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Wednesday, 18 July 1906

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) .- When I last addressed myself to this question, I quoted extracts from the reports of the right honorable the Treasurer to indicate the nature of the country through which the proposed railway would pass, and also to 'show the intimate relationship which the survey proposal bore to the eventual construction of the line. Now that, the courtesy of honorable members has permitted me to continue my remarks, I find that I am not in a position to guarantee the correctness of my right honorable friend's none too satisfactory accounts of the territory north of the Australian Bight. I absolutely agree, however, with the view that if we pass this Bill we shall pledge ourselves to the construction of the line in the event of the estimates of the cost of construction and the annual loss upon the working of it not being proved incorrect. The survey of a railway is surely the initial stage of its construction.

Mr Webster - Not necessarily. It may prove to be the death of the line.

Mr KELLY - I say that, unless the estimates of the cost of construction and the annual loss upon the working of the line are proved to be too low, we shall, by passing this Bill, have taken one of the preliminary steps towards the construction of the railway.

Mr Page - That is absolutely correct.

Mr Webster - Without a survey we shall have nothing to guide us.

Mr KELLY - We have the reports that have already been presented to Parliament. Knowing how closely associated the proposal for the survey is with that for the construction of the line, it is our duty to examine carefully the whole railway scheme. If honorable members think that a capital outlay of £4,500,000, together with a yearly deficit of £70,000, is too much to pay for the travelling convenience of a small section of the Australian public, I trust that they will declare against the railway at this stage, instead of supinely puttingoff their decision until three years hence. Are we so fabulously, wealthy that we can afford to throw £25,000 up the spout? Honorable members should face the position. The outside public will ask why their funds should be wasted, and they will not be satisfied when they are told that honorable members have not the courage of their convictions, or have been log-rolled into temporary complaisance.

Mr Webster - The honorable member voted in favour of the proposal.

Mr KELLY - On the last occasion that a similar Bill was before the House I explained that I would vote for the second reading, in order to give the representatives of Western Australia an opportunity of proving the soundness of their statement that the line would pay. I said -

I voted originally for the consideration of the measure, and afterwards for the second reading, because I wished to test in Committee the question which is at the bottom of my amendment. I have voted for the Bill so far, although I am opposed to the construction of the railway, because I wish now to prove whether or not the Western Australian representatives think that the verdict of the survey will be favorable to the construction of the line. . I merely wish now to ascertain whether the representatives of Western Australia are prepared to back their opinion that the railway will prove a great success as a business undertaking. I move -

That the following proviso be added : - "Provided that the States of Western Australia and South Australia, collectively, or individually, undertake to refund to the Commonwealth the cost of this survey, in the event of the Commonwealth not deciding within two (2) years of the completion thereof to construct the said railway."

When my amendment was lost, I took up the position which, so far as the railway is concerned, I have always maintained, and I opposed the Survey Bill with all my strength. Honorable members who, after hearing that statement read, insinuate that I have changed my views with regard to the proposed railway will insinuate anything. I am rather disappointed to hear that certain remarks have fallen from the Treasurer, who, I understand, recently told his friends in Western Australia that one of the reasons why he severed that close association which he formerly enjoyed with the right honorable member for East Sydney was that the right honorable gentleman was not sufficiently energetic on the question of the transcontinental railway line.

Sir John Forrest - I have not been in Western Australia lately, and I have not made any such statements.

Mr KELLY - I accept my right honorable friend's assurance.

Sir John Forrest - I did not think that I was well treated by the right honorable gentleman at the end of the first session of this Parliament, but I have always stated the right honorable member has been a very good friend to the railway, and has always been in favour of the survey and of the construction of the line.

Mr KELLY - I am very glad that the right honorable gentleman acknowledges that the right honorable member for East Sydney has always done everything possible.

Sir John Forrest - Where did the honorable gentleman obtain his informationfrom some anonymous correspondent, I suppose?

Mr KELLY - I at once accept the right honorable member's assurance, and I am glad to hear him say that the right honorable member for East Sydney has done his utmost to further the project.

Sir John Forrest - I did not say that. I said that he had always been a good friend to the railway.

Mr Robinson - In that regard, he has made one of the greatest mistakes of his life.

Mr KELLY - Exactly; but I am glad to have it placed on record that the Treasurer is satisfied with the action of the right honorable member for East Sydney.

Sir John Forrest - I was not satisfied when the measure was talked out in the Senate at the end of the first session of this Parliament.

Mr KELLY - For four years the right honorable gentleman was a member of the Barton and Deakin Administrations, and yet he never so much as submitted a motion in favour of the -construction of the transcontinental railway.

Sir John Forrest - That is not accurate.

Mr KELLY - Did the Treasurer introduce, a Bill dealing with that matter?

Sir John Forrest - I asked for leave to introduce one, and the motion was opposed.

Mr KELLY - Was opposition to a motion for leave to introduce a Bill sufficient to deter the right honorable gentleman?

Sir John Forrest - It was my Bill which passed through this House.

Mr KELLY - The Treasurer was in. office for four years without accomplishing anything in connexion with the transcontinental railway, and yet the right honorable member for East Sydney, who wasin office for only one year, was successfulin passing aBill authorizing the survey through this House. Because that measure was defeated in the Senate on itsmerits, the Treasurer professes to be dissatisfied. Surely he must see that, if anybody can impute a want of energy to the right honorable member for East Sydney in connexion with this matter, he cannot do so in face of the fact that he has never submitted a Bill dealing with it, although he has been a Minister of the Crown for four years..

Mr Watson - He is distinctly culpable, I think.

