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Thursday, 9 November 1911

Senator SAYERS (Queensland) . - I notice certain sums put down for the storage of timber.

Senator Pearce - I explained that.

Senator SAYERS - I heard the honorable senator's explanation, but it seems strange to me that timber is to be stored only in New South Wales and Victoria. The Government will require a lot of timber in the other States. I believe that Queensland possesses the best supply of pine and other timbers, and supplies a great deal of timber to Victoria and New South Wales. We might, in the circumstances, reasonably expect that some provision will be made for the storage of timber in that State. There is a lapsed vote for Victoria of£156, and a new vote of £554, making a total of £700. For New South Wales there is a lapsed vote of £46, and a new vote of£100. That will not put up much of a shed for the storage of timber.

Senator Pearce - Some money was spent during the last year; the honorable senator has not the total vote before him.

Senator SAYERS - That is so, and that is how we are misled to a great extent.

Senator Pearce - If the honorable senator will look at the Estimates he will see the total amount.

Senator SAYERS - I have not someone behind me, as the Minister has, to give me information.

Senator Pearce - I am not referring to any one behind me, but to the Estimates before me.

Senator SAYERS - When the Minister is asked for information he can refer to the departmental officers behind him, but we are not all in that happy position. We have to hunt up the information for ourselves. In view of the fact that Queensland supplies New South Wales and Victoria with a very large quantity of pine, cedar, and other timbers, I would like to know why the Government propose to make no provision for storage sheds for the seasoning of timbers in that State. With regard to the vote for the Federal Capital, I was one of those who voted for the selection of Yass-Canberra as a site, but I never imagined for a moment that the scheme would be allowed to hang so long in the stays before anything was done. We are told that money is wanted. Of the sum which was voted for this purpose last year£33,957 was not spent, and has to be re-voted, and, in addition, we are asked to vote £66,043. I want to know why the. Government ask us to vote large sums which the Department knows it cannot spend within the financial year. We have heard that these Estimates have to be passed in order to allow the works to be proceeded with; but in this schedule, we are asked to re-vote about £250,000, which was voted on the last Estimates for various purposes. That is not a businesslike method of procedure.

Senator Long - The honorable senator means that they ought to get rid of the money anyhow.

Senator SAYERS - No. What I mean is that the Department ought to know whether it will need £60,000 or £100,000 for the year. The plans in connexion with the Federal Capital are not returnable until next January. The Minister of Home Affairs has stated that the Department is going to get the benefit of the best talent in the world. I do not know whether it is true or not, but I have read in the press that eminent architects in America, Great Britain, and Australia have refused to submit plans to persons whom they believe to be incompetent to express an opinion on them.

Senator Keating - It is more a matter for engineers than for architects.

Senator SAYERS - The function of the engineer is to plan a system of sewerage, and to lay out the streets of the city, but the function of the architect is to prepare plans for the buildings to be erected. If, on the rst January, no plans have been received the whole matter will be thrown back for a year.

Senator Henderson - Why ?

Senator SAYERS - Because it will be necessary to call for fresh tenders. In other words, we shall be in exactly the same position then as we were in twelve months before. I feel satisfied that, by the end of next year, no plans will bie adopted. The business will be strung out as long as possible. Whatever influence is at work I do not know, but my impression is that there is no real intention to proceed. Otherwise the Government would have appointed well-known architects to select the best plan. In nearly every instance where plans are invited the Minister does not select the best plan, but calls in experts, who decide upon the person who should receive the prize offered. In this instance, however, the Minister is to decide. Suppose that plans are returned by next January. In what position shall we be? The Commonwealth will not have acquired the land for laying out a city. Surely we cannot enter upon private land before it is purchased and lay out a city.

A portion of this vote is required for sewerage purposes. Is it intended to start that work before the land is acquired? The whole thing is, to my mind, a farce. It is not intended to deal with the plans, or to spend the money which we are asked to vote, and next year another re- vote will be proposed, or, perhaps, the Government may decide to pass money into a trust fund until they have accumulated a sufficient amount to spend.

Senator Henderson - What harm will that do?

Senator SAYERS - I do not see why we should be asked to vote sums which it is not intended to spend. Of the amount which was voted last year, how much did the Government spend? As nearly as I can make out, they spent between £60,000 and £80,000. We are also asked to vote £22,500 towards the cost of constructing a transcontinental railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. Is it usual for the Government to ask Parliament to vote money for the construction of a railway before plans and specifications have been prepared and submitted? I have seen a good many railway proposals submitted, but the plans and specifications were always laid upon the table by the Government before a vote for construction was asked. This vote of £22,500 is required, not for the preparation of plans and specifications for the proposed railway, but towards its construction. Is the Senate prepared to vote the money without caring whether plans and specifications, or estimates of cost, are submitted? Apparently it is prepared to vote the money " on the blind."

Senator Henderson - An estimate of the cost of construction has been before the honorable senator for many years.

Senator SAYERS - I have never seen an estimate of the cost of constructing this railway, nor has the honorable senator, to my knowledge. We have voted a sum for the purpose of surveying a route for the railway.

Senator Henderson - I mean an estimate of the cost of construction.

Senator SAYERS - We have passed a Bill to survey the route of a railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie; but I have not seen any estimate of the cost of construction. I have heard various sums mentioned as likely to be required, but I have not seen any plans and specifications, or any estimate of the cost. It is not disclosed in these Estimates whether the rail way is to be built on any plan, or what is the gauge on which it is to be constructed. Why should we be asked to vote £22,500 unless the Government are prepared to submit plans and specifications and an estimate of the cost, and seek parliamentary authority to construct the line? I have never known the construction of a railway to be initiated in this manner, although I have seen twenty or thirty railway proposals put through Parliament. No other Parliament would agree to vote a sum towards the construction of a railway, no matter what the amount was, in the circumstances which I have pointed out. Here we are asked to re-vote £3,526 and to vote £18,974, making a total of £22,500, without one tittle of a plan or any estimate of cost being submitted We have had brought before our notice various imaginary estimates; but these have been reduced or increased. One engineer has said that the line will cost £4,000,000; another engineer has estimated the cost at £3,700,000; in fact, various sums have been mentioned in this way. Surely before the Government ask the representatives of the people to vote this money they should submit for our approval plans and specifications of the proposed railway. They have adopted a most extraordinary method of procedure. The Senate seems to me to be satisfied to pass the item without any information as regards total cost, or without any reference to plans and specifications. The line may involve an expenditure of £4,000,000, or £5,000,000, or £6,000,000. At the present moment the Minister cannot give us any idea, either as to the plans and specifications, or as to the total cost of the work. All that he has in his possession are the estimates of some engineers which vary. There are no plans to show how much the railway will cost per mile, or how much each section will cost. In short, we are asked to tax the people to build a line without a tittle of proper information. I do not suppose that anything I could say would affect the decision of the Committee. It seems that any proposal which the Government may submit, whether wise or foolish, is sure to pass. I, for one, enter a protest against this money being voted in the absence of plans and specifications of the proposed railway.

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