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Wednesday, 20 May 1914


Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - So long a time has elapsed since the Governor-General's Speech was delivered that there has actually been a change in the Governor-Generalship in the meantime. We all know that it is only a political fiction tocall this document the GovernorGeneral's Speech, the Government of the day always being responsible for the sentiments contained in it; but the extraordinary position to which I have just alluded justifies the contention which I have previously advanced in this Chamber that we should go on with the consideration of the Speech at the same time as it is being considered in another place. There can be no proper recognition of the true utility of this Chamber so long as in this and many other similar matters we play second fiddle to another place. If it was of any real importance, we should easily have been able to deal with this matter while it was fresh in our minds, instead of allowing it to stand over actually long enough to allow a change in the Governor-Generalship to take place. It is just as though in the Old Country the late Bang Edward had delivered a Speech and had passed away before the British Parliament had time to consider it.


Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - The axiom is " The King never dies."


Senator RAE - The honorable senator is only too pleased to trot out that legal fiction; but the individual who holds the position and draws the screw, dies, or, in the case of the Governor-General, departs from our shores. What has happened in this case emphasizes the fact that we are not all of us up to date in our methods. I see no reason why this Chamber should be a feeble imitation of the obsolete and moribund Upper Houses of the States. If any Chamber differs more widely in its constitution, and its whole composition, from the State Upper Houses than the Senate does, I should like to hear of it. Whatever powers the State Legislative Councils hold, the people generally believe that they have usurped them. They regard those powers, not as a right, but as a special privilege held by a specially privileged class, and those bodies as surrounded by so many safeguards, and entrenched so strongly, that it takes long and weary years of political agitation and reform work before their unjust privileges can be curtailed and their alleged rights abolished. When the Senate was deliberately made a part of the Parliament, it was not meant to be, in any way, a mere replica of the Upper Houses of the various States. However content those bodies may be to drift along from month to month and year to year in their troglodyte and fossilized fashion, it is the duty of the Senate to show that it is a useful part of the Commonwealth Parliament; and it should be more dignified than to allow things to drift along, so to speak, from generation to generation. I trust that whatever precedents we have followed hitherto, we shall in the future insist on going on with our business, irrespective of any amendments or motions moved in another place.


Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - Why take notice of changes of Government either? Why not go right on?


Senator RAE - The honorable senator knows as well as I do that we can pass legislation in this Chamber to whatever stage may be necessary, and that the Government - whether the one in power when that legislation was originated, or their successor - can proceed with it afterwards if they think fit. One very striking example is the Navigation Bill, which was before this Chamber while several Administrations were in power, and eventually became law, although, unhappily, it has not yet been proclaimed. Whether the discussion of the Address-in-Reply serves any useful purpose or not, the sooner it is concluded the sooner it makes way for business of more utility. I shall not attempt to follow Senator Senior through the document termed, by courtesy, the GovernorGeneral's Speech, which contains nothing but platitudes, but shall touch on one matter which was very ably dealt with by Senator Pearce in discussing the proposals which the Government hope will lead up to a double dissolution. No one could add anything to the force and lucidity of Senator Pearce's arguments ; but the matter to which I desire to call attention has a direct bearing on the line of argument which he followed. He very forcibly pointed out that the deadlock provisions were obviously intended mainly to meet any financial disagreements between the two Chambers; but it is clear that the wording of the section permits of any other matter being brought to such a stage as would bring about the conditions leading up to a double dissolution. To emphasize Senator Pearce's arguments, the presence on our business-paper of proposals to submit certain matters to the people by referendum shows clearly that, by section 125 of the Constitution, constitutional difficulties can be settled in an entirely different way. If a financial deadlock existed between the two Houses, possibly no other way could be found out of the difficulty than a double dissolution. But if there are constitutional difficulties between the two Houses, then either House can pass measures containing proposals to alter the Constitution over the head of the other House, and against its wishes. That emphasizes Senator Pearce's contention that the special deadlock provisions were obviously intended to prevent the business of the country being hung up through differences of opinion on financial matters between the two Chambers. The Prime Minister has, in various parts of the States, claimed that the House ' of Representatives expresses the latest political opinion of the people who elected it ; whereas half of the Senate, having been elected three years previously, is, as it were, behind the times, and does not, therefore, represent the present-day political views of the public. By that argument he tries to make the people believe that the majority which the Labour party hold- in the Senate is an out-of-date majority, obtained in 1910. He evidently wishes every one to believe that, but for this . fact, the so-called Liberal party would be in a majority in both Houses. That, of course, is the kind of untruth which is based upon the suppression of all the facts - the utterance of only so much as will suit his own case - and rightly it has been stigmatized as the most cowardly and wilful form of lying to suppress that portion of the truth which will not cover your own case. That has been done over and over again throughout the Commonwealth, the implication being that the Senate is out of touch with the people. But, as honorable * senators know, if those who were elected to the Senate in 1910 were entirely excluded from consideration, the Labour party would still have a majority of four over the number representing the Government side. Consequently, the most up-to-date political expression of the people's will has its representation in this Chamber much more powerfully on our side than it has on behalf of the Government in the other Chamber. When we are asked to consider and adopt this Address-in-Reply, I wish to point out that in another place an amendment was moved, and that it was given as a sufficient reason why the Senate should do nothing for some three weeks. While the amendment over which we had no control was held to be sufficient to justify us in knocking off work, we are coolly asked to take no notice of the opinions of our fellow-men in another place, but to accept this Address-in-Reply. Whatever other members of my party may feel on the matter, I certainly feel bitterly opposed to the idea of practically indorsing the Government's programme by adopting the Address-in-Reply. Obviously, the fact that the Labour party have seen fit to take action in another place - 'whether successfully or not is nothing to the point - should justify us in taking similar action here, even though the Senate may or may not unmake a Government. At any rate, we should show our absolute disapproval, both of the Government and of their alleged policy, by refusing to adopt the AddressinReply..


Senator Lt Colonel O'loghlin - The adoption of the Address-in-Reply does not indorse the policy.


Senator Oakes - You have your rights, you know.


