Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 29 November 1911


Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - There could probably be no moreentertaining spectacle than was afforded bySenator Millen in the speech he delivered with the object of shelving; this measure. In the honorable senator we have a man who, as a member of a former Government, was wedded to the construction of this railway. But that Government has gone, and the honorable senator, relieved of Ministerial responsibility, veers round and takes up a contradictory position to that which he occupied as a Minister. I do not know of any member of this Parliament, or of any other, who could balance himself on such a tight rope with so much grace as Senator Millen has displayed. This discussion has not produced the good results which we might naturally expect from a debate upon a subject of so much importance. Parliamentary debate is assumed to be mainly for the purpose of clearing up differences of opinion, and making a pathway clear through the mists, and maze produced by the clashing of opposite views. During this debate we have heard honorable senators who have expressed themselves against the measure contradicting each other in respect of some of its features. Some, for instance, have approved of the proposed gauge, and others have opposed it. Some have said that the route is the right one to adopt, and others again that it is not. These, according to some honorable senators, are good reasons why this railway should not be built. Then we have had the location and the difficulty of securing timber referred to by Senator St. Ledger as a strong reason why the Bill should be voted down. We have been told that the combustion engines which will be required upon the line form another reason why the proposal contained in the Bill should be voted down. According to the Leader of the Opposition the estimates of its cost are wrong, and the negotiations have been conducted by the Government upon wrong lines. We are further informed that the promise which was made by responsible public men about eleven years ago should not have been given. We are also assured that the route of the proposed line cannot be justified by defence considerations - that an invading force may easily land in the inhospitable Australian Bight, carry all its armaments ashore, and rip up the railway. Unfortunately for these critics, Lord Kitchener has pronounced an opinion under that heading, and I prefer to accept his advice, as a military expert even in preference to that which has been proffered bySenator Millen. It would be better if those who oppose this measure did so frankly, and told Western Australia that she has no right to have a railway constructed within her borders at the expense of the Commonwealth. So far only one honorable senator has had the candour to express such a little Australian view. I refer to Senator Stewart. Other honorable senators have shielded themselves behind the most specious pleas. If we are to treat this subject as it should be treated, we should dismiss from our minds anything in the shape of parochial impulses. I am afraid that the question will suffer severely if honorable senators are not prepared to recognise its magnitude and importance. It is not an ordinary proposal, but one of such far-reaching consequence that it is intended to unite the people of the eastern States with those of Western Australia. It is designed to link up one ocean with another. When one glances at the map which is suspended in this chamber, one cannot fail to realize - no matter how deeply he may have floundered in parochial ideas - that the Bill seeks to give effect to a national work in the truest sense of the term. It is an undertaking which will at one stroke destroy all that smouldering and growing discontent amongst the people of the west which has been engendered by the delay which has been experienced in its construction. That discontent is of no small dimensions. The people of Western Australia were led to believe that this work would be undertaken immediately Federation was accomplished. As a result of those representations, an overwhelming vote was cast in that State in favour of Federation. The one dominating influence with the electors, 40,000 of whom voted for Federation, and only 19,000 against, was the solemn assurance given by the public men of the eastern States that when the Commonwealth Parliament was inaugurated the construction of this line would receive attention. I hope that honorable senators will recognise that the Bill will accomplish a double object. It will accomplish a national work, and smother a growing uneasiness amongst the people of Western Australia on account of the delay which has been experienced in the construction of the line. If honorable senators fail to realize the importance of the occasion, this Chamber will signally fail in guarding its own credit and honour. If we are to allow paltry parochial considerations to influence our judgment in the settlement of this question, if we are to become stunted Australianssuch as have, unfortunately, made their appearance even here - instead of the

Senate being a co-equal part of this Parliament, a Chamber which claims to be a national one, it will sink to a lower level than it would otherwise occupy. Honorable senators cannot settle this question by provincial standards or the promptings of sectional interests. I appeal to them to recognise that this is no small' work, and that it has even the hallowed reason of precedent to support it, if we choose to look to other lands. Both Canada and the United States were confronted with the problem of bringing into one union the isolated portions of their territory, and they solved it by adopting the identical means which it is proposed that we shall adopt.


Senator Vardon - By the building of a State railway ?


Senator LYNCH - By the building of railways which were paid for in different ways, but the funds for which came out of he common exchequer of those countries. Coming as I do from Western Australia, I submit that I have a special warrant for making this appeal. Since Western Australia became a component part of the Federation, she has never allowed herself to be influenced by paltry parochial considerations. Her people have always risen to the occasion whenever they have been called upon to determine national questions, and their representatives have never failed1 to record their votes with that object in view. Take the case of our White Australia policy as an illustration. Western Australia had a strong sentimental ground, it is true, for sending to this Parliament representatives who assisted to bring about that policy, notwithstanding that the only State which would benefit by it was Queensland. Her people are satisfied to pay their portion of the cost of that policy, and they will continue to do so as long as it is necessary to preserve this continent for a white race. Again, on the question of the Federal Capital, the representatives of Western Australia rose to the level to which it was necessary to rise to discuss that subject, notwithstanding that only one State would be benefited1 by the establishment of the capital.


Senator Stewart - Was it not arranged that New South Wales should get the Capital?


