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Thursday, 13 September 1906

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - By passing the second reading of this Bill, we have affirmed the desirableness of authorizing the survey of a route for a railway. In order to ascertain whether the amendment is relevant, we may reasonably ask ourselves this question : Does the amendment in any way contradict or violate the decision at which the Senate arrived in passing the second reading? I maintain that the main principle of the Bill having been affirmed, it was competent for the Committee to affirm that the surveyshould take place under such safeguards and conditions as might commend themselves to honorable senators. The amendment is merely a safeguard of that character. It names a condition under which the survey shall take place. In reply to an interjection of mine when delivering your ruling, you said that you did not contend that we could not attach conditions. If ii: is competent for the Committee to determine the conditions under which the surveyshall take place, I ask whether the condition proposed is not one which is relevant ? Some misunderstanding has arisen in considering the question of relevancy in reference to the connexion which exists between survey and railway construction. I do not desire to press that view. But the Committee has a right to insure that if the survey is made the fruits of the survey will be ours. We ask for an assurance that if the Commonwealth spends ,£20,000, it shall be allowed to reap the results and consequences of that expenditure. Let me give a parallel case. In New South Wales there is a Public Works Committee and in Victoria there is a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways. Suppose that in New South Wales a Bill were introduced to authorize the construction of certain public works. Would it be incompetent in Committee for a member to move to insert the words " subject to the recommendation of the Public Works Committee?" In this case the principle of the Bill is the undertaking of a survey. In the other case it would be the construction of a public work. If it would be competent for a member to move to insert the words " subject to the recommendation of the Public Works Committee," I argue that it if equally competent for a senator in Committee to move to insert words making the survey subject to the assurance that the astern of the South Australian Government shall be obtained. The two cases are parallel. When this Bill was before the Senate last "year, an amendment similar in its purpose was moved on the motion for the second reading. The words of it were -

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

The PRESIDENT - Does hot the honorable senator see the immense difference between an amendment on the second reading and an amendment proposed in Committee ?

Senator MILLEN - The question then before the Senate was "That the Bill be now read a second time." According to the restricted ruling which you have given, the word "now" could have been struck out, and a specific time - say six months ahead - inserted. But instead of that, it was proposed that a condition be inserted requiring the consent of the South Australian Government.

The PRESIDENT - The Committe has only delegated powers. That is the point. The Senate itself has not delegated powers.

Senator MILLEN - I admit that a distinction can be drawn between the Committee and the Senate. But still I urge that the Committee can introduce into a Bill any amendments which are pot in violation of the principle determined by the Senate itself. The Senate has determined that it is desirable to make a survey. What the Committee seeks to do is to impose safeguards so that the work authorized may be properly carried out, and to secure guarantees that when the money is expended the fruits of the expenditure shall be realized. That is not a con- dition which violates the principle of the Bill, or is foreign to it.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [11.55]- - * do not think that it is necessary to say that when the Senate considers a motion dissenting from the ruling of the President that involves no element of antagonism to the Chair. I am sure that you, sir, are the very last man who would suggest anything of the kind. A ruling from the chair is given by you as the mouthpiece of the Senate in interpreting the Standing Orders which constitute the guide established by the Senate for the conduct of its own proceedings. Their interpretation by you in the first instance is always subject to revision by the Senate, and no one is more ready to welcome full and free discussion on any ruling given from the chair, or to approach the consideration of such matters with a more open mind or less wedded to foregone conclusions. As. the embodiment of the constitutional procedure of the Senate, that single desire of the chair is to sc.! that the rules for the government of our procedure are correctly interpreted and carried out for the furtherance of the business of the Senate and the insuring of full discussion. If I thought that this Bill had about it any such ulterior object as that suggested by Senator Walker, it would fmd no favour in my eves. But I decline to believe that any one has any belief that, under cover of a Bill authorizing the construction of this railway, it is intended to promote its construction bv some private company. As has been interjected, that could not be done by the Commonwealth, because the land to bc granted is in the possession of two States. We can therefore easily dispose of that point. The question is whether the Senate considers that the particular "amendment which has been moved ought to be discussed in Committee. We are not now considering whether the amendment should be adopted. I say at once that I shall vote against the amendment if it is submitted in Committee. But at the same time no reason has been given which ought to preclude the Committee from having an opportunity to debate it. I will state why. The principle affirmed by the second reading of the. Bil/ is that the Minister may cause a survey to be made. There is no stipulation as to when- the survey, shall be made, or on what conditions. Surely it is reasonable, as a mere matter of common-sense, that, when the Bill gets into Committee, we having affirmed the principle that the Minister mav cause a survey to be made, conditions may be attached as to time, or, it may be, the approval of a particular body or individual. I dissent altogether from any attempt to circumscribe or curtail the power of this Senate in relation to a Bill which merely affirms a permissive principle. Strongly as I may be opposed to the suggested conditions, that fact does not weigh with me at all - it is as mere dust in the balance as compared with the right of the Senate to full and free discussion. I agree with Senator Trenwith, that if there is any doubt as to whether the amendment is- relevant, and doubt ought to be resolved in favour of full and free discussion. That view means nothing more than that we desire the question to be debated. We would not be committed in any shape or form - we should merely affirm that we regard the amendment as a very proper one for the Committee to have a full opportunity to debate. It is from that point of view I regard the matter. When this Bill, which is simply permissive, gets into Committee again, we shall, as I say, have a perfect right to- attach such conditions as to time and the other matters I have indicated.

