Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 26 September 1912


Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I move -

That this Bill be now read a second time.

When the Commonwealth took over the Northern Territory, it did so with a view to the further development of that country, and in the hope of making it a part of Australia that would be fit for the settlement of a considerable population. There may be diversity of opinion as to whether the Government are moving fast enough with respect to the development of the Territory. Some have been blaming us because they consider that we are spending too much money. We can scarcely expect their support in any project that will involve further expenditure. But, in the same breath that they deprecate the action of the Government, those very members of the Opposition are prepared to urge that the only way to defend Australia is by the settlement of a large population. They must recognise the conflict between those two opinions.


Senator Millen - Are the Government going to develop the Northern Territory by stocking it with officials?


Senator McGREGOR - No.


Senator Millen - That is all they have done so far.


Senator McGREGOR - I am sure that the intelligence of the party which the honorable senator represents must recognise that before the Northern Territory can be settled in any way it must be examined and surveyed. Provision must be made for the convenience of numbers of settlers. That is all that the Government have done up to the present time. How can the Leader of the Opposition sit there and declare that we are filling up the Territory with public servants ?


Senator Millen - I say that that is all the Government have done so far.


Senator MCGREGOR - The Territory is not one-millionth part filled yet with population of any kind, let alone public servants. Moreover, not one official has been appointed who was not necessary for the promotion of settlement and development. No matter how objectionable the personnel of the officers appointed may be considered to be by some members of the Opposition, they cannot deny the necessity for the appointments. The country must be classified and surveyed, and knowledge must be obtained as to its capabilities before a substantial settlement policy can be carried out. At all events, it must be acknowledged that the country cannot be properly settled without railway conveniences. Consequently, this Bill may be looked upon as only a small modicum of what will be necessary. I shall not suggest that the Opposition will raise any objection to its passage. It is not a measure to provide for construction, but for the permanent survey of a route from Pine Creek to the Katherine.


Senator Needham - It should have provided for surveying the country as far as Oodnadatta.


Senator McGREGOR - We cannot do everything at once. There is a limit to the expenditure of public money, and some attention must be paid to that limit. This Survey Bill is a step in that direction in which I am sure every member of the Senate desires the Government to go. Although, however, the survey of 56 miles of country does not necessarily involve the construction of a railway, yet I am sure that honorable senators will recognise that if we carry the Bill we practically pledge ourselves to vote for the construction of the line. To my mind, this railway is urgently required, and ought to be proceeded with as rapidly as possible.


Senator St Ledger - Will- the survey commit us to the line?


Senator McGREGOR - If the honorable senator votes for the expenditure of between ^4,000 and ,£5,000 for a permanent survey, I think he will be in honour bound to vote for the construction of the line afterwards.


Senator St Ledger - Why do the Government need this Bill?


Senator McGREGOR - Because we want the money for- a survey, which is part of the necessary work in connexion with the construction of the line. Afterwards the Government will introduce a Bill to provide for building the railway. If we had brought down a Bill for the construction of the line from Pine Creek to the Katherine, and I had not been able to furnish the Senate with details of expenditure relating to cuttings, tunnels, bridges, and so forth, probably Senator St. Ledger would have been the first to ask why such a Bill should have been introduced, when we knew none of the essential particulars.. This survey will enable details to be ascertained, so that when a measure for construction is introduced, we hope that everybody will be satisfied with the information produced.


Senator Needham - Or dissatisfied.


Senator McGREGOR - It does not matter what we might as well do; this is what we are proposing to do. I was endeavouring to show why this line should be constructed as speedily as possible. Having taken over the Northern Territory, it is our duty to do all we can for its development. Pastoral settlement is always first settlement of any new country, but the simplest form of settlement cannot be carried on successfully unless those who occupy the lands of a country are given, facilities for the disposal of the produce of those lands. It will be admitted that in order to afford facilities for the disposal of pastoral products it will be necessary to do a great deal more than construct railways. Before they can be effectively dealt with we must have freezing works established at the most suitable port of shipment. The question arose as to the best locality for the establishment of such works in the Northern Territory. Various places were suggested for the purpose, from the west of the Territory, on the shores of the Cambridge Gulf, to the eastern extremity of the Northern coast, on the Gulf of Carpentaria. The advantages and disadvantages of each locality suggested have been carefully considered, and a decision has been come to that the best place for the establishment of works of this description is Port Darwin. If these works are established at Port Darwin, the settlers must be given facilities for bringing their stock to that port. lt has been pointed out that the nature of the country between Pine Creek and the Katherine River is such that stock travelled over it would lose condition, and before they got to Port Darwin would be unfit for freezing or export. The country around Port Darwin is not of such a character that stock might be restored to prime condition upon it. In the circumstances, in order to bring the best country available for pastoral purposes into direct communication with the locality suggested as the best for the establishment of freezing works, it is necessary to continue the railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Does the honorable senator not think that we require a railway to bring some of the stock down south before we export stock ?


