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Friday, 16 April 1915

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - As far as the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in this Chamber is concerned, and I may couple with it the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in another place, the Government have very little to complain about. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition in this Chamber was admirable in tone, and I hope we will reciprocate the sentiments expressed in it. For my own part, I do not intend to raise any party feeling by anything I may say here on any occasion, and more particularly in times such as we are now passing through, when party interests should be subordinated to the national welfare. I hope, therefore, that the Opposition will endeavour to assist thB Government to put through the programme they have placed before the country, and by that means carry out the public business outlined in the programme. I feel quite sure that this can be done without any delay, and with a minimum of party strife. Before I proceed any further I would like to correct the false impression which Senator Millen received from an interjection I made whilst he was speaking. Senator Millen said that I interjected, " There is no party now." Well, I scarcely intended that to be taken literally, because I meant that in the Federal Parliament there were no parties now, so far as fiscalism is concerned, and I think that :s a correct summing up of the position at the present time. There are no Free

Traders in Australia nowadays, or, if there are, they are a very negligible quantity in public life, and their views are scarcely ever taken into account.

Senator O'Keefe - There are plenty of them, but they have got into the trenches.

Senator DE LARGIE - I observe that the Protectionist journal, the Age, refers to them as " Free Trade Protectionists." There is very little of the Free Trade element manifested in Australian politics to-day, and therefore when I was making reference to the absence of partyism, it was the fiscal question that I had in my mind more than anything else. I feel sure that any legislation brought forward in this Parliament, with the exception of Tariff legislation, will be emergency legislation arising in one way or another from conditions due to the war. As Senator Millen has agreed that that is the only kind of legislation we should now deal with, we ought to be a very happy family during the remainder of the session.

Senator O'Keefe - Everything depends on what is considered emergency legislation and legislation arising out of the war.

Senator DE LARGIE - I agree with Senator O'Keefe that there is room for difference of opinion as to what may be properly termed emergency legislation arising out of the war. I believe, for instance, that the necessity for again passing the referenda measures has been greatly accentuated by the conditions brought about by the war. The fact that this Federal Parliament should have the necessary constitutional power which it is the object of the referenda measures to secure for it is more apparent to-day than ever it was before, when we find that the State Governments, and amongst them Conservative Governments, have been compelled to make efforts to pass legislation which should be passed by this Parliament. If, therefore, we decide to carry out even the programme laid down by Senator Millen it will be necessary for us to pass those referenda measures during the present session. At the last election both parties were agreed as to the necessity for a really Protectionist Tariff, and members of the Government, as well as Opposition members of this Parliament, will be unfaithful to their election pledges if they do not see that a satisfactory Tariff is framed during the present session. I should like to refer briefly to a question which has been given some prominence during the recess, and that is as to whether there should be an Imperial Conference held during the present year. I think there was an understanding that such a conference should be held every four years, and if that be so the next is due about the month of May or June of this year. The last Imperial Conference was held in 1911 and the Conference previous to that in 1907. At both of those conferences resolutions were carried to the effect that if the Imperial Government and the Governments of the Overseas Dominions - Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand - desired to arrive at a common understanding, the proper method to adopt was to hold an Imperial Conference. If there ever was a time in the history of the Empire when there was need for the holding of such a conference it is surely at the present time. The Overseas Dominions have reached manhood. They have armies and navies of their own, at least, so far as Australia is concerned, and they have taken upon themselves all the functions and responsibilities of independent nations. If differences of opinion as to the proper course to be followed in the interests of the Empire exist they should be discussed at an Imperial Conference, which should be held this year. I am disappointed that the Imperial authorities have not taken steps for the holding of such a conference. We have been told that they have been in communication with the different Dominion Governments, and that the majority of them have not been in favour of the holding of such a conference at the present time. We all know that the Government of Australia are not of that opinion. Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand have taken up their share of the burden of the fighting that is going on, and I am at a loss to understand why they do not make some effort to come to a common understanding with the Imperial authorities. It should not be forgotten that when peace is declared the settlement may be brought about very suddenly, and so the views of the Governments of the Overseas Dominions should be known in advance to the Imperial authorities. Australia and South Africa have both taken territory from the enemy.

Senator Bakhap - And are going to keep it.

