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Thursday, 13 September 1906

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Dobson (TASMANIA) - I am afraid that the word is not in order.

Senator Clemons - I withdraw the word "steal," and substitute "misappropriate."

Senator Pulsford - I ask that the word " misappropriate " also be withdrawn. In supporting this Bill I have no intention to misappropriate Commonwealth money, and I object to have such a term flung at me by any honorable senator.

Senator Clemons - The point of order cannot be raised unless there is a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]

Senator Lt Col NEILD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. GOULD.- I contend that we are not in a position to fulfil the requirements clearly set forth by MajorGeneral Hutton. I know that the Minister of Defence has been taking steps to increase the number of the forces, and to provide the equipment pointed out as necessary ; but I ask whether in the position of Aus tralia to-da.y it would be possible, assuming we had this railway, to concentrate the whole of our troops in Western Australia in case of possible attack. To begin with, it would take days to move the troops across the Continent, and we should certainly receive no notice from an enemy who intended to attack a particular place. We should have to find means for the defence of all our capital cities; and the troops, unless they were immensely increased in number, could not be moved from place to place, with any degree of safety- to the country. If, for the sake of argument, the troops were conveyed to the west by rail, the whole of the eastern seaboard "would be left without any defence.

The CHAIRMAN - Will the honorable senator kindly connect his remarks with the question before the Chair.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- The whole question of this railway in relation to defence was referred to Major-General Hutton, who then commanded the Military Forces, and I was pointing out that in view of the minute of that officer, there , is no urgency for this railway from a defence point of view.

The CHAIRMAN - The question before the Senate is the insertion of certain words relating to the consent of South Australia.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - My point is that this amendment may be agreed to, because there is no urgency for the Bill. I am endeavouring to show also that there is no urgency from a defence point of view, seeing that we are wanting in all the elements of a mobile force. If a verv serious attack were made on Australia, it would be made at some spot where there was absolutely no defence.

Senator Henderson - Is there any connexion between this twaddle and the amendment?

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I object to the impertinent and insulting observations of the honorable senator.

The CHAIRMAN - I hope Senator Henderson will withdraw that remark.

Senator Henderson - I withdraw it.

The CHAIRMAN - I must say that I find it somewhat difficult to connect Senator Gould's observations about defence with the amendment.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- Perhaps that is due to my poverty of expression, but I have already endeavoured to show the connexion. I shall not dispute your ruling, and will not press my arguments with respect to defence for the present.

Senator Clemons - The Chairman has not ruled that the honorable senator cannot discuss the question of defence.

The CHAIRMAN - I have not given a ruling that the honorable senator is not in order, but I have found it difficult to connect his remarks with the amendment, and I am hoping that he will be able to do so.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - I have explained that the proposed railway is advocated because of its supposed value from a strategical point of view, and for defence purposes. I have tried to show that it would not be of great service in that connexion, and there is, therefore, no reason, on the ground of urgency, why we should not accept the amendment. I have referred to the position which the Commonwealth would find itself in if hostile action were taken by the Parliament of South Australia, or by any individual in that State occupying leasehold or freehold land which would be affected by the survey. The Minister of Defence, by way of interjection, stated that the Government of South Australia had the right to enter upon Crown lands held under lease for the purpose of a railway survey. But it does not follow that any other body or individual would have the right to do so. If the South Australian leaseholder under the Crown believed that his property was being injured by a survey of the proposed railway, he would be able to bring an action against the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth Government could not justify their action by saying that it was authorized by an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament, or by the assent of the Premier of South Australia. They could justify their action, not bv virtue of an Act of the Federal Parliament, but only by virtue of an Act of the South Australian Parliament, which some persons would regard as an inferior tribunal. We are, in this matter, entirely in the hands of the State of South Australia. I ask -the Committee to consider what our position would be even if we passed the Bill and it received the assent of the State Parliament of South Australia, aria- if that State ultimately would not consent to the construction of the railway. We shall practically be saying to the people of Western Australia, " Here is a toy for you. We are willing to give you the £20,000 to play with to keep you in good humour, but no satisfactory result, from your point of view, can follow from it for many years_to come." Are we to treat Western Australia as a naughty child that requires to be pleased to make her behave herself? I ask the Committee to accept the amendment, which will merely give effect to what the Minister of Defence has already virtually promised the Senate.

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