1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I desire to move the adjournment of the House to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The question of the federal capital, and in particular the provision made by the Government for inspection of the proposed sites.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places -
– I do not wish to take up more time than is necessary in dealing with this question, but I feel that the action of the Government in regard to it compels honorable members, no matter on which side of the chamber they sit, to see that something is done towards a definite and satisfactory solution of the difficulty. So far the question has not been dealt with in a way which meets with my approval. For months honorable members were led to believe that the only difficulty in the way of a settlement of it’ was the state of public business, and that as soon as the Tariff was disposed of steps would bo taken to enable the House to visit the various sites. J ust before Christmas, however, honorable members were surprised to find that a difficulty had arisen between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premier of New South Wales. It appears from the correspondence which has been laid on the table that the Prime Minister communicated with the Premier of New South Wales in regard to certain proposals, and, not receiving what he considered a satisfactory reply, a dead-lock occurred. One would think that, as both honorable gentlemen represent New South Wales constituencies, they would be desirous of meeting together to brush aside any misunderstanding, and to come to some mutual arrangement; but, instead of that, correspondence of which the House was ignorant has been going on between them for months. I do not know how the dispute arose.
– Where does the honorable member find the evidence of a dispute?
– I think that it is shown in the papers, and in the attitude which has been adopted by the right honorable member and the Premier of New South Wales. I understand that lately a conference has taken place between them; but I ask honorable members if they did not believe that all available information had been supplied to the Commonwealth Government, and that they were only awaiting the settlement of the Tariff to propose a visit by the members of the House of “ Representatives to the various sites? Victorian members do not seem to like a reference to this matter.
– We do not like this waste of time.
– My honorable friend would like the capital to remain in Melbourne, as the Age suggests.
– This debate will not expedite the settlement of the question.
– Before I sit down I shall justify the action I am taking. I find that the Minister for Home Affairs stated, in reply to a deputation which waited on him at Bathurst, that he had no recollection of being communicated with by the Premier of New South Wales in reference to the Bathurst site.
– I said that at that moment I could not call it to mind, but that I might have received a communication.
– My honorable friend should have been careful to furnish himself, before leaving for the various sites with the members of the Senate, with all the correspondence ; he should not have trusted to his memory. On the 18th November last I addressed a letter to him, enclosing a communication from the Bathurst Federal League, to which I received the. following reply, dated 12th December : -
In reply to your letter with respect to Bathurst. as a site for the federal capital, I may say that it. has been included in the list of sites about which information has been furnished to the Commonwealth Government by the Government of New South Wales.
I brought the matter up again on the 23rd January, and the reply I received then was this -
Referring to the western sites, although Orange has been reported upon by the commissioner, it. does not follow that any particular spot will be selected there, and as the train goes from Bathurst to Orange, I venture to think that members of the Federal Parliament will also consider it desirable to look at the site near Bathurst, which is no doubt a good .one, comprising good land, which is outside the 100 mile limit.
Therefore I was led to believe that when an inspection ,was made the Bathurst site would be visited. “When I learned that no provision had’ been made for visiting Bathurst, I wired from Sydney on the Monday before the party of senators left Melbourne, to the effect that I was surprised to learn that provision had not been made for the inspection of the Bathurst site. To my telegram I received the following reply from the Under-Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs : -
Sir Wm. Lyne desires acknowledge your wire of yesterday, and desires to inform you that if you are anxious about it, he thinks senators can leave Orange earl)’ enough to inspect the Bathurst site on Saturday, on their way down.
I forwarded that telegram to the Mayor of Bathurst, who referred it on to the Federal Capital Committee, and I was then informed by them that anything short of a day was useless for the inspection. I wired that information to the Minister for Home Affairs, and on Friday night I received the following reply from him, which I communicated to the Bathurst committee on Saturday morning : -
Regret senators cannot give a day. If the site is near the ‘railway, it could surely be inspected early on Saturday afternoon.
– In whose electorate is this site?
– In my electorate. It is my duty to bring before this Parliament matters which are of moment to my constituents. All I ask for is fair play, and that has not been given. According to the programme for the senators’ visit of inspection, fifteen and a half hours were to be spent at Albury. The party was to arrive there at 10.30 p.m. and to leave again next day at 2 p.m.
– Does the honorable member think that an inspection should be made at midnight ?
– I admit that some time must be allowed for rest. The programme of the tour is as follows : -
Tuesday, 11th February. - Leave Melbourne 4,45 p.m. Arrive Albury, 10.30p.m.
Wednesday, 12th February. - Leave Albury, 2 p. in. Arrive Wagga, 4 p.m. Leave Wagga, 10 p.m. Arrive Gundagai, 2 a.m. on 13th.
Thursday, 13th February. - Leave Gundagai, 7.30 a.m.” Arrive Tumut, 11.30 a.m. Leave
Tumut, 3.30. p.m. Arrive Gundagai, 7.30 p.m. Leave Gundagai, 10 p.m. Arrive “Yass Junction, 2.30 a. in. on 14th.
Friday, 14th February. - Leave Yass, 2 p.m Arrive Goulburn, 4 p.m. Leave Goulburn, 10 p.m. Arrive via Granville, 2 a.m., to Orange, 9.50 a.m. on Saturday, loth.
Saturday, 15th February - Leave Orange, 3 p.m. Arrive via Bathurst, 4.30 to 5.30, to Sydney, 11 p.m.
When the Government were trying to secure the return of a supporter by the Macquarie constituency they led the people there to believe that they had a very good chance of getting the federal capital.
– Did the honorable member go one better ?
– I do not think I mentioned the matter. The senators were timed to arrive at Armidale at 8 a.m. and leave at 4.30 p.m. and to arrive at Bungadore at 1.30 p.m., and leave at 9 p.m. But what do we find in regard to Bombala? They arrived at Bombala, which is strongly supported by a number of those who are not very favorable to New South Wales, last evening, and are to remain there until to-morrow morning. I do not say that is too long, because it is quite little enough time to allow for inspecting the site. What I complain of is that the Minister has not done equal justice to the sites in other electorates. With regard to Yass, Orange, and other sites, he allowed only sufficient time to enable the senators to go through at a rate at which it was quite impossible for them to give proper consideration to the question. But with regard to the Bombala site he was careful to see that ample time was allowed for making an inspection - two days almost. The complaint is general that very little time has been given to the inspection of other sites. I can hardly believe that the Government are serious in this matter. When one recalls how the visit was got up it is quite sufficient to show that the Government are not serious. Was it not the desire of a Minister in the Senate to leave here for a fortnight that induced the Government in a hurried manner to arrange for this visit of inspection 1 Nobody knew anything about it in Parliament until the Friday when it was proposed, and the senators were to leave on the following Tuesday. If the Government had carried out the visit properly I should not have complained. But to arrange for two places to be inspected, and bo allow only two hours and five hours for the respective visits, was unfair.
– How many senators went?
– About fifteen, because timely notice of the visit was not given.
– The honorable gentleman knows full well that 24 senators did not go to all the places.
– Quite right.
– What is the good of the honorable gentleman saying that 24 senators west when one or other of them dropped out at various points? Possibly not more than twelve or thirteen senators went to see all the sites.
– The senators for New South Wales were the most noticeable absentees.
– They knew all the sites, and possibly they did not think it necessary to inspect them. I doubt the sincerity of the Government in the matter when we find leading . journals in this city suggesting that the capital should remain here for years. I believe that the Age has gone so far as to say that the federal capital may be built in the next twenty years or so. I did not take much notice of the article in the Age, but when the Argus recommends that the question should be allowed to stand over for possibly ten years, it shows that there is some good ground for the complaint in New South Wales against theaction of the Government. We have been waiting here for nearly twelve months to see this compact carried out. The 100-mile limit I believe was suggested by Victorians out of jealousy of Sydney, but now they recommend that the compact should be got rid of, on the ground that we ought not to build the capital in a country district. That is a matter which ought to have been considered before the Commonwealth Bill was accepted. A compact was entered into that a site should be selected as soon as possible, and it will be a gross breach of faith with New South Wales if it is not chosen as quickly as circumstances will permit. I do not think that anybody can indorse the action of the Government, at all events in regard to the western district, because it has not been fairly dealt with.
– Nor the south.
– I do not believe that any site, except the Bombala one, has been fairly dealt with. The senators had to visit three sites in the western district - one of them being strongly recommended - between 9.30 a.m. and the evening ; and yet they take two days to inspect the Bombala site. Of that I do not complain, because it is quite little enough time to take for the purpose.
– Which are the three sites in the western district ?
– Bathurst, Orange-
– But they did not inspect Bathurst.
– I know they did not. It was arranged that the senators should inspect the three sites in one day, and the honorable.gentleman has been guilty of a gross breach of faith with me. He promised me verbally, and by correspondence, that this matter would be considered ; and when I telegraphed to him before he left Melbourne, pointing out that adequate provision had not been made for inspecting the Bathurst site, he made some suggestion about calling there on the way down. That is not a fair way for him to treat an honorable member. How could the senators, in the time allotted for the purpose, possibly inspect a site which is situated at some distance from the railway ?
– How far?
– It is some distance away. The senators could not stand on the bank of the railway line and inspect the site. The Minister did not arrange for them to do that in the case of Bombala. He made provision for them to inspect the country round Bombala, but he made no such provision in regard to the Bathurst site. He was not fair to me at Bathurst when he did not point out that the Premier of New South Wales had placed Bathurst among the sites, and tell the people of that town that I communicated with him before he left Melbourne, asking for proper provision to be made for its inspection. He said that he had sent a telegram to me to which he had received no reply. A telegram was sent to me on Friday, saying that the people ought to be satisfied with the inspection during the afternoon. According to the time table, two hours were to be devoted to the inspection of the Bathurst site, and only five hours to the inspection of the Canobolassite ; and, although the Minister promised to consider it, no time was put down for inspecting the Carcoar-Garland site. The senators made an attempt to inspect the three places in order to placate the people. I blame the Minister for trying to mislead the people and damage an opponent by not publishing all the facts of the case. He went into my electorate, and because he was taunted with want of attention to the matter, and with the inconsistency of the Government, he misrepresented my action. Previously, the Government had promised that the members of the Senate and this House would have an opportunity to inspect the Bathurst site, and yet, when the Minister was challenged about his inaction, he tried to put the whole responsibility upon me. He wished to make the people believe that no representations had been made by the Premier of New South Wales and myself in regard to this matter. I consider that it was a most unfair way for the honorable gentleman to apt. I am not desirous of taking up the time of the House unnecessarily, but I think that honorable members will admit that when an opponent goes into my electorate and endeavours to damage me by misrepresenting the facts, it is time for me to speak up and defend myself.
– The Minister might have said a good word for the honorable member.
– I do not require the Minister to say a good word for me. I am quite prepared to take my ownpart, both in the House and in my constituency, but I expect fair play from the Minister for myself and for New South Wales. Apart altogether from the little incident which occurred in my electorate, the whole attitude of the Government in regard to the selection of a site is most unsatisfactory. They have not gone to work in a business-like way. The visit of inspection was hurriedly got up in order, I am told, to oblige some gentlemen in the Senate because they desired a holiday. I do not blame them for taking a holiday so long as they make proper use of the opportunity afforded them to inspect the sites.
– And to shelve the Electoral Bill.
– It may have been for that purpose. I do not know what it was done for. The senators had no opportunity to make preparations for the visit, and therefore I was not at all surprised that some of them could not go. Timely notice of the visit ought to have been given. My principal reason for bringing this matter forward at the present time is to insure that there shall be no mismanagement of the visit of inspection by members of this House. This ought to be a warning to the Government not to deal with this House in such an unsatisfactory and unbusiness-like way. When we are going to inspect the sites timely notice of the intention of the Government ought to be given, full information should be supplied, and proper provision made to inspect not one site favoured by the Government, but all the sites that may be considered eligible and worthy of consideration by this Parliament. Proper provision should have been made for the senators to inspect the sites, because they have an equal voice in the determination of this matter.
– But they are on a picnic ; we shall go on business.
– I am not going to deal with that matter, but I think that the honorable member will admit that proper provision was not made by the Government, and that their neglect ought to be brought under the notice of the House for the purpose of preventing a similar unsatisfactory state of affairs occurring when the time comes for honorable members to visit the sites. I do not ask for anything unfair for my constituents. I only desire honorable members to have a fair opportunity to inspect the sites.
– We shall stay a week in Bathurst.
– I do not wish honorable members to do anything unfair, but only to have an opportunity to visit all the sites which may be considered eligible so that Parliament in its wisdom may be able to make a selection that will be beneficial to Australia. I do not wish to take up any further time. In view of the way in which the matter has beendealt with and the unsatisfactory manner in which the visit of inspection has been carried out, I have felt it my duty to move the adjournment of the House in order to prevent a similar unsatisfactory state of affairs occurring when its members are called upon to make a visit of inspection, which I hope will be carried out before very long.
– I do not think that any one will blame my honorable friend for looking after the interests of his district. So far as his remarks regarding the claims of Bathurst, a site within his OW# district, are concerned, I do not desire to say one word. But with regard to this question generally, although I and other representatives of Victoria thought the compact ,a very improper and foolish one, depriving the Federal Parliament, as it did, of any voice in the selection of the best site for the capital, nevertheless it was our intention to honorably carry it out : but we certainly <lid expect that a little decency would be observed by the representatives of New South Wales, who get the whole of the advantages. We never expected that they would show a feverish desire to run away from Victoria during the first session of Parliament.
– I do not think that twelve months is an unreasonable time to wait.
– Every one thought that a reasonable time would be given, and that the country would be visited, not by rushing away and inspecting sites at night, as my honorable friend says ; he counts the night that they were at Albury as a proper time for inspecting the site.
– I gave the hours of arrival and departure to show exactly what time would he .available for inspecting the site.
– I regret that the Government have shown so much weakness in giving way to this clamour which occupies the time of this Parliament nearly every week, and of which we are becoming heartily tired.
– I think we have been too quiet.
– The honorable member will have more of it yet.
– Everyone knows that the understanding was to inspect these sites in recess, and not when we are engaged on the work of the Commonwealth. Why should the business of the Commonwealth stand still in order to satisfy the unreasonable clamour of the representatives of one State % Why should we do anything in the matter during the first session %
– Honorable members ought to carry out the compact honor.ably
– We have been engaged for over nine months on the business of the Commonwealth, and we are not within measurable distance yet of the close of the session. Why should that work stand still in order to satisfy the unreasonable demand of honorable members t One would imagine that Victoria is getting rich with the money that honorable members are squandering in our midst. I doubt if a single soul in Victoria has profited anything by the sitting of Parliament here. There is no desire to retain the Parliament here beyond a reasonable time. We are all desirous of inspecting the sites, and selecting one in proper time, but we are not desirous - and I doubt very much if this action is calculated to secure the sympathies of representatives of other States - to rush away and leave the work of the Commonwealth undone. I consider that the members of the Senate should now be engaged in the work for which they were elected, instead of touring New South Wales in the middle of a session in search of a site for the capital. I sincerely hope we shall not hear any more of this folly. So far as the House of Representatives is concerned, when we go to inspect the sites, I hope it will be during recess, and not when we should be engaged on the business of the Commonwealth.
