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Thursday, 3 November 1910

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - I hope we shall get some explanation from the Vice-President of the Executive Council in answer to the questions submitted by Senator Chataway. The amendment relates to the status of public servants in the employ of the South Australian Government, and raises a very big question. The Government might proclaim the Act to-morrow ; and whether we do or do not build the proposed railway, we shall be responsible for two of the largest menageries of white elephants that the world has ever seen. We should know how the Government propose to provide for and carry on these blessed menageries. The VicePresident of the Executive Council ought to be able to assure us of one of two things. First, that they are not menageries after all, and, secondly, that if they are, until it is shown that they can be made more or less self-supporting, the proclamation bringing the Act into force will be delayed. Information on the subject will be welcome to honorable senators; and it is eagerly looked for by the people of South Australia. As a matter of fact, there is not a member of the State or Commonwealth Parliaments that has the remotest idea where the proposed railway is to be built, or how it is to be constructed. There appears to be no doubt that we shall be saddled with an unproductive service involving a huge expenditure. If the proclamation is to be delayed, so much the worse for South Australia, and so much the better, possibly, for the Commonwealth. We should know whether the matter is to be suspended for ever and ever like Mahomet's coffin, until Mahomet or his ghost rises" to tell us what is to be done with the coffin. That might be good enough for legislation amongst Mohammedans, but it ought not to be sufficient for us. If the issue of the proclamation is to be indefinitely delayed, that must be in consequence of some contingency. What is the nature of the contingency ? Is it to ascertain the route of the railway or the conditions of the servants who may be affected by this amendment ? For how long is the issue of the proclamation to be delayed? I hope that some of the cloud which has been raised round this question will be dispelled by the answer which, I hope, the Minister will be able to give. Clause 12, like every other clause, depends upon clause 2, which deals with the issue of the proclamation, f cannot spc any reason for changing " by " into " under," but we have a right to know what the Government intend to do as regards the issue of the proclamation under which the amendment will operate. I await with some anxiety the Minister's answer.

Senator McGREGOR(South Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Coun- c'0 [3-1/]- - 1° discussing a simple question such as an amendment to a clause it was not necessary for Senator St. Ledger to go into geological reminiscences and poetical incidents. He ought to have come down to what is a bare matter of fact. There are no white elephants in the Northern Territory, but there are a great many potentialities - white ants, which are the food of the natives, and brown buffaloes, which are a very valuable asset. The question of where the proposed railway is to be constructed, or how the lines are to be managed, is not involved in the amendment. If honorable senators desire to know the powers which the Commonwealth will have in connexion with railway construction, they have only to read clauses 17 and 18 to be satisfied that it can do as it really desires in that regard. If the word " shall " had been retained in clause 11 the public servants of South Australia would have been taken over by this measure, but the word "may" was substituted to the great satisfaction of Senator St. Ledger. Is it not necessary now to substitute " under " for " by " in this clause so that the servants who may be taken over shall have their rights preserved. That is the whole explanation of the amendment. Senator St. Ledger spent nearly a quarterofanhour in talking nonsense, and looking for it.

Senator St Ledger - We have not yet received an answer.

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