Senator DE LARGIE - I hope they are, but the honorable senator should remember that should a settlement of the war be brought about suddenly, it is possible that we may have very little say in the terms to be agreed upon, and we should have a say in matters affecting the part of the world in which we are directly interested. We have taken German territory in New Guinea and the Pacific, and we should have some understanding as to what is going to be done in the future.

Senator Bakhap - I think we had better beat the Germans first.

Senator DE LARGIE - We have acquired German territory already, and should a settlement be arrived at rapidly, the opinion of the people of Australia should be known, and the best way in which it can be made known is by consultation with the Imperial authorities at an Imperial conference. Many references have been made to the small amount of public expenditure since we last met. I believe that much of the money voted for public works might very well have been spent by this time on very urgent and necessary works. Though we are at war, all our people cannot be at the front. Some must be left behind to carry on the industries of the country. Many who desire to go to the front, because of age and physical limitations have been unable to do so. I hope that something will be done to extend the age limit, for instance, beyond the present limit of 40 years. Many men are at their best at 45 years of age, and if they went to the front, would be capable of giving a good account of themselves. It is, in my opinion, a mistake to prevent such men from actively participating in the war.

Senator Ready - Does the honorable senator suggest that we should accept those men before we have exhausted the supply of younger men?

Senator DE LARGIE - I certainly do. I do not think it is at all wise for us to exhaust the supply of young men. We have to consider the future of our race. We have to remember that the war is far from being finished. We have been fighting for the last seven or eight months, but we have not yet done very much. No doubt the British Navy has secured command of the seas, but the German Navy is still intact. We have yet a long way to go before Ave can claim that we are safe. We must destroy the German Navy first.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator should qualify his statement. It is not correct to say that the German Navy is still intact.

Senator DE LARGIE - So far as we know, the German Navy is pretty much in the position it occupied at the beginning of the Avar.

Senator Pearce - No; they have lost over 30 ships.

Senator DE LARGIE - And so have we lost ships. There is no denying the fact that we have not yet accounted for the German Navy, and it may give us a great deal of trouble. We have further to remember that the enemy is still in possession of practically the whole of Belgium. Their front extends from the English Channel, through Belgium and France, to the borders of Switzerland. A considerable portion of France and practically the whole of Belgium is under the control of the enemy. There is therefore still a big task ahead of us before the Germans are driven out of Belgium and France. If we can drive them out this year, we shall have done a magnificent summer's work. Even then Ave shall have only got the enemy into his own country, so that we still have a long way to go to end the fight we have begun. In view of this fact, the question of how we are going to find work for our people here forces itself upon us. Quite a number of suggestions have been made as to the kind of work that should be provided, and I hope the Government will be very careful that any work they undertake is such as will be beneficial to the country later on. I hope there will be no foolish squandering of money. Though it may be plentiful now, the time may come when it will be scarce. I should like to say a few words in support of the construction of defence or strategic railways mentioned in the document before us. Railways of this kind will be a pressing necessity for this country. It may be a long while before we have another war of the same proportions as the present, but still there is every necessity for us to keep a proper control of our own country so that we may be able to defend it. We do not want to go to the expense of providing a navy such as we have at present, because I think there will be an agreement among the nations for disarmament. If there is not disarmament, this war will have been waged in vain. I hope that the enormous expenses which the nations have borne up to almost the breaking-point, to provide armaments, will in the future be, to a considerable extent, obviated. One of the benefits which I hope Australia will secure is that of being able to do with a much less expensive navy than that we have already brought into being. Even if that comes about, we shall still have to face the necessity of providing for the land defence of the country. Our continent is removed a long way from the probable zone of danger, and what we may have to look to is defence by land forces. Australia will have, before many years, in proportion to population, the largest citizen army in the world, and the problem we have to consider is how to use that enormous body of trained troops to the best advantage for defence purposes.

Senator Bakhap - Take care that it is trained. The trouble at present is that it is not.

Senator DE LARGIE - I hope it will be. We are training our boys in the proper way now, and the instruction which is being given is such as any good average intelligent Australian can take advantage of.

Senator Bakhap - It takes months to make a trained soldier out of the men who are presenting themselves here.

Senator DE LARGIE - Those men have not passed through our cadet system.

Senator Bakhap - Many went to South Africa.

Senator Pearce - Fifty per cent, of them have had no previous experience.

