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Wednesday, 29 November 1911


Senator GIVENS (Queensland) .- The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, has put the very best leg forward in submitting the case for the State which he represents.


Senator Needham - For Australia.


Senator GIVENS - No, not for Australia. I find no fault with his statement from his own point of view. He said that there is a moral, I believe he even went so far as to say a written, obligation on the Commonwealth to construct this railway.


Senator Lynch - I said " unwritten."


Senator GIVENS - At any rate, there was a moral obligation. But that obligation exists only in' the imaginations of a very few people.


Senator St Ledger - Some would call it a bribe.


Senator GIVENS - It does not exist in the written bond as we know it, nor did we hear a word about the subject during; the discussion on Federation, outside perhaps the limits of the two States more intimately concerned:


Senator Needham - Why call it a bribe?


Senator GIVENS - I did not use that term. I say that there is no obligation on the part of the people of Australia to- build this or any -other line. Every obligation resting upon the people is contained in the Constitution, and any statements made by individuals in their irresponsible capacity have absolutely no binding effect upon this Parliament. What the people of Australia assented to, and bound themselves by when they agreed to federate is contained within the limits of the Constitution. They are not bound by a tittle outside that. Therefore, we can eliminate from our minds all those mild heroics about " moral obligations " and " binding promises." We are told that this is a " great national project." I think that " great national projects " have been pretty accurately described as those which are not paying propositions, and which, therefore, must be carried out, if at all, at the expense of the whole people. We are also told in the same tone of heroics that this line is absolutely necessary to bind the east and the west together with bands of steel and links of iron, and until those links are joined, we can have no real Federation. If that be so, we can never have real Federation at all. How are we going to bind up the little State of Tasmania with bonds of steel? AVe cannot run a railway across there.


Senator McGregor - Make a tunnel.


Senator GIVENS - We get nothing but frivilous replies when we bring the supporters of this project face to face with the consequences of their own line of reasoning. If it be impossible for us to have Federation without linking together all the States with bonds of steel, we can never have it. It would be very much more of a national project, and would meet with my hearty support, if the Commonwealth ventured upon owning a line of steamers to run between the mainland and Tasmania, instead of allowing the people to be fleeced by private ship-owners. But I desire to point out that railways are not necessary for binding different countries together. As a matter of fact, it has been said by some of the highest scientific authorities that oceans, instead of separating countries, really connect them, and make them more easily accessible to each other.


Senator Lynch - Is that the reason why when the honorable senator comes down from North Quensland he travels by sea?


Senator GIVENS - When I come down here, whether I like it or not, I have to travel by steamer half the way. But I do not come cap in hand to the Federal Government asking them to build a railway to

North Queensland. We are told that it is necessary to link up Fremantle with Adelaide.


Senator Lynch - The honorable senator's State is linked up with the rest of Australia, and therefore his people have no difficulty.


Senator GIVENS - We linked up Queensland at our own expense. But the idea of the supporters of this Bill seems to be not so much to link up Western Australia by a railway, but to link up the capitals. There seems to be an idea that every State is really the capital of the State - that Victoria is Melbourne, that New South Wales is Sydney, that South Australia is Adelaide, and that Western Australia is Perth. We should eliminate that notion from our minds, and refuse to regard the Commonwealth as being summed up in those capital cities. I refuse to accept that idea altogether. Far too much importance has been attached to these capitals. It would be very much better not only for the people of Australia as a whole, but even for the particular States themselves, if, instead of pursuing a policy which would furtherthe process of congestion in a few big cities, we advocated onewhich would scatter population rather more evenly through the land, and open up several undeveloped regions. We were treated by Senator Lynch to a glowing picture of the possibilities of the belt of country through- which this line is to pass. I do not blame the honorable senator for adopting that line of argument, because, no doubt, it was necessary as a make weight against the very telling quotations in which the character of the country has been painted by several Opposition speakers. Senator Lynch told us that the 1,100 miles of country to be traversed by the railway are not only capable of carrying a large quantity of stock, but also of producing wheat and other cereals. We have in Australia an enormous coastline, ranging from the temperate right up to the torrid zone. The portion of Australia most congenial to the people of our race who first came here, was undoubtedly that in which this Parliament House is situated - the more temperate portion. It had a climate somewhat similar to that of Europe, from which they came. It would produce fruit and vegetables, and carry the various breeds and brands of. stock which were in common use in the Old Country. But it is a curious fact that this particular belt of country, 1,100 miles in length, and within easy reach of the coast, with a climate that is congenial to the people of our race, and is easily accessible by sea-


