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Wednesday, 20 May 1914


Senator SENIOR - The bulk of it was purchased after the contract was signed.


Senator GARDINER - The greater part of it was, and I can produce Mr. Smith himself as an authority for that statement. In one letter to the Department he tells Mr. Kelly that he had to purchase an additional sixty draught horses, making a total of 110 in all. Senator Millen, in making up the value of the plant, put down 150 draught horses, at £30 each. Mr. Smith said that when he commenced the contract he had only fifty draught horses, and purchased sixty more. What is the use of all this stirring up of dust? When Mi». Kelly or Senator Millen start to defend themselves they recall to my mind a story that was one of the smoke-room classics when I first entered the New South Wales Parliament. It was reported that when on one occasion Mr. Carruthers was dealing with a Land Bill, Sir Henry Parkes leant over to his old lieutenant, Mr. Brunker, and said, "Listen to Joe; he always reminds me of a mole scratching up so much dust that you cannot see where he is going." Whenever Senator Millen is dealing with anything in this House, he tries to scratch up so much dust that you cannot follow him, and the same thing may be said of Mr. Kelly.


Senator Stewart - They are like cuttlefish.


Senator GARDINER - Yes, they throw up the inky fluid in the hope that we will lose track of them. Mr. Smith commenced the contract »with fifty draught horses to work the water-carts, tip-drays, and scoops. I venture to say that there was not much more plant required. A lot of shovels were required, and that leads me to one of the reasons why I complain of contractors' methods, not only on that line, but on almost every other line. On that line especially I was credibly informed that every man who took a job from the contractor had to buy a shovel. One man, whose work was to drive a horse and dray, asked whether it was necessary for him to buy a shovel, but it was booked against him just the same.


Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - Did the men get the shovels at cost price?


Senator GARDINER - I do not know the price, but all of them had to buy shovels, and dozens of men were put off after working for but a brief time. One batch of fifty men, who signed on in Adelaide, went up there, and only three of them were still on the job when Senator Rae and I visited the spot. The rest of them had all bought their shovels, and had subsequently been put off. I would not like to say that the contractor's manager sold those shovels again to the next men who came along, because I do not know anything about it, but the contractor supplies the men with groceries and everything else. Let me give one little illustration of this. Walking across Lake Windabout, Senator Rae scooped up a handful of salt which was as white as the driven snow. We were telling the young fellow in the boarding-house about it, and he said it was a remarkable thing that while the salt was plentiful, the store was selling it at1d. a lb., but when a shower of rain came, and melted the salt on the dry lake, the price in the store immediately rose to 2d. per lb. That is not a big thing, but it is a straw that shows the way the wind blows. It is not fair to let the Australian workman be subjected to conditions of that kind. We do not want to get the last penny, as well as the last drop of sweat, out of him. We advocate day labour, because under that system the men give the Government a fair return for their wages, and get for themselves fair conditions. I have read the clause in the agreement where thecontract was broken. Now let honorable senators listen to this -

Telegram dated26th February, 1914.

Mr. TeesdaleSmith,

Marlborough Chambers,. Adelaide.

ReEngineer-in-Chief's letter to you, dated 7th instant,, which first came to my notice yesterday, desire inform you concluding paragraph written without my authority.

For Minister of Home Affairs.

This, although he had put the rubber stamp upon it ! We all know the howls that were raised by the other side when Mr. O'Malley refused to become a rubber stamp. The rubber stamp went on this, but the Minister now claims that he did not see what he was stamping. Apparently he did not read it. Are the Government going to let the rest ofthe contract go, and make the best of a bad job, because it is a bad job? Are they going to face a costly law suit, in which all the evidence will be on the side of the contractor ?' I do not know much about law, but I have an idea of what justice should be, and, if ever a man built up a case for a contractor, Mr. Kelly has left in the hands of Mr. Smith as perfect a case as could be made out to enable him to get, at any rate, good recompense for the extra plant that he purchased. One would almost thinkthat Senator

Millen was also trying to prove that Mr. Smith had an enormous plant. There was no occasion for him to make the statement about £11,000 worth of plant being there. The statement I made was that, at the time the contract was let, very little plant was required, and we have Mr. Smith's telegram saying that he had purchased only sixty additional horses. He also purchased forty additional camels, and yet Senator Millen piles all these recent purchases together to make out that Mr. Kelly's first statement - that the contract was let because the Government were in a hurry, and that, Mr. Smith had his plant waiting on the job - was true. Senator Senior has thoroughly settled the question about the plant being convenient. Mr. Timms had a much more suitable plant, but I am not going to say much about that, because I look on all contractors as being tarred with the same brush. It might be Mr. Smith this time, and Mr. Timms the next, or Mr. Timms this time, and Mr. Smith the next; but, if contracts are going to be let by Governments no better supervised than this contract has been, contractors can afford to, work together. To give another instance of the scratching up of dust to coyer their tracks, Mr. Kelly wrote a minute, on the 2nd May - when the debate was going on in the other House, and he wanted something to justify his action - to ascertain what 5 miles of this class of line had cost under Captain Saunders' supervision, as follows -

Department of Home Affairs.

