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Friday, 1 December 1911

Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - We can see clearly now the difficulty into which the Commonwealth is being landed by the action of the Government. It has been a cardinal part of the policy of the Labour party that in connexion with railway construction a certain area of land on either side of the line should be reserved for railway purposes. This is a policy which the Federal Parliament, having now a Labour majority in both Houses, may put into practice. But what do the Government propose to do? The Western Australian Government propose to give .the Commonwealth 3 chains on either side of this line. I never heard of a more ridiculous proposition in my life. At most, the Government propose to insist upon an area of halfamile wide on each side of the line, as suggested by the engineers. I have often said that I do not think that this country is worth much. But I remind honorable senators that my opinion has been overruled by an overwhelming majority. Other honorable senators appear to believe that the country is valuable, and, if it is, I put the position before them. The people of Australia are going to build this railway, and if the country through which it will pass is any good, it will be largely enhanced in value by the building of the railway. Who would be entitled to that increase of value? The Labour party have always contended that any increase of value brought about in that way belongs to the people who build the railway. If the land along the line is increased in value by its construction, that increase of value will not belong of right either to the people of Western Australia or of South Australia, but to the people of the Commonwealth. No man can gainsay that. The Government, however, propose to hand over the communitycreated value in this case, should it ever arise, to the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia. A weaker abandonment of Labour policy I never heard of in my life. I hope I shall never hear the like of it again. Senator De Largie may sneer, and laugh, and scoff , but that will not alter the fact one iota. Every Labour man who knows his business has been contending for the last twenty years for this principle, and now when a Labour Government have an opportunity to put it into practice, they shamefully abandon it. I am raising my protest. My hands are clean so far as this matter is concerned. I shall not be satisfied if anything less than 25 miles on each side of this railway is granted. I consider that a fair proposition.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - We will not get it.

Senator STEWART - My Scotch friend says " We will not get it . " Perhaps he will say what we are going to get, and what he thinks we are entitled to. Here is an honorable senator who was returned to this Parliament on Labour principles. He signed the Labour platform, and, I believe, that when he did so it was something more to him than the taking of his pen in hand and the writing of his signature. I believe that the Labour platform is engraven on the heart of Senator W. Russell. But it may be in his heart, and yet not in his head., I am afraid the honorable senator's head is, in this matter, rather at fault. All that the Western Australian Government proposes to give us is 3 chains of land on either side of the line. What remarkable liberality. We have a Labour Government in power in Western Australia also. They are bound by the same principles as we are, and have been advocating the same policy. But apparently they are very careful not to put that policy into practice. They consider that it would be altogether too fine a thing to hand over this communitycreated value, which, if some honorable senators are to be believed, will be very large, to the people of Australia. The Government of Western Australia say, in effect, "We will allow the people of Australia to spend ^5,000,000 in building a railway through our territory, but we will not allow them to receive the increased value which will be added to the land along the line by the construction of that railway." The South Australian Government, which is also a Labour Government, say the same thing. Presumably they are both in agreement with the Labour axiom that whatever value is created by the expenditure of public money belongs to the people who find! the money, and not the people of the particular locality in which it is spent. The people of Western Australia and South Australia are, in this case, as much the people of a locality as if they were under a divisional board, a shire council, or a municipality. I do not suppose that anything I can say will stem this current.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Senate decided this matter last night.

Senator STEWART - The Senate did not decide it; we are now in Committee, and the Bill can be altered.

Senator Millen - This matter will never be decided until the right thing is done.

Senator STEWART - I have not addressed a single word of my remarks tothe Leader of the Opposition, because I know that on this question the party which he leads in this Chamber are not in agreement with the policy of the Labour party.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator will pardon me. There is no stronger advocate than I of the principle that communitycreated value should go to the community.

Senator STEWART - Will the honorable senator assist in carrying a clause to give effect to that principle in this Bill ?

Senator Walker - I have given notice of an amendment to give effect to it.

Senator STEWART - It does not go far enough, and the Opposition cannot carry it without the assistance of the Government. That is why I am appealing to the Government to stick to their principles and the principles of the party they represent. It is not for me to frame a clause, but for the Government to do their duty, and I ask them to do it.

Senator MILLEN(New South Wales) £10.55]. - I am sure that honorable senators have been pleased to hear the statements made by the Minister of Defence on the two matters 1 brought under his notice. With regard to the first, the Minister has since had an opportunity of referring to the Western Australian Act, and we have his assurance that the attention of the Government will be directed to the necessity of preventing any difficulty arising later on. With regard to the other point, 1 am very glad to hear that it is intended to' make application to the Governments of the two States immediately concerned for the area of land recommended by the engineers.

Senator Stewart - Does the honorable senator think that a reservation of halfamile on each side of the line will be sufficient ?

Senator MILLEN - For the purposes of the railway, yes. Senator Stewart must recognise the difference between what he is striving for and what I sought to attain by my amendment, and the reservation of a sufficient area of land for railway purposes only. The two things are quite distinct. It is very gratifying to know that the Government will ask for an area for railway purposes approximating that recommended by the engineers.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - What if it be refused.

Senator MILLEN - I invited the Senate yesterday to delay matters until these negotiations were completed, but honorable senators would decline to accept that suggestion, and we are now necessarily compelled to leave matters to the Government. In the circumstances, it is a great relief to me to know that the Government will in no case accept the original offer of the Western Australian Government, but will make an effort to obtain a reservation approximating the recommendation of the engineers. I assume that that means that they will ask for the area recommended, but will not refuse an offer approximating it, whilst, on the other hand, they will not accept the very meagre proposal contained in the original Western Australian Act. Three chains in that country is absolutely insufficient for ordinary railway purposes, and especially in the sandhills country. I have had opportunities of observing the effect of stocking on this class of country in the north-west corner of New South Wales. Undoubtedly, as Mr. Dean's surmises, without any stock, and that means without even rabbits, such country retains some appearance of soundness.

Senator Pearce - That country is in South Australia, and as it is not very valuable, it may still be acquired, as we have the power of compulsory purchase.

Senator MILLEN - I am very sorry to hear that statement. Is it intended to mean that if the South Australian Government do hot give us the land we require, the power of the Commonwealth to purchase it will be exercised ?

Senator Pearce - No.

Senator MILLEN - I think it means that or nothing. The Minister says that this land is of such little value that the expense of purchasing what we require would not amount to much.

Senator Pearce - If it came to the worst.

Senator MILLEN - I say that not a single penny should be paid for the purchase of land along this line from the two States immediately concerned.

Senator Pearce - I thoroughly agree with the honorable senator. Senator MILLEN. - In that case, the Minister's suggestion may be set aside. If any objection is raised to the proposal to secure a sufficient area along the route of this line for railway purposes, and to reduce the cost of maintenance, it can only be with the express purpose of defeating the proposal now before us. I take it, from the statement we have heard, that we can rely upon it that the Government will not be content with an area so insufficient as that provided for in the Western Australian Act, and will insist upon our being treated in a more generous spirit than is disclosed in that Act.

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