Senator RAE - I know that, and I am going to use as many of them as I can. The adoption of the Address-in-Reply is practically, in effect, a general indorsement. It does not indorse the policy in detail. We know that an amendment, if carried, is a clear refusal to indorse the policy of the Government, and I contend that in the Senate, where we have a majority, we should refuse to give even verbal sanction to the skeleton of a programme which is supposed to be embodied in the opening Speech. We are following obsolete methods in immediately swallowing anything that the Government like to submit, and I, for ohe, totally dissent from the practice. Whether we can or cannot make or unmake a Government, I contend that the fact that the Address-in-Reply is presented here and debated for a lengthy period should justify us in rejecting it, or adding something to it. However, the party to which I belong, like other political parties, I suppose, are more in the habit of following accustomed grooves than making innovations. I think it is time that the Senate did make a few innovations, and, at any rate,- take its own work in hand, irrespective of what is going on somewhere else. The question which has been exercising the minds of the public, and particularly the politicians, of late has been that of the Teesdale Smith contract on the transcontinental railway. As some honorable senators know, Senator Gardiner and myself took the trouble to* proceed to where the work is situated, and walk from end to end of the contract.

We kept precisely on the line of work ; we followed the survey pegs, and consequently we saw, as far as one could by simply walking over it, all that there was to be seen. The Minister has thought fit, in an attempt to justify the letting of this contract, amongst other excuses, to call for a return of the cost of constructing a railroad from the town of Queanbeyan to Canberra, and to make a comparison between the cost of the two works in order to show that when we take into account the disadvantages of the transcontinental line the work on that line is being constructed comparatively cheaply. I do not go much on that sort of comparison, because it is almost impossible to find anywhere two railways which can clearly be compared. One must know in detail the difference in the country, and in every other respect, in order to make a fair comparison.


Senator de Largie - There is very little difference in the goldfields country of Western Australia.


Senator RAE - Perhaps not, but even a very little difference may make a considerable relative difference in the cost if the length under review is a short one. My honorable friend will know that while a cutting here and a cutting there may make a very little difference in a line extending over hundreds of miles, yet in the case of a short line, such as the one from Queanbeyan to Canberra, with sidings in less than seven miles, a cutting more or less in that length might make a considerable difference. In order to show honorable senators that Senator Gardiner and myself took the utmost pains to secure all the information we could, we propose to quote the notes that we respectively made from point to point. I may mention that neither of us is responsible for the wording which the other employed. We went over the contract from one end to the other. At every half-mile bench mark we stopped and made notes in our pocket books of what we had seen during the preceding half mile until we got to the end of the contract. We took our time, too. We spent the afternoon of Saturday, 25th April, and the following Sunday and Monday, in going over the work and returning. I ought to mention that after leaving Port Augusta, for a distance of between 74 and 75 miles, the work had been tentatively completed and the rails laid, and trains were running, and that portion of the work had been done by the direct employment of day labour by the Commonwealth. From the 74^-mile peg to the 91$-mile peg some few miles of earthworks had been formed and the remainder was unformed. The track laying had been extended another couple of miles when we returned, and therefore at the time, for a distance of 76 miles and some chains, the rails had been laid. The work was not permanently finished, because several deviations had to be made in the first construction of the work in order to permit of trains crossing gullies which afterwards had to be bridged or provided with culverts. The Teesdale Smith contract, which is generally described in the papers as commencing at the 92-mile peg really commenced at the 91|-mile peg. These are the notes I made -

After going to the rail head, about 74} miles from Port Augusta, in the train, on Saturday, 25th April, 1914, .we walked to the 91}-mile post, over a long stretch of sandy country, about 4 miles of which was formed. The first contract cutting was entirely of sand, about 5 feet deep. Could all be ploughed and scooped. The second cutting on the further side of Lake Windabout was of considerable size, the spoil forming a- big embankment some 300 yards long and about 20 feet deep in the centre. This cutting was composed of loose stones and soil for the top 2 or 3 feet and hard clay with some iron sandstone in veins running through one end. The third cutting was of a slaty rock or gravel, very loose, except the last foot.

The two next cuttings were long and shallow, apparently a mixture of hard river-bed gravel and soft loose sand, with some 200 yards formation between them. This takes the work to the 95-mile bench mark. The next half mile consists of two gravelly cuttings and a long bank formed with plough and scoop from similar gravelly material on either side, and some nearly level formation. From 93} to 94 miles shallow cuttings of a few inches to a foot depth. Loose, soft soil. A few chains of side drains on either side of a wire fence, which here intersects the line. From 94 to 94} miles nearly level formation formed by plough and scoop. Side drain on upper side ploughed and shovelled out 94} to 95} miles. Some very shallow cuttings of soft earth and some running to 6 feet in depth. The bigger cuttings somewhat stony, and one at Miller's Camp left unfinished.

At the 95}-mile peg a 4-foot embankment and long cutting also unfinished. Soft ploughable material of white gritty clay, resembling kaolin. No stones. Some surface formation. At the 96-mile post there is a big cutting, variously estimated at from 23,000 to 35,000 yards. About 20 feet deep, consisting for the upper 5 or 6 feet of red soil mixed with hard water-worn boulders. The lower 15 feet or bo appeared to be a compact mass of white gypsum, resembling dry pipeclay, requiring some shooting, but easily dislodged in large masses, which crumble readily, and, being light, is very easy to load and cart. This cutting and the embankment formed from the spoil are both unfinished. The next cutting, also unfinished, is much the same on top, but several feet below consist of a gritty compact clay, resembling kaolin, and heavier than the material in the previous cutting, but much less of it.

