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Friday, 1 December 1911

The CHAIRMAN - Order !

Senator Needham - Why does not Senator Sayers speak the truth?

Senator SAYERS - I do not take any notice of Senator Needham, and if I am let alone shall not reply to him. I was referring to what Senator Lynch had said. I draw attention to the fact that Queensland, for defence purposes, has built a line quite as long as this will be, without asking the Commonwealth for one penny. Queensland has functioned at two points with New South Wales.

Senator Pearce - I rise to order. I submit that the debate must be confined to the clause and the amendment. The matters with which Senator Sayers is dealing have absolutely nothing to do with the question before the chair.

Senator SAYERS - If Senator Lynch was in order in making a personal attack on me, surely I am in order in replying to him. The Minister of Defence seems to be very anxious to burke discussion. If one State is to be treated differently from another, I would like to know the reason for such differentiation.

The CHAIRMAN - While the question of defence may be referred to incidentally, I would ask the honorable senator to adhere as closely as possible to Senator Walker's amendment.

Senator SAYERS - I was attacked by Senator Lynch, and in all fairness I ought to have the right of reply. Senator Lynch said he could not understand my reason for objecting to the construction of the proposed line. I say that Queensland has built for defence purposes more miles of railway than this line will cover, and that she has done so at her own expense. I wish now to point out that in paragraph n of his report to the Commonwealth Government upon the defence of Australia, Lord Kitchener says -

I would also mention that railway construction has, while developing the country, resulted in lines that would appear to be more favorable to an enemy invading Australia than to the defence of the country.

The CHAIRMAN - Order. I would' point out that the honorable senator is not in order in discussing the whole question of defence, which was fully debated upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill. The question before the Chair is clause 3, and Senator Walker's amendment thereon.

Senator Sayers - Then why is the Commonwealth about to build this railway ?

The CHAIRMAN - That question was fully debated upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill. I must ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the amendment.

Senator SAYERS - I was under the impression that the proposed line was to be built for defence purposes, and I thought I was at liberty to show that Lord Kitchener's remarks had no reference to this line, the' route of which had not then been surveyed at the time that report was written. However, I will take another opportunity of expressing my opinion upon that aspect of the matter.

Senator St Ledger - I wish to take your ruling, sir, upon a point of order. I agree with Senator Sayers that this line will prove of great value for defence purposes. I also indorse his utterances in regard to the position occupied by Queensland as contrasted with that which is now being taken up by Western Australia and South Australia.

Senator Pearce - I submit that the honorable senator is deliberately defying your ruling.

Senator St Ledger - Not defying it.

The CHAIRMAN - I would point out to Senator S.t. Ledger that he has no right to canvass a ruling which has been given, unless he is prepared to adopt the proper course. The honorable senator is not in order in debating the defence aspect of this question, which was fully discussed upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill, although he is at liberty to make an incidental reference to it.

Senator ST.LEDGER (Queensland) {12.22]. - When I raised my point of order I was not aware, sir, that you had given a ruling. Considering the late stage of the session, I shall not proceed to the extreme of dissenting from your decision. On the contrary, I shall obey it. I do not entirely agree with the amendment of Senator Walker, but I shall vote with him as a protest against the way in which Commonwealth interests are being sacrificed. I hold that some security should be given to the Commonwealth by the States of Western Australia and South Australia in return for the assistance which it is rendering to them. If the speech- of the Minister of Defence last evening meant anything, we can only conclude that within a few years the socalled desert country through which the proposed railway will pass will blossom like a rose. The Minister had evidently felt the criticism to which the Bill had been subjected, and had prepared himself most carefully to reply to it. I venture to say that any intelligent stranger sitting in the gallery of this chamber last evening would, after having heard the Minister's speech, have been inclined to exclaim, " Why that country will become a second paradise ! ' '

Senator McGregor - I rise to a point of order. I submit that Senator St. Ledger is now traversing the discussion which took place on the motion for the second reading of the Bill.

Senator ST LEDGER - After the speech delivered by the Minister of Defence last evening, we are asked-

Senator Pearce - If this is an organized " stone- wall," we shall know how to meet it.

Senator ST LEDGER - This is the first criticism to which the clause has been subjected, and yet Ministers are as irritable as a child under punishment. I repeat that the strongest justification for the contention that Western Australia and South Australia should give the Commonwealth some security for the construction of the proposed line is afforded by the speech of the Minister himself. Judged in the light of his utterance, the country through which the railway will pass will prove to be valuable, and consequently we ought to insist upon the States which are most vitally interested in the matter giving some guarantee that the Commonwealth will be remunerated for this huge undertaking. Talk about blowing hot and cold, we have had a most outrageous example of it to-day. I do not think that Senator Walker's amendment goes quite far enough. It is somewhat remarkable that when we discuss land values the members of the Labour party differ among themselves upon the very first and most elementary proposition in their platform. If it were not for the congested state of public business we would be justified in contesting every inch of the passage of this Bill.

