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Thursday, 30 November 1911

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - Speaking to the amendment, sir, I wish to direct the attention of the Minister of Defence to a rather important fact which has come out by interjection.

Senator Pearce - Is not this your second time?

Senator ST LEDGER - Will the Minister listen to me for the third time? We did not get the answer except by interjection, and the comment was made by more than one speaker on this side that the matter ought to have come out in the speech of the Minister. As it was not given directly in his speech at the beginning of this debate, I rise for the purpose of asking him, if he chooses to reply, as I think he must do, for a clear and explicit answer to this question, Where is the money to build this railway to come from? By interjection, the Minister either expressly said, or left it to be inferred, that the answer was to be found either in his own speech, or in the Budget papers, or in some financial statement. As the question has been addressed in various forms from this side, but has not been explicitly answered, I beg to press again, even if it be for the second time, for a clear answer on that point.

Senator Millen - They are cutting down the note reserve.

Senator ST LEDGER - The Leader of the Opposition has just anticipated the next thought in my mind. The information ought, I repeat, to have been supplied in clear terms in the Minister's opening speech. It ought to have been given equally explicitly during the course of this debate. I contend that it has not been given yet. This proposal involves an expenditure of anything from ,£4,000,000 to ^6,000,000, to which each State will have to contribute its share. When we are asked to pass this Bill, we, as representatives of the States, are entitled to have clear and full information on the point.

Senator McGregor - Do not worry.

Senator ST LEDGER - I shall worry this Bill as long as ever I choose to do so; and the more interjections that are made by Ministers, the more irritation that is displayed by them and their supporters, I assure them that the longer will be my criticism. As regards the question of cost, I ask the Minister of Defence to assume the fact that we on this side are as well acquainted with the possibilities, financial and otherwise, underlying the Australian note issue as are the Government, and that when we have asked how this railway is to be financed, we have borne in mind and understood the Australian Notes Act. Is that Act to be used in any way with regard to the financing of this work? I also ask the Minister of Defence to consider that we on this side are fairly well acquainted with the general effect and provisions of the Bill called the Commonwealth Bank Bill, which is being considered in another place.

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