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Friday, 29 June 1906


Mr LONSDALE (New England) . - I have been challenged with not possessing a sense of justice, and, therefore, I wish to say a few words on this proposal to put myself in the right j because I bc-' lie\;e in absolute justice, so far as that is possible, in the management of human affairs. We have been told that we should authorize the survey of the proposed line because the people of Western Australia were promised that, if they agreed to Federation, a railway would be built to connect Western Australia with the Eastern States. I know that one of the objections raised in New South Wales to the Constitution Bill was that, if it were passed, pressure would be brought to bear on the Commonwealth Government to build such a line, and, if provision had been made in the Constitution for the construction of that line, the Bill would have received, more opposition than it did.


Mr Carpenter - It would have gone through flying just the same.


Mr LONSDALE - In New South Wales it did not go through flying, and I do not think that it would have gone through at all bad such a provision been contained in it. It has been said that the people of Western Australia stand in the same position in regard to the construction of the proposed railway as that in which the people of New South Wales stand in regard to the location of the Federal Capital ; but, whereas it is expressly provided in the Constitution that the Federal Capital shall be located in the mother State, there is no similar provision regarding the Western Australian railway.


Mr Carpenter - There is nothing in the Constitution requiring the maintenance of a residence in Sydney for the GovernorGeneral.


Mr LONSDALE - That is another matter. I did not take part in the discussion of the Governor-General's Residences Bill, and, personally, would not care much if he were not provided with a residence in Sydney. There is, however, no parallel between the position of the Western Australians in reference to the proposed railway and that of the people of New South Wales in reference to the Capital Site question. If Western Australia was brought into Federation upon the promise that this railway would be made, that promise was given behind the backs of the people of the other States, and their votes were obtained for the Constitution by means of a deception. I voted for the survey of a route last session after a good deal of thought, but with not much enthusiasm.


Mr Tudor - Is that because the honorable member's party happened to be in power then?


Mr LONSDALE - No.


Mr Carpenter - Surely the honorable member does not propose to reverse his vote now?


Mr LONSDALE - I am older and more experienced than I was then, and every man, as he gains greater wisdom, is entitled to make use of it. If I voted wrongly on one occasion, there is no reason why I should not reverse my vote on the first opportunity. I did not vote for this survey without conditions. Those conditions have been fulfilled in some respects, but not entirely, and I shall require their embodiment in the Bill before I vote for it again, because I cannot accept the promise made last session.


Mr Skene - What conditions are they?


Mr LONSDALE - The chief condition is that the land on both sides of the line shall be reserved for a distance of twentyfive miles back from it.


Sir John Forrest - It has already been reserved in Western Australia.


Mr LONSDALE - I do not think that the Commonwealth should incur expenditure to benefit South Australia and Western Australia only ; but I shall vote for the Bill if I am assured by responsible persons that South Australia, as well as Western Australia, will make this reservation.


Mr Frazer - The honorable member is insisting upon an impracticable condition.


Mr LONSDALE - Is it fair to the other States that the Commonwealth should pay money to improve the value of land in South Australia and Western Australia, and get no return ?


Mr Fowler - The Commonwealth improves the value of land in a New South Wales township when it erects a post-office there.


Mr LONSDALE - It does the same thing when it erects a post-office in Western Australia. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth has put up very few post-offices in New South Wales, because the State Government had done really too much in that direction prior to Federation. If I had my way, the added value given to land by improvements of this kind would be returned by means of a land value tax.


Mr Frazer - A Federal land tax?


Mr LONSDALE - No. I would not vote for a proposal like that of the leader of the Labour Party, which I consider outrageous. I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill unless the condition to which I have referred is fulfilled. We were told last session that both Western Australia and South Australia would comply with the conditions which were laid down.


Mr Wilson - South Australia is not at all " sweet " on the project.


Mr LONSDALE - If the Commonwealth enhances the value of land in those States by expenditure shared in by all the States, it is rot too much to require the reservation of land along the route to enable it to obtain a return of that value.


Mr Groom - Would the honorable member have the New South Wales Parliament adopt such a rule?


Mr LONSDALE - Yes. I have for years advocated that principle. It is out- rageous that private persons should pocket the increased value given to land by Government expenditure.


Mr Wilks - Does the honorable member believe in a betterment tax?


Mr LONSDALE - No. I do not think that a betterment tax could be imposed in this instance ; but it is reasonable to ask for the reservation of which I have spoken, so that the Commonwealth may obtain a return for its expenditure.


Mr Wilson - Does the honorable member believe in land nationalization?


Mr LONSDALE - No. I think that the quicker the States get rid of their land, the better it will be, so long as they receive a return for their expenditure upon it. There is no doubt that the land through which the line would pass would become much more valuable, and I think that the Commonwealth would have a perfect right to avail itself of any advantage that might accrue in that respect. I shall certainly vote against the second reading of the Bill, unless we are absolutely assured that the land through which the line would pass will be reserved.







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