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Thursday, 30 November 1911


Senator SAYERS (Queensland) , - One reason for submitting the amendment which has been moved by Senator Millen is that we believe a better route can be found for this railway than that proposed in the Bill. We believe, also, that more information should be obtained about other routes before the Bill is allowed to go through. The two States most directlyinterested have not yet made up their minds as to what they are going to do. We are being asked to pass this Bill before we have any authority from either of these States to construct a line within their territory. We have heard a great deal about the promise that was made to Western Australia ; but since the time when it is alleged that promise was made, the Western Australian Parliament has passed a Bill authorizing the construction of a railway within that State. Whether it was to follow the route of the line proposed in this Bill I do not know. But through some disagreement with the South Australian Government the Western Austraiian Act was allowed to remain a dead letter. We require further time in order to learn what terms Western Australia is prepared to give the Commonwealth. We wish to know what offer the Western Australian Government will make. We do not desire that the Commonwealth should be bound in this matter, whilst the two States specially interested are left free to do as they please.


Senator Lynch - Who are " we," the honorable senator or the people of Queensland ?


Senator SAYERS - " We " are the people of Australia.


Senator de Largie - This is the modern " Tooley Street tailor."


Senator SAYERS - At all events, I am not speaking upon this measure as an interested party, as Senator de Largie did. The honorable senator spoke solely in the interestsof Western Australia, because, in his opinion, Mr. Deakin, or some one else', made a promise to Western Australia he says that we are bound to fulfil it. I say " No; I repudiate it."


Senator de Largie - Mr. Deakin is the honorable senator's leader.


Senator SAYERS - He is not my leader in this matter, anyhow.


Senator de Largie - Then, the honorable senator should get out of his party.


Senator SAYERS -I opposed this proposal when it . was . submitted by Mr. Deakin just as I do now.


Senator McGregor - I ask whether the honorable senator is in order in going over the whole of these matters?


The PRESIDENT -The honorable senator is not in orderin discussing the general questionon the amendment. . But if other honorable senators will continue to interject, and thus divert the speaker from the question, the Chair can. hardly be expected to be continually pulling up the speaker for replying to the interjections.


Senator SAYERS - I must ask you, sir, to excuse me. I was drawn off the track by interjections from in front and behind me by honorable senators representing Western Australia, whowere twitting me with opposing this proposal as a representative of Queensland. We should have further time to discover what is the best route for this railway. We should not rush into the construction of this line before the route has been properlydecided, or until alternative routes have been laid before us. It is a common practice in the States when railway construction is proposed to have alternative routes surveyed, leaving Parliament to decide what is the best. In this case that opportunity has not been afforded the Federal Parliament. 'I think that there is sufficient evidence before us to enable us to decide that the route proposed is not the best route, andit would be wise to defer the construction of the line until we get more information. The Government seem to be in haste torush this measure through without knowing what the position of the Commonwealth will be. We have, so far, not been given a grant of land, not alone on either side of the proposed line, but for the line itself. The amendment further suggests that we should get further information about the cost of construction. Surely that isinformation which we should have. We have received information concerning this! proposal from the Government piecemeal. We have had an estimate of the cost of construction put before us only to-day, when almost every member of the Senate has spoken on the second' reading and on the amendment.This shows that the Bill is beingrushed through without proper consideration. To-day, we have had placed in our hands a paper by Mr. Deane regarding the revenue and expenditure. I observe that he give a fresh estimate. I think that if cautious men were dealing with a proposal to expend a sum like this, they would say, . " Wait for further information." But on the last day of the debate on the second reading of this Bill, as I hope it will be, fresh information is placed in our hands. Probably more information will be supplied next week, and further information amonth hence. In his last memorandum, Mr. Deane says -

 

