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Tuesday, 28 November 1911

Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) . - I should regret to prolong the debate, but that it appears to me that some points in connexion with this matter have not been as fully developed as they might have been. I do not propose to discuss details of the weight of engines or the weight of rails, but I do think that the Senate should consider whether, as a matter of policy, this is a line which ought to be built. We know that the South Australian Parliament have passed a measure which restricts the Commonwealth Parliament to follow South Australian lines to a certain extent. So far Western Australia has not passed any such law, and I honestly believe that the people of that State are more anxious for the construction of this line than are the people of South Australia. To suggest that, as a matter of policy, the Commonwealth should build this line to develop Australia in the ordinary sense of the term, is to suggest that we should go beyond our duties under the Constitution. It is true that the Constitution lays it down that, with the consent of a State the Commonwealth' can build railways; but that undoubtedly means that we can build railways for the purpose of defence. If it could be shown that this railway is necessary for the. defence of Australia, it should be built, whatever sacrifices might have to be made to accomplish its construction. Let us consider the proposal from the point of view of defence. Lord Kitchener's report has several times been referred to as the best possible text from which the necessity for the construction of this line can be proved. I venture to say that nineteen out of every twenty Australians who read Lord Kitchener's report, particularly in relation to railway construction, have misunderstood it. He said in his report -

Railway construction, while developing the country, has resulted in lines of little use for defence, owing to different gauges and the lack of systematic interior connexion.

What does he mean by " interior connexion " ? He undoubtedly referred to the fact that we have been building lines all round Australia, where they might be easily seized by an enemy who could secure a landing, whilst the interior termini of our lines have not been connected. At the present time it is proposed to connect the interior railway termini in Queensland, and this applies also to some extent . to New South Wales and South Australia. We have built the circumference, so to speak, and the spokes inwards, but have never connected the spokes in the interior. That was what Lord Kitchener referred to in his report. We have the exterior connexion now from Adelaide to Rockhampton, in Queensland ; but it is the interior connexion of our railway termini that Lord Kitchener clearly referred to.

Senator McGregor - This is the commencement of the interior connexions.

Senator CHATAWAY - If the VicePresident of the Executive Council will consult the map which the Government have caused to be exhibited in this chamber, he will find that 250 miles of this railway will be within 72 miles of the coast, where it may be broken up by any force that is able to effect a landing and remain in the country for a day or two. Does the honorable senator call that interior connexion? If he had argued that Lord Kitchener's recommendation would cover a railway from

Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, I should say that that was reasonable; but this railway runs for a great part of the distance alongside the coast. It will be, to use Lord Kitchener's expression, for the benefit of the enemy, quite as much as the line from Melbourne to Sydney, or Sydney to Brisbane and Rockhampton.

Senator Lynch - How is an enemy to live in the country if it is the desert which it has been described?

Senator CHATAWAY - If Senator Lynch claims that this railway will run through a desert, I do not blame him.

Senator Lynch - I used no such foolish argument.

Senator CHATAWAY - Then why mention the desert at all? I am trying to discuss the matter from a perfectly serious stand-point. When the honorable senator makes an interjection, and I accept it, and apply it to the argument, he says that he did not mean what he said.

Senator Lynch - I was trying to reconcile the honorable senator's argument with' those of his colleagues, but I find that that is impossible.

Senator CHATAWAY - I am not my brother's keeper. I do not know what my colleagues may have said, and I do not particularly care. I take it that we are not supposed to follow each other in the discussion of a matter of this kind like sheep going through a gate. Are we to understand that this .Bill is to be made a party measure, pure and simple? I remind the Senate that it is not easy to reconcile some of the remarks which have been made by members of the party opposite. It seems to me that, by adopting the route proposed for this line, we shall not be complying with Lord Kitchener's recommendation to link up our interior con: nexions. It will not be admitted that I am right at any time, but the Minister of Defence, if he looks into the matter, and studies the secret information imparted to him by the higher Imperial officials, will recognise that Lord Kitchener objected to the construction of railways close to the coast where they might be cut by an enemy.

