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Thursday, 13 September 1906

Senator STYLES (Victoria) .- I understand that Senator Symon supports the survey, and thinks that the Parliament of South Australia will give its sanction thereto, but that he has a. grave doubt as to whether after the survey was made it would sanction the construction of the railway.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Under present circumstances I do not think that it would.

Senator STYLES - With all respect to other honorable senators, I think that the honorable and learned senator is in a better position to know the feeling in South Australia than are the great bulk of us.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - All that the amendment asks for is the consent of South Australia to the survey.

Senator STYLES - Why go on with the Bill until that assent has been obtained?

Senator Trenwith - It is too late to get it.

Senator STYLES - It will not be too late to defeat the Bill when its third reading is moved. There is another aspect of the question to be considered. Relying upon the promise of the Premier of South Australia, we might survey a route for a distance of several hundred miles, say, to Tarcoola, but a change of Government might then take place in the State, and the new Premier might say, " We have obtained a railway survey as far as Tarcoola. We are not going to allow you to go any further with the survey. You cannot construct a railway, but we do not mind doing that for ourselves, now that you have spent many thousands of pounds in surveying a line to our gold-field." I do not say that that position would be created, but it might be. and therefore it is the duty of the Committee to take every possible precaution against a mishap of that kind. My opposition to the Bill is materially strengthened by the declaration of Senator Symon, that in his opinion the Parliament of South Australia will not sanction the construction of the railway. His opinion is. I take it, worth having in a case of this kind.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - It is said that an opinion which is not paid for is not worth having.

Senator STYLES - I think that the Commonwealth will have to pay if it does not take the honorable and learned senator's opinion. I shall oppose the Bill at every stage.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [6.14]. - I do not wish that there should be any misapprehension on the part of Senator Styles. I was not discussing the position in regard to the construction of the railway, but merely the position in regard ., to the survey, the principle of which has been affirmed by the Senate - that is the position I took up - and its bearing upon the amendment. I pointed out that, so far as South Australia is concerned, she must give her consent in parliamentary form before even her own surveyors or those of the Commonwealth are allowed to enter private lands through which the survey may have to be carried out. In answer to an interjection, I merely repeated what I have said all along. When introducing the Bill in 1904, I said in regard to South Australia-

That State is not in favour of the immediate construction of the line, but she is strongly in favour of this survey.

I also expressly said that the passing of the Bill was not intended to commit any honorable senator, and certainly did not commit me in any way with regard to the ultimate construction of the line.

Senator Sir William Zeal - Will it not commit the Commonwealth?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I think noi. Almost every one who has spoken in support of the survey has declared that he is not in any way committed. The Commonwealth is not committed unless Parliament is committed.

Senator Styles - If the survey is part of the construction of the railway, and we secure permission to make the survey, will not that commit the Commonwealth to the construction of the line in the estimation of the people of Western Australia?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - What my honorable friend means is that if the Commonwealth authorizes a survey in relation to the railway, that is an indication that it will authorize the construction of the line. I hold a different opinion. Any Act that is passed with a view to sanction the construction of the railway will expressly empower its construction, and give authority to take lands which are necessary for the pui pose.

Senator Sir William Zeal - There must be a survey before the. railway is constructed; and will not the making of the survey give to Western Australia a claim in regard to the construction of the line?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I think not. I assure my honorable friends that if I thought so I would not support one single line of this Bill. Not only that, but my personal feeling is so strong that when I. have an opportunity I shall bring this question before the people of South Australia in a very concrete shape. My views are thoroughly well-known there, but the question has not been put as an issue to the people of South Australia. Their feeling is against the construction of the line; and that feeling has been intensified lately by what has happened in connexion with the Northern Territory. I pledge myself that when I have an opportunity I shall put this matter before the people of my State in exactly the way that I am now putting it before the Committee - that I support the survey in order to obtain information, but that I am not committed to the construction of the line, and that personally I do not think that it would be advisable for South Australia to consent to its construction. If the people of my State, having considered that view, chose to give a mandate to their representatives to vote for the line, the position would be different. But I do not regard a vote for the survey as in any way pledging the Commonwealth to expend' money in constructing a railway to connect two States

Senator Sir WILLIAMZEAL (Victoria) [6.20]. - It appears to me that if Parliament agrees to make the survey, the Western Australian representatives and people will feel themselves greatly aggrieved if practical steps are not taken hereafter towards the construction of the line. It is not with a view to obstruct the passage of the Bill, but to test the bona fides of the Western Australian senators that I make these remarks. It has been frequently stated that a railway should be constructed between South Australia and Western Australia capable of carrying our mails and our troops. Every one who knows anything about railway matters is aware that involved in the making of a survey is the question whether what is contemplated is a light line or what is called a first classrailway. Now, which proposal does the Government contemplate in this instance? If a first class line be intended, a preliminary survey for a cheap line will be perfectly useless. Therefore, I consider that a condition should be inserted in the Bill as to what the Government intends to do. The Bill at present is entirely silent upon that point. I do not oppose the measure because of the cost of the survey being £20,000 ; though it seems to me that if Western Australia is so deeply interested in the project the least she can do is to give proof of her bona fides by depositing the money to enable the survey to be made. If Western Australia had done that, she would have secured my sympathy. But what has she done ? She asks the eastern States, which are very little concerned in the construction of the proposed line, to vote money for her benefit. Is that a fair proposition ? If Western Australia is to derive such great advantages from the railway, why should she not show her bona fides in the way I have suggested? If she does not, she admits that she is contemplating a bargain which is not a fair one to the eastern States. It should also be determined whether the line is to run direct from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, or is to pass by way of Eucla. It is perfectly monstrous to put the proposition before the Senate in its present form. Before the Bill is disposed of, the questions which I have suggested ought to be satisfactorily tested, andwe ought to state plainly in the Bill what kind of railway it is proposed to construct.

Progress reported.

Motion (by Senator Playford) proposed -

That the Committee have leave to sit again after the Papua Bill has been disposed of.

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