold office subject to good behaviour, for such period as is specified in the instrument by which he is appointed. The present proposal is that [he Administrator shall be appointed by the Governor-General, and shall hold office during his pleasure. There is no difference there. Again, section 43 of the principal -act provides -
This power Senator McLachlan would not give to the advisory council now proposed.
– It is now proposed that the council may make ordinances.
– The honorable senator knows that ordinances have not the effect of law until they have received the consent of the Governor-General. Section 43 continues - or the repeal or amendment of existing ordinances (other than ordinances relating tothe administration of Crown lands) hut not including any matter relating to the power of the commission or any matter under the control of the commission.
I ask honorable senators to note the similarity of the wording in the principal act
and in the measure now before us. It is provided that -
For the purposes of the election of members of the Advisory Council, North Australia shall be regarded as one district returning two members.
The proposed new section 4(b) reads -
The qualifications and disqualifications of a member of the council, as set out in the original act, are the same as the qualifications and disqualifications prescribed for members of the House of Representatives. That was not objected to by honorable senators who object to the present proposal, notwithstanding that then, as now, union organizers and station-owners were placed on an equal footing. The proposal which is now regarded as iniquitous is already in the principal act; the present bill merely maintains an existing arrangement.
– The members of the existing advisory councils may not travel nil over the territory.
– 1 shall come to that point presently. I am now dealing with certain matters picked out by the right honorable gentleman to show the iniquity of the Government’s proposal. The principal act provides, in section 43 (5) that -
The elections of members of the Advisor; Council shall be by ballot . . .
In the bill before us, the Government has copied the precise words; yet exception is taken to them. The same thing applies in the case of the filling of a vacancy on the council ; the wording of the bill follows that of the original act. Section 45 of the principal act provides that meetings of the advisory council shall be held at least twice in each year at such times and places as the Government Resident appoints. The only difference between that provision and the proposal in the bill is the substitution of the word “ Administrator “ for “ Government Resident “. The act also provide? that the presence of at least three members shall be necessary to constitute a quorum. A similar provision is containedin the bill.
– The bill contains a further provision that two members of the council may cause a meeting to be held at any time.
– I shall not allow the fate of the bill to be determined by that provision. Even now I am willing to compromise with the Senate with respect to it. I ask the Senate not to refuse to allow an advisory council to be appointed merely because the proposal before us is forone council instead of two as at present.
– The principal act provides for two elected and two nominated members of each council.
– And the bill provides that the four of them shall be elected. What an issue on which to have a fight between the two Houses !
– What good purpose does the Minister think the advisory council will serve?
– The Government’s original intention was to create an advisory council by ordinance; but the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), in another place, urged that the provision for an advisory council should be embodied in the bill.
– Follow that course now, and test the Senate.
– The position of a Leader of the Senate, whose party is in a minority, is indeed unfortunate. If I proposed that an advisory council should be constituted by ordinance, Senator Colebatch would rise to make a vehement protest against legislation by ordinance. I have so many factions in the Opposition to handle that I am forced to adhere to the orthodox procedure. Immediately I depart from the orthodox method of legislating only by act of Parliament, I meet with opposition from Senator Colebatch.
– What good purpose will the advisory council serve? Indeed, what good purpose has the present advisory council served?
– I should say that an advisory council for the Northern Territory could serve just as useful a purpose as is served by an advisory board of agriculture when it advises a Minister for Agriculture. I do not think that even Senator McLachlan would suggest that because an advisory board of agriculture has no legislative, and only limited administrative powers, it serves no useful purpose. I can see opportunities for an advisory council in the territory to render very useful service.
– Has the department any record of what the advisory council has done up to date?
– Senator Pearce was Minister for Home and Territories for a considerable period. I feel sure that during his term of office, he saw that the advisory board functioned efficiently.
– Is the Minister prepared to limit the meetings of the council to four each year ?
