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Thursday, 20 September 1906

Senator STYLES (Victoria) .- As a reason for the construction of this railway it has been contended that it would be very useful as a means of defence. The railways iri South Africa were useful, but it must not be forgotten that Lord Kitchener was obliged to keep an army of 55,000 men to protect the lines. I am not going to pit my opinion against that of Major-General Edwards, which was giver some fifteen or twenty years ago?

Senator Playford - Major-General Hutton has since expressed his opinion.

Senator STYLES - It appears to me that Western Australia is better able to take care of herself than . is any of the other States. When the last census was taken it was found that in the western State there were 70,000 able-bodied male adults between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, and I suppose that by this time the number has increased to 100,000, all able to bear arms. These men are the very pick of the eastern States. Thev were attracted to the west by the gold discoveries; and it will be seen that, so far as numbers are concerned, Western Australia needs no assistance from the eastern States. No land force that could reach Australia would be a match for the men of Western Australia, if the latter were drilled and taught to shoot straight and often. If it be said that a railway be required, it must be for the transport of munitions of war. My opinion is that the best defence for Western Australia would be a citizen soldiery and the fortification of Fremantle, so that an enemy could not get within shelling distance. It is really not a question of men, but of big guns; and 12-inch guns could not be transported from the east by rail in a few days, if they could be transported at all. If it were desired to transport war materiel bv land from Port Augusta to Fremantle, any enemy in. Australian waters would not attempt to land where we were prepared to meet him, but would possibly endeavour to obtain a footing at Eucla. It is proposed to build a jetty at Eucla, and connect it with the proposed line with 60 miles of a. branch railway. Such a jetty would have to be extended far into the water to permit of big ships to go alongside, seeing that it is intended to land tens of thousands of tons of railway material there. If so. any big ves- sels belonging to an enemy would also be able to go alongside; and nothing, it seems to me, would be easier than to destroy this so-called transcontinental railway.

Senator Playford - We would pull up the railway before the beggars arrived.

Senator STYLES - Is that a reason for building the railway ?

Senator Playford - I am referring to the short line of 60 miles.

Senator STYLES - Then I presume the idea would be to abandon Eucla after all the money had been spent on the jetty and the railway. One of the arguments in favour of this proposed railway from east to west is that it would cause settlement in the neighbourhood of Eucla.

Senator Walker - Why should we not fortify Eucla?

Senator STYLES - Fortify a place which is 400 or 500 miles from nowhere ! The suggestion that this line should be built for defence purposes is an extraordinary one. I am quite certain that it would be unnecessary to send to Western Australia, where the- cream of our male population reside, such men as Senator Walker, Senator Macfarlane, you, Mr. President, or myself, to do the fighting of Australia. In the event of a war, what would be wanted over there would be not men, but big guns. We have not the big guns, and even if we had, we should not send them to the gold-fields; we should mount them at Fremantle to keep the enemy at a respectable distance. When Sir John Forrest was Premier of Western Australia, a survey was made of the proposed line towards Esperance Bay, and the right honorable gentleman introduced a Bill to construct a section of it some 120 miles long to Norseman. The people of Esperance wished it to run to Norseman, but the Forrest Government declined to listen to their request, pointing out that such" a line would be completely isolated from the railway system of the State, and that consequently a large sum would have to be expended in constructing railway workshops on it, and producing all the necessary appurtenances. The same argument could be applied with still greater force to the proposal to construct a railway 1,100 miles long, with a line of different gauge at each end of it. The people of the eastern gold-fields will insist upon the construction of a railway to the nearest port - Esperance, 220 miles distance - which would render it unnecessary for them to travel to Fremantle, 387 miles away. The distance from Adelaide to Esperance by sea is only 840 miles. I remember reading an extract from a report by Mr. Pendleton, the Commissioner of Railways in South Australia, to the effect that a line to Esperance would take half the traffic from the railway now under consideration. Three of our most influential senators, the leader of the Government, the leader of the Opposition,, and you, Mr. President - all South Australians - are willing that this survey should be. made at the expense of the Commonwealth; but are not willing that South Australia should contribute to the cost of that railway.

