House of Representatives
22 September 1903

1st Parliament · 2nd Session



Mr. Speaker took thechair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 5272

QUESTION

HIGH COURT APPOINTMENTS

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN:
WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES

– In view of the public anxietywith regard to certain statements which have been published in the press, I should like to ask my right honorable friend at the head of the Government if he can see his way to fix a definite date for informing the House as to the intentions of the Government with regard to the appointments to the Bench of the High Court?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Minister for External Affairs · HUNTER, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– The statements which have been published in the press do not represent the actual position of the matter. As soon as there is anything definite concerning the composition of the Court to make public, a statement will be made - first of all to the members of the two Houses of Parliament. If the matter had reached that stage which isalluded to in the press, I should not be here to-day to move the motion with respect to the Federal Capital site standing on the notice-paper in my name.

Mr WILKS:
DALLEY, NEW SOUTH WALES

– Following up the right honorable member’s answer, I should like to ask him, without notice, if he thinks, in view of the recent defeat of the Government upon a matter of vital Ministerial policy and of the near approach of the dissolution of Parliament, the Government ought to make such appointments as those to the Bench of the High Court, until they have sought and obtained the confidence of this House and of the country?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– If the Government do not possess the confidence of. the House there has been ample opportunity for the honorable member and others to test the question. They have failed to do that, however.We see no reason to doubt that we possess, not only the confidence of the House, but of the whole country.

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COMMONWEALTH METEOROLOGICAL DEPARTMENT

Mr L E GROOM:
DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND · PROT; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917; IND from 1931; UAP from 1934

– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that there is at present in

Queensland no Meteorological Department for the issuing of weather forecasts, and of the statement which has been made in respect to the Victorian Meteorological Department, he will forthwith communicate with the Governments of the States to see if it is not possible to establish a Commonwealth Department.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

– It is with very great regret that the Government have learned of the abandonment of the Queensland Meteorological Bureau ; but I cannot undertake to at once establish a Commonwealth Meteorological- Department because the transfer of the States Departments could not be completed without the passing of a short Act, inasmuch as those Departments are not within the list of those which can be taken over by proclamation. To pass such an Act would take some little time, and I do not think it is advisable to extend the list of measures for this session beyond those already mentioned. The taking over of the astronomical and meteorological’ departments of the States is, however, a measure which the Government fully intend to ask Parliament to sanction, but they feel that they must postpone such action until next session.

Mr WILKINSON:
MORETON, QUEENSLAND

– Would it not be possible to establish a Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau without taking over the States’ Bureaux? There is nothing in the Constitution to prevent us from doing that, and I think that if we were to do it our action would compel the States to fall into line with us. The importance of the subject has been recognised in all the States, and particularly in the State of which I have the honour to represent a part.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– It is, no doubt, possible to take the course which the honorable member suggests ; but I do not think it would be advisable, inasmuch as the unnecessary duplication of functions would be a source of irritation to the States beyond the corresponding advantage to the Commonwealth. 1 still think that the best plan is that which the Constitution seems to indicate- the passing of a short measure dealing with the subject.

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QUESTION

PREFERENTIAL TRADE: MR. CHAMBERLAIN’S RESIGNATION

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN:

– I wish to know from the Prime. Minister if it is a fact; as set forth in yesterday’s newspapers, that the Government, under his hand, sent the following message to Mr. Chamberlain : -

Your great policy commands the support of Australia. We know that you will persevere.

I desire also to ask him, in view of the fact that the discussion of the question of preferential trade by this House has been postponed until a new Parliament meets, and that no concrete statement has ever been placed before honorable members, on what Constitutional principle he, as Prime Minister, ventures to voice Australia on the Subject 1

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

– I sent a telegram exactly in the words which the honorable member read, thinking that, as an Australian public man, speaking for myself, I had a perfect right to do so. J think that I had an additional right to send it, because I believe absolutely in the truth of what it communicated to Mr. Chamberlain.

Mr THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES

– Has the Prime Minister observed that the Premier of NewZealand consulted the Parliament of that Colony by moving a motion on the subject before sending a similar communication?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– I became aware of that fact after I had sent my telegram, but I see no reason to compel me to a similar course of action. *

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QUESTION

WESTERN AUSTRALIAN TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILWAY

Mr E SOLOMON:
FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · FT

– Have the Government taken into consideration the advisability of having a survey made of the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie ?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

– It has been stated to this House more than once that that matter is under the consideration of the Ministry, and I think that I have also intimated that caution is needed in regard to it, inasmuch as, notwithstanding certain intimations which were made by a late Pm.mier of South Australiaand a certain telegram which was sent by the present Premier of that State to the Premier of Western Australia, no step has yet been taken by the Parliament of the State in the direction of authorizing the Commonwealth to construct the line. I have written to the Premier of South Australia on the subject, and when I have received his reply, both communications will be laid upon the table of the House.

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BONUSES FOR MANUFACTURES BILL

Sir EDWARD BRADDON:
TASMANIA

– I wish to ask the Prime Minister when we may expect the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill to be proceeded with?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

– I cannot take any action in regard to the Bill until the Royal Commission which was appointed to investigate the subject has reported, because I do not know what will be the nature of the Commission’s report, and I am not likely to know until I have seen it.

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QUESTION

NEW STANDING ORDERS

Mr FISHER:
WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND

– Will the Prime Minister kindly say whether he has taken into consideration the question of passing the draft Standing Orders before this session is brought to a close ?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

– It is my intention to confer with Mr. Speaker on the subject very early, with a view to asking the House to deal with the matter, if I am assured that it can be dealt with briefly.

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QUESTION

FEDERAL CAPITAL SITE

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN:

– I should like to ask the Prime Minister before we get to the business of the day whether he will take into consideration the desirability of having the resolutions regarding the Federal Capital site discussed in Committee, and not in the House ? I think that if that procedurebe adopted it will be found to afford greaterconvenience for securing information, and. that the debate need not be on such rigid lines. There might be a general debate on the first item, and the discussion could then be continued, as is usual in Committee, upon, large questions. It seems to me that that would be a very advisable course to adopt, and would probably result in the saving of a great deal of time in the discussion of the subject.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

– It has not suggested itself to me that the course mentioned by the honorable gentleman would be the right one to adopt. I think that we can deal with the matter sufficiently in the House by the discussion of these resolutions, which are entirely of a preliminary character, as I will explain when I come to move them. Whether in dealingwith the debate on the merits of the sites, which will take place if the two Houses accede to a full Conference, it may be more convenient to take- the discussion in Committee is quite another question. I am asking that both Houses shall commit the decision of that question to Mr. Speaker and the President of the Senate, by asking them to draw up regulations for the holding of the Conference and the ballot which will follow. It seems to me that as the main debate on this question will be on the merits of the sites, which matter is not included in the scope of these resolutions, the time for a Committee, if there is to be a Committee, will more properly come at that stage.

Sir William McMillan:

– Is the debate upon the merits to be taken when the two Houses are sitting together 1

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– It is not intended to have any debate on the merits of the different sites in discussing the resolutions I propose to move. They do not raise the question of the merits of the sites. My opinion is that there’ should be a full debate when the two Houses are present together in full number, before the ballot is taken. It will be then that we shall reach the stage at which we may properly discuss the merits of the various sites, but that question, as I have said, does not come within the scope of the resolutions I propose to move to-day.

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QUESTION

GENERAL ELECTION

Mr BATCHELOR:
SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– I should like to ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether the statements in the newspapers giving the dates for the prorogation and holding of the elections are authoritative? If not, will the honorable gentleman consider the advisableness of fixing a Saturday as the day for holding the elections, as is done in several of the States 1 .

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Protectionist

– I will replyto the honorable member’s question. No statement which has been published has any authority from the Ministry. The date on which it will be deemed advisable to prorogue the two Houses and the date of the subsequent dissolution have not yet been decided or even considered in Cabinet. The proposal put forward by the honorable member that the elections should be held on a Saturday will receive due consideration, but I may add that experience shows that different views are held iri different States upon the subject. -

page 5274

QUESTION

EAST “SYDNEY ELECTION

Mr CROUCH:
CORIO, VICTORIA

asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -

What was the exact (or otherwise the approxi- mate) cost of the recent bv-election for the constituency of Bast Sydney. .

Sir JOHN FORREST:
Minister for Home Affairs · SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · Protectionist

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -

The approximate cost was £370.

page 5274

NATURALIZATION BILL

Bill read a third time.

page 5274

QUESTION

FEDERAL CAPITAL SITE

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
HunterMinister for External Affairs · Protectionist

– I move -

  1. That, with a view of facilitating the performance of the obligations imposed on Parliament by Section 12a of the Constitution, it is expedient that a Conference take place between the two Houses oE the Parliament to consider the. selection of the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth.
  2. That this House approves of such Conference being held on a day to be fixed by Mr. Speaker and Mr. President, and that it consist of all the Members of both Houses.
  3. That at such Conference an exhaustive ballot be taken to ascertain which of the Sites reported on by the Royal Commission on Sites for the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth appointed by the Governor-General, on the 14th day of January, .1903, is in the opinion of the Members of the Parliament the most suitable for the establishment of such Seat of Government.
  4. That Mr. Speaker be empowered in conjunction with Mr. President to draw up Regulations for the conduct of such Conference ann for the taking of such exhaustive ballot. 5- That the name of the Site which receives an absolute majority of the votes cast at such Conference be reported to the House by Mr. Speaker.
  5. That it is expedient that a Bill be introduced after such a report has been made to the House, to determine, as the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth, the Site so reported to the House.
  6. That the passage of the last preceding Resolution be an instruction for the preparation and introduction of the necessary measure; and that leave be hereby given for that purpose.
  7. That se much of the Standing Orders of this House be suspended as would prevent the adoption or carrying into effect of any of the above Resolutions.
  8. That these Resolutions be communicated to the Senate by a Message requesting its concurrence therein.

I welcome with great gladness the ‘ opportunity which now falls to me of moving resolutions which will set in train a process by some non-party method of choosing the site for the future seat of Government of the

Commonwealth, a choice which, when we come to discuss it on the merits, will in my judgment, and with all respect to what others may think, be found to be one of the most momentous that will occur in the history of the Commonwealth. The resolutions which I have to move deal in this way with the subject : They propose the facilitation of the performance of our obligations by holding, with the consent of both Houses of the Federal Parliament, a Conference to consider the selection of the seat of (government ; the Conference to be held on a day to be fixed by Mr. Speaker and the President, and to consist of all the members of both Houses. It is proposed that at such a Conference there shall be an exhaustive ballot for the purpose of choosing the site which, in the opinion of members, is the most suitable for the establishment of the seat of Government. We are asking the two Houses to empower Mr. Speaker and the President to draw up regulations for the conduct of the Conference and the taking of the ballot. We propose also that, upon the taking of the ballot, thenameofthesitewhich commands the preference of the greatest number of honorable members, as ascertained in a perfectly impartial way, may be communicated by report to each House, so that thereupon there may be introduced in one House or the other - and it is not a material question to determine which at present - a Bill fixing that site as the seat of Government. I desire to draw attention, in the first place, to the non-party character of these resolutions. We think that this is so much a matter of national import, so free from party considerations, so totally out of the line of those matters on which a Ministry may expect its own party to vote solidly with it from some consideration of policy, that we do not propose to use any means at all which may by any possibility divert the judgment of any honorable member from the clear and unbiased conclusion which he might form upon the matter. So much is that so that I have not even asked my own colleagues which of the suggested sites they prefer. I desire that their judgment, like mine, should be unfettered; and I desire also that no influence of any kind should be exercised in either House to lead honorable members to any conclusion which might be other than that which, after a due consideration of the report and the evidence, they may come to.

Mr Thomas:

– The Government should lead the House, and should take the responsibility.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– The Government is not afraid of the responsibility of the matter. But we adopt a higher principle than that in this connexion, which is that, if by any assumption of responsibility there were brought about the selection of a site which did not turn out to be the best site, the Government would never cease to blame themselves.. We think it is the proper course to enable honorable members to vote free from any fettering influences in order that the determination towhich they may come will be that which commends itself to their own judgment.

Mr Thomas:

– Supposing an unsuitable site is selected ?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– I was trying, in my last answer to the honorablemember, to point out that the course I propose is best calculated to secure the selection of a suitable site. If a site were chosen which, in the judgment of the Government, was not wholly acceptable, I am not prepared to say what we should do then. We should have a* divided duty to discharge, owing to our responsibility to the citizens at large and our responsibility to this House. I am not suggesting that any Parliament would’ take a. course which would be likely to lead to any such divided duty. We all repose faith in the j judgment of both Houses, and, therefore the conclusion which the honorable member suggests would be least likely to be brought about. In the first place, I am asking, and my colleague in another place is asking, that the Houses should consent to meet in full Conference in order, then and there, to come to a decision after discussion. I may be asked why it is not intended thateach House should makeits selection first, and that there should afterwards be a conference regarding the rival selections. I have prepared these resolutions after very full consideration, and after having had the assistance of the wisdom and judgment of my distinguished colleague, the VicePresident of the Executive Council, and my answer to the question is that I think itincumbent upon us to endeavour to take the course which is most likely to lead to not only a selection but the best selection. If the two Houses made their choice in the first instance, they would very probably differ in their determination’s. The difficulty of then arriving at a solution between these two determinations would be well nigh insuperable, and those who have at heart the desire to see a determination arrived at, could not, I think, but regard such a prospect with dismay. Probably no middlecourse would be open, after this House and the Senate had once placed upon record their opinions as Houses, and not as members of Parliament. This matter is not like a clause in a Bill which, when there are divergent views, admits of a compromise involving the adoption of part of one and part of another proposition. If we obtained a decision in two Houses that A and B were respectively to each House the best site, there would be no possibility of a compromise by which we could take part of A and part of B. The ordinary result would be no solution at all, except, perhaps, by the choice of a third site, which neither House considered the best. If one House or the other could not persuade the members of its sister House to adopt its own view, then the tertium quid, or alternative, would be to select a third site, which, on the very hypothesis of the Houses having previously selected other sites, would probably not be the best. Therefore we think the method we propose is the better one, and that it is especially adapted to the selection of a site of a non-party character. If the Houses, without setting too much store by any precedent - and it will be noticed that I am asking for the suspension of the Standing Orders in connexion with the discussion of the matter - adopta method which will enable them, together, to come to a choice of one site, after using their powers of argument upon the merits of the sites,we should arrive at a determination which can be embodied in a Bill, which, upon being passed, would finally settle our choice. These, in short, are the reasons which impel me to ask that there should be a Conference of all the members of both Houses, and I am full of confidence that the members of the two Houses, seeing that this is not a provincial but a national question, and of Federal importance, will think that the best means of settling it is by the full debate and conference now proposed, without too much relation to the fact that a member in one House represents a constituency, while a member in the other represents the whole interests of a State. Of the methods that could be suggested as likely to lead to reasonable finality, I have become convinced by thought and discussion that that we propose is the best adapted to the end we have in view. It will be observed that the motion does not point to whether the exhaustive ballot should be open or secret. To my mind, in matters of this kind, an open vote is the most acceptable. I hope never to give a vote which I am afraid to disclose, and the consequences of which I shall not be able to face.

Mr Higgins:

– Is the right honorable gentleman opposed to the ballot system?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– I am not opposed to the ballot system, but for myself I say that I do not think there is any reason for any of us to prefer secrecy in a matter of this kind - a matter in which, let it be recollected, the eyes of the whole of Australia and of a great part of the world outside of Australia are turned upon us. I do not see any particular reason why we should not face our entire responsibility as members of this Parliament and disclose our votes. I may be outvoted, or I may have wrongly gauged the sentiments of the House in this matter. I shall be bound on this motion to accept whichever choice the House makes upon the question whether the ballot shall be open or secret. If the House expresses no preference for either method, then I take it that it would be possible for the President and Mr. Speaker to include a regulation on that subject among those which they will frame for the conduct of the ballot. It must be recollected that if the two Houses diverge upon the question whether the ballot shall be open or secret, it might prove difficult to smooth the way to a conclusion.

Mr Watson:

– I do not think that the Senate will object to an open ballot.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– If the two Houses agree to an open ballot, that method will, I must admit, be most acceptable to me. Going further into the matter, I should like to point attention to the circumstances under which we are now called upon to choose a site for the capital. We are dealing with section 125 of the Constitution, which says -

The seat of government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament, and shall be within territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth, and shall be vested in and belong to the Commonwealth, and if New South Wales be an original State, shall be in that State, and be distant not less than 100 miles from Sydney. Such territory shall contain an area of not less than 100 square miles, unci such portion thereof as shall consist of Crown lands shall be granted to the Commonwealth -

That is, by the State of New South Wales - without any payment therefor. The Parliament shall sit at Melbourne until it meet at the seat of government.

In connexion with this section another may as well be noticed, namely, section 111, which provides that -

The Parliament of a State may surrender any part of the State to the Commonwealth -

That is, for governmental purposes - jurisdictional purposes - and upon such surrender and the acceptance thereof by the Commonwealth, such part of the State shall become subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.

In this relation, there are two other provisions of the Constitution which may demand some attention. The first is section 52, which, subject to the Constitution, gives exclusive power to the Parliament to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth, and, amongst other things, with respect to the seat of government of the Commonwealth, and all places acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes. In my judgment, that provision does not mean that all the laws of a State in such places would cease to operate. They would continue to operate there for the time being. But in regard to fresh laws, the whole legislative jurisdiction would be entirely vested in the Commonwealth Parliament, and within that area no laws would have effect except those which the Parliament might enact. Again, sub-section 31 of section 51, which confers general powers, deals with the acquisition of property, on just terms, from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws. I do not wish to enter into a discussion of the legal subtleties of this matter, because I think it is unnecessary to do so, and especially is it unnecessary’ at this stage of our procedure. It is ray opinion, however, that the powers conferred upon the Parliament by that section are ample for the attainment of the ends in view, and in this connexion I should again like to mention that I- recently had a conversation with the Premier of New South Wales upon this very subject. Sir John See was quite with me in the view that we should endeavour to settle this matter upon terms of mutual good-will, and with as little recourse as possible to any strict or technical questions of law. Should any substantive matter of law arise upon which this Government and the Government of New South Wales cannot agree, of ‘ course it will always be possible to state a friendly case for the consideration of the High Court, which may be accepted as the final arbiter between us. But, reading these sections together, I think it will be found that they contain ample room for the commencement and completion of the processes which will lead to the desired end. In the first place the Parliament of the Commonwealth would by statute determine the seat of government. Then I take it that the Parliament of New South Wales, under section 111 of the Constitution, would pass a law surrendering to the Commonwealth the territory comprised in the site selected, and the Parliament of the Commonwealth would subsequently pass a law accepting it. That, I take it, would be the parliamentary surrender and acceptance which is mentioned in that section. This process would bring the area surrendered under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, the Parliament of which could make such laws as it thought meet in relation to that area. Then, under section 125 of the Constitution, the Crown lands which were within the minimum area of 100 square miles would pass to the control of the Commonwealth without any payment. But the Crown lands which were outside that minimum area would probably require to be the subject of negotiation between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the State. At this point I may say that I am not quite sure that the reading of the section in question prohibits or pi-events the Commonwealth from asking that all the Crown lands within even a larger area shall be granted to it without payment. That, however, is a matter which is so susceptible of argument - if I may say so - that I think it will be well, in the first place, to leave it as a subject of negotiation.

Sir Edward Braddon:

– When that arrangement was made, the -Government of New South Wales promised to give to the Commonwealth all the Crown lands that were required.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– As far as the present Government of New South Wales are concerned, no difficulty will be experienced in regard to the acquisition of Crown lands which are within an area of 100 square miles. They think, however, that any Crown lands which may be outside that limit, but within any such area as we may suggest, should be the subject of negotiation between us. But should there be any difference between us, there is always a tribunal to which a friendly appeal can be made without any sacrifice of that good will and mutual self-respect which ought to characterize the whole of this transaction.

Sir Edward Braddon:

– There was no question raised by New South Wales of limiting the gift of Crown lands to 100 square miles.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– Some argument may be raised upon the mere form of words of the section, although I am not at all sure that the provision does notintend thatall Crown lands within the area selected - irrespective of what its limits may be - shall pass to the Commonwealth. If the processes which I have mentioned are earned out, private lands within those limits - whether they are within or without the minimum area - will come within the exclusive legislative control of the Commonwealth. , The citizens resident upon them will be subject to the laws which the Commonwealth Parliament may pass within that area, and subject to no other laws. If it were deemed desirable to invest the Commonwealth with proprietary rights in these alienated lands, as well as with the rights of jurisdiction and legislation over them, that could be done upon payment of compensation under the provisions of our Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act, No. 13 of 1901. In this connexion, I would commend to the consideration of honorable members sections 6 to 9 inclusive, which will show that the power exists and can be exercised. Without trenching too much upon matters which are more properly the subject of the further processes in this train of procedure, I desire to say that I am definitely of opinion that the Commonwealth should resume all private lands within any area that is selected, not necessarily for the purpose of driving out those who have acquired the titles of those lands, but for the purpose of bringing them more entirely under the control of the Commonwealth, and of adopting within that area such a land system as may commend itself to the Federal Parliament, so that should it prefer a system of leasing to any system of alienation it may be perfectly free to give effect to that policy. I say again - as I announced a little more than two years ago in a speech at Maitland, of which I have sometimes heard - that I am definitely of opinion that, within the area which is chosen, the Commonwealth should be the landlord or the proprietor of every inch of private land, no matter how generous and how fair it may be, and I have every confidence in its disposition towards the occupants of that land. Of course, this outline of procedure assumes that no obstacle will be interposed by the Parliament of New South Wales. For myself, I do not think that any obstacle will be interposed. Occasionally we see reports in the’ newspapers in regard to some dissatisfaction with the processes which the law has assigned, but I urge upon honorable members not to consider for a moment that anything of that kind represents the considered intention of the Parliament of New South Wales. I have the fullest belief that we shall deal with this matter from the stand-point of perfect amity with each other, and that no obstacles will be willingly interposed to the proper carrying out of the judgment of this Parliament. However, should a difficulty arise, it is quite possible that we could acquire any area that we required even without the consent of New South Wales. But I do not wish to enlarge upon that aspect of the matter. I have no desire to contemplate that prospect, because to do so would only cause irritation, and I do not think that any state of things will arise which will force us to act in that way. Therefore, I am assuming that any reserve power of this Parliament in that behalf will not require to be exercised. The power of which I speak is perhaps given by implication by section 125 of the Constitution. But if it is not, the power of Parliament, under section 51 of the Constitution, to make laws for -

The acquisition of property, upon just terms, from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws, would be an effective one if a law in addition to that which is already in existence upon the subject were passed. Under section 52 of the Constitution, Parliament, if it used its power under a law passed by virtue of section 51, would then have . exclusive right to make laws in respect to this land. It would appear that it could acquire land for the purposes of making the seat of the Government of the Commonwealth if it were driven to do so, but I do not think that it will be.

