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Friday, 14 October 1904

Mr CARPENTER (Fremantle) - The vi.ry handsome majority which was obtained for the motion for the appropriation of money for the purposes of this Bill was very much appreciated by the people of Western Australia, who, as I have remarked before in this Chamber, have long felt that hitherto they have not reaped any of the practical and tangible benefits from Federation which the other States have received, although they have borne their share of the cost. They regard the vote to which I refer as an assurance that their claim that this great work should be at least considered is recognised. Although we understand that some of those who voted for the resolution, and will vote for this Bill, do not pledge themselves to vote for the construction of the proposed" railway, we are sanguine that when the survey and accompanying explorations are made, we shall have such a tale to tell that the opposition to the proposal will not be greater than the present opposition to the Bill. I wish to express my gratification that only three members of the Labour Party voted against the motion, though it was in no sense a party question. I should like now to deal with one or two objections which have been raised to this proposal. The honorable" member for Franklin has complained that Western. Australia has not done all that she should have done in preparing reports on the scheme. He thinks that she should have gone to the length of making the survey, a suggestion with which I shall deal later on. As for ordinary information, the Government of the State has done all that a Government could do to obtain it, and to place it before the House, and I regret that the1 speeches of some honorable members indicate that they have not made that study of the reports which have been furnished to them which they might reasonably have been expected to make. Had they done so, we should not have heard some of the statements which have been made in regard to the absence of water and the nature of the country to be traversed. I sympathize as much as any one does with the Governments of those States which are in financial difficulties. Both Tasmania and Queensland are struggling with a shortage of funds, and are straining every nerve to make up deficiencies. But they are not alone. Western Australia has to face similar difficulties. We may be in a better position to meet our obligations ; but it must be remembered that we have a falling revenue, and that the special means of revenue which we now enjoy under the Constitution will shortly come to an end. Those who referred to the poverty of their own States as a reason for not voting for the proposed survey must therefore remember that Western Australia is also being called upon to use extra efforts to make1 both ends meet. It seemed to me that the honorable member for Laanecoorie took a very narrow view of this question. His attitude reminded me of the struggles which have taken place in our States Legislatures in regard to railway proposals. Frequently proposals for the construction of railways, which had everything to recommend them, have been shelved for a long time, owing to the predominance of local considerations. I am afraid that a similar spirit has been introduced into this debate, because the honorable member for Laanecoorie and others have made the question one of State against State. Victoria owes much of its prosperity to its railways. The settlement of the country, and the development of its resources have been possible only because enterprising public men in years gone by built railways to places which were then uninhabited. Therefore, those who urge hat we should wait for population to extend along the route of the proposed railway before entering upon its construction, ignore all the lessons of our past experience. The railway would help to develop the country, and those honorable members who are in favour of inducing people to come here, and of providing facilities for settlement, should at least be consistent, and support an enterprise which will do more to open up the continent than many anticipate. With reference to the proposal for the reservation of land along the line of route, I am glad that the honorable and learned member for Parkes has advanced so far along the line of democratic legislation as to advocate the principle of the nationalization of land. It will be refreshing to his constituents, and to the democrats of Australia generally, to find the honorable and learned member, who is so notoriously conservative, adopting such an attitude. I desire, however, to know exactly what he means. If he proposes that the Commonwealth should construct the line only upon what would practically amount to the land grant system, I join issue with him at once. If he insists that before even the survey is entered upon the States of Western Australia and South Australia shall hand over a certain portion of their territory to :the Commonwealth, he is raising an entirely new consideration. If, on the other hand, he desires merely to prevent private land speculators from deriving the advantage of the increased value given to the land by the construction of the railway, I am perfectly in accord with him. I am quite sure that that was all the honorable member for New England intended. He wished to prevent private speculators from doing as they have done so often, namely, securing the land along the line of the proposed railway, and simply waiting for the State to spend its money in order that their profits might be secured. We are willing that that should be done, but we do not .think that the States should be treated as if they were private speculators. If it be held that some return should be made by the States which derive the greatest benefit from the construction of the line, I would point out that Western Australia has already proved her sincerity, and has shown herself willing to make every effort in her power to recoup any loss that may accrue.

Mr Tudor - How?

Mr CARPENTER - In the first place, she has spent thousands of pounds in sending OUt exploration parties, and boring parties, and in preparing reports for the use of honorable members. Then she has made an offer to South Australia that she will make good any loss that that State may incur for ten years after the construction of the line.

Mr Tudor - That is, one-eleventh of the total loss.

Mr CARPENTER - One-eleventh, in addition to her own share. She has shown, also that she is prepared to deal in a liberal spirit in respect to any loss that' the Commonwealth itself may suffer. In view of these three distinct offers, I think I can. claim that Western Australia is at least prepared to pay for her portion of the unearned increment. If honorable members want to put the screw on, and to insist upon our handing a large slice of our territory over to the Commonwealth, I think they are going too ' far. If the consent of Western Australia to join the Federal Union had been given subject to the condition that the railway should be constructed, there would have been no objection to such a provision as that now suggested. The same principle that was applied to New South Wales in connexion with the granting of territory for the purposes of the Federal Capital Site, might reasonably have operated in regard to the construction of the proposed railway, if that had been in the bond. But I contend that it is unfair to insist upon taking from us- a slice of our territory, in consideration of the construction of a railway to which we contend we are unconditionally entitled. The railway itself is naturally a Federal work. If the capitals of the other States had not been connected by rail - if, for instance, Sydney and Brisbane had not been so connected- - the strongest representations would have been made, and rightly so, by honorable members from New South Wales and Queensland for the construction of the necessary line by the Commonwealth.

Sir John Forrest - Especially if one State would not assist the other.

Mr CARPENTER - There is little doubt that in such a case one State would assist the other. I regard the connexion of the States capitals by rail as a matter of Federal importance, and in the exceptional circumstances of Western Australia and South Australia, we have a right to ask that the project now before us shall be regarded, not from a State point of view, but as a work of a national character, which, when constructed, will benefit the whole of Australia

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