BILL BEFORE THE SENATE.
Melbourne, Nov. 23.
In the Senate to-day the debate on the
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Bill
Mr. McColl (V.) said that the line had been too lightly considered. Its importance had not been realised either inside or out- side Parliament. No guarantee had ever been given to Western Australia that the line should be constructed. All that existed was a letter from, the late Sir Frederick Holder, who was then Premier of South Australia, admitting that a promise was given. Was that any reason why they should not be prudent in the matter ? Modern engineering experience had been ignored in the matter. Other States had built their own lines and had not asked the Commonwealth to do so. Only last year Queensland had constructed a number of lines. They had to be just to all the States,
which would have to bear the burden, and their interests should be consulted. There was no special virtue in the 4ft. 8½in. gauge. What they had to consider was whether it
was best for Australia. The first railways had been mooted in 1846, and English ex- perts advised the 4ft. 8½in. gauge. The New South Wales' engineers recommended the 5ft. 3in. gauge, and the Imperial Govern- ment allowed this. Victoria and South Australia were asked also to adopt this and did so. The New South Wales Parliament passed a stringent Act regulating the gauge
and stating that it should not be lawful to construct any line except on the 5ft. 3in. gauge. Victoria and South Australia passed Acts adopting this gauge. Then a new railway engineer came to Sydney, and he at once began an agitation to get the gauge altered. He was successful, and the Act was
repealed, and the 4ft. 8½in. gauge was adopted without reference to Victoria or South Australia. The Government of Victoria sent a strong protest to London, asking that the Queen should be advised not to sign the Act, but this was of no avail. It was agreed that the wider the gauge the cheaper it was to carry freight. India, after a de- liberate trial, had adopted the gauge of 5ft. 6in. This Legislative Council of Victoria had appointed a Committee to go into the ques- tion of gauge in 1853, and this, after tak- ing evidence, reported that New South Wales was not justified in reducing its gauge to 4ft. 8½in. without first consulting Victoria. Ireland had adopted the 5ft. 3in. gauge, but most other countries had adopted the 4ft. 8½in. gauge, following its selection by Eng- land. The railways of Australia would have to be standardised, and the Bill before the Senate would practically settle what the gauge would be. They were not too far com- mitted, and he desired that a proper inquiry should be made among the railway engineers in Australia. The first consideration,
frequently, was to get as many miles of line constructed for the money available, as was possible. He referred to the conference of Railway Commissioners held in Melbourne in 1897, which recommended the 4ft. 8½in. gauge as the uniform gauge of Australia. The reason for this had been the cheaper cost of construction than with the 5ft. 3in. gauge. They had not entered into the merits of cheap traction. In 1903 the Engineers-in-
Chief of the States' railways had met in Melbourne, and had adopted the same gauge
for the same reason. In the present year a War Council had been assembled, and it affirmed the desirableness of a uniform gauge of 4ft. 8½in. although there was dissent on the part of the Queensland engineer.
Mr. McColl had not completed his address when the debate was adjourned.
Melbourne, Nov. 24.
In the Senate to-day the debate on the second reading of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Bill was continued.
Mr. McColl (V.) resumed his unfinished address of yesterday. He said that the rail- way must be a dead-weight to Australia for many years to come unless it was associated with a policy of immigration. He thought that the estimate of cost was far too low. The water supply was doubtful, and no analysis of the water available had been made to show that it was suitable for rail- way purposes. No railway had been con-
structed in Australia for the sum estimated for this line. The Minister had said that the Commonwealth had to face the question of gauge and settle it. It was hard to understand this, for the Commonwealth had no Railway Department. By what author- ity did the Commonwealth settle the ques- tion without consulting the States ? There had been no pronouncement by the States.
Sir Josiah Symon (S.A.) : There ought to be a conference of experts before the matter is settled.
Mr. McColl said that the matter
was not only an engineering one but also a commercial and an industrial one. Sup-
posing that the States refuse to convert their gauges where would the Common- wealth be ? India and Ireland had taken a long while to settle their gauges. Robert Stephenson himself had said that if he had had to adopt a gauge again he would have adopted a wider one than 4ft. 8½in. All
that he (Mr. McColl) was asking for was an inquiry. Neither war councils nor confer- ences of engineers had been unanimous on the recommendation of the gauge of 4ft. 8½in. Mr. Pearce had said that to adopt the 5ft. 3in. gauge would require an alteration of tunnels, but these would not require alteration on the Melbourne to Adelaide line.
As a matter of fact it was not a great thing to alter tunnels, and it would not involve a
dislocation of traffic. It had been suggested that a third rail might be laid on the 5ft. 3in. gauge lines, but this had been condemned by engineers on the ground that in railway work the utmost simplicity was re- quired. The sleepers in New South Wales were quite long enough to carry the gauge of 5ft. 3in. In Canada the 4ft. 8½in. gauge had been adopted because it was necessary to connect the lines in Canada with the rail- ways of the United States. In view of all these circumstances he thought that the question of gauge should be held over until a full inquiry had been made. Mr. Deane,
the Commonwealth Consulting Engineer, had submitted a report in which he said that any deficiency of rolling stock might be made good from abroad if the 4ft. 8½in. gauge
were adopted. He (Mr. McColl) thought that this was a wrong view, as all the rolling stock should be made in Australia. He did not wonder that Victoria and South Aus- tralia were, putting their backs up at the manner in which the question of gauge had been settled. Japan had adopted the 4ft. 8½in. gauge, and it would be advisable for the Commonwealth to adopt a different gauge to that country. If Australia had the same gauge, all that Japan would have to do, in the event of trouble, would be to transport her rolling stock to Port Darwin or some other point. No provision had been made either by Western Australia or South Australia to set apart land for the construc- tion of the line. Another important question was that of route. He had been told that the route selected was not the best, and that it should be further south, by which 60 miles would be saved and a more settled district travelled.
Mr. Walker (N.S.W.) argued at some length in favour of the 4ft. 8½in. gauge. He moved, as an amendment, that in order to recoup partly the Commonwealth for the cost of the line the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia should reserve from sale and vest in the Common- wealth alternate blocks of 10 square miles each on each side of the line.
The debate was adjourned.