Senator DE LARGIE - We cannot make a soldier out of a man who has had no training as quickly as we can out of a boy who has been trained under our present defence system. He would be a dull Australian who could not be turned into a good soldier in a few months after going through our system of training between the ages of fourteen and twentyfive - the most-impressionable years of a man's life. In England, at present, Kitchener is endeavouring to create an army of 2,000,000 men out of raw material in a few months. It is a dangerous experiment, but I suppose it must be undertaken. Many of the men when recruited did not even know the "goose" step, and knew nothing about military train ing of any kind. We in Australia have been wise enough in the past to see the danger of that sort of thing, and took the proper steps to prevent it. I hope that our Compulsory Training Act will save us from that dilemma, if ever we should be called upon to defend this country. Whilst, however, we may have an enormous trained army in proportion to the population, something more is required than men, ammunition, .and arms, because defence railways are just as necessary. Not very many years ago, the cry in Australia was not for strategic railways, but for armed men. According to General Hutton - perhaps one of the ablest soldiers we have had here - what we required then was troops. He gave his opinion with regard to the transcontinental railway. We had at that time no compulsory training, and practically no troops, and his view was that it was nonsense to talk of building a strategic railway from east to west when we had no troops to carry over it. The first step, he said, in a sound, commonsense way, was to find the troops, just as one must first catch, one's hare. " If an armed force invaded Western Australia," he said, "you people in the east might like to go and help your comrades there, and it would be a good idea to have a railway for the purpose, but you have no troops. Get your troops first, and build your railways afterwards." To-day we have the troops and a certain mileage of railways, but we are in such a hopeless tangle owing to the numerous breaks of gauge, that we could take a contingent to Western Australia by water nearly as quickly as we could by rail.

Senator Bakhap - So long as you have command of the sea that is the best way to take them.

Senator DE LARGIE - It is a slow, expensive, and dangerous method. The difficult point with the various armies of the world has always been that of taking them expeditiously over water.

Senator Guthrie - The British troops were taken from England to the Continent without an accident.

Senator DE LARGIE - True, but Britain's present position makes that possible. The greatest maritime Power in the world ought to be able to do it, considering that the distance is only about 21 miles.

Senator Pearce - They just had to hop over the channel.

Senator Guthrie - It was not a case of hopping over to South Africa.

Senator DE LARGIE - I would advise honorable senators not to mention the South African war, which was discreditable to us, and we should forget it as soon as possible.

Senator Shannon - Why?

Senator DE LARGIE - Because it was an unjust and unwarrantable war in the interests of the " gold- bugs " of the Rand, and because, also, of the insignificant forces opposed in that war to the greatest Empire in the world. The present break of gauge difficulty in Australia is such that any attempt to transport a considerable number of troops for any great distance would result in a state of hopeless confusion. The present position on the eastern front in Europe shows the value of strategic railways. Russia, so far as population is concerned, is the mightiest nation in Europe. When the war began we hoped that tie Russian army - variously estimated at from four to ten million men - would be the big steam-roller that would settle the thing right off. They were to be in Berlin before the Germans could possibly get back from the western front. Yet this enormous army has been kept at bay for eight months by a German army of 1,000,000, for Germany cannot have more than a million men on her eastern frontier according to the figures I have seen. The enormous Russian army has been held in check by the enemy owing to the advantage of the strategic railways of Prussia, which enabled Germany to shift large bodies of troops quickly from one point to the other.

Senator Bakhap - The distances there are very short compared with those of Australia. Germany is a very small country compared even with New South Wales.

Senator DE LARGIE - I admit that it is much easier for Germany to build strategic railways than it is for us, but that is no reason why we should ignore the question. It is one of the things we are here to consider. Whether we require the east-west railway or not for defence purposes we shall, at all events, require it for the carriage of our mails. If honorable senators will follow the procedure that will be adopted in transporting our mails from Western Australia to the Eastern

States when the present transcontinental line has been completed, they will realize what a very slow process would be the moving of troops over the same area under existing conditions. Upon the arrival of the English mail steamer at Fremantle, the mails will have to be transferred to the train, whence they will be carried a distance of 400 miles to Kalgoorlie. There it will become necessary to again transfer them from the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge of the transcontinental line. " Upon that line they will be carried 1,060 miles to Port Augusta, where they will once more be transferred to the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge which runs to Terowie, 120 miles distant. At Terowie, they will again have to be dumped on to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, on which they will be carried to Adelaide. From Port Augusta to Adelaide they will be proceeding direct south, instead of going east to the more populous portions of the Commonwealth. On the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge the New South Wales and Queensland mails will be carried another 500 miles further south to Melbourne, and then north to Albury, where ' they will again require to be dumped on to the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge, provided that they are then in a fit condition to withstand the transfer. Now, I take it that Sydney is the most central city in Australia, and I do not propose to pursue this phase of the question further, although I would point out that still another break of gauge occurs on the Queensland border.

