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Friday, 29 June 1906

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) .- The first consideration which weighs with me in approaching this question is the undoubted fact that the Government, during the recess - urgently, no doubt, as it applied itself to this subject - has not been able to carry out a recommendation made by the Senate on this measure last session. The Bill, as the House knows, was shelved in the Senate bv means of the following amendment : -

That all words after "be" be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words " not further considered until evidence that the Parliament of South Australia has formally consented to the Commonwealth constructing that portion of the proposed railway which would be in South Australian territory has been laid on the table of the Senate."

The Minister has not been able to tell the House that he has received the agreement of the Parliament of South Australia in this regard. That is the first consideration which affects me in approaching the measure, for we should be very careful, before we come into conflict with another place on a question which vitally concerns States rights. Until the expressed desire of the Senate in this particular .has been met in the way required, it is idle for this House to go ahead with the Bill. There is not the slightest doubt that the Senate will adhere to the decision previously given.

Mr Fowler - Is the honorable member always prepared to "climb down" to the Senate ?

Mr KELLY - I am always prepared, when the Senate asks- |for a reasonable thing, to see what can be done to meet its wishes. What the Senate has asked is only reasonable, as I shall endeavour to show later on. The Minister, in introducing the measure, told us that we must not look upon this scheme merely from the point of view of the money involved. From the point of view of any one who wishes to see this measure pass, his injunction was a particularly wise one.

Mr Page - The honorable member did not say this last session.

Mr KELLY - I spoke in exactly the same sense, and with the same object in view.

Mr Frazer - And then the honorable member voted for the second reading of the Bill?

Mr KELLY - No doubt my action should be a warning to any one who wants to meet the supporters of this Bill half way.

When the Bill was formerly before the House, I explained carefully' that I would go to the length of voting for the second reading on the chance of having included in the measure, in Committee, a provision safeguarding the taxpayers of the Commonwealth as a whole. Those honorable members who are now so generous in trying to trip me up, should recollect that all honorable members were led into believing that if they voted for the survey thev would not be committing themselves to "the railway. I, however, certainly think that they are committing themselves to the railway.

Mr Watkins - Why?

Mr KELLY - Because the Treasurer, in Adelaide, in December last, just after this House had passed the Survey Bill, spoke as follows: -

He was quite satisfied that the proposal for the construction of the line would be received just as well as that for the survey.

The Treasurer went on -

Otherwise it would be improper for honorable members to have voted as they had for an expenditure of ,£20,000, as that would then have been so much waste money.

Sir John Forrest - Who said that?

Mr KELLY - The present Treasurer.

Sir John Forrest - What newspaper was that published in?

Mr KELLY - In an Adelaide newspaper.

Sir John Forrest - I never said anything of the sort.

Mr KELLY - I am afraid we frequently misunderstand the right honorable gentleman. I believe, for instance, that the right honorable gentleman has some doubt as to what be has said on the progressive land tax question.

Sir John Forrest - I would not be so foolish as to say that a person voting for the survey must vote for the line when the information supplied by the survey might be against its construction.

Mr KELLY - I shall read the reference again for the right honorable gentleman, and if he denies all responsibility for it I shall accept his assurance.

Sir John Forrest - In what is it contained - a pamphlet.

Mr KELLY - I am reading from Hansard.

Sir John Forrest - Does the honorable member think that I would say anything so foolish as that?

Mr KELLY - This is what the right honorable gentleman is reported to have said : -

He was quite satisfied that the proposal for thi- construction of the line would be received just as well as that for the survey. Otherwise it would be improper for honorable members to have voted as they had for an expenditure of ^20,000, as that would then have been so much waste money.

Sir John Forrest - An enemy said that.

Mr KELLY - A newspaper, which I presume did not wish to harm the right honorable gentleman, reported that he said it.

Sir John Forrest - I would not be so foolish as to say that we want a survey for information, and then that those who vote to secure that- information are committed to the construction of the line.

Mr KELLY - I accept the right honorable gentleman's assurance that he did not say that, or anything like it, but I suggest to honorable members that that is the very argument which the right honorable gentleman will use if we are foolish enough to pass the Bill for this survey, and he desires afterwards to have the line constructed.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member should quote from me, and not. from some one else.

Mr KELLY - The right honorable gentleman is anxious that I should go on quoting from him. I think I shall do so, in order to let honorable members know the nature of the country which this line is. to traverse. We have had the Minister ,of Home Affairs explaining to us to-day what a perfect paradise this country is supposed to be.