Mr Hughes:

– Is that with reference to the acquisition of the original site 1

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– The provision is absolutely wide. It refers to the acquisition of land from any person or State. The Act -which we passed last session, deals with the acquisition of land from States as well as from persons. If we exercised this latter process in that dual way, that is to say, by the acquisition of the property, and then by resorting to the exclusive power to make laws of application to lands, to use the words of the section, “acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes,” I think it would be an effective power. I consider, however, that it is not necessary to go deeply into the subject. I trust that honorable members will excuse me from expressing any conclusive opinion upon this point, because while I think that these powers may exist in reserve, I do not feel that as between ourselves and a f friendly State, such as is New South Wales, we should make any assumption whatever that any obstacle will be thrown in our way in carrying out the designs which the Constitution lays bare, and which we have imposed upon us as an obligation. So much for the legal aspect of the question, and I trust that I have not put it before honorable members in a wearisome form. Let me now say a word or two as to the necessity for our taking some steps in this direction. My attitude in not only proposing measures, but in speaking on them in this House has shown that I have always been one of those who think that matters which are laid down in the Constitution as matters of compact ought not to be subjected to the exercise of the power of amendment which is otherwise vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. Where a proposal has been made, and has met with the assent of those who were in treaty for the creation of the Constitution, whether in Convention or in Conference of Premiers - where that proposal has been accepted by those who had the right of treaty for their several States, and where its terms have been solemnly embodied in the Constitution and voted upon by a majority of the people of every State within this Commonwealth - I do not think that it is intended that it should be lightly touched, or that any proposal should be made wildly or even reasonably for the destruction of a compact so formed and so acted upon. If these matters were like those which exist in ordinary legislation, which gives no vested rights- in the ordinary course of events, and apart from constitutions, no self-respecting Parliament would venture upon an amendment without some compensation .being given to those who possessed the right which was destroyed. But it is not intended that rights gained under a Constitution of this kind shall be disturbed. The machinery is subject to amendment, technically the compact is subject to amendment, but morally I submit that it should not be amended. I believe with all my heart that in that career of justice and humanity which ib has laid down for- itself this Parliament will prosper in its aims and will win the pride of our people in proportion as it maintains a just regard for those matters which the people who made it have by their votes assented to. Consequently, I am not in favour of any proposal for the amendment of the section in the Constitution dealing with this subject. If I thought that it would be desirable that this Parliament should meet for all time in Melbourne or Sydney I should still feel myself honorably bound not to depart from the terms of the section. I do not, however, hold that’ view. Without trenching too much upon delicate ground, I may say that in my opinion there’ are abundant reasons why this Government and this Parliament should be masters in their own house, free from any possible entanglement, or influences which might possibly interfere with Federal and national, as opposed to provincial action. Holding that opinion - the very opinion upon which I invariably acted in the Convention - as strongly as I do, and feeling that, by genera] assent, it has found its voice in the Constitution, I think that the reasons which have brought about the principle of establishing an independent capital for the Commonwealth, are good. And I consider, secondly, that, notwithstanding the opinions any of us may entertain, we should not lightly start to loosen the rivets of this ship which we have launched, because to loosen them in one direction would be to loosen them in another, and to expose her to all the dangers of the deep upon which she sails. I hold that conviction very strongly, and I urge this- Parliament to stand by the compact which certainly it did not make. The compact was made by the people who created this Constitution, and who made us the members of this Parliament. Animated,, then, by these reasons, I. am asking this House, and the Government as & whole is asking both Houses, to assent, to the processes laid down by the terms of this motion. I am not bigoted enough, however, to think that it is impossible to amend it by way of improvement in any particular ; nor do I intend to be tenacious in this regard, except in respect of those matters which I consider to be the matters of principle involved in the motion. I ask honorable members to bear with me while I say that, in dealing with this motion, we have nothing to’ do with the choice of a capital site. We are merely laying down processes by which we may proceed amicably to that choice. The merits of the sites which have been reported upon are in no sense before us. This is a machinery motion, and, subject to correction by Mr. Speaker, I would submit that a discussion upon the merits of the various sites would not now be in order, more especially as the motion will provide a stage at which the merits of the various sites, beyond all other questions, may be discussed by us without any breach of order.

Mr Brown:

– What about the method ?

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– I have already referred to the question of whether a site should be selected by way of open or of secret ballot. I should certainly not abandon the motion if a conclusion as to the method of ballot were arrived at which did not exactly coincide with my own views. I have already intimated that I am prepared to vote openly, and I do not see why we should not all be prepared to do so.

Sir Edward Braddon:

– We should let the world know what we are doing.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– Hear, hear. It would have been obviously improper to encumber this bare motion with a string of provisions dealing with minor matters, when we have experts in Parliament like the President and Mr. Speaker, who can govern and deal with those details, each of them representing one House of the Parliament, in such a manner as will involve no sacrifice of the rights of either House. So far as that matter is concerned, we can leave the adjustment of detail to them. I think it will be better for them to attend to it than for us to take up interminable time in making minor adjustments. So long as we lay down in this motion the principles upon which we wish to act, we may abundantly trust the President and Mr. Speaker for the rest. So little is it a part of the purpose of the motion to decide the merits of the sites that, not only do I venture to suggest that the discussion of that subject would not be in order, but the contention brings me to the answering of one or two inquiries which have been made of me. I have been asked whether I will not produce during this discussion some estimate of the cost of resuming the areas surrounding the proposed sites. I say that this is not the stage to do so. But I will add that I have obtained an approximate estimate from the secretary to the Capital Sites Commission, and I shall ask that that estimate be printed for the information of honorable members. I will, indeed, go much further than that. There is a small vote on the Estimates, to which the House has already assented, for expenses in connexion with the choosing of the Federal Capital site. A large volume of evidence collected by the Commission has been laid upon the table, but the Printing Committee hesitated to give authority for its printing, because of the expense which that would involve. I have, however, given close attention to the matter ; and, after a conversation with the Government Printer of Victoria, I have come to the conclusion that the evidence can be printed in full, without inordinate expense, considering the nature of the inquiry we are making. I hope, therefore, to have copies of all that evidence printed and placed in the hands of honorable members by next Monday or Tuesday, which, supposing that we take some little time in the discussion of this motion, will probably be before the President and Mr. Speaker will find it possible to arrange a date upon which we can proceed to a discussion of the merits of the proposed sites. Honorable members may feel assured that before they come to the choosing of any site the Government will put them in possession of all the necessary detail, so far as the merits of the sites, the estimated cost of resuming the surrounding country, and the, various arguments and evidence upon which the Commissioners have based, or by which they justify, their conclusions are concerned. I hope to have a further estimate prepared before that time comes, of what it may cost to render the selected site habitable for the purposes of government and its services during the early years of the occupation of the Capital. So far as I have been able to obtain information at present - and I admit at once that I do not intend to quote any source of information until I get a more thorough estimate prepared - it tends to lead me to the conclusion that requisite provision for a water supply for any population that there is likely to be there within a generation, and provision for the official housing of Parliament, that is to say, sufficient buildings in which it may carry on its work, and similar accommodation for the public service, can be made - the town itself being first laid out - for less than £500,000. I believe that when that expense has been incurred the Parliament and the public service of the Commonwealth will have sufficient accommodation in which to carry out their duties, and that the expected population will be provided with a sufficient water supply to’ last them for a period of at any rate fifteen years, if not much longer.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– Does that estimate include the cost of land 1

Mr Watson:

– Land will be no expense.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– No, that is apart from the cost of resumption. The highest estimate I have for the resumption of land of an area not exceeding 100 square miles, and including the city site, is £436,000, and the lowest £189,000. But, as has been wisely pointe’d out in another part of the Chamber, it does not follow that because the resumption of land will cost money it will be an extravagance. No doubt as time goes on, if Parliament does not see fit in the interests of the various component States to vote sufficient sums of money to carry out all public works out of revenue, it will be a proper thing to take into consideration whether we should not establish some system which will be continuously productive of -revenue to meet the possible interest on any loan. I believe that if that were done, anything that we might propose in that behalf for the purpose of completing this capital in course of time would be received by the public (a-editor with perfect favour, simply because he would have a gilt-edged investment. I prefer, not for every purpose, but as a business proposal for this purpose, the system of leasing, with periodical reappraisement, on fairly long leases. I do so for this reason, that, as the expense of going further in the erection of the capital increases, as it may largely increase, there will be a progressive settlement which will tend to swell the revenue . derivable from the land within the Federal area, and thus provide a fund not only for meeting interest, but also for the extinction of debt. I regard this matter as quite different from the ‘ordinary proposals in regard to land nationalization. If I had had to consider the question of the disposal of land at a time when scarcely any part of Australia had been alienated, I might have been inclined to look with favour upon a general system of leasing, but I am afraid that in our ordinary methods and transactions we have gone beyond the point at which that appears to’ be a business possibility. That consideration, however, does not apply to a limited area such as that within which it is proposed to place the Commonwealth capital, and which is to constitute a small territory governed by the Commonwealth. The considerations that apply in this case are entirely different. The whole process insures a certain amount of settlement. The terms upon which you will propose to construct your capital will need an increasing revenue of a certain kind, and at the same time the assurance of the continued tenure of the land in the hands of the Crown, so that that fund may never be disturbed. Taking these matters into consideration, I think that as a mere business proposal a system of leases with periodical re-appraisement will be about the best manner in which we can set about the meeting of any expense which we may incur in connexion with this project. I desire to say, at the outset, that I am convinced that that expenditure will not be a fraction of that which has been so constantly asserted in some quarters to be the inevitable result of our choosing a capital site, and that the sum which I have mentioned will suffice for a period of years until the capital has become, as such capitals do, a centre of population. When that occurs, the question whether the territory can fairly bear further expenditure without any further burden upon the finances of the States will become a deserving one, and we ought therefore to reserve the land during its pendency, to allow of the giving of a proper and final solution. I do not know that I can usefully take up much more of the time of the House. I have waited long for an opportunity to propose resolutions upon this subject. Had the Commissioners found it possible to send in their report somewhat earlier than they did, this matter, as honorable members will see by looking at the Governor-General’s speech, as presented to this House, would have occupied attention not only at an earlier date, but would have taken precedence of some other measures which, while waiting for this, it was necessary to introduce and debate. It was no fault of mine, therefore - and I am sure that it was not the fault of the Commissioners, because if they took up a long time it was due . to anxious care in the discharge of their duty - that these resolutions have not been in my hands to move earlier. But if we are late, we have nevertheless ample time to discuss and deal with this matter during the present Parliament. It is my anxious desire that this Parliament should not be prorogued until it has dealt with this matter, and settled the choice of the seat of Government. If by any chance it fell to my lot, by a vote of this House, or at a general election, to lose the office which I hold, I should feel much more comforted in my conscience in having had an opportunity to take some practical step to secure the settlement of so great and momentous a question. I ask honorable members in this matter to think not merely of the interests of New South Wales. I come from that State. I was born in it. We are all bound in a certain degree to support the interests of our States, and we are bound also to support their rights short only of an extent to which they may be in conflict with the necessary progress of the nation which we are Here to represent. Taking that view, I wish to bring this matter before honorable members as a national, and not merely a local, project. I ask them to consider it from that standpoint. Seeing that they are not asked to undertake any great financial burden, and considering, further, that arguments as to finance are more fittingly applied to matters which are optional than to matters of. honour, I ask them to apply that argument to the consideration of this question, and to be ready to undertake, by choosing a capital site, that very reasonable responsibility which is not too much to enable a man to say, “ Thank God I have done my duty.” I intended, while speaking, to say that it would possibly be better to add at the end of paragraph 4, after the words “ exhaustive ballot “ the words “ and the date therefor.” I desire to submit the resolutions in that amended form.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN:
Wentworth

– Honorable members will agree with me that, at this stage of the session, we ought to conserve time as much as possible. Although it might have been very reasonable that the Prime Minister, in hisvery interesting speech, should deal with many constitutional matters, I am sure my right honorable friend does not anticipate that a debate will ensue upon all the different points to which he has referred. It seems to me that our duty to-day is a very simple one. It is. to decide whether this is a proper modus operandi to be adopted in order to learn the opinion of the two Houses of Parliament with regard to the site for the Federal capital. We can take it for granted that all those movements to interfere with the compact embedded in the Constitution have been set aside by the common sense of the people. We may also take it for granted that for good or ill that compact must be carried out ; that not within 1 00 miles, but at some greater distance from Sydney, a capital is to be erected, which will be the capital of Australia ; and that we have put aside any idea of interfering with the States capitals. I agree with my right honorable friend that on the whole that is the safest method to adopt, because there is no doubt that we cannot have Federal territory in the principal city of one of the States, and that we must have Federal territory in order to maintain our own dignity. I do not desire now to say this with unnecessary bitterness, because these resolutions indicate that the Government desire to take this question away entirely from party obligations; but I do deplore that this great national question is to be decided at the last stage of the last session of this Parliament.

Mr Wilks:

– Better late than never.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN:

– However, we have the pledge of my right honorable friend the Prime Minister that this session shall not come to a close until this matter is fixed, and fixed in an unalterable way ; because there is no use in fixing it in a tentative way. It is of no use simply to decide that under certain circumstances, if a Federal capital is to be erected, this or that place should be the site. The resolutions that are passed in the proposed Conference must be resolutions to fix the location of the capital site so that no future Parliament can, with any honour, retreat from the decision. As regards the question of an open ballot, I believe that that is the proper course to pursue.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– Ifthe honorable gentleman had any proposed site in his electorate, he might find that that would put the member for the district in an awkward position.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN:

– My honorable friend is perfectly right. There are arguments on the other side, as in most cases. There is no doubt that an honorable and conscientious member deciding on a site in one part of the country, when he knows that public feeling is very strong in his own electorate that some particular part of that electorate should be the site would, in view of a coming election, place himself in an invidious position.

Mr Thomson:

– Some honorable member may have two sites in his electorate.

Sir William Lyne:

– That is why some honorable members of the Opposition desire to have an open ballot.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN:

– I take it that the keynote of the policy of every honorable member is Australia,” as against “ Provincialism,” and surely, if in doing justice to Australia, we are not afraid to offend even our own State, we should be able to rise superior to the fear of giving offence to our constituencies. I do not think it is at all likely that the Senate will object to open voting because the members of that Chamber represent their respective States, and therefore could not offend their constituencies by voting for any particular site.

Mr Watson:

– I know of one senator who would offend his State by voting for any one of the several sites.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN:

– I feel that in this matter we have missed some stages of discussion. We have had no opportunity of dealing with the reports regarding the proposed sites, and our position at the present moment is rather peculiar. To-day we are dealing merely with the method to be followed in arriving at a determination. When this question has been disposed of, an interval will ensue, after which a Conference will be held. At that Conference certain discussion will take place upon the reports, but no intermediate opportunity will be presented for making suggestions or for obtaining information from the Government. I would, therefore, suggest to the Prime Minister, that after a general discussion in the House, it would be as well to consider the motion in Committee in order to give honorable members an opportunity to obtain information.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– It would not be wise to take up too much time.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN:

– I do not think that any considerable time would be occupied in that way. My point is that if any information is required with regard to the motion or the whole question, it could be afforded in Committee much more conveniently thanin the House. I fear that we shall enter into a Conference very poorly equipped with information. But I suppose that we shall have to make the best of it, and all that I can hope is that the site will be chosen unanimously, and that there will be no feeling afterwards that a mistake has been made. I think that the Government should adopt the leasing principle in dealing with all the lands within Federal territory. All private lands within the Federal area should certainly be resumed in order that the leasing system may be carried out in its entirety. There is a salient difference between leasing land in a compact territory like the Federal area and applying the leasing principle to agricultural areas or to remote localities. In remote places, such as Papua, it is necessary to offer persons inducements to settle, but the asset which a man would hold in the shape of a leasehold in a narrow confined territory such as the Federal Capital area would always be a good negotiable security, and it would be comparatively easy to find purchasers for any rights held by the lessee. I do not think there need be any very lengthy discussion on this question. I understand that honorable members on this side of the House entirely agree with the Government in the mode of settlement they propose to adopt. It relieves the question of all party complexion, and I certainly think it is the most reasonable that could be adopted. Upon one or two points the motion is open to amendment. I take it for granted that some honorable member will propose that the ballot shall be anopen one. I do not intend to take up the time of the House any further, because we are all anxious to get on with ether business, and also desire that this matter should be dealt with, so that there may be no unreasonable hurry when it comes forward for more complete discussion. I think some arrangement should be made by which, after the matter has been discussed in the Conference, a certain period shall be allowed to elapse before the final vote is taken. I should object most strongly to any hurried Conference in which a vote would be taken without due consideration. It might also be considered desirable to conduct the proceedings of the Conference in Committee, because there are many matters upon which information will have to be elicited. In order to save time, I shall content myself for the present with expressing my approval of the general terms of the proposal of the Government.

Mr WATSON:
Bland

– I think that it is a good thing that the Government are giving Parliament an opportunity to consider the Capital site question this session, and my only regret is that it was not brought forward at an earlier stage. The report of the Commissioners upon the Federal Capital sites might certainly have been expedited, and even their apppointment might have been made at an earlier date, in order to afford more time for the consideration of this important matter. I refuse to believe that there is any representative body of opinion behind the objections which have been voiced, particularly by some of the Melbourne newspapers, against the early selection of the Capital site. I do not believe that the people of Victoria are behind any suggestion of that kind, because I am convinced that as a body they are quite willing, nay anxious, to have the compact arrived at carried out at the earliest opportunity. I do not think either that there is any need to fear that undue extravagance will follow the selection of the site, or that any large burdens will be imposed upon the taxpayers. The estimate of the probable expenditure given by the Prime Minister is, I believe, a liberal one, and I doubt whether the amount he mentions will be required in actual cash for a considerable time after the selection of the Capital site.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– We must acquire the land.

Mr WATSON:

– Yes, but surely the honorable member, with his knowledge of land transactions, must know that if only a fair price is paid for the land, the establishment of the Federal capital in the localty will not result in a depreciation in value. The whole transaction will be merely a book entry, because we shall get at least as much by way of rental as will be represented by the interest on the money required for the purchase of the land.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– But the honorable member said that it would not be necessary to lay out much money at the outset. I say that we must purchase the land.

Mr.WATSON.- It is true that we must lay out a certain amount of money in purchasing the land, but I contend that we shall get a return at least equivalent to the interest on the capital outlay. I certainly think it is a good speculation. Indeed, a little time ago, a well known contractor in Sydney, who is worth a good deal of money himself, and who represents others who possess quite as much, expressed his willingness to build the entire capital as a commercial speculation if we would grant him the opportunity of so doing. I refer to Mr. John Young, who, as a smart business man, is not excelled by anybody in Sydney at the present time.

Mr Higgins:

– Would he take the rent of the buildings ?

Mr WATSON:

– Of course he would take everything. I do not think that he should be given any such contract. But the very f act that he made the suggestion shows that with the exercise of a reasonable degree of business management the undertaking will cost the Commonwealth nothing, and will probably return a profit within a given period. I do not for a moment pretend that it will yield a large return immediately, but I believe that within the next generation the whole of the expenditure of the Commonwealth will be recouped. To my mind, the idea of. arranging for a Conference of the two Houses is a good one, and I do not believe there is any ground for apprehension that the Senate will not agree to the proposal I know it is argued by some individuals, who do not appear anxious that this question shall be definitely settled, that by agreeing to a Conference the Senate will be sacrificing a certain proportion of its power. That objection might apply if the members of this House were unanimously in favour of one particular site, but so far as I can gather, there is as great a diversity of views amongst them as there are sites. Consequently there is no likelihood of a block vote being arrived at. Personally, I am not at all biased in favour of any particular site. Certainly I have a preference for one or two, but I am so anxious that this matter shall be settled during the present session that I’ am prepared to forego my own predelictions in order that it may be brought to a successful issue. In view of the feeling which obtains amongst a considerable section of honorable members I do not think that the membersof the Senate need have any apprehensions regarding the effect of the arrangement which is now suggested. Concerning the exhaustive ballot, I was glad to . hear the Prime Minister declare that he was agreeable to an open vote being recorded upon the question of the selection of the site. For my own part I shall never vote in favour of any method by which a secret ballot shall be resorted to in Parliament - at any rate in determining an important issue. It is true that in the appointment of committees in the States Parliaments a secret ballot has frequently been adopted, but my experience is that even in relation to these comparatively unimportant matters it is unwise and improper to have recourse to secrecy in regard to the acts of members of Parliament. We are returned by the people to perform certain work, and though we are representatives and not delegates - a delegation being impossible in the very nature of many things which come up for consideration in Parliament - the people have a right to know the way in which we’ vote upon every matter which engages our attention. That is part of the agreement under which we are elected. I trust therefore that a majority of honorable members will insist upon an open vote being recorded. At the present time I am not convinced that we shall arrive at the best result by an exhaustive ballot, but upon that point I am quite open to conviction, and therefore I do not propose to suggest any other course until the question has been discussed. I hope that the result of the proposal which is under consideration will be that within a week or a fortnight we shall decide which of these sites is to be that of the future capital of Australia. There is another reason, other than those whichhave been advanced by honorable members, why an early selection should be made. When the report of Mr. Oliver was first presented to the Governor of New South Wales, the Government of that State reserved all the Crown lands adjacent to the various sites which were included in that report. Not only was that done, but in the various towns adjacent to those sites there ensued an almost general paralysis of business enterprise. Business men were disinclined to make additions to their premises whilst a state of uncertainty existed as to whether the town in which they were resident might not be resumed in the Federal Capital area.

Mr Thomson:

– That condition obtains at nine different places.

Mr WATSON:

– It obtains at most of the various sites.

Mr Kennedy:

– At Dalgety, too?

Mr WATSON:

– No; I do not regard Dalgety as coming within that category, nor does my remark apply to Lyndhurst. But there are important towns adjacent to each of the other sites, and it is certainly applicable to them. In the interests of the people of these towns it is only right that we should arrive at an early decision upon this matter. At this stage I wish to intimate that it is my intention to move that the word “open” be inserted after the word “ exhaustive “ in resolution 3. If I resume my seat, shall I have an opportunity of moving in that direction at a later period?

Sir Edmund Barton:

– Not unless we go into Committee. I have no objection to each resolution being discussed and put separately, but if they are considered in Committee, I am apprehensive as to the time that will be occupied in debating, them.

Mr WATSON:

– I understand that the honorable member for Grampians has a prior amendment which he desires to submit, and I should like to ascertain whether, if I refrain from moving the amendment that I have indicated I shall have an opportunity of proposing it at a later stage.

Mr SPEAKER:

– If the honorable member intimates in the course of his speech upon the general question that he proposes to submit an amendment when some other amendment has been disposed of, he will be at liberty to move it at a later stage, but without making a speech upon it.

Mr WATSON:

– Then I desire to intimate my intention to move the amendment I have already mentioned.

Mr SKENE:
Grampians

– I feel as does the honorable member for Wentworth that, in the discussion of this matter, there is a link missing from the chain. I certainly thought that we should have had an opportunity to debate it upon general principles and upon broad grounds. I intend to submit an amendment which will give myself and other honorable members an opportunity to speak upon the broader question. I quite appreciate the remark of the Prime Minister that there should be no interference with any compact which was entered into prior to the acceptance of our Constitution. I think I should be as careful to avoid that as would any honorable member of this House. But the Prime Minister also referred to the machinery which has been provided for the settlement of this question, and although the adoption of the amendment which I propose to submit would require a trivial alteration in the Constitution Act, it has nothing whatever to do with the compact. We agreed that the Federal Capital should be in New South Wales, and I for one intend to stand by that agreement, unless it be repudiated by honorable members representing New South Wales. I confess to a feeling of disappointment arising from the fact that the selection made by the Commission is not a complete one. It seems to me that it is due to an inadvertence that the one hundred mile limit excludes certain sites that it was not intended should be excluded.

Mr Henry Willis:

– To what places does the honorable member refer 1

Mr SKENE:

– To Moss vale among others.

Mr Henry Willis:

– That site was considered at the time that the compact was made.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The Treasurer told us the other day that it was intended at the Conference of Premiere that the claims of Mossvale should be left out of consideration.