Mr KELLY - To-day we have an additional evidence of his intense anxiety to proceed with this work.

Mr Watson - What is his latest effort?

Mr KELLY - I refer the honorable member to the business-paper. Originally this Bill occupied a high place upon the business-paper, but to-day it was put down below the proposal for the ratification of the English mail contract. The Treasurer did not have even a kick left in him when the proposal was made to defer the consideration of this measure.

Mr Watson - What did the honorable member wish him to do?

Mr KELLY - I wished him to show a little fight, just as he did in connexion with the proposal to impose a Federal land tax. I wished him to tell the Government that he intended that this railway should* receive consideration at the earliest opportunity, and that he would not consent tohave the Bill postponed to convenience a humble individual like the PostmasterGeneral. There is one other complaint that I have to make against the Treasurer. Not content with endeavouring to cloak the iniquities of this proposal - not satisfied with attempting to gain support for it by any and every means-

Mr Watson - That is not a fair statement.

Mr KELLY - The Treasurer has actually sought to induce one's leader to influence him in connexion with the Bill. That isa very unfair proceeding. I have been approached by honorable members upon this side of the Chamber, and have been asked to forego my right to discuss the merits of this proposal-

Sir John Forrest - I did not ask the honorable member to do that.

Mr KELLY - I think that the right honorable gentleman asked other honorable members to approach me.

Mr Watson - I do not think that he would do it.

Mr KELLY - I say unhesitatingly that a proposal which has to be " hushed " through a deliberative assembly is not worth £20,000.

Mr Page - Who wanted to do that?

Mr KELLY - The Treasurer, who had not at kick left in him when this Bill was placed in a lower position upon the notice-paper.

Sir John Forrest - Have I sent any message to the honorable member either directly or indirectly? The honorable member can speak as long as he likes so far as I am concerned.

Mr KELLY - Since the Treasurer has given such a flat denial to my statement, I will ask him whether he has suggested to any honorable member that it was not a right thing for me to continue talking in opposition to this Bill. Did he not suggest to the deputy leader of the Opposition that he might ask me "to desist from talking?

Sir John Forrest - Not the honorable member particularly. I wanted to get along with the business. . It is of no use talking about a project which has already been discussed so much.

Mr KELLY - Then there is something in the accusationwhich has been made. If the proposal embodied in the measure is defensible, it requires no cloaking.

Sir John Forrest - If everything that onesays privately to an honorable member is to be repeated here, we shall have to be exceedingly careful.

Mr KELLY - Then the Treasurer did speak to an honorable member privately? J did not know that the communication was private, or I should not have referred to it.

SirJohn Forrest. - The honorable member knew very well that it was private.

Mr KELLY - After this digression, I now propose to revert to my original contention, namely, that this Bill, and the construction of the transcontinental railway, are inseparable.. I propose to deal with the reasons which have been urged in favour of the construction of the line, and to regard this Bill as one of the preliminary steps in connexion with that undertaking. Let me take the five main points which have been advanced in favour of the work. They are: - (1) That there was an implied pre-federation promise that the line would be constructed ; (2) that it is constitutionally impossible for Western Australia alone to construct it; (3) that for national purposesof defence it is necessary ; (4) that it is expedient for developmental purposes; and (5) that it will benefit the east of Australia as well as the west.

Mr Mahon - It will benefit the east more than the west.

Mr KELLY - These are the five points which have been urged in favour of the building of the line. I intend to prove that each of these points is a bad one, and that, therefore, all must be bad. I have often been struck by the ease with which the representatives from Western Australia can flutter , from one argument to another without following any to a conclusion. It appears to me that they rely more upon mere clamour than upon argument.

Mr Mahon - Would the honorable member mind letting us have a list of the shareholders in the various Australian shipping companies?

Mr KELLY - I do not know why my honorable friend asks me that.

Mr Mahon - There is a good reason for it.

Mr KELLY - Before I conclude my remarks, I intend to quote the utterances of the honorable member, and I hope to make him a convert to his former views upon this question. In order to ascertain what justification exists for the plea that there was an implied pre-federation promise that the Commonwealth 'would construct this transcontinental line, I have carefully searched the debates of the Federal Convention. My task was made singularly easy by reason of the golden rule which was laid down by the Treasurer that he, and he alone, should speak in the Convention on behalf of the great Western State. If I had had to look up the speeches of the six delegates from Western Australia I might have experienced considerable trouble. But the right honorable gentleman felt that he alone was worthy to speak on behalf of that great State-

Sir John Forrest - What justification has the honorable member for that statement ?

Mr KELLY - Perhaps I have gone a little too far, and if so, I withdraw my statement.

Sir John Forrest - What is the use of making random assertions of that kind? -

Mr KELLY - It is not a random assertion. Not another delegate from Western Australia had the temerity to so much as open his mouth in the Convention.

Sir John Forrest - That statement is absolutely without foundation.

Mr KELLY - I cannot find a record of any speeches by the other delegates.

Sir John Forrest - Perhaps the honorable member does not know their names?

Mr KELLY - The name of the State which a delegate represented always appears after the name of the delegate himself. I have looked up the Treasurer's speeches in the Melbourne Convention, and I find that although he spoke no less than eleven times in favour of a special Tariff for Western Australia, he never once opened his mouth upon the question of the construction of the transcontinental railway. In that gathering, he clearly expressed his conviction that Western Australia was too great a. State to live upon the charity of the other States. Therefore, so far as the representation of Western Australia is concerned, there was no preFederal promise made that this line should be constructed. The first quotation which I desire to make from the Treasurer will be found upon page 1123 of the Melbourne Convention debates. The right honorable gentleman said -

All I can say is that we do not want anything from any one; we are quite content as we are - even without a railway.

