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Wednesday, 19 September 1906

Senator HENDERSON (Western Australia) - I trust that the Senate will not agree to the recommittal of the Bill. It has been very clearly explained by Senator Trenwith that in dealing with proposals for the recommittal of measures, unless the strongest possible reasons are shown for the adoption of such a course, we should not give the slightest consideration to proposals of the kind. Holding that view, we must regard the amendment submitted by Senator Clemons for the recommittal of this Bill as one of the most ridiculous amendments that could possibly be submitted to the Senate. For some reason which the honorable senator has carefully concealed within his own breast, he has moved that the Bill be recommitted. If there are any substantial reasons for such a proposal, it is probable that they have not yet dawned upon the honorable senator. One reason hinted at for the recommittal of the Bill is that honorable senators should have an opportunity to compel Western Australia and South Australia to pay the whole cost of the survey. It might be news to Senator Clemons to learn that if those States were prepared to carry out this national work and pay for it themselves, they would not require an Act of the Federal Parliament to authorize them to do so. They could do that without coming here to ask for the passing of any Bill.

Senator Pearce - We are all parties to the Federation when sugar bounties are wanted.

Senator HENDERSON - I was going to call attention to the fact that the logic which Senator 'Clemons applies to this Bill might be applied to many measures submitted to Parliament. We might charge up all the sugar bounties to Queensland, and it would be quite as logical a position to take up. Why should that State bleed the Commonwealth of so many hundreds of thousands of pounds annually, and then come here cap in hand to ask for alterations in the industrial aspect of the sugar industry? I know that the argument in that case is that it is part of the policy of a White Australia, but I can tell honorable senators that there is a very poor reflection of a White Australia in Queensland yet, although that State is receiving a great deal of Federal assistance.

Senator Givens - Would the honorable senator accept a bounty for gold production in Western Australia on the same terms ?

Senator HENDERSON - We do' not want a bounty on gold production. We are exporting gold from Western Australia.

Senator Pearce - Australia does not import gold whilst we do import sugar.

Senator HENDERSON - We are, of course, prepared at all times to witness strange episodes in the political career of Senator Dobson, but it is not often that the honorable senator takes up such a strange attitude as he did to-day in supporting the request for a recommittal of the Bill. He made a long speech in opposition to the Bill. It was for three or four days discussed by the Senate in all its varied phases. In Committee opportunities were given for honorable senators to make amendments. But Senator Dobson never discovered until Senator Clemons moved for a recommittal that he had actually conceived of some amendments that he would like to move. While there are no reasons why the Bill should be recommitted, there are excellent reasons why it should not be so treated. When honorable senators contemplate the unholy alliance that has been formed to defeat this Bill - when they see the Millens, the Clemonses, and the Goulds united in one clan with the Turleys, the Givenses, and the Stewarts - they may well be suspicious. Only two amendments were moved to the Bill in Committee. One of these was only determined upon after three days' connivance on the part of the unholy alliance, and after causing them probably two or three sleepless nights. Finally they discovered an instrument in Senator Givens.

Senator Givens - The honorable senator is entirely wrong.

Senator HENDERSON - The honorable senator was entirely wrong also, because when he submitted his amendment the Chairman of Committees ruled that it was out of order. Then the second amendment was presented, and, as Senator Pearce has pointed out, the Western Australians did all they could to secure what honorable senators who opposed the Bill desired. Now, however, the intention of the opponents of the measure is to make it entirely useless. I sincerely trust that no recommittal will take place, inasmuch as the honorable senator who has moved the amendment has given no reasons', and because we have proof positive that what he desires is to obstruct and kill the Bill.

Senator Col. NEILD(New South Wales) [12.25]. - I desire that the Bill shall be recommitted, because the second reading was only carried by something that I suppose I mav complimentarily term a mistake about a pair. I. however, do not regard it as a mistake. I made a valid pair and left. I should not have left without a valid pair. But when I was away I found that my pair had been shifted, and that instead of having a valid pair I had been given an invalid one.

Senator Pearce - It was just as valid as the honorable senator's. He was away in New South Wales, and knows it.

Senator Col NEILD - I was not in New South Wales, as it happens. I should certainly not have left had I not supposed that I had a valid pair.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator was not in Victoria.

Senator Col NEILD - The honorable senator knows nothing about it, and should hold his peace.

Senator Pearce - I know that the honorable senator was not in Victoria.

Senator Col NEILD - It is no concern of Senator Pearce's, and he need not interrupt when he is not being addressed. It was only by that dodge that the second reading was carried. Otherwise there would have been a tie, in which event the question would have been passed in the negative.

Senator Millen - That was not the only dodge.

Senator Col NEILD - I do not accuse any one, but if any honorable senator wishes to know what I am talking about the pair book is on the table. I mention no names. Under the circumstances, I am justified in asking for an opportunity to propose an amendment in the Bill. I will indicate what the amendment is. I do not know that at this stage I 'can ask for the appointment of a Select Committee, though I think that the inquiry of a committee would be very desirable, not so: much in relation to engineering,, but regarding the matter of public policy.

Senator Henderson - Did not the honorable senator go over to Western Australia and make his own inquiries ?

Senator Col NEILD - I did, and I gathered some information of which I wish to make use. The amendment I desire to see inserted is one not to limit the expenditure to ,£20,000 under this Bill, but to £20,000 for the work. In the Bill there is no limitation as to the amount to be expended, but only a limitation as to what is to be expended thereunder. Therefore, there is no limitation as to the amount which may be wasted. The survey which is proposed to be made, and on which authority is sought to spend an unlimited sum, will be suitable for no other public work, and over the ground in question we have no right of occupancy or construction ; we have not even an option. Who would spend his money on the preparation of expensive plans for a building which would suit only one piece of ground over which he had no right of purchase? A man who did that would deserve to be locked up, and if he were a trustee he would be liable to be, and no doubt he would be, prosecuted by the beneficiaries in the estate. Yet we, the public trustees, are asked to squander money without regard even to the limit of the expenditure. I want the Bill to be amended in the direction of providing that only £20,000 shall be spent upon the job, and I use the word "job" intentionally. For that reason I wish to see the Bill recommitted. On the third reading, if it should reach that stage, I shall have a great deal more to say than I have ventured to utter this morning.

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