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Friday, 29 June 1906

Mr SPEAKER - I can conceive that the honorable member for Moira has great difficulty in making his speech. If honorable members who are interjecting so frequently would reserve their remarks until they speak ii? reply, it would be much more in accordance with the rules of the House.

Mr KENNEDY - I have no objection to the interjections, except when they tend to prevent me from conveying my impressions in my own way. Take the same conditions with regard to produce carried over a short or long distance. In Victoria we have on our sea-board railways in competition with water carriage. Take a point on our railways such as Sale. We find that owing to the peculiar conditions which prevail, and the charges for water carriage, consignors' can send goods from Melbourne by boat to Sale, and get them carried back 30 to 40 miles to the 100-mile limit on the railway - that is, towards Melbourne - at a cheaper rate than they can get them carried 100 miles by railway. We know that it is the height of absurdity for men when making estimates as to the maintenance of this line to think that there is a possibility of there being practically any return from the carriage of goods or stock from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie. But if this is such a wonderfully good thing, what surprises me is that the people of Western Australia, with their great enterprise, do not keep it to themselves. In ordinary life when a friend comes to a man with " a good thing," possibly the best plan to adopt is to knock him down at once. We are told by the representatives of Western Australia that this railway will be a really good thing for the Commonwealth. I have never known either a State or an individual not to have the first of a good thing. We have had the opinions of the military authorities with regard to the necessity of this railway for defence purposes.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member will not quote them.

Mr KENNEDY - On a previous occasion I quoted from the report of .these authorities, who simply say that it is the height of absurdity -to think that the line is necessary for defence purposes under existing conditions. Looking a little further ahead, no sane- man will say that it would be the mail route of the future from Australia to the old world.

Sir John Forrest - I will.

Mr KENNEDY - Of course, the right honorable member will.

Sir John Forrest - But I am not sane though, according to the honorable member.

Mr KENNEDY - The right honorable member has his eyes fixed upon one little spot on the western coast. Looking to the future, the mail route will be via the north of Australia.

Mr Mahon - Through foreign country.

Mr KENNEDY - There is no more risk of our mails getting on to foreign country in sending them via Port Darwin than there is in sending them via Fremantle, and the route would .be much more direct. The chief obstacle in the way of this Bill is that one of the States most materially concerned has refused to assent to the construction of the railway.

Mr Carpenter - South Australia has. not refused her assent to the project.

Mr KENNEDY - South Australia was asked to give her assent, and the official papers show that it was refused.

Mr Carpenter - It is only postponed.

Mr KENNEDY - Up to the present time, according to the official papers, South Australia has refused her consent to the construction of a railway to Western Australia. She gives reasons for her refusal, but whether they are correct or not is not for me to determine. I may assume that there are reasons which have influenced the Government in coming to ite present determination. What is the authority for fixing the estimate at £20,000?

Mr Groom - The advice of the engineers.

Mr KENNEDY - I have not seen any report from engineers intimating what the cost would probably be. But I have seen it in print, on the authority, not only of railway surveyors, but of engineers of construction, that nothing less than £80,000 will cover the cost.

Sir John Forrest - Who are they ?

Mr KENNEDY - Senator Styles is one.

Sir John Forrest - Is he a surveyor? He was a contractor, I think.

Mr KENNEDY - He has been both, and I am prepared to take his estimate in preference to that of a layman.

Sir John Forrest - I have surveyed' more country than Senator Styles, I think.

Mr KENNEDY - "If we are to have a survey which will be of any use whatever, we must have an idea as to what it is likely to cost. I know that in Victoria we have, as a matter of fact, spent something like half-a-million sterling on surveys of railways that there is no hope whatever of constructing for generations to come. What is more, when the permanent surveys are made, it is almost invariably found that the estimates made on flying surveys are misleading. I feel sure that if the Government embarks upon this proposal the same result will follow. It is a peculiar thing that every Government which has held office in the Commonwealth has felt it to be incumbent upon it to include this survey in its pla'tform as a national work.

Mr Carpenter - It shows that there is no prejudice against it on the part of Governments.

Mr KENNEDY - I do not know that it is a matter of prejudice; it is rather a matter of policy. One honorable member who was formerly in favour of the survey has seen fit to alter his mind, and I think that, on reflection, it is possible that others will realize that they have been under a misapprehension. Before the House comes to a determination on the second reading, I trust that the Minister will, furnish us with the authority on which he has come to the conclusion that £20,000 will complete the survey.

Mr Groom - The £20,000 is an estimate based upon the advice of the engineers of the States.

Mr KENNEDY - Where is their report?

Mr Groom - The estimate is not .contained in any report, but it was arrived at upon their advice.

Mr KENNEDY - I have a vivid impression of what' has occurred, particularly in Victoria. as the result of flying, surveys. They cost a good deal of money, but, with the exception of furnishing information as to the character of the .country traversed, they are practically of no value as to what the actual cost of construction will be.

Sir John Forrest - This is very easycountry. There are 400 miles of level plain.

Mr KENNEDY - We have many miles of level plain country in Victoria and New South Wales, and when a strong wind blows, the rails are covered with sand.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member's vision is limited to Victoria. This is limestone plain country.

Mr KENNEDY - It may be that I take a circumscribed view of the matter, but we have no reliable data on which to base an estimate of the cost of construction. In Victoria we have spent considerable sums of money on flying surveys, but when subsequently the permanent surveys have been made, the estimates have been more than doubled. I do not feel that I am warranted in changing the opinions -which I have held from the outset. I have looked into the facts, and have come to the conclusion that under existing circumstances, I am hot justified in voting; for a Bill which will ultimately involve the expenditure of at least ,£5,000, 000.

Mr Wilks - Did not the honorable member vote for the expenditure of £20,000 for the upkeep of. New Guinea? That sum is voted every year for that purpose, but this Bill only requires £20,000 to be spent once.

Mr KENNEDY - I voted for the expenditure of ,£20,000 to secure New Guinea as part and parcel of the Commonwealth and of the Empire. That was a matter of national importance. But I do not admit that- the proposed railway is of national importance; and if it is, I see no reason why it should not be built as all the other railways of Australia have been built, by the States concerned. We are entitled to more information from the Government than we have had. We ought at least to know upon what data the engineers base their estimate that £"20,000 will be sufficient for the survey

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