Mr Mahon - We- do not want any favour now. We merely desire justice.

Mr KELLY - Is it justice that Western Australia should step in and ask the Commonwealth to construct this railway for her?

Sir John Forrest - Nobody has ever asserted that there was any promise made during the Convention debates that the transcontinental railway should be constructed.

Mr KELLY - But everything which transpired at the Convention points in the opposite direction. Upon the same page, the right honorable gentleman is reported to have said -

I think I pointed out the other day, but I may as well repeat it here to-night, that Western Australia stands in a peculiar position in regard to Federation - in a position altogether different from that of any other colony in the group. One reason for this is that we are not able to point out, in fact no one here has attempted for a moment to point out - I hope some one will do so if he can - that Western Australia can in any way gain by Federation at the present time.

That was the statement of the Treasurer, who was the leader of the Western Australian delegation - that no one could point out that Western Australia could in any way gain by Federation. Not even a railway !

Mr Wilson - Thev did not expect to gain anything at that time.

Mr KELLY - They did not.

Sir John Forrest - No; but the eastern States have gained something frOm us. They have gained £233,000, whilst Western Australia has gained nothing from them.

Mr KELLY - The Treasurer himself did not expect to secure the construction of this railway as the result of Federation. So much for the implied promise. The next quotation I desire to make from the remarks made bv the Treasurer, when attending the Convention, relates to the Commonwealth powers of railway construction. The right honorable gentleman said -

There can be no doubt that, as time goes on, the powers of the Federal Government will increase, and who can tell what our future requirements may be ; the honorable and learned member (Mr. Reid) said that he would only approve of the construction of railways for strategical purposes, but is not every railway used for those purposes?

I commend that statement to the right honorable gentleman, who has since tried inferentially to claim that this is the only raillway that is urgently required in Australia for strategical purposes. He continued -

I can only say that we have already built our railways up to within 400 miles of our boundary, and we shall be quite able to build other lines for ourselves when we can agree with our friends to join us on the border.

Sir John Forrest - We have net been able to agree with our" friends at the border.

Mr KELLY - Exactly I am goin,g to submit an amendment that it be a condition precedent to the making of this sur- vey that the right honorable member's friends at the border - as he describes them - shall give us a guarantee that they will consent to the construction of the line. That is the point. As a member of the Convention, the right honorable gentleman said inferentially that the only obstacle to his proceeding with the construction of this line as Premier of Western Australia was the disinclination of his " friends1 at the border " to meet him. I ask him to remember that fact. He went on to satisfy the delegates from the other States that, so far as railway construction - general railway construction, that is ; not this particular railway - by the Commonwealth was concerned, they would be safeguarded. He said -

There will he quite sufficient security for the rest of Australia in the fact that, before a railway can be constructed, the Parliament of the Commonwealth will have to agree to it; and it seems to me that if the Parliament of the Commonwealth lias to agree to the construction of a line, New South Wales need not be afraid - the right honorable gentleman meant, of course, to include Victoria and Queensland - because she will have a very large share of the representation in the lower House to guard her interests.

I would remind honorable members that according to the Treasurer we are here to guard the interests of the Eastern States. I wish to make a few more quotations before turning from the views of the Treasurer to other matters. The right honorable gentleman not only wished Western Australia to look to herself for her own development, but actually resisted the handing over of the railways of the States to the Commonwealth. He expressed one of his reasons for this attitude in the following terms: -

I know that in our Colony the railways are one of our great revenue-producing instruments. But that was not the reason why I voted against the proposal. I do not think any one voted against it because he was afraid of the responsibility of taking over the railways. As self-supporting and reproductive works, they would be amongst the best assets the Commonwealth could have. Taking the whole of the railways of Australia, they are not only self-supporting, but also reproductive, and, therefore, my honorable friend was altogether wrong when he said that we were afraid for the Commonwealth to take over responsibility for the railways. I would vote tomorrow for taking over all the railways of the Colonies, and not be afraid of the responsibility ; but the reason why I voted against the provision was different altogether.

I invite the attention of honorable members to this statement -

We use the railways for opening up our territory -

He was referring to the territory of the States - and giving a means of transit to our colonists, and we desire to extend them in any way we wish, at the time and in the direction where they are required, untrammelled by any other authority .

Here we have a statement bv the Treasurer, clearly showing that he did not expect that the Commonwealth would ever be asked to enter upon railway construction, even for the benefit of Western Australia. He went to the eastern States, however, and asked for certain concessions in the way of a peculiar protection for the western State. I do not propose at the present juncture to quote the right honorable gentleman at any length on this phase of the question.

Sir John Forrest - I did not say anything about it at the Convention. I spoke of something else.

Mr KELLY - It is clear that the right honorable gentleman did not anticipate that the Commonwealth would be asked to construct this railway. '

Sir John Forrest - This proposal has nothing to do with what I said about other matters at the Convention.

Mr KELLY - The Treasurer paid the greatest attention to. the demand for a special Tariff for Western Australia, but perhaps I should be out of order in quoting his remarks on that subject. So far from his attending the Convention with a desire to make the views of Western Australia in regard to this railway heard, his only anxiety seemed to be to get away from it. On many occasions he complained of the protracted nature of the proceedings, so that it was not. because of want of time that this matter was not brought befo're the Convention. Indeed the contrary appears to be the fact, since the right honorable gentleman said at one of the sittings

We have devoted too much time to this subject - a certain subject then before the. Chair -

I have come a long way to do my duty, and I have not unlimited time.

