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Wednesday, 14 September 1904

Mr CARPENTER (Fremantle) - I regret that the first speech made by the hon.orable member for Wilmot, after taking his place on the Opposition cross benches-

Mr Cameron - I have always sat in Opposition. I am an independent.

Mr CARPENTER - At any rate, I regret that the first speech made by the honorable member since I have (been sitting on the same side as he is is so unsympathetic towards Western Australia. Since I have had the honour of a seat in this Chamber I have felt a particular sympathy towards the representatives of Tasmania, because that State is situated similarly to Western Australia, though, if anything, its isolation is more complete, and, while it is possible to give overland communication to Western Australia, Tasmania must re- ' main for ever shut off from the mainland by the sea. For this reason I regarded it as quite proper a few months ago for the representatives of the two States to join hands on a matter in which they were mutually interested. But while I regret that most of the representatives of Tasmania are opposed to the present proposal, I think that it would not be hard to persuade the Committee that the charge which they bring against the representatives of Western Australia of asking for a special concession would lie more at their own door, since the Commonwealth is paying £9,000 per annum to subsidize a Tasmanian mail service, and the amount is, I understand, to be increased to £13,000.

Mr Cameron - But that amount is debited to Tasmania alone.

Sir John Forrest - Tasmania does not pay the whole of it.

Mr Cameron - Yes, it does. Victoria did pay £1,000, but . now Tasmania pays the whole sum.

Mr CARPENTER - If the honorable member can produce sufficient evidence of that, I shall be glad to accept his denial ; tout at the present time I understand that Tasmania does not pay the whole of that subsidy. I was particularly glad to have the assurance of the honorable member for Barker in reference to the attitude of the people of South Australia with regard to this proposal. If there is one thing which has caused me pain in connexion with it, it is the supposed attitude of the people of that State towards the project. I had the honour to be a member of the South Australian Parliament when this subject was first discussed. I distinctly remember that when the draft Constitution Bill was'before the people of South Australia, two very strong arguments were used by its supporters to induce the people of that State to accept it. One was that South Australia would be able 1o hand over to the Commonwealth the Northern Territory, whose administration costs £100,000 a year, and the other was that they would thereby obtain railway communication with Western Australia.

Mr Glynn - I do not think that the making of the proposed railway was used as an argument for the acceptance of the draft Constitution, though the opening of markets in Western Australia and elsewhere was.

Mr CARPENTER - I do not say that the honorable and learned member used the railway argument, but others did, and those who are acquainted with the Federal movement know that there was a distinct understanding that the railway should be built very shortly after Federation. The right honorable member for Swan has been criticised for not having had that compact put into the Constitution ; but we know that one of his characteristics is that he is frank and open, and trusts people. I believe that when he obtained the assurance of the Premiers of the other States, that the railway should be made, he was content to abide by it. He entered into an honorable agreement, and I am not going to say that the other parties to that agreement will not honorably keep it. But the enthusiasm aroused on behalf of Federation died away, and, as a natural consequence, a reaction set in, which in South Australia took the form of a feeling against the proposed railway, because it had been suggested that, instead of going to Port Augusta, it might be taken right across to Sydney.

Sir Langdon Bonython - Who suggested that?

Mr CARPENTER - I do not say that it was suggested by any Government officially, but it was suggested. A rumour to that effect was in existence. The result was that a feeling of antagonism to the proposal grew up in South Australia. I have always said that that antagonism is merely temporary, and when I visited the State a fortnight ago, and spoke to several persons on the subject, I was glad to find that the attitude of the present Premier does not represent the prevailing views on the subject.

Sir Langdon Bonython - He does not oppose the proposed survey.

Mr CARPENTER - I am speaking of the larger project - the construction of the line. So far as I can ascertain, the people of South Australia are not averse to the construction of the line. They do not suppose that injury will result to their State from its construction.

Sir Langdon Bonython - They wish to have that proved.

Mr CARPENTER - If there is not sufficient evidence of the fact already, I am convinced that further inquiry will supply it. I cannot understand how ' opposition to the project grew up in South Australia. It has always been thought that that State would be the chief gainer by the construction of the line, and I am not sure that that is not so. At any rate, the Committee can afford to treat very lightly, indeed, the supposed antagonism of the State to this project. I believe, that when we come to face the question of the construction of the line, it will have no more ardent supporters than the representatives of South Australia.

Sir Langdon Bonython - When it has been proved that it will be a reproductive work.

Mr CARPENTER - If South Australia had never constructed a line until it had been proved likely to be reproductive, her present magnificent railway system would not exist. While I was a member of the South Australian Parliament, a motion was introduced affirming the desirability of constructing a railway from Port Augusta to Tarcoola, as a section of a Transcontinental Railway, but as the State, like most of the other States, was not very flush of money at the time, it was said, " Why should we spend money in making a section of a great national railway which the Commonwealth intends to carry out?" The feeling that the Federal Government would one day construct the line did more than anything else to prevent the motion from being carried. The honorable member for Moira last night, referring to the promise of the late Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Walter James, to treat the Federal Government very liberally in sharing any loss that might accrue from the construction and working of the line, said that it had not been repeated by the present Premier, and that we did not know that he would consider himself bound by the promise of his predecessor.

