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Wednesday, 14 September 1904

Mr LIDDELL (Hunter) - It seems to me that there has been a great deal of discussion upon this motion which is -not al together necessary! We are not now being asked to decide whether £6,000,000 should be spent upon the construction of a Transcontinental Railway ; all that we are asked to do is to vote a certain sum of money to enable a survey of the route of the proposed line to be made, so thatwe may know the nature of the country through which it would pass, and the prospect of the railway becoming a paying one. This is not a parochial or a provincial matter. The proposed railway is net to connect two points in a State ; it is a continuation of one of the greatest highways of the world, the continuation of a highway which practically encircles the world. The object of the line is to unite the railway systems of the east with the railway systems of the west, to complete a magnificent chain which, when finished, will extend from Cairns on the north, round to Fremantle on the west. In a country like Australia, where there are very few large navigable rivers, no canals, arid an almost unindented coastline, so that means of water carriage are few and inconvenient, it is necessary, in order to give opportunities for settlement and progress, to provide other means of communication. If we are to progress as we deserve to do, we must construct railways to give free intercourse amongst our people, and to carry goods readily from one part of the continent to another. This is one of the chief means by which we may increase our population. We have heard a great deal about the falling off of population; but we cannot expect our population to increase unless we provide facilities such as I speak of. I believe that the reason why Western Australia progressed so slowly for many years was, that she was almost entirely isolated from the other States; and when the proposed communication is given, she will no doubt progress very rapidly. Prior to Federation, New Zealand felt that, surrounded as she was by the seas, it would be better for her to stand alone; but Western Australia saw that it would be to her advantage to join the Union, and one of the inducements held out to the people of that State for coming 'into the Federation was, I believe, that the proposed line would eventually be constructed by the Commonwealth. Even if it is not constructed verv shortly, the time is not far distant when it must be made, because it is an absolute necessity. Are we going to repudiate a bargain which was made wilh the people of Western Australia? The bargain made with the people of New South Wales in connexion with the Federal Capital has practically been repudiated, because a site has been chosen where it was never expected that the Seat of Government would be placed, but is this Parliament going to act similarly towards Western Australia?

Mr Cameron - Who made the bargain with Western Australia? There was no bargain.

Mr LIDDELL - The construction of the proposed line was held out to the people of Western Australia as an inducement to join the Federation.

Mr Kelly - By whom? By the right honorable member for Swan.

Mr LIDDELL - If the right honorable member for Swan held it out as an inducement, he had, no doubt, good authority for doing so. When the survey has been made it will be necessary to inquire as to the benefits which would be obtained by the construction of the proposed line. One of the great advantages which I foresee from its construction is that it will tend towards the unification of the great British Empire, because it will bring us nearer to the mother country, by cutting off the long and unpleasant sea journey which those who now come from Europe to Australia are obliged to make in order to get to the eastern States. _ If we can do anything to draw closer the bonds of union, to tighten the crimson threads which unite us to the mother land, it is' our duty to do it. The proposed railway would shorten the journey to Europe by some' days, and would make it a much pleasanter one than it is now. Those who have travelled between the eastern States and Europe know that the most unpleasant part of the journey is that between Fremantle and Adelaide. In summer time cyclones sweep across the vast expanse of water which has to be traversed, while in winter time icy blasts come from the south, making the journey round the Leeuwin and across the Great Australian Bight a very unpleasant one to the average traveller, so that many who have not suffered from sea sickness in the earlier part of the voyage become iJl the're. I believe that every one who could' avail himself of the overland journey would take it, in preference to the voyage by sea. The proposed railway would also give' us a great many advantages in connexion with the carriage of our mails. Our letters would be delivered in shorter time than they are now, and thus trade and commerce with Europe, and between the eastern and western States of the Commonwealth, would be facilitated and accelerated. Whatever may have been the report of Major-General Hutton on the subject, I believe that the proposed railway would be of great advantage to us if we we're at war with a foreign nation. We know how Russia has. been pushing forward her railways. We have read how a former Czar took his ruler and drew a line on the map from St. Petersburg to Moscow, to indicate how he wanted a railway to run. The question of cost was of little importance to him. We see now how the Russians have carried their railways through Siberia, and across Manchuria, and we know .the ' use to which they have been put for transport purposes during the war. The Dominion of Canada, by the construction of the CanadianPacific railway, and the United States, have both set us examples which 'we might well follow in this matter. When the railway which now runs from San Francisco to New York was in contemplation, no one cared much for the fact that for many miles it would have to traverse the desert. It was not required to pay foot by foot. What the people of the United States desired was to get quickly from one part of the Union to another. That railway runs for thousands of miles across barren, waterless, alkali plains, where from his rising to his setting the sun never throws the shadow of a human being on the soil. Therefore, although water may be scarce along the route of the proposed line, and the country to be traversed may not be all that we might desire, we must regard it as a highway for the conveyance of passengers and of goods. I think, too, that if the line is constructed on the 4 ft. 8j in. gauge, which already obtains in New South Wales, that gauge will eventually become universal. '

Mr Cameron - Does the honorable member know what it would cost to make that gauge universal ?

Mr LIDDELL - I have not gone into the question of cost, but the first cost should be the last. We know what inconvenience and expense the present breaks of gauge entail, and we have the assurance of the present Government of Western Australia that they would be prepared to alter their gauge to make it conform with that of the proposed railway. If the same gauge were in use in Western Australia, and in New South Wales, I do not think that it would be long before it was adopted in the other States, If the railway is constructed I hope that we shall have no trouble in connexion with" refreshment rooms at various stages. The personal inconvenience to which we now have to submit when travelling upon the railways is considerable, and the health of travellers must be seriously affected owing to the conditions under which they have to take their meals. This is a matter of very great moment, and I trust that the cars will be so arranged that passengers will be able to dine as they travel. If the construction of the railway were entered upon a considerable amount of work would be provided for those of our citizens who are in urgent need of employment, and the money of the Commonwealth could not be spent to greater advantage. There are no great engineering difficulties to be overcome, because the right honorable member for Swan tells us that the country is level for the greater part of the way. We have heard that water is scarce, and that the rainfall amounts to only seven inches per annum. I consider that the rainfall is a minor consideration, because we know that plentiful supplies of water can be obtained by means of artesian bores. I should like to know the source of the opposition to the project. Is it not instigated to a very large extent by the shipping companies, who fear that their interests will be seriously affected by the diversion of traffic? I have no sympathy with those whose opposition to the railway is prompted by consideration for vested interests, and I entirely object to the introduction of log-rolling into this Parliament. We have had enough of that in the States Parliaments. Some objection probably comes from the magnates' of Perth and Fremantle, who would prefer to see a railway constructed from Kalgoorlie to Esperance.

Mr Mahon - They do not wish to see that line constructed.

Mr LIDDELL - -They certainly do not desire to see the connexion made between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta, and they would prefer the other line as the lesser of two evils. I do not bind myself to vote for the construction of the railway, but I think that £[20,000 would be well spent in' making a survey, and in securing the information that is essential to a full consideration of the merits of the project. I shall, therefore, vote for the measure.

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