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Tuesday, 24 July 1906

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member must address the Chair.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - A few days ago we had under consideration a proposal to build a great railway through the desert of Western Australia at a cost of £5,000,000. We found a majority of honorable members in this House supporting that proposal, but if we can afford to pay £5,000,000 for the construction of that railway we can better afford to pay that sum for the construction of a Commonwealth line of ships. Such a line of ships would be of very great service, and it would be much more profitable to the Commonwealth to construct eight or nine ocean-going vessels than to construct the railway I have referred to.

Sir John Forrest - No fear. The building of the railway would mean unity.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This is the true Federal spirit.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - It would be better evidence of the true Federal spirit that honorable members should support a proposal to connect us with Great Britain by establishing a line of Commonwealth ships rather than a proposal for the construction of the proposed transcontinental railway to connect us with Western Australia.' We hear nothing about the necessity of paying interest on the cost of constructing that railway. I again congratulate the Shipping Commission on their report, and I should prefer action on the lines they recommend to the acceptance of this contract. I do not say that by the establishment of a Commonwealth line of steamers we should be able to do away with the £200,000 now paid annually towards our naval defence, but a Commonwealth line of steamers would be useful for the defence "of our shores. I repeat again that I hope this contract will not be ratified, and that a Commonwealth line of steamers will become an accomplished fact.

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