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Wednesday, 14 September 1904

Mr McWILLIAMS (Franklin) - I am sorry that I cannot support the motion, because I know how earnest the representatives of Western Australia are in regard to this matter, and I have a great deal of sympathy with them. But I agree with the honorable member for Bass that the proper course for Western Australia to take is to make this survey, and, having proved that the line can be constructed, that it would pass through good land, and that a railway, if made, would pay something like working expenses and interest on cost of construction, they would be able to present a much better case to the House. No doubt the people of Western Australia 'have to some extent been misled in regard to this matter, though not by the Federal authorities. If the Federal Parliament sets itself to carry into effect all the fairy tales which were told in the States in support of Federation prior to the referendum being taken, it will have a very extensive order to fill. In Tasmania all Sorts of ridiculous statements were made as to the results of Federation.

Sir John Forrest - The Commonwealth has to pay for an improved steamship communication with Tasmania.

Mr McWILLIAMS - I am reminded by the right honorable member for Swan that the Federal Government, by giving a larger mail subsidy, has improved the communication between Melbourne and Tasmania; but I, for one. never advocated the granting of that subsidy, nor am I prepared to sav that I would have advocated it had I been a member of this House when it was proposed. Most of the States are at present financially embarrassed, and some of the States Parliaments are imposing heavydirect taxation to make up the balance lost to the State Treasurers through Federation. This is, therefore, not the time to ask States which have made great sacrifices for Federation, to pay for a railway from which they will get no direct benefit. To my mind, the matter is purely a State one, and, seeing that the main arteries of communication in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and a great part of South Australia have been constructed' at the expense of the States concerned, it would be absurd to dove-tail in a small length of Commonwealth line.

Sir John Forrest - Not a small length.

Mr MCWILLIAMS - The length is far too big. I believe that the proposed railway would confer enormous advantage upon Western Australia and South Australia, and as Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria have built their railways out of State funds, Western Australia and South Australia ought to accept the responsibility of building their own. If members like myself, who do not intend to vote for the construction of the railway, consented to the survey, we! should mislead the people of the Western State, and perhaps lead people to purchase land along the proposed route. If we do not intend to construct the railway, the money spent upon the survey will be practically thrown away. We have no money to spare for such a purpose at present. I believe that at the end of the current financial year the States will receive very little more" than the amount which we are compelled under the Constitution to return to them. When once we reach the end of our tether, so far as the money available out of the Customs revenue is concerned, we shall have to face the imposition of direct taxation upon the people of the Commonwealth, and I am not prepared to consider any such proposals at present. I hope, further, that the Commonwealth will not be under the necessity of entering upon a policy of borrowing for many years to come. I should not be willing to borrow money, except for some very urgent and essential work, from" which the Commonwealth would receive a very large direct or indirect benefit. ' Under these circumstances," I regret that I "shall have to vote against the proposal'. "

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