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Wednesday, 12 September 1906

Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales) . - - I had hoped that upon the present occasion the debate upon this Bill would have been conducted in a spirit which was worthy of the Senate and worthy of Australia. But certainly the address to which we have just listened did not rise to that level. I have heard with extreme regret remarks made concerning Western Australia, which - whilst the spirit which prompted them was to be condemned - were at the same time utterly inaccurate. My reading of the history of the past ten or fifteen years has taught me to draw entirely different conclusions from those which are entertained by Senator Styles. I can recall the period when the eastern States- were more or less overwhelmed by a great financial disaster, one of the greatest that has visited any country. I recollect that at that very period - perhaps owing to the wise interposition of Providence - Western Australia, by reason of its gold discoveries, came to the front. It was those discoveries and the rise of Western Australia in the early nineties which enabled the eastern States to avert the ruin which threatened them. The whole idea underlying the remarks of Senator Styles in reference to Western Australia levying taxation upon the produce of the eastern States is an entirely erroneous one. Upon whom has that taxation been levied ? Unquestionably upon her own people. That is one of the established facts of Australian finance, which cannot be disputed. When Federation was accomplished Western Australia was collecting a very large Customs revenue, and her expenditure compelled her to continue doing so. Consequently, she was unable to enter the Union unless some special treatment were meted out to her. Personally I think that she acted a generous part in agreeing to forego her special Tariff at the rate of one-fifth each year. I do not know that the operation of that Tariff has made any appreciable difference to the trade from the eastern States. Certainly nothing has occurred which in any way warrants the unAustralian attitude which has been adopted by Senator Styles. Regarding his statement, that Western Australia is sending lecturers abroad for the purpose of attracting settlers there, I would ask - " What is being done to-day by the States?" Are not the branch houses of all the great firms in Melbourne and Sydney doing all that they possibly can to push their interests in the West? Why. then, should not Western Australia send representatives to the eastern States with that object? Is it not all part and parcel of the Federation? Why should we censure Western Australia for endeavouring to attract Australians thither?

Senator Findley - If Western Australia, instead of sending a lecturer to the different States of the Commonwealth, had sent him abroad, she would have been condemned even in a worse fashion.

Senator PULSFORD - Perhaps she would. This, Bill has been carried by a majority of two to one in the House of Representatives, and I understand that a majority of honorable senators from the mainland also approve of it. If it should be defeated it will be because the representatives of Tasmania disapprove of it. Upon a previous occasion I have observed in regard to this Bill that the representatives of that State have been foremost in adopting the methods of debate which Senator Styles has adopted to-day. I ask them to consider whether they are justified in using their votes to nullify the wish of the rest of Australia?

Senator Dobson - It is the most unjust proposal to which I have ever been asked to assent.

Senator PULSFORD - Of the £20,000 which would be expended upon the proposed survey, the other States of the Commonwealth would contribute, I suppose, about £19,1000. Their representatives in this Parliament are willing to commit them to that expenditure. But because Tasmania will be called upon - should the measure become law - to contribute £900 towards the cost of the undertaking, it is to be blocked. I appeal to the representatives of that State to view the question from that stand-point, and to rise to the occasion by joining with other honorable senators in approving this great undertaking. If the objections of the Tasmanian representatives spring from the inability of that State to contribute £900 to the project, I think that Western Australia might arrange to pay it for her. I throw out this suggestion to Western Australian representatives.

Senator Trenwith - Is not the honorable senator adopting the same un-Federal spirit of which he has already complained ?

Senator PULSFORD - I think that the suggestion- is almost an insult to Tasmania. That State can afford to contribute her proportion of the cost of the undertaking, and if she would regard it from a truly Federal stand-point her representatives would agree to this Bill.

Senator Croft - Could not the Tasmanian Government impose sua extra tax upon Tattersalls sweeps in-order to raise her proportion of the cost?

Senator PULSFORD - I am sorry that there is only one Tasmanian senator present, but I earnestly put forward this claim for consideration.

Senator Story - There are some senators from Queensland present. The honorable senator should talk to them.

Senator PULSFORD - I am aware that some of the Queensland representatives intend to support this Bill, but I know of no

Tasmanian representative who approves of it. It is a pity that the measure should be endangered by a block vote of the Tasmanian representatives in the Senate.

