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Tuesday, 14 June 1904
Tuesday, 14 June 1904

Mr. Speakertook the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

ELECTORAL ADMINISTRATION.

Mr. THOMAS.- I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs whether the Chief Electoral Officer has yet reported the result of the inquiry held at Broken Hill into a matter of electoral administration there? If so, when will he lay the papers upon the table of the House?

Mr. BATCHELOR.-The report has been received, and transmitted to the GovernorGeneral. I shall place it upon the Library table, so that honorable members may peruse it.

LEAVE OF ABSENCE.

Mr. DEAKIN(Ballarat).- With the permission of the House, I desire to move, without notice -

That leave of absence for one month be granted to the right honorable member for Balaclava.

I regret to say that the operation to which my late colleague and friend has been subjected must be supplemented by a further one, not, I trust, of a serious character, but' sufficiently serious to detain him from this House for' some time longer.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

CONCILIATION AND ARBITRATION BILL.

Mr. HUTCHISON.-Idesire to call the attention of the Prime Minister to the following resolution, passed by the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce -

That this Chamber, having on general grounds already protested against the introduction of a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, now that a clause including State servants has been inserted, is of opinionthat it is advisable to urge the Government to promptly protest to the Federal Government against the invasion of State lights by the inclusion of State servants in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.

Is there any reason for believing that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, if passed into law as now amended, will invade State rights, or is the resolution merely one calculated to create a false alarm?

Mr. WATSON.- The view of the Government is that the States servants whom we have sought to include in the Bill may constitutionally be brought within the jurisdiction of any Court established under subsection xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution, and we, therefore, do not admit that its provisions are an invasion of State rights. State rights, in my opinion, . are those rights which have not been conveyed to the Federal authority under the terms of the Constitution approved by the people. If the High Court determines that our interpretation of the Constitution is not the correct one, there will . still be no invasion of State rights, because that decision will render the provisions of the measure, so far as they apply to public servants, invalid, and there is no proposal to go beyond that decision. We think that we were acting within the powers given us by the Constitution in including such State employes as now come within the terms of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.

KALGOORLIE TO PORT AUGUSTA RAILWAY.

Mr. FOWLER.- I wish to call the attention of the Prime Minister to a matter in regard to which I shall afterwards ask a question. In the Melbourne Age of

Mondav, 13th inst., a leader appears, from which 1 shall read the following extract : -

The desert railway scheme is being pushed forward by the Watson Government as zealously as it was advocated by its predecessors. For extravagant log-rolling this proposal undoubtedly establishes an Australasian record, being simply and solely pressed upon the attention of Federal legislators asthe price by which a few Western Australian votes are to be purchased for the Ministry. The present Prime Minister of the Commonwealth has hitherto been regarded as being neither a buyer nor a seller in the venal market of secret politics. Moreover, he has always given it to be understood that national extravagance in any form is one of his pet aversions.But the experiences of a few weeks in office seem to have reconciled Mr. Watson to the old altitude of the political opportunist. He needs all sorts of support to uphold his Cabinet, and he is told by his immediate adherents that he must not be too squeamish about the motives which prompt any offer of a bargain. Hence the appearance of the sum of£20,000 on the list of appropriations with the object of making a " contractors' survey " through the desert from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. When the motion was talked out by Mr. Kennedy on Thursday night, the action of the member for Moira was referred to by interested parties as " dirty " and " contemptible." These epithets would be much more appropriate if used to describe the gigantic fraud which is being attempted on the whole people of Australia by the partisan advocates of the scheme.

I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in his opinion, such expressions as I have just read do not constitute a charge of corrupt practices against, not only the individual members of this Parliament, but Ministers as well ? Does he not consider it necessary, in the interests of political probity and parliamentary honour, to take some action to prevent such disgraceful statements appearing in a public print in the future?

Mr. WATSON.- The insinuation that the proposal for a survey of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta has been brought before Parliament by the Government with a view to purchasing the votes of Western Australian members is not only a scandalous one, but, in view of the facts, also absolutely ridiculous. In thefirst place, the representatives of Western Australia in this Chamber are, with one exception, supporters of the Government on matters of general policy quite apart from any question of a Transcontinental Railway. As to the exception, I am sorry to find that the Melbourne Age suggests' that the support of the right honorable member for Swan is to be bought by this or any other Government on the terms described.

Mr. Deakin.- The bargain does nol seem to have been concluded yet.

Mr. WATSON.- Judging from the reports published in. the Age and other newspapers as to the attitude of the right honorable member for Swan in regard to the Government, the bargain would seem not yet signed, sealed, and delivered. There was no thought of any' bargain in the minds of Ministers when they put the proposal before the House. None of the representatives of Western Australia in this Parliament approached me on the subject before I entered into communication with1 the Premier of Western Australia as to the contribution which that State might be prepared to mata towards the construction of any railway, and there is not the slightest foundation for the suggestion that T have made a bargain in this regard, or am prepared to secure support from any quarter in which it is offered by making such a bargain. Our action carries out to. some extent the promises made by our predecessors, but the chief reason why we included in our programme the proposal for a survey of the route' was that we feel that there is in Western Australia a large and comparatively unexplored, area of territory which may prove of immense value to the Commonwealth as a whole, and that it is therefore proper to have it surveyed, to test its suitability for railway construction, and to discover its possibilities for settlement. This survey, however, will not commit Parliamentto any future action in the matter.

Mr. McLean.- Cannot the country be examined without, a contractor's survey ?

Mr. WATSON.-I do not think that anything less than a survey will show what' the country is like.

Mr. McLean.- I do not see what a contractor's survey has to do with the exploration of a country.

Mr. WATSON.- My recollection is that the flying survey spoken of by the Age was made by the Western Australian Government, who sent a surveyor or engineer across country which it was thought might be afterwards selected as the line of route, at their own expense, and not, as suggested by the Agc, at the expense of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Chapman.- Did we not submit the matter to some engineers?

Mr. WATSON.- Yes, but they dealt with the facts as ascertained, and they furnished a highly encouraging report. Thev estimated that within ten years the line would pay ; and surely men like Mr. Deane, the Engineer of Railway Construction in New South Wales, and other highlyqualified men, are entitled to express an opinion upon such a set of facts as were presented to them in this case. Their report was of a very encouraging character, and, in view of the fact that they estimated that the line would pay within ten years, it is of some interest to know that the Western Australian Government are willing to pay more than their proportion of any loss that may occur during the first ten years.

Mr. SPEAKER.- Is the Prime Minister now answering a question?

Mr. WATSON.-I admit that I have gone a little beyond the design of the question. As to the second portion of the honorable member's question concerning the desirability of the Government taking some action, I do not think it is worth while to make too serious a matter of this expression of opinion on the part of the Age. After all, it is the opinion only of the leader-writer of that newspaper.

Mr. Carpenter.- And he has been exercising his imagination.

Mr Fowler.- It is not even an opinion.

Mr. WATSON.-In any case, I do not think it is worth while to advertise the newspaper in connexion with a matter of this kind, and I have contented myself with a bare statement of the facts, in order to disprove the suggestion that there is anything corrupt in the proposal of the Government.







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