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Thursday, 13 September 1906

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - I think that honorable senators are now inclined to come to a reasonable conclusion upon the amendment. The letters quoted by Senator Stewart in his admirable speech have had a considerable effect in bringing members of the Committee to a more reasonable frame of mind. It is admitted that we are making what is only a reasonable request, and that the amendment should be embodied in the Bill. In asking the consent of the Parliament of South Australia, we do so only in order to safeguard the interests of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. Mr. Deakin, who is a high authority, has said emphatically in one of the letters quoted by Senator Stewart that he considers that the formal consent of the South Australian Parliament to the survey is essential. The precautions which that honorable and learned gentleman thought necessary three years ago must be equally necessary now. If we do not get the formal consent; of the South Australian Parliament to this survey, the money we are asked' to vote on this Bill wilt be wasted. If the Commonwealth Government is to carry out the survey thev must secure a staff of surveyors, who will have to be given an engagement for a fixed term. It will cost a considerable sum to equip the expedition, because it is likely that a amel team, vehicles, and means for the conveyance of water will have to be provided. Unless the amendment is accepted, if there were a change of Government in South Australia, or, as the result of an agitation against the proposal, the operations of the 1 surveyors were stopped, we should not have the right to put in a single survey peg in the soil of South Australia. In the circumstances, the Committee willi be well1 advised1 in accepting the amendment. Every member of the Committee will acquit me of any intention to stone-wall the measure. I did not speak for more than five minutes on the motion to dissent from the President's ruling this morning, or for more than ten minutes in moving the amendment. The whole of my remarks on this Bill up to the present have occupied less than an hour in delivery. Our desire has been to improve the Bill. I believe that as a conseqeunce of our action it will be materially improved, and I hope that after this long discussion, the Committee will see the desirableness of inserting this very reasonable amendment.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [6.0]. - I confess that I have been greatly exercised in my mind in regard to the amendment. I have listened to all that has been said on both sides of the question. I have been under the extreme pain of listening to a very severe attack upon the State ;I represent, and to opprobrious expressions which are perfectly unjustifiable. I cannot understand what circumstances in connexion with the carrying put of the survey could warrant the term " indecent " being applied to the position of the State of South Australia.

Probably I should not have risen to speak if it had not been that I desire most emphatically to repel those accusations, and to say that the attitude of South Australia is that which I endeavoured to explain about two years ago. I then stated ihat she was animated by a desire, so far as the survey was concerned, to get all the information that was possible, and that she was favourably disposed to the survey, but unfavourably disposed to the construction of the railway. As I said earlier in the ' day, her indisposition towards the construction of the railway has been very greatly strengthened by present circumstances, particularly in relation to the great question of the development of the Northern Territory and its connexion with the south. If there is any question of isolation it is considerably stronger in regard to the Northern Territory than Western Australia. If there is any question of menace from outside attack, that also is a thousand times stronger in the case of the Northern Territory than it is in the case of Western Australia. No one can blame South Australia, I venture to think, for taking all those things into consideration, and for being filled with the fear, whatever her desire may be in regard to the acquisition of information by means of a survey, 'that possibly the construction of the railway to Western Australia might impede the realization of her hopes, and might have the very serious result of leaving open to outside attack and hostile occupation the northern half of this Continent. We know perfectly well that if there was any attempt by an outside foe to occupy any part of Australia, and to partition the Continent, it would be from the northern part that if would come. After listening to both sides very attentively I rather agree with what Senator Playford has said with regard to the amendment. Mv view of the Bill is that it will not enable a single step to be taken towards carrying out the survey b» the Commonwealth without the enactment of a law by the Parliament of South Australia, not merely giving its consent, but prescribing the method that the surveyors must pursue, and, if that became necessay, providing for compensation to be given to the owners or occupiers of land through which the survey must be made, I think that there is occasion for regret that, with the feeling existing in favour of a survey, a short Act has not been passed bv its Parliament embodying the formal consent of the State and making the provisions which I have generally indicated. If South Australia is to be reflected upon at all, it can only be for not having adopted that course. I have said over there again and again that it would relieve many members of the Federal Parliament of a good deal of embarrassment in that respect if they would only pass a short Bill confined to the survey, and if they like guarding themselves from any ulterior consequences or inferences being drawn therefrom. But Senator Givens seeks to move an amendment with regard to the consent of that State. I am not sure that it would do any harm to the Bill if it were made, because I believe that the Parliament of South Australia would immediately pass an Act giving the consent of the State to the survey. On the other hand, I am inclined to the view which Senator Playford has also taken. Believing, as I do, that the Bill will not involve the expenditure of a. single shilling until a step of that kind is taken by South Australia, I think it is unnecessary to put in the amendment.

Senator Trenwith - Suppose we admit that it is unnecessary. If it will give satisfaction to honorable senators, it can do no harm.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - It is like the direction of a newspaper to a correspondent to sign his name to a letter " not necessarily for publication, but as a guarantee of good faith." Senator Dobson has urged that if the amendment were not made, the vote of £20,000 would be thrown away.

Senator Sir William Zeal - Would it not give them a reason for thinking that the Parliament wouldsanction the construction of the railway ?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - There is that view to be considered, as I shall point out in a moment. The money would not be thrown away, as Senator Dobson has contended, because the consent of South Australia is necessary to enable any expenditure to be made. If it did not give the necessary consent - in parliamentary form, I take it - the money would not be spent. But there is the point which Senator Zeal has just mentioned, that it is an assurance that the Parliament of South Australia, which represents, for the moment its people, are assenting parties to the policy of making a survey. On the whole, whilst I think that the amendment would do little harm, knowing as I do what is the position of politics in South Australia, and the feeling of its Parliament, I would be disposed to suggest to the Government that they should assent to the amendment on that ground. But if they do not, then on the ground I have indicated - that the survey cannot be carried out without the parliamentary sanction of South Australia - the Bill would be a mere piece of waste paper, unless that sanction were given. I shall vote against the amendment if the Minister declines to accept it and it goes to a division.

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