Senator LYNCH - Yes, but the carrying out of that arrangement was left to this Parliament. It might have been carried out in one year, or in ten years, or in twenty years. On the present occasion, when Western Australia is directly con cerned, I claim that Senator Stewart, whose State has- benefited by the votes of Western Australian representatives, should rise to> the height to which those representativesrose for the purpose of bringing about a white-labour policy in Queensland. I need scarcely point out that the representatives of the State from which I hail also shared in the effort to formulate a national policy of Protection, and to inaugurate a bounty system which has been of greater advantage to the eastern States than it has been to Western Australia. The representatives of that State have helped to send the wheelsof industry whirring in the eastern States, though their own is the last and least tobenefit from it. They voted for the Northern Territory acquisition, and relieved1. South Australia of a great burden. In air these matters Western Australia had a veryimperceptible, if not a sentimental interest, but the bill was- very real-, had to be met, and has been cheerfully paid. Therefore, when I cite these as examplesof how the western State has risen, to the occasion on important questions, I can appeal with some justification! to honorable senators to get out of their parochial, sordid-minded groove and discuss this project from the national standpoint. I think it ought to be recognised at the outset that it can be based on at leastthree grounds. First, there is the necessity to keep faith with the understanding which; was arrived at between the people of the eastern States, expressed through their prominent representatives and the people of the western State. Secondly, there is theneed for this National Parliament to take close heed of the condition of every outlying portion of the Commonwealth; and' if it finds that, either through isolation or distance, or through the effect of the Federal connexion, something is happening; which is barring the progress of any portion, this Parliament should take into consideration its peculiar condition, and strive to compensate it for the drawbacks which may be in evidence there. At the present time we are endeavouring to meet the peculiar needs of Tasmania in other directions.. We see that in that State something is happening which should not happen ; and already a favorable view is taken of the need to compensate it.


Senator Stewart - Is this a bait to the Tasmanian senators? Is this how the oracle is being worked?


Senator LYNCH - The third ground on which the case for this railway rests is that of defence. We have had an important pronouncement on that ground, and even the opponents of this measure are so satisfied with it that, with the exception of Senator Millen, they would appear to have accepted the view of Lord Kitchener as one which is worthy of being followed in the interest and the safety of the Commonwealth. In regard to the first ground, I am compelled to refer briefly to the questions which led up to the giving of the understanding to the peopleof the western State. When the question of federating was being advocated, the construction of this railway was discussed and canvassed very minutely in Western Australia. When at length the time arrived to pass an enabling Bill to refer the Constitution to the people for an expression of their opinion, the Parliament of the State recognised that the Constitution would not suit its peculiar conditions, and proceeded to draft certain amendments, which embodied, as nearly as possible, all the remedies which would overcome the difficulties of the State. These amendments appear under four heads. The first related to the cutting up of Western Australia into certain divisions for electoral purposes. The second referred to a Tariff on a sliding scale, because it was regarded there as a matter of vital necessity that the State should have at least five years of noninterference with its power of raising revenue by Customs and Excise duties. The third amendment referred to the building of this transcontinental railway by the Federal Parliament as a necessary, indispensable condition of the Federal compact. The fourth amendment related to the powers of the Inter-State Commission. To show the Senate that the people of Western Australia earnestly and strongly believed that the people of the eastern States were with them on the question of constructing this railway, the late Sir George Leake, who was also President of the Federal League of Western Australia, took his place in the Legislative Assembly in 1901 as Leader of the Opposition, and asked his following to waive their claim in regard to these four amendments, which included the building of this transcontinental railway, as an indispensable condition of the Federal compact. Since it has been stated by Senator McColl and other honorable senators on the opposite side that there was no promise or undertaking given by the people of the eastern States to the people of Western Australia, it is very necessary to go into histori cal details, in order to give chapter and verse for what is said as we proceed. I have brought the story of events up to the time when the late Sir George Leake, both as President of the Federal League and as Leader of the Opposition, urged the people of Western Australia to accept the Constitution Bill, and to rely upon the people of the eastern States keeping faith with the understanding which they had spontaneously given. Speaking to the Bill in which it was proposed to insist upon the four amendments I mentioned being placed in the Constitution, he is reported on page 1585 of the Western Australian Hansard for 1899 to have made these remarks : -

I know it is a pet idea of the honorable gentleman on my left (Mr. Vosper). He says it cannot be done by the Federal Parliament except with the consent of the States affected, namely, Western Australia and South Australia. Bear in mind, I am arguing upon the basis put forward by the Premier, who says this railway is so necessary and vital to Federation that no person in Australia can be found raising a word against it.

It should be borne in mind that this statement emanated from a gentleman who had attended most of the Conventions, and was in a position to size up the feeling of the people of the eastern States on this question. Proceeding, he says -

Consequently, if everybody in the Commonwealth is in favour of the railway, everybody in each State composing the Commonwealth must also be in favour of the railway ; therefore, it is idle to say that South Australia will object to a railway being built through her territory. Again, I point out to honorable members that I am taking the arguments of the Premier, and I admit I agree with him on that point. I believe this railway is of vital necessity to Federation, and that everybody will be in favour of it therefore, there is no need to make a condition of that which we know will be granted' as a right'. And if there is no doubt upon that point, I submit with every confidence to this House that we should have a better chance of getting the Federal Government to approve the construction of the railway, and of getting South Australia to consent to the railway passing through that State, if we could sit side by side with South Australian representatives in the- Federal Parliament, or could have a direct representative in the Executive Government under the Federation. I consider, therefore, that the arguments in support of the suggested amend- ment for the construction of this railway arereally not worthy the consideration of this House.