– I am prepared to accept any reasonable amendment. Like Lazarus, I am content with the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table. I ask the Senate to recognize that since the passing of the original act, the form of control for which this bill provides has been in operation in the Northern Territory, and that during this debate no good reason has been shown for discarding it holus bolus. There might be an argument against having four elected members of the council, instead of two elected members and two nominees, but so far that argument has not been advanced. That, however, is not the point. The question before us is whether we shall continue the council, for whatever it is worth, and give the people of the Northern Territory such representation as they now enjoy, or whether we shall leave them without representation. I appeal to the Senate to give them representation. As to the form which that representation shall take, I am prepared to consider proposals along the lines of that suggested by Senator Johnston. I hope that the Senate will not insist on its amendment.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [8.43] . - I know of no more enjoyable place in which to spend Christmas than Canberra, and, consequently, I am prepared to battle for this principle until Christmas or, indeed, until the New Year. Generally,we can credit Senator Pearce with being fairly logical ; but what logic is there in the right honorable gentleman’s action in supporting the. second reading of this measure and then trying to kill its mostvital principle?
– I voted against the second reading.
– Then I apologize to the honorable senator. But other honorable senators who voted for the second reading now seem determined to have no advisory council. The Government contends that the residents of the Northern Territory should have the right to express their views of the proposals that come before the Administrator, and to give him such advice as they are capable of offering. Obviously, if there is no advisory council, the Administrator must be an autocrat. He may be the best meaning autocrat in the world, but it would be impossible for him to become personally acquainted with every corner of the territory over which he would be in control, . and, consequently, he should be able to call to his aid the advice of those who could assist him. The council provides a means whereby the residents of the Northern Territory can express their wishes. Senator McLachlan contends that the appointment of an advisory council is not justified, because no money is available for expenditure on public works or other such undertakings. That contention cannot be taken literally because unless the territory is to be abandoned, some expenditure must necessarily be incurred every year. Consequently, however little may be available for maintaining existing services - even though new works may not be undertaken at present - an advisory council can advise as to the best way . in which to expend it. Although Senator McLachlan said that the council may report upon the necessity for undertaking any public work in the territory, or with respect to railway freights, he did not state, as the bill provides, that the council is to advise the Administrator with respect to any matter arising out of any meeting of the council or submitted by the Administrator to a meeting of the council. The council can advise on any proposition emanating from the Administrator. It is contrary to all human experience andcommon sense to contend that an officer placed in a somewhat remote portion of the Northern Territory could administer its affairs as wisely and as satisfactorily without the advice of a council representative of all parties as he could with such advice. The greatest genius can act only within the knowledge that comes to him, and consequently the Administrator should be able to receiveadvice from those who. have a knowledge of and who are interested in the territory. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) said that if the bill is rejected the people of the Northern Territory will still have the benefit of the advice of a council such as is provided in the bill. But is it not illogical to mutilate the bill in a desire to effect economy, and at the same time to place the Government in the position of denying the people of the Northern Territory direct representation by retaining the present system with all the unnecessary expenditure associated with it. Is the Government to be denied the right to provide any form of self-government in the territory, and to be compelled to make a despot of the Administrator who would not have power to ascertain the necessities of the people ? It would mean continuing an unwarranted expenditure which honorable senators opposite have professed their willingness to dispense with. This should be considered as vital. Every effort should be made to provide some system of local government. The people in the Northern Territory should be able to give advice to the Administrator who. if he is capable of occupying his position, should accept it when it is reasonable and have sufficient discretion to disregard it if it is unreasonable. The measure provides that any member of the council can have recorded the advice he tenders. Even if such advice is disregarded by the Administrator because he considers it unreasonable, the residents of the territory will be able to see from the records what advice was tendered and why it was rejected. We have heard of brutal majorities, but as that is a term which I do not like to employ, I would say that, in this instance, an unreasonable majority is attempting to delete from this measure some of its most important provisions. The right of the residents of the Northern Territory to express their opinions has been brought down to an irreducible minimum. The best way in which to ascertain the views of the residents of the territory is through an advisory council directly representative pf the inhabitants. As mentioned by the Minister (Senator Daly) there is no more reason why there should be any objection to this form of election in the Northern Territory than there is to the application of the system to any other part of the Commonwealth. The station-owners or land-owners are the employers, and those who are not the land-owners are the employees who would find it very inconvenient and expensive to get time off to attend meetings of the council, for which they would receive only travelling expenses. There would be no great inducement for other than employers to undertake the work of the council. All the facts show the extreme probability of station-owners being elected as mem bet’s of the council. The fact that no section of the population has complained that, under the present act. adult suffrage has deprived it of representation, shows that there should be jio need for alarm in the future. I trust that the committee will realize that this is a vital portion of the measure and that a majority will not insist upon the Senate’s amendment.