Mr SKENE:

– I remember that, subsequent to the making of the compact, a considerable discussion took place in New South Wales as to the way in which the one hundred mile limit should be computed. Doubts were expressed as to whether the distance should be determined, as the crow flies, or by road or rail. That being so, it seems to me to be a matter for regret that we should not have an opportunity to consider, the claims not only for selection of Mossvale, but of some places on the coast. I am informed that there are several other sites, south of Sydney, which might well be considered in this regard, and it would be regrettable if we had no opportunity to discuss their merits. I have no wish that the selection of a site for the capital should be delayed for any unreasonable time, and the proposal which I am about to make is due solely to my desire that the best site should be chosen. The method of inspection and of report has not been a perfect one, and it appears to me that we should have an opportunity to consider the merits of sites other than those which have been dealt with by the Commissioners. When the present Minister for Trade and Customs was submitting the motion for the appointment of Commissioners to report on the various sites, he spoke of a place on the Upper Murray which was not included in the list referred to the Board. He alluded to that site in terms of the highest praise, and apparently the comparison which he made was a good one, for the Commissioners have placed Tumut practically at the top of the list. The Minister, when submitting the motion to which I have referred, said that Tumut was one of the prettiest - -

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order. I would ask the honorable member not to refer to any specific site. Neither in the amendment which he has indicated his intention to move, nor the motion which we are discussing, is there any specific reference to any one site, and I quite agree with the Prime Minister that at this stage any discussion as to the various sites would not be in order.

Mr SKENE:

– I simply desire to point out that the method of inspection and of report has not been a perfect one. The inspection has not been carried out with that fullness of detail which we were promised should be observed. After hearing the speech delivered by the Minister for Trade and Customs I had a conversation with him, and he told me as he said in the House that he intended to see that the site to which he had referred was inspected. Another site, Dalgety, which was not placed upon the list submitted to the Commissioners has been selected for our consideration, and it seems to me that in these circumstances we should not be following the line of action which the majority of honorable members were ed to expect if we now selected a site without having an opportunity to consider the claims of some of the very best places. There is another point which I think should be considered. I do not pretend to be well versed in Constitutional law, but I am of opinion that section 102 of the Constitution, which declares that, in all matters of preferential trade and traffic, due regard shall be had to the financial responsibilities incurred by any State in connexion with the construction and maintenance of its railways, bears very closely upon the selection of some of these sites. I understand that the opinion held by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne is that the provisions of this section would not be met even by the appointment of an Inter.-State Commission. Even if that Commission were appointed, the New South Wales railways might be so managed as to erect a wall around the Federal capital which would shut out importations from the other States. Preferential rates might be imposed, and trains might be run at different times from Sydney - as they are in South Australia from Adelaide to Wolseley - to any site wholly surrounded by New South Wales territory in a manner that would not be suitable for other States, and would have the effect of erecting a wall around the Federal capital. The people of New South Wales usually speak of pulling down barriers, but in this case apparently they could set up a wall around any Federal territory completely within the boundaries of New South Wales. In the same way the State health regulations might be so applied that, because of some alleged disease, stock could not be taken into the Federal territory from any other State. I believe that apples were not allowed to be introduced in Western Australia from another State because of the codlin moth.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The honorable member must be thinking of possible action on the part of Victoria rather than of New South Wales.

Mr SKENE:

– I am thinking of what might be done by New South Wales. We have heard from the establishment of the Commonwealth the cry of “ The bond ! The bond ! This compact is in the bond!” and per sonally I do not think that we need expect to receive much mercy at the hands of the people of New South Wales.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– New South Wales has never put up a wall against Victoria.

Mr SKENE:

– But a wall might be built around the Federal territory, not by the Parliament of the State, but by the Railway Commissioners in the exercise of the powers conferred upon them.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– This is purely imaginary.

Mr SKENE:

– Of the sites which have been selected, there appear to be only two, Bombala and Albury - if I may mention them - which, if selected, would not be wholly surrounded by New South Wales territory, and which, so far as traffic was concerned, would not be completely controlled by New South Wales. If we could select a site on the coast-

Mr Watson:

– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, am I not to understand that the procedure laid down in regard to this motion is that we shall not discuss the merits of any site? I think that the honorable member is doing so.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I have already ruled that while dealing with this motion or the amendment which he has indicated, it would be out of order for the honorable member to discuss any specific site. I take it, however, that the honorable member was arguing, not in respect of any specific site, but as to the importance of selecting a site not wholly within the territory of one State. He would be in order in doing that.

Mr SKENE:

– That is my contention. In this respect only two of the sites which have been selected for our consideration can fairly be taken into account.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I rise to a point of order. I submit, with the greatest possible deferenceto you, Mr. Speaker, that your ruling must have been given rather hastily. May I take it that the honorable member is in order in indicating a decided preference for a particular site while dealing with this motion? It appears to me that that is a question which must come up for discussion under the terms of a specific motion to be submitted later on. We are merely devising the machinery under which such discussion may take place. I hold, therefore that, at this stage, the honorable member is not entitled to discuss the relative merits of any site.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member for Parramatta is quite correct. The honorable member for Grampians would not be in order in discussing the merits of any particular site, but he would be in order in pointing out - and that is what I understood him to be doing - that the number of sites which, under this machinery motion, will be submitted to the ballot is not large enough, and that other sites should be included in the list, on the ground that there should be more at the disposal of the Parliament which are not wholly surrounded by the territory of one State. That is what I distinctly understood him to be doing. The honorable member will not, after the ruling I have given, refer to any specific site, but he will be perfectly in order in dealing with the broader question.

Mr SKENE:

– I think that, with the assistance of the honorable member for Bland, my argument has been pretty well emphasized, and I shall not proceed any further upon those lines. While I have no desire to delay matters beyond what is reasonable,

I think that this subject requires further consideration. I am perfectly prepared to abide by the bond which has been entered into, provided that sufficient time is given for due consideration.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– How much time ?

Mr SKENE:

– The fact that we are upon the eve of the dissolution of Parliament is a good reason for allowing next Parliament to settle the matter. I expected that the subject would be more widely discussed. I am not at all satisfied with the methods which have been adopted for reporting upon the various sites. With regard to the bond, it is not one which must be met upon the demand of any particular State ; it must be rnet whenever it is opportune in the interests of the Commonwealth to meet it. We are hurrying this matter too much. The motion does no more than provide machinery for selecting one of the sites which have been enumerated, and, therefore, I shall not take up further time now. But I move -

That all the words after the word “ That,” line I, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof thefollowingwords : - “Intheopinionof thisHouse it is inexpedient that a selection of the site for the Federal capital be proceeded with at the present time, and that with a view to securing greater freedom of choice in the future, steps should betaken to alter the Constitution by striking out the words and be distant not less than 100 miles from Sydney,’ in the125th section of the Constitution Act, and the word ‘ Melbourne ‘ in the same section of the Act, with a view to the insertion of the words ‘ such place as Parliament may from time to time determine.’ “

I am aware that any proposed change in the Constitution would have to beput before the people by way of referendum, which would be a very expensive process, were it not that we are shortly to have a general election, when a vote might then be taken for or against my proposal withoutanygreatadditional expense. In regard to the striking out of the word “Melbourne,” I feel that, as the course I propose will bring about delay, no advantage should be given to Victoria in regard to the meeting of Parliament pending the selection of the site. The Constitution provides that -

The Parliament shall sit at Melbourne until it meets at the seat of government.

I am willing that it should be amended to read -

The Parliament shall sit at such place as the Parliament from time to time may determine.

I move the amendment with a view to obtaining the freest choice in New South Wales.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– But chiefly to procure a little delay.

Mr SPEAKER:

– To put the amendment in the form in which the honorable member has moved it would exclude such amendments as those of which the honorable member for Bland has given notice, and I propose to put to the House the insertion after the word “ That “ of the words which he has read. I find, however, that there is no seconder of the amendment.

Mr BROWN:
Canobolas

– I am glad that the Government have brought this matter forward to the stage which it has now reached, though there has been an amount of delay in connexion with it which, to outsiders, seems inexplicable. The Government claim that they have been doing all that they can to expedite the choosing of the Federal Capital, but I think that it is to be regretted that a question of so much importance to the Commonwealth, and particularly to the State of New South Wales, has been left until this late stage of the last session of the present Parliament. We were led to suppose, from the prominence which was given to it during the first elections, and in the GovernorGeneral’s speech, that it would receive much earlier consideration than it has received. I suppose, however, that it is better to deal with it late than never. The responsibility for the delay rests, not upon the House, but upon the Government, and honorable mem-: bers on this side of the Chamber have done all they could to expedite dealing with the matter. I am in sympathy with the motion which has been submitted by the Prime Minister, because I think that it tends towards expedition, and that when the members of the two Houses are brought into touch with each other they will be. able to make themselves acquainted with each other’s views, and thus be placed in the best position to arrive at a conclusion. An early settlement of the matter is desirable in the interests of Federation itself. There are honorable members who think that something is to be gained by delay, that the time is not opportune for immediate action, that more consideration is needed, and that the question of expense is to be advanced as a reason for postponement. But I think that when the grounds of objection come to be closely examined, they will be found to be not so important as we have been led to suppose. Some nine sites have been submitted to the Government, and these it is proposed to consider upon their merits. With a view to conserving the Commonwealth interests, the Government of New South Wales have locked up against settlement the Crown land contained, not only within the proposed capital sites, but within the areas which might be chosen as Commonwealth territory. That position of affairs, although unsatisfactory in the interests of settlement, must be maintained until the Federal Capital site is chosen, unless an injustice is done to the Commonwealth by allowing the land to pass into private possession, in which case the cost of resumption will be increased. To put an end to this difficulty, and to avoid future complications, it is highly desirable that Parliament shall arrive at a decision without delay. The Prime Minister has indicated that this is not the time for reviewing the merits of the different sites - that they will be best discussed during the joint sitting of the two Houses. That is so. There are, however, one or two points in connexion with the motion upon which I should like to say something. In the first place, I am strongly in accord with the desire of the honorable member for Bland to give the greatest publicity to the procedure and methods by which a decision is arrived at. The votes cast by honorable members at each of the ballots should be so taken that they will be known to the electors of the Commonwealth. I, for one, would be very sorry to be compelled to give a secret vote in connexion with the matter, and, therefore, I think we should lay it down, as an instruction to the President and Mr. Speaker, that the voting shall be open. As to the method to be adopted in order to secure the final selection by the process of elimination, several suggestions have been made. It has been suggested that a vote should be taken, and that the site which secures the least support should be discarded, the remaining sites being again voted upon, until by an exhaustive process of balloting only one remains. It is possible, however, that that process may give rise to considerable difficulty, and that some of the sites may not receive the consideration to which they are entitled. Some of them may perhaps not command sufficient support to insure their retention for more than one or two ballotings, whereas if further consideration could be given to them they would present so many grounds for commendation that they would probably receive a much larger amount of support. I might illustrate my point by referring to the Orange, Lyndhurst, and Bathurst sites. These are practically identical, because they are within a very short distance of each other, and possess very similar characteristics. When the Minister for Trade and Customs submitted his motion with regard to the appointment of the Commission of Experts, he proposed to include only one of these sites in the reference to the Commission, but it was pointed out that, in the event of its being decided to acquire a larger area than that specified in the Constitution, the Federal Capital area might be so shaped as to embrace the three sites I have mentioned.

Mr Higgins:

– Are those three sites in the same electorate 1

Mr BROWN:

– No ; one is in Canobolas and two in Macquarie. They are within thirty miles of each other, and the Federal territory might embrace the three of them. It is just possible that these sites, if submitted separately, would be rejected at an early stage of an exhaustive ballot, and the same remark applies in a lesser degree to Bombala and Delegate and Tumut and Albury. Provision should be made for a ‘ ballot- with respect to each of these three groups of sites. The sites might be submitted in the first place grouped, in the way I have indicated, because they would in every case lend themselves to amalgamation. Honorable members might ballot for the selection of one site in each of these groups, one in the western group - Orange, Lyndhurst, and Bathurst - one in the south-western group - Tumut and Albury - and one in the southern group - Bombala and Delegate. Afterwards a final selection might be made in the manner proposed by the Government. The initial process would clear away a considerable amount of difficulty, which would obtain if the whole of the nine sites were considered separately. There are two sites which do not lend themselves to grouping, namely, Armidale, in the . northern part of New South Wales, and Lake George, which lies to the north-east of the Tumut and Albury group. I know that the honorable member for North Sydney is favorable to the idea which I am now putting forward, and I shall support him if he moves an amendment in that direction. I shall also support the amendment indicated by the honorable member for Bland, because I believe that in fairness to the electors of the Commonwealth the open voting system should be adopted.

Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I understand that the only question before the House is as to the best mode of proceeding to a selection of the capital site. We have our hands tied. We have no choice. We have to give effect to a very bad provision which was inserted in the Constitution, not as framed by the Convention, but after the first referendum, with a view to induce a number of people in New South Wales to waive their objections. I understand that upon the faith of that provision a number of persons in New South Wales voted in favour of the Constitution, and for my part, as a representative of a Victorian constituency, I feel bound in honour to give effect to that compact at the earliest possible moment if New South Wales demands it. I take it that this matter is upon a footing entirely different from the provision with regard to the establishment of a High Court. The latter was included in the Constitution for the benefit of the whole community of Australia, it being left open to the community, through its representatives in Parliament, to decide how soon or how late the provision should take effect. In regard to the capital, however, a provision was inserted for the benefit of a particular State in order to induce a certain fraction of the people to vote in a given direction, and I do not feel that the rest of the people of Australia are entitled to dictate as to when that part of the bargain shall be carried out. I sympathize strongly with the view put forward in the Victorian press and elsewhere, as to the inexpediency of tying our hands in this matter. I think we could make a much better arrangement if our hands were free, but I decline to be a party to any attempt to postpone the settlement of the question, if New South Wales asks that it shall be expedited. The proposal before us is to take an open vote of all members of both Houses. The question is not to be submitted to Parliament in the ordinary course. Section 125 of the Constitution provides that the seat of the government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament, ‘ and that I take to mean the site is to be determined by the Parliament according to its constitution of two Houses, and that the two Houses must vote separately. The two Houses must pass a Bill through the ordinary stages, or otherwise the decision arrived at will not be a determination of Parliament. At the same time, as I understand the proposal, itis that we should first ascertain the wishesof the members of the two Houses, and then that a Bill should be brought in, which shall be open, to rejection or acceptance constitutionally. I understand that this is intended as a mere preliminary canter in order that the Government may have the advantage of knowing how this proposal or that wouldbe regarded. Although I do not like thisplan of shunting responsibility, I should nob very strongly object to thus ascertaining the views of honorable members of both Houses, in order to save time. Before we are asked to select the site, however, we should have some indication from the Government in a general way of the financial arrangements they propose to make. I shall be, to a large extent, influenced by the arrangementswhich the Government propose to make with regard to expenditure. We do not want to saddle upon the people of Australia a greater burden of interest than they already bear. I take it for granted, also, that as the honorable member for Gippsland has pointed, out, we should have to buy private land embraced within the Federal Capital area. Weshould know, therefore, whether it is intended to buy this private land outright,-, and, if so, by what means 1 Are we toborrow money, or to follow the course adopted in Canada and in the United Statesof insisting upon the banks holding a certain number of .Federal bonds withoutinterest as a part of their reserves 1 This information might have a very considerable effect upon the voting in regard to a site which would cost a great deal of money.One thing would depend on the other, and I should like to know what scheme the Govern-, ment propose to adopt. I know that it will be proposed to expend only a small sumupon buildings at first ; but if there is one thing clear under the Constitution it is that the land comprised within theFederal Capitalarea must be vested in the Commonwealth. I am not at all clear that it means that itmust be vested for ever. I think it will probably be within the power of Parliament to say what scheme of land tenure we shall, adopt. But at its inception there is nodoubt that the Commonwealth Parliament is not only to exercise jurisdiction over this. area, but is to own it. Of course, if we are to own it, and if we are to select a site which embraces a busy and populous town, the expenditure will be very great. Assuming that we select a site which contains a good population and extensive settlement, do the, Government intend to borrow the money that is required, or do they purpose resorting to some other system to obtain the necessary funds 1 Personally, I think that we might adopt, with much more advantage, a referendum of the people upon this question. Of course, it will be said that the people do not know much about it, but in my judgment the question of the capital site is one which would interest them at the elections, and would educate them more upon Australian wants and Australian prospects than would anything else. In the United States of America it is the chief question which is from time to time submitted to. the people. There are forty-five States as well as some territories, and the question where the capital site of a State shall be is repeatedly submitted to them at the general elections. In E. P. Oberholtzer’s book upon the referendum in America, page 51 of the edition of 1893 - I have not been able to obtain the more recent edition, which is better still - I find the following : -

One of the first subjects of this kind to be put to the vote of the people of the entire State was the location of State capitals. This was a question which, at an early date, was looked upon as in some particulars extraordinary, and entitled to treatment unlike that accorded to other regular subjects of legislation. In some of the early cases, capitals were located by commissions and other agencies outside of the Legislature. The people becoming a more direct force in political affairs, the conventions came to regard this as a suitable matter for popular investiture. The people being qualified to decide upon the character and form of their State government, might naturally have the further grant of power to say at what place this government shall be administered, a site to be chosen which shall be most convenient to the largest number of the State’s citizens.

He describes how this was done in Texas as far back as 1845. The writer proceeds : -

This referendum was also used, shortly afterward in California. The Legislature of that State, at its first session in 1850, authorized a vote to be taken as to whether the seat of government should be removed to Vallejo. It was later used in Kansas, in Colorado, and most of the new States ; in more recent times, in South Dakota, Montana, and Washington, the rivalry of the various towns and cities which sought the honour often attaining very comical ‘proportions. The location of State capitals has come to be a matter to be left altogether to the people, and it is exceedingly doubtful if the removal would anywhere be made without first securing for the proposal a ratification by popular vote.

A similar provision obtains in regard to changing the location of State capitals. In this connexion the same author writes : -

A section of article III. of the Constitution of Pennsylvania provides - “No law changing the location of the capital of the State shall be valid until the same shall have been submitted to the qualified electors of the Commonwealth, at a general election and ratified and approved by them. “ Provisions of this kind are to be found in the Constitutions of the following States : - California, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wyoming.

Of course, there are numerous matters which cannot be submitted to a referendum, and the details of which have to be worked out by Parliament ; but there are cases in which sentiment, public spirit, and public advantage on the one hand, as distinguished from private greed on the other, are so palpably at issue that the people may fairly be allowed to say what is best under the circumstances. The great difficulty in almost all our politics is the manner in which private greed comes across the path of public interest. In regard to the “acquisition of the Federal Capital site, private greed would come into play more than it would in regard to anything else. Private individuals would endeavour to make money out of the needs of the State.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– If the land is resumed it will be the subject of Commonwealth legislation.

Mr HIGGINS:

– That is so; but my remarks refer to the meantime. I hold that in assessing the value of private lands the belief that the Federal Capital will be built upon them must exercise a potent influence upon the minds of the arbitrators.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– By legislation we can exclude that factor.

Mr HIGGINS:

– No ; I am referring to the belief which exists. What is the reason for the extraordinary greed which is shown concerning the location of the Federal Capital ? Only this afternoon we were told that there is a paralysis of business in certain centres. Why? Because rightly or wrongly the people who are interested in certain sites believe that they will be able to enter into other arrangements and make money out of them. Irrespective of what arbitrators we may have, the very fact that land-holders are compelled to give up their property, must exercise an influence in the determination of the amount which will require to be paid. In listening to the speeches which have been delivered on this question, I was indeed surprised that no suggestion had been made to allow the people to decide it at . a general election. A referendum upon it would involve the Commonwealth in very little expense, seeing that the general election must take place. The people would then be in a position to say which site they prefer, and we should largely eliminate from, its consideration any private or particular interests.

Mr Poynton:

– Would the honorable member submit the whole of the sites to the electors t

Mr HIGGINS:

– The honorable member must have heard me state that the practice is repeatedly adopted in the United States of America.

Mr Poynton:

– Could the electors cast a more intelligent vote upon the matter than will this House 1

Mr HIGGINS:

– The people as a whole would be less liable to be influenced by the spirit of parochialism. Taken as a whole, the people would be less likely to be influenced by the pressure of particular localities. Take the case of the honorable member for Canobolas. Certain sites in the western districts of New South Wales have been suggested as eligible ones. I understand that one of those sites is within the electorate af Canobolas. I have the highest respect for the honorable member and for the purity of his motives, but is it possible to conceive of his voting for Lyndhurst as against Orange ?

Mr Poynton:

– Would it be possible for any of the electors in that district to do otherwise ?

Mr HIGGINS:

– But the point is that when we appeal to the people the vast majority are completely free from parochial influences.

Mr Thomson:

– So are the vast majority of honorable members who represent them.

Mr HIGGINS:

– No. In the case of 100 men it is much more easy to organize a clique in favour of a particular site than it is in the case of 500,000.

Mr Conroy:

– How could the people vote upon the matter when they know nothing about the merits of the particular sites 1

Mr HIGGINS:

– I have more faith in the people than has the honorable and learned member. If the question be remitted to the electors for decision, the residents of the rival sites would distribute literature bearing upon them, the newspapers would take the matter up, and the Government would doubtless spread official information in the form of a short pamphlet. It seems to me that we are very much behind the times in Australia in regard to these matters. In America the practice of taking a referendum of the people upon similar questions has been in vogue for fifty years.

Mr Poynton:

– Does not that remark apply only to a particular State, and not to a number of States 1

Mr HIGGINS:

– What difference does that make % We are speaking only of one Federal Capital for all- Australia. Surely the people of Western Australia are interested in determining in what part of New South Wales the capital shall be located. Perhaps they would be the most impartial of judges.

Sir John Forrest:

– How can they possess the necessary local knowledge ?

Mr HIGGINS:

– I am quite sure that the Minister for Home Affairs appreciates the intelligence of the people of Western Australia.

Sir John Forrest:

– They do not even know where Canobolas is situated.

Mr HIGGINS:

– They will very soon learn. I understand that the right honorable gentleman introduced a splendid system of education into Western Australia, and if a knowledge of geography is not included in the curriculum it is a great pity.

Sir John Forrest:

– I do not think that the members of this House know much about it.

Mr HIGGINS:

– Then surely we may trust the people upon a referendum. We have only to make the best of a bad job.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Is the honorable and learned member really suggesting, that a referendum shall be taken’ upon the various sites ?

Mr HIGGINS:

– Yes. What the honorable member wants is perfectly clear. He desires to put certain honorable members or Ministers in a corner. .

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– That is an unworthy remark to make.

Mr HIGGINS:

– Assuming that there are two sites nominated within one electorate, he believes that by adopting an open ballot he will place the people in favour of one site in antagonism to certain honorable members. “ Mr. Thomson. - What about the honorable member for Macquarie ? There are two sites in his electorate.

Mr HIGGINS:

– The honorable member for Macquarie has not yet spoken.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– -I am in favour of an open ballot, and I shall be prepared to express my opinion upon the sites before the ballot is taken.

Mr HIGGINS:

– I am very glad to hearthat. The honorable member may know what he is about, but I should much prefer that the pressure of local influences should be removed from the shoulders of honorable members.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– An honorable member ought to be prepared to take the responsibility of his vote.

Mr HIGGINS:

– It matters not in the least to me whether we deal with this question by way of secret or open voting. I am surprised, however, at the preference which has been shown for open voting - a preference based on the same reasoning thatSydney Smith used against the ballot. We have to choose between two evils. In voting openly we have to incur the pressure of local influences upon us as members of this House, while by secret voting, or in other words by resort to a proper ballot, we have to run the risk ‘of the pressure of corrupting influences. I do not think-

Mr Thomson:

– Does the honorable and learned member mean to say that any honorable member is so low that he would refuse to inform his electors how he voted.