There ended the effort made by the Leader of the Oppositionin the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia to insist upon the construction of this railway being included in the Constitution in the same way as the Premier of New South Wales had insisted, at the Premiers' Conference, upon the establishment of the Federal Capital in New South Wales being included. He asked the people of the State to accept the Constitution on the understanding that there would be no difficulty over the construction of the railway. In order to show what efforts he took to ascertain the views of responsible public men ' in the eastern States, including men who had figured prominently in the Federal arena, in regard to the difficulties which the Parliament of Western Australia considered that the State was confronted with, he wrote a number of letters. To the heads of the Governments in the eastern States he addressed this letter -

I have the honour to forward herewith a copy of the report of the Joint Select Committee of our Parliament dealing with the draft Commonwealth Bill. You will see that the Committee recommend that before this Colony adopts the Bill certain amendments should be made in our favour. The Federal League has always advocated the adoption of the Bill without amendment, as they consider it now too late to permit of alteration. If, however, the proposed amendments, or any other, are practicable, and are likely to meet with favorable consideration by your Government, our League will do nothing to hinder the fullest consideration of the "Select Committee's proposal. But if you think that no practical effect can be given to the proposals, we will continue to advocate the adoption of the Bill without further amendment. You will greatly assist our efforts if, on receipt of this, vou will telegraph to me, as President of the

League, definitely stating whether or not amendments are in any way possible, or whether, in the event of our Colony requiring terms, negotiations must be entered into with the Federal Government when it is established. It is freely stated here that the Governments of the other Colonies have expressed thmselves as favorable to the amendments which are proposed, and that Sir John Forrest proposed them to the Select Committee in the full belief that they would meet with your approval.

Sir GeorgeTurner replied in these terms ;

Would be very glad to assist in any way possible, but after making inquiries find that it will be impossible to now alter the Bill.

Mr. Glynn,of South Australia, and Mr. B. R. Wise, of New South Wales, who were also members of the Federal Convention, replied to the effect that the Constitution Bill could not then be altered. But it is clear from the efforts made by the Federal League of Western Australia that its mouthpiece, the late Sir George Leake, was firmly convinced that the feeling amongst the people of the eastern States was in favour of this railway being constructed as a -national work by the Federal Parliament, when it was established. I do not suppose that there was at the time a more prominent Federalist, or a bigger or, more widely known Australian, than the late Mr. C. C. Kingston. He undertook to enlighten the people of Western Australia as to what was the feeling of the people in South Australia, and as far as he could ascertain, in other parts of Australia. On the 19th April, 1899, when the people of Western Australia were about to vote on the question of accepting the Constitution, Mr. Kingston addressed the following letter to Sir John Forrest, apparently with the intention of enlightening the electors as to whether or not they should vote in the affirmative -

Will you pardon my taking the opportunity of expressing the sincerest hope that Western Australia will, as heretofore, keep pace with the general Federal advance? All the others will, no doubt, be included. To you, who are so familiar with the general advantages of Federation, it would be idle to dwell upon them. The relations between Western Australia and the other Colonies - I speak specially for South Australia - have been always so cordial that I am sure it would be a source of infinite regret to all if Western Australia were even temporarily omitted from the closer union so long contemplated, so arduously contended for, and now apparently so readily capable of consummation by all.

Mr. Kingstonwrote this letter at a time when the vote in the eastern States on the Commonwealth Bill had either been taken, or was about to be taken. Western Australia, of course, was the latest to signify her entrance into the Federal system -

Our near constitutional connexion resulting from Federation is in itself a boon to all included within its sphere. I cannot help thinking also that it must -

I ask honorable senators to weigh the import of that word "must" - at no very distant date result in the connexion of the east with the west by rail through the medium, say, of a line from Port Augusta to your gold-fields. This would, indeed, be an Australian work -

Those are the words of a great Federalist, and a man of towering strength and ability in the affairs of this continent - worthy of undertaking by a Federal authority on behalf of the nation in pursuance of the authority contained , in the Commonwealth Bill. It is, of course, a work of special interest to Western Australia and South Australia, and I devoutly hope that the day is not far distant when the representatives of West and South Australia may in their places in a Federal Parliament be found working side bv side for the advancement of Australian interests in this and other matters of national concern.

On the faith of that assurance from Mr. Kingston, who, I may remind honorable senators, was the President of the Federal

Convention ; and on the assurance also of the President of the Federation League, Sir George Leake, the western State entered the Union, believing that the undertaking so given would be observed by the Federal Parliament. We voted for Federation on that understanding. The railway was then a live question on the gold-fields. So great was our ardour for Federation, however, that we were prepared to waive insistence on our claim for the time being, and to put our trust in the good faith of the people of the eastern States. We gave a blank cheque to the Federal Parliament. That cheque is now being presented; and I have every reason to believe that it will be honored. I do not believe that there will be, in this Parliament, sufficient stunted Australians to go hack on the promise of Mr. Kingston, and other equally emphatic Federalists, who believed this to be a national work, the completion of which will go far to remove that feeling which has taken root in Western Australia that our interests have not been sufficiently cared for. That feeling can only be overcome by the laying down of that steel link between the east and the west which will carry out the promise made to Western Australia before Federation.


Senator de Largie - Does the honorable senator recollect Mr. Deakin's Albany speech ?


Senator LYNCH - I could, of course, go on multiplying instances. Sir William Lyne, when he returned from England, said that had Western Australia insisted on the construction of the railway as a condition of entering the Federal Union, provision would have been made for it in the Constitution. It is far too late in the day now to repudiate the assurances given ; and I feel sure that honorable senators will pay no heed to those who have striven to bring about a fresh disturbance of friendly relations between Eastern and Western Australia on this question. This Parliament should remember its grave obligations, and the imperative duty of giving full effect to promises made. That cannot be done unless this Bill is passed as proposed. Although I do not desire to prolong the debate, there are a few other points to which I cannot Tefrain from referring. The Sydney Morning Herald expressed an opinion on this project - the newspaper, I may remind Senator Gould, upon which he is dependent for much of his prominence in public life - in a leading article on the project while the Deakin Government was in power; and Senator Millen, who has adopted all the arts and wiles of a monkey - a political monkey - in striving to bring about-


Senator Chataway - I rise to order. Is the honorable senator justified in referring to Senator Millen as a monkey?