Engineer-in-Chief.

With reference to my minute of the 16th March, 1914, asking for results of latest costing under Saunders' management for 5miles of similar country to that between 69½ miles to 92 miles, in connexion with which Mr. Teesdale Smith asked for and was refused by me a contract for earthworks, I would be glad if you would kindly advise me why the results in question have not been submitted to me. (Sgd.) W. H. KELLY.

2/5/14.

Why did Mr. Kelly ask for the result ofthe construction by Captain Saunders from the 69½-mile post ? Why did he not ask for it from the 65 or 75-mile post? There must have been some reason, and I think it is that at the 70-mile is the hardest cutting on the line. That may be only a coincidence, and I may be drawing an unfair conclusion when I say that he asked for particulars of that stretch of line because he had been informed that the most difficult cutting, in -eluding Teesdale Smith's contract and all the rest, was at the 70-mile post. Would he not have flaunted the figures before the House of Representatives if he had got them, and would not Senator Millen, in the clever way that he has of smothering everything over, have used them here with great effect? But they got no reply to that telegram, because there was no 5 miles of consecutive work that such a report could have been made on. Probably the difference in the figures would have been too startling to put before Parliament. The Government have appointed commissions on matters of far less importance than this. It is up to them now to appoint a commission to inquire into this contract, in the interests, not only of the Commonwealth, but of themselves. The Government have -another method of showing what is a fair contract. They asked their engineer for the cost of construction of the QueanbeyanCanberra line. This again is a -deliberate attempt to mislead both Parliament and the people. They quoted the actual figures of the cost of construction of the completed line from Queanbeyan to Canberra, and the estimated cost of construction of the Teesdale Smith earthworks. This is not a railway contract that has been let to Mr. Smith. It is a contract for only the flimsiest of earthworks. There is no permanent way. There are no rails or sleepers or ballast tin it. There are no bridges or culverts, Even the smallest culvert made with Monier pipes has to be put in by the Government. All that Smith has to do is to throw the earth over it. The Government gave the actual figures as £6,000 odd per mile for the Queanbeyan"Canberra railway, and say that as this line is estimated to cost the same per mile the contract cannot be such a bad one. Senator Rae and myself, in our desire for the truth, walked over the short distance of the QueanbeyanCanberra railway, and there can be ho comparison between the country that has been gone through there and the country where this contract has been let. On the Canberra line there are quite a number of really hard' cuttings. There is no really hard cutting from end to end of "Mr. Smith's contract. There is cutting after cutting in the Canberra contract where the plough could not be used, and where drilling and shooting had to be used to get the stone away. The line goes through hilly country, and we saw culvert after culvert. It is not a case of a few Monier pipes put down in country where there is comparatively, little rainfall, but big concrete and cement culverts in country where there is a heavy rainfall, to carry away the torrents that come down from the hills. There are four or five overhead bridges with steel girders and elaborately made earthworks leading up to them, and one bridge of 60 ft. or 70 ft. spanning a stream. There is nothing like this on the transcontinental railway. The cost of all this work is included in the £6,000 per mile of the Canberra contract, yet both .Senator Millen and Mr. Kelly used that line to justify the cost of the Teesdale Smith contract. Mr. Kelly actually published the Canberra figures in the official file to mislead people who did not know any better. He says, " These two lines cost about the same, and so this must be a fair deal." That is a deliberate attempt to mislead Parliament and the people. There can be no other reason for it. It is paltering with questions like this that raises a suspicion of corruption in the minds of the people. If a blunder has been made, the Australian public are sufficiently generous to forget it and forgive the blunder, but they will not forgive a Minister who attempts to justify his blunder by spreading false information and comparing railways where there is no proper or fair basis of comparison. I saw nothing on the' whole of the Teesdale Smith contract that, as regards hardness, compared with any cutting on the Canberra railway. Besides, on the Teesdale Smith - contract there are no culverts, embankments, and overhead bridges to be made. Now we get to the actual cost o'f the construction of railways. Senator Senior has quoted the cost of earthworks, which ran to less than £500 a mile in some cases. Many miles of railway lines have been constructed in Queeusland and other States, and the reports in respect of these lines show that the earthworks, the sleepers, the rails, the sidings, the signalboxes, and the railway stations .cost less per mile than the Commonwealth is paying for a little bit of earthwork on the transcontinental line. It has let a contract for a little more than 14 miles to Mr. Teesdale Smith at a cost of £41,600. We know from Mr. Kelly's statement that 3 miles and 57 chains, of the Hue cost less than £700. Therefore, there is a distance of nearly 11 miles costing £41,000, or about £3,700 per mile, but no sleepers have been put down, no rails, plates, and ballast have been laid, no platform or railway station has been built, no signal-box and apparatus have been fixed. Already the flimsiest piece of earthwork imaginable has cost £3,700 a mile.







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