At this point I wish to show honorable senators some of the stuff of which we have heard so much. We were not content with walking, but carried a load back with us. Here is a specimen of the stuff which was in several of the cuttings, but notably in a large cutting next to the one I have been alluding to. It can, as any one can see, be easily broken and powdered. In the large cutting, which I have just commented upon, the stuff for about 15 feet of the depth was like chalk. I carried a large lump of it in my hand, and pieces crumbled off it before I reached the camp. I have some of it here, and, as honorable senators can see, there is no solidity about it. It is possible that in jumping a hole with a drill the stuff might prove to be a little sticky, but there should be no great difficulty in. shooting such stuff as that. I say so, and I have shot a bit, from Chinamen to rock. Honorable senators will . see that some of the stones, which I produce, are hard, but they are to be found only on the surface.. There is some ironstone also, a specimen of which I produce. These stones are lying on the surface so thickly that one cannot step between them, yet, when the weight of the foot has rested on them for awhile, they sink into the soft soil beneath. At a place where stones similar to these covered the surface, a ploughman, ploughing with a six-horse team, told me that he was ploughing to a depth of 18 inches.


Senator Millen - Did the honorable senator see that himself ?


Senator RAE - I saw the plough there drawn by six horses, and the ploughman, in reply to a question as to what depth he was ploughing, said, " About 18 inches."


Senator Millen - Can the honorable senator vouch for the truth of that statement ?


Senator RAE - I cannot say that I put the rule on it, but one could see, from the way the soil was heaped up by the plough, that he was ploughing to a considerable depth. Prior to meeting him we came across another ploughman, who said that he was ploughing to a depth of 9 inches, but he was using a much lighter plough, that was not made for that kind of work. Talking to the contractor himself later, he told me that he had to get a heavier plough, because the lighter one could not go the depth he required. It was very friable dry soil, but one could not believe from the surface appearance that it would be possible to plough at all in that ground.


Senator Millen - The honorable senator knows a little about ploughing, and he knows that if a plough is 18 inches in the ground it will take a mighty good team of six horses to shift it. '


Senator RAE - They were good horses, but the soil was loose. It was not soil as ordinarily understood; it was simply dust. The soil was so destitute of moisture, and so soft, that Senator Gardiner and myself, when travelling beyond the formation on one or two occasions, pulled stones away and burrowed a little into the ground with our fingers to discover if there was any underground moisture to account for the soil being so soft and springy. As a matter of fact, it was the absence of moisture which accounted for it. The soil was so dry that it sunk under pressure like powder. The great number of stones on the surface was plainly due to the fact that in the long summer months in that arid region the soil gets blown away, and so the stones are exposed. We were surprised .at the good quality of the soil and the comparatively few stones to be found at a little depth from the surface. This stuff, which is described as like kaolin, is to be found in several of the cuttings to a depth of 5 or 6 feet, and can be shot out in tremendous masses. A shot was fired on the Monday night of 26th or 27th April, at about knock-off time - 5 o'clock - and when we went down to the cutting afterwards we found that there must have been thousands of tons of stuff shifted. Where we stood on the higher level there were huge cracks noticeable, showing that, in addition to what had been thrown over, the shot had shaken the stuff for many yards back. After the loose stone in front had been carted away, I could have taken a crow-bar and thrown down hundreds of tons by a mere push.


Senator de Largie - The stuff appears to me to be so soft that it would be ridiculous to try a shot in it.


Senator RAE - They did .shoot it.


Senator Lt Colonel O'loghlin - Does the honorable senator know whether powder or dynamite was used ?


Senator RAE - I could not say, but I think powder was used. To continue my notes -

At 97$ miles long cutting under process of excavation with ploughs and scoops. Counted fifteen at work. Soil red for 4 or 5 feet, then white beneath, mixed with stones throughout, some fairly big, but not difficult to plough.

Honorable senators are, no doubt, aware that if there were any huge boulders in the cuttings, the stuff could not be ploughed even with the heaviest contractor's plough: We saw fifteen scoops at work, and as they could lift the stones, it was clear that they were not bedded very firmly in the ground.

Surface formation from here to 98J, and mostly so to the 102-mile post, up to which point there is a gradual rise to the tableland. Here we saw land which, though thickly strewn with surface stones, was being ploughed with six-horse teams to a depth of 18 inches.

That was the statement of the driver of the' team -

From this point the line descended somewhat. Some of the formation was done by plough and wheelbarrow, with a few pickmen in the stonier places. Near the 103-mile post ploughing was proceeding in a cutting estimated at some 8,000 or 9,000 yards. The soil, though stony, was very loose, and the furrow cut was about 18 inches deep. Occasional boulders had to be removed out of the way of the plough, but none were too big for one man to roll out of the way.

Occasionally there would be a flat boulder, but, by digging around it, it could be easily removed, and we saw none that could not be removed by one man or a couple of men once it was burrowed out.

From 103$ to 106 miles nothing had been done. We followed the survey line to the latter mile post, which is the end of the contract. The country consisted of low ridges and shallow gullies between them, the latter were composed of silt deposits from the higher land. The ridges were thickly strewn with 'stones, some of them larger than we had previously walked over, and all of them more conspicuously water worn than at the first end of the contract. The country traversed was generally covered with saltbush and similar herbage, with thin lines of mulga scrub following the water-courses. At the further end of the contract a few rabbits were seen, and deserted burrows and warrens were very numerous.

I point out again that rabbits cannot burrow in really rocky country. The scarcity of the rabbits was due to the drought. There were a- few live rabbits about, but most of them had been starved out by the drought, and the fact that there were huge warrens to be seen is a proof that the country was pretty easily burrowed.

The underlying soil was so soft that walking over the stony surface depressed the stones at almost every step.

In regard to the plant, Mr. Teesdale Smith has made a public statement, and he also spoke of it to me on the train. He has stated that he had a very large and costly plant there. It has been stated by the Minister that the plant was handy to the job, but that statement has been effectively disposed of by Senator Senior, who has pointed out that hundreds of miles intervened between the job and the one upon which Mr. Smith was previously engaged on the Peninsula. Honorable senators have heard a good deal about the camels, and it is true that the contractor had a number of camels. I do not blame Mr. Smith, as a smart business man, for doing what he did, but, as a matter of fact, the camels were on the spot engaged by private enterprise in carting water for the Government, and Mr. Teesdale Smith bought them over the head of the Government.


Senator Findley - And this is a businesslike Government.


Senator RAE - It was not very businesslike to permit Mr. Smith to do so. It is true that near Bellamy's Wells there is 5 miles of piping to carry water to Lake Windabout. I have no doubt that the Government, who have been so kind to Mr. Smith, will take the pipes off his hands when he is done with them.


