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Friday, 20 October 1911

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) (Minister for Defence) . - I move -

That this Bill be now read a second time.

I experience a special pleasure in introducing to the Senate this very important Bill, from the fact that I am a representative of Western Australia, and that, as an Australian, I am associated with one of the biggest works which thisParliament has yet been asked to approach, and one which, I venture to say, will inaugurate a vigorous policy of development of our vast interior, which is at present lying idle and unpopulated. When one looks at a map of our vast continent and realizes that, unlike most continents, it is not bisected with waterways which will allow vessels to carry commerce, one is forced to the conclusion that the only means of developing that country and mak ing it available is by a vigorous policy of railway development. I have recently had an opportunity of crossing the vast continent of Asia. The portion whichI crossed resembles very much our continent, except in one important particular, and that is that, every 50 or 100 miles, one crosses a river capable of carrying ships and rafts of timber, and therefore capable of being used in the development of the country. Even in Asia, bisected as it is with vast rivers, railways have been found a necessity, and the Government of Russia have planned and carried out that vast work, the trans-Siberian railway. Not content with a single track, they are duplicating the railway from one end to the other. It is reported that the railway has so far justified itself ; it has opened up country which previously lay idle, and which was thought to be unusable, to such an extent that a duplication of the line was called for, and the work is now proceeding.

Senator Walker - What is the gauge?

Senator PEARCE - The gauge is 5 feet.

Senator Millen - Do you say that the development of the country rendered necessary a duplication of the railway, or is it undertaken in aid of the defence scheme ?

Senator PEARCE - For both reasons. Undoubtedly defence had. a good deal to do with the construction ofthe railway in the first place, and also with the decision to duplicate the track. Both for development and defence, a duplication of the line became necessary, and the work is being carried out. The great continent of America, blessed as it is with vast water supplies, has found the same necessity, and has not been content with a single track. In Canada, although it is comparatively narrow north and south, they have seen the necessity of constructing not one, but three transcontinental lines, and a branch is now being constructed of such length and character as to be almost worthy of being called a fourth transcontinental line. When one contrasts the comparatively restricted area of Canada, that is, north and south, with our vast continent, one can see how modest, after all, is the start which we propose to make. When we compare Australia with other lands, and notice our lack of navigable waters, it must be obvious that we need more railways for developmental purposes than does any other country. At the end of 1910 Canada had 24,731 miles of railway mostly transcontinental lines, while Australia, counting in private and Government lines, possessed only ;i7,43i miles.

Senator Walker - Do the railways in Canada belong to a private company, or to the Government?

Senator PEARCE - They belong to a private company, although they have been paid for by the people of Canada. When we remember that, side by side with a vast railway system in Canada is the finest river system in the world, a chain of lakes which allows navigation for thousands of miles ; when we remember the noble St. Lawrence and all the other rivers, and add these conveniences to the railways, we see how far behind Australia lags. Surely it is time that we started to show that we have some faith in the continent which we have inherited. The railway which is the subject of this Bill is one which, I venture to say, can only be carried out by the National Parliament. It is too huge a task for the comparatively small communities of Western Australia and South Australia to take up on their own responsibility. When we think of that vast area of Western Australia, peopled by just about 300,000 inhabitants, and remember that they have the responsibility of developing and opening up their own territory, we must realize what a huge task they have in hand already. When we turn to South Austraia, the case is very little better. There we certainly have a somewhat larger community, but one which is heavily burdened with the task of developing the country under its control. If we consider the aspect of defence - a Federal matter - we must realize that unless we have this railway, Federation means nothing from a defensive point of view to the Western Australian people. For what, after all. can the Commonwealth give to Western Australia in the matter of defence unless this railway be built? Western Australia has a right to look to the Commonwealth to make available for her defence the forces of the other portions of this continent, just as the whole Commonwealth has a right to expect that the forces of Western Australia shall be made available for the defence of the other portions of he continent if they are threatened. The movement for the construction of this line has had a somewhat long career. I venture to say that few railways in Australia have' been so much discussed, so much inquired into, so much thought over, as this particular line ; all the advantages, and the disadvantages, all the benefit,, and all the evil, that can flow from its construction, are thoroughly well known, and have been thoroughly well canvassed and investigated. So far as public action is concerned, the first move was set on foot in 1901 by the late Mr. C. Y. O'Connor, engineer-in-chief of Western Australian railways, who prepared a report on the proposed line, and who estimated the cost of construction at £4,400,000. In 1903, as the result of Federal action, the engineers-in-chief of the various State railways met in Melbourne. After going into the subject very fully, they recommended the construction of a line on a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, and estimated the cost at .£4,559,000. In 1907, after a Bill had been previously introduced on two occasions - it was once defeated, and once talked out in the Senate; - a measure to provide for a survey was finally passed, appropriating £20,000 for the purpose.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Who was Prime Minister then?

Senator PEARCE - The Prime Minister at the time the Bill was introduced was Mr. Watson, and I think that Mr. Fisher was Prime Minister at the time the Bill was passed.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Labour party again !

Senator PEARCE - Several Ministries were associated with the question at various times in its history - because it has had a very protracted history. In 1.909, the survey having been completed, a report upon it was drawn up and submitted to the engineers-in-chief of South Australia and Western Australia, in conjunction with Mr. Deane, the consulting engineer of the Commonwealth. As the result of the data collected, and the consideration of the reports submitted, the estimate of cost was reduced by the engineers to £3,988,000. I may mention that the only previous survey was that by Mr. Muir, the Government surveyor of Western Australia.

Senator Walker - Can the honorable senator remember the cost of that flying survey ?

Senator PEARCE - The cost was borne by the State Government, and I do not know what it amounted to. It was comparatively inexpensive, and, of course, was not of very much value for the purpose of estimating the cost of the railway. After the engineers-in-chief had reduced the estimate, in consequence of the detailed examination of the country, the taking of levels, and other necessary investigations, working drawings were ordered to be prepared. A vote of ^5,000 was passed on the Estimates last year for the payment of a staff to work up the details collected by the survey party. That material has been to a large extent worked through, and the task almost completed. A plan of the line has been plotted to a scale of 4 chains to the inch, and the longitudinal section to the horizontal of 4 chains to the inch, and vertical scale of 20 feet to an inch. The sharpest curves are of a 20-chain radius, and the steepest grade is one in eighty. As to the route of the line, I wish to quote from a report of the railway construction branch of the Department of Home Affairs, founded upon the surveyors' report. On page 4, it is stated -

Commencing at Kalgoorlie the line follows the existing railway to Kanowna as far as Kurramia Siding, a little over 6 miles from Kalgoorlie; but as the grades of the existing line are steeper than that decided upon as a ruling grade for the transcontinental railway, some cutting down will have to be undertaken. After leaving the Kalgoorlie-Kanowna railway the line follows practically for a distance of some 40 miles the Westralia Timber Company's tramway, bearing generally south-easterly for that length, and passing through the township of Bulong, about 23 miles from Kalgoorlie ; thence the line runs almost due east, adjacent to the 31st parallel of latitude to about 357 miles; thence it runs on a bearing of north 7g degrees east until the South Australian border is reached, at a mileage of 461 miles 77 chains $9 links in latitude 30 degrees 45 minutes south - boundary to Tarcoola. From the end of the Western Australian division, in latitude 30.45 degrees south the line runs in the direction of 10 degrees north of east across the Nullabor "Plain, cutting Cornish's line in latitude 30 degrees 28 minutes south, and strikes the sandhill country about 170 miles east of the Western Australian border, passing 3$ miles south of Ooldea well.