He complained of the protracted nature of the proceedings of the Convention, and this bears out my . statement that it was not for want of time that he failed to bring forward the question. So much for the history of the Convention. The next step taken in this matter was the presentation of a report by a Select Committee appointed by the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly of Western Australia, recommending that before that State joined the Federation the absolute authority for the Commonwealth to construct a railway in any State without the sanction of that State should be embodied in the Constitution.

Sir John Forrest - The recommendation was not so wide as that ; it dealt with this one railway.

Mr KELLY - My memory led me to believe that the recommendation had, perhaps, a more national application than the somewhat provincial one which the right honorable gentleman gives it. The fact remains that the recommendation would, if accepted, have had the effect of forcing South Australia to give up portion of her land for the construction of the transcontinental railway. Despite this report, the Constitution was adopted by the five eastern States without any such power being vested in the Commonwealth.

Sir John Forrest - They did not feel justified in altering the Constitution, although we all were in favour of such an alteration.

Mr KELLY - If the right honorable gentleman said anything at the Conference of Premiers in regard to this subject, no mention is made of it in the official record. I do not think, if he had referred to it, he would have allowed his observations to go unrecorded.

Sir John Forrest - At that time it was thought there would be no difficulty in -securing the consent of South Australia.

Mr KELLY - By whom was that opinion held?

Sir John Forrest - It was the opinion of -every one. It never entered my mind that there would be any objection to power being given the Commonwealth to construct this railway.

Mr KELLY - Was the matter brought before the Conference of Premiers?

Sir John Forrest - I do not think it was. It was never thought of. Who would have thought that any one State would object ?

Mr KELLY - If such an objection was unthought of, why did the Select Committee make a recommendation that the Commonwealth should be given power to construct a railway in any State, with or without its consent ?

Sir John Forrest - Because the matter was much discussed subsequently. I never thought that there would be any objection.

Mr KELLY - There is nothing more certain than that the five eastern States adopted the Constitution without the power suggested by the Select Committee being embodied in it, and that Western Australia herself afterwards accepted the Constitution in, that form.

Sir John Forrest - Because we had an assurance in writing from the South Australian Government that there would be no difficulty about the matter. The honorable member knows that that is so.

Mr KELLY - I am speaking from memory, but I think that the Premier of South Australia at the time wrote that he would introduce in the House of Assembly a proposal in the terms sought by Western Australia.

Sir John Forrest - He said that he would carry it.

Mr KELLY - No.

Sir John Forrest - I shall hand a copy of the letter to the honorable member.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.30 p.m.

Mr KELLY - During the adjournment, the Treasurer has handed to me a letter which the then Premier of South Australia wrote to. him on this question.

Mr Frazer - Who was the Premier of South Australia at the time?

Mr KELLY - The honorable gentleman whose loss to South Australia means our inestimable gain. - I refer to Mr. Speaker.

Mr Fowler - If he were on the floor of the House he would teach the honorable member a few things.

Mr KELLY - I hope that my honorable friend is not trying to canvass votes by saying what Mr. Speaker would or would1 not do under certain circumstances. That is hardly a proper remark. The honorable member is evidently anxious about the fate of this measure, and, on the merits of the proposal before us, has cause io be. so. But his opportunity to express his opinions will come later on, when he rises to speak in favour of the Bill. As the Treasurer seems to attach great weight to the letter, I propose 10 read it before offering any criticism upon it. It is as follows : -

To .assure you of our attitude in the matter, I will undertake, as' soon as the Federation is established (Western and South Australia both being States of the Commonwealth) to introduce a Bill formally giving the assent of this Province to the construction of the line by the Federal Authority, and to pass it stage by stage simultaneously with the passage of a similar Bill in your Parliament.

I honestly believe that on occasions in the past the representatives of Western Australia have allowed themselves to be gagged in regard to this matter. On a former occasion, when the Bill seemed to be in rather a predicament, the Treasurer was apparently the only one amongst them who could muster sufficient public spirit to speak in advocacy of the claims of his State.

Sir John Forrest - They all spoke in favour of the measure.

Mr KELLY - I am referring to an occasion when the other four representatives of Western Australia were silent, and the Treasurer alone burst' into angry protest. It is a curious thing that the right honorable gentleman, if he really attached as much importance to the construction of the proposed railway as his writing to the Premier of South Australia would seem to show-

Sir John Forrest - When did I write to the Premier of South Australia?

Mr KELLY - The . right honorable gentleman had a conversation with him on the subject, and apparently asked him to furnish a statement of the effect of that conversation. Had he, when the Convention was sitting, thought as much of the construction of the proposed railway as he apparently thought of it at the time of the writing of this letter, he would1 have made some mention of the matter. He was in a position at that time to know the aspirations of his own State, and yet, of all persons, he then ignored her claims. At any rate he said nothing about the construction of the line then. On the contrary, he said in Convention that Western Australia was prepared to furnish means for its construction from her own resources. But after the Convention had finished it's work, he wrote to the- Premier of South Australia, and now relies on his favorable reply to force the will of South Australia upon the other five States.

Sir John Forrest - The Constitution provides that the Commonwealth shall not build a railway through a State without the consent of that State, and the letter was written to inform me that the Premier of South Australia would undertake to place before his Parliament the Bill necessary to give the Commonwealth power to con struct the railway through South Australian territory. No other State had anything to do with the matter.

Mr KELLY - Does the Treasurer suggest that only South and Western Australia are concerned in this project?