Senator Pearce - Perhaps they will take the camels off his hands, too.


Senator RAE - Very possibly. We have heard a great deal about the difficulties of providing water in connexion with this contract, and it must be admitted that in country where there is a very low rainfall, such difficulties have to be overcome. But they were no greater than those that many a settler in the back-blocks have to overcome. I admit that the quantity of water required in connexion with the contract was much greater than would be required by a settler, but the means at hand for supplying it were also much greater. When we consider that an individual selector has often to carry water in a cask for miles, there is nothing very remarkable from this point of view about the work in which Mr. Teesdale Smith was engaged. It is only right that something should be added to the cost of work carried out in such a district, because of the difficulty of supplying water. The cost of conveying the water, whatever it may be, must be added to what would be a fair price in a more habitable country, but it is very easy to exaggerate what the cost of supplying water in such country would be. Camels are not nearly so costly to keep as are other animals, so far as the supply of water is concerned. If horses are used to cart water they consume a considerable quantity of their own load whilst taking it to its destination. Camels can go a long day's journey with water to-day, and to-morrow go back to the source of supply for a drink. A drinkat the source of supply is sufficient to take them a day's journey and back again. It is not necessary, therefore, where camels are employed, to carryso much water for consumption by the animals in the course of transit as where other animals are employed for the purpose. I admit the statements that have been made as to the horses, ploughs, and scoops provided, but the plant was not anything like so extensive as would be required if bridges, viaducts, and heavy work of that kind had to be carried out. We saw a number of scoops, a plough or two, drays, wheelbarrows, picks, and shovels, but there would not have been any great difficulty in assembling such a plant from Adelaide in a couple of days. I should imagine that it would have been much cheaper to get the plant from Adelaide than to bring it from the Peninsula, where Mr. Teesdale Smith had his contract with the State Government, because the line on the Peninsula is not connected with the rest of the South Australian railway system.


Senator Findley - Is Mr. Teesdale Smith every time he is given a contract to be allowed to add the cost of his camels and plant to the price of his contract)


Senator RAE - I was going to remark on that aspect of the matter. In discussing the subject with me on the train Mr. Teesdale Smith took up the extraordinary position that he was entitled to put the total cost of the plant against his contract. I said to him, " Are you going to give it away when the contract is finished?" His reply was, "No; but when the work is complete I do not know what I am going to sell it for, and, as a business proposition, I must set its cost against the price payable under the contract." Now either he is not right, in which case he will derive a large profit from the contract, or he is right, in which case - seeing it will be necessary forhim to purchase a fresh plant every time he gets a new contract- we cannot hope to get contract work done at a reasonable cost to the public. If a contractor has to purchase new plant every time that' he gets a fresh contract, the public will be burdened unnecessarily.


Senator Findley - The Government are not concerned with the public, but only with the interests of their political friends.


Senator RAE - I wish now to say one or two words in regard to the Queanbeyan to Canberra line. Having been placed in a hole, Ministers have trotted out all sorts of excuses to justify their action in entering into this contract with Mr. Teesdale Smith. I have here some more samples of rock which Senator Gardiner and myself picked up on Saturday last in cuttings which have been made on the Queanbeyan to Canberra line. I ask any honorable senator to compare these specimens with the specimens obtained from cuttings in that portion of South Australia which is covered by the Teesdale Smith contract. Why, I could chew the latter up more easily than I could break the former.


Senator Pearce - On the Queanbeyan to Canberra line the stone encountered is principally bluestone, is it not?


Senator RAE - I was totally unable to break it with the aid of another boulder. It was only the superhuman efforts of Senator Gardiner that succeeded in breaking the specimens that we encountered there. On the Queanbeyan to Canberra line there are several cuttings which were largely composed of this very hard stone, the name of which I do not know, as I am not a geologist. I repeat that the hardest stuff we saw, other than surface stones, in the cuttings traversed on the Teesdale Smith contract it would be easier to chew than it would be to break the rock encountered on the other line with a napping hammer. I might go further, and point out that there is no fairness in the comparison which has been instituted between the actual cost of the Teesdale Smith contract and the cost of constructing the Queanbeyan to Canberra line. Our opponents base their calculations on the actual cost of Mr. Teesdale Smith's contract, and add to it, as nearly as they can, what it will cost to finish the line. But I claim that they cannot very well do that. In the first place, they ask us to take their estimates for granted. They say that so many thousand cubic yards require to be excavated for cuttings, so many thousand cubic yards for forming embankments, and so many chains for surface formation. Now the surface formation is said to be 297 chains, and the cost of this is set down at 45s. per chain. That works out at £668 5s. But in the printed papers it is put down at £645 15s. ; and a little later down we are informed that the cost is approximate only. It is evident, therefore, that the whole of the figures are merely approximate. Then again, the Queanbeyan to