I draw attention to the fact that from Nullabor Plain absolutely no sand hills exist at all. It is all good loam country.

Through the sandhills, about 100 miles, the general direction is easterly, and the line passes about a quarter of a mile south of Wynbring rock, 63 miles west of Tarcoola, and from there runs in a fairly direct course to Kychering, 23 miles west of Tarcoola, passing along the north side of Kychering hills, and continuing in a straight line to the western boundary of the Wylgena station, which is crossed at a point 3^ miles north of finding rock hole. After crossing the vermin-proof fence the line runs in an easterly direction to Tarcoola, S02 miles from Kalgoorlie, skirting the southern slope of the range on which the gold mines are situated. From Tarcoola to Port Augusta, about 263 miles by railway survey, the line runs through occupied pastoral country, including the Wilgena, Coondambo, Wirraminna, Pines, Oakden Hills, and

Yudnapinna stations. The line starting from Tarcoola runs easterly to near Wilgena 'Hill, and continuing in a south-easterly direction over easy country, passes about r mile north of the Wilgena head station, 12 miles from Tarcoola. Running easterly from Wilgena the line skirts the south-west end of Lake Moolkra, and passing along the north side of the hill near Earea dam, where some gold mining has been done, leaving Kingoonya head station 1 mile to the north at 850^ miles, traverses easy country to 885 miles, half a mile south of Coondambo head station. After leaving Coondambo the line runs south of Lake Boomerang and north of Wirraminna head station to the south end of Lake Hart, with easy earthworks and light grades. From there to Eucolo Creek the line goes through country, including some swamps, sand rises, and gypsum banks.

I draw attention to the fact that that is the only point along the route where the sand is drifting sand. There is a mile and a half of it.

At Eucolo Creek it is 'subject to a sand drift for about r£ miles between 931^ miles and 933 miles. From Eucolo Creek to Lake Windabout the line crosses an open stony tableland.

The report on this point concludes -

The line runs through sand which is light and mostly free from drift.

I wish now to direct especial attention to this question from the defence point of view. That is a very important phase of it. There is no doubt that a country like Australia is subject to attacks from sea. We have no land frontier. Therefore, we have to be in a position to direct our troops to any point in Australia that may be threatened from the sea. With the advent of wireless telegraphy, and with the increased speed of steam-ships, it is quite possible that we shall receive a very much longer warning of a .threatened attack than was hitherto possible. As honorable senators are aware, one of the proposals agreed upon at the recent Imperial Conference related to the extension of wireless telegraphy throughout the Pacific, and by means of a chain of stations lying to the north and north-west. By such means any movements of foreign ships coming to Australia would almost certainly be known to us by warnings communicated from elsewhere, and we should have information as to the point of our coast for which they were making. It is very essential that by means of internal lines we should be able to concentrate our forces at any point that might be threatened, to prevent a landing. The report from which I. have been quoting, dealing with this aspect of the matter, says- - It has more than once been- suggested that the" line opposite Eucla, at the head of the Bight, is too near the coast. The actual distance is about 60 miles, through country which, although carrying sufficient vegetation for stock, is of an unhospitable character, because there is no water to be obtained until the line is reached.

It will be seen from the map hanging upon the wall that the nearest approach of the line to the coast is 60 to 80 miles.

It would probably take a boat's crew three days from the coast to reach the line. It is very doubtful whether there is the slightest danger of attack being made in the neighbourhood of Eucla. The character of the coast does not permit of ships lying close in in all weathers. Consequently, if heavy weather set in they would have to head right out into the Bight for safety, so that a boat's crew which had landed might be cut off completely without doing damage of any consequence. It seems, therefore, extremely unlikely that an enemy would make any attempt to land.

One of the chief objections that has been raised to this line from a defence point of view is that at one point it comes so close to the coast that it might be possible for an enemy to cut the connexion.

Senator Millen - Does that objection come from professional military men?

Senator PEARCE - I have not heard the objection voiced by military men.

Senator Millen - It would add to the importance of the point if it were so.

Senator PEARCE - I have never heard any opinion to that effect expressed in my Department; in fact, I have not heard an opinion about it one way or the other. But when one looks at the map one is forced to remember that the great bulk of the population of Western Australia is concentrated in the south-west corner, of which the line from Kalgoorlie towards the coast would form the northern boundary. On the South Australian side, a line from the head of Spencer's Gulf constitutes the country which carries the bulk of the population of the State. As we have to join up those two points, it follows that the result of the construction of the railway from a defence point of view will be to form: a link between these two populations. If we are to take the line further away from the coast we should have to make a tremendous detour, thereby adding immensely to the cost of construction and maintenance. Still considering this question from the point of view of defence, I may remind the Senate that we recently had a visit from a great military strategist, Lord Kitchener, and I am going to quote from a speech which he delivered in Western Australia on the 24th January, 19 10.

Senator Givens - An after-dinner speech ?

Senator PEARCE - It was, but I can assure the honorable senator that the dinner did not prompt the speech. This speech was delivered after Lord Kitchener had had the opportunity of travelling all round Australia. It was made at the conclusion of his tour during which his mind had been concentrated for the whole time on the problems of Australian defence. Therefore, I should say he was never in a better position to deliver an opinion on the subject than he was when he uttered these words. He said -

In order to reach Western Australia we have just had a four days' sea voyage. I only wish we could have come here by train, for your present isolation must be not only a great commercial and political disadvantage, but also might at any time become a serious source of military weakness. Your distinguished fellow citizen, Sir John Forrest, has, I know, often pointed this out, and he has advocated the construction of a trunk line on the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge to join Western Australia with the eastern States. I understand that this project is shortly to be taken seriously in hand, and I only wish to say how thoroughly I indorse Sir John's opinion on the subject. It seems to me, gentlemen, that one of the greatest needs of Australia is , systematic, statesmanlike, and comprehensive railway extension.