Mr HIGGINS:

– I do not say anything of the kind. I trust that before he proceeds to criticise my remarks the honorable member will hear what I have to say. If he does so he » ill find that my proposition is far more reasonable than he now appears to consider it. There are two evils which we have to face. One is the pressure of local interests upon the voting member - and, of course, it must be incurred where there is open voting - while the other is the fear of the pressure of some corrupting influences being brought to bear upon honorable members when secret voting is resorted to. I do not think, however, that the experience of Australian Parliaments shows that there is any danger of the latter evil.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Does the honorable and learned member think that if this question were decided by ballot an honorable member would not be asked subsequently how he voted 1

Mr HIGGINS:

– He might or he might not.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– His constituents would take care that he was interrogated on the subject.

Mr HIGGINS:

– In the case of open voting there can be no doubt that an honorable member has a strong inducement to go against what he thinks is best for the Commonwealth in the fact that a number of his constituents are watching him. But in the case of secret voting I cannot see what fear there can be, save that of corrupting influences ; and, although our Australian Parliaments have their faults, I do not believe there is any danger of the latter evil being exercised to any extent. I conceive that if we selected a site by ordinary ballot we should be far more likely to obtain a true expression of theopinion held by honorable members from the point of view of the interests of the whole Continent than by any other means. If we are to have an open ballot, very little will be gained by submitting the question in the first instance to a joint sitting of both Houses of the Parliament.’ I should much rather prefer to have the Bill introduced at once, even knowing that in those circumstances we should find an honorable member disposed to speak for the interests, or supposed interests, of his own electorate.

Mr Poynton:

– I prefer. the Bill in any case.

Mr HIGGINS:

– The honorable member may be right. The only ground upon which I conceive that any advantage will be gained by a joint sitting of both Houses is that we should thus obtain an expression of opinion on the part of those who have to make a selection without the fear of the consequences of such pressure as might be brought to bear upon them by their constituencies. I am not prepared at present to- move any amendment, but if other honorable members agree with the view I have put forward I shall be ready to support any proposal which would leave this matter to be determined - with scarcely any expense - at the forthcoming general election by the people of Australia.

Mr THOMSON:
North Sydney

– I do not think that the honorable and learned member who has just resumed his seat has done himself justice by his arguments against the proposal for an open ballot. I am quite sure he would never say that if he felt it was in the interests of Australia that he should vote for a particular site he would be deterred from acting in accordance with that feeling merely by the fact that he would have to cast his vote openly.

Mr Higgins:

– I have not said so.

Mr THOMSON:

– I am sure that the honorable and learned member would not say anything of the kind. But, .nevertheless, if his argument means anything it amounts to an insinuation that for that reason the result obtained by resort to a secret ballot is different from that obtained from open, voting. I would point out to him that there is a great difference between an elector who records his vote at the ballotbox for the election of a Member of Parliament and the action of an honorable member who, in this House, determines, by ballot, the site of the Federal capital. The elector who places his ballot-paper in the ballot-box is, for that vote, responsible only to himself, and there is no reason why he should declare to the world the way in which he voted. But we, as representatives of the people, are not solely responsible to ourselves. We are responsible to the people of Australia, and it is necessary that they should know how we vote in determining this issue of the utmost importance to the people of the Commonwealth - the selection of the site not for to-day, but for all time, of the capital of Australia. I cannot conceive that any honorable member would refuse to face that publicity. We have also to remember this, that an honorable member representing an electorate in which there are two proposed sites will certainly be asked by his constituents how he voted. Is he to conceal his vote from them? He must declare himself. Then again, if we determine this question by open voting we shall be free from any insinuation that we have voted contrary to the way in which we are supposed to have voted. Everything will be above board, and insinuations which might otherwise be made will be avoided.

Mr Higgins:

– Those arguments were all used in the old days against the secret ballot.

Mr THOMSON:

– I have already explained the difference between the action of a voter at the ballot-box, responsible solely to himself, and a representative of the people in the Chamber, responsible to the people, in refusing to indicate the way in which he votes.

Mr Higgins:

– That is a good distinction; but it does not affect this question.

Mr THOMSON:

– Has not the honorable and learned member had a similar experience in regard to votes cast by him in Parliament ? Every vote he gives must affect certain interests in his electorate. If he votes in one direction he beneficially affects one interest ; if he votes in another way he beneficially affects another interest. In these circumstances would he ask honorable members to agree to a secret ballot in regard to a Bill or proposal of this kind 1

Mr Higgins:

– I am not dealing with a Bill in the ordinary sense of the term.

Mr THOMSON:

– Would the honorable and learned member urge us to consent to a secret ballot rather than that local pressure of which he speaks - or what is really local supervision - should be exercised ?

Mr Higgins:

– I am dealing with an extra-constitutional device, which we mustapply specially.

Mr THOMSON:

– With all respect for the legal acuteness of the honorable and. learned member, I fail to see how he can make a distinction. The result of our vote on this question will probably last for all time, and it is more than ever necessary thatwe should record it in the broad light of day. I am not supporting the amendment because there happen to be two proposed sites in a, constituency represented by a Minister,’ any more than I am supporting it because the honorable member for Macquarie - a member of the Opposition - also happens to have two proposed sites in his electorate. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has said something with which I heartily agree. He recognises that in the selection of a site for the Federal capital we are bound by the Constitution. He recog’nises that under an arrangement made between a State and other States after the rejection of the first Constitution Bill, which contained no such provision, there is an honorable bond, notonly to be fulfilled, but, if the anticipated! conditions are to be carried out, to be fulfilled without delay. It has been proposed’ that our hands should be freed, but we could obtain that freedom only by a departure from the bond - a departure which I venture to think the people of Australia would be very reluctant to allow. Even if I believed’ that it would be for the benefit of a greatnumber of people resident in New SouthWales to locate the Federal capital in Sydney or its neighbourhood, I feel satisfied that such a proposal would not be> acceptable to the majority of the people of that State. The majority do not desire that centralization - that enlargement of the importance of the State capital - as against a more distributed interest in the country. Consequently our hands are not merely tied, but so tied that it would be very difficult to release them even if it were proper to depart from the terms of the bond first arrived at by those who represented the people and subsequently accepted by the people themselves. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne had a proposal that there should be a referendum of all the nine sites to the people, but I think that in that he failed to recognise the difficulty which even members of this Parliament will feel in coming to a conclusion, notwithstanding our advantageous position by reason of the discussions which we have heard, and of the information which has been prepared for us, at so great an expense, as to the sites in the interests of the Commonwealth to choose. How can we expect the people of Australia, who are not assembled as we are to give attention to this particular matter, to study the reports which have been submitted, to make themselves acquainted with the geology and geography of New South Wales, to ascertain the relative position of the sites in regard to the other States, in order to tit themselves to conscientiously vote upon the question 1

Mr Higgins:

– How does the honorable member answer the statement that what I propose is done in a country as large as Prance 1

Mr THOMSON:

– France is not nearly so large as Australia, and furthermore I say that there are not usually nine sites to choose from.

Mr Higgins:

– But we are confined to New South Wales. We have no opportunity to go outside that State.

Mr THOMSON:

– That is so, but in order to give a correct vote, the people of Australia must make themselves acquainted with New South Wales. Why have we spent money in sending a commission to inquire into the climate, rainfall, geological formation, accessibility, and other particulars regarding the proposed sites if a very close and particular inquiry is not absolutely necessary to arrive at a right conclusion ‘ How many honorable members have yet carefully studied the reports which have been submitted to us ? Is it likely, then, that the people of Australia, men and women, have studied them, and are in a position to say which site is the best in the interests of the Commonwealth 1 If our expenditure in the direction of making inquiries and obtaining reports was justifiable, how can it be said that the people are in a position to give a vote upon this subject? I pointed out at the time that, in my opinion, some of the expenditure which was incurred was rather unnecessary, but the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, or, at least, the party to which he belongs, supported the Government proposal. I agree with the Prime Minister in this respect rather . than with the honorable and learned member. The Prime Minister said that the action of Parliament in this connexion would be a momentous one, and of the highest importance,, not merely in regard to to-day, but in regard to the future of Australia. That being so, we ought to come to as wise a decision as we can, and give as much thought and consideration to the matter as is possible. Moreover, in the procedure that we adopt for arriving at a decision we ought to see that opportunity is given for the selection of the best site available, and that fair play is extended to all the sites. That, I think, will hardly occur if the motion is adopted as it stands, because the third paragraph provides -

That at such Conference an exhaustive ballot be taken to ascertain which of the sites reported on by the Boral Commission on Sites for the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth appointed by the Governor-General, on the 14th day of January, 1903, is in the opinion of the Members of the Parliament the most suitable for the establishment of such Seat of Government.

The Royal Commission’s report states that nine sites were reported upon by the Commissioners. It would, however, be unwise and unfair, and would lead to results which we cannot foresee, if those nine sites were submitted to an exhaustive ballot. It was not the intention when those sites were referred to the Commissioners that that should be done, and I can prove that by extracts from some of the speeches which were made on the 25th of September last .year, when the House was discussing the motion for the appointment of a commission. On page 16132 of the Parliamentary Reports for last session the present Minister for Trade and Customs is reported to have said -

Ihave always recognised that the neighbourhood of Orange and the sites proposed at Bathurst and Lyndhurst are really part and parcel of the same area, and would have to be included in the Federal territory if any site near the Canobolas were selected.

Then on page 16140 the honorable member for Macquarie said” -

I am only asking the House to carry out a suggestion, approved by the . Minister for Home Affairs, to consider Orange, Bathurst, and Lyndhurst as one site, and to get all the necessary information regarding these places.

He moved an amendment, which was accepted and carried under those conditions. But what does the resolution appointing the Commission say 1 1 1 is to be found on page 16161, and is as follows : -

That, with a view to obtain necessary information that will enable the Parliament of the Commonwealth to select a site for the seat of Government, a Committee of Experts should be appointed to examine and report upon sites in the following localities : - Albury, Armidale, Bombala, Lake George, Orange (and, in consequence of their proximity, Bathurst and Lyndhurst).

The name of Tumut was also included, and Dalgety was referred afterwards. It is evident that where several sites belong to the same district, so that the Federal territory, if taken from one site, would almost touch what would have been Federal territory if the adjoining site had been chosen, we cannot obtain proper or fair results from a ballot in which the sites would be treated as separate and independent. There should be a selection, first of all, of the best site in each particular geographical area, and then there should be an exhaustive ballot to determine which of those sites should.be chosen. No other district has three sites, but several districts have two sites. For instance, Tumut and Albury are in the one district, Bombala and Dalgety in another, Lake George and Yass in another - supposing Yass to be included as a proposed site.

Mr Conroy:

– The promise was made to me that Yass would be included.

Mr THOMSON:

– I would treat all these districts alike, reducing in the first place the number of sites in any group to one. If that is done, we shall have five sites which will be geographically distinct and distant from each other, and we should be acquainted with their merits in other respects, either from the report of the Commissioners, or from the knowledge which we have obtained from other sources. We shall then be able to obtain a Clear-cut selection. That is the only proper and fair way of dealing with the matter. By adopting the course proposed in the motion we allow the principle of “ divide and conquer.” Lyndhurst might be shut out by Bathurst, or vice-versa, or Orange by either of them ; Tumut by Albury, or vice versa ; Bombala by Dalgety, or vice versa. Armidale is not in any group, but is. distinct geographically from the other proposed sites. Having selected from each district the site which is considered best, we can obtain a clear-cut issue, and can come to a decision upon lines which will be fair and best in the interests of the Commonwealth. If any other method is adopted, it ‘ will be impossible to say what the decision will be. It would be an extraordinary thing if a district so suitable as to furnish two or .more sites were shut out by a division of opinion as to the merits of those sites. It is evident that it was not intended that that should happen. The statements of the Minister for Trade and Customs and of the honorable member for Macquarie, which I have read, are clear and distinct so far as that is concerned, and the wording of the resolution -

In consequence of their proximity, Bathurst and Lyndhurst - proves it. I do not wish to be unfair to any district, and therefore I propose later on to add to paragraph 3 the following words -

Provided that before such exhaustive ballot be taken the sites in each of the following groups be reduced by ballot to one site in each group -

Western group. - Bathurst, Lyndhurst, Orange.

South- Western group. - Albury, Tumut.

Some honorable members may claim that Lake George ought to go into the southern group. I have not put it into a group, because it is a distinct district, but I have no objection to that being done. Armidale, as I have said, stands by itself ; there is no other site in that district. The method which I propose must commend itself to all who wish to see fair play given to the different sites, and who are anxious that the site which, in the opinions of honorable members is the _ best, is the deliberate choice of the Conference, instead of the choosing being a mere accidental circumstance due to the procedure- adopted. I do not intend to detain the House any longer. I recognise the difficulties which the Prime Minister has experienced in designing a method to meet ‘ the circumstances. I am willing to accept the proposal he has made, with amendments which, I think, would improve it, and I trust that there will be no difficulty in adopting such a conciliatory method of selection. It should be the object of both Houses to deal with the matter in some practicable way. The method proposed by the Government is practicable, and I trust that by its means we shall arrive at a selection of the capital site, and that the other States of Australia will prove to New South Wales that there is no foundation for the strong doubts that are beginning to arise, and for the fears that trouble may arise at a later stage. I trust that it will at once become evident that the first Parliament of Australia means to honorably carry out the bond entered into, and to recognise not only that there is a bond, but that time is the essence of the contract, and that effect should be given to it at the earliest possible moment. I am quite aware that some objection has been raised, on the ground of expense, to our doing anything at present in regard to the establishment of the capital. But it has to be remembered that New South Wales hesitated to enter the Federation because it was recognised that the people would have to submit to very heavy taxation. They, however, accepted that condition, and they are paying the taxation.

Mr Thomas:

– And spending the money.

Mr THOMSON:

– It is quite true that money will always be spent when it gets into the hands of a Government. The people of New South Wales are paying heavy taxation, and are likely to go on paying it year after year.

Mr Watson:

– Hear, hear ; there will be no change.

Mr THOMSON:

– There may or may not be, but the people of New South Wales will have to go on paying heavy taxation under any circumstances. Not only so, but they will have to contribute two-fifths or nearly one-half of any expenditure that may be incurred in connexion with the establishment of the Federal Capital. Surely, under these circumstances, they have a right to look to the other States for the fulfilment of the minor obligation which they have undertaken. Surely they would have a right to resist to the point of extremity, and to feel that indignation which would justify such resistance, if - after they had paid their share of taxation, and had proved their willingness to defray two-fifths of the expenditure upon the Federal Capital, and to give freely all the Crown lands embraced within the capital site - the other States were to hold back as has been suggested, and say - “ Put off the evil day. Do not impose upon us the burden of three-fifths of the expenditure upon the Federal Capital which will be spread over five States of the Commonwealth.” I do not think the people of Australia want anything of the kind, or that the people of Victoria desire to take up any such position, and I trust that the result of this discussion will prove that my anticipations are correct.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I quite agree with a great deal that has fallen from the honorable member for North Sydney, but with regard to his concluding remarks I wish to show him that there is another side to the picture. New South Wales is not the only State that has made a sacrifice in connexion with Federation. At the outset, I hope that no honorable member will infer that I desire to delay the consummation of the wishes of New South Wales for one hour longer than is absolutely necessary. When the Federal Constitution was before the electors, it was felt on every side, and by no one more strongly than by the then Premier of New South Wales, that if merit alone were to be considered, the capital of the Federation would very likely be fixed in Victoria, on account of its central position and genial climate.

Mr Wilks:

– Not on its merits.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– Will honorable members deny that the then Premier of New South Wales placed that view before the people of that State; and that they refused to ratify the Constitution until the question of the capital site had been settled.

Honorable Members. - There were many objections to the Constitution.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– This is a serious matter. Our action on the present occasion will affect not only the people of the present day but future generations, and if we make a mistake in the selection of a site for the Federal capital it will make a blot upon the map of Australia which will endure for all time. Therefore, I hope that honorable members will unite in doing their best to make the wisest possible selection. It is as well that we should remember what has led up to the present position, and I intend to state the case briefly to honorable members. The people of New South Wales refused to ratify the Federal Constitution before the site of the capital was fixed. A Conference of Premiers was then held, and a bargain was entered into which I always considered to be very unwise. At the same time I will accept it as loyally as any of those who believed in it. What was that bargain ? It was that the permanent seat of government should be in New South Wales, and that until that permanent seat of government was established Parliament should meet in Melbourne.

Mr Brown:

– That was only a part of the bargain.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– Perhaps I had better read section 125 of the Constitution, which- is as follows : -

The seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by The Parliament, and shall be within territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth, and shall be vested in and belong to the Commonwealth, and, if New South Wales be an Original State, shall be in that State, and be distant not less than 100 miles from Sydney.

Such territory shall contain an area of not less than one hundred square miles, and such portion thereof as shall consist of Crown lands shall be granted to the Commonwealth without any PaYment therefor.

If Victoria be an Original State the Parliament -shall sit in Melbourne until it meet at the seat of government.

That was an honorable compact, which the people of the Commonwealth ratified. I have heard it stated, during this discussion, that the meaning of that provision was that the seat of government should be established as soon as the people of New South Wales asked for it. Whilst I do not desire to delay the settlement of this .question, I wish to place the true position before honorable members. I would ask, in the first instance, why Melbourne was mentioned as the place where Parliament should meet until it met at the permanent seat of government. Was it intended that Victoria should derive no benefit whatever? I contend that at that time it was considered that Victoria should derive some benefit.

Mr Poynton:

– We hear nothing of any of the other States. It is all New South Wales and Victoria.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I .did not frame the Constitution or approve of it. As a matter of fact, I voted against it, and therefore my honorable friend cannot reproach me. I am dealing with the Constitution as I find it. I contend that the common-sense interpretation of that section is that both New South Wales and Victoria should derive some benefit ; that Victoria should have the temporary benefit and New South Wales the “ permanent advantage.

Mr Wilks:

– How does the honorable member define the word “ temporary”?

Mr Watson:

– Three years would be a fair thing.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I shall tell my honorable friend what the meaning of the provision is. On the strength of that provision, what did Victoria do ? She spent £50,000 in housing the Federal Parliament in Melbourne. Will honorable members pretend that she has derived benefit from the Federation to the extent of even half that amount.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– She spent only £30,000.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– The amount was upwards of £50,000. I would appeal to roy honorable friend the Treasurer.

Sir George Turner:

– The last figures I saw ran into nearly £70,000.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– That is what Victoria did on the faith of that compact.

Mr Watson:

– The expenditure was wasteful.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– And the people voted believing that Melbourne would be the seat of government until the permanent capital could be established.

Mr Thomson:

– Do they want their money back?

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I think that they would take it back very readily in view of what has happened since the expenditure was incurred. I would remind honorable members that the Constitution provides that the seat of government capital shall not be established within 100 miles of Sydney, and yet even before the Federal Parliament met in Melbourne the people of New South Wales set up an agitation in favour of making Sydney the temporary seat of government-.

Mr Watson:

– The Constitution does not provide that the seat of government shall be in Melbourne.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– It provides that the seat of government shall not be within 100 miles of Sydney.

Mr Watson:

– It does not provide that it shall be in Melbourne.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I am glad that my honorable friend has mentioned that point, because it reminds me of the reasons urged by prominent statesmen in New South Wales .why the temporary seat of government should be in Sydney. They contended that whilst the Constitution provided that the Parliament should meet in Melbourne, it did not provide that the seat of government should be there. That is J quite true. The Constitution does not say that the Parliament shall ‘Bit at the seat of government in New South Wales. Will the honorable member for Bland deny that 1

Mr Watson:

– Something must be left to our intelligence.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– It is absurd to say that the seat of government should be separated “from the Parliament, or that the Parliament should be separated from the seat of government. The honorable member for Bland wishes to interpret the Constitution in a way that will permit of Sydney - which is the only part of the Commonwealth that is expressely precluded under the Constitution - becoming the temporary seat of Government whilst Parliament is sitting in Melbourne.

Mr L E GROOM:
DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND · PROT; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917; IND from 1931; UAP from 1934

– No one is contending that.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– It has been contended and, to a large extent, effect has been given to that contention. A Government house has been provided in Sydney

Mr SPEAKER:

– I would point out tothe honorable member .that in the motion which is under consideration there is no reference whatever to the establishment of Government houses, or to the question of the seat of government other than to the machinery for choosing the future seat of government. I must therefore ask the honorable member to confine his remarks strictly to the matter which is under consideration.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– Shall I be in order in showing the sacrifices which the different States have made, so that I may put the matter clearly before the House 1

Mr SPEAKER:

– Incidental reference has been made to the sacrifice which was made by one State, and therefore I shall allow an incidental reference to any sacrifice by another State ; but I am afraid that the honorable member is dwelling upon the matter far more than incidentally.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– Upon the strength of the interpretation which Victoria placed upon the Constitution, that State was induced to spend this large sum of money in housing the Federal Parliament. Although I opposed the Federal Constitution and voted against its adoption, because I objected to several of its provisions, I declared after, it had been accepted by the people, that I would support it as loyally as those who had advocated it from the beginning, and I intend to do so. I have no desire to place obstacles in the way of giving effect to this proposal as soon as effect can be given to it upon i proper business principles. The amendment which I have indicated funs largely upon the lines of that which has been outlined by the honorable member for North Sydney. At the present time we have no information whatever as to the price which we should have to pay for land within the different sites.

Mr Thomson:

– Is there no evidence of that in the report of the Commission 1

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– We have no information as to the value of the 60,000 acres within each site. We have the Commissioners’ estimate of the value of 4,000 acres, but not one word regarding the value- of the other 60,000 acres. I hold that the price which we are called upon to pay should be an important factor in the selection of the site.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Will the land become’ cheaper the longer we postpone action ?

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– If the honorable member will restrain his youthful impetuosity, I think that his good sense will agree with my ultimate proposal. Not only have we no estimate of the cost of the lands at the different sites, but the moment we ear-mark a particular site the process of booming will commence. I am aware that the Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act declares that the value of the land shall be its value upon a particular date. But having had a good deal of experience in this sort of business - having been connected with the purchase and sale of land nearly the whole of my life - I know that it is impossible to give effect to such a provision. We can be guided only by the evidence and the information which is placed before us. It is utterly impossible for any arbitrator to say “ This land was worth a particular sum on a particular date.” I am perfectly satisfied that the moment we select a site, speculators: will commence operations. They will be anxious to purchase land in the hope of being able to sell it to the Commonwealth at a higher price. Thus, I hold that the amount which we shall ultimately pay will be considerably in advance of that which we should pay if we purchase as a private individual would purchase, upon proper business lines. My suggestion is that we should select three sites. To that extent the amendment -which has been outlined by the honorable member for North Sydney runs upon the same lines as does my own. I am not particular if four sites are selected. My proposal is that the Government be requested to ascertain the lowest price at which 100 square miles of land can be obtained within each of these three sites. That information can be obtained very simply. The Government have merely to forward a circular to each land-owner in order to secure it. Let it be known to the land-owners that the price at which their lands can be obtained will be an important factor in determing the final selection from three sites.

Mr.Wilks. - Could not that information be obtained from the taxation Department of New South Wales?

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– The three sites will, under the arrangement I suggest, be brought into competition. Each landholder will know that if he asks more than the value of his land it may prevent the particular site in which he is interested from being selected. Thus we should not only bring the landowners into competition, but we should make every resident a sort of missionary for the Government, so that the Commonwealth would obtain the land as cheaply as possible.

Mr Spence:

– But suppose that the landholders do not desire to sell ?

