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Wednesday, 19 September 1906


The PRESIDENT - Order ! These interjections do not assist the debate or advance the standing of the Senate.


Senator DOBSON - Is there ever likely to be good feeling on behalf of Tasmania towards Western Australia when the representatives of the latter State are trying to draw £900 out of her coffers in order to make a survey to explore their territory, te see if there is land for farmers to open up, and whether there is enough water to supply a bandicoot? We have been told that there is not an emu to be seen for hundreds of miles, which is a splendid proof that there is no' water available. Let me here allude to a speech made by the present Premier of Western Australia. No one has ever suggested the- adoption of the. per capita distribution of the surplus after the bookkeeping period has expired without giving special treatment to that State. But in the next breath to that in which he advocated the construction of this railway ion Federal principles, the Premier of Western Australia denied the right of the Commonwealth to distribute that revenue per capita, and insisted that if it were adopted she must stand out of the Federation. When it is seen that there is a chance of getting Commonwealth money for the purpose of building a railway in her territory for a distance of 480 miles, the representatives of Western Australia pitch aside all Federal spirit and all sense of justice and fair play, and advocate this project, headed by Sir John Forrest, who if he cannot coax or persuade a man into voting for the Bill tries to bully him. The Minister of Defence ought to sei an example of fair play and justice. He absolutely refused to allow us to go into Committee to consider in what proportion the cost of a survey should be borne.


The PRESIDENT - It is not possible to go back into Committee at this stage.


Senator DOBSON - I am pointing out a very good reason why the report ought not to be adopted.


The PRESIDENT - If the report is not adopted we cannot go back into Committee at this stage.


Senator DOBSON - One reason why the report should not be adopted is that it is proposed to saddle the Commonwealth with the whole expenditure of .£20,000. I think that in my second-reading speech, I suggested that of the advantage which would accrue from the construction of the railway 80 per cent, would go to the States and 20 per cent, to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth ought to be responsible for 20 per cent, of the cost of the work, because it would derive advantages in regard to the transport of mails and in centuries to come, when we had an army, in connexion with defence. The most important consideration with me is not the construction of the railway, because I believe that in years to come it will be built, but whether it should be built by the Commonwealth or bv the States concerned, and whether the expenditure ought rio be divided between the Commonwealth and those States in proportion to the advantages which each would derive from its construction. If we had been allowed to go into Committee I should have moved that the cost of the survey or any additional sum which might be expended should be borne in the proportion of one-third each, but I am now inclined to think that 50 per cent, of the cost ought to be borne by Western Australia, and 25 per cent, each by the Commonwealth and South Australia. The advantages to Western Australia from the construction of the railway would be far greater than those derived by either South Australia or the Commonwealth. Senator Neild has pointed out that, so far, Western Australia has been chiefly a mineral State. Nine-tenths of her prosperity has been due to the discovery of her minerals, but she is beginning, I believe with great success, to develop her manufactures and her primary industries. Yet to-day she asks the States who have built their own railways, although they did not possess the gold that she has, to help her to build a railway. In view of the advantages which that State would derive from its construction, I defy any one to say that the Commonwealth ought to bear the whole cost. Not one representative of Western Australia has ever had the temerity to say that my proposal is unfair. Their one idea has been to put their hands into the Treasury of every other State to get its money in order to- develop their State. Although I have advanced the proposition on three different occasions, after an interval "of a year in each case, still I have not heard it dealt with by one representative of Western Australia. They do not desire to discuss any question except that of grasping twenty thousand sovereigns and spending them in their self-interest.


Senator Turley - Western Australia offered to recompense South Australia if the latter would only help the former to make, the line.


Senator DOBSON - South Australia is in a verv peculiar position. On no occasion has the Minister of Defence taken any notice of the question of the gauge of the line. Can any one cite a single Railway Survey Bill in which the gauge of the line was not mentioned? Is this to be a rail way with a gauge of 5 ft. 3 in. or 4 ft. 8£ in., or 3 ft. 6 in., or is it to be a tramway with a gauge of 2 ft. 6 in. ? I appeal to Senator Keating, who has been very dumb for a week on this subject, if he has ever heard of a Railway Survey Bill being passed without a .provision as to the width of the gauge. Of course, the reason for leaving that point alone, in defiance of all commercial and professional experience, is that the only consent we have obtained from South Australia is really no consent, because Mr. Price has said, " Yes, I consent; but I must be consulted as to the route and the gauge." What instruction, I ask again, is Senator Playford going to give to Bie survey party about the question of the gauge? Is he going to tell them to survey a route for a line with a gauge of 3 ft. 6 in. or 4 ft. %\ in. ? Does he intend to tell the people of South Australia before he gets their consent what the gauge of the railway is to be ? Does he not know that the Premier of South Australia will have no chance of getting the consent of its Parliament even to the survey unless the gauge suits that State? Does he not know that if the line were built on a gauge which did not suit South Australia, she might have to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in altering the gauge of her railways?