The PRESIDENT - If the term is considered by any honorable senator to be offensive, it should be withdrawn.


Senator de Largie - Senator Lynch said" a political monkey."


The PRESIDENT - There is no question of modification. The honorable senator made the statement that Senator Millen had adopted " all the arts and wiles of a monkey."


Senator LYNCH - I said "political monkey." However, I withdraw the expression, though I cannot see how the action of the Leader of the Opposition can be defended, and will come to the quotation from the Sydney Morning Herald. On 10th February,1910, while the Deakin Government was, for about five minutes, warming the Ministerial benches, that journal, in a leading article, said -

One of the most pleasing features of the Prime Minister's Ballarat speech was the committal of the Liberal party to the early construction of the two great lines of railway to bind together this continent east and west and north and south.

I wish Senator Millen were present to listen to this expression of opinion. The Sydney Morning Herald was dealing with the policy of a Liberal Government of which he was a member. The article continued -

In the nature of things Mr. Deakin could not make any very definite utterance regarding the northern line, as the position is complicated by the attitude of South Australia with respect to the transfer of the Northern Territory; but we are pleased to note his recognition, not only of the vast and pressing importance of that work, but of the necessity of the Commonwealth being left free to choose the best route. The other proposal to link up Western Australia, fortunately, is not beset with any complications as to territorial control or route. The trial surveys having been made and estimates of cost furnished the proposal is in practical shape, andwe shall hope to see the first sod turned by a Liberal Minister.

How vain the hope !

Apart from all other considerations we have to recognise that the construction of this line is part of the compact made with the Eastern States by Western Australia on coming into the union, and that being so faith must be kept.

The article went on -

Were it otherwise, however, the construction of the line is justified by the necessities of the

Commonwealth. Along with a northern line, its value in a defence scheme has had timely emphasis by Lord Kitchener.

But even on its purely business side the transAustralian proposal is not so hopeless as its opponents in the Eastern States are wont to regard it. Certainly it involves a track through a painfully blank space on the map ; but experience is showing us that we must not jump too rashly to unfavorable conclusions about all the blank spaces on the map of Australia. The proposed line will be 1,065 miles in length, and admittedly the country for a great part of the distance traversed is useless for any purpose at present apparent. But it is not all of that character. Between the South Australian border and Kalgoorlie the surveyors report the existence of a great limestone plain, comprising perhaps 25,000,000 acres of fair to good pastoral country, capable, on a very low estimate, of carrying one million and a quarter sheep ; while on the South Australian side there are considerable areas of country which would be usable for pastoral purposes if a railway were in existence. The estimate of cost after the completion of the survey was £3,988,000; but on an earlier estimate of, roundly,£4,500,000, the engineers considered that after paying interest and charges the loss on the line would not be more than £68,000 in the first year, and that if Western Australian expansion continued at the same rate as in the decade past in ten years the loss should be converted into a profit of £18,000. It is possible that some may be nervous about these estimates, but we are entitled to take a large and hopeful view of the future of our country. Moreover the definite undertaking now given by the Western Australian Government to allocate to the Commonwealth the revenues from the land for 25 miles on either side of the line so long as the enterprise continued non-paying, reduces the Commonwealth's financial risk to some extent. The railway will give the land value, and it is to be hoped that South Australia will see the wisdom of following her neighbour's example.

That was the opinion of the journal which is largely responsible for the presence in this chamber of a number of the members of the Opposition. I will come to another journal of a different character - The Pastoralists' Review. On 15th February, 1910, while the Fusion Government was in power, that journal wrote -

Gradually the people of Australia are having impressed upon them the fact that progress is dependent upon railway expansion, which, as has been pointed out in a series of articles in these columns recently, must depend largely upon private enterprise, for the reason that it will be very difficult for the States to get the money. A new factor has been introduced into the question by Lord Kitchener, who points out, in effect, that our present system of railways presents an element of weakness from a military standpoint, which may have a serious effect in the event of war and invasion of Australia. It is not the policy of a great organizer to create a scare by too plain speaking, and Lord Kitchener cannot well say openly " If you don't have new trunk lines connecting West Australia and the Northern Territory with the eastern States you will expose yourselves to attack from an enemy established in either or both of those countries," but that is what he means. In other words, we have got all our railway eggs in one basket ; a few main lines in the populous parts of the country near the sea coast. As Lord Kitchener puts it, " Trunk lines, opening up communication and developing the fertile districts of the interior of this great country, would undoubtedly stimulate more than anything else the growth of population as well as foster trade and increase the means of defence."

So that the Pastoralists' Review, representing gentlemen whose interests are so well looked after by the opponents of this measure, declared, in no uncertain fashion, in favour of the building of the line by the Commonwealth Government. Now we come to the farmers, and let us see what they have to say. Where is Senator McColl? The honorable senator takes a special interest in the farmers, and with a certain amount of pride insists that he is about the one true representative of that class in this Chamber. Some little time ago there was a conference held in Adelaide of the Commonwealth Council of Farmers, presumably, the governing body and the highest authority representative of that class. At that conference the question of the construction of this railway was discussed. Victoria was represented by Mr. J. Glasgow.


Senator Henderson - Not by Senator McColl?


