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Friday, 14 October 1904

Mr HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh) - I am very pleased to hear the good sound socialistic views expressed by the honorable and learned member for Parkes - to hear that he is of opinion that a certain area of territory on each side of this proposed railway ought to be held by the State. But the question which we have before us just now is whether we shall have a survey made in order to decide as to the wisdom, or otherwise, of constructing the line. The time to impose conditions is after .we have come to an affirmative decision. If the result of the survey does not satisfy me, I am not going to vote for the construction of a railway to

Western Australia. I am thoroughly satisfied, however, from what I know of the country, that the survey party will be able to report that there is every .justification for entering on this enterprise. As to preserving the country from getting into the hands of speculators, I would point out that for several years it was the policy of the South Australian Government that there should be no alienation of Crown land. Under a resolution of the Parliament of that State, not a foot of land was alienated for many years. Unfortunately, about two years ago, a reactionary Government came into power in South Australia - though I feel satisfied that that Government will be 'compelled to resign office in a very few months. There are decided indications that the same forward movement we have witnessed in other States will also be witnessed in Western Australia; and should that prove to be the case, we may depend that the policy to which I have referred will come into operation. At the present time, in Western Australia, there is a Labour Government in power, and I feel quite sure that even if that Government leave office the labour section in the local Parliament will be strong enough to secure that no injustice is perpetrated on the community by speculators. Under all the circumstances, I do not think we have1 anything to fear in that regard. Surely the honorable members for Lang .and New England ought to be quite satisfied that the Commonwealth Parliament has the power to impose land taxation? The reason why a good many South Australians are opposed to the construction of this line is their anxiety to first have a railway to the Northern Territory.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How can the Commonwealth gather in land taxation?

Mr HUTCHISON - The Commonwealth has power now to impose land taxation. There was an" extraordinary proposal that the South Australian Government should allow a private company to build a railway to the Northern Territory, and receive in exchange something like 75,000,000 acres, with all the minerals included.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In alternate blocks.

Mr HUTCHISON - It was a most unreasonable proposal, and I am satisfied that if the scheme had been carried out, the Federal Parliament would very soon have imposed a land' tax in order to remove so glaring an injustice. This was one of the biggest offers of the kind ever made in the history of the world.-

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - lt was a monstrous piece of " Doodling."

Mr HUTCHISON - The proposal was to hand over a tract of country larger than Victoria and Tasmania combined - "larger than the whole of the United Kingdom' - with all the minerals, in return for a " shoddy " line, which would allow of the passage of a train once a week, at the rate of twenty miles an hour. No wonder the proposal did not meet with success, and I am sure that the honorable and learned member for Parkes would have assisted to prevent such an iniquity. The honorable member for Corangamite says that we have no information which would justify the construction of this line. So far as South Australia is concerned, I am satisfied that if the line be built, more than one Tarcoola goldfield will be discovered. At Tarcoola, one mine alone has employed 300 men for years, and has turned out at least 50,000 ounces of gold up to date.

Mr Salmon - Tarcoola has cost the Commonweal tha good deal of money already.

Mr HUTCHISON - I must admit that Tarcoola has been treated very graciously by the Commonwealth. The progress of that field has, however, been retarded for two reasons. In the first place, two gentlemen Were prepared to take the opening up of the field into their own hands, and, consequently, there was not that prominence which is usually given through the Stock Exchange to other fields. I am. satisfied that with more publicity, several millions of money would have been invested in this part of the country. About twentyfive miles on this side of Tarcoola very payable gold has been found ; in fact, the stone has been assayed up to three ounces to the ton.

Mr Henry Willis - What quantity went 30z. to the ton - an assay parcel ?

Mr HUTCHISON - No; a huge parcel has been proved. The honorable member for Grey can give all particulars, and show that enormous samples have yielded much better results than that. I can tell the honorable member that the mines are putting up a battery there, and are perfectly satisfied that it will pay handsomely. This country has been proved.

Mr Fowler - It must be good stuff to give that result in that out-of-the-way place.

Mr HUTCHISON - At the Mount Gunson copper-field, ninety-five miles from Port Augusta, thousands of tons of copper have been taken out. I have seen numerous parcels sent down. A large profit has been made out of the field, notwithstanding the enormous freight for that distance, ninetyfive miles, over a sandy tract, and the freight thence to Port Adelaide, another distance of 300 miles. On that copper-field many hundreds of thousands of tons of ore may be seen on the surface. Of course it is of low grade, but we all know that low-grade copper pays, so long as there is cheap means of transit. I have gone over the whole of the country up to the border of Western Australia, and much of it is splendid pastoral country. Unfortunately, it has experienced droughts, but then all Australia suffers periodically from droughts. When the seasons are good, as they now are, very large sums of money are spent in that country, and very large returns are received. I am perfectly satisfied that, so far as the South Australian portion is concerned, this railway would yield a handsome return. The honorable member for Laanecoorie said that the honorable member for Darling stated that the country to be traversed is a desert. Possibly, some persons believe that it is a desert. In South Australia, we have a large tract of country over which its representatives pass every week. For many years this country has been called a waterless desert, but it has been proved to be capable of growing almost anything. I am quite satisfied that a great proportion of the country which is believed to be desert in the two States, along the proposed route of this line, will be found to be, if not agricultural country, at any rate good pastoral country and undoubtedly good mineral country. From the fact that he is supporting the proposal for a survey, I should take it that the honorable member for Darling does not. hold the opinion which has been attributed to him. It has been said that the land is not known. I.t is a remarkable fact that some time ago a private syndicate was prepared to build this line on the land grant system. It would be pretty careful to ascertain the nature of the country in which it proposed to invest the enormous sum required to build such a railway. There is no philanthropy about a syndicate, and the members of this syndicate were quite satisfied that they were going to have a very good thing on.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did they make a de finite commercial offer ?

Mr HUTCHISON - Undoubtedly, just as is done in connexion with other schemes.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Where is it? Why is it not in evidence?

Mr HUTCHISON - It is in evidence


Mr HUTCHISON - I thoroughly agree that all possible information ought to be gleaned by the survey party, not only as to minerals, but also as to the water, and as to whether it can be obtained without expensive boring. I feel sure that the survey party would consider that to be part of .their duty, and as all that is now asked for is the expenditure of £20,000 to see whether there eis any_ justification for building a railway which would be of advantage to the Commonwealth without being an unnecessarily heavy burden on the taxpayers, the proposal shall have n:y hearty support.

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