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Friday, 1 December 1911

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I rather sympathize with Senator Walker for having so unwittingly drifted into the strange and uncongenial company in which he finds himself to-day. He is placed amongst some very curious bedfellows. If he will only look round he must recognise the old lion of insuperable opposition to this project in any shape or form. He must realize that honorable senators are pretending to support his proposal. Senator Sayers does not want the railway at all, but calls anathema every time it is mentioned, and only takes advantage of the proposal to get land for the purpose of thwarting, if not defeating, the object of the Bill. Senator Walker does not want that I am sure. He has stood out in favour of the railway as the one refreshing, redeeming compensating gleam among the gloomy surroundings on the other side, but he comes forward now with a proposal to recoup the Commonwealth. Senator Walker indulged in a cheer when Senator Millen set forth clearly and succinctly the object which he had in view. If that object be, to use the words of Senator Millen, " to recoup the Commonwealth for the Commonwealth expenditure "-

Senator Walker - To some extent only.

Senator LYNCH - It simply means that although, if the railway has any object to serve at all, it is to assist the defence of the country, and to carry out an obligation that rests upon the Commonwealth, the States through which it is to be built are alone to bear the expense. There have been varying opinions expressed on the other side as to its usefulness for defence purposes. Is it right to expect that the two States in which the road will be laid should be called upon to pay the bill for securing a portion of the defence of this country in which every State must ultimately share? Even Senator Sayers, despite the most benighted state of his mind, agrees that the railway will be of use for defence purposes. I have heard Senator Cameron also admit that the railway will have some use as an adjunct to the defence of the country, only he had some doubts as to what the route should be. This measure provides for a certain route, and if the honorable senator will admit that the railway will be of some assistance in the defence of the country, is it rational to expect that the two States in which that adjunct is to be laid should pay for the upkeep of the line and recoup the Commonwealth its expenditure. He might as well expect Tasmania to pay for the forts erected in that State, or New South Wales to pay for the fortresses at Sydney Heads.

Senator Sayers - They are paying for them.

Senator LYNCH - They are paying their share of the cost. If it is admitted from the other side - and it is partially admitted - that this railway will assist to perfect the defence of the country, it is most irrational to expect the two States in which it is built to bear the entire cost of construction.

Senator Stewart - Nobody asks that.

Senator LYNCH - The honorable senator does when he supports this amendment. Senator Walker has stood out from his party, not only now, but previously, as an advocate of this railway. Evidently he must have had it in his mind all the time that there was some obligation, ill-defined though it might be, resting upon the Commonwealth to build the railway.

Senator Walker - (Hear, hear.!

Senator LYNCH - Then is it consistent for the Commonwealth to carry out the obligation and, at the same time, to send to the two States the bill for the construction of the railway?

Senator Walker - Perhaps you are not aware that ever since I entered the Senate I have advocated the construction of a landgrant railway.

Senator LYNCH - That is a question of general policy. We know the honorable senator's views very clearly. We are specially indebted to .him for being frank on all occasions, and leaving no misunderstanding in the public mind as to what he is aiming at or drifting to. If we had more men of his calibre and stamp on the other side, many of .the misunderstandings would be cleared away, and the people of this country would be benefited very considerably indeed. They would find men of his style and stamp, aye, and steadfastness, to call a spade at all times a spade. He has recognised that the construction of this line is an obligation upon the Commonwealth. I advise him to kick his present bed-fellows out of the bed at once, and to come forward in his true light as an advocate of the discharge of this obligation, and to particularly refrain from asking the two States concerned to foot the bill. His amendment opens up big possibilities. If it is carried, what is to prevent a similar claim being raised in connexion with the railway to connect the Federal Capital with Jervis Bay ? Nothing, because the two proposals are on all-fours. When the latter proposal is made, then Senator Walker must, if he is consistent, insist upon New South Wales giving up a further portion of her territory in order to compensate herself for building the connecting railway.

Senator Walker - New South Wales is not asking for it.

Senator LYNCH - If we once set down our foundations, we must continue to build upon them, and a portion of that structure must necessarily be the adoption of this principle if the Senate in its unwisdom should agree to it in the case of the transcontinental railway. It is altogether unfair, I submit, for the honorable senator to ask Western Australia and South Australia to contribute towards the construction of that line. We might as well ask Queensland to pay more than its proportionate share of the defence of Thursday Island. Would Senator Stewart agree to a proposal of that kind? No. He would be like a howling Dervish if it were ever made here.

Senator Sayers - Do not be ridiculous.

Senator LYNCH - I can assure the honorable senator that I am not at all ridiculous in making that suggestion. I can understand the position of the senator who is such a miniature Australian that he is not prepared to lift his little finger to help forward a national project unless the gain is to be centred in Queensland.

Senator Sayers - I have never seen you do it.

Senator LYNCH - The honorable senator has seen me vote repeatedly for duties which went to his State, and for bounties which brought timber from the jungles of his State. I have noticed that he has never done anything except to be here at all times when the interests of Queensland are concerned; and for him ,to turn round and tell me that I have never voted on these questions is a misrepresentation of the grossest type. If it is conceded that this railway is an integral portion of the defence scheme, it is wrong to ask that the two States ir. which it is built shall pay the cost. If, on the other hand, as Senator Walker has admitted, there is an obligation upon the Commonwealth to build the line, it has no right to send in the bill to those States.

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