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Wednesday, 19 September 1906

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) .- The amendment places me in a. very unpleasant position, and before I can vote for it I must ask the Minister of Defence a question. My principal objection to the whole scheme from the first moment I heard of it is the absolute injustice and unfairness of treating this railway as a Commonwealth matter.

Senator Playford - We have heard all that before.

Senator DOBSON - And the honorable senator will hear it again and again. Western Australia does not treat the matter in that light. She has admitted from the beginning that it was a State matter. She has offered to guarantee any loss on the working of the line for the first ten years, and has done many things to show that the principle implied in this Bill, that the railway is a Commonwealth matter, is not the true principle. I ask the Minister now whether he is prepared to accept a proviso that nothing in the Bill shall be taken to justify the assumption that this is a solely Commonwealth matter? If the Minister will not consent to that, will he, as being responsible for the Bill in the Senate, state that, so far as he is concerned and knows, it will not be taken to make it a Commonwealth matter? One honorable senator desired that this should be called an " Exploration " Bill, and it was pointed out that we had no right to explore two States. We know that it is a Bill chiefly intended to enable us to obtain information, to search the proposed route to see if a water supply can be found, to discover what it will cost, and whether it will pay to construct the proposed railway. Honorable senators have agreed to vote , £20,000 of the Commonwealth money for this purpose, but I have bean given no opportunity to submit an amendment under which the two States concerned would have to find the money, or to submit the proposal I made that the Commonwealth and the two States concerned should each bear a third of the cost. I admit that to some extent that would perhaps imply that if the railway were to be constructed the Commonwealth and the two States concerned should each bear a third of the cost of construction and of theloss on the first year's working. My difficulty is that this Bill can be pointed to for all time as evidence of the fact that in1906 the Commonwealth Parliament regarded this solely as a Commonwealth matter. Senator Playford should say whether he thinks that the Bill can be so regarded.

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