– I have no complaint to make against the Government so far as the taking up of this matter at the present time is concerned. I do not think that the people of New South Wales expect any unreasonable degree of expedition in regard to the settlement of what they believe to be a most important matter. So Jar as I can see, there are not more than 5 per cent, of the people of New South Wales who expected that this matter would be settled during the first session. For myself, I shall be quite satisfied if we come to a decision next session as to the federal site ; and then there will be some little delay involved before buildings can be erected and the sittings of Parliament transferred. At the same time, the honorable member for Macquarie, and other members representing portions of New South Wales, have just reason to complain of the manner in which the senatorial trip has been arranged. I admit, of course, that the Government must always find difficulty in cramming a view of so many sites into the short space of time which is occasionally available.
– The Government ought not to have attempted it.
– That may be; but I would point out that at most a few hours have been allowed for the inspection of every site except that of Bombala. That, I say, is absolutely unfair.
– Hear, hear ; a gross job !
– I beg to call the attention of the Speaker to the language of the leader of the Opposition, who has described this visit as a “ gross job.”
– I must ask the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney to withdraw those words.
– In obedience to your wish, Mr. Speaker, I at once withdraw the words. I shall have an opportunity later on to express my opinion in better language.
– There does not seem to me to be anything in the nature of a job.
– Of course, I do not mean in a mercenary or pecuniary sense. That would be an absurd suggestion.
– In the electorate of the Minister for Home Affairs there are at least two suggested sites which, in common with others in my own and other districts, have shared in the paucity of time allotted.
An Honorable Member. - They have no chance.
– I would not like to say that. So far as my knowledge goes, the Tumut site, which is in the electorate of the Minister for Home Affairs, is quite as worthy of consideration as are any which have been submitted. But apart from that, it seems to me improper to expect a number of men, who have never seen the districts before, to get an idea in two hours at the outside of the general configuration of the country - it is farcical. When we balance the short time allowed for the inspection of these sites against the fact that two days, or a little longer, have been allowed for the visit to Bombala
– No, no.
– A day and a half have been allotted to Bombala.
– One day only.
– The senators arrived at Bombala yesterday afternoon, just after luncheon.
– They were to arrive last evening.
– They arrived early yesterday afternoon, according to the newspaper reports, and do not leave till tomorrow morning. That, at any rate, tells a little for the astuteness of the Government whip, who is. particularly interested in the Bombala site.
– Hear, hear.
– The whip has had the “ loan “ of the Government.
– It proves, at any rate, that the Government whip has been able to get the better of the Minister for Home Affairs. In regard to any tour that the representatives of this House may undertake, there ought to be proper arrangements made beforehand by a committee of some members of the House, who. have no suggested sites within their districts, so that they may be absolutely free from any suspicion of personal, bias. I trust, anyhow, that the mistake that has undoubtedly occurred in regard to the senatorial visit will not be repeated when the members of this House make a circuit of the suggested sites.
– I have been a little surprised this morning at the speech of the honorable member for Gippsland. The honorable member talked about “indecency,” and “ unreasoning clamour.” May I remind the honorable member for Gippsland that the language he has used would be much better applied to the newspapers of his own State. If there be any “indecency” - if there be any “ clamour “ or if “ unreasoning “ demands are being put forward - it is on the part of his own State, in order to get away from a bond which has been deliberately entered into, and on the faith of which federation took place.
– Is there anything in the bond to indicate that the change is to take place during the first session ?
– No, there is not ; and the peculiarity of the honorable member’s outburst of . apparently righteous indignation is that he did not make us the slightest bit wiser as to when he wants the bond to be fulfilled. I have no doubt the honorable member would like it fulfilled 25 or 30 years hence. At any rate, he got up and scolded us, and we are much obliged to him for his scolding, and grateful to him for his description of us as acting “ indecently” when we asked for the bond to be fulfilled with reasonable expedition.
– Has anybody ever suggested that the compact must be put into operation “forthwith”?
– The Sydney meeting did.
– There were only a fewhundred people at that meeting.
– I do not know what was said at the Sydney meeting about fulfilling the compact forthwith, but if that view was taken the meeting reckoned without Victoria, and certainly reckoned without the opposition of the honorable member for New England. That honorable member appears to have noted carefully every expression, even at that meeting, which told in favour of his own State, and to be in a state of general opposition to anything which will help forward the settlement of this question. I should like to emphasize the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie as to the way in which the senatorial trip has been ai ranged. I doubt whether the returning senators will be much more forward in their ideas concerning the sites when they return than they were when they set out. Indeed, we find that many of them had already made up their minds concerning the locality of the site before they set out on their peregrinations. We read this morning, for instance, that Sir Richard Baker at Bombala yesterday said* that he had not taken the trouble, or had declined, to visit the sites at Orange, Bathurst, and Armidale, because he had made up his mind that the locality must be somewhere on the direct line between Sydney and Melbourne.
– I think the honorable member will find that Sir ‘ Richard Baker is the only senator who has made up his mind.
– I hope that is the case. At any rate, the visit of a senator like Sir Richard Baker will not help much in the decision as to the federal capital site. Then we have a right to complain of the way in which the newspapers of Melbourne are treating the whole question. There is, I believe, a reporter fromthe Melbourne Age with the senators on this tour, and we find him reckoning up every little fact or incident with which he can make a point against New South Wales. I have not heard that the honorable member for Gippsland has paid the slightest attention to all the calumnies againstNew South Wales in this connexion which have been circulated in these reports. But,. of course, it is only on this side of theHouse that “indecency” occurs, when we dare to stand up and repudiate the calumnies’ which are being scattered broadcast day by day. The Minister for Home Affairs tells us that, in arranging for the trip, the senators declined to receive any hospitality whatever during the course of the tour. But when Mr. Upward, the Senate officer in charge, had to payfor entertainment tendered at the places visited, complaint was made of the parsimony of New South Wales towards the travellers. I should like to know how it is that the Age reporter obtains knowledge ,of every little item of expense involved. He can tell us how much a dinner cost at a particular place, even down to a farthing. He can tell us how much the drinks cost, and how much the buggy hire and all the’ little minutice of the tour cost, as if he were paying the money out of his own pocket. We do not find any of the other newspapers indulging in that kind of report, or, at any rate, ‘descending so low as to employ journalistic ability in the calumny of a State in this sinister and underhand way. We on this side of the House have a right to resent all this in the most emphatic way we can, and I am afraid that we shall continue to resent it, even though we call down on our heads the boiling wrath of the honorable member for Gippsland. It has been said before that this inspection, which was undertaken to enable senators to get a complete view of the proposed sites, is a farce, seeing that they have been compelled to inspect thirteen localities within a fortnight. Such an undertaking is a matter of physical impossibility, to say nothing more ; and cursory glimpses which are possible must necessarily be coloured by the circumstances of the moment. The Minister for Home Affairs is so mindful of that as to have already arranged for second visits to Albury and Wagga. But why not second visits to Bathurst, or to the CarcoarGarland site, and Orange, with plenty of time to inspect ?
– There ought to be a second visit to Bombala in the winter time.
– I also’ made that suggestion ; but the honorable member for Parramatta does not refer to it.
– I venture to say that if a visit were paid in the winter time to Bombala, that site would go down considerably in the public estimation. But the most surprising suggestion of all is that now being made publicly in Melbourne for an alteration of the Constitution, and the backing out by the Commonwealth from the bond which was deliberately entered into with New South Wales, and was regarded as an essential condition of the union.
– There is no fear of that.
– I am not so sure. In view of the aggressive attitude assumed by Victorian members, I begin to fear that there is something in the suggestion, and it will rest with those who hail from the mother State to do all they can to see that the bond is honorably kept. Personally I have not lost faith in this Parliament, which, I believe, will be just to New South Wales ; but our trouble is that there does not seem any disposition to in the slightest degree hurry forward the settlement of this question. We have had federation for fourteen months, and while that is not very long in the life of a nation such as Australia will prove itself, it is sufficient in which to do something in regard to the selection of a capital. But that something is a minus quantity at the present time, putting aside the hurried visit of the senators. I should like to make a remark about the proposal to refer this question to independent experts after the parliamentary visits have taken place. I confess I look on that proposal with very great disfavour. I should prefer to see a committee of this House appointed with power, as the phrase goes, to “send for persons and papers,” so that expert knowledge may be available, rather than sec. the question referred to a commission of outside experts. I am afraid that when they made their reports, they would so differ - or that even if unanimity were arrived at it would only be unanimity by means of a compromise of their professional opinions - that there would be the same trouble, or even more, from these professional experts being employed, than there would be from the appointment of a committee of sound common-sense men selected from the two Houses of Parliament, i very much distrust this professional opinion. My experience of it is that while it is very good as evidence, the judgment of professional experts is not always of the soundest kind. Therefore, rather than hand over the matter to a commission of outside experts, I prefer that this House and the Senate conjointly should keep the matter within their . control, taking advantage of all the expert resources available to them. The’ Government might make more use than they do of the expert ability which is already available in the service of the Commonwealth and in the service of the States. I have already urged that reports should be obtained upon the suitability of sites from the experts of the States. The experts are there, open to be employed in any way the Government choose to employ them. These resources should be exhausted ; and then all information obtained from outside would be available to aid an intelligent committee of this -Chamber in conjunction with the Senate. In that way I think the best results would be secured. But I think it is time to say something when we hear the suggestion deliberately made in this capital by the two leading newspapers - and it is of no use denying that they lead and influence the public opinion of Victoria - for indefinite delay in the selection of a site, and for a “ peregrinating capital,” as it has been happily described by the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon. When we find these journals suggesting that Melbourne should be the capital alternately with Sydney it is time we asked the Government definitely to make up their minds concerning the matter, and to take prompt and earnest steps to have the site selected.
– I can- not congratulate my honorable friend the member for Parramatta on his speech. It appears to me that his object has been to raise prejudices as between State and State, and to do as much as he could to inflame any discontent which may prevail in New South Wales. When an honorable member of this House, like myself, repudiates and protests against this inflaming of State prejudices, as the honorable member is doing constantly when opportunity offers, he is immediately denounced as a Victorian, and as having lost all sympathy with the State from which he comes. A charge like that which the honorable member has levied at me is so contemptible that I refuse further to refer to it. Too much has been said about the discontent in New South Wales in reference to the capital site not having been already selected. I believe that no member of this House -who has considered the practical difficulties in the way, will for a moment believe that anything very material could have been done up to the present time. We have been engaged in most important work, for the conclusion of which the whole of Australia is clamouring ; and this, it appears to me, is not the time to delay the business before Parliament by the discussion of the capital site question. Speaking of the discontent in New South Wales, Mr. Speaker, a certain section of the community in that State - friends of honorable members opposite - had what is called a “ mass meeting” in the City Hall of Sydney a few days ago to protest against the delay in fixing the capital site. One of the principal speakers there was an excolleague of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat.
– That has nothing to do with it : they were colleagues years ago.
– The gentleman to whom I refer is, however, a political friend of the honorable member, and I am sure that the right honorable member himself has a little sympathy with his colleague. It was declared in the resolution which was submitted to the meeting that the capital site should be proclaimed forthwith. If there ever was a more ridiculous proposition than that I do not know of it. This meeting was actually held in the great City Hall of Sydney, which ‘ will contain comfortably 5,000 or 6,000 people ; and I am reliably informed that the promoters could whip up only 400 people to attend it.
– It was difficult to find them in the hall I believe !
– The audience had tobe asked to draw up and make themselves_ comfortable near the’ platform. Passing from that point, I do not want to resume my seat without making one suggestion. I should like to say that I am as anxious to see the matter forwarded as is any honorable member. What I suggest is that the Government should take certain responsibilities. They arc in office, and should take the responsibilities of office. I believe that some 50 sites have been examined by the New South Wales Commissioner, Mr. Oliver.
– Twenty-three have been inspected.
– Be the number 50 or 23, the Government should take the responsibility of narrowing down the inspection which Parliamentarians are to make to not more than six sites. It i3 absolutely ridiculous to ask Members of Parliament to travel over the whole State of New South Wales and examine a dozen or two dozen sites Having narrowed down the number to halfadozen, the Government should appoint a committee of experts, such as was suggested by a deputation to the Prime Minister yesterday, to examine the sites. Those experts should submit their report to the Parliament, and having that evidence in hand members might visit the five or six sites selected. I believe there are no less than three suggested sites in the electorate represented by the Home Secretary, namely, Albury, Gundagai, and Tumut.
– There are only two in my electorate - Albury and Tumut. Gundagai is not suggested.
– I am finding no fault with the Home Secretary for what he has done, so far as I am concerned. But I think the Government should certainly take the responsibility of narrowing down the number of the sites, and of placing evidence before Members of Parliament who go to examine them.
– Why has not the honorable member made these suggestions before 1
– Because I have been anxious to forward the business of the country, and have not a mania upon this particular question as some honorable members have. I am free to admit that the honorable member for Eden -Monaro has boomed Bombala for all it is worth. No doubt he has taken advantage of his opportunities to get Bombala as fully inspected as possible. But I do not care whether six hours or 26 hours are spent at a place - it makes very little difference ; all that Members of Parliament can do is to get a bird’s eye view of the different sites. Honorable members of this House and of the Senate are not capable of examining fully into the relative merits of each place. The most they can do is to get an impression or bird’s-eye view, and study the evidence submitted to them by the experts. If I were to stay a week at Bombala I should not be able to form a sound conclusion about the water supply. I should merely get a general impression of the place. There is another matter to which I wish to refer. The Home Secretary included amongst the places to be visited a site in the constituency I have the honour to represent. It is near the town of Armidale, in New England. I am not here to advocate that particular site at present. When it becomes my duty to record a vote I believe I shall be honest enough to vote for the place I believe, to be the best for all Australia, regardless of where it may be. I desire my constituents to know that. It is no part of my duty to vote for a site because it happens to be in my constituency, and I believe that if I did so I should be unworthy to sit here. But some of those who visited the site near Armidale think that it stands unrivalled amongst the sites visited, and Mr. Oliver has said that as far as water supply is concerned it is the most satisfactory one he knows. The difficulty is, however, that even though that site stood out pre-eminent as the most suitable in the opinions of the experts and Members of Parliament who saw it, yet so great is the prejudice against any site north of Sydney that some of the representatives of the southern States would not even condescend to go there. It has been said that some honorable members who went to the other sites would not go north of Sydney because they recognised that the capital city must be south of Sydney and between Sydney and Melbourne. But we have to look, not to the surroundings and conditions of the present day only, but to the future of Australia ; and I make bold to assert that within 50 years the population of the great State of Queensland will be probably double the population of the present State of Victoria. If that be the case, or if it be approximately near the case, no site will be more suitable than one north of Sydney, because it will be the centre of population of all Australia. I hope the Queensland members will do their utmost to influence honorable members to visit the desirable sites, no matter whether or not they are north of Sydney ; and that honorable members will view the probabilities of the future. The trend of population is northward, and Qeeensland may some day be split into two or three States instead of being one, as she is now. Therefore I wish to protest against entertaining prejudices of that kind. I trust that, with a view to the future development of Australia, honorable members will give fair consideration to any site north of Sydney as well as to sites south of that city. I have no more to say except to make one remark to the honorable member for Parramatta. On many occasions he has made charges against me of being disloyal to my State. I am sure the honorable member does not seriously mean them ; but I think that any language that tends to inflame State jealousies should be the last language that a member of the Commonwealth Parliament should indulge in
– I am not one of those who would desire to lay blame at the door of the Government for not taking this matter of the capital site into consideration, and placing it under examination sufficiently early. Considering the business we have had to occupy our time I do not think the Government can be blamed for not having taken steps for the necessary inspection at an earlier date I contend, however, that when they did provide for a portion of the inspection, their arrangements were very badly made. The time given to members of the Senate to examine a number of the sites . was utterly inadequate, and it was cut down in a most unjustifiable way, owing to the fact that a start was not . made until four days after the adjournment of the Senate. Surely the proper course would have been to give senators due notice of the proposed visit, so that those whose business affairs have kept them away from the trip now being made might have arranged to participate in it. Then, again, a start should have been made on the Friday on which the Senate adjourned, instead of on the following Tuesday. In that way four additional days would have been available for the inspection, and the justifiable complaints which have been made in regard to the hurried inspection of some of these sites would have been avoided. There is something to be said against the preference that has been given to Bombala in the arrangement for the inspection by members of the Senate. But, having said so much, I would devote my attention to the remarks made by the honorable member for Gippsland. I think that the honorable member departed from his usual fairness in charging honorable members from New South Wales with indecency, and with raising an unreasonable clamour in connexion with the selection of a site for the federal capital.
