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Wednesday, 21 October 1903

Mr KIRWAN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - That petition was signed by 23,000 persons. It was prepared at considerable trouble and expense. At that time, I believe, the honorable member for Perth was the secretary of the Federal League at Fremantle. The petition was presented to the Western Australian Parliament by the late Premier of that State, Mr. Leake : but, although it was signed by 23,000 persons, it was rejected amidst laughter. Then, just as Parliament was on the eve of prorogation, the residents of the gold-fields determined to take an extreme step in order to force Western Australia into the Federal Union. They decided to petition the Imperial authorities to form the goldfields into a separate State, so that it might enter the Federation. A petition to that effect was prepared and signed by 26,000 residents of the gold-fields. It is that petition which the Minister for Home Affairs declares contained a number of false statements. I say they were not false, but absolutely true. I should like at this stage to express the gratitude which I, in common with thousands of others who were interested in that movement feel to be due to the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, and also Senator Sir Josiah Symon for the action which they took in the matter.

Sir John Forrest - I hope that they are not responsible for the truth of the statements which were made.

Mr KIRWAN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Investigation will show that my statements, so far as veracity is concerned, will always compare favorably with those made by the Minister for Home Affairs. The only reply which the right honorable gentleman can make to charges that are levelled against him consists of impertinent and rude interjections which, although worthy of him, are unworthy of any honorable member who desires to observe the courtesies of debate. The petition forced the right honorable gentleman, who was false to Federation, to call the State Parliament together, and, fearful of separation, that Parliament which had rejected our first petition amid laughter, passed the Enabling Bill. It was that petition, however, which brought the right honorable gentlemen and the members of the State Parliament to their knees so far as the question of Federation was concerned, and 1 have to thank the honorable gentlemen I have named for the assistance which they rendered us on that occasion.

Sir John Forrest - They will be very grateful for the honorable member's thanks.

Mr KIRWAN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Those who believe in Federation should be more grateful to them

I than to the Minister for Home Affairs. Every one knows the details of his treachery and falsehood in connexion with Federation.

Sir John Forrest - I rise to a point of order. The honorable member, Mr. Speaker, has asserted that I was treacherous and false to Federation, and I ask that the remark be withdrawn.

Mr SPEAKER -I must call upon the honorable member to withdraw the observation.

Mr KIRWAN - I understand that the truth must not be spoken in this House.

Mr SPEAKER - Order !

Mr KIRWAN - In deference to your wish, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the remark. I should like to point out that whilst it is true that the separation movement forced Western Australia to join the Union, there was still another factor which the right honorable member for South Australia has recognised and which we should not forget. Undoubtedly a large number of those who voted for the Constitution Bill, more especially in Perth and Fremantle, were influenced by the understanding that one of the first works to be undertaken by the Commonwealth would be the construction of the transcontinental railway. But for the separation movement, however, the Bill itself would not have been submitted to the people.

Mr Kingston - The supporters of the Federal movement in Western Australia sent a representative to the eastern States to ask for assistance.

Mr KIRWAN - Quite so. Theright honorable member and others in the interests of the Federal movement said at the time that they believed that the construction of the transcontinental railway would be one of the first works entered upon by the Commonwealth. It was asserted by them that Federation would be practically impossible without such a line, and that men holding prominent positions in the eastern States had expressed themselves strongly in favour of the work. As the result of these representations many people were induced to vote for Federation. I am sure that not an individual who on that occasion expressed an opinion favorable to the construction of the railway desires now to go back on his word, and I trust that the House will agree to the necessary survey being made. I am exceedingly sorry as a representative of Western Australia to have to admit that all that has been said hy the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, as to the action of those who ruled in Western Australia when Federation was before the people is absolutely correct. Reference has been made by the right honorable member to another line of railway which ought to be constructed by the State Parliament, and the merits of which have been discussed in this House. I refer to the proposed Esperance railway. That would be a national line, because it would promote trade facilities between the various States of the Union. In my advocacy of that proposal, there is nothing that is antagonistic to the construction of the transcontinental line, which is absolutely necessary for the carriage of mails and passengers, as well as for defence and other purposes. Apart altogether from State reasons, the Esperance railway should certainly be made, and we cannot overlook the fact that it would promote trade facilities and enable the gold-fields of Western Australia to be supplied with that produce which they now so sadly need. I should be sorry if the refusal of the State Parliament to construct that line tended to injure the proposal now before this House. In my opinion, nothing that has been done by any State Parliament in Australia is so monstrously outrageous - so contrary to every idea of justice, and of the proper development of a State which represents one-third of the Continent of Australia - as the continued refusal of the Parliament of Western Australia to make the Esperance railway.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member ought to be sorry to make such a statement against the Parliament; of the State which he, with others, represents in this House.

Mr KIRWAN - In reply to the interjection made by the Minister for Home Affairs, I desire to say that I am here to consider the welfare of the whole of Western Australia, rather than that of a little gang of persons in Perth and Fremantle with vested interests. It is absurd that any man who poses as a statesman, or as one possessingany idea of government, should agree to the expenditure of large sums of public money in Perth and Fremantle, and yet decline to support an expenditure which would open up the natural resources of the country. What can we think of a man who would centralize the whole of the trade of a -vast State like Western Australia in one particular spot 1 No unbiased man would deny that it is a scandal and an outrage that the Esperance line has not yet been constructed. I must thank the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, for the references which he has made to that project. Those references will be received with enthusiasm throughout the gold-fields of Western Australia. His attitude is worthy of him, and is just what we should expect from such a man. I trust that the Government will give the House an undertaking that the work of surveying the route of the proposed transcontinental line will be entered upon without delay. The merits of the proposal, and the reports that have been published, amply justify the request. I should also be pleased if the House could, in any way that lies in its power, support the construction of the Esperance railway. The line ought to be constructed by the State.

Mr Kingston - It is the most important Inter-State connexion.

Mr KIRWAN - Quite so. It ought to be constructed either by this or the State Parliament. As to the transcontinental railway, the statement of the Commissioners is that, according to expert evidence, the working of the line would at first show an annual deficiency of £68,106 per annum; but that after ten years the net profit, over and above working expenses and paymentof interest, would amount to £18,219 per annum. Even if, at the end of that period, it did not show an actual profit, the indirect benefits which would accrue to the Commonwealth from the construction of the line would be so great that the expenditure would be fully justified. The line sooner or later must be constructed, for the Federation cannot be real until all the States of the Union have been connected by railway. The necessity for this means of communication is increasing year by year. The populationof Western Australia is rapidly growing, j and the sooner something is done in this- direction the better. If a survey be made, we shall at all events be in a position presently to consider the question of constructing the line.

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