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Thursday, 13 September 1906

Senator TURLEY (Queensland) . - I think that the amendment of Senator Givens is a perfectly legitimate one for the Committee to make. It has been forced upon us by an expression of opinion from the representatives of South Australia. The leader of the Senate has given us distinctly to understand that the Government of South Australia, must be first consulted regarding the question of route, and that otherwise they will not agree to anything. When he was introducing the Bill, he said, at page 2474. of Hansard -

I can quite understand that before the Parliament of South Australia would be prepared to agree to the building of the line they would require to be assured of two things - the route to be taken, and the gauge to be adopted for the railway. The route is a most important consideration for the State of South Australia, because if the line goes in one direction it will be of very little use to that State, whilst if it goes in another direction it will be of use. If the line does not traverse the mineral country in South Australia, it will not be of as much use to that State as it will be if it is taken by way of* Tarcoola, and thus opens up the mineral country.

Last year Senator Playford expressed exactly the same opinion. Speaking on the 7th August, 1905, he is reported, on page 1098 of Hansard, to have said -

The route proposed goes by Tarcoola. It goes a considerable distance inland, and for probably 300 miles from Port Augusta we should have a water supply. ... So far as that part of the country is concerned, there are catchment areas from which' we can secure a water supply. . . I am not arguing now in favour of any particular route.

Evidently/ according to the papers we have in our possession, more than one route has been proposed - but I am pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of the route proposed. It would then have to go through a large extent of sandy country.

The honorable senator went on to point out to the Senate that South Australia must be consulted with regard to the route We have heard a great deal about promises of all descriptions. Our attention has been directed to the correspondence between the Premier of Western Australia and different Premiers of South Australia regarding the survey of a route and the construction of the railway. One of the great arguments which have been adduced in favour of the Bill is that certain irresponsible persons have made definite promises, and that those promises have not been redeemed. The result is that the representatives of Western Australia say that they have 'a grievance against the other States of the Commonwealth because certain promises made yeans ago at public meetings in one place and another have not been carried out. In South Australia there is likely to be a difference of opinion regarding the route of the line. Is the Bill to provide that the survey must be carried out by the Tarcoola route or by the Gawler Range route, or By both routes, in order to satisfy the Minister? If so, I am convinced that a vote of £20,000 will not cover a tenth of the work which it is proposed to do. There were different views submitted to the Engineers-in-Chief before they made their first report. One of the nine points which were submitted to those gentlemen for consideration and report was " 4. The route recommended." In their report they say -

Alternative routes have been suggested, and we are at present not in a position to decide which is the better.

Here we have a number of engineers who, presumably, were furnished with all the available evidence; who visited South Australia, and took the opinions of officers in not only the ' Railway Department, but also the Lands Department, and other persons; and yet who reported, on the 12th March, 1903, that they were not then in a position to decide which was the better route. Will the leader of the Senate assert that it will not be possible for South Australia to say whether she will allow a survey to be made by the Gawler Range route, which is 60 miles shorter than the Tarcoola route? The Engineers-in-Chief go on to say -

On the one hand, it "nas been urged that, to induce the fullest passenger traffic, the shortest route should be selected, which is via the Gawler Range.

If there is one thing more than another that has been urged in the reports which have been submitted to us for our guidance, it has been the question of the passenger traffic which would be likely to go over the railway, if constructed. That will be a great consideration with the Parliament of South Australia in determining the question of route. If, as is stated in the report, the shortest route should be selected, which would induce the largest passenger traffic, in all probability South Australia will say, " Yes, we will allow the Commonwealth to make a survey which it cannot make without our consent, but it shall go in a certain direction, and in no other." We do not know whether the Premier of that State has ever consulted the members of his Parliament. Quite a number of its members, I take it, hold definite opinions regarding the routes of railways to be constructed in the State. I think that most of us have had sufficient parliamentary experience to know that after the terminal points of a proposed railway have been decided by a House of Parliament, the next question to be considered is the route. Some honorable members will contend that the railway should be taken in one way, while others with. perhaps, more or less knowledge of the country to be traversed, will declare that the railway would have a better chance of paying if it were taken by the route which they believed to be the best one to adopt. In their report, the Engineers-in-Chief continue -

On the other hand, the South Australian Government strongly advocate the Tarcoola route,

In view of the fact that the report was signed on the 12th March 1903, we cannot say whether the opinions of the majority of the members of the Parliament of South Australia have undergone a change or not. We do not know whether, even today, they are in favour of the route which the Engineers-in-Chief say has been most favorably considered by their Government, and this has, wc feel convinced, much to recommend it, not only because it appears to be the route favoured by one of the States most interested in this railway -

