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Wednesday, 12 September 1906

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) .- The proposal contained in this Bill has engaged the attention of honorable senators and of members of another place for some years. Strange to' say, while in another place the Bill met with very little serious opposition, considerable hostility has been manifested towards it in this Chamber. When a similar measure was first introduced into the Senate, a number of honor able senators worked themselves into a white heat, and, by their "stone-walling" tactics, "talked out " the proposal. When the Bill was brought into the Senate a second time, the opponents of the measure, by what they probably considered a tactical move, shelved the matter. Some of those honorable senators, when Senator Dawson to-day said that he not only favoured this Bill, but also favoured the construction of the line, applauded him as one who, at least, was candid. I do not think, however, that it was very candid of honorable senators to introduce an amendment in order to shelve the Bill on the last occasion. It would have been far better to have taken a straight-out vote on the merits of the measure than to seek for a side issue to defeat a proposal which has very strong support in this Chamber, and, so far as one is able to judge, has strong support outside. Personally, I have never heard any very strong objection raised to the proposed survey ; and I am satisfied that there is a keen sense of justice, and a very strong Federal spirit, amongst the people of all the States. The marrow, " little Australian " spirit that is manifested at times is not the spirit of the whole of the people, but the spirit of a small, though occasionally noisy, section, which takes its opinions from the daily organs, or the yapping echoes of the daily organs. The members of the party to which I belong have no need to take much notice of what is done by the daily press. The newspapers have no consideration for us as a party, and thev take every opportunity to call attention towhat appears to them to be shortcomings on the part of this Parliament. We find such headings as "Capital Site Picnics," "Senators' Privileges," and " Desert Railway " ; but, probably, such headlines only emanate from a desert mind. However, what are the arguments presented against the acceptance of this Bill ? On the former occasion it was contended that there was no guarantee that the South Australian Government would consent to the construction of this line through the territory of that State. But we were not asking for consent for the construction of the line; what we were discussing was a proposed survey.

Senator Millen - And Parliament decided that it would not incur the preliminary expense for the survey unless there was an assurance that the line could be constructed.

Senator FINDLEY - That is very clever; but is it likely that the South Australian Parliament would give an assurance to this Parliament-

Senator Millen - No.

Senator FINDLEY - Is it likely that an assurance will be given until it is known exactly what route the line will take, or what the nature of the survey is likely to be? Is it likely that until the South Australian Parliament is made aware of the route that it will - as Sir Frederick Holder said in his communication - introduce a Bill for such a purpose.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45p.m.

Senator FINDLEY - Before the adjournment for dinner, I was saying that the objection raised on a former occasion was not to the survey, or even the construction of the line, but was an objection that the South Australian Parliament had not been approached, and the consent of that State had not been given to the construction of the line. The opponents of the Bill on that occasion succeeded in carrying the following resolution : -

That the Bill be not further considered until evidence that the Parliament of South Australia has formally consented to the Commonwealth constructing that portion of the proposed railway which would be in South Australian territory has been laid on the table of the Senate.

After the carrying of that resolution, which involved the defeat of the Bill, the Prime Minister wrote to the Premier of South Australia, and that gentleman replied as follows : -

Premier's Office,

Adelaide, 6th June, 1906.

Sir, -In reply to your letter of the 7th inst. respecting the proposed railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, I have the honour to refer you to my telegram of 1st March last, and to say that this Government has no objection to the survey as therein notified, but cannot undertake to consider a Bill for submission to Parliament, in the absence of information as to the route and terminal points of the railway.

The passage of this Bill would enable the South Australian Government to obtain the required information. As one who is prepared to vote for this Bill, I desire to make my position absolutely clear. I am not at the present moment favorably disposed towards the construction of the line, and it is because I require more complete information that I favour the passage of this Bill. When that information is obtained I have no doubt that the South Australian Government will very quickly have a Bill passed giving the assent of the people of that State to the construction of the line in terms that will meet the views of honorable senators who carried the resolution to which I have referred. What are the solid grounds of objection to this Bill? Let us understand what the opponents of the measure mean. Do they object to the expenditure of £20,000 to obtain information which I and thousands of other citizens of the Commonwealth desire? If they do I unhesitatingly say that they are animated by a very narrow and anti-Federal spirit. The expenditure proposed is not in the interests of Western Australia, but in the interests of all the States, and it is an expenditure which in my opinion can be justified on any public platform in Australia. Only a few nights ago a vote of £8,000 for a trawler that it is estimated will cost £1,500 a year for upkeep was agreed to after very little discussion.

Senator Turley - I opposed it, and voted against it.

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