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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 50

To the Hon. the Colonial Secretary of Western Australia, Perth

To the Hon. the Colonial Secretary of Western Australia, Perth.

I had a reply from the Western Australian Government which went the length of recognising the possibility of this area being granted, but which annexed a condition, which is not a condition necessarily connected at all with the proposition which was made. It suggests a condition which may be regarded as a sort of quid pro quo to the Western Australian Government for their granting the 50 millions of acres of land, but it does not bear on the cession or concession of the land itself, nor does it affect the principle which underlies the suggested concession. And I think we might in regard to this fairly bear in mind that Western Australia is still a Crown colony, and in point of fact the Imperial authority—of course influenced by an expression of opinion from the legislature or people of the colony—but still having the paramount authority over these lands might be induced, seeing that Western Australia would not itself object, or would raise no great difficulty in securing the concession of the land, and if that could be done it would be an immense step in the way of rendering the defences of the Australasian colonies so perfect and complete that it would hardly be looked upon as a necessity to all in the future to apply to the local budgets to contribute towards fortifications, submarine mines, and torpedoes for the different seaports. The following was the answer from Western Australia:—

Western Australia, Colonial Secretary's Office, Perth,


—In reply to your letter of the 7th September last, requesting the opinion of this Government upon a proposal to set aside 50.000,000 acres of the waste lands of this colony, to be administered for defence and other federal purposes, I am directed by Governor Sir Frederick Broome to inform you that this government would probably support such a proposal on condition that a federal loan of, say, £5,000,000 were raised for the purpose of constructing a railway connecting Perth with Adelaide, via Enda.

2. Some federal organisation is clearly required before any steps can be taken either as regards the land or the loan, but Sir Frederick Broome is decidedly of opinion that Mr. Lamb's suggestion is valuable, and that if the scheme indicated in the letter could be carried out it would be of great benefit to the continent.

I have the honour to be, sir, your obedient servant,

M. A. Smith

, Acting Colonial Secretary. The Hon. the Premier, Victoria.

The Government of Western Australia would very probably support the proposal on condition of a federal loan of £5,000,000 being raised for the construction of a railway from Perth to Adelaide, via Enda, but I see no connection between the two things. I do not complain of the enterprising character of the condition. (Laughter.) It is one which strikes me with pleasure, but also with awe that we, the Federal Council of Australasia, who have no power to expend a penny, should raise a federal loan of £5,000,000 for this railway. This railway will, no doubt, have to be constructed someday. There can be no question about it. There will be no difficulty about it as the population of Western Australia increases, either by land grants, or in some other way. I know that some of the colonies do not believe in the land system being adopted for such a purpose.

Mr. Dickson: Hear, hear.

The President; But there are a variety of ways in which it can be constructed, and therefore the principle being conceded we shall not object to the plan, but consider it as one of those points which are well worth careful watching and following home. It is quite evident that to make the watch at Thursday Island and King George's Sound thoroughly effective would need a very large expenditure indeed, and it would be almost impossible to carry it out with the means at our disposal. The next question is what is to be done with this resolution if we pass it? Is it simply to be put on record in our proceedings, and left there?

Mr. Lee Steere: I have a further resolution to propose.

The President: Very well. I believe a movement has been set on foot for the holding of a conference at which the Imperial Government will be represented (as well as the colonies) by competent naval and military authorities who will be able to bring matters to a focus, so that they may be dealt with page 79 hereafter. I think the Executive Committee of the Council, or more properly the Standing Committee for Executive purposes will find that one of the functions it will have to perform will be to see that this matter is brought prominently before the various legislatures, and the people of Australasia generally in every possible way they can, and by the time we meet again, very probably in this city, the subject will have been so digested, that if federal action is required we shall be able to put it in such shape as shall secure the co-operation of all the Legislatures. (Hear, hear.) I would suggest to the hon. member that the resolution will be stronger if the latter half, about the lighthouse, is left out.

Mr. Lee Steere: As there seems to be a general consensus of opinion that the question of the lighthouse at Cape Leuwin should not be connected with the question of the defence of King George's Sound, but should be taken up separately by the Australian colonies, which have an interest in this question, I think it would be advisable to withdraw the latter part of the resolution in deference to the opinion of this Council. I cannot understand the letter that was quoted from the Colonial Secretary of Western Australia, stating that the Government of that colony were prepared in June last to proceed with the erection of the lighthouse. As a matter of fact, the Government are not prepared to proceed with it, and I have authority to state that they do not intend to proceed with it, unless assisted by the colonies who have a greater interest, as Western Australia is not in a position to do it at her own expense. I would also like to make a few words of reference to the proposal of Mr. Lamb, which, it was stated, had been received with a certain amount of approbation in Western Australia. As a fact, no one in Western Australia, with the exception of the Government, knows anything about it. It had never been heard of by the colonists when I left, so it cannot be said the colony approves of it, and I have a very strong opinion that, if consulted, the Legislature would not approve of it. Mr. Lamb proposed to draw the line from Point Lambert to Vancouver Point, and leave Western Australia a strip of coast averaging not more than 100 miles in width, and it is not likely such a suggestion would meet the approval of the colonists of Western Australia. The Government would not be likely to consent to the alienation of 50 million acres, unless the other colonies agreed to contribute towards the cost of the intercolonial railway. As the resolution would be incomplete unless it was followed up, I have another one to propose suggesting that this resolution be forwarded to the Governors of the other colonies and to Her Majesty.

The President asked the hon. member whether it was necessary to insert the words "Princess Royal Harbour" more than once.

Mr. Lee Steere intimated that he had taken the wording from a despatch of Major-General Scratchley.

The resolution was agreed to.

Mr. Lee Steere said: In order to ensure our resolution being transmitted to England, I will move—

"That the resolution be communicated by the President to the Governor of Tasmania, with the request that His Excellency will be pleased to transmit the same to Her Majesty and the governors of the other Australian colonies."

The motion was agreed to.