Senator Pearce - Lord Kitchener recommended this particular line. I read his recommendation.

Senator CHATAWAY - Then, curiously enough, it has been suppressed. It has not been made public.

Senator Pearce - I read it to the Senate. . '

Senator CHATAWAY - If he made that recommendation why does it not appear in his report?

Senator St Ledger - It was in an after-dinner speech; it was not official.

Senator Pearce - He was perfectly sober. The honorable senator does not mean to infer that he was not sober?

Senator CHATAWAY - That is a most unpleasant thing to have said of an eminent Imperial official.

Senator Pearce - I was answering Senator St. Ledger's remark that it was made in an after-dinner speech.

Senator CHATAWAY - I say that it is not in Lord Kitchener's official report, and, if I understood the Minister of Defence rightly, he said that it was in the official report.

Senator Pearce - No, I did not.

Senator CHATAWAY - It appears to have been left out of the expurgated and bowdlerized publication of Lord Kitchener's report. I believe the line should be taken very much further inland. It is an absolute source of danger to run our lines close to the coastline. So far as the defence of Western Australia is concerned the construction of this railway might be postponed for the next twenty years, or until Australia has a navy capable of defending her shores. We shall only need to put troops into Western Australia from the east, or bring troops from the west to to the east, when we have lost command of the sea.

Senator Needham - Would the honorable senator wait until we have lost command of the sea?

Senator CHATAWAY - The honorable senator should know that it is impossible to construct railway lines in such a way as to meet an enemy attempting a landing at any possible place. I refer the honorable senator to a report on this matter made by Admiral Creswell in 1905 or 1906 to the Commonwealth Government. He points out how utterly impossible it is to imagine that we can handle troops on land in such a way that they will be able to meet an invading party wherever they may attempt to land. The question of gauge has been raised, and a good deal has been made of it. I notice that the fight has been in a most cheerful manner between Victoria and South Australia combined and New South Wales. Stephenson, the original inventor of railways, said that if he had not been making engines of a gauge of 4 ft.8¾ in., I think itwas, he would have liked to have had a line of a few inches wider gauge. That may be some consolation to our Victorian friends who have adopted the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge.

Senator Stewart - Did he not favour a 7 -ft. gauge?

Senator CHATAWAY - No, he favoured a few inches wider than 4 ft. in. But Stephenson has been very dead now for a long time, and conditions have altered since his time. I ask 'honorable senators to recollect that we are now being invited to pay for a gauge which will probably be out of all proportion to our requirements for many years to come. I have heard the mileage quoted of the railways which have been constructed in India, upon various gauges, and I hold in my hand a copy of the report of the Secretary of the Railway Department of Queensland, who has just returned from a visit to that country. As a matter of fact, he was called back rather hurriedly owing to the death of the Railways Commissioner of that State. His report is dated11th August of the present year. Whilst he was in India he made inquiries in all directions, and upon page 2 of his report he gives the mileage of the different gauges which have been laid down in that country up to 31st December, 1909. He says that on that date there were31,490 miles of railway open to traffic, and that the mileage of the different gauges was as follows: - 5 ft. 6 in., 16,309 miles; 3 ft.3¾ in., 13,323 miles; 2 ft. 6 in., 14,445 miles; 2 feet, 415 miles. It will be seen, therefore, that practically 48 per cent. of the whole mileage of railways in India has been constructed upon a gauge of less than 5 ft. 6 in. Further, there is not a single railway in that country built upon the gauge that it is proposed to adopt upon the line which forms the subject of this Bill. These figures relate to a country which possesses an enormous area, and in which the railways, although they did not pay a few years ago, are paying handsomely now. If honorable members wish to know something more about the railways of India, I would refer them to a volume of Lord Curzon's speeches. I have no desire to quote these at any length, but I wish to show how Lord Curzon, in his view of transcontinental lines, entertained the same view as Lord Kitchener. Amongst other things, he said -

We have to rivet tighter the bonds of steel that constitute our land defences, so that none may rashly force an entrance, and threaten the security or dissipate the slowly garnered prosperity of the people. We are in train to do this by the great scheme of military reorganization to which the present Commander-in-Chief in India is devoting his unique experience and authority, by a policy of friendly alliance and understanding with our neighbours on all our frontiers from Lhasa to Kabul, and by a better co-ordination of our military resources within our borders, both those which are under the Imperial Government and those which are supplied by our loyal coadjutors the Native States.