I notice that all the estimates we get, emanate from the two States directly interested in the construction of this railway.. We do not get any estimates from other engineering or railway authorities. The; estimate which I have just quoted was supplied ina previous memorandum. Mr. Deane is an engineer ; but I do not think that he knows much about the management, of a railway. I am not going to dispute hisengineering ability, but I think, from information I have received, I can legitimately dispute his ability as a railway manager. I do not know whether that estimate is correct or not. I very much doubt if it Is. Next,Mr. Deane estimates theworking expenses. I want the Minister in his reply to deal with this matter, because it is being watched by railway men who know what the cost is. It is of no use to set down figures in a document for our perusal it they will not stand the light of day. In the case of a railway which is to be taken through some of the poorest parts of Australia, where I think the working expenses will be more than on any other railway, the cost for 441,792 train miles is put down at 5s. per mile, or, in all, at £1 10,448. 1 should like to know from the Minister what authority there is for that statement. I am informed that the amount is insufficient ; and if that is the case, the report must be misleading. I have been asked to call attention to the matter by men' who know the cost in other States. For what purpose can the cost be set down at 5s. per mile unless it is to reduce the deficiency as much as possible? What we want to know is, What amount a railway manager - not an engineer - would put down for working expenses? That includes the cost of stationmasters, guards, engine-drivers, porters, coal, water, and ether material. My information is that the -working expenses will' be more on the proposed railway than on any existing line. The cost in this case is under-estimated, and persons think that it is under-estimated for a reason. They . may be wrong, or they may be right. I .do not know. I have simply conveyed to the Senate information which I have received from a man who is competent, if he likes, to give the truth. I ask the Minister in his reply to tell us on what this estimate is based? Nothing is allowed for the wear and tear of the line, for the gangs who will have to keep it in repair, unless, of course, the expense is included in the estimate of 5s. per mile. I do not believe that it is included, because I am told that even 5s. per mile is too low a sum to set down for ordinary working expenses. .Another part of the amendment reads -

And, further, . as the proposed railway serves directly to assist the development of the States of South Australia and Western Australia, this Senate is of opinion that the Government should consult with the Governments of the two States, with a view to devising an arrangement' securing to the Commonwealth a reasonable portion of any value added to the lands along the. line of route and accruing from the construction df the said line.

We have no guarantee from the State Governments concerned.. The land has been painted in glowing colours, by senators from South Australia and Western . Australia. I .do not: blame them ; in fact, I give them all credit for trying to get this measure put through. But I happen to represent another State, whose people do not think that it will be to their advantage to pay a portion of the cost of constructing this transcontinental railway, or to be saddled for all time with a share of the loss on its working. In Queensland we are constructing, at our* own expense, more miles of railway than it is proposed to com struct across a continent. We are not asking a State, or anybody else, to help us. .


The PRESIDENT - Order !


Senator SAYERS - Perhaps, sir, I am transgressing the rules a little. My information is that the needs of the people of the Commonwealth will be served better by the Senate accepting the amendment of Senator Millen, who has used very clear and concise language. If it is accepted, that will not prevent us, at the proper timeafter further information has been obtained, and the Senate knows what the State- Governments intend to do, and what facilities they are prepared to offer us - from dealing with the Bill on its merits. I do not think that it would be in the 'interests of the people of the Commonwealth to pass the measure at the present time. I believe' that a little delay will be advantageous, and will not defer the matter beyond what the States are doing. Neither of the- two States is prepared to act. We have . no. information that they are prepared to pass a Bill authorizing the Commonwealth- to build the railway this year. By carrying this amendment, next year we should know what the two States had agreed' to do, and our own responsibility relating to the' railway when it was built. Honorable senators on the other side are apparently eager to pass the measure without any information,' and without any restrictions, and to allow, the State Parliaments, to make their ownterms. If the Bill is passed without this amendment,, the Ministry will say, " We have an Act ' which authorizes us to' build a- railway. ' Parliament has practically done with the matter, and we will make What terms we think fit with the States." Be- fore honor-able senators pass the measure they should take time to deliberate. I arn sorry to say that the Senate does not seem to know what it is doing. It is not taken into' the confidence of the Government or of the State Parliaments, but it is asked to pass a Bill ; and when we learn later what the State's have done we shall be bound hand and foot, and cannot go back That is a very bad course for Parliament to pursue; it should not allow the control of this matter to pass out of its hands. I opposed this proposal when it was brought forward by Mr. Deakin. I am not opposing this measure because it is submitted by the present Ministry. I hope that even at the eleventh hour the Government will reconsider their position, and take time to ascertain what the two States intend to do. When they have satisfied themselves that the States are prepared to make reasonable concessions, and that at some future time we may be able to get our money back, they will, I venture to say, get the Bill put through with a great deal less trouble than they are going to have now.







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