Senator Givens - Is Sir John Forrest to get all the honour and glory in connexion with the whole thing?

Senator PEARCE - I do not care who gets the honour and glory so long as the line is constructed. I am satisfied that the people of Western Australia sufficiently showed recently that they possess an extraordinary amount of discrimination. Lord Kitchener went on to say -

Trunk lines opening up communication and developing the fertile districts in the interior of this vast country would undoubtedly stimulate more than anything else the growth of your population, as well as foster trade, and considerably increase your means of defence. At present Australia's expenditure on railway construction appears to be often spasmodic as well as unduly influenced by purely local conditions, instead of being guided by a steady policy based on national requirements, organized and directed under a central controlling authority.

That sounds almost like heresy in view of the referenda results.

While your efforts are naturally and quite rightly in the first place directed towards obtaining communication with the east, I hope that the possibilities of extension to the north, as well as the development of the rich hinterlands of Queensland and New South Wales will not be overlooked whenever comprehensive schemes of railway development, dealing with the country as a whole, are under consideration.

Senator O'Keefe - All that can only follow from the federalization of the railways.

Senator PEARCE - Whether it follows or precedes the federalization of the railways, there is a splendid national policy mapped out in those remarks.

Senator O'Keefe - Hear, hear; it will come.

Senator PEARCE - While I think that we should consider in the light of these reports the character of the country to be served by the railway, I shall show that there is sufficient to justify the construction of the line even if there were no country worthy of development at all in the space intervening between the two terminal points. A railway can be justified in crossing a desert provided you have at each end sufficient reasons why two populated centres should be linked up. It is an undoubted fact that one of the great American overland lines crosses 400 miles of absolutely sterile desert which is of no use, and apparently will never be of any use to anybody-

Senator Barker - We already have lines running through vast areas of unoccupied country.

Senator PEARCE - That is so; it can be said of the line to Broken Hill. On the question of the character of the country, Mr. Deane's report, from which I am quoting, says -

The first 70 miles of the railway traverses the main auriferous green-stone belt in which the gold-fields of Kalgoorlie is situated. From this point on for about 100 miles the country is granite, mostly covered with alluvial gravels and loam. At 175 miles from Kalgoorlie limestone is met with, and this continues to about 640 miles, where the sand-hills of South Australia are encountered.

Honorable senators will see that 810 miles of the country has absolutely no sand.

The sand-hill region is traversed for about roo miles. This consists of sand ridges with flats of varying widths lying between, and the soil on these Anls is generally excellent, and carries grass and saltbush, and other useful vegetation. The sandhills themselves, which seem to have, in all cases, a solid core, and are not mere sanddunes, are mostly covered with mallee and acacia scrub, with spinifex. Near Wynbring, 740 miles from Kalgoorlie, granite is again reached, and there is here an area of bare rock, from which water can be collected.

I may say that these bare rocks are an important feature of the interior of Western Australia. Before the Kalgoorlie water scheme was constructed, the whole of the water supply was collected from these bare rocks.

Senator Givens - They were the origin of the soaks.

Senator PEARCE - That is so; the Government made dams at the foot of the rocks, and the rocks acted as a roof and a catchment area for filling the dams. It would seem that, prior to the construction of the Kalgoorlie water supply, the drought experienced in Western Australia was practically the same as that which at the sam? time was being experienced in the east, because since the water was taken to Kalgoorlie the rainfall has never been so low as it was in those years. Since then there has been on the eastern gold-fields a rainfall of 16 inches, and the dams have never been empty, though many of them have been used for railway purposes. I mention this as indicating the importance of these rocks in providing a water supply for the railway.

Senator Millen - They indicate also a very shallow soil.

Senator PEARCE - They outcrop above the soil, but in the gold-fields districts of Western Australia, at a little distance from outcrops of rock, there is to be found from 30 to 40 feet of rich alluvial soil. The report continues -

At Kychering, 20 miles further on, there is a large extent of bare- rock, amounting to abou! 40 acres. At about 802 miles from Kalgoorlie Tarcoola is reached. Here the quartzite bands contain gold, and gold mining is becoming fairly prosperous. To the east of this, at Glenloth, some distance south of the railway, there is another promising gold-field. From a point west of Tarcoola to Port Augusta the country is occupied, having been taken up for sheep runs. The character of it generally is pastoral and of good quality. Around the salt lake beds which are encountered in this district there are low sandhills, which, however, after wet weather become covered with vegetation. Tablelands rising 200 or 300 feet above the rest of the country are also met with. On the top and sides of these nutritious herbage, chiefly saltbush, grows. The tablelands consist of a sandstone formation, more or less denuded, the surface of the land being covered with very hard sandstone fragments.

I omit a technical paragraph referring to various elevations, and the report goes on to say -

The soil of the country, extending from Kalgoorlie to Spencer's Gulf, is for the most par good, and covered with vegetation consisting of various saltbushes, bluebush, grass, and other shrubs mostly edible, and trees of various kinds, such as mulga, blackoak, myall, mallee, and myoporum, with frequent bushes of sandalwood and quandong. The great drawback is the low average rainfall, which, except in a certain portion of the country to the east -of Kalgoorlie, extending from about 40 miles to 105 miles, which evidently is more abundantly provided, does not exceed 7 inches, or at most 8 inches.

Where water, however] is obtainable by boring or can be stored up in depressions or behind dams, and provided the country is not afterwards overstocked, its permanent suitability for occupation is undoubted.

Between Kalgoorlie and the edge of theNullarbor plain shallow bores have been put downs but in all cases the bed rock has been reached without sign of water. Over this area, . catchment dams ban bebuilt, or artificial catchments prepared. AtCardunia, 82 miles, and the granite ridge at 107 miles east of Kalgoorlie, there are good rock catches.

On the Nullarbor plain the State Government of Western Australia have carried out boring operations with success. At No. 3 bore, on the railway route, 344 miles from Kalgoorlie, water Was struck between 1,270 and1,344 feet in beds of fine and coarse sand with hard bands and granite boulders, with hard granite at the bottom. Thewater stands in the bore about 420 feet from the surface;there is a large supply, and it is of good quality, no salt, a little hard, but it is considered that it would be good water for boiler purposes.

Senator Millen - The statement is made that there is a good supply. Has there ever been a pump on it to test it?

