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Wednesday, 16 March 1904

Sir JOHN FORREST - I do not think that that is an improper remark for me to make. I am only stating what I fear will be the case. I very much regret it, and I hope some means will be taken to prevent it. There can be no doubt that the idea of Federation and the very meaning of the word is a joining together. Those who desire the success of Federation must assist in the first instance, in removing isolation. Whether rightly or wrongly, there is no doubt whatever of the fact that the people of Western Australia - a large number of them at any rate - in agreeing to join in a Federation with their fellow countrymen in other parts of Australia, believed, and had good reasons for the belief, that the union would soon result in the barrier of isolation being removed. They believed that they would soon have railway communication between Western Australia and the eastern States of the continent. That was the main lever used by all of us who advocated Federation: It was the lever used by the prominent men in Eastern Australia to influence those who had lived so long in isolation, and who had become accustomed to that position. They were told that this communication of Western Australia by railway with the eastern States must be an early result of Federation. We all, I think, admit that, Australia being an island continent, inhabited by the same race of people, there is no room here for six different and almost sovereign States. If it were otherwise - if we were different peoples with different habits and different ambitions - the case might be different; but that is not so. We all come from the same stock ; we have the same history ; we have the same ambitions for the future ; we are citizens of the same Empire. Therefore, there is no room upon this continent for six sovereign States with independent Governments. The argument was excellent when we all used it, that union was not only necessary, but reasonable and businesslike ; but it must be a real union, and not one in name only ; not a sham, such as our union is at present, and such as it must continue to be so long as we have no means of communication between the great western and the great eastern States, except by embarking upon a four days' sea voyage, for the greater part of the journey far out of the sight of land.

Mr Glynn - How did the American States get on before the use of steam was introduced ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I do not know, but should say very badly. I think that we may judge of our own case for ourselves. The honorable and learned member is so erudite that it is of no use for me to attempt to cross swords with him. I recog'nise that no honorable member in this House has a mind stored with so many historical facts as he has. Unfortunately, I,000 miles of practically uninhabited country will have to be traversed by the proposed railway. That makes the position more difficult than it would be if settlements were established at frequent intervals along the route of the railway. I am glad, however, to be able to say that some real advance has been made in this matter, and that the GovernorGeneral's Speech conveys the information that the Government intend to ask the House to approve of a survey being made.

Mr Wilks - Did not the Minister write that paragraph?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I did not.

Mr Poynton - Is it true that the Minister has decided that the survey shall be made for a railway by way of the Gawler Ranges, and not through Tarcoola?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I have not decided anything. No doubt a railway could be constructed by the Gawler Ranges route for ^500,000 less than by the Tarcoola route, and as the House is in an economical frame of mind, that consideration may weigh with them. That, in itself, however, is not a sufficient reason why the route should be adopted. I wish to see the railway constructed, and I am not very particular as to which route it follows. The project for the construction of a railway to connect Western Australia with the eastern States was not received with much favour when it was first submitted to the House; but I am glad to say that it is now viewed with more favour, and that it has gained ground in the estimation of the people. Even in South Australia - where, for some unknown reason which I could not understand, the project was regarded with disfavour - I believe that the people are beginning to see that it would be very beneficial to them, and would confer as great an advantage upon South Australia as upon Western Australia, and I look forward to the time, and that very soon, when any objection that may have been raised by that State will be removed. I have not the slightest doubt that success will attend our efforts, but whether immediately or some time hence must depend largely upon public opinion. We . shall have to be content to wait till Parliament, with full information before it, is able to arrive at a decision in regard to it. There is no use in my saying that it is a good project, that it would prove payable, or that it would impose no burden on the people of Australia. What I have to do, and what the people of Western Australia and all those interested have to do, is to use every effort to induce the House and the country to view it with favour. I have always been content to accept that position. I have, however, always entertained a very strong objection to a situation in which any State should be able to say - " We shall prevent you people of Western Australia from being connected with the other States by rail; we shall not allow you to be brought into communication with your neighbours by railway, because there is rsection in the Constitution which says that our consent has first to be obtained." I have no hesitation in saying that that section was not embodied in the Constitution with any idea that it could be availed of for such a purpose. The design of the framers was to prevent the Commonwealth from interfering with the States in regard to matters relating to inter-communication within their own territory, and it was never contemplated that one State should be able to block another from being connected with the other States bv railway. Any such idea would be absurd, and entirely opposed to the principles of Federation. No State with any self-respect would be content to restunder such a condition for a minute, and if I thought that South Australia or any other State would be able for long to prevent Western Australia from being connected with the other States by rail - to prevent that inter-communication between the States which is the very life-blood of Federation - I should say - " This Federation is a fraud; we have been led into it by false pretences, and the sooner we get out of it the better."

Mr Wilks - What about the Federal Capital? We must have that first.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am quite as strong as is the honorable member in the desire to see the capital question settled. If any one imagines that we are not going to have railway communication between the east and west of Australia, I say to him that he is a little Australian, and has no faith in the future of his country. Federation, without means of communication between the great west and the great east of the continent would be meaningless. It would have absolutely no significance whatever.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What does the Treasurer say upon the subject?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am not committing the Treasurer. We only want the railway when Parliament is prepared to grant it. Now I shall have to say some things which are not so pleasant as I might desire, but I am determined to give utterance to them, because I have a duty to perform, not only to myself, but to the people of the State I represent. Among the foremost men in Australia who promised - indirectly if not directly- that Federation would be the forerunner of railway communication between the east and west of Australia was the then Premier of South Australia, the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide. On the 9th April, 1899, when I was Premier of Western Australia, he wrote to me as follows : -

Our near constitutional connexion, resulting from Federation, is in itself a boon of great worth to all included within its sphere. I cannot help thinking, also, that it must, at no very distant date, result in the connexion of east and west by rail through the medium, say, of a line between Port Augusta and your gold-fields.

There is no mention there about Esperance

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