Senator Henderson - The coast is absolutely inaccessible.


Senator GIVENS - There are three or four fairly good ports along the coast.


Senator Henderson - Not one.


Senator Mcgregor - Not one worth talking about between Fowlers Bay and Esperance. If the honorable senator were aware of the facts he would know that.


Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator is denying statements that have been made by well-known people on his own side. At any rate, the region in question is favoured in regard to climatic conditions. How is it, then, that this is the only 1,100 miles of coast quite unoccupied? Will any one deny the truth of that statement? Travel right round, from the Northern Territory to the Gulf of Carpentaria, from Cape York as far as Thursday Island - go anywhere you like - and you will not find in any portion of Australia 200 miles of coast, except this, that is unoccupied.


Senator de Largie - Does not the honorable senator know the reason in this case? There are no harbors on the coast.


Senator GIVENS - The reason is because the country is uninhabitable.


Senator Vardon - There are harbors at Streaky Bay, Murat Bay, Smoky Bay, and Fowler's Bay.


Senator McGregor - All within South Australia.


Senator GIVENS - Well, one-half of this line will be in South Australia. Can the supporters of the Bill point to any other strip of coast that is unoccupied ? Yet here we have 1,100 miles of country, the character of which has been painted in glowing colours on account of its immense possibilities, and there is not a single person, as far as we can learn, living upon it.


Senator McGregor - There are people living at Smoky Bay, Streaky Bay, and Fowler's Bay.


Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator was just now saying that the country was inaccessible because there were no harbors.


Senator McGregor - Those ports are in a small portion of the country.


Senator St Ledger - How did we in Queensland develop our territory?


Senator Pearce - By sugar bounties.


Senator GIVENS - Well,if the £4,500,000 which we are asked to spend on this line would maintain in comfort 100,000 people, and give employment to 30,000, there would be more to be said for it. But, as far as I can see, we might as well throw the money into the sea straight away as expect by its means to provide a livelihood for anybody, or to increase the' population of Australia. If the country is as good as it is said to be, and is capable of such possibilities, why is it that the States concerned have done nothing in all these years to develop it themselves ? South. Australia has done a little in the Northern Territory in the way of railway development. Queensland, in the Gulf country, as far as Cooktown and Normanton, has built railways at public expense, and has opened up and developed the land. It is very strange, however, that something has not been done with the country which this railway is to traverse, if it be so good as Senator Lynch has represented.


Senator Buzacott - There are a lot of syndicate railways in Queensland.


Senator GIVENS - No, there are not.


Senator Buzacott - There were some.


