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Thursday, 9 October 1902

Mr WINTER COOKE (WANNON, VICTORIA) - It appears that the Cabinet have not made up their mind.

Mr Deakin - We have not had a chance.

Mr WINTER COOKE - But honorable members ought to have had a direct answer earlier, seeing that a trip has been mooted for some time, and that considerable criticism has resulted.

Mr Isaacs - After what the Prime Minister has said, the Cabinet will make up their minds, I have no doubt.

Mr WINTER COOKE - If any good would result from members travelling about the country, I should not oppose the expenditure of public money in that direction. It must be admitted there are amongst us many who are not able to pay the expenses of travelling over the whole of Australia, and if any good were to be gained by visits for a specific purpose, then by all means the .Commonwealth ought to pay the expense. But it is now suggested that . honorable members should go to Western Australia, to a large extent at the public expense, in order to put themselves in a position to decide as to whether or not a railway shall be constructed from Coolgardie to Esperance. Does any honorable member honestly" think that a visit to Western Australia, commencing- at Fremantle arid extending to Kalgoorlie, will give any valuable information on the point as to whether this railway should be constructed.

Mr Fowler - But surely some idea would be gained of the resources and development of the country 1

Mr WINTER COOKE - All that information can be obtained from the official statistics. The particulars as to population, agriculture, and gold production are all accessible, and there is no necessity to pay a personal visit in order to obtain the information. Moreover, the evidence which honorable members would gather would not be sworn evidence, though of course they would be able by personal observation to see something of the railways, waterworks, and palatial buildings of Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie. The same observations apply to Port Darwin.

Mr Fowler - Does the honorable member never visit his estate when an employe' brings in a report 1

Mr WINTER COOKE - In the matter to which I am referring, I should certainly not go merely on my own personal observation, but would call the best sworn evidence available. In Victoria, railways for a long time were made at the instigation of Members of Parliament. Then we appointed a Railways Standing Committee which took the sworn evidence of experts and other people in regard to proposals placed before Parliament, and though mischief is still occasional]}' done, the country has suffered much less under that system than it did formerly. In the same way. this House will have to be guided chiefly by reports and sworn evidence of experts in regard to proposals for great public works, such as the improvement of the Murray River, and other matters which may be brought before us from time to time. I look upon the visit of honorable members to the suggested federal sites as a waste of money. I do not believe that it will be of any use, because I think that the House will ultimately have to decide the question upon the opinion of experts. For a similar reason I am glad that if any money at all is to be spent upon the proposed visit of members to other States the amount will not be very large. I would rather see no expenditure of the kind incurred, because

I think that no good result will come from it. It is strange that we are now being asked to consider a proposal of this kind, when in the early part of the .session the House refused to consider the expediency of appointing a Royal commission to inquire into the kanaka question, and legislated upon it in absolute ignorance, so far as the representatives of the southern States were concerned, of the surrounding conditions. In the same way, we passed legislation affecting the pearl fisheries on the northern coasts of Australia without personal knowledge of the subject. While I should not object to the expenditure of public money in obtaining information, I think that in this case, as the information obtained cannot be very much, the expense should be limited to a very small amount.

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