Mr Robinson - A " paradise lost."

Mr KELLY - I am afraid that, as the honorable and learned member suggests, it is a paradise lost. We are in the singularly fortunate position of having unbiased evidence from the Treasurer of the Commonwealth on this very question. The right honorable gentleman did some exploration of Western Australia, and I propose to quote from his account of it.

Mr Robinson - This is most unfair.

Sir John Forrest - It is perfectly fair. 1 hope the honorable member will quote what I said fully.

Mr KELLY - It is a somewhat lengthy volume, and I have no wish to detain the House, by reading the whole of it. I remind honorable members that the Treasurer, who did splendid work in the West, wrote an unbiased and disinterested account of his great journey, and this is what he says about the land which this afternoon has been reported to be flowing with milk and honey. The first quotation I make from the right honorable gentleman's book will be found at page 99.

Mr Mahon - How many years old is the reference?

Mr KELLY - The honorable member for Coolgardie now wishes us to believe that the whole nature of this country has changed in the last thirty-six years !

Mr.-Mahon. - Climates change.

Mr KELLY - The honorable member does not doubt any more than do honorable members generally that the Treasurer was telling the truth on this occasion.

Mr Mahon - It would take a miracle to change the honorable member.

Mr Robinson - Nature was changed when Moses struck the rock.

Mr KELLY - I think we shall strike a rock somewhere.

Mr Mahon - The honorable memberwill strike a snag before he is finished.

Mr KELLY - Honorable members, apparently, do not wish to hear the quota. tions I desire to make. The Treasurer states in his book -

Started at dawn and .travelled in a southerly direction for nine miles, when we found a rock water hole, containing one -gallon, and had breakfast. Continuing for four miles we reached the cliffs, which fell perpendicularly into the sea, and although grand in the extreme, were terrible to gaze from.

Sir John Forrest - That is not the place.

Mr KELLY - I ask honorable members to listen very carefully to this.

Sir John Forrest - That is before I had seen the country at the beginning of the trip, before I came to this country.

Mr KELLY - This is what the right honorable gentleman says -

After looking very cautiously over the precipice, we all ran back, quite terror-stricken by the dreadful -view.

This is the paradise whose beauties we have heard described. The right honorable gentleman goes on to say that his party rested next day in camp, and he continues -

Intend making preparations to-morrow foi starting on Tuesday morning, and attempt to reach the water shown on Mr. Eyre'.s track in longitude 126 deg. 24 min. east 150 miles distant, by carrying 30 gallons of water with us, and walking in turns, so as to have the horses tj carry the water. Intend allowing each man one quart, and each two quarts per day. Feel very anxious as to the result, as it will take five or six days ; but it is the only resource left. ' " The only resource left " in a paradise flowing with milk and honey ! I. make another quotation from the right honorable gentleman's diary of a few days later.

Sir John Forrest - That is getting towards the pla:e.

Mr KELLY - That is, getting better?

Sir John Forrest - I should like to explain that we were not near Eucla then.

Mr SPEAKER - Order !

Sir John Forrest - We were 200 miles from Eucla then.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The right honorable member can speak later.

Mr KELLY - The right honorable gentleman says that the party were getting to a much better part of the country at this particular time, and I find that he made the following statement about it in his book -

Made an early start, steering north-east, and at one mi!e found a rock water-hole, containing 15 gallons, which we gave the tired, thirsty horses, and, continuing chiefly through dense mallee thickets, with a few grassy flats intervening, for 22 miles, found another rock waterhole holding about 10 gallons -

This is the well-watered country of which we hear now !

Mr Fowler - Where did 'that water come from?

Mr KELLY - From where the honorable member is going to some day, I hope. The Treasurer goes on to say - which we also gave the horses, and after travelling one mile from it camped on a large grassy flat without water for the horses. Our horses are still very thirsty, and have yet 70 miles to go before reaching the water in' longitude 126 deg. 24 min. east. . Am very thankful for finding the little water to-day ; if we had none our situation would be somewhat perilous, and some of the horses would probably show signs of distress to-morrow.

This is still more of the paradise ! I do not wish to detain the House with further quotations1 from the right honorable gentleman on this country.

Mr Page - It is worth reading.

Mr KELLY - I think it is quite worth reading, but we shall have many opportunities to read it before this measure is finally passed.

Sir John Forrest - I shall show the honorable member my final opinion of the country if he will hand me the book.