Senator GIVENS - We had some, but not a lot. An attempt was made to saddle Queensland with syndicate railways; but, to a great extent, it failed. No representative of Western Australia is entitled to throw that in any one's face. It has been pointed out that a very large portion of the population of Western Australia is cut off from the eastern States, except by following a very circuitous course. That population is one which contributes very largely to the revenue of the Commonwealth ; and for many reasons it should receive favorable consideration. I know aswell as any one that these people deserve a great deal of consideration. They number amongst them the pioneers, who went out to what was then a desert in WesternAustralia, and were the means of opening up, perhaps, the richest gold-field in the' Commonwealth. They have produced enormous wealth, and are engaged in their industry under very many disabilities, and considerable hardships. It is also quite true that they cannot reach the eastern States, or get their goods from those Statesexcept by a very roundabout and circuitouscourse. But, admitting all that, there is a. far easier remedy than the construction of this line for the disabilities under which they labour. It is a remedy which it is well within the power of fhe State Government to adopt. But, in the interests of the capital city of Western Australia, no Government of that State has yet proposed to provide this remedy for the disabilities of these people. One of the main reasons put forward for the construction of this line is that if the people of the gold-fields of Western Australia wish to go to the eastern States they have to travel hundreds of miles westward, and then undergo a four days' voyage by sea before they can reach railway communication with those States. That might be avoided by building a line of railway from 120 to 130 miles long from Kalgoorlie to Esperance Bay. Will any one contend that it is not within the power of the State Government of Western Australia to remove the disabilities of the population of the gold-fields straight away by reducing their journey to the sea by about 200 miles, and the sea voyage to the eastern States by two days? The adoption of this course would bring the whole of the people of Western Australia practically two days nearer to the eastern States.


Senator de Largie - To which railway is the honorable senator referring now?


Senator GIVENS - I am referring to a way in which the disabilities under which the people of the gold-fields of Western Australia labour might easily have been, removed by the State Government.


Senator de Largie - The State Government is building the railway referred to.


Senator GIVENS - We have often heard in this Parliament that the State Government of Western Australia were going to construct this railway, but nothing has been done so far.


Senator Pearce - The line is now halfway to Esperance Bay.


Senator GIVENS - If the State Government were in earnest in the matter they would have started the line from the port. In any case, if they are constructing that line, that does away with one of the arguments for the construction of the railway dealt with in this Bill, and if the Esperance Bay line is constructed, I may further say that it will reduce by more than half the revenue likely to be derived from the working of this railway. I ' shall deal a little later with the prospects of this line in the matter of earning revenue. Apart from what it may, or may not, earn under existing conditions, it is an undoubted fact that if a line is built from Kalgoorlie to Esperance Bay the possibilities of this line as a revenue producer will be immensely diminished. People will not pay the high freights necessary for the long journey of over. 1,000 miles by this line when they

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will be able to reach the coast in a journey of 120 miles by the other railway. I might say that this proposal would be much more acceptable to me if we were given under this Bill the right to continue the line fom Port Augusta beyond Kalgoorlie to Esperance Bay, so that it would be connected with the sea coast at both ends.


Senator Pearce - Would the honorable senator vote for it then?


Senator GIVENS - I very probably would.


Senator Pearce - I have my doubts.


Senator GIVENS - We should, at all events, then have a line, a portion of which would be highly payable. While I doubt very much ' whether we have the right to construct this line, we are asked to build a railway which, so far as I can see, is not likely to pay in a generation, or, perhaps, two generations.


Senator McGregor - Then it will not matter, because the honorable senator will be dead by that time.


Senator GIVENS - The short-sighted and very narrow view which Senator McGregor suggests should animate honorable members of this Parliament will not, I am sure, be approved by any one who has a desire for the welfare of the country. Australians worthy of the name do not live for themselves alone. They look to the future of the country and the future of the children they will leave behind them. I am considering what this proposal will mean for the future of Australia; and I say that the .£4,000,000 which it is proposed to spend on the construction of this line might be very much more profitably spent in other directions. It appears to me to be very strange that, when the Commonwealth has a Territory of its own, as large almost as any of the States, with the exception of Western Australia, we should, instead of proposing to build railways to develop that Territory, be considering a proposal to develop the territory of two of the States. The Territory of the Commonwealth to which I refer needs development as badly as does any other portion of Australia, and we have been frequently told that, for defence purposes, it needs railway communication with the eastern States more than does any other part of Australia.


Senator de Largie - Are we to understand that the Commonwealth has no responsibility for the defence of Western Australia ?