Canberra line is intersected by numerous crossings. In one case I noticed a road which was many feet below the level of the railway. Consequently that road had to be formed up to make an approach to the line. Then there were tubular gates and wire-netting in evidence, and in other places overhead bridges. When all these extras are added, they may easily make the cost of that line very high indeed. But that circumstance merely goes to show that it is impossible to compare .things which are totally unlike. It must be remembered, too, that a rainfall of 24 inches in the vicinity of Queanbeyan will require many more water-ways to carry off the flow than will be required in a district where the rainfall is only 6 or 7 inches annually. So far as I am concerned, I wish to make it plain that I do not regard the item of cost as the most important consideration in undertakings of this character. My chief objection is that the Government let the Teesdale Smith contract without calling for competitive tenders. The question of price, however, has been dragged in by Ministers themselves. They say that the cost of Mr. Teesdale Smith's contract will not exceed the price paid for similar work in South Australia, and that, in any case, they could not have carried through this particular work with the aid of day labour. Captain Saunders is reported as having approved of this work being carried out by contract; but reference to the official file of papers will show that he did so only after the ex-Engineer-in-Chief, Mr. Deane, had refused to procure additional plant to enable Commonwealth employes to undertake the work. I would specially direct attention to the fact that the 297 chains of surface formation, for which 45s. per chain is to be paid, represent a total outlay of £668 5s. Deducting this amount from the total contract price, it will be seen that £41,000 will be the cost of less than 11 miles of earthworks, seeing that 297 chains are equal to a little more than 3£ miles. Consequently, £3,700 per mile is to be paid for surface formation only. This formation comprises only cuttings and embankments, with here and there a few chains of side drains, which are very shallow and have not been very artistically excavated. The contractor has dug them out in the rough, they have been ploughed and shovelled, and if a boulder has been encountered, he has gone round it. All culverts have to be constructed by the Commonwealth. It will be seen, therefore, that the contractor's work was entirely confined to formation work. When we consider that the line between Queanbeyan and Canberra has been ballasted, and when we have regard to the cost of sleepers, rails, culverts, gates, and overhead bridges, it becomes manifest that we cannot compare the cost of constructing that railway with the cost of building the transcontinental line over the Teesdale Smith section of its route. I admit that Mr. Teesdale Smith has had to traverse more inaccessible country, in which the difficulty of carting water would be greater. We have been told that it was necessary to construct the earthworks over this heavy country by contract, in order that the operations of the plate-laying gang should not be delayed. But Senator Gardiner and myself found, on our return journey, that from the 76½-mile peg to the 91½-mile peg, the ground along the route of the line had not even been cleared. It is true that the clearing would be only a small item, seeing that the country was covered almost entirely with mulga scrub; but at the time the contract with Mr. Teesdale Smith was let, the work was not as far advanced as it was when . we were there. At the time that contract was entered into, there must have been 20 or 30 miles to be traversed before the plate-laying gang would reach the section covered by Mr. Smith's contract. Even if we concede that the work was heavier in the sense of containing more cuttings and embankments than what the Commonwealth had already done by day labour, it seems to me that if gangs had been sent on ahead it would have been just as easy for the Commonwealth to supply them with water and provisions as it wouldhave been for Mr. Teesdale Smith to do so. Therefore, the argument with regard to urgency falls to the ground, because there are still several miles of a gap between the head of the rails and the commencement of the Teesdale Smith contract. We also find that a very large contract has been let for surveying work. I am not finding fault with the Government for not calling for tenders in that case, because obviously it is, perhaps, not the best thing to do to call for tenders for professional work of that kind; but certainly the Chief Go vernment Surveyor had already completed the survey many miles ahead of the work, and there is no prospect or hope of the work catching up to what has already been surveyed for the next twelve months, if not two years.


Senator Ready - Then, why the urgency ?


Senator RAE - That is what everybody wants to know.


Senator de Largie - How many surveyors are there in the Port Augusta office?


Senator RAE - I am not able to say; but I was informed by people who had been up to the country beyond Tarcoola that the Chief Government Surveyor had been doing splendid work there; that he had a full equipment for going on with the work with the utmost speed, a team of camels, water canteens, as they are termed, for the camels to take the water vat with, and tanks in which it. could be stored. The fact that the survey contract commences at the 322-mile post, and goes to the 432-mile post, shows the distance that there is between the end of the rail head and the point at which the contract commences. That is to say, even including Mr. Smith's contract when it is finished, the rails will still be only 106 miles from Port Augusta; whereas, the surveying contract commences at 322 miles from Port Augusta, showing that there are already over 200 miles of survey completed beyond the point where Mr. Smith's contract ends. How, then, can it be claimed that there is any urgency for taking the work on further to justify the letting of it by contract?


Senator de Largie - There are six surveyors in the Port Augusta office, or very nearly enough to survey the whole line from both ends.


Senator RAE - That reminds me that we hear constant controversy as to whether the contract or the day-labour system is the better, and we generally find that the arguments against day labour are answered by the statement that, given good supervision, the direct employment of day labour is as effective as, and much cheaper than, the contract system. In any case, where the day-labour system fails, the difficulty is generally attributed to lax supervision; but in some cases where the day-labour system has not been nearly as effective as it might be, it has not been through lack of supervision over the men, but because the jobs were overloaded with a large number of officials who did no useful work at all.


Senator de Largie - The transcontinental railway is very much overmanned by officials.


Senator RAE - I should be surprised if it was not. It is not the workman who is not doing his fair share. I have seen many Government contracts where the gangers employed by the Government would keep the men up to the mark quite as much as contractors' gangers would; but in cases where, perhaps, the unemployed have been put on to do some temporary make-shift work with an unemployed ganger over them it may have happened that owing to bad supervision the work has cost a great deal of" money. In ordinary circumstances, however, it is the day labourer who has to carry on his back the sins of the management, which frequently occupies the time of halfadozen subordinate officers at high salaries running about doing work that could be better done by one man. The red tape, the constant correspondence, and so on, and not any dereliction of duty on the part of the day labourer himself, are really responsible for the added cost. Of course I am not attempting to paint the day labourer as a saint by any means, and no doubt good supervision is required to get fair value for the wages paid from any body of men. But the fault is not in the immediate supervision over the workmen so much as in the constant cost involved in keeping numbers of officials, who frequently get in each other's road instead of expediting the work. From what I have heard, the cost of the construction of the line by the Commonwealth has been largely added to through these causes. I should like to point out the insanitary conditions that prevail on the part of the line that has been under construction by the Commonwealth itself. I noticed at the South Australian end that there was an entire lack of sanitary conveniences. I have personally brought this matter before Mr. Bell, the EngineerinChief, who I believe will adopt some of the more up-to-date methods in operation in the other States, and thus bring about reforms. But the matter certainly requires to be brought under the notice of Parliament. In the first big enterprise in the way of public works that the Commonwealth has undertaken it should have set an example as a model employer, but when Senator Gardiner and myself were there we found, although it was well on in April, that there were millions of flies about. The place was most disagreeable to live and work in on that account, and no provision was made by which food could be kept from the flies. No provision was made for a sanitary service, and consequently in the summer months it would be a wonder if the camps did not become hot-beds of typhoid. There was no excuse for the neglect so strongly marked in that case. In New South Wales, since the advent of the Labour Government, whatever sins may be attributed to it by such a critic as Senator Oakes, infinitely more civilized conditions have been adopted than ever existed under any previous Administration. The complete sanitation of the camps is seen to, a portable school is provided so that the wives and families of the navvies can accompany them, and even a portable school of arts is furnished in a camp of any dimensions. The medical supervision is also of the best. Many of these conditions might with advantage be copied by the Commonwealth in the construction of the great highway between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie.


