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Thursday, 30 November 1911

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - As a South Australian, I should scarcely be doing my duty ifI did not occupy a few minutes in placing upon record my view of this Bill. When I was before the electors some six years ago, I told them, amongst other things, that, if returned to the Commonwealth Parliament, in order to do justice to Western Australia, I would support the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill which had so frequently been rejected. When I became a member of the Senate, that measure was brought forward by the Deakin Government, and I then fulfilled my pledge. At the same time, I made it clear that I was not committed to the building of the proposed line unless the report of the surveyors was a satisfactory one. To my mind, their report is a satisfactory one, and, therefore, I most warmly support the Bill. Whatevermay be said of the little troubles which the Opposition is endeavouring to rake up-

Senator St Ledger - What about the width of gauge?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -I would rather haveseena 5-ft. 3-in. gauge adopted, so far as South Australia is concerned; but, having followed the discussion which has occurred in another place, my opinion is that to fight for that gauge, would be merely a waste of time. I am prepared to trust the Government, and I am sure that South Australia will do. justice to the Commonwealth in connexion with this measure. We have been frequently told that the proposed railway will traverse worthless country. But I would remind honorable senators that, years ago, the same statement used to be made about South Australia itself, and that some of our best country was then described as valueless. The railway which we are now considering is to be constructed primarily for the purposes of defence, and defence being a national question, the undertaking ought to be paid for by the Commonwealth. I believe that the amendment which has been submitted by Senator Millen was concocted and prepared in the Caucus. I have weighed it in the balance and found it wanting I am glad to know that the Government will be in office when the preliminary arrangements will require to be made for the construction of this line, because I am satisfiedthat they will do what is right in the interests of the Commonwealth and of the States. On behalf of South Australia, I congratulate them, and I heartily support the Bill.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel CAMERON(Tasmania) [5.21]. - To me the debate has been most interesting, and especially the speeches delivered by representatives from South Australia and Western Australia. The glowing colours in which the future of those States has been painted, would almost lead one to suppose that there is no need for them to ask the Commonwealth to build this railway. They could easily carry out the work themselves. I was very much interested in the suggestion of Senator Gardiner that areas should be reserved along the route of the proposed line for the purpose of planting trees, with a view to supplying the timber which may be required for the railway in the future. He spoke of growing sleepers upon country which will not grow grass . The attitude which I have always adopted in regard to. this proposal is that Western Australia should be linked up with the eastern States. It is all a question of the route which should be adopted. I unhesitatinglysay that I shall support the amendment offSenator Millen, though, in principle, I adhere to my former view that Western Australia should be connected with the eastern States by railway. The vitalpoint which we have to consider is the route whichshould be followed.: If the information which has been collected is found to be incorrect, 'and the line should provea most difficultline to negotiate, our money will have been wasted. Would it not be far better for Western Australia and South Australia to wait a little bit longer and make absolutely sure that the best route has been chosen? Then, if we haveto build a line through the desert, let us do so. But at present we do not know that there are not better routes unsurveyed. When we voted £50,000 for the survey of the proposed line, that survey was not restricted to this particular route. Senator Gardiner very wisely said, in effect, " We want one line - a line which will give us a reasonable assurance that it will not be tampered with in time of national emergency." The soundest words uttered in this debate emanated from him. We ought to ascertain what is the best route for the line to follow from the stand-point of defence considerations. I have heard military authorities declare that Western Australia should be linked up with the eastern States, but they have never expressed an opinion as to the route which ought to be taken. They have never been asked for such an opinion. Lord Kitchener, in his report, affirms that the railways which have already been constructed are a source of danger to the Commonwealth. If that be so, I ask honorable senators whether the proposed line will not accentuate the danger.

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - Was not that opinion given mainly because of the break of gauge which exists?

Senator Lt Colonel CAMERON .- Certainly not. I ask the Minister of Defence to give this matter some consideration. I am not hostile to the railway, nor do I desire to burke the consideration of this Bill.

Senator Stewart - Will not the building of a double line be necessary?

Senator Lt Colonel CAMERON .- Yes ; a single line will be an absurdity. I throw out these few suggestions in the hope that even, at this late hour of the day, the Government, and their supporters, will consider them as emanating from one who is not hostile to the measure, but who is merely desirous of insuring that the line shall follow the best possible route.

Senator E.J. RUSSELL (Victoria) 15.27]. - Although I recognise that very little remains to be said upon this Bill I do not care to allow a division to be taken upon the motion for its second reading without placing my views upon record. Though I do not believe that the measure is perfect, I wish to congratulate the Government upon their determination to reach finality on some of the big Australian questions which we have to face. Whilst I am not prepared to recognise any of the early promises which were made to the people of Western Australia in respect of the proposed line - because I deny the right of any politician to commit Australia to a certain policy - still I know that those promises had considerable weight with the electors of that State. I am not an authority upon defence matters, but even an ordinary layman can recognise that it is necessary that the eastern States should be linked up with Western Australia by rail, if we are to have anything like an effective defence of this country.. I support the proposed line, because I am an Australian, and have faith in Australia, and because it is just about time that we got a move on in order to evidence our faith in it.

Senator St Ledger - Have honorable senators opposite a monopoly of faith in Australia ?

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