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Thursday, 30 November 1911

The PRESIDENT - Order !

Senator ST LEDGER - When we have a clear idea as to the provisions of one Act, and when we also know something of the possible application of the banking policy of the Government, we are entitled to ask, Where is the money to build this railway to come from ? I ask the question, in view of Acts which have been passed, and also in view of the expressed policy of the Government in another respect. Apart from these two questions, or, if you like, with them, what is the new financial scheme which the Government intend to devise in conjunction with financial measures which have been passed, or are contemplated to be passed? We are justified, not merely in criticising, but in holding up the Government, and exhausting every form of the Senate in order to get an explicit answer. I do not know whether I shall be transgressing the Standing Orders, sir. but from what I know and can gather of the financial policy which the Government have already outlined, they do not hold one stiver in cash for the building of this railway.

Senator de Largie - Do not show us up in that way.

Senator ST LEDGER - That is exactly the position. Am 1 not justified in making this criticism ? On nearly every branch of my criticism, I am on pretty sound grounds. As far as we can gather from the Budget papers, and from what we know of the financial policy of the Government, apart from the Acts relating to the note issue-

Senator Pearce - I rise to a point of order. I submit, sir, that the honorable senator is only entitled to discuss the amendment, which does not refer to the method of paying for the construction of the railway.

The PRESIDENT -- I think that Senator Pearce is right. If Senator St. Ledger will look at die amendment, he will see that it relates to the cost of construction, probable revenue and expenditure, and the interest charged. I gave him one intimation that he was overstepping the Une.

Senator ST LEDGER - Quite so, sir. I admit the propriety of your ruling. I wish to submit another question. The second part of Senator Millen's amendment reads - and further, as. the proposed railway serves directly to assist the development of the States of Western Australia and South Australia, this Senate is of opinion that the Government should consult with the Governments of the two States - for a certain purpose. It has been pointed out on the evidence of the report of the Commonwealth engineer, Mr. Deane, that a very large portion of the country through which this line will pass will be absolutely unremunerative for railway purposes. There has been no effective answer to that criticism. But Senator Pearce argued that we ought to consider the needs of the growing population at the terminal points, east and west. I consider that he was quite right in submitting that view. I take an instance from the railway construction policy of Ihe State which I have the honour to represent. The country lying between Cloncurry and Charters Towers, apart from the very narrow coastal fringe, is practically unremunerative. But 80 miles inland a population of between 25,000 and 40,000 people sprung up in consequence of the discovery of a gold-field, and a railway was constructed which ultimately proved remunerative in consequence of the profitable trade conducted between the two terminal points. But this line will be a powerful factor in developing the portion of Western Australia stretching south and east from Kalgoorlie. As Western Australia is certainly going to benefit to such an immense extent, she should be prepared to give some guarantee to the Commonwealth to cover the probable loss upon the line for a few years. There is no State in Australia which has not had to face similar disadvantages in connexion with its railway construction policy. This amendment simply asks the Government to direct the attention of Western Australia to the great advantages that will arise from the construction of the railway, and to ask her to give us some guarantee against loss. Are the other States to bear this burden? Is Western Australia to take all the proceeds from the railway which, at the expense of the Commonwealth, will make the other railways of Western Australia more remunerative than they now are?

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator is getting away from the amendment by bringing in the question of whether this line will make other Western Australian railways remunerative. The amendment simply affirms that the Government should consult with the Governments of two States with a view of securing to the Commonwealth a reasonable proportion of any value added to the lands along the line of route.

Senator ST LEDGER - It is admitted by the Minister of Defence that this line will be a factor in the development of Western Australia. When we build the railway it will make many other railways in Western Australia more remunerative than they are now.

The PRESIDENT - I have pointed out already to the honorable senator that the amendment is confined to the added value of the lands along the route of the proposed railway. The honorable senator is debating the question of whether the construction of this line will make other Western Australian railways more remunerative.

Senator ST LEDGER - It is quite clear that this line must add value to the lands along the route, and ' will indirectly benefit Western Australia in other ways. If the Government insist on rushing through this measure as a matter of policy, this Senate, exercising its trust on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth, should insist on a clear understanding in reference to the matter raised by the amendment.

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