Senator Givens - And as to route, and gauge, \and so forth?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I say nothing about details. It might be proposed to attach conditions so utterly irrelevant as not to be considered for a moment. I am also free to admit that this amendment might have been better worded, and have contained words not open to any objection. If the amendment had' been worded so as to provide that the Minister might cause such a survey to be made, but that such a survey should not be made or entered upon until the State of South Australia had given permission for, or sanctioned bv Act of Parliament,- the construction, I cannot see how it could have been regarded as irrelevant.

Senator Clemons - -That is precisely what the amendment is.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I take that to be the position, or I should not express the views I have in regard to the relevancy of the amendment. The words of the amendment are a mere paraphrase, meaning, as they do, that the survey shall not. be undertaken until South Australia, by Act of Parliament, or in some other way. adopts the policv of the construction of a railway. And that is a question which, I think, we are perfectly entitled to discuss in Committee. I do not even put the matter on the broad ground taken by Senator Millen. It is not necessary to have an assurance that we shall reap the fruits of this expenditure of ,£20,000. That is not the object of the amendment - the object is merely to impose conditions on the permission we give to the Minister in regard to the undertaking of a survey. If we cannot impose such conditions, when has the Minister to make the survey ? Has it to be twelve or twenty years hence? I contend that we may impOse limitations, either in regard to time or conditions. Surely it would Le relevant to propose that the Minister might cause the survey to be made as soon as he had received a report from, say, the head of the Public Works Department of the Commonwealth that a point between the terminii in the Bill had been determined on for the starting of the survey. If it be admitted, as I understand it is, that it is competent to discuss in Committee whether the survey shall or shall not be made until it has been consented to by South Australia, surely the other proposal I have just indicated could also be introduced.,- Why should we not impose the condition that South Australia shall consent to the construction of the railway ? Is it a question of degree? Are we to be permitted to discuss little conditions, and to be prevented from discussing great and vital conditions? I ought to say here that I do not agree with the view expressed by Sena-, tor Dobson; on the contrary, I agree with what you, Mr. President, have said as to this question having nothing whatever to do with the Constitution.

Senator Dobson - Except where the Constitution refers to the consent of the States. '

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - If that stipulation were not in the Constitution, we should still have the right to provide that the survey should not be made without the consent of South Australia. The consent of South Australia may be a motive in the minds of honorable senators ; but, as I said two years ago, when introducing a similar measure, I do not believe that under present circumstances or at the present time

South Australia would give consent to the construction of this railway. That, however, . has nothing to do with the point under discussion. I shall vote against the proposed amendment in Committee, but that amendment is just as relevant as the question whether the Minister may make the survey within the next twelve months. ' In the interests of the fullness of debate, and in furtherance of the great principle which you, sir, have enunciated from the chair over and over again - the principle by which you have been (guided, very frequently in giving your own vote - I shall, if there is any doubt, vote in favour of affording an opportunity to debate the question in Committee. I also wish it to be absolutely and unequivocally clear that, as Senator Drake has pointed out, this Bill does not commit us in any shape or form to support a proposal for the construction of the line. But Senator Drake - though tentatively, and subject to further consideration - puts that forward as a reason against the relevancy of the amendment. I submit that it is not a reason against the relevancy of the amendment, though it may be an excellent reason for voting against the amende ment, unless something is said convincingly in support of the latter in Committee. It is well, however, that it should be absolutely clear that by this Bill we do not in any way commit ourselves to the construe- '' tion of the railway. If the admission of this amendment would have any such effect, my attitude would be altogether different, because at present, and under present circumstances, I should regard the construction of this railway as utterly disastrous to the national interests of the State I represent..

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