The PRESIDENT - I have not said anything of the sort.

Senator STYLES - I was under the impression that you were willing, Mr. President, to allow this survey to be made by the Commonwealth, but would object to South Australia joining with Western Australia in constructing the line.

The PRESIDENT - I do not say that the honorable member is right or wrong.

Senator STYLES - The leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Government in thg Senate have certainly declared their intention to oppose the construction of the railway.

Senator Playford - I have not.

Senator STYLES - They know that if it were constructed all hope of building a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek - the only truly transcontinental railway - for the next twenty-five years would disappear. Another point is that South Australia is expending £500,000 in building a dock at Port Adelaide to accommodate the large mail steamers, although, if this line be constructed, thev will never call there. The people of Adelaide might, from the top of Mount Lofty, occasionally see the smoke from the funnels of one of those vessels fiftv or sixty miles away ; thev would certainly see nothing more of it. I am inclined to think, Mr. President, that you know something about the country along the route of the proposed line, and would not be prepared to take up land there for pastoral or agricultural purposes. I am sure that Senator Walker, as an old banker, would not think of putting even 5s. into such an investment. We have been told bv Senator Mulcahv that this line would develop Western Australia. If a valuable gold mine were discovered along the line of route, it certainly would not be handed over to the Commonwealth. Western Australia is going to send out a party of prospectors with our survey party - which is to take care of them - so that she may seek discoveries calculated to increase her wealth. The boast is that Western Australia, per unit of population, is the richest country in the world, whilst Tasmania is one of the poorest amongst new countries. Yet this State, which Sir John Forrest claims Kas raised 300 or 400 tons of gold, is asking Tasmania to pay nearly as much towards the cost of this survey as she is prepared to pay herself. Dives begging from Lazarus is how the case presents itself to my mind. A couple of years ago one of the inducements held out to South Australians was that the line would be a splendid thing for their State, as by means of it she would be enabled to supply wheat, meat, and foodstuffs generally to the eastern gold-fields. We hear nothing about that now. What we hear now is that if this line is .made it will open up beautiful country for 200 miles east from Kalgoorlie, and sufficient in area not only to supply Kalgoorlie and the eastern gold-fields, but the whole of Western Australia with foodstuffs. If that be true, and I hope there is such good country there, why does not Western Australia construct this line herself, as Queensland has constructed the many lines built in that State for the development of the country. In Queensland there are a number of separate railway systems, and that is one reason why Queensland railways do not pay so well. Each system must have its own equipment in the way of workshops and staffs, and separate expenses of management. The separate management and equipment which would be required in connexion with the railway under discussen, would help to make it a non-paying line! because the expense of working it would be enormous. I do not know that it is necessary that I should say very much more on the subject, but I should like to rub the railway deficits in again. Whilst Western Australia cleared £250,000 in three years, and South Australia cleared £82,000 during the same period, the other four States, for the same three years, showed a deficit of £2,550,000. Queensland lost nearly £1,200,000 in that period with a population of about 500,000. Western Aus- tralia, with a population of some 250,000, having cleared £250,000 in three years, asks Queensland, who has been losing at the rate of nearly £1 per head per annum on her railways during the same period, to contribute 13 per cent, of the cost of this survey, and of the construction of the line, whilst she herself contributes, on a population basis, only per cent. But the case of Queensland, bad as it is, is not nearly so bad as is that of Tasmania. In that State they have a deficit of about £100,000 a year on their railways with a population of 170,000 or 180,000 people.

Senator Macfarlane - More.