Senator GIVENS - No; but the Northern Territory has been spoken of as " the back door of Australia," and the danger to the integrity of the Commonwealth is greater there than in Western Australia, where there is a considerable population to resist an invasion, whilst the Northern Territory is practically unoccupied.


Senator Pearce - Will the honorable senator vote for a railway to the Northern Territory ?


Senator GIVENS - Undoubtedly, if it is one which can reasonably be approved of. But if such a railway as this were brought forward to secure connexion with the Northern Territory, it is extremely doubtful whether I should vote for it. This is the greatest project the Commonwealth has yet been asked to undertake, and it is submitted in a way which involves the creation of about the worst precedent that could be created by any Government or Parliament.


Senator Lynch - Does the honorable senator think that Queensland objects to this railway?


Senator GIVENS - Queensland has had quite enough to do to build railways for herself. It has been a bigger task than her people might reasonably have been asked to cope with, but they have undertaken the task.


Senator Lynch - Does the honorable senator believe that they object to this railway ?


Senator GIVENS - I do.


Senator Lynch - That opinion is flatly contradicted in another place.


Senator GIVENS - I am not responsible for what other persons may think or do.


Senator Lynch - There is no harm in reminding the honorable senator that another voice has come from Queensland.


Senator GIVENS - That is from those who have a right to be heard, and I have no objection to it.


Senator Lynch - It is unanimously in favour of this line.


Senator GIVENS - I have known wonderful things to happen in my time, and one of the most wonderful things that ever happened occurred in this Senate in connexion with the railway we are now discussing. It is absolutely certain that this line would never, in our time, have received the assent of the representatives of South Australia, had it not been for the disgraceful bargaining, and the " scratch me and I will scratch you " policy indulged in under the Deakin Government in connexion with the transfer of the Northern Territory.


Senator McGregor - That is not a fact.


Senator GIVENS - It is an absolute fact. Why was any reference whatever to this so-called transcontinental railway included in the Bill for the surrender of the Northern Territory?


Senator Mcgregor - It was not South Australia that put it there.


Senator Millen - I should like to remind Senator Givens that a Government he supported put that agreement in the Bill referred to.


Senator Pearce - And the members of a Government supported by Senator Millen approved of it.


Senator GIVENS - I would remind Senator Millen that, while giving a general support to the Government to whom he has referred, they did not command my undivided support for every proposition they brought forward. I have always had sufficient independence of judgment to go on my own occasionally. We are asked by this Bill to consent to the construction of this line without a permanent survey having been made, and without any plans, sections, or books of reference being tabled.


Senator Lynch - We know the number of sleepers that will be required, and the number of loads of dirt that will have to be shifted.


Senator GIVENS - The number of sleepers might be reckoned up by a child. The line will be over 1,000 miles long, there will be so many sleepers to the rod required, and the number required for the railway can be found by simple multiplication.


Senator Lynch - We know the number of cubic yards of dirt to be shifted.


Senator GIVENS - No man can tell how many cubic yards of dirt will have to be shifted until he knows what will be the permanent route of the line. If we had plans, sections, and books of reference tabled we should know that for every embankment so many cubic yards of earth would be necessary, and for every cutting it would be necessary to remove so many cubic yardsby excavation. We should know also every detail of every culvert and bridge required. You, Mr. President, were for years, with myself, a member of the Queensland Parliament, and you can bear me out in the statement that that Parliament was never asked to consent to the construction of any line of railway until the plans, sections, and books of reference, containing information upon which a contractor might tender for the construction of the line, had been tabled and approved. Senator Millen has told us that in New South Wales an even more complete procedure is followed, and they have a further safeguard in the Works Committee, to" which railway proposals are referred. But here we are asked to sign a blank cheque - to give the Government of the day, whoever they may be, a roving commission to build this line practically where they like. There is nothing to prevent them deviating 100 miles to the north, or 50 or 60 miles to the south, bringing the line right down to the coast. I say that the Government are creating a very bad precedent indeed. Honorable senators on this side may believe that it is all right, since they have perfect confidence in the Government now in power. But we have no guarantee that they will continue in power, and I should like to know whether they are prepared to repose the same confidence in any other Government. As a member of any Parliament I have never been prepared to surrender the rights of Parliament to any Government. It is, in my opinion, a very wise thing for Parliament to keep its grip upon the Government of the day, so that they may not do anything which will not have the express approval and authority of Parliament behind it. I want to know why every succeeding Government during the last six or eight years have been in such an almighty hurry to rush this proposal through. They have submitted it without sufficient information, and without proper plans.