Sir John Forrest - The letter deals only with the granting of parliamentary consent for the construction of' a line through South Australian territory, and no other State but South Australia could give that consent.

Mr KELLY - Apparently the right honorable gentleman does not like his pre- Federal doings to be inquired into; but I must deal with another phase of the same question. He received directions from a joint Committee of the two Houses of the Western Australian Legislature to ask for the insertion in the Constitution of a provision to enable the Commonwealth to build a line through a State with or without the consent of that State.

Sir John Forrest - I do not know thatthose resolutions were passed by both Houses.

Mr KELLY - That is not the question. The Joint Committee of the two Houses of the Legislature of Western Australia made certain recommendations, and I take it that upon them the Treasurer approached the Premiers of the other States. He conferred with them in Melbourne, with a view to seeing whether certain modifications could not be made in the Constitution. As a result of that Conference, New South Wales received certain concessions. So if at the time he had thought the matter of any importance, why could he not have asked1 the Conference to deal with the subject referred to in this letter ? He did nor do that.

Sir JOHN Forrest - I have already explained why. We did not think that thiscontingency would arise.

Mr KELLY - Apparently the Treasurer did not think that the railway would be built, because he did not mention the matter at the Convention. In the second place, he seems not to have thought that any difficulty would be thrown in the way by South Australia.

Mr Carpenter - He had too much faithin human nature. The honorable member ought to justify that faith.

Mr KELLY - I do not feel called uponto abrogate my position as a representativeof the people, and allow Western Australia without protest to dip her hand into the pockets of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, because of the Treasurer's peculiar faith in human' nature ! It is abundantly plain that Western Australia did not originally ask for this railway, and that the people of the eastern- States had not heard of it when they voted for the Constitution.

Mr Fowler - They heard of it, and indorsed it.

Mr KELLY - How did thev indorse it?

Mr Fowler - Their leading men were all pledged to support it, long before Federation.

Mr KELLY - Does the honorable member seriously suggest that the proposed construction of the Transcontinental Railwayby the Commonwealth was put forward in the eastern States, either at the time of the first Federal vote, or when the Constitution came to be accepted?

Mr Fowler - It was put forward when Western Australia was struggling to enter the Federation.

Mr KELLY - As a voter who took an active interest in Australian affairs at the time, I assure the honorable member that the proposal was not heard of by the masses of the people of the eastern States. It is not dealt with in the Constitution, and was not mentioned on any of the thousand platforms from which the electors were addressed.

Mr Fowler - The honorable member is referring to a time when he was busy spinning his top.

Mr KELLY - Surely the honorable member does not envy me my one good quality What is of importance in this Chamber is the views uttered, not the age of the person uttering them. The proposed construction of the Transcontinental Railway was not before the people of the eastern States when they were being asked to vote for the acceptance of the Constitution. I say that without fear of contradiction, except by the misguided representatives of Western Australia.

Mr Hutchison - There is no one here to contradict the honorable member.

Mr KELLY - Many of us have at times to speak in the absence of those who should be here to listen.

Mr Fowler - The honorable member must have a bad case, since not one member of his party is present.

Mr Wilson - I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.}

Mr KELLY - I was flattered, if anything, by the absence of many honorable members. I took it as an expression of confidence -in my views. I am, however, extremely gratified that the representatives of Western Australia are present, and I hope that, before it is too late, they will see reason to change their attitude in this matter. I shall say no more on the question whether an implied promise that the proposed railway should be constructed was obtained by the people of Western Australia from the people of the eastern States prior to Federation. I think that the history of the case proves that there is nothing in this contention. If there is nothing in it by itself, it can have no force in conjunction with other claims. I therefore hope that we shall hear nothing more about any implied promise to Western Australia. The next point that has been strongly urged by the representatives of Western Australia is the constitutional inability of that State to construct a line on its own account. It is pointed out, and very properly, that if the people of South Australia are opposed to the railway, they can refuse to connect their system with that of Western Australia, and thus defeat the project. In order to answer that plea it is only necessary to refer to sub-section xxxiv. of section 51 of the Constitution, which empowers this Parliament " to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth " with respect to "railway construction and extension in any State," but only " with the consent of that State." It is obvious from this that this Commonwealth is in the same unfortunate position as is the ''State of Western Australia. We could not take any of the steps preliminary to the construction of the line without the consent of the State, and it is, therefore, selfevident that Western Australia has no claim upon us, owing to her being placed under a special disability in the matter referred to. The next point urged bv its supporters is that the railway is necessary for the purposes of national defence. We are told that the eastern States must be free to help Western Australia if command of the seas is lost. I desire honorable members to treat this question in the same way that I have asked them to deal with the other points brought forward in favour of the construction of the railway. If the argument with regard to the defence aspect of the question is good at all, it must rest absolutely upon its own merits. I would first ask honorable members whether the expenditure of £4,500,000 upon the construction of a railway through a waterless and inhospitable waste would be justified in 'the interests of Australian defence? We have been told that the first essential to our defence is sea command. If command of the sea is absolutely assured, Western Australia, in common with all other States, is safe. If we spent £4,500,000 upon increasing Imperial naval strength, we should probably place our command of the seas beyond all question, and thus insure the safety of the Commonwealth. I want to know, however, how the pouring of £4,500,000 into the desert would help the people of Australia, or the people of the Empire, to retain a command of the seas - a command which absolutely underlies the whole problem of Australian defence. In dealing with defence, we should discuss the questions relating to it in the order of their importance. I have dealt with the subject of sea command, and the next in order of importance is population. I would ask the Treasurer how an addition of £4,500,000 to the already overwhelming debt of Australia would offer additional inducements to persons abroad to come here and settle on the land? Obviously, it would do nothing of the kind, and I think I have shown plainly that the construction of the railway cannot be permitted to enter into our consideration of defence matters. Western Australia is safeguarded from invasion from oversea, not by the mere handful of people who live in the' south-eastern corner of this Continent, but solely by the naval power of the great Empire of which Australia is only a small section. If command of the seas were once lost, the eastern States could not possibly succeed in repelling an invasion in the west. Honorable members may ask whether we would not do something to help Western Australia. That reminds me of the remark of MajorGeneral Sir Edward Hutton in answer to a question addressed to him by the Treasurer as to whether the proposed railway would be useful to Australia from the defence point of view. He said that he did not think it would be of much use to construct a railway if we had not the troops to send across to Western Australia.