Senator STYLES - Roughly, that is about the amount. It is somewhat difficult to trace it, because Tasmanians are carefully concealing it now, but during the two years ending 1904, I think it amounted to £260,000, and it is probable that the actual deficit on the railways of the State during the last three years amounted to something like £100,000 a year. That is an enormous loss. Victoria has about eight times the population of Tasmania, and I might ask honorable senators to imagine Victoria with a railway deficit of £800,000 a year. Proportionately New South Wales would have a deficit . of £900,000 or £1,000,000 a year, and if the States referred to showed deficits to the extent indicated we should hear a lot about it. During the past few years owing to a few good seasons our railways in Victoria have been paying interest and working expenses, but the people of this State have paid out of their own pockets no less a sum than £7,000,000 to meet constantly recurring railway deficits. They are now being asked to put their hands into their pockets to construct a railway which no one believes will pay for at least a generation, and to contribute 30 per cent, to meet the deficit, whatever it may be, on the working of the line, and it is bound to be something pretty stiff, whilst they are to have no voice in the working of the line. The business of the four eastern States in this matter is to do the paying, and look pleasant while the railway is worked for the advantage of one particular State. I tell the people of South Australia that it will be a positive injury rather than an advantage to their State. The people of the four eastern States have spent between £15,000,000 and £20,000,000 to wipe off railway deficits, and they are asked to construct a line - that is what it really amounts to - which every one expects will entail a loss of probably not less than £100,000 a year. It is a monstrous proposition.

Senator McGregor - The proposition has not come to that yet.

Senator STYLES - No, but it is coming to that. I could understand an honorable senator saying, " I shall support the survey, and if the report of the surveyors is satisfactory, I shall support the building of the railway, but I cannot understand ' any one saying that, however adverse the result of the survey may be, he will vote for the railway. If I were satisfied that this railway would be a paying concern, which would meet expenses and interest on construction, I should not see so much objection to the proposal if the Commonwealth were given a sufficient area of the territory through which the line will pass. If the construction of the line were handed over to a body of capitalists they would probably demand a strip of territory 100 miles wide. In this case the people of one State, Western Australia, have offered to reserve - for themselves - a strip of land 25 miles wide on either side of the line for a distance of 475 miles out of the total distance of 1,100 miles. It is agreed that it would be a good thing to construct the real transcontinental railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, but we attach as a condition to that that we shall receive 500,000 square miles of country in the Northern Territory. I should be prepared to vote for that to-morrow, and if that line were constructed the mails would be delivered at Adelaide eight days earlier than by the railway here proposed. Suppose that by going from Adelaide to Fremantle by this railway a day could be saved. Of course, we know that in a few years, before it could be constructed, even if a route were surveyed to-morrow, we shall have large turbine steamers which will travel at .'the rate of 20 miles per hour. They would do the journey in as short a time as could a railway train, because the distance between those ports is so much less by sea than by land. That I believe is inevitable. The revenue which has been calculated for the railway is based upon present fares. But do we not know perfectly well that if the line were constructed the shipping companies would bring down their fares, just as they have done along the eastern coast, by about one-half, and starve the line in that way? Furthermore, who would get off an ocean-going steamer at Fremantle and travel a distance of 1,750 miles by railway through what is, for a great part, a desert, when he could travel from Fremantle to Adelaide without a charge of one single sixpence? The fare for a first-class passenger from Fremantle to Adelaide would be about £9 or £10, because there is a difference of only 37 miles between the distance from Fremantle to Adelaide and the distance from Adelaide to Brisbane - to which the fare is £10. After crossing the ocean from 'the old country, no person would care to get out of the steamer and pay £10 for the sake of arriving at Adelaide ten hours earlier than he would do if he went by boat - unless, of course, he had a special reason for taking that step. It is not the first-class, but the second class passengers from whom the revenue of a railway is derived. The other day I mentioned that 73 per cent, of the passenger revenue from the railways in the United Kingdom is derived from thirdclass passengers, although the trains also carry first and second class passengers. But in Australia the great bulk of the passenger revenue is derived from the second-class. What second-class passenger, who was going to or returning from Europe, would pay the fare by the railway when he could travel by the steamer to or from either Melbourne or Sydney for the same price as he could travel to or from Fremantle? A man can join a boat at Sydney and pay no more for his fare to Europe than if he went on board at Fremantle. It is not likely that, except ia a few cases, the railway would be used by a man who was proceeding to or from the old country. Persons with plenty of money might travel in the cold weather, but not in the hot weather. Fancy a man being cooped up in a railway train for sixty hours in such weather as there must be along the route of the proposed railway ! Mr. O'Connor estimated that it would take sixty-one hours to cover the journey, and he has been quoted, rightly so, I think, as a very reliable authority. But. since then, Mr. Premier James has estimated that it would be covered in forty-four hours. Since Mr. O'Connor's estimate was prepared, it has been done by a steamer in seventy-five hours. Frequently it has been done in from eighty-three and ninety hours. Suppose that it would take sixty-one hours as Mr. O'Connor estimated, the saving on some trips, even with the present steamers, would be only from fourteen to fifteen hours. I am afraid that the Bill will pass, but I hopethat it will not. If I thought that by talking until this time to-morrow I could stop its passage, I would continue.