Mr Kennedy - My statement related to the experience through which we are at present passing with the Premier of South Australia.

Mr CARPENTER - I am quite pre.pared to grant that, in view of the fact that in some cases one Premier will .not keep the promise made by his predecessor, the honorable member's criticism was justified. In order to set the matter at rest I decided, after consulting with some of my colleagues, to send a telegram to Mr. Daglish, the present Premier of Western Australia, pointing out that we were open to that criticism. I have recently received the following reply.-

I have wired Government an indorsement of my predecessor's telegram to Mr. Watsonre Trans-Australian Railway.

That, I . hope, will remove any fear that the present Government of Western Australia does not fully indorse the promise made by its predecessors in office. I desire to reply to some of the statements which have been made with regard to the absence of water along the route of the proposed line. Several quotations have been made from reports, principally with the object of showing that the whole of the country between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie is a waterless waste. Some few weeks ago I brought under, the notice of the then Prime Minister a report that had been received from Mr. 'Muir, a gentleman who was sent out by the Western Australian Government to examine the country along the proposed route. I pointed out that in addition to the fact that Mr. Muir stated that he had passed through 10,000,000 acres of good pastoral country, he reported' that he had put down two artesion bores. One had struck -water fit for human consumption, whilst the other was yielding 70,000 gallons daily of water suitable for stock purposes. Therefore, it. is only fair to state that there is every indication that upon further prospecting a supply of artesian water will be found,' sufficient to enable the country adjacent to the proposed line to be profitably occupied .by pastoralists. At present we have at Kalgoorlie an abundant supply of fresh water, and I believe that water could be conveyed by gravitation for almost any distance along the proposed railway. Therefore, the water difficulty is not a very serious one, and there is no reason why it should be held up to induce honorable members to oppose the proposal for a survey. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Newcastle that the surveying party should partake of the character of an expedition for the purposes' of general inquiry and exploration must commend itself to every member of the Committee. I believe that the Western Australian Government would be only too glad to avail themselves of an opportunity to attach one or two good prospectors to an expedition of that kind. 'The trouble hitherto in connexion with prospecting parties has been due to the absence of some responsible head, and I am sure that if a capable man were intrusted with the control of the survey party, the money devoted to prospectingwould be well spent. I shall certainly do my utmost to secure the adoption of the suggestion of the honorable member. We know that for 200 miles to the eastward of Kalgoorlie the country is auriferous, and there is no reason why' we should not find another' Kalgoorlie, near the eastern border of the State. If we should discover another goldfield of that description, the Commonwealth would no doubt be prepared to construct the proposed line almost without the asking. I think that it', is due to the' honorable Walter James, the, late Premier of Western Australia, who has thrown himself into this movement with very great energy, and to whom we are indebted for very much of the information contained in the pamphlet from which honorable members have so extensively quoted, that we should express our thanks to him. He has given us a great deal of information about the State, and several honorable members have assured me that they, until they perused the pamphlet, had no true idea of Western Australia or its trade possibilities. I mention this as a matter of bare justice. Before I conclude, may I say that the people pf Western Australia have never doubted that the Commonwealth Parliament would, sooner or later, construct the proposed line. They have been a little surprised at the opposition - or the supposed opposition - of South Australia, but I believe that will shortly be removed. When the first step is taken, as I believe it will be shortly, towards the carrying out of this great work, the people of Western Australia will begin to believe that the Federation which they were induced to join is, after all, going to prove to their advantage. I am not suggesting that they joined the Union with any selfish motive. If they did so', they have certainly been disappointed. The Treasurer, at the time of the last election, stated that so 'far as Federation had gone, Western Australia had not derived one pennyworth of benefit from it. I do not think that that could be said of any other State. We are not speaking selfishly when we ask that some consideration should be extended to our portion of the Continent, and: that some evidence should be afforded that Federation will bring advantage to those who need it most. I am very glad indeed that the proposal has been received in such a friendly spirit, and I hope that before long, not only will the survey be completed, but that the construction of the line itself will also be commenced.

Mr. CAMERON(Wilmot).- I desire to correct a mistake made by the honorable member for Fremantle. He said that Tasmania benefited to the extent of £[9,000 per annum owing to the other States paying a large portion of the cable subsidy. I interjected at the time that his statement was incorrect. Had the statement been true, the representatives of Tasmania might have- been regarded as taking up a selfish attitude in opposing the proposed survey. I would point out, however, that Tasmania has always had to bear her own burdens. The Estimates for 1902-3 and 1904-5 show that Tasmania has received no assistance from the .other States in regard to the cable subsidy,- and that she is debited, year after year, with the full amount of her liability in that regard.

Mr Carpenter - My figures were official.

Sir John Quick - That is for the bookkeeping period.

Mr CAMERON - It will be time enough when the bookkeeping provisions of the Constitution cease to operate to talk about making the proposed survey. Tasmania has not received any assistance from the other States, and so long as she has to bear her own burdens, it will' be grossly unfair to ask her to contribute towards an expenditure such as that now contemplated.

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