That speech was made on 28th July, 1904. Here is another quotation from the same authority, in which he puts the other side of the picture by pointing out that although railways may be built primarily for defence purposes they must also be constructed with a view to make them profitable to the people who use them.

I regard railways as a blessing to this country as a whole, and as the most unifying agency that exists in India. Indeed, I would like to go farther, and to free railway policy and finance. from many of the shackles by which it is now hampered. Almost ever since I came here I have been examining this question, and we have been trying, by discussion amongst ourselves and with the Secretary of State, whether we cannot do what the Hon. Mr. Ashton has urged us to do, namely, find some means of separating railway finance from general finance, or for putting productive railways which pay more than the interest charges on their capital into a category apart from precarious or unremunerative concerns.

With a view to giving effect to that policy, in his seventh Budget speech he said -

It eventually converted annual deficits into an assured surplus that has reached this year the magnificent figure of ii millions sterling, and it .has handed over to the Railway Board a splendid property which it will rest with the latter to develop on commercial principles in the future. I have sometimes seen the present administration accused of centralizing tendencies. I have not time to argue that contention this afternoon.

In one of his final speeches before the Bombay Chamber of Commerce, Lord Curzon remarked-1 -

The highest total mileage hitherto recorded in any vice-royalty has been 3,0,28; in mine ive have laid 6,no miles, bringing up the total mileage in India to 28,150, and I believe and hope that these figures will be exceeded by my successors.

The figures supplied by the Secretary of the Railway Department of Queensland, which I have already quoted, show that they have been exceeded. Let me also remind honorable senators of what Foster Fraser said in reference to the Siberian railway. He declared that, while the Russian Government had found it necessary to duplicate that line, they did not propose to widen the gauge. For military purposes they evidently consider that the gauge is all right. The only trouble with which they have to contend is that which we might experience if we endeavoured to convey troops for long distances over a single line. Otherwise there appears to be no ground for supposing that a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge would not meet all requirements. I ask honorable senators to divest their minds of the idea that a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge is the standard gauge, and to recollect that in Australia there is a greater mileage of lines on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge than there is upon any other. A similar remark is applicable to South. Africa. That gauge is recognised as the cheapest and best for pioneering purposes. Yet we are asked in this Bill to determine the gauge of the proposed transcontinental line. Assuming that we do so, what will happen? In the first place, Western Australia will have to widen the gauge of her line from Perth to Kalgoorlie, and also to widen the existing tunnels and culverts. South Australia, too, will have to convert her 5- ft. 3-in. gauge between Adelaide and the border to 4 ft. 8J in., whilst Victoria will be obliged to convert her line from the South Australian border to Melbourne, and from Melbourne to Albury. Then, unless New- South Wales will complete the north-west coast line within a reasonable time, Queensland will have to widen her line via the Little and Big Liverpool Ranges to Toowoomba, thence to Warwick, through the rough country to Wallangarra. That is to say, the whole of that length of railway will have to be converted from a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge. The tunnels and culverts will have to be enlarged before a train can reach Brisbane without a break of gauge.

Senator Blakey - The same objection will apply to any gauge.

Senator CHATAWAY - Not at all. It is far cheaper to convert broad lines to a narrower gauge than it is to convert them to a wider one. No honorable senator will deny that.

Senator Pearce - Does the honorable senator advocate the adoption of a 3-ft. 6- in. gauge upon the main trunk lines to all the capitals?