– When this measure was last before the committee I directed the attention of honorable senators to the position of three citizens in Northern Australia, one of whom may be at, say, Wyndham, in Western Australia, another in the Northern Territory, and another at Cooktown or Cape York. These three persons, in different parts of the Commonwealth, are, more or less, supposed to be under the care of this Government. The one in the Northern Territory, at the time it was taken over by the Commonwealth Government, was under the control of only an administrator. Immediately an attempt was made to alter the form of government, and several such attempts have since been made. The latest was a dose of manhood suffrage which was supposed to bring about wonderful results. Is manhood suffrage really warranted in the Northern Territory? I do not think it is. The man at Wyndham has not the assistance of an administrator or an advisory council. His only representa tive in this Parliament is the present Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green), while the man at Alice Springs has a representative in the person of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), and the one at Cooktown has also his representative.
– A man at Wyndham has four representatives in the lower House and three representatives in the upper House of the State Parliament.
– That may be so: but in-so-far as federal control is concerned, the man at Wyndham and the one at Cooktown has not the assistance of an administrator such as the man in the Northern Territory. But, in addition., it is now proposed to provide an advisory council for the benefit of the man in the Northern Territory. The men in Western Australia and Queensland are entitled to similar consideration. Practically all of the money expended in the Northern Territory consists of taxation raised in other parts of the Commonwealth, and which those in authority have to see is wisely expended.
– The members of the council can only give advice.
– Yes, but the advice would be all of the one pattern. Under the present system there are two representatives of ‘the wharf labourers of Darwin and two representatives of the employers on the council for North Australia. At Alice Springs there are two representatives of the Australian Workers Union and two who speak on behalf of the land-owning class. That is how it should be. Surely, it is not contended that there should be an advisory council to express the views of only one section? The proposed advisory council, which,- officially, would not be responsible to any one, would give advice as to how money raised in other parts of the Commonwealth should be expended in the Northern Territory. Manhood suffrage could be tried, but so far as I can see, manhood suffrage in the Northern Territory has gone to seed. When the Commonwealth Government assumed control of the Northern Territory the population was much larger than it is to-day; there has been too much tinkering with ‘the form of administration.
It is not because of the lack of change in the different systems of control that the Northern Territory is the most backward portion of the Commonwealth to-day. The application of the principle of manhood suffrage would not have magical results.
– Nobody said that it would.
– The only effect would be to ensure the representation of the employees; and while I admit that, to the extent of their numbers and the public spirit which they display, they are entitled to be heard,they should not have the monopoly of the representation. Even the Government, apparently, holds this view. The machinery for the future government of the territory should be so planned as to ensure the adequate representation of all sections of the community. Because the council will be charged with the responsibility of giving advice to the Administrator, who may or may not act upon it, it is important that he should receive sound advice. On no other lines will it be possible to develop the territory satisfactorily. I challenge the view that the Opposition is seeking to thwart the wishes of the Government in this matter, and I find warrant for this assertion in the provisions of the bill as originally introduced. Apparently, Mr. Nelson, the representative in another place for the Northern Territory, is all powerful - so much so that he submitted an amended scheme of representation, and persuaded the Government to father it - to claim it as its own. It would appear that he is the only man who is able to “ boss “ the Government.
– Would the honorable senator favoura proposal to ensure the representation of the pastoral, mining, and agricultural industries and one industrial member?
– I am prepared to agree to that.
– The Government should agree to an amendment which would provide for the representation of all sections. Of course, if it is the wish of Ministers to establish a socialistic system of administration, that is a different story; but I remind honorable senators that, if we do not develop this huge territory which is in our care, we shall deserve to lose it. I hope that some better means will be devised for the appointment of the advisory council.
. - Since this debate began, I have had an opportunity to read the discussion on the bill introduced by the previous Government in 1926. The right honorable Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), who moved the second reading, spoke strongly in advocating the establishment of advisory committees, which were clothed with powers similar to those proposed for the advisory council under thisbill. In reply to an interjection by Senator Barwell, the right honorable gentleman said -
The advisory committees need not meet very frequently. They need not meet more than once or twice a year,but it is advisable to have them brought together occasionally to get their views on questions of administration. By that means the Government Residents will secure valuable advice which, in turn, they can supply to the commissioners, and through them to the Minister. The people who have their homes in the territory are entitled to some voice in the control of their affairs. The Government proposal is really the germ of local self-government-
Under that scheme the advisory committees were to consist of two appointees and two elected members. We go a step further and say that the four members of the proposed advisory council should be elected - whichwe hope will later on, when there is sufficient population in the territory, develop intoa fully-qualified local governmental machine, to which we can hand over the task of development. That is the Government’s view.