Senator PEARCE - The fact that the water rises 700 feet seems to indicate that this bore is within the artesian basin. It is well known that the basin extends in that direction, and the south-eastern edge of it has never yet been definitely located. As this water rises, it is ah indicationof pressure, and probably the pressure is due to the water rising to the level of the artesian basin which extends over a great part of Australia.If this be so, this bore should supply a great deal of water before it is exhausted. There is evidence that the artesian basin receives a permanent supply from somewhere, but where it comes from is yet a matter of debate amongst geologists. The report continues -

No. 4 bore, at 419 miles 73 chains, was bottomed ongranite at a depth of 907 feet. After drawing 30,000 gallons, water stands at 402 feet from the surface; quality slightly brackish.

Among the sandhills artificial catchments alone seem possible; but beyond this area the rock catchments of Wynbring and Kychering offer opportunities - the latter isvery extensive, and the former is capable of great improvement by stripping. From Tarcoola east there seems little difficulty of conserving water. Where well water cannotbe obtained sites for damscanbe found.

BetweenKalgoorlie and Tarcoola the country isremarkablefortheabsenseofdefined watercourses, and it isevident that therain rarely comes , in heavy falls. On the Other hand,from Tarcoola eastwardwater frequentlyrunsinwell- marked channels, and although thereare no very largewater-courses, yetthey are sufficiently defined in many cases to require bridges consisting oftwo or more 10-ft. openings.

Whilst that is a description of the water supply, and the qualityofthecountry, the following from the same report is an indication of what might be possible in the way of agricultural and horticultural development : -

Between Bulong and the Western boundary of Wilgena run, which is11 miles west of Tarcoola, the country is unoccupied. The Only operations that are taking place are the collection of sandalwood forexport andsalmon-gum timber for the Kalgoorlie mines. These extend to about 40 to 50 miles along the line.

I think that refers to the wood line running from Kalgoorlie.

If water can be stored or otherwise provided, there is no doubt, about the suitability of the country betweenKalgoorlie and Tarcoola for carrying stock.

At this point I should like to say that if honorable senators will consult the map, they will notice a line running north of Kalgoorlie towards Leonora. A remarkable feature of the country through which that line goes is that whilst at Kalgoorlie bores have been put down for a. thousand feet without tapping any fresh water, before Leonora is readied, and in the country near the elbow formed where the line going north turns to the east,fresh water can be Obtained in ample supply in some places at a depth of only 20 feet. The country is flat, with a gradual rise towards Leonora. In apparently the same class of country as that line, to the north of Leonora, and running away up to the Murchison, there is splendid underground supply of water. Geologists have not yet been able to say where that Watercomes from, but the district has a lesser rainfall than the Kalgoorlie goldfield, sothat it is not a local supply. However, there it is in a vast area to the north of Kalgoorlie.I mention this here because ofthe existence of that water supply, although the country and grass is poorer than the Kalgoorlie country it has beentaken up for pastoral purposes, and to-day isstocked. It follows that if the country lying south of Kalgoorlie, which is better grass country, could be furnished witha water supply, it would undoubtedly be settled for pastoral purposes:

Senator Millen - Surely the Leonorarainfall does wot drop to . 7 inches ?

Senator PEARCE - Yes; it has a lesser rainfall than Kalgoorlie.

Senator Millen - I did not think it was as low as 7 inches.

Senator PEARCE - Yes ; the Murchison rainfall is lower than the Kalgoorlie rainfall. The rainfall decreases as one goes north from Kalgoorlie. The country and grass are poorer, and the timber is poorer; so much poorer, in fact, that on the Murchison gold-fields considerable difficulty is experienced in obtaining a supply of timber for mining purposes, whereas round Kalgoorlie there is plenty of timber. The report continues -

Dams can be made at selected spots, while in the centre of the Nullarbor or limestone plain sub-artesian water has been obtained by boring. Hitherto one great objection lo occupation has been the impossibility of getting stock away when feed becomes scarce and water gone.

The Nullarbor plains are of vast extent. They extend for about 200 miles in Western Australia right into South Australia for 100 miles, and from the coast to about 80 miles north of the railway. All the Nullarbor plain country is splendidly grassed. It is on the Nullarbor plains that the bore to which I have referred has been sunk, and it may well be urged that, in view of such a water supply,, it is probable, if not certain, that this area could be thrown open for pastoral purposes. But, as the report goes on to say, if it were 'thrown open for pastoral purposes, some means would have to be provided to get the stock and produce to market, and this, railway would provide that means.

This condition will be entirely changed by the construction of the railway, as stock fattened in the winter, spring, and early summer can be taken lo market, and the reduced flocks could' then easily be kept in condition over the summer.

Between Tarcoola and Port Augusta conditions will also very much improve by the construction of the line, and the pastoral industry already established will grow, and become much mare profitable. It would be a wise provision if leaseholders were compelled to limit the number of stock, as otherwise the tendency will be to eat out the country.

Those who have any knowledge of pastoral occupations in Australia will know that there is a tendency in good seasons to overstock our pastoral country. The report goes on to say -

Whether anything can be done in the way of agriculture remains to be seen. It has not yet been shown how small a rainfall will suffice for the nourishment of wheat and other crops. More rainfall observations are imperative, and it is of vital importance to determine al what time of the year the rainfall occurs. It would appear that falls amounting in the aggregate to seven inches while the crops are growing arc sufficient lo insure success, and if, as Mr. Hunt, the Commonwealth Meteorologist, tells me, there are parts of Western Australia where 90 per cent, of the year's rainfall occurs in the months from April to October, there is considerable hope that some districts, with an extremely scanty rainfall, mav prove quite suitable for agriculture.

The mineral producing area is not extensive. From Kalgoorlie the gold-bearing area extends about 60 miles in an easterly direction. 1 refer honorable senators again to the map, and, if they will look at the line running east from Kalgoorlie, they will notice a short line running north to a place called Bullfinch. Most honorable senators have heard of it, and, perhaps, some of them may have heard of it to their sorrow. Within a few miles from Southern Cross, farming its to-day being carried on. If honorable senators will look at the transcontinental line, they will see that it runs very much nearer to the southern coast than Southern Cross is to the western coast, and if they refer to Mr. Hunt's rainfall maps, they will notice that, although the rainfall does not go as far inland from the southern coast as from the western coast, it does extend sufficiently inland from the southern coast to warrant the assumption that agriculture will be possible on the Nullarbor plains. I know it will be urged that no data has been collected, and that is true a* regards the Nullarbor plains; but, if honorable senators will look to the west of the Nullarbor plains,, where some salt lakes are shown near Norseman, I may inform them that rainfall records have been taken for twelve years for that district j and a little to the east of south of Norseman a station owned by a Mr. Dempster has been occupied for forty or fifty years. Mr. Dempster has kept records during that time, and they show that in that country lying a little to the east and south of Norseman, there has been an average rainfall of over 12 inches per annum. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that the country lying along the Great Australian Bight has a rainfall equal to. that which Mr. Dempster has proved in the country lying north of Norseman, and directly to the south of Kalgoorlie.