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– They know that they will have to sell. If they do not voluntarily do so, the land will be resumed. As soon as the Government havereceived offers from the land-owners within the three sites selected I suggest that they should send a board of three competent valuers to appraise the land.

Sir George Turner:

– Who is to select the three sites ?

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– Perhaps I had better read my amendment to make the position perfectly clear. It is as follows : -

That after the word “ That,” line 1, the following words be inserted : - “ with a view to the selection of the most suitable site for the Commonwealth seat of Government, and the acquisition of same on the most favorable terms, it is desirable that the Government should ascertain the lowest price at which they can acquire 100 square miles of territory at each of the following proposed sites : - Albury, Bombala, and Tumut.”

I will give the House the reasons which induced me to select these sites. The last Commission placed Tumut and Albury first and second upon the list of eligible sites, and the first Commission placed Bombala first. Therefore I have selected the sites in question. That, however, is a matter of detail.

Mr SPEAKER:

– It is quite impossible for the honorable member to proceed with these constant interruptions from all round the House. I must ask honorable members to allow the honorable member for Gippsland to express his own opinions. They will afterwards be at perfect liberty to express their views if they have not already spoken.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I have already stated that I would ask the land-owners at the different sites to furnish the Commonwealth with the. lowest price which they are willing to accept for their land. Having received that information, I suggest that three competent valuers should be appointed to assess the land within the areas selected. When these particulars are forthcoming, a comparison between the relative cost of acquiring the different sites can be instituted. Of course honorable members know that, in itself, the actual price of the land will afford us no guide whatever. One site may average £10 per acre and another only£5 per acre, and yet the former may be infinitely the cheaper of the two. The Government and Parliament, I repeat, will then be in a position to make a proper business selection from these sites.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Does the honorable member suggest that the price of a site should be the basis of the final selection?

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I do not suggest that it should be the only basis, but it certainly should be an important factor in our determination. Assuming that the value of any particular land is £6 per acre, and that we pay £9 per acre for it, the difference will represent a dead loss for all time. On the other hand, if we purchase the land at its legitimate value, the rental derived from it should return interest upon its cost for all time. One is a common-sense business arrangement, and the other a wild method of dealing with the people’s money, of which we are the trustees. I would ask any honorable member if, in dealing with his own money or with that of a friend for whom he was acting in the capacity of executor or trustee, he would be prepared to purchase 64,000 acres of land without asking its value?

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Who suggested that?

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– It has been suggested.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– No.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– It is suggested that we shall make a final selection of one site without knowing the value of the land which it embraces.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– We ourselves will have a say in regard to the value of the land.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– But the land-owner will have a say upon the other side. Arbitrators would have to decide between us, and arbitrators invariably allow something for the compulsory resumption of land. But if we bring a man into competition with others, self-interest will come into play, and that is the only factor which will govern the price at which the owners of the land will be prepared to sell. They would know that if they fixed the price too high the land would probably not be purchased from them, and by comparing their valuation with the appraisement made by an independent valuator we should get at something like the true cost.

Mr Wilks:

– Why not accept the valuation of the Land Tax Department ?

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– We could not do so under the law. We cannot go to a man and say that we are going to take over his land at any price we choose to fix. If we cannot arrive at an ‘ amicable agreement with the owners we shall have to appoint arbitrators who will take evidence and determine the value of the land to the best of their judgment. As I have already shown, if we select a site before we receive an offer to sell from the people who own the lands in question, the inevitable consequence will be that the process of booming will commence, and no legislation of our own would overcome that difficulty. I speak as one who has acted over and over again as an arbitrator in land transactions. Our experience in Victoria is that in purchasing land under the compulsory provision of the Railways Lands Acquisition Act the State in nearly every case is called upon to pay a price far in excess of the real value.

An Honorable Member.- That is not the case in New Zealand.

Mr L E GROOM:
DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND · PROT; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917; IND from 1931; UAP from 1934

– In Queensland they have taken land over at far less than its real value.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– Some States laws might practically provide for confiscation of land, but the Commonwealth laws do not.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– How long would it take to carry out the honorable member’s proposal? Two years?

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– A few weeks should be sufficient. If we select a site to-day, we shall not be able to acquire the land before the session closes.

Mr Wilks:

– We shall fix the site of the capital, and that is the main consideration.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– But if the effect of a selection now were to cause us to pay £300,000, £400,000, or £500,000 more than we should otherwise have to pay for the land, it would be a very serious matter.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– How could such a thing occur?

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I am perfectly satisfied that it will occur. I do not know what increase will take place in the price, but if we select the site as now proposed, booming will set in, and we shall have to pay more than the legitimate value of the land. That remark applies not only to the 64,000 acres to be used as the site of the city, but to the whole of the land within the watershed of each of the proposed sites. Honorable members must therefore realize that this is a very serious matter, and I trust that they will deal with it in a businesslike way. I feel satisfied that if we proceed to buy land without knowing what we shall be called upon to pay for it, we shall earn the reprobation of every common-sense elector throughout the Commonwealth ; whereas if we go to work on proper business lines we shall deserve thecommendation of the people. The establishment of the seat of government need not be delayed one hour by the adoption of my amendment. Everything depends upon whether the Government obtain the necessary information before the close of the present session. The amendment might possibly delay the final selection of a site until the beginning of next session ; but in any case no greater time would be occupied in dealing simultaneously with three or four sites in the way I propose than would be occupied in dealing with one site.

Mr Henry Willis:

– There is a great deal of Crown land at Lyndhurst.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I am sorry to hear that, because it means that if we select that site we shall build the Federal Capital on what is practically a desert.

Mr Henry Willis:

– It is the most beautiful place in Australia.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– The honorable member cannot tell me that, notwithstanding the earth hunger which has prevailed for the last few years, good Crown lands remain unselected in sites which are sufficiently central to serve the purposes of the Federal Capital.

Mr Wilks:

– But these lands are reserved for church and school endowment purposes.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– That is another matter.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– Nearly the whole of them are held under lease.

Mr Henry Willis:

– The honorable member for Dalley is quite right.

Mr SPEAKER:

-Order ; the honorable member for Robertson is out of order.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I take it that the sites which have been placed at all high in the list submitted by the Commissioners comprise little or no Crown lands unless they be reserved. It is unreasonable to think that any considerable area is so poor that no one has taken it up. It is quite likely that in the end the highestpriced land might prove to be the cheaper. My experience is that high-priced land is generally the cheaper. I have usually found that land which is worth £1, £2, or £3 per acre will give a smaller return than land which is worth £25 or £30 per acre. I know for a fact that land worth £3 per acre will return about 4 per cent, per annum. Such land is fit only for grazing, and one cannot obtain, as a rule, more than 4 per cent, on the actual value of land used for such purposes. But rich land, worth £25 per acre, will generally return, by way of rental, about 30s. per acre per annum, or about 6 per cent, per annum. Such land is thus by 50 per cent, a better investment than is the land purchased at £3 per acre, the reason being that it can be turned to any pui-pose. As a ‘ rule, it is more profitable to give a high price for good land than a low price for poor land. I should not advocate the purchase of the lowest-priced site unless it were shown by competent appraisement that it was in every respect the cheapest site. That is the consideration which should guide us. When we consider that we have to buy 64,000 acres as a site for the seat of government, as well as all the lands within the watershed of the site selected, it must be seen that the question of purchase becomes a very serious and important one. This is certainly not a time when we can afford to spend a single pound more than is absolutely necessary. We all know that at least four of the States of the

Commonwealth have experienced a period of protracted drought, and that the losses which have accrued to them are very great. I have the figures showing the losses thus sustained, but I do not wish to detain honorable members by reading them. I shall content myself by stating that the losses by drought during the last ten or eleven years are far in excess of what most people contemplate. We have also toremember that the London money marketwas never in a more unfavorable condition for borrowing purposes. I should like toknow what the Treasurer thinks of a proposal to buy land on unbusiness-like lines, and thus to compel us to borrow moremoney than would otherwise be necessary in the London market at a time when he believes it unwise to go to the assistance of’ any of the States in connexion with their redemption loans. As an instance of the unfavourable condition of the London money market, I might mention that before the clouds of war began to gather in South Africa to such an extent as to affect the value of money - namely, in 1897 - the lowest price at which Imperial consols touched was, I believe, £111 12s. 6d.,. while the last quotations are £89 5s. At all events, there is a difference of £21 7s. per cent.

Mr Mahon:

– The honorable member forgets that the interest on consols has also fallen by a quarter or half per cent.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I did not see that statement in the comparison from which I took these figures. I thought it compared like with like.

Sir George Turner:

– The rate was 2 fper cent. ; it is now 2J per cent.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– At all events the right honorable gentleman will admit that from the point of view of the borrower theLondon money market has rarely been in such an unfavourable condition.

Sir George Turner:

– We cannot borrow at the present time. It would be hopeless to endeavour to do so.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– We cannot start on this site without borrowing.

Mr Watson:

– There are many thingswhich we can do.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– We shall have toborrow in some way or other.

Mr Watson:

– We shall be able to get the money all right.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– We shall have to pay £500,000 or more for land, and having regard to the fact that we have to acquire not only the site of the capital itself, but the lands within the watershed, the cost will probably approach something like £1,000,000. In addition, there are all the expenses of building and of other undertakings, so that the cost of erecting the Federal Capital will be a very large one. It is all very well to tell us that the cost involved will be only a few hundreds of thousands of pounds. We know what it will mean when we start to buy land to protect the sources of our water supply, to commence building, and to construct railways leading to the capital. We shall have to float a very large loan, and if we borrow the money on unfavorable terms the payment of it will be rendered all the more difficult. On the other hand, if we proceed on business lines and purchase the land just as a private individual would do if he were expending his own money, the expenditure will not be a permanent charge upon the Commonwealth. I believe that if the land be wisely purchased the rental value will be equal to the interest on the capital expended. I trust that the Government and honorable members generally will take this matter into serious consideration, and that our decision will be such as will entitle us to the commendation, rather than the condemnation, of the people of the Commonwealth.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the amendment is irrelevant to the motion. It really involves the method of actual selection. If adopted, it would unmistakably declare a preference on the part of the House for three sites, and, therefore, would be an actual selection by the House- I submit that an amendment of this kind cannot be relevant to the motion.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– It is not the final selection.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– It applies to the principle of selection by the method of exclusion, and I submit that it is entirely, irrelevant.

Mr SPEAKER:

-I have no hesitation in ruling upon this matter. The proposition before the House provides a method of selecting a capital site. The honorable member proposes an alternative method. It is not, therefore, a direct negative, nor is it a matter which is irrelevant to the question under discussion. Being strictly relevant and not in the nature of a direct negative, it is within the Standing Orders.

Mr WILKS:
Dalley

– The honorable member for Gippsland has given many reasons, not only why the motion of the Prime Minister should not be carried, but also in support of his amendment. He has referred to the state of the London money markets, to the high value pf the land that will have to be acquired, and to the conditions brought about by the drought, as reasons for which he is justified in appealing for support. I propose to deal with these reasons. But, in the first place, I would point out that his amendment astutely focuses the attention of Parliament upon three sites - Albury, Bombala, and Tumut, chosen, no doubt, alphabetically - and if we were to accept it, we should make a rough and ready selection at once, and the other sites, the merits of which it is not now in order to discuss, would be put out of court without consideration.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– The number of the sites is a matter of detail. I would not object to four or five sites being dealt with concurrently.

Mr WILKS:

– The honorable member’s objection to the motion on the ground that he requires further information as to the value of the land within the various proposed sites, is a matter with which I shall deal directly. But he must see that it would be most unfair to, at this stage, limit the choice of sites to three.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Why are all these amendments moved by Victorian representatives ?

Mr Kennedy:

– An amendment has been . moved by the honorable member for North Sydney.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– That was merely a suggestion to simplify matters, but the amendments to which I refer mean only delay.

Mr WILKS:

– The amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney is to provide a procedure for giving fair treatment to all the sites by grouping them in districts. He proposes that Parliament shall first select the best site out of each group, and then make a final selection by means of an exhaustive ballot. Without some such arrangement, a district which contains more than one proposed site - such as the electorate of the Minister for Trade and Customs, in which the Albury and the Tumut sites are situated - might be put out of court by a division of opinion as to their respective merits. The honorable member for Gippsland, although during his speech several interjections were made which, figuratively speaking, struck him between wind and water, and did much to render his argument ineffective, asserted that unless information as to the value of the land within the proposed sites were obtained before a selection is made, certain things would happen. He contended that Parliament should not, so to speak, buy a pig in a poke, and he urged that a circular should be sent round to the owners of land within the proposed sites, asking them to fix a price for their land. But an Act which was passed last session makes provision for the acquisition of ‘property by the Commonwealth.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– Not upon business lines.

Mr WILKS:

– Upon satisfactory lines.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– Satisfactory to those who do not care what the cost will be.

Mr WILKS:

– Satisfactory to the public and to the sellers. The Government derived much assistance from the honorable member, if I am not mistaken, during the consideration of that measure, and he moved an amendment as to the power of arbitrators. That Act provides a mode of procedure for doing what he asks.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– It purports to do so, but in practice it will not do what I wish to see done. ‘

Mr WILKS:

– The honorable member assumes that all the land within the proposed sites is alienated, and he wishes the Government to obtain information from the proprietors of it as to what they propose to ask for it. He told us that it would take only a few weeks to get the information for which he asks. But long before it could be obtained Parliament will be in recess ; a dissolution will follow, and it can be argued that the new Parliament will not be bound by the intentions of the old Parliament.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– Not one of the representatives of Victoria is anxious to break faith in this matter.

Mr WILKS:

– Still that contention might be argued. As I informed the honorable member by interjection, the New South Wales Commissioners of Taxation could supply him with all the information that is necessary as to the value of the land there.

For the purposes of taxation, all privatelyowned land is assessed, and the holders are taxed upon that assessment.

Mr Kennedy:

– Could an acre of land in New South Wales be purchased for the amount at which its unimproved value is assessed for land-tax purposes ?

Mr WILKS:

– Yes. If owners of land have been undervaluing their property, so as to escape the payment of their just contribution to the revenue, they are punishable for it. Section 19 of the Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act, which provides how compensation shall be estimated, says -

In estimating the compensation to be paid, regard shall in every case be had, by the valuators or the Justice, not only to the value of the land taken, but also to the damage (if any) caused ….. and1 they shall assess the same according to what they find to have been the value of the land, estate, or interest of (he claimant on the first day of .January last preceding the date of acquisition.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– I ‘ think that f or this purpose it should be the 1st day of January, 1901.

Mr WILKS:

– Yes. I quoted that section in answer to the contention of the honorable member for Gippsland that the Government should take certain steps to obtain information as to land values. The Prime’ Minister himself said that that Act would be largely used for the purpose of acquiring land for the capital site.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– I said that I thought that the Act might be sufficient ; but that if it was not it would be very easy to pass another under the same power.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– If we select a site tomorrow, the land there would be at boom prices before the 1st January next.

Mr WILKS:

– But the Act refers to the 1st January of this year.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– That is assuming the land to be acquired by the Commonwealth before the end of the year.

Mr WILKS:

– If the site is chosen before the end of the year, application will at once be made for the land, and the price to be paid will be the value existing on the 1st January last when it was not known that the area in which it. is situated would be made Commonwealth territory. Originally Bombala was recommended as the best site for the capital, and the other proposed sites seemed to be out of court altogether. Then the Capital Sites Commission made a recommendation, which altered the position of affairs altogether ; so that none of this” land can be said to have yet acquired any speculative value. The honorable member for Gippsland is entirely wrong in supposing that the Commonwealth will be called upon to pay exorbitant prices for the land, because we shall be adequately protected by the Property Acquisition Act. ‘ The land values must be fixed according to a fair and reasonable assessment prior to the selection of the site. I do not see that there is any force in the argument of the honorable member in favour of delay. The honorable member referred to the fact that the people of New South Wales refused to agree to the Constitution until a provision had been inserted that the Capital should be located within that State. There are, however, many reasons why the Constitution did not find acceptance with the people of New South Wales in the first instance. The Bill did not contain a single letter with reference to the Federal Capital, and its rejection was due to the stipulation by the State Parliament that it should be approved of by at least 80,000 electors. It was not until after the Premiers’ Conference that the question of fixing the Capital site was taken into consideration. Certain amendments of the Constitution which were agreed to by the State Parliament were then submitted by the then Premier of New South Wales, and some Of them, including that regarding the Capital site, were adopted. The honorable member for Gippsland in quoting section 125 of the Constitution quoted certain phrases with regard to New South Wales and Victoria being “Original” States. On looking at the copy of the.Constitution, however, I cannot find any reference to original States.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– The words quoted by the .honorable member for Gippsland were included in the Constitution as adopted by the States Parliaments, but were omitted from the Bill as passed by the Imperial Parliament because they - were considered unnecessary. The omission does not in any way affect the argument of the honorable member for Gippsland.

Mr WILKS:

– As the matter which we are discussing is one of considerable importance I think it should be dealt with in a larger House than we have at present. [Quorum formed.] The honorable member for Gippsland was ingenious enough to suggest that the proposed sites should be dealt with in alphabetical order. Nine sites were reported upon by the Commission of Experts, and the honorable member suggested that the Albury, Bombala and Tumut sites should be considered .in that order. He forgot all about Armidale, Bathurst,’ Dalgety, and Lake George. That was following a most unusual alphabetical order. Perhaps the letters of the Chinese alphabet are thus arranged, but certainly not those of the Federal alphabet. The honorable member’s proposal might suit the views of Victorian representatives, because Albury, Bombala, and Tumut are nearest to the Victorian boundary. That may be only a coincidence, but perhaps the honorable member was speaking on behalf of the Victorian representatives who attended the caucus meetingtoday.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– Not a soul knew of my amendment before I mentioned it in the House.

Mr WILKS:

– The amendment may nob have been framed at .the caucus, but there was a caucus.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– If there was, I was not present.

Mr WILKS:

– The honorable member said that it was intended that Melbourne should be the temporary seat of the Federal Government. He said that that was one of the terms of the bargain, and that Melbourne should derive some benefit from the arrangement. So far as I am concerned, Melboure shall derive only such benefit as is provided for under the Constitution, viewed not from a New South Wales, but from am Australian stand-point. The provision in section 125 of the Constitution, that Parliament should sit at Melbourne until it met at the permanent seat of government was intended only to provide facilities for the opening of Parliament. It was intended that the capital should be established in New South Wales as soon as possible. It was expressly stipulated that it should be located not less than 100 miles distant from Sydney, the intention evidently being that if Melbourne could nob be the Capital, Sydney should not be. Melbourne may not have derived much monetary advantage from the fact that it has been the temporary seat of Government up to the present time, but it has enjoyed all the prestige attached to that position. .The honorable member for Gippsland stated that £50,000 had been expended by the Victorian Government in connexion with the arrangements for housing the

Federal Parliament, and that the State had received no return for that outlay. The honorable member for Gippsland suggests that because the Victorian Parliament has expended £50,000 to provide fresh accommodation for its members, the Commonwealth Parliament should remain in Melbourne until the State has received something in the nature of a quid pro quo for the outlay. As far as I am personally concerned, I am quite willing that the Commonwealth should repay Victoria the sum mentioned. I believe that if an amount for that purpose were placed upon the Estimates it would be agreed to by an overwhelming majority. The representatives of Australia do not require charity from Victoria.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– Whilst I was speaking the Treasurer interjected that the amount was nearer £70,000.

Mr WILKS:

– -Whatever the sum may be, let it be repaid. If there is any force in the taunt of the honorable member it applies to the representatives of the other States equally with those of New South Wales. In my opinion the Prime Minister has’ dealt very openly with this question, and with a firmness which does him credit. Not only does he desire a site to be selected, but he wishes provision to be made for the expenditure necessary upon the housing of Parliament at that site. As far as I understand, that is the true meaning of the compact which was entered into under the Constitution. It would be idle »to select a site and to do nothing else. The Prime Minister’s statement that he requires a certain sum for the housing of Parliament and its officers is a just admission of the requirements of the case. Of course we do not expect that Parliament will be housed in a hall of Oriental splendour. We do not require a large sum of money to be expended in this direction at the present juncture, when, according to the honorable member for Gippsland, Australia is drought-stricken and the London money market is tight. We ask npt for Oriental splendour, but for Spartan simplicity. I wish now to refer to the machinery for arriving at a settlement of this question which is provided in these resolutions. In my judgment the resolutions are so ..well drafted that they will permit of a decision being easily obtained. The honorable member for North Sydney has suggested an amendment in favour of the grouping of the various sites. Should his proposal be adopted, we shall be able to affirm that a certain group meets with the approval of this House more than does any other group, and subsequently we shall be in a position to discuss the merits of the different sites in each group.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– The idea is to determine which site is the best in each of the groups submitted.

Mr WILKS:

– Exactly. I trust that the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney will be carried. Concerning the question of open voting, it is significant that the honorable member for Gippsland did not utter a single word. In my opinion the system of ballot which is provided for in the resolutions under consideration is the most serious question with which we have to deal. Probably I shall be speculating too much if I say that the caucus of the Victorian members has decided against open voting.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– The idea that a caucus of Victorian members has been held is an invention of the honorable member.

Mr WILKS:

– If the honorable member for Gippsland makes inquiries he will speedily discover the accuracy of my statement.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– After I had moved my amendment I suggested that some of the Victorian members should meet to consider the matter, but the meeting has not yet taken place. Nobody saw my amendment until I moved it.

Mr WILKS:

– Upon all other .matters of legislation the public of Australia understand distinctly how their representatives vote.. How is it that for the first time in their history some honorable members are prepared to resort to a new system of voting ? Why should we not vote openly upon this question 1

Mr Crouch:

– If there were two sites in the honorable member’s electorate he would not desire that a vote should be taken in the ordinary way.

Mr WILKS:

– The proposal that a secret vote shall be taken affects the Minister for Trade and Customs. Apparently his constituency is so rich that it contains two eligible sites. But is that a sufficient reason why 110 members of the two branches pf the Legislature should discard the system which is invariably adopted 1 Of course I can quite appreciate the difficulty in which the honorable gentleman is placed. But I would point out that it will still be within the power of the electors of Tumut and Albury to ask him upon the hustings which site he voted for, and he can scarcely make two different statements. I have no interest in putting the Minister in a corner upon this matter, and I think that he will be justified in abstaining from voting if the choice rests between Albury and Tumut. At the same time I cannot believe that 110 members of this Parliament intend to reverse the system of voting which is usually adopted simply to avoid inconvenience to the Minister. To my mind, there is another reason why some honorable members favour an exhaustive ballot. I believe that the representatives of Victoria intend to cast a . block vote in favour of a particular town. If that be their intention they should do so openly, and be prepared to defend their action upon its merits. It is just as well that the curtain should be pulled aside in regard to this proposal, and that reasons should be advanced why we should depart from the time-honoured, democratic custom of voting as representatives. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports and other honorable members have suggested still another novel idea during the course of this debate - namely, that a referendum should be taken in regard to the nine eligible sites. Surely a reductio ad absurdum was never better exemplified. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne said that he believed there should be no delay in carrying out this compact, and that he would hasten the selection of a site by delegating the work to a referendum of the people. The people, not only of New South Wales, but of Australia, would be expected to make themselves familiar with the merits of the various sites by reading the voluminous reports which have been furnished by the Commissioners, and endless turmoil would be caused by the action of certain persons anxious to point out the advantages of one site as compared with others. Once an elector is required to act according to his conscience in these matters he becomes practically the most miserable being whom it is possible to conceive - a little more miserable even than those honorable members who do not care about being called upon to vote openly. The honorable and learned memberfor Northern Melbourne agreed that there should be an inspection of the various sites by members of both Houses of Parliament, in order that Parliament should have a personal knowledge of them ; but now he would submit the work of selection to the people of Australia, who have no knowledge of their characteristics, saying - “ We ask you, according to your conscience, to cast your vote for the site which, in your opinion, ought to be chosen.” In order to make the electors familiar with the principal features of the various sites, we should have to incur a printing bill that would make the honorable member for Gippsland shudder and resurrect the ghost of Kyabram.

