PEOPLES' LIBERAL PARTY.
ADDRESS BY SENATOR M'COLL.
???? numbers of members of the Australian Wo- mens' National League.
It was decided that the two societies should co-operate in holding a picture en- tertainment to raise funds, and a sub-
committee of these members was formed to make the necessary arrangements. At the conclusion of the routine business
Senator J. H. M'Coll delivered an interest-
ing address on ''The Railway Gauge Pro-
Senator M'Coll, who was received with applause said-- "Probably one of the worst mistakes made in Australia, a source a anoyauce and a subject of ridicule, is the various railway gauges. The gauge means the size of the space between the rails. There is no country in the world where the physical conditions are more favorable to a uniform gauge than Aus- tralia. It is a land of great distances, of
wide areas, fairly uniform in their charac- ter. Its mountainous or rough country covers but a small part of it, and in no land can the various breaks of gauges be so absolutely unjustifable as in Australia. In June, 1919, there were 17,432 lines of railway constructed, and of those 15,467 may except from consideration the Tas- manian lines and those privately owned, which leave the mainland Government rail- ways with 14,998 miles. Of the 5in. 3in. gauge there are 3384 miles in Victoria, and
590 in South Australia, making 3086 miles of the 4ft. 8½in. gauge there are 3642 miles in New South Wales ; of 3ft. 6in. gauge 3661 miles in Queensland, 2145 in West Australia, 1459 in South Australia. 7265 miles in all, and of the 2ft. 6in. gauge 107 miles in Victoria. Until the State rail- way systems were connected, the non-con- formitv of gauge was not a drawback, but on the connection being made at Albury the inconvenience was at once felt, and has been intensified ever since. The junction charges at Albury, consequent of break of gauge are from 1/6 to 2/6 per ton and for live stock per truck. The adoption of the 3ft. 6in. gauge in Queensland, West Australia, and part of South Australia was deliberate, being done for economical con- struction, the break of gauge between Vic- toria and New South Wales was due to a breach of faith on the part of the latter State. In 1846 the home Government re- commended to N.S.W. the 4ft. 8½in. gauge, but after conferring at length with the Governments of Victoria and South Aus- tralia, it was agreed by the three States to adopt the gauge, and in 1852 the N.S.W. Government passed a most stringent Act providing for heavy penalties on anyone using any other gauge. Large orders for rolling stock were placed by Victoria and South Australia, and the lines from Melbourne to Geelong and Ben- digo were well advanced, when the N.S.W. Government, having changed their engi- neer, deliberately went back on the agree- ment, and constructed their lines on the 4ft. 8½in., without intimation to or con- sideration of the other States. Victoria and South Australia would not alter, and hence we have the main truck line of Aus- tralia from Adelaide in South Australia to Brisbane, in Queensland, 1790 miles, with three different gauges. From Adelaide to Albury is 5ft. 3in., from Albury to Wallangarra in Queensland is 4ft. 8½in., and from the lat- ter place to Brisbane is 3ft. 6in. That in a country like Australia, so badly sup- plied with rivers, the development and commercial prosperity depending so largely on railways-statesmen should have been so short-sightcd or so imbued with interstate jealousy as to permit such a condition of affairs to be brought about seems almost inconceivable, yet so it is. The adoption of federation, with the abolition of inter- state commercial barriers and the in- creased interstate commercial activity and development consequent on it, and the adopt- ion of a Federal defence system, are press- ing home the necessity of interchange ability of rolling stock, at any rate on our main trunk lines. And if steps are not taken to bring about uniformity of gauges on these lines, then our statesmen of to day will to future generations appear is short-sighted and foolish as those of the past. This brings as to the questions of which is the most suitable gauge for Aus- tralia to adopt, and here we must go afield and find the experience of other countries. The gauge adopted in most English-speak- ing