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Wednesday, 19 September 1906

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) -25]. - If I am not out of order I should like to express to you, Mr. President, and to the Senate, my regret that I was not here at an earlier hour to respond to the call of the Senate. I do not know whether it is an irregularity not to be here at the right time on such an occasion, but when the circumstances are unavoidable - when there has been an accident which might have had very serious consequences, and might have vacated one's place for ever - there is an excuse. At any rate, I take the liberty now to make this explanation. I thought that, probably, this Bill would have reached a later stage - that it would have emerged from the region of heat and discussion, and arrived at a point at which a final decision of the Senate could be obtained. It appears, however, that there is before the Senate a motion for the recommittal of the Bill. This measure, in substance and in form, is identical with that which I had the opportunity to introduce two years ago as one of the representatives in the Chamber of the then Government. I like to view the position pretty much as I should have viewed it if I were in the position now occupied by the Minister of Defence, in relation to a motion of this character, under the circumstances, in which it has been brought forward. In addition, I have repeatedly said - and I think we are all imbued with the same feeling - that it is undesirable that there should be any curtailment of the opportunity for discussion when some real subject is brought forward. Not only so. but when we have already discussed some particular matter, and an appeal is made to the Senate that it should be further debated and investigated, I have not known, except in some extreme cases, any verystrong opposition to that course being adopted. Therefore, I view any motion for a recommittal of a Bill from a very lenient and forbearing stand-point, in whatever form that motion .may be submitted. As an illustration, I may say that the other day, when a ruling, which excluded the consi-deration of an amendment moved bv Senator Givens, was under discussion, I then, acting on the principle which I have indicated, and which I hope I shall always act on, supported the course which would secure the full debate of a proposal to which, in itself, I was strongly opposed. These are the principles which usually actuate me on any question of recommittal, or any question involving exhaustive discussion. In the proposal for a recommittal there are three objects ; first, to secure a recommittal of the entire Bill ; secondly, to secure a recommittal with a view to introducing new clauses ; and, thirdly, to secure a recommittal with a view to considering clause 3, which specifies the amount which is to be expended, and declares that it has to be charged to the Commonwealth consolidated fund.

Senator Clemons - That clause has never been considered.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I shall deal with that point in a moment. With regard : to the first of these, I have no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that I could not possibly support the recom:mittal of the Bill as a whole. The view I take of the measure is that, in its essence, its object is to authorize the Minister to make a survey at the cost of the

Commonwealth. Otherwise, there would be no necessity for any Bill dealing with the subject. As I was not present in the earlier part of the day, I followed very closely what was said by honorable senators who preceded me this afternoon, and I was particularly struck by what Senator Zeal said in respect of the route. I should like to say that the very indefiniteness of the route is, to my mind, if it is not paradoxical to say so, the merit of the survey proposed to be authorized. This is not a Bill for a detailed survey, in order to construct a particular railway between two termini. It proposes to authorize a survey which is more of an exploratory nature. Whether rightly or wrongly, what influenced me two years ago, as well as now, is that this is a proposal for a survey for the purpose of getting information as to the route of the railway.

Senator Mulcahy - For what ultimate purpose ?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I shall refer to the ultimate purpose if it is necessary ; but I wish to confine myself now to the question before the Senate. The. object is to obtain, by means of a survey, information " which, some honorable senators think might be equally, if not more efficiently, ascertained by the investigation of a Select Committee, or some body of that kind. As I pointed out, and as I think the Minister of Defence pointed out last year when he took charge of the Bill, on the present Government coming, into office, the survey proposed is for the purpose of| obtaining information!. That is how I regard it, and I have never regarded it as in any sense a survey of a definite route, already ascertained, between two termini. That is the view taken of the matter by South Australia. The correspondence shows plainly that, in the opinion of the authorities of South Australia, there must be some understanding as to the route before even- the survey is permitted. .The argument put with so much force and clearness by Senator Zeal appeals to me in rather the other way. It seems to me that we have very fully discussed clause 2, which gives effect to the intention to have a survey made, and I remind honorable senators that an, amendment was made upon it that it should be a condition that the Minister should authorize the survey only on receiving the sanction of South Australia, legislatively enacted. I cannot understand what fur ther discussion we could have in respect of that clause. In the circumstances, so far as a recommittal of the whole Bill is concerned. I am unable to consider the proposal for a moment. Senator Mulcahy interjected, with regard to the survey, " For what ultimate purpose?" The purpose, tomy mind, is to obtain information.