Senator Shannon - The honorable senator" does not believe that Sydney is the most central city in Australia? Port Augusta is more central.

Senator DE LARGIE - Do you say Port Augusta is a city? Sydney is the most central city from my point of view, as it is also the most important. It will thus be seen that we shall have to transfer our mail matter no less than six times between the time of its arrival at Fremantle and the period of reaching its final destination. I wish also to point out that the distance which our mails would cover between Port Augusta and Sydney by the present route would aggregate 1,323 miles, whereas if they were taken direct, the distance traversed would be only about 800 miles. It will thus be seen that, if a standard - gauge railway such as is suggested by the

Prime Minister were constructed, a saving of more than 500 miles between these, two points would be effected. The distance which has to be covered in order to reach Brisbane by the present route is 2,046, and by the direct route 1,000.

Senator Guthrie - What would be the traffic from Western Australia to Brisbane}

Senator DE LARGIE - All the traffic would not originate in Western Australia. There is a considerable area between from which traffic would come.

Senator Guthrie - But we would not shift the area.

Senator Pearce - What is the traffic on the inland lines of New South Wales?

Senator DE LARGIE - The fact that, under existing conditions, when the transcontinental line is completed, our mails will travel double the mileage that is necessary should, surely, be a sufficient justification for pressing on with the proposed strategic railway. I have already demonstrated that there are good reasons why the Government should push forward that work at the earliest possible moment. We have the hands available with which to build the line, and there is no denying the fact that, if there is one matter more than another which should be considered by this Chamber it is the development of the interior of Australia. The building of railways, the sinking of bores in our artesian basins, and the construction of dams constitute the very best works into which we can put the taxpayers' money at the present time.

Senator Shannon - Then we ought first to extend the transcontinental line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges.

Senator DE LARGIE - I am quite prepared to help the honorable senator to secure that railway, because I recognise that it is one which ought to be built. But at the present moment I am urging the necessity which exists for constructing a strategic line which will enable us to make use of the east-west transcontinental line.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.

Senator DE LARGIE - I desire to make a passing reference to the Commonwealth Bank, and more particularly in connexion with the Australian note issue, which some persons declare has nothing whatever to do with the Commonwealth Bank. I scarcely think it is an accurate representation of the fact, because the

Commonwealth Bank business and the Australian note issue are simply two branches of the same undertaking. I hope that the day is not far off when the two branches will be worked from the Bank itself, instead of, as at present, one from the Treasury and the other from the Bank. The note issue, owing to its enormous increase in the last year or so, shows what benefit may be derived from a paper currency, especially at a time such as we are now passing through. On several occasions in the history of the world, wars have demonstrated the benefit of paper money. We know that gold has ever been of a timid nature. When times of trouble and strife have arisen, gold has very often disappeared, and countries have been left without the usual medium of circulation, and consequently times without number countries have been obliged to resort to a paper currency, and found it very awkward, indeed, to initiate and put it into operation. We in Australia have been more fortunate, in the fact that we had our machinery in operation before the war began. We have had some experience of a paper currency, and that experience undoubtedly has been for the good of the community. We have not had the slightest obstacle placed in the way of the circulation of our note issue. If it had fallen to our lot to bring in this great reform during a war, it is difficult indeed to say what might have happened, but it must be admitted that, so far, it has done a wonderful amount of good. I think it is safe to say that if the enormous funds handled by private banks were put in the balance on one side, and the amount of good done by the circulation of the Australian notes were put on the other side, it would be found that the greater service has been rendered by the circulation of the paper money. In addressing himself to this question, the Leader of the Opposition made, in my opinion, a very unfortunate remark. That kind of reference to the subject has become somewhat too frequent. It keeps us in mind of the fact that the introduction of the Australian note issue was a party measure, and apparently, our political opponents are determined to keep up their party attitude towards it. They opposed the note issue when it was brought into existence, and there has been opposi- tion to it more or less ever since that time. I think that they are an extremely foolish political party to maintain that attitude. They certainly cannot do the note issue a great deal of harm, but, politically speaking, it is bad business for them to go on decrying it in the way they are doing, because they will suffer a great deal more from so doing than the note issue will do. Remembering the backing in gold we have, against the amount of paper money in circulation, it is the height of absurdity for Senator Millen to say that the note issue is inflated. I recognise that the private banks at the present time are endeavouring to help the country, but when we consider the very small extent to which they are helping in proportion to their enormous wealth- j-

Senator Shannon - Ten millions?