lands is the 4ft. 8½in., and it is termed, though wrongly, the ''standard'' gauge. No particular reason has been given why 1hat gauge should have been adopted, and there is no special merit attached to it. Like Topsy, it just "glowed." George Ste- venson. who adopted it, happened to lake it without much, consideration ; others fol- lowed suit, and it became the English gauge. England was the first home of loco- motives. and from 1823 to 1859 was the workshop of the world. Having this gauge, Britain sent it to other lands, and con- struction got too far advanced, when in later years it came on for conederation to make the change. George Stephenson, in
his later years. said "if he were starting again he would take a gauge some inches wider than the 4ft. 8½in." and that he was right is borne out by the fact that other lands, where main trunk lines were needed, have, after due and searching inquiry, de- liberately adopted a wider gauge. The later countries are Russia in Europe, and Asia, India, Argentine, and Brazil. The countries which have definitely adopted 5ft. to 5ft. 6in. many truck line gauges JJKK Diver nil area- c.f 1 square in:l-.'s, ' and have a j-opulavion <>i' -Llo,02i,6>r. These countries, which are commit- ted to the 4ft. 8½in. and narrower gauges
I ior their i:ia.i;i trrnk lines have an nr?a of ! 10.20^.1.00 square wiles, and a population | «<i' 426.621.471. The Central European gauge is 4ft. 8½in., but the earlier rolling stock was obtained iron ; England, and a ! 1h* ;-o countries inter-trade to a great, or i tent, those which later fonstracted rail
ways lia-1 to foliow sui;. The countries in "'If extremities-Russia, S'p.iiu :;nd Port:' g.il???. However, adopted 5ft., and 5ft. 6in. gauge. Canada and the United States adopted the 4ft. 8½in. ???? that was owing
to the railways in both countries living sup-
.plic-d at first by Britain, conststruted with British capital, and by British engineers. To-day the American railway operators bit- terly regret they have not a wider gauge. The increase of traffic has been enormous and the cost of strengthening the perma- nent way and other works so heavy that they would, if it had been possible, have abandoned the gauge and taken a wider
one. But having 203,000 miles of 4ft. 8½in. running, to change was impossible, so to meet the increased traffic they have been strengthening the roads and bridges. In- creasing the weight of engines to the very limit of safety. Mr. Harriman, the great
railway operator, publicly expressed his re- gret that the gauge was not wider, and his dissatisfaction with it. He said there was one of two things to face-- either to widen the gauge or substitute electrification, so that power could be applied to a number of points in the train at once. A splen- did opportunity of having a uniform Aus- tralian gauge was missed last year when the transcontinental line, Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, was passed. The Government was strongly urged to have an inquiry into 1he matter of the best gauge, but its con-
cern was to get the line through, and it would brook no delay for inquiry. It took sis its engineer Mr. H. Deane, who had been shunted by the New South Wales Go- ernment some years before. His sym- pathies were all with the 4ft. 8½in. gauge. and its adoption meant that his State would not need to alter its gauge. He gave the idea of an inquiry his strong op- position, and as the Government was de- termined to pass the line last session, it would take no risk of alienating any sup- porters who favored the 4ft. 8½in. gauge. Hence the protests of Victoria and South Australia were unheeded. Both the Vic- torian and South Australian Governments urged an inquiry, but no notice was taken. At the Premiers' Conference, lately held, however, Mr. Watt, the Treasurer for Vic- toria, succeeded in carrying a motion for an inquiry by engineers for the States, as to which will be the best gauge for Aus-
tralia. The public will therefore have an opportunity of getting the facts elicited, and an opportunity later on of expressing a judgment on theo result. The Victorian institute of Engineers has for many ses-
sions been considering this question, and came to an almost unanimous decision that the wider gauge was the one that should be adopted for Australia. As a layman.