Sir John Forrest - He stated that our troops were not sufficiently equipped, but we are getting over that difficulty now.

Mr KELLY - I think that my memory is to be relied on, even if his version be correct. It must be plain to the Treasurer that if we are to spend money upon defence, the first object of our solicitude should not be a desert railway, but the equipment of our men.

Sir John Forrest - We have a million of men capable of bearing arms.

Mr KELLY - Even so, we could not repel an invading force in Western. Australia if we lost command of the seas. ' If the railway was built, and an enemy had command of the seas, it would cost us an enormous sum of money to transfer a force, with the necessary equipment, from the eastern States to Western Australia. It would probably cost us £5 per ton for freight, and a large sum per head for the conveyance of our soldiers, whereas the enemy could forward his munitions to the seat of war at a cost of, perhaps, only 15s. per ton. What would be most likely the outcome of a struggle between our 4,000,000 people and, say 60,000,000 people overseas, under such conditions as I have indicated? The answer is obvious. Owing to the vastness of our territory, and the fact that we are a mere handful of people, we have no defence against external aggression unless we retain command of the seas. The' railway can be of no .possible assistance to us as an element in our arrangements for defence. Now I propose to deal with another argument that has been brought forward in favour of the proposed railway. I refer to the alleged national expediency of its construction for development purposes. If we desire to spend our money to the best advantage, we should first develop the country that is likely to prove most valuable. We are now asked1, however, to first select a desert which absolutely appalled the Treasurer when he cast eyes upon it. If we searched Australia through we should not be able to find any more dismal and unpromising tract than that through which the railway would pass.

Mr Fowler - It is no more dismal or unpromising than the Riverina country appeared fifty years ago.

Mr KELLY - The honorable member is making a most extravagant statement. I would appeal to the honorable member for Cowper, or to the honorable member for Canobolas, to say whether they could not find within their constituencies large areas of land, without the services of a railway, which would be infinitely more worthy of development than country such as that through which the proposed railway would pass. I think it will be clear to honorable members that if the taxpayers of Australia are called upon to shoulder the burden of constructing this line for the advantage of the people of Western Australia, and of a few residents of South Australia, they will to that extent be prevented from developing their own territory. The very basis of the Constitution under which we are working; is that each State shall concern itself with its own railway administration. If four of the States have super-imposed upon them the burden of looking after the railway extension of Western Australia, their taxpayers will be so much less able to compass the development of those States. They have territory which is worthy of development, and which demands railway extension. There are many paradises in Australia, and we should endeavour to make them accessible rather than vainly try to make what I might almost call a " hell" like the Western Australian desert, reproductive. The facts which I have adduced completely dispose of the plea that the construction of this line would be a national benefit, because of the country that it would develop. I propose now to deal with the last of the main contentions which have been put forward. We have been assured that this line would benefit the eastern States as well as Western Australia. Indeed, the honorable member for Coolgardie declared that it would benefit the eastern States of the Commonwealth more than it would Western Australia. It is a curious feature in connexion with this aspect of the question, that those in the eastern States who are most concerned in securing the gold-fields' market for their produce have all along advocated the construction of the Esperance Bay line of railway, which, if carried out, would kill the proposal contained! rn this Bill. At a later stage. I intend to test the feeling of the House by submitting, an amendment, making it a condition precedent to the passing of the Bill, that Western Australia shall consent to the construction of the Esperance Bay railway. The honorable member for Coolgardie, who is now an advocate of this Bill of no mean, ability, has fortunately nut upon record in Hansard his opinion of the necessity for the construction of that railway Speaking in _ this House on the 9th October, 1902, he said -

Early last month I directed the attention of the leader of the Government to the burden placed on trade between the eastern States and the Western Australian gold-fields, by the refusal of the Western Australian Government to give the gold-fields access to their nearest seaport. In reply to a series of questions then addressed to him, the honorable gentleman intimated that the question was one to be determined by the proposed Inter-State Commission, and that section 102 of the Constitution could hardly be relied upon to cover the case mentioned by me. It is my duty to combat that view, and I submit for the acceptance of this House the following proposition : - " That the construction of a railway between Esperance and Coolgardie, or some other point on the eastern gold-fields of Western Australia, is essential to the ' absolute freedom' of Inter-State trade contemplated by the Constitution."