– The honorable member did not refer to all honorable members from New South Wales.
– I would point out the circumstances of the case, and no one knows those circumstances better than does the Prime Minister. Honorable members know that it was only with the greatest difficulty that the amended Commonwealth Constitution Bill was carried in New South Wales. The original Bill was rejected, very largely I believe because pf popular sentiment in New South Wales, which claimed that it was entitled, upon the grounds of seniority and population, to have the federal capital within its boundaries. That concession was not contained in the Bill as submitted originally to the people, but the amended Bill provided that the capital should be in New South Wales.
– There was’ a majority of the people of New South Wales in favour of the Bill submitted at the first poll.
– But not the statutory majority required.
– The Bill was rejected at the first poll because the affirmative votes did not total 80,000.
– While the amended Bill secured the capital to New South Wales, it contained what I think was an unwise provision, that the capital should be at least 100 miles from Sydney. During the second campaign the opponents of the Bill contended very strongly that although it provided for the federal capital being in New South Wales, it would be seen, that once the Federal Parliament met in Melbourne, attempts would be made immediately to retain it there for all time. I did not support that view. I never attached great importance to the possession of the capital. When fighting in favour of federation I told those whom I had the pleasure of addressing that I would be willing to leave it to the Federal Parliament to decide the capital question. It is ridiculous for the honorable member for Gippsland to think that the people of New South Wales believe that Victoria is deriving any financial benefit from the meeting of the Federal Parliament here, and it is equally absurd to think that New South Wales will receive any commercial advantage from the location
Of the federal capital within its boundaries. The capital of the Commonwealth will be nothing for a century. If it is located out of the trade routes, in a district where the channels of trade have not already been formed, it can be nothing but the place of assembly for the Federal Parliament. If it is placed on the trade routes it will not create trade ; it may be that to a certain extent the trade will create it, just as it would create other sites on those trade routes if the federal capital were not i there. But in fighting for federation we were met time after time with the assertion that as soon as the Parliament settled in Melbourne attempts would be made to keep it there for an indefinite period, so that in the end it might remain there for all time.
– There is no such idea now.
– I believe that. I believe that honorable members are perfectly loyal to the -agreement that the federal capital shall be in New South Wales. But we must reckon on the danger of that argument being accepted, after the event, in New South Wales, if appearances seem to support it. The Prime Minister knows that he and others on the same platform, including the leader of the Opposition, declared in their advocacy of the Federal Bill, as submitted to the second poll, that they were convinced no such attempt would ever be made ; that Victorians, South Australians, Queenslanders, and Tasmanians would unite in keeping the terms of the bond not only to the letter, but in the spirit.
– And I see no reasons to suspect the contrary now.
– I agree with the right honorable gentleman ; but I am speaking of the attitude of the people of New South Wales. They have not been unreasonable or indecent ; they do not believe that opportunities have offered for doing more than has been done, and that belief was shown very well by them at the meeting held in Sydney some weeks ago. But if an idea gains ground that there is some likelihood of the proposition put forward by the Victorian press being adopted by the Federal Parliament, the feeling of New South Wales will be shown very quickly. The object of honorable members from New South Wales - and I refer to honorable members from that State sitting on both sides of the House - is to maintain the terms of the Constitution. I know that the honorable member for New England, for example, is as loyal to the State from which he comes and as loyal to the other States, and to the terms of the Constitution as is . any honorable member. We, in New South Wales, accepted the Constitution although we objected to many of its provisions - objected to the policy of some, and to the expense of others - but we are prepared, and have always shown ourselves prepared, to carry out those provisions as they stand, notwithstanding that we may be averse to them, and regret the unnecessary expense which some of them entail.
– New South Wales is not alone in that respect.
– No ; but I am replying only to the remarks made by the honorable member for Gippsland, who charged honorable members from New South Wales with indecent and unnecessary clamour, in regard to this matter.
– Notall honorable members from New South Wales.
– Yes, “ the representatives of New South Wales “ were the words used by the honorable member. During the second federal campaign it was stated by the Prime Minister, as well as by the leader of the Opposition, that not only would the federal capital be in New South Wales, but that the site should be agreed upon as soon as possible. That was the understanding, and therefore the Government are bound - and I have said already that so far I think they have done all they could - not only to arrange for the selection of the federal capital, but to see that it is selected at the earliest possible moment. There is the further consideration that if it is desirable for Parliament to meet away from a State capital, and the Constitution provides that it is to be done, the sooner it is done the better. It cannot be done in a day. There is a great deal of work to be carried out, and, for that reason, the sooner we settle seriously to work the better. The initial movement has been taken by the Ministry as early as possible. I do not agree with the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Gippsland, that the inspection should be made during a recess. I wonder how many honorable members would join in a visit of inspection during a recess?
– Not many honorable members would make an inspection while the House was sitting ; they have other things to attend to.
– But if we adjourn they will not have to attend to their parliamentary duties.
– The Government will not be able to induce many honorable members to undertake the trip during an adjournment.
– If they will not give the time, which they would give otherwise to parliamentary affairs, when it is specially provided in order to allow the inspection to be made, are they likely to give it during the recess, when honorable members from Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia, with whom we sympathize in their enforced absence from home, will be desirous of returning to their respective States?
– It is ridiculous to rush honorable members over the country as the members of the Senate have been doing.
– Iagree with the honorable member for New England, that the visiting members of the Senate have been able to obtain only a bird’s-eye view of some of the districts which they have inspected. If the honorable member desired to purchase a property, he would obtain expert opinions of a number of properties ; but before he made a purchase, he would say to himself, “ I should like to have a look at the property, notwithstanding these expert reports.” Some of the inspections made by members of the Senate can hardly be said to have been bird’seye views. Apparently the time was insufficient to allow even a bird’s-eye view in certain cases. For example, senators did not have time to wait until the duststorm passed, so that they might obtain an observation of the country in the neighbourhood of Wagga.
– The honorable member must remember that that statement was made by a newspaper which has evinced an intolerable animosity to the shifting of the Federal Parliament from Melbourne.
– I recognise that a great deal of what has appeared in the press is chaff. I do not regard these statements seriously. I rose more for the purpose of replying to the honorable member for Gippsland, which, I feared, indicated that desire for delay which is being advocated in the Victorian press. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta upon the question of experts. I hope that while we may use them we shall not put all our trust in them ; as I can see, from the previous discussions of some of the bodies which interviewed the Prime Minister yesterday, that they have extravagant ideas. They are intending to start this capital on a great scale at once. I agree with the Minister for Home Affairs that whatever is done at first should be merely temporary work, and that the least possible expense should be incurred. We should wait until developments gradually show us what are the necessities of the future, before we invest large sums in the federal capital.
– It must be clear to the House that this matter has originated from a sense of injustice in the mind of the honorable member for Macquarie, because he is of opinion that Bathurst has not received proper attention from the Minister for Home Affairs.
– Not altogether.
– So far as I can gather it is that which lias imported into the debate a heat and warmth which might very well have been spared. Every representative man in Parliament has a dual responsibility - his responsibility to his electorate and his responsibility to the country at large. At times these responsibilities become interwoven. At times the responsibility of an honorable member to his electorate dominates the national responsibility, and then there is a danger. References have been made to the federal capital being established in the electorates represented by various members, but the matter ought not to be dealt with in that way. I do not believe there is a man in New South Wales who cares specially where the federal capital is to be, if he has not some hope of obtaining it in his own district.
– They arc not all like that. There is some public spirit there, surely 1
– Public spirit does not rest in obtaining the federal capital for any one electorate, but in establishing it in the most suitable place for all parts of Australia. I do not think there is any country town that would not willingly sacrifice the interests of Australia in order to obtain the federal capital in its own vicinity.
– Grafton would not do that.
– Possibly not, but I think other places would. In the Federal Parliament it is wiser that we should deal with only possible things. The establishment of the federal capital in my electorate, as I apprehend the honorable member to infer from his interjection, is, I think, an impossibility, and I am therefore absolutely impartial in what I have to say. I regret that some other honorable members have not so correct an appreciation of the position of their own electorates as would enable them to come to the same conclusion.
– No man did more log-rolling than did the honorable member.
– A champion at the art.
– Order ! References are constantly being made to matters which occurred long before the formation of this Parliament. I hope such references will not be continued.
– I will make no references of the kind. J. do not desire to review the careers of honorable members opposite. During the federal campaign in New South Wales the people were appealed to in various ways. First of all it was said that the members of the Federal Parliament would have two billets. Then it was said that the other States would loot New South Wales. The next statement was that grass was to grow in the streets of Sydney, and that all shipping would disappear from the coast of New South Wales. These things appear ludicrous now. It was then seriously urged, and I think by the honorable member who originated this discussion, that one reason why we should not have federation was that members of the Federal Parliament would hold two billets.
– I never said anything of the kind.
– The honorable member is wandering from the subject.
– I make the reference only for the sake of example, and to show that one of the objections to federation urged in New South Wales still remains, which was that the federal capital was to remain for ever in Victoria. The rise and progress of a place does not depend upon the fact that a large number of Members of Parliament are collected near it. No community has ever yet obtained anything from Members of Parliament - except good laws and good government. No hotelkeeper gets more from a Member of Parliament than a fair value for services rendered. The greatness and importance of any city depends on trade, commerce, and productiveness. This whole question of the capital site has been given an importance to which it has not been entitled. It is a prickly matter, but the difficulty in deciding it will probably not originate here, j believe that honorable members from other
States will deal loyally with the Constitution, but the difficulty will originate in New South Wales itself, because members from that State representing electorates in which there is a possible site will fight about the matter among themselves. It is a prickly matter, and the Premier of New South Wales has virtually refused to have anything to do with it.
– Ought he to have anything to do with it ?
– I am inclined to think he ought not. It is a federal matter, and it should be entirely within our control and in our keeping, but if the State Parliament of New South Wales did offer a suitable site I am inclined to believe that the Federal Parliament would receive it favorably. I do not think we need attach too much value to the investigation that has been made by honorable senators. Not that an investigation should not be made, but it is not the essential thing. Men do not come to a conclusion in that way. I believe that any place north of Sydney will be dismissed from consideration for obvious reasons. Nine-tenths of the sites suggested will be dismissed from consideration also for obvious reasons. One obvious reason is the power of the southern States, and the fact that as men are human beings, and there is a good deal of human nature in the Federal Parliament, members will not travel further than they can help, no matter how beautiful a site may be. I should like to say that I believe all places north of Sydney are in this matter fighting a hopeless battle.
– Public opinion has never been really tested on this question.
– I believe it never will be tested upon this question. It is possible that none of the sites inspected will be the site of the federal capital. The federal capital ought to be a place where Providence has done something. We may make gardens and lawns and magnificent streets, such as there are in Melbourne, but if the Almighty has not made the site suitable in the first instance, we shall never make it worthy of the federal capital. When I hear honorable members talking of a view which overlooks the eucalyptus of the western plains, and a view of granite ridges with stretches of level country, I feel that such places can never be the site of the federal capital, and thatthis Parliament would never agree to its establishment in such places. I believe that no site will be accepted by this Parliament which is not a worthy one for Australia, and there is no view in Australia worth looking at - and that means much - which does not include the sea. In New South Wales the only views worth considering at all are those where the sandstone cliffs fall precipitously to the country embracing the coastal districts or the sea.
– Up Grafton way?
– No, to the south of Sydney, and the honorable member knows that I have never at any time in this Parliament made the slightest reference to my own electorate. When a matter under discussion touches my electorate, I endeavour to deal as temperately with it as possible.
– Is not Katoomba worth looking at ?
– There is too much uniformity and sameness about it. You must be on an elevation of about 2,000 feet above the sea. Underneath you must have streams and lakes, and in the distance the ocean, ever changing. I believe the position of the federal capital will be chosen eventually in view of the Pacific, upon a high elevation, in wholesome sandstone country, with a good water supply. It appears to me that a site including these advantages is the only one worth considering. I make these remarks because it is just as well that different places should have a word said for them, and because we should not have a false public opinion created in favour of one site or another.
– A stranger coming into the gallery this morning might think that the States of New South Wales and Victoria were the only States forming the Commonwealth, and it is, therefore, just as well that some one from outside those States should say a word or two upon this matter. I have not made up my mind as to what site should be voted for, but I wish to say that I think the Government have made a huge blunder in the whole of this business. The fullest expert knowledge should first have been obtained and given to honorable members. They should have had an opportunity of going through it if they cared to do so, and then those who did not do so would have no right to complain of the decision arrived at by those who did. A lot of valuable information has been supplied, but it appears to me the Government have not had sufficient courage to deal properly with the question. In New South Wales experts were sent to visit some 50 proposed sites. I understand they inspected some 23 of them, and then the suitable sites were narrowed down to three or four. I think the Government should have had sufficient courage to accept these three or four sites as probable sites for the federal capital, and they might have asked the senators to visit those sites. It is simply ridiculous to think of taking a large party of men from one end of the country to the other inspecting sites which they know have not the remotest chance of becoming the federal capital. If three or four sites had been selected, and honorable members had an opportunity of inspecting each for a day or so, with the knowledge supplied by experts, as to their special qualifications, they would be in a far better position to decide which place should be selected. A good deal has been said about the selected site being between Sydney and Melbourne.An effort is apparently being made to make it a sort of half-way house between those two cities. Brisbane is being taken as the centre in the north, and Adelaide in the south, and the effort appears to be to show that South Australia and Queensland will be about equi-distant from the centre to be chosen between Sydney and Melbourne. I would like to remind honorable members that before they get to Brisbane, some of the representatives in this Parliament have to come from a thousand miles further north. When it is proposed to take Brisbane as the centre of Queensland, it ought not to be forgotten that Brisbane is only 50 or 60 miles from the New South Wales border. As honorable members probably know, settlement in Queensland at the present time is drifting north very rapidly. Any one who looks at the statistics of Queensland must see that the northern and central portions of that State are advancing at a much greater rate than the southern portion. Under these circumstances it is only reasonable to suggest that those northern portions of the Commonwealth should be taken into consideration in deciding the federal capital site. If this kind of thing is to go on, and New South Wales and Victoria only are to be considered, it is about time that members representing the smaller States seriously considered the advisability of combining to put an end to it. I hope we will not be compelled to take such a course, because should such a feeling grow up in this House it would be detrimental to the future prospects of the Commonwealth. I hope and believe that this House, when it comes to deal with the question, will keep the compact that the capital should be in New South Wales. I do not think any honorable member, whatever State he represents, desires to break the compact which has been entered into. The whole trouble seems to have arisen because the Government have not had sufficient stamina to withstand certain press comments, and therefore the Secretary for Home Affairs, in order to disabuse the public of the idea that the Government have been doing nothing in this matter, proposed that the senators should make an inspection of the various sites. In my opinion, we have done all that it is possible to do this session. We have done more legislative work in this session than any Parliament in Australia has done in the same length of time.