Senator Millen - - That must be qualified by a consideration of the direction from which the rain clouds come.

Senator PEARCE - There are many things which would qualify the statement, but I am saying that it is a reasonable assumption. Farming is carried on immediately south of Kalgoorlie, and within 60 miles south of Kalgoorlie. One of the arguments put forward for the construction of a railway from Esperance to Norseman is that it would throw open 140,000 acres of agricultural land with a proved rainfall, and capable of carrying farms. And, for the information of Senator Givens, I may state, that the Labour Government of Western Australia have announced their intention of constructing a railway from Kalgoorlie to Esperance. So much for the agricultural and pastoral possibilities. The report continues-

The mineral producing area is not extensive. From Kalgoorlie the gold-bearing area extends about 60 miles in an easterly direction.

After this the country, as far as minerals are concerned, is barren until the neighbourhood of Tarcoola is reached. Here, and at Glenloth, it is possible that considerable development will take place when the railway is there to encourage it. Al Mount Gunsen copper ores are found, but there has not been much progress so far.

I believe that there is an immense body of low grade ore at that point. The water

Supply is a very important feature, and, as the result of a survey, Mr. Deane reported on that subject in the following terms : -

In the Estimate of Cost furnished with the Report of the nth October, 1909, the sum of £609,000 was quoted for water supply. This was figured out on the assumption that steam locomotives would be used for hauling trains over the line. This item of the estimate has been further looked into, and I have found it possible to make a considerable reduction, partly owing to the fact that water of good quality has been proved by boring to exist below the surface at a point 344 miles from Kalgoorlie, as mentioned previously in this Report, and partly by adopting a cheaper method of conveying water to distances along the line, namely, by using wooden stave pipes instead of steel. I may call attention to a fact that is probably well known, namely, that the Mundaring water has in the past acted in a most prejudicial manner on the steel mains conveying it to the gold-fields. Not only has the asphalt coating of the inner surface of the pipes been penetrated, but the metal of the pipes has been attacked, causing so much corrosion and growth as to enormously reduce the sectional area, and consequently the carrying capacity.

I may mention that the State Government brought out two scientists, from Germany I think, to report on the best method to overcome this difficulty, and that, by some chemical properties which are now put in the water, they can overcome the corrosion.

Senator Millen - Was it corrosion or a growth inside?

Senator PEARCE - Both corrosion and growth, caused apparently by some chemical properties collected in the water in the hills at Mundaring. Mr. Deane continues -

The wooden stave pipes as now manufactured bv the Australian Wood Pipe Company, in Sydney, are not liable to this deleterious action, and the cost per foot run is besides much cheaper than that for steel pipes of the same diameter. The economy thus works in a double way. In estimating the size required for steel pipes an allowance was originally made for the lessening of capacity through corrosion - that is to say, larger pipes than actually required when in their original clean condition had to be provided - but when timber is the material selected this extra size is not necessary, as the wooden pipe retains its carrying capacity through its life - and then there is the lower cost of the material.

The scheme now proposed is to take water from the Mount Charlotte tank at Kalgoorlie, convey it along the line in pipes of suitable size, delivering it for the use of the steam locomotives in water tanks about 50 miles apart, till the tank at about 257 miles from Kalgoorlie is reached. Then making use of the water at No. 3 bore at 344 miles, pump and deliver this back towards Kalgoorlie as far as 295 miles, where a tank would be placed, and sending it along the line in the direction of Port Augusta as far as the end of the limestone plain where the sandhills are entered at about 632 miles from Kalgoorlie, which is the lowest point on this part of the line, viz., about 327 feet above sea-level. Between No. 3 bore and this point tanks erected at intervals of about 50 miles would be supplied from the same main.

From the commencement of the sandhills to Port Augusta water would have to be conserved as originally proposed, that is, by making artificial catchments, by utilizing rock catchments where available, and storing in reservoirs or where water-courses with sufficient catchment area occur, by building dams, and impounding the water which occasionally runs in large volume.

By the above scheme sufficient water for engine purposes can be secured, at a total estimated cost of £456,000, thus showing a saving of £155,000 on the estimate of October, 1909.

If the Internal Combustion principle can be applied to the locomotives used on the railway, the provision for water can be much reduced, and it might be safe to reckon on bringing the cost down to, say, £250,000, as the water requirements would then be confined to station purposes and household use.

The question of using the internal combustion engine is being closely inquired into by Mr. Deane, who believes that at present the outlook is very promising, and that he will be able to recommend the use of the engine on this railway. If that is so, there will be very important developments in railway construction, in the dry areas of Australia. I confess that, until recently, I knew little or nothing about the internal combustion engine, but possibly what I have learned may be of information to some honorable senators. It seems that it is an engine which uses oil, and the explosion caused by the ignition of the oil supplies the driving force. It does not use water for steam power as in the case of an ordinary locomotive. It only requires water for the cooling of the cylinder in which the explosion takes place. It is really an oil engine applied to a locomotive, and as the water for cooling the cylinder can be used over and over again, a locomotive will have to carry only a small quantity, and therefore the question of water supply will be a very simple proposition. Previously the difficulty has been that they have never been able to get in one engine more than 200 horse-power. On an ordinary train that would not be sufficient, because some of our trains require 1,400 horse-power. But in America they are carrying out an experiment; they attach an internal combustion engine to each truck or carriage, and therefore get a multiplication of 200 horse-power. By employing five vehicles you would therefore get 1,000 horse-power, and by using ten vehicles you would obtain 2,000 horse-power, and so on.

Senator Rae - Would not that multiplication of engines be much more expensive ?

Senator PEARCE - Yes, it would be much more expensive than ordinary rollingstock, but not much more expensive than locomotives of similar power. I am speaking of trains, and not of locomotives. This, of course, will be a line primarily for the conveyance of passengers, mails, and at certain times freight. If the experiments in progress are successful, as the reports lead us to expect, it is quite possible that, by the time the railway is constructed, the use of the internal combustion engine will be adopted, and then the question of water supply will be a very simple problem indeed.

Senator Walker - Has Mr. Deane said anything about the mono-rail ?

Senator PEARCE - Yes, I have had conversations with Mr. Deane about the mono-rail, but . the difficulty is that it is in the experimental stage. I think honorable senators will agree with me that we would not be justified in constructing this as an experimental line. In the Commonwealth there are plenty of places where railways are needed, and where it might pay to make experiments.

Senator Barker - Yes, a line, for instance, to the Government House in the new Territory.