Sir William Lyne:

– What has the honorable member been saying about me %

Mr WILKS:

– I am very glad that the Minister is present, for I wish to assure him that I have no desire to place him in an awkward predicament. I assert that the proposal that this question should be decided by a secret ballot must have been devised for some particular purpose. When I was referring to that phase of the matter a few moments ago, an honorable member inquired how I should like to vote in division if there were two rival sites in my electorate. My reply was that this proposal could apply to only one honorable member, as there was but one fortunate enough torepresent a district happy in the possession, of two suitable sites.

Sir William Lyne:

– Unfortunate enough.

Mr WILKS:

– Perhaps I should have said “ unfortunate enough.”

Sir Edmund Barton:

– The honorable member does not think that there is- any good luck attaching to such a position.

Mr WILKS:

– It is not good luck from the stand-point of the Minister for Trade and Customs, but surely the honorable member does not think that in this respect the Opposition desire to take advantage of his position 1

Sir William Lyne:

– I am told that the Opposition held a caucus to determine what stand should be taken by them in regard to this point.

Mr WILKS:

– Does the honorable gentleman think that the people of Australia should have their parliamentary system of government weakened in order simply to help him out of a difficulty ? But even a secret ballot would not help him. He would be asked by his constituents how he had voted, and he could not give a different reply in different places. I trust that the honorable

I gentleman will agree to the withdrawal of the proposal for a secret ballot. It is really a blow at our system of government. The Minister has honestly accepted the responsibility of his vote in dealing with all other legislation.

Sir William Lyne:

– Has not the honorable member ever voted by ballot ? Is not the Public Works of Committee in the New South Wales Legislature selected by ballot?

Mr WILKS:

– Here we vote openly ; but the New South Wales Parliament adopted a system of selecting the members of the Public Works Committee by ballot, believing that it would facilitate the work of selection. That system, however, cannot be defended on any ground. No saving of time would be effected by resorting to the process of ballot. At least forty-five minutes would be occupied in counting the ballot-papers, whilst on a division the matter could be determined at the outside in five minutes. In these circumstances why should we depart from our established practice? Although I am sitting in Opposition to the Government, I thoroughly sympathize with the Minister for Trade and Customs in the delicate position in which he finds himself. It seems to me, however, that he might well overcome his difficulty by refusing to vote for either of the two proposed sites in his electorate. That would be a very reasonable course for him to adopt. He might well say -

How happy could I be with either

Were t’other dear charmer away, and refuse to decide as between the two. But let us vote openly and squarely. I greatly admire the firmness and courage displayed by the Prime Minister in submitting this motion to the House. He said that although he was a native and representative of New South Wales, he viewed this matter, not from the stand-point of that State, but from the point of view of Australia, and trusted that the best site would be selected in the interests not only of New South Wales, but of. the Commonwealth. I take up a similar stand, and intend to cast my vote for what I believe to be the most suitable site. This is no mere stop-gap proposal. It is not a proposal to “ keep the word of promise to the ear and break it to the hope,” but one which is designed to secure the housing of the Federal Parliament in an inexpensive way. I trust we shall hear no more of the statement that Victoria expended £70,000 or more in providing for the housing of the Federal Parliament in this city. Let the Commonwealth Parliament recoup Victoria in respect to that expenditure, and let us, above all things, respect the compact which the people made, and which they desire to be observed. I trust that the amendment moved by the honorable member for North Sydney will be carried, and that we shall give a decision which will be to the best interests of all Australia.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

I wish, in the first place, to say that I find myself in agreement with the Prime Minister as to the plan proposed for the settlement of this very important question. It appears to me to be one which, in a very special way, can commend itself to a joint sitting of both Houses. I take it that this is not a matter in which the rigid exercise of the States rights power should take effect in another place as it does with regard to ordinary legislation. It is peculiarly a State question, inasmuch as it was a part of the Federal compact that one State alone should have the right to the Federal Capital. I see, therefore, in this proposition no abrogation of State control or of State function as applied to ordinary matters, and I know of no other proposal which would enable us, in the immediate future, to arrive at finality. Having regard to the necessity for the early settlement of this question, I know of no other proposition which could have been submitted by the Prime Minister. It is to be regretted that this matter has been left over for decision until almost the closing hours of Parliament, and that its consideration may thus be interfered with in some respects ; but now that we are face to face with the duty of deciding this momentous issue for all time, I hope that we shall have no more of these intrusive amendments, the aim of which is to delay the settlement of the question and, if possible, to postpone it indefinitely. I also trust that we shall hear no more, during this debate, as to the desire of any one to take up an unfriendly attitude towards any one particular Minister. It has actually been suggested that honorable members of the Opposition are gloating over the difficulty in which the Minister for Trade and Customs finds himself. That is an unworthy imputation to make, and I should like to assure the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne that I do not think there is any one on this side of the House who does not sympathize personally with the Minister in the awkward position in which he finds himself. Other honorable members are in the same position. The honorable member for Macquarie, for example; has the good or illfortune to represent an electorate in which two of the proposed sites are situated, while the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is in the same predicament. Every honorable member sympathizes with those, no matter what their politics and their place in this Chamber, who are in that position. I hope, therefore, that we shall hear no more of these personal and un worthy imputations. I see no provision in the motion for the commencement of operations after the capital site has been selected.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– This is merely a preliminary motion.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The Prime Minister is taking power to bring in the necessary Bill to provide for the determination of the site, and I propose therefore to move the addition to paragraph 6 of the following words -

And to provide for the commencement of the erection of the necessary buildings thereon.

If those words are inserted, we shall have some guarantee that operations for the housing of the Federal Parliament in the capital of the Commonwealth will be commenced as early as practicable. We shall all be very sorry if our action causes any inconvenience to the State in which we are now deliberating, and we regret to hear that the Victorian Government have gone to such an enormous expense in order to make us comfortable here. Iwas under the impression that the cost of accommodating the State Parliament did not amount to more than about £30,000, but the Treasurer has told us today that nearly £70,000 has been expended. I cannot help feeling that a smaller expenditure would have been sufficient. But why has the matter been referred to, except as an argument for delay in the choosing of the capital site 1 I ask honorable members who represent Victoria, what delay they think there should be? Parliament has been meeting in Melbourne now for nearly three years, and I suppose that if there is no hitch in the proceedings it will be another two years before suitable buildings in the capital can be erected and furnished. That will make our occupation here about a five years’ tenure, which in itself is something substantial, and should satisfy all the reasonable requirements of the Victorian public. It is now too late to argue as to the Tightness or wrongness of the bond which was entered into, and which is an inseparable part of the Constitution. This is the first time that it has been deliberately proposed to alter the Constitution in order to break the compact which was made with New South Wales. It is a peculiar coincidence that all the proposals which have been put forward, and underlying which can be spelt the one word “ delay,” have emanated from representatives of Victoria. The honorable member for Grampians seemed to be filled with all kinds of forebodings as to the unfriendly and exclusive attitude which will be taken up by New South Wales directly the capital is chosen . We heard the astounding suggestion that New South Wales might try to prevent Victorian stock from finding its way into the Federal territory, and would revise its railway rates in order to divert all the traffic from the capital to Sydney.

Mr L E GROOM:
DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND · PROT; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917; IND from 1931; UAP from 1934

– That would be provided against by the Inter-State Commission.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Yes; but the honorable member did not pay any regard to a fact of that kind when he was endeavouring to picture these great evils! and was imputing to New South Wales motives which should not be imputed to it, at least not by Victoria. He must have been thinking of the former attitude of Victoria to New South Wales ; of the interposition of the unfriendly stock tax, when the Victorians declined to eat mutton or beef coming from New South Wales.

Mr SPEAKER:

– This has nothing to do with the question.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I am answering statements put forward in support of arguments used by the other side.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I heard no argument relating to the stock tax.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The stock tax was not mentioned, but the honorable member suggested that when the capital was selected New South Wales would impose a stock tax. That argument was seriously put forward as a reason why Bombala and Albury should be the only sites eligible for the final selection, because it would not be possible to impose such restrictions in regard to them. Is it not a singular coincidence again that the honorable member for Gippsland, who wishes .to treat thi* matter altogether apart from sentiment and the interests of the States, and to put it upon a purely business footing, followed the lead of the honorable member for Grampians in the selection of those two sites. His proposal was a very novel one - just about as novel as that of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– What I suggest should be done is what the honorable member would <io if he were spending his own money.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– If the honorable member desired to save money, he could have achieved his end by voting against the proposed visits of inspection by honorable members. His present proposal is a little belated. Now that a huge expenditure has been incurred by the investigation of the several sites, he wishes to save money on the final transaction. His proposal was not made soon enough. He should have lent us his business experience a couple of years ago, when we could have acted upon it. But hitherto he has been as dumb as an oyster when the question has been under consideration. Now he wants a re-investigation, and under the circumstances we have a right to suspect his bona fides. It is easy to see that he is affected by the dominant note in Victorian politics just now, the note of economy which has been sounded at some place called Kyabram. He told us that -consols have fallen from £112 to £90, and spoke of the state of the London money market. He did not tell us that one of the reasons of the fall is that the rate of interest has dropped by one-half per cent. He was content to tell us enough to frighten ‘ timid people into opposing further expenditure.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– The Treasurer went further than I did. He said we could not * go* to the London money market now.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Surely the Commonwealth has resources other than the London money market, and is not dependent for its financial existence upon the floating of a loan of £100,000 or £200,000 there. No one has suggested that it will be necessary to go to the London money market for the paltry sum that will be needed for the resumption of land and the erection of buildings at the Federal Capital. Surely we have other means at our disposal, without besmirching our credit in the London market by applying for the small sum required to complete our arrangements for the establishment of the Federal Capital. The honorable member for Gippsland suggests that we should first of all select three sites, and he mentions, perhaps very naturally, and perhaps quite accidentally, those sites which are most favorable to his own State.

Mr Crouch:

– Hear,- hear. Quite right.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I do not object to that, but I say that the honorable member, and those who agree with him, should tell us straight out that they intend to study the interests of Victoria, and that they do not wish to see the capital site selected. The honorable member for Gippsland, however, tells us that he desires to see the bond carried out. If he wished to deal with this matter apart from its State aspect, and in a Federal spirit, he would not proceed in the way he has done. Is it contended that the honorable member for Grampians takes a Federal view of the question, when he suggests that in order to place it beyond the power of the people of New South Wales to act in a manner inimical to the interests of the Commonwealth, the Federal capital should be fixed at Albury or Bombala? The honorable member asks how the people of Victoria are to know what evils may not befall them in consequence of action which may be taken by the people of New South Wales. I am sure the honorable and learned member for Corio would not subscribe to that view.

Mr Crouch:

– Judging from past experience I should.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– To what experience does the honorable and learned member refer ? Does he mean after our experience in Victoria? That State has invariably kept her borders closed to New South Wales. Surely he cannot refer to the past experience of New South Wales, which has always kept her borders open to trade with Victoria, and has always invited the sister States to trade with her to the fullest possible extent. There is no reason to apprehend that New South Wales will do any of the terrible things suggested by the honorable member for Grampians. It is apparently in the same broad Federal spirit that the suggestions of the honorable member for Gippsland have been made. It is strange that the honorable member should leave out of consideration all the proposed sites, except those of Albury, Bombala, and Tumut. That is the alphabetical order which the honorable gentleman adopted, and apparently the letters of his new alphabet run A, B, T, Z. Now, what does the honorable member propose ? He suggests that after having selected these three sites we should ask the property-owners how much they will take for their land, and leave them to place their own values upon it. If some of the land were held under mortgage, how could the freeholder value land of which he was only the nominal owner ?

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– Does the honorable member really suppose there would be any difficulty?

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Yes. It would be a matter of the greatest possible difficulty for an owner to place a fair value upon land in regard to which he had entered into all sorts of financial obligations.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– A mortgage is a fixed quantity, and the owner would have some interest in the land beyond the amount represented by the mortgage.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– In some cases, birt not in all. The honorable member must have known of many cases in which there was no margin between the value of the land and the amount advanced on mortgage.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– In such- cases the mortgagee would put his price upon the land.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– How long does the honorable member suppose it .would take tq conduct the necessary -negotiations between the mortgagees and the owners of the land 1

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– A few weeks.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The honorable member knows that such negotiations could not be completed within a few months, and that they would be more likely to run into a few years. After the land was placed under offer to the Government it would be necessary to submit the whole question to arbitration. That would have to be done, and, therefore, nothing would be gained by adopting the honorable member’s suggestion in any case. Then, again, the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne suggests that we should refer the matter to a referendum and that we should have a secret ballot. The honorable and learned member says that those who object to the secret ballot at the proposed Conference of both

Houses are impugning the secret voting system adopted under our Electoral Act. Does not the honorable and learned member see the marked distinction between the twosets of circumstances ? The votes given by members. of both Houses of Parliament willbe representative votes, whereas those given by the electors at the polling booths are personal votes. There is all the distinction in the world between the two things. The Constitution has imposed upon Parliament the obligation to select the capital site, and we should violate the spirit of the Constitution, to say nothing of inflicting injustice upon the people of Australia, if we voted in. the dark. Any inconvenience that may arise to individual honorable members from the open voting system will be a matter of sincere regret. We can all sympathize with those honorable members who have two sites in their electorates.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– Who suggested the secret ballot ? ‘ .

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– The honorable member is inferring that every representative who has two sites within his electorate desires a secret ballot. I am in favour of open voting.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I am very glad to hear it. The honorable member for Macquarie also is in favour of open voting.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs in favour of open voting: also?

Mr Austin Chapman:

– Every mans must speak fur himself upon this question.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The Minister for Trade and Customs stands in a position somewhat different from that occupied by other honorable members. He has made all kinds of statements to’ his constituents. He has promised that the advocatesof sill the sites shall have a “ fair go,” and that makes the position .all the more difficult for him. However, it cannot be helped. The people of Australia have a perfect right to know how their representatives vote upon this question, and I. hope that honorable members have made up their minds that the ballot shall be an open one. The Constitution is entirely opposed to the idea of a referendum upon this question, because it provides that Parliament shall determine the seat of Government. Even if Parliament were not required to decide the matter, the mere question of locating the geographical area within which theFederal Capital shall be established is one which, above all, is unsuitable for the application of the referendum. For instance, what would the majority of the people in Western Australia know about the relative merits of the proposed sites? Many of them have never been in New South Wales and have had no opportunities to peruse the elaborate reports which have been prepared for the guidance of honorable members. How could they arrive at a decision which would be at all adequate and fair as compared with that which may be expected from honorable members who have visitedthe proposed sites, who have thoroughly discussed them, and have had the benefit of all the information which it is possible to obtain regarding them?

Sir John Forrest:

– I agree with the honorable member, so’ far as the people of Western Australia are concerned.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Whilst the referendum proposal sounds very plausible and very democratic, it is absurd to apply the principle to the selection of a capital site, regarding which the great majority of the people know little or nothing. The real object of all these proposals is to cause delay. The honorable member for Gippsland admits that his suggestion cannot be carried out during the life of this Parliament. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne suggests that the people should be asked to decide at the next general election, and the honorable member for Grampians proposes that the Constitution should be altered. All these proposals would remove the decision beyond the control of the present Parliament. It has been understood all through that this Parliament would not be dissolved until it had finally settled the question of the capital site, and therefore I submit that all proposals for further delay come with a very bad grace from honorable members, no matter where they reside or what interest they represent. When an honorable member says, “ I do not think we ought to incur this expenditure, but should remain where we are for ten years “ - as I have already heard some Victorian members say - we can appreciate his attitude of straight-out opposition. But all sinister proposals made by honorable members who, while professing to carry out the bond, are taking every means to cause further delay, should be utterly ignored. New South Wales made the location of the capital within her territory a condition of her acceptance of the Federal bond, andthe people of Victoria knew that the capital was to be established as soon as possible. They agreed to pay that price for Federation, and it does not lie in their mouths now to argue that it was unreasonable or unwise to embody the provision in the Constitution. All considerations of that kind should be swept on one side, and our discussion should be limited to the best means of carrying out the conditions of the bond by which the representatives of all the States pledged themselves to loyally abide. We hold that the Government proposal is a step in the right direction, and that all other proposals are sinister in their intent, and are designed to create delay. I do not know how matters are progressing in the other Chamber, but I hope the Government proposal, with such amendments as have been suggested for the purpose of carrying out the idea in its entirety, will be adopted and that we shall arrive at a speedy determination. A very astute amendment has been submitted with a view to compel us to make a selection of some kind or other. I trust that the House will reject the proposal. It is unfair to suggest that further investigation shall be made into the merits of any particular site. Surely that is a matter the consideration of which can be deferred until we are called upon to deal with the capital sites question. It does seem to me that all these proposals spell the one word - delay. The Commonwealth Parliament has already been located in Melbourne for three years ; and, even assuming that the utmost expedition is exercised in erecting the capital buildings, it will be compelled to remain here at least two years longer. It does seems to me that whatever moral claims Melbourne may have - claims arising from a latent and unexpressed understanding - should be thoroughly satisfied by an occupation of five years. I trust honorable members will recognise that we should arrive at a decision upon this matter at the earliest possible moment.

Mr KENNEDY:
Moira

– I quite agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta, that one of the conditions upon which New South Wales was induced to enter the Federation was that the capital site should be in that State. The people of Australia accepted the Constitution upon that express understanding. But the statement of the honorable member for Parramatta that only the sinister motive of delay can impel any honorable member to submit a proposition with a view to deal with this matter in a businesslike way is only consonant with many other statements which he makes from time to time. I exceedingly regret that the Prime Minister has seen fit to deal with the question in the way that he has. I see no justification whatever for departing from the ordinary methods of legislative procedure. In my judgment, there is no reason why the Government should not have accepted the responsibility of recommending the selection of a particular ‘site. It is purely on the assumption that a difference of opinion will arise, and that there will be some bone of contention between the two Houses that this proposal for a joint sitting has been made. Concerning the form of voting to be adopted, I claim that if we are to have a ballot at all it should be an open ballot. The proposal for an exhaustive ballot is one which I do not favour. If the sites have to be reduced from eight to one - as they must be by some process - I am certainly in favour of a preferential rather than an exhaustive ballot. I have had experience of exhaustive ballots, and in my opinion they are very productive of surprises. It has been said that the Victorian representatives are not disposed to proceed with the selection of the capital site.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Some of them acknowledge that they do not wish to proceed.

Mr KENNEDY:

– I think they are wise in their generation in declaring that at the present time it is not necessary to incur a very large expenditure.’ One of the reasons why I shall support the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland is that I desire to know what the acquisition of the capital site will cost the Commonwealth in the first instance. The statement of the honorable member for Bland that the purchase of the land will constitute merely a book entry is an absurdity upon the face of it. He cannot seriously contend that the land should be purchased for more than its real value.

Mr Thomson:

– Who is to make the valuation?

Mr KENNEDY:

– There is an Act upon the statute-book which lays down the procedure to be adopted when we wish to acquire property.

Mr Thomson:

– But who is to make the valuation ?

Mr KENNEDY:

– Upon what system is this House now asked to make a selection ? Is it not upon the report of the Commission which was’ appointed 1

Mr Thomson:

– We are to proceed upon values which have already been made.

Mr KENNEDY:

– Only as applied to a very limited area. . Let me point to the case of Orange, by way of illustration. There I find that the estimated cost of resumption within the suggested city area is £57,000. That estimate is for the purchase of only 4-, 000 acres. I have yet to learn that any estimate has been made of the cost of resuming more than, the minimum area which is prescribed by the Constitution When the honorable mem ber for North Sydney asks who is to make the valuation my reply is that Parliament is surely competent to appoint somebody who is qualified to make a valuation of the land in these districts.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– It has already done so.

Mr KENNEDY:

– A valuation has been made of only a very limited area. The peculiarity in connexion with the report of the two Commissions which investigated the eligible sites is that their recommendations are in direct conflict. The Commission which was appointed at the instance of this Parliament placed absolutely last the site which was recommended so strongly by Mr. Oliver. How can honorable members form a correct opinion of the merits of the respective sites, without reading the whole of the evidence taken by the two Commissions 1

Mr Hughes:

– Has the honorable member seen the sites 1

Mr KENNEDY:

– I saw a great number of them a great many years ago.

Mr Hughes:

– They have altered since.

Mr KENNEDY:

– Their natural features and the climatic conditions which obtain there cannot have altered. The honorable member for Paramatta suggests that the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland is synonymous with delay in the final acquisition of the site. But assuming that under the resolutions a selection be made forthwith, it will be necessary for a valuation to be made and a purchase effected before anything whatever can be done. What is the difference between a valuation which is made prior to the final selection qf a site and one which is made after? The only result must be to give additional security to the Commonwealth. The advantage is all in favour of the valuation being made before the final selection has taken place.’ I do not agree with the honorable member for Gippsland when he embodies in his amendment the names of different sites. I think that a reduction should be made to three or four sites.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– To territories %

Mr KENNEDY:

– To territories, if honorable members are so disposed. Then an estimate should be made of the cost of resuming the , land. Other things being equal, we should select the site within which we can secure the land at a fair value.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Then a decision could not be made by this Parliament.

Mr KENNEDY:

– Perhaps not. A couple of months might be occupied in obtaining a valuation ; and, personally, I think it would be time well spent. The honorable member for Parramatta has referred to the fact that at least five years must elapse before the Commonwealth Parliament can be housed at the seat of government. In my judgment that affords no ground for complaint, because five years is a very brief period in the history of a nation. If we were to spend another five years in making a selection of a suitable site, it would be better than that we should have to retrace our steps after very considerable expenditure had been incurred. I regret that, in discussing a proposal of this character, there is not a disposition on the part of the House to retain the forms of procedure which are adopted in regard to ordinary legislation. In view of the fact that there is no possibility of giving effect to my views, I shall have to accept the Government proposal ; but I shall certainly strongly support the proposition made by the honorable member for Gippsland. I feel satisfied that it would tend to the adoption of business-like methods in dealing with the acquisition of the necessary lands ; that -it would not give rise to any delay in the selection of a site, and that by adopting it we should probably obtain much better results than would be secured from the motion as it stands.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:
Robertson

– It appears to me that the Prime Minister submitted the motion to the House in a very fair and lucid manner. That he failed to bring it forward at an earlier date was not due to any fault on his part, but possibly to that of some other Minister, or of the” Commissioners who were appointed to report on the several sites. I do not know that I should have spoken at this stage but for an observation made by the Prime Minister. In commenting on paragraph 6 of themotion which provides -

That it is expedient that a Bill be introduced, after such report has been made to the House, todetermine, as the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth, the site so reported to the House, the right honorable gentleman said that if the Parliament made a selection which, having regard to the compact entered into with New South Wales, and the determination of the Conference of Premiers,, that the capital shall be not less than 100 miles distant from Sydney, he considered to be unfair, he would not introduce a Bill to ratify the decision arrived at by the joint sitting of both Houses.

Mr Watson:

– Is the honorable member in favour of the determination of this question during the present session 1

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– I think that it is most unbecoming for an honorable member to make such an interjection. I trust that the honorable member for Gippsland will carefully consider the statement made by the Prime Minister to which I have just referred. It seems to me that in proposing the amendment of which he has given notice the honorable member will have in view the selection of a site which will best suit the interests of the people of Victoria. If, for example, Albury were selected, the Federal capital would be very much nearer Melbourne than Sydney..