Senator Needham - Sir John Forrest at the head of the line in February of this year said that the Government should be a model employer.


Senator RAE - Yes, but pious aspirations of that kind are of no use if the Government make no attempt to give effect to them. With regard to the correspondence that passed between Mr. Kelly, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, or Mr. Deane, and Mr. Timms, I do not question the truthfulness of Mr. Deane's statement that he absolutely forgot the receipt of Mr. Timms' letter. Any man may have a treacherous memory and forget things, and at times even the incredible or impossible seems to happen. I. can quite believe that if upset or bothered over other matters, a man might entirely forget an affair of that kind, and I would not regard a man as incompetent or a blunderer on that account, when he had an honorable career behind him. But my contention is that the Government shouldnever have started to shelter themselves behind the alleged mistakes of their officials. We find this going on right down the line. The real Minister of Home Affairs is the Prime Minister, Mr. Cook. He does not shoulder an atom of responsibility. He goes about the country making all sorts of lame excuses, but he shoves the responsibility on to Mr. Kelly, who in turn pushes it on to Mr. Deane. Mr. Deane divides it up between Captain Saunders and Mr. Hobler. I do not know if it goes any further, but this all shows the miserable shifts to which the Government were reduced when it could npt handle its work better than it did. It is only another case of pride going before a fall. The Prime Minister and Mr. Kelly were loud in their assertions throughout the recent campaign that the Labour Government had messed up their undertakings, and had shown an utter want of business capacity, and that if only they had the reins of government they would show us how they would put everything right; but these people, so proud of their imaginary abilities, come a cropper the very first time they try to do anything. The statements made by Mr. Kelly are miserable evasions and attempts to shelter himself behind his officers, and are not worthy of a man holding the responsible position to which he aspires, and as to which, of course, he is now only the lieutenant of the Prime Minister. The latter is the man upon whom we should, first and foremost, fasten the responsibility. If the work of a Department is more than one man can manage, then clearly he should have assistance, but in a matter where the Commonwealth had for the first time a large public work under course of construction, and the Ministry was going to depart from the settled policy of its predecessors, the Prime Minister, as the holder of the portfolio of Minister of Home Affairs, should have applied himself to the conditions applying to the contract right from the opening of negotiations to the acceptance of the offer, and to shirk that responsibility was unworthy of any man occupying that position. I am quite sure that no man of common sense would have permitted a condition of things whereby one person's offer is accepted on the ground that he has the plant, and that he alone can do the work, when even a few days' delay would have given the Department ample opportunity to ascertain, by wire, whether there were other persons willing to undertake the work. When this debate was resumed, the Minister of Defence, in reply to some statements made here - I think by Senator Gardiner on a motion for adjournment - said that we were casting aspersions or making insinuations of corruption against the Minister or the Department. He said it was a mean and cowardly thing to do. and that if we had any statements or charges to make we should make them openly, and not by way of innuendo. It is not a question of imputing corruption to the Minister or any particular individual, but a question of the contract system itself reeking with corruption; in fact, the system is inseparable from corruption.


Senator Oakes - It is only fair to Senator Millen to say that his objections were to the side door, which implied corruption.


Senator RAE - I am perfectly fair to Senator Millen or any one else. I am not attempting to quote his words. That does not necessarily imply corruption.


Senator Oakes - That is the view which Senator Millen took of it.


Senator RAE - This Government, with all its desire to bespatter its opponents with mud, did not dare to put in the opening Speech any words that imputed actual corruption to the Labour party, but they put in the words " favoritism " and ' ' side door ' ' methods of doing things can be classed as favouritism as well as corruption. It is just as fair to assume that contracts, like kissing, went by favour as to say or impute that there was any actual corruption. My desire is not to haggle about the mere words which were used, but to point out that the system itself reeks with corruption, and that corruption is inseparable from it. I do not mean that every contractor necessarily need be corrupt, but sometimes there is a contract which lends itself to corruption, and so long as human nature remains as it is there is an extreme probability that at some period or other corruption will creep in, and very often at several periods during a contract. The contract itself, especially if no tenders are called, may or may not be influenced by corrupt motives, but certainly in carrying it out we find in every State that the contract system bristles with instances of corruption, particularly where there is concrete work to be done. Unless some one whose character is beyond suspicion is watching, there is nearly always more than the prescribed quantity of sand used. Work of a slipshod character is performed where it can be covered up during the absence of the inspectors, and even when you get the best possible system of inspection, some of the inspectors are suspiciously open to influence. There is always that liability. When we hear comparisons made between the contract system and the day-labour system the apologists for the former never add the huge cost of supervision. I recollect when most of the material used in railway construction in New South Wales was manufactured in England or America, and imported. We had to maintain in London an engineer at a very high salary, together with working expenses. Then his fare to and from the State had to be paid; his high salary to be provided, and special expert assistance had to be employed. All this expenditure had to be incurred to supervise the quality of the material which was imported for the construction of public works, and when the material was being put together other supervisors had to be employed to watch the public interests. The contract was not charged with the enormous cost of supervision, which should be rightly charged to it. In spite of these heavy charges corruption creeps in, and " crook " work is done time after time. In New South Wales the work in telephone tunnels and in bridges has been proved to be unsafe and rotten to the core, owing to the rascality of many of the contractors. I remember bringing before the Legislative Assembly the case of a traffic bridge constructed over the Murrumbidgee River, where the contractor put at one end dummy bolt-heads when he had to put bolts through stringers and girders crossing each other. It was an awkward position in which to bore holes. The use of bolts was absolutely essential to the safety of the bridge in heavy floods, when huge masses of timber used to come down the river ; but the contractor, simply because of the difficulty of getting into an awkward place and boring holes from 3 feet to 4 feet deep, put in little holes 3 inches deep at one end and dummy bolts, with a head 3 inches or 4 inches long, at the other end.


