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Wednesday, 2 October 1912


Senator McCOLL (Victoria) .- It seems to me that in consequence of the diversity of opinion in regard to the construction of railways in the Northern Territory we need much more information than we have at present. Senator Givens has made a very interesting contribution to the debate. His idea seems to be that we should have a central point where there is a. depot, and lines radiating from there to the various harbors round the coast, in order to open up the country and encourage trade. He thinks that we should then have lines of steamers put on by the Government for the purpose of bringing the stuff away. Senator Shannon believes that the proper way to develop the Territory is to run a line due north from Oodnadatta to the centre of the country. Our Queensland friends on the other hand think that the line should connect with the Queensland lines running westward in order to develop the Territory. With the idea of assisting capitalists to bring trade into Victoria we are not much concerned, but we are concerned to see that the best thing is done with the Territory, which is going to cost us an enormous sum. We should have a comprehensive plan as to what the future railway policy in connexion with the Territory is to be. We are doing far too much- in a piece-meal manner, and before we sanction even a survey, let alone the construction of a railway, the Government ought to come down with a definite plan of railway construction, in order that we can consider whether the money is to be spent to the best advantage, so that future settlers may have an idea of the conveniences for transport which they are likely to have.


Senator Pearce - The Minister of External Affairs has announced his intention to appoint a Committee to draft a proposition of that kind.


Senator McCOLL - Why should it not be done before we make a move at all ?


Senator Pearce - It is admitted by all parties that the construction of this railway is inevitable.


Senator McCOLL - We do not know what the future railway gauge of Australia is going to be. There is a great diversity of opinion as to which is the proper gauge. I think that we ought to have the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. All the inquiries which have been made and all the criticisms which have been passed by the highest authorities on what this Parliament has done in regard to the question of gauge are adverse. This question is of vital importance to the Commonwealth.


The PRESIDENT - Order ! I point out to the honorable senator that this is a Bill providing for a survey, and' that the question of gauge will come up for consideration when the Senate is asked to sanction the construction of the railway.


Senator McCOLL - In looking through the reports of the debates in another place I found that the question of gauge loomed very large, and was gone into at much length. I do not propose to labour that question, but I think that we ought to have a great deal more information in regard to it than we have, and therefore I move -

That all the words after the word "That" be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - " while a survey of a railway from Pine Creek to Katherine River is desirable, the Senate affirms that the railway policy in the Northern Territory should be made the subject of inquiry, and of a definite statement by the Government to Parliament, with a full opportunity for the Senate to discuss the same."

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to S p.m.


Senator McCOLL - Prior to the suspension of the sitting, you, sir, intimated that you entertained a doubt as to whether my amendment is in order. It seems to me that it is in order, inasmuch as the Bill marks the first step in the formulation of a railway policy for the Northern Territory. True, it involves merely a survey, but that survey relates to a section of the route to be followed, and that route is, in turn, related to the railway policy of the

Territory. Consequently, it is quite fair to say that we should have more information as to what the Government propose before we are asked to determine this small portion of that policy which is to govern transportation in the Northern Territory.


The PRESIDENT - The motion before the Chair is one for the second, reading of this Bill, and the honorable senator has submitted an amendment to leave out all the words after " That" and to add the following words -

While a survey of the railway from Pine Creek to Katherine River is desirable, the Senate affirms that the railway policy in the Northern Territory should be made the subject of inquiry and of a definite statement by the Government to Parliament, with a full opportunity for the Senate to discuss the same.

Now, standing order 190 provides -

No other amendment may be moved to such question except in the form of a resolution strictly relevant to the Bill.

In this Bill only one principle is at stake. It is embodied in clause 2, which provides that-

The Minister for External Affairs may cause a survey to be made of a route for a railway in the Northern Territory from Pine Creek to the Katherine River.

That contains a definite statement. The amendment is altogether indefinite, and I do not think it is relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill. In my opinion, the words - the Senate affirms that the railway policy in the Northern Territory should be made the subject of inquiry - are not relevant to the measure, nor is the further statement in the amendment - and of a definite statement by the Government to Parliament, with a full opportunity for the Senate to discuss the same. 1 have no option, therefore, but to rule the amendment out of order.


Senator Chataway - With all due respect to you, sir, I move -

That the Senate dissents from the President's ruling, on the ground that the question of survey from Pine Creek to the Katherine is relevant to the railway policy of the Northern Territory.


The PRESIDENT - I would point out to the honorable senator that his motion does not assign any reason for dissenting from my' ruling. It merely makes the statement that the question of a survey from Pine Creek to the Katherine is relevant to the Bill. As a matter of fact, it is the whole Bill.


Senator Chataway - I wish to say, sir, that you have not read what I wrote. I think at least the President might be honest and fair.


The PRESIDENT - Order ! I ask the honorable senator to withdraw that statement.


Senator Chataway - Very well. I withdraw the statement that I hope you will be honest and fair.


The PRESIDENT - What the honorable senator has handed to me reads -

T object to the ruling, on the ground that the question of survey from Pine Creek to the Katherine is relevant to the railway policy of the Northern Territory.

It does not disclose any ground for objecting to my ruling, which was that the matters contained in the amendment were not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, which seeks to authorize the survey of a line from P$ie Creek to the Katherine.


Senator St Ledger - Shall I be in order in speaking upon this question?


The PRESIDENT - Only if the honorable senator intends to conclude with a motion of dissent from my ruling.


Senator St Ledger - I understand that in Senator Chataway's dissent from your ruling a reason is assigned.


The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator cannot discuss that. The statement which was handed to me by Senator Chataway assigns no reason for objecting to my ruling.


Senator Walker - Is it only the last two matters set out in the amendment which you, sir, rule out of order?


The PRESIDENT - I rule that all the words after the word " desirable " are not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill.


Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - I understand that if a dissent from your ruling be moved, consideration of it will have to be postponed until the next day of sitting, unless the Senate affirms that the matter is urgent. I do not know whether Senator Walker intends to move a dissent from your ruling.


Senator St Ledger - Assuming that Senator Chataway has not given a sufficient reason for submitting a motion of dissent from your ruling, cannot he be permitted to amend it?


The PRESIDENT - He may hand in another dissent if he chooses to do so.


Senator Chataway - We have' had several rulings now. Upon the last ruling which you have given, I wish to move -

That the amendment which the President rules is not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill is relevant to it.


The PRESIDENT - Does any other honorable senator wish to address himself to this question? If not, the debate upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill will proceed.







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