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Wednesday, 14 September 1904


Mr GLYNN (Angas) - I should like to explain why, at the present juncture, at all events, I am forced to vote against the proposed expenditure of £[20,000 upon a survey for the proposed Transcontinental Railway. I think that, if we agreed to spend £20,000 or £30,000 in the manner described, it could not be said that there had not been some recognition given to the desire of Western Australia. By sanctioning this expenditure we should to some extent prejudice our judgment as to whether or not the railway should be constructed. We should take the first step in the direction in which the people of Western Australia desire us to proceed, and raise anticipations that might operate as an obstacle to the exercise of a free choice when we were called upon to consider the claims of the railway itself. The reports, which are before us indicate that the country through which the line would pass is not of such a character as to raise very sanguine hopes that an expenditure of several millions of pounds upon a railway would prove profitable. When I first entered the South Australian Parliament, in 1887, I received' a letter from a gentleman who had travelled over a considerable portion of the country that would be traversed by the proposed line. As there was some suggestion at the time that a railway should be constructed- to Eucla, he asked me to strongly oppose the idea, because (he country was the most hopeless- that he had ever passed through, although he had explored a considerable portion of the territory lying between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, and also to the northward towards Port Darwin. With regard to the proposal to spend £[5,000,000 upon the construction of the railway, I think that those of us who object to the Commonwealth borrowing ought to hesitate before we encourage the idea of incurring such an outlay. Suiely there is not the slightest hope that, within the next ten or fifteen years, this Parliament will be prepared to spend such a large sum of money upon a railway which would pass over 1,000 miles of the most hopeless country in Australia. We have not yet decided what is to be the Australian standard gauge. No doubt we should adopt the 4ft. 8½in. gauge, but that question has hot yet been' settled.' In 1888 or 1889, I induced the South Australian Legislative Assembly to pass a motion to the effect that the Governments of the States should be requested to decide upon the standard gauge to be adopted for the Commonwealth. Victoria was then disinclined to come to any decision upon the point, because she did not wish' to surrender her 5ft 3m. gauge. New South Wales was willing that the matte/ should be considered by the Railway Commissioners, but Mr. Mathieson did not see his- way even to enter into a conference on the subject. I do not think that we should entertain any idea of constructing 1,100 miles of railway upon the4ft. 8½in. gauge until we know that that gauge is to be adopted as the standard for all Australia. It would be just as well if the Government took this matter in hand, and asked the States Governments to decide at once upon a standard gauge, so that any railway stock that may be ordered may be suitable for usewhen a uniform gauge is established. If we agreed to the proposal for the construction of the Transcontinental Railway, we should have to establish a Department of Railways. The new line would be controlled for 1,100 miles by the Federal Railway Department, whilst portions of the. South Australian sections would be controlled by the authorities of that State, and the line from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie would be under the railway authorities of Western Australia. That is a state of. affairs the possibility of which we should contemplate. It seems to me, therefore, that we might wisely defer projects of this sort until it has been decided that the Commonwealth shall take over the whole of the railwavs. Then we shall have power to unify their gauges, and to consolidate their management. Reference has been made to the correspondence upon this Question which passed between two exPremiers of South Australia, namely, the present right honorable member for Adelaide and Mr. Speaker, and the Government of WesternAustralia. I certainly' think that if either of those gentlemen were Premier of South Australia to-day he would be under a moral obligation to submit a Bill to its Parliament with a view to testing its feeling upon the question of granting permission to the Commonwealth to construct the suggested -line through South Australian territory. I am sorry that that undertaking was given, but I know something of the circumstances, because I had a good deal to do with the correspondence which passed" between the members of the Convention and several prominent public men in Western Australia, in reference to the adoption of the Constitution. To a great extent I had. charge of the campaign in Western Australia in favour of the adoption of the Federal Constitution, and I know that some Perth people openly stated that, under Federation. South ' Australia would never consent to the construction of this line. I am also aware that in some quarters there a strong disinclination existed to enter the Federal union. Indeed, the Executive of the day was disinclined even to submit the Bill to the electors, and there was a strong suspicion abroad that this bogey regarding the disinclination of South Australia to consent to the construction of the suggested line was being held up to frighten the electors from voting in favour of union. Several letters were written to me, asking me to test the' opinion of the present right honorable member for Adelaide and Mr. Speaker upon the point, and to ascertain if South Australia would be likely to block the construction of the line. The right honorable member for Adelaide, Mr. Speaker, and I, having tested the feeling of the people of that State,' I wrote some letters, which appeared in the Western Australian newspapers, and which, I believe, had the effect of decreasing the opposition - which may or may not have been genuine - evidenced in some quarters against the Federal . Constitution. We are aware that there was a strong disinclination on the part of the Western Australian Government to' accede to the general desire of the people of that State, and to the almost unanimous desire of the residents of thegoldfields, that the question of the adoption of the Constitution should be submitte'd tothe electors.