Senator McGREGOR - All these things, I hope, will come in time. If the honorable senator proposes to wait for a reduction in the price of meat until a railway is constructed from Oodnadatta to the MacDonnell Ranges, he will probably become a vegetarian before his hope is realized. Everything comes to those who wait patiently, and I hope honorable senators will wait patiently until we have the line now proposed constructed, and we shall then be in a position to consider further railway construction. On the subject of the advisableness of establishing freezing works at Port Darwin, it might be as well if honorable senators considered the northern coast of the Territory. Commencing on the eastern side of the Territory, we have the McArthur, Roper, Goyder, and Adelaide Rivers. Then, west of Port Darwin, there are two very important rivers, the Victoria River, which is furthest west, and between that and Port Darwin the Daly River. Some of these rivers are smaller than others, but most are navigable for a considerable distance, and might be made navigable for a much greater distance than at present. It is considered by those who know most about the country that sufficient stock would not be likely to be available for some time on the McArthur and Roper River country. . Going to the west, we find that the State Government of Western Australia, propose to start freezing works on Cambridge Gulf, and if we established ours on the Victoria River or Daly River we should come into close competition with our State neighbours. The officers advising the Government have had to be very careful in reporting upon these questions. The Administrator of the Northern Territory, in framing his report, has taken precautions to secure guarantees with re spect to the number and quality of cattle that might be available for shipment at each of the places mentioned, and, taking everything into consideration, he has come to the conclusion that Port Darwin is the most suitable place for the establishment of these freezing works. It is considered the most suitable port of shipment for stock which will be available beyond the Katherine River. The Government have, therefore, come to the conclusion that the sooner we continue the line from Pine Creek to the Katherine the better. There has grown up in the Commonwealth Parliament, as there arises in every Parliament in connexion with certain questions, a certain amount of partisanship. I shall not say party feeling in this case, because honorable senators and honorable members in another place know that the development of the Northern Territory is not a party question. When the Commonwealth took over the Northern Territory from South Australia it was understood to be under a certain obligation to connect the line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek with a line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. The people and representatives of South Australia felt that that should be done. That is how I feel myself. I wish to make it as clear as I possibly can that the continueance of the line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River will not be a departure by a hair's breadth from that understanding. If any honorable senator chooses to take a map of the Northern Territory and of South Australia, and to run a straight line from Oodnadatta to Port Darwin, he will see that the deviation necessary to enable it to strike the Katherine River is scarcely noticeable. It is almost a straight line from Oodnadatta through the very telegraph station which bears the name of the Katherine 'River to Port Darwin itself. Consequently the construction of the line, the survey of which is now under consideration, will in no way interfere with the carrying out of the understanding which has been arrived at between the Commonwealth and South Australia.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Is this line intended to be built in furtherance of that understanding ?


Senator McGREGOR - I will leave the honorable senator to judge that matter for himself. I repeat that from Oodnadatta to Port Darwin is almost a straight line. As a matter of fact, the former is situated on the 135th meridian of east longitude, the Katherine River station is located midway between the 132nd and 333rd meridians of east longitude, whilst Port Darwin itself is a little over the 131st meridian. It will be seen, therefore, that a line from Oodnadatta to Port Darwin would trend slightly west. Consequently, nobody can urge that the proposal of the Government marks a departure in any way from the understanding with South Australia which has already been arrived at. I am not going to say that if the ideas of some honorable senators were carried out,and a connexion were made first with the railway systems of the eastern States, the route followed would be that which the transcontinental line will traverse. I have : nothing to do with that matter. It does not cost me a single thought, because it is the intention of the Minister of External Affairs, as soon as he can obtain properly qualified men, to appoint a Commission, consisting of a railway engineer, an engineer accustomed to harbors and rivers development, and a gentleman who is thoroughly acquainted with land settlement and land survey, and indeed with the Territory itself, to report on railway development in that Territory. Of course, it would be very easy to secure men if one chose to stand at the street corner and call for them. But when we come to examine their qualifications it is sometimes more difficult to make a selection, and I am sure that the Minister of External Affairs regrets as much as does anybody else that up to the present he has not been able to settle upon the individuals who are best qualified to constitute this Commission. But when these three gentlemen are finally appointed, *hey will go to the Northern Territory, investigate that country from east to west, and will advise the Government as to the route which the railway should follow to connect what will then be the line to the Katherine River station with the railway to Port Augusta.


