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Wednesday, 19 September 1906

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) .- I desire to protest against the refusal of the Minister of Defence to allow the third reading to be taken at half-past 10 o'clock to-morrow morning instead of to-night. My honorable friend looks particularly unhappy just now. During the whole time this Bill has been before us, he has been unhappy. I admit that the Bill is enough to make him and his colleagues feel uncomfortable. I should like to know what steps they are going to take if the Bill is passed? My honorable friend, Senator Neild, touched upon a matter of which I have not heard much lately, because our friends from Western Australia have very tactfully dropped it. I refer to the good feeling which 'ought to exist between the citizens of the States of Australia. I should like to ask Senator Pearce and Senator Smith what kind of good feeling they expect from Tasmania if they. bv their majority - obtained in a manner which I will not attempt to describe - succeed m passing this Bill, and thereby obtain a contribution from my little State to help to establish their State's railway? Every other State of the Commonwealth has built its own railways. Look at the selfishness and unfairness of the whole proposal. Owing to the Federal Tariff, which does not produce nearly the amount of revenue that the Tasmanian Tariff formerly did, my State has absolutely lost £1.000,000. That is to say, the Federal Tariff has failed to take from our people that amount of money. It may be said that they still have the money in their pockets, but the Tasmanian Treasury has lost it, and has had to compel the people to make sacrifices in other directions. Tasmania has had to deprive the farmers of roads over which to carry their produce, she has had to deprive them of jetties from which to ship their apples and potatoes, and she has had to deprive the rest of our citizens of public works which were badly needed, but could not be provided because of the deficiency of revenue. But the State which asks us to build a railway for her, so far from losing a million of money, has had concessions made to her which were wrung from the Convention because Sir John Forrest told us that Western Australia would not come into the Federation if thev were not granted. She has had a special Tariff for five years, under which, instead of losing a large amount of money, the Western Australian Treasury has reaped an advantage of as much as £800,000 or £900,000 in a year. And with these facts staring us in the face, the Western Australian senators calmly ask us to build 480 miles of railway in Western Australian territory and 6.25 miles in South Australia.

Senator Clemons - Then South Australia will derive most of the benefit from the contemplated expenditure?

Senator DOBSON - Of course she will. Now, what are railways for generally ? The great idea in building them is that they conduce to land settlement, that they open up the country, that they are of enormous assistance to the farmers in getting their produce to market, that thev develop the agricultural resources of a State, that they assist manufacturers, and that, in various ways, thev help forward the prosperity of the country. For years the farmers of Tasmania had to cultivate their soil and market their produce without the assistance of railways, because they could not be afforded. At times they had to market their produce by means of roads which were unsuitable for even a bullock team to use. In Tasmania the people have had to develop their manufactures and other resources without this aid, but to the extent that it could be afforded, not a railway, except on the mineral field, has yielded a profit. We have had to provide hundreds of thousands of pounds to .meet the interest on the cost of construction. While Western Australia has had the advantage of hundreds of thousands of pounds which her railways have returned in excess of working expenses and interest, yet that State asks Tasmania to help her to build a railway. Car. the Minister justify that proceeding on any ground ? Does it not show the most selfish and grasping spirit that has ever been displayed in public life in any part of Australia? The proposal ought to be scouted. I cannot understand how Prime Minister after Prime Minister and Ministry after Ministry has backed up this shockingly unjust proposal, unless it is on & ground which I do not care to name. No doubt we all desire to have supporters, to sit on the Treasury Bench, and to stick to our portfolios, but I think that there ought to be a limit to the dirt which we are to eai in order to realize bur ambition.

Senator Millen - I suppose the honorable senator means that it is not necessary to name them.

Senator DOBSON - Exactly, because facts speak for themselves from Sir John Forrest downwards.

Senator Staniforth Smith - I have heard of persons having earth hunger.

Senator DOBSON - We have heard that in this Parliament there are, unfortunately, some persons who have eaten dirt already, and who, I am sorry to say, continue to eat dirt wholesale.

Senator Henderson - Is the honorable senator an expert at that business?

Senator DOBSON - The honorable senator can judge for himself. I have my own opinion of his dirt-eating capacity.

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