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Wednesday, 18 July 1906

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) . - When this exploitation Bill was before the House last session,, I voted against it. Since that time no new arguments have been brought forward to induce me to alter the opinion I had then formed. The Minister of Home Affairs, in introducing this Bill, put forward the same old argument, used so often before, that some irresponsible person, at the time the Federal Conventions were being held, bribed the right honorable member for Swan to induce the State of Western Australia to enter the Union. I do not feel disposed to give a vote which will plunge the Commonwealth into an expenditure of £5,000,000 because one person in South Australia made a promise to the right honorable member for Swan to induce him to bring Western Australia into the Federation. I cannot see how this rail way is to pay for axle grease. The expenditure involved in the construction of the line, the borrowing of the money, and working expenses connected with it, will amount to quite £5,000,000, and I should like to know where honorable members expect to get the interest upon such a sum from the working of such a railway. There is no railway in Australia that, in similar conditions, could be made to pay working expenses. We know that railways cannot compete against water carriage in the transport of goods, and this line must depend solely on the passenger traffic. Is there any. member of this House sanguine enough to believe that the passenger traffic over this line will be sufficient topay interest on £5,000,000 ? Some honorable members have said that they will not pledge themselves to vote for the construction of the railway, but when they are prepared to vote £20,000 for the survey of the line it is evident that they are prepared to vote for its construction.

Mr Poynton - Rubbish!

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - Why should honorable members be prepared to throw away £20,000 if they are not prepared to vote for the construction of the railway within the expense which has been estimated ? The rubbish is to be found in the proposal to vote £20,000 for the survey of a railway of this sort: It is all very well for honorable members, who represent districts through which the line would pass if constructed, to support this proposal.

Mr Poynton - Queensland is making a little out of sugar.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - People in the other States have an equal right with the people of Queensland to grow sugar if they please. So far as this railway is concerned, there is not the slightest prospect that it will pay, and the Commonwealth should not be run into an expenditure of this kind. I am surprised that members of the Labour Party should go back upon the principle they have adopted in opposing the borrowing of money for public works in the Commonwealth. Opposition to such a course is one of the planks of the Labour platform, and if this line is not to be constructed of borrowed money, it can only be by the adoption of the scheme for making money. which has been put forward by the honorable member for 'Brisbane. Honorable members appear to be prepared to vote £5.000.000 for the construction of this line, no matter what the surveyors say.

Mr.Poynton. - The honorable member has neverbeen there.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - I know as much of desert country as does any member of this House, and I know something of a better class of desert country than that which will be traversed by this line. I was in Western Australia someyears ago. I know something of the best portions of that State, and cannot help wondering what the worst are like! I have been on the Blackwood River, and other portions of the State that are looked upon as good land. I have been also in the Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie districts.

Mr Poynton - Broken Hill is in desert country.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - Never mind about Broken Hill. The place is a desert. South Australia and Western Australia are unable to open up this country, because it is of no value. Honorable members have only to consider the rainfall of the territory to be assured of that. Wherever there is good country in Australia there are rivers or creeks, but there is not even a water-course, to say nothing of a creek or a river, in the whole of the territory through which this line will pass.

Mr Batchelor - What is the rainfall in Kalgoorlie?

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - I think it is about 5 inches per annum. There are no creeks or rivers there until you get down to Northam. Thatsays sufficient for the country. It is proposed that the Commonwealth shall be given a strip of country twentv-five miles wide on each side of the railway, but it is country that will not feed a grasshopper to the acre. If honorable members will travel through Western Australiathey will find that there is scarcely any animal life in the State. There is very little, even of insects. All that can be found in this territory are ants and flies, and vet we arebeing asked to put a railwaythrough such country at an expense of£5,000,000 to the other States in the Federation. Isay that the proposal is nothing but a buccaneering, filibusteringjob of the worst kind. In the State of Queensland we have been suf

Mr Frazer - Queensland gets cash as well as credit for it now.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - Magnanimous Western Australia says to us, "You make this railway, and we willgive you some territory, but no cash. " Then when we come to deal with South Australia we have another magnanimous State, and she says, "We will give you a strip of land two chains wide on which to make the railway " - that is, of the valuable territory through which the line will pass. I am surprised that some honorable members from Western Australia have not submitted a word picture of the great country which will be traversed by this railway. Why have they not painted a magnificent trip across the continent from Adelaide to Fremantle, in gorgeous carriages, passing through mountain scenery, and crossingvalleys and grassy slopes? It is a wonder that they have not done something of that sort. They ought to have asked the honorable member for Gwydir to paint the picture for them. They have told us of the grand territory which they possess ; but they have never opened it up. They have taken fine care not to spend any of their money upon such an undertaking.On the contrary, they seem anxious to bleed the otherStates I say so because they expect the Commonwealth to build 1,100 miles of a railway through comparatively worthless land, I am opposed to the expenditure of any public money on a survey. because the people in the other States would -derive no benefit from the construction of the railway I do not blame South Australia for stating that if she consents to a survey being made the railway must be built by the route which she favours. Posterity would have to bear the loss upon the railway when constructed ; therefore South Australia has a perfect right to demand that it 3hall be built through the best portion of her territory. I do not feel inclined to vote any money for the construction of such a rotter, railway.