Senator DE LARGIE - Ten millions the banks have promised, but only £3,000,000 has been used up to the present time. For these three millions of gold they have received notes worth 20s. in the pound of the same value. Having regard to their enormous wealth, the banks ought to be able to produce a great deal more than £10,000,000 at a time such as this. To talk about the banks demanding back 10,000,000 sovereigns, if we take their gold, at the end of the war, is, to my mind, a rather unpatriotic utterance. Perhaps that will be just the very time when we shall be least able to pay back the gold.

Senator Guy - And it would be very injurious to the banks if we did.

Senator DE LARGIE - It would be very harmful to the banks and to the business of the whole country. In September of last year the banks were credited with holding nearly £35,000,000 in gold, coin and bullion. Wow, to say that the banks would embarrass the Government or insist on a hard and fast agreement before they would do anything for the country which has made it possible for them to continue in business; to say that they would demand the gold at the close of the war, is, to my mind, to attribute to them what would not be a patriotic action, and I cannot even think that it would be good business for even the banks.

Senator Shannon - Who says that the banks are going to demand it back ?

Senator DE LARGIE - That is the agreement which the banks entered into with the Government.

Senator Shannon - That is the provision in the agreement, but there is no indication that the banks intend to make such a demand.

Senator DE LARGIE - For their own sakes I hope not. But even if the banks did demand the gold back, there are other ways in which wealthy institutions could be made to contribute their share to the Government of the country. For very many years in Canada the banks have been obliged to hold 40 per cent, of their reserves in notes. In all probability Australia will see its way to adopt that principle, and require the banks to contribute as much to the Government of the day as Canadian banks are required to contribute. In that way the Commonwealth would get some return for the protection which the taxpayers are called upon to provide in the shape of an army and navy. Instead of decrying the Australian note issue, and talking about it being inflated, I think that all parties should see that it is one of the finest financial innovations which have ever been introduced here. I have read a good deal of the history of banking, and I think that never before in the world's history was a greater success made of this medium of circulation than has been made in Australia. To throw cold water upon the note issue, or to decry it in any shape or form, and to say that it is inflated, is not only a misrepresentation of the facts, but a very unpatriotic action. Surely we do not want any panics to arise nor suspicion cast on our safe and sound financial position. We do not wish any doubt to be thrown upon the efforts of the Government at the present time. It is the patriotic duty of every man, especially of a man holding a high responsible position, such as that of leader of a party in Australian politics, to weigh his words very carefully before he gives utterance to a statement of that kind.

I desire to make a . further reference to the question of railways. Our first and greatest duty is to provide railways for the defence of Australia. In the past railways have been built by six different Governments, each looking at the proposal from a State stand-point, and the result has been that each State hae quite ignored the national interests.

Hence the necessity for this. Parliament to employ whatever money it has to spend during the war in making the Australian railway system as complete as we possibly can by linking State railways, by adopting a uniform gauge, and by every means in our power improving and developing the interior. Our desire is to promote the development of the interior. We are only beginning to realize what Australia is. Time was when it was regarded as mostly a desert, and when only a very small margin along the coast line was considered sufficiently fertile to maintain a population. But as settlement pushed backward and backward, this so-called mythical desert disappeared, becoming beautifully less all the time. It has been found that just as settlement has pressed backward the interior has been proven to be a great deal more fertile than many parts of the coast line. Take, for instance, the position of Western Australia. Fifteen years ago it waa considered that most of that State consisted of desert country, but we know that millions of acres of fertile wheat country have been put under the plough, and have produced splendid crops from that time on. I daresay that most parts of Australia will have a somewhat similar experience. I believe that much of the country through which it is proposed to build our strategical railway will be fit for wheat-growing. It will be a profitable proposition for us to build a railway through such country. It is not to be a mere defence railway. It will not only shorten the number of miles to be run from Port Augusta, if that is taken as a starting point, to such places as Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane, but it will actually add to the number of acres of wheat land under cultivation. It is the want of railways that restricts our wheat production more than the want of rain. There is no better purpose to which we could devote our cash than the development of country. I believe that we shall get a splendid return from the investment. When we have probably a greater number of unemployed than we aTe likely to have in normal times, now is the time for us to carry out this proposal, and develop the country, so that when peace is restored, Australia can contribute its volume of trade to the requirements of the times. If the present Government want to do something big, they will pro- ceed with the construction of defence railways, linking up the various lines from Port Augusta, going direct to New South Wales, running north to Brisbane, and undertaking to complete the work of the transcontinental line.

