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Thursday, 26 September 1912

Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - I think it is a great pity that the Commonwealth of Australia is entering upon the development of the Northern Territory hobbled. We have heard a few remarks from Senator Symon on this Bill, but the honorable senator seems very much more anxious about getting a railway which will have its southern end in Adelaide than he is about the development of the Northern Territory.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - I think that is the most effective way of developing the Northern Territory.

Senator STEWART - Of course, the honorable senator thinks that, but, unfortunately for the Commonwealth, the Government of South Australia made it a condition, prior to handing over the Territory to the Commonwealth, that no matter whether that was the right or the wrong route by which the railway should be taken it should follow that route.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - They made that condition because it was the right route.

Senator STEWART - They knew nothing about it.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - They made a compact.

Senator STEWART - Of course they did. It was a purely selfish compact ; a: compact which no self-respecting Government would ever have accepted, and which no patriotic Government would ever haveasked the people of the Commonwealth toaccept. We should all adopt as a cardinal principle in the construction of railwaysthat they shall be built where they will best, serve the people of the Commonwealth. If that is not to be the root principle of our' action with regard to railway construction,, we shall be only so many log-rollers.

Senator Millen - We must qualify that statement with a recognition of contractswe may have entered into.

Senator STEWART - I referred to thecontract. I said it was an immoral contract, which no self-respecting Governmentor Parliament would have accepted, andwhich no patriotic Government would haveasked the people of the Commonwealth to agree to. I think that we have here a duty which is far higher than even keeping to the letter of our agreement with South Australia. What we need to do is to developthe Northern Territory in the best way possible. My own opinion is that prior tothe making of any proposals for railway construction, exploration parties should besent all over the Northern Territory. TheGovernment know nothing about the Territory. Senator Guthrie laughs. Apparently he knows all about it. Senator Symon says we have an oasis in the MacDonnell Ranges, but we have no authoritative report on these things. Senators Symon, Guthrie,, and the other senators from South Australia do not care two raps about whether this railway will pay or not. All they want to do is to drag it right down toAdelaide, so that South Australia will benefit by the traffic upon it. Their purposeand object is so clear that any one can seeit. and it is purely selfish.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - This Bill will not drag it very far.

Senator STEWART - The honorablesenator said that he was quite satisfied that it would drag it 56 miles anyhow on thedirect route. He emphasized that, irrespective of whether the country through' which it will go is good or bad. probably by some other route, much better country would be served, Which would be moreeasily developed by means of a railwayBut that does not matter. If the line does mot go straight down to Adelaide, it will not suit honorable senators who come from South Australia.

Senator Clemons - If it goes straight down to Adelaide, will it suit Australia?

Senator STEWART - I do not know. That is just what I want to know.

Senator Guthrie - The honorable senator has had plenty of chances of knowing at.

Senator STEWART - When had I any chance of knowing it? I accepted the chance I had of going to Oodnadatta, and I say it would be pure madness on the part of any Government to start a line from Oodnadatta.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Did not the honorable senator's visit to Oodnadatta convince him that the best thing the Government could do would be to get away from Oodnadatta as soon as they could?

Senator STEWART - Oodnadatta convinced me that the best thing the Government could do would be to tear up the line from Port Augusta to that place. The South Australian Government lost money on it year after year.

Senator Millen - We are losing money on it.

Senator STEWART - I was about to say that the burden has now to be shouldered by the Commonwealth. It was the stupidest arrangement any Parliament ever entered into.

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