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Thursday, 26 September 1912

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - I can say, with perfect sincerity, that I have listened to very few speeches in the Senate with so much pleasure as I had in listening to the speech by Senator Story on this motion. I say so because, whether the honorable senator intended it or not, his speech was a corollary to much that I said yesterday in dealing with the Budget. As a South Australian representative he has quoted authorities whom he is entitled to regard with respect, and assuming that their descriptions of the MacDonnell Ranges country are correct, the honorable senator, and every other representative of South Australia, are entitled to ask the Government to reconsider their policy in this matter.

Senator Story - Why the representatives of South Australia alone?

Senator ST LEDGER - If the honorable senator pleases, I shall say the representatives of Queensland, and of the other States as well. Senator Story has pointed out exactly what we, on this side, have said over and over again.

Senator Pearce - Does the honorable senator support this motion?

Senator ST LEDGER - No one better understands, or more keenly follows, my speeches than does the Minister of Defence.

Senator Pearce - I understand the honorable senator's position in this matter very well.

Senator ST LEDGER - I can return the compliment, and say that I understand the position of the honorable senator and of the Government in this matter. Assuming that the reports quoted by Senator Story are correct, the Government who are committed to the transcontinental line through the Northern Territory should not hesitate for a moment to advance the line from Oodnadatta, and to say just what they intend to do in the matter. Although Senator Pearce and Senator de Largie are smiling, they both recognise the dilemma in which they are placed. o

Senator Pearce - That is why we smile.

Senator ST LEDGER - By smiling is the only way in which honorable senators meet their difficulties. Senator Story towards the conclusion of his speech mentioned that we have to face a deficit of £80,000 or £[90,000 per annum on the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, because it terminates in a desert. He said that; by the extension of the line, we should be able to make it pay. I was delighted to hear so faithful and consistent a supporter of the Government ask them why they hesitated to borrow money to advance the line from Oodnadatta into the MacDonnell Ranges, because I said, yesterday, that, sooner or later, the Government would have to take such action in connexion with all these big railway pro posals. Knowing the financial policy oE the Government, I was delighted to hear Senator Story, in asking for the continuation of the Oodnadatta line into the Mac-. Donnell Ranges district, recognise that the Government must undertake the construction of the railway by loan moneys for the benefit of South Australia, and indirectly of every other State in the Commonwealth. He is quite right. His conclusion is perfectly sound, and it is the duty of the Government to investigate the soundness of the premises upon which he bases that conclusion. The same remark is applicable to the other railway undertakings which are necessary for the development of Australia. I make this statement with the usual reservation that lawyers attach to their written statements " without prejudice " to any future action that I may take in regard to further railway extension either towards Queensland, or north and south. I have very much pleasure in supporting the motion, and if the districts^ the Northern Territory are what they are represented to be, the Government are in duty bound to answer the question which has been put to them by Senator Story, " Why delay ?" If we have not sufficient money to build this line out of revenue, why do not the Government boldly submit a loan policy for its construction? I shall support the motion.

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