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Wednesday, 20 May 1914

Senator PEARCE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I understood the Vice-President of the Executive Council to state, on Friday, in reply to my question, that the contract entered into with William Morris for the Kalgoorlie end of the transcontinental line was about to be terminated. Can he say definitely whether the contract has been terminated, and, if so, the reasons?

Senator McCOLL - I thought on Friday that the honorable senator was somewhat wrong in the inference he drew. I communicated with the Department on the subject, and have received the following memorandum : -

The Engineer-in-Chief represented that some of the work to be done at the western end of the Kalgoorlie - Port Augusta Railway could be done to better advantage and more economically by being let as piece-work, and the Minister approved of this being done - the rates to be fixed by the Engineer-in-Chief. The rates varied according to the work, but generally were - centre cutting,1s. 6d. per cubic yard; surface formation, 30s. per chain.

It has already been explained, in reply to Senator Pearce's questions, that, although not advertised in the newspapers, quotations were obtained, but most of those who took up the work were unable to continue, generally owing to insufficiency of plant. The Supervising Engineer made arrangements with Mr. Wm. Morris to proceed with the piece-work at the rates mentioned, with the most distinct stipulation that the arrangement could be cancelled and the work stopped at any time the Supervising Engineer considered desirable.

The honorable senator contended that Morris had obtained a contract for the earthworks for the whole of the line within the State of Western Australia - that is absurd, he was only employed for just so long as it was considered to the interest of the Commonwealth to continue; the moment it was found otherwise the arrangement could be terminated by a word from the Supervising Engineer. As a matter of fact, Mr. Morris recently has put off all men except those kept on temporarily to clear up, &c., and the Minister has approved of the termination of his contract.

I understand that the difficulties of Mr. Morris' contract were such that he was not able to make it pay, and that he voluntarily terminated it.

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