Mr Mahon - The honorable and learned' member admits that Western Australia was lured into Federation under false pretences.


Mr GLYNN - I do not believe' that Western Australia w,as . speaking as a . unit then. I know that some of her public men stated that, unless they got a guarantee from South Australia, prior to the adoption of the Constitution, that the railway would be constructed, it would probably never become a reality. It was asserted, however, that that was not the genuine feeling of the people - that there was no anxiety that a guarantee should be given.


Mr Mahon - It is a pity that we did not get the guarantee, all the same.


Mr GLYNN - Guarantee or no guarantee, there was' a moral obligation on the part of the right honorable member for Adelaide, and upon Mr. Speaker, to see that the voice of South Australia was expressed upon the point by its Parliament. I do not know that the present Premier of that State, Mr. Jenkins, ought not to test the feeling of the people there by submitting a Bill to the State Parliament. But there are difficulties in the way, and I will tell the honorable member for Coolgardie one of them.


Mr Mahon - The Port Darwin railway.


Mr GLYNN - -That may operate as an objection, although I do not think that it does. Why, I ask", did we insert in the Constitution a provision setting out that the construction of any Transcontinental Railway by the Commonwealth should be subject to the consent of the States through which it would pass?


Mr Mahon - That provision does not apply solely to the construction of the transcontinental line?


Mr GLYNN - - If w.as Inserted to enable a State to say "Yes." or "No" to the construction of a line along a, route, which might prejudicially affect its interests. That is the obstacle which- presents itself to our acquiring the consent .of the South Australian Parliament to the. construction of this line. Naturally, its Legislature, desires to know the exact route which it will follow. Personally, if I had the opportunity, I would submit a Bill asking, for the consent of that Parliament to the construction of the line, owing to the inducements which were held out to Western Australia by the right honorable member for Adelaide and Mr. Speaker, when they filled respectively' the position ' of Premier of South Australia." Moreover, if the will of Australia were expressed 'in the Commonwealth Parliament, "I hold that no State ought,' if the route were a proper one, "to dissent ""from' the 'construction of this line." It is' possible that ' it can be. built even without the- consent of South

Australia.1 In America, inter-State lines can be constructed by. Congress without the consent of the States, lt has been held by some that the provision in our Constitution merely means that we cannot construct a purely State line without the consent of the .State interested ; that the Commonwealth .has power not. only to construct an inter-State line, but, with the consent of the State concerned, a State line. That deduction is based upon the assumption that eventually the construction of all lines will be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. That is the opinion expressed by Professor . Harrison Moore, in his work on the Constitution of Australia. I know that our power in this respect is doubtful, but I do not for a moment assume it is certain, that we could not construct a Transcontinental Railway without the consent of South Australia, especially in view of the opinion of such an eminent jurist as Professor Harrison Moore. At the same time, I do not think that the expenditure proposed is at present justifiable, and as it may be construed into an expression of opinion in favour of the line, I shall certainly oppose it.







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