The Commonwealth' will have to obtain the consent of South Australia before the Minister can send his officers into the State to make a survey. Probably he will say, " Oh, we can send our officers along, and the Government of South Australia will not interfere with them." But if I do not make a mistake, when it was proposed to take a similar step in New South Wales in connexion with a site for the Federal Capital, we were told that the officers of the Commonwealth would have no right to go there to do the work without the consent of the State Parliament. That trouble has been going on for the past two years. If, in consonance with the terms of the Constitution, New South Wales declined to permit the Commonwealth to send officers into its territory totake surveys and report on what, in their opinion, would be the best site for a purpose which has to be carried out under the Constitution, then how much more is it necessary for the Commonwealth to ask the consent of a State to do something which the Constitution does not empower us to do without that consent ? In their report, the Engineers-in-Chief go on to say - but also because the adoption of such a route would probably result in bringing additional local traffic, which would help to make the whole line a profitable undertaking.

The report, I repeat, was signed on the 1 2th March, 1903. As you, sir, are aware, many times a railway has been projected between two points, and has not been carried out, but after a lapse of time a railway has been projected between the same points, but in a different direction, because the population has increased more rapidly in that direction than in the other. On, the route which was first proposed, the population has remained so stationary that there has not been the same possibility of its paying as there was a few years previously. Conditions have altogether altered as between the two propositions. We know that in this case there are alternative routes. The engineers go on to say -

Construction, cost, traffic, and working expenses will depend on the route chosen.

There is a large question to be considered not only by this Parliament, but by the South Australian Parliament, in the matter of route ; and I take it that when we ask the Government of South Australia, as this amendment proposes to do, to give its consent to a survey being made in South Australian territory, it will take into consideration which route should be selected. Naturally the South Australian Government will desire to secure for the railway as much traffic as can be obtained. Naturally, too, it will desire the line to be built at the lowest cost. The engineers proceed -

To settle the question, we recommend that the Gawler Range route be carefully inspected.

This route will be 40 miles shorter than that via Tarcoola, and being nearer the coast, a portion of the cost of the connecting link from Eucla would be saved.

I understand, from what I have been able to glean, that the country nearer the coast is much better than that via Tarcoola. If that be so, the coastal route is the one which the South Australian Government will in all probability favour. The engineers say -

For defence purposes we think that a distance of 10 miles would be sufficiently far inland for safety, having in view the physical characteristics of the coast.

I suppose that the engineers went along the coast and satisfied themselves that there would be sufficient protection. Surely, before the South Australian Government would consent to money being spent upon a survey via Tarcoola, it would take into consideration such a circumstance as that. It is not likely that South Australia would give the Federal Government a free hand. The Parliament of Western Australia has already passed a Bill giving the Commonwealth power to construct the line, select the route, and determine the gauge. We are not asking the South Australian Parliament to give us anything like the same freedom as has been given by Western Australia.

Senator Millen - But it is doubly necessary in the case of South Australia, because the length of her territory through which the line will pass is much greater.

Senator TURLEY - That is so; and from what I can glean from the Minister who introduced the Bill, the character of the country in South Australia is much worse.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Oh, no.

Senator Millen - It is a moot point whether it could be worse !

Senator TURLEY - Last year Senator Playford described it as nothing but rolling sand hills.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - In South Australia ?

Senator TURLEY - Yes.

Senator Playford - Nothing of the sort. I never described it as being of that character for the whole distance.

Senator TURLEY - I am not saying that.

Senator Playford - Then why does not the honorable senator qualify his statement ?

Senator TURLEY - Part of the country in South Australia is a great deal worse that that through which the line would pass in Western Australia. The engineers proceed -

We are, however, in favour of the more northerly route, as there can be little doubt that whatever the prospects of Tarcoola and Mount Dunstan may be, these districts must assist in bringing revenue to the railway. We have there, fore assumed the adoption of this route when making our estimate.

Although the engineers submitted alternative routes, they believed that the South Australian Government at that time approved of the route which they recommended. Subsequently, however, they submitted another report, which is rather more definite. They evidently considered that the South Australian Government was biased in favour of a particular route, and they asked for information with regard to it. In their next report, dated. 27 th July, 1903, they stated that some of the information that they required they were still lacking, one part of that information being with regard to the Gawler Range route. Thev said -

We understand that the Gawler Range route is regarded unfavorably by the South Australian Government, while the Tarcoola route is preferred owing to the prospect of probable further development of the district, and as best serving the traffic which will result.