Senator Findley - Do you not think that they ought to complete the line through the Northern Territory before they talk about building any other railways?

Senator DE LARGIE - I would prefer one railway to be completed so that we could get some return. If we allow the different gauges to stand as they are; if we run a 4-ft. 8|-in. railway from Port Augusta, and then link it up with the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge in South Australia, and then back again to the 4-ft. 8^-in., and later run from that gauge on to a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, we should get no benefit or profit from it whatever. At the present time our transcontinental railways may be said to be running into a dead-end, because of the roundabout routes by which they reach terminal points in the various cities of Australia. Therefore, it is imperative to take in hand the proposal to continue the railway into New South Wales.

Senator Bakhap - And prosecute a war for two or three years as well ?

Senator DE LARGIE - It does not matter how long the war may go on. We have to find work for our people, and the most expensive and extravagant policy that we could adopt would be to allow our people, the manhood of Australia, to be idle.

Senator Bakhap - Is not the manhood of Australia capable of finding employment for itself ?

Senator DE LARGIE - The manhood of Australia, as represented by disorganized units, is unable to do anything for itself, but Australia as a whole, as a united body, can do almost anything, and so long as there is developmental work to be done in our country I maintain that the Australian Notes Act is sufficient to supply the wherewithal to provide the circulation through the veins of the body politic to keep it healthy and vigorous. Much of the land that, in the past, was considered useless for wheat production, is coming more and more into use in Western Australia. Though the drought was one of the worst in the history of my State, we have coun- try producing crops with a rainfall of 5 and 6 inches. This is due to the fact that the soils of the interior are of such a light, sandy nature that they are productive with a very light rainfall. Recently I was presented by the President of the Agricultural Bank in Western Australia with a sample of wheat grown on land with a rainfall of only 3 inches during the growing period. I make this statement on the authority of a man whose business it is to watch the production of the State closely, and I think the statement forecasts great possibilities as to what hitherto has been regarded as desert country. In the past we have been iri the habit of putting the cart before the horse, and instead of building railways first we have sent out the settlers to the backblocks, where they have either perished or abandoned their holdings because they have become tired of waiting for the railway. In this way land settlement has, to some extent, failed. Let us run our railways through these areas, and I have no doubt whatever that settlement will follow. Even if the railways do not quite pay for a little while, the development of the country is one of the duties that we cannot lose sight of. The interior of this country must be developed, and there is no better method of attaining this object than by building railways of the character I have referred to. I hope that the brief reference to strategic railways in the statement presented to the Senate is not indicative of the importance attached by the Government to the great question of railway construction. There is no undertaking of greater importance than the construction of these railways, and, therefore, I shall be very pleased indeed when a measure comes along to link up Port Augusta with New South Wales and Queensland, and other parts of Australia. In my own State there is a part of the transcontinental railway which will require to be altered to the standard gauge. This expenditure, however, will be exceedingly heavy for a State with a small population. Western Australia comprises about one-third of the total area of this great continent; - roughly speaking, about ] ,000,000 square miles - but it has a population of only 300,000 people, and it would be a big undertaking for the State to find £2,000,000 to alter the gauge of the existing railway to the standard fixed by the Commonwealth. I do not think those people should be called upon to pay for that work. It is surely a matter that the Federal Government could very well undertake, just as they are undertaking the construction of the strategic railway. I do not put forward this proposal for the _ benefit of my own State only. The whole of Australia will benefit by the project, and that being so, all parties should give their adhesion to it. If, as the outcome nf the present war, we are able to complete the railway scheme in Australia on the lines indicated the war will not have been fought in vain.

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