Senator Stewart - Keep going.

Senator STYLES - I have not the staying powers which my honorable friend possesses. I notice that all the representatives of Queensland have good staying powers.

Senator Pearce - Does the honorable senator want to talk out the Tariff?

Senator STYLES - Some representatives of Western Australia, including my honorable friend, are perfectly sincere in thinking that the railway', if constructed, would be a success. Senator Pearce has thought over the matter so much that he is also quite sincere in thinking that the. eastern States should do all the paying. I give him credit for being absolutely sincere in the matter. But he only takes a one-eyed sort of view. He seems to think that the eastern States should do all the paying and that Western Australia should reap all the benefit. He has looked at the proposal from one point of view for so long that he believes that it is the only one from which it should be viewed. He wonders why some persons in the eastern States take such extraordinary and crooked views of the matter. I believe him to be perfectly honest in his convictions, and he is just as wrong as he is honest, as he very often is.

Senator Pearce - My character will stand without the honorable senator's recommendation.

Senator STYLES - I do not want to be offensive to the honorable senator.

Senator Pearce - I am not dying for the honorable senator's recommendation.

Senator STYLES - I am sorry that the honorable senator should take that view of my remarks, because I am only saying what I believe. I should like. sir. to see you vote against the Bill ; but I do not suppose that you will.

SenatorPlayford. - The honorable senator ought not to appeal to the President.

Senator STYLES - Well, I shallappeal to the Minister.

Senator Playford - That will be quite right.

Senator STYLES - The honorable senator does not believe in this railway proposal any more than I do, and why should I not appeal to him? Time after time he has declared that he does not believe in it.

Senator Playford - No.

Senator STYLES - The honorable senator has said that he would vote for a survey, so that we could get further information -I suppose to enable us to still more disbelieve in it.

Senator Playford - No, to see whether its construction would be warranted or not.

Senator STYLES - If a survey would disclose that it would be a really good thing and Western Australia and South Australia would hand over to the Commonwealth a strip of country one hundred miles wide after the survey had been completed, I should vote for the proposal.

Senator Millen - Senator Playford has declared that unless the railway should go by a certain route, South Australia will not consent to its construction.

Senator STYLES - The Premier has also laid it down that South Australia must have a voice in determining the route and the gauge of the railway. If, after making a survey, it were proposed to take the direct route, because it might not suit the Commonwealth to go away northwards, the Government of South Australia would say, " If you do not run the railway by Tarcoola, so that we can take our people to and from Port Augusta, a distance of some 400 miles, we shall not allow von to make it at all." In fact, they have already said as much as that. One argument which has been used has been that everv Government has brought forward this proposal. The reason why that has been done is because every Government has liked to secure) the support of the representatives of Western Australia. There could be no other reason for their action. Even if it meant that the Government would have to leave the Treasury benches, and give way to better men, who, I know, are available. I would vote against the proposal at this moment. I have such a strong feeling against this wild-cat proposal that I would not hesitate for a moment to cast my vote n gainst it, no matter what the result might be to this or any other Government. I have been looking forward to hearing a speech' from Senator Smith, who I notice has been very quiet about this railway during the last few days. But the representatives of Western Australia are so very sensitive, that I am afraid to refer by name to one of them. I thought I was doing a very nice thing just now, but I found I was on the wrong track, and therefore I shall not make any remarks of that character.

Senator Givens - The honorable senator got switched off at the wrong point.

Senator STYLES - I suppose that I was side-tracked.

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