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Wednesday, 14 September 1904

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - It is not my intention to speak at great length, but I do not think that I should be justified in giving a silent vote upon this question. The utterances of the right honorable member for Swan, and other representatives of Western Australia, would almost incline me to vote in favour of the proposed expendi ture of £20,000 for the survey of this railway. I know how anxious they are to secure it. To-night, 'for the first time in the history of this Parliament, we shall probably witness the whole of the representatives of a State voting together.

Mr Fowler - That shows how solidWestern Australia is upon the question.

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - In explaining the Ministerial policy the other day, the Prime Minister declared that, if the Government were allowed to reach recess, they would use it to cultivate cordial relations betwe'en the States and the central Governments. Evidently that feeling has already been created in Western Australia, for to-day we find every representative' of that great State voicing the same opinion upon this question. I trust that during the remainder of the session they will support the Government as they are doing now. Personally, I have to bear in mind that I represent a portion of Queensland, and I must therefore consider the best interests of that State. Much as I should like to support' the right honorable member for Swan, I fe'el obliged to vote against this motion. If the proposed railway is of so much importance to Western Australia, why cannot that State incur the. expenditure necessary to obtain a survey of the route ? -Why cannot it satisfy this Parliament that the construction of the Transcontinental Railway is possible, and that the territory through which it would pass is not a barren and waterless waste ? If it were to expend £20,000 upon its own account, I think that it would be' able to make out a very good case indeed. Such an expenditure would show that its people had confidence in the undertaking. But apparently they are' not prepared to risk £[20,000 to satisfy themselves and this Parliament that the construction of the line is' practicable. I will not venture to say how many millions sterling the proposed railway would cost, because it has been variously estimated at £4,000,000, £5,000,000, and £6,000,000, and upon each occasion the right honorable member for Swan has contradicted the estimate. It is undeniable, however, that the undertaking would involve an expenditure of some millions.

Sir John Forrest - How much does the sugar bonus cost ?

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - If Queensland were allowed to secede from the Federation she would be very glad to forego the sugar bonus. It has been urged by several speakers that there was an understanding between the Premiers of the various States' that the Transcontinental Railway should be constructed. Possibly there was also an understanding that one of the first measures submitted to this Parliament should have for its object an interference with rhe great sugar industry of Queensland. During the last election campaign I was frequently asked whether I would support an expenditure of £20,000 upon obtaining a survey of the proposed railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. This was a live question in Queensland. I had no hesitation in declaring that I , would not be a party to penalizing Queensland to that extent. The northern State has already been penalized sufficiently, and has received very little consideration at the hands of this Parliament.

Mr Watkins - Queensland has received more consideration than has any other State.

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - She has not received the slightest consideration. Indeed, the feeling in Queensland to-day is that if it were possible to do so that State would gladly withdraw from the Federation. This afternoon, the honorable member for Coolgardie stated that if this railway' were not constructed it would create a feeling of antagonism throughout Western Australia, and that its people would use every means in their power to secede from the Federation. All I can say is that Queensland would be only too glad to join with that State with a view to gaining the same end.

Mr Watkins - The electors do not show that by their votes.

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - Why does Western Australia desire special treatment? The Constitution provides that every State shall be treated alike by the Commonwealth. No preference is to be given.

Mr Skene - No sugar bounties.

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - There is to be no interference with States rights. The Constitution provides that there shall be no discrimination shown in dealing with the States, and yet we have now before us a proposal to give two States an advantage over the others.

Mr Watkins - Why?

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - Why should we specially legislate for South Australia and Western Australia at the expense of the other States? Queensland will be called upon to pay something like £4,000 as her proportion of the . £20,000 which it is proposed to spend in making a preliminary survey.

Sir John Forrest - Western Australia has helped to pay for the sugar bonuses which benefit Queensland.

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - Whose fault is that?

Sir John Forrest - It is not the fault of Western Australia.

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - Did Queensland ask that there should be any interference with the sugar industry of that State, that kanaka labour should be abolished, and bonuses given by the Commonwealth to enable white labour to be substituted?

Mr Fowler - She did, through her representatives.

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - The latest proposal is that the Chinese throughout the rest of the Commonwealth shall be sent to Queensland to engage in the sugar industry. A suggestion to that effect has repeatedly been made in the Victorian press. It is thought that if the Chinese were sent in this way to Queensland the white traders of other parts of the Commonwealth, and more particularly of Melbourne, would no longei be compelled to compete with them. Queensland is quite prepared to observe the laws passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, but if coloured labourers are to be employed in the sugar-fields of that State let them be kanakas. The people of Queensland are accustomed to the habits pf the kanaka, and, although Chinese may be very suitable for some classes of work, they are not fitted for the sugar industry. In the interests of Queensland I shall be compelled to oppose the motion. The State of which I am a representative might very well appeal to this Parliament for a similar vote towards the cost of a preliminary survey for a proposed railway to Somerset, in the extreme north of the Gulf of Carpentaria. It has just as much right to make such a request to this House as Western Australia has to ask that the . Commonwealth shall expend £20,000 in this way. But the people of that State would not dream of doing such a thing. All that they ask of this Parliament' is fair treatment and consideration.

Mr Watkins - Did they ask for the sugar bonus?

Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - I am not dealing with the sugar industry. I should not have mentioned the subject but for an interjection made by the honorable member for Newcastle, who must have avery sweet tooth. I. regret that I cannot support the motion, but I do not think that the State from which I come could fairly be asked to contribute £4,000 towards the cost of the survey of a railway that will be of no advantage to it. It has already been penalized by the extension of the Vancouver contract for the carriage of oversea mails, and by the increase of the subsidy from £[7,000 to £10,000 per annum, while it is to suffer still further by the refusal of the Commonwealth to provide in the contract that mail steamers shall make Brisbane a port of call. In the interests of Queensland, I feel constrained to oppose this motion, although I believe that it will be carried.

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