Senator Guthrie - After the Government have made the men.


Senator McGREGOR - We have not to make them. We have only to discover them. - The Almighty is just as good a hand at making men to-day as he was a thousand years ago.


Senator Guthrie - Where are the Government going to get a railway man for 4he Northern Territory?


Senator McGREGOR - There are dozens of them quite willing to take up the work if the Minister and the Government think their qualifications are sufficient.: There is no difficulty in the matter of finding the men.


Senator Guthrie - The Government will have to make them first.


Senator McGREGOR - Not necessarily. I am sure that when the work is finished the honorable senator will be quite satisfied.


Senator Guthrie - The Vice President of the Executive Council knows the result in South Australia of granting a bonus on the export of cattle.


Senator McGREGOR - But that has nothing whatever to do with this question.. That bonus was granted for the export of live cattle. The Government proposals involve a great deal more in connexion with the development of the Northern Territory than the simple export of live cattle. When this Commission has reported the Government will have no hesitation in placing that report before both Houses of Parliament; and arriving at a definite policy with respect to the further construction of railways. I know a little about the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, and I know that, although various South Australian Governments were repeatedly urged to continue that line from Oodnadatta to the MacDonnell" Ranges, they did not do so. Seeing that they had such a long time to undertake that work, and did not undertake it, I cannot discern any reason why the Government of South Australia should endeavour unduly to hurry the Commonwealth in carrying out that work. They were negligent themselves, and now they ought to be patient. I am sure that the Government will ultimately do everything for the satisfaction of the people of Australia, and for the further development of the Northern Territory.


Senator Guthrie - Provided the report of the experts is favorable.


Senator McGREGOR - Does Senator Guthrie desire the Government to write out a report and hand it to these experts with an instruction that they must go through the Territory and arrive at certain conclusions? Is that the way in which he would like to see this investigation carried out? I am sure it is not. He is the last man in the world who would want anything of that kind. When we get the men for this Commission, we have not the least doubt that we shall soon obtain their report, and Parliament will then have before it all the information that is really necessary for its guidance. The line from

