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Friday, 14 October 1904

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I never feel sadder than when I have to differ from the right honorable member for Swan and the other representatives of Western Australia. I sympathize with them in their desire, as the right honorable member says, to connect the east with the west, and so consummate the great scheme of Australian Union ; but there are practical considerations which ought not to be overlooked. The proposal made by the honorable member for New England is not without precedent, I think, in all the States. For two and a half years L. as Minister controlling the construction of railways in New South Wales, laid it down as an indispensable condition that in every instance a reserve of ten miles should be made on each side of any State railway which was to be constructed, and I have reason to know that, in consequence of that action, a very considerable increment accrued to the State.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That matter was dealt with in each case when the Bill providing for the construction of the line was before Parliament.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so. I quite admit that, in a Bill of the description now before us, we cannot provide for the actual reservation of land ; but we must remember, as business men, that this is an initial step that may ultimately lead to the construction of a line costing £5,000,000 or £6,000,000.

Sir John Forrest - Do not say £5,000,000.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then I shall say £3,000,000.

Sir John Forrest - That is nearer the mark.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The principle involved is the same whether it be a line costing £100,000 or £10,000,000. "It must be 'admitted by every honorable member that if a syndicate were to come tomorrow to the Commonwealth Parliament, or to go to the Western Australian Government, with an offer to construct the line, and propose, as a condition of the expenditure of so large a sum, that they should have a- reservation, and ultimately a gift, of a very large extent of territory on both sides of the line,, it would be regarded as a very business-like proposal, and one which any syndicate or any company would be. justified in making at all events, for the consideration of the Government about to have the railway constructed.

Mr Fowler - Western Australia has suffered severely from that policy in the past, and will not incur the same suffering again.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We are asked to embark on a preliminary survey, and if . honorable members consider for a moment they will be able to follow and acquiesce in the line of argument I am about to take. This expenditure is proposed for the purpose of laying down,' in a rough way, perhaps, the line which this particular railway is intended to take in the future. I do not say that there will be shown, within a mile, the exact route which will ultimately be taken, but there will be an indication, as the result of a survey made at the expense of the Commonwealth, of the particular direction which the railway will follow. We all know that the intimation of the line of survey will be the signal for a number of adventurous spirits, whom I am not prepared for a moment to denounce - it will be the signal for a number of enterprising men to look round with . a view to purchasing land, which we know in some parts of Western Australia-

SirJohn Forrest. According to law, there can be no purchase of land in those districts in Western Australia.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Well, then, it will be the signal for them to acquire land in some sort of way. I should be very sorry to approach the Western Australian Government with an offer, even to purchase land, a good deal of which has not yet been explored, from the fear they might accept my money. I am quite sure that we may readily assume that if anybody were to approach the Western Australian Government

Sir John Forrest - The honorable and learned member ought not to libel Western Australia.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know that I am libelling Western Australia by saying that the people there are a businesslike community, prepared to sell land for money. I am quite satisfied that if any one were to approach the Western Australian Government and offer to take up land on long lease or in a freehold for money payment, the offer would be welcomed. But my point - from "which the interjections are calculated to divert me - is that the moment this line of survey is, I shall not say determined, but indicated, a number of enterprising capitalists will endeavour tc« get hold of land in the vicinity. They will know very well that should it become necessary to resume land, the test of the compensation will be what was given for it and what it was worth before the railway was actually undertaken. On the other hand, if the land is not resumed, the occupiers will acquire the increment which results from the construction of the railway through what, at present, is unexplored country. I consider it necessary that before embarking on this expenditure of ,£20,000, we should require the, two Governments through whose territory the line is likely to run, to satisfy the Commonwealth Government that they have reserved from sale or lease a large extent of territory on each side. . The object is that when we, as a Parliament, hereafter undertake the actual construction, we may lay it down as a condition that the Commonwealth shall, in some form or other, have a quid fro quo in the shape of a large extent of territory which would represent compensation for the outlay. The honorable member for Perth suggested that this is an inopportune time to consider this matter. If I thought that the time was inopportune I should not attempt to stop the progress of the Bill at this stage ; but we are now about to sanction the expenditure of about ,£20,000, for what purpose? For the purpose of showing the world the line that this railway is likely to take - for the purpose of pointing out to enterprising men, the particular direction in which it will pay them to take up land. If something is not done at this stage, we shall probably be told When we come to sanction the actual expenditure on the construction of the 'line, and we ask Western Australia and South Australia to offer some quid fro quo in the shape of land concessions, " It is too late ; the moment the survey was completed the whole of the land along the line was taken up bv enterprising capitalists."

Sir John Forrest - A great furore is being made about this matter !

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The right honorable member for Swan says that we are getting up a great furore; but he is a keen business man himself, and I am quite sure he appreciates the logic of my argument.

Sir John Forrest - It would be a dishonorable thing for the Western Australian Government to do.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is hardly fair for the right honorable gentleman to say that the suggestion I make, which involves the Western Australian Government in some action, would be dishonorable.

Sir John Forrest - I say it would be dishonorable on the part of the Western Australian Government to do such a thing.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think the right honorable gentleman is right in suggesting that I am proposing something which would involve the Western Australian Government in a dishonorable action.

Sir John Forrest - I beg the honorable and learned member's pardon, but I did not say what he now attributes to me. What I wished to imply was that if the Western Australian Government sold or disposed of the land while we were considering the advisability of constructing the railway, they would be acting discreditably and dishonorably

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am speaking from practical experience. I know that the New South Wales Government directed the resumption of land on each side of a railway at the time of survey - directly there was an indication of the line along which a railway was to be constructed.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - Otherwise we should have all the " land-sharks " at work.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I will not use the word " sharks," because I think it represents too hysterical a view of the position. A number of enterprising capitalists are willing to invest money with a view to the settlement of the country, and we need not allow our differences of opinion as to how those gentlemen should be characterized to interfere with the question we are considering. We all admit that there are in the community men with money who would seize upon any opportunity to get such land at the cheapest possible price; and if the Commonwealth is going to construct the line, it is the Commonwealth, and not capitalists outside, who should be considered.

Mr King O'malley - Hear, hear ! The honorable and learned member' is a good Socialist.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am afraid that some honorable members are individualists without knowing it. If this is a Bill which will immediately lead to the determination of the line along which the proposed railway is to be constructed, then this is .the occasion for taking steps to require the two States Governments concerned to reserve land on each side to a width which this Parliament may determine. We know very well that in connexion with a railway which has been constructed in a northerly part' of. South

Australia bv private enterprise, a concession of a very extraordinary and, perhaps, startling character has been offered by the State Government.

Mr Hutchison - That was one of the most shocking concessions ever suggested.

Mr Mahon - It was a concession offered and not considered good enough toy any syndicate in the world.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Honorable members know that similar concessions have been granted in Queensland and New Zealand.

Mr Mahon - And also in Western Australia.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask honorable members for Western Australia what objection they can have to the suggestion I have made? The Western Australian Government would only be asked to undertake to reserve a certain width of land along the whole line of railway immediately the route is ascertained. If no objection to the SuKgestion can be fairly offered, then the Western Australian people and representatives ought to assist any one who seeks to impose such a condition. I, therefore, thoroughly approve of the suggestion made by the honorable member for New England, and I do not hesitate to say that this is not only the most opportune occasion, but the only occasion, on which such a proposal can be effectively made.

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