Senator CHATAWAY - The Minister has not given any reason for building the proposed railway, except that it is necescary for the purposes of defence. No estimates have been made of the probable earnings of the line. It is said that the engineers have supplied an estimate. But what do they know of its probable earnings ? We want the opinion of some persons in authority. Before we finally decide upon a particular gauge this question should be carefully inquired into. Although the Commonwealth may construct the proposed line on a 4-ft.8½-in. gauge, it has no power to compel Victoria, South Australia, or Queensland to convert their exising main trunk lines to that gauge. As a matter of fact, Westtern Australia has promised to convert her line, but only in this morning's newspapers I read that the Premier of South Australia has said that though the Commonwealth may build this railway upon the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge, he has made up his mind to adhere to the old gauge.

Senator Henderson - He did not say that at all ; it is quite a mistake.

Senator CHATAWAY - Have the South Australian Government intimated that they will convert their main line if we construct the proposed railway upon the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge? Senator Henderson knows perfectly well that they have declared their intention of adhering to the existing gauge. Sub-clause 2 of clause 3 provides that - the construction of the line shall not be commenced until Western Australia and South Australia respectively have granted or agreed to grant to the satisfaction of the Minister such portion of Crown lands - and so forth. The preamble to the Bill says -

Whereas by an Act called the Northern Territory Surrender Act 1907 the State of South Australia has consented to authorize the construction - and so forth. In my humble opinion that is bad drafting. It looks as if the Act was passed by this Parliament instead of by the Parliament of South Australia. The passage should read, " Whereas by an Act passed by the South Australian Parliament called the Northern Territory Surrender Act 1907." Let us turn to the South Australian Act of 1907, and see what it provides. The Act, I may remark, was reserved for the signification of the Royal assent, and therefore it appears in the volume of Statutes for 1908. Amongst the provisions of this Act about which we hear nothing is one in Division II., under the heading " Incorporation." It is section11 -

With this part are incorporated the following Acts and the Acts amending same.

(1)   The Lands Clauses Consolidation Act (ex cept sections cxiv., cxv., cvi.,cvii..,cviii. thereof). (ii.) The Railway Clauses Consolidation Act (except sections lxxxi. to clviii. inclusive).

Then we have the following : - (iii.) The Railway Clauses Act 1876 (except sectionsxii., xiv., xv., and xvii.), but so that the said Act shall be read as applying to the railways to the construction of which the State hereby consents, and as if " the Commonwealth " were substitued for " the Commissioner of Railways " in the said Act.

I wonder whether any honorable senator has taken the trouble to look up the Railway Clauses Act of 1876? I doubt whether with the exception of myself, any one has done so. But what do we find in that Act? It appears from what I have read that sectionsxii., xiv., xv. and xvii. are left out, and that the rest of the Act is incorporated in this measure; which constitutes practically the terms upon which South Australia will allow us to build the railway. Now what does sectionxiii. - which, if we pass this Bill, becomes part of the Commonwealth law - say in reference to compensation to be paid for lands? It says -

The compensation to be paid by the said Commissioner - and for " Commissioner " read " Commonwealth." in respect of any land entered upon taken or injuriously affected, for the purposes or in the execution of any Act authorizing the construction of any line of railway shall, unless otherwise fixed by agreement, be computed in the following manner : -

(i)   With respect to land alienated from the Crown in fee simple, and granted before the passing of the Act authorizing the construction of the line of railway, in respect of which such lands shall be entered upon, taken, or injuriously affected, the compensation payable under " the Land Clauses Consolidation Act " and " the Railways Clauses Consolidation Act," but not exceeding what would have been payable if the value of such land had been assessed six months before the entering upon and the taking of the said land for the construction of the said last-mentioned line of railway.

The moment we pass this Bill that section will be embodied in the Commonwealth law. But what does this Bill say in clause 19? -

Any private lands may be acquired by the Commonwealth for the purposes of the railway under the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act 1906 -

Senator Pearce - That is " private lands."

Senator CHATAWAY - So it is under the. South Australian Act which I have quoted. Land held in fee simple is private land. Clearly a blunder has been made in the Bill which will have to be corrected. Clause 19 goes on - and the value of any lands acquired by compulsory process under that Act shall be assessed according to the value of the lands on the 19th day of September,1911.

