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Wednesday, 16 March 1904

Mr SPEAKER - The right honorable member for Adelaide is not in order in constantly interjecting, nor is the Minister in order in directly addressing the right honorable member instead of the Chair, and so provoking further interjections from him. I hope that both right honorable members will respect the Standing Orders.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The right honorable member for Adelaide has based his attack upon the Government and people of Western Australia on statements which he declares were made in this House, and which he makes his own. I was away in England at the time when it is said these statements were made, and I have never read them. I know of them only because of the reference which the right honorable member has made to them on two occasions, and as they contain serious imputations against the Government and people of Western Australia I would ask him whether he has made any attempt to verify them. No one is justified in accepting a libellous statement as a fact, and to refer to it and confirm it, unless he takes some trouble to determine whether it is true. Has the right honorable and learned member made any effort to ascertain the accuracy or otherwise of the statements to which I refer? If it were a trifling matter, it would be unworthy of the notice of the House; but it is because of its seriousness that T am led to address myself to it. What are these charges which have twice been hurled against my past Administration, as well as the present Government of Western Australia? They are, in effect, that because the Government and Parliament of Western Australia have not built a railway from Coolgardie or Kalgoorlie to Esperance Bay - an undertaking which, inclusive of harbor accommodation, would involve an outlay of about ^1,000,000 - an iniquitous state of affairs exists. It is asserted that the policy of the past and present Government of the State is worthy of the Emperor Caligula; that in consequence of it old men and young children are dying on the gold-fields, and that the failure to construct the line in question has been due solely to a desire to benefit the land-holders of Perth. The further statement is made that children are to be sacrificed, and that hard-working men have not only been inconvenienced, but exposed to risks, difficulties, and even danger to life, in order that the land-holders of Perth may make a profit on their investments. These are the statements, said to have been made in this House., which the right honorable member for Adelaide has taken upon himself to reiterate and confirm, and which he repeated for the second time on Friday last. Could a more monstrous charge be levelled against the Government, Parliament, and people of any State? If it were made by some one having no place in the public life of Australia, it might well be left alone; but inasmuch as these statements have been accepted and reiterated by the right honorable member for Adelaide, I call upon him either to substantiate or to withdraw them. I wholly deny and repudiate them. I challenge .and defy the right honorable member, or any one else, to prove one tittle in support of them. When I indignantly contradicted them the other day, the right honorable member for Adelaide rejoined - "What avails the contradiction? The fact remains, and there is no getting away from it." To this remark, one or two honorable members of the Opposition said, " Hear, hear " ; but I feel satisfied that they could not have understood the true import of these assertions. Such statements could not proceed from any save the most ungenerous and prejudiced mind. If this sort of irresponsible slander-

Mr Kingston - It is "irresponsible slander." spoken by the members for the district in question in this House. The right honorable gentleman heard those statements made, but never dared to contradict them.

Sir JOHN FORREST - When I contradicted them, the right honorable member asked - " What avails the contradiction?" The fact remains, and there is no getting away from it.

Mr Kingston - No attempt was made to contradict them.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This personal difference of opinion should be settled outside; we do not want to hear of it in this House.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I again ask the House whether these are the kind of irresponsible charges that should be made against the people of a State by a wouldbe leader? Is this the kind of talk that will bind the people of the States together in mutual respect and confidence?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are the remarks made by the Minister himself likely to do so?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am acting only on the defensive. And what are the facts? I shall place them before honorable members. It is all very well for the honorable member for Parramatta to ask - " Why refer to these matters ?" We listened for hours to assertions of the kind on the part of the right honorable member for Adelaide, and if the honorable member for Parramatta had endeavoured to induce him to refrain from making them, there would have been no occasion for me to refute them.

Mr Kingston - Why does not the right honorable gentleman refute then, if he can ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - The whole gravamen of the charge is that the Government and people of Western Australia have failed to build two railways from the coast to Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. The reason for that failure was, in the case of my own Government - and no doubt the same remark will apply to the present Government of Western Australia - that there was already a splendid railway running from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie, and indeed 200 miles further inland. That service has existed for several years ; while the State Government have also expended £1,250,000 in making the Fremantle Harbor fit to accommodate the largest steamers. No other inland town in Australia possesses better railway facilities than those enjoyed by Kalgoorlie. It has not only railway communication with the coast, but also a suburban railway service. Electric trams traverse its streets, and altogether the town is a most flourishing one. It is the great railway centre of the eastern gold-fields. The main line extends for about 200 miles beyond Kalgoorlie to the northward, as I have already mentioned. Then, again, the State has expended ,£2,750,000 in giving it a permanent water supply, which is at present even more than sufficient to meet its wants. That was a very great undertaking, and I think it will be admitted that it is a most beneficent one. We have in Kalgoorlie a satisfied and a prosperous people. I ask honorable members to glance at the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, and to say whether he looks like a man representing an electorate in which the people are being treated inhumanely by a cruel and tyrannical Government ?

