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Wednesday, 18 July 1906

Mr CAMERON (Wilmot) . - I have already spoken on the main question, but I now desire to express my approval of the amendment, and my very great admiration of the able speech delivered by the honorable member for Wentworth. Hi's remarks must have been convincing to any person with an unbiased mind. The proposed railway line would traverse South Australian territory for a distance of 650 miles, and I remember that, when a measure similar to that now before us was under consideration last session, the then Premier of South Australia stated that, although personally he had no objection to the survey being proceeded with, he would require to know a good deal more before he would consent to the construction of the railway. I think that we are fully justified in regarding his attitude as entirely hostile to the work. The sum of £20,000 would be quite inadequate to defray the cost of the survey of a line that would extend for 1,100 miles through a trackless desert, very much like the Sahara. If we pass the Bill, we shall probably be asked to supplement the sum provided for by further amounts, and in all likelihood an expenditure of £150,000 will be incurred before the survey is completed. Presumably, those who are favorable to the survey believe that it will be attended with good results, and that the House will eventually be asked to approve of the construction of the railway. According to my experience, those who advocate the construction of a railway always adopt the most hopeful view regarding its prospects. They invariably under-estimate the cost, and exaggerate the probable returns. I am afraid that the cost of constructing, the proposed railway has been under-estimated ; but, even assuming ' that the line can be built for £4,500,000, I should like to know where the money is to come from. At the very outset of our career as a Federation, the Labour Party laid down the principle, to which they have closely adhered ever since, and which has been indorsed by the present Government, that no money should be borrowed for the construction of public works. We know very well that, under the Braddon clause, we have to return to the States three- fourths of the Customs revenue, and that we have only between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 per annum with which to play " ducks and drakes " at the present time. The chances are that the operation of the Braddon clause will be extended, because most of the States recognise that, otherwise, justice will not be done to them. Therefore, I ask where the money is to come from? I do not regard it as at all likely that the Labour Party will forego their principles, so far as borrowing money is concerned, and I would ask them whether they expect the money to be raised by means of a land tax?

Mr Mahon - Hear, hear.

Mr CAMERON - If the money raised by means of a land tax is to be devoted to the construction of the proposed railway, what provision will be made for the payment of old-age pensions?

Mr Carpenter - There will be plenty of money for 'both purposes.

Mr CAMERON - The honorable member evidently1 has no land. Honorable members must see that, owing to the financial difficulty with which we are face to face, we cannot construct the proposed railway. Therefore, it is of no use for us to expend money upon the survey. We know that the people of South Australia do not desire that the railway should be constructed, and, furthermore, that many of the inhabitants of Western Australia are indifferent on. the subject. The honorable member for Wentworth read newspaper extracts, which indicated that the residents on the gold-fields in Western Australia desired to secure the construction of a railway from Kalgoorlie to Esperance. Under these circumstances, it seems to me that the honorable member for Coolgardie would be adopting a patriotic course if he supported the construction of that line, rather than the project which underlies the present Bill. It is perfectly true that a former member for Kalgoorlie was rejected bv his constituents because of his advocacy of the Esperance line, and that his place was taken bv a much less brilliant luminary, but, at least, he perished in a good cause. I suggest that the honorable member for Coolgardie should follow in his footsteps, and immortalize his name bv recognising that the interests of the residents of the gold-fields would, best be served by the construction of a line to Esperance Baw I cannot understand the eloquence with which the Treasurer has painted the beauties of the desert, which he found so unattractive when he traversed it thirty years ago. I should like to know how he can reconcile his former statements with his present attitude. We know that he is an- able man, and that he is also possessed of sound common sense. He, therefore, ought to know that, representing as he does, not only Western Australia, but the whole Commonwealth, he has no right to come forward, and ask the whole of the States to engage in ar. enterprise which in all probability would result in. a ghastly failure. If I were a representative of Western Australia I should feel humiliated to come here, and plead that, although my State was one of the richest in proportion to population, the people were so poor, so mean, and so harrow-minded, that they would not put down their own money and construct the line, but preferred to come crawling to the Commonwealth. If they asked for assistance upon the grounds of their poverty, I -should be one of the first to recognise their claim. But T cannot forget the attitude which was taken up by the Western Australian representatives in the Senate only a few weeks ago, when they declared against Federal expenditure being charged per capita, and asserted that the little State of Tasmania must do the best that she could. When such narrow-minded' and parochial sentiments are expressed by the representatives of a country which ought to be above such meanness it ill becomes them to ask assistance from the representatives of the other States.

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