He then proceeded to argue most clearly that the refusal of the Western Australian Government to construct this cheap means of trade transit to the gold-fields was an indirect infringement of the Constitution. As evidencing that he did not speak without a certain amount of heat upon this question, I quote the following passage : -

But the time has r.ow arrived when this Parliament should be prepared to listen sympathetically to complaints from a minority in any State who are being cheated out of the chief benefit which they expected would follow from the Federal union. 1

The benefit to which he alluded was InterState free-trade, which he maintained could not be secured until the Esperance Railway had been constructed. He continued -

What are known as the Eastern or Coolgardie gold-fields embrace an area of about 450 miles from north to south, and of about 250 miles from east to west; Their southern fringe is little more than too miles from the ocean at Esperance, where there already exists a safe and commodious harbor. This port is about 220 miles from the main centre of population on the goldfields, and is some 600 miles nearer than Fremantle to the eastern States. Fremantle lies to the extreme west, nearly 390 miles from Kalgoorlie. The whole of the passenger and goods traffic from the eastern States is thus carried some 600 miles by sea beyond the port nearest to its destination, and must then undergo an extra land carriage of 170 miles. For more than seven years' the people have continuously agitated for the connexion of the goldfields with Esperance by Tail. Every appeal has been ignominiously rejected by the Western Australian Parliament, whose latest act is the refusal of a Royal Commission to investigate the merits of the proposed railway.

I ask honorable members to pay particular attention to the statements of the honorable member for Coolgardie.. When he assures us that for seven years the people of the gold-fields have continuously agitated for the construction of the Esperance line we may accept his statement without any qualification whatever. He goes on to say -

That refusal imposes upon every passenger and every ton of goods from the eastern States an extra haulage of 800 miles.

He further says -

This extra and unnecessary haulage, the cost of which is the clear equivalent of au import duty, is in flat 'contravention of section 92 of the Constitution, which declares that " trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free."

He went on to quote precedents which I do not deem it necessary to recapitulate - they are all set out in Hansard - showing the judgments bearing upon this question which have been given in the United States. He then proceeded to advance a number of other arguments in favour of the construction of the Esperance line, and he actually appealed' to the Commonwealth to override the State authority in this connexion. I ask the Treasurer whether he thinks the people of Western Australia would consent to the Commonwealth undertaking the construction of the Esperance railway ? I hope that he will be able to enlighten us upon that subject, because it is one which is very vital to this discussion. I am afraid that the right honorable gentleman who. is so prone to interrupt when his voice is not altogether necessary is unable to reply to my ' question. The honorable member for Coolgardie actually went on to argue that the mere difference between a tramway and a railway would enable the Federal authority to construct the Esperance line without violating that section of the Constitution which prevents the Commonwealth from building a railway through any State without first having obtained the consent of that Slate. He urged that the authority of the Western Australian Government should be over-' ridden in order to give the inhabitants of the gold-fields simple justice. Nobody knows better than does the Treasurer that if we were to abandon the proposal to construct the Transcontinental Railway, so as to enable the inhabitants of the gold-fields to obtain cheap supplies bv the building of the Esperance railway, the Parliament of Western Australia would be against us. That State would then talk of seceding from the Union because the views of its coastal districts were likely to be overridden for the benefit of the people of the gold-fields.

The honorable member for Coolgardie further ,said -

Two objections are urged against the construction of the line. The first is, that Esperance is not a safe harbor ; and, second, that the railway would not be a commercial success. If either of these objections were sound, the proposal might be at once dismissed.

In view of the statement which he made inconnexion with the Esperance line, I hope - now that we are able to show him that the 'construction of the Transcontinental Railway would result in an annual deficiency of £70,000 - he will assist us to successfully oppose this Bill. He continued -

Esperance harbor is completely landlocked, and is approached by a surveyed, well-defined channel, from 20 to 60 fathoms deep. During his visit in May, 1898, Sir John Forrest, the then Premier, is reported to have said, "He was well pleased with their harbor. He thought it an excellent one, and very little was left to be desired in its accommodation. They had a very good start to become one of the chief ports of the Colony."

At a later stage I hope to afford the Treasurer an opportunity of proving the value of the protestations which he made upon that occasion. The honorable member for Coolgardie continued -

Let us leave mails, trade, and traffic out of the question, and consider the matter as it affects humanity. Here is a community of 50,000 people occupying a new territory destitute of any natural attraction, parched during nearly half the year by the fierce heat of a semitropical latitude. Water there is none, except what may be conserved or obtained by condensation.

Mr Mahon - There is now a' river of water up there.

Mr KELLY - Is the honorable member satisfied with that? Is he no longer an advocate of the Esperance line?

Mr Mahon - I desired merely to correct the honorable member. I am not answering questions just now.

Mr KELLY - Certainly not that question ! The honorable member said -

Water there is none, except what may be conserved or obtained by condensation. Food is at what would here be regarded as famine prices. The people live in tents or iron buildings, which offer little or no resistance to the heat and dust storms. They are ill-supplied with schools, and entirely destitute of the means of recreationavailable in cities. Conceive the sufferings of little children growing up under such hard conditions, and amid so much unavoidable discomfort. They are chained to the sunbaked plains, though within a few hours journey of the seaboard. The monotony of their lives must not be broken by a glimpse of the ocean, nor by a gambol in its surges, because the railway which would bring them to the coast might damagevested interests in Perth and Fremantle.

That, I suppose is the fear of the Treasurer - r

I ask, must land values in the capital be kept up, even if the price be the lives of little children, who pine away for lack of the recuperating breezes of ocean and mountain top.

I commend that statement) to the Treasurer. The. honorable member for Coolgardie went on to say that -

It has been shown conclusively, I hope, that the refusal of this railway so outrages the spirit, if not the letter of the Constitution, as to demand soon or late decisive action by the Commonwealth, and that a gross injustice is being thereby inflicted on thousands who have laboured and suffered for the cause of Australian nationality.

The honorable member was referring to the Esperance Bay railway project.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That was before the river was developed.