Senator de Largie - Can it be said to have been hurried after eleven years of Federation ?


Senator GIVENS - I think so. It is a shameful thing to ask this Parliament to authorize the expenditure of millions of the people's money on this railway before we have even the necessary authority from the States interested to build the line, and before we have had placed before us any permanent plans.


Senator de Largie - Does the honorable senator know that Mr. Deakin said that this railway would be constructed at once if Western Australia accepted Federation?


Senator GIVENS - I do not know and I do not care what Mr. Deakin or any other individual may have said.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.


Senator GIVENS - When the sitting was suspended, I was dealing with the character of the country which will be traversed by the railway that we are. now considering. I have already shown pretty conclusively that the mere fact that that country, which should enjoy the most congenial climate in Australia, has remained absolutely unoccupied for so many years, is proof positive that it is unoccupiable, and therefore incapable of development under present conditions. On the other hand, if the flowery picture which has been drawn of it by some honorable senators be a true picture, undoubtedly it is the duty of the two States most intimately concerned in this project - I refer to Western Australia and South Australia - to build the line for themselves, just as all other States have built their connecting railways for themselves. During the last week or two, most honorable senators have been informed by circular from a gentleman in South Australia whom I have not had the pleasure of meeting, that while the land in that State through which the proposed railway; will pass is incapable of development, the country which it would traverse if it followed a route closer to the sea, is capable of development. If the line is to be constructed for developmental purposes, that feature should be most carefully considered. But, so far, this has been purely a rush proposition, as the circumstances under which the Bill has been introduced clearly prove. The chief reason which I see for the construction of the line from a commercial point of view is for the purpose of accelerating the delivery of the oversea mails for the eastern States, and of serving the large population which is to be found on the Western Australian gold-fields.


Senator Needham - The Bill has not been rushed.


Senator GIVENS - Yes. I say that any proposition involving an expenditure of £4,000,000 which is submitted to Parliament without any proper plans accompanying it, is a rush proposition. I repeat that the reason for building the line which' appeals most strongly to me is that it will accelerate the delivery of the oversea mails in the eastern States by probably two days ; and that it will largely serve the population of the Western Australian gold-fields. But if the Government of that State are serious in their proposal to connect Kalgoorlie and Esperance Bay by rail, and if they are not overruled by the inhabitants of Perth and Fremantle, ninetenths of the necessity which at present exists for this railway will disappear. The people of the gold-fields would be much better served by a line from Esperance Bay to Kalgoorlie than they would be by the proposed transcontinental line, and consequently nine-tenths of the revenue anticipated from the latter will have vanished. It would be much more economical for residents of the gold-fields to get their supplies oversea to Esperance, and to have them carried thence by rail to the gold-fields ; because it is undeniable that even under the most favorable circumstances, railway carriage cannot hope to compete with water carriage. But, apart from commercial reasons, it has been urged that the construction of this line is necessary upon national grounds, for defence purposes. It seems to me that, from a defence stand-point, there is a much greater need for building the other transcontinental railway, to enable us to successfully defend the northern portion of this continent.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator will oppose that railway, too.