Senator McColl - Did not the State Government have clerks of works in those days?


Senator RAE - Yes, but, as the honorable senator knows, these persons are sometimes absent when they should be present.


Senator McColl - A good one would not be absent.


Senator RAE - Sometimes they are squared. The honorable senator knows, unfortunately, that he cannot be deadsure that he is getting honest men to supervise these works. One of the greatest disadvantages of the contract system is that, after paying good prices for the work and good salaries for the supervision, we find that, after all, the public have been robbed. I have cited a case where some scores of bolts were not put in. I brought the matter before Parliament when it was found out, and the contractor was compelled to replace the short bolts, but he was not prosecuted, when it would have been quite a fair thing to give him imprisonment for life, or a little more, for endangering' the public safety. He was allowed to go on taking contracts for the Government. I do not wish to prolong this debate to any great length, but I recommend that we should show our opinion of this Government and its socalled Governor-General's Speech, if I may be permitted to so describe it. I contend that the Government has not shown any reasons why it should longer remain in existence. There is no other instance on record where a Government has attempted to hang on by the skin of its teeth, just by the mere casting vote of the Speaker. In the case of the State Parliament in by-gone years, when the old parties could always rely upon having the second Chamber with them, no Government with the slightest vestige of self-respect ever accepted the Speaker's vote in its favour as anything more than an act of courtesy, as it were, and retained office for only a day or two until the Premier had time to interviewthe Governor, and either hand in his resignation, or ask for a dissolution. The idea of a Government holding on by the mere casting vote of the presiding officer in one House when it is in such an enormous minority in the other, is, I suppose, without parallel in the history of representative government in any part of the world. We have a Constitution that is unique in one or two respects, but to pretend that the system known to all British countries as responsible government is in active operation here, when in one House the Opposition has twenty-nine members against seven Government supporters, and in the other House the Government is just holding on by the Speaker's vote, and a temporary accident or illness may at any time put the Government in a minority, is a scandalous condition of affairs to permit. When Ministers' talk about dragging us to the country, I ask, Would it not be a fair thing for the GovernorGeneral, if such a request were made to him, to say, " Mr. Cook, before you say that you come to me with the people's mandate, and that the Senate is obstructing the will of the Australian people, would it not be advisable for you to go back to the people with your own House,' -and see whether your claim is justified? Would it not be a correct thing for you to see whether the popularly elected Chamber does support your party or the party in opposition to you ?" The fact that the Labour party has really more members in the present Parliament - that is, taking the two Houses together - than it had in the last Parliament, is clear proof, if any were needed, that the electors, while - through . those accidents which befall elections - giving a nominal majority to one party, in reality cast a vast majority of their votes in favour of the Labour party. It is, therefore, for the party who "pinched in " by a mere accident to go back and see whether they have the indorsement of the people. It is for this accidental Ministry to see whether the people really favour them as they so loudly boast through the press, or whether, on the other hand, the people, having been caught napping, as it were, and having found out their mistake, will on the next opportunity be only too glad to put Labour back in office in the other House by a majority, which will have the assistance of a majority here which is beyond parallel in the history of this Federation ? I do not desire to detain honorable senators any longer, but as one who believes that the Government is, in the language of Senator Pearce, endeavouring to subvert the Constitution, and certainly has betrayed the public interest, I am going to test the feeling of honorable senators as to whether they will stand to the opinions they have expressed. I move as an amendment -

That the following paragraphs be added : -

(2)   Your Advisers deserve special condemnation for their gross favoritism and betrayal of the public interest in letting a costly contract for railway construction without providing the safeguard of public competition.

(3)   Furthermore, your Advisers' constant efforts to coerce the Senate, which, being elected on the widest possible basis, is the constitutional guardian of the people's liberties, into abject submission to their will is an attempt to subvert the Constitution, and thereby imperil the harmony existing between the various Statesof the Commonwealth, and is deserving of the severest censure.

The Constitution was designedly framed to give the smaller States the protection which they deemed necessary to prevent them being dominated by the larger ones. I supported the contention asserted at the time the Constitution was submitted to the people of New South Wales that the Senate was unnecessary in the form proposed, and that a democratic Chamber elected by adult suffrage would give a square deal to every citizen, no matter in what part of the country he resided. In common with the whole of the party in my own State, I opposed the acceptance of the Constitution on the lines which were ultimately adopted. But I contend that the Constitution having been adopted on those lines, and in view of the fact that, rightly or wrongly, the smaller States refused practically to enter the Federation unless the concession of equal representation in the Senate was made to them, we have a right now to be loyal to the principles embodied in that constitutional agreement. We should not, as the Attorney-General suggests, endeavour to get behind the Constitution because it is not easy to amend it. We should try whether we cannot carry on our work under existing conditions, rather than by a side wind subvert the provisions which were designedly introduced into the Constitution for the protection of the smaller States. We know that on the present basis of representation, New South Wales and Victoria have together forty-eight representatives in another place, whilst the other four States have together only twenty-seven representatives. It is in consequence of this that the smallerStates believe that their real safeguard against the domination of an arbitrary majority representing the larger States is their equal representation in the Senate. Whether, from a theoretical or academic stand-point, equal representation of the States in the Senate he right or wrong, it is our bounden duty, having been elected to uphold the Constitution, and sworn in as members of the Senate, to administer it as we find it. Every one of us should resent in the strongest possible manner the attempt being openly made by the Government to subvert the Constitution for their petty, paltry ends.


Senator McColl - I think that is very far-fetched.


Senator RAE - I am surprised that Senator McColl should treat the subject so lightly . Is it not a fact that in a series of addresses delivered by the AttorneyGeneral, that honorable gentleman has stated in effect - I do not pretend to give his exact words - that as the Constitution provides for the equal representation of the States in the Senate, and that cannot be altered without the consent of each of the States, it is practically impossible to go about the work of altering the Constitution of the Senate in the way he would desire, and the next best thing to do is to attempt to deprive it of the power it at present possesses of vetoing legislation carried in another place.