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I should be quite willing for the Parliament to select a site if itwould deal with the lands in a business-like way.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– We shall not overlook the desirableness of doing so. The honorable member introduced the names of three sites - Albury, Bombala, and Tumut - in a very plausible way by saying that he was taking them in alphabetical order.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I simply selected thosewhich the Commissioners placed high up on the list.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– The Commissioners place Lyndhurst next to Albury, yet the honorable member omitted to name that site. ‘We know also that Bombala is the last on their list.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I took the first and second choice of the one Commission and the first of the other.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– I am disposed to think that the honorable member has not given this matter his serious consideration, for his proposal does not do justice to him. He has the reputation of being a very fairminded man, and I trust that in dealing with this question he will act up to that reputation by supporting the extension of fair treatment to New South Wales. His suggestion that we should ask for a report as to the value of the lands comprised in certain of the sites is a very unworthy one, seeing’ that there is no time for delay, if a site is to be selected by this Parliament. I dare say that there is no man in Australia who has a better knowledge than has the ‘honorable member of the value of land at Albury and Tumut, lt seems to me that the honorable member for Dalley put the whole case very tersely when he said that we could ascertain the value of the land there by applying to the New South Wales Commissioners of Taxation, whose representatives from time to time value the lands of the State at their selling price. I trust that the honorable member for Gippsland will not persevere with his proposal, but that he will support the amendment moved by the honorable member for North Sydney, so that we may have what the Minister for Trade and Customs would call “ a fair go” between the various sites which have been reported upon. By means of an exhaustive ballot we shall in all probability arrive at a decision which will be satisfactory to the people. I shall hold the Government to the admission by the Prime Minister that if a selection be made, which, having regard to the compact entered into with New South Wales and at the conference of Premiers, is not, in their opinion, a fair one, the Ministry will not ask Parliament to ratify that decision by means of a Bill introduced for that purpose.

Mr KNOX:
Kooyong

– I agree with the honorable member for Robertson, that the Prime Minister submitted the motion very fairly and clearly to the House, and -did not fail to urge upon honorable members the importance of the proposal. The very fact of its importance should cause honorable members to recognise the intense responsibility which is cast upon them in dealing with it. Honorable members cannot complain of any want of knowledge as to the position which I take up. I would use every means in my power to delay the settlement of this question, and we should act wisely if we refused to make a selection during the present session of Parliament. I hold that opinion for the reason, among others, that a selection could not be made at any more inopportune time. A financial depression exists in all parts of the world. We are passing through a depression which has been unprecedented.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Never mind Kyabram.

Mr KNOX:

– I am not thinking of Kyabram. That most valuable institution to which the honorable’ member refers has served a useful purpose, and, I trust, will continue to do so. I desire to look at this question from a common-sense stand-point. It is suggested that we should unnecessarily undertake at the present time the enormous expenditure involved in establishing a Federal capital. If I did not see that the feeling of the House was against me, I should be prepared to submit an amendment that would postpone the consideration of the question for determination by the next Parliament.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– That would be at least straight-.

Mr KNOX:

– It is my honest belief thatin establishing the Federal capital at the present time we should be undertaking a really unnecessary work. The time is quite inopportune.

Mr Watson:

– Why?

Mr KNOX:

– I have already pointed out one reason. I would also remind honorable members that we have not had a full opportunity to inform ourselves of the merits of the various sites. The complete report of the Commissioners was placed before us only a little more than a month ago, and we have not yet had an opportunity to inspect the sites selected by them. Apart from my opposition to the ‘establishment of the Federal capital at the present time, I should have preferred to see the Government submit a distinct recommendation, and to take upon themselves the responsibility of making a selection on the evidence available to them.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– It would have amounted to the same thing.

Mr KNOX:

– I do not care what would have been the effect of such a proposal. It would have been a straightforward way to deal with this question. The Government have at their command sources of information which honorable members generally do not possess.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– That should not be.

Mr KNOX:

– They must necessarily have at their command information which individual members of the House cannot properly possess.

Mr Watson:

– All the available information has been given to honorable members.

Mr KNOX:

– Only recently.

Mr Watson:

– A month ago. Surely the honorable member does not require more, than a month in which to make up his mind ?

Mr KNOX:

– The information supplied to us a month ago is comprised in very voluminous reports which require careful study. To what amount are we being committed 1 In my judgment, there is considerable merit in the amendment which’ has been suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland. If his proposal is adopted, we shall obtain some practical information as. to what the cost of the various sites is likely to be. We are now deliberating in the dark in regard to that matter. Mention has been made of the sum of £500,000, but the Treasurer has pointed out that the Victorian Government have spent about £70,000 in making provision for the accommodation of the State Parliament, in order to convenience the Federal Parliament by allowing us to enter into occupation of this building. I am surprised to hear that they have spent so large a sum. But surely it was not expected that that expenditure would be undertaken for so short a residence of the Federal Parliament in Melbourne as three years, with a possible continuation of two years. I do not think that it is of any advantage to Melbourne to have’ the Federal Parliament meet here. Personally, I am indifferent . on the subject

Mr Fuller:

– The honorable member would not be indifferent upon it if he had to travel as far as I have to travel each week.

Mr KNOX:

– So far as the electors of the Commonwealth, whom we represent, are concerned, I do not think it matters much where the Federal Parliament meets.

Mr Conroy:

– Would there have been Federation if it had not been provided in the Constitution that the Federal Capital should be in New South Wales 1

Mr KNOX:

– I admit that we must eventually carry into effect the provision of the Constitution to which the honorable and learned member alludes, and which has been referred to as a bond. For that reason I am in entire sympathy with the action which has been taken by the representatives of New South Wales. They want to bring about an immediate compliance with the compact- I do not think any representative of Victoria, or of any of the other States, wishes to prevent the bargain from being carried into effect, but we desire that the enormous expenditure necessary to establish the Federal Capital shall not be undertaken heedlessly or inopportunely, and that before we definitely commit ourselves, we shall have the fullest information as to cost. Talk has been made of a referendum. As I have, already mentioned in this Chamber, I do not believe in the wisdom of such a procedure,, except under the circumstances provided for by the Constitution. The responsibility of dealing with the matter rests with Parliament. I am, moreover, opposed to any secret or hidden manner of dealing with it. Let every honorable member record his vote openly, in accordance with the dictates of his conscience, and as he believes to be best in the interests of tine Commonwealth. Therefore, I cannot agree with the suggestion of the. honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, nor can I fall in with other suggestions which, in my opinion, attempt to remove from us our ordinary responsibility as representatives of the people. I rose to make my position perfectly clear. I believe that I am doing what is right from the business point of view in asking for the postponement of the consideration of this matter until we are possessed of more information, and have a more favourable opportunity for securing whatever money we may require.

Mr Poynton:

– Does not the honorable member know that an attempt is being made to pledge every honorable member against the capital ?

Mr KNOX:

– I do not think that there is any serious attempt to do so, though I believe that public opinion is trending towards the view that it is being proposed to launch the Commonwealth into an enormous expenditure years before it is necessary, and before it was contemplated that this step would be taken. My feeling is that in delaying we shall be acting wisely, and, therefore, I shall vote against the motion.

Mr EWING:
Richmond

– The speech of the honorable member for Kooyong reminded me of a parable delivered nearly 2,000 years ago. A large number of persons of various vocations were bidden to a marriage feast, but whenthe time came, each had some excuse to make. One had married a wife and could not come, another had purchased land of which he wished to take” possession, and so for various reasons one and all declined. Similarly, the honorable member advances reasons why the Commonwealth should not comply with the provision of the Constitution in regard to the Federal Capital. Hesays that we have no money. But every nation, aseveryindividual, should have sufficient money to discharge its obligations ; although there are persons who, while unable to pay their butchers and bakers, have abundant means to squander upon their vices. The people of the various States having entered into an obligation, the Commonwealth Parliament should be prepared to discharge it. The honorable member for Kooyong, being young and rather hasty in his movements, naturally desires that we shall not stir in this matter with undue haste. There is something less hasty than a tortoise, and that is a barnacle. We have been practically at a stand-still in regard to this matter. Although this Parliament has been in existence for two years and a half, so rapidly has it dealt with the Federal Capital question that we have now come only to the stage of considering a series of motions in regard to it. I believe that no honorable member desires to break the contract which has been entered into, and that each one of us is ready to consider, not merely the interest of his electors, but the interest of the whole community.

Mr Poynton:

– There is only a difference of opinion as to when the site should be chosen.

Mr EWING:

– Quite so.I do not desire to follow those who have cast suspicion upon the representatives of a certain State. While negotiations are in progress it is unwise to attribute motives, and one often singularly errs even when he has what he regards as full justification for suspicion. My experience of men is that the good in them largely preponderates over the bad, and the more we know of the representatives of other States the more we shall be inclined to give them the benefit of any doubt that may exist as to the unselfishness of their motives.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– A very good Federal sentiment.

Mr EWING:

– It is not only a Federal sentiment: it is a principle which should underlie one’s dealings with one’s fellows. One cannot expect to obtain a satisfactory result from a discussion unless one gives his opponent credit for the sincerity which he claims for himself. The question now under consideration is not what is the best site to choose, but what method should be adopted for the choosing of a site. All other considerations are now beside the question. There must, of course, be differences of opinion on the subject ; but we must not be suspicious of the motives of those who differ from us. How do we stand with regard to this matter ? We have had two reports, one made by a Commissioner appointed by the State Government, and one by a Royal Commission appointed by the Commonwealth Government. Both are able and comprehensive statements, and together furnish all the information that any one could reasonably expect. Any additional knowledge could be gained only by personal investigation. The reports give us all that can be suggested by the intelligence of others, and if honorable members have not taken the trouble to personally inspect the sites, who is to blame ? The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has suggested the need for a referendum. I believe that the referendum is an excellent principle to apply to some conditions. It is very wise to adopt it when it is desired to get rid of a responsibility which one ought to accept. It affords under certain conditions a means of ascertaining that which we all value, namely, the opinion of the people ; but at times a representative man must come to the conclusion that he knows more than his constituents.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I was sent here to select a site for the capital.

Mr EWING:

– It must be obvious to every one that my constituents are very intelligent ; that is, judging by results. But notwithstanding their intelligence and the practical exemplification of it which they have given during the past two decades, I should not be satisfied to hand over to them the question of selecting a site for the Federal capital,, because I must, of necessity, know more than they do about it.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– The honorable member was sent here to find out which was the best site.

Mr EWING:

– Exactly. How could the electors know which would be the best site ? They have not been given opportunities to inspect the proposed sites. They have not had the same opportunities as honorable members to weigh the question, nor has the responsibility been thrown upon them.. They might be guided by considerations of contiguity of the sites to their own centres. The electors in the western districts would vote for a western site, the southern electors, for a southern: site, and the northern electors for a northern site. Honorable members, however, have ‘ such a high sense of their responsibility that there is no danger of their being swayed by considerations of that kind. There is a great deal in the contention of the honorable member for Gipps land, which has been sustained by the honorable member for Moira and others. It is absolutely certain, that when the Government resume the land embraced within the Federal capital site they will, have to pay too much for it. The honorable member for Gippsland, owing to his long experience, knows that wherever a resumption takes place, whether for the purposes of a road or anything else, the people of. the district seem to resolve themselves into a kind of mutual benefit society, and it is frequently absolutely impossible for the Crown to prove its case. No man is specially interested in seeing that the Crown gets a fair deal, but on the other hand there are some who are concerned, either directly or indirectly, in obtaining the largest sum >possible from the Crown, which is regarded as a legitimate prey. The Crown would be looked upon in that light if land were resumed for the purposes of the capital site. The honorable member suggested that the land owners in one locality should be pitted against those in another: One-tenth of the residents in. a district might be so impressed with the idea that great benefit would accrue to their locality from the establishment of the Federal capital that they would do all. they could to secure a fair deal for the Government, but as against them nine-tenths of the residents would use every effort to make the Government pay to the very utmost.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– That would take place if only one site- were dealt with, but not if the owners, of land in two or three different localities were asked to set prices upon their property.

Mr Bamford:

– Would not that take place under any circumstances ?

Mr EWING:

– Certainly, it would.

Mr A McLEAN:
GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · PROT

– I know of a case in which four and a half acres cost £450, whereas its market value was not more than £10 per acre.

Mr EWING:

– The honorable member proves nothing by that class of argument. It simply shows that, owing to the impossibility of finding favorable witnesses, or through ignorant or worse management, the State is called upon to pay more than it should pay. That is happening all over Australia.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– It proves that when you want difficulties you have not far to look to find them.

Mr EWING:

– When we find an evil in. the community, ‘ we naturally look about in order to find a remedy. The honorable member for Herbert suggested that the difficulty would arise under any circumstances, and the honorable member for Gippsland has not made any suggestion which, would place us in. a better position. If we followed, the course he proposes, we should stand in exactly the same position as if we adopted ordinary methods.. It. is possible that- under the plan proposed by the Government, the will of the House may not be fairly expressed. Whatever views honorable members may hold, I presume that they are all prepared to accept the opinion of ° the House in regard to the capital site. The only question now before us is whether, under the motion, the opinion of the House can be fairly and properly expressed, or whether we shall be exposed to the danger of a split vote. We know that A, B, and C may be contesting an electorate; and that although A may be able to beat either B or C, it is quite possible, in the event of a split vote, for either B or C to be returned. We may find ourselves in a somewhat similar position with regard, to the choice of the capital site. I do not desire, and I am sure that no honorable member desires, to arrive at any conclusion other than one which will fairly reflect the opinion of a majority of honorable members. It is impossible to imagine that any honorable member would be so ignoble as to lend himself to any scheme that would result in an unfairdecision. The Prime Minister might/ however, consider whether the amendment proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney should not be adopted. It might assist us in securing an absolutely clear expression of opinion on the part of the House, and I hope that that result will be achieved.

Mr HUGHES:
West Sydney

– I desire to say a word or two with regard to one or two of the objections urged against the motion now before us. The honorable member for Kooyong seems to object to the motion because it involves something in the nature of undue and extraordinary haste. He stated that, owing to the action of the Government in introducing the motion at this early stage, he had not had time to inform his mind. When we consider, however, that it is now some three years since Mr. Oliver’s report was presented, that the report of the Commission of Experts has been before us for two months, and that ample opportunities have been afforded to every honorable member to make himself acquainted with the sites, I fail to understand what my honorable friend wants. The objections raised by the honorable member enable one to understand the attitude of those who still refuse to accept the truths of Christianity. They are, doubtless, prepared to say that although twenty centuries havepassedsincethose truths wereexpounded, reasonable time has not been given to understand them. I could imagine the honorable member, on the Day of Judgment, mumbling out some such excuse for not having obtained grace. The honorable member has his doubts as to the referendum. That seemed to be the only matter regarding which he was at all doubtful, and that is a matter in which we all cordially sympathize with him. He approved very heartily of the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Gippsland. It is most instructive and very amusing to notice how each honorable member, in casting about for a good haul in one direction or another, looks at first one and then another of his floats, in the fervent hope that he may at length be rewarded by a bite. At last he gets hold of something which- he thinks is very hopeful, and almost invariably it turns out to be the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland. I cannot help expressing a certain amount of admiration for the ingenuity of that honorable member, and regret that he has not either on his own < 10 y 2 initiative, or at the suggestion of some one else, adopted one of those systems of mnemonics that one reads of in the newspapers, and of which one always forgets the name. If the honorable member had availed himself of one of these aids to memory, he might have avoided falling into a grievous mistake, which somewhat mars the effect of his amendment. I desire to call the attention of the House, and particularly of those who support the honorable member for Gippsland, to one or two of these quotations. The Age of Saturday, 5th September, 1903, contains the report of a deputation which waited upon’ the Prime Minister on the previous day, and which was introduced by the honorable member for Gippsland. That deputation comprised Mr. J. Macdonald, President of the Maffra Shire Council, who acted as chairman of the Conference, and several of the principal speakers at that gathering. Their object was to enter their united protest against the bush capital scheme of the Federal Government, and to lay before the Prime Minister the resolutions at which they had arrived. In introducing the deputation, the honorable member for Gippsland said that he sympathized with their object. Mr. Macdonald emphasized the remarks of the previous speaker, and in a very masterly way laid down the resolutions which had been arrived at by the Conference, and with which he was heart and soul in accord. In passing, I may repeat that Mr. Macdonald is connected with the Maffra Shire Council, ‘ and it is scarcely a coincidence that he is one of the most powerful supporters of the honorable member for Gippsland. Here, then, are “two souls with but a single thought, two hearts that beat as one,” in a way that I am sure is not altogether strange to politicians. Upon the 5th September, 1903, Mr. Macdonald and the honorable member for Gippsland were saying the same thing. But the Gippsland Times, of Thursday, 6th August, 1903, publishes a letter which is addressed to the people of that district, and from which I .shall make a brief extract. In it the writer says -

On the 14th February, 1900, a meeting of representatives from municipalities and other public bodies, convened by the Orbost shire, was held at Bairnsdale, which was attended by, amongst others, Councillors Edwards and Macdonald, as representatives of the Maffra shire. At that meeting it was moved by Councillor Wise (Sale) and seconded by Councillor Macdonald (Maffra”), and, as the minute says, “ enthusiastically supported by Councillors Fogarty, Cameron (since

M.L.A.), Grove, Hall, Killeen, Edwards, and Seehusen” - “that this Conference resolve itself into a league, to be called the Gippsland Railway Extension and Federal Capital League, for the purpose of co-operating with the Southern Monaro League, in respect of the object in view,” which was the establishment of the Federal capital at or near to Bombala, and the extension thither of the Gippsland railway. At another meeting on the 27th June, .1900, Mr. Macdonald, again representing the Maffra shire, letters were read from (amongst others) the Maffra shire, promising to support the league in every way.

Upon, these facts the author of that letter ventures to ask why these gentlemen have gone back upon their previous position. In the same newspaper of the 1.0th August last, a further communication appears, in which the writer inquires why the Maffra Shire Council has changed its attitude upon this subject. Yet the honorable member for Gippsland has submitted an amendment with the attitude of a man whose sole object is to save the Commonwealth-much trouble and money. Unfortunately, I cannot secure the newspaper which contains his statement upon the matter, but following upon this bold and statesmanlike declaration of Councillor Macdonald, on 14th February, 1900, the same gentleman was an enthusiastic supporter of the Gippsland Railway Extension and Federal Capital League, whose object was the establishment of Federal Capital at or near Bombala. It would, therefore, appear from the records that only a little while ago both these gentlemen were enthusiastic supporters of the very project which they now decry. It is in the last degree unfortunate that the honorable member for Gippsland, in submitting this amendment, should have failed to explain to the House the reason for his extraordinary change of attitude, or, indeed, that he had changed his attitude at all. In the case of the honorable member, I cannot too strongly deplore that fact, because he assumes a virtue of such an extraordinary character that it simply repels any ordinary person by reason of its intensity. These are but pretexts of the most shallow character, as is proved by the documentary evidence from which I have quoted. Under the circumstances, the very reasonable, and, in many respects admirable, resolutions of the Prime Minister, may well be adopted. At the same time I think that the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney is one which deserves attention. I am quite willing to abide by the decision of the House, and I agree with the honorable member for Richmond that it would be unfortunate if we were prevented from expressing our opinion by reason of a split vote. The amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney will lessen the chance of that contingency arising, and therefore I intend to support it. Personally, I think it is better that we should take an open vote by ballot. I trust that this House will do New South Wales that measure of justice which the Constitution demands, and that speedily.

Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - I hailed with very great satisfaction the proposals of the Government to settle the vexed question of the Capital site during the present session, but I have just been informed that it is unlikely we shall arrive at the solution of the difficulty which we had hoped would result from these proposals. I regret that events have transpired which will render those proposals inoperative. I think the Government are to be congratulated upon having submitted a scheme which under happier circumstances might have proved the groundwork for obtaining a decision upon this question. The only alternatives to the proposals of the Ministry are that we shall delay its settlement indefinitely ; that a referendum shall be taken upon it; or that we shall amend the Constitution. Realizing the difficulties in the way of obtaining a decision upon the question by the adoption of the ordinary legislative procedure, I am certainly of opinion that theproposals of the Government were most wise and politic. It was inevitable that a great deal of difficulty would be experienced in its settlement. In any case we had to face a possible difference of opinion between the two branches of the Legislature. Had the Ministry submitted a Bill recommending a particular site, or inviting the House to fill up a blank, it would have undergone precisely the same sort of discussion which has taken place upon these resolutions, and probably there would have been a division of opinion upon it between the two Houses. I exceedingly regret that we are unlikely to arrive at a settlement of the matter during the present session, especially as it was one of the chief duties which was remitted to this Parliament by the people. I entirely differ from those who advocate delay. I hold that we were sent here to settle this question amongst others. In establishing the Federation, we had to frame a Tariff, to create a High Court, and to provide legislative machinery in variousdirections. At the same time, it was the opinion of the electors throughout Australia that one of the great duties of the first Parliament would be to select the Federal Capital site. No Parliament will ever be more fitted to settle this question than is this, and we shall incur very grievous danger, and produce endless strife, if we allow ourselves to separate without determining it. Each succeeding election will see us further removed than before from its settlement, and the result of the elections’ in many districts will largely turn upon this question. It is one upon which, in my opinion, elections should not turn. It is not a question of policy, but of carrying out the provisions of the Constitution, and no future Parliament will be so eminently qualified to come to an unbiased determination- upon it as is the present one. I should exceedingly regret the occurrence of anything that would prevent us from coming to that decision before the close of the session. The alternative other than that of delay, which I think I have already shown to be extremely dangerous, is the proposal which has been mentioned, only to be very largely scouted, that we should refer the question to a referendum. I think that the large majority of the electors would prefer the site of the capital to be determined by this Parliament rather than that the duty should be remitted to them. It is not to be expected that many electors of the Commonwealth, residing thousands of miles away from the probable site of the future Federal Capital, could give an intelligent decision upon such a question. The Commonwealth has expended large sums of money in assisting honorable members to inspect the various sites, and in supplying them with reports by men possessing technical knowledge as to their capabilities. There are also private members of this House who have spent considerable time in fitting themselves to decide this- matter. It is unlikely that in any future Parliament we shall find the same degree of industry which has been displayed by the members of this House in making themselves familiar with this question, and it would be very regrettable indeed if anything happened to prevent us from arriving at a decision. The honorable member for Kooyong has denounced in those vague and general terms which .have been largely employed by the press of this State the proposition that the Federal Capital should now be established. Like those journals he has spoken in a nebulous way of what the cost is to be, but he has not produced a scintilla of evidence in support of his assertion that an outlay of millions will be involved in this work. I hold with the suggestion made by the Prime Minister in introducing the motion, in which he foreshadowed what he conceived to be the general policy that would be adopted in creating the capital. From what the right honorable gentleman said, it - is apparent that we are not going to enter upon any lavish scheme of expenditure. I think that, as a business man, the honorable member for Kooyong should justify his assertion that it is proposed to spend millions and millions of money in this way. The metropolitan press of this State should also do so. We have the assurance of the Prime Minister that some £500,000 will provide for all immediate requirements. I have a. very much more cautious and guarded estimate of what the work is likely to cost, and I would say, in answer to the honorable member for Kooyong, that a syndicate, composed of business men, would be prepared to give a guarantee to expend £15,000,000 within fifteen years, in constructing the capita], in erecting public buildings, in laying down streets and trams, and in forming parks, if we would only give them the profits derivable from the rentals of the lands within the Federal territory. Holding these views, I fail to see why we should contemplate any large expenditure in the construction of the capital. It would, of course,’ be necessary at the outset to make some advances, but I believe that the capital could ultimately be established without a penny of cost to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. I have held that view from the first, and having regard to these facts I think that the work should be undertaken as speedily as possible. We should definitely select a site, and commence the work of laying down and constructing a city, at all events on paper, so as to prepare the way for that time when we shall be in a position to finance the whole work and carry it out. I do not seethat any better method than that embodied in the Government proposal could have been proposed to solve the difficulty. I advocated some time ago a similar means to determine it. My only difficulty was that I thought it possible that we should not find a constitutional justification for the proposal. I believe, however, that the lawyers have considered that point, and have determined that the adoption of the motion as framed would be no breach of the Constitution. I hope that the meeting of both branches of the Legislature will lead to the happy consummation of our desires. If we fail in this, the first attempt to fix the site of the capital, I trust that the Government - and particularly in view of the speech made by the Prime Minister in. submitting the motion to the House - will keep their promise by adopting some other course to circumvent the difficulty, and enable this question to be dealt with once and for all by the present Parliament. Notwithstanding the delay which Minister’s have shown in dealing with this question, I have felt myself in accord with the views of the Prime Minister as expressed in the Maitland manifesto and subsequently. My sole regret has been in regard to the delay which has occurred in carrying out this compact. Propositions of this kind are never advanced as rapidly as honorable members of the Opposition might perhaps desire, and I must candidly admit that in this matter the Prime Minister, in my opinion, has acted faithfully and rightly, and that the proposals he has brought forward open the way for a final solution of the difficulty. If they fail I shall look to him - and I think we shall ‘all look to him - as a patriot - to see that the provision of the Constitution for the establishment of the permanent seat of government is carried out in some other form so that this vexed question shall not be dragged like a red herring across the tr ail at every election. I do not wish to give way to the proposal that the Constitution should be amended. It is sometimes held out as a kind of a bait to the representatives of New South Wales that if they would agree to the amendment of the provision in the Constitution that the capital shall be not less than 100 miles distant from Sydney, certain representatives of Victoria would support its establishment in Sydney. I am here to assert, notwithstanding what the consequences may be, that I, for one, would not agree to its establishment in Sydney, for the same reason that I would not agree to the establishment of the capital in Melbourne. The capital should be in Federal territory, away from the influences of either of those two large cities. We should be in our own legislative home, and we should develop the capital according to modern principles relating to the building of cities, and according to that system of finance which would enable us to carry out the work without the imposition of a .shilling of extra taxation.