Senator LYNCH - No. Senator McColl was not there for some reason or another. Mr. J. Macdonald represented South Australia, and at the Commonwealth Council of Farmers, towards the close of the procedings, the following resolution was put to the meeting, on the motion of Mr. Charleston, and was carried unanimously -

Resolved that railway connexion between the eastern States and Western Australia should be established at the earliest possible convenience.

So that, despite the fulminations of honorable senators opposite, the mouthpiece of the squatters, and a representative body of the farmers of this country, the two sections of the community responsible more than any other for their presence in this Chamber, have declared in favour of this proposal. So far as Queensland is. concerned, I regret to notice in the course of this debate that there has been very strong opposition to the measure by senators representing that State. In this connexion I can recall my own experience in Queensland. When' there I had occasion to meet the editor of the Daily Mail, one of the principal newspapers published in Brisbane. I had a conversation with him about this railway, and he assured me that at the last Federal election the question of its construction was never raised in the State of Queensland. It was never a vital question, and candidates were never asked whether they were for or against it. We have ample corroboration of that statement in the fact that when this measure was being discussed in another place on the second reading, and on tour amendments proposed with the object of side-tracking the Bill, not one Queensland vote was recorded against it. Why should representatives of Queensland in this Chamber be regarded as the only reliable mouthpieces of the public opinion of that State? They take up an unwarrantable position when they say that Queensland is against this measure. The fact is that if the action of the representatives of Queensland in another place is to be taken as a guide, honorable senators representing Queensland in this Chamber have not expressed the . real opinion of the people of that State on this question. A second ground on which the case for this railway rests is of equal importance with that to which I have already referred. It is the duty of this Parliament to take into consideration the industrial, social, and economic conditions of every State in the Commonwealth. If something is happening in any State to cause discontent and dissatisfaction, we should cure the evil, or make compensation in some way. We can see in the condition of Western Australia today, a strange example of the way in which Federation has operated in connexion with the industrial development of the State. Western Australia, from an industrial point of view, is the most backward State in the Commonwealth, and this is due to Federation, and to that alone. It is specially the duty of this Parliament to find some remedy for the discontent and dissatisfaction existing in that State. When the people of Western Australia, by a two to one majority, cast their votes in favour of Federation, they did so in the belief that this railway would be constructed long before this.


Senator Fraser - There was no such promise.


Senator LYNCH - Senator Fraser's excuse for that statement is that he has been too long globetrotting to know that it has been proved in this Chamber by a reference to recognised authorities, that assurances and undertakings were given by the representatives of the people of the eastern

States that this line would be constructed upon the completion of Federation, and that that was acknowledged by the Sydney Morning Herald.


Senator Fraser - There was no promise of the kind made at the Federal Convention.


Senator LYNCH - It would appear that the honorable senator's mind, instead of expanding as the result of his long voyaging, has contracted. The State of Victoria, which he represents in the Senate, has' benefited more than any other State in the Commonwealth by the Federation which the people of Western Australia helped to bring about, and will maintain. They have flung their doors wide open to the products of Victoria.


Senator Fraser - They are now exporting apples to the Old Country.


Senator Pearce - What a shame !


Senator LYNCH - I venture to submit that, in discussing this measure, we are entitled to glance briefly at the developments taking place in outlying portions of the Commonwealth. The position I take up is that in Western Australia something has happened as the result of Federation for which a remedy should be found, and if no direct remedy can be found for it, this railway should be constructed to put the people of that State on an equality with the people of the other States. During the fight for Federation, those who on the gold-fields of Western Australia took an interest in the matter, as I did, knew very well that by entering the Federation they would be throwing the door wide open to the products of the other States. We knew that we would be almost damping the fires of every new-born industry of that State as effectively as if a hydrant had been turned upon them. We did so to such an extent that they have not recovered up to the present time. The records, according to Mr. Knibbs, go to show that during the period 1904 to 1909 investments in plant, machinery, and buildings in Western Australia have diminished ; whilst in each of the other five States there has been a marked and creditable increase in this respect. I find that, according to the fourth edition, of the Commonwealth Year Book, page 547, dealing with the money invested in machinery alone during the six years referred to, the figures for New South Wales show an increase of 34 per cent. In Victoria the increase was 18 per cent. ; in Queensland, 6 per cent. ; in South Australia, 15 per cent. ; in Tasmania, 37 per cent. ; and in Western Australia the figures show a decrease of 3 per cent. The figures with regard to investments iri plant and buildings show an increase in New South Wales during the same period of 37 per cent. ; in Victoria, 13 per cent. ; Queensland, 7 per cent. ; South Australia, 14 per cent. ; Tasmania, 7 per cent. ; and Western Australia, a decrease of 14 per cent.


Senator Stewart - What has that got to do with this railway?


Senator LYNCH - I am pointing out that a position of affairs exists in Western Australia, as the result of Federation, which gives rise to discontent and dissatisfaction, and this might be overcome by the adoption of some such means as is proposed in this Bill. I do not wish to weary honorable senators on this subject ; but if they will consult the Commonwealth Year Book they will find that there has been a decrease in the number of employes in factories in Western Australia during the six years 1904-1909 ; whilst, during the same period, the figures show a marked increase in every one of the other live States. The figures show that even on the basis of the number of employe's in each 10,000 of the population, there is a decrease in Western Australia as compared with the other States. I hope that .these figures disclose only a temporary condition of affairs, but I contend that it is the duty of this Parliament to strive to. discover some remedy for it, or to make up for it in the way here proposed, by the construction of this railway.


Senator Stewart - The railway will give Western Australia no new factories.