Mr Webster - What about the defence of the Commonwealth?

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - I do not think that we want any defence. We have already provided quite enough defence. Indeed, we have spent too much public money in that direction. I am opposed to any defence system. I am not afraid of any nation coming to invade Australia, and I do not believe in maintaining officers merely to wear toggery. I do not consider that the construction of this railway has any relation to our defence system. Certainly, I do not look upon it as a factor in the effective defence of the Commonwealth. It has been interjected that leading members of the House support this Bill. Why has it commanded their support ? Most of those who are known as leading members in the House have been in the Ministry. With them it has been merely a question of concession in return for support. That is the long and short story of this business. Those who have not been in the Ministry have been free to vote as they like. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has been hobnobbing with honorable members, and trying to hoodwink them into voting for the survey of this railway. I give him credit for his action, and perhaps if I were in his place I would act similarly. I do not blame him for trying to induce any honorable members to vote for the survey of this railway, however unreasonable the proposal may be from a Commonwealth stand-point. It is all very well for leading members to vote for the Bill, because they have got support, or hope to get it. I trust that the Bill will be relegated to its proper place, and that is the waste-paper basket. I. cannot forget that if the railway were constructed the people in Queensland would have to bear a share of the loss on its working. I trust that if the House does not reject the Bill - and I do not expect that it will - the Senate, which seems to be stronger, and perhaps less shackled than we are. will take that step. It is because our members are practically shackled that they intend to vote as they do. No argument hasbeen adduced to justify a vote of £20,000- for a survey Every one knows quite well that the construction of the railway would cost £5,000,000 at least, because that isthe lowest estimate which has 50 far been furnished. In my opinion, -£20,000 is a very large sum to pay for the survey of a line 1,100 miles long. I have had a. little to do with surveying, but' I have never known a case where it cost about £20 a mile to make a survey over country which is practically flat, and where the surveyor could take long sights.

Mr Conroy - The honorable member forgets what a terrible desert it is. That is why it is to cost so much per mile.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - The honorable and learned member, as a surveyor, knows that £20 a mile is an exorbitantprice to pay for making a survey for that distance.

Mr Conroy - I could make a very fine profit out of it at £2 a mile.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - Yes, and I should like to be in partnership with the honorable and learned member when, he was making the survey. I have had someexperience in connexion with long railway connexions, and I know what a survey costs per mile. I submit that £20 a mile is an exorbitant price to put down for making a survey over practically flat country. If the railway had to be constructed over mountains, such as are met with in New South Wales or Queensland, I could understand that rate being charged, because the surveyor would have to take short sights in order to get his levels. In this case, however, he could take five or ten chain, or even longer, sights. Practically there is no obstruction in the way because the country is fairly, open, and free from scrub. There is verv little mountainous country - in fact, no hill of any consequence, so that no one can say that there is any engineering difficulty to overcome. There is no creek or river to cross. There is no filling or cutting of any importance to make. No argument Kas been adduced to show that any one would be justified in supporting this measure at the present time, therefore I intend to oppose its second' reading.

Mr. CONROY(Werriwa) [10.27!- I quite agree with, the denunciations which have been hurled at the Bill bv the last speaker. The very course which is being pursued in, regard to the Billby the Treasurer, a representative of Western Australia, is quite sufficient to put every honorable member on his guard. It must be remembered that no man in Australia has a better knowledge, of the nature of the country north of the Great Australian Bightthan has the right honorable member for Swan. No less than thirty-five years ago he went over that part of Western Australia, and no one who has read his descriptions of his travels will wish to visit the place. Let us see exactly what the Treasurer has done. For four years, when he sat in a Ministry, he never brought forward a measure for this purpose. He has now been in office for twelve months, and the Bill has only just been brought forward in a casual kind of way.

Sir John Forrest - I was beaten only last session.

Mr Lonsdale - It is brought forward because there is a general election coming on.

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