Senator Turley - -Oh, no ! It is proposed now that the Commonwealth should be responsible for the building of another couple of hundreds of miles of railway in South Australia, and the Premier says that we are quite welcome to do so if we are prepared to pay the cost.


Senator DOBSON - Can the Minister tell us what instructions the surveyors are to get?


Senator Playford - I cannot.


Senator DOBSON - The Minister can tell us nothing except that he is going to get £20,000 out of us, honestly if he can. He ought to know something about the relation of this project to the question of defence, but, according to Senator Neild, he appears to know nothing. He talks of an army of 60,000 men when Senator Neil'd tells us that we have only 21,000 men. The Minister said that the only reason -which can justify the construction of the railway is that it would assist in the defence of the Commonwealth. I hold in my hand a little journal called The Call, which has lately been issued by the Defence League of New South Wales, which includes on its Committee military men, who have studied the question of railways as they have studied every question of defence. An article headed " Railways of Australia viewed strategically " contains this paragraph -

To provide, however, for the repulse of oversea invasion on the north and west, two transcontinental railways are unnecessary, and it is submitted that the line to the north should start from Bourke (New South Wales), and go aid Cunnamulla, Charleville, Longreach, Winton, and Cloncurry, Barclay Tableland, head of Roper River, on to Pine Creek (Northern Territory), as shown on map, rather than from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. The former route would pass through good fairly watered country, already more or less occupied for pastoral purposes, would link up the three main Queensland trunk lines, and would be of considerable settlement and commercial value, and ultimately a mail route to Europe. The latter route (through South Australia) would pass mainly through desert country, and be no value either strategically or commercially until the many miles of desert had been passed through, and the better portion of the Northern Territory reached at no very great distance from Pine Creek. The Bourke-Cloncurry route is somewhat longer, but in spite of the extra distance, it would be financially the better of the two - possibly the less expensive to construct, and certainly the more remunerative when constructed - besides being valuable from a strategic and commercial point of view with the completion of each section of its construction.

Will Senator Playford listen to the last paragraph ? -

The Port Augusta-Kalgoorlie line is also a necessary strategic line, if the west of Australia is to be satisfactorily defended, but under present circumstances it would seem to be less urgent than the line to Port Darwin.

The only . ground on which Senator Playford can suggest that the railway should be built is dissipated by those military gentlemen, who form the Defence League of New South Wales, and who tell him that the line to Port Darwin is the more important for defence purposes.


Senator Playford - Military gentlemen from Western Australia and South Australia might express a different opinion.


Senator DOBSON - We know that opinions differ, and I am talking to-night because ,my opinion is so fundamentally different from that of my honorable friend as to what is just, fair, and Federal. Has Senator Playford considered! where his defence policy is going to land him? How is he going to justify to his officers, the electors, and his conscience the spending of £5,000,000 on this railway, while he spends only £23,000 on the training of 240,000 cadets? Truly, the Minister has a keen appreciation of the proportion of things! A very remarkable article which appeared recently in the Melbourne Age, and which may be described as pessimistic, would lead one to suppose that it is more important to defend our ports and our shores than to spend .£5, 000,000 on the construction of a desert railway. I should advise the .Minister to practice a little of the economy which the Liberal Party are observing at Home, and endeavour to raise a really up-to-date, thoroughly-equipped army.


Senator Styles - The honorable senator means an Australian Navy?


Senator DOBSON - I am not very much in love with the idea of an Australian Navy, but I am more in love with that idea than I am with the proposal to construct a desert railway. I am sorry that Senator Symon is not present, because I wish to refer to the peculiar position in which we have been placed by his remarks. I suppose there is such a thing as political honour. Senator Symon is a better judge of his own honour than I can be, but if a representative from South Australia knows, or believes that there is no chance of South Australia consenting to the survey, with a view to afterwards consenting to the construction of the railway, is it fair that he should vote for the Bill before us and drag £900 out of the Tasmanian Treasury for the purposes of a survey which can end in nothing? That is not my idea of political honour, and I cannot understand the position of Senator Symon. Nor can I understand the position of Senator Playford, who also knows that under ,present circumstances South Australia will never consent to the construction, of the' railway. If there ever was an occasion on which stone-walling was justified, it is the present occasion. I do not know, however, that I am stone-walling, because I believe I am advancing some verv good, arguments, which I defy Senator Playford to answer.


Senator Playford - Vote against the Bill, and do not trouble further.


Senator DOBSON - The honorable senator is, leader of the Senate, and his honour- affects this Chamber. If the honorable senator carries out all legislation in the same way, we may say good-bye to the dignity and position of the Senate. In my opinion, Senator Neild was quite right in alluding to the Northern. Territory, which was also referred to by Senator Symon, who told us that South Australia is particularly anxious that the Commonwealth should take charge of that portion of Australia.


The PRESIDENT - What has the Northern Territory to do with the Bill ?


