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Friday, 29 June 1906

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) . - I have practically nothing fresh to say upon this Bill, except that the Minister in charge of it has designated the construction of the proposed railway as a " national work." I have heard many definitions of a national work, but in Victoria such works have usually involved the State in a dead loss. Even the most ardent supporters of the Bill cannot find any justification for their action. It is strange indeed that the survey of a route should be proposed before the sanction of one of the States through which the line would pass has been obtained. I pointed out last session that the South Australian Government has refused point blank to assent to the construction of a railway through its territory until the route which it would follow has been determined.

Mr Carpenter - South Australia is willing that the survey should be undertaken.

Mr KENNEDY - Of course. That work would cost her nothing,. Similarly, Western Australia is willing to agree to the construction of the proposed railway, because it would cost her nothing.

Sir John Forrest - It would cost the people of that State just as much per head as it would the people of Victoria.

Mr KENNEDY - It would cost them as much per head, but in the sum total the amount they would contribute would be very small. The estimate of those who have been asked to report upon the proposed line is that its construction would involve an outlay of £5,000,000.

Sir John Forrest - Of about £3,700,000.

Mr KENNEDY - Of course, the opinion of the Treasurer is entitled to far more consideration than is that of the experts. I do not question that for a moment the report of the engineers to whom the matter was referred. It is signed by Mr. Deane, of New South Wales, Mr. Pagan, of Queensland, Mr. Moncrieff, of South Australia, Mr. Kernot, of Victoria, and Mr. Palmer, of Western Australia, who estimate the cost of construction at just a shade over £5,000,000.

Sir John Forrest - That is not the last report.

Mr KENNEDY - Of course it is not. As that estimate would alarm honorable members who were advocating the construction of the railway, the authorities wanted a lower estimate, in order to induce people to come in and give their support.

Sir John Forrest - Does the honorable member think this fair?

Mr KENNEDY - I should assume .that it is fair.

Sir John Forrest - What influence had we with the engineers? None at all. Did we try to exercise any influence?

Mr KENNEDY - I asked for the latest' information on the subject, and in reply I received this report, dated March, 1903.

Mr Groom - They went to look at the country themselves.

Mr KENNEDY - Who looked at the country ?

Mr Groom - Various engineers.

Mr KENNEDY - I suppose they have not returned yet.

Mr Groom - After seeing the land they reduced their estimate bv half -a-mil lion.

Mr KENNEDY - Allowing full credit to the engineers for that reduction, I think it must be admitted by all those who have taken an interest in large undertakings of this kind, that, generally speaking, the estimate of cost is exceeded bv the actual expenditure. My experience has been that in nearly every instance the estimate of the cost of a work involving a large expenditure has been exceeded. What I have been at a loss to understand is the fact that this socalled magnificent pastoral country, situated, as it is, within a reasonable distance of a market, and abutting on the seaboard, is practically unstocked to-day.

Sir John Forrest - Because there is no s u r water,

Mr KENNEDY - We are told that investigation has proved that there is a water supply. But what does it amount to ? After putting down a bore for over 2,000 feet, a supply of 70,000 gallons per day was obtained. Will any man in his right mind say that any stock-owner or person interested in stock would go out and stock country where there was a rainfall of less than 5 inches a year? Will any one say that country in which, after putting down a bore for over 2,000 feet, a supply of 70,000 gallons of brackish water per day is obtained is pastoral country ?

Mr Carpenter - It is fit for the purposes of stock.

Mr KENNEDY - Of course it is; but how much stock will Ite kept there?

Mr Fowler - What is the honorable member's authority for saying that the rainfall is less, than 5 inches a year ?

Mr KENNEDY - My authority is a map, and I presume that the meteorologists of Western Australia had something to do with its compilation.

Mr Fowler - I have it from men who have lived in the country for years that the rainfall is over 15 inches per annum.

Mr KENNEDY - It is a strange thing that men who have been asked to report upon this country say that the aborigines keep off it for a considerable portion of the year.

Mr Fowler - The rainfall is not conserved.

Mr KENNEDY - It is all very well for the honorable member to say that there is a rainfall of 15 inches per year, but there is no official record to support the statement. It would be better, in the first place, to prove that the records are wrong than to contradict them.

Sir John Forrest - Even these reports show that the line will earn a profit in the course of a few years.

Mr KENNEDY - Of course, on paper it is easy to prove anything. In their estimates of traffic the engineers take the produce landed at Fremantle, and say how much the return will amount to. Then they go on to say that they do not take credit for the whole of this traffic.

Sir John Forrest - From which report is the honorable member quoting?

Mr KENNEDY - I am quoting from paragraph 8 of the report, dated March, 1903. They say -

We have been furnished with particulars showing passenger and stock movements at the' port of Fremantle, which we have carefully considered, and we have taken a. portion only of these as a basis for our revenue' estimate, which is ^205,860.

Sir John Forrest - There is a later report than that.

Mr KENNEDY - I do not know that it would throw much more light upon the subject, and I do not think that the honorable member could get any better authorities than those whose report I am quoting from.

If, when the line has been opened for traffic for ten years the population of Western Australia is double the present number - and many authorities anticipate a greater progress than this - the revenue also will be probably doubled. Further investigation of the sources of expected revenue would probably lead to our being able to increase these estimates.

Can it enter into the mind of any man who has had anything to do with the movement of produce where water and land carriage are available that there is the slightest possibility of a single pound of produce being carried from the Eastern States to Western Australia by rail when there is the option of water carriage?

Sir John Forrest - They would have to bring it 400 odd miles.

Mr Fowler - Perishable produce to any quantity would be sent to the goldfields.

Mr KENNEDY - The perishable produce would be out of the reach of the wage-earners on the gold-fields.

Sir John Forrest - I do not think that the honorable member knows the geography of the country.

Mr KENNEDY - I do not know everything, but I shall be able to speak a little more clearly if the Treasurer will permit me to express myself in my own way. As a proof of the accuracy of my observation, let me quote the experience that we have had where railways exist. Take, for instance, the movements of stock, cattle, or sheep from Queensland to the sout'hern ports of Victoria, when there is- a market for them here. Will any man connected with the business attempt for one moment to send stock here by rail ? Some years ago I had some experience in the business, when it would have been profitable to send stock from Queensland to Victoria in times of scarcity, but we found that the railway rates were really prohibitive. Taking even the special rate quoted - and it was a great reduction on the ordinary rate - stock could be carried by boat for practically a third less. Assuming Adelaide to be the port of shipment, and that the railway was made right through to Kalgoorlie. I venture to say that there would not be any possibility of the men engaged in the business attempting to send stock by rail when they would have the option 6f sending it by boat.

Sir John Forrest - Still we think that thev would send it.

Mr KENNEDY - Here is the experience that we 'have every day---

Sir John Forrest - And every, one else thinks so too.

Mr Fowler - Is the honorable member talking of the question of carrying stock into the gold-fields of Western Australia?

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