Senator Mulcahy - To obtain information merely for the purpose of possessing it, or for what other purpose?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - For the purpose of possessing it. Information is a valuable possession at all times. Knowledge is power. I have no hesitation, nor do I think there is any in the State which I represent, as to the conclusion at which we have arrived ; but there are others who desire information, with a view to coming to a conclusion as to the desirability of the construction of this railway. I am not sure whether what has. been stated with regard to the payment of the cost, and so on, is not sound. I should have preferred - and this is what I contemplated as one of the results of the Federal Union - that South Australia and Western Australia, if they thought fit to construct this line, in the belief that it would be an advantageous railway, should have themselves incurred the necessary expenditure. I do not hesitate for one moment to say that. Except from the point of view of obtaining information in this way, if that be thought advisable, I confess that there is no ground for any claim upon the Commonwealth in the matter, and none so far has been made out. Still, it has been agreed that the authority of the Senate should be given to the expenditure authorized by the Bill for the survey, and that it should be under the control of the Commonwealth.

Senator Sir William Zeal - If the survey is made of one particular route, how are we to get information about the alternative route?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I am unable to tell the honorable senator. I presume that the surveyors will report upon some route which they will consider it advisable to adopt, and it will then be before the Commonwealth and the States for consideration.

Sir William Zeal - They cannot survey both routes for the amount proposed to be appropriated.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I agree. I am not an expert in these matters, whilst Senator Zeal is undoubtedly one of the leading experts in Australia, and I should say, upon his authority and upon the authority of others, that ,£20,000 would be a meTe fraction of the cost which must be incurred if the survey is to extend over the area indicated.

Senator Turley - There is a difference of opinion even amongst experts regarding both routes.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I know that there is. We are being asked to give authority for the expenditure proposed with a view to obtaining information. It will not commit anybody to any thing sub,-, sequently, nor will it commit the Senate or the Federal Parliament to sanction a very much larger expenditure or any larger expenditure which might be proposed. The sum of £20,000 is estimated as being sufficient for the survey, and any larger expenditure proposed, and all the elements concerned in it, can be dealt with when such a proposal comes before us. The second object in view in suggesting the recommittal of the Bill is to add certain clauses. I shall be no party to a recommittal of the measure with a view to adding a number of vague and indeterminate clauses, which I understand is the proposal of Senator Dobson.

Senator Clemons - Senator Dobson indicated them all.

Senator Turley - Senator Gray wishes to add a new clause, and that is why he is going to vote for the recommittal of the Bill

Senator Dobson - One of my proposals is that the cost of the survey shall be paid by the Commonwealth and the two States concerned in equal parts.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I am strongly opposed to that.

Senator Dobson - Yet the honorable senator believes that the two States should bear the whole of the cost.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - No, because the Bill provides that the Commonwealth shall pay. Having assented to the second reading of the Bill, I take it that we have affirmed ' the principle that the survey is to be undertaken by the Commonwealth, and that the Commonwealth shall pav for it. An amendment to distribute the cost in any way would be inconsistent with the principle we have affirmed in passing the second reading of the Bill.

Senator Sir William Zeal - If a sum of money is voted for the survey of a route, how is it possible that information with respect to alternative routes can be obtained for that money?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I look upon the proposal in this way : The surveyors are to select the route which they think most advisable as the result of their examination.

Senator Lt Col Gould - But it must be between two specified terminal points.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Of course; 'between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie. If we were dealing with the matter on determinate lines, I should prefer that the Western Australian terminus of the line should be Esperance Bay. I think that would be very much more advantageous than the proposal that it should be at Kalgoorlie.

Senator Sir William Zeal - Would it not be desirable to obtain information on that point?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - If such information can be obtained it ought to be obtained.

Senator Sir William Zeal - The amount proposed to be appropriated will not cover that.

Senator Pearce - A line, from Kalgoorlie to Esperance Bay has already been surveyed.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I was not aware of that. I. do not wish to deal with that aspect of the matter now. What I understand is to be done is to have a survey of a route. That is to say, the surveyors will report on the route they think most suitable for a line between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie. If in order to ascertain which would be the most suitable route they have to go over the country and select one amongst several, I do not know that £20,000 will be sufficient for the purpose. I think it would be their duty to do it. However, these are details with which it is not necessary to deal now. One new clause has been indicated by Senator Millen to make provision for the payment of compensation to any one who has sustained damage as a result of the survey operations. I. listened verv attentively to what Senators Millen and Gould said about that. If I thought -such a provision were necessary I should undoubtedly support the recommittal of the Bill. I am not satisfied that it is necessary, but I am satisfied, on the contrary, that it is not necessary. The arguments submitted by Senators Millen andGould were very strong, but they did not convince me. This Bill authorizes the Minister to cause a survey to be made, and if it becomes law it amounts absolutely to nothing unless South Australia passes an Act enabling the survey to be carried out. I should stultify myself if I voted for the recommittal of the Bill with a view to the introduction of a clause which I do not think would be worth a snap of the fingers.