– Or any Parliament in the world.
– I do not go so far as that. I think that the Government should have ignored the comments of the press, and have waited until Parliament could adjourn for a few weeks to visit three, four, or five of the most promising sites. That would have been a morejudicious course to follow.
– I do not desire to discuss at this juncture the merits of the several proposed sites, but I take this opportunity to say that I have no fault to find with the Minister for Home Affairs in having arranged for the visit of inspection which is now being made by members of the Senate. The Senate had a fortnight to spare, and no doubt many of its members who have gone upon this tour would not have gone had it not been for this special opportunity. Although they will not be able to thoroughly inspect the sites to which they have been taken, and their tour reminds one of a scene now being enacted in one of the Melbourne theatres, in which they are all following “ the man from Cook’s,” the inspection will prove of value to them, and the man from Cook’s will in all probability have his particular site so thoroughly inspected that it will be unnecessary for senators to go back to it again. I agree, too, with the action taken by the honorable member for Macquarie, because I think he has grave cause of complaint in the manner in which the site in his electorate has been treated. We owe a great deal to Bathurst, because of the active part which the citizens of that borough took in the early days of the federal movement in arranging for a convention to discuss federation. In view of that fact, and as Bathurst is a large town, the site near there should have been visited. I trust that the Minister for Home Affairs will see that the matter is rectified when the members of. the House of Representatives make their tour of inspection.
– I complain of the way in which all the sites on the western line were treated.
– They were following the man from Cook’s. I was very much struck with the heated remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland. He said that there is a feverish desire on the part of some honorable members to leave Melbourne. I, for one, admit having a feverish desire to do so. When it was urged on behalf of New South Wales that the federal capital should be in Sydney, a compact was entered into between the then Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria that it should be in New South Wales, but not within 100 miles of Sydney, and that until the site was determined the Parliament should sit in Melbourne.
– Did any one dream that the site would be fixed upon in the first session of this Parliament?
– If honorable members do not desire to go out into the back-blocks of New South Wales to carry out the compact which was entered into, are they willing that this Parliament shall meet in Sydney until a site is selected?
– Why not stay here ?
– Because of the stipulation that the capital shall be in New South Wales. If honorable members are not willing to carry out that stipulation, they should, as honorable men, agree to the meeting of the Parliament in Sydney. Melbourne has no right to have the Parliament meeting here for the first ten years of our federal life. Had it been proposed that the Federal Parliament should meet in Melbourne for the first ten years, the people of New South Wales would not have voted for federation.
– While I regret that this debate has arisen at this juncture, because I regard it as somewhat premature, I think that no precipitancy should characterize the selection of the site of the future Commonwealth capital. At the same time we should not delay its selection too long. I hope that a site will be chosen as soon as is practicable and convenient. One aspect of the question which has occurred to me is this : While the great majority of honorable members of both Houses are doubtless desirous of being returned to the next Parliament, the situation of the federal capital will weigh with many of them in finally determining whether they will seek re-election. If a site is selected within the next twelve months, and temporary accommodation of the kind referred to by the honorable member for North Sydney is erected, a number of honorable members, wherever it may be, will feel themselves unable to present themselves for re-election. Therefore, in the interests of our own convenience, the matter should be settled as early as practicable. I wish to say a word in support of the contention of the honorable member for New England that we should have regard for the future. Two or three of the expressions which were used this morning were almost verbatim repetitions of what I said when a battle royal was being fought for the seat which I now have the honour to occupy. When I went to Queensland as a lad, the population of that State was not onetwentieth of the present population, and probably in another 40 years, which is a very short space of time in the history of a nation, it will have increased by a still greater rate. The honorable member for Richmond said that there is a good deal of human nature among honorable members, and that a site north of Sydney is out of the question, because honorable members would suit their personal convenience.
– He said that the site in his district was out of the question.
– I did not think he quite said that.However, it is our duty to look to the future, and instead of regarding the personal convenience of members of this Parliament, we must regard the convenience and interests of the millions who will inhabit
Australia within the next 100 or 150 years. Once a site is chosen, the capital will remain there for all time. We must bear in mind that millions of people will settle on the splendid land in northern New South Wales and southern and central Queensland, where there is the greatest rainfall in Australia, because population will follow the rainfall. It is not in the back-blocks of New South Wales, as the last speaker said, that the capital will be built. The back blocks of that State are entirely out of the running. No one will give any consideration to them. Are we going to have the capital built where not 15 inches of rain have fallen during the last ten years ? No ; it must be built on the fringe of the tableland near the coast, where there is a good climate with easy accessibility to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and other capitals. Certain principles will govern the selection of the site which are plain to every brain in the House, and I hope I shall not hear the word “ back-blocks “ ever used here again. I do not speak of Bathurst or Orange as back-blocks. I refer to country in which many thousands of sheep annually succumb to the drought, and where it has been proposed to establish the capital.
– Has the honorable member ever heard of the Canoblas ? That is called the back-blocks.
– I have heard of all the places and I thought of a proper site for the capital as early as 1891, when the convention was sitting. I hold that climate, water supply, and accessibility, will rule the determination of the question. I sincerely trust that the site mentioned by the honorable member for New England will have what we commonly term “ a show “ when the House of Representatives goes to visit the sites, and that some consideration for posterity will also govern us in the determination of this matter.
– So far as Western Australia is concerned, I fancy that State is more interested in another great national work than in the erection of the capital. The great work of uniting the western State with the eastern railways is of far greater importance, commercially at any rate, than is the choice of a site for the capital city. At the same time, the Constitution agreed to by all the States renders it almost imperative that we should, as early as possible, keep faith with the people of
New South Wales. I do not agree with much that has been said against what the Government have done. It is a matter of common knowledge that this House and the Senate have been occupied as closely as they could be occupied with the consideration of the Tariff and other important measures. I consider that the trip which the Minister for Home Affairs organized, started as early as could possibly be arranged. At the same time I feel some sympathy for the honorable member for Macquarie, whose district I believe has not received the attention which the senators undoubtedly should have given to it.
– I referred to the west. There was no adequate provision made for visiting it.
– The Bathurst site is, I suppose, one of the best in Australia. It is a fine healthy district. When I knew its representative fifteen years ago, he was a physical weakling, but now his proportions are somewhat herculean, and the vigour with which he enunciates his political principles and stands up for the rights of the people, is a good indication that the climate of Bathurst is everything required to enable Parliament to carry on its work there satisfactorily. I merely wish to express my opinion that Bathurst and Orange are two sites that deserve very careful scrutiny, because the Bombala site, whatever its natural advantages may be, is so far out of the trade route, and it is so inconvenient to get there, that I doubt very much its practicability.
– There is a splendid harbor near it.
– I was aware of that, but I think our idea is to get some distance away from the sea, so that in the event of an attack from a foe, our capital would be to some extent safe. I am sorry that I was not here when the honorable member for Gippsland was speaking, because I understand that he charged representatives of New South Wales with indecent haste in pushing on the selection of the site of the capital. I do not think it lies in the mouth of a Victorian member to throw any aspersions on the representatives of New South Wales in this matter, because, after all, the Constitution compels us to give the capital to that State, and the sooner we do so the better. I would vote for leaving Melbourne to-morrow. That is my opinion of Melbourne. Although, of course, I am duly grateful for the convenience we have and the hospitality of the Melbourne people, still if it came to a vote I should be prepared to put up with the inevitable discomforts of a new town in order to get away from this city. Now, I think, we have a right to complain of the subserviency of tlie Government to the Melbourne morning newspapers. That is really where the whole trouble comes in. The object of these newspapers in advocating the retention of the Parliament in Melbourne is purely mercenary. The existing arrangement enables them to save about £3,000 or £4,000 a year. If the Parliament were sitting in some distant part of New South Wales they would have to keep a staff of reporters for each House, who could not be utilized during the session for any duties outside Parliament In addition to this, they would be forced to spend an enormous sum yearly in despatching their telegrams to the head office. These are the real reasons why they oppose and ridicule the idea of shifting the Parliament, and the honorable member for Gippsland, who is so free in charging representatives of New South Wales with indecent haste, forgets the indecent conduct of these organs of public opinion in this city.
– We have nothing to do with them, but we have to do with the conduct of members.
– I think that the honorable member for North Sydney does not see as clearly in this as he does in most matters when he acquits the Victorians of any desire to gain a benefit by the retention of the capital in Melbourne.
– The Victorian members in this House, I said.
– I agree with the honorable member if he refers to the Victorian members in this House. I have seen no evidence that they wish to get any advantage from the capital being here, though I think the Treasurer was very shrewd when he slipped that provision into the Constitution that until the site had been selected, the Parliament should continue to sit in Melbourne. Apart from the newspapers, what is the use of disguising the fact that Melbourne does reap a very substantial advantage in having the Parliament sitting here? The bulk of the printing required for both Houses is done at the Victorian Government Printing Office, and in many other ways Victorians benefit. I am very sorry to have to raise this question at all or togo into what is purely a provincial matter,, but when the honorable member for Gippsland charges representatives of New South Wales with indecently hurrying on this selection, I feel impelled, as one who, to someextent, is impartial between the two States, to raise my voice in protest. While we are allgrateful to the people of Melbourne and tothe Parliament of Victoria for the facilities, given to us - still, in order to be away from the influences of any provincial city, I think we should get into our own capital as soon as possible. The Melbourne newspapers are continually harping on thealleged fact that if we go into some backblocks district of New South Wales we shall lose the services of all the gre.it men who adorn both Houses of this Parliament. Will any one contend for onemoment that it would be more inconvenient for a man like the leader of the Opposition to go down to Bombala and spend three or four days there than it is for him to cometo Melbourne ? We all admit that there aregentlemen who are a great distinction tothis House and to the other, and whom weshould all regret to lose. Some of thesegentlemen come from Adelaide, some from Sydney ; some also live in Victoria. Doesanybody mean to say that it would be more inconvenient for Sydney men to go into any part of their own State, or that they would lose more by it, than they lose through the Parliament meeting here? Yet, they do not talk of resigning. Thereis not one solitary argument that the Melbourne newspapers advance which is really honest. They argue with a desire to retain Parliament here, and to save themselves the large expense which they must incur if the capital were removed to someother situation.
– I have every sympathy with the honorable member for Macquarie. It is most important in the interests of the Commonwealth generally that the site of its capital should be fixed at the earliest possible moment. I object very strongly to the remarksmade by the honorable member for Gippsland in regard to the indecency and thehaste of the representatives of New South Wales. We have been altogether too silentabout the carrying out of this compact with New South Wales. There is no doubt that, the picnic - I do not use that word in any offensive way - to enable the senators to visit the sites was arranged very hurriedly. One would think from the remarks made here to-day that there had been a great clamour in the city of Sydney about the capital, but that idea was immediately dispelled by the honorable memberfor New England, who pointed out that at the meeting there were only about 400 people out of its whole population. That, to my mind, clearly proves that on the part of the citizens of Sydney - who in this matter practically speak for the people of New South Wales - there has been no indecent haste or clamour. It was a remarkable thing that when that public meeting in Sydney was called - the first one which had been called - in connexion with the site of the capital, indecent haste immediately took place on the part of the Ministry. They immediately devised a plan for the senators to visit the different sites, and I think we are entitled to say that their acti on wasd ue to the fact I haveindicated . No doubt a great number of people, who are interested in particular sites, have good reason to grumble. I do not altogether blame the Minister for Home Affairs, because I know it musthave been a matter of great difficulty to arrange visits to the different places in the time at disposal. It may or it may not be the proper course, as suggested by the honorable member for Kennedy, for the Government to reduce the number of eligible sites to three, and take all responsibility in the matter; but personally, I think the number ought to be narrowed down before the members of the House of Representatives goon a tour of inspection. It would be perfectly ridiculous to travel all over the country, and visit the 40 sites which have been offered, or the 23 sites which have been inspected by Mr. Oliver ; and on this point I should like an expression of opinion from the Minister for Home Affairs. Some 40 sites were offered as eligible.
– And all the eligible sites have not been offered yet.
– So I understand. It appears that of the 40 sites already offered, only 23 have been inspected ; and I should like to know why the balance was omitted by Mr. Oliver. I do not regard this question from a district point of view, because I sincerely trust the site of the Federal capital will be settled, not in the interests of any particular State or locality, but in the interests of the Commonwealth. But when, as in my own constituency, a site has been submitted, and the people in the locality have gone to the trouble and expense of collecting information, it should be visited by the officer who was authorized to report on behalf of the Government of New South Wales. In many cases that has not been done, and I do not know whether that is the fault of the Federal Government, or the fault of the Premier of New South Wales ; but I hope that whoever is responsible will, before the number of sites is narrowed down, see that they are reported on by the officer to whom I have referred. I hope the federal capital site will be fixed with the least possible delay. I do not object very strongly to Melbourne, because I have been treated with the greatest hospitality and kindness by the people here ; but it would be in the interests of the whole of the people if the legislation of the Commonwealth were enacted away from any of the big cities. While the Tariff debate has been going on we have had deputations and lobbying of every description, and that could not possibly have taken place in a locality away from the influence of any of the big cities.
– We have had the New South Wales press represented here for ever so long.
– No doubt ; but the representatives of the New South Wales press are nothing as compared with the representatives of Victorian industries and interests who are continuously hovering around the chamber.
– There are plenty of New South Wales interests represented here.
– I quite admit that if we had been sitting in Sydney we should in all probability have experienced the same sort of thing. I do not say it in an offensive spirit, but it would be to the interests of the legislation of the Commonwealth generally if the seat of government were removed from any such influences. I trust that this matter will be carried to a successful issue, and that when the final selection is made, the locality will be such as has been described by that honorable member for Richmond. I cannot remember the graphic language of the honorable member when he pointed out that it will be necessary to select the place for which nature has done something, and for which it will not be necessary for man to do everything in the way of adornment.
– Jervis Bay.
– That is the very place that is in my mind.
– And it is in the honorable member’s own electorate.
– Jervis Bay is one of the places for which nature has done a great deal.
– In whose electorate is Jervis Bay ?
– It is in the electorate of the Government whip, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, whom I shall endeavour to assist in every possible way.
– Jervis Bay is in the electorate of the honorable member for Illawarra.
– No, it is not, as can be seen on reference to the map.
– But a good deal of the electorate of the honorable member for Illawarra would be included in any site selected there.
– This is not a question of the district of Illawarra or the district of Eden-Monaro. What we have to decide is as to the best site in the interests of the whole of the Commonwealth ; and when the decision is made, I trust it will be one of which the people of the Commonwealth may be proud.
– We ought to thank the honorable member for Macquarie for bringing this question up today. There is no doubt that that honorable member has not been fairly treated.