All I can say is that the view then expressed by the Leader of the Opposition, is the view of this Government.
– Does the Leader of the Senate intend to give effect to his suggestion to ensure representation to the various interests in the territory?
– I have had an opportunity to consult with the honorable member for the Northern Territory in another place (Mr. Nelson), who has assured me that the scheme of representation would probably be improved if it were amended on the lines indicated.
– Why not report progress, so as to be able to consider the proposal and frame a suitable amendment?
– I accept the suggestion of the right honorable gentleman.
Silling suspended from 9.14 to 10.15 p.m.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
– I have had an opportunity to discuss with the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) the scheme I was prepared to accept for sectional representation in the Northern Territory, but I am in the unfortunate position of having to “report that a consultation with representatives of the Home Affairs Department and the Attorney-General’s Department, has convinced me that there are too many difficulties to be overcome in an attempt to bring about that scheme. The Senate has, therefore, either to agree to the motion or insist on its amendment. Preparation of sectional rolls, which would be very difficult to police, would be entailed. Expenditure would be increased when it is our endeavour to cut down all expenditure.
– As the members of the commission remain in office until August there is no immediate hurry for this bill. Why not leave it until after the Christmas adjournment?
– It is not my bill.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [10.17]. - Before the Minister . commits himself I should like to make a suggestion. I take it that we shall be meeting early in the new year. The short adjournment will give the Government ample opportunity to see whether it is not possible to reconcile the different views of honorable senators. The majority are prepared to do away with the commission, but there is a general expression of opinion that the election of members of an advisory council would not necessarily give representation to all interests in the territory. It might be possible for the Government, with more time at its disposal, to arrange for a partly nominee and partly elected council. I suggest that progress be reported, and that, before we re-assemble, the Government should attempt to recon cile the different opinions in the Senate on the subject.
– I regret this impasse. The difficulties mentioned by Senator Daly were not apparent until we began to make inquiries into the position. In the circumstances, if honorable senators object to the passage of the bill in the form in which it came to us from another place, the measure can be reconsidered when Parliament meets again. But it amazes me that there should be any objection to a proposal which, following the traditional practice of this country, gives the people of the Northern Territory a voice in the government of their own affairs. At present an administrator for North Australia is appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister for Home Affairs, and two other members of the advisory council are nominated by that Minister. Nominees of the Government, therefore form a majority of the council. The Government is now endeavouring to alter this by proceeding along the lines usually followed in Australia - that the governed must have some voice in their government. Furthermore, the bill provides an opportunity to cut down expenditure. As a matter of fact, honorable senators opposite have expressed the desire to retain the three commissioners. The proposal is to have an advisory council elected by the people who elect a member for the Northern Territory. Although that member has no vote in this Parliament, he is able to advise the Minister and Parliament - the Leader of the Opposition has described him as the .man with the greatest knowledge of the requirements of the territory - and it was he who advised’ the Government to make provision for an elected advisory council. How can those who have always advocated the right of the people of the Northern Territory to choose their representative in this Parliament, logically object to the election of an advisory council by them? Do honorable senators want the Minister to be the ruler of the territory without seeking the advice of any, or do they want the people of the territory to be in a position to advise him? I see no necessity for a postponement, c
– What harm would it do ? .
– In the absence of an advisory council the Government would not be kept well informed of the requirements of the people of the Northern Territory. Those who profess to be democrats and declare that they stand for the right of the people to have a voice in the election of their representatives in Parliament should not be found defending any proposal that seeks to prevent the people from having that right. In any case the people of the Northern Territory are just as civilized as other Australians, and I see no reason why their treatment should be different from that which is meted out to the residents of other parts of the Commonwealth. No honorable senator would dare go to his State and advocate that its people should be governed by a board of five, three members of which are the direct nominees of the Commonwealth Government.
– If the Advisory Council should be elected, why should nol the Administrator also be elected?
– I might answer by asking why the Minister should not be empowered to choose persons to represent Western Australia in this Senate without giving the people of the State a voice in the matter. Why do professed democrats stand for the disfranchisement of the people they are supposed to be governing? Why not let them have a say in the matter? Why should a Minister take to himself the right of the government of that part of the country when the remainder of the continent has its elected representatives? The Government objects with all its strength to the proposal of the Opposition, and urges it not to insist upon its amendment. It may knock the bill out if it dares.
