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Thursday, 15 September 1904


Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan) - I trust that it will not be thought that when I referred to the obstruction of the Bill dealing with the preliminary survey for the Transcontinental Railway by the motion of the leader of the Labour Party I desired to reflect on the three representatives of Western Australia who are members of the Opposition. Nothing was further from my thoughts than to suggest that they were willing parties to delaying that measure, for I know that they have always been earnest advocates of the railway. What I wished to convey was that it was their duty to have brought more influence to bear to prevent the notice of motion of want of confidence being given before that Bill had been dealt with.


Mr Carpenter - But the right honorable member referred to us.


Sir JOHN FORREST - I said that I was surprised that honorable members representing Western Australia should have consented to the course taken by the leader of the Opposition, and I reiterate, in the strongest manner, that opinion. With regard to the opposition shown by honorable members sitting in the Government corner to the motion relating to the Transcontinental Railway survey, I would remind the House that the Government cannot interfere with the free expression of the views of their sup*porters. The Bill dealing with the survey could not have been passed through all its stages last night without the suspension of the Standing Orders. That was impossible.


Mr Mahon - I think it was quite possible.


Sir JOHN FORREST - I do not think it would have been possible to pass the Bill through all its stages last night. But, in any event, it is surely desirable that such a Bill should be passed even at the risk of delaying for one or two days a motion adverse to the Government. The Government have been doing very good work. I do not believe that at any time during the present session greater expedition has been shown in dealing with measures than we have witnessed during the last few days.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is the trouble.


Sir JOHN FORREST - Why the passing of the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie Railway Survey Bill should be postponed and ignored, when the postponement of the notice of the motion of want of confidence for probably one day would have passed the Bill, is difficult to understand. I wish to refer to a remark made, not only to-day by the leader of the Opposition, and other members of the Labour Party, but by members of the Labour Party sitting in another place, while visiting Western Australia, to the effect that I was for three years a member of the Barton and Deakin Governments, and did nothing to push forward this measure. Any one who repeats that statement grossly misrepresents my action, because no one can honestly say that I have not done all that I could to advance the project.


Mr Page - What did the right honorable member do to advance the project?


Mr McDonald - The right honorable member remained in the Government after they had refused to bring the measure forward.


Sir JOHN FORREST - Should I have advanced it had I left the Government?


Mr McDonald - Yes.


Sir JOHN FORREST - I do not agree with the honorable member.


Mr Wilks - The Watson Government were in office four months without doing anything in the matter.


Sir JOHN FORREST - I kept the fire burning, and the result is shown by the vote which was given last night. It would have been impossible to obtain such a vote at a much earlier period in the history of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Coolgardie, who, with the other representatives of Western Australia, has done all he could to have the project advanced as far as it was yesterday, was four months in office without getting it further advanced than when he took office.


Mr Mahon - The Watson Government carried it as far in four months as the Government in which the right honorable member was a Minister did in three years.


Sir JOHN FORREST - During the three years I was in office, I got the project carried as far as the point at which it was yesterday. It Was advanced another stage then. The Government in which the honorable member was a Minister did not advance it a single step.


Mr Webster - The right honorable gentleman would not let us.


Sir JOHN FORREST - I am not blaming honorable members. I desire to thank them, not to blame them; but when they say that I did nothing they are very ungenerous, and are trying to injure me politically in the estimation of the people of my own State. But they cannot do it. It would take some one more powerful than the leader of the Opposition to injure me there. Still it comes with a bad grace from him to misrepresent my actions in this matter. Any representative of Western Australia who says that during the three years in which I was in office I did nothing, has a very poor knowledge of my exertions and of the trouble which I took in the matter. Do honorable members think that the Government was committed to the project, so that every speech of the Governor-General contained a reference to it, without any one urging the matter forward, and without any arguments or facts being brought to bear in regard to it? If so, they have very little knowledge of what took place. The remark of the leader of the Opposition is as incorrect as it was uncalled for; but it is only in keeping with what has been already said by. members of the Labour Party who desire to misrepresent me before the people of the western State. It has been said before, and the interjection of the member for Coolgardie might lead one to think that he holds the same view. Hitherto I was always of the opinion that he and I, and the other representatives of Western Australia, had been working together as vigorously as we could to push forward this project. My complaint is that, as the House was doing good work in passing important measures, and had nearly passed this Bill, this motion, which means a delay for an indefinite time, and perhaps other things-


Mr Page - That is what the right honorable member is afraid of.


Sir JOHN FORREST - The honorable member does not know me if he thinks that. I advise the honorable member to look after himself, which will probably give him quite enough to do without troubling about me. The House has been doing good work during the last few days, and it was a mistake to interrupt business by giving notice of a motion of which notice might have been given equally well one or two days later. The effect will be that the people of Western Australia will believe that there is some ulterior motive ; and the facts before us certainly make it appear that there is something behind this action of honorable members opposite. There is no reason whatever why the motion should not have been deferred for a day or two, so that we might have disposed of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill, the Papua Bill, and some other measures, in the same way as the mover was careful to dispose of the Arbitration Bill, before hurriedly launching his noconfidence motion.







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