– Wait until honorable members have heard what I have to say.
– All should be treated alike in a democracy. We desire to be fair, and a contract ought to be carried out to the fullest extent. Tasmania has suffered irreparably in having entered into a contract which takes away all chance of the federal capital being located in that State.
– What about the other States?
– I am not saying a word against the other States, but at present I want to talk about Tasmania. The people there entered into a bond with the people of Victoria that the Parliament should meet in Melbourne until such time as a move was made to the federal capital. The Government of Victoria have spent between £40,000 and £50,000 in constructing and furnishing a new Pailiament House for the State, willingly giving up to us their splendid State House, which is an ornament to this part of the southern hemisphere. Was it not reasonable for the Victorian Government to suppose that we were not going to run away like highwaymen in the night, but that we would stay here until we could go into our own new home 1 I may never reach that promised land, and other honorable members may die by the wayside ; but I shall never vote for this Parliament leaving Victoria until we can go into a decent, respectable Parliament House of our own, where we shall not all die of pneumonia in the first year. Have we not been treated fairly, honestly, wisely, and justly in Victoria? I admit that the press here has not always been what it might be, but the business of the press is to criticise.
– Nobody complains of the press criticism.
– Taking it all round we are treated as fairly by the press here as we should be in any part of the world. I wish honorable members had to put up with the American press; it would take out their very hearts and put them on posts for people to look at. I shall oppose any proposal to leave this question to a committee of experts. Surely the 111 members of this Parliament, who are the pick and the pride of the Commonwealth, number amongst them some business men ? When it comes to a matter of having travelled and visited capitals, and of seeing country which is fit for federal- territory, I think I know about as much as any expert. Was Rome built in a day ? Was the American capital created in a week ? Was the Canadian capital decided in the first year of the Dominion Parliament ?
– It was chosen in a day.
– Do the questions of the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, not indicate strong reasons for starting at once ?
– We ought to be reasonable ; and I shall help to carry out the compact which is embodied in the Constitution. It is idle to talk about having the seat of Government alternately in Sydney and Melbourne, when it would cost £70,000 or £80,000 to effect the necessary change in the Constitution. Such a sum of money would very nearly serve to erect the hotel needful for our accommodation in the first few years of our stay in the federal capital. I am going to stop extravagance in this country. I think I know something about finance, although I am a labour member. It has taken 40 years to accomplish federation, and yet we are expected to decide on the federal territory in the first session, in which more Acts have been passed than were ever passed in the same time by any Parliament on earth. The United States Parliament did not accomplish so much business in ten years ; and yet, under such circumstances, we are expected to select a federal capital site. I am glad the senators went on this trip, because some of them looked bad, and such an excursion is good for their health. They will come back refreshed and fit for business. But this House of Representatives, which rests on the will of the people, is the House to select the capital site. I shall welcome senators who choose to go with us on our visit of inspection, but the committee of selection must be appointed from this House if I have any say in the matter.
– Will the honorable member not give senators a voice ?
– I say that the committee of selection must be chosen out of this House. Another point which I wish to impress on the committee is that the land for the federal capital ought to be bonded before it becomes known which site has been selected. It is considered no sin to “get at” the Government, and if it becomes known that a particular site has been fixed, or a limited number of sites have been selected, the Commonwealth will have to pay millions more than would otherwise be the case. We must never think of having the federal capital in Melbourne, Sydney, or any big city, not on account of the influences which may be at work there, but because we must consider the millions of people yet unborn who will inhabit this great southern dominion. Suppose for a moment that Washington had never been built, but that the United States people had listened when there was great clamour for Philadelphia or New York to be made the capital. They would not have had to-day the most beautiful city on earth. Any honorable member who has been to Washington knows that there is no city in the world like it.
– It is a very good skeleton !
– I do not see that there is anything skeleton-like about it. It is a city of parks, and-
– Magnificent distances !
– Washington is nothing of the kind. I have heard a good deal to-day about the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. I say “ all credit to him !” He has had his district well prepared for the reception of the senators, with crowds of people in the streets to welcome them. Why did not other honorable members do the same, and why do they blame the honorable member for Eden-Monaro because he has out-generalled them ? We do not blame De Wet because he can out-general Kitchener. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro is a De Wet. Some honorable members have complained about the Age. The House knows that I have no internal love for the Age. It has been “jumping on my chest” a good bit lately. But when honorable members complain of the Age representative wiring to his paper every little thing that has occurred on the tour, they should remember that it is the duty of a newspaper to give news.
– Whether it is true or otherwise ?
– If it is not true, it is not news ; it is invention. It is a mistake to condemn the Age because its representative telegraphed what he saw at the places visited. There is no doubt that all the little idiosyncracies which the correspondent of that paper mentioned contribute to the fun of the picnic. My idea in connexion with the question is that personal sacrifices cannot be considered, and that local interests must be merged in the general good. For this Parliament to hurry out of Melbourne for the next ten years at least, in order to rush up to some place in New South Wales, would, in my opinion, be the triumph of wrong over right.
– I strongly deprecate any digression from the subject of the federal capital, but I desire to express the opinion that the Government have been at fault in not showing some power of initiative, and in not taking more responsibility upon themselves towards a solution of the question. Apart from that, however, I do not know that anything has been gained by the discussion, which has wandered into a debate on the relative merits of the various sites - a question which is not really before us. To my mind, there is no difficulty whatever about the federal capital question, although the Government might have given us a lead in respect to it. The question has gone forward as far as we could expect during the present session, considering the very many other matters and measures which have come up for discussion. The difficulties that some people point out as existing have been created entirely by the Press of the two largest States of the Commonwealth. The newspapers have endeavoured to stir up a feeling of irritation, but from what I can gather in mixing amongst the people of New South Wales and Victoria, there is no uncertainty as to the loyalty of the Parliament to the provisions of the Constitution. There is no dissatisfaction, no haste, and no desire to rush the question. On the contrary, the true feeling of the people of both these States and of the other States in the union is that the question should be approached calmly, judiciously, and at once - that there should be no hurry-, but that the question should be solved in the best possible way in order to give effect to the wishes of the people in picking out the best site for the Commonwealth. We cannot select a good site by rushing the matter and making futile inspections. It is a good thing, from one point of view, to allow the inspections to go on while Parliament is sitting, as adjournments can from time to time be made, because we can then have the presence of members of Parliament from the other States who probably would not find it convenient to make an inspection during a recess. But on the other hand, there are many representatives of Victoria and New South Wales who would far rather make the inspection in their own time during a recess. Speaking for myself, I should not care to make an inspection of some of the sites in the time that has been allowed and under the arrangements that apparently have been made by the Government for the inspection by the members of the Senate. Those arrangements seem to me to have been insufficient. They have been fairly bungled all through. The members of the Senate have been rushed uncomfortably through a continuous picnic under conditions where they could not possibly get the information required to guide them to a final selection of the capital site, which is one of the most important questions we can be called upon to decide.
– It would be well to postpone criticism on that point until the honorable member hears what the senators have to say.
– I know that I should not like to make a tour of inspection under such conditions. If better arrangements cannot be made when the members of the House of Representatives make the inspection, I should prefer that no arrangements should be made at all, and that it should be left to honorable members to visit the sites in their own time. As has been pointed out by other honorable members, it is utterly impossible for any one under such conditions to make the inspection that is absolutely necessary as a corollary to a digest of the technical information which should be placed before us to assist us in the task which we have to perform. I should be guided much more largely by the opinions of trained experts as to the capabilities of the various sites than by my own personal feelings. But, on the other hand, I do not want to be guided entirely by the opinion of experts. I have known experts to make blunders which have not been found out for years. They are just as liable to err as are other people. In one sense the question of the selection of the capital depends just as rauch on common sense as on expert knowledge, but the two things should go side by side. Every Member of Parliament should use his own common sense in connexion with such expert advice as may be given to us by the Government. But the Government themselves should show more initiative than they have done up to the present. It would have been better had they taken the responsibility of saying, “ It is utterly impossible that this question can be decided during the present session.” Then we should have known how we stood, and arrangements might have been made for an inspection during the recess, and for a definite decision of the question next session. Any decision that might be given this session I should view with a great deal of alarm and suspicion, because it would be a hurried decision, and one that would not be based upon a perfect digestion of the information obtained. I do not blame the Government for the delay that has taken place. It was practically inevitable. I do not believe that the people of the Commonwealth blame the Government in connexion with it, though they might have taken better means of approaching the question ; or if they did not care to take the responsibility, and thought it wiser -to deal with it in some way, they might have left it until we could have approached it with ‘more information, and with more time for studying it carefully. As for there being in .New South Wales any clamour or unreasonable desire to have the question settled at once, I say that it is not desired to have it settled in a hurry, nor is there
Any wish to make any alteration in the Constitution by which we shall sit in Sydney and Melbourne alternately. I agree with the honorable member for North Sydney in this respect, and expressed myself similarly during my own electoral campaign : that it does not matter to the people of New South Wales one rap where the capital is fixed. Personally I was not favorable to it being situated in any country district of New South Wales. If I had had my way I should have advocated Sydney being the capital, because it has some claims. But that view having been decided against, what the people of New South Wales and those in the other States desire, is to select the best available site in New South Wales. That is a question we cannot hurry, but which should be approached with deliberation. I may here remark that I have always thought that if we had taken Tasmania as the federal territory, and fixed the capital there, we should have got rid of <ill controversy on the question. It would have been a good idea to take in the island State as federal territory, and fix the capital in the district represented by the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley. But it really does not matter where the capital is - it will not offer any great advantage to the State in which it is situated. It is not likely to be a great commercial centre. What we have to do is t© fix it in a convenient centre, leaving room for expansion, and paying attention to the healthiness and pleasantness of the situation. There are enough sites and to spare in New South Wales to allow of a place being fixed upon that will be a credit to us as a place for the capital of the. Commonwealth. But I deprecate any unnecessary haste, And, still more, these frequent discussions upon the particular merits of the sites and the qualifications for an ideal capital city ; whereas the only question we have to deal with at present is the way in which the Government are approach-, ing the question. To some extent they are to be blamed for the unfairness with which certain sites have been dealt with. Some sites appear to have been picked out as favorable, and to these more time and attention have been devoted than to others, which have been passed over without giving the senators a sufficient opportunity to inspect them. Looking at the matter all round, it seems to me that it would have been better to approach the solution of the question by appointing a select committee or commission, composed of members of both Houses of Parliament, elected by ballot, for the purpose of inspecting and reporting on the proposed sites. Parliament would have obtained in the report of this commission or committee all the information which it desired to have. It is absurd to expect the whole of the members of both Houses of the Legislature to visit the suggested sites in the limited time given to the members of the Senate. ^ The necessary inspections could be made far more conveniently by the selection of a commission or committee chosen from both sides, and embracing all sections of opinion. The question would then have been settled with greater ease and facility than by having constant discussions in this House and in the Senate.
– I desire to take this opportunity of saying a few words in regard to the selection of a site for the federal capital, and I sympathize with the honorable member for Macquarie, who has brought the question before the House. I do not by any means regard the excursion to the various sites as a picnic. Considering the many important questions which have engaged our attention since the meeting of Parliament, the Government are to be congratulated upon having taken the earliest opportunity of dealing with the selection of a site for the capital. No doubt there are various opinions as to what the investigation should be. Honorable members feel some responsibility in determining the course which should be adopted in arriving at a decision; and those who represent electorates in which eligible sites exist feel the responsibility of seeing that the claims of their districts are properly investigated. Any honorable member who considers that his district has been overlooked is justified in asking that its claims should be fully considered. As the result of action on the part of honorable members, districts which did not come under the notice of the commissioner during his earlier inquiries have since been referred to him, and most favorable reports have been given in regard to them. I do not hesitate to say that the reports which have been received place them practically on a level with districts which are admittedly in the running. I can understand the consideration which has been given to the claims of sites which are admittedly in the list from which the successful competitor must come. ‘ Naturally an honorable member representing a district in which one of the most eligible sites is situated is anxious to “ land his horse.” Having obtained a fair start he feels that he should carry everything before him to a successful conclusion. In that way, no doubt, honorable members representing Yass, Eden-Bombala, and Canobolas feel that they are pitted against each other in the struggle to secure the federal capital, and must do their utmost to secure the fullest and most careful investigation of the sites in their respective constituencies. As the federal capital is a matter for all time, the House cannot give too much consideration to the selection of the site. I do not think the Commonwealth Parliament have any right to be carried away by the anxiety of people who feel that New South Wales is not obtaining immediately all that it desires. What is now being done by the Government is only the initiation of what will probably be a long and tedious inquiry. Prior to the fixing of the 100- miles limit, the Bathurst district, which is represented by the honorable member for Macquarie, was considered to be a very favorable site for the federal capital. I know the district well. I lived there for three years. I have lived also in Canobolas, which is also a much-favoured district. I shall not say anything more about it, however, for just as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is entertaining members of the Senate in his district at the present time, and, I am sure, is not leaving very much unsaid in support of its claims as a site for the federal capital, so I know that the honorable member for Canobolas is burning to say a word or two on behalf of his constituents.
In the limited time at their disposal the> Government have endeavoured to give members of the Senate an opportunity of seeing as many sites as possible. No doubt, if there had been more time at the disposal of the party, the Government would have been very glad to fall in with the representations made by honorable members of different constituencies having claims to the federal capital. We do not consider that the present inspection will be final. No doubtit is only the forerunner of many excursions which will have to be made. Imagine the time which would be required to fully investigate the sites in the New England district, which has a climate equal to that of any part of the world, and a water supply from the River Guyra that could not be sur.passed Its western slopes carry a population of 80,000 people, in addition to some 60,000 on the table-lands, and independent of some 50,000 settlers on the opposite slopes. The district is approachable by rail from all the different States. I am not complaining that all the time which I should like to see devoted to an inspection of that district has not been given to it. I am sure that no one will attribute to me a desire to pay undue attention to my own electorate. All that I desire is that equal opportunities shall be given for the inspection of each of the sites, and that the claims of each district shall be considered in such, a way that Parliament will be able to cometo a right conclusion. The federal capital is to be in New South Wales, and it is evident that honorable members from that State feel more anxiety in the matter than do honorable members from other parts of the Commonwealth. We have had a very interesting review put before us by the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley. Before it was decided finally that the capital : should be in New South Wales, I had nohesitation in saying that, instead of Tasmania being a separate State, it would make a very nice area pf Commonwealth territory. I will not say that it would not have been a good thing for the Commonwealth if theFederal Parliament had been isolated on a nice little island, where it could legislate in quiet. It has been suggested by the honorable member for South Sydney that the selection of a site for the federal capital should be decided by a commission composed of honorable members of this Parliament. Has not a commission been appointed already? Whatever might be the commission! appointed by this Government, it would be wrong in the opinion of many people. The Government will have to take the responsibility. Imagine Members of Parliament seeking to shirk their responsibility by saying that they are going to arrive at a decision upon the verdict of a commission selected by ballot from this Parliament. I consider that, with the interests which I hold in New South Wales, I am as capable as is any honorable member of forming one of the jury which is to decide this question. Equally with other honorable members I shall have to take the responsibility of that decision, and I hope the Government will not lend an ear to the representations which are being made that honorable members should shirk their responsibility by referring the question to a commission. The Government have taken the first opportunity of allowing members of the Senate to visit the different sites, and I believe they intend to enable honorable members of this House to inspect the sites at the earliest possible date. After all we are only now entering upon the inquiry. I have been astonished, on reading the reports, to find what an important matter will be the settlement of the financial difficulties which are likely to arise in connexion with this question. It is not going to be a simple matter, and a decision will not be arrived at without a great deal of friction, which will be engendered as the position becomes more serious. When we have fixed upon a site for the federal capital considerable delay will still take place in arranging the terms with the State Parliament, and in taking over the property. The owners of vested interests, whatever site may be chosen, will not be prepared to hand over their property at the mere beck and call of representatives of the Commonwealth. These are matters which must take some time to settle. As a representative of New South Wales I shall take care to see that that State is fairly treated, but although we happen to be meeting in Victoria, that is no reason why we should come to a conclusion hurriedly. I think it it is our duty to legislate on this great and important question upon lines which will enable us to do what is right. I do not wish to introduce a great deal of debatable matter into this discussion ; but, during my travels, I hear a great many people say - “ Your Government are neglecting the question of the federal capital. They are allowing vested rights to grow up in Victoria.” I become very angry when I hear attempts being made to arouse a feeling of that kind between Victoria and New South Wales. Since we have been sitting here we have received every consideration at the hands of the people of Victoria, and I have not heard from them any expression of a marked desire to keep us here. If we were farther removed from the people who are chiefly concerned in the laws which we make, there would probably be better legislation. All that I desire to say, in conclusion, is that I think the Government deserve every consideration in their efforts to deal with this, question.
