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Tuesday, 31 July 1906

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) .- I hope that the Government will give attention to the request that has been preferred. It may be that, under the existing condition of affairs, when neither Government nor individuals seem to think it necessary to give serious attention to the finances, it is not of much use to appeal to them - especially after the statement which has been made to-day, that our expenditure has jumped up bv half-a-million pounds a year, and that it is proposed to forego charges for services rendered which will approximate to something like £250,000. In view of such facts, an expenditure of £20,000 does not seem to be of much concern.

Mr Frazer - -Then this amendment is moved with the object of killing the Bill, is it?

Mr KENNEDY - I have not said so, but the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is entitled to his own opinion as to what its effect will be. Although the money involved in this Bill is merely such a sum as might be paid out of one's waistcoat pocket, so to speak, yet it would commit this Parliament to an expenditure of over £5,000,000. It might, therefore, be as well to exercise a little foresight. Of course, it is true as already stated that until both South Australia and Western Australia give their consent, the survey is all that can be undertaken towards the construction of the line. But, in my humble judgment, nothing like a complete survey, showing the possibilities of the vast tract of country concerned, can be made for anything like the sum set down in this Bill. Our experience of railway surveys in the States^ which are our only reliable guide, do not bear out the assumption that £20,000 would be sufficient for a complete investigation of approximately 1,000 miles of country. But, assuming tha't the Government is warranted in undertaking the survey, we are not doing too much, in providing that those who are most vitally concerned, the. States through which the line will pass, shall give some assurance of their bona fides. Personally, I think that there is no warrant for the construction of the railway, and that the best interests of Western Austra-

Iia would be served by tapping the country nearest to a seaport from the large and import centres on the gold-fields of Western Australia. But from the point of view of vested interests such a proposal might not be politic.

Mr Frazer - The gold-fields people are as enthusiastic about this railway . as are the Perth people.

Mr KENNEDY - When people expect to obtain a benefit at the expense of some one else they will naturally reach out for it. That is a characteristic which is as inherent in the Victorian as in the Western Australian miner. It is human nature the world over. But that is no justification for Parliament committing itself without due consideration. I hope that the Government will safeguard the position by requiring the two States concerned to give us some assurance of their bona fides. That they can do by transferring the land abutting on the proposed line to the control of. the Commonwealth. It may be that the land is not of great value now, but if, the line is constructed, it will have a value ; and we should have some guarantee, because the estimates which we now have show that there will be a considerable loss if the line is built. The first thing required is the assent of the two States which are chiefly interested in- this proposal to the construction of the line. The assent of Western Australia is not in question, but we know from the correspondence which has taken place between the Commonwealth and the Government of South Australia that the latter State will not assent to the construction of the line, even at the expense of the Commonwealth, unless a particular route be followed. Assuming, therefore, that a survey, -be made of another route, which does not meet with the approval of South Australia, what will be the result? The money expended upon the survey will have been practically wasted. That is a further reason why the Government should have some assurance from these States that the Commonwealth, will be safeguarded if the railway be constructed. If they declined! to vest in the Commonwealth an area of 25 miles, upon each side of the line, perhaps thev might be willing to grant to the Commonwealth alternate blocks. At any rate, it would be an evidence of the belief of South Australia and Western Australia that the undertaking would eventually prove to be a profitable one. In short, it would be a guarantee of their good faith. I feel, however, that, rightly or wrongly, the Government intend to undertake this survey. I realize that it is almost useless to appeal to them not to do so. I do hope, however, that, in their saner moments, they will - before the Bill is finally disposed of - take into consideration the view which I have presented. It is a strange coincidence that every Government which has been in power has seen fit to submit a Bill dealing with the proposed line. But ir. this, as in most other matters, numbers count for everything, and we know from experience that the Government command the requisite numbers. At the same time, they must recognise that it is only the righteousness of a cause which will enable them to hold the numbers together. I ask them why thev cannot accept the amendment? Do they intend, by means of their majority, to force this undertaking upon an unwilling country ?

Mr Frazer - That is a strong statement to make.

Mr KENNEDY - I feel positive of its accuracy. Only at the last election it was the trump card used bv the leader of the Opposition in Western Australia. His cry was, " Vote for Reid and the transcontinental railway."

Mr Frazer - And he did not get a single supporter there.

Mr KENNEDY - It is strange that he saw the necessity of going to Western Australia and making that statement, and it is a .peculiar circumstance that other leaders have done the same thin".

Mr Frazer - The man who did not £0 there received the largest, measure of support.

Mr KENNEDY - The undertaking was part of the policy of the first Government of which the present Prime Minister was a member. The Barton Administration practical 1 v introduced a Bill to authorize the construction of the line itself. Since then Ministers have toned down somewhat, because thev realized that in the absence of all information thev could not face the country if they committed such an outrageous act.

Mr. GROOM!(Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs^ [8.46]. - I recognise that the honorable member for Moira is opposing this Bill ir. the belief that it is not a. righteous proposal, and I am sure that he will give the Government credit for believing just as firmly that it is, and that it is a proposal which Western Australia is entitled to have considered upon its merits. The honorable member has dealt with this measure in a different way from that adopted by some honorable members who, by means of a series of amendments, have endeavoured to block its passage.

Mr Kelly - I rise to a point of order. I should like your ruling, sir, as to whether the Minister is in order in imputing motives to members of the Opposition. His statement is certainly calculated to detrimentally affect the prospective success of the amend'ment ?

The CHAIRMAN - I did not catch the words of the Minister, but certainly if he has attributed1 motives ito any honorable member he is not in order, and should withdraw his statement.

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