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Wednesday, 14 September 1904

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON (Barker) - The honorable member for Newcastle has made two suggestions. The first, which I think is an excellent one, is that if the survey be carried out, prospecting operations should be conducted in connexion with it. That is indeed an admirable proposal. As to the second suggestion, made by the honorable member, I am more than a little doubtful. He urged that it would be well, in the interests of Australia, that the railway, if constructed, should not touch 'at Port Augusta, but should be carried very much further inland. If that suggestion be acted upon, I can only say that there will be no enthusiasm manifested by the people of South Australia in the construction of the railway.

Mr Mahon - There is none now.

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON - I intend to vote for. the motion. I favour the' carrying out of this survey ; but I do not wish the Committee to be under the impression that this statement implies that I would approve of the immediate construction of the railway.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not even if the report of the surveyors be favorable?

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON - In taking up this position, I believe that I am expressing the view of the majority of the people of South Australia. They are not hostile to the railway, but they feel that it is not a work about which there need be anyspecial hurry. They hope and believe that in the country lying between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie there is great mineral wealth ; but that remains to be proved, and' until we gain much more satisfactory information than we possess at the present time, the people of South Australia think we should go slowly. They hold that there is no justification for immediately plunging the Commonwealth into the tremendous expenditure which would be involved in the construction of the contemplated line. That is a reasonable attitude. There would be no justification in present circumstances for constructing the line. Even if the railway existed, the great bulk of produce and merchandise would be carried by steamer, because of the cheaper rates which the sea route affords. Suppose a railway now existed, there is no doubt that many persons in Western Australia, wishing to visit the eastern States, would travel by train; but very many others would trawl by steamer, because, as in the case of cargo, that would afford a cheaper means of passing from Western Australia to the other States. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie stated to-day that if the railway were constructed, persons coming to Australia by the great ocean-going steamers would land at Fremantle, and travel overland to the eastern States. If the line were constructed, the experience of Fremantle would, in my opinion, be a repetition of that of Adelaide. Persons coming to Australia by the mail steamers, and intending to visit Western Australia, would, of course, land at Fremantle. It may be that many of th'em would continue their journeys to the eastern States by train, but there is no doubt that those travelling to Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney, would complete their voyages by mail steamer. Whilst I hold this view, I am ready, as I have said, to vote money for the survey, because I think it is most desirable that the fullest information should be obtained, and I believe! that the time will come when such a railway as is now contemplated will be constructed.

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