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Tuesday, 31 July 1906

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) .- The Minister has told us of the enormous sacri-(ices which the people of Western Australia are prepared to make in this matter, but he concluded bv saying that they are not prepared to put their undertaking into writing in the terms of my amendment. The honorable and learned gentleman has greatly over-estimated the extraordinary nature of the surrender proposed bv Western Australia in this regard. This line will pass through 450 miles of Western Australian territory ; that, multiplied by fifty miles, will give an area of 14,400,000 acres. If all this land were taken up at the maximum rental obtained' in the West for similar country, it would yield a revenue of only £7,200 per annum. The experts intrusted with the matter by the Commonwealth have estimated that the deficit to be expected from this line, arising from the excess of working expenses and interest charges over gross revenue, will amount to £70,000 per annum. Therefore, the great sacrifice which Western Australia is prepared to make, and which the Minister thinks should be sufficient to induce us, as the trustees of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, to withdraw all other objections to the proposal, is a sacrifice equal only to one-tenth of the actual annual loss which the taxpayers of the Commonwealth will have to bear in connexion with the running of the line.

Mr Kennedy - They do not propose to sacrifice the rental value. They say only that they will not alienate this land until such time as the line is made when the value of it will possibly be enhanced.

Mr KELLY - I was assuming that they would act up to the spirit behind the offer made, but I admit that, as the honorable member for Moira points out. there is no guarantee that they will allow the Com monwealth to secure the advantage of any enhanced value given to this land by the construction of the line. The Treasurer, whose presence I welcome, has on some . occasions expressed profound distrust of the methods proposed by certain sections of Australian political parties.

Mr Mauger - Does the right honorable gentleman follow the honorable member?

Sir John Forrest - I have something better to do.

Mr KELLY - I refer to certain closer settlement proposals. Here we have an opportunity to start afresh. If- the amendment is accepted, no graduated land tax will ever be necessary in connexion with the area involved, because we shall retain the enhanced value given to this land by the construction of the line. The Commonwealth is being pledged to an expenditure of nearly £5,000,000, and it is only reasonable that we should ask for some guarantee in return. The Minister is not prepared to give any guarantee. He is a representative of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, and not merely of Western Australia, who are no doubt anxious, if they can, to get some one else to bear their burden; and yet he has absolutely refused to agree to insert a simple provision of this character. He informs honorable members that it is entirely to the measure.. If it is, the blot is upon the measure itself, because the more safeguards we have the better in dealing with a measure of this kind. I regret that it has been necessary for me to rise again to urge upon the Minister the advisability of accepting: my amendment. I feel sure that if the honorable and learned gentleman will not accept this amendment he will accept some' proposition of a similar nature. I hope that honorable members will help me to divide the Committee on the amendment, and to see that every possible safeguard shall be provided for.

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