Senator PEARCE - There is plenty of room for making an experiment there. I wish now to refer to the estimates of revenue and expenditure. In his report Mr. Deane says that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to give an estimate of the revenue and expenditure which can be seriously backed up. In developing a new country an estimate of revenue and expenditure must be problematical. In an official report on the proposed transcontinental railway, which was laid before the Senatein 1903, the State Engineers-in-Chief say -


I have quoted the deliberate statement of the six Engineers-in-Chief, but I am inclined to agree with Mr. Deane that it is very difficult to forecast the revenue and expenditure in Connexion with such a line. I ask honorable senators to accept the quotation in the spirit in which it is submitted. I hold, however, that, even if the line should be run at a loss for some years, the indirect benefits which will accrue to Australia will justify that loss. Since this proposition was first put forward certain things have happened which make it more justifiable to-day than ever it was before. In the first place, the importance of Western Australia as a State of the Commonwealth has increased enormously.

Senator Gardiner - Especially since the last State elections.

Senator PEARCE - Yes, in our eyes. The population of the State is now nearly 300,000, having increased by over 100,000 persons in the last ten years. 'The number of horses has increased from 74,000 to 134,000, whilst the number of cattle has increased from 400,000 to 800,000. The number of sheep has doubled. The number at the end of 1910 was given in the monthly statistical abstract as 5,157,699. The production of wool has consequently doubled since 1900, and at the end of 1910 the State exported 26,197,212 lbs. The greatest development has taken place in agriculture. The area under wheat has increased from 94,709 acres to 581,482 acres in 191 1. The area under oats has increased from 9,751 acres to 61,918 acres, and the area under orchards from 6,076 acres to 16,721 acres. The total area under crop has increased from 2^,441 acres to 854,837 acres. It is, I am sure, a source of satisfaction to every honorable senator, no matter on which side he sits, that the State is making such splendid progress. The argument that that part of the Commonwealth' has a right to be linked up with the eastern States is now more powerful than it was in the years gone by. Whilst we may not make any arbitrary statements as to what the revenue will be, I think it is only right to state what those sources of revenue may be. On page 19 of his report, Mr. Deane says -

It appears from the returns that the passengers to and fro between east and west amount to about 55,000 per annum. This shows the extent of the passenger traffic between these two parts of Australia. There can be little doubt that were land communication established a great many people who now have a horror of the sea voyage would take advantage of the railway, and that many more who do business between the east and the west would actually make the journey themselves rather than trust to letter-writing. The time of the journey between Melbourne and Perth would be reduced from nearly five days to practically two and a-half days; the same proportionate saving of time would certainly be effected between Sydney and Brisbane and Perth when proper routes have been established.

The example of the United States of America shows how enormously traffic increases with the means of communication. Practically the eastern States are independent of the States on the Pacific Slope, just the same as the States on the Pacific Slope are independent of the eastern States, but an enormous traffic goes on between them, and when Canada is reckoned in, it is worthy of note that there are seven lines of railway crossing the continent between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and it can only be concluded that when the east and west of Australia are linked up a similar traffic in proportion to its population will result. With regard lo what has been said as to the uncomfortable travelling over the hot interior of Australia, it may be pointed out that very great improvements have been made in the fitting up of railway carriages. A journey in the interior of Australia is certainly not worse than one over the Arizona Desert, and yet I can testify that travelling is quite comfortable even in summer. Carriages are fitted up with double windows, which are closed to keep the dust out, ventilation being secured by the fanlights in the roof ; a minimum of dust comes in to distress the traveller, and the intense heat is also kept out.

I propose to relate my experience in travelling across Siberia. I used to be considerably impressed with the argument that, if we had a railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, persons would be deterred from using it by the fact that they would be in the same train two and a-half days. Recently I have travelled across a country where I was continuously in trains for ten days; that is, I was in one train for six days, and then I 'only walked across the platform into another train, in which 1" travelled for four days. From the time I left Moscow until I landed at Vladivostock, I was not out of a train at any one time for twenty minutes. Yet I was never wearied of the train journey.

Senator Millen - Perhaps you were in a hurry to get out of the country ?

Senator Long - What were you playing?

Senator PEARCE - I bought a pack of cards at Moscow,- but it was not opened.

Senator Walker - Could you walk from one end of the train to the other ?

Senator PEARCE - Yes. There was a continuous train journey of ten days, and each train was full of passengers. A berth has to be booked a month beforehand. We were told that we would have to book a long time beforehand in order to get a berth on the train, because it is what is called an international express. An ordinary express takes fourteen days to do the same journey. We passed three ordinary expresses on our journey. One of them we passed during the night, and so I did not see it, but the other two I did see, and they were also crammed full of passengers. In addition, a large goods traffic is going on, and immigrant trains, some of which, I was told, take twenty days to do the journey, are run.

Senator Millen - How often do they run ?

Sentor PEARCE. - I do not know, but we passed trains. At almost every station we passed either an immigrant or a goods train waiting for us to go through.

Senator Walker - Have you any idea of the through fare in British money?

Senator PEARCE - As I was booked right through, I cannot say.

Senator Walker - What did they charge for booking you right through ?

Senator PEARCE - I will tell my honorable friend privately.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - What distance did you travel?

Senator PEARCE - Six thousand miles. Whilst Siberia is a cold country in winter, it is a very hot country in the middle of summer. It has the extremes of heat and cold. After Manchuria is passed, one has to cross 350 miles of desert as bad as the Sahara - rolling sand plains without a vestige of tree or shrub of any kind on them. Although we passed through the Gobi Desert in the middle of summer, yet we experienced no more than the ordinary discomfort of a hot day when travelling in any part of Australia, because the train is well fitted up, having been built specially to combat the discomfort of heat and dust. It is made up of large carriages, which are well ventilated in the roofs. All the appointments are good, and are well carried out. I experienced less discomfort on that train journey of ten clays than I have done on many a journey 1 have made by steamer across the Great Australian Bight. As to the estimated cost, this report, on page 20, says -

AM the items of the estimate have been under revision. Most of them remain approximately the same, except that the rates of labour having been increased, it is necessary to allow for this fact. The item water supply can now be reduced from ,£609,000 to £456,000, steam locomotives being used, or say to £350,000 if internal combustion engines are used instead.

The price of rails has risen since the last estimate was made, but as import duty is not now to be included, there will be very little difference - only about £7,000 extra.

Details are given, amounting to a total of £4,045,000, or, if internal combustion engines are used, £3,839,000.

These figures include 5 per cent, contingencies except in the case of rails and fastenings, and the estimate is based as before on the understanding that the best modern methods and mechanical appliances are to be used in carrying out all parts of the work.

Senator Millen - Does that include the cost of rolling-stock?

