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Thursday, 25 June 1914

Senator GARDINER - Every effort has been made by the Government to cover up the magnitude of the real presents that were made to Mr. Teesdale Smith. As one excuse, they have said that there was a difficulty in regard to water supply. As a matter of fact, from Bellamy's Well to the beginning of the track there is a line of pipes; the water trickles out into the tanks, and is loaded on to the camels' backs. A water supply is ready to hand. There is a distance of 287 chains of surface formation, for which the contractor gets 45s. per chain ; that is a distance of a little more than 3½ miles. If the contractor gets, as he does get - I had the figures a little time ago - less than £700 for that distance, it means that the other 10 miles runs out at about £4,000 per mile. In attempting to blind the public to the real facts, the Government have dared to make a comparison between the finishedrailway to Yass-Canberra and the Teesdale Smith contract. No such comparison can be made. I have seen both lines, and I know that on the finished line from Queanbeyan to Canberra there is an overhead bridge, with steel girders, spanning a stream over 70 feet wide, whilst the Teesdale Smith contract is not for the making of a railway, but only for the loose earthworks. The culverts, even the small Monier pipe culverts, have to be put in by the Government. Mr. Teesdale Smith had merely to remove the loose earth in the cuttings, and run it out on the embankment, and yet the Government are comparing the price of the finished line at Yass-Canberra with the work done by Teesdale Smith, and are saying that it is a fair comparison.

The Queanbeyan-Canberra line passes through a number of hills with small, hard, blue granite-like cuttings, infinitely harder than any along the Teesdale Smith length of line. There is no work in the latter worth more than1s. or1s. 6d. per yard, yet the Government are paying 4s. 6d. per cutting and 2s. 6d. for embankments. Everybody knows that a yard from a cutting will make more than a yard on the embankment, and the result is that Teesdale Smith is getting nearly 8s. per yard for that earthwork. These are facts that ought to be kept before the public. Some people think that I should keep my mouth shut, because I am on the Committee; but, so far as any effective report is concerned, that Committee's investigation has been deliberately blocked by the Honorary Minister, who whines about his character having been impugned.

Senator Rae - And he took good care not to vindicate it.

Senator GARDINER - Before the date on which Mr. Fisher spoke on this matter this little notice was issued by Mr. Kelly to the Secretary of the Department -

In view of irregularities in connexion with the allocation of excavation and formation work to Mr. Teesdale Smith, a general instruction is hereby issued requiring all special contracts to be submitted for Ministerial approval before being forwarded to the contractor for signature. (Signed) W. H. Kelly.


What were these irregularities? What had been discovered that the public were not let into the know ? Are Ministers above Parliament and the people? The people pay the bill and find the money, and the Government have shown by their Estimates that they have not been making ends meet by about £100,000 a month since they have been in office. They are able to make a surplus to show the public, only by taking more than one and a half millions of the surplus given to them by the late Government when they left office. Yet they can afford to have irregularities in the Department, and to let contracts by which the contractor gets double and treble the price he ought to get, without even the safeguard of public tender. Is that a fair deal? The whole correspondence must convince one who reads it carefully that Mr. Kelly deliberately tried to mislead first the other House, and finally, as will be seen by the letter I am goingto read, himself. Here is a letter written to Mr. Henry Deane on the 22nd April -

You will remember that at the time my approval was sought on your recommendation of the 5th February last for the allotment of work between 92 and 106 miles from Port Augusta to Mr. Teesdale Smith I was informed by you that Mr. Teesdale Smith had the requisite plant immediately available to carry out his contract, and was, therefore, in 'a better position than any other contractor to do the work.

Since the meeting of the House, I have become aware of Mr. Joseph Timms' letter and telegram to you, both dated 24th January last, and your reply to him of the 28th idem, copies of which are attached. I would be glad if you would explain -

(1)   How it is that the above offers were not submitted to me when Mr. Teesdale Smith's offer was recommended to me for acceptance?

(2)   Why the correspondence in question, which had a material bearing upon the issues, was never sent to head office for Ministerial consideration ?

W.   H. Kelly,

For Minister for Home. Affairs.

What can be thought of a Minister who writes a public document of that kind, when in the same papers it is shown that Mr. Kelly, Mr. Hobler, and Mr. Chas. Timms, on behalf of his brother, discussed this matter on the 28th February. It is not only an attempt to deceive the people outside, but so far has it gone that it seems an attempt on the part of the Minister to deceive himself. He deliberately sits down, and writes a makebelieve letter to Mr. Deane as if altogether ignorant of the fact that the matter had been discussed by himself and the others in his own office, and that Mr. Hobler had been sent by him to fetch and produce papers in connexion with it. There is no doubt that at the time he wrote that letter Mr. Kelly was aware that Mr. Timms' offer had been turned down. Of course, Mr. Kelly may endeavour to put the whole blame on an officer who has retired, but I should like to see a system of parliamentary government in which the responsibility is taken by the Minister in charge. Nothing could be more despicable than that a Minister who is responsible, and can be punished by Parliament, should hide behind an officer who has left the Department. I spoke before of Mr. Deane's excuse of lack of memory, and that excuse may be perfectly genuine, for many a busy man may forget an important matter; but in the case of Mr. Kelly, his memory failed him to such an extent that, when he was questioned by Mr. Poynton in the House, he pretended to have no knowledge of what had occurred. The facts cannot be repeated too often, but I am deterred from saying more by the anxiety of the Government to conclude the business, and by the fact that there are other important matters that have to be considered apart from the Government. On 5th May, Mr. Kelly wrote as follows to the Engineer-in-Chief: -

With reference to my minute of 16th March, 1914, asking for results of latest costing under Saunders' management for 5 miles of similar country to that between 69$ 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.

I have been over this line; and I ask why the Minister picked on 69 \ miles? I suppose that most honorable senators, like the public, are innocent of the conditions there, and wonder why this was done; but the reason is plain, for 70 miles onward is the hardest and most difficult cutting on the railway up to date.

Senator Keating - Was not the work provided for to 69J miles?

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