Senator LYNCH - I have admitted that. But it would help to remove the discontent due to the reduction of factories and the transfer of trade to the other States. Western Australia has paid its full price for a seat at the Federal feast, but has bad to be content with the crumbs that fell from the table. Distance, too, is a standing disadvantage and debit to Western Australia's account. Every unnecessary mile over which commodities and passengers have to travel in reaching that State constitutes s. standing bar to its progress. Taking Melbourne as a centre, goods can be landed *t 50 per cent, less at Brisbane than at Perth. This means that the persons engaged in industries in the West have to work harder and longer, or be satisfied with Jess profits than corresponding industries in the East. The struggling men in the far interior, as well as the settler on the coast, have to bear this perpetual burden. It means, further, that wealth may remain undug and land untilled in the West, which is bad for that State and bad for the Commonwealth. Harvesters can be landed at £3 15s. at Brisbane, while it costs nearly to send them to Fremantle. It only costs 30s. from New York to Fremantle. In putting forward this case for the construction of the proposed line, I have to remind honorable senators that there is nothing novel in the proposal. If we consider what has taken place in similar Federations, we shall find that in other countries a course has been followed which is exactly the same as that which this Parliament is now asked to adopt. If we turn to the United States, we shall find that, in the early sixties, Congress expended vast sums of money for the purpose of discovering an accessible road over the Rocky Mountains, in order to unite the settlements on the Pacific coast with the larger settlements on the eastern side. And, further, lands belonging to the people of the United States were alienated, for the purpose of inducing a company to undertake the construction of the Union-Pacific railway. The United States Congress had no other object in view in assisting that undertaking but to connect the isolated Pacific settlements with the larger and more populous settlements on the eastern side. If we turn to Canada, we shall find that the same course was followed by the Dominion Parliament. Senator Stewart was recently through that country, but he does not appear to have benefited by his travels. In Canada, when the Federation was being brought about in 1867, the principal States concerned were Upper and Lower Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Brunswick and Nova Scotia would not join the Federation. I particularly desire the attention of Senator Fraser for a few moments, because he is a Canadian who is never tired of descanting upon the beautiful features of Canada and its policy. Now in 1867, the provinces of Brunswick and Nova" Scotia declined to become partners to the Federal compact till they were guaranteed a railway from the St. Lawrence River to the City of Halifax. That railway, which is nearly 2,000 miles long, was built at the behest of two provinces in that young Union. Section 19 of the British North America Act gives effect to the demand made by the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia before they would join the Federation. Later on, when British

Columbia was talked about as a possible addition to the Union, that State stipulated for three things.


Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - Which they got as the result of private enterprise.


Senator LYNCH - I will deal with that aspect of the matter presently. One of those conditions, which is set out in Statutory Rules and Orders, Revised to 31st December, 1903, volume 1, reads -

It is agreed that the existing Customs tariff and Excise duties shall continue in force in British Columbia until the railway from the Pacific Coast and the system of railways in Canada are connected, unless the Legislature of British Columbia should sooner decide to accept the tariff and excise laws of Canada.

The second stipulation was -

The Government of the Dominion undertake to secure the commencement, simultaneously, within two years from the date of union, of the construction of a railway from the Pacific towards the Rocky Mountains, and from such point as may be selected, east of the Rocky Mountains, towards the Pacific, to connect the seaboard of British Columbia with the railway system of Canada; and, further, to secure the completion of such railway within ten years from the date of the union.

So that Canada at that time occupied precisely the same position that we occupy today. She was faced with the necessity for bringing the distant portions of her territory into closer union; and as British Columbia stood out, that province, with only 30,000 inhabitants, was able to successfully stipulate for the building of a railway two thousand miles long. A few moments ago Senator Gould interjected that the railway was paid for by private enterprise. It was paid for in land and cash. The cash was $53,000,000, and the land, valuing it at . $1 per acre which the Opposition at the time contended was a ridiculously low estimate, was . worth $25,000,000. In other words, $78,000,000 were paid by the Canadian people for the construction of a provincial line 2,000 miles long, although it meant an impost on them of nearly £4 per head. Now, the impost upon the people of Australia which is represented by the proposed transcontinental railway, will be barely£1 per head. But even the residents of Halifax, and small Canadians of the type of Senator Stewart, were perfectly prepared to put their cash into that line for the purpose of connecting British Columbia with the eastern provinces. It is true that the connexion was made by private enterprise; but how does that affect the question, seeing that Canadian money was raised, east, west, north and south, to build it?


Senator Stewart - They had to send their commerce round Cape Horn at that time.


Senator LYNCH - No. They brought it across the Isthmus of Panama by means of a railway. Then I would ask what was done in the case of Prince Edward Island? It did not federate with the Dominion until 1873, when it stipulated that the railways which were in course of construction should be taken over by the Federal Government. The conditions which it imposed were as follow : -

Efficient steam service for the conveyance of mails and passengers to be established, and maintained between the island and the mainland of the Dominion, winter and summer, thus placing the island in continuous communication with the Intercolonial Railway and the railway system of the Dominion.

That the railways under contract and in course of construction for the Government of the island shall be the property of Canada.

So that the railways in course of construction passed automatically to the Canadian Government, and the distant provinces were made part owners of the railways in that island. But the provisions which were granted for the maintenance of a fast passenger service, evidenced the anxiety of the Dominion Government to draw closer to itself that small settlement of 40,000 people. Compare its attitude with that of those small Australians who gtudge bringing into closer relationship the people of the eastern States with the 300,000 souls in Western Australia. All that we ask is that effect shall be given by this Parliament to a well-understood, though an unwritten, undertaking. That is. the whole purpose of the Bill. In discussing the measure, Senator McColl spoke of the character of the country through which the proposed line will pass. He declared that it was dry and inhospitable.


Senator Mccoll - I do not think that the honorable senator could have heard me speak if he says that.