Senator PEARCE - Yes, it includes clearing, fencing, earthworks, bridges and culverts, rails and fastenings, sleepers and ballast, plate-laying, water supply, station yards, including telegraph equipment, terminal accommodation at both ends, and work-shops and machinery, maintenance for twelve months, rolling-stock, land purchase and engineering and supervision.

Senator Walker - How long will it take to complete the railway?

Senator PEARCE - I cannot say offhand, but I think the estimate is about two years. Now I come to the question ot gauge. The opinion of the Government on the matter is that we should have in Australia a uniform gauge, at all events as far as Commonwealth lines are concerned ; and we have no doubt that, whatever gauge is adopted for this railway, the States will, sooner or later, follow our example. The policy of developing the Northern Territory will mean that another railway will have to be constructed there. The Government had to face this question of gauge and settle it j and, after giving full consideration, to the various reports and to the experience of other countries, we de cided on the adoption of the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Government made a mistake.

Senator PEARCE - I hope the honorable senator has an open mind, and will be prepared to consider the evidence. One great advantage from having a uniform gauge railway running through all the Capital cities of Australia, would be this : that one set of rolling-stock would serve for all parts of Australia. That would be an enormous advantage in the event of war, and also in the event of drought or famine for the purpose of conveying stock, food, and material from one part of Australia to another. Uniformity of gauge would enable rolling-stock to be concentrated in any district where it was most required. It could be brought from any part of Australia where there was not so much need for it to any other part where there was an urgent need, at the shortest possible notice. At present, one State cannot come to the assistance of another State with surplus rolling-stock.

Senator Millen - Is there not unanimity of opinion as to the desirableness of uniformity of gauge?

Senator PEARCE - I believe there is; but I am now dealing with the reasons which induced the Government to adopt the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge for this railway. On this subject, Lord Kitchener says -

I would also mention that railway construction has, while developing the country, resulted in lines that would appear to be more favorable to an enemy invading Australia than to the defence of the country. Different gauges in most of the States isolate each system, and the want of systematic interior connexion makes the present lines running inland of little use for defence, though, possibly, of considerable value to an enemy, who would have temporary command of the sea.

We have been accused of not having taken the necessary action to induce the States to adopt uniformity of gauge.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I think that is correct.

Senator PEARCE -The honorable senator might hear me before passing judgment. I tabled yesterday papers containing the correspondence which the Government have had with the States on this question. Before the honorable senator speaks next week, I trust that he will peruse these papers. He will then be able to see whether the Government have not taken prompt action in the matter.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - We might have had those papers a month ago.

Senator PEARCE - That was not possible, because some of the States had not replied a month ago.

Senator Rae - I see from the documents that no reasons in favour of the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge are given.

Senator PEARCE - I will give the reasons presently. On the 24th June, 191 1, the Acting Prime Minister wrote to the Premiers of the various States suggesting a Conference of Engineers-in-Chief relating to the unification of railway gauges. Victoria did not concur for the reason that -

The question will be listed for consideration at the next Conference of the State Premiers and Ministers.

On that communication I have to make only this comment. Is this a question for Premiers to consider? Surely it is a question for engineers. It seems to me to be a strange method of dealing with a proposal with regard to unification of gauge, to notify that it will be dealt with at a Conference of Premiers ! Surely it ought to be settled apart from any political considerations. It ought to be determined by the technical knowledge of men qualified to discuss it and given a free hand to determine according to the merits. However, the Victorian Government said that they would not send their Engineer-in-Chief of Railways to a Conference of experts, but would send their Premier to a Conference of Ministers.

Senator Millen - The answer is - is the Commonwealth to wait and tie up legislation until the Conference of Premiers meet?

Senator Barker - The present Premier may not be Premier after the next election.

Senator PEARCE - That is quite possible. The States of South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia, however, agreed. Tasmania did not concur, as, of course, was quite reasonable, because she is not affected. The following is the letter which the Acting Prime Minister sent to the various State Premiers in June : -

At the instance of my colleague, the Minister for Home Affairs, who has been giving special consideration to the important question of the unification of the railway gauge throughout Australia, I desire to point out that the present seems to be an opportune time for proceeding further with the matter, especially as there appears to be unanimity of opinion in favour of the adoption of the standard gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in.

2.   I shall be glad if you will be so good as to concur in the suggestion that there should be an early Conference of Engineers-in-Chief for Railways, under the presidency of Mr. Henry Deane, M.Inst.C.E., acting asthe Consulting Railway Engineer for the Commonwealth, to consider and report as to the probable expense involved in the conversion of the trunk lines to the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, the time which will probably be occupied in carrying the proposal into effect with the least possible disturbance of existing arrangements and traffic, and generally.

3.   If this Conference can be arranged within a month from date, it is expected that at least a preliminary report on this important subject will be available for presentation to Parliament in September.

Owing to the action of Victoria we have not been able to arrange for the Conference of experts which we desired. I wish to point out, however - and I especially direct Senator W. Russell's attention to these facts - that prior to Federation in 1897 a Conference of State Railways Commissioners, representing New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, declared in favour of the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge as the uniform gauge for the country. They pointed out that that gauge would be less costly than any other. Again, after Federation, in 1903, the Engineers-in-Chief of five States - Tasmania standing out - under the presidency of Mr. Deane, once more considered the question. They unanimously recommended the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge for this particular railway. At that Conference Victoria was represented by her EngineerinChief, South Australia was represented by Mr. Moncrieff, and all the other States, with the exception of Tasmania, were represented by their Engineers-in-Chief, all of whom signed the report.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Mr. Montcrieff condemns the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge now.

Senator PEARCE - He did not condemn it then. In February, 191 1, a War Railway Council was constituted, which consisted of, amongst others, all the Chief Commissioners of Railways, presided over by Mr. Deane, representing the Commonwealth. They discussed the question of uniform gauge and also that of the gauge for the railway under consideration. They passed two resolutions - one that the Government should adopt as the uniform gauge on railways between capitals a gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in., and also that in constructing the railway to Western Australia the Commonwealth should adopt the same gauge. The Railways Commissioner for South Australia was a member of that Council, as was also the Commissioner for

Victoria. Both of them signed those recommendations.

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - Were they unanimous recommendations?

Senator PEARCE - They were. Let me point out some of the reasons why we should adopt the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge in preference to the 5-ft. 3-in. In the first place, to alter the 5-tt. 3-in. gauge to 4-ft. 8|-in. would involve no alteration of tunnels, embankments, bridges, and stations. But, on the other hand, to alter a 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge railway to 5 ft. 3 in. would necessitate enlarging every tunnel, every bridge, and, later on, every station, leaving out of consideration for the moment the rollingstock.

Senator Rae - With the exception of the stations, I do not think that the statement is a fact, because many of the tunnels and embankments are wide enough to allow of the alteration.