– The object of this debate is not to discuss the merits, of any sites submitted to the Government for consideration, but to discuss the methods adopted by the Government to enable honorable members to arrive at a decision as to which site should be selected. In the few words I have to say I do not propose to enter into any discussion of the merits of any particular site. I will deal with some of the criticisms offered in the course of the debate, and with the methodsby which the Government have proceeded in this matter up to the present time. WhatI have to say will be in no sense hostile to the Government, or in the nature of criticism for the mere sake of finding fault ; but I will endeavour to show how that which has given cause for complaint may beremedied in the future. The question hasbeen raised as to whether the State of New South Wales has been justified in the effortsshe has made, or which have been made on her behalf by her representatives, to expedite the settlement of this question. This was dealt with very strongly by the honorable member for Gippsland, who felt called upon to criticise the action of New South Wales members in this. House as “indecent,” and the representations from the State of New South Walesas partaking of the character of “ unreasonable clamour.” I think that is altogether unreasonable. New South Wales expected, as the result of the bond entered into at theoutset, and of the conditions laid down in the Constitution, that steps would be taken to locate the federal capital within her territory :’ but she did not expect from theGovernment, or from this Parliament, any indecent haste in the settlement of thequestion, or that there would be any unreasonable demand made in connexion with it. I cannot help thinking that the Government are to some extent responsible for some of the feeling which has recently been given expression to in New South Wales. Apparently there has been an extended correspondence between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premier of New South Wales upon this question. Very few, if any, honorable members had any knowledge of that correspondence until quite recently. Its publication appears to have suggested to the people of New South Wales that a hitch had occurred in the steps taken to arrive at a settlement of the question, and that it was due to a difference between the .Federal and State Governments as to which should take certain initiatory action. I believe that was largely responsible for the little bit of feeling expressed recently in Sydney. I am not fully seized of the correspondence, and the steps which have so far been taken, and I cannot say what justification there may be for supposing that a hitch has occurred in the matter. However, I do not regard it in any very serious light, nor do I think that the Government so regard it. Whatever feeling of dissatisfaction may have existed, the utterance of the honorable member for Gippsland, if it is expressive of the views of Victorians, which I question, and more particularly the attitude adopted by the leading press of this State, are calculated to intensify rather than to alleviate such a feeling on the part of New South Wales. If the agreement with that State is to be kept, there should be no unreasonable delay in taking the preliminary steps necessary to arrive at a decision on the question. On the other hand, honorable members will be agreed that there should be nothing like haste and nothing like precipitating a decision upon the matter, because that might result in a great injustice not only to New South Wales, but to the whole Commonwealth in years to come. It should not be forgotten, in dealing with this matter, that we are making a choice not for ourselves alone, but on behalf of the whole of the people of the Commonwealth and of the Legislature which is to discharge the functions of governing the Commonwealth for all time. That should be sufficient of itself to secure on our part the greatest care in dealing with this question, but it is no excuse for our. sitting quietly in this comfortable place and doing nothing at all. So long as the House is doing what is reasonable in the matter, I am quite satisfied there will be nothing in the nature of indecent pressure on the part of members from New South Wales, nor anything in the nature of unreasonable clamour from the people of New South Wales. The honorable member for Richmond, in dealing with the subject, raised the question as to the extent to which the location of the federal capital influenced the referendum vote in New South Wales, which ultimately led up to federation under the existing Constitution. He indicated what he considered to be the leading questions of difference, and amongst them he gave prominence to the consideration that the Constitution left it open for an honorable member of this Parliament to draw two salaries.
– The honorable member is wandering from the question.
– I was simply intending to reply to the remarks of a previous speaker.
– The honorable member for Richmond was himself checked in referring to the matter and it cannot be followed up.
– Very well, I will leave it severely alone. I was only going to say that the considerations suggested by the honorable member had no weight with me. I believe that the location of the federal capital had some weight in the referendum, but not to the extent suggested by the honorable member for Richmond. With respect to what the honorable member had to say as to the qualifications which it is desirable that the capital site should possess, 1 do not believe that honorable members will agree that it is absolutely indispensable that it should be a kind of “ cottage by the sea.”
– Does the honorable member think that ought to be discussed now ?
– No ; I do not, and the fact that these points have been raised during the debate has been my sole reason for making any reference to them. I hold that this is not a discussion upon the merits or demerits of any site put forward, but upon the methods so far adopted by the Government to enable us to arrive at a final decision. I wish to say that I am in accordance with the Government in their determination to give members of this House an opportunity of inspecting the various sites for themselves. It is all very well to have written statements of the advantages and disadvantages of particular sites, and photographic representations of the localities, hut these will all lack something which can he supplied only by honorable members visiting the localities and seeing them for themselves. I admit that in visiting the sites it is not necessary that honorable members should make an exhaustive inquiry into scientific questions affecting their suitability. The most that can be accomplished by such an inspection, and all that it is necessary to accomplish in that way, is to give honorable members a bird’s-eye view of the sites and their general surroundings. I regret that in carrying out this proposal the steps taken have not met so far with the amount of success I would have been pleased to see. The members of the Senate have been sent out on a tour on their own. It is not for me, or for members of this House, but for honorable senators themselves to criticise the arrangements made in connexion with their tour ; but it does seem to me that the time allotted for the inspection of many of the localities was rather limited. I am prepared to admit that the Government in arranging this visit by members of the Senate were necessarily unacquainted with some details which have proved to be more or less essential to the success of a trip of the kind. I trust that the Minister for Home Affairs, and those who will be charged with arranging the visit of inspection by members of this House, will profit by the experience gained as the result of the visit of inspection undertaken by members of the Senate. I think the people of New South Wales, and particularly those interested in different suggested sites, are reasonably disappointed at the small number of members of the Senate who undertook the trip. I do not suppose there have been more than about fifteen honorable senators who have availed themselves of the opportunity, out of a House consisting of 36 members, and a number of them have visited only certain special sites. We have in the Age to-day a statement from no less a person than the President of the Senate, that he had no desire to visit more than a certain number of the sites included in the Government list, because the others did not lie between Melbourne and Sydney, and he had made up his mind that, as far as he was concerned, the capital city must lie between those two great cities. That appears to me to be a very narrow view to take of this question. While Melbourne and Sydney are two of the largest cities in the Commonwealth, they do not constitute the whole of the Commonwealth, and there are other considerations to be taken into review, apart from the consideration as to whether a site proposed for the federal capital is on the line between Sydney and Melbourne. I admit that the Government are in no wise responsible for that narrow-minded view of the question. They can give members of this Parliament an opportunity of visiting other sites, but if they do not feel called upon to do so, the Government cannot compel them to do so. I am disposed to think that the honorable member for Macquarie has a cause of complaint in regard to the small amount of time allowed for the inspection of the sites in his constituency. He is in the fortunate or unfortunate position, I do not know which, of having two proposed sites within his electorate.
– The honorable member has now exceeded the time allowed to him under the standing order.’
– I blame Ministers in this instance, as I have had cause to blame them in the past, for mismanagement of public business and the consequent waste of time. If the Minister for Home Affairs had replied to the honorable member for Macquarie at the outset, the House would not have continued to discuss this question at such length and breadth up to this hour. The honorable member for Macquarie dealt chiefly with the failure of the Government to make proper provision for the inspection of the proposed capital sites, and if the Minister had given him a satisfactory answer there and then, there would have been an end to ! the discussion. But no, he sat there mumchance, and allowed the debate to go on until are we discussing not only the question of selecting a site in New South Wales, but whether we should not reform the Constitution, and locate the federal capital in Tasmania. I have always thought, and I. still think, that Tasmania is the proper place for it - in that I cordially agree with the honorable member for Gwydir - but I was a party to a solemn agreement, an agreement under and through which only federation was effected, and that was that the federal capital shall be within the territory of New South Wales. Whatever mv regret may be at the choice forced upon us, I, at any rate, shall adhere to the compact, and I am sure that honorable members generally are prepared to do the same. What we have to do is, without undue expedition, to allay the unrest that exists in some quarters in this regard, by making our selection as early as possible. There is no better way of advancing this matter to a successful issue than by supplementing the observation of members of the two Houses of this Parliament by independent and expert inquiry such as was recommended yesterday. The selection of the site is a matter of infinite importance, inasmuch as any mistake will be irreparable. I hope that Ministers will proceed without waste of time to place honorable members in a position to judge, from expert evidence of every kind, which is the proper site to select, and then the matter will be set at rest. As one or two honorable members have indicated, there is no reason why all these preparations should not be made during the recess, so that Parliament may be placed in a position to take the whole matter into consideration at’ the commencement of next session.
– The right honorable member for Tasmania complains that I did not at once reply to the honorable member for Macquarie, and he says that, if I had done so it would have stopped the debate. I venture to think that he is mistaken, and that the debate would have gone on in any case ; because a certain amount of effervescence had to be got rid of. Fifteen minutes is a very short time in which to reply to all that has been said this morning ; but I shall speak as rapidly as I can, and if I am not able to .finish within that time, I shall ask your permission, Mr. Speaker, to speak for three or four minutes longer. The honorable member for Macquarie complains that an injustice has been done to those who have suggested a site near Bathurst. If that is so, the honorable member is somewhat, though not altogether, to blame, because he must not forget that the site first agitated for by the people of Bathurst is within the 100 miles limit. What their complaint really amounted to was that the Federal Government would not override the Imperial interpretation of the 100 miles’ limit, and accept Mr. Oliver’s interpretation - that we would not allow the distance from Sydney to be reckoned as the distance by thenearest road, and insisted upon taking astraight line. I do not think the Federal’ Government can override the interpretation placed upon the statutory limit by theImperial authorities, and, as honorable members can see from the plan which I hold in my hand, the site first proposed by thepeople of Bathurst is within 100 miles of Sydney.
– Only part of it.
– Practically the whole of it.
– There is another site outside that.
– Subsequently a deputation waited upon the Premier of New South Wales in Sydney, and suggested a site adjoining the first site, but outside the 100 miles limit. That site is quite close to the railway line - so close that one can see it all and drive over it from the train in twenty minutes.
– That is not so. Has the Minister ever been over it ?
– No, but I have seen it. The honorable member iscorrect in stating that he referred to thismatter in the House some little time ago. On the 23rd January, I made the followingreply to a question asked by him : -
I venture to think that the members of the Federal Parliament will also consider it desirableto look at the site near Bathurst, which is nodoubt a good one, comprising good land, which, is outside the .100 miles limit.
When I arranged the programme for tlie tour of the senators I determined that they should have three hours in which to visit, the Bathurst site, though I was of opinion that they could see it all in half-an-hour.
– The programme provided for a stay of only two hours.
– The programme was prepared by the Railway Commissioners, but it was afterwards varied in more points than one. When I saw it, I said that there must be a stay of three hours at Bathurst. At that time it was not intended to visit the Garland-Carcoar site, about twenty miles from Blayney, but on Friday, when I was at Goulburn, I received the following telegram : -
Secretary Bathurst Federal Site wires - Any thing short of day at Bathurst useless for senators’ inspection.
To that telegram I replied -
Regret senators cannot give a day. If the site is near the railway it could surely be inspected early on Saturday afternoon.
I received no answer to my telegram, and therefore concluded that, as we could not give a day to Bathurst, it was no use staying there at all, and, as I had been pressed very hard to arrange for the inspection of the Garland-Carcoar site, we went there instead. That site, to my mind, will form part of what is known as the Canobolas site, if that part of the country is fixed upon as the location of the federal capital, because it is only about twenty miles from it.
– It is a very good district.
– I know that. I believe that it is within the honorable member’s constituency. When at Orange I received a wire from the Bathurst league, asking if I would receive a deputation at Bathurst, and we stayed a quarter of an hour there on our way through to do so, when I explained the whole matter to the mayor and Dr. Hurst, and I think fairly satisfied them that there was no intention on the part of the senators to leave out Bathurst.
– Did not the honorable gentleman tell them that he did not remember receiving a communication from the Premier of New South Wales on the subject?
– It was stated by Dr. Hurst that a communication had been sent to me by the Premier of New South Wales, and I said that at the moment I could not call it to mind because I had received so many communications in regard to various sites, but that probably it had been sent. I had not it with me at that time, but I afterwards ascertained that the following communication had been sent to me by the Premier of New South Wales : -
I have the honour to append for your consideration, copy of a report of a deputation that recently waited upon me to urge the claims of Bathurst to inclusion in the list of federal capital sites to be inspected by the Commonwealth Government.
– On the Monday before the senators left Melbourne, I telegraphed to the Minister asking that adequate provision be made for the inspection of the Bathurst site.