I have given this question some study and attention and my reading convinces me that the wider gauge is desirable, and that the decision of the Federal Government to take the 4ft 8½in. gauge will be some day bitterly regretted. As those concerned in adopting it will then have passed out of political life, the later result will not con- cern them, as their present end will be trained. The. decision to construct the
miles from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie involving another break of gauge in South Australia, and thus to a large ex- tent committing the various States to the 4ft. 8½. gauge, without any inquiry or even consulting them, though they own the line.i-w.i s ai: a.n-o:???? assumption of authority by the Ministry and supporters that will not be forgotten. The fact that the Premiers of the States in conference, having decided on an expert inquiry, is all evidence how the people of the States with regard the matter. The reasons in favor of the wider gauge that lead me to advise JJKK cate. it may be. put as follows. (1) lraui portation is now one of t-he greatest factors in our commercial and industrial life. The
whole trend of modern transport facilities is towards greater speed, power, and carry- ing capacity on land and sea, and large
ships, carriages, trucks, longer trains, and more powerful engines. This is because each ton of goods and each passenger can be carried at a cheaper rate. The max- JJKK mum weight of Victorian railway eng'n-s l».aa increased from G} 'ens in 1-SSO U. K-0 in 101.0, while in the United States it is now 378 ton?- (2) Australia differs from most otii;r .-ountrks. Its area is large 1000 mile? bv 250') miles l'rciil the rail way point of view it is easy country, and the" cost of construction will be much less than in jnounta'.r.crs or rugged countries. Since a 5ft:. '.sin. line, will fost but, litU", li a.uy. more thai', a- 4ft Sliu. Ihe ^ ie toria.ii lines havo cost .tlO-.'O a- mile less than tho« of the narrower gauae in Isew South Wales. (3) Tlio cost of constructic.n ol' the li'ies will be about the same, and there will be little difference between the conversion of the ott. Gin. and tuo -1*fl.n. to .oft. Ilin. The lmc fi-«m Kalgooriie >o Perth must Ve converted from ?'.he Hit 6in. to the adopted gauge, whichever it may hi:
(i) Tho train weight and length, and deter mined by the width of the gauge, .he pt rmancnt structures, and the gi.K.e. The gang;, however, is the main determinino- factor, no matter what the grade may' be. In Britain and America train weight and length have reached their economic limit. In these lantis tlio 4ft. fa.jin. o-aiige is now regretted. and in Ameiiea soir.e it illiens of pounds have been spent to rectify the errors of the past-a narrow gauge and heavy gradients. In our earlier railway construction cheapness was con- sidered a low first cost and low interest bill. For this you pay later on more power being needed and less speed and carrying capacity being obtained. Judged by time, we are only beginning railway construction, and call afford to rectify er rors and get right lines. A high-grade and narrow gaugo mean a. permanent tax n-.i each, ton "of goods and passenger car
ried. (5) The contention is raised that tiie cost of conversion will lie1 "router if the oft. :ii». is selected. That is true. But a frrcat number <>1' iiortis will bo the mine whichever gauge is adopted. Land, survey, engineering charges, cutting, embank' meats, stations, signal .yards, ongia& tdieds, and works. will be the fame. Kails, sleepers, ballast and bridges mav he some what heavier. but tho 20 per cent, extra
1 capacity of the broader ga'uge will repay !