Senator PEARCE - -But in every one of these tunnels a recognised engineering margin of safety is allowed. That margin is the same whether the gauge be 4 ft. 8$ in or 5 ft. 3 in... If you put wider rollingstock on a railway constructed on a narrower gauge you reduce the margin of safety of tunnels and embankments ; and no railway engineer will recommend you to run 5-ft. 3-in. rolling-stock through a 4-ft. 8-in. tunnel. Let us see what these alterations of tunnels would mean. Do honorable senators realize that it would involve either the complete cessation of traffic on certain lines while tunnels were being altered, or the diversion of traffic h\ building other lines temporarily? Y<">u cannot have traffic going through a tunnel which is in course of structural alteration. That is absolutely impossible. Either you must build another line while you are altering the tunnels or you must stop the traffic altogether until the alterations are completed. On the railway, between Melbourne and Adelaide there are sixteen tunnels. I ask honorable senators to think of the dislocation that would be involved on that line if the width of the tunnels had to be extended. But by converting a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge railway to 4 ft. 8£ in. there need be no such dislocation. There are railways in Australia where tunnels have been constructed on the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge. There are such tunnels on the Hawkesbury line in New South Wales.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - -Is that the reason why the honorable senator has the support of die Opposition ?

Senator PEARCE - This is not a partyquestion, and there is no need to appeal to party considerations. I want to adopt the method which will be cheapest, most efficient, and most expeditious. There is another point which honorable senators may not have considered. You can put a third rail on a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge line to bring it to a 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge, because you can put it conveniently inside the existing rails. But you cannot put a third rail on to a 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge line to bring it up to 5 ft. 3 in., for the simple and obvious reason that by so doing you would get too near to the end of the sleepers. While the sleepers on a 5-ft. 3-in. track could possibly be used for a 4-ft. 84-in. track, you would have to take up both rails and sleepers to convert a 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge line to 5 ft. 3 in. When you come to take ail these elements into consideration, it must be admitted that they materially affect one's judgment on the question. We have at our back with reference to the adoption of the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge all the EngineersinChief, and the Railway Commissioners, of Australia, so far as they have committed themselves as to public recommendations. We have at our back also the experience of the great transcontinental railways of Canada and the United States. In Canada, the first great transcontinental railway was built on the 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge. The railways there are private companies conducting their business purely for the sike of gain, not troubling about defence considerations or national considerations. Profit was their one idea in entering upon their construction policy. If their experence has proved to them that they could work with a better profit with a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, or even with a 6-ft. or 7-ft. gauge, do honorable senators think that they would not have adopted it? They had complete knowledge as to what had been done in other parts of the world, in addition to their own railway experience. Yet they have built a second and a third line on the 4-ft. 8|-in. gauge. ' In the United States there are four, and in Canada there are three. . transcontinental railways, all of them on the 4-ft. 8r-in. gauge.

Senator Rae - Does not the honorable senator think that the first gauge adopted influenced to a great extent the remainder?

Senator PEARCE - Not in the slightest degree, because the lines in America are independent. In many cases they were built hy opposing companies, not running over each other's lines, and not junctioning with the other lines in any way. I think that with all that experience of these private companies, and with the expert advice obtainable in Australia, behind us, had we refused to adopt the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge we should have been branded as unworthy to deal with this great project. We came to the conclusion that the evidence was overwhelming in favour of the gauge which we have adopted. I do not propose to say any more on this subject. I have already taken up more time than I had intended. But the subject is of such importance that it warranted a full explanation. I unhesitatingly commend the Bill to the Senate, and trust that whatever criticism may be directed towards it will be of a national character. I earnestly hope that we shall have no parochialism introduced, but that the proposal will be judged upon its merits. I have no doubt that if that be clone, honorable senators will resolve that we ought to be prepared to shoulder the responsibility of doing something to develop the vast unpopulated interior of Australia.

Senator Walker - Will the Minister tell us whether any proposal has been made with regard to land grants?

Senator PEARCE - That is rather a question for Committee, but I will say this : The Government do not propose to ask either Western Australia or South Australia to give us any grants of land beyond the area that is necessary for railway purposes. We do not think that we should approach this question in the same way as a private company would do. If the States concerned had cared to construct a railway on the land-grant system, it could have been constricted years ago.

Senator Rae - When an offer is made to the Commonwealth.

Senator PEARCE - I do not think that offers were actually made.

Senator O'Keefe - I thought an offer was made by Western Australia to hand over an area of land on each side of the railway to the Commonwealth.

Senator PEARCE - A statement was, I think, made by Sir Walter James, the former Premier of Western Australia, that the Government of that State would sustain any loss that might accrue on Western Australia's part of the line. But no such offer was formally communicated to the Federal Government. It was a statement made in a public speech, and was not conveyed to us officially.

SenatorO'Keefe. - Has the Federal Government asked the Governments of

Western Australia and South Australia tomake up any loss on the line ?

Senator PEARCE - No, they have not, because they didnot think that a fair proposition to make. But I can tell the honorablesenator what the State of Western Australia has undertaken to do. The late Premier of the State indorsed it, and I have no doubt the present Premier alsoindorses it. The State Parliament passed an Act providing that as soon as the transcontinental railway is commenced, Western Australia will undertake to construct the railway from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge at her own expense. That is an undertaking embodied in an Act of Parliament, and I have not the slightest doubt that it will be honored by the present Government of Western Australia. On the question of a land grant, I contend that that is not a fair proposition to make to the State Governments. The land is owned by the States, and I have no doubt that, with a Labour Government in each of those States, we can rely that whatever unearned increment may attach to the land from the construction of this line will be preserved by them for the people rather than for private individuals.

Senator Millen - Not the people, but a section of the people.

Senator PEARCE - I ask honorable senators further to consider whether, if such a condition is to be attached to the construction of this railway, it will not be fair to attach a similar condition to the construction of all railways which the Commonwealth may build. If the Commonwealth isto be given 25 miles of country on each side of this line by the States of Western Australia and South Australia, a similar demand for 25 miles on each side of the line may be made when it is proposed to construct a railway from the Federal Capital to Jervis Bay, 1 am disposed to think that if such a demand were made in that case, some of those who are enthusiastically in favour of the principle to-day would be found to have altered their tune.

Senator Walker - Is it intended, in the event of a unification of gauge, that the cost involved shall be borne by the Federal Government ?

Senator PEARCE - That is a question for future arrangement. The Prime Minister has made a public statement on the matter. He has said that in this connexion the Federal Government have an open mind, and will be prepared to favorably consider any proposition which the State Premiers have to make in that regard.

Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.

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