Senator GIVENS - Senator W.Russell has no justification for that statement. It is true that I have opposed various propositions which have been presented to the Senate. But upon every occasion that the Northern Territory Transfer Bill was brought forward, it contained extraneous matter which had nothing whatever to do with that Territory. There is little doubt that no South Australian Government would consent to the construction of the line which is now under consideration, were it not for the disgraceful bargain which was made when the Northern Territory was transferred to the Commonwealth. Even now it is extremely doubtful whether we shall obtain the consent of the South Australian Government to its construction. We are being coolly asked to sanction the building of it, notwithstanding that we have not a scintilla of authority to proceed with it.


Senator de Largie - Has the honorable senator forgotten the Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act?


Senator GIVENS - Can the honorable senator assure me that the Government seriously propose to adopt the course of compulsorily purchasing the required land?


Senator de Largie - I do not think that there will be any need for them to do so.


Senator GIVENS - If we attempt to build a railway through a State without the consent of that State, and despite the provision which is contained in the Constitution, we shall be up against a very serious proposition.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator need not be alarmed about that.


Senator GIVENS - Reading between the lines of recent utterances by the head of the South Australian Government, it seems to me extremely doubtful. Before any facilities are granted to us to build the proposed line, he appears determined to exact from the Commonwealth such terms as he may think fit.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Where did the honorable senator read that?


Senator Millen - If Senator W. Russell be right, and the consent of South Australia can be easily obtained, it might have been here now.


Senator GIVENS - Undoubtedly. If we are so well assured that we can get that consent, why does the Bill contain a provision that the construction of the line shall not be proceeded with in its absence? Will Senator W. Russell tell me that? Some authorities have declared that the proposed railway will be too far inland to be of the best use for defence purposes, and that it will traverse such barren country that it will prove unnecessarily expensive for the transport of troops and horses.


Senator Henderson - Who says that?


Senator GIVENS - The statement is made in a circular which was received by the honorable senator in common with other honorable senators.


Senator Henderson - Who is the writer of the circular, and is he angry because the line will not go through his backyard ?


Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator is supporting this Bill because he thinks the railway will go through his backyard. On the other hand it has been urged that the route of the proposed line is not sufficiently far inland and that the railway could easily be seized by a raiding enemy. As against these statements we have no information as to what the military authorities themselves think. From a defence point of view the proposal seems to have received no consideration. I am not a military expert, but as we pay very high salaries to responsible military officials, the least the Government could have done was to obtain a report from those officials as to the best route for the line to follow. Practically we have been presented with a blank sheet of paper in this respect. Personally, I do not know whether the line will be too far inland to be of the best use for defence purposes, and, so far as any light or guidance on the matter is concerned, I am destined to remain in ignorance for a very long time. The whole of the people of Australia are to be called upon to defray the cost of this railway, and if it is to be constructed for developmental purposes, I say that the States which are most intimately concerned should build it themselves. If its object be to settle people on the land, Western Australia and South Australia alone will derive all the benefit. Consequently, they should undertake the responsibility of constructing the line. But if, on the other hand, it is to be built for defence purposes, I admit that the whole of Australia should bear the burden. I go further, and say that if for defence purposes the Commonwealth is to saddle itself with such a huge responsibility, it should go in for a comprehensive policy of defence by protecting the other outlying portions of Australia. The northern half of this continent is absolutely unconnected with the rest of Australia by railway. The whole of the country extending from Rockhampton on the east coast to Geraldton on the west coast is unconnected with other portions of the continent.


Senator Henderson - That statement is incorrect. There is a railway at Pilbarra.


Senator GIVENS - Is it connected with Fremantle and Perth?


Senator Henderson - Yes.


Senator GIVENS - We have railways in the northern portion of Queensland, but they are unconnected with our southern railway systems. The fact remains that if we draw a line from Rockhampton, in Queensland, to the most northern railway connexion with Perth, in Western Australia, nearly, one-half of this continent will remain unconnected by railway with the southern half. We have no proposal from the Commonwealth to engage in the construction of railways for either the development or the defence of that country. Yet it is just as necessary that it should be defended as that the southern portion along the Bight should be defended. We have no comprehensive policy at all. We are asked to build a railway at a cost of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 merely to placate the propertyowners in Perth and Fremantle.