Mr Frazer - I do not admit that we are satisfied.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The people of Kalgoorlie are satisfied, so far as any people in a remote part of the country could be expected to be satisfied. The right honorable member for Adelaide appears to be under the impression that if any district is not connected with the coast by a railway line running in a straight course, a more direct railway should be constructed. From Deniliquin to Sydney the direct distance is 390 miles, whereas by rail the distance is 632 miles, or 242 miles more. If a railway were constructed from Deniliquin to Finley, a distance of only 40 miles, Deniliquin would be only 488 miles from Sydney. From Kalgoorlie to Fremantle the distance by rail is 387 miles, while the distance to Esperance Bay is about 247 miles, or about 140 miles less. From Sydney to Brisbane the direct distance is 450 miles, but the distance by rail is 723 miles, or 273 miles more. From Melbourne to Sydney the direct distance is 450 miles, and the distance by rail 576 miles. From Adelaide to Broken Hill the direct distance is 270 miles-, and the distance by rail 334 miles. From Albury to Sydney the direct distance is 286 miles, and the distance by rail 386 miles. From Sydney to Cobar the direct distance is 354 miles, and the distance by rail 459 miles. From Mount Gambier the distance to Adelaide is about 300 miles, whereas, if a railway were built to Portland, the distance would be only 65 miles. From Perth to Albany the direct distance is 240 miles, whereas the distance by rail is 340 miles.

Mr Batchelor - But Mount Gambier has connexion with the coast.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Not with a good port. I think that the argument of the right honorable member for Adelaide is an absurd one. He contends that because Esperance Bay is only 247 miles from Kalgoorlie, the Government of Western Australia should make a railway to that port, although the gold-fields have already a good railway connecting them with a magnificent harbor at Fremantle. Surely, however, the matter is one for the State Government to deal with, and they can be trusted to manage their own business. Why should the people of Perth and Fremantle be represented by any one without the remotest foundation of truth or justice, as inhuman persons who have tried to make money for themselves at the expense of, and by neglecting the interests of, their fellowAustralians living on the gold-fields.

Mr Fowler - The people of Western Australia have followed a policy common to all the States.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The right honorable and learned member for Adelaide has spoken of the people of Fremantle as though they were bloodsuckers, who have tried to squeeze money out of the people on the gold-fields without providing them with conveniences in return. I would remind the right honorable member, however, that the early inhabitants of Western Australia mortgaged all that they had to borrow money to construct the railway to the gold-fields and to provide the people there with a water supply. Furthermore, persons from his " own dear State " of South Australia are as plentiful as blackberries in Fremantle and in Perth. For every old inhabitant in Western Australia there are at least three newcomers. Does the right honorable member refer to them as inhuman and cruel? Then, again, if the people of Kalgoorlie desire a change for the sake of health and recreation, do they prefer to go to Esperance Bay when they, have Perth, Fremantle, Bunbury, Busselton, Albany, and the older towns of the State to visit? What would be said of the contention that the people of Broken Hill would rather go to Port Pirie for recreation than to the fair city of Adelaide, or to the other beautiful towns of South Australia? Both contentions are absurd. But we have had enough of these local matters in this House.


Sir JOHN FORREST - We have. had two long speeches from the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide, both of them in the same style, and both dealing with a matter of purely local concern. Surely these matters should be left to those who are responsible for them, the people of Western Australia ! I cannot expect that honorable members should enter into my feelings in regard to the ungenerous statements that have been reiterated, because they have not realized their gravity; but I can assure them that the charges which have been levelled against me, and the Administration of which I was the head, have cut me to the very quick. I know what the people of Western Australia have done - I do not distinguish one class from another - to try to make that State prosperous. We were originally a very small community, and we mortgaged practically everything we had to float large loans for the construction of railways to the goldfields, to give the people there a water supply, to make roads, to erect telegraphs, to establish hospitals, and to provide for public batteries for the convenience of poor miners. When I think of all that was done, and know that it never for a moment entered the mind of any person in Fremantle or Perth to be unjust or cruel to, or to do other than to try to help, the population of the gold-fields, I cannot but regret -that the right honorable member for Adelaide has lent himself to the reiteration of statements which, no matter by whom made, are absolutely untrue. Surely I have just cause for complaint, that one with his great reputation should lend his aid to disseminating throughout the length and breadth of this country, such scandalous inuendoes and gross misrepresentations. I have had an unpleasant duty ; but I have been compelled to perform it in the interests of myself and of those with whom I have been associated in the Government and Parliament of Western Australia. I thank honorable members for their kindness in so attentively listening to my remarks.

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