Senator DOBSON - I think it has everything to do with the Bill; because Senator Symon expressed the opinion that until the Commonwealth ' takes over the Northern Territory, South Australia will never consent to the construction of the line.


The PRESIDENT - I do not know that Senator Symon did say that, but, if he did, I cannot see what the Northern Territory has to do with the Bill.


Senator DOBSON - Senator Neild dealt with the broad political aspects of this matter, and contended that hours, or, indeed, weeks, ought to be devoted to the consideration of which transcontinental railway should be built first.


Senator Turley - And the decision might make a great deal of difference in regard to the consent of South Australia.


Senator DOBSON - Of course. If the Commonwealth were to take over the Northern Territory on fair terms, and it was decided that a railway to Port Darwin would not be so advantageous as a railway to Kalgoorlie, the South Australian Government might consent to the construction of the latter; but if it was decided that a railway to Port Darwin was the more necessary, we should never get consent for the construction of the railway now uncle:- review. That was what was foreshadowed by Senator Symon, who said that, under present circumstances, South Australia would never consent to the construction of this line.


The PRESIDENT - If South Australia would not consent, why is the honorable senator talking?


Senator DOBSON - I am talking because Sir John Forrest and other Ministers, with a all the influence and power that Ministers possess, would try to force the construction of the railway as they are forcing the survey. The people of Western Australia regard it as a breach of faith that, the Commonwealth has not built this railway ; and does any one contend that they will be satisfied with this expenditure of £20,000 on a survey ? Sir John Forrest, when he thought he had a majority and that the Bill was going through flying, did the best he could to clinch the matter by saying that he believed no man should vote for the survey unless he was prepared to vote for the construction of the line. If this flying and incomplete survey in anyway supports the construction of the line, every effort will be made to force the consent of Parliament to the expenditure of £5,000,000, or, as is more likely, £6,000,000 or £7,000,000. We do not desire to be always under the influence of Sir John Forrest in this matter, with his one day poking fun at us, and the next day endeavouring to bully us into voting for the project. There is lobbying going on in every corner1 of the Parliament ; and if this £20,000 can. be extracted out of the pockets of the public, it will be deemed all the easier to extract £5,000,000. If it is right and just for the Parliament to vote this £20,000, it would be right and just to vote whatever sum is necessary to construct the line, if anything like a fair case could be made out. But was there ever a railway, or any public work, for which a good case could not be made out on paper ? I should like to ask Senator Keating what he thinks of all these matters. I do not say that any honorable senator has voted for this Bill against his conscientious convictions, but until I am assured to the contrary, I shall hold the opinion that Senator Keating does not believe in the justice or Federal spirit of this measure. I believe that the honorable and learned senator previously voted against the Bill.


Senator Keating - - -I did not.


Senator Millen - Does the honorable and learned senator mean to say that he was not originally on-nosed to the Bill?


Senator Keating - I do. I did not vote against it before.


Senator DOBSON - The honorable and learned senator has always been against it.


Senator Keating - The honorable and learned senator might think so.


Senator DOBSON - I have always understood that Senator Keating was against the Bill, and I should even now like to have his assurance that he is in favour of the measure. The question is of very great importance to the people of Tasmania, who would like to hear what Senator Keating's views and opinions on the subject are.


Senator Clemons - Does the honorable and learned senator say that he has always been in favour of the Bill?


Senator Millen - He said so just now.


Senator Clemons - And asks us to believe it? It is straining one's powers of imagination.


Senator DOBSON - I am aware that the honorable and learned senator is a member of a Ministry that was pledged to bring in this Bill, and I have no desire to put him in any awkward position. But I should like to know what his real feelings on the matter are, and if he can justify the vote hegave the other night, I should be glad to hear him do so. I confess that I do not see how it will be possible for the honorable and learned senator to do so, because I contend that the whole thing is unjust and un-Federal, and I shall be surprised if one of my colleagues from Tasmania can show that it is just or Federal that that State, which has had to pay for her own railway construction, should be asked to assist in building a railway to develop other States. I do not admit that the honorable and learned senator . could convert me ; but it is, I think, due to the electors of Tasmania that he should pronounce some opinion on the subject, and should tell the Senate plainly what he thinks about it. I should like, before I resume my seat, to appeal to the Minister of Defence to take the third reading of the Bill to-morrow. If he will agree to do so, I shall resume my seat with more pleasure than I otherwise should. I do not think anything is to be gained by pushing the measure through to-night. The honorable senator is aware that there is a feeling on the subject which nothing will allay. We desire fair play and justice.


Senator Playford - It is all right ; we have a pair for Senator Symon.


Senator DOBSON - Then I shall resume my seat in the hope that the third reading will be taken to-morrow.

Question - That the report be adopted - put. The Senate divided

Ayes ... ... ... 14

Noes ... ... ... 13

Majority ... ... 1

 

 

 

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Report adopted.

Motion (by Senator Playford) agreed to-

That the Bill be read a third time to-morrow.







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