Senator Needham - Nothing of the sort.


Senator GIVENS - As I have shown, the railway to serve the gold-fields is a railway to Esperance Bay. Does any one think that the working miners, if they were coming to the east, could afford to pay the expensive fares which must necessarily be charged if the proposed line were built? They could get much cheaper and much more comfortable travelling by boat than they could by travelling in a train across hot dusty plains. I know that ninetenths of the passengers coming down from Queensland to Sydney and Melbourne, although they have first-rate railway accommodation, travel as a matter of choice, and also as a matter of economy, By steamer. It is only wealthy persons and the commercial classes, to whom quick travelling is an absolute necessity, who travel by railway. If I, as a member of this Parliament, had a -choice, I should prefer always to travel by sea. We are told a great deal about the probable earning capacity of this line. But I would point out that the estimate of Mr. Moncrieff, the Railway Commissioner of South Australia, seems to be based altogether on a fallacy. He itemizes the probable revenue, and includes "passengers, first class, 2,080 returns at five-sixths of £r2, the through fare, Adelaide to Kalgoorlie, £20,800." He evidently bases his estimate upon- the railway being able to carry passengers at a cheaper rate than the steamers carry them at the present time. But that is impossible. It has been proved by the experience of the world that a railway cannot carry passengers or goods so cheaply as steamers 'can. When people have the alternative of travelling by rail or by steamer from the west to the east, is it not more than probable- nay, is it not almost certain - that the steamers will reduce their fares, so as to offer greater inducements to persons to travel by water rather than by land? That is as certain as that the sun will rise to-morrow.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - That would not be a bad thing for Australia.


Senator GIVENS - Certainly it would not. It is the States that will reap the benefit which should pay the piper, rather than the rest of Australia.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Will not that be a distinct benefit to the poor miner, who cannot afford to travel by railway?


Senator GIVENS - Yes, but the poor miner in Queensland, who will derive no such advantage, will have to pay. We in Queensland have borrowed pretty well the highest amount per head of any people in

Australia. Our public indebtedness amounts to about £75 per head of the population. That money has been borrowed mainly for the purpose of building railways in the State. We have built railways which for years did not pay, mainly for the purpose of developing and opening up the country. We have paid the interest year after year, and extinguished accumulated deficits. I am glad to say that most of these lines are now paying, but it has been a long up-hill struggle. We have saddled ourselves probably with the greatest debt per head of any people in Australia, and now we are coolly asked to assist in finding money to build railways for other States which pride themselves on being the richest States in the Commonwealth. That is an unfair proposition. The one justification which there may be for this proposal is from the defence point of view. But we have no information from the Defence Department or its responsible officers as to whether this is the worst or the best or the most indifferent route which could be chosen. . We have no light or guidance from them in any respect. When this estimate of revenue was framed there was no certainty that the railway from Kalgoorlie to Esperance Bay would be built. But now we are told by the Minister of Defence that it is a certainty that it will be built. In that case, this estimate is not worth the paper on which it is written, because the building of that line will take away nine- tenths of the inducements to people to travel by train from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, and also ninetenths of the incentive to get goods carried over that long route. I am not very much inclined to cavil at the revenue which is expected to be. derived from the carriage of parcels and mails and from other coaching earnings, but I notice that, according to this estimate, it is proposed to carry 3,000 tons of hay, chaff, and other fodder for 1,100 miles at eleven-twelfths of £2 16s. per ton. Apparently they propose to carry these goods more cheaply than the steamers do. That estimate will not hold water for a moment. No railway can possibly hope to compete against a steamer. The statement that they can carry hay, chaff, and other fodder - bulky stuff - along a railway more cheaply than it could be carried by a steamer is one to which I think no one who is acquainted with traffic conditions in Australia will subscribe. Therefore I claim that this estimate of probable earnings, especially in view of the fact that it is now proposed to build a railway from