– During the earlier part of the debate this evening Senator Lynch queried the value of adult suffrage, and appeared to be apprehensive that it3 operation in the Northern Territory would result in only one class being represented. . How can the honorable senator submit such a contention when this Senate is an object lesson to the contrary? No matter whether one party, or another possesses a majority in another place, all schools of thought are represented in the Senate. There is no reason why there should be apprehension as to exclusive representation of any one section in the Northern Territory. It appears to me that honorable senators opposite are raising a bogy. If it were feasible I would suggest some scheme of proportional representation in the territory, but the system works out better in theory than in practice. I contend that the fact that the Senate passed the second reading of this measure is a justification for the Government asking that this vital portion of it should be assented to, and that the people of the territory should be given sufficient representation to enable them to express their wishes. As this council is but an advisory body without legislative power, there is no danger of its doing anything detrimental to the interests of the territory. The Administrator can reject its advice, which affords a sufficient safeguard against unbalanced action on the part of the council. I fail to see that honorable senators opposite have submitted any logical reasons for the course they recommend.
– I am sorry that the suggestion submitted by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Daly), that there should be on the advisory council representatives of the mining, pastoral, agricultural and industrial sections of the territory, was not acceptable to the Government.
– It would have been acceptable had it been practicable.
– Had it been acceptable I am confident that the Government could have overcome any superficial difficulties. I supported the second reading of this bill because I thought, and still think, that the North Australia Commission could well be abolished, particularly if the Government by so doing can effect a saving of £8,000 in the territory.- I have never believed in government by commission. Australia has had many commissions performing work that could better have been done by the specially-trained officers in its civil service. The Senate must now either support the Government and get rid of the commission, or reject this legislation and leave the commission in operation and thereby fail to effect a saving of £8,000.
– No saving can be effected until August next.
– I want to make the saving while we have the chance.
– Will there be a saving?
– I believe so. During the past few months I have received no fewer than three letters from the Northern Territory complaining of the waste that is going on under commission administration, particularly with regard to travelling expenses.
– Last year the travelling expenses of the three members of the commission amounted to £400. The honorable senators will receive a few more letters if the proposed advisory council is appointed.
– I suggest that the Minister should limit the sittings of the council to four per annum. I support the abolition of the commission, and prefer to have the proposed council in its stead. I do not see how there could be any danger from the election of four representatives for the territory under a system of adult suffrage. I instance the north-west of “Western Australia, which is a corresponding, if older, settlement. It elects four representatives to the State Legislative Assembly, and, for many years past two of its electoral areas, Gascoyne and Roeburne, have returned Nationalist members, while the remaining two, Pilbarra and Kimberley, have returned Labour members. The four seats all comprise grazing areas comparable with those of the Northern Territory. I do not thinkthat the representation of the whole of the territory would go to only one party. The Nationalist party could not win the seats that it holds in the north-west of Western Australia if it were not for the common sense of the workers in the’ pastoral industries.
Question- That the amendment be not insisted on - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator Plain.)
Majority . . . . -
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion disagreed to.
Motion - That the Senate’s amendment No. 2 (consequential on amendment No. 1) be not insisted on - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator Plain.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion disagreed to.
Amendments to clause 6, consequential on amendment No. 1, insisted on.
Question - That the resolutions that the Senate’s amendments be insisted on be reported - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Resolutions reported ; report adopted.
– I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 11 a.m.
Eleven o’clock has been fixed by arrangement with the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce). It is hoped that by that time the Senate will have received what I hope will be the final message of this sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Daly) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Can the Leader of the Government give the Senate any indication of the business to be transacted to-morrow, and. whether itis likely to be finished in time toenable honorable senators to catch to-morrow evening’s train? If that is not possible, honorable senators from Western Australia will be held up in Canberra over the week-end.
.- All I can say is that I am doing my best to see that the Senate adjourns in time for honorable senators to catch their trains to-morrow. I had a conference to-day with the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton) and he assured me that there is every prospect of the business proposed to be dealt with before the Christmas vacation reaching this House by 11 o’clock to-morrow morning. Should his expectations be realized, I am certain that the Senate, with that expedition for which it is noted, will deal with that business in good time to enable honorable senators to catch their trains.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 December 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19301216_senate_12_127/>.