Senator Sayers - A few minutes ago you, sir, ruled my remarks out of order, and said that the question before the Chair was Senator Walker's amendment. My reading of this clause leads me to believe that it is one upon which I am at liberty to discuss any portion of the Bill. The clause reads -

(1)   Upon an Act of the Parliament of the State of Western Australia being passed consenting to legislation by the Parliament of the Commonwealth with respect to the construction of the portion of the railway included in the State of Western Australia, or consenting to the construction of that portion of the railway by the Commonwealth, the Minister may, subject to this Act, construct a railway from Kalgoorlie, in the State of Western Australia, to Port Augusta, in the State of South Australia.

(2)   The construction of the railway shall not be commenced until the States of Western Australia and South Australia respectively have granted, or agreed to grant, to the satisfaction of the Minister, such portions of the Crown lands of the State as are in the opinion of the Minister necessary for the purposes of the construction, maintenance, and working of the railway.

I wish to know, sir, whether you rule that in discussing this clause I am debarred from mentioning the matter of defence, and whether I am not in order in dealing with the proposed railway either from a defence or from any other point of view that I may think fit. I would not perhaps have pressed the matter only that the Minister seemed to be getting up continually and submitting that the speaker was wandering from the' subject before the Chair. I maintain, sir, that I am strictly within my rights in debating if I wish the whole of the clauses. This is the vital clause of the Bill. You ruled me out of order previously, but I think that you were under the impression that I was speaking to the amendment.

The CHAIRMAN - The general discussion on a Bill takes place on the motion for its second reading, and it is provided in standing order 198 that discussions in Committee shall be confined to the clause or the amendment before the Chair. Neither the clause nor the amendment now before the Chair contains any reference to the question of defence. It was when Senator Sayers was proceeding to elaborate his arguments on that question that I asked him to confine himself as closely as possible to the clause before the Committee. I pointed out that while it might have been quite within the Standing Orders for the honorable senator to make a passing reference te defence, he ought not to elaborate that aspect of the question, as it had already been fully dealt with in the debate on the second reading. I do not intend to give a ruling now on a. question which may arise later. I only confirm the ruling which I have already given, and that is that the question of defence is not mentioned in the clause under discussion, and therefore no general discussion on that question can be allowed.

Senator Millen - May I direct your attention, sir, to the similarity between this clause and the title of the Bill which is "An Act to provide for the construction of a railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta." This is the clause which authorizes the carrying out of the work, and I submit that it is permissible for those who are supporting the clause to state reasons why this power is sought. One of the reasons why it is proposed to construct this railway is that it is necessary for the purposes of defence. Those who are in favour of the clause are justified in saying that they intend to vote for it because, amongst other things, the construction of the line is necessary for defence purposes. Surely it must be equally legitimate for an honorable senator to show that for such purposes the line is not wanted.

The CHAIRMAN - Only a passing reference was made to defence by Senator Lynch.

Senator Millen - I submit, sir, that Senator Sayers is entitled to do more than make a passing reference to that matter, and that when we are asked to construct a railway through this country we are entitled to show why it is wanted. I hope, that in this "discussion you will not shut out all reference to those facts which make for or against the proposal contained in the clause.

Senator Pearce - I submit, sir, that this is a clause which, in giving power to construct a railway, sets out that certain things are to be done. The object of the amendment 'is to provide that another thing shall be done. The principle of construction and all subsidiary questions having been affirmed at the second-reading stage, what the Committee should discuss is the conditions which should be attached to the construction of the line. Before I resume my seat I wish to make an appeal to honorable senators. A certain amount of business has to be done, and we want to get it done.

Senator Millen - And I desire to help you to get it done.

Senator Pearce - I do not suggest that my remark applies to only one side. I think that, as far as this sitting is concerned, it applies to both sides.

Senator Sayers - You pulled me up without any justification.

Senator Pearce - I appeal to honorable senators generally whether the speeches made here to-day have not been more in the nature of second-reading speeches than such speeches as should have been delivered on this clause. The Government must get the business put through, and if such speeches are made, what is the alternative? We shall have to abandon the ordinary time for closing the sittings. I appeal to honorable senators to endeavour to shorten their speeches, and to deal more directly with the clause, so that we may be able to make more rapid progress.

Senator Millen - It is one thing to ask honorable senators to forego their rights, as the Minister of Defence has done, in the interests of public business, but it is another thing to affirm that those rights do not exist. I cordially join with the Minister in asking honorable senators to assist in putting the Bill through, the main questions having Deen decided last night. But I cannot subscribe to the doctrine that our rights are to be curtailed by any precedent which may be established by the decision which you have given.

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