Esperance Bay to Kalgoorlie, is not worth! the paper on which it is written. But even supposing that the estimate was true, what are the facts? According to the most favorable estimate of the earnings of the railway the Commonwealth will be saddled with the loss of £70,000 per annum. That may be all very well while we have a bounding revenue; but we are not at all certain that it is going to continue. From my point of view, it would not be good if it did continue, because I consider that we are getting far too much from theCustoms House. If we had a proper Protective Tariff, we should get far less revenue from that source. We may have such a Tariff in the course of a few years, and then we shall have very much less revenue. While an annual deficit of £70,000 may not be a serious matter now, in the future, when, perhaps, we would not be blest with such good seasons as we have, when our Customs revenue would not be so buoyant as it is, when Australia would, perhaps, begin to manufacture more, and consequently to import less, it might be a very serious matter indeed.


Senator McColl - The increase of wear and tear will go on all the time.


Senator GIVENS - I think it is wisely proposed by the Government, and I hope that they will carry out their proposal, to provide a proper sinking and depreciation fund for all public works. If that is done, renewals will not burden us very much. I am not inclined to take a serious view of that aspect; but I think that, even in the most favorable circumstances, while we may very readily afford £70,000 a year for a luxury of this kind in good times, it would be a very serious burden in badtimes. I am against the Bill at the present time for more than one reason. I am against it because it is brought forward in a rushed and hurried fashion, without sufficient information being placed before us. This is the first time in my experience, and in my reading of the procedure in other Parliaments, that I have heard, or known, of a Bill being brought down on such' meagre information.


Senator Henderson - And you have been discussing it for the last eight years.


Senator GIVENS - We have never had anything to discuss. Every time I have been asked in another Parliament to authorize the construction of a railway, its members had every possible information placed before them. The plans, sections, and books of reference were tabled ; the exact route of the line was denned ; every yard of earthwork and embankment, and every yard of excavation, or a cutting, was worked out to a nicety ; every culvert, every bridge, in fact, everything connected with the line, was shown. But in this case nothing is shown. No permanent survey has been made; the Government is establishing an exceedingly bad precedent, and one which we on this side may have bitter reason to regret in years to come. Therefore, I think that we should not sanction the proposal. I am also against the Bill because I think that if the line is to . be built mainly for developmental purposes, the two States which are to reap all the benefit should engage in the enterprise, and not ask the Commonwealth to bear the expense.


Senator Henderson - Just so. You are against the proposal because you have been against it all the time, and that will


Senator GIVENS - The honorable senatorknows very well that I have never met this project with two faces.


Senator Henderson - That is right ; but you have always been against it.


Senator GIVENS - I have been against the wealthiest State in the Commonwealth coming cap in hand as a mendicant to the other States to build its railway, while those States have as much as they can do to build their own lines. If we can afford to spend £4,000^000 or £5,000,000 for developmental purposes, we can spend the money in a much better way. In Australia there are hundreds of places which would give us infinitely greater returns, which would provide openings for one hundred times the population which the country to be traversed by this railway will be able to carry. Why should we not spend our money where it will give us the best return ? After all, if the line is to be built for defence purposes, I am prepared to say that it would be better for us to spend £5,000,000 in getting another 100,000 persons settled In Australia. That would be a Setter means of defence than the construction of a railway. Our first need, from the defence point of view, is a bigger population, one from which we could draw a large and sturdy manhood in the hour of danger. I think that no foreign nation would dare to attack us if we had a population of 10,000,000 or 15,000,000. From any point of view, it would be a waste of money to build the railway; and I am against the second reading of the Bill, and will vote accordingly.







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