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Thursday, 24 November 1927

Mr SCULLIN - The honorable member never fails to slander his countrymen when opportunity offers.

Mr FOSTER - I have not slandered them. I have merely stated a fact. It is impossible to employ men unless they are prepared to give a fair return for their wages. Our tariff is a failure because Australians will not do their fair share of work.

Mr Fenton - Nonsense!

Mr FOSTER - It is not nonsense. It requires pluck and courage to staud up to facts. If honorable members opposite would exercise a little more courage in that direction, everything would turn out all right. Men on the waterfront are not giving a fair return for the money they receive. The Government was returned with a mandate to clean up the industrial situation.

Mr McGrath - The Government said that there would be no more strikes without a ballot of the men concerned. What has it done in that direction.

Mr FOSTER - What has the honorable member done except to act as an agitator? Agitators are enemies of the working man. A great responsibility rests upon the Opposition in regard to the welfare of the people of Australia. If I could do so, I would send all agitators and rebels to hell - it is time that plain language was used in these matters. Without the assistance of the Opposition the Government is helpless, and cannot remedy the existing state of affairs.

Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What did the honorable member say at the last election?

Mr FOSTER - I only said what ought to have been said. I said that I believed in paying a man double the award rates if he deserved it.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Has the honorable member done so?

Mr FOSTER - Many of the men in my employ have never worked for any one else.

Mr McGrath - Have you paid them double the award rates?

Mr FOSTER - I pay them as much as anybody else pays, and, in addition, I give them a bonus each year. My share farmers are treated better than any other share farmers in this country. It pays me to treat them well. We have reached a crisis; but the position is not hopeless. The members of the Labour party should realize that if they grasp the opportunity which awaits them it will mean the salvation of the country. I am not, and never was, a Jeremiah. I prefer to sing the Song of Solomon than to join in the wailings of Jeremiah. There is no need for pessimism. We are in a bad way; but there is an opportunity for us to escape.

Mr McGrath - What are we to do?

Mr FOSTER - We can get ourselves out of our present position only if honorable members will do their duty. But it is useless for men to carry the pick handle without the pick. Australians must be prepared to engage in honest work. There are wonderful opportunities ahead of this country, and with the generous assistance of the Mother Country, and the aid of the Development and Migration Commission, the way is open for us to grasp those opportunities. I have on different occasions complained of the numerous boards and commissions which have been appointed; but I have never complained about the appointment of the Development and Migration Commission. Its chairman is one of the best men in Australia.

Mr Coleman - What has the commission done?

Mr FOSTER - The honorable member should give it a chance. Its members have been working industriously, and have considered a number of schemes, in Western Australia, South Australia, and elsewhere. But before embarking on themwe should be certain that they are not " wild cat " schemes. This problem cannot be tackled unless we all work together. Surely we can agree for once to leave party interests and prejudices on one side, and do our best co-operatively to help the unfortunate men who are out of work, and to help the farmer to tide over this season. This country has marvellous recuperative powers, and before we know where we are with this co-operation we shall be out of our troubles.

There is a very misleading idea current in regard to the unification of railway gauges, and in regard to the work of the experts who considered the matter in 1921. These men were engaged for a particular purpose, and that was to examine all the data relating to the subject, but not to make recommendations. The order of reference to the commission was -

1.   Which railway gauge should be adopted in Australia, and the reasons for selection of the one recommended?

2.   What is necessary to be done in order to unify the gauges of the railway system of Australia ?

3.   What will be the estimated cost of unifying the gauges of -

(i)   Main trunk lines;

(ii)   All lines; including and showing separately -

(a)   Alterations to existing railways and structures;

(b)   Any new lines necessary;

(c)   Adjustments of rolling-stock?

4.   The order in which the work should be carried out and the methods by which it should be executed and controlled?

5.   Whether a third rail or any mechanical device should be utilized; if so, what device, upon what sections, and estimated cost?

The experts went to work industriously, and their report was to the effect that unification would be very costly. They gave the cost for the whole of the work in all the States, for the different States separately, and also for partial unification. In accordance with the instructions they received, they made no recommendations, but they learned that the cost of complete unification would be so great that the chairman (Mr. Garden) sent an addendum to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral to the effect that he felt it incumbent on him to point out that, in his opinion, it was very questionable whether, in view of the cost involved, the benefits to accrue from unification would compensate for the tremendous outlay. Another point is in connexion with the third-rail system, which the experts turned down absolutely. They said that they knew of no third-rail system, and no mechanical device hitherto discovered, had proved effective. In their report on this aspect of the matter they said -

Persons suggesting these third-rail and mechanical devices usually refer to them as " intermediate steps to the final unification of gauges," and have not estimated whether the intermediate step will cost more, or cost less, than the immediate step to unification. Even were some device workable, it would not matter much whether its cost were greater or less than that of unifying the gauges, because whatever it might cost would be just that much more expense in money, and cause an unreasonable time delay for unification. Any time or money spent on third-rail or mechanical devices will be wasted.

It is recommended that none of these devices be used, and that attention be centred directly upon the unification of gauges.

Without any qualification whatever, the third-rail system, and every other known mechanical device of a similar nature, was turned down by the experts.

Mr Mackay - The committee examined the third-rail device as a substitute for the complete unification of the whole railway system.

Mr.FOSTER.- In its report the commissioners specially stated that they had never seen a third-rail system which they could recommend to be adopted.

Mr Mackay - Yet Mr. "Webb, a man of whom the honorable member spoke highly, recommended the third-rail system.

Mr FOSTER - Mr. "Webb was not allowed to report on the third-rail system or anything else. He was asked to attend before the Publice "Works Committee, and he replied to technical questions asked him. He said that there were several thirdrail systems in operation, and that they could be worked under certain conditions without danger. He said, however, that they could be worked only at a limited speed, and that trains could not travel over them through stations of any size without slowing down.

Mr Mackay - His sworn evidence is in favour of the third rail system.

Mr FOSTER - I shall take steps later to enable an inquiry to be made on that point, and it will be found that his evidence was on the lines I have indicated. Mr.Webb said that with the third rail system it would not be practicable to run trains faster than 26 miles an hour, and our prominent railway commissioners in Australia would not have such a system at any price. The report of the commission says -

We know of no third rail, and of no mechanical device which is suitable for the conditions. The use in any one of the many devices suggested to us, or to other commissions, is npt recommended. Some experimental work has been done with several of these devices, but in no case hasa device been experimented with to the extent required by all conditions of installation and operation.

Mr Mackay -Will the honorable member read one paragraph in that report which I can point out to him?

Mr FOSTER - I have read the report over and over again. Absolute unification, as everybody in this country knows, is an impossibility from the financial point of view. In the addendum to the commission's report, Mr. Garvan said that he felt it was his duty to point out that at existing costs it was very questionable whether any advantage that might accrue would justify the outlay involved.

Mr RILEY (COOK, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Have costs come down since then ?

Mr FOSTER - No, they are precisely double what they were. I challenge the Government to say that Mr. "Webb was ever called on to make recommendations on this subject, or that he favoured the installation" of a third rail system.

Mr Lazzarini - He has sworn that hd is in favour of it.

Mr FOSTER - I do not believe "it. Mr. Webb is fi man of the highest character. He is not a liar.

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