Sir EDMUND BARTON (HunterMinister for External Affairs). - T am sorry to say that I have had news-

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Is this a reply 1

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– No. I have consulted Mr. Speaker in regard ‘to that matter. I am sorry to say that I have received news which although not conveyed officially to me is sufficient to acquaint me with the fact that a reverse has been met with in regard to these proposals. I rise now for the purpose of asking honorable members not to abandon this motion* because of that reverse. I ask them to assent to it, and to indicate to the Senate that they have done so by a message requiring its concurrence in it. I wish honorable members to join with me in passing this motion, in transmitting it to the Senate, and in desiring its concurrence in it. It happens to us all in political life to meet with reverses, but seldom to meet with reverses upon questions so dear to our hearts as this is to mine. I cannot think that it would be right of me, because of -what I have heard, to abandon the endeavour to settle this question during the present session. Feeling deeply as I do the reverse which has been met with, I have yet no word to say of the action taken, and I ask every honorable member to abstain from saying any word as to any such action calculated to provoke irritation between the two Houses of Parliament, or to impair in any way the excellent relations which have prevailed between us - a breach which would not bring us any nearer the conclusion of this matter. I think that we should pass this motion, and I ask honorable members not to exercise themselves too much about amending it. If we are tocome to a conclusion it will be by joint process, and to arrive at that joint process we must proceed upon a common basis. If we carry two different sets of ;motion in the two Houses it will follow that we shall approach a Conference - if we gain one - with divergent views and with different ideas as to the method of carrying out this proposition. That would be obviously to invite failure.

Mr Watson:

– It is just as well to indicate what our wishes are.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– I was coming to. that point. I think, therefore, that we should do well if we passed this motion, and sent it to another place in some form . in which we might expect to obtain their concurrence in it. I urge those honorable members - and I think that they constitute the majority of this House - who really wish to see some honorable solution of this question arrived at during the present session, not to seek too strongly to press this kind or that kind of amendment, but to rely on the judgment of the President and Mr. Speaker to settle the details of the method of voting. I would ask them also not to adopt any suggestion - and I am dealing now with the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland - which would in their view, as in mine, result in confusion. I would ask them not by any means to adopt any suggestion which would substitute for the selection made by this House by process of exhaustive ballot any selection which might be arrived at by the enumeration of two or three sites and the elmination of others to the great dissatisfaction, and possibly the enmity towards our proposal, of large sections of the Commonwealth. I would urge honorable members not to do anything of the kind, but, as a matter of policy and reason, to keep as closely as possible to the terms of the motion which has been proposed ; to send that motion to the Senate ; to leave us to see in what way we can best promote an agreement between that Chamber and this House-; and to devise some method of procedure by which we may invite another place to see eye to eye with us, and not to lose the chance during the present Parliament to arrive at a settlement of this question. I could say much more if I were to say as much as I feel. But I take it that the times when we are best to show our mettle as a Legislature arc those when others would provoke quarrels between the two Houses of the Parliament, to the destruction of their several proposals, when a little timely good feeling and kindness would avert adverse results, which, if they ensue in this case, will, in my judgment, be so detrimental to the interests of the Commonwealth. I have said more than once that I regard this as a national question. The Constitution has restricted our choice to the area of one State. It does not arise from that that the interests of that State alone are to be considered. I am asking that we, as the representatives of a new nation under the Southern Cross, should come to a conclusion not in haste, not in asperity, not by a difference with those elsewhere who have a right to hold their opinions as we have a right to hold ours. Let us not invoke anything in the shape of antagonism between the one House and the other, but let us try to pass this motion in a form which has been well thought out, as this form has been thought out between the leader of the other Chamber and myself. Seeing that there may be only a difference of only one vote between their opinions and ours, that may have the result of bringing us by subsequent consideration into line, and enabling us to effect a common object, the achievement of which will be as much to the credit of the other Chamber as to our credit. ‘ I ask honorable members to be with me in this ; to accept my leadership, and to repose in me the confidence which in this matter if in no other I think I may deserve, trusting me to use my best endeavours to bringing about a reasonable consideration of the question. It will not be by variegated proposals, by numerous amendments, that we shall come to that end. We shall achieve our object by coming as soon as possible to conclusions which will be fair to both Houses, by sending them to the other Chamber, and . by asking the members of that Chamber to agree, in the light of what we have done, to the reconsideration of the conclusion at which they have arrived. If that is done it will save much quarrelling and bickering in the community. Let me say one word more upon that subject. We are not dealing with a village when we are dealing with New South Wales. Strenuously as I have always opposed any undue advantage to any State, and heartily as I would at any time oppose a wrongful advantage, even to the State which I represent, where a matter which is secured to it under the Constitution is concerned I am, not a provincialist, but an Australian, in asking that Australia, as an honorable nation, shall stand by the contract. It is for the sake of the nation, and not for the sake of the provision ; for the sake of the-people, not for the sake of any city, or village, or huge centre of population, that I ask that we shall be worthy of the Constitution which we have gained for which the people voted, and which we have been elected to enforce. I ask that we shall deal with this matter from a standpoint which does not admit of dispute in any petty, mean, or parochial interest ; that wherever we come from, we shall not brand ourselves as being concerned merely in the interests of this State or that - whether it be delay for Victoria or the insistence upon a bargain for another State. I put aside the delay as I put aside the bargain. We have nothing to do with either. We have to do with the Constitution, and. with the honorable observance of it on behalf, not of any section, but of the whole people. If those who talk of delay in the interests of Victoria will put aside that interest as subordinate to the national interest-

Mr Crouch:

– The right honorable gentleman is the first, to make the suggestion.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:

– I am not making any improper suggestion of any sort at all. If they will put aside that interest, I, on the other hand, will say for myself, and, so far as I can, for those whom 1 may influence, that we shall endeavour to look at the question, not as it affects New South Wales or Victoria, but free from outside influences, in a pure Federal atmosphere, as a national question. We should take the earliest opportunity of doing our business in that place which we alone can choose, and where we shall be freest to carry out the trust that we must recognise has been placed in us by the nation which we represent.

Mr CONROY:
Werriwa

– I regret to hear the information which has been conveyed to us by the Prime Minister, although twelve months ago, as a reference to Hansard will show, ‘ I pointed out that the attitude which the Government were taking in regard to this question was bound to result in failure. That prediction is now fulfilled, but the House is not to blame. The Ministry are responsible for the delay which has taken place, and they alone will be to blame if the question is not decided this session. Parliament has been sitting for two years and a half now, and during a full year, at any rate, we have had ample opportunities to deal with it, but nothing has been done. I objected from the first to the form of this motion. This House has a right to decide what it will do, and the other House has a right to do the same. When no agreement can be arrived at between the two Chambers, it is time to ask for a Conference, but we have no right to abnegate responsibility, and to meet, difficulties half-way. What are Ministers appointed for but to consider and to come to a, decision upon matters of public interest and importance, and to ask Parliament to support their decision 1 If that decision is a wise one, Parliament supports it ; but if it is a wrong one, Parliament opposes it. In this case we have gone the wrong way to work.- The Government took a very unusual course in asking us to consider a motion of this kind. A Conference should be held on’ly when the ordinary methods of legislation prove unequal to the task imposed upon them. In both Houses of the Legislature there are many men so anxious, for the settlement of this question that they, are prepared to adopt almost any proposal.But that is no reason for departing from the sound constitutional course. The Ministry have met with a decided snub. It is not too late for them to consider the evidence that has been gathered in regard to this question, and to put a definite proposal before Parliament. As the honorable member for Kooyong has observed, it is only the members of the Ministry who have the whole matter thoroughly under their control. Having given proper consideration to the subject, they should take the responsibility of submitting for approval what they consider the best site. If they had done that there would have been no difficulty. There might, have been differences of individual opinion, but if they had submitted a proposal based upon the information at their command, and had explained it thoroughly to the House, it is not likely that we should have rejected it. Why should not the Government take that responsibility 1 I hold them absolutely to blame for the position in which we now find ourselves. On the 25th of September last year I pointed out that the course which the Government were pursuing would result in this question being left unsettled. It is not too late now for them to secure the determination of Parliament upon the question of the capital site, if they are prepared to take up a strong attitude. I do not, of course, ask them to stake their existence upon the settlement of the question, but to come to some conclusion regarding it. They should be prepared to say which, not perhaps the site, but the district, in their opinion is the best. They might even submit two or three districts to honorable members. They might say, for instance, whether the southern or south-eastern or the’ western districts found most favour in their eyes. The Government proposal deserved the fate which has overtaken it. I am sure that some of the representatives of Victoria are as ready as are the representatives of other States to carry out the compact with regard to the ‘ capital, and that the people of Victoria, as a whole, are certainly with them. ‘ If the Government had desired a pretext for delay they could not have taken a course more suited to their ends than that which they have adopted. I entirely object to the motion in the form submitted to us. It would commit us to the selection of one of the particular sites reported upon by the Commissioners, which is contrary to the advice they give us. In their report they say -

Your Commissioners have made what they believe to be the best suggestions for sites which were possible under the circumstances ; but they wish to record an emphatic opinion that, when the locality in which the Federal Capital is to be placed shall have been selected by the Parliament, extensive contour surveys, covering the suggested site in that locality and the neighbourhood around such site, should be made before the exact city site is determined.

Mr Watson:

– That refers to the city site within the Federal area, and the selection of the district would not depend upon that.

Mr CONROY:

– As the motion is framed, we should commit ourselves to one of the particular sites mentioned by the Commissioners, and I consider that all reference to the sites reported upon by the Royal Commission should be eliminated from the motion. If we adopted the motion in its present form, we should be bound to select one of the sites mentioned by the Commissioners, and the Bill would have to be framed according to the terms of the motion. If the Bill went beyond the terms of the motion, it would exceed the order of leave. If the motion be proceeded with, I shall move to omit from paragraph 3 the words “ of the sites reported on by the Royal Commission on sites for the seat of government for the Commonwealth appointed by the GovernorGeneral on the 14th day of January, 1903,” with a view to make the paragraph read as follows : -

That at such Conference an exhaustive ballot be taken to ascertain which district is, in the opinion of the members of the Parliament, the most suitable for the establishment of such seat of government.

Some remarks have been made with regard to allowing this question to be decided by referendum. But I would point out that section 125 of the Constitution expressly provides that -

The seat of government for the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament.

Those words are so clear that there is no necessity to propose a referendum. If there is to be a referendum upon this question what is the use of having a Parliament at all ? The sooner Parliament abolishes itself the better. If the members of this Parliament are not competent to decide such matters as this, let them resign and give place to others who will not be afraid to undertake their responsibilities.

Mr SALMON:
Laanecoorie

– I hope that the Prime Minister will consent to an adjournment at this stage. There are three other honorable members on this side of the House who desire to speak.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– Does the honorable member suggest an adjournment? How many honorable members desire to speak ?

Mr SALMON:

– I know that the honorable and learned member for Corio, for one, intends to take part in the debate. But I do not wish to move the adjournment against the wish of the Prime Minister.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– I should like to see these resolutions passed to-night, if possible.

Mr SALMON:

– The Prime Minister has given us some information which, I think, places the whole subject in quite a different light from that in which we viewed it previously. I fail to follow him in the attitude he adopts in regard to the desirability of passing the resolutions exactly as they stand, and sending them on to another place with any hope of having the decision there given reversed. It would be far better to consider the various amendments which have been proposed, . and to alter the resolutions in such a way that probably they will be found to be more acceptable to the Senate. My own impression is that if the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland were carried we should not experience the same difficulty in having the resolutions adopted by another place’. The minds of the restive members from New South Wales would then be completely tranquilized by having removed the cause of the irritation which they have endured since the inception of this Parliament. It is my intention to support the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland. I feel that we shall only bt: doing our work in a business-like fashion if we take steps to prevent the’ Commonwealth being bled, as it would be to an enormous extent, by those who have property to dispose of in the vicinity of any site which might be finally selected. There is not the slightest doubt that there is not a single member of this House who would think of carrying out private transactions upon the lines on which it is proposed to carry out this transaction. The Commonwealth ought to acquire the land that is necessary for the capital site at the lowest possible rate, and should not be compelled to pay a high premium for it.

Mr Poynton:

– Does the honorable member know that I brought that matter before the Prime Minister in 1901 ?

Mr SALMON:

– A number of sites have been reported on and inspected, but we have not the slightest idea of what the cost of acquiring any one of them will be. It is nothing new in this House to find the Victorian members speaking on the side of economy. It is the result of their past experience. In New South Wales it appears there has been a perfect saturnalia of extravagance, and the people there are only just waking up to the fact that for years past they have been parting with their patrimony. I should be verY glad indeed to see this question removed altogether from the purview of this Parliament and settled. But my own personal feelings must not be allowed to govern my votes when I am acting for the public ; and what I desire to see is that the bargain which was made - an unrighteous and improper bargain, in my opinion ; but it was a bargain - shall be fully carried out by all the parties to it at the earliest possible moment. But that is not to say that we are to “ buy a pig in a poke.” Are we going to settle upon the site first, and settle the price of it afterwards? That would be a most ridiculous proceeding.

Mr Thomson:

– Why did not the honorable member ask for that information before the expert Commission was appointed ?

Mr Watson:

– Does not the Victorian State Government resume first, and settle the price afterwards ?

Mr SALMON:

– I should be sorry to see this Parliament paying as much for land as the State Parliament has done. There have been resumptions in New South Wales, and I can say from personal observation, that when the bill comes in I believe that some of the taxpayers of that State will want to know what their politicians and their Governmenthave been doing. I know one place where the Government resumed some land upon which there was a hotel. It was resumed for the purpose of building a railway station. But the Government afterwards found that they did not need the land. So they reerected the hotel, and still hold the licenceThat is the sort of thing we do not do in. Victoria. I do not desire to see this Parliament entering upon a system which can. result only in loss to the taxpayers. The bill will have to be paid by the people of the whole Commonwealth. Under such circumstances, I am only doing my duty as a representative of the Commonwealth in endeavouring toprotect the interests of every unit in it. I am not advocating a course which will bead vantageous to Victoria any more than toevery other portion of Australia. I am not advocating delay. The question of cost can be; settled in a very few weeks. The charge of a desire to delay has been hurled at the Victorian members over and over again. Wes have heard it to-night from honorable members opposite. It is strange indeed thatthere is not a member representing another State who has had a word to say .againstthe Victorian members. It is only the New South Wales representatives who feel itincumbent upon them to attribute unworthymotives to Victorian members. It does notbecome this Parliament, as a Federal body, to have these statements made in it, and tohave the actions of honorable members, whoare actuated by honest motives, attributed to unworthy designs. That sort of tiling is good enough for the hustings and good enough for the leader of the Opposition, who cannot find time to come hereand attend to his work when an important question like this, affecting the whole Commonwealth, is under discussion, but who can find time to slander the people of Victoria and those who represent, them, as he did in his late campaign.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member must confine himself to the question before the House.

Mr SALMON:

– I am now drawingattention to the remarks made by the leader of the Opposition during his late election campaign in Sydney. Speaking the nightbefore his election - an election which he said was on a single question - he did just what honorable members of the; Opposition have been doing - be tried to inflame the people of. New South Wales- -

Mr SPEAKER:

-The honorable member is not discussing the question before the Chair.

Mr SALMON:

– The question is the settlement of the site for the Federal Capital.

Mr SPEAKER:

– That has nothing whatever to do with any action of the leader of the Opposition.

Mr SALMON:

– Shall I be in order in leading the remarks of the leader of the Opposition on the question 1

Mr SPEAKER:

– I cannot say until I know what the remarks are ; but references to any action of the leader of the Opposition in regard to the matter on which he recently appealed to his constituents are certainly out of order in this debate.

Mr SALMON:

– Then I should like to deal with remarks made by honorable mem- bers in this House with regard to an alleged combination amongst representatives of Victorian constituencies. The honorable member for Dalley over and over again asserted that a caucus mooting of Victorian members had been .held at which it waa decided to formulate- a certain proposal to be presented to the House by the honorable member for Gippsland. That statement was denied time and again, but the honorable member for Dalley declined to take any notice of the denial. It is not- the custom in this House to refuse to accept a denial under the circumstances, and the statement mode by the honorable member for Dalley - a statement unsupported by a tittle of evidence - although it may be worthy of the honorable member, is not worthy of the House. The Victorian representatives have acted bond fide in this matter from the beginning. As I said before, a number of us would be only too glad to see this bone- of contention removed ; and I recognise that the only way to remove it is to settle, this question. But the settlement of the question is not the settlement of the expense ; and I for one am not prepared to pledge the credit of the people of the Commonwealth to an undertaking the end of which we cannot possibly see. Until we have some adequate idea of the amount which will be required to secure the necessary land we have no right to proceed further.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Then I SUppOSe that if the honorable member thinks the land is too costly he will not carry out the contract f

Mr SALMON:

– I do not say that I should be limited by the amount, but I contend that we have no right to spend more of the people’s money .than is necessary.. If we now finally decide the question by this motion we shall find ourselves in the position of a buyer who is absolutely compelled to acquire a property.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– We will, give you the land cheap. - .

Mr Salmon:

– The honorable member probably speaks for himself, and I do not know how much- he holds of the- particular site which his party favours; We require some guarantee as to the ultimate cost before we can be prepared - to enter into the purchase. The honorable member for South Sydney has an idea that ft would be fatal to leave this matter open, for a future Parliament ; and he is apparently not prepared to trust the people whom he represents as being anxious to have the question settled. If this Parliament were to come to a decision regarding three or more of the sites, and’ these were placed in competition, we should be likely to save more money, and thus justify delay, than we should, be likely to save if we dealt with the matter at once and held over the consideration of the price until after the selection. In. the matter of land, prices oscillate in the most remarkable fashion, when it is found- that there is a determination to purchase; We cannot divest ourselves of - ordinary business procedure.. We cannot possibly get rid of the responsibility which attaches to us as businessmen, in dealing with a matter of the kind. The transaction should be of a purely commercial character, into which, no sentiment should be allowed to enter. We ought; to secure the best possible site, but take the question of cost into our most careful and -immediate consideration. Under the circumstances I intend to support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Gippsland. I regret that during the debate a good deal of acrimony has’ been displayed with regard to the attitude adopted by Victorian members;

Sir Edmund Barton:

– No.

Mr SALMON:

– The stock tax was referred to by the honorable member for Dalley as one for. which the honorable member for Gippsland was responsible.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member must not refer to that matter.

Mr SALMON:

– I do not intend to do more than assure the honorable member for

Dalley that the stock tax has died altogether out of the memory of the people ofVictoria ; and I may add that I was always one of the strongest opponents of the impost. We shall have with us in the Commonwealth a parochial feeling, so long as honorable members attribute improper motives to those who are only honestly endeavouring to deal with the Commonwealth as a whole. It is our bounden duty to endeavour to obliterate the unfortunate divisions which separated us in the past. It is not well or right that in the first Parliament of the Commonwealth we should perpetuate divisions which did so much harm to all the States concerned. I can assure honorable members from New South Wales that if a prominent member of this House, or of the community, were to call a meeting in the Melbourne Town-hall, next week, for the purpose of decrying the mother State, it would not be possible to get an audience. But if the honorable member for Dalley were to call a similar meeting in Sydney for the purpose of decrying Victoria he would not be able to find a hall large enough for the attendance.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member is not discussing the question before the Chair.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– I ask the Prime Minister to nowconsent to anadjournment of the debate. Several honorable members who have amendments on the notice-paper have gone home on the understanding that there was to bean adjournment. I myself propose to say a few words, and I think it would be convenient to now adjourn the debate.

Sir Edmund Barton:

– A little while ago I expressed the opinion that we ought to come to a decision to-night, and that’ is my opinion still. Since I spoke, however, I have found that the honorable member for Gippsland and one or two others have gone away through a misapprehension which was created - I do not know whether by my fault or not - I hope not - but certainly under an honest misapprehension. I do not think that in these circumstances I ought to adhere to the determination to force this matter to a division to-night, especially as it would only he provocative of acrimony to ask the House to cometo a division in the absence of those who have been relying upon us not to do so.

Mr Thomas:

– Will the right honorable and learned gentleman let us know this in future at about 8 o’clock, so that we can all go home?

Sir Edmund Barton:

– When the honorable member finds me beginning to do that, he can adopt that line of criticism. In the meantime, I think I must consent to the request for an adjournment of the debate.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Austin Chapman) adjourned.

page 5328

ADJOURNMENT

Electoral Return

Motion (by Sir Edmund Barton) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

On Friday week the Prime Minister promised to lay upon the table a paper showing the number of electors in the electorates . in New South Wales. I shall be glad to know when he expects to be in a position to fulfil his promise.

Sir EDMUND BARTON:
Minister for External Affairs · Hunter · Protectionist

. -What I said to my honorable friend was not thatI would lay ‘ that particular paper on the table, but that I would have it converted into a document fit for presentation to the House. I gave an instruction for that conversion to be made, and I thought it would have been done before now. I shall look into the matter to-morrow and see that it is produced as soon as possible.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 10.52 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 September 1903, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030922_reps_1_17/>.