Pine Creek to the Katherine River will be only 56 miles long, but owing to the country which it has to traverse it will be one of the expensive portions of the transcontinental railway which will ultimately be built in that direction. From Oodnadatta to Pine Creek the distance is 1,065 miles The line, therefore, will only be two miles longer than will the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. But in spite of this fact, a very learned and eloquent Speaker told honorable senators yesterday that it would cost from £3, 000, 000 to ^12,000,000 or ^14,000,000 to construct the transcontinental railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, and that the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port August, which is only 2 miles shorter, was going to cost only ^4,000,000 or 000,000. I wish that honorable senators would think for a few moments of the inconsistency of the statements that they make, because if they did, they, would never fall into such errors in the way of exaggeration. I hope that when the ultimate decision has been arrived at to construct a line right through the Territory, it will not cost anything like the amount which was prophesied yesterday, and I have no reason to believe that it will. I believe that, with the exception of a portion through the MacDonnell Ranges, and from the coast up to the tablelands, the line will be constructed just as cheaply as the one from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. I hope that at all times during the consideration of the Bill, honorable senators will realize that it is a serious question, that this is not a flying survey, simply for the purpose of gaining an idea as to the distance, or anything of that kind, but a permanent survey on which Parliament will be asked to grant the money, and agree to all the conditions in connexion with the construction of the line. Every precaution has been taken to run the line in the right direction. There may be a difference of opinion as to the necessity of a deviation to meet mining prospects' in the country between Pine Creek and the Katherine River, but those have been set aside. It is considered that, as this line is to form a portion of the great transcontinental railway, connecting the north and the south, there should be no additional haulage put upon it, but that it should be taken by the most direct route. And if further development is necessary to the westward in connexion with mining, or, for that matter, to the eastward, that can be carried out by supplementary lines much more cheaply than by the construction of roads in that direction. The seriousnessof the whole thing is that the proposed survey is to be the basis for the construction-, of a line, and the line is to form a portion of the transcontinental railway.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South* Australia) [3.15]. - I have a considerable difficulty, after listening very attentively tomy honorable friend's speech, in finding whether there is really very muchto commend" this Bill at present or not. " At one moment, he buoys up thosewho come from South Australia with thebelief that this bit of railway, when it isbuilt, is to be part of the great transcontinental line to connect the south with, the north. But in the next breath, hedashes our hopes by declaring that beforethat question is determined, even by thepresent Government, there is to bean investigation by a sort of SelectCommittee, consisting of a railway engineer, an engineer connected with> ports and harbors, though I do not know what that has to do with the construction, of a trunk line, and another gentlemanwhose functions' are left very vagueThese three persons are very hard" to get, but they are going to be found! somewhere. Senator Guthrie thought that, they would have to be bred, but when they are found, and appointed, they are to bring; in a report, and then the Government, in the exercise of the great courage whichthey possess, will have no hesitation in laying the report on the table of Parliament,, and, so far as I could gather, allowing. Parliament to determine the matter. Thoseare the two alternatives. They have not to do with the making of this survey, and that is why, in perfect good faith, I interjected when my honorable friend wasusing those fine oracular words that thiswould involve no departure from the policy of a direct north and south line. Of course, it is all very well to say that it will involve no departure, as he pointed out, if a line be constructed right away tothe east, and into Queensland, because the line would have to be carried down perhaps to Powell's Creek, before the diversion, which is suggested in some quarters was. made towards the Queensland border. But that is a very negative thing to say. It amounts to nothing, because, from that point of view, this is a twopennyhalfpenny extension. It may not bein itself, but as a portion of the transcontinental line, whatever route that linemay take, it is a mere triviality. So- that, when my honorable friend says that it will involve no departure, we need not be frightened about that. What we want him to say is that it is an affirmance of the policy of having a direct line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta. If he says that, then this is worthy of being regarded as a measure of importance. My honorable friend said, " You must look upon this Bill seriously." I want to do that, but there is no serionsness in it if it is a mere dribble, which is to mean nothing, and to go nowhere. I am not going to oppose a Bill for a survey, if it is necessary. Anywhere in the interior of Australia, a survey is always useful. We may look upon this as a survey by way of exploration, or as a survey for the purpose of, in the dim and distant future, laying down some rails along the route surveyed. It is useful.


Senator McGregor - It is necessary.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - It would be useful if my honorable friend brought in a Bill for the survey of a prospective railway from Wyndham, in the north-west of the continent, to the overland telegraph line. It would be useful in that sense, but it would be still more important, and would have a vital significance to Parliament, which, at present, it does not possess, if we were told in " bold and brave language," which the Minister of Defence said the other Governments ought to use, that this line was really intended to be an instalment, though a small one, of the line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. We could then understand the position. My honorable friend is quite entitled to put it in a vague way, but as he does not feel disposed to say that it has that significance, we must look upon it simply as a Bill for the survey of 56 miles of country, and we have to ask ourselves whether a good reason for a survey has been made out. Nobody can very well object to a Bill for a survey ; but we have to ask ourselves whether we ought to go to this expense at the present time.


Senator Guthrie - Vote against it.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I am not going to vote against fhe Bill, but to support it, because every bit of railway in the Northern Territory coming down towards the south is, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council has truly said, always something in a southerly direction. Even if it covers only a mile or two, it warrants support in that direction. My honorable friend said at onetime that, in this matter, the consideration of defence came into play. Can it be seriously suggested that to build a line from Pine Creek to Katherine River is likely to assist the great problem of the defence of Australia?


Senator McGregor - Did I say anything about that?


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Yes; my honorable friend said that we had to look at the matter from the point of view of making provision for defence.


Senator McGregor - I never said anything of the kind. I stated that some people said that it would be necessary for defence to populate the country.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - My honorable friend has forgotten that he said that the line would develop the country; the other people, spoke about populating the country, and everybody admitted that it was necessary to make provision for defence.