Mr KELLY - Exactly. The construction of the transcontinental line would defeat for all time the desire of those who favour the construction of the line from Esperance to the gold-fields.

Mr Mahon - Not at ali ; they are both necessary.

Mr KELLY - The little children and others living amid the unfortunate surroundings described by the honorable member for Coolgardie would' have to continue to exist under those conditions. Since making his speech the honorable member has been and ceased to be a member of an Australian Ministry, and in consequence of that one accession to office he seems to have sacrificed the individual interests of his own constituents to the good of his party in Western Australia. Another par.liamentarian from the gold-fields who was. returned at the recent Western Australian elections as an ardent supporter of the Esperance Bay railway project, since becoming a member of a State Ministry, has had to think of the votes of the whole of the people of that State, and to go back upon the Esperance project. It is gratifying to know, however, that the people of the gold-fields are as anxious for the construction, of the Esperance Bay line as ever they were. I have here some cuttings from the Kalgoorlie Miner, dating from 23rd May to 19th June, which were sent to me a few weeks ago. I propose to quote from them, to show that on the goldfields the feeling is still strong on this question, although the political exigencies of great parties may have induced the representatives of the gold-fields in this Chamber to go back on the Esperance Bay pro-* posals. The Kalgoorlie Miner, which I understand is one of the largest journals on the gold-fields, writes as follows : -

The worst sample of all of evasion of the spirit of federation has been given in the matter of the persistent refusal to sanction the Esperance railway. One of the chief reasons for this refusal in the pre-Federal days was consistent enough from a protectionist point of view, that the building of the line would foster competition by the eastern States. After federation this reason, so utterly inconsistent with the spirit of union, was allowed to fall away into innocuous desuetude.

That seems to be the position taken up by 'the gold-fields in this matter. The people there desire their produce to be carried cheaply from the east, so that the farmers of Western Australia shall not have a monopoly of the gold-fields market. We are assured by the supporters of this proposal that the Transcontinental Railway will give an opportunity to the farmers in the east, but the exercise of the smallest amount of common sense will show the folly of such a suggestion.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Chinese wall has been extended.

Mr KELLY - That is so. We have it clearly shown that in pre-Federation days the State refused to sanction this line because of possible competition from the eastern States. If competition from the eastern States is what these honorable gentlemen require - if they desire cheap food for the people of the. gold-fields - I shall give them an opportunity at a later stage to join me in a proposal that it shall be a condition precedent to the passing of this Bill that Western Australia shall give an undertaking to build the Esperance Bay railway. So far as this argument goes, it is clear that the farmers of the eastern States, for whom these honorable members have expressed so much concern, would be much better served by the Esperance Bay railway, which the Transcontinental Railway is certain to kill. The Kalgoorlie Miner continues -

The opponents of the line have, since federation, been content to refuse their support without troubling themselves to give a reason. Mr. Keenan is the first to revive the old reason, ignoring the fact that Western Australia is now in federation with the rest of the Commonwealth. He explains most elaborately that the Government is taking steps to encourage land settlement, and that it would be inconsistent with the policy it proposes to do any act which would encourage competition from the eastern Slates - the States with which Western Australia is nominally in free-trade.

I commend that extract from the great gold-fields journal to the attention of honorable members. According to Mr. Keenan, a keen Western Australian, the construction of the Esperance Bay railway would prove destructive to the Western Australian farming monopoly. For that reason he is a keen advocate of the Transcontinental Railway, which would relegate the Esperance Bay project for all time to the background. The Kalgoorlie Miner of 23rd May contains a leading article on the Esperance Bay project, in which it says -

Of course the opposition from Perth and its surroundings would be very great, and there would be a hard battle to fight. Private greed and utter selfishness and indifference to the rights of others are not easily to be overcome, but still firmness in so good a cause would assuredly prevail in the end.

What sort of firmness in this good cause do we find in this House? The honorable member for Coolgardie, by inference, is prepared to make us believe that the mere establishment of that water main to the gold-fields was enough to make him forswear his allegiance-

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The type of men who nail their colours to the fence.

Mr KELLY - And having nailed them firmly to the fence, never get off it. The Miner continues -

Many reasons more or less plausible or more or less mendacious have been given for the downcountry opposition to the Esperance line, but not one broad and statesmanlike plea has yet been urged. Sir John Forrest, the arch-promoter of centralization, had several reasons of sorts on which to ring the changes. The newest case put forward is this : - " The Government is now building agricultural railways in order to enable our local farmers to meet the demands of the consumers. "Local " farmers, I ask honorable members to remember.

It would be bad policy at the same time to construct a line to enable the other States to enter into competition with our own producers."

Is the Treasurer, who, I understand, accuses me sotto voce of " stone-walling," aware that this newspaper has charged him with making a certain statement?

Sir JOHN Forrest - I do- not care what it says about me. It has abused me for ten years or more, and is not likely to approve of mv actions now.

Mr KELLY - Did it properly report the right honorable gentleman when it attributed to him the quotation I have read ?

Sir John Forrest - When did I make that statement?

Mr KELLY - I am not in a position to say".

Sir John Forrest - I think someone else made it.

Mr KELLY - Mr. Kirwan is, I understand, the proprietor of the Miner, and the extract I have read is from an article published on 31st May last.

Sir John Forrest - I think it was the present Premier of Western Australia who made the statement in question.

Mr KELLY - I take it that a journal of repute would not attribute to the right honorable member a statement that he had not made.

Sir John Forrest - When did I make it?

Mr KELLY - The words appear in inverted commas.

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