Senator LYNCH - If the honorable senator did not urge the character of the country which the line will traverse as a reason for his opposition to the Bill, other honorable senators have done so. Senator Stewart referred to that country as a howling wilderness, a shifting sandbed. I have not been over it, although I have been in most parts of Australia; but the men who were sent out to report upon it for the benefit of this Parliament knew their work, and I know they would not consider it their duty to mislead us. In regard to the class of country which the line will traverse, they are very emphatic. Despite what may be said to the contrary by certain honorable senators, it is clear that out of 1,000 miles which the line will pass through, nearly 900 miles may be classed as fairly good land, which may be turned to profitable account later on.


Senator Ready - Can the honorable senator state its average rainfall?


Senator LYNCH - It is said to be 7 or 8 inches.


Senator Givens - If that country be good, why is it the only long strip of the Australian coast which has no settlement?


Senator LYNCH - The honorable senator has propounded one of those hollow queries which I thought he had sufficient sense to leave alone. He might as well ask me why Western Australia, which fifteen years ago had a population of only 50,000, has to-day a population of nearly 300,000. He might as well ask me how it happens that the Roma district^ which a few years since was a howling wilderness, with the exception of a station every 70 miles or so, is to-day being rushed by persons in search of land. When he puts such a question ito me, I am tempted to' ask him why the lands south of Dalby have not been settled earlier? A simple reason which applies to all parts of Australia is that persons have a knack of looking for the more pleasant places before they will venture into the unpleasant places for the time being. They have a habit of finding places where they can make the most headway, and it is for that reason that the southern part of Queensland was settled first. People are now rushing to parts to the south of Dalby, whereas twenty years ago a person would have been considered a lunatic who proposed to go there. We are told that the rainfall along this route is from 7 to 8 inches. That is, problematical. However, we have Senator McColl's work to go by. He has done us the good service of securing for us a map showing the rainfall. According to this map, which was compiled by the Government Meteorologist, there is" a belt of country with a 10-in. rainfall which approaches to within a trifling distance of the route of -the -proposed railway.


Senator Ready - Does not Senator McColl say that good crops can be grown in country with a rainfall of 10 inches?


Senator LYNCH - Yes. I intend to remind Senator McColl of what he has written on that subject. I intend to quote his written statement, because it takes a long while for the truth to penetrate some persons who are unwilling to learn. On page 7 of his report, dated 20th September, 1911, Mr. Deane, the professional adviser of the Commonwealth, says -

The first 70 miles of the railway traverses the main auriferous green-stone belt in which the gold-field of Kalgoorlie is situated. From this point on for about 100 -miles the country is granitic, mostly covered with alluvial gravels and loam. At 175 miles from Kalgoorlie limestone is met with, and this continues to about 640 miles, where the sandhills of South Australia are encountered.

The point which needs to be emphasized is that these alleged sandhills, which Senator Stewart mistakenly told the Senate existed, do not turn up, according to this expert, until we get east of the border between the two States. There is no appearence of sand there.

The sandhill region is traversed for about 100 miles.

Granted that there are sandhills for 100 miles in a stretch of 1,000 miles -

This consists of sand ridges with flats of varying widths lying between, and the soil on these flats is generally excellent and carries grass and saltbush and other useful vegetation. The sandhills themselves, which seem to have in all cases a solid core and are not mere sanddunes, are mostly covered with mallee and acacia scrub, with spinifex.

Even the sandhills are covered with a growth which usually does not occur on sand - I refer to acacia mallee and spinifex. In some parts of Australia spinifex is regarded as an excellent stand-by for stock ; but that is not the worst which occurs in this solitary belt of 100 miles in a stretch of 1,000 miles -

Near Wynbring, 740 miles from Kalgoorlie, granite is again reached, and there is here an area of bare rock, from which water can be collected. At Kychering, 20 miles further on, there is a large extent of bare rock amounting to about 40 acres. At about 802 miles from Kalgoorlie Tarcoola is reached. Here the quartzite bands contain gold, and gold mining is becoming fairly prosperous. To the east of this, at Glenloth, some distance south of the railway, there is another promising gold-field. From a point west of Tarcoola to Port Augusta the country is occupied, having been taken up for sheep runs. The character of it generally is pastoral and of good quality. Around the salt lake beds which are encountered in this district there are low sandhills, which, however, after wet weather become covered with vegetation. Tablelands rising 200 or 300 feet above the rest of the country are also met with. On the top and sides of these nutritious herbage, chiefly saltbush, grows. The tablelands consist of a 'sandstone formation^ more or less denuded, the surface of the land being covered with very hard -sandstone fragments.

It is plainly shown by this report that there is barely 100 miles of sand plain, and that -the balance of the country to be traversed by the railway is tolerably fair pastoral country - country which is capable of carrying a large number of stock and a limited population. And if the Meteorological Department can be depended upon, there is also a chance of wheat-growing being carried on. During the present season in Western Australia we have seen wheat growing in country with a rainfall of 7 and 8 inches, by reason of improved methods of cultivation.


Senator McColl - There has been a number of failures there this year.


Senator LYNCH - At Kellabeirn this year I have seen hundreds of acres of wheat feet high with a rainfall of from 7 to 8 inches. We have an excellent authority in the honorable senator on dry farming. He has clearly shown that in America a similar experience has taken place with vast stretches of country. He has told us how wheat and other products required for human consumption can be grown there on belts of country with a rainfall of 10 inches and under.


Senator Needham - Do not quote him.