For these reasons, they put on one side the further consideration of the Gawler Range route. Not that they had altogether abandoned the idea, but that they believed that the South Australian Government was inclined to favour the Tarcoola route. How can we form an opinion as to which route the South Australian Government is likely to favour with information like this before us? The engineers say -

For' these reasons we have put on one side the favorable consideration of the Gawler Range route, although it may prove to be 60 miles shorter, and presumably proportionately less costly.

So that we have the experts in the first place giving it as their opinion that the Gawler Range route was 40 miles shorter than that via Tarcoola, and two months afterwards we have them declaring that the Gawler Range route would probably be 60 miles shorter, and proportionately less costly. I submit that this is a matter for consideration by. the South Australian Government, in order that it may date definitely which it regards as the better route. I take it that the question of expense will be considered by South Australia. That State is likely to be influenced by the fact that shortening the railway by 60 miles will lessen the cost of construction, and reduce the working expenses. . We have been told that that railway will cost ^3 1 000 Per mile- To shorten the route by 60 miles would save nearly £200,000. South Australia is not, I suppose, a rich State, and would object to spend money unless it was likely to obtain a commensurate return. If the consent of Queensland had to be obtained for the construction of a line, the Parliament of that State would certainly take into consideration the cost to which it was pledging its people before the survey was allowed to be made. There are some people with very big ideas, who urge that we" should " think continentally " - who apparently would have lines all over Australia until the map assumed the aspect' of a spider's web. But that is a day-dream. We know that South Australia may decline to give the Commonwealth the necessary authority to carry out any such work. When this Bill was under discussion last year, Senator Croft read a letter written by Mr. John Gwynneth, an engineer on whose ' reputation a great deal was said by the representatives of Western Australia. Mr. Gwynneth in that letter stated that if the route he proposed, going south to the Gawler Ranges, via Fowler Bay and Eucla, were adopted, the work could be carried out for >C3> 700.000, and that the number of sleepers could be reduced by 2.000, and the quantity of ballast by 1,800 cubic yards, per mile. Is that not a consideration? I take it that all this, information will be before the South Australian Government and Parliament when the question of giving permission for the survey is under their consideration. It will be for South Australia to choose the route ; and the best nian would be for the Parliament of that State to set forth by Bill their desire in that respect, and at the same time to give permission for the survey. Only a limited amount of money is provided for the survey. and that amount will by no means be sufficient if two separate routes have to be examined for hundreds of miles in different directions. According to the opinion of men who may be regarded as competent, the sum mentioned in the Bill will not prove sufficient for even one survey ; and if two surveys have to be made the expense will be greatly increased. We have asked

South Australian representatives whether the necessary permission will be given by that State; and from all sides we have teen told, " Oh. yes ; the South Australian people are quite willing for the Commonwealth to spend £8,000 or , £10,000 in South Australia in making a survey, but are not prepared to give the Commonwealth power to do anything else." But is South Australia prepared to give even the power to make a survey ? No such power has been given to us yet; and if we refer to page1102 of Hansard of last year, we shall see that in the discussion on this Bill Senator Playford quoted the following telegram from Mr. Price, the Premier of South Australia, to the Prime Minister: -

We have no objection to survey Western Australian Railway but desire to be consulted as to the route -

That was the opinion of Mr. Price, but not the opinion of Parliament. What is the value of that assurance to the Federal Parliament? The telegram proceeds - it must be understood that this in no way binds us to ultimate approval of policy.

That telegram was unctuously quoted by the Minister of Defence; but what is its value? Have we not heard sufficient here about public men breaking their pledges? Have we not heard of numbers who have given pledges, and who have practically declined to carry them out, or, at any rate, have taken no further notice of them? We have had mentioned the names of halfadozen public men who are said to have induced by promises, since unfulfilled, the people of a State to enter Federation. In the face of all this; what is the value of that telegram from the Premier of South Australia? I contend that it is not worth the paper on which it is written, so far as any guarantee to the Federal Government is concerned. Even if such an undertaking or promise did hold good, it will be seen that as a condition, South Australia claims the right to decide the route. Various routes have been favoured by engineers on various grounds ; and. under all the circumstances, if ever there was a reasonable amendment, it is that now before us. We have no right to pass legislation when the Federal Government and Parliament may be flouted by a State Parliament and left in a helpless condition. I sincerely hope that honorable senators will pass the amendment, and thus make it imperative that the consent of South Australia shall be obtained to the survey.

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