Senator Croft - Especially when it is found that in another place the representatives of Tasmania voted for the proposal !

Senator PULSFORD - In another place the representatives of Tasmania, I think, voted against the proposal.

Senator Pearce - They all, with one exception, voted against the proposal.

Senator PULSFORD - That makes the position still more remarkable. One overwhelming reason in favour of this railwayis connected with our system of defence, or rather with our system of defence as it ought to be. We ought not to be content to allow east and west to remain without some quick means of communication. We may be living to-day in a fool's paradise, because we do not know what future years mav bring forth. The construction of such a line would take a number of years. If we adopted this Bill to-day, and the survey were to begin in the course of the next few months, years might elapse before the line could be completed. Therefore, it will be seen that there is no time to waste. It is desirable that we should consider the importance of this line - not only from an Australian, but from an Imperial point of view - and that there should be no unnecessary delay. Happily, the project presents very few engineering difficulties. The proposed line would traverse a practically flat country, and could, I suppose, be constructed almost more cheaply than any other line in the world. That is one reason why we should do our part to make the line ari accomplished fact.

Senator Trenwith - Does the honorable senator think that the proposed line could be more cheaply constructed than any other line in the world?

Senator PULSFORD - Speaking broadly, I think that is so. At the present time, some $ix days are occupied in conveying the mails from Fremantle to Sydney ; and a railway would, it may be presumed, reduce that time to about three days. What would a saving of three days, or even of two days, mean in this connexion ? It would mean a saving of time which would be held by the PostmasterGeneral to be sufficient to warrant the payment of a substantial sum to a steam-ship company ; and with a railway such as that now under consideration, we should be con tent with a slower sea service at a saving of anything from £20,000 to £40,000 per annum. However, I do not think that Australians desire any slower sea service ;. what they desire is the quickest means of communication by both sea and land. The point I wish to emphasize is that a saving of two or three days in the conveyance of mails between east and west would practically mean a saving of the interest on £1,000,000, which is no inconsiderable sum in the total cost of such a railway. Western Australia has developed only since the nineties, and there is before that State, not only great possibilities, but great certainties. The population of Western Australia to-day is suggestive of a much larger population in coming years. It is now largely an adult population, and with the inevitable addition of women and children, it will in the future be verv substantial, without arrivals from outside. Senator Styles himself admitted in a depreciatory way that the possibilities of Western Australia are very great. The honorable senator pointed out that Western Australia was increasing her productions and pushing her trade; and this only makes it all the more desirable that there should be proper communication between east and west. There is, I fear, some opposition to the proposed line from those who benefit by the present shipping communication; but we know that, as the world progresses, one means of communication supersedes another, an "I we must not allow the interests of the west to suffer because the interests of those engaged in the shipping business may not be correspondingly benefited. I venture to say, however, that in the event of this railway being constructed, the development of Western Australia will be such that even more shipping accommodation will be required than at present, in addition to the substantial traffic by land. Overland passengers to arid from Europe will, in themselves, produce a considerable revenue ; and, indeed, the financial results of an Inter-State railway, as presented to us some time ago, are of a promising character. This railway could be built at a comparatively light cost, and certainly would not be very costly to run; and, altogether, I do not think there is any great fear of financial trouble. The report of the EngineersinChief three years ago was decidedly in favour of the line, and that report ought to have been made more use of than it has been in the discussion of the question. I notice that Western Australia has made an offer which ought not to be lost sight of by Tasmania. That offer is that for a period of ten years, Western Australia is prepared to bear aproportion of the loss in excess of her per capita burden. That is a very reasonable offer in face of the fact that Western Australia has very heavy financial burdens to bear. The proposed railway is really an Australian enterprise, and, bearing in mind that the safety and well-being of Australia may to a considerable extent depend upon its construction, we ought to view the proposal in a broad and generous spirit. I have no further remarks to offer. I can only reiterate my earnest desire that the consideration of this Bill will be approached in the spirit of which it is worthy, and that those who apparently hold its fate in the hollow of their hands, will consider the phases of the question I have put forward, and decide that Australia should carrv this project into effect.

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