these costs. In any unification of gauge I tliat takes place the question of clcavanccs, ; that is, the spaee between any part of a
j tra in and a prTmano?:t erection, musl be j
considered. It is estimated t ho cost of. convention will be X'i ,000,000 more if the oft. :lin. be accepted, but there will be a market for 4ft. Stin. stock, but none for 5ft. oin. But even the highest conversion estimates will only moan an addition to the interest on the capital value of the New South Wales, Victoria, and South Aus-
tralia lines of less than 1-10th of 1 per cent. and this additional 1-10th of 1 per cent. means an assurance that there shall
be a provision to meet a 20 per cent. greater traffic before duplication is neces- sary. But this statement of the cost of conversion was a rough estimate in 1897, and requires much checking. The matter of the height and width of a train is im- portant. The narrower and lower the rol- ling stock on the 4ft. 8½in. gauge the less
the freight carried, and the higher and wider the stock and longer the train the
greater danger of disaster. (6) That as freight increases and the economical limit of working is reached, duplication will, as has been pointed out, bo necessary. This means a great additional expense. In the case of the wider gauge, with its 20 per cent, greater capacity, the need for dupli cation will be indefinitely postponed. Du plication, on account of the increased cost, may mean that a paving line may bo turned into a non-paying one, because of the in creased capital expended. (7) Another a* poet of this question deserves the most serious consideration-the military. Aus tralia, of all the nations, is the only COB tiiient island nation. In countries adjoin in«- each other, commerce, interchange, and the power of aggression and attack, re quires a similar railway gauge between tho countries involved. Here th© position k' different; any attack. must come by sea. From whom is an attack lik«ly to come Japan, China. Germany? Japan, which is a
mountainous country, has discarded the 3ft
Oin. gauge, and adopted the 4ft. 8',in. Uinia lias not yet adopted a national R-aiige, but has 1000 miles on the 4ft. SUr." The gaajje cf Germany is 1ft. SJin.', though an attack from that quarter is a remote con tingency. But how conveniens ? for either of these attacking armies to place rolling stock on ships, land >t and find rails ready to run ft on, and so give them a com manding position. Oh tho other hand, with a diffcront gauge, how superior is the posi tion of the defenders, for the lines would ho useless to the attacking i'orcc, but of infinite service to their opponents. These points were all put to the Government ma- jority, but they wore contemptuously set aside as unworthy of argument. (8) Coming to the more local aspect of the question,
what position would Victoria, be in with the adoption of the 4ft. 8½in. gauge for the transcontinental line, and making it the standard for Australia ? To get or keep its share of the Riverina and Darling trade, she must convert to 4ft. 8½in gauge,
at an enormous cost, and find her rolling stock on her hands, for there will be no customers for it, Ireland being the only 5ft. 3in. gauge country. The trans- continental line constructed, and the line
from Petersburg to Broken Hill converted to 4ft. 8½in., it only remains then to con- struct 259 miles from Broken llill to Co- bar, and the inter-ocean trade for East Australia will go direct through to Sydney. This may appear a somewhat parochial
view, but in fairness to Victoria it should
be mentioned. Right through the discus- sion on the Kalgoolie line, Victoria and its interests had no attention, and even a letter from Mr. W. A. Watt, Acting Pre-
mier, asking for a conference between the
Commonwealth and the States on the mat- ter, was ignored, its receipt denied, and only after repeated questions by myself was the fact it had been received elicited more than two months after it had been received. Senator Pearce, who was in charge
of the Railway Bill in the Senate, was not, I believe, to blame for its suppression. The blame lay with the Home Affairs (Mr. O'Ma!ley's) department. No layman can settle the gauge problem. It lies with the engineers, and it is satisfactory to know
that by the order of the Premiers' Con-' ference to the engineers it will go. I have tried to compress this involved and
important question as much as possible. There are numerous other points that might be mentioned if time would permit, tjiit, I hope enough has been said to rouse some interest in the question and causo
the public to watch it and see a fair in- ; quirv is bein<r made, and the truth aseer- ; tained on undeniable evidence given before
an independent board of experts. I
The address was listened to attentively ^ by the large audience, and was frequently
Sir John Quick, M.P.. thanked the lec turer for his lucid explanations of eovor.il important problems, which would undoubt edly have to be faced in the near future. Mr. M'Col'. was thoroughly conversant with hh -subject, which was of paramount im parlance, both from commercial and mili tary standpoints, lie considered that the States interested should face the question t>t' a uniform gauge entirely untrammelled, and whichever Stj'o had ultimately to
alter iW gauge should do to at the expense ' of the whole Commonwealth. If this were done the States would take an impartial view of the question. (Applause.)
Mrs. G. Mackay also spoke and stated that after listening to the lecture she had been seized with the immense importance of the question. She considered that if the Commonwealth Government would undertake the construction of the main trunk lines it would go a great way to wards the solution of the difficulty.
A hearty vote of thanks to Senator M'Coll for his address was on the motion of Messrs. Malcolm Eadie and W. M'Robert, carried with enthusiastic
Senator M'Coll briefly replied.