Six months after that date gives 19th March, 1912. I do not suppose that the most enthusiastic of Ministers believes that this railway will be commenced, and that the Commonwealth will enter into possession of lands before 19th of next March.

Senator Pearce - We shall acquire the land before we enter into possession.

Senator CHATAWAY - But the moment the Commonwealth gets over that point, what is it to do? Under this Bill, the Commonwealth will have to pay landowners the price of their land as at six months before entering into possession.

Senator McGregor - That is only if we are buying land.

Senator CHATAWAY - I have been reading this clause backwards and forwards for hours, and if I can make anything of it at all-

Senator McGregor - The honorable senator is a little mixed.

Senator CHATAWAY - It is the Government who are mixed, not I.

Senator Millen - If it is only meant that the South Australian Government is to pay compensation on that basis, why is the South Australian Act of 1907 incorporated in this Bill?

Senator McGregor - It is not in the Commonwealth Bill ; it is only in the State Act.

Senator Millen - The State Act gives the only power which the Commonwealth Government has to move at all in the matter.

Senator CHATAWAY - The only power the Commonwealth Government has Ls expressed in the preamble, " whereas by an Act called the Northern Territory Surrender Act 1907."

Senator McGregor - The honorable senator is mixing up two Acts.

Senator CHATAWAY - Did not South Australia mix up the two?

Senator Givens - That was done at the instance of the Deakin Government, and it was a shameful piece of bargaining.

Senator CHATAWAY - Was it at the instance of the Deakin Government that the South Australian Government put into their Act that the Act of 1876 was to be incorporated ?

Senator Givens - The Deakin Government made the agreement under which that was done.

Senator CHATAWAY - There is nothing in the Act of 1907 which has anything to do with the Deakin agreement.

Senator Givens - It was all a matter of negotiation.

Senator Lynch - Does not the agreement govern the whole situation?

Senator McGregor - Certainly.

Senator CHATAWAY - This Bill says one thing, and yet the Government are acting under the authority of an Act of South Australia, which says something entirely different. The Vice-President of the Executive Council may laugh as much as he likes, but I am anxious that the Commonwealth should not be robbed for the benefit of the few people, whose lands will be enhanced in value because the Commonwealth is going to build a railway. It behoves the Government to look into this matter, and see that a blunder is not made ; or, if a blunder has been made, the sooner it is rectified the better. I also think that the Government should have brought before us some definite policy, or some statement as to what the railway is going to cost. We should have known something about the Department that is to control the construction of this, and other railways. I say frankly that if £[4,500,000, or whatever the sum may be, is to be handed over to the present Minister of Home Affairs, who usually manages the kite-flying business of the Government, it will be a matter of very great regret. We do not know what the expenditure will be, or anything else that is definite.

Senator Pearce - The Minister of Defence deals with aeroplanes !

Senator CHATAWAY - I was speaking not of aeroplanes, but of kite-flying ; and the kite-flying of this Government is the monopoly of the Minister of Home Affairs. I should be perfectly satisfied if I could be assured that the management of the building of this railway was to be in the hands of a common-sense man like the Minister of Defence. But it is certainly a matter for regret that a business matter of this kind, in which millions of pounds are involved, should be undertaken without Parliament being given so much as an indication as to what authority is to have the spending of the money. Parliament is entitled to have that information before it authorizes the expenditure. This is one of those slipshod pieces of business that has become common ever since 13th April, 1910.

Senator O'Keefe - The honorable senator has not forgotten that event.

Senator CHATAWAY - No ; I cannot forget it, because ever since the Government have been plundering Trust Funds, and doing all sorts of things that they should not have done. I am not asking anything unreasonable when I request that we shall be furnished with information of a detailed character. We, as representatives of the people, have to go back to our constituents, and. justify the taxation that will be laid upon them to carry out this work. We should be able to tell the people what the work will cost, and how it is to be carried out. As far as we can learn, the Commonwealth is to be pledged to something like £4,500,000 on building a railway close to the coast, where an enemy could smash it at any time, and through a desert where we shall probably have to keep a large staff of men employed to prevent the sand from hiding the railway after it is built.

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