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Tuesday, 16 December 1930

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - This proposal involves the country in the expenditure of a considerable sum of money. If we were to believe those who have constituted themselves prophets as to the causes of the existing depression in Australia, we should reject this bill. We have been told that one of the causes leading to the present awkward position of the Commonwealth is that we have borrowed too much money in the past, and that now, with a falling market, industry is overloaded with interest, charges. ' I do not believe that we have borrowed in excess of our ability to work in that loan money with our natural resources. An investigation reveals that our sister dominion, Canada, is similarly situated to Australia. The Commonwealth Y ear-Book informs us that the expenditure on our railways constitutes about 50 per cent, of our total indebtedness. The position in Canada is much the same, except that that dominion is very much better served with railways than is Australia. Whether we take a ' population or any other standard of comparison, we must admit that the position of Canada in this respect is incomparably better than is ours. If the prophets to whom I have referred are correct in their diagnosis, why have we not, as good results as Canada, in this respect, has to-day 1

I.   confess that the question is a difficult

One to answer. It may he because our railway systems are practically totally owned by the Government, whereas those of Canada are owned half by private enterprise and half by the Government. And why should that bring about poorer results in Australia than those obtained in Canada? The only answer is that the capital introduced and expended in this country by governments has not produced the same reward as that expended by private enterprise and governments in Canada. We must then ask ourselves, " Why, if the Canadian system is better than ours, should we not sell our railways?" As one who has supported the system of State-owned transport ever since I knew anything about the subject, I confess that unless a change is made to improve existing conditions, those who supported that method in the past will grow cold in their enthusiasm about a system which has produced such poor results in Australia. Freight and passenger rates on the Canadian railway systems are only one-third of those charged in Australia. Just imagine the enormous advantage enjoyed by the people of that country oh that account alone.

Senator Hoare - What is the difference in population?

Senator LYNCH - Comparatively, very little. There Avas a time, some 30 years ago, when the population of Australia was about the same as that of Canada, and when the area under wheat in this country was greater than that under wheat in Canada. Why should there be such a differentiation between the. two countries to-day] Australia is as good as, or better, than Canada.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - It is much better.

Senator LYNCH - I agree with Senator Colebatch. A comparison makes ii plain that Australia offers far better opportunities to a young man than doescither Canada or the United States of America. If noi too egotistical, I IiI e 11 tion the experience of my brother, lately a visitor to this country, who has been 48 years in the United States of America. When I asked him plainly, to tell me truly whether, after his experience in the new world, from Montreal to Mexico City; ii whs better than Australia, he said, " Do not leave this country".

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon W Kingsmill - Is the honorable senator leading up to the subject-matter of the bill?

Senator LYNCH - I am, sir. by pointing out that by building this railway we should be doing nothing wrong if it would only teach us the lesson of how to manage and control the money invested in this country to the best advantage, as has been done in the United States of, America and in Canada. There is no doubt that, if we accept the example of Canada, it will do that, and more. Comparatively, railway facilities in the United States of America are 800 times better than those offered in Australia.

Senator O'Halloran - Australia has more miles of railway per head of population than has any other country in the world.

Senator LYNCH - The honorable senator is under a misapprehension as he will see if he studies the information on page 295 of the Commonwealth YearBook. Australia is not so well served by railways as is Canada. The sister dominion can obtain money from Wallstreet at 4 per cent., but Australia cannot get within hundreds of miles of Wallstreet. Unless the money expended by the Government on railways in the future gives better results than in the past, the people will tire of such poor results from the expenditure of their money. Wheatgrowers in Canada can get their wheat to the seaboard for one-third of the cost to Australian wheat-growers. That is not because wages are lower or working conditions less favorable in Canada than in Australia. Why cannot the workers of Australia do as their fellow workers in Canada have done?

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon W Kingsmill - I ask the honorable senator to discuss the bill.

Senator LYNCH - The passing of this measure will assist the Commonwealth railways revenue to the extent of £6,000 per annum. On that ground alone the Senate should agree to it.

Every argument that was advanced both for and against the construction of the east-west railway could be advanced in the case of this further link in the chain that connects Western Australia with the eastern States. As the east-west railway has justified its construction, so will this railway prove of benefit to the country. The construction of the line proposed in this bill would remove two of the existing breaks of gauge, with a consequent reduction in expenditure.

When' the late Lord Kitchener was asked his opinion of the railway systems of Australia, he said that if an enemy were asked to advise as to the best railway system for this country, he would advocate a continuance of the policy pursued in the past - a system which ended nowhere, and did not provide for joining the eastern and western seaboards.. If we have regard to the safety of Australia, we must provide effective means of transporting troops from one part of the country to another. We should seize every opportunity to improve our railway systems from a defence point of view. The passing of this measure will assist in that direction. In view of the opinion expressed by the late Lord Kitchener, I fail to see how any soldier in this chamber can vote against this bill.

The relief of our unemployed, which the construction of this line would give is another argument in favour of the bill. I ask honorable senators to picture for themselves the plight of a man, with a wife and family dependent onhim, who has been unemployed for months and now approaches the Christmas season. I received a letter a day or two ago from a friend in Sydney, in which he stated that three of his sons had been out of work for six, nine and twelve months respectively. Their plight must be the plight of thousands of others in this country. It would be safe to say that over 100,000 able-bodied men in this country who desire work cannot find it. Why should not some of those men be given employment in constructing this line? I refer not to unemployable men; but to men who are willing, indeed, anxious, to work, but cannot obtain it. What would be the effect on the minds of these men of the rejection of this proposal by the Senate? If the proposal were for something of an unproductive nature, such as the painting of rails the shifting of sand, or the digging of holes and filling of them in again, the position would be different. But here is a proposal to construct a further link in the transAustralian railway ; a proposal, moreover, which will strengthen our country's defences, enable stock to be removed at a minimum of expense, and provide idle citizens with an opportunity to earn an honest shilling, and I see no reason why any honorable senator should vote against it. I shall vote for the bill on the grounds that I have mentioned, and also because I believe that in time the railway will pay for itself. Particularly in these times we should do everything possible to lighten the burden on the taxpayer. We should save every pound, indeed, every shilling that we can. Seeing that the Commonwealth railway revenue stands to benefit to the extent of £6,000 per annum from the construction of this line, I feel that the proposal before us should receive the unanimous approval of the Senate. I support the bill.

SenatorH. E. ELLIOTT (Victoria) [5.46J. - I cannot see my way to vote for this proposal, for I fail to see how this railway can be a payable proposition. Senator Lynch has suggested that from the point of view of defence alone the construction of this line is justified; but, in my opinion, it would add to our difficulties from the defence point of view. The line would follow the sea shore for many miles, and would be an open invitation to an enemy to land and destroy it.

Senator Daly - How would an enemy got into Spencer's Gulf to destroy it?

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