– Yes ; and, as I have already said, I made provision for a stay of three hours at Bathurst. Regarding the senators’ tour, I was approached to know whether I thought that it could be made within a fortnight, and I said “ Yes, I can make arrangements for them to take a cursory view of each site within a fortnight.” I venture to think that I did all that could be expected. It has been said that the senators could have left Melbourne on Friday instead of the following Tuesday, butIwas told that theydesired to start on the Tuesday night, and I made my arrangements accordingly. Icould havemade arrangements for them to start on Friday, but they did not desire to go then, and I could not control their movements. It has been said by one honorable member that the tour was arranged for by the Government to prevent the passing of the Electoral Bill, and by another honorable member that it was arranged to give the Vice-President of the Executive Council a short respite. I know nothing at all about that. I have stated all that I know about the whole business. The object of the tour was, not to enable senators to inquire into the possibilities of obtaining good water supplies, good building stone, good sanitary arrangements, or anything of that kind, at the various sites - those are matters to be determined by experts in the future - the object was to enable them to get a fair idea of the various sites in their minds. I venture to express the opinion that it is better for any Member of Parliament to obtain a view of a site in preference to a written description, or even a photograph, because afterwards he can the more readily apply any expert information which is furnished. Every Member of Parliament should view the sites which are likely to be considered before we decide this very important question, and a little expense in allowing an opportunity for honorable members to make an inspection is, I think, money well spent, and will not be regretted. I believe it will be found that many of the senators will come back with a far greater knowledge of the various sites, and of that part of New South Wales which they have been overthan they had before. In that respect, too, a great deal of good will have been accomplished. If this question is to be discussed in its broad aspect I should like it to be discussed after the senators return from their tour, because then they will be able to tell honorable members what they have done and seen. An expression of regret has been made that a larger number of senators did not accompany the expedition. I am informed that altogether about 24 senators have taken part in it at various times. I do not mean to say that they have gone to each of the sites. Sir Richard Baker declined to go to many sites, and seems to have fixed his idea on one or two. But taking the number of senators who are engaged partially or wholly in this excursion, I think that 24, if that be the correct number, is a very large proportion of the 36 members of the Senate - a very much larger proportion than we could have anticipated, because some senators have to give their time to professional work, and there is not the necessity for the senators for New South Wales, who know the country, to visit the sites that there is for those who come from other States to do so. There are not many senators absent who could have been present. The statement has been made, and it has been impressed by one or two honorable members on the Goverment, that they should take the responsibility of reducing the number of sites. I should like to know what sort of an attack would have been made upon them if they had attempted to do anything of the kind.
– The Government could take the chance.
– It is all very well to say that the Government could take the responsibility of reducing the number of sites. Would it be right for the Government to cast out of consideration Albury or Wagga Wagga, or Tumut 1
-paterson. - The Parliament will cast Tumut out of consideration.
-I do not know that it will ; that is a matter for further consideration. Would it be right for the Government to cast out of consideration Goulburn or Yass, or Orange or -Lake George t
– What about the CarcoarGarland site ?
– That I look upon as part of the Canobolas site. I do not know if the honorable member has been there. .
– I know it very well, indeed.
– It is within 20 miles of the Canobolas site, and if the latter is adopted it will be embraced therein. Would it be right to cast out of consideration Bombala or Armidale ? Although there are objections, raised to Armidale, I venture to think that there is considerable strength in the statement made by the honorable member for New England, and if I remember aright there were figures laid before theConvention at Adelaide, showing that within 40 years from that time Queensland would have 7,500,000 inhabitants, New South Wales 8,000,000 inhabitants, and Victoria 4,000,000 or 4,500,000 inhabitants. It does not matter much whetherthat estimate is absolutely correct. It only indicates where the population is likely to besituated’. That is a reason, I think, why weshould not cast out of consideration at once any site north of Sydney. The Government has not desired to take, nor has it taken, any immediate or undue action in this matter. The Parliament has been in session for about eight months, and although we recognise that it has been quite impossible, in consequence of the business that has had to be performed, to get an adjournment for the purpose of visiting the sites,, still I think there should be no unnecessary delay in inspecting them, and if possible deciding on a site.
– The honorable member has exceeded the time he is allowed under the standing order.
Motion (by Mr. Barton) proposed -
That the standing orders be suspended in order to enable the Minister for Home Affairs to continue his speech.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I would suggest that the motion be made wider, so as to enable not only the Minister but others to continue their speeches, shall ask the House to insert the words “and others.”
– The motion would not read properly if those words were inserted, because the Minister has commenced his speech.
– The motion is made on the ground that my honorable colleague’s reply to speech is intended to cover a number of speeches.
– I do not mind the Minister doubling his time, but I think there should be some time limit made.
– I ‘shall be as concise as possible.
Motion agreed to.
– I thank the House for the consideration it has extended to me. Although there has been no hurry in connection with this inspection, I think that an effort should be made as early as possible to bring about a settlement. It does not follow that because a commencement has been made to inspect the sites the site will be fixed immediately. There is a very great deal to be done before it can possibly be fixed. First of all there is to be an inspection by Members of both Houses. That, I hold, is the first step which should be taken, because I think that the Ministry should not take the responsibility of excluding sites that have a fair chance of being considered. I think that members of the two Houses should properly inspect these sites before that reduction is made. Some of the sites, no doubt, will not be considered to the last, but most of those that have been already dealt with will, I venture to say. I for one decline to take the responsibility of excluding any site before the members of both Houses have had an opportunity of judging for themselves that locality. It has been, and is the intention of the Government to take this first step. When honorable members have inspected the sites, then expert evidence should be called in - not ordinary expert evidence, but the best expert evidence that can be obtained. The matter is of such grave importance that the experts standing highest in the Australian States, if we do not go outside, should be employed to deal with this question, and to bring up a report for the consideration of Members of Parliament, and not for a decision by any committee. It was stated by one or two honorable members to-day that a committee of the House should bring up a report as to a particular site. That would not be a very satisfactory way of dealing “with the question ; the report should come up to the two Houses from the experts. It must not for a moment be imagined that the Government intend to hand over to experts the control of this matter. I should be absolutely opposed to any such thing being done. Experts will be employed to give expert information, and to obtain expert evidence. If we were to hand over, as some honorable members seem to expect, the further investigation and the duty of making a practical recommendation to any body of experts, I do not think it would meet with the commendation of the House. It has been stated that the
Federal Parliament has not the right to decide this question. I hold that it and nob the Parliament of New South Waleshas the absolute right to decide the question. But it was always expected and understood that the Parliament of New South Wales would offer for consideration some site or sites, because it is providethat that State shall give to the Commonwealth any Crown lands surrounding the site.
– Will these experts examine before the elimination of sites takesplace ?
– I do not think that very many of the sites that have been examined can be culled down at present. I do not wish to particularize them, but there are various reasons - geopraphical, topographical and others - why it would be very difficult to exclude more than one or two of the sites which are under consideration. I agree with what I think is in the mind of the honorable member, and one reason why I objected to the employment of expertsin the first instance was because I did not want to employ experts on any sites which are not likely to be taken into consideration at all : it would be money thrown away to do anything of the kind. I donot think that the Government can very well reduce the sites much below the number that are under consideration now.
– Who will have an opportunity to reduce the sites t
– I think thatafter the members of the House of Representatives have visited the sites they will understand pretty well amongst themselves, how many of them are likely to be in therunning.
– Somebody must take the initiative, and the Minister says he will not.
– No doubt the initiative will be taken after the sites are properly inspected, probably by the Government. There is no one else likely to take’ the initiative. At the present time I think honorable members should have a chance of” viewing the sites before any reduction in their number takes place.
– Then I understand that the Minister will cut them down after the visits 1
– I give no promise of that kind. If every site is considered to be in the running by those who- visit the sites, and make the inspection, or by any large section of them, they should not be cut out, but should be examined. It will depend to a very large extent on the view taken by honorable members when they visit the sites.
– The honorable member for Eden-Bombala can ascertain what the feeling of the members is.
– He may, and so may the right honorable and learned member. It was suggested when an honorable member was speaking that the visit by members of this House should be made in the recess. I venture to think that it would be quite impossible to get any large number of honorable members to pay a visit during the recess. When they were dispersed each to his own State they would not be likely to come together for that purpose. It would cause unnecessary delay if that course were adopted. The better course, in my humble judgment, will be to adjourn the House for a fortnight and to visit the sites during the session and not afterwards.
– Three weeks.
– I think as regards every site it will be found that the residents have recognised that plenty of time has been given for the inspection that has taken place and that is desired at the present moment. In many cases telegrams were sent to me by the inhabitants offering to tender a banquet to the senators, and in every case I refused to accept any courtesy of the kind. In addition, strictures have been passed on the people in the various centres for not providing vehicles, horses, and so so. But the people would willingly have provided these had I not thought it much better to be independent on a trip of this kind, when long journeys - as far as 64 miles one day - had to be made by road. If we had not had really good horses and traps we might not have got through such a journey, especially if these had been granted to us in such a way that we could not complain of delay or exercise any control. The inhabitants did not supply horses and vehicles, not from any want of courtesy, as has been suggested, but simply because I thought it much better to provide our own accommodation in this respect. I should like to say a word or two in reference to the statement that more time has been devoted to the inspection of the Bombala site than to that of any other site. I need not further refer to the time which was devoted to each locality, except to say that when we arrived at any particular place in the middle of the night, it was clearly impossible to commence operations until daylight, and on each occasion the senators could be seen driving to’ the first place of inspection at about six o’clock. It will be seen that very little time was lost, and that the senators were enjoying no picnic. I want honorable members, who can look- fairly at this question, to ask themselves how Bombala could have been visited in a shorter time. The train arrives at Cooma some time in the morning, and from that point to Dalgety is 30 miles, which was covered in the afternoon. The distance from Dalgety to Bombala is 50 or 60 miles, a’nd surely a drive of such a distance was sufficient for one day. The senators were expected to arrive at Bombala yesterday, and provision was made for inspecting the two sites there to-day. Tomorrow morning those senators who desire to return by train start by road for Cooma, while those who wish to return viet Twofold Bay have a journey of 65 miles by coach down the mountain.
– That is a test of tlie accessibility of the sites.
– The honorable member will agree with me that I could not have arranged any shorter time for the inspection of the Bombala sites ; and it is idle and unfair for honorable members to say that a longer period was devoted to this locality than to others.
– What we say is that the same provision should have been made for the inspection of other sites, and not only two or three hours allowed.
– Sufficient provision was made for the inspection of the other sites. Where a site was on a railway, and could be inspected in two or three hours, it would have been ridiculous for the senators to stop loafing about instead of continuing the journey.
– What about Canobolas, to which only about four or five hours were devoted ?
– Expressions of opinion were given all round when we left Canobolas that if we had devoted two or three days to that place, we could not have done or seen more; and the people of Orange were absolutely satisfied with the course which was taken.
– To the Lake George site only three hours, I believe, were given.
– The honorable member for West Sydney went part of the way with us, and, unfortunately, was there on a very bad day.
– If the senators see Bombala as we saw Albury, the Bombala site will not be selected.
– I dare say not; but Albury and Waggawere inspected on unfortunate days. These places are close to Melbourne, and if senators are not satisfied with the inspection they have already made, they can re-visit the sites in a few hours.
– They are more than satisfied, I think.
SirWILLIAM LYNE.- I do not wish, as the honorable member does, to cast any slur on Albury and Wagga.
– I mean that the senators were more than satisfied with the weather.
– The honorable member can put it that way if he likes, but that was not his insinuation.
– That was what I intended.
– One of the morning newspapers has made a proposal that the seat ofGovernment should be alternately in Sydney and Melbourne. I wish to say that, so far as the Federal Government are concerned, no suggestion of that kind has been made. It originated, I presume, with the newspaper, but, as an insinuation has been made that the suggestion was inspired by the Government, I wish now to say that such is not the case.
– And the Government have no sympathy with the suggestion?
– The Government have no sympathy with it, because they are in favour of selecting a site that is not under the influence of the powerful journals in either city.
– There is nothing in that contention.
– I think there is a good deal in it.
– The press representatives will be at the capital city.
– However, that is a question we need not discuss now. What we are considering is the inspection of the various sites, and I do not presume to think for a moment that anything the Government may do in this matter will meet with the support of some honorable members. I regret to say that some reflections of the kind to which I have referred were made at the public meeting in Sydney, and also that the newspapers in that city have not dealt with this matter in the fairest way, but have tried, to a certain extent, to ridicule the visit of the senators. The senators were, however, never more in earnest, and there never was a more business-like trip, from which considerable good will result, only to be surpassed by the advantages which will follow the visit to be made hereafter by members of the House of Representatives. There will be no hesitancy on the part of the Government in carrying out in a reasonable way the compact that was entered into by the various States. But this matter cannot be “ rushed “ in the way which seems to be desired by some legislators and people outside Parliament. My idea - and it is only my personal idea - is that when the site is selected we should provide some semitemporary buildings, which will last perhaps 20 or 30 years; and that work of erection will occupy two or three years. I do not think that the site can possibly be fixed this session ; but I hope a decision may be arrived at during this Parliament, perhaps next session, after expert evidence is obtained. When these temporary buildings are provided, ample time will be afforded for laying the foundations of what I hope will be a beautiful city ; but that cannot be satisfactorily accomplished by “ rushing “ the work, either in connexion with the preparation of the designs or the erection of the structures.
– I have listened patiently to the very full statement made by the Minister for Home Affairs, but there are some points on which the public are very anxious for information, and to which no reference has been made. I gather from one or two simple facts that the decision to take the senators on tour was singularly sudden. In the first place, not even the all-knowing and all-seeking press had the slightest idea of the proposed visit on the Thursday on which the VicePresident of the Executive Council gave notice of his motion for the adjournment of the Senate for a fortnight. Not one of the newspapers of Australia had the slightest information, and, more than that, the senators had no idea of this project on the morning of the day when the notice of motion was given. So far as I understand, the gentlemen who were to make this tour were not consulted - though a favoured few may have been - as to whether any of them would be able to go. On the contrary, the Government had established a discussion on a very important measure, namely, the Electoral Bill, and the beginning of the debate was in full swing when this sudden notice of motion was given. Is it to be understood that this Bill will be proceeded with this session? If so., why was it flung aside so suddenly by this adjournment for a fortnight ? The whole of the proceedings surrounding this trip are shrouded in mystery. Instead of proper publicity - instead of asking the senators whether they would be able to go, and consulting them as to a convenient date- the whole project seems to have been suddenly determined on. When a Government does anything in a hurry there is generally a motive. What was the motive for this sudden determination? Why was the business of Parliament suddenly suspended? Was not the Public Service Bill, which had been hung up for months, of sufficient importance?
– The Public Service Bill had been sent down to the House of Representatives.
– But at that time it was not here.
– Yes, it was.
– No, indeed it was not ; and a reference to the newspapers will show that the Public Service Bill was being discussed on that very Thursday.
– The Public Service Bill was sent down before the adjournment of the Senate.
– Then it must have been just before - the day before. That being so, the discussion on the Electoral Bill had been fully begun. Did the Government intend to go on with the measure?
– The second reading had been moved.
– And several senators had spoken on it.
– Only one or two.
– Senator Harney, Senator Sir John Downer, and one or two others had spoken.
– I think there were only three or four speeches.
– The debate had begun. But what I desire to know is, did the Government of New South Wales, four days before this motion wasmoved, know anything about the proposed trip? What was the first date on which the Premier of New South Wales was told this trip was projected ?
– I forget at this moment.
– I guarantee it was during the same week.
– I dare say it was.
– I think it was on the Thursday night when the Vice-President of the Executive Council gave notice of the motion for adjournment.
– It was the day before, I think.
– Then either on that day or the day before, the Premier of New South Wales was told of this projected visit. Was it fair that the Government of that State should be kept in the dark as to the Government’s intentions? I believe this was a sudden determination on the part of the Government. I do not think that the Government tried to keep anything back, but that the idea of the visit only occurred to them late in the week, and, because of this, no intimation was given to the Government of New South Wales. What was the mysterious motive for the sudden resolve, and why all the surrounding mystery? There must have been a motive ; what was it?
– To get an inspection of the sites.
– That is a very proper thing ; but when 30 gentlemen are asked to go somewhere in an adjoining State for a fortnight it is usual to give more than 48 hours’ notice if it is desired to make the trip a success. In organizing the commonest picnic these precautions would be taken, and it is curious that they should be neglected in connexion with this most important visit. Was this only the first of a series of Senatorial trips, or was it intended to be the Senatorial visit. Clearly it was intended to be the Senatorial visit, and I say that the arrangements were unsatisfactory.