Senator McColl - The AttorneyGeneral never said anything like that.


Senator Lynch - The Treasurer gave expression to the same opinions.


Senator RAE - Yes, to exactly the same opinions; though they may not have been expressed in exactly the words I have used. Mr. Irvine's whole argument was, in plain English, that the Senate must be crippled. He could not, as a representative of one of the larger States, find any immediate method of depriving the smaller States of their equal representation in this Chamber, and the next best thing, in his opinion, was to cripple the Senate by depriving it of the power of vetoing legislation carried by the other House.


Senator McColl - No.


Senator RAE - That is absolutely and precisely the meaning of what the AttorneyGeneral has said. I put it to any member of the Senate to say whether the Attorney-General's words are capable of any other construction. The whole purpose of his address was to put forward that idea. The attempt that is being made to bring about a double dissolution is based upon exactly the same idea that for purely party purposes the Senate must bend to the will of the Government or suffer penalties.


Senator McColl - The Senate must be made more truly representative. Senator Pearce admitted last week that more votes were cast at the last election for Liberal candidates for the Senate than for Labour candidates.


Senator O'Keefe - Does the honorable senator agree with Mr. Irvine's idea to do away with the equal representation of the States in the Senate?


Senator McColl - Absolutely no. I am a strong and thorough Federalist. I only, of course, express my own opinion.


Senator RAE - Senator McDougall and others of the Labour party have said that they would like to see the Senate abolished. They are no more in favour of it now than they were when the party started out in New South Wales in the campaign against it as then proposed, and favoured a single Chamber. My contention is that, whatever we might have favoured then, once the Constitution was adopted it is our place, not necessarily to uphold it for ever, but certainly not to attempt by aside wind to subvert it. If any change should be effected, we should go upon the public platform and have the proposed change indorsed by the people by the election of men pledged to a certain course of action in the carrying of the necessary amendments of the Constitution through this Parliament. There should not be any method other than a constitutional method adopted to alter the Constitution. Surely it is a reasonable contention that", if the Constitution is defective, we should adopt constitutional means to amend it. The proposal of the Government is to undermine the Constitution and to make the Senate, not only absolutely helpless, but absolutely useless. It is better that the Senate should cease to exist than that it should continue if it is to be deprived of its powers. It will be only a useless and costly encumbrance if it is to remain nominally as it is, but liable to a penal dissolution on every occasion on which it thwarts the will of the governing party in another place. Honorable senators may fairly say, " Of what use will it be for us to oppose a measure if, three months later, it may be brought up again, and we may be sent to the country unless we then agree to it?" It would be a more courageous course to propose the abolition of the Senate altogether than to make it subject to a penal dissolution whenever it thwarts the will of the party in power in another place. The Government in this matter take up a ridiculous and untenable position.


Senator O'Keefe - The Ministerial party are not in power in another place.


Senator RAE - In the true sense of the expression they are not, but they are, nevertheless, the party in office. I contend that all that I have said on this subject is justified. There is clearly an attempt on the part of the Government to subvert the Constitution by indirect methods, because they lack the courage to propose to do it openly. The Ministerial party, like the Opposition, is composed of representatives from each of the States, and if the Government were to attempt openly to attack the principle of the equal representation of the States in the Senate, many of their followers would melt away from them at once. The party would be but a rope of sand that would not hold together for two minutes. The Government have consequently attempted by indirect methods to penalize the Senate rather than retire from a position which they hold in the most unconstitutional way. No other Government that has ever been in office in the Federal or the State Parliament has occupied such a position. With the precarious majority of the presiding officer in another place, and a majority of more than four to one against them in the Senate, the Government hold on to office, and plead with the people and with the new GovernorGeneral to support their claim to be. given a gambling chance of getting back to this Parliament with a working majority. It is the greatest absurdity in political' history, and is unprecedented in any other country of which I have read. I trust that we shall not in the Senate follow upon traditional and conventional lines which have become more or less rooted. I hope that we shall discard the suggestion that the Senate is merely an Upper House or House of Review, in the same sense as a Legislative Council in a State Parliament. The Senate has had definite functions assigned to it by a written Constitution. They are as clearly and unmistakably assigned to it as are the functions of the House of Representatives assigned to that Chamber. We have no business here to assume that the Senate occupies the position of a mere Upper House, and should back down the moment another place expresses a different opinion from that which may be expressed here. We have the right to speak on behalf of the States. We have been returned to the Senate upon a franchise which is not equalled by that of any other Federal Chamber in the world. We may claim to more truly represent the people than do honorable members in another place. They may be influenced by little cliques and coteries, whilst we have been returned by the mass vote of the whole of the people of the different States we represent. We can. in the circumstances, claim to be in a better position than are honorable members in another place to take a truly national view of these constitutional questions. We should assert the dignity and importance of the Senate or consent to its abolition altogether. We are not here on sufferance, by the grace of any Ministry,' or subject to any other legislative Chamber. The questions I have dealt with are only a few of those which might be discussed during this debate. I have preferred to leave other matters to be mentioned by those who have given special attention to them. I trust that my colleague, Senator Gardiner, will be able to throw some further light on the Teesdale Smith contract. He may be able to, supplement what I have said in connexion with matters with which I have not dealt thoroughly. If he gives the Senate the benefit of a resume of the notes he made, I think it vill be found that, as compared with mine, the two stories are like the Gospels, in that, while they may differ in the wording, they are substantially the same. I believe that the country will indorse the action of the Labour party in driving home the fact that lie Government of a party that made vague charges against their predecessors, and who hoisted the standard of immaculate purity, and were going to reform the whole of the departmental work of the Commonwealth, put everything on an ideal basis, and, above all, be business-like in their financial arrangements, have so bungled the first work of importance they undertook as to direct the attention of the whole of the people to their blunder. I trust that a happy outcome of the position will be that, in the future, during the time they will have control of the administrative offices, be it long or short, they will see that, if they persist in reverting to the old and discredited contract system, they must, at least, provide the public safeguard of open competition and the calling of tenders for every work.







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