Senator McGregor - I never said anything of the kind.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - If my honorable friend speaks so positively, we must accept his assurance, but that is what I thought I heard across the chamber, and it struck me as being so important that I made a note of the point that this was part of the great scheme making provision for defence.


Senator Millen - The main reason for the Commonwealth taking the Northern Territory over was a matter of defence.


Senator McGregor - That is right enough.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That reason is gone, so that it is proper that I should not say anything more about it. Then my honorable friend pictured great freezing works being established at Port Darwin. I think that is the main purpose of this proposal. I welcome the idea that there should be freezing works there. My honorable friend enumerated a great many rivers in the Northern Territory - some, perhaps, which we had not heard of before - and described, I believe accurately, Darwin as the place for these works, and said that possibly this line might be useful, as any line would be, to bring cattle there. But he did not tell us what cattle there were to bring.


Senator Guthrie - No, he did not tell us of our past experience either.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Past experience is a little baleful. That was a great feature which my honorable friend pointed out as an immediate reason for the expenditure of £5,000 with a view to building a line. I think it would have been only proper, if he had the information by him, to have told us what cattle there were at the Katherine languishing to be put into a freezing establishment at Darwin.


Senator McGregor - I never told you that, because I thought that you knew all about it.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - My honorable friend need not have told us, because we knew that before. It reminds one of the old cookery receipt of " first catch your hare." Before you have the necessity of a railway as a feeding-tube for freezing works; you need to have the carcasses to be supplied to those works. I am not aware of great herds down near the Katherine River that are waiting to be taken to a freezing establishment at Darwin. We have been supplied with no information to show the urgent necessity for this bit of line taking precedence of the declaration of a bold and large policy by the Government as to which route they are going to adopt for the transcontinental railway. That is what I regard as the important thing. The policy of the Government does not depend upon the report of three men going out to inspect this country and reporting upon its natural features, and so on. That is not the element by which a great policy is to be determined; it is the method by which you are to ascertain the exact route which the railway is to take. But the question which ought to be determined at once, so as to relieve the whole people of suspense, is one which it is competent for the Government to determine themselves, namely, that they are going to adhere to what my honorable friend has called the understanding, or, as I call it, the solemn contract between the Commonwealth and South Australia that the transcontinental railway is to run from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. That requires no committee of engineers. That is a question which the Government themselves must determine. It is their policy, and I do not think that they ought to fight shy of it, or try to shelter themselves behind some mythical committee of three men who are to be found in the future. That is what I complain of in connexion with the Bill. It would have gone through this Parliament flying, I am sure, and with credit to the Government, if it had been brought in as part of a declared policy to run the transcontinental railway from north to south. But then my honorable friend said, speaking on the general question of a line from north to south, that there was the great duty of development. That is the great duty. It is one which the Government are not facing by this Bill. They are shrinking from it. This Bill is a mere pretence so far as that great question of policy is concerned. The development of the Northern Territory is, in my belief, if not the greatest, one of the greatest problems of the present moment, and it is not to be solved, as Senator Millen interjected across the chamber, by the establishment of a great body of civil servants there at enormous expense. ' The Government are beginning at the wrong end. In previous discussions I have never said a word about any individual selection. A Protector of Aborigines has been appointed at £1,300 a year - I was going to say, for God knows what ! Not a man in Australia would say a word against the appointment on individual grounds. But that is not the question


Senator Guthrie - Does the honorable senator say that he was not wanted?


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I do not say that a Protector of Aborigines was not wanted, but he is not wanted at a salary of £1,300 a year.


Senator Guthrie - Read Judge Dashwood's reports.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - We shall have another opportunity of dealing with that ; but I am taking this opportunity of saying what I think. I feel sure that those of us- and I include my honorable friend, Senator McGregor - who are the greatest friends of the Northern Territory and its development, and who desire to secure it as a possession of the Commonwealth for all time, must feel that every pound that is thrown unnecessarily into the creation of the civil side is at the present juncture, comparatively speaking,, thrown away. Our object ought to be to get people to go up and look at the Territory. We shall not get settlers from other countries. My belief is that we shall never get a soul to come from abroad for the simple purpose of inspecting the Territory, with a view of settlement. But you may get people from the settled parts of Australia. Yob ought, therefore, at the earliest possible moment, to build railways that will induce people to go there, inspect the land, and, if possible, choose area's for settlement.


