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Wednesday, 14 September 1904

Mr McLEAN (Gippsland) (Minister of Trade and Customs) . - My honorable friend, the member for Moira, during the course of his remarks drew attention to my previous attitude with regard to the construction of this line, and wished to know - I think that he was speaking in a jocular way - if I had altered my views since I took a seat upon the Treasury benches.

Mr Kennedy - I said that I did not know what were the Minister's views; but that I was under the impression that he was an economist.

Mr McLEAN - I do not suppose that my honorable friend would, for one moment, suggest that I would alter my views upon an important question of this kind for the sake of a seat upon the Treasury benches ; but as I value his good opinion, as I do that of most honorable members, I feel it is only fair that I should briefly explain my position. I say at once that I have always entertained very grave doubts whether the financial prospects of the proposed line would justify the large expenditure involved in its construction. I have expressed this view on many occasions, and my doubts have not yet been removed. I still entertain the same views that I have held for a considerable time past, but I think that it is only fair to say at once that my opinion, like that of other honorable members, has been founded on very imperfect data. I recognise, on the other hand, that the representatives of Western Australia, who know more about the matter than I do, are strongly of opinion that the construction of the line would be justified. Now, what is the question that we are required to consider? We have been asked by the Western Australian Government to make a survey of the line, and satisfy ourselves whether there is any warrant for its construction. Now, it appears to me that that is not an unreasonable request to make. I had long since made up my mind to support the proposal for the survey of the line. The honorable member for Grampians has just handed me a copy of Hansard ' containing an interjection of mine with reference to this matter.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the survey is favorable, will the Minister support the construction of the railway?

Mr McLEAN - I shall explain my views upon that matter in due course. The honorable member for Grampians, when speaking upon the Address-in-Reply, upon the 17th March last, said : -

I do not see the need for a survey in which every level would be taken, and every peg put into position, because that would be too expensive.

Mr Watson - The honorable member would like to see a flying survey made. .

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