Mr KELLY - I hope the Treasurer will do so. I have given 'the right honorable gentleman's opinion of some of the country to be traversed by this line.

Mr Lonsdale - Had the right honorable gentleman any idea of putting a railway through it then ?

Mr KELLY - The right honorable gentleman had considerable difficulty in getting "himself through, and he was not then thinking of a railway.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member will read the paragraph I have indicated for him, if he wishes to be fair.

Mr KELLY - This is 'the paragraph to which the right honorable gentleman refers me -

The portion most suited for settlement is all that between longitude 126 deg. 12 min. east, and 129 deg. 12 min. east -

The country I have just been describing from the right honorable gentleman's notes is between those two meridians.

Sir John Forrest - Will the honorable member read on?

Mr KELLY - The passage continues - near Eucla Harbor, or in other words the country to the north of the Hampton Range, the country north of the range being most beautifully grassed, and I believe abundance of water could be procured anywhere under the range by sinking 20 or 30 feet. There is also under the same range a narrow strip of fine grassy country for the whole length of the range, namely, about 160 miles.

Mr Watson - The right honorable gentleman showed great foresight in putting that in, did he not?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There seems to be a good deal of Yes-No about this book.

Mr KELLY - I accept absolutely the ' right honorable gentleman's statement that this is the very best of the country traversed by the party, but I remind him that he is speaking of the country between 126 deg. and 129 deg., in referring to which, in another part of this same luminous book, he describes this absolutely wretched condition of affairs -

Intend making preparations to-morrow for starting on Tuesday morning and attempt to reach the water shown on Mr. Eyre's track in longitude 126 deg. 24 min. east.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member has got back to where he started' from.

Mr KELLY - I do not wish to go over that old ground again, and I do not expect the Treasurer does either. Here is a quotation which refers to the country between 126 deg. and 129 deg. east -

Am very thankful finding the little water today, for if we had none our situation would be somewhat perilous, and some of the horses would probably show signs of distress to-morrow.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member read that before.

Mr KELLY - The right honorable gentleman said that I did not read the correct part. He asked me to refer tohis description of the country between 126 deg. and 129 deg., and I find that is the very part of the country which I have been reading about. Without being unfair in any particular to the right honorable gentleman, I think we can safely say that his opinion about this country as a whole is about as uncertain as are his opinions upon the land tax question.

Mr Mahon - He did not see it from a motor car.

Mr KELLY - I think I heard a sound like a shot from behind a hedge. There is no reason why there should be any illfeeling about a matter of this kind. We are all here to represent the views of our constituents. The honorable member for Coolgardie, I know, is a gentleman, and all praise to him for it, who feels very strongly upon all subjects in which he is interested; but he should not object to give the same latitude toother honorable members which he would like to be given to himself.

Mr Mahon - I am not restricting the honorable member, surely.

Mr KELLY - No, but the honorable gentleman was, I think, showing a little heat just now. It is better that we should put this matter on a sound basis. I suggest to the Government that, having heard these extracts from the descriptions given by the Treasurer, they might consider whether the debate mightnot now be reasonably adjourned, with a view to the further consideration of the measure on Tuesday. What are we committed to if we pass this Bill? It is true that it is only to provide for a survey, but I feel that the Treasurer would have been quite right in saying that we shall be taking a wrong course of action in passing a Bill to provide for the survey if we are not prepared, subsequently, to indorse the verdict of the experts invited to conduct it. That appears to me to be a reasonable contention.

Mr Carpenter - If the honorable member looks at a motor car, is that any guarantee that he will buy it?

Mr KELLY - I would not pay an expert to examine a motor car if I were determined not to buy one. and the people's representatives in this House should not act more foolishly in the transaction of public affairs than they would in private life. We must consider now the ultimate as well as the immediate results: of passing this measure. If the proposed survey is made, Parliament will probably be committed to an expenditure of from £4,000,000 to £5,000,000 for the construction of a railway. We shall thus be forced to initiate an era of borrowing, and to compete with the States in the London money market. All the members of the Labour Party, including the representatives of Western Australia, and many other members of the House, have announced themselves as opposed to Commonwealth borrowing, and I understand that it is a plank in the platform of that party that there shall be no borrowing by the Commonwealth.

Mr Fowler - I believe in borrowing for reproductive purposes.

Mr KELLY - The plank of the Labour Party is no Commonwealth borrowing, without any qualifications. However, as I understand that there is a desire to adjourn now, I ask permission to resume my remarks on Tuesday next.

Leave granted ; debate adjourned.

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