Senator Sir William Zeal - Does the honorable and learned senator not think that the Bill should say that the survey must be a survey of the most desirable route between the places mentioned?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I think it means that.

Senator Sir William Zeal - It does not say so.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - It does not, but I think it means a survey of a route which is most eligible-

Senator Sir William Zeal - In the judgment of the surveyors.

Senator Turley -In the opinion of South Australia.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - No.

Senator Turley - That is what is running all through the correspondence.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - But Senator Turley must see that we have adequately protected South Australia. We have also protected the Commonwealth and land-owners in this way ; that it is conditional upon the legislative consent of South Australia that the survey shall be undertaken. Senator Millen proposes the introduction of a clause to provide for compensation. It is quite unnecessary for us to make such a provision in this Bill because no permission to drive in a peg or to send a surveyor over any part of the route could be given without the consent of the South Australian Government. If no compensation could be given without a clause in this Bill, Senator Millen's amendment ought to be inserted. But such is not the case. If there is land to be taken or works are to be erected upon privately-owned land bv virtue of an Act of Parliament, there is no right of compensation of any description unless compensation is provided for.

Senator Millen - So that if the South Australian Government passes a Bill without a compensation clause there will be no right of compensation?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - We cannot remedy that. South Australia has to authorize the survey to be made. South Australia alone can authorize entrance, without liability for trespass, upon lands that must be passed through. If the South Australian Legislature is so regardless of the interests of its citizens as to permit damage to be inflicted without compensation, the South Australian Legislature must bear the brunt of it.

Senator Clemons - What about the citizen who is damaged?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Well, Senator Clemons is a representative of Tasmania, and I am a representative of South Australia ; and I am willing to take the responsibility regarding the citizens of South Australia to that extent. It is for the Legislature that can authorize entrance upon a man's land to provide the compensation in respect of any damage done to him ; not for us, who are merely putting what I may call a pious permission upon our statute-book, to cause a survev to be made in respect of which we cannot take a single step unless another and subordinate Legislature authorizes it. Therefore, I regret that it is impossible for me to support the recommittal for the purpose of inserting the suggested new clause. Now comes the third point, namely, the proposal to recommit clause 3. I quite agree that that clause was not considered in Committee. But what was there to consider about it?

Senator Clemons - I think that we can show that good amendments might be made in it.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - If Senator Clemons can show that, I will reserve my decision upon the point.

Senator Turley - Has not Senator Grav given a reason?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - He gave one that was conclusive to himself. But the Bill says that the cost of the survey is not to exceed . £20,000. If good reason is shown, I will vote for the recommittal of clause 3, but I am not going to vote for a recommittal simply to take up more time. The principle of the Bill is to give permission for a survey to be made by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is to pay for it. Why should we have a reconsideration of the Bill for the mere purpose of saying that the Commonwealth shall not pay? To go back into Committee in order, as Senator Dobson has said, to distribute the payment amongst the States in certain proportions, seems to me. to be inconsistent with what we have already decided. We are asked what guarantee there is that the survey will not cost £50,000. The reply is that the Bill itself says that the cost is not to exceed £20,000.

Senator Col Neild - It merely says that more than . £20,000 is not to be expended under this Bill.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That is not exactly what it says. If says that the cost of the whole survey authorized by the Bill shall not exceed , £20,000.

Senator Gray - Expert senators state deliberately that that amount is not sufficient.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That would have been an excellent reason for rejecting the Bill on its second reading.

Senator Fraser - And it is a good reason for recommitting the Bill.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - What is it proposed to put in?

Senator Gray - That Western Australia shall pay anv amount over £20,000.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Why cannot that question be dealt with if an application is made for more money ?

Senator Sir William Zeal - All the available routes should be examined, and the surveyors should have specific instructions.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I quite agree with that. I am not prepared to vote for a recommittal as to clause 3 unless good reasons are stated.

Senator Playford - It will take up so much time.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - My honorable friend is quite entitled to say that. I shall not assist in any procedure that would simply have the result of occupying time. At the same time, I always prefer that there should be every opportunity for debate. As at present advised, I shall vote against the recommittal, but I hold my judgment in suspense in case reasons are advanced for a recommittal for the purpose of dealing with any matter which may be worthy of reconsideration in Committee.

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