– The arrangements were perfectly satisfactory.
– It was very sudden, and the motive has not yet been stated.
– Never mind what the motive was.
– I think we have a right to know the motive, inasmuch as this is an affair of State. Was the motive the big meeting which was announced to be held in
Sydney? This is a matter which has been hung up for months. Why should we wait for an inspection by a committee of experts - if we are to have such a committee - until honorable members have visited the sites? Clearly we cannot pay such a visit for months to come, because this House must not neglect pressing business, and we want the Prime Minister to get to England for the Coronation.
– I am glad to hear that, because it does not look as if it was desired to give me time.
– The Minister will get to England in plenty of time. We do not want this matter delayed in the sphere of executive action. Months ago the Premier of New South Wales was asked to indicate a site which he preferred - a most improper request. The result is that the Premier of New South Wales has never answered the letters of the Federal Government from that day to this. That was one cause of delay, and now we are told that we must not have the advantage of the assistance of experts until after the Members of Parliament have visited the sites. I entirely differ from the Minister for Home Affairs in that respect. Surely we can visit the sites to greater advantage if we have more information than if we have less. Since there must be some delay owing to the pressure of public business, the labours of the experts can be hurried, so that the Members of Parliament, when they pay the proposed visit, may have the advantage of those labours. If the other system be adopted there will be interminable delay ; and I am sure the Government will reconsider the suggestion of the Minister for Home Affairs. Whatever the Minister may say, it is ludicrous in the extreme to expect senators, in three hours, to form a just opinion about a site for the federal capital in a large district. More time would be taken to select a site for a dog show. This is one of the most vital things that a House of Parliament can do, because if a mistake is made it is irreparably made. Yet these senators were rushed over the country in this - as I say - most indecent haste. Who could get up at six o’clock in the morning with any idea of thinking favorably of any site in the world after travelling a long railway journey on the previous day? I could never think favorably of any site, to see which I had to get up at six in the morning ! Yet these senators were brought out of bed at five o’clock in some places. Look at the contrast between these desperate efforts to give the members of the Senate birds-eye views of New South Wales, and the delightful arrangements made with reference to the site in the district that is represented in this House by the Ministerial whip. The programme says that the senators were to arrive at Bombala on the afternoon of Thursday. They were to have various entertainments that evening - all informal, but most seductive ! Then after a blessed night’s rest, following the hardships of the tour which they had undertaken, the senators were to have a whole day for the inspection of that site. There was not to be merely a three-hours’ inspection for Bombala, but a whole day, with three healthy meals thrown in ! Then the senators were to rest again and enjoy another pleasant evening, proceeding on the following morning. Look at that picture, and contrast it with the picture of the other visits - arriving at places at five in the morning and going away again at eight or ten the same day. One trip, according to the programme, was so arranged that the party were to arrive from Armidale in Sydney nearly twelve hours before they started ! According to this time-table, they were to leave on Monday at 8.40 p.m., and arrive in Sydney at 8.30 a.m. the same day ! That is the sort of thing one expects with a programme that was so very rapidly prepared ! It does not quite fit together ! But the whole thing is shrouded in mystery. I am sure that Ministers had some motive in doing these things. Under these circumstances, we still want them to tell us when they made up their minds that this visit should take place, and when they stated their intention to senators - I do not mean by giving public notice, but by ascertaining personally their convenience. We also want to know when the Ministry intimated their intention to the Government of New South Wales. The Minister has answered that by saying that notice was given two or three days before the trip.
– I said one or two days before notice of motion was given.
– The Minister is quite right - probably the day before. That is to say on the Wednesday the Government wired to New South Wales - “The Senate of Australia is going to visit your country.” On the Thursday an astonished public and an astonished State learned that_ the trip was going to be taken ! It was marvellously quick for this Government. What stung them into this wonderful’ activity? There is something in it. Shall we ever know? In the meantime, there is an injustice to New South Wales - and I think any honorable member whose State was concerned would feel it. This is not a subject for ridicule. It is not a subject for ridiculous arrangements - and these particular arrangements were clearly ridiculous. They were not worthy of the greatness of the subject with which we have to deal. In the next place, I ask the Government this question. While J do not, and I never did, expect this Parliament to choose the federal site this session - I do not want any one to think we are so unreasonable as that ; I do not think any one ever dreamed that this Parliament would in the first session choose the federal capital site - yet it is a very fair proposal that next session this matter should be decided. But it is impossible that we can decide it unless the Executive do their part of the work before next session begins. The Government must not, therefore, leave the work of the experts until next session commences. There are several months for Executive action. I hope that the Government during those months will get all the expert evidence they require. May I point out that if they are not satisfied with the expert evidence which has already been collected by the Government of New South Wales, they are in this position - either they regard the evidence collected by Mr. Oliver as sufficient, or they do not. If they do not regard it as sufficient, they should have set going an inquiry of their own long ago. There is no earthly reason why the Executive should wait twelve months to put an inquiry of their own into motion. So that if the Government look upon Mr. Oliver’s information as defective, and wish for more, they should set about getting it. I hope they will set about it now.
– There has been a good deal said, and suggested by way of insinuation, to the effect that the Government are not in earnest upon this question ; but the suggestions and insinuations generally come from those whose only indication of greater earnestness is more talk. The Government have not slept upon this matter, and the correspondence which has been laid upon the table of the. House shows that they have taken every reasonable means to act in concert with the Government of New South Wales. It is true, sir, that we have not been able to obtain from the Government of New South Wales an indication of their preferences on the subject. But those who will look into the provision of the Constitution will appreciate the idea and desire of this Government, because they will see, upon any reasonable construction of the 125th section, that if it is not absolutely intended that the first offer and expression of preference should come from New South Wales, the section - as it seems to me - is worded in such a way as to indicate that the reasonable preferences of that State should, in the first instance at any rate, receive considerable attention. The desire of this Government, in asking for a statement of some preference from the Government of New South Wales, was not to put that G overnment in a corner not by any means. I had not that idea in my mind for a moment in writing the letter I did. The whole matter stood in this way. On the 1st August, in reply to a letter of mine of the 26th July, suggesting that -
Reservation from sale and lease might wisely be made of the Crown hinds within any additional areas, which in the opinion of your Government deserve consideration ; because we wanted to be quite sure that they had suggested all they had to suggest, and that they would reserve any desirable land around the areas they thought worthy of consideration ; in answering that letter, I say, Mr. See said -
All recommendations to date made by Mr. Alexander Oliver, the Federal Sites Commissioner, have been referred to your Government, to which any further recommendations will also be submitted.
That showed clearly that there was an idea on the part of the Government of NewSouth Wales to make other recommendations, whether at our request or by their own initiation. The next paragraph is this -
I have to add that this Government cannot, however, reserve in anticipation hinds that may be required by the State for 0on& fide settlement purposes.
It struck us that if the Government of New South Wales were inclined to hold their hands with regard to the reservation of land from sale or lease in likely areas - in prob-able areas - in anticipation of the decision pf the question of the acquisition of land for purposes of the federal capital, we might find that some site, which might turn out to be the best, might become less liable to be selected, on account of the land around it being taken up. Consequently, in writing on the 29th of the same month, putting certain categorical questions to Mr. See, I added this : -
I shall also esteem it a favour if you will be good enough to inform me, in view of the second paragraph of your letter of the 1st inst -
That is what I have just read - in which you intimate the objection of your
Government to reservations which appear to be unnecessary, whether you are prepared to indicate any area or areas for which your Government entertains a preference ?
Seeing from that letter of the 1st August, however, that I could not depend upon the Government of New South “Wales making reservations around areas that seemed probable to be selected, it seemed to me to be a reasonable way out of the difficulty, by way of cutting down the number of areas, if they would indicate some area for which they entertained a preference, in order to prevent the necessity of unnecessary areas, as to which the Government of New South Wales might entertain a certain reluctance, being selected. They have reserved certain areas around Bombala, Yass, and Canobolas; and, if we can take Mr. Oliver as representing the intentions of the New South Wales Government, it is intended to make similar reservations around the Tumut site - the)’ probably have now been made. My difficulty about the recommendations of Mr. Oliver is that I have tried to ascertain from the Government of New South Wales whether his report indicates their intentions, but they have not told us. I do not blame them for that. They may have good reasons for nob taking responsibility in the matter. But my object now is to explain the position of this Government. It was to obtain a shortening of the means of decision, and at the same time to give effect to the feelings and intentions of this House, that I tried to obtain an indication of preferences from the Government of New South Wales ; because I know, notwithstanding the insinuations made against the earnestness of the House in the matter, that it is perfectly in earnest and ready to take into fair consideration any preference on the part of the State most concerned. As to the rest of what has been stated in the course of this debate, I have little to say. It has been insinuated by the right honorable the leader of the Opposition, in a speech which differed from a great many which he makes because the disposition to be nasty was so innocent in it, that the reason why this trip was resolved upon on the part of the Senate lay in some unexplained motive. The reason was this : After , several speeches on the Electoral Bill had been delivered in the Senate, it was believed that the debate would proceed. But a reluctance to proceed with the debate was shown. A good many members on both sides of the Chamber were not prepared to go on with it. The Senate was finishing the Public Service Bill, and it was expected that the debate on the Electoral Bill would take up the time - or the major part of the time - between then and the despatch of the Tariff from this House As, however, the debate was not to proceed at once, there was this time to spare, and it was considered to be a reasonable and proper thing to have an adjournment until the 26th inst., so that, in the meantime, the Senate might have an opportunity - which would be the only opportunity it could obtain this session - of visiting the proposed federal sites. The Government have thought it reasonable that each House should have an opportunity to do so: and we thought that this was the best opportunity for the Senate to make a visit. It has been said that the time was too short. The answer to that simply is, that honorable members should wait until the senators come back and ask them whether or not that has been the case. I do not think they will be under that impression. Because it must be recollected that an inspection made by a body of parliamentarians does not require the same time, nor the same ardent inspection, as would a visit from a number of scientific men. Members of Parliament have not to examine the character of the rocks in the neighbourhood. They are not geologists. They have not to take measures and levels. Water supply they know nothing about - at all events most of them do not. They are not experts in hydraulics. What they want to do is to make such a visit to each proposed site as will be requisite for the purpose of forming a reasonable opinion on matters of altitude and climate and so on. In doing that reasonable men will not form an adverse opinion of a district because of a hot, windy day, but they will form a conclusion as to the general capabilities of the district. That object can be effected in much quicker time than a scientific inspection would require. I think it will be found when the party returns that the members of the Senate - of whom nearly two-thirds have taken part in’ the journey - have derived a profitable experience from the inspection they have made. We only hope and believe that we shall be able to give a similar, and, perhaps, a little more extended experience tu honorable, members of this House. In any case it is right that the inspection should be made during the session. When members once scatter to their homes all over the continent it is idle to expect them to assemble once more during the recess for the purpose of inspecting these sites. The inspection should be made during the session, and I hope that we shall have the good-will, as well as a good muster, of honorable members on all sides of the House when the inspection is made. I have to thank the honorable member for North Sydney for a speech which stands out for its fairness. He recognised the difficulties with which the Government are beset; he recognised that we are really in earnest on this question. Why is it to be supposed that I should be less in earnest than any other honorable member from New South Wales, or from ‘any other part of Australia, in regard to this matter? Without any desire to be unfair to any part of Australia, I consider that the arrangement that the federal capital should be in New South Wales was made, not solely in the interests of that State, but under a Constitution which gives in return for an advantage to Melbourne, a reciprocal advantage to New South Wales I do not believe that it is the desire of any honorable member to deprive Australia of the benefits of that provision in the Constitution, either for the purpose of holding the sessions of Parliament in Melbourne for longer than is absolutely requisite, or on the other hand, for the purpose of doing anything which might be inferentially a fraud upon the rights of New South Wales. I do not think that that is intended. I do not care from what quarter certain press comments come, but I recognise the unfairness of some press comments which have been made on this subject. They indicate a desire to deride and jeer at the inspection in which I hope honorable members .of the Opposition will not join, because if they do so they will be playing into the hands . of their enemies. I deprecate as strongly as I can the endeavour on the part of a portion of the press to take all seriousness from an undertaking seriously and honorably entered upon, because that can only be in pursuance of a policy which cannot be accepted as a fair one by honorable members of this House.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie). - In reply, I do not offer any apology for having introduced this debate, for I believe it has ventilated the question and done a great deal of good. I have no desire to reply to the many matters brought forward during the discussion, with the exception of the remarks made by the Minister for Home Affairs with respect to the visit which members of the Senate paid to Bathurst. The time-table arranged for the visit, which is signed by Mr. Upward, the Usher of the Black Rod’, and with which the Railway department has nothing to do, allots one hour to Bathurst instead of three hours, as mentioned by the Minister.
– The honorable member ought to take my word that the moment I saw that provision in the time-table I extended the time from one to three hours.
– This is the first that I have heard of the alteration. It was arranged that members of the Senate should arrive at Orange at 9.30 a.m., and they did so. They had to visit the Canobolas site, and ascertain something about the district. They had also to inspect the Carcoar-Garland site.
– It was not intended to visit that site when the time-table was made out.
– The site was brought under the notice of the Minister, and it was decided to inspect it.
– - That is not fair. It was in consequence of the Bathurst site-
– I understood that Mr. Waddell, the representative of the district in the State Parliament, brought the site under notice. The Bathurst site had also to be inspected. The party arrived at Orange at 9.30 a.m., and arranged to visit all three sites, to go over the district, and to return to Sydney, 192 miles distant, by eleven p.m.
– That shows the accessibility of the place.
-It shows the absurdity of endeavouring to inspect the different sites without giving proper time to the work. I feel that I was perfectly justified in introducing this matter. The claims of the various sites have not been properly looked into by members of the Senate during their tour of inspection, and I was fearful that when honorable members of this House were calledupon to make a similar inspection, the work would be undertaken under the same conditions. That, I felt satisfied, would be most undesirable, as well as objectionable to the House, for I realize that the majority of honorable membersare anxious to do the right thing. I do not think that there is any general feeling in favour of setting aside the compact which was entered into when the Constitution Bill was accepted by the people of New South Wales. The Victorian press have been most unreasonable in their criticism. The Age says that the Australian capital may be built within twenty years or so, while the Argus says that it may be built within the next ten years. Of course, we know that the Age is infavour of the Federal Parliamentmeeting here as long as possible, and these press continents show that there is an under-current of feeling that the selection of the federal capital site should he delayed, contrary to the provision in the Constitution that the capital shall be in New South Wales. I was pleased to hear the statement made by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs that they intend to have the inspection carried out thoroughly, and more time allotted to the visit to be paid to the various sites by members of this House. I am glad, also, that the Government hopeto have all the expert information available before next session, so that, when Parliament meets again, we shall be able to come to a determination.
– Alter the Constitution?
– No; the compact that the federal capital shall be in New South Wales was fairly entered into, and I hope it will be fairly kept, I trust that expedition will be shown in obtaining all the expert information available, so that next session, if not before, the Government will be in a position to make a definite proposal for the selection of a site, in order that
Parliament may be able to arrive at a right decision and settle the whole question.
Question resolved in the negative.
Resolved (motion by Mr. Barton) -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Tuesday next.
House adjourned at 3.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 February 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020221_reps_1_8/>.