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Friday, 14 October 1904

Mr PAGE (Maranoa) - Like the honorable member for Capricornia, I am opposed to this Bill, lock, stock, and barrel. If the Prime Minister would introduce a Bill providing for the construction of a railway from Port Darwin to Longreach, in Central Queensland, I should have no hesitation in supporting the measure, because that line would benefit the whole of the Commonwealth. Some time ago the right honorable member for Swan, in a fit of sanity or insanity, declared that only last year a profit of£4,000,000 was made out of the mines in Western Australia.

Sir John Forrest - I said , £2,000,000.

Mr PAGE - If such an enormous profit was derived from the output of gold there, why was not a portion of it devoted to paying the cost of the proposed survev? If I support this Bill, I shall be practically committed to voting for the construction of the projected railway. Should the result of the survey prove favorable, I shall be pledged to almost an unlimited expenditure.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member is wrong.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Suppose that the country turns out to be a desert?

Mr PAGE - According to the right honorable member for Swan, itis not a desert. Moreover, I am assuming that it turns out " trumps." When a man has a horse for sale, he does not usually tell the buyer all about its demerits, but he dilates upon its merits.

Mr Frazer - We wish to demonstrate both the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed line.

Mr PAGE - Personally, I can see no advantage which will accrue to Queensland.

Sir John Forrest - The 'honorable member should consider the interests of the Commonwealth, and not those of Queensland alone.

Mr PAGE - The right honorable member sings another tune when Western Australia is affected.

Mr Fowler - What about the sugar bounties ?

Mr PAGE - The quickest way to solve the problem connected with the sugar industry is to give us free-trade in sugar. I should be willing to vote for the abolition of the duty upon that article to-morrow.

Sir John Forrest - Western Australia has to pay her share of that bounty.

Mr PAGE - Why should she do otherwise? If the construction of this railway is. really a matter of Federal concern, surely the great sugar industry of Queensland is equally a matter of Commonwealth importance ?

Sir John Forrest - I am not complaining.

Mr PAGE - We are asked to agree to the expenditure of £20,000 on a special survey ; but, I am afraid that that will not be sufficient to complete the work.

Sir John Forrest - I think it will.

Mr PAGE - I am satisfied that it will not. During my membership of the Queensland Parliament, various sums were placed on the Estimates to enable permanent surveys of projected lines to be made, but in no instance was the amount first set apart for the work found to be sufficient, and the Government were compelled to come down to the House with a request for a further vote. If the provision now proposed to be made be insufficient, we shall have to agree to a further expenditure to complete the survey. I am satisfied that £100,000 will barely complete it.

Mr Frazer - Oh !

Mr PAGE - It is all very well for the representatives of Western Australia to say that we must find this* money, but, as the honorable member for Capricornia has very wisely pointed out, the Treasurer of

Queensland does not know what to do in order to make both ends meet.

An Honorable Member. - Tax the capitalists.

Mr PAGE - Who are the capitalists? After all, the people have to find the money. -I should not be faithful to the trust reposed in me by my constituents if I were to agree to the placing of this additional shackle upon them at the present time. The Treasurer of Queensland is at a loss to know how to keep the State expenditure within its income, and now we are asked to impose a further burden on Queensland in common with the other States. I do not wish to pay special attention to the position, of Queensland. The cost of this work will have to be borne by all the States, and we do not know what expenditure will be necessary in time to come in the construction of this railway. I am sorry to find myself in disagreement with the right honorable member for Swan in regard to this Bill, but I know that he will accept my criticism in the spirit in which it is offered. If I could see my way clear, consistently with my duty to my constituents, to vote for the Bill, I should do so, but in the present circumstances I do not think it would be right for me to support it.

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