Senator Millen - People from other countries would not be as well fitted for settlement in the Northern Territory as our own people.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - It is the people of Australia, who have the stuff, the stamina, and the training to fit them for developing our own country, who should be induced to go there. In the first instance, you may require to get capital from other countries, but the manhood and experience we can supply. In my opinion, the railway ought to begin from the south end, for reasons of economy and other reasons. A railway built from Oodnadatta would be one of the first things that would lead people from the southern and eastern States to go and inspect that country with a view to settlement. They will not go there if they have to take a ten-days' voyage round more than half the coast-line. But if you open up the heart of the continent with a railway, you lead people to go there. It must also be remembered - and I am putting this to the Government in all seriousness - that from Oodnadatta to the 26th parallel is only about 200 miles, and it is only about 100 miles north of that to the MacDonnell Ranges, which is one of the most fertile and promising parts of this continent.


Senator Millen - What is the rainfall of this "most promising part"?


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - My honorable friend will find that that part of Australia has been more or less occupied. Great and heroic attempts at its development have, to a large extent, succeeded in opening up mines and pasturage. But the mines have dwindled down, because of the difficulty of transport.


Senator Findley - It is a marvellous thing, if the MacDonnell Ranges country is so fertile, that South Australia did not carry the railway there.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - We know perfectly well that the South Australian people had not the means. They carried the railway as far as Oodnadatta, and then stuck there. You could not expect a people considerably under 400,000 in number to build such a railway. That is the reason why they did not go On with the project. But I think any one who knows that country will bear me out in saying that the MacDonnell Ranges constitute an uncommonly attractive part of this continent. I know, from my own personal knowledge, that there are there mineral resources that have been developed profitably, though they have not been carried on as well as they would have been, because of the transport difficulty.


Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - Has, there ever been a payable mine there?


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Yes, and there are other payable resources. I am putting this point with all earnestness,, because I feel sure that we should not be running this railway through country similar to what exists at Oodnadatta. We should be crossing an oasis, from which I am satisfied we should derive a reward in the immediate future. One can understand why there should not have been great results from a place like that up to now, when we consider that machinery and other requirements had to be carried on camel back from Oodnadatta to the MacDonnell Ranges, 300 miles. I think I am correct in saying that the journey takes three weeks for persons travelling on camel back, without a load. I commend that to the consideration of the Government, with a view of assisting them to arrive at a definite bold policy consistent with the arrangement made with South Australia. Probably when the survey is in progress, it will be in the minds of those who make it, that it is desirable . to bring the southern end to a point that will be most convenient for the continuation of the line either from north to south, or from south to north. But it would have been far more desirable had this great trunk line, bisecting the continent and opening up the heart of Australia, been begun from the southern end. I take the view which has been urged in another place and elsewhere, that the facilities for railway construction at the southern end are far greater. There is already a railway from Port Augusta northward.


Senator Guthrie - But there is also a line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - In that case, however, you have to take the men all round Australia to Port Darwin, where, also there are not the same facilities for railway building as exist at the southern end.


Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Would the honorable senator be any happier if the Government proposed to build 56 miles of railway north from Oodnadatta?


Senator Guthrie - Fifty-six miles would be just as useless there as at the north end.


Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I do r.ot want to make an emphatic pronouncement such as Senator Guthrie has made, but I will say that as far as concerns any explanation offered to the Senate to-day with respect to the purpose of this railway. it is just as useless at the one end as it would be at the other. I think that in introducing this Bill- the Government are merely playing with the question. I do not wish to say a word that would wound the feelings of the VicePresident of the' Executive Council, but knowing that this problem of the connexion between the south and the north, the exploration and development of the whole of the interior of the continent, is the great question in the eyes of the people, and, knowing that this problem will have to be solved in the most vital interests of Australia, the Government fly this little flag in order to indicate that they are thinking about it. That is all that this Bill means. On a recent occasion, Senator Pearce spoke of the desirability of a Government being bold and brave, and foi1 lowing up their bold and brave words with equally bold and brave actions. That was a sound and good principle to enunciate, and I only regret that the Government are not carrying it into effect in relation to this transcontinental railway question, which is a far greater question than that with the inception of which we were concerned the other day. I shall support the second reading of the Bill, but I regret the attitude of the Government in introducing it. I am sorry to say that it will make no contribution whatever to the solution, which we are all desirous of seeing, of a great national question.







Suggest corrections