Senator LYNCH - It is very necessary to quote from the honorable senator's elaborate report, if only for the purpose of combating the effort of those who have indulged in a howl of "stinking fish " at the interior of this country. It is sad to reflect that men come into this Parliament, I will not say to foul their nests - although if I did, it would be very near the mark - but certainly to degrade their country, and, at die same time, to ignore the teachings of history in other countries, which have arid or semi-arid areas similar to our own. When we find men of that description talking in this peculiar way, it is necessary to take up a report written by an honorable senator on their side, and to quote what he says has been found possible in other parts of the world. In 1909, Senator McColl attended a Dry Farming Congress in the United States, and did excellent service by furnishing a report, which, I think, will be appreciated by very many persons who have the hard task of going into the dry interior of Australia with their wives and families, and striving to found homes. I have every confidence that these men will appreciate the work which Senator McColl has done to solve the problem of making productive the arid and semi-arid areas of our interior. On page 34, he says -

The area of the United States is 3,026,000 square miles, and from the Atlantic to the 95th meridian it is a humid country. West of that line are the semi-arid and arid areas, interspersed by mountain ranges, where the rainfall is heavier. It .is from these mountains the water comes for irrigation, but when all available water is used for that purpose, a mere fraction of the land will be irrigated. There will still remain to be cultivated by the natural precipitation the great bulk of the territory, with a rainfall of from 5 to 16 inches per annum.

Less than 50 years ago the bulk of this territory was written down as desert, as a glance at the older maps will show. It was deemed impossible of agricultural development. And this applies to nearly all the area included in the States and territories of Arizona, California, Colorada, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming.

The discovery of gold and other minerals in California and other States drew attention to Western America, but the hardships encountered in crossing the Continent to get there were deemed almost insuperable, and thousands perished in the attempt. The Great Trek of the Mormons in 1847 from Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, and other States was carried out in the face of terrible hardships, and of great loss of life. This was through Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, and Utah. The Santa Fe trail through Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona, was equally terrible to travel over, and if any one had prophesied that the Llano Estacado, or Staked Plain, with an area of tens of thousands of square miles, would ever have been settled on, he would be reckoned a dreamer or a fool.

How true it is to the present day. Men who were afraid to go far out simply looked at a map, and, seeing that there were no mountainous ranges, they naturally concluded that the country was all desert. On the excellent authority of Senator McColl, we know that a belt of this type of country in the United States was described as a desert. He proceeds to describe the transition stage -

From foreign shores, and crowded eastern cities, from the over-tilled and rest requiring lands of the humid regions, the people are flocking in multitudes, and settling and thriving on the lands where the pioneers of the past, heartsick and weary, lay down and died. The population of the eleven semi-arid States named advanced from 864,024 in 1870 to 2,965,711 in 1880, to 6,362,604 in 1900; and, though the exact figures of the present date are not obtainable, there is little doubt, from the enormous influx of population during the past few years, still continuing, that the population in the census of 1910 will be over -

How many- do honorable senators think? Over 15,000,000 persons in this alleged desert. After all, a desert is not a bad place to support a population. Let us now hear Senator McColl's own opinion. Continuing, he says -

What are the lessons of the Dry Farming Convention that we may take to guide and assist us in this stupendous task? We know that with an average rainfall of 10 inches, and even less, men can hold on and live. But before we have to rely on the10-inch areas we have over one million square miles, or six hundred and forty million acres, under a rainfall from 10 to 20 inches.

I say " Amen " to the last paragraph. If it is possible to settle them on that belt which is favorably situated, with a rainfall of from 10 to 20 inches, let us by all means do so, but we must face the obstinate facts of the present day as we find them. Seeing that men are being pushed out there, and that they can live according to the best authority available, there is no reason to suppose that' the same thing cannot happen along the route of this proposed railway.


Senator ST LEDGER (QUEENSLAND) - With these prospects in front of the people of Western Australia and South Australia, why do they not build the line for themselves? That is the great point.


Senator LYNCH - I do not propose to go back over my arguments even to satisfy the honorable senator. If we cast a cursory glance over the curious treatment which this proposal has been subjected to, and which might, perhaps, be dignified by the name of a debate, it will be found that honorable senators opposite object to everything connected with the project. In their opinion, the route is wrong, the gauge is wrong, the land to be traversed is wrong, the estimates of the trusted servants of the Commonwealth are wrong ; there is no water, and the promise which was given, as well as the project itself, is also wrong. We must conclude that those who are really opposed to the proposal are sheltering themselves behind various artificial excuses, and, instead of being candid, as they ought to be, and saying openly, " We object to the railway in any form. We think that it is not a national work. We believe that there has been no promise given, and therefore the line should not be built."


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Did Senator McColl say that he would oppose the Bill?


Senator LYNCH - I really do not know. I have every confidence that when the Senate finally settles down, and starts to sift the arguments, if they can be so dignified, from the sound reasons which exist for the construction of the line, there will be a substantial majority in favour of the Bill, and that a State in the Union which has prospered in many directions, but which is not prospering in an economic or industrial sense, will at length be admitted into the Federal sisterhood, and will" not be regarded as that maid of all work which is usually given a step-sister under similar conditions. If the Commonwealth, will build this line, it will heal the discontent which exists. If, however, it failsto do so, it may be prepared for anything in the future; but certainly I submit that the moral and unwritten obligation which was entered into between the east and the west should be given effect to on this occasion, and that the hope and the confidences of the people of the western State should be at last, if tardily, vindicated - the hope that the time had arrived for Western Australia to be admitted to the Federal sisterhood, and not continue to be the neglected and forgotten step-sister she was fast beginning to regard herself. I thank honorable